Charlotte Chipperfield is the founder and CEO of Chipperfield Media LLC. She has built a reputation as an expert and thought leader in the digital marketing space.
This Week on So You Want To Start A Business Podcast:
Charlotte works with business leaders to transpire thoughtful storytelling behind their brand, creating driven conversation and a healthier bottom line. Prior to starting Chipperfield Media in 2014, Charlotte managed a number of sales teams and developed marketing and social media strategies for a number of Fortune 1000 companies. Charlotte holds a BA from the University of Oregon in International Business and French and is a regular contributor to online publications. She enjoys working with clients to drive increased customer engagement through creative and professional social media and marketing campaigns.
During our conversation Charlotte tells us her business startup story and talks about the real challenges in getting started in her business. One of the things that Charlotte really loves in her business is finding new clients and she shares her unique strategy for finding new clients.
Reaching out to new clients is often something that causes great fear in many people, Charlotte advises “Get out of your own way” when it comes to finding new clients. She also shares how she deals with ‘fear’ and tells us that “It shows up for a reason” and it often gives her the sense that she is on the right track.
Charlotte is a fun and generous person with her time and insights in this interview and I thank her for that generosity.
If you have the chance to listen to the podcast I’m confident that there will be something for you in this interview.
Podcast Full Transcript:
INGRID: Here we are with Charlotte Chipperfield from Chipperfield Media, and Charlotte is going to tell us today her business start-up story. Good morning to listeners and good afternoon in San Francisco to you Charlotte.
CHARLOTTE: Good morning Ingrid and thank you so much for having me.
INGRID: My pleasure and thank you so much for joining us. It’s quite exciting that you are on that side of the world and we are on this side of the world. Let’s just start with what business you are in – how do you describe your business Charlotte?
CHARLOTTE: Absolutely. My business is Chipperfield Media and we specialise in digital marketing. Digital marketing has become this large industry if you will and what we really specialise in is telling stories thru social media and marketing and content development, which is usually in the form of website copy and blog content. We usually spend about 80% of our time in the social media world.
INGRID: Yes, we all have to be in there don’t we?
CHARLOTTE: Yes we do.
INGRID: So when did you start this business of yours?
CHARLOTTE: Chipperfield Media started in 2014 so going into our 3rd year which is very exciting.
INGRID: Terrific indeed. So, tell us the story of why you started? How did this come about?
CHARLOTTE: I think for me I had been working in the marketing space and I had gotten to launch a couple of large brands and their social media online in my previous role. And for me I just loved using the new tools of social media. Facebook was expanding into the business pages, and I thought it was such an exciting opportunity for business and I had always been a writer and a storyteller so it sort of combined my love for business with my love for writing and storytelling. So it really stemmed from wanting to help companies and brands tell their stories on line.
INGRID: That’s so lovely. And what did you want from the business? You wanted to help tell their story and brand but what did you personally want from your business at the beginning?
CHARLOTTE: I think for me it was kind of cliché but being my own boss, and wanting to have that independence and the financial freedom and flexibility and building my own work environment for a lot of creative individuals it’s hard to sit at a desk from 9 to 5. So, to be able to schedule my day so that I know when I am at my best creatively or not at my best, is something that actually helped me a lot in my business – having that flexibility.
INGRID: Is it giving you that? Do you have that sense of flexibility and being your own boss?
CHARLOTTE: I do, although I probably spend more time at my desk now that I am my own boss. (laughs)
INGRID: (laughs) Oh the irony!
CHARLOTTE: Yes the irony! But at the same time if I do need to take a 2 hour lunch break to go to the gym or run some errands I can do that – I don’t need to ask someone to approve me going out for that length of time. Yeah, I probably spend more time working but it’s more rewarding, and just being able to take those breaks when I need to, or take the afternoon off. I think it’s important to have that balance.
INGRID: And do podcasts like this. And we are running a webinar together which is exciting. So to be able to make those decisions about running your business and your life and looking after your clients and customers in your own way. There’s a point in time, where you actually realise that you are ‘in business’ – do you remember that moment when it felt like the business became real?
CHARLOTTE: Yes, I do. I think it was about 6 months after I started and we had accumulated a handful of clients and we were helping them with a little task here and there, and I was also applying for jobs at the same time. I can do some consultancy and work in my company, and I kept getting rejected from jobs. They were so competitive, and it was like ‘oh man, so discouraging’ but looking back now it was supposed to happen. So this handful of clients started growing, I realised ‘wait, I have a business on my hands, I am now working full time for myself.” And that is the point when I incorporated and then it felt really official.
