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Episode 17 – Demelza Thorpe

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#SeriouslySocial The Podcast

with Simone Douglas and special guest Demelza Thorpe

Our guest today is Demelza Thorpe from Powder Monkey Design.

She chats with Simone about how she turned her side hustle into her main hustle and about how good business and good design grow from meaningful relationships with your clients.


Special guest: Demelza Thorpe


Check out our page for updates and teasers about upcoming episodes, links, and details about Simone’s best-selling books. 


Hosted by Simone Douglas

Videography by Marie Carbone

Audio by Chris Irving


Music used in this episode is “Alte Herren” by KieLoKaz, used with permission under a Creative Commons Licence


This production is protected by a creative commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence.

Chris Irving 0:00
Welcome to the Seriously Social Podcast with your host, Simone Douglas, our guest today is Demelza Thorpe from Powder Monkey Design. She chats with Simone about how she turned her side hustle into her main hustle, and about how good business and good design grow from meaningful relationships with your clients.

Simone Douglas 0:20
Okay, so today, I’m joined for the Seriously Social Podcast by Demelza Thorpe from Powder Monkey Design. Hello, and thanks for coming.

Demelza Thorpe 0:28
It’s an absolute pleasure.

Simone Douglas 0:29
So perhaps you can start off by giving us a bit of a backstory about who you are, and Power Monkey Design and what it’s all about. Sure.

Demelza Thorpe 0:37
I’m a freelance graphic designer, I, I guess the journey to that really started in 2018. I made the decision to make my side hustle, my main hustle. So that involved going on a bit of a journey. At that point in time, I’d been a graphic designer for 20 years, and I had worked, I had I had a really diverse career. So I’d worked, you know, in house for printers I’d worked you know, I taught at TAFE for a while taught design. So I had a really great breadth of design knowledge, but I didn’t know anything about small business so I had to start that journey. I spent the next year just learning everything I could on a really steep but really rewarding learning curve, just learning all about how to run a business. And I mean, you know, when you’re there, you live, sleep, eat eight, drink your business 24, and when it came to the point where I was ready to leave the day job and start freelancing, I realised that that was my point of common ground. Like most of my potential, or my actual clients had been on that journey, or was still on that journey, so I started to gain my processes and create packages that were designed to suit small business owners and Power Monkey Design was born. And the response has been really positive. But also what the interesting thing is what started out as a search for USP has really turned into a passion, I just love. I love helping people build their businesses, and I love learning from them, and I love the fact that I can use design to help them get where they’re going. So it’s been this kind of combination of the design knowledge, and then this new knowledge that I’m still learning all together.

Simone Douglas 2:25
Yeah, for sure. Um, do you think it’s a bit of a challenge? Well, I think with them, brand new business owners. So when you take that leap of faith, and you finally go, do you know what I’m actually doing business owner now and a lot of them because they’re really good at what they do, you know, that’s where their passion is, but they don’t have a real concept of what’s important about branding and design

Demelza Thorpe 2:48
Very much so

Simone Douglas 2:50
What would what advice would you give to someone who is contemplating whether or not they work with a graphic designer here locally versus God help us something like 99 designs?

Demelza Thorpe 3:03
Yeah. Clearly, I wish 99 designs didn’t exist, because every graphic designer does. It’s an Australian company, but the majority of the work it’s getting done for five bucks by people, you know, overseas and the work that, I mean, I’ve dealt with artwork that comes out of there, it’s it’s not great artwork, either. But I would say to people, you do what you need to do at that point in your business. And a lot of people do start like that. They start out doing something on Canva, or something on 99 designs until they can afford to then put a bit more money into it. But I do say to people if you’re going to because I’m all about starting lean. Yeah, and DIY is very much a part of when you start a business, you do everything until you can afford to them, you know how to do it. But I do say to people, if you put a bit of money into one thing, at the very start of your business, a logo is the thing to put it into

Simone Douglas 4:04
Because once you’ve got it …

Demelza Thorpe 4:06
It will grow with you, and if it’s well designed, it’ll grow with you. If you build that relationship also with the local designer, rather than you know, the 99 designs thing, you then have someone that will go on that journey with you. So you can say okay, I’m getting t shirts printed, now they want a vector file, can you do that for me, like you know, I’m getting a website built, I need my logo reversed out this way and that way and at this size, and you have that person that can then do that for you. So you don’t have to pay for a massive branding package all in one go. You can do it, you know, as cash flow allows so

Simone Douglas 4:39
Sure. I mean, if you if you take that to the other end of the scale of having a conversation with another graphic designer the other day at a lunch and she was saying, you know the other challenge is that sometimes you’ve got really big companies and so they they have these massive marketing advertising agencies who they work with, but she does their local design work. She says, you know, often what happens is that the massive marketing agency have complicated the brand multi layered the branding elements so much that often she has to redesign them from scratch.

