Episode 14: Amber Clark
Entrepreneur Conundrum Podcast
A self-proclaimed artistically challenged entrepreneur creates a thriving career and business as a graphic designer.
EC 01 | 4min
About The Guest
Today, I’m talking with Amber Clark about how a self-proclaimed artistically challenged entrepreneur creates a thriving career and business as a graphic designer.
Amber says that she is one of the worst artists that you’ll ever meet. And that her signature drawing is a stick elephant.
And yet she is known as an incredible graphic designer who has helped thousands of individuals and companies with their branding and design needs and has even partnered with multiple international brands and government agencies.
Amber loves to geek out over typography and is a collector of fonts. Her personal library, boosts almost 2000 unique type faces.
With almost two decades of experience and a background in both graphic design and marketing Amber often jokes that her work brain has a split personality. She’s half creative and half analytical.
Welcome to Entrepreneur Conundrum with Virginia Purnell, where growing entrepreneurs share how they get visible online.
Hi everyone. Today, I’m talking with Amber Clark about how a self-proclaimed artistically challenged entrepreneur creates a thriving career and business as a graphic designer. Amber says that she is one of the worst artists that you’ll ever meet. And that her signature drawing is a stick elephant. And yet she is known as an incredible graphic designer who has helped thousands of individuals and companies with their branding and design needs and has even partnered with multiple international brands and government agencies. Amber loves to geek out over typography and is a collector of fonts. Her personal library, boosts almost 2000 unique type faces. With almost two decades of experience and a background in both graphic design and marketing Amber often jokes that her work brain has a split personality. She’s half creative and half analytical.
Hello, thank you. I’m excited to be here.
I am excited for you to be here too. So what led you to become an entrepreneur?
Actually, this was the last career that I ever wanted. I’m the daughter of an entrepreneur. And so I got to see firsthand the perks and pitfalls that go into entrepreneurialship and watching how difficult, like just all the different things that my dad did with his business. And while I was amazed at his ability to create something from nothing, I also recognized just how intimidating that was.
And so I went to college fully expecting to go corporate. I was going to get a career in communications marketing. I was going to live in a big city, have the high rise where the smart shoes, the briefcase and have a door man named Frank. Like it was all planned out.
And I started that career and I got into the middle of it and it just was not fulfilling. I got really frustrated because at that time in particular, you had a little bit of a power play going on between different departments. So you had marketing and PR and your graphic design, and they all kind of wanted to be the big dog, right? Like they were all the most important, but the truth was, I recognize it. It’s like, there is a little bit of trying to get a project done between all three of those. It just, there’s so much red tape and back and forth. And I just, I don’t like, I don’t like fake work. I don’t like unnecessary work. And so I became really frustrated with the idea that it’s like, I know what needs to be done. I know how to message it.
I know how it needs to be presented. I just don’t know how to make it pretty. And so eventually I went back to school and decided that I was gonna figure out how to do it myself. So I went back to school and became a graphic designer too. And I started doing more and more stuff combining. And then all of a sudden the economy took a turn and my, my work got downsized and I was one of the ones that got terminated.
And so I was left at a position where I needed to do something new. It wasn’t a market where a lot of jobs were available right then. And so I started putting my skills to work and I just kind of fell into it and realized that what I had was unique because I was combining, I was scanning two industries that didn’t typically love to play together in all scenarios.
And so I was able to kind of cut through the clutter and create Clark Creative Studio. Well, at the time it was Dutton Design Studio, and then later I got married and updated the name. So, but yeah, so that’s kinda how I fell into it. It was a little bit more backdoor and by accident.
That’s cool. You had mentioned that you approach projects differently than most. I was reading something about that. So can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Yeah. So like, like you mentioned earlier, I joked that I have, my work brain has a split personality and that comes from kind of the two backgrounds and trainings that I have. So from a public relations and marketing perspective in my, in my lifetime, or, you know, my past life of doing that, it was really about analyzing and strategy and understanding the purpose and the outcome that you wanted from your communications.