INGRID: So what do you call it in the USA? What were you? A sole operator?
CHARLOTTE: A sole proprietor.
INGRID: Here we call it sole trader and then we become incorporated so that same idea of working for yourself and then you become serious and an incorporated business. So that was the moment for you – you had a handful of businesses here and its real!
INGRID: So how did you know – and I know you were doing this marketing for another business – but how did you know your customers would want what you were offering? That your business idea would be viable? That your customers wanted what you were offering – how did you get that sense?
CHARLOTTE: great question. I think social media for business is still so new in a way, it’s really only been in the last 5 years that companies have embraced it to their fullest. There are lots of companies out there that are still not sure – should we do it, should we not do it? And we are all in the digital space at some point in time, you have to be there, so social media is one of those tools that really helps you spread your message and connect with your customers. I think as social media continues to evolve there is always going to be a need for it, especially from the business standpoint.
INGRID: What I observe, and I am sure you see the same, when businesses have to do it for themselves, it’s just another job they have to do. And when someone like you, who spends their whole time in that space….
CHARLOTTE: Yes exactly. A lot of clients I talk to, it’s always that bandwidth issue. They want to do it, and they know they should do it, but it always falls to the bottom of the to do list. So, when it falls to that, it’s sort of lets throw up a post, and we will forget about it for a week, then we will throw up another post. And it’s really being able to step back and take the time to plan that strategy and what is the content offering, what do we want our customer to do as a result of seeing it. There is a lot of steps going into it, even before you post.
INGRID: It’s not just jumping on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and putting something there.
INGRID: So back to your business, how did you fund your business, and I guess it’s you and your laptop. But as you said you were thinking about applying for jobs, so how did you eat your dinner and pay for your breakfast, how did you fund those early days?
CHARLOTTE: Yeah it was about stretching every dollar for sure. So, it was very much bootstrap – making sure I stayed within budget and that I was getting paid by clients. Not growing too quickly, that’s another thing. When you start a business you can want a grandiose office, and you want all these toys, and you want to expense everything but it’s really living within those means. I did get a small loan from my bank so that was helpful for the months when earnings weren’t as much as I’d like them to be but it was a very small loan…
INGRID: Some businesses save up a couple of months beforehand, a bit of a buffer balance for the first month or two when there is more time going out and less money coming in. So do people pay you a retainer or do you charge by the project?
CHARLOTTE: I generally do monthly retainers. On the social media front we do a retainer cause it takes a few months to get the content and see the results. We do some project work for website copy and blog writing – it depends on the service.
INGRID: Without revealing actual dollars, how did you come to a decision about pricing? Where did that amount come from? Where was your process for how much to charge clients?
CHARLOTTE: Another great question. And I think that was an ever-evolving process in the beginning and still sometimes is. I think for the social media front it really depends on the frequency of posts and on how many platforms. They are the two main indicators for me. I don’t charge by the hour for social media cause sometimes I just spend 30 seconds checking notifications although there were a couple of clients I did charge by the hour and I realised it was impossible with a minute here and a minute there. That was sort of the light bulb moment, why not charge a retainer?
INGRID: A retainer yes. And that gives you the freedom to dip in and out of their account as you need to, without reporting it, because they are looking at results, aren’t they? Charging a retainer allows results over a period of time, rather than saying how many hours have you spent on whatever that is?
CHARLOTTE: Cause then you end up spending more time recording what you did, rather than actually doing it. Laughs.
INGRID: Like the old time and motion stuff we did in the corporate world. So now charlotte how do you find new customers? You said you started with the group of early customers – and you’ve grown that – but where do your new people come from?
CHARLOTTE: Yes, that’s an ever-evolving process. Those initial clients all came from my network from people I knew in my professional life. I think today there is still that element of the referral which I am very thankful for – but I do a lot of things to get new clients, which involve networking, outreach, emails, making sure that companies list the right directories online. We also do our own email marketing social media so it’s a bit of everything really. That is what is so exciting about having your own business, it might be ‘so what do we try this week that might help us grow?’ It’s one of those challenges I like to take on, which is something that surprised me when I first started my own business.
