Episode 89: Networking Strategies + Scaling a Small, Lean Agency, with Joana Galvão

By Zach Swinehart

In this episode, Zach talks to Joana Galvão from Gif Design Studios.

Joana Galvão is the co-founder of award-winning design agency Gif Design Studios and a leading business coach for ambitious creatives who want to take the shortcut.

Based in Porto, Portugal, her agency specializes in brand identities and conversion-obsessed design and serves industry leaders in 17 countries on five continents.

Her coaching program, Ambitious Creatives Booked Solid, helps freelancers get booked solid with dream projects, to 6-figures and beyond, without burnout.

Joana speaks internationally on entrepreneurship and the power of design and creativity and her work has been featured in the Guardian UK, Brand Brilliance, and Digital Arts magazine.

Get Joana’s email templates mentioned in the episode at: https://theambitiouscreatives.com/emailscripts/

Follow Joana :

AI-Generated Summary:

  • 0:00 – 2:00 — Zach introduces the “Your Freelancing” podcast and his guest, Joana from Gift Design Studios, discussing topics like agency finances, profitability, and networking.
  • 2:00 – 4:00 — Zach reads Joanna’s bio highlighting her background in brand design, coaching, speaking engagements, and accolades.
  • 4:00 – 6:00 — The focus of the interview is revealed: comparing running an agency to a product-based business, networking skills, and understanding the challenges of managing a small agency.
  • 6:00 – 8:00 — Joana shares specific financial details about her agency, including revenue, expenses, and team size.
  • 8:00 – 10:00 — Joana recalls a past conversation with Zach, discussing financial anxieties and how he made her reassess her life goals and financial management.
  • 10:00 – 12:00 — Joana shares her astonishment when she first heard someone had 100K in the bank before turning 30. She discusses how money provides her peace of mind. Zach brings up an interview where Joana mentioned “profit first” and inquires about her financial journey.
  • 12:00 – 14:00 — Joana talks about the importance of regularly reviewing the books, understanding expenses, and making necessary adjustments. She mentions initially operating on a low profit margin and reassessing expenses like events and flights.
  • 14:00 – 16:00 — Discussion shifts to pricing strategies, staffing costs, and Portugal’s tax system. Zach is trying to understand Joana’s income structure.
  • 16:00 – 18:00 — Joana elaborates on her salary, mentioning it isn’t fixed and sometimes she draws additional amounts for certain expenses. Zach is interested in understanding her lifestyle and comparing income sources.
  • 18:00 – 20:00 — Zach expresses his intention to compare income sources: running an agency, a product-based business, and being a solo freelancer. He preps Joana to think about the pros and cons of each.
  • 20:00 – 22:00 — Joana reflects on her busy schedule and interruptions, while Zach mentions a time-tracking exercise he discussed with her. Joana also touches upon a personal matter involving her daughter’s health.
  • 22:00 – 24:00 — Zach and Joana discuss the structure and roles within her agency. Joana explains her role, her husband’s role, and introduces the team members’ roles and responsibilities.
  • 24:00 – 26:00 — They delve deeper into the type of projects they handle, with Joana giving insights into their branding and web design work. She shares project time allocations and pricing.
  • 26:00 – 28:00 — Zach and Joana discuss the agency’s client acquisition methods. Joana mentions how clients discover her agency, noting an increase in clients finding them through website design credits.
  • 28:00 – 30:00 — Joana elaborates on her networking approach, emphasizing building relationships and finding common ground as a strategy to connect with influential people. She also shares a story about a conference in the Philippines.
  • 30:00 – 32:00 — Zach and Joana discuss researching speakers before networking events and Joana’s preference to come prepared.
  • 32:00 – 34:00 — Joana explains the organic nature of her research process, highlighting her connection with Chris Ducker over a tweet.
  • 34:00 – 36:00 — Joana narrates her experience being invited to an event in London and how it led to other networking opportunities.
  • 36:00 – 38:00 — Discussion on finding common ground and a deeper understanding of Joana’s networking framework: alignment, volume, and depth of relationships.
