Getting your small business online – Interview with Visual Designer Catherine McManus

Catherine McManus
This week we had the pleasure to connect with Catherine McManus of Creatively Designed. She’s a Web & Graphic Designer who creates soulful, engaging websites and marketing materials for creative businesses. Below is our interview with Catherine. She shares some great insight on getting your small business online.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you are currently doing – give us a brief bio.

I’ve been designing websites and brands for almost 15 years. But I started out as a photographer! In high school, I taught myself HTML so I could build a website to display my photos online. Instead of Photography, I ended up with a degree in Web & Graphic Design and e-Marketing while working my way through college as the manager of a photo lab. Eventually I became a full-time freelance designer, website manager and consultant for a number of businesses in the holistic wellness industry – yoga studios, massage therapists and Reiki practitioners. I’ve found that my niche is working with women-owned businesses. I love that we are growing our businesses together and supporting each other along the way. After 7 years doing this professionally, I can say I truly love my work and know how lucky I am to be able to say that.

What I’m working on:

  • I’m in the planning stages for two new website makeovers
  • Managing a yoga school’s email marketing campaigns

Why did you choose to specialize in design for small business owners and entrepreneurs?

Because I love seeing the look on my clients’ faces or all the exclamation points in their emails when I show them the final product. The excitement, drive and motivation they have for their businesses fuels my own desire to grow and evolve in my business.

Describe your basic approach to graphic web design projects with small businesses.

When I connect with a potential new client, I send a short questionnaire to find out what they really need. This also helps the client because it asks questions they may not have thought to ask themselves before. I then outline a proposal that explains what I think the best plan of action is, giving them details about how the website will be structured, how the content will be organized and how I will incorporate (or develop) their brand into the website. I then assist with content creation, editing, and make suggestions that will better serve the overall customer user experience.

Oftentimes, aspiring business owners get so caught up in the details that they lose sight of what they’re going into business for in the first place. I try to take some of that stress away. I’m more than just a web and graphic designer… I’m a sounding board for their ideas, a virtual assistant when they don’t have time to find just the right stock photo, a website content manager, email marketing campaigner, and sometimes even a business coach when they’re feeling frustrated or creatively “stuck”.

What are the top 3 things a small business owner needs to know about branding?

Consistency, personality and honesty.

Your brand is comprised of a few different things – mainly, Visuals and Voice. The visuals are most often what people respond to (think Pinterest and photographs with inspirational quotes). So everything from your logo, to your website’s graphics, print marketing materials and even the images you share on social media should be visually consistent so you’re easily identifiable and memorable (same fonts, colors, etc).

Voice is how you speak to your ideal customer. Don’t be afraid to show some personality, and always be open and honest. People respond well to copywriting that sounds like it was written by a real thinking and feeling person! Be someone your ideal customer can relate to. Never push people to buy. Tell them how they can benefit from buying your product or hiring you to carry out a service.

What are the top 3 things a small business owner needs to know about website DIY?

Do your research. There are a lot of free build-your-own website tools out there that make you upgrade to unlock more options. Be sure the service you choose is right for your needs before diving in and building your website.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every cent you spend on support is going to save you more time and money in the long run.

Trial-and-error is your friend. Don’t get discouraged when things go wrong. As with any type of DIY project, you learn so much just by trying. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again! And again and again! But if you’re really stuck on something, go back to Number 2.

What are the biggest benefits of using WordPress for your website?

Personally: I’m no longer coding from scratch! Because of this, I’m able to focus more on the graphic design / visual branding. I’m also able to offer my Website Packages at affordable rates for the type of people I like to work with (small businesses and entrepreneurs).

For DIY-ers: You don’t have to wait until you have the funds to set up a website. You can start with the free version of WordPress,, and when you’re ready to hire a web designer you can easily move your content over to your new, custom-designed website. I talk about this on my blog.

Can you share a brand/business that was especially fun to design for?

Last November, I had the opportunity to create a new website for the Mediaeval Baebes, a classical choral ensemble from London. I’ve been listening to their music, and have been inspired by it artistically, for many years. They were one of my first new clients after setting up my business here in England. It was a tight deadline, as it can often be in my line of work, but the ladies in the group and their manager are so great to work with that it made for a very enjoyably hectic few weeks!

What’s your favorite social network and why?

This keeps changing for me. As a graphic designer and photographer, I love Pinterest. The power of beautiful imagery is staggering in how strongly it can influence people to engage with a business.

As someone who currently lives in a rural town in England, I also love Facebook groups and Twitter hashtag chats. This makes it easier for me to network and connect with some wonderful people. Small businesses really know how to support each other!

My website:
Twitter: @catarionna

Catherine McManus
Visual Designer
Creatively Designed
Websites & Branding for New and Growing Businesses

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One Response

  1. Diane March 2, 2014

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