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This week, Dusti sits down with Lydia Kitts, founder and designer at Turnquist House and creator of web design mastery program Data+Delight. With a rich background ranging from wardrobe and costuming for Cirque du Soleil to digital marketing and education, Lydia’s diverse experiences have uniquely positioned her at the intersection of creativity, mastery of one’s craft, and creating a community that will always be there for you – because the truth is, you were there first. Lydia is a case study in how building genuine connections and delivering exceptional work make a Referral Worthy business impossible not to create.

Referral Worthy is hosted by Dusti Arab, Fractional CMO and marketing strategist. She's the founder of the reinvention co, a marketing consultancy for personality-driven companies with big online presences and small teams. Learn more at

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Referral Worthy intro, outro and transition music is named We are invincible by Tim Hirst and was found on Epidemic Sounds.

“Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I hadn’t piddled around for like 10 years. Granted, it was fun piddling, and worth it. I learned things.”

– Lydia Kitts, on getting where she is today in her business

Dusti Arab: All right, everybody, welcome back to Referral Worthy. I am here with one of my favorite people on the fucking planet, Lydia Kitts. She is the founder and designer at Turnquist House and she is also the creator of an incredible program called Data and Delight that I cannot wait to tell you a little bit more about here. Lydia, welcome. Thank you so much for coming today.

Lydia Kitts: Thank you. I’m so excited to get to talk to you kind of in person again, right.

Dusti: I know. Lydia just came with us on the Collab Cruise, January 2024. I don’t know when you’re going to be listening to this, but we had a blast getting to hang out and party in real life. And I hope you get to come to the Failure Ball later this year, so we can do it again. 

Lydia: Yes, yes, we are planning on it. I’m just anxiously waiting for tickets for flights and all those things. So, we’re hoping to go. It’d be great. It was so much fun last year.

Dusti: I love it. So, Lydia, talk to me about your business’s origin story, like when did you start your business? How long have you been at it?

Lydia: So, I’m one of those people that takes serial business making to heart and consider it a challenge for myself. Not a challenge, like a bad thing, but like, let’s see what I can do. So, I started my first business when I was in middle school and high school doing custom wedding dresses and bridesmaid things on Etsy when they used to have this program called Alchemy, where people would basically like put wanted posters of what they wanted and their inspiration, and then you got to go at it and make it. I loved doing that. I’ve got a degree in costuming, so the sewing thing wasn’t weird and out of the ordinary for there. And so, I went on and got that degree in costuming and as I was working backstage at different shows, I was working backstage for Cirque du Soleil. And like four or five of the different artists there were working on their computers in the green room. And this was like 2010 through 2012, that time period, and they’re working on their computers in the green room. I was like, “What are you guys doing? Like, your show’s on,” and they’re like, “Oh, we’re done for now. We’re working on our businesses,” and they were all virtual assistants. And that’s how I was just like, “Wait, you can make money while touring on the internet from wherever?” And that was my first introduction to it, and I was hooked. I kept doing costuming for a while. But I did start delving into that more, doing technical virtual assistant work, which is where I met Mikli. But then also, once I started getting into things, I realized that I could put those design skills to use that I have, I could also like the character design that you know using costuming, I realized that it was very, very closely related to understanding an audience and looking at a plot was very similar to looking at a customer experience and a customer journey. And it kind of just all clicked, that was like, “oh, I can use dramaturgy to create website designs. It’s the same thing with a few leaps and bounds to get there.” But I just, I fell in love with it. And I was doing that for a while. I was a professor of design and communications for a while. And then in the tiny, 

Dusti: One second. I feel like that’s really important to touch on like, because you did come from a traditional academic background. At least for like a good section of your career there.

Lydia: Yeah, I worked in higher education for eight years. So, I was working as Director of Design and digital marketing at a college and then the provost was just like, “Hey, would you teach a class?” And I taught a class and he’s like, “Hey, will you become a full-time professor?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.” And so I hopped over and did that and then I created a, or not created but well actually did create, I created the digital communications and Career Management course that kind of took all of the skills that I’ve learned in the online business space and taught college students how to do that pre-pandemic. Now, that’s not like the coolest thing ever because everybody’s doing that. But pre-pandemic, I was the one who was just like, “We need to use Zoom and asynchronous education,” and developed all my curriculum to work that way. But yeah, so I did come from an academic background and all while I was teaching, I was running this business part-time on the side and I wasn’t marketing it at all. It was all referral-based.

