The Design Business Show 156: Building Your Business for Freedom and Profitability with Kelsey Kerslake

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | September 10, 2021
Check out episode 156 of The Design Business Show with Kelsey Kerslake to learn all about having freedom in your business while scaling!

Over the last decade, Kelsey has helped hundreds of online business owners like you build their brands and online presences as the Founder and Creative Director of Pinegate Road – personal branding and web design agency.

She has her MFA in Graphic Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and is a life and business coach. In 2016, she successfully made the transition from working in Corporate America while pursuing a side hustle, to the CEO of her own online design agency and education business.

She deeply believes that everyone has the potential to make their dreams a reality, and Pinegate Road helps people do just that.

Fast forward to today, Kelsey leads a 6-figure+ virtual design agency, and is at the point where she has complete freedom to create her own schedule (aka: currently working about 10h work weeks so she can be home with her little fam most of the time). She wants this freedom for you too! She has a passion for supporting online service providers, coaches, and educators to help them lead businesses and live lives that are fulfilling and profitable.

Here’s what we covered on the episode:

From Corporate America to Running a Design Studio

  • In high school, Kelsey was artsy and knew she wanted to do something with that but also make money, so she decided to become a graphic designer and that’s what she went to school for
  • How Kelsey started a lifestyle blog which turned into people asking her how to design their own websites which grew into a studio that she always had on the side
  • After Kelsey graduated she went to work in Corporate America where she was designing stationery for Target, Walmart, and other national campaigns as a hand lettering artist
  • In 2016, Kelsey’s business grew enough to where took her design studio full-time
  • There are only two companies in the country that hire hand lettering artists on salary, Hallmark and American Greetings; Kelsey interviewed with both while in grad school and went with American Greetings, which is why she moved and currently lives in Cleaveland, Ohio
  • While in grad school, Kelsey needed a creative outlet which is why she started her lifestyle blog where she was talking about boyfriends, design trends, and color palettes and shares she accidentally grew her business by putting her color palettes and designs on Pinterest
  • How Kelsey’s blog business turned into her editing peoples blog headers, then it became full-on brands and websites and by the time she graduated grad school it had turned into a legit design studio where they had packages offering branding, full logo suites, building out the brands on people’s collateral and then the website
  • Kelsey shares that she has endometriosis and knew it was time to make the switch to full-time with her design studio when she was laid up in bed for several weeks at a time due to her health and says she was fully prepared to make the switch, she had savings, was making more money with it than her salary job and working fewer hours
  • How Kelsey’s team reached out to share her story with me and asked about her being on the podcast, which was great because she was actually on my list of people to invite to have on the podcast

Productizing Services + Team Support

  • One of the biggest things that helped Kelsey get her business where she wanted it to be financially was productizing their services and having a very solid process for each of the things their clients would be going through
  • How Kelsey was hiring out team members to support those processes while she was working full-time because she didn’t want her personal schedule and availability to dictate how fast the business could grow — this allowed her to grow and scale the business to where she was making more money than at her salary job
  • Kelsey shares that the first logo she sold was $300, and then when she started running her design studio, their logo package was $1,500 and the website was also $1,500, and shares she would also take hand lettering projects on the side
  • How people were finding Kelsey on Pinterest for her hand lettering work and how she had ad agencies reach out to her about doing hand lettering for different national ad campaigns
  • When it comes to hiring your team, Kelseys says you should design your picture-perfect experience without you in the process, that way you know what roles are needed and if you have the time and want to take on all of those roles, that’s fine, but you might not want to
  • The first person Kelsey hired was a developer because it was the most time-consuming thing that felt the least creative, the next task she handed off was project management so she could be the one doing the strategy, brand design, and web design while the build-out and client communication was being handled by her team
  • As her business started to scale, Kelsey started to hire brand designers and web designers to come into the projects
  • How Kelsey got the entire agency to function without her in preparation for having her son in 2019 — she didn’t want to step back into the design business after her pregnancy but loves being able to talk with clients, do the strategy and creative directing while having a team to support the doing

Kelsey’s Future Plans + Coaching Business

  • Since Kelsey set her agency up to run without her time and doing, she started growing her education and coaching business because she is very passionate about supporting people and teaching other business providers how to scale in a sustainable way that uniquely works for their business
  • Kelsey explains that the agency gains clients from word of mouth, past clients who tell their friends, Pinterest, and site credits at the bottom of a website
  • For the last two years, Kelsey wasn’t focused on growing the design business and instead was working to grow her coaching business but says this year she will be focusing on growing the design business
  • One thing Kelsey says is, there’s no such thing as a website emergency, so in their contracts with clients they have firm processes and boundaries outlining what they are available for and what they are not available for going forward
  • For websites, the agency offers 30 days of post-launch support but does not provide ongoing maintenance, instead, they tell clients how they can go do that, who they can go to, where they can find that
  • Kelsey explains the agency team’s three then me rule, which means if anyone has a problem they have to look for 3 different solutions to the question or problem before they  go to Jannet, Kelsey’s project manager, and if Jannet needs help, then she can ask Kelsey
  • What growth means for the design studio this year, who Kelsey is hiring, and the templates they will be selling
  • The story of Kelsey’s horrific first year going full-time in her design business
  • Kelsey tells us about The Aligned Business™ Academy, her coaching business that helps people create sustainable six-figure years that they can have for the rest of their business lives while having freedom in their life, and The Aligned Business™ Mastermind for people wanting to scale to seven-figures
  • How Kelsey developed and scaled her coaching business from the start to what it is today
  • Kelsey talks about emotional boundaries she’s had to set in her business how she is always trying to find ways to optimize and live a more aligned life
  • Check out Kelsey’s Freebie, 25 profitable offerings for service-based businesses 
  • To find out more, head over to Pinegate, and connect with Kelsey on Instagram 


Links mentioned:

Pinegate Road

The Aligned Business™ Academy

The Aligned Business™ Mastermind

25 Profitable Offerings for Service-Based Businesses 

Connect with Kelsey on Instagram 


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