Yuri Gibson is a website and graphic designer living life on her own terms. Early financial struggles once stunted her growth, but since then her real-life story and journey have as begun. She graduated from college unable to find a job related to her field, and after 2 years of being unhappy with her career she moved to South Korea and started living her dreams. She is currently an expat that loves to teach English by day and runs a business about branding and side hustles by night. She is working her way towards establishing a Creative Education Company that seeks to educate about business, finance, health, and more in hopes of empowering others to overcome their circumstances. In this interview, Yuri shares her journey so far and offers some great advice based on all her life lessons so far. Enjoy!
"Because let’s face it, balance is pretty much a myth. It’s something that we’re always chasing but that I think few actually achieve."
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services or products do you offer?
Hello, my name is Yuri Gibson and I’m the designer behind viaYuri.com. I currently offer a range of design services for online business owners - from website design to social media graphics templates to interactive eBooks, checklists, and course workbooks. I’m also currently creating some design courses as well to help DIY-ers brand their biz.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
Oh, this is a bit of a long story. I went to the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) for commercial Interior Design with a minor in Architecture. This private school was well beyond my financial means and because of that, it took me 7 years to graduate!
I would often have to take a semester or two off just to work and hustle like crazy in order to pay for another semester. And when I was enrolled in classes (full time to keep scholarships) I would usually be working 2 jobs while maintaining all my school work! Crazy crazy years.
That was all said to set you up for what comes next. Though I was at the top of my class and considered very talented by my peers when it came time to find a job after graduation I was out of luck because I never could afford to take an internship while I was in college.
They either didn’t pay enough for me to pay my bills or were unpaid altogether. And I learned the hard way that in my field no “experience” means no job. So I put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears but felt I had nothing to show for it. Plus the economy was still recovering in 2011 so hiring was slow or nonexistent in most fields.
Fast forward to about 2 years ago. After working in a few jobs that weren’t anywhere related to my field, I decided to move to South Korea to teach English and start my own design business on the side. I moved here because I wanted to travel and live abroad, yet still, generate income to provide for myself while taking my career fate into my own hands.
So now I design websites, books, and graphics for others who are also trying to create their own business. There’s a LOT more to this story and if you’re interested I talk more about it here.
Do you have any special training?
While in school I became known for using Adobe InDesign to create large presentation boards for my design and architecture classes and for designing portfolios. I also developed a love for conceptual branding - which was the basis for all of my interior design projects. Combine my InDesign skills with my knack for deconstructing concepts and I’d say it’s inevitable that this is what I’d be doing today.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
I’m still relatively new to this business owner game and it took me some time to nail down exactly what I wanted to do. A lot of my previous work has been behind the scenes for others (which included me signing NDA’s, so I can’t reveal some of their names).
But I’d say that some of my biggest accomplishments were having some well known online business owners ask me to design websites for their clients, create courses for their customers, and host exclusive private webinars on branding and design. But trust me, my biggest accomplishments are yet to come!
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
I’m still trying to nail down the date I actually started. I’d say once I really put my mind to saying “this niche is what I want to do”, then I started generating income within a month.
I was lucky to get some early recognition and I had the skills to back up what I said I could do. But as for-profits, because design software, invoicing systems, and contract signing services all require monthly fees, it took me a few months to “break even”.
How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?
Contrary to popular belief, as a designer, I am actually very organized and logic-driven in most of my ways. This extends to pricing. I first figure out the amount that I want to make. Then I add 30% to it to account for taxes. But I still feel my services are affordable and well worth the price. I also try to provide top quality service with a surprise or two along the way for my clients so that they feel they received more than their money’s worth.
And to determine the amount that I actually want to get paid (pre-taxes) I kind of go with my gut - which I know is not the answer you wanted to hear. Looking back I definitely feel that I’ve lowballed myself, but you have to start somewhere. I would recommend others pick a price that feels right and then add about $50 to it (if it’s a service). Start there, get some experience and then raise your prices when the time is right, sooner rather than later.
What mistake(s), if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
The biggest mistakes that I’ve made had to do with not knowing exactly what it is that I wanted. As a varied designer and a traveller, there are a lot of paths that I could’ve taken to earn an income online. I wanted to do everything and I dabbled in a little bit of everything. I would start something, ‘advertise’ for it, get hired for a project, complete it and then realize that’s not the kind of work that I wanted to do.
So then I would stay quiet for some time - on my blog & on social media - until I found the next area that I wanted to try. All of this would continue and repeat until I recognized that there are a lot of things that I want to do and that there are a lot of things that I will do. But for now, I just need to choose one, commit myself to it, and allow the rest to build on with time. I call this “Start Small, Start Smart”, which is now the motto behind my website and business strategies.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?
From a practical standpoint, there are two key things: Your why and established business systems. Your why includes: recognizing the problem to the solution that you are offering, and the concept behind your brand (which is more than just a pretty design) Business Systems are for creating content/products and performing services, communicating with client/customers and engaging with your audience (like through email & social media), getting paid, handling bookkeeping and managing expenses.
In addition to knowing your why and having these systems in place, I think it’s also important that you recognize and truly accept that you have the amazing ability to create a life on your own terms. There’s always a way. A great friend of mine says it this way “If it’s meant to be, then it’s up to me”.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Start Small, Start Smart and solve the puzzle one piece at a time. Whenever you get overwhelmed (which may happen often) bring it back to this... and then read my answer from the previous question:)
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
Have a plan for your money. Don’t just earn to earn it. Know why and what you’re earning it for. The strategy I’ve recently decided to implement is the 50% rule:
50% of my income can go to me, my living expenses, or paying down debt and the other 50% will be divided between saving for business taxes, saving for future business investments, paying business expenses, and cultivating personal savings. So I view it that only 50% - the first 50% - of what I earn is mine.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
Every morning I write what I call a “daily devotion”. First I always write the same two things: what I’m working towards in my life and my purpose. Next, I follow that with a “brain dump” of everything that is on my mind. I then finish off the exercise by writing “My One Things” which are:
- The One Thing I’m working toward this year
- The One Thing I’m working toward this quarter
- The One Thing I’m working toward this month
- The One Thing I’m working toward this week
- The One Thing I’ll complete today
- The One Thing I’ll do for myself today
This daily practice keeps me focused and working toward something every day. This way I know that if things don’t go according to plan, as long as I accomplished that “One Thing”, then I’m okay. Because let’s face it, balance is pretty much a myth. It’s something that we’re always chasing but that I think few actually achieve. And one more thing, keep that daily “One Thing” small and attainable (#startsmallstartsmart).
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Running a successful out of the box Creative Education Company that experiments and educates through different ways to learn about: business, finance, health, communication, and the greater world around us....and debt free, healthy, and surrounded by those I love and who inspire me of course.
Please share a fun fact about yourself!
Where do I begin… lol. I can create a song jingle to just about anything in less than 30 seconds. It’s a game my family plays with me. I’ve done if for shoes, broccoli, car gas etc. Also, I was hired as a Resort Manager for Disney’s Port Orleans Resort at the age of 20. I’m still in awe of that, but I eventually left that position to finish pursuing my degree.
How can readers find you?
If you’d like to check out my blog and design services then my website viaYuri.com is definitely for you. And if you’d like to stay connected and see my daily Instagram Stories about Business, Travel, and being an Expat in South Korea then follow me on Instagram.
Thank you, Yuri for your interview! We all can learn so much from you!