How to build a recognizable, reliable brand on social media

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It’s important for any company – especially if younger generations are in their target market – to have an online presence. Many people now use social media for over an hour a day, meaning digital platforms are one of the easiest ways to reach new customers or clients. When setting up your social media accounts and creating a recognizable, reliable brand for your company, consider the following tips:

Choose your tone

Some brands are great at jokes on social media, while some are known for responding to every comment. You’re probably better off avoiding too much humor unless you have a hilarious digital marketer on your team who always has tasteful puns on hand, but whatever tone you go for, stay consistent. Additionally, choose which social media networks you want to use. Pinterest, for example, is particularly popular among female users, Facebook will allow you to reach all kinds of people across a large range of ages and Instagram provides the opportunity to create a gorgeous visual portfolio for your business.

Be consistent with your posts

Choose how often you post updates, deals, products news, or competitions on social media and be consistent with this frequency. Whether you post three times a day or twice a week is up to you, but your followers will appreciate consistency; having your posts appear as expected will help them to feel like they know your brand well.

At first, it can be challenging to determine how often to post. Remember that while you don’t want to overwhelm your followers, small, juicy reminders of the existence of your company never hurt. Even just a quick post commenting on the weather in your city or a well-framed image of someone wearing or using one of your products ‘out in the wild’ will do the trick!

Respond to comments graciously

At some point, you will receive comments you don’t agree with and you may get complaints that you will need to put right. You don’t always have to respond to comments on your social media accounts, but when you do, ensure you’re always gracious and professional.

Sometimes, comments can be downright malicious. You don’t necessarily need to reply to these types of comments – the person making them might simply be looking for attention – but ensure you don’t lose your temper and respond in a way that’ll reflect badly on your company and discourage future customers or clients from working with you.

Proofread before posting

It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many brands consistently make typos in their posts. If your customers can’t trust you to proofread your posts, how can they trust that your products or services will be of an acceptable standard?

This is extra important if you’re maintaining a website – people will be deliberately viewing your site to find out about your company, so don’t give them the impression that you aren’t even capable of checking your grammar and spelling. Download an app such as Ulysses or Grammarly to help check your spelling and sentence structure while you type and offer suggestions.

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Hold competitions and giveaways

If you’re in a position to give away some free products, holding a competition once in a while is a great way to excite your customer base and show the generous spirit of your brand.

Well-planned, fair ‘draw’ style giveaways are incredibly easy to set up, will give people a good impression of your brand and encourage them to interact with it. Be smart about giveaways: you might like to tell your followers that to enter, they must share one of your advertisements or tag a friend they’d like to share the prize with. This way, the cost of any product you give away will be accounted for by the advertising the competition gives you.

Advertise your social media handles

Once you’ve established your social media handles, advertise them! Put them on your business cards and on your product packaging.

Building a brand on social media will take time and patience, but it’ll be worth it if you can market to your target audience. Start planning your company’s branding and enjoy the reach that only social media can give you!


Cloe Matheson is a freelance writer from Dunedin, New Zealand. She loves discussing events and has previously produced articles for sites such as Auckland Conventions. To see more of Cloe’s work, visit her Tumblr page.


Do you need help with branding and design for your business? Download my Brand Launch Checklist and Branding 101 guides for free today — and join my email list, where you will continue to receive weekly tips from yours truly! 

4 ways to refresh your brand

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Refresh vs. Rebrand – a never-ending debate in the life of a small business owner!

How do you know when it’s time to add some spark back into your visual identity or wipe the slate clean and start from scratch all over again?

Sometimes, we can get ahead of ourselves. It’s easy to want a new logo or website when we stare at these major components of our brand day in and day out. I get it, we tire of them. I feel the same way about my own print + digital materials.

However, the point of branding is to establish consistency. You need a cohesive look and feel to everything that represents and expresses you, so that people become familiar with and trust you. On the flip side, sometimes a logo can become outdated and after years of looking a certain way, it’s OK to take the leap and go through a full rebrand. However, before you step off that ledge, think to yourself – what if I just refreshed my brand in a few small and easy steps? You might be surprised at the simple ways that you can enhance it and add extensions – to make it feel new – but without the time and expense of executing an entire facelift.

1. Add a font to your typography collection.

I don’t recommend using five different typefaces throughout your branding, but if you have one or two that you consistently use (and hopefully they’re a serif and sans serif combo) it’s OK to add in a third option. Maybe this is a script, handwritten or more “fun” font that you use for some headlines, quotes, social media graphics, highlighted blocks of text, etc. Something to add additional interest or flair to your content and design.

2. Add a color to your palette.  

In a very similar and really easy way, introduce a new color to your existing swatches. I believe that you can have 4-5 different colors working together for your brand (unlike fonts, I cap those off at 3 max) and it can be fun to add one more to the mix. Even if you don’t add something super vivid and different, it could be as simple as a neutral option like a grey, ivory or beige. This can also add a sophisticated touch to your branded materials. And, here is what I have to say about choosing the right combination of colors.

