[Transcript] Episode 041 – Gillian Miller

Transcript: Episode 041 – Gillian Miller on Elevating a Studio with a Brand Identity

Transcript for Episode 041 – Gillian Miller on Elevating a Studio with a Brand Identity


When we think of graphic design for a music studio, we might first think of logos. That’s definitely a start, but today I’m talking to graphic designer Gillian Miller about how developing a more holistic brand identity can help build a studio.

If you’ve ever felt undervalued as a professional or just want to elevate your career, this is definitely a topic to think about.

Two quick reminders before we get started:

1) Our $500 studio grant competition is officially open. This competition is for new and new–ish music studio owners and the deadline is just 2.5 weeks away, on May 31.

2) The summer business building program is starting June 15. If you’re ready to get your business in shape, this program is for you.

Stay tuned through the end of the episode to get more details on both of these.

Now on to my conversation with Gillian.



Andrea: Hi Gillian. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Gillian: Hi! My name is Gilliam Miller. I’m an owner of Gem Studios, formerly Gillian Elizabeth Design & Illustration. I’m a graphic designer and I like to say I’m a fine artist turned graphic designer and branding expert. I started doing fine art and my love for fine art grew into love for graphic design and then just being able to use design to help people build their businesses.

Andrea: Thank you and yeah, I was excited to have you on the podcast because I think a lot of times people think of graphic design and think of their logo and think of like that’s kind of where it is, often it’s just a logo, it’s a thing I splash on a t-shirt or my website or a sticker but that’s kind of it. So yeah, I’m curious to hear from you a little more about how branding can impact business, specifically through graphic design. So what are the most common misconceptions people have about working with a graphic designer?

Gillian: I would say the most common misconception is that it pays off in the end to pay the cheapest option. I think that you have to look at design as an investment. There is another designer in this space and she said this quote that has stuck with me since I’ve heard it, “If you think investing is expensive, you should look at the cost of not investing.” Her name is Morgan Renault. She’s another designer but I heard that and it put into words the thing that I always try to communicate to my clients and it’s that design, building a brand identity, it’s not a step you can take lightly and really skipping it in the beginning or piecing it together over time will always hurt you more than it will help you. So I think that’s my number one misconception.

I think another is that it will be overwhelming to create a brand identity or work with a graphic designer. Trying to find someone can feel overwhelming but I think it’s because you’re trying to become an expert in something that you weren’t trained to do and so I think finding a partner to work with, a graphic designer you can trust, by finding someone you click with, that overwhelm will go away and then I think you’ll really find yourself in a spot where you’re empowered more than you’re overwhelmed. And so as far as advice goes, I would definitely look at talking to several designers, jumping on Instagram and DM-ing a couple of people, you know, remembering that graphic designers are people too and they want to find awesome clients to work with. And so, finding someone that’s a good fit will really make a difference.

And really just remembering like if it’s an investment, if you’re looking to make an investment, you need to shift your brains out from that “It’s just a logo, I’m just checking this off the list” to “I’m hiring a designer that will immediately change the game for my business,” then you’re not willing to settle anymore, like if you’re looking for a house, you’re not going to take the first house you find just because it kind of works or it checks that box like if it’s in your head like if it’s an investment then you’re not going to settle. So I would say: (1) look at it as an investment, change your mindset and then, (2) the initial overwhelm will go away–I promise–and (3) find someone that’s a good fit.

Andrea: I like that point that it’s not like getting a registration form. It’s a more foundational aspect of your business. It’s the whole image of the business. It’s the character. It’s what you present to the world.

Gillian: Absolutely. If you build a good brand and then everything, prospective clients and current clients look at, if it represents your mission, your vision as a business owner, that will take you further and faster to where you want to be than if you just start with a logo and you’re trying to build everything yourself. It’s a tool really, it’s several tools that a good graphic designer will help you build this toolbox to help communicate that mission and vision to your audience.


Andrea: An analogy music teachers can relate to. Often I find myself telling my students like, “You’re playing all the notes right on the page like you hit that note at the right time but there’s no color to it, there’s no expression. I don’t know the story that’s being told through this music,” and I think that’s where like the branding and more visual identity adds color to your studio and it helps you communicate more effectively to potential students. It tells them what you’re about.

