4 color systems that every brand should use

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If you’re a small business owner DIY-ing your visual branding (your logo, website, business cards, social media graphics and more) or if you’re working with (or have worked) with a professional designer, it’s important to be familiar with some “designer lingo” from time to time. Have you ever heard someone reference “RGB” or “Hexadecimal” before and wondered, “what the heck is that?” You’re not alone. When it comes to design, understanding how colors work and effect a design in many ways is crucial. And, understanding that you need to design within specific color modes within specific platforms, in order for your design to be of the best quality and setup professionally, is even more crucial.

The short and sweet of it is this — you must design using a different color system for print than you do for digital. If you’re preparing files to send to a printer (let’s say, your business cards, a brochure, or a banner) they will need to be “CMYK-compatible” for best results. Or, if you’re developing your website or designing a graphic for your blog or Instagram (images that will only be viewed on a screen, digitally) you’ll need to use the “RGB” format or even a “hexadecimal” code.

Are you still confused?

That’s OK. Let me break it down for you! After all, I’m all about keeping things as simple as possible. Keep this information handy the next time that you’re creating on-brand graphics or working with your designer. (They will appreciate you knowing these things!)

RGB stands for red, green, and blue, which are the three additive primary colors. We use this system when designing something to be displayed digitally (think websites and social media graphics), but not to be printed.

CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. This system is used in 4-color print processing, as these four are the standard inks for producing colors. When a file is sent to print, it must be setup in CMYK mode.

PMS: The Pantone Matching System is a universal color matching system, also used in printing. Pantone colors are specific swatches that are already pre-mixed. So, if you use these colors in your design, they’ll print the same every time. This is important when you’re dealing with brand colors that need to be exact. A CMYK-based blue might print lighter or darker depending on the printer, but a Pantone-based blue should print the same from one printer to the next.

Hexadecimal: I’ve never been a math whiz, so this one can be a little tricky. Although I don’t even (always) understand how the numbers work, this is a color code that you can use when developing a website and when you’re utilizing HTML or CSS code. Within this color system, digits (in pairs) indicate the red, green and blue components in the RGB system, mentioned above. The code uses sixteen distinct symbols and when working within CSS, the symbols “0–9” represent values zero to nine, while “A, B, C, D, E, F” represent values ten to fifteen.

So, you can represent 16 values with one hexadecimal. And, with two hexadecimals, you can represent 16x16 values (which = 256 values.)

RBG looks like this: R=0-255,G=0-255,B=0-255

So, 3 pairs of Hexadecimal symbols are used.

For example: Hexadecimal code: #fefafd is RGB: 254,250,253.

Why? Because: fe=254 (which is red), fa=250 (which is green) and fd=253 (which is blue.)

(Again, don’t stress too much about this one. It’s handy when working with a web developer, but I think it’s important to understand RGB first. If you’re formatting a DIY website, you can often enter the RGB code for one of your colors and it will also display the Hexadecimal code, so you can just copy/paste it to use it elsewhere, if need be. That’s what I do!)

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Now that you have a little better understanding of when and why to use RGB, CMYK, PMS and Hexadecimal color systems within print + digital platforms, you might be wondering HOW to make sure that you have the systems “turned on” and correctly in use. I’m going to breakdown how to set this up in Adobe InDesign + Photoshop (the programs that you should be using to either design materials for print or digital platforms.)

Adobe InDesign: First, use this program for anything that you need to lay out and that will be printed (again, business cards, postcards, annual reports, booklets + more). Secondly, remember that you need to design these soon-to-be-printed materials in CMYK mode. To do this, open your “Swatches” palette. Click on the upper right-hand drop-down menu and select “Ink Manager.” If you’re using CMYK colors, the four of them should appear in a little window: “Process Cyan, Process Magenta, Process Yellow, Process Black.” You should also see CMYK values for each swatch in the palette (unless you’re using PMS spot colors, which is totally acceptable!) However, if any appear to be showing RGB values, simply double-click on the swatch, click on “Color Mode” and select “CMYK.” Before you export a PDF for printing, make sure that ALL of your swatches are setup in CMYK (or PMS options/spot colors.) Either CMYK and/or PMS (Pantone) is what you want your swatches set in before finalizing your design document.

Speaking of PMS swatches, where do you find those, you might be thinking? Simply go back to your “Swatches” palette, click again on the upper right-hand drop-down menu, select “New Color Swatch” and you’ll see multiple Pantone options to choose from. If a designer setup your brand colors via the PMS, ask them to provide you with the swatches. Then, simply add those exact ones to your swatch palette.

*Extra notes: Remember, when exporting your PDF for printing, select either the “Press Quality” or “High Quality Print” option under the “General” tab. Also, make sure that you choose “Maximum” image quality under the “Compression” tab. Finally, don’t forget any necessary bleed or crop marks if your design goes off the edges and the document is a certain size that will require trimming.

Adobe Photoshop: I create my digital brand graphics (for social media, my blog, etc.) in Photoshop. It may also be easier to use Canva. But, in Photoshop, once you create the image, simply go to “Image” (in the top menu) → then “Mode” and select “RGB Color.” In another instance, if you are formatting an image that is going to be printed for some reason (like a logo on a sign) you would choose “CMYK Color.” Are you getting the hang of it, now?

Keep in mind that if you do have a question, simply type in a keyword (like RGB or CMYK) in the search bar under the “Help” tab in the navigation menu at the top of your window (in both Photoshop and InDesign.)  


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! 

3 design myths you shouldn't believe

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Being a graphic designer (or any kind of creative entrepreneur for that part) is extremely hard. We work usually more than 40 hours a week, but if we work from home, it’s assumed that we really don’t even “work.” We are often misunderstood — people don’t know always know what it is that we do, how we make our money or they think that we actually have a “fun and easy” job and make “a lot.” On the flip side, other people think that because design is a type of fine art, we are all starving artists — not seeing it as a communications career option as well, realizing the numerous and amazing job opportunities that exist in print and digital design, all over the globe for some of the world’s largest companies. The misinterpretations are endless about what a day in the life of a designer is like and sometimes, it’s exhausting to explain things about my job and business over and over again. Sigh.

While I absolutely do what I love and I think I’m pretty good at it, I also know that a lot went into getting me to this point in my career, running a business full-time has its share of downs and design is not something that just anyone can pick up and do. And, while it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, necessarily, today, I’m still going to quickly talk about three COMPLETE myths that I have come across countless times while working in the design field. I’m taking a moment to debunk each one because they’re quite frankly, just SO not true! Here we go… 

1) “Design is so easy, anyone can do it!”

Anyone can design, but not everyone can do it well (or should!) Just because you’re somewhat creative, can navigate your way around InDesign or Photoshop just enough to get by or are a pro when it comes to creating images in Canva (which are all great things, by the way!) -- does not necessarily mean that you’re a designer. I’m all about a business owner having those basic skill sets and utilizing them to DIY things and save money, but again, it doesn’t make them a professional at it. I can pour Drano down the sink for a temporary fix, but that doesn’t make me a plumber. Designers have poured time, blood, sweat, tears, LOTS of money and energy into getting where they are. They are experts at knowing trends, keyboard shortcuts, can be creative and turn projects around on a dime, if needed. It’s not easy to stare at a computer screen all day, hustle out revision after revision of client projects, know design programs inside and out and be able to communicate with said client. Sometimes, people see the end results of designs, which are often very simple and minimal, so they don’t think that they’ve taken a long time to create. What they don’t know is (ironically, quite the opposite) all of the work and time that went into achieving that simple logo or functional website. Sit in a designer’s chair and knock out what they do even for just a few hours and you will quickly learn and come to extremely respect what they REALLY do and why they’re the ones doing it! 

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2) “The client is always right!”  

Although serving clients (and often under-promising and over-delivering is a huge aspect of the job) – sometimes, the client is not always right. A client hires a designer and should trust that they know best and that he or she is the professional. A designer should ultimately make the client happy, but it’s also part of the designer’s job to tell the client what they need and what is best. Don’t be afraid to speak up – after all, they’re paying YOU to do YOUR job and to make them look good. Communicate your professional opinions. Your client will actually understand and appreciate them more than you might think!  

3) “After graduating with a design degree, you never have to go back to school!”

I felt such a huge burnout when I graduated college 8.5 years ago, I could not even imagine sitting in another class or studying for another exam. I once considered going back for my Masters for the next school year, but that was a quick and fleeting moment in June of 2008, as I received my long-awaited diploma and again, could not imagine pushing another nugget of knowledge into my brain for the year. After time went by and I was totally focused on my professional internships and jobs, I came to realize a year or so later how important continuing education was. Any professional, in any field, should always seek opportunities to keep learning and be involved with professional development, whether it’s attending an evening workshop, registering for a semester-long course or participating in a conference. You will never stop learning. Especially in the design field, technology is always changing and you must stay current and relevant with the latest trends, techniques and software. It’s crucial to keep exercising your brain, opening your mind and (stay) excited to keep growing and evolving as a professional (and expert) forever.     


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! 