Dusti: Where did, so when did you start designing sites?

Lydia: My first site that I designed was 2010. Yeah. 2010 was the first site that I made by myself, I’d bought a course on how to update a site, like update a theme, and I got so frustrated because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do from an artist’s standpoint. And I was just like, “Well, fine. I’m just gonna figure it out myself.” Figuring it out myself did not work. Spoiler, I had no idea what I was doing or why people were recommending using in the first place, and I found an amazing, absolutely amazing group of people. It was called Girls Guide to Web Design, and then it turned into Website Designer Beauty School. And those people taught me everything that I needed to know at that initial stage of website design and development, and just helped me really figure out from a coding perspective and a structural perspective, how to think instead of looking at a big picture that like there’s sections and pieces, and they all go together kind of like a puzzle, and then they have to all rearrange from a website to mobile. 

Dusti: Maybe like a costume pattern even? 

Lydia: Yeah, like a costume pattern. So yeah, it was just, it was great. But yeah, that was whenever I first started, that was the first website was because I tried to use a template and got so mad at it.

Dusti:I have such a deep appreciation for that like, “Oh my god, this is bullshit. There has to be a better way.” Especially as an artist, I feel like that can be the most frustrating thing about being a web designer, especially in the early days. Now the tools are so good and you have so much more flexibility and I mean it shows in your work, the sites that you create are so unique and so thoughtfully, beautifully made, which is why she’s designing mine right now, obviously. But I just, there are so many pieces in there that I love. Like you were willing to go and seek very different kinds of education than you had been exposed to even being somebody from academia and usually, I mean I won’t say across the board, but especially at the college level, there can be a lot of pushback on things like that. And so to debut a program like that, I mean, I remember 2010, 2011 when I was first getting started in copywriting and people would be like “You work from home,” with this disdain or like, “Oh, I could never do that.” And now post-pandemic I was like, “Bitches, see? Like, do you get it now? Are you here with us?”

Lydia: So, come and join us.

Dusti: Right? Okay, so when you started doing these sites and getting paid for them, where did those first people come from?

Lydia: They were literally referrals, which is funny, we’ll talk about later, you know, like the trajectory of my waffling back and forth in the valley of referrals and what people told me about them, but they were either referrals from my professors telling people like, “Hey, check this out,” or because I started doing this when I was in college, like, that’s when I was working a lot of the backstage work that I was doing for touring shows. But then also, I literally walked up and down Main Street in Boone, North Carolina, and went into every single shop and I was like, “Hey, can I make your website?” and offered like, $500. I thought that was like, “Oh my gosh, that is how much I charged.” 

Dusti: I know, it’s how much I charged back in the day too. Especially for the small businesses, like you feel bad asking these people for money at all. But they have to be findable, you know, and they don’t know how to do it. They don’t want to do it.