Gillian: When you want it to happen to where you were when you decided to start your small music business, right, like what fire was put inside of you, starting a business is no small venture. So what initially inspired you to start your small business and I think that’s the beauty of partnering with a graphic designer who’s willing to partner with you and work with you to take that initial vision and make it a reality, make it something that you’re living and breathing every day and then you no longer have to worry about communicating that vision just on your own, like you got all these tools and all of a sudden your clients and prospective clients and students, it’s like they are catching that vision the second they look at your Instagram or the second they look at your website or their best friend is in a music recital and they see the invitation. It’s all so cohesive, you know, that initial spark and vision you had when you first were like, “I’m going to start a business.” That is then what people are seeing so I think that’s really a beautiful thing about partners with designer.


Andrea: Yeah, okay so talk more what’s the difference like I know I can go on Upwork or Fiverr and get a $20 logo. What’s the difference between going that route and then working with the graphic designer?

Gillian: Yeah, I think it’s “Are you all in or not?” I think branding and brandy dandy is so drastically different than getting just a logo. You know a logo is the little glyph or the icon or like a word mark that has your business name in it and that’s exciting but it can be so much more. A brandy dandy is the holistic brand, you know it includes the logo but it also includes colors. It includes patterns, imagery, your website, your social media and a brand identity will bring that all together. So when you purchase a logo and if you get it off of Upwork or something, you’re losing out on what that investment can do for your business. You know you have the singular icon and you can stick it wherever you want but unless you have that full brandy dandy, like I said, your prospective client and current clients aren’t getting the full breathe of what your vision is. So I’d say a good holistic branding set the tone for your business is to communicate your vision and mission. I would the real difference is looking at it as an investment versus a commodity.

When you jump on Upwork you’re looking typically for the cheapest fastest option but that’s not going to enhance your brand. And so going back to that quote I shared earlier, Obviously, initially, you probably don’t have a lot to spend and there is that tension but you have to look at it as an investment the same way you buy your first piano, and that’s so critical to building the business you want and you kind of have to step into your role as a business owner and look at the real true value of what you’re buying versus the quick “I’m going to get this logo and get started” and you’re missing out on so much if you do that.


Andrea: Can you describe like what the services that you provide when you’re working with a new business?

Gillian: So I think first off, I’m a new business owner myself so it’s constantly evolving. I feel like if you ask me that question in a year the services I provide will have changed, hopefully, because with every client I try to refine the process and I refine what I’m delivering, but I do not like from now until forever, I guess, I put my heart into every client and I truly look to partner with each person I work with so I’m really truly in it with them. I catch the vision. I want to see that vision become a reality.

So as far as services I provide, I would say that my favorite thing is just asking “What is your dream?” Dream big! Do you know what I mean? We all have the capability of breaking the rules of what we think we should be doing and then stepping into our dreams, right? It’s such a cliché sometimes but we all have that capability and I want to partner with someone and step into that space, you know, dreaming big about what their vision and what their mission that runs, what that will be. As far as services, I would say a kickoff meeting we talk about your business, we talk about if we’re a good fit working together.

I think every designer is going to have different strengths and I think it is important to find someone who is going to have the strengths you’re looking for as a designer and then if it is a go I’ll put together a calendar with milestones. I’ll send you my client welcome packet and creative brief as well so basically a set of questions I send to all of my clients and that basically kicks off the project with giving you a space to dream about what your vision is. Sometimes it’s in your head or you can feel it, right, but like you’ve never put it in writing before and I think there’s such power in what we say and what we write down. And so by capturing that in this creative brief it gives me an idea of where you’re at. Do you know what I mean?

Then the process once I get these initial things then we have a meeting. I usually bring 10 to 15 sketches for a logo. I’ll bring brand visuals, color palette, some typography options, all these different things, and it basically gives you a first look. After we’ve discussed your vision, after I’ve seen your creative brief, then we talk. It’s the first real look at what your grand visuals would look like and so I use the analogy if you get on a plane and you want to go to Mexico for a beach vacation, you don’t want to end up in Canada. So I take this first step pretty seriously and I spend a lot of time in this step just because I want to make sure I head in the right direction and that you’re involved as a client and so that you feel that your voice is heard because at the end of the day you’re a unique business and it’s my job to being in partner with you and bring your vision to life.