 

5 ways to keep prospects on your website longer

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In the midst of this crazy, digital age, you might hear the argument that as long as you have a Facebook business page and are on social media platforms, you don’t need a website. First, that is totally untrue. If Facebook pulled the plug and disappeared tomorrow, all of your content, photos and followers would go with it — and what would you be left with?

A website is an absolutely necessary marketing platform to have. It’s a space that gives prospective clients a chance to learn more about your brand and what you can offer them. You also look more professional, legitimate and credible. Often, it can be tough enough to drive traffic TO your website — to check out all of those great things about you and your services, products, or both. Because of this, it’s even more important to KEEP those individuals on your website for as long as possible.

Here is a list of 5 easy ways that you can make sure that they stay:

1. Make it really clear who you are and what you do.
In the first few seconds, if it’s difficult for someone to figure out what your website (or business or blog) is about, they’re going to make a quick exit. Make sure that your logo and name is one of the first elements that they see — as well as some quick hits about your offers. For example, when someone visits my website, they should be able to quickly figure out that I’m a graphic designer, that I offer branding and monthly retainer services and that I primarily focus on working with feminine brands and female-driven small businesses. If someone isn’t looking for what I offer, we might not be a good fit in working together and that’s OK. But, if a female business coach is looking to go through a rebrand and she needs a quick turnaround, then I will probably be the right girl for the job. She will see that — and continue to click through to other pages — to learn more about me as a person, my pricing — and what months I have open to book package jobs.  

2. Provide a call to action — in more than one place.
A call to action is crucial if you want prospects to either keep following you or contact you in some way. This can be in the form of an email newsletter sign-up, an opt-in to download a freebie that will offer them some help and value — or something as simple as a link to your contact page. CTAs keep people interested in and in contact with you — even after they leave your website. They’ll take action if they like what they see and want to talk to you about a possible hire — and they’ll take action even if they don’t have the need or budget to afford you right now, but they might in the future. Or, they want to learn more about or from you. You can sprinkle these in a couple of different spots on each page, or at the end of each blog post. There really can never be too many! They can be a mix of embedded forms directly on the site — or pop-ups. You want to encourage them to call, email, subscribe, share, follow, download or buy.  

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3. Keep the design simple.
As a designer, of course I can’t stress this point enough. Simple design is always the best kind, whether it’s a logo, website, PDF, social media graphic or anything else. The less busy that a page is, the quicker that a visitor will be able to scan it. If the branding is on point, navigation is easy to follow and the visuals are engaging, people will definitely stay around longer.

4. And, the content short and sweet.
In a very similar way, keep the words simple as well. Make sure that sentences and paragraphs — and any blocks of copy — are easy to read and to the point. And, make sure that you’re not just throwing around fluff. Utilize the space for copy in a smart fashion — and make sure that you’re not saying things just to impress a prospect — language that might actually be over their head and difficult to understand. Let people know who you are, what you do and what you can offer THEM (it’s all about helping the client, after all) that they’re not going to find anywhere else, with anyone else. Let the words on the screen pack a punch that can be quickly absorbed — and leaves someone thinking, “I HAVE to talk to or work with (her)!”

5. Integrate photos + videos!
Just like good and simple design, photos and videos can help to greatly elevate a page’s dynamic, look and feel. People relate to people and like to see photos (or videos) of them. This is why I find that posting a photo on Facebook creates so much more engagement than just a status made up of words. People would truly rather read a couple of quick sentences about you and then literally SEE you. It’s just human nature and simply a golden rule of design — to keep a healthy balance between copy and imagery. And, although there are many who would still rather read books than watch movies, I’m a big believer that someone will watch a quick 2-minute video of you over reading an exceptionally long blog post or 4-5 paragraphs of lengthy copy about what you can offer them.   


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018 — how is your branding looking? Would you like to give it a bit of a makeover or refresh? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

6 good places to find fonts

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If you’re DIY-ing your brand, or you’re preparing to work with a designer and you’re searching for some font-pairing inspiration (whether for your logo or your website/graphics), it’s important to know what to look for and where to find it.

First things first, let’s talk about free fonts.

Free font sites provide fonts that are free for personal use and often have limited licenses that you must consider. You might be able to use some that have commercial licenses and are still free, but make sure to check first!

Some of these free sites also encourage you to donate to the font designer. Oftentimes, I like to peruse fonts that I want to use for a client job — and experiment with a few. But, once I find the right font, I either find the link to the designer’s site to purchase it OR find a provided link that connects to creative resource sites like Creative Market or Design Cuts, where you can also purchase a commercial license for the font — and that might run anywhere from $12-30. Although other typefaces can cost much more, I like finding these types of fonts that are more affordable and that I know I am legally “OK” using.

Here are my go-to free sites:

  1. Font Squirrel

  2. Google Fonts

  3. DaFont

To skip the free sites (although they are great for searching a certain style and experimenting with different typefaces in your design — “try before you buy”) and go straight to buying more high-end or premium options...

Here are my go-to purchasing sites:

  1. MyFonts

  2. FontSpring

  3. FontShop

You can usually still find a collection of free fonts on the premium sites as well. Free or premium, the best brands tend to use a solid and effective pairing of serif and sans serif typefaces. For help with choosing the right fits, check out my post about this very topic.

No matter what font selections you make, just remember that if you’re going to use it for your brand (or you’re a designer working on a client’s brand) you must check the licensing. If it’s a free font, is it free for personal + commercial use OR just personal? If it’s only free for personal use and you buy a license (even for just $12) — that’s just (1) license for your use, on your computer. You’ll most likely need to buy a second one for client or vendor use.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018 — how is your branding looking? Would you like to give it a bit of a makeover or refresh? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

GUEST POST: 4 ways to balance living with a chronic illness (while being an entrepreneur)

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This blog has been contributed by Keisha Greaves, owner of the "Girls Chronically Rock" t-shirt line, located in Massachusetts.


First, here is a quick look at my story…

I graduated from Framingham State University and received my Bachelor’s in Fashion Design and Merchandising. After taking a break upon graduation in 2007, I wanted to further my education by getting my Master’s Degree in Business because I always knew that I wanted to be a business owner. While in grad school, I started to experience symptoms like repeated falling, my leg giving out — and I would fall to the floor without being able to get myself back up. After going to many doctors’ appointments, getting tests ran and seeing many neurologists, I was diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. With that information, I was in shock, confused, had never heard of it and was trying to figure out when it would happen the next time. After shutting down and not telling anyone what was going on with me, I knew that I had to cope with what I had by coming to terms with it — and then trying to figure out what I could do to overcome it. I knew that it was not something that I could cure myself (or just take a tablet to make it go away.)

While I work as a Merchandise Coordinator for Tommy John’s Men’s Underwear, my main passion is a t-shirt line that I own called “Girls Chronically Rock.” I wanted the name to have the word “chronic” in it and I wanted to create something to help inspire women like myself to let them know that “we rock” — no matter what we may be going through. We can accomplish and do anything that we put our minds to. I wanted to create this line to help inspire not only women with chronic illnesses, but to also inspire women in general by helping them to feel confident, motivated and empowered.

1. Network and find flexibility

I always knew that I wanted to be a business owner because I never liked the traditional “office setting” and could never keep still sitting at a desk. While creating my t-shirt line, I wanted to create a business where I can work from home managing my own hours — something that I can eventually build into a major empire later — because I never know what will happen in the future with my chronic illness.

Although it is a new business, I am still trying to figure out how to market it while attending different networking events — because I realized that networking is key. Although I also still work part time at my other job, I can still work my own hours there, too, which helps give me the flexibility that I need in running a business on the side. In the future, I would like to invest in other ventures that I have in mind and have my t-shirt line be my full-time job. Once my business begins to grow, I plan on having some of the proceeds go towards the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

2. Gain experience with speaking engagements

In 2017, I was announced as the Massachusetts Muscular Dystrophy State Ambassador. I knew that this would be a good experience for me, as I would be able to bring awareness to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and it would also give me the experience of speaking at different events — talking about my everyday life living with Muscular Dystrophy and connecting with other companies and people to help raise money for the organization. Most recently, they asked me to be the 2018 Muscular Dystrophy State Ambassador as well! I have some new plans for incorporating and blending my t-shirt line into the work that I do for the association.

3. Never give up on your business

I keep telling myself: “Never give up on your business” and “Keep going no matter what. Even if you feel down and not energized, it will all still be worth it in the end.” I know that it’s important to network with other business owners and get all of the advice that I can. I plan to connect with local boutique stores and expos to help promote my t-shirts. I also realize that following up with people is key so that they don’t forget about me — like leaving them a message after I meet them at an event.

4. Eat healthy and exercise

While juggling a chronic illness and owning my business, I realize that eating healthy is very important — it makes me feel good. I also try to exercise and squeeze in some physical activity every other day because it gives me more energy and focus. Not always knowing what the future might hold for me, I try to stay motivated, focused on my future success and the financial goals that I have set for myself for the next few years.