It was all about the right messaging for your audience, understanding their wants, their needs, and making sure that your message aligns with that and shows them how your service or product could be the solution that they’re looking for. From the design perspective, because most places design tends to live in the art world rather than the art schools and that kind of thing. They take a very visual, very creative approach to it. And so you can make something that is completely beautiful out of this world, really attention grabbing, which is wonderful, but they have to kind of marry. And that’s kind of what I gained because I went and I got, I got the training on both sides and I have practiced and, and honed those skills with both sides of my brain.
When I work on a project, I stop and think about it. Like before I start, I go through all of that marketing PR strategy, analytical kind of stuff, to make sure that I truly understand what the overall objective and goal is for that communication, for that product, for that visual element. And then I completely, once I have that clear, then I let loose the other half of my brain and I try to make it as unique and fun and attention grabbing and inviting as I can for that particular audience.
What are some of the big goals that you hope to achieve in the next one to two years?
I actually have some really exciting things going on that are planned, that I am working frantically to release. So to date, everything that I’ve done has been done for you work. So I’ve partnered with individuals and companies, helping them do their products.
I’m actually in the work of launching an entire course series. That’s going to teach other self-proclaimed artistically challenged non-creative business people, entrepreneurs, service providers on how to create their own stuff. So, one of the biggest things that I’ve heard is people have come to me and like, we work together. Like, I don’t know how you do it. I’m just not creative. I’m not artistic, but the truth is I’m not either.
I’m not joking when I say my best drawing is a stick elephant. And in fact, I was so bad that before I started design school, back in the day a little bit before I had an art teacher actually discouraged me from taking any other art classes again, because I was that bad and bless her heart, I hold no ill will, for her. She really truly was trying to help me like it was coming from the right spot. But it was definitely, I saw it coming when she said it. It was, it was cute.
Anyway. So what I want to do is it’s like, if I can do it, anyone else can do it. It’s something about graphic design in particular that it’s, it’s like art in that it shares some of the same principles and how you create it. Like when you talk about space and layout and proximity, like there’s just, there’s certain concepts within graphic design that definitely play in the art world, but it’s also its own unique thing. And it has a very simple set of guidelines and rules that you can follow and anyone can do it. And so that’s what I’m going to be launching a new course series. And it’s called From Drab to Fab and it’s completely geared towards helping other people find and unleash their inner designer.
That sounds like something that I might need to look at and explore. My daughter’s like how do you draw a person and I’m like, here’s a stick figure.
The entire series, like it, it’s not going to teach you how to draw anything. Cause the only thing I can teach you how to draw is my stick elephant. And if you go and check out my pages and stuff, it does, it does come into play. You will get to see it. But it’s not going to teach you how to draw.
It’s specifically geared towards your marketing materials. So your websites, your landing pages, your social media posts, it’s how to take your logo, your colors, and all those things and put them together in a way that’s not just going to look good, but it’s actually going to work. So you’ll get a little bit of, you’re going to get both sides of my brain in the course, you’re going to get the strategy on how you put those together to be the most effective. And then you’re going to learn the design techniques, principles, and elements of what you need to do to make it cohesive and work for you too.
Awesome. Even better. How would that goal of moving more from the done for you to your course change your business?
It’s actually gonna expand my business quite a bit. So when I’m not working and chasing after two kids who are highly energetic and take up a lot of my time. So the idea of a course is to be able to, from my business standpoint, is to be able to kind of expand my business in new ways and because courses are going to be kind of, they’ll be pre recorded and they’ll, you’ll be able to kind of work through them. And there’s a live component. I’m going to be able to maximize a little bit more of my time and be able to have a little bit more of a stronger home life, home-work, life balance.
Additionally, the fun thing is too, is it’s going to completely open up the people that I get to work with. To date being a done for you business, I’m only getting to work with those that are able to do it for themselves, but this way I get to partner with other people who are looking to create a similar life or they want that freedom and they want, they want financial freedom. They want time freedom. They, too, maybe kind of annoyed with the nine to five and just not feeling fulfilled like I did. And I want to be able to be that handout to help them and make that journey for them a little bit easier. And so it doesn’t quite take them half a decade. Like it did me.
