#CreatorStories: Clueless To Designer: How Mitchelle Built a Successful Career in Design With No Tech Background

#CreatorStories showcases the honest personal experiences of digital creators who monetize their knowledge of a skill and sell it on Selar. We share these weekly stories to inspire you to create and sell a product out of your wealth of knowledge and be a part of the digital creator economy.

This week, we turn the lights on Mitchelle Chibundu, a talented designer who maximized an internship position she got that launched her career in design. Now, she’s a product designer at Wise who also manages her brand Designerbabe. 

Everyone would like to get to know Mitchelle, Designer Babe.

Can we meet Mitchelle?

Hi, I’m Mitchelle. I’m the creator of Designer Babe, a social platform that educates and inspires young people in design and technology worldwide. I’m a digital creator and self-published author of two design books, and I also work as a product designer at Wise. I love to cook, eat, dance, and do creative activities.

What was your career journey like before becoming a product designer?

I wasn’t always a designer, but in terms of my tech journey, I’ve always been a designer. Before design, I was a makeup artist for two years before I transitioned into product design. I didn’t study design in school or anything like that. I studied Marine Biology for four years. I started makeup when I was in school as a side thing I did for friends because I enjoyed it. After school, I continued it for another year, and then I transitioned into design when I realized I needed a different path. One that I felt at the time would be more sustainable, allowing me to provide for myself and keep being self-sufficient.

How did you get into tech and subsequently become a product designer?

I didn’t try to transition into tech before getting into tech. I would say I was lucky, to be fair. I got an internship and started doing things people would typically do when they wanted to get into tech. During this internship, I began taking courses on Interaction Design Foundation, studying design principles, staying up to date with design blogs, practising and trying to level up quickly. 

Since I already had my feet in the door, I focused on validating the opportunity I had gotten. I asked myself how to maintain the spot and ensure that the people who gave me the opportunity didn’t regret it.

The good thing about having an opportunity to be inside the company is that it’s easier for you to streamline the things you need to learn. So instead of learning everything or learning widely, you’re learning more precisely because you have clarity on what you need to know to get things done. It was then about how I could finish my tasks instead of trying to learn everything simultaneously. I found this very helpful in those early days.

Do you have any digital products on sale? 

I wrote my first book in 2020, “Clueless to designer”. It’s still on sale, and people still buy it every day. I also have a course on writing and a physical book that I sell on Selar. 

What made you decide to create a digital product? 

My desire to create a digital product didn’t spring out of the blues, but it wasn’t also something I had the intention of doing. It was born out of a need to give my community information I already have. I was creating content for over a year before I wrote the book. I was getting many questions about starting product design, whether it was a good path, where to get design resources, and so on. I was replying to the different people individually for a long time until I got the idea to write an article addressing all the questions. I needed to find a sustainable way to share this information without doing the same thing repeatedly.

But I had a rethink, explored the idea further, and decided to make it an ebook. So my decision to write an ebook at that time was demand driven by my community. Not that my community was asking me for a book, but they were asking me for the information I had in the book. Putting this information in a book as a digital product was more of just maybe the way I do things. I just want things to be a little bit extra. 

For instance, my book, this particular one that I’m talking about, I haven’t done any marketing for it in a while; I’ve just been so busy. But every day when I check my Selar, people buy it. Having a sustainable model for people to access the information I shared two years ago has fascinated me. 

When did you earn your first money (commission) from creating and selling digital products?

It was in 2020 from my first book. I planned to give it out for free because I wanted to do something for my community. I wanted people to access this information without it being so pricey. As I was creating the book, seeing the quality of work made me rethink my plans to make it free. If my purpose was to give back to the community, there are other ways. At the end of the day, if people pay the price for something, it’s not bad either. 

So I decided to keep it at a token of 3,000 Naira. When I put the book up for pre-order sales, I had almost 700 people on the list. In the first month of its release, I made 1 million Naira, and the book was 3000 Naira. You can imagine how many people had already bought it. 

Then I thought about what to do with the 1 million Naira I had gotten from my book.  I decided that I was going to buy laptops and give them to other younger designers in the community who are just starting in their careers. I did a laptop giveaway in January 2021 and had already made that money back by the next month. And it hasn’t just stopped since then.

Are you comfortable telling us how much, on average, you make from selling these products now?

It’s rather hard to give an average because it’s not something I track. It’s just something that is there but doesn’t fund my life. However, I’ve made enough money from my products to sponsor Designer Babe’s Wine and Design events. When I think of the success of my books, I think of the impact it has had on people’s lives and the fact that I can use the money to reinvest in myself and my brand. And that’s what’s most important to me. Thankfully, I still have a job that can foot every other thing that I need.

What is your sales strategy that other digital creators can employ for their digital products?

Okay, I’m not saying this like I’m the most strategic person in marketing or sales because I don’t do as much marketing or sales for any of my products. When you want to make a digital product, you can come up from anywhere, create a digital product, and put it on a marketplace, and people will purchase it. But if you don’t want to depend only on people everywhere buying the product, that’s also good. If you want it to be more personal and if you want it to be attached to a brand that you are building potentially, then you have to give value consistently. 

Consistency is essential for building your brand. Let people know that they can bank on something that you are doing. Even if you’re just writing articles once a month, and you’re sharing that consistently, you’ll gradually build an audience and your community. So when you say this is a product you’re creating, you already have a handful of people who expect your work and will buy the product. You would have already earned their trust over time and built a community with them in it.