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 3. Introduce elements like a secondary logo mark/icon, textures or patterns.

Adding some visual elements that can be used throughout your website, social media graphics and print stationery can be a great way to bring a new dynamic to your branding, without doing an entire overhaul. No matter how great your logo is, you do have to look at it every single day. You probably think of ways that you would tweak it or what you want your next one to look like. Instead of going that far, though, why not add a secondary version of your logo to be used for special occasions? Many businesses use icons and monograms as simplified versions of their logo, when they don’t want or need to use the original version. These smaller marks can absolutely be consistent with your brand and use elements, fonts and colors from your logo, but in a new and unique way. You can create some icons to be sprinkled throughout your website, to help break-up page sections or represent your services or social media handles — that still match your brand. You can also introduce some nice textures and patterns as extensions to your color palette, to add more visual interest to your graphics. I especially like this step because it allows you to add some new elements to your brand, without doing a full-blown rebrand.

4. Invest in brand photography.  

This is a step that I took myself in my business this year and it’s such a game changer! If you’re using the same stock photos over and over again or you don’t have any actual photos of yourself and your working space, now is the time to invest in a professional photographer! At the beginning of the year, I found a photographer whose style I really liked on Facebook and who was located in my city. We met at a local studio/co-working space that is a renovated warehouse and spent the morning capturing headshots and shots of me working with my “tools” – like my laptop, iPad, sketchbook and journal. We incorporated two outfit changes and some different backgrounds — and they turned out perfect, exactly as I envisioned. She gave me around 100 to keep, so I use them regularly on my website, in blog graphics and social media graphics. I feel so much more professional with them — and, I like posting them knowing that nobody else in the world as the exact same shots. I highly recommend investing in unique photos, rather than the same stock photos that everyone else on the Internet is using. **Sidenote, you can also go to a craft store like Hobby Lobby, buy up some paper textures to use as backgrounds, office supplies and fun props — and style your own photo shoot of flat lays to freshen up your blog and Instagram feed. Again, this way, you’re at least using your own photos!**


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 properly create and size images for social media

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I recently did a presentation for my good friend Jessica Castle’s “Stress-Free Launch Summit” about the importance of good design and branding when it comes to launching a new service or product — AND how to properly create and size graphics for specific social media platforms. Some of you may have caught those highlights, but if not, below are a few tips that I shared for creating the graphics and then sizing them correctly. Each social media channel requires different dimensions for images like profile photos, cover photos, post photos and more — and you need to have correctly-sized images uploaded and shared, so that you can be visible, memorable and viewed as professional — by attracting the right potential clients! Strong visuals + content = higher engagement!

It’s important to note that you can include text on some images to mix things up (that is totally normal and acceptable, especially when stating a fact, statistic or a quote) BUT you should really keep graphics more image-based, than anything. Let the graphics support the copy that you provide in a post — for whatever is it that you’re posting or promoting. People love images of people and products — try to use as many unique and branded graphics as possible!

1. How to create graphics:

  1. Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (this is the official and professional platform for designing digital graphics.) I have always used Photoshop, but you can also use Illustrator. Visit adobe.com to download free trial versions of any Creative Cloud program. If you get comfortable with using Photoshop, keep playing with it and pay a monthly subscription to have it. It’s a great skill set to have, even if you’re not a designer!

  2. Canva - this is definitely the “non-designer’s” go-to resource for creating digital and print graphics. You can use it for free or upgrade to a paid subscription for more features. As a designer, I even have a “Canva for Work” account and share it with my social media strategist, so that she can access my graphics. I’m also able to make them more quickly and simply — and Photoshop files aren’t bogging down my computer anymore. It’s a handy platform and gives you a lot of of options for different font styles, formatting different size graphics, uploading your logo + brand colors and more. It even provides you with ready-to-go, pre-made templates for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, so that you don’t have to manually format them and take the time to look up the proper dimensions. Super easy! Plus, you can upload your own brand fonts (if you have the “Canva for Work” account.) This way, you can create graphics that are totally on-brand with your launch identity!  

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2. How to size graphics:

Once you’ve decided which software you’re going to use to create your social media graphics, consider the different sizes and formats for each, respective social media platform. As we all know, Facebook especially is ever-changing with its various image dimensions, but this is the current breakdown of recommended sizes as of Summer 2018:

Facebook post: 940x788 pixels (For a regular post, the sizes can be flexible. I tend to post from Instagram to Facebook, so I just use the same square image for both. However, for ads, only 20% of the image can be text-based -- so you will have to run the ad through a layout test beforehand.)