Here are two special quotes that I was inspired by one day and if you have a diagnosis similar to mine, you might feel inspired, too:

Your illness does not define you, your strength and courage does.” - Unknown

Never let the things you can’t do, prevent you from doing the things you can.” - Coach John Wooden


You can check out Keisha's t-shirt line "Girls Chronically Rock" at www.girlschronicallyrock.com and on Facebook (@GirlsChronicallyRock) and Instagram (@girlschronically_rock) 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018 — how is your branding looking? Would you like to give it a bit of a makeover or refresh? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

GUEST POST: 15 time saving life hacks for busy entrepreneurs

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As an entrepreneur for the better part of a decade, I know firsthand that spending time on my most valuable projects is important, but having enough time to get those projects done is a struggle.

We fill our day with meetings, social media, emails, and before we know it, the day’s almost over. Over the years, I’ve learned we could all use a little Zen in our life.

With that in mind, here are my favorite life hacks that will save any entrepreneur tons of time.

1. Schedule & plan posts

Social media is an amazing tool to get your brand and message out there, but posting can be time-consuming. I found myself spending way too much time on Facebook and Instagram trying to find articles to share and getting frustrated searching for the right words for my post.

The secret is to, one, have a specific time for posting every day and, two, make a plan on what to post before you do it.

If you have a time slot to start and finish your posts, you’re more likely to finish up quickly. Plus, planning out general ideas of posts for the week will save time as well as give your pages a good variety. At the beginning of the week, do a quick write up of a posting schedule: one day you’ll post about an event, another day you’ll share an article, and then the next day you’ll share pictures of your product.

2. Disable phone notifications

Push notifications ruin my life. Yours too, I bet.

I get it, it’s important to stay updated, but checking notifications over and over can be a distraction. Even checking email or voicemails can take a while, and if you check them too often you might run into trouble.

I like to turn my notifications off and use Freedom to keep myself focused and free of distraction. I also only check my email 4 times a day. I love giving myself a “break” by checking messages between big projects.

3. Use these email hacks

But what if checking your email isn’t an easy task for you? Maybe you get a ton of emails every hour, and no matter how fast you answer them, they keep coming in. That can be really stressful and can take a lot of time out of your day. Here are ways to fix this.

The first thing you should do is get an FAQ page for your site. Take note of the questions you get asked most often and answer them thoroughly on your site.

The second thing you should do is write up some canned responses. I hate to admit it, but I love using these. Even with that FAQ page, you’re going to get a lot of emails. Your best bet is to make some pre-planned responses.

Keep a Google Doc with some answers to questions you often get and friendly responses to customer concerns. You can always change them up and personalize them when it comes time to send one out, but at least you’ll have something to start with. Plus, this will give you time to make your canned responses perfect. Nothing’s worse than sending out a quick email with a spelling error.

Finally, get Boomerang. If you often work late or check your email at odd hours, Boomerang is great for sending emails later (during the work day). It’s also awesome if you see an important email but know you won't have time to answer it until the next day. It will take the email away and send it back to you when it’s a better time for you.

4. To do lists with priorities

To do lists are great, they keep me on track and organized, but sometimes the traditional style of list doesn’t cut it. It’s important to prioritize the items on your list that need to be done first, and as an avid list-maker, I’ve gotten to be an expert at this.

Instead of the traditional list, I make four columns: (1) what needs to be done now and is very important, (2) what is important but can wait, (3) what isn’t important but does need to be done now, and (4) what isn’t important and doesn’t need to be done right away.

Of course, you’ll want to work on the things that are most important and are urgent first, and then work from there.

For an example, maybe one unimportant but urgent task is designing flyers for a company party. They aren’t very important but they do need to go out soon. Depending on how much time you have, this might be a time to send an email invite instead. An unimportant and non-time sensitive thing would be something like getting your haircut. Unless you’re really worried about your professional appearance, a haircut can usually wait. That’s something to reschedule if needed.

Your list will help you figure out what is most important to you and what kind of tasks you are usually getting done first. It will help you manage your time better and keep your priorities straight.

5. Make your to do list before going to bed

If you can, make your to-do list before going to sleep. It usually only takes about ten minutes, and it helps so much. You’ll be able to start of your workday feeling prepared and confident. Plus, it will put your subconscious mind to work while you sleep. You’ll wake up with clarity, focus, and an idea of how your day will go.

6. Structuring meetings

Meetings were always my biggest problem when it came to time management. I found myself sitting in meetings for hours when it could have been a 20-minute chat.

The easiest way to fix this is to set time limits. If you’re the one setting a meeting up, don’t leave it open ended: give it a start and end time. Put the time on the meeting invitation, and stick to it. If you meet with the same people over and over, you’ll want them to know that you start, and end, your meetings on time.

But even if you have an idea of when the meeting will end, make sure you accomplish what you want. Outline the purpose of the meeting clearly, and write down points that you need to cover. Then, send out those goals to everyone else. It will help you all stay on topic.

7. Figure out how long tasks take you

Whenever I want to make healthier food choices, I write down what I eat throughout the day. I’m always surprised at the patterns I find and it helps me make better choices. It’s the same with time management. I use Toggl that is integrated into Asana to see exactly what I do at certain times of the day: when I check my phone, how long it takes to complete a task, everything. It’s the best way to identify where you’re losing time, how long tasks normally take you, and figure out how to fix it.

8. Give yourself more time than you need

This might seem counter productive (especially now that you’ve figured out exactly how long a task takes). However, when I feel really stressed or overwhelmed, this trick never fails me.

When you plan out your days, give yourself some wiggle room with each of your tasks. If you know a task will probably take you 30 minutes, give yourself 40. When you have a little extra time you’ll feel like you can take the extra minute or two to look over your work and make sure it all looks good.

You’ll feel less stressed throughout your day if you don’t have a jam-packed schedule. Plus, if a client expects something at a certain time, and they get it a little early, you’ll look awesome.

If you’re worried you won’t get enough done in a day, remember, everyone doesn’t expect you to do everything all at once, and the truth is, you can’t. If you put too many things on your schedule you’ll just end up getting frustrated.

It’s better for your moral to complete your whole list than to be stuck looking at a half-finished list at the end of the day. There are usually at least a few tasks that don’t need to be done ASAP, so start with what you need to do and go from there.

9. Organize your desk

Not only is clutter distracting and stress-inducing, but it can really get in your way of work. I can’t stand it when I lose a piece of paper or a letter, so I always keep my workspace super organized and clean. It helps me feel confident to know where everything is, and I don’t spend time in a panic, looking for stuff when I need it.

10. Exercise in the morning

A little exercise can do wonders for a busy entrepreneur. It helps eliminate stress, improve your mood, and will improve your productivity. Plus, exercising in the morning will start your day off right. It doesn’t have to be rigorous, either. I love taking my dogs for a walk after breakfast. It puts me in a good mood, gets my blood flowing, and keeps me (and my dogs) healthy.

11. Start with something challenging

Someone once told me to start the day with my least favorite task, but I’ve been the most productive when I start with my most challenging task. I find that if I have a clear head, I can wrap my head around a difficult problem easier. I save my easier tasks for the end of the day when I’m tired.

But, this might not work for everyone. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who have to start with something fun and simple. It helps them ease into work and get their head back into the game. Know what works best for you, and stick to it.If you start your morning off well, the rest of your day will go better.

12. Breaking down tasks

Some tasks are too big (and too daunting) for any part of the day. When tasks still seem  too daunting, break them down. It can feel intimidating to look at a big project and you might want to put it off. Cutting it into smaller sections will help you get through it.

13. Know when to multitask

Multitasking can be tricky. It can actually account for productivity loss and you might end up with less-than-perfect work because you didn’t focus on one task completely. However, there are times when multitasking is ideal.

Find time in your day when you don’t have to think very much about what you’re doing, and try multitasking then. If you don’t drive yourself to the office, you can definitely catch up on work in your Uber or on the train. You can answer emails when you’re at the gym or waiting in the doctor’s office. The key to multitasking is to focus on using your time better and not overwhelming yourself.

14. Keep a journal

Keeping a journal is great for letting out your feelings in a safe place, but it’s also perfect for tracking your progress and work habits.

I use a Passion Planner as my journal. In my journal, I like to make a short list of things I accomplished that day and think about what I could work on. I usually don’t look back on my journal very often, but just taking the time to reflect on my day, and my week, is very helpful. Learning from my mistakes helps me not make them in the future and it saves me lots of effort and time.

15. Don’t obsess about mistakes

One of the best things you can do is learn how to move on from a problem. I used to spend a lot of time beating myself up over every mistake and spending hours on finding ways to avoid them. While it’s good to try to find solutions, spending too much time on one issue can throw the rest of your day off-track. Sometimes things go wrong, but if you can learn to accept your mistake and move on, you’ll get back on track faster.

Being an entrepreneur is hard work, and with so many things to do in a day, it can be hard to manage your time. With lots of hard work, and plenty of trial and error, I’ve found some amazing tricks to get me through my workday. While I know that all of my tips will not be ideal for everyone (every entrepreneur is different), I hope they’ll help you get closer to your best, most time-efficient self.


ABOUT: As a marketer, Anna Crowe builds every marketing campaign as a race walking athlete prepares for the Olympics; with tenacious energy, mindful preparation and a relentless pursuit of greatness. She combines design, content, and social to drive performance and foster long-term engagements. Anna loves burritos and puppies (in that order.). You can learn more at www.annaleacrowe.com


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018 — how is your branding looking? Would you like to give it a bit of a makeover or refresh? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

Adobe Overview: When you should use Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator and what are the differences?

