LeftLane Closed Ahead

“Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.” — Tom Stoppard

After 26 years of highly rewarding work as a freelance designer, I’ve arrived at a fork in the road, and after careful consideration, have decided to shut down LeftLane Designs so I can fully focus my time and resources on WP101.com, my WordPress tutorial series for beginners.

This is a bittersweet transition, since I have poured so much into my career and the long-term relationships I’ve built with my customers over the years. But this announcement marks the beginning of a new chapter — not the end of the story.

Over the past 26 years, I have been fortunate to partner with many amazing clients, doing truly exceptional work. On a personal level, I’ve been deeply humbled by the trust of my clients, and I’ll be forever grateful for the relationships that we’ve cultivated as a result of working closely together on those ventures.

The Beginning

For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed the creative arts. Even as a kid, I was happy to spend hours drawing, practicing calligraphy, or learning a new musical instrument. In my teenage years, I also enjoyed acting, singing, and songwriting, but was particularly drawn to the graphic arts.

Immediately after high school, I started designing t-shirts and logos for individuals and small businesses. In 1988 — at the age of 18 — I filed a DBA and officially started my graphic design business.

I knew nothing about running a successful business, but over the years my personal mantra has been, “Never stop learning.” So I’ve dedicated myself to constant learning and unlearning, bucking conventional wisdom, and exploring new ideas. To this day, I invest a great deal of time and energy into studying the latest technology, tools, and techniques.

Having studied industry trends since 1988, I’ve learned not just how to survive, but how to thrive in an ever-changing industry.

“Observe the masses — then do the opposite.”

The LeftLane is for passing.

It’s about leaving the rest of the traffic behind, taking a different route… often the road less traveled.

My approach has always been to view problems from a number of different perspectives, explore a wide range of possible solutions, then choose the most effective route to help my clients accomplish their goals and pass their competition.

Along the way, I’ve also earned a reputation for being equally right- and left-brained, able to creatively think “outside of the box” while making careful, strategic decisions that are focused on the end result.

What You’ve Taught Me About Myself

Over the past several years, I shifted my focus from selling one-off products (logos, brochures, or websites) to working more closely — and over a longer period of time — with a smaller number of clients in order to create all the pieces they might need to connect with their audience.

It was this work that I found the most rewarding… really “getting into the trenches” alongside my clients, taking the time to fully understand their challenges, get to know their audience, and identify their goals before diving into the actual design process.

Several clients commented that working together felt like they had hired their own in-house marketing team.

This shift in focus meant that I had to become more selective in the clients I could serve best. But the end result was much more meaningful, because I was able to see firsthand the effect of my work toward improving my clients’ bottom line.

In the end, I learned that it wasn’t just the quality of my work that brought clients back time and time again. Beyond the limited success of any individual project, I’ve most enjoyed building long-lasting relationships, because that’s what matters most.

A New Opportunity

In 2007, I began using WordPress to build websites for my clients, because it enabled them to easily create and edit their own web content without having to hire me every time they wanted to make tiny changes to their site.

At the same time, I began providing onsite training in my clients’ offices, teaching them the basics of WordPress, so they could manage their own site once I “handed over the keys.”

After providing the same training over and over again, I began to realize that not only was it not the best use of my time, but it also left my clients feeling a bit overwhelmed. They would often comment that they enjoyed the training, but it was too much information to digest in a short period. One client commented that it was like “drinking from a fire hose.”

So I recorded a series of “WordPress 101” video tutorials that I could provide to my clients so they could return and review as often as they needed.

When I told other WordPress developers and designers about my new project, they began sending their clients to my site as well. So in 2008, I officially launched WP101.com as a membership site for anyone who wanted to learn WordPress.

Since then, WP101 has helped more than 20,000 people learn how to use WordPress to build and manage their own website… without having to read boring tech books!

Our Future

In many ways, we’ve only just scratched the surface with the WP101’s potential. I’m thrilled that WP101 has earned a reputation as being the “premier” WordPress tutorial series, but I want to create many more tutorials and provide new learning resources to our members so they can build any type of website they can imagine!

This transition enables me to focus all my time and attention on WP101 so that we can fully leverage its potential to help as many people as possible.

LeftLane Designs has helped me uncover this truth about myself:  I am most alive when I’m helping other people accomplish their goals. I really enjoy helping people get from “Point A” to “Point B,” and WP101 gives me the opportunity to serve and impact many, many more people than I ever would have been able to as a freelance designer.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go out and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman

For the past 26 years, I’ve enjoyed creating kick-ass designs that have helped hundreds of small business owners connect and communicate with their audience in the best way possible. Now I’m excited about turning my complete attention to a new, equally compelling reason to wake up each morning.