Demelza Thorpe 5:14
Oh, wow.

Simone Douglas 5:15
To replicate the work that’s already been done so that it’s in a format that can be edited or changed.

Demelza Thorpe 5:21
Yeah, because it’s just be bastardised over time. And that must be really tricky because one of the things that I one of my, there was a lot of motivations for going freelance, but one of them was, when you work in that kind of structure, you have a real disconnect, there’s a real disconnect between you and the client, and that relationship, because I always say designs a collaborative process. So you know, everything, you are the world’s leading expert on your business, and I know design and together we collaborate to create the design that’s right for you, but a lot of the time when you work in agencies, or even in house, there’s several steps between you and the end user and it doesn’t make for the best finished product. So I imagine that she’d probably experiences a bit of that too. Like when you’re designing something for, you know, via another company for some end user that you’ve never met. It can be done, and sometimes it has to be done, but the best design really comes from good relationships I think.

Simone Douglas 6:15
So yeah, I think that is a challenge in terms of white labelling design. Definitely, um, because we’re a bit the same with Social Media AOK when we white label to advertising agencies, it’s a very different intake.

Demelza Thorpe 6:31
I can imagine.

Simone Douglas 6:32
So you kind of hoping that the agency …

Demelza Thorpe 6:35
… Has made that connection and taken the brief properly. Yeah,and when you have to ask a question, you have to go back to them and then they pass it on? Yeah.

Simone Douglas 6:43
Hmm. Yeah. So I think it can be challenging on all sides. But I’m curious, you know, to go back to what you were saying about, you know, the brand growing with you because I think that yeah, businesses start off quite small, and they’re doing you know, bits and pieces, but how do you ensure that you, how do you figure out whether you have a brand that is going to stand the test of time? What are some of the key elements that you would want to be like, understand?

Demelza Thorpe 7:11
That’s such a good question and I think it just depends on on the business and the industry. So again, it goes back to having that connection with the initial client and kind of finding out what their goals are. But I think that if you’ve got something that is appropriate for the target market, so I really like to talk to my clients about Have you done that groundwork? Like do you know who you’re actually talking to, because a lot of people just go, ‘Well, I love this colour, and you know, like, my, I don’t know, my Nan’s favourite flower was this, so we’ll put it in the logo or whatever’, but I think it’s like any marketing collateral. If it’s not going back to your audience, or if you don’t even know who your audience is, it’s not going to be the best it can be. So I think if if your brand is appropriate for the audience that you’re speaking to, at the time, it should grow with you. I think, also, if you’ve got a good quality artwork, it can grow with you, because a lot of times people get stuff done, and they’ve just got a JPEG, and then they need to change the format of the logo. You know, make it horizontal, make it stacked, reverse it out. And yeah, a bit like your friend was saying, you know, then the artwork has to be done again. And yeah, well,

Simone Douglas 8:21
And I think too social media has changed the way we look at logo design a lot too, in terms of the fact. You know, I often talk to my clients, if they’re starting businesses and go make sure that you have a design element or branding element that makes a great profile picture. Yeah, that that that is part of your logo, that you can pull out of your logo.

Demelza Thorpe 8:44
And I do a Facebook icon for you. I mentioned before I have packages, and when I do a logo pack, I include a Facebook icon as part of that, because a lot of people will put their logo square that put it in crops the corners of it and all of that sort of stuff. You know, and I also asked people to think very much about their Facebook header image, because a lot of you kind of shove their logo in there. So you’ve got a logo and then logo at the top cropped weirdly again. So it really has, like, you know, I I started as a graphic designer in the late 90s. And, you know, social media was 10 years away, even even web design was, it was a completely separate discipline. Like I didn’t study it when I was at TAFE and it was in its infancy, and all of that has kind of just

Simone Douglas 9:32

Demelza Thorpe 9:32
Changed and changed and changed and continues to change. Like I just, I think if you were to speak to a designer of a different vintage to me, like say someone that had been doing it for 40 years, they would say, it’s never changed so much so quickly. Yeah, every few every year, you’re like, Well, okay, they’ve changed all the sizes, you know? Yeah. So, you know, you really just have to be so on top of all of that.