Lydia: No, and even then, there was a lot of like, “Well, all of our traffic comes..” If you’ve ever been to North Carolina, it is very much a foot traffic area. You don’t just end up in Boone, North Carolina. It’s like you’re there. And you go to places, and so they didn’t have a digital presence. But it was also going to be, we were starting to see in the tourism industry that people were kind of starting to make that transition from finding everything in like Southern Living and planning their trips out that way, and getting like travel books to actually googling things and finding those places online and they weren’t showing up. And so, I would literally, I mean I didn’t have a tablet, I didn’t even have a smartphone then because it took me a really long time to get a smartphone. And I would print off like Mapquest style, the search results, and go in and show them like, “Hey, you guys aren’t showing up on this. Like this is a destination restaurant or this is something that people need to know about.” And that’s how I did it, I just literally went into. That’s those first clients, and then also, I mean I used Facebook groups a lot then of working for somebody for either a barter or like a reduced rate, and then they would end up, I would just go and tell everybody in the groups and tagging me and starting to have… I guess in academia for me, it feels like it’s always very transactional, of you do this, and then you’re done. And I always hated that feeling. And so whenever I was working with my clients, I was one of them. There’s this thing of, “Oh, well, your clients aren’t your friends,” and I do agree with that to an extent, like there does need to be boundaries, but also, they need to know that you’re invested in them and that you care about the success of their business and that whenever they’re done working with you, you’re still going to stay in touch with them. And I always treated it that way of, that we were forming a long-term relationship, not just a short-term transactional, “You do this, and I’m never going to talk to you again.” There are clients that I’ve gone from like, I mean, they’re wedding dress clients that, I don’t sew professionally anymore, but I’ve made their christening gown last week for somebody. So there was a wedding dress client in 2010, and I was just like, “Oh my gosh, you’ve got a baby. Now of course, I’ll make you a gown.” And I had her wedding dress but we stayed in connection. And so that for me has worked out really well. And then also making sure that you know, these are my clients. I’ve worked with them. I know them really well and I know their programs and their offers and their personalities. And I’m able to do. I’m working on it more after watching you do it in action so much but working to make those intentional connections for my clients. I’m like, “Hey, we’re done with this project. But I think you really need to know this person, not necessarily so that they can sell your services but because they’re a good person for you to know and to have in your corner,” and just kind of like, you know, we think about networking. And everybody thinks about it differently. But I always think of it as just this giant web of connecting people and just making a nest, a safe place where people can be. And just like that constant connecting people, I think it really has become more and more important to me over the years and it’s where my best relationships that are friendships, but then also clients have come from.

Dusti: God, that’s so cool. And yeah, I mean we have very similar thoughts on maintaining those relationships and communities and just introducing good people to other good people, and it’s like you said, I don’t know, I feel like there are a handful of people, and unsurprisingly they’re all featured on this first season of Referral Worthy, who I consistently introduce, you know, anybody new to me to with. Like I had somebody, her name is Annie, and she came to me when she was brand spanking new to the online space, she was fresh out of her coaching certification, which normally that would be a “Hey, like, you’re so cool. You’re a total badass. Like, I can’t work with babies.” But she was coming out of this incredible corporate career where she was a trainer and just all these other amazing things and then she got her coaching license on top of it so that she could work from anywhere. And that for me, I was like, “Okay, you check enough of the boxes, we can go do this,” but she was new to the online space. And so she’d actually found me because of my link being at the bottom of a site I designed back in early 2020 when everybody was trying to get online. And I was, you know, I was fresh out of my corporate gig. And she clicked on that, found me, and I ended up introducing her to you, to Hillary, to like, to everybody, and she was able to get into the space so much more elegantly and waste way less money on working with the wrong people or getting caught up in all the stuff that it sounds like you need when you’re first getting started. And I’ve just got to think that that is such a valuable lens for us to be, you know, introducing our clients to just in different ways. Not everyone’s going to need the same things. Not everybody is going to hang out in the weird little corner of the internet we do by any means but it’s also a very useful corner of the internet. So it’s nice to be able to dip in like that and meet other people who have those similar value systems. It’s just so important to me.

Lydia: Yeah, and with the similar value systems, the people that are willing to really do the work and get things done. Yes. Like that has been amazing for me to experience both as just an individual but then also as a service provider and then also as a client of those people. And sometimes I wonder where I would be if I hadn’t piddled around for like 10 years. Granted, it was fun piddling, and worth it. I learned things. You know, like, if I hadn’t piddled around, I wouldn’t have been a professor, and if I hadn’t been a professor, I wouldn’t have gone to conferences and gotten published and done the things that I really enjoyed there and learned that I don’t necessarily want to be a professor, not in my life. I’m happy educating, but I also have some pretty strong feelings on the state of education and how accessible it should be, so it was interesting.

Dusti: It’s so interesting to me that you talked about that period of your life as piddling while you were career building and stuff, and I’m not sure that’s totally fair. However, clearly, you knew that there was something else you were supposed to be doing. 