Nice and it will help feel more fulfilled too. Right? Like being able to reach more people and not like it’d be able to help them reach their goals and their dreams too.
Exactly. I get to be a part of their missions and I get to be a part of their dreams and in a whole new way. And I’m really excited about that.
And do you get to be part of your family and children’s lives a bit more, which is always a nice feeling as a mom.
Yes. Yes. Hopefully fewer 2:00 AM work sessions because the baby is asleep.
Right? And then 7:00 AM, will look a lot nicer too.
7AM will feel a lot nicer.
So what’s a roadblock that has been stopping you from achieving this goal?
Oh, of launching it? Probably the biggest thing for me was because actually that’s, when you say that, because this project has actually already been three years in the making.
Three years ago, I launched an initial beta course and did my testing and it went really well. And I got the feedback. Like there is a place in the market for this. There are people that want this type of training and I was really inspired and excited about that. And then it sat on the back burner for another two years because I got pregnant, had another baby and moved. Like all of the life things happen. And so I think part of it was life, life got in the way, but also I allowed the intimidation factor.
There was so much in launching a course that I didn’t know. And there were just so many steps in how to do it just felt really, really daunting. And so finally what I did was I kind of put myself on a timeline and I got myself, I partnered with some friends that were also wanting to do some summer launches and, and we, held each other accountable. And it was just step by step. This week this has to be done. This week this has to be done. And that really changed things around. And so now most of my course picked it back up in January. No, I picked it back up about the end of February and I’m almost ready to launch; we’re in the final stages now. So it’s just having a plan and having those partners make all the difference in the world. And that’s what I lacked initially.
So making it more bite sized too and more, not so daunting.
What are you doing to attract more business and to become more visible online?
I am not doing all of the things that everyone else does. I probably should be doing more than I am if I’m being completely, if I’m being completely transparent.
I know you’re not – I was gonna say, you’re not the only one in that boat. Don’t worry.
Amber Clar (11:56):
We’ve talked about it before. It’s like the idea of limelight sounds great, but when it’s actually on you or when you’re actually trying to step into it, it gets, it gets really intimidating. And it’s like, Oh no, like go somewhere else, definitely going into this type of venture. That’s hard.
I have been very blessed and fortunate that I’ve been in business for almost over a decade as a graphic designer. I’ve been in this world for closer to two. And I have been very blessed that most of my business comes from referrals. Like I’m a firm believer that if you do good work, and if you give your best to your clients and that your product is sound and your services are good and they can see the results in their business from it, they will come back to you and they will share that with their friends. And so I am a huge proponent of that organic reach and it goes back to my PR days. Like what’s, I can tell you how great I am and you know, that may work in that maybe effective, but how much more effective is it if someone else that you trust comes out and says, no, I know this person, I think they’re wonderful. Like it just, it has a stronger weight. And so that has been, the majority of my business has been referral work. And so I haven’t had to work super hard to get it, which is a major blessing. And I know that’s not everyone’s scenario.
As far as trying to be more social online, I have been able to look for groups that kind of meet the needs. Like I am in some, I also do some web design and I touch into that world as well. And so I connect in those groups because I’m always looking for partners on projects and sometimes I need to have people that I can add to my team. And so, I work in those groups and I help. And I look for like, anytime someone’s posting a question, I answer like, Hey, from a graphic design perspective, from a messaging perspective, anytime I can add value to a comment or post I do. And that always creates new conversations and new connections. And I just, I try to show up and be there. And I try to make sure that I give more than I ask for is really my thing.
Which I’ve seen as well. But like, a lot of people also say that too, like, just give, give, give, and then it’ll come back to you.