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The Adobe Creative Suite is an all-encompassing software platform (that is strictly cloud-based now) and is absolutely the industry standard in today’s design and branding world. Whether you need to create social media graphics, a mockup for your website, a downloadable PDF to host on your website or a logo identity, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator all have you covered!

If you don’t already have the programs downloaded, you can download free trial versions here (good for one week): http://www.adobe.com/downloads.html

As stated by Adobe, Photoshop is meant for image editing and compositing. InDesign is intended for page design, layout and publishing and Illustrator focuses on vector graphics and illustration. Below, I’m quickly breaking down specific documents and materials that you can create in each one (that you might not have already been aware of) — and also when and why you should. Each program serves unique purposes and all can play well together.  

Photoshop: As you can probably guess, this is the go-to tool for editing photos. Do what you need to do when it comes to cleaning up a photo before you print it or use it within its sister programs, InDesign or Illustrator. You should know that it’s a raster editor, which means it’s perfect for working with an image that is made up of a certain amount of pixels — which changes the quality when it’s resized. Beyond all of the ways that it can alter photos, it’s also handy for creating web-based graphics. I create all of my social media images (Facebook cover photos, Instagram posts and more) as well as blog graphics and any web banners, icons or online ads. I also use it to create website mockups or email newsletter layouts that I will then pass off to be coded by a developer. When it comes to creating graphics that will be printed, however, I open InDesign.   

InDesign: Think of this program as your desktop publisher. I have designed everything imaginable in it that can be printed (or downloaded/viewed digitally) — magazines, newspapers, newsletters, brochures, multi-page PDFs, business cards, banners, billboards, menus, pocket folders, notepads, invitations, stationery, album covers, books, posters — you name it. The list is endless. Mainly, when you’re looking at designing something that involves a lot of text, automatically plan to use InDesign. Aside from its print purposes, you can also create digital graphics, e-books and more — just make sure that when you initially setup and export the document (as a PDF or JPEG) you choose web/interactive options, not print ones. So now, we’ve covered editing images and creating graphics for print and web. Where do you turn when it’s time to design a logo or create an illustration? You guessed it, Illustrator!

Illustrator: This is a program that I was introduced to and took classes in years ago, after I already started finding my way around Photoshop and InDesign. Although I’ve known designers to use Photoshop for creating logos, Illustrator is absolutely the only go-to for me. This is because unlike Photoshop (which is raster-based) Illustrator is vector-based — which means that the images you create in it are going to be scalable to literally any size (no matter how small they’re reduced or how big they’re enlarged) and not lose their quality or resolution. For example, if you scale a photo that doesn’t have a high resolution to begin with to fit a large space (like a 4x6 photo blown up to fill a billboard next to the highway) it will appear very fuzzy, unclear and pixelated. However, if you enlarge a vector-based logo that is originally 5”x5” in size to fill a 500’x500’ space — the design will stay perfectly intact. Aside from logos, I also create illustrations and brand icons in this program. If you are tasked with creating a design that involves some text (but not multiple pages of it) you can also create PDFs, business cards, posters and basic templates. However, I still personally use InDesign for those.  

Leave a comment below if you still have a question about the proper program to use when creating a certain project. I would be happy to answer it!


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018 — how is your branding looking? Would you like to give it a bit of a makeover or refresh? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

QUICK TIP: Should your brand fonts be separate from those used in your logo?

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I was talking to a design friend from college the other day that was getting ready to design some new print materials for a client. While the client’s logo (that she did not design) had a decent color palette and “OK” visual elements to it, the fonts were certainly dated and the weakest aspects of the design. In developing the new pieces, my friend asked me if I thought she should come up with some new brand fonts for them, as the client wanted a new and fresh look anyway. After some conversation, weighing the pros and cons, we both ultimately agreed that she should come up with new ones to use in her design. Whether you are asked to develop new typography for a brand entirely (doesn’t matter if you’ve designed the logo or not) or at least for a special project, this is something really important to consider.    

Frankly, there is no right or wrong answer. A lot of variables can play into whether or not a brand should have a set collection of “brand fonts” used on print and digital materials that are separate from ones that are used in a brand’s logo. Overall, it all depends on the strength of the logo fonts. Sometimes, a logo uses a unique, decorative or hand-drawn typeface in an artistic way and other times, a logo uses classic typography choices in a straightforward, simple and clean design. 

So, at the end of the day, should your brand fonts be separate from those used in your logo?

1. No, if the logo already uses a good serif + sans serif combo.  

When I design a logo, I tend to use a combination of two fonts. This might be a serif and sans serif combo or a handwritten + sans serif combo. I tend to make the name of the business the main focus of course, on its own line — and I’ll run a tagline or small description (if needed) underneath that. Regardless, whether I’m working with a logo that I’ve designed or that someone else has, if there is a nice combination of fonts already being used that express the brand well and that I know will be professional and readable across different mediums, I will usually just stick with using them as the “official” brand fonts. You certainly don’t have to, but I don’t see a big reason not to. To learn the difference between the three main styles of fonts, feel free to reference this past blog post.

2. Yes, if the logo is dated and you can’t change it right now.

Like my friend that I just mentioned above, if you’re working with a logo designed by someone else and the brand doesn’t plan to update it anytime soon, you need to decide how you feel about the fonts used in the logo. If they’re dated or too decorative/artistic to use consistently, over and over again on branded materials, then you should recommend a good pairing of fonts that will complement the existing design. This is what my friend and I decided that she should do. You can still respect the existing logo and brand elements, but if you’re not able to offer an entire rebrand, you should at least still offer your thoughts on some fresh typography that can be used to help enhance the current brand.  


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? Would you like to revamp it for 2018? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

Are you a Santa Claus or a Grinch? 5 steps you need to take to master cash flow in your business

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This time of year, many business owners take inventory of how they’ve spent money over the past 12 months. Were you penny wise and dollar foolish? Were you the Santa Claus of cash flow, or Grinch like?  Let’s face it; if your business is not producing a profit, you won’t be around very long. Mastering cash flow at any business stage is essential to remain viable. Here are 5 steps you can take to master cash flow in your business.

1) Know Your Numbers – what gets measured gets improved.  What does it cost to run your business? What are your fixed costs? Is there anything that can be trimmed? Here are a few places to look for cost cutting without altering your business lifestyle:

a. Cell phone plans. Carriers compete based on price and benefits. Take a few moments to evaluate your plan’s monthly fee and plan design. Compare it to the competition. I did this recently and reduced my monthly fee — and got a better plan design!

b. Internet, cable. Same as above.

c. Landline services. Do you still need them? If you do, look around for alternate plan designs. With all of the options available (VOIP, traditional, etc.) you might be pleasantly surprised.

d. Equipment leases. Is it time to negotiate a better contract?

e. Subscription type services. Take a look at the things your firm has set to auto-pay. Are they all necessary?

f. Memberships. Look at the costs for association-type dues, like chamber of commerce, industry associations, etc. Are you making good use of the membership? If not, it might be time to cancel.

2) Employee Head Count – do you have enough staff? Look at what you are doing on a daily basis. What could be delegated to someone else? As the business owner, you should be spending 80% of your time working ON the business, not IN the business.  Your roles should entail all of the things that no one else can do. Everything else should be delegated to someone making a lot less money than you.

3) If your company needs to generate more revenue, take a look at your “low hanging fruit." What services or products do you sell that are easy to move? How much more do you need to sell to get the cash flow you need? Sometimes, it just takes a minor adjustment and focus to get sales to the needed level.

4) Employee Benefits – have you reviewed your benefit package? Maintaining a cutting edge benefits package will help your firm retain and attract top talent. An annual review of what you are offering, the cost and benefit design is recommended. Having your benefits set to “auto pilot” can become an expensive error.

5) Salaries – are you competitive, too generous (Santa Claus like) or do you undervalue your talent pool (like a Grinch)? Being in alignment with industry standards can actually save you money in the long run. There is a real cost to hiring and training replacements.  If you stop and calculate what it would cost your firm to replace your top talent, you will probably find a bonus or raise to that employee will be less expensive.


THERESE R. NICKLAS is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Certified Money Coach®. She specializes in helping successful female entrepreneurs handle the financial fallout after a big lifestyle change (like divorce, career, loss of loved one, etc.). She does this by teaching smart money strategies that help her clients feel confident about their financial future.

As a Certified Money Coach®, she identifies unconscious patterns, beliefs and behaviors around money that prevent clients from reaching their full potential. Money Coaching helps identify money blocks and shows how to push through them. Clients experience much greater personal satisfaction, increased abundance, and enhanced success in life. Helping clients plan their future while enjoying the present is not a profession, it is a calling.  When she’s not working, Terri enjoys spending time with friends and family, travelling, cooking and hiking with her grand-dog, Jackie.

