Welcome to Love + Work.
We are Rick and Sally – an ordinary couple sharing life together in both marriage and business. Over 25 years ago we said “I do” standing next to each other on a family farm. Five years later, we slid two desks together in a spare bedroom of our newly-mortgaged bungalow, believing we could run a design agency (with very little business understanding).
Twenty years later – with the help of good friends and mentors, sheer grit, and the mercy of God – we are still working feet away from each other and happily married (or fully delusional). Either way we have been able to do it from the location of our choosing, or as it’s now being called “location independent”. Our story includes feast and famine, success and failure. Through it all we learned a ton of valuable insights, methods and approaches (much of it from trial and error, baby). Frankly we are still learning.
But, it all started with a question…
Can marriage be MORE?
It was a big question. One we intentionally discussed a lot before the rings fit our fingers. We wanted to chase something special. Something more than what our culture was serving up in sitcoms – couples sniping at each other, slamming doors, using each other for the butt of every joke and waiting for the laugh track to chime in. We wanted to discover if real closeness, intimacy, trust, friendship, and teamwork were possible.
There was also a desire to create our own business together, sometime in the future. However, as a couple of “financially challenged” art school graduates, we were not really sure how to get started.
Wait… WHAT?! We’re having a baby?!
Eighteen months into our marriage, a surprise pregnancy with our first born forced us to start figuring out how, and quick. Fortunately, another surprise mysteriously showed up on our doorstep soon after our discovery, which made a business possible. Three Apple boxes appeared (and not the kind with fruit in them). With that anonymous computer gift, Sally started freelancing from home. Three years later, with a growing client list, Rick quit his agency job and joined her in the home office, just before the birth of our second child.
We are NOT Timothy Ferris or Mark Zuckerberg
We are not brilliant, or born entrepreneurs. When we began, we had no business plan or strategy. No systems. No mentors. Just two designers creating jobs for ourselves, so we could set our own schedule and move to a small town to raise our kids. We scrambled to figure out accounting systems, legal issues and taxes. We roughly figured out how many hours a month we needed to bill to make ends meet. We said yes to ANY client, with ANY project, then scrambled to figure out how to make it happen, often going waaaayyy over budget, but chalking it up to “education”.
Our clients would send us their stuff and we would crank out the marketing materials – in print or online – without getting involved in the marketing strategy. (We had an uneasy truce and some misguided thinking with the terms “marketing” and “sales”). So we just focused on design and programming, which worked for a number of years – until it didn’t.
Our Skills Were Being Replaced
Sometime after the great recession hit, we started noticing the writing on the wall – and it said what we were doing was fast becoming a commodity. As mentioned in our “disappearing career” post, easy online web design tools began appearing.
They offered anyone the ability to DIY their own website, without any coding knowledge or need to hire a designer or developer. Great thing for consumers. Trouble for developers, if all you’re doing is putting together a website like IKEA furniture. Not only that, but design budgets were being reduced and projects moving in-house for the Client to manage.
As the work disappeared we began looking into other business ideas outside of our industry. Most were centered around small, sustainable housing, Fortunately, none of them penciled out and in the end it forced us to reinvent our web design business model, or perish. However, as the saying goes, when one door closes another one is opening.
A New Way of Marketing Restored Our Hope
That open door was actually a new way of helping people find the thing they actually want on the internet. It redeemed the word “marketing” by helping our clients attract the right people who are ACTUALLY interested in what they have to offer, mainly through search and social media. You can read more about our marketing ecosystem @ Redbarn, but in short, Google and Facebook changed the sales game by moving the access to information out of the hands of the salespeople and into the hands of the customer.
The cheesy sales pitch no longer works when your potential customer can quickly search product reviews, or ask their online community for recommendations, instantly from the phone in their pocket. Now, the company who wins is the company who is actually most helpful, entertaining, or knowledgeable about what their customer wants. Which is something we can get behind! And we’re fairly sure there are other couples out there who feel the same. They’re just not sure how to start.