Facebook ad: 1200x628

Facebook cover for a business page: 828x315 (desktop) and 560 pixels of that area is mobile-safe

Facebook cover for a group: 820x462 (fully visible on mobile, 820x250 for desktop)

Facebook cover for an event: 1920x1080

Facebook profile photo: 180x180

Instagram: 1080x1080 pixels (**please note that if you’re running an AD, it will also need to pass the same “20%” Facebook rule test!)

Pinterest: 735x1102 pixels

Twitter: 1024x512 pixels

Email header: 600x200 (for a newsletter template)

For any other social platform image dimensions (YouTube, Tumblr, etc.), simply Google them! Again, they are ever-changing in the online world.

3. File formats to use:

Save your designs as either PNGs or JPEGs for posting online.

You don’t have to worry about saving them with a specific image resolution in Canva, but if you’re manually creating them in Photoshop, go to “File - Save For Web” and make sure that the resolution is set to 72 DPI.

PNGs have transparent backgrounds and tend to have a slightly higher quality than JPEGs. They are becoming more of the “industry standard” for online image use. But, you can certainly use either!

Leave a comment below with any questions that you have. And, remember, keep checking for updated image dimensions! They often change every few months or at least once a year.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
How is your branding looking for the rest of 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!

3 reasons that you need a brand board

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If you’re a small business owner and you’ve spent any amount of time on Pinterest, you’ve probably come across hundreds of brand boards. Do you have one created, whether you’ve DIY’d you own branding or you’ve worked with a designer? If so, fantastic! It’s a crucial element of your overall visual identity. And, if not, you’re in luck! It’s never too late to create one.

A brand board is simply a quick glance at the graphic aspects of your brand identity. It’s usually an elongated image that displays your logo, font samples, color palette and any icons, illustrations or other assets that make up your brand. I even include inspiration photos that I’ve used during the design process that influence the end result — colors, patterns, textures and more. While a brand board is separate from your brand/style guidelines (a more in-depth document that breaks down the specific details about your brand and how to properly use your standards) a brand board is still the first step in establishing a professional identity and in shaping the brand guide, which might come at the end of the branding process — tying the whole story together. Why do you need a brand board? Let me count the ways...

You will look more professional.

Having a brand board establishes that you have a sophisticated, confident and legitimate brand. It shows that you have put the time and work into mastering the perfect look, emotional experience, style and vibes that will attract your ideal client base.

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You will have “at a glance” standards for vendors + partners to reference and follow.

When you’re working with a developer on your website, a printer or a coordinator for an event that you’re helping to sponsor, etc., they will have quick and easy access to your official identity. Although they won’t see detailed descriptions or directions, they will still know how your logo should look — and if they need to incorporate any colors, fonts or other assets — and what they are. They will be able to ensure that the platform representing your brand is accurately expressing it.  

You will have a quick overview of your visual identity — at your fingertips.

Using your brand board, you will be able to reference specific color codes and fonts without having to take the time to look them up. If you’re creating social media graphics in Canva, making updates to your website or even getting your logo embroidered or screen printed onto clothing or a bag, you will need to know your exact fonts and colors. Instead of tracking down emails or contacting your designer, simply reference your brand board! It’s handy to keep a print copy nearby or a PDF that you can easily open at any time. Even keep a JPEG saved to your phone or iPad — you never know when you might need it!


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? 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!

7 things that every homepage should have

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I often check the analytics of my website (maybe once or twice a month) to review certain numbers. I like to see how many visitors are coming to my site daily, weekly and monthly — where they’re coming from (a Google search, social media, etc.) and what content that they like the best. What pages do they land (and stay) on the most frequently? Although visitors are definitely checking out my services (which is great!) and I can easily see which blog posts are the most popular (helpful for repurposing content and developing new e-books, future courses and free downloads) — my homepage still sees the most traffic. Why is that? It’s (obviously) the very first page that people see when they visit my site for the first time, as is the same for most websites. And, because I have it packed full of goodness (with the help of each item that I’m about to outline in this post) — people seem to find it helpful and navigate through it often.

I used to think, “who cares about the home page?” I want prospective clients checking out my services and pricing or better yet, my contact page — so that they’re sure to get ahold of me. And, while those things are important and happen, it’s crucial that the home page is still one of the most attractive and functional aspects of my website. Think of it this way — again, it’s the first impression that you make on visitors. They will decide in a few seconds if they’re going to stay and continue navigating your site, or if they’re going to close out of the window because nothing stood out to them and they’re not interested. And, just because you have separate pages setup for anything and everything (from your services, to your products, to your blog to your about page) — you can still give visitors a sneak peek (and quick tease) for what they’re going to find on your site. If done right, the home page brings new people in every single day — excited and anxious to learn more about what you do!

Here is a quick breakdown of the most important elements that your homepage should have, to keep prospective clients on your website longer — and clicking through to your other pages!