I’ve been amazed in some scenarios recently actually been reached out to, by someone who had discovered a post from like three years ago that I did. And they’re like, yeah, you know, I went in there and I was, I was just kind of looking at like, they basically searched terms like graphic designer or whatever. And they were just looking at old posts and they’re like, your name came up so much as someone that you know, was getting feedback and is someone that people recommended. And so it was not someone that I was directly connected to at all. And it was a group that I hadn’t been active in a ton in probably about a year. And so it just, it just goes to show the staying power of being there really displayed.
What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Oh, that’s a great question. From a, well, one of the most recent ones that I’ve, I’ve discovered, I was talking with someone about premature – it’s a term called premature optimization and it basically comes back to what works for you doesn’t work for everyone else. And so stick to your vision, stick to your dream and make like, find your place in the world. Like, don’t feel like you have to copy everybody else. And then through that conversation, I discovered this term called premature optimization.
And it’s a, it’s a concept that kind of, that originated kind of within the software realm. But I think it applies, it has so many types of concepts that, like, you worry so much about the future and about what’s down the road and even further that you’re planning and you’re trying to optimize for something that hasn’t even been. And so you’re missing the opportunities that are right now. And by focusing so much on the long term and way down the road, you’re missing the opportunities and you’re not making steps that you need in order to actually get there.
And that sounds a little abstract. So to try to put it a little bit more relatable, it would be like, if so I live in Colorado and I’m from the South, so I’m not a skier, but let’s say, and when I first got here, it’s like, Oh, we should try skiing. You’re doing all, you know, let’s go skiing. Let’s figure it out. Well, in order to go skiing, you need a snowsuit, you need gloves, you need skis, you need ski boots, you need all these things. And it’s very easy for someone that moves to this beautiful state with these mountains and these great, amazing resorts around, to jump right in and to go buy all the things. They’re going to get the whole decked out everything before they even know if they like it.
And it’s this idea that sometimes like we go into a hobby, we go into a job, we go into a direction and we jump in full force so far thinking about the future, like the way longterm that we’re forgetting some of the most important initial steps of like, why would I invest in something in my business for maybe it’s a lifetime access and in some of those absolutely are worth it and are important to do. But some of them, if I’m planning so far down the road that I don’t actually even know if I need that service.
And so probably the best advice that I didn’t give was just have goals, but focus more on the journey and how you’re going to reach them versus the end. Like plant, plant your flag on where you want to go, cast your vision, but then focus on the pathway as you go versus putting all your time and energy on the destination and not focusing on how you’re getting there.
I like that. Thank you.
What is the best advice that you have ever given?
Oh, I don’t think I’ve ever given – no I’m just kidding haha. I don’t know. I feel like I’m not the one that can answer that question.
I would say probably one of the conversations that I have the most with people is when it comes to their brands. I talk about, I always have to kind of say like, there’s three considerations you have to make for your brand.
You have to consider, you have to consider your customers like their wants, their needs. You have to consider the culture and the country that you’re in. Like if you’re working internationally and then you have to consider your personal choice and your personal preferences. And, and what I mean by that is if I worked with some clients that are really amazing people, and let’s say that I, as an entrepreneur decide that I want to have a business and I’m selling car parts to NASCAR. That’s just, that’s the realm that I’m in. That’s my group. I can do it. And I’m gonna, I’m going to sell all this stuff to NASCAR. Well then, but I’m also a really, really girly girl. So I decided that for my brand, I’m going to want pink and flowers and whatever.
Like, that’s not really gonna resonate with that customer, right? Like NASCAR, more manly, like more masculine, like the colors within NASCAR racing are going to be more like blacks, bold, bright, whatever. It’s not really going to be your soft, pinks, flowers… You know what I’m saying? There’s kind of a disconnect there. So even though like my absolute favorite choice might be pink and flowers and that’s not necessarily going to resonate with my audience. And so I have to be able to take that into account.
And then when I talk about culture and country, what I’m referring to there is if you’re working internationally, you have to, you just have to have that understanding of your audience. For example, like white and America often refers to purity, cleanliness, heavenly, lots of, kind of connotations that kind of come with that subliminal connotations. But if you go to many Asian countries, it’s actually a color that is more representative of death. So you just have to be careful with the colors you pick in that and things.