INGRID: Isn’t that interesting? Because that is how you found me – you reached out to me a couple of months ago – and its take a while to get this podcast together. But that is how we started this relationship and now it feels like you are a friend I’ve known for ages.
CHARLOTTE: I know, it’s great. There is no harm in reaching out. I used to be afraid that I was bugging people. But now I think there could be great collaboration that comes out of it, and I’ve met awesome people doing great things. And so much of that has become resources for me. So if someone comes to me asking for website design, which is not my specialty, I have a toolbox of individuals that I can refer them to. And it’s always great to build your networks.
INGRID: What would you say to the listeners about that? There is a real lesson there – what is the piece of advice, for people just starting out in business, that comes out of what you just said there?
CHARLOTTE: Just ‘get out of your own way’. Putting what you need out there and see what comes back. And just reaching out and asking for what you need to……
INGRID: And there is a sense of clarity about your customers isn’t there? You have a preferred group of people you’d rather work with, but who are the people that are your ideal client?
CHARLOTTE: We have worked with a few different industries but we are very consumer product oriented. We have worked with service industries and tech companies as well, being in the Bay area, but we are very consumer product based.
INGRID: I know a number of my listeners are consumer product oriented, and some of my own clients sell products. And I know there are other people listening who are interested in starting a business around a product. But so often people start a business around a service, but there are lots of people in the product space as well. It’s an exciting space to be in Charlotte.
INGRID: Do you have an exit strategy? I know it feels like a really weird question when you are only 3 years in but do you have an exit strategy.
CHARLOTTE: Good one. Yes, I think that was in my background when I started my business, having a business degree when I started my business, I thought I’d better have an exit strategy. But honestly, I’d love to do this as long as possible…but I’m sure there will be a time that comes when it makes sense to merge with another industry or agency. I don’t know if selling the business would be right cause my name is on it, but you never know.
INGRID: Although Chipperfield Media sounds like a media company, it’s not like Charlottes Story Telling, or something. That would be quite different, if it was much more hobbyish but Chipperfield Media sounds like something that should be on Wall Street. (Both laugh.) It’s a great name, isn’t it?
CHARLOTTE: Yes, I guess it is.
INGRID: So, you do have an exit strategy at the back of your mind. The reason I ask that is because it is important for everyone to think about what is this business and where might it go if it could be bought by, or merged with, another agency. To think about what are the assets you are building to work towards that in your business?
INGRID: So now some retrospective questions, what is one thing you wish you’d done differently in the beginning?
CHARLOTTE: I think it’s going back to being less scared. I think I realised I was a business, there was a lot of fear that came up, and so I think for me I had to get over that, if you will. And know that fear sometimes pushes you in the right direction, I mean it shows up for a reason. But for me I know when fear crops up, then I am probably doing the right thing, but I am also expanding and growing at the same time, which is where the fear comes from. I think if I’d had less fear in the beginning I would have done more outreach and networking where I was hiding in myself a little bit. It’s amazing when you start to expand and do those things, it’s kind of an interesting journey. I feel if I’d jumped in sooner, there would have been less fear.
INGRID: Although as you say, sometimes fear shows up for a reason.
INGRID: Here is another question, similar but different. What do you wish you’d known from the beginning?
CHARLOTTE: I’m not sure if there was anything. My life has changed so much in the last 3 years. I’ve been challenged physically mentally spiritually, and I feel like I’ve grown so much in that time period. I am not sure if it would have happened at any other time, especially that fast. I think I’ve learned so many lessons along the way and they’ve all happened exactly when they were supposed to.
INGRID: And having a business degree, and working in the industry, you had a lot of knowledge of your field and you were quite well prepared in that way, weren’t you?
CHARLOTTE: Yes, I think so. But you never really know until you get there. Especially the details of starting your own business and taxes and those little details. Like what – what do I do?
INGRID: Apart from yourself, and it doesn’t need to be the name of the person, but who have been the greatest assistance to you and your business? The people or the personas around you that have been of greatest assistance.
CHARLOTTE: I am very fortunate. I have a very supportive family and network, which is great. I actually made a decision last year to bring on someone to work with me and she has been an amazing rockstar. Being able to delegate time consuming tasks, and her knowledge base has been great, an amazing working relationship and I am very thankful for her.
INGRID: And just out of interest is she physically with you, or is she virtual?
CHARLOTTE: She is virtual, but she’s not located very far away from me physically.