1. Logo

Make sure that the face of your brand can be visible right away. Scale it to the right size, either in the top left, center or right hand corners. This way, people know exactly what website that they are on. Plus, it can set the tone and design for the rest of your website, like the integrations of colors, fonts and other assets.

2. Headline/title description

In addition to the logo, let people know what website that they have landed on. Briefly explain who you are, what your business offers and who you serve. Keep it simple, but tug on the heartstrings a bit. You want to identify your potential clients’ pain problems, so that you can help to solve them. After all, that’s what your business is built to do! So, weave in some emotional language.

3. Secondary descriptions

Somewhere under the headline or quick description of your website/brand/business, provide a few, little “buckets” or “boxes” of additional info and details. You can breakdown your services, products, etc. so people can learn even more about you and what you offer. When they leave your site, they won’t have to question who you are or what you do. You can even add an interactive touch by incorporating these into a drop-down menu. Just make sure that you briefly provide a few more descriptions so that no one is left confused.   

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4. Balance of strong visuals + text

Try to have an equal balance of photos and copy. Your visuals can also appear in the forms of shapes, patterns, textures, other brand assets/icons or illustrations. Your messaging is equally crucial — again, create an emotional experience for a prospective client as they read through what you can offer them. Remember, value - value - value! Let your brand be strongly expressed through the smart use and “just right” balance of imagery and words.

5. Testimonial

A common question that I get from my branding clients is, should they have a page solely dedicated to client testimonials/praise or should those be scattered throughout the site? I say that it can go both ways! Absolutely, have a testimonial page, because prospective clients will click on it to read good reviews about working with you. However, it creates additional legitimacy if they see nothing but positivity about you, everywhere they look. Include a quote or two on each page. I use just one on my home page and I’m mindful and strategic as to where it’s placed. For example, explain your business and the services that you offer to grab someone’s attention and then let them see how amazing you are to work with, when they read a direct quote from a real past client of yours, right below the above text!

6. Call to action

Never, ever forget this! A CTA (or “call to action”) is just that — an element that encourages someone to take action — which can be done in multiple ways. Make it easy for someone to sign up for your newsletter, download a freebie that you’ve created, visit your online shop or setup a call with you. Don’t let someone just visit your site and then never interact with you or hear from you again. You don’t want them to forget you!

7. Easy ways to contact you and find you on social media

Either throughout the page or at the bottom, there should be links for people to experience you away from your website (like on social media, through your Facebook page or Instagram feed) or to contact you (like a CTA, mentioned above.) You don’t want to miss out on a prospective client who is interested in working with you (because of your awesome homepage) because they don’t know how to stay in contact with you. Always leave room for social media icons (or even directly embed your Instagram feed like I do at the bottom of my homepage) or an email icon (or link to your contact page.) Make sure that these icons are visible! You can put them in more than one place.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? 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!

My 4 favorite things about the 2018 Kentucky Derby logo

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The 144th “Run For The Roses” (AKA) the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday! (May 5th) For those who don’t know, the Derby (and the weeks leading up to it) are equivalent to a national holiday season where I live, here in “Kentuckiana” — the blended area that consists of a little bit of southern Indiana and a little bit of Louisville, Kentucky, right on the banks of the Ohio river. Because of this and the fact that my husband and I are located just 20 minutes from the coveted and famous Churchill Downs racetrack, you won’t find us anywhere else on the first Saturday of May. It’s not just a horse race — it’s a party, a celebration — and truly, the most exciting two minutes in sports!

Of course, I naturally have an interest in horse racing because I own quarter horses and barrel race (although they are entirely different breeds, sports and industries) and I understand and respect the caliber of these special athletes and all of the time, money and care that is invested by many different people to get them to this level of the most elite racing in the world. But, I’m also a big fan nowadays because I have a younger brother who works for a very successful training operation that usually has at least one horse in the Derby the last few years. Although I don’t personally know the horse or its connections of course, regardless of its odds, it absolutely and automatically becomes my betting pick and who I’m going to cheer for — in the hopes that it having a great race will mean more success for my brother, his boss and their large team across the country.

And, in addition to my equine interests and enthusiasm, I’m obviously a designer. Blending graphic design, branding and horses can be fun when it’s done well and a perfect example of that is the Kentucky Derby 144 logo — the official graphic symbol and icon of the world-renown event for 2018. Today, I thought that it would be fun to take a peek at the design and dissect a few things that I really like about it.       

The new logo was actually revealed to the public almost a year ago, last June. I’ve been seeing it pop up on merchandise and places around town the last few weeks, but didn’t really study it up close until now. According to Bristnet.com: “SME, a New York-based marketing agency, has developed the official Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks logos since 2007.”

Without further ado, below is my breakdown of 4 elements that I like about the design.