The Wealth Coach for Women Inc.® (“WCFW”) is a registered investment adviser offering advisory services in the State of Massachusetts and in other jurisdictions where exempted.  Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. All written content on this site is for information purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of WCFW, unless otherwise specifically cited.  Material presented is believed to be from reliable sources and no representations are made by our firm as to another parties’ informational accuracy or completeness.  All information or ideas provided should be discussed in detail with an advisor, accountant or legal counsel prior to implementation.

3 ways to a foolproof web strategy

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When it comes to strategy, there is a strategy for everything out there. From content strategy to social media strategy, there seems to be a strategy for everything but your website.

When we are leading so many people to our website, we are forgetting that it needs a strategy in place, too. If we send them there without a clearly-defined path, often times, they will click off faster than we can say "wait a minute!" We forget that we need to also clearly define our audience, create that clearly-defined path and focus on the user experience.

Let’s chat about creating a foolproof web strategy that is going to help you capture more interest and produce better results with your website.

Crystal Clear Audience

If you have ever talked with a business coach, you will find they always talk about your target audience. We may roll our eyes, but when it comes to web strategy, it is incredibly important to make sure that we have a crystal clear picture of who are target audience is.

When it comes to web strategy, you have to understand who you want to work with. Repel and attract those you want to work with to help you better focus on getting those clients you want. Weeding them out with your website can save you (and them) a lot of time in the long run, so, why not?

Once you know your target audience, you can make sure to design your website for them. If you are looking to target middle to older age women, you will want to be considerate on font size and have a simpler website. For those who are looking to target a younger generation, have a website that is a bit more “hip” (as they say) — it will make sure you attract that age group.

Most importantly, you want to make sure you are speaking to their needs through your design. Make them desire to come to your website because they are attracted to what you have to offer. Allow them to feel what you want them to feel by making your website feel just for them.

Crystal Clear Path

There is nothing worse than being given a destination, but having no idea how to get there. Often times, this happens with websites. We know that we have a need (for example, help with social media) — but we fail to take people on a journey in regards to what is it like to work with us.

This is a crucial part of the process and we sometimes forget how it even works.

Help your web visitors out by defining a path for them to go down. Do not give them too many options...just enough for you to be able to describe what you do, how you work and how you can help them. It’s simple in these terms, but can be difficult to make happen with a website. This is why designing it to be clean, simple and easy to navigate is the way to go.

This can easily be done with obvious call to actions on every page. Focus on your visitors going on a journey through your website and have your website reflect this journey that you want them to go on. Make it obvious what you want them to do and how you want them to respond to your website.

Crystal User Experience

Out of all of the aspects, I believe the user experience is an important part of this. If you are not catering to your exact target audience and providing them with a clear path, then you should at least have a website designed for the user experience portion.

In simple terms, your website should be user-friendly.

There are a couple of items that go into this that some people do not talk about. These include making sure that the colors of your website attract your audience, but do not hinder their experience. Nothing is worse than visiting a website just to be blinded by neon colors on top of neon colors — or white text against a black background. While these can be successfully executed on rare occasions, make sure that your website is clean and color-friendly.

Another important aspect that we must all consider with our website is optimization. You truly do need a website that can be viewable on any platform. This is incredibly important when it comes to serving your audience because the majority of them are on their smart devices! Having a website that is not mobile-friendly will cost you more than you know.

Lastly, consider your image versus text ratio. Focus on bringing the page to life with images that convey the feelings or the messages you are looking to bring to the table. Having the right images can make or break a website. Never go for low-quality or simple, generic stock photos. Have branded photography done or find photos of flat lays that are meant to attract your audience. There are quite a few places to receive stock photography including Haute Stock.

Conclusion

When it comes to web strategy, it is not too difficult to implement these steps into your current web design. The three components just discussed can take your strategy to the next level!


ASHLEY DELUCA is a digital marketing and web strategist who empowers female millennial entrepreneurs by creating a web design and foolproof strategy in 30 days. She enjoys eating cheese and playing with her two basset hound puppies when she is not glued to her laptop. You can find her at blankslatemediaconsulting.com.

14 years since my back (and life) threw me for a curve

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**This post was originally published one year ago. It's now the 14th anniversary of my back surgeries! Time flies...**

When I was 16 years old and a junior in high school, my family and I discovered that I had a very severe case of scoliosis. Idiopathic adolescent scoliosis to be exact, meaning, there was no known reason why I really had it. It was popular and could pop up in perfectly “normal” and healthy, active teenage girls – which I was the exact definition of. It was May of 2003 and I was preparing to spend some of the summer in Italy with my school’s Latin Club, about to enter my senior year of high school and planning for my hopeful acceptance into Ohio University, where I would study design. I was caught up in everything academically-possible that high school can offer someone, getting ready to finish my last year of dance in my hometown’s studio where I had been enrolled since I was 4 years old — and in the middle of the competitive years that I spent on the greatest horse that I will ever (to this day) swing a leg over, traveling to shows most weekends with my family. I certainly didn’t have time to be given a serious and life-threatening medical diagnosis, completely out of the blue. Yet, somehow, I suddenly found myself in a nightmare that I couldn’t quite wake up from.

There’s too much to write about in regards to what happened on the scariest day of my life, November 13, 2003, when I underwent a 9-hour life-threatening spinal fusion surgery to help correct the majority of the curvature in my spine and today, as I sit here, a healthy and fully-recovered 30-year-old who is a newlywed, now design business owner and still competitive barrel racer. You would think I’m the same person and in some ways, I am. However, you can’t experience life literally throwing you (and your back) a curve that permanently changes it, without it changing you forever. I don’t know that I will ever find the right words to describe what happened 13 years ago and how it still impacts me to this very day (personally and professionally), but below, I’m going to quickly touch on just a few life lessons that I learned along the way, that might just help you in a business perspective, too…

1) Expect the unexpected.

I was a perfectly healthy, “normal” and very active 16-year-old girl when I was given the scariest diagnosis of my life. I mean that literally one day I was running my high school newspaper, traveling to horse shows on the weekends, dancing two days a week in a studio, preparing my college scholarship essays and the next, I was staring at an x-ray of what was supposed to be my spine, shaped like the letter “S” – straight from the alphabet. Everything was a blur and all I could really understand (and not even that well) was that my curvature was far past the point of bracing or any other temporary method to make it better. I would undoubtedly be facing corrective surgery — and it would need to be soon. As humans, we all have “defining moments” in life, where we are called to stop, take a minute and overcome a big challenge set before us, to see what we are really made of. Mine just happened to be a medical one. Life can literally change in an instant — and it’s in that instant that we can either remain calm, figure out what is happening and properly deal with it, or we can run — go crazy, scream, cry and not have a clue what to do. It’s important to remember that when running a business, similar trials can happen and you have to know how to best (and most professionally) react, in order to keep things afloat. Whether it’s an issue with a client, project, or something financial, it’s best to stay positive, think smart and come up with the right plan of action.    

2) Keep a good support system around you at all times.

I am extremely lucky that I had such a strong team around me, keeping me going, running me to and from appointments, providing listening ears and shoulders to cry on when I needed them and so much more. From my family, to my friends, to my high school teachers and even random strangers who said a prayer for me, I was never alone in my medical journey. The same should be true in business — although many of us are solopreneurs and can multi-task very well — we truly can’t do it all by ourselves. We need people, whether family and friends who understand and respect what we do, or fellow entrepreneurs who we can share mastermind groups with, coaches, virtual assistants, copywriters, accountants or more — we have to have individuals who hold us accountable. We need those who will give us good advice and make us stretch, believe in ourselves, push past what we think are our current boundaries and really learn and grow. We need people in our corner, cheering us on and who not only tell us when we’re doing well, but also steer us in the right direction when we are not making good choices.

3) Always rally in the final quarter — we are all comeback kids.

You know the game scenario — it’s the bottom of the ninth, score is tied and bases are loaded. It’s the final minute of the game and you’re only down by two. It’s the final turn and you and the horse next to you are running neck and neck. It’s in these intense moments, that champions are born. You can muster every ounce of energy, willpower and strength you have — and pull out the win. Or, you can back off, think that you can’t do it and let yourself get beat. I can still remember the morning of my surgery, right before the lights went out. I asked if I could just walk into the operating room, because I didn’t want to be wheeled in. I wasn’t helpless yet. It was that strong and positive mindset that I kept in not only those final moments before being cut open and my body was changed permanently and that I still have today, that really pushes me to keep moving forward. I know that I can face any and all adversity in my life and come out better on the other side. Every challenge I meet, whether in my personal or professional lives, only makes me a stronger person. After having a successful outcome from such an extreme surgery, I know that there is literally nothing I can’t do. You have to be tough-skinned and strong as an entrepreneur. You have to believe in yourself and your brand more than anyone — and be willing to work harder than anyone else to make it happen.  


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

5 steps to take before you hire a designer

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We see it all too often, and it's like watching someone swimming in a lightning storm. SBOs and entrepreneurs slap a shiny new logo or business card on an idea that hasn't been thought through yet because they're sure it's the piece they need to create a successful business. YIKES, you like to live dangerously, dontcha?!  