Lydia: And I think that I consider it piddling because, I mean, it was fun, and I don’t want to say that the education that I got and gave was not invaluable. However, the work that I’m doing now is so much more fulfilling because I get to, my community is really, really important to me, both in person and online. And previously, the only way I could really get back to my community was through college sanctioned activities and or I would be working so much on creating curriculum that I didn’t really get to get involved with my community. Now, where I run this business full time for the past three years, even with absolutely devastating life circumstances that we’ve gone through, like, over and over and over again the past few years, I’ve been able to be present for my family. I’ve been able to work, I consider it fairly limited hours in order to take care of children and then you know, do work, but I’ve also been able to do like grassroots organization and pay people you know, to protest the power lines that are coming through our really beautiful nature reserve and those kinds of things. Like I feel so much more fulfilled in my professional work and also get paid a whole lot more working for myself than being a professor. 

Dusti: Yeah, okay. Yeah, that doesn’t hurt either. So, so that’s, I would love to hear about the transition that you made in your business, because back in that, we’ve worked together in I think early 2022 or 20. Yeah, 2022 is like yes, I think it was either early there or like late 2021. I can’t remember for sure. But when we first started working together, I remember being so blown away by what you’d put together because your schedule is like it was very limited. And I like it was amazing to me. So talk to me about where your business was and the constraints that we were under back then.

Lydia: Yeah, so back then, I was making the transition. My husband and I had moved from one college to another and I had stepped into a role of like, on President’s Council or cabinet to being in charge of Communications for the entire college and I quickly realized that I did not like that and this was not a good fit for us. And so once we made that decision, we gave them like, a solid heads up that we were not going to be there and we, we’re heading out and I knew that I needed something to do and I knew that you know, we were also running into some getting prepared for some fairly big life changes. So like my mother had terminal cancer, and we knew that we were also going to be moving from Virginia back to Kentucky to take care of her. And I knew that there’s no way I could do a full-time job. Plus take care of my mom and help with other family members that needed help and raise children. So I knew that I needed to have reduced hours. I needed to make you know, money with those reduced hours so I needed to increase my rates because it was no longer just like a side hustle. Like we would literally use my business. Like I would take on clients and it would be just play money but like if we needed to go on a trip or if somebody needed something, that’s what we use that money for because it was in addition to two full-time incomes. And we were taking it from both of us getting two full-time, dean-level salaries to both of us working my business at the same time. And we were trying to figure all that out. And I knew that I had to raise my rates, which was terrifying, and I did not want to do it. And I was just like, oh, well I’m going to lose clients. I lost one client, everybody else was just like okay and that was, like nobody complained, which was a big sign to me like I was massively undercharging and so it was a huge confidence boost for me to for them to be like okay, yeah, sure that makes sense. Let’s raise the rates. That’s fine. But I knew that I would have to plant in like three to four hours of work time a day and it’s all that I was going to have because of our schedule.

Dusti: That to me, I mean, when you first came to me and showed me your schedule, I like my brain broke because I’d never seen anything quite like it. Like I was efficient when I was doing the single mom thing because I had to be in like, probably just slightly more hours but your schedule was optimized for 15 hours a week of work. Yeah. And you were still, when you came to me, you had just done a six-figure year, like low six figures, but you’d still done six figures. Yeah, and some of the things that we talked about were like, you were still struggling with like, time just in that you’ve got small kids and, at the time, they were smaller and they’re a handful and like, you know, navigating their different school schedules and all of that kind of stuff. So I mean, I was just shocked at how much you were managing to do in that amount of time and the way that you organize everything. Like it’s still like it’s incredible to me how much you were doing, how many sites you were producing, because God I mean that year, how many sites did you do? You did a lot. 

