Bill Kenney

A Chat with Melissa Yeager

You may have noticed what a people person I am. I draw my energy from talking to other designers and entrepreneurs. And just cool people in general.

One of my favorite things about Sidecar is how it acts as a revolving door into the creative community. Our team gets to share tools and tips with our fellow designers, photographers, videographers, project managers, brand and content strategists, writers, etc. In turn, we get to pal around with incredible people who are doing awesome things.

I’ve known Melissa Yeager for a couple of years. She’s an amazing designer and, since January, an independent business owner. She’s also been a huge Sidecar advocate and influencer from the beginning.

Besides having a fantastic attitude and just being a super-cool person, Melissa has a design philosophy that is close to my collaborative heart: share the wealth.

In the interest of continuous learning and “making it better,” I caught up with her recently to talk Sidecar.  

Meet Melissa Yeager

You just started your own business. Tell me a little about how that feels in general, and how Sidecar factors into your work.

Melissa: Well, it’s a great change working from home, working for myself, and forming my own routine. It’s been amazing.

I’ve recently narrowed down to a niche, doing just logo and brand design work instead of general design. From there, I narrowed down even more to custom design and hand-lettering for creative entrepreneurs.

It’s awesome to be able to do the kind of work I want to do now and have a more curated portfolio, then see the kind of clients that attracts. I love when people reach out to me and say, “I saw that thing you did [that I love doing] and it looks incredible. I want you to do exactly that for me.”

“And now that I’m a business owner and a one-woman show, it’s nice to have assets that support me.”

It streamlines my processes and makes it easier to get really sophisticated, impressive work out to my clients. I can tailor these products to them without it taking me a ton of extra time. So it’s a great companion to help me level-up my systems.

What’s your favorite product?

Melissa: I purchased the Vertical Style Guide Template a while back after reading a Sidecar Journal post where you were talking about how this guide makes the whole brand feel more unified. It just shows the whole system together in one streamlined shot that makes it easier to understand.

Vertical Style Guide Template 4 Snippet of the Vertical Style Guide Template

Honestly, I was also curious to see what sections you guys would include. I knew I’d put in logos and colors, but what else? It’s so comprehensive, and helps to remind designers to include the rationale that helps the clients believe in the system and make it their own.

What’s the meaning behind the mark? Why are we using these typefaces and what’s the psychographic history behind them? Often the client will know all this when you’re going through the process together because you’ve explained it. But once they’re out in the wild with their brand, people will ask them questions -- like where their icons came from. And unless they have it to refer back to, they almost certainly won’t remember. The brand could start to erode internally at that point.

How do you usually modify it to fit your needs?

Melissa: I’ve modified the Vertical Style Guide stylistically to make it fit my design style, but the content stays pretty much as is. Normally I send it to the client with all their final files. But I also use it as a refresher for myself when I write a post or a case study about a project.

Melissa Yeager Creative Picnic The vertical Style Guide template formatted by Melissa for her client, Creative Picnic.

Any other products you’re particularly into?

Melissa: I’ve also been playing around with the Enamel Pin Mock-Up and I really like it. I’ve been thinking about creating a “brand welcome packet” for my clients with some fun, branded gifts that will get them excited about starting to use their new system. Pins would make a great addition to something like that. Pins are so hot at the moment.

Sidecar Enamel Pin Mopckups Visuals01 This image can be found in our store

Oh, totally. It’s a pin world right now. That’s an awesome idea. We definitely get excited about putting together an epic client gift after working with great people. You can also photograph it and add it to your portfolio.

So what do you think about the Sidecar Journal?

Melissa: I draw a lot of inspiration from the Journal. I especially love the articles in which you guys share what you’re reading. I think it’s helpful for people to see what feeds into the articles your team is writing. Two layers of sharing ideas is a really cool spin.

Because I specialize in hand-lettering, I loved Chase’s hand-lettering article. It’s fascinating to see how others approach it. And the GIFs are so engrossing; I could watch people hand-letter all day.

I’m also pretty glued to the pricing series. You know, the articles about attracting clients, client reactions, and managing projects. Your pricing ideas are a big mind shift for independent creatives who are just learning how to sell their work. It’s like, “Wait? Don’t charge hourly?” It’s a whole new ball game when you break out on your own, and I feel like no one tells you this stuff.

Interesting… makes sense that you’re into the entrepreneurial resources because of where you are in your career.

So what about the Slack channel? Do you feel like that also helps you as a new business owner?

Melissa: The Slack channel is amazing because it pulls in people from all kinds of backgrounds, levels, and niches. It’s a peek behind the curtain, like, “Wait... you’re also just figuring it out? I’m not alone? Amazing!” Sort of a digital conference meets co-working space.

I totally agree. I think co-working is a great way to describe it. Just getting people in a room together to bounce ideas off each other is valuable, so I’m glad to hear you’re getting that value from the Sidecar Slack channel.

Melissa: It’s satisfying to talk to people about how they design things and how they run their business. But as an independent designer, it’s often just nice to engage with people, because I’m working from home by myself. It also helps me grow when I can give advice to newer designers.

“Being a part of the Sidecar community in general is helpful for me as a business owner. You break it down for me in a fun way. I think, if they can do it, I can do it.”

Definitely. We followed a very similar path with Focus Lab. I started out as a designer with no big dreams to own a business. I was very much like you: I liked designing and I just wanted to do it on my own, on my own terms.

It’s super scary at first, and don’t get me wrong -- it’s still a roller coaster. But I’m happy to be riding it at this point. I can’t wait to talk to you a couple years from now about where you are.

My thanks to Melissa for being such a great representation of the Sidecar community. We’ve built this brand to support people like Melissa in all the ways: from actual design tools to a caring, knowledge-sharing community. We wish you the best in your new venture and will be cheering the whole time.

If you want to learn more about Sidecar, check out our mission page. And please raise your hand if you want into our private Slack channel (email or tweet @madebysidecar). As Melissa pointed out, it’s like a digital co-working space you share with other creative minds.

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