Then it kind of diverges after that. It depends on your budget. I definitely try to work with different clients. Sometimes they can only afford a logo, color palette and font, and I want to give them that very bare minimum toolbox so that if they can afford a full social media website, all of that brand visuals, they still have the tools they can then use to develop some of that holistic brand vision. But yeah, I think, looking at it as tools, looking at it as an investment is so important when you’re looking for someone and finding a designer, I would say whether you’re working with me or you’re looking people in your area or something, find someone you can trust with your brand vision. You want someone that you, after talking with them you feel like they’re going to take the time, take the care, take for you something that is fully reflective of your business so trust is so important.


Andrea: So after you’ve put together this brand identity package for a business, do you have any stories of a business where you’ve seen the impact of that?

Gillian: Well one example that I have is actually one of the first companies I’ve worked with as an independent freelancer before I even thought about doing business as a full thing. It’s called A Cuddle Above Pet Care, a pretty small business but they were just starting out as a dog walking and reached out to me because I was a designer and I’ve been working in an agency and a friend of mine, so I was like, “Yeah, I’ll jump in. I’ll do this.” And so I designed the logo for her and I just remember when I finished the logo I sent it off to her and then she has reached out several times spoke to me and to friends of mine who had done relayed to me how much more business she’s gotten just by having this logo that looks professional. You know she was using this little small pixelated downloaded from the internet logo where she just popped her name in and the logo itself did not communicate the tone of her business, you know, and people see it. Now she uses it across her invoices. When she actually walks the dogs she has like a vest with the logo on it and then she has it on her car.

And I will say people have asked her about her business because they’ve seen this logo and I think it speaks to the fact that an investment should mean a return on investment. And so, when you’re hiring a graphic designer it will absolutely make a huge impact on the client you attract. It will make an impact on how much you can charge because someone sees a logo and sees a full brand identity built out it builds trust inadvertently. And so as you’re growing your business you want to set that tone and honestly, too, it will give you confidence as a business owner because you’re representing in a powerful way what you’re bringing to the table, what you’re an expert in.

I think value obviously has a huge impact on your business. And then I do think just trust with prospective and ongoing clients and you see a holistic brand identity, it feels like you’re hiring a professional versus one singular logo won’t communicate that in the same way. I would say it does make a huge difference.


Andrea: I like that point and I’ll often see music teachers complaining that a parent in their studio might ask, “So what’s your real job?” or “Are you just a piano teacher?” or something like that and I think some of that comes from the way we present ourselves. If we present ourselves as just a piano teacher, then that’s what they’re going to perceive us and if we raise that level of professionalism by having cohesive brand identity, having policies that make us sound like professionals, like someone who is trying to make a living from this all these things are going to elevate us as professionals and it’s that perception.

Gillian: When I heard this thing, similar but different field, but I heard the second you stop considering yourself a freelancer and you start telling yourself and the world that you’re a business owner, again, it’s a mindset shift and so freelancing, teaching piano on the side, you know it’s easy to let that mindset affect how we operate as a business owner and I think we need to step into that knowing that we’re not just experts in this thing, that creative endeavor, so for you guys it would be operating in a small studio. For me, it’s with design and that side of creativity, but stepping into that role as business owner and the authority that we have as business owners, you know, people don’t question a business owner the same way they might look at the sketches I do and they’re like, “Oh, you doodle for a living.” You know that never feels good but I think when you really dig into all of the responsibility you’re taking on as a business owner and you’re not just taking on responsibility but you also walk in that authority. You’re working hard, you’re building a business and you want to operate as though you’re building a business, so yeah, like what you said there about the difference.


Andrea: So if I’m a new business owner and a lot of my audiences, teachers who are just out of school, maybe they’ve just graduated this year even, at what stage should I start talking to a designer? Before I launch, after I launch, is it ever too early?

Gillian: Yeah, so I’d say it’s hardly ever too early. I think a good gut check is when are you all in? If you want to start teaching piano lesson from the side to see if it’s something you like, if you’re a business owner, there are going to be a lot of parts of your job that you aren’t as crazy about, you know you fell in love with teaching piano so doing tax stuff is probably not going to light your heart on fire but I would say once you’re all in, you know a good investment in brand strategy and brand design, that’s not going to be cheap. And so I think it’s never too early to recognize yourself as an expert in what you do and I think, especially for creatives, is that we’re new at business building, especially when you’re starting out, if you’re just graduating college but you are an expert in teaching music, you are an expert in playing those instruments that you spent your studying, so if you want to get an idea of what the business side will look like and you’re testing the waters, I don’t think you absolutely need to have that holistic brand built and ready to go.