“And, they’re off!”  

 Courtesy of: http://www.brisnet.com/content/2017/06/churchill-downs-unveils-logo-2018-kentucky-derby/

Courtesy of: http://www.brisnet.com/content/2017/06/churchill-downs-unveils-logo-2018-kentucky-derby/

1. The logo design uses an iconic and historical reference, with a modern twist.

The undeniable “Twin Spires” of Churchill Downs appear as the primary aspect of the logo — what I see first and am really drawn to. You haven’t been to the famous track and not see these two beauties ascending from the top of the “palace” as I call it. Integrating these as the main graphic element makes the logo unique specifically and only to the track and people should immediately recognize them when they first see it.

2. The color palette is professional and gender-neutral.

Because literally thousands upon thousands of people attend the Derby and this logo is seen by the eyes of thousands more (on TV, merchandise, in print, on the web, etc.) it’s crucial that it’s not too masculine or too feminine. The look and feel should be sleek and professional — and appeal to people in general. Anyone in the crowd. The use of a tan/grey and dark red combination achieves just that — gender neutrality.

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3. It incorporates the use of a number as part of the shape and design.

This year marks the 144th year for the Derby, so I really love how the design incorporates the number as part of the design, in support of the Twin Spires elements. It’s clever, creative and not obvious in an obnoxious way.

4. It’s SIMPLE!

Most importantly, as every great logo should be and I’ve said before, it’s simple! It’s clean, minimal, iconic and straightforward. It can be easily and quickly recognized as the official Kentucky Derby logo and no one would question it. Because of its simplicity and basic shapes/design, it can also be translated across different platforms and via various mediums. It can be viewed on a large screen, printed in the newspaper and in the track programs, screen-printed on t-shirts and embroidered on other merch. When a logo is simple like this (but still professional) it can be successfully interpreted in multiple ways.  


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? 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!

Download Your Brand Launch Checklist today!

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Whether you are getting ready to launch your new business or you’ve rebranded an existing one, it’s crucial to have at least a few, specific bases covered — before you put it all out into the wild! Download this Brand Launch Checklist, review the items — and make sure that you can answer each one simply + quickly.

Overall, think about who you are, what you do, who you want to serve, what you want to be known for, the value that you offer and how you want your clients to feel when they experience you.

Print off the checklist, answer each question and then either hang it by your workspace or keep it close by so that you can use it as a handy resource — whenever you are needing some brand clarity. 

Here are a few thoughts to consider when answering each question: 

• Think about your mission statement and the values that are important to you — personally and professionally. 

• How do you want to "sound" when you're communicating? What are the words that you will use either via video, website copy or when you write emails, etc.?  

• What keywords come to mind when you think of the look and feel of your brand? And how you want others to perceive it? 

• Do you want to serve a specific niche? Who would you love to work with? 

• How often do you want to work and where? Where will you operate your business? 

• Do you want to sell services or products (or both?) How do you want to handle pricing? 

• Are you DIY-ing the visuals or hiring a professional designer? You will need a logo, font and color palettes, website domain + hosting + design, social media graphics, photography and other assets to use throughout your branding for consistency and cohesiveness. 

• What social media platforms will you be hanging out on? Where do your ideal clients hang out? 

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Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? 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 questions to ask yourself before you DIY your branding

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In my downloadable freebie “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” I talk a lot about how branding is so much more than just a logo, a website or the way you talk to your audience. I say that it’s an ever-evolving and changing process — and a brand will only grow bigger, better and stronger with time. Branding isn’t just a collection of material things, either. It’s the experience someone has when they come into contact with your identity.

You need to know who you (as a business owner) are, what your business stands for, who your audience is, what you want to deliver to them (service/product-wise and experience-wise) and how you plan to stand out from the crowd. You should know these things first, before you even begin to develop the look and feel of the brand. Once values, strategy and messaging are in place, visuals can follow. Being a designer, this is sometimes still hard for me to grasp. I’m all about the type, colors and imagery — but I know that other things have to come first, to enhance the experiences that “my favorite things” provide people.

When you know that you’re ready to start figuring out your branding, how you want it to make your clients feel, what you want to say and what you want everything to look like, here are (6) important questions that you need to ask yourself:

1) What style of logo do you see yourself using on all of your materials? 

2) What colors, fonts and imagery best represent the look and feel of your business?

3) How do you plan to stand out from your competition? What do you offer that is different from anyone else?

4) Are you selling services or products? Will you run your business entirely online, need a physical storefront or a mix of both? Will you be able to maintain an online shop?

5) What emotional experience do you want a customer to have when they come into contact with parts of your brand, think about buying from you and after they do?  

6) Who is your dream customer and what is the best way to reach them? Are they on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all over the world or right next door in your hometown?