And I’m truly grateful to all of you who have made it possible.

Humbled and grateful,
Shawn Hesketh

Go to WP101.comGo to ShawnHesketh.com

P.S. If you’ve been a client of LeftLane Designs at any time over the past 26 years, I’d love to hear from you. Use the form below to share your brief story about working together. I look forward to reading your notes and reminiscing with you!

4 LeftLane Client Stories

  1. Anyone who’s ever spent even a little bit of time with Shawn realizes how deeply this guy cares about people and their businesses. Shawn brings clarity and direction to his clients; indeed, he brought my business from mediocrity to respectability, and it went way beyond logos and websites.

    In 2005, I launched a small-business consultancy out of my home. A bit of a leap of faith, I had skill and determination, but faced stiff challenges in sales and marketing. At first, I wasted hours, days, even weeks creating my own awful marketing materials. There was basically zero value in the ‘look’ of my business, and my hodge-podge, Microsoft Word-created logo impressed no one.

    I contacted Shawn to help with the outward image of Oberata Consulting, and that began an engagement that lasted years, and profited my company in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

    What Shawn brought to the table was the ability to help me articulate what my business should look like, and how that should be reflected on the web and on marketing materials. Shawn used questions masterfully, and helped to draw out strategies that would expose me to the right clients. He anticipated problems, and gave meaningful solutions that helped instantly.

    For example, I had been writing a blog for small business owners, based on hot topics like time management, business culture, getting the most of your employees, etc. No one had been reading them! Shawn set up seamless connections between my website, blog, and email. This web presence allowed me to set up several speaking engagements, which led directly to new clients.

    Apart from the measurables of new clients and financial gains, Shawn helped to bring confidence and calmness to running my business. I will always be grateful for the impact Shawn and LeftLane Designs had on my business and life.

  2. I was referred to Shawn by Jeff Timpanaro of Oberata Consulting. Jeff was referred — not introduced; just referred — to me by a mutual friend. That small detail is important because the primary reason I ever called Jeff was because of Shawn’s work.

    Even though I had never met Jeff, I was so impressed by his marketing materials that I made a special file just to keep them accessible for future reference. Long story short, I called Jeff because of the materials that Shawn created for him.

    When I started my own business, Jeff told me, “once you hire Shawn, you’ll probably never hire anyone else”. He was right.

    Shawn created an entire image for our organization – our logo, business cards, website, flyers, and we keep coming up with more projects for him to handle. People take time just to talk about our logo and marketing materials before they even know what we do.

    I always wanted to work with a designer that could “get inside my head” and help me express, illustrate and communicate my vision. That’s what I found in Shawn.

    We cannot adequately express how much we appreciate and value Shawn. We might still be trying to launch our business if it were not for his help. I left my career of eight years and the timing and viability of my decision were significantly impacted by Shawn’s excellent services.

    None of this is an exaggeration. We have been able to take advantage of numerous strategic opportunities that we simply would have missed if it were not for all of Shawn’s assistance. We are blessed and eternally grateful for Shawn and LeftLane Designs.

  3. I can remember the day when my business partner, Stu, told me that he had found the guy to revamp our website. He said, “Best of all, he’s using WishList Member on one of his sites, so I think he’ll be familiar with what we’re doing.” It took me one look at Shawn’s work to agree with Stu that we had found our guy.

    What happened next took me by surprise. I knew that Shawn would be able to pull off the look and design we were hoping for, but I had no idea what a positive experience it would be throughout the entire process. From the first discussion, everything we mentioned was completely understood. There were additional things added that we didn’t consider. There were clear objectives of the project with a project proposal along with delivery dates clearly specified. When I saw the wireframes, I was floored. They looked exactly like what we had envisioned, and delivered on the date they were promised.

    Without a doubt, this was the most positive experience I’ve ever had in working on a project like this. Shawn seems to be good at everything he touches. We’re definitely reaping the long term rewards of having a top notch site design.

  4. Shawn partnered with me in the very beginning stages of building my company, Wired Advisor. I tasked him with creating distinctly designed “blogs” for financial advisors, and he came through unbelievably, every time. He was also very instrumental in creatively shaping the Wired Advisor brand in the early years.

    As I’ve learned over time in this business, finding a creative and experienced talent like Shawn who also cares deeply about his (or her) clients is extremely difficult and rare. Shawn was and still is a gem!

    I’m excited to see him thriving in new ways and continuing to grow as an entrepreneur!

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