Not only does this often create a flat brand, it can create inconsistencies in messaging because there isn't a north star or foundation to work from. Can your business be successful still? Sure, you'll probably start to figure these things out one at a time, thousands of dollars and countless hours later. But, it's going to take your customers AWHILE to trust your brand, remember who you are, or take you seriously.

Ultimately, you'll be taking the long route to figure out what I'm about to share with you.

Thankfully, you're reading this message and (cleverly) decided to set your brand and business up the right way! You go, Glenn Coco! Before hiring a designer to create your visual identity, follow these 5 steps to establish a roadmap for your brand.

Step 1: Research Your Competition

This may sound obvious, but before you create a brand, you need a product. But not just any product. A product with a strong market fit, something that isn't already available. Doing a little research into your competitors goes a long way in determining whether or not your product is (a) needed and (b) already out there. If someone has already snatched up your idea (those vultures!), how might you be able to create a unique offer? Is your product addressing a different pain point? Will it be marketed to a different clientele? Or, is there an opportunity to establish a unique process or story behind your brand? Either way, you'll want to make sure there's room for you in the industry before you spend a dime on branding.  

Step 2: Establish Your Product

Congrats! You've found a hole in the market where your brilliant idea can make a killing! Tough part is over right? Hmmm, not quite. Next you need to make sure that you have a revenue model and can actually make a profit. You know, money? That little thing that none of us like to think about but all of us need. The best way to test your product out is to create a kind of lo-fi sample, or a minimum viable product (MVP) as we in the biz like to call it. Think of your MVP as a kind of Costco sample of your product. It can be used to gauge your COGS (cost of goods sold) and test your product or idea with your key demographic. There's a ton that you can learn from user testing that may have some impact on your branding too.

Step 3: Determine Your Customer

As you begin testing your product (or service), you'll start to notice characteristics of users that are drawn to it. You likely won't have enough data to make a robust customer persona at this point, but you can garner personality traits, likes and dislikes which will help you determine who your target audience is. Once you have this information, it becomes easier to know how you should talk to your customer, which in turn will give you the framework for your brand voice and identity. Look for things like personality traits, male/female, interests, and location.

Step 4: Define Your Purpose

You'll frequently hear about 'defining your why' in business. This somewhat generic phrase is referring to the reason your product or service exists and what you stand for, your core values. Let's say that you have a coffee company, but you only buy coffee beans from responsibly grown farms (if that even is such a thing). That's something you are going to want to reflect in your branding and messaging. It can affect the visual elements too, so it's a good idea to note what's important to you in terms of your product.

Step 5: Choose a Name

What's in a name? A lot, actually. Your name is the shortest, simplest explanation of your product. It should not only tell your customer what you're selling, but what the personality of your brand is. For example, are your products authentic and trustworthy (ex. Honest Company). Is the most important thing the value that they create for customers (ex. Dollar Shave Club)? Is your brand going to be rambunctious with a surly sense of humor (Dick's Last Resort)? A good rule of thumb is that you should spend as much time thinking about the name of your brand as you do on all of the branding elements combined. After all, once you choose it, you're kind of stuck with it. Sure, there are some ways to work around it, but ultimately you'll save a lot of money if you get it right the first time. Not only that, but it's pretty difficult to create a logo without it!


ROBYN YOUNG is the Founder and Head of Strategy at Robyn Young & Co. She is a branding specialist and compulsive maker of things. An ambitious young creative with a strong vision and eye for creativity, Robyn's main focus is a seamless connection between strategy and design. With a professional pedigree that includes market research for top commercial brands like Nike and Target, as well as branded content for UCLA, Modern Luxury and Everyday Health, Robyn has a vast understanding of what sticks.

Now as the founder of her own branding studio, she pours passion into everything she does — brainstorming unique brand strategies, overseeing the creative process, teaching workshops on branding, building a DIY Branding online program (coming 2018), and offering inspiration (and the occasional pep talk) for other startups. 

Learn more about Robyn and her studio over at robynyoung.co

1 big secret to growing your business

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I’ve learned A LOT of various things over the last year and a half of running my business solely and full-time. I could write a blog post covering 15+ lessons right off the top of my head at this moment, but I will save that for another day.

Today, I want to talk about something important that you absolutely must keep in mind as a business owner, regardless of what kind of business you run. Creative or not, big or small, it doesn’t matter. This is something that I saw Oprah recently talk about on TV, around the idea of being a “people pleaser” – which I am also guilty of. Plain and simple, want to know a secret that will help your business grow (and you grow as a person)?

1. Learn how to say “NO.”

You can’t be everything to everyone. And, you shouldn’t have to be. There are not enough hours in the day. Many people really thrive off of making others happy. While that isn’t always a bad characteristic, it can truly hinder the growth of your business at the end of the day.

As business owners, we are pulled in many different directions all day. We are answering emails, taking phone calls, hopping on video conferences, finding time to squeeze in paying client work — while also finding time to create content and manage our own business development. Add it all up and you can have a very productive but also mainly exhausting day.

With the distractions that come daily and the various platforms of communication that we are surrounded by, it’s easy to just keep saying “yes” to people. “Yes” to that project that you really don’t have time, for someone who isn’t your ideal client. “Yes” to that quick favor that is supposed to only take a few minutes of your time and ends up taking two hours. “Yes” to that meeting that you don’t have extra time for in your schedule tomorrow. You know what I’m talking about!

Don’t get me wrong. I say “yes” to things and people all day long. I don’t want you to think that you have to start being cold and a jerk. I just mean that when you fill your day with “yeses” that aren’t going to get you any further in your business or even as a person, you won’t have enough energy or time left in the day to take care of the necessary tasks that really matter. So, weigh your options. Say “yes” to (and I’ve seen this as a quote before) things that make you money, make you happy or make you better. Be mindful and respectful enough of yourself and your time to not agree to everyone and everything. When you spend your time where it really counts, you’ll be able to grow your business because you’ll be more focused. I’ve learned that you will ultimately gain more respect from others when you say “no” because they’ll see that your time is valuable and that they can’t take advantage of it or you.

Give it a try. If it’s something that you don’t enjoy doing or don’t have time for, respectfully decline the offer. Just say no. 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

How to enhance your branding in 1 day

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If you could improve your business today, you would, right? As business owners, we are always looking for the next best thing — the most popular online courses to help us book more clients, the quick fix to grow our email list, how to come up 56 different blog post ideas in an hour, how to increase our organic reach on Facebook — and the list goes on. I’ve downloaded my fair share of freebies, opted in to multiple email lists of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and even hired a business coach + joined a mastermind group this year. It’s wonderful to keep an idea mind, always be willing to learn and grow and see what’s working for those who are truly successful and earning multiple six figures a year.

While we really know that setting ourselves (and our businesses) up for success still takes a lot of time and hard work — nothing is as easy as it seems or is advertised — I’ve got a few quick tips for you to follow today, that will most definitely improve your current branding. Can you say that you’ve done all four of the following? Ask yourself now…and you will learn a little more about your biz and what you need to keep working on. And, go!

1) Know who you are

You can’t solve problems for others and know what you’re truly passionate about or good at, if you don’t truly know yourself. What do you do? What do you WANT to do? What do you want to be known for? Do you see yourself doing it for a long time? If you know the answers to these questions, then jump to #2. If you don’t, you need to figure out the answers. Realize what you really enjoy doing, if you can provide a service or sell a product around it and if it will truly benefit someone’s needs. 

2) Know your audience
After knowing yourself, what you do and what you want people to associate you with, ask yourself who your ideal client is. Do you appeal to fellow entrepreneurs, mid to large size businesses, corporate companies, non-profits or a different group? You can’t sell to someone if they don’t need what you offer. There has to be a specific audience that wants what you can provide, so make sure that you’re marketing to them. Find them, they need you!

3) Review your visuals + content
If you know who you are, what you enjoy doing and can sell what someone needs directly to them; you can have a very successful business. But, in order to look professional, you have to play the part. If you don’t have a strong logo, website, social media graphics, marketing materials and messaging in place, you will not be taken seriously by your clients. The more consistent you are with all of the aspects of your branding matching and flowing together cohesively — and your content is delivered in a complementary way with the branding — you will look more sophisticated and legitimate. Your branding is a reflection of your personality, your style and how you serve your clients. If your visuals connect with your words and they communicate well together, your brand will be expressed more effectively and resonate better with your clients.

4) Show up consistently everyday
Along with ensuring that your branding is professionally in place, it’s up to you to always show up. Show up for your brand, your client and the work that needs done. At the end of the day, as an entrepreneur, you have to hold yourself accountable. The harder you work at making sure that your branding is strong, the client work gets done and your business development is taken care of each week — the more consistent your business will be. And, consistency is KEY. Without it, as mentioned above, you won’t be taken seriously. Work hard every single day. It WILL pay off.

5) Outsource what you’re not good at, you don’t enjoy doing or you don’t have time for
Since I just mentioned working hard and holding yourself accountable, an important thing to realize when running a business is also knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not — plain and simple. As a business owner, you will often start off running around, doing everything. I’m a graphic designer. I enjoy designing, writing and client + project management. I don’t love basic admin tasks like email management, posting blog and social media graphics or accounting. So, I’m going to spend my time and energy on being productive with what I love to do and am good at and I’m going to delegate the other work to someone else. It’s better to put your focus on positive energy and hire professionals to do the “other” work that you don’t have time for or like to do. There is nothing wrong with that!