Simone Douglas 9:58

Demelza Thorpe 9:59
But that’s thrilling.

Simone Douglas 10:00
It is thriling

Demelza Thorpe 10:00
It’s reall what, it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning.

Simone Douglas 10:03
It does. And I think too that, that’s another reason to have a great relationship with a local design.

Demelza Thorpe 10:08

Simone Douglas 10:09
You know, as these things change and evolve, you really want to be able to tap into someone’s expertise and ring them up and go, Okay, so typically, you know, LinkedIn has as completely changed their interface. And now my, like, banner image looks terrible, and I don’t know what to do about it. You know, so then you can get some solid design advice, because when, you know, the rest of us aren’t really trained in design. So you know, I’m a marketer, by trade these days. So I’m great with words, you know, I can come up with a six word story, and you know, the story of the brand and all those kinds of things, which is important. But you know, we like to work with designers to capture that brand because you guys are amazing at that visual storytelling. So yeah, it’s important.

Demelza Thorpe 10:55
Yeah, it’s another fantastic collaboration, isn’t it? Everyone brings their skills to the table, and amazing comes out of it.

Simone Douglas 11:01
So what’s your favourite part about having your own business?

Demelza Thorpe 11:06
I think it’s the relationships with clients. I think that’s my favourite thing. I mean, going into it. I was thinking, yep, this will be this will be really good. As far as flexibility goes, I have young children and all of that sort of stuff. But I mean, and that’s great. But my favourite thing has just been getting back to those connections. Yeah, with, with clients, because there’s been different times in my career when I’ve had that. Especially when you work in house, it’s a bit easier. But yeah, just to have people whose brand I know, I know where they want to go. I know what their goals are, and where they’re headed. And yeah, I really enjoy that.

Simone Douglas 11:42
Yeah. Cool. Yeah. What the biggest challenge been for you

Demelza Thorpe 11:47
Oh having to do my own books?

Simone Douglas 11:50
I love my accountant.

Demelza Thorpe 11:53
Yes, and I’ve only just got to the point where I’ve got an accountant in the last six months or so. Hopefully, one day I can have someone that just handles my …

Simone Douglas 12:02
Your books and your admin, yeah.

Demelza Thorpe 12:04
Because that is not that’s not my I am in this because I want to see at my computer and designs. Yeah. And I want to come to meetings and talk to people about their businesses and stuff like that. So yeah, doing the books. Hate that reconciling stuff and putting in receipts.

Simone Douglas 12:20
Yeah no. It’s not fun at all.

Demelza Thorpe 12:21
But I’m still immensely proud of myself for going to learn that because that put me off for years. I was like, I’m a designer. I don’t do maths. I can’t do …. And then I just went now I’ve got to learn this. I’ve got know it and I did it. So it’s like, Okay.

Simone Douglas 12:36
Well, it is kind of the golden rule – if you understand figures, you know exactly where you are any given time.

Yeah, that’s really good advice.

Yeah. Often people say to me, oh, hey, you know, how do you have three businesses and do all of these things? And I’m like, you just have to know your numbers. Everything else is easy. And my golden rule is calculate your breakeven point, and make sure that you retainer client’s will in a service industry that you retain your clients cover your breakeven point and then any consulting or windfalls ends up being creme, but it’s definitely been a journey and thank you very much for joining me today.

Demelza Thorpe 13:11
No worries.

Simone Douglas 13:11
If you want to get in touch with Demelza or reach out to Powder Monkey Designs, you will find all of her links in the caption about this podcast, and you can catch the rest of the podcasts by going to social media AOKs website and we will see you next episode.

Chris Irving 13:31
Thank you for listening to the seriously social podcast. See our website for more details at Check the show notes for credits music used in the programme and more details about our guests.



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