I think once you’re ready to go all in and you’re telling yourself you love teaching and you want to make that your full-time thing and you want to live off of that, it’s never too early to jump in. And so I will say there’s like the one caveat is also don’t think it’s ever too late. If you’ve been teaching 10 years and you’re like, “Well, you know, I’ve been using the same logo and it’s not that great but it’s been 10 years so I’m not going to approach brand design.” I think you’d be surprised how much of a difference branding can do even if you’ve been doing it for 10 years and you really had gotten down the business side of it. I think you’d be surprised how much you can grow just by creating a cohesive brand and diving into where those tools can take you.

So yeah, I don’t think there’s ever a too early. I think it depends on what your launch date is because if your launch is just your first side gig of teaching piano once a week and you’ve got one student and that’s it, I don’t think you need to be worried. I don’t know what you think but testing the water is there before you spend $3,000 on branding or branding probably is a good idea. But yeah, I would say jumping in and getting going once you’re all in, that’s super important.


Andrea: I would say very rarely do music teachers have like a clean launch. They’ve kind of fallen into teaching in some way, like for me it was in high school someone knew I took piano lessons, knew I was serious about it, asked if I would teach their daughter, and then it kind of built from there. I think a lot of teachers have a similar story. So usually by the time they realize they’re starting a business they’ve already started it.

Gillian: Yeah. Well it’s funny because the thing for me, I’m new to business owning myself so I almost joked that I need to take my own advice. Doing the freelance like I mentioned before, there were clients that I had when I was still working at an agency and I was like, “Sure, I’ll do this,” and that’s when I realized I like doing it. So once you’re all in you’re like, “This is what I want to do.” The second you’re like, “This is what I’m doing,” that’s when you engage a good designer.

Andrea: And to that point I think, you know, start talking early, get a proposal, figure out how much it will cost, and build that into your budget.

Gillian: Yeah, absolutely.

Andrea: Because I think the worst thing is starting your business and imagining this amazing future in your business where you have a cohesive friend and you have amazing instruments and amazing studio, but not building your budget to actually make that possible, so yeah, talk early. Talk early. Get that estimate.

Gillian: Rarely have I seen a designer charge for an estimate. Usually designers are excited to talk to new clients, prospective clients, and so like you said, start talking early. Reach out to your crazy like, “I want to work with them but they’re probably too expensive for me designers,” like find someone who you think through what you’re seeing in their portfolio, on their Instagram. Look at that and if you think they’re going to catch your brand vision, talk to them early because who knows, you might be able to save over the course of a year and then work with them. Again, make your dream a reality. It’s in your power for sure.


Andrea: Yeah, build the budget to support it. Okay, so walk us through the process. What is it like to work with a graphic designer? What are we doing along the way? What are you doing? How does that work?

Gillian: Starting at the beginning, research. Just look on Instagram, DM a couple of designers you like to work with or visit websites. It’s important to find someone that you click with. I think the design process will look different designer to designer. Some people, they emphasize really partnering with you and some people would really rather try to keep things separate, you know, and so they’re doing the creative and they’re just showing you and making sure on tasks. I think signing a designer that you click well with who has a process that you feel comfortable with, I think that’s important.

But yeah, I think as far as when I’m working on it, when someone reaches out to me usually I like to learn a little bit about their business and I’ll ask a lot of questions but I’ve never not talk to someone off the bat. I want to learn more about them and I think throughout the process you’ll have several check ins with the designer and so you’ll get to see what they’re working on, where your logo is at, several things like that. Again, different people will have you more involved versus some people it will be hands off and you’ll get the final deliverables after looking at it twice. Sometimes that’s a positive like if that’s what you’re looking for or you don’t. You want the expert to be the expert and you want your time spent elsewhere that’s out there for sure.

As far as the process goes, having a clear idea from the get go what your deliverables will be, what you’ll be receiving at the end, I think that’s really important. Even knowing what support you’ll have once the project is over, you know, if it’s a fixed cost for this brand identity, is it within that fixed cost? Post project, you might need a new logo or say you’re getting something embroidered and you need your designer to work with the printer, that’s something you should ask right away. Like I said, every designer will approach this differently. Work isn’t done exactly the same designer to designer but I think as far as process goes, as far as branding designer goes, by looking at it as an investment and really not settling for something less than what you’re looking for. Like what Andrea said, looking at your budget in advance, looking at where you want to go, where you want to steer the ship and not settling for less than what that is.


