Julie Ewald is the Chief Everything Officer for Impressa Solutions, the all-remote agency she founded in 2012. In addition to having her hands in all areas of operations, she serves as Team Impressa’s lead sales and marketing strategist and senior consultant. She has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, business development, content creation, and customer service, and she has a passion for continuing education and sharing her knowledge with others through her writing, speaking engagements, workshops, and mentorship.
Julie currently calls Milwaukee, Wisconsin home, and she resides there with her fiancé, Ben, and their cat Fathead. She loves green tea and long urban walks. When she’s not geeking out on the inbound methodology or sales and marketing automation, Julie enjoys tending to her indoor crop of spicy peppers, trying new recipes, knitting, and doing yoga.
Where did the idea for Impressa Solutions come from?
When I was living overseas with my then-husband, I became obsessed with the idea of portable careers. At that time, “telecommuting” was an occasional benefit for some jobs, being a “digital nomad” wasn’t a thing yet, and freelancing was the only avenue to make money anywhere you would roam. I had been doing ad-hoc freelancing work for years, but I didn’t know how to turn that into a proper job until I was back stateside and discovered the online freelancing platform, Upwork (which was than oDesk). I got started there and had steady freelancing work literally overnight. That kicked off a more serious freelancing career that grew quickly, and in under five months, I was just about maxed out. I didn’t want to start telling folks “no,” and I felt I needed to level up my skills to justify charging more—something I didn’t have time for at that time. So, I decided to open my own agency.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is busy. I’m generally hopping from one task to the next, trying to get close to getting everything done.
I usually start off the week with a list of things to do (which will inevitably be added to). First, I delegate out what I can, and from what’s left, I tackle the most urgent first, followed by the fastest and/or easiest. Then I get around to anything remaining. And, of course, this all often gets interrupted by burning client questions, team members in need of assistance, and fielding new inbound leads.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I make a plan. While things can get done without a strategy, I don’t just want to bring an idea to life—I want to make it truly viable and do as well as whatever it is can be. This usually means planning out what needs to go into the concept on the back end, what makes that idea “complete,” and what needs to happen afterward for it to be effective. That all usually gets tossed into a project management tool like Asana or Trello, and then my team and I start working through the steps.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Not to just drop a buzzword here, but digital transformation is exciting. By leveraging better processes and technology solutions, they’re able to be so much more productive, drive more successful outcomes, and have metrics that they can use to gauge effectiveness and further improve. Helping clients through digital transformation in terms of their sales, marketing, and client services has been incredibly rewarding, as I get to see positive changes happen so quickly.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I want to make a joke about all the green tea I chug, but the reality is that getting in the habit of delegating tasks has been a game-changer. Not letting myself get bogged down in relatively easy, yet time-consuming, tasks has allowed me to focus on things that will really move the needle for us and our clients and lets me do even more of it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Seriously: save money, invest, and learn to budget. Those bad habits seeped into my business and caused so many more headaches than I needed to have.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Pineapple is delicious on pizza.
I don’t have a lot of controversial opinions when it comes to my work, overall, but on a client-by-client basis, there are some things we might have differing opinions on.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Continued education. I earn or update multiple professional certifications each year, and in non-pandemic times, I attend multiple conferences. This keeps you sharp, current, and a true expert in your field who is best able to serve your clients and customers.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The biggest strategy for our growth is treating Impressa Solutions as our own best client. We plan our sales and marketing strategies and carry out the activities we’d recommend for a consultancy of our size with similar revenue goals and with a similar marketing budget. Not only does this give us excellent examples of our work that we can take 100% credit and blame form, but the results are more inbound leads, quality prospects, and new business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest failure was to put too many eggs in one basket. We landed a large client early on, and they ended up being about half of our revenue, until they had a big internal shift, and they weren’t going to be our client anymore. I’d been too comfortable, so I hadn’t been actively engaging in sales efforts, so we had no new revenue to replace what we’d lost. It was a disaster, and I had to make some really tough choices, including taking on debt and cutting everyone’s hours, to keep the business going in the wake of that contract ending. That was some time ago, but I still actively work to make sure we won’t be in that position again if any single client bounces.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My fiancé and I are full of these! One of the ones we were in love with but didn’t have the time for is a marketplace for home-based food businesses. Consumers could purchase cottage foods online, allowing very small producers to build up businesses beyond their local farmer’s market. We’ve seen some iterations of this, but none have really taken off.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Custom holiday cards! We had our awesome illustrator whip up a series of holiday images in brand colors, and we produced a set of five holiday greeting cards. It’s such a small thing, but these subtly branded cards helped us stay top of mind and helped us land repeat business even before the first one landed in someone’s mailbox! Just from my assistant reaching out for current mailing addresses, we had a previous client reach out to me and re-engage in a small retainer.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love and I hate Asana. While it can frustrate the hell out of me, we use it to manage all of our projects for ourselves and our clients. We use it to break down our work into small digestible steps that make it easy for account managers and clients to track progress, which also helps to ensure that we don’t skip any steps.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” by Roy Peter Clark. Follow it to take your thought leadership content to the next level.
What is your favorite quote?
“Cause my life is dope, and I do dope shit.”
– Kanye West as quoted by Dave Chappelle
• Carrying out planning and strategy are keys to success.
• Delegation can open the door to entrepreneurial productivity.
• For many service-based businesses, you need to be your own best client.
• Continuing education can help to cement your role as an authority.