So, it plays into every aspect of your brand, your design, all those things. But I always say, when you’re, when you’re focusing on your business, when you’re looking at a project, consider your, the culture, the clients, and then your, and your preferences. And you have to find that balance between all three.
Which would be really key. Like, I didn’t know that culture, like those cultures, thought of death that way. Right. So. Definitely having that forward vision as to where you want to take your company or where you want to offer your services, but then all encompassing. Way more to think about than you would initially think.
Yes, yes there is. And that’s where I say, like, when I, when I say I love color theory, especially it’s such a fun rabbit hole to dive into. There’s so much there. There’s so many nuances that can come into play, but that’s just in, that’s just one example, but there’s just so many nuances because everyone’s experiences are so unique and different, and our reference points are so different that you have to make sure that you are direct enough so that you’re not coming across disjointed, but open enough that it encompasses all of those experiences and backgrounds and viewpoints.
What would you like to share that I haven’t asked you?
I don’t know. I’m just having so much fun chatting.
Well, thank you.
I’m kind of geeking out – I’m on your podcast. I love listening to it.
So let’s see what you haven’t asked me yet.
I think probably one thing that I, another thing that I get quite a bit, as far as people interested in graphic design or doing that as they say that they feel like it’s very expensive or it’s too hard to get into and to learn. And I know that, especially based on like the previous question, you know, sometimes it can feel daunting like, Oh gosh, now I’ve gotta learn cultures and color theory. Like it seems daunting. It’s not.
The fun thing about graphic design is you can go as deep you want, and at a pace that you want. There’s really, truly, anyone can learn graphic design. Anyone can start to understand how the elements and principles behind graphic design really play into every aspect of their business. And so I would, if someone were to ask me how, how to go about doing that in a way that’s very cost effective and manageable, I would say there’s lots of great books. Like you could, you can YouTube and Google anything. Right?
So just start learning, start being aware, start, and even the next time you pick up the mail and you have all those little junk mails advertisements. Like if there’s one that catches your eye, set it aside for a minute. Not because you’re going to maybe, but maybe you’ll buy the product. Maybe you won’t, but just ask yourself, why do I like that? Is it the color? Is it what was it that got my attention? And what was it? Just take that second, because there’s so many messages that we’re receiving that we just take instantaneously and we just intuitively accept and understand like, Oh, that’s good design. And half the time how you know between the two is bad design stands out and you go, Oh, like everyone can recognize bad design. We’ve all seen it. We’ve all made it. We’ve all looked at it. And we’ve all scratched our heads going, what on earth are they thinking? Everyone can recognize that design.
Good design is so fluid that you don’t have to think about it. And so next time you see something that you’re like, Oh, I like that. Just ask yourself why and, and try to say like, what is it? Is it the color? Is it just because it’s clean? Did they do some kind of unique spread and as an effect. And then as you become aware, it’s really interesting. You’ll start to see it play into things that you create yourself.
I like that. It kind of makes me wish that I had junk mail.
Just start pinging everything on Facebook. And then you get pinged for everything and way more than you want to.
Thank you, Amber, for joining us today. How can people find out more about you and what you do?
Amber Clark :
I’ve had a blast. I’m so glad that I got to come on today. If people want to connect or find out more about me or about my course, they can connect with me. My direct website for Done For You work is www.ClarkCreativeStudio.com. And you can also find me on Facebook, Clark Creative Studio and find me there. And if you connect with me on my business page, then I can direct you to my groups where I share tips and tricks and you talk about all things,typography and color theory and graphic design, and we just geek out and have fun. And you can join me there and that’s free. And I can get you that if you’re interested in the course, I can get you that information there too.
Great. Thank you again so much. Have a great day.
No problem. You too. Take care.
Thank you so much for joining us today. Be sure to subscribe and leave some love through a review and I’ll catch you on the next episode.
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with Cory Carter
Cory shares how he started his entrepreneurial journey and how he helps other business owners.
EC 13 | 22 min
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EC 15 | 15 min
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