As I mention in my free guide, everyone is at different stages and budgets. It’s perfectly okay to design social media graphics in Canva, customize a free website template and write your own content. You might think that you don’t have the money at the moment to hire someone. But, remember, having a designer handle your branding will help you grow your business and gain customers quicker when you really look the part. It’s just as important to invest in it, as it is any other aspect of your business. You might be able to temporarily fix a leak under your sink, but if you’re not a professional plumber, you’re going to spend more money down the road fixing it again later, rather than having it done right the first time. The same principle applies to visually appearing professional and making a good impression on your clients — do it immediately.

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Once you have decided that you want to DIY a few things, hire a professional for the rest or hire a professional for all of it, it might be good to reference my free guide and keep it handy near your desk. Branding is one of the biggest secrets to a business attracting followers and paying clients — and achieving overall success. 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. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! 

5 ways to get started with brand visuals

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If you're just starting out as a small business owner, or you've been at the game for a while but haven't established a professional presence just yet — BUT — you also know your biz inside and out, what you want to be known for, who you want to serve, where you want to be seen, your overall vision, mission and strategy, this blog post is for you!

As I've mentioned before, it's EXTREMELY important to have those above non-tangible pieces in place and be really clear about your brand, before you even think about the visuals. Because, a brand is the emotional experience that your client has when they come into contact with you. It's what THEY think and feel.

So, if you're clear on the above and ready to design a logo, website and other materials, here are a few places to start and resources that you can use to get off the ground — until you're ready to hire a professional designer. (Which I highly recommend doing in time!)

1) Create a mood or "inspiration" board. This can be a physical or digital collage of colors, patterns, textures and photos that evoke a specific sense of style, emotion and personality when someone experiences your brand. This is important because it sets the tone for the rest of your branding and helps you get really clear on design aspects. You can cut out images from magazines and put it together yourself or create one in Canva or Photoshop.

2) Use Pinterest to not only help you create your above mood board, but to also help inspire your color palette and logo possibilities. Create specific boards for colors, logos, typography and more to help yourself stay organized — and to give you good visuals to constantly reference.

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3) Think about what style of logo that you would like to create — you can create something that is simple and type-based, or you can incorporate certain iconic, illustrative or design elements that express what your business does. Take a basic Adobe Illustrator course and download a trial version of it, if you're feeling brave enough to create it using a professional program. To make things a little easier, you can always use Canva.

4) Once your logo is finished, try your hand at using Squarespace to design a simple website. There are other platforms like Wix and Weebly, but I've always been a Squarespace girl myself. It's pretty intuitive and user-friendly. You can connect to an existing domain (in GoDaddy, etc.) or purchase one through Squarespace and it's even free for the first year. It's crucial to have an online home for your business, separate from social media platforms, in case Facebook decides to pull the plug one day — and your page and all of its followers go with it. Your website is something that you own and will be online, even if other social channels come and go over the years. Make sure that it's easy to navigate and visitors can quickly learn about what your business offers and the value that you can provide THEM with. Make it visually interesting and attractive, packed with good content, so that they will want to stay and not quickly exit the browser window.

5) For other print and digital materials, like social media graphics, business cards, brochures, PDFs and more — you can download trial versions of specific Adobe Creative Cloud programs like the trio that I use (InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator) or use the free version of Canva. Strive hard to keep all of your branded materials consistent and cohesive. Whether someone is following you on social media, reading a blog post on your website, browsing a free worksheet or checklist from your opt-in or holding your business card, they should have the same visual experience over and over again. 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? 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!

7 reasons that you need a strong brand (no matter how small you are)

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As a small business owner, you might not think that establishing professional and sophisticated branding is necessary until you become a little “bigger.” The truth is, in order to grow, be recognized and become more known, branding is essential and one of the most important investments that you can make in your business. It can take your business from “blah” to “ahh!” and I’ve outlined just a few reasons why, in today’s mini blog post:

1. You will be taken seriously.  

If you look consistent and legitimate, then you will look more professional. And, the more professional that you look, the more that people will view you as an expert, like you, trust you and hire you. Plain and simple.

 2. You will be memorable.

The more that you show up consistently, the more that your potential clients will start to recognize you — over and over again. People like familiarity and to be connected to something that they feel they’ve known forever. Which leads me to #3.

 3. You will be trusted.

You’ve probably heard business coaches and thought leaders mention the “know, like, trust” factor. Well, it’s definitely a very real thing. When it comes to potential customers, they first have to get to know you. Once they know you and see what you’re about/represent, they begin to truly like you. Finally, once they like you, the more likely they are to trust you. And once you have that trust, you have the start of a beautiful business relationship — and they will most likely end up hiring you.

4. Your mission and vision will be stronger.

I always say that even before design and visuals come into play, you need to determine the mission/vision of your business — it’s one of the first and most important parts of branding. You need to know who you are, what you do and who you serve. Who is your niche market? What do you want to become known for? Once these components are solidified, you will find that your overall identity looks so much more professional, because you know exactly who you are.