Lydia: I think I think there were 30 to 32 sites in a year. 32 in 2021. And I’m down to, last year, I think I did 16. And this year I’ve got 12 scheduled and the thing that I’m still doing and I’m going to make more money than I did whenever I started off because you know, I’ve consistently been lovingly pushed to raise rates up to where now I feel comfortable and appropriate and I work my clients are coming in as referrals. I don’t really have to sell my clients on me because somebody else has already sold them on me. So when we talk about cost, it’s never like a weird conversation as it was before when I would be really weird about it. Sometimes I’d be like, “Hey, so you can’t afford this. What about we’ll keep all of the assets, but we’re just gonna reduce it by $1,000?” Or, you know, and my husband would joke with me that I would be like, “Let me pay you to make you a website.” I know, I know. Because I would do that more than likely back then. I’ve gotten better. But anyways, yeah, it’s just that amount of time. I had to have really, really good systems and create really strong frameworks in order to plug things in. And that is where the academic side comes in, of like, I spent a lot of time teaching data visualization and data design and understanding data, how to collect it, but then also how to analyze it and then come up with strategies that work with it. So for me, it’s really quick and easy for me to go in and look at somebody’s Google Analytics or their heat maps or, you know, I’ve been calling it observational data just because the online entrepreneurs sometimes get confused with not like with qualitative and quantitative data, like it just sounds kind of scary. And so whenever we talk about observational data, that tends to be a little bit easier for people to be like, “Oh, yeah, here are the observations that I’ve made about how my clients behave or the conversations that I’ve had with people.” And looking at that, like big, again, big pieces of a puzzle, and very quickly discerning, “Okay, like here’s a stuck point or an area of tension on the site or the brand experience that we can fix and revise.” But it’s because of having those systems in place that I am able to have that reduced workload or not workload but timeframe for when I work because it is so systematized.

Dusti: Well, and that’s such a perfect segue into Data and Delight. So talk to me about what exactly Data and Delight is and who it’s for.

Lydia: Alright, so Data and Delight is my baby and I have had, just over the years, a lot of you know, former students, but then also people that I’ve worked with in the design space that have sent me, you know, like mockups or design and said like, “Hey, can you look at this and tell me what to change?” Or, “Can you just look at it, make sure you use whitespace?” or, you know, I’ve talked about something like Hobson’s choice or Hicks law, which are ways that we reduce decision making for our clients so that they actually take action, those kinds of things, and they’re just like, “Can you look at this real quick?” And I was always happy to do that. But then one day, somebody is just like, “Hey, can I give you money and can I sit with you for an hour and just watch you while you’ve redesigned something that I’ve made?” And I was just like, “Yeah, okay.” And that’s where, like, while I was doing that, they kept asking me questions on the Zoom call. They’re like, “Well, why’d you do that?” And it’s like, “Oh, well, because you know, we want to have, you know, there’s something called F-pattern reading, which is where you can’t see my finger, but you read in the pattern of an F. So you read across and then you read down and then you go back up, and you’ve read like the prongs of an F and like that’s why, you know, bulleted lists with a headline works so well. It’s like, well, the way our brains work,” and so I explained that to her, and she’s like, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense.” And so I’m just teaching those as I went along. And then by the time we were done, we had a redesigned homepage for her website that kept true to her initial design concept, but just was refined a little bit more, which made it look more professional, but also got the results that she was looking for her client, which was more sales on the sales page. And then when the call was over, she was just like, “Well, can I just pay you, like, can we do this as a retainer and I just send you these projects whenever I’m ready?” And I said yes, it was like just a lot of saying yes. I’m not very good at saying no, but it’s not gotten me in trouble yet. So I said, I said yes to that. And so we did that for a bit. And as we kept doing it, she’s like, “You need to teach this as a process. You need to teach the data analysis and then teach how you take that data and you turn it into, like, these delightful design experiences.” And I remember like I wrote that down. And I was just like, “That’s a really cool idea.” And I’ve actually, you can’t see it, but I’ve got it written on this wall over here like that. Just a note and so, I ended up, I hired Hillary Weiss Presswood to do a VIP day because we’d already worked on another project together. So she knew me, what we were doing. So we did a purpose puzzle piece. I can’t recall but it’s positioning. I did Power Position before but this was like a separate thing that was just the VIP just like one day work on it. But anyway, she was reading through all the notes and she was just like, “Well done. It’s called Data and Delight. Like, you’re teaching the Data and Delight method where we’re going through and we’re reviewing all of this data that people have on how their sales pages have done in the past or their website, whether good or bad looking at heat maps and seeing like where are their areas of tension or friction or opportunities to know if somebody keeps clicking on something. They obviously think that it’s a link, let’s make it into a link. So they get through and they don’t get frustrated and or make it not look like a link so that they don’t click on it and get frustrated.” But the whole point is that trust building and using design in order to let your audience or the visitor of your site know that you are a trustworthy, reliable resource on the internet. You’re not going to steal their money, you’re going to provide the results that they’re looking for. And that is so incredibly important, especially just in general, but especially right now where I feel like a lot of people do purchase, you know, these courses or workshops or coaching containers and then they’re disappointed or frustrated. And so just relieving as much of that fear as possible by creating something that works the way that they expect it so that they have, at the very beginning of their experience with you, it’s smooth, and just sets you up for success for like a long-term relationship. And so anyways, focusing on that and then, so that’s the data and the delight bit is looking at that and then how do we create delightful experiences through design. And it is now a, we’ve got it set up as a coaching program and I’ve got it on calendar years because you can take me out of college but my brain, like, I have taken college classes since seventh grade, and my brain does not work in the summertime.