You’ve talked a lot about being a partner with business owners that you’re working with and wanting to really like get inside their heads and know what their vision is for their studio and understand their mission, so what are some of the questions that you ask like that a teacher might be able to reflect on before they even talk to a designer? What are those questions that you ask to get inside their heads?

My favorite question to ask when starting on a project is to dream big. It’s amazing to see people light up when they talk about their dreams, about all their business can be, you know, that initial spark and ideas that they have when they first thought to themselves, “I’d like to start a business,” and they were telling their best friend and their mom about it. There’s that initial spark, that dream that they have why they go all in on starting a business in a world where starting a small business is not an easy thing to do. So that’s my favorite question that helps me get inside their head. Honestly, I think it breaks the ice because you get to see when someone lights up about something they’re excited about. It helps me catch the vision of where they’re going. That’s my job. That’s what I love doing is helping turn someone’s vision into reality.

Another question that definitely helps more practical is just like what have they seen that they like and don’t like. Especially for someone who might not think this visually and who isn’t good at sketching something out, just asking “Hey, what have you seen in this space that you like to be similar to? And similarly, what don’t you want at all to be similar to?” That helps me understand a little bit what direction to take their vision in as it takes that dream and turns it into reality.

Andrea: One thing I’ve done with logo ideas and also just like ads that I’ve seen that I liked or resources is I keep a swipe file. So it’s like pictures of things that I’ve seen across the internet. It can be something that I got in the mail and I just keep collecting those and then when I go to talk to a graphic designer I’ve got a stock of stuff that I like. I can say, “Hey, look at these logos. These are the ones I like.”

Gillian: You’re like a dream client for a designer. Most clients are like “I remember that ad that was on the Super Bowl maybe three or four years ago…” like I’ve heard like crazy things they’re like “Do you know that one?” You’ll be a dream client.


Andrea: So if I’m going to hire a graphic designer, what should I be looking for, like how do I evaluate?

Gillian: Okay, so I guess I would start, number one is trust. I know that that’s something that’s felt, right? Looking at a portfolio, looking at credentials, looking at their past work, things like that; that all goes to building trust. I would say never hire a graphic designer you don’t feel you can trust because they’re the ones that are going to designing, especially if you’re looking for a full brand identity. They’re creating a brand design that reflects the tone and direction you wanted to take your business in and you want to make sure you’re able to trust someone to take your vision and help it grow and so I think trust is number one. Portfolio, that’s always important to look at their past work, see if they’ve done things similar to how your idea is. I think there is a balance when you’re hiring someone who’s an expert in what they do. I do think there’s a balance in giving over a little bit of that control or giving the reins of your business’s creative look over to someone else.

That’s why I say trust is the number one key because if you don’t trust him you’re not going to really hand the reins over so easily. Looking at their past work, that will help develop trust. How quickly do they respond to emails? Do they give you anything up front to give you an idea of what the process would look like? If you don’t see those things, if you see that they’re taking three or four days to respond to you, maybe they’re really busy. I think it’s just an important thing to have a good, good working relationship with your graphic designer.

I will say credentials are important. If they’ve been working in doing design for 10-15 years they’ll definitely bring more a different thing to the table than someone who’s brand new. But I will say there are a lot of awesome designers out there and they’re just starting out but they’ve got an awesome portfolio and they’re hungry to work with like-minded, passionate new business owners. I would say don’t immediately discredit someone just because they haven’t been in business for years and years. I think looking at their work, talking to them and getting a feel if you’re a good fit, I think that’s equally as important. If you feel more comfortable working with someone who’s been in the business longer, I will say it will probably cost you more. There are definitely some tradeoffs you know. Someone who’s been working longer might do it more quickly or deliver something that would look different, but there are definitely tradeoffs.


Andrea: Yeah, ultimately it’s like do you trust this person to make a visual representation of your brand? What are some questions I could ask or expectations maybe that we should clarify when talking about that graphic designer/business owner relationship?

Gillian: Yeah, I think both questions you can ask and then looking at how they’re handling their business are both important. If they respond quickly, that bodes well. And if they’re not responding quickly or if they’re being vague, that is a red flag. I would say concrete questions you can ask is ask about their process and what’s included in your logo package. Is it a brand identity or is it just a logo? Are you paying a flat rate or hourly rate? Now personally, I would say you’ll probably get better creative when it’s a flat rate. You know we’re creatives first and foremost and so tracking hours is doable, but we definitely work better when it’s just in that creative space. That’s just my own opinion but I ask that right away: Are you paying flat rate or hourly?