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5. You will be unique.

Professional branding will set you apart and help you to stand out from the crowd. In this saturated world of online business, there are a million other people who do exactly what you do — they have similar websites, offer similar services and more. So, why should someone choose you over someone else? How can you position yourself, your messaging, your website and your services differently?  

6. You will gain a following.

This goes back to #1. The more consistent that you show up where your potential customers are hanging out and the more legitimate that you look — the more that people, in turn, will take you seriously. If you position yourself as an expert, speak to people’s pain points and offer a lot of value (especially if it’s free) people will like, trust and follow you more and more. Once you have a following (like a solid email list, weekly blog readers or Facebook group members) you will have more people interested in what you have to offer and who will more than likely buy from you, whether it’s now or in the future.

7. You will emotionally connect with your clients/customers.

To add to the idea of having a following and offering a lot of free value to them connects to this point and the “know, like, trust” factor. Again, once people like you enough, they will connect with you on a deeper level because they know that you can help them. Instead of just being someone that they see pop in Facebook groups from time to time or someone who offered them a downloadable freebie once (like everyone else) you will be someone who they regularly seek out and trust. Once someone sees that you can help better their business, they will more likely want to work with you. But, not as many will want to if they don’t feel like you are an expert who can help them. So, make sure that you not only ARE the part, but LOOK the part, too.  


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? 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 color palettes for spring

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It’s sure been chilly and muddy here in southern Indiana for the last month, but the sun has finally decided to come out and show its shiny face the last few days. Alas, spring is just around the corner — I can feel it!

To celebrate bluer skies and warmer temps, I’ve been inspired to create a few go-to color palettes that are perfect for some fun designs, with the help of Coolers. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a great website that allows you to quickly generate palettes. Whether you’re a bolder/brighter kind of person, you like the fresh and clean look and feel, or you prefer the traditional “Easter egg” pastels, there is a collection of swatches below, just for you.

Feel free to use any (or a mix) of these for your own branding (if you like any of these color combos year round) or for a special spring project! Share this post with your fellow small business bosses and friends. And, be sure to tag @untethereddesign on Instagram so that I can see your designs using my color palette(s)!

Whether you’re using these for print or digital platforms, or a website/blog, I’ve provided the specific Hex codes for easy and quick references to start. If you like a particular color, enter the Hex code (#xxxxxx) at Color-Hex, a website that will generate the other color codes (CMYK, RGB, etc.) for you. Just type in the code at the top and click “Get Info.” Voila! And, in case you need to remember the differences between each color system and when/where you need to properly use them, refer back to one of my latest posts that gives the exact breakdown!

Happy Designing (& Spring!)

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SPRING PALETTE 1

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SPRING PALETTE 2

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SPRING PALETTE 3

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SPRING PALETTE 4

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SPRING PALETTE 5

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SPRING PALETTE 6

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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! 

7 elements of design to always keep in mind

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It doesn’t matter whether you’re designing (or working with a designer on) a sales page, brochure, logo, Facebook graphic, poster or even a billboard — the original and basic elements of graphic design apply (and should always apply) to any and all types of design — print, digital and even traditional fine art. The seven elements are the foundation of good design and span centuries back. These same elements can even be applied to other art forms like photography, painting and sculpture.

No matter how modern and digital that design gets or how much that technology changes, these simple elements will always be the core of design. They need to be considered throughout all phases of a project, in order for a design to be thoroughly executed with the highest quality. If you aren’t already familiar with these, think about each one the next time that you open a design file and ask yourself if each one can be applied to and is present in your design.  

Line: This is the simplest and most basic element of design. It is quite literally, what you imagine it to be — a line. Lines can be placed in any direction or orientation (horizontal or vertical) and can be straight, crooked, broken or curved. They can also be thin or thick and any width or length. They connect any “point A” to “point B.”

Shape: A shape is a defined area or dimension that stands out from what is around it. For example, think about a poster that has a big, bright circle placed off to the side, with text placed over the top of it that reads “Special Discount!” The circle is meant to serve as a little, extra “pop” on the page that stands on its own, to display a unique and separate message from the rest of the text in the design. In fact, all objects are actually made up of other shapes. Shapes can be specifically geometric (like a square, circle or triangle) or abstract (like a starburst or organic shape that is made up of uneven lines and multiple sides.) You can use shapes to help different pieces of your design stand out — just like the circle on the poster referenced above.

Space: Similar to shape, space is also a defined area around the other elements in a design. You can use it to separate or bring together pieces of information and other details. You can use it to control what your audience sees or reads first and to illustrate bigger or more important information, or smaller details that can be consumed later.