Dusti: And also that’s the schedule your kids are on. And so you’re able to be there for them every step of the way. While showing up for your clients fully and creating this very solid container that’s in a style everyone’s at least used to and the way that you’ve created that to serve both you and your clients, I think it’s just so lovely. And it’s so thoughtful.

Lydia: And I loved whenever, so whenever we first started working together, I kept you know, you had your Stop Doing list, which is one of my favorite things on this entire planet. Which is like, I mean, it’s just an amazing resource of going through and figuring out what things should I just not do because they either don’t bring me joy, or they don’t move the needle. And I can be focusing on other things. And I love data. So obviously, I track a lot of data on my own business and how it works. And my business does not do well in the summertime and it’s twofold. It’s that my target audience also has children. And their brains aren’t working in the summertime. And then also, I have children and my brain doesn’t work in the summertime. So I was just like, “Well, what do I do?” And my idea was just like, “Oh, well, I need to figure out a great marketing plan. And I’m gonna work with Dusti and we’re gonna come up with a marketing plan for the summertime. It’s going to be great.” And then whenever Dusti was looking at all this stuff, she was just like, “Well, if you don’t, you don’t need to and you don’t want to, you can just take the whole summer off and then be revived and just work on fun projects in the summer and not working with clients in the summer.” And I was like, “Oh, I can totally do that.” And so I did it last summer and it was amazing. And it made it so that I still haven’t publicly launched Data and Delight other than like it’s got a website because in the summertime, I was just emailing past clients, former students or students that had graduated out of Data and Delight because I’ve got a really intensive rubric that I have students go through and we come up with a custom learning curriculum. That’s one thing that’s really frustrating for me in most programs is that it’s like this ascribed curriculum, right, that you have to work through. And we know from an education perspective, or at least in my industry, and discipline that that doesn’t work well, like students thrive more and learn more on educational examples, and then critique and refinement. So like being able to go through that cycle over and over again, is really, really helpful and it also keeps students engaged so that they actually keep showing up. And it works great with retention rate for me, but sometimes the students do, and it’s my goal, they do graduate out of the program and they are, I’ve got two of them that have graduated off that I just now like refer off. Like whenever it’s a project that like one of them’s in the therapy industry like she makes websites just for therapists and I just send clients to her whenever somebody wants to have like, I do’nt want, there’s too much FERPA and HIPAA or not FERPA, HIPAA there. That makes me nervous. I don’t want to do that. But she knows all the laws so she can do that for you. But yeah, that was one of the things that was so surprising to me, and also why I love online business so much is because I can literally make it how I need it to be. And also whenever, you know, we first started working together, I have heard from coach after coach after coach that referrals will dry up one day. And that really like I’m a lifelong student. So if I perceive somebody to know more than me, I’m going to assume that my mentor knows, at least at the time knows what’s best. And so whenever they kept saying that I was just like oh well then I need to do more social media marketing or I need to create a whole new Instagram account that is just for this one specific thing. Or hey, I need to have a podcast on this topic or I need to have an email list that does this or I need to have a membership that does this because referrals are going to dry up one day. And the only thing that has been constant in my business from the very beginning through now is referrals. And sometimes I wonder if the reason why people say that referrals don’t work is because they’re not doing it right. 