  • 38:00 – 40:00 — Joana introduces a tool called “Decks” for relationship management and emphasizes the value of in-person events for deeper connections.
  • 40:00 – 42:00 — Joana discusses the possibility of maintaining online-only relationships and contrasts it with offline connections, mentioning the depth of interaction in a short span.
  • 42:00 – 44:00 — Zach brings up the difficulty of networking online with prominent figures due to their busy schedules and social media demands.
  • 44:00 – 46:00 — Joana shares a story of how she built a relationship with a potential client by consistently engaging with her newsletters and later offering free assistance.
  • 46:00 – 48:00 — Joana explains her experience volunteering for the same client, strengthening the relationship, which led to other opportunities.
  • 48:00 – 50:00 — Zach and Joana discuss the organic nature of networking, comparing it to dating, and emphasizing the importance of genuine connections and expanding networks.
  • 50:00 – 52:00 — Zach and Joana discuss the importance of nurturing existing relationships to build new ones.
  • 52:00 – 54:00 — Joana emphasizes the effectiveness of thoughtful introductions and how it sets the stage for meaningful conversations.
  • 54:00 – 56:00 — Joana shares how actively participating in paid courses and events brought her clients and helped build her reputation.
  • 56:00 – 58:00 — Joana speaks about the value of paying to access exclusive networking opportunities, even bartering her services to join pricey events.
  • 58:00 – 1:00:00 — Zach inquires about starting a network for niche industries, and Joana suggests attending industry-specific events and leveraging personal contacts.
  • 1:00:00 – 1:02:00 — Joana discusses her email outreach technique, emphasizing the importance of personalization and research.
  • 1:02:00 – 1:04:00 — Joana stresses the importance of making the agency being reached out to feel complimented and valued, while Zach interrupts to discuss thunder sounds in the background.
  • 1:04:00 – 1:06:00 — Joana shares a funny anecdote about people using her email template on her. She notes the importance of strong portfolio presentation and mutual client interests.
  • 1:06:00 – 1:08:00 — Zach and Joana dive into the role of portfolio quality, and the conversation transitions to the topic of networking in business.
  • 1:08:00 – 1:10:00 — Joana provides advice on networking, emphasizing patience and building meaningful connections. The discussion moves to Joana’s previous employment before her current venture.
  • 1:10:00 – 1:12:00 — Joana discusses her rapid business growth timeline in 2014, including hiring employees and moving into offices.
  • 1:12:00 – 1:14:00 — Joana and Zach converse about where Joana’s work came from, her connections, and the beginnings of her business journey.
  • 1:14:00 – 1:16:00 — Joana reflects on her intense work pace, her drive and excitement in the initial business stages, and her initial lack of long-term vision.
  • 1:16:00 – 1:18:00 — Joana delves into her decisions based on spontaneous opportunities and excitement without understanding their long-term implications.
  • 1:18:00 – 1:20:00 — Zach contrasts Joana’s initial draining agency experience with her current profitable one, prompting Joana to reflect on the issues with her first agency.
  • 1:20:00 – 1:22:00 — Joana discusses the challenges of managing too many team members, the importance of prioritizing profit, and how saying “yes” to all opportunities affected her business.
  • 1:22:00 – 1:24:00 — Joana explains her business’s focus on WordPress development, catering to a niche audience, and the value of tracking her time to shape her ideal workweek.
  • 1:24:00 – 1:26:00 — Joana and Zach talk about prioritizing profit, refining service offerings, and raising prices for profitability.
  • 1:26:00 – 1:28:00 — Joana shares her approach to calculating operational costs and ensuring profitability in their projects.
  • 1:28:00 – 1:30:00 — The conversation concludes with a discussion on planning for project buffers and how Joana intentionally honed her service offerings.
  • 1:30:00 – 1:32:00 — Joana discusses her shift in focus to design for tangible products, and the networking opportunity with Estheticians.
  • 1:32:00 – 1:34:23 — Zach and Joana discuss previous interviews, resources available on Joana’s website, and the importance of networking.