Ask for calendar with milestones. I think that’s a huge plus. I do that personally and I love that expectations are set right away. Real life happens sometimes and things move around but at the end of the day, it’s a lot easier. I think if you’re on the other side of it, I’m the designer, but I were on the other side that was handing over the reins to something as big as my brand identity, I’d want to know when to expect things and what to expect. So I think asking that right away and then ask the designer why they’re interested in working with you. I think a designer that’s excited and passionate about your business is going to impact the design. I think most designers probably wouldn’t expect that question like getting an insight to, “Is this designer invested in my vision?” And if they seem kind of vague or they’re like they don’t have a great answer, I think it’s in your best interest to keep looking for that designer who’s like all in on what you’re doing.

Lastly, I feel like a broken record but remembering that it’s an investment and you’re allowed and honestly encouraged to make sure it’s a good fit before hiring. I think a good designer will empower you in your business and so having that mindset of “I’m looking for someone to partner with. I’m looking to make a big step in your business as far as creating a brand identity,” don’t take that lightly and so look for a designer that’s going to be a good fit.


Andrea: Awesome. What are some of the basic pieces like you’ve got a package put together that makes sense for a small business owner? But what if we’re talking to someone who’s more ad hoc so they’re like, “Well you can do this, you can do that,” what are some pieces that we should be asking for basic marketing collateral for a future studio?

Gillian: Yeah, first and foremost, the logo. I think that’s number one. That’s going to go everywhere. I think a website is really, really important because whether we like it or not, we live in a very digital age and your website and your social media ends up speaking for you. Every person that reaches out to you has probably looked at your social media and your website first, and so I think that’s really important.

When you’re working with a designer, asking for social media templates I think that is a huge tool, honestly, because you’re a music studio startup, your focus is going to be elsewhere. But creating a really strong social media presence is going to make a big difference in who you’re attracting, especially as people in their twenties and thirties are very active on Instagram. So if they find out and say you have a ten-year-old and your ten-year-old’s friends are going to music school and it’s your startup, right, and you don’t have a line of sight to that teacher but you can jump on Instagram and you can look at what they’re doing and if you have these social media templates they’re like three, four, five. One is for quotes and one is for photos and one is for upcoming events, and then every time that happens, you can use the combination of colors, fonts, I mean these templates, to create posts, and then it’s all cohesive. Again, that’s a tool for you and it adds value to your business and that means your business is going to grow. So I would say that’s a great one to ask for.

This is not required and I’m not honestly sure a designer you should ask but I’m going to throw this in. Again, pushing that Instagram push in social media, find a few photo presets. You can find them on Etsy. Find some presets for your photos and use them every time you post a photo because it will make your feed look more consistent and I think it levels that up having a consistent feed and it really just make it look more professional. I don’t know if a designer could do it for you but I definitely have to throw that in because that’s such an easy, fairly inexpensive way to create a more professional look on your feed


Andrea: Can you describe what those photo presets are?

Gillian: So you go to Etsy and basically if you’d look at any photo editing app they are saturation, color, lightness. It’s mainly photographers that will create these presets but they’ll basically go in to Photoshop or Lightroom or VSCO is another one and basically, they will put together a setting on your phone that you download from say Etsy, you download this preset. You’ll install the preset. My favorite is Lightroom. You’ll install the preset into your phone and it will basically save so that when you download a new photo, say you took some photos at a recital and you want to post the photo, if you have this preset then you jump into Lightroom, say you’re using Lightroom, on your phone and then you just go to presets in your Lightroom app, you click the one that you downloaded that you’re using on your feed, and it basically applies the same settings across several photos. This allows you to level up your Instagram feed because it will look a little bit better, look like a professional photographer went in and took these photos but you can’t hire a professional photographer. I think that’s the beauty of a preset. It just makes things look pretty and then you don’t have to go in and try to match the photos across your feed. You already have something that’s preset to do it.


Andrea: Okay, so I’m going to make someone really mad right now. I’m going to say it’s kind of like a filter in that it impacts the visual of your photo but it’s actually changing the photo like if you were to go in and edit the saturation and the lighting and contrast of each individual photos. So it’s impacting the photo and not just covering it over like a filter does.