Value: Value is simply how light or how dark an area of design looks. It can be very dark or really light. The value that you place, similar to space, will help your audience to read and see important aspects of a design right away. Value can help to create contrast, brightness and saturation. Obviously, you will notice something that is darker and bolder in a design a bit more quickly than you will something that is lighter and smaller.

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Size: Quite simply, the size that you apply to an area in your design will determine how important it is. If you create a headline to read in large, bold print across the top of the page or you place a photo that is dominant and it takes up a large portion of the design, those larger size pieces of your design are going to be seen first and as the most prominent.

Texture: When it comes to the surface of a design, you can add extra graphic contrast by applying a texture or pattern to the design or even to an area of solid color. It adds some visual interest and can make a design feel like it’s 3-dimensional or even coming off of the page. It adds a layer to design that none of the other elements can do — to the point of making someone almost feel it if they were to touch it.

Color: Color might just be my most favorite element of design. I love the simplicity and contrast of a black and white design or photo, too, but you just can’t beat a color palette that is visually-pleasing and engaging to a viewer. Color can generate emotion, designate an area of the design and either separate or bring together other elements on the page. For help deciding what colors to use in your branding or in any simple design, refer to this blog post.


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! 

7 creative resources for non-designers

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Whether you’re a small business owner still DIY-ing your branding and visuals, or you’re a professional designer (like me) — it’s important to have go-to creative resources online that you regularly visit. You might be needing to look for new fonts, piece together a new color palette, design some simple illustrations or icons for your website or need new, strong photos to use within your blog and social media graphics. Or, you might simply hit a wall from time to time and need to download some new templates and find inspiration for your designs.

Below is a quick-hit list of (just a few of) my favorite sites that I constantly defer to when I’m working on a new brand for a client or even my own business development graphics. Leave a comment and let me know what a few of yours are as well, if they’re not listed here, so that I can check ‘em out!

Creative Market: This is absolutely one of the best online resources for design! You can find and purchase anything that you need — from fonts, to vector illustrations, stock photos, textures, patterns — and beyond. They also email featured freebies that you can download (which I do often! Gotta love a free font that comes with a commercial license or some new vector watercolor splashes!) They even offer templates for flyers, brochures, social media graphics, business cards, logos and more. Buy from one of their package options and stay stocked up on your credits, so that you can quickly download what you need, when you need it! (I know that I do.)

FontSquirrel + DaFont: As mentioned in my recent blog post about free + premium 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!

FontSquirrel advertises itself as being 100% free for commercial use.

A site like DaFont offers plenty of free fonts (but mainly for personal use) and 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. But again, if you’re using a font for fun or with a personal project (that isn’t classified as “commercial”) then certainly play with free fonts! There are countless collections on these two sites alone, ranging from handwritten/cursive, to holiday-themed, to retro and more!

Pexels.com + Unsplash.com: According to the Pexels website: “It's hard to understand complex licenses. That is why all photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means that the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. You can modify, copy and distribute the photos. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So, attribution is not required.”

The same applies to Unsplash.com. There are many photos that crossover between the two sites, because they are so similar. I use these sites because the stock photos are beautiful, sleek and artistic. They are not like what you will find on iStock or Shutterstock that are a bit generic — and that everyone has used at one time or another. The best part, they are 100%, totally free to use!

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Canva: By now, I’m sure that you’ve heard of or are using Canva for creating graphics, especially if you’re DIY-ing your designs. I used to not be super crazy about this platform, as I felt that it made “everyone a designer” but now, I see its importance as I help to serve small business owners who are creating their own graphics, until they have a budget to work with a professional designer. I’m actually planning to setup and share an account with my social media strategist, so that we can quickly create and access graphics together. I currently design my brand images in Photoshop, so this will help to free up some space on my computer and allow me to be more efficient with the constant creation of small + simple graphics. (And, I can still use my brand + stock photos, fonts + colors, so that my graphics look just as professional as before.) With that said, Canva is great when it comes to creating a template for anything imaginable — posters, flyers, social media graphics, cards and more. And, it uses a drag-and-drop format, which makes it user-friendly and pretty intuitive to pick up on.

Colour Lovers: This is a handy site for browsing and creating color palettes, shapes and patterns. It also provides you with the RGB, CMYK and HEX codes, so that you can use the exact swatches in your designs. If you’re not sure what the color modes that I just mentioned mean, reference this post that I just wrote last week about color systems!

I like to use this website when I’m experimenting with colors for a logo or creating the official palette for a client’s brand. I like to see what works well together and what doesn’t and file/save away different collections and themes. Even if I don’t end up using a particular palette for the current project that I’m working on, I might use it for another one in the future!

With this list of resources, you should be equipped with some solid, go-to sites for discovering fonts, downloading graphic templates and photos, designing your own graphics and creating color palettes. Happy designing!


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! 

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!