Dusti: If your referrals dry up, like that means that you’re not treating your clients well. Like if your referrals dry up and they stop coming. That is a sign to look inward. There’s something wrong with your business and you’re not capturing repeat business for a reason.

Lydia: Yeah. And not capturing repeat business, you know, obviously for a reason, probably because you were rude, or you didn’t deliver, or a combination of the two. But, I mean, there are just so many people that come to me and they’re also being referred to me from a friend or a friend of a friend who had, they almost all have had a horrible experience previously. Right. So that is a hard thing to overcome. But, you know, by being curious and reaching out and becoming connected with them, it always pays back. Like I just I cannot say enough good things about it because whenever we decided to move from being, you know, working in the colleges to working for ourselves fully online and now my husband, he works with a nonprofit as a grant writer. But so he abandoned me. He is very much needs to be around lots of people and in an office like a physical office with lots of people and he thrives and I would not and so anyways he is in a better place now it makes it sound like he’s gone somewhere. 

Dusti: Just back to work.

Lydia: But anyways, but that’s the thing that because the first thing, I was just like, “Oh, I could spend a ton of time marketing and maybe that would work. Or I could just email all my past clients to let them know that this is what we’re doing.” I’ve got a referral program with my clients. So if a client refers somebody to me, we usually either have a, they get a certain amount back or we apply it towards new work together. So like a design credit of sorts, and so that’s worked really well for me, but just literally sending the emails and sending to past clients, which you will get on that list once we’re done. But there’s a past client email list that I’ve got that showcases the different clients that I’ve worked with and what they’re doing. So people will send like “Hey, I’m marketing this this week, or this month.” And then I just will share that and just kind of try to keep everybody connected. And we get to know each other.

Dusti: Wait, wait, wait. Um, excuse me. Why haven’t I ever heard you talk about this? You have an internal referral program built out, Lydia? 

Lydia: Yeah. Um, so yeah, that’s one of the things. 

Dusti: Oh, my God, like. 

Lydia: I didn’t do it until you told me you’re like, we were working on something together and this had to have been right after our CMO work ended, because it was one of the things that you’d mentioned about creating a program. So this is why I have not talked to you about it because it was like right after because I was doing Fractional CMO work with you for that container. And you had mentioned something about creating some kind of referral system. Or it may have even been whenever we were just talking about Referral Worthy happening. And I was just like, “Whoa, I’m going to do that.” It’s been in it for a year now, though, because we’re coming up on its birthday on March 15. On the Ides of March, I have made fun of my launch. I said something about like, instead of stabbing each other in the back on Ides of March, we’re going to share, share or refer work or something. I forgot what it was. It was funny at the time. But yeah, so just having that internal system of making sure that everybody knew that each other existed and what they were doing and like, they’ve paid each other, like, you know, cross-pollinated, but also just cheered each other on which is really nice. I just do that all through email. Because I can’t manage a Facebook group and my life at the same time. But that’s worked out really, really well. But yeah, there’s referrals of just connecting and just continuing to connect people. And really, in the work that I do, I really get to know somebody’s business and what their goals are because every single site I design is centered on like what their new goals are for their business. Right then also looking a few steps ahead. So typically, we do have a conversation about “Well, in a few years I want to launch a program on this.” Well, I have a note of that because I take notes. And well if something happens or comes up or I meet the perfect person to connect them with, it’s so easy to do that and it brings me joy, but then it also reminds my client that like hey, I really paid attention and then I stay top of mind with them for you know potentially working with them in the future or they refer me. 

Dusti: It’s so smart. So smart. 

Lydia: It works out really well. And I think part of being for me, like I’ve just been thinking about Referral Worthy a lot and like the name that you chose for this but for me like being referral-worthy is also like the giving of referrals too and not just kind of like hoarding everything. And like passing things on and if it’s something that I genuinely can’t or don’t want to work on, like somebody reached out about doing SEO services, and I was like, “I don’t want to do that.” That is like, I’m fine with the technical SEO but I do not want to do long term looking over somebody’s blog post figuring out SEO stuff and so I just sent them on to another person that I adore that does a really great job with that work. And yeah, so anyways, that’s how I feel about referrals.