Gillian: Oh yes, okay, that’s a great analogy. That is exactly what it is doing. Essentially, you’re changing the photo but I think the positive is that everything look consistent.

Andrea: And if you’ve looked at houses if you go to Zillow and you look at houses, you can see the difference in the photos where the photographer has done something like that and one where the realtor went through with their cellphone and just stamped a bunch of pictures and threw them up and didn’t care. I can tell you this because we sold a house a year and a half ago and had a photographer who came and made really nice photos and I know we got a higher sale price on our house because of the pictures.

Alright, thank you for that list. That’s really helpful for getting started and things to ask for because not everyone understands the business of a music teacher so it’s helpful to have some things that you can ask for when we’re talking to a graphic designer. And before we go, you have generously agreed to sponsor the Music Studio Startup launch grant this summer which I’m super excited about and especially because I just love the way you’re so into the partnership with music teachers or with any small business owner you worked with and bringing out what they really care about and that’s something that I care about too. So can you tell us what you’re contributing to the grand prize package for our Studio Startup grant?

Gillian: Yeah, honestly, I’m going to do a full brand identity. I’m stoked about it. I am so excited to get to jump into this. So for me, a full brand identity–that looks at a logo with various other lockups, so you could have the logo by itself, you can have a horizontal lockup and a vertical lockup just because you’ll need your logo in different locations. We’re going to do a color palette. We’re going to do fonts. I’m going to include five social media templates for posting on Instagram and then I’d love to work with you to develop website graphics. You might already have a website so that might just mean taking this brand identity and plugging that in to what you already have that would look like a preset patterns of photography look, so maybe it’s black and white, maybe it’s highly saturated, but we can talk about that, but yeah, I think the full brand identity, the whole thing. I’m super excited.


Andrea: Me too! I can’t wait to see what business is born out of this. Yeah, it’s going to be just like the best-looking young music school I think there ever was. So I’ll share more details about the grant after this interview but you can find those details at Musicstudiostartup.com/grant2020 and also find details about what Gillian is offering. And lastly, where can listeners get in touch with you?

Gillian: So it’s so funny. I’m a brand new business myself so I’m still in the process of building but you can find me at gemstudios.co. That’s important, it’s gemstudios.co not com, and so I’m building my website right now and then you can find me on Instagram @gem.studios.co.

Andrea: Alright Gillian, thank you so much for sharing everything today. I think this has given us a lot to think about and kind of some direction if we choose to pursue working with a graphic designer. Thank you so much.

Gillian: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having me on.


I love the way Gillian sees herself as a partner to the business owners she works with. You’ve heard me talk about how understanding our own Vision & Values can help us attract better students for our studios. This is because when we know what’s important to us, we can communicate to others what’s important to us and we connect with the students who value what we have to offer.

Adding the graphic design layer, really takes our communication game up a level. Now it’s not just our words doing the talking, it’s every aspect of our studio marketing. Even without reading, clients get a feel for our studio values.

Thinking of ways to strengthen our studio branding always makes me think of the interview with Wendy Racer, an interior designer, way back in Episode 006. I’ll link to that in the show notes if you want to give it a listen.

Did you hear about that custom brand identity package Gillian’s providing for the grand prize winner of the Music Studio Startup grant competition?

I’m kind of jealous.

In addition to this brand identity package, our grand prize winner will receive a 6-month subscription for the Fons scheduling and payment app, $500 cash to invest in their business, AND access to the summer business building program.

The deadline to apply is May 31.

If you know a new or new-ish music teacher (maybe a former student or recent grad), would you let them know by sharing this episode with them?

Now, the grand prize winner is not the only one who gets help building their studio. Applicants also get prizes!

Fons is providing a special discount for eligible applicants AND applicants will get mini scholarships for the business building program starting in June.

I remember looking back on the first year and a half of running the music school I started right out of college and thinking “wow, if I were to do this again, I could accomplish the same amount in a fraction of the time because I would know what mattered and what didn’t.”

So, that’s the goal of this program. To walk you through the most important decisions of the first three months in business.

Each of the 12 weeks you’ll have a very non-overwhelming GOAL to think about to get your business set up for success and sustainability.

It’s a weird time to be starting a business, but it’s also a great time.

Links for everything I talked about in this episode can be found in the show notes at musicstudiostartup.com/episode041

That’s all for now. Get those applications in or share with someone you care about. I’ll be back next week.

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