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It’s hard to believe that we are nearing the end of another business year! Are you ready for 2018? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! 

Fall + winter color palettes for seasonal graphics

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Although we are experiencing an Indian summer here in southern Indiana, the leaves are changing and the temps are dropping. I’m arranging pumpkins and mums on my outside porches. It’s official: fall is finally here.

With the changing of the seasons, as a designer, I often like to read up on the emerging color trends that accompany them. While it’s obviously important to stick with your brand colors for consistency purposes, I’m a big believer that it’s OK to experiment with some different palettes if you’re creating or launching something that is seasonal or holiday-specific. As you might know from one of my past blog posts, colors have such power in evoking certain emotions and feelings. Add the magical transition of a new season to the mix and you can have a lot of fun with graphics for social media use, blog posting, sales page layouts and more — whether you work with a designer or DIY it.

With that, take into consideration these unique colors + combinations and leave a comment below with a link to some of your seasonal print + digital pieces!  

1. Fall into the warm + cozy

To me, the popular fall palettes this year that seem to work well are mixes of warm colors. Think along the lines of burnt oranges, wines and caramels — with some blue + green hues thrown in to add a touch of “nature.” They’re all inviting and derived from the outside environment.

2. 50 shades of…

Clearly, grey is the perfect neutral tone that isn’t just meant for winter. It’s a great choice for a secondary color to be used with almost any brand palette (I use it constantly.) However, it’s an obvious choice for a classic, timeless and clean look. Combine grey with with shades of lilac, navy, tan, gold and blue — and you have the ultimate winter palette!   

3. Links for inspiration:

To dive in further, I’ve provided links to more detailed palettes that I briefly touched on above. Which ones are your favorites?

Color Trends (this includes a palette for this fall + past seasons’ as well)

Winter Colors: 9 Palettes for Web and Print Designs


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

6 silly myths about being an entrepreneur

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Whether you are just beginning your self-employment journey full-time or you’ve been playing this game for a while, it’s safe to say that you have definitely come across friends and family who (while we love them dearly) automatically assume that your career is all sunshine and flowers. They imagine us sitting in coffee shops everyday, having time during the day to clean our house and run errands, choosing some days to just not work at all and taking vacation whenever our little hearts desire!

And, while being an entrepreneur can have its dreamy aspects (after all, isn’t that why you became one?) — and by dreamy, I mean freedom that we can create for ourselves that we don’t necessarily get working in an office for someone else — we also know that it’s more work and stress than most can imagine. We love what we do and we work hard so that one day we can work less and delegate our work to other systems and platforms that we eventually put in place. We also charge what we want, with the intention of providing more value to our clients and in turn, making more money. But, we also hustle and put in more than 40 hours a week most weeks. If any of the following false assumptions have been made about you, raise your hand! And, let your anger and frustration go — because as entrepreneurs, we also know that you just can’t fully understand how this whole “running a business” thing works unless you’re actually doing it.

1) “You have so much more free time now…”
That’s funny. While I’m the boss and no one is sitting here, watching me, telling me that I can’t do something, I still have the self-discipline needed when working alone and respect for my business and clients to put in the right amount of hours everyday, to get the job done. If I’m not working, I’m not making money. Period. You can still find me Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to at least 5 p.m., sitting at my computer. Whether I’m in my home office or posted up on the couch, trust me, I’m getting sh*t done. 

2) “You don’t really work…”
Let me repeat my very valid point from #1. If I’m not working, I’m not making money. As a designer, I’m a service provider. I’m not at the point in my business where I’m making all of my profit from selling e-courses or digital products. I crank out monthly projects for clients on retainer and I create visual brands for my other clients. I have to put money every week into my bank account. I am physically at my computer, playing the role of designer + business owner. So, if I’m not working on a client project at any given moment, I am most definitely answering an email, writing my next blog post, crafting the next email to my list, engaging in Facebook groups being of service, invoicing, tracking expenses, emailing my accountant about taxes, updating my website or on a call with a client. Shall I go on?  

3) “You must have financial backing…”
Not true at all. While some business owners absolutely have family members who might be helping them, larger companies have investors, or they started with a large savings account — it’s not like that for most. Most of us are regular people with regular banking accounts that aren’t busting at the seams and we started with a small amount in them. Because many businesses like mine can be run online, I honestly don’t have a ton of out-of-pocket expenses each month. My money is spent on some printing, buying fonts, paying monthly subscriptions for my design and accounting software or association memberships. It’s different for makers who sell physical products and deal with more overhead, but still, don’t let someone tell you that you need a lot of money to start a business. It CERTAINLY HELPS, but it’s not necessary. You can jump in, do a few important things really well and start generating income fairly quickly. It all depends on what you’re selling, how you’re selling it and to whom you’re selling it. Anything is possible! Just work really hard.

4) “You have to do it all yourself…”
This is so far from the truth. Yes, as an entrepreneur starting out, you’re going to be wearing a lot of hats. Most days, I’m a designer, a secretary, an accountant, (and trust me, I’m terrible at math!) a social media assistant and a writer. But, design is what I’m REALLY good at and meant to do. When you can get to a point in your business where you can afford to delegate and outsource, do it! Hire a virtual assistant (VA) to handle your email, blogging and social media management. Hire a copywriter to write your blogs and website/sales copy. Hire an accountant or bookkeeping pro to handle all of your financials. Don’t feel that you have to do it all. You will get burned out and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, client work and business management-wise. Do what you want to do and do it well. Leave the rest to someone else that you trust to do a good job! 

5) “You don’t have to answer to anyone…”
True, I’m my own boss, but I do have people to answer to. A lot of people. My clients depend on me day in and day out to handle precious and important parts of their business. When they email or call, I answer. When they need something designed, I do it. They’re my bread and butter and what keep my business afloat. Without my clients, I don’t make money. I respect them too much to not answer them.

6) “It’s so easy, anyone can do it!”
Sure, being an entrepreneur is not the worst thing in the world. If you’re one, you chose to be one. And, don’t get me wrong, we are so lucky. We get to be our own bosses, do what we love and can give ourselves the freedom and flexibility that we don’t always get with working for someone else. However, this game is not for everyone to play. If someone chooses to start a business because they think it’s going to be fun and easy, they are dead wrong. You have to have self-discipline and know how to wear many hats. You have to be professional, keep clients happy and keep money in the bank. There are countless aspects of being a business owner that I love, but there are many parts that are far from dreamy. It’s all about finding a balance with it. As I always say, this game is not meant for just anyone to play. And, if it is “so easy” – then everyone would be doing it! Just like they would be movie stars, singers and professional athletes.   


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
How has 2017 been treating you and your business? Are you ready for 2018? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

The Absolute BEST Way to Grow Your List

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What’s the key to a profitable business?

Is it your website? Your sparkling, beautifully formed freebie offers and products? The overarching concepts finely woven into each of your incredibly well-thought-out blog posts?

Well... not exactly.

Although the secret sauce certainly includes a combo of everything above, there’s one crucial focal point many growing entrepreneurs push aside:

Your audience. Your peeps. Your list.

Why Your People Are So Darn Important

Your mailing list subscribers are the foundation of your business. Having a crew of raving fans who adore you and everything you’ve got cooking is what will help you leap to the next level.

But getting the attention of those folks (not to mention convincing them to subscribe!) is easier said than done. You’ve got to find them, nab their interest, and tell them exactly why they should dig what you do. And it’s daunting for a newbie!

Through trial and error on your own, this process of discovery can take months - even years. But luckily, there’s an incredible program out there that beautifully demystifies the process, and will help you find more loyal subscribers in less time than you can imagine.

Introducing: Jenny Shih’s Get Your First 1000 Subscribers

This is the step-by-step program that will take you from fledgling business to profitable enterprise. Whatever your list size – 0, 20, or 200 – Jenny’s program walks you through the exact steps you must take to grow it to 1000 and beyond.

Why 1000 subscribers? Because that’s the foundation of a profitable business. When you hit 1000, everything falls into place. More people find you. More clients hire you. And you sell more products. Basically, you start making money doing what you love.

And the best part? It’s easier than you think.

Click HERE to learn more about the program and how it can help you find build a business doing what you love.

P.S. The links contained in this email are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase I will earn a commission. However, I only promote programs I fully believe in, and am sharing this with you because I got results and want you to get results, too. 

6 signs that it's time for a rebrand

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When is it time for a total rebrand? This can be a tough question for any entrepreneur — especially when you might be busy and perfectly successful, but you’re noticing that some of what used to work before just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Before you consider an entire rebrand, consider the signs below and if you’ve been experiencing the majority of them. If you’re not experiencing them so much, but you feel like your brand could at least use a little refreshing (without the time and investment spent in a rebrand, check out this post first.) If not, keep reading!