Dusti: Okay, so final question, Lydia. What makes a business referral-worthy to you?

Lydia: For me, it’s the value of the experience. So I want to refer and I refer clients to other people that I know are actually going to deliver on what they say and help my clients or my friends get to the goal that they’re wanting, and then that they actually have a good experience while doing it because you can, like it’s completely possible to get the result you want and have a bad experience with it. Like that’s happened to me before it’s happened to my clients and to my friends. But I want people to be connected through their business but also through their values and the way that they treat each other. And a lot of that comes down to like a really deep kindness and understanding of one another and supporting, and I don’t even know how to really describe it but like you know the people when you talk to them. I’m getting much better about it. But like you start to get a feeling for who they are and knowing that somebody’s going to click with them. And there are times that I’ve referred somebody the exact same service but different providers because I knew their personalities were going to match up right and that is, you know like you feel like a really awesome and wonderful matchmaker because you like you connected two businesses, but you also kind of hope you’ve just like introduced people to their new best buddy and by others. Just for me that’s like the real thing of making sure that the value is there in the product but also in the person and you have to get to know the other person too. And I don’t just give referrals for everyone and everything. And I have a really tight list of the people that I will refer, and it’s only people that I’ve actually worked with, and sometimes I’ve had people get frustrated that they’re not on my referral list. But usually, they’re not there for a reason or we’ve not worked together. And so I want my referrals to have to be of value as well. So I’m ready to know like okay, well if Lydia referred this person or this thing or this organization, she really means it. Part of me is also terrified of the FTC and I know that they’re not going to get me for referring somebody that I don’t fully believe in but I do want to make sure that you know like every single person and thing that I recommend, I’ve either had a personal experience with because also those people tend to come back and talk to me about it.

Dusti: Totally. And I’m gonna you’re gonna hear about it if it doesn’t go well, too. 

Lydia: Yeah, and then and then they lose trust in me as an individual. And I don’t want that. Like trust is really important to me. And if I refer somebody and they like scuttle it, and then that person that I referred is like, “Well, why on earth did Lydia recommend that person? Does she know what she’s talking about? Did she ever work with them?” I doubt people are actually thinking that but that’s what it feels like to me. So I’m really careful about it. 

Dusti: That’s Lydia’s little internal anxiety possum and the anxiety possum has actually been very, very soothed since I met you. Like, it definitely doesn’t come up the way it used to. The way that your confidence has grown over the past two years. Like I won’t say you’re unrecognizable because that’s not true. But it’s so clear that like with these changes to your business, it’s also like changed your level of not just, like being boundaried not just like, I don’t know, like I feel like I’ve gotten to watch you grow up as a business owner so much and really become, like step into your leadership in a way that is just an absolute joy to watch. 

Lydia: And I feel able to take up space. And before I didn’t. I like I always played small on everything, for many, many reasons, most likely stemming from being a very, very young college student and surrounded by like, just always, I’ve always been the youngest, except for like, in our own family. I’m the middle child, but like in school, I’ve always been the youngest. And so it always felt like I couldn’t take up as much space because I was the baby. And even though, you know, I have multiple degrees in very, very specific and targeted areas, I still felt like I didn’t truly know as much as I should or as much as other people do. And by getting out of my shell and talking to more people and really like this pushing of connection and hopping into conversations and getting to know other people, I realized like no, I do know what I’m talking about. And I don’t have to be, you know, like take up space in a big overbearing way. But I can take up space by sharing everything that I know and the connections that I’ve got. That has been really, really powerful and wonderful for me, and it does mean, and it’s trickled out through my business but through to my personal life. Like, I never would have organized a group of 300 people to go and protest something previously. But then now I’m like, “Yeah, sure. Let’s go do it.” So yeah, confidence has definitely helped.

Dusti: So good. Oh, Lydia, it has been an absolute joy having you on here. Where can people find you?

Lydia: You can find me on Instagram @LydiaKitts and then also @TurnquistHouse on Instagram. Or as well.

Dusti: Perfect. Thank you so much for listening, folks. And we’ll be back soon.

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