I’d say it was my sales strategy for my first product. I had already started consistently posting content for over a year before writing my book. Additionally, you should share your process with people when you want to release a product. It doesn’t have to be the nitty-gritty of your creative process, but use engaging stories to communicate your experience. Let people know this is something that you’re trying out, even if it’s a tweet here and there, and build anticipation in a certain way. I used this strategy for my second book, which worked like magic.

I had been tweeting about a particular thing I was working on, how difficult it was for me to work on it, and how I couldn’t wait to finish it. Generally just building anticipation so that when you finally say, this is what I’ve been working on, people will recognise that you’ve been talking about this thing for a while. And they’ll be curious enough to want to know what exactly is within the product.

Another thing is to share your testimonials and feedback. It works well to keep your product in conversations and top of mind, even after launching it.

Last year, someone sent me a message saying they had bought my book and had gotten a job with an international company. Now, this wasn’t even a sales strategy, I just tweeted about it out of excitement for the person, and that tweet alone made me sell 150 copies of that book that week. So storytelling is crucial.

What was the inspiration behind the Wine and Design event? 

Wine and Design started in 2020 as an Instagram live where I hosted designers, talked about design, their story, and background, and we drank wine. Very easy, very fun. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t have plans to travel to Lagos. But my friend Early encouraged me to visit Nigeria to see my community. I’m grateful to him for planting that thought in me because I couldn’t stop thinking about it from then on. Other things distracted me, but when it got to May, Designer Babe was turning 3, and I told my followers I would celebrate DB’s third birthday. 

My initial idea was to do something minimal and simple. I planned to have 40 people, so I asked people to RSVP, hoping to get 100 signups. After announcing the event, I had over 550 RSVPs. 

I was confused and overwhelmed because my budget was for 40 people, and I had no sponsorships. However, I had to pay attention to the reality before me, which is designers in Nigeria need that sense of belonging that no one is exactly creating for us. Many people wanted to meet me, but even more, people wanted to meet and connect with other designers in the industry. The initial response to the event inspired me a lot, that even if it required me to switch my plans and extend my budget, I knew I had to do it.

Another reason was to connect with my community which had tripled since I left Nigeria. As a creator with an active community, I believe creating opportunities to connect with your people outside social media is essential. 

However, it didn’t stop at connecting with me. I had to find ways to make it worthwhile, so I added a speed networking session, so it nudges my guests to interact with themselves. 

The event had almost 100 attendees, and I’ve received only positive feedback from my guests till today. 

Aside from showing us what being a badass designer looks like, what else do you do?

Oh, I do lots of creative things. I paint, play the keyboard, make wigs, cook, listen to music, watch a movie, visit my family, and hang out with my friends. I love my friends a lot.

80% of my life is like work and Designer Babe. And the remaining 20% is what I use just to enjoy myself and travel. Nothing serious.

What advice would you give to digital creators in Africa that can help them boost their sales?

I’d first say to give value consistently in whatever way you’re comfortable. It always gives you that platform different from someone with no visible track record. Secondly, when you are setting your price, be confident about it. Don’t underprice yourself, especially when you know how much work it has taken to put together whatever it is you put together. Those things are hard. Whether it’s a book, a course, anything, it’s hard. 

So price yourself. You don’t have to be greedy, unreasonable or ingenuine, but don’t sell yourself short. 

Digital creators can relate. When you want to put a price on whatever you’ve done, don’t start doubting yourself, don’t feel like no one is going to buy. The worst thing is that only a few people will buy it. And that’s fine. It might just be that your product is not for mass consumption at that particular time. It’s for a specific type of people, which I learned from my two books. 

I started selling my first book at 3000 Naira. It’s 5000 Naira now, but a lot more people have bought it than my journal, which is almost 20,000 Naira. I want the sales to increase, but not at the expense of my price.

So price yourself well. Be fair, reasonable, and very confident.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers who you inspire?

I don’t think I’ve given this advice anywhere before, so I would say invest in relationships and friendships. Focus on building relationships with the people in your circle because those are the people that grow with you. When you’re all grown into other stages, that relationship will be solid in a few years, and everyone will benefit from it.

Many people talk about making friends in industry circles and networking, which are significant and valuable. However, when I look at my career, I see more value given to me by my friends. My friends still advise me and show up for me in unimaginable ways without asking for anything in return.

As you invest time in people you feel will change your life, ensure that you form organic connections with your peers. Secondly, try not to give up. I say try because it can be challenging. When you walk into a place, or when you ask for something, or when you apply for something, and you get a rejection, or you don’t just get it the way you want it, don’t give up. Ask someone else. Try a different way. One of them is going to work. But when you give up, the opportunity is just closed off. 

You don’t need to have everything figured out when you start. You just need to be ready to take the next required step, and everything will fall into place with time. Don’t compare yourself with people that have been in this game for a longer time, they may look like they’re having the time of their lives at the moment, but they have also put in the work and made their fair share of sacrifices. People you feel have the best careers right now have also done the work. So wherever you are right now, you are not the only person who has been here, and things will definitely improve. So just stay consistent and not give up.

Do you have anything you like to see you want to add so that people would read it?

Oh, yes. You should buy my books, course and tote bags and anything you like from my store. Also, subscribe to my Youtube channel.

If you’re looking for a way to give back to your community, you may want to consider creating digital products and selling them on Selar.

We have tools and features to help you make massive sales from digital products. Here’s how to get started.

  • Sign up on Selar.
  • Set up your online store and bank details.
  • Upload your product.
  • Share store link with customers and start selling.