1. Your logo is dated

When you don’t love your logo anymore or want to show it off, it’s time to change things up. Maybe this is an identity that you used to like and has worked for years, but it doesn’t work anymore — and that’s OK. Creating a new face for your brand will set the tone for everything else — your colors, fonts, textures, patterns, social media graphics, photography and more — that will all work together well, be memorable and people will know and recognize that it’s you.

2. You’re not consistently using specific color palettes and typography

Speaking of colors and fonts, does anything seem to match anymore? Are you using different templates, photography and graphics that just aren’t cohesive or represent your brand? Do you feel like everything is all over the place? A rebrand will establish you with not only a new logo, but also a new color palette (primary and maybe even secondary ones) and at least 2-3 (no more than that, though) fonts to use for everything — throughout print and digital platforms.  

3. Your website is also dated and hard to navigate

Like your logo, if your website is outdated, visitors won’t want to stick around for very long or even know you, what you offer or what they’re even looking at. Is your site mobile-friendly and responsive? Do you use opt-ins to capture emails for your subscription list and to reach prospective clients? Do you blog? Do you give visitors a quick and easy way to contact you? Do you use photography or generic stock photos that anyone can see anywhere? Outside of a Facebook page, a website is absolutely necessary to have because it’s your business’s online home. Even if Facebook or other social media channels disappear tomorrow, you will still have your website (and email list!)  

4. You can’t explain what your business does or who your ideal client is  

You’ve been everything to everyone. What services do you offer? Who do you enjoy working with the most? If your branding is all over the place, less than ideal people will want to hire you for services that you don’t want to offer anymore or even like doing. You won’t attract those you want to. But, if you have a brand that really speaks to what you’re about, who you serve and the specific services that you offer, you will filter out (for the most part) those who aren’t going to be a good fit for you.  

5. Your mission statement and values aren’t clear anymore

These are elements that should be in place and solidified even before you have visuals created. If these aren’t clear, then not much about your brand is. Who are you? What do you do? Who do you serve? What do you want to be known for? Once you can answer these, you’re more likely to have visual branding that complements your messaging and makes you stand out even more, especially in a saturated online market.

6. Your business model or strategy has changed

Like your mission and values statements, if your business plans and strategies for running your business and getting clients changes or is non-existent, it impacts your entire brand in a huge way. Be clear on where you hang out, where you want to be seen, who you want to attract, how you want to work with clients, how you plan to deliver services and products (and get paid) and more. Again, once that is reestablished, your new visual branding will more easily be created and implemented.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

3 changes that you should make to grow your business

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As entrepreneurs, we all (have or will) reach milestones at different times of owning our businesses where we need to take a step back, get a clear mind, see what is working, what isn’t and what next steps we need to take in order to grow and scale, so that we can keep being successful and around for a long time.

You’ll often hear that what you did 3-5 years ago, or even a year ago, won’t always continue to work and that what got you here today won’t get you there tomorrow. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon tried and true practices and strategies that work for your biz, it just means that you need to keep an open mind and experiment with trial and error, in order to change (and therefore grow) in good ways. I’ve listed tips below that you might not need to implement in your business just yet, especially if you’ve only been officially flying solo for a year or two, but maybe another year from now, it will be time to consider trying them. If you’ve been at this game for anywhere from 3-5 years and you know that it’s time to spread your wings a little more, then try the ones that feel right to you and leave a comment at the end of this post to let me know your thoughts and results!

1. Increase your prices or change your offerings

As stated above, this isn’t something to necessarily do in the beginning stages of business. But, after you’ve been working for a while and you see what services or products that you like to sell or offer, that you sell a lot of and whom you like selling them to, you’ll see what you would like to continue doing in the future. And, don’t fear that the clients won’t come when it comes time to niche down on your specific offers and/or raise the prices a bit. The right clients will always pay and see (and get) the value that you offer. When you offer only a few select services with a more premium price tag attached, you can actually work less, work with only the right clients and obviously, make more money.

2. Build a team to help you

This is a tough one and a crossroad that I’ve actually come to in my business this summer. Growing your team is one of the biggest and most crucial ways that you grow your business. It has to be done eventually. For me, I like being a “one-woman shop” and my clients know that when they’re communicating and working with me, they’re 100% getting me. And, that’s great! I love the close relationship that I have with each client. However, I also know that you have to scale your business if you’re going to take on more clients, do more premium work and make more money. You literally can’t do everything and shouldn’t have to. This can even include just hiring a VA, bookkeeper, social media strategist, designer, or another assistant of some kind. It doesn’t matter if it’s one person or a few. Simply put, outsource the work that you don’t have time for or enjoy, so that you can focus your energy on what you do best, no matter what that is. I know that if I hire an assistant to handle my client onboarding process, social media and blog posting and to update my website, or if I hire a junior designer to help me with some client projects from time to time, I’ll be able to work directly with my clients even more and have more time to design, which is what I enjoy the most. At the end of the day, you’ll also be able to see more clearly, service your clients better and in turn, make more time for yourself to do the work that brings you more money. It’s really a smart investment to make in your biz. And, if you don’t want to be responsible for actual employees, just consider hiring contractors. 

3. Niche down on a specific market/client base

Don’t be everything to everyone. Focus on servicing those who you most enjoy working with and who need it the most. The ones who will always pay your prices and get the most value from what you do — and never doubt or question it. In the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, it’s easy to say “yes!” to everyone and take on any job or client that comes your way. With time, you’ll see that it’s much easier to focus on a specific group to work with — whether that’s a certain demographic, market or just someone who shares the same values as you. For me, I like to work with any small business owner who understands what this journey is like — but especially creative females, because I can relate the most to them. It’s up to you who you want to work with! 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

4 simple signs that you need a break from your work and to recharge

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I don’t know about you, but the last couple of weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of work, not enough hours in the day and stress. While those of us who are business owners absolutely live for and love our businesses (that’s a sign alone that we are meant to go on this entrepreneurial journey, as it’s not for everyone) more than a lot of things, sometimes, it’s OK to stop and realize when we need to take a break.

Rather than experience burnout, resulting in not doing our jobs well or taking care of clients the way that we should, it’s best to step away from the work. And, I don’t mean that you necessarily need to take off and go vacation somewhere (although, who wouldn’t love to just drop and go to the beach?) I just mean that it’s OK to give yourself a “mental health day” (or two) just to sleep, not think so much, recharge and then come back fresh and re-motivated later in the week. As long as you have met your prior deadlines, can be in a position to move work around and your clients know that you’re out of pocket for just a bit – you should feel no guilt. Just know when and how to prioritize, how to not leave people hanging and wondering where you (and their work) are and keep in mind that you are your own boss now. With this role comes the beauty and flexibility that you don’t always get working for someone else. You can give yourself a day and not have to run it through a corporate ladder of approvals. Just know when the necessary time to do so is. The following steps should help you see the signs…

1) You’re lacking motivation.

I always know when I’m super into working, cranking out good work and can’t wait for more to come in — when I’m truly happy, excited and motivated. Most of the time, I feel this way. But, of course I am human and there are times that work is the last thing that I want to do, I have a to-do list so long that I can’t even see straight and I secretly wish for no emails to hit my inbox — because I am mentally maxed out and my brain has no more capacity for new clients, ideas and projects. When you’re feeling like this, take it as a not-so-good sign that you’re working too much.

2) You’re only working and not doing other things part of your normal routine.   

This is a huge red flag for me. I have always been organized and used to a certain routine. While I also like to be spontaneous and flexible, I like to know what work that I have to do each morning when I wake up, any meetings that I need to attend or calls that I need to hop on and be productive enough that I can end my day by 5 p.m. I have many other things going on in my life, even though any entrepreneur knows that running a business full-time takes up a crazy amount of your day. It’s all about balance. I have a husband now that I need and want to spend time with (that doesn’t involve my iPhone or Macbook Pro) and I have a horse that requires a lot of time and hard work to be maintained each day. I also have other hobbies and friends and I know firsthand that you absolutely have to have a life outside of work. When you find yourself literally ONLY working, it’s time to take a step back, prioritize and get back to a routine that involves time away from the computer and Internet. Unplug!   

 3) You’re not getting enough sleep.  

This might be the biggest sign that I look for when I am overworking. Recently, I've gone to bed at 1 and even 2 a.m. at times. That is completely crazy and unnecessary — and I realize this. I’ve had a lot of client projects to knock out lately, but I know that it’s only temporary and I will get back to my normal routine next week. The older I get, I have to get at least 9 hours of sleep each night, or else I struggle to wake up in the morning. When I find myself crawling into bed and not even remembering it the next day, because I conked out immediately, I know that it’s also time to take a serious break.  

4) You’re forgetting simple things and making silly mistakes.

Finally, this is a BIG one. I am often a perfectionist. Not only in the way that I manage my daily work and clients, but also in the way that I talk to people, answer emails, cross things off my to-do list, respond to friends’ texts and more. When I forget to get back to someone about something important, when I forget a client job altogether (it happens!) and have to be reminded — and I find myself spelling things wrong — I know that it’s definitely time for a break. Look for the little things that you often knock out of the park each day without any thought or try. When you’re slacking, struggling to cover your basic bases and making small mistakes — look for the big ol’ flashing sign that screams “YOU’RE TIRED! TAKE A BREAK!” 

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