INGRID: I have a virtual assistant now that I sometimes think I could not live without. And she’s someone I’ve known for a very long time, and she’s in Australia but the difference it makes for someone to take on some of that stuff is just astounding, isn’t it?
CHARLOTTE: Yes, the amount of time it saves just researching things like photos for social media, that can sometime take all day, so it’s amazing to have help.
INGRID: So, Charlotte you’ve talked about having a really strong family network that is very supportive so they may be part of your next answer. But who can give you really useful feedback or good feedback on your business?
CHARLOTTE: I try to work with a business coach as much as possible. Last year I worked with an amazing woman, sort of in the Mastermind Group but I also had a lot of one-on-one time with her. And she was amazing at calling you out, and redirecting you. Sometimes having a creative mind you have ‘shiny object syndrome’ and she was really good at saying that ‘those are really good ideas but what do you need to focus on right now, or what do you need to focus on later?’ That was amazing for me. She kept me clear on the business path and it set a lot of the foundational work for the business which is amazing to have that in place.
INGRID: So, having a really good business coach makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?
CHARLOTTE: Yes it sure does.
INGRID: When I look at the statistics for these podcasts, for the last 30 interviews or so, there are thousands of people listening which is great, but what is the one thing you would say to someone starting their own business? You’ve touched on the idea of ‘getting out of your own way’, but what is something you would tell someone starting their own business?
CHARLOTTE: Yes, I’d say to get started, even on the weekend or the evenings while you are still working full time, I’d start to dip your toe in the water, and kind of see where it goes. Build that foundation, that client base if you are service based. Or if you are product based, try and get samples produced and test it on friends and family, and have different people use it. To get started, put that plan together of what it would look like, and put the financing in place if you need that. The more you can do before you quit your job the better off you will be.
INGRID: That is such good advice Charlotte. Dip your toe in the water and see if it’s going to be viable. So the characteristics that you have, and having spoken to you a few times now, I can see some of your characteristics that make you successful. But what do you think it is that makes you successful in your business?
CHARLOTTE: Yeah, the 3 things I’d probably say is persistence, showing up each and every day. At the same time having patience, knowing you always want things to happen quicker than they do. And the last one is creativity, that is a huge part of my job.
INGRID: And it definitely is – for you to do the things that you do. I love that idea of persistence, just showing up over and over. What do you think is essential for someone starting up? What do you think is essential for our listeners and a business start-up?
CHARLOTTE: I think diligence, if you are dipping your toe in the water on nights and weekends, it can be easy to go to dinner or take a weekend away. But you have to do as much as you can. I also think being patience, I would repeat that one. And then honestly having a light-heartedness, and not taking it all too seriously. You want to be serious enough, but having a good sense of humour will help for those moments like ‘how did all this happen?’.
INGRID: And diligence is an interesting one. Quite different to persistence, isn’t it? How do you see them as different?
CHARLOTTE: Hmm I think diligence is the action of doing, whereas persistence is convincing yourself you need to do it. One is a mindset whereas one is an action.
INGRID: And I think in the early stages you need more diligence, because you can’t just go out to lunch with a friend or away for a weekend. Oh, an A380 airplane has just flown over and it’s the sounds of the suburbs here in my home office. (laughs)
CHARLOTTE: Maybe it’s a sign that I need to come and visit you. (both laugh)
INGRID: Yes, you must! Is there anything else you’d like to add for people listening?
CHARLOTTE: These are great questions. I think a lot of the work I’ve been through, apart from building the business and the strategies in place, it’s also the mindset. I definitely underestimate how much you are challenged to self-motivate and keep going, especially when those deals don’t work out that you wanted to work out. Especially when you are starting – there are so many items that have to come together. But it’s great, it makes you so much stronger. When I look back at those first 6 months it’s great to see how much things have grown. And to be appreciative too – that’s important – and don’t beat yourself up over little things.
INGRID: Yes, there are a lot of people out there who need and want what you do. Charlotte, I am going to thank you so much for being part of this podcast. I know in 2 weeks time you and I are doing a webinar on social media and I am very excited about that. Thank you today for the podcast, it’s been great.
CHARLOTTE: Thank you so much Ingrid. I look forward to the webinar as well.
Connect with Charlotte Chipperfield:
- Snapchat: @chipperfieldmkg
- Email: Charlotte@chipperfieldmedia.com
If you want to listen on:
This is a terrific interview and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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