Inspiration

8 Items to Include in Your Brand Standards

 
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Once you have an established visual brand identity created, whether you DIY-ed it or worked with a professional designer, it’s important to organize and put together some brand guidelines. Sometimes these are also referred to as a “brand guide” or “style guide.” It’s crucial to have established standards, so that your visual branding is always carried out consistently, cohesively and therefore, professionally. Whether someone experiences it online or offline, your identity should be familiar, recognizable, attractive and trustworthy to your audience.

Aspects of your brand standards can also be included “at a quick glance” via your brand board, which is more of a singular piece that ties together your logo, color and font palettes, any sub-logos and/or other graphic assets that can be applied throughout your print and digital materials — arranged in a simple format, from top to bottom, as something that encompasses and expresses the overall look, feel and vibes of your brand. It’s important to have this document handy as well, but a more developed “brand guide” will really expand on the special aspects and standards of your brand identity (that makes it unique) — just a bit more.

The final brand guide can be saved as a PDF, so that you can easily print it off or digitally send it to a printer, vendor, etc. who may be designing or producing something for you and will need to keep the visual aspects of your branding intact. Here are a few tips for including the right mix of tangibles in your guidelines…

  1. Mission — state your mission or at least provide a quick paragraph/basic background about your business and what it does (remember the 5 “W’s’ — what, where, when, why and for whom!)

  2. Values — to complement your brand’s mission, list a few of the values that it stands for (think: communication, trust, approachability, customer service, etc.) and/or use some keywords to describe it (what makes it special or different from other similar businesses or platforms.)

  3. Logo — display the main/primary logo and any secondary logos that you might alternatively use for your brand. Explain what it represents/stands for, how it should be displayed/appear in color, black/white or in reverse white against a color background. Be sure to list any restrictions around how you want it to be used AND not used (such as: switching out colors, formatting it smaller than a certain size, leaving a certain amount of “dead space” around it, etc.)

  4. Color Palette — display a block of each color of your palette and list out the codes for each (CMYK for printing, RGB for digital, Pantone and/or at least a Hex code, such as: #xxxxxx also for digital/website/social media purposes.) This way, the correct swatches are always used for brand consistency.

  5. Typography — the same goes for fonts. Display at least (1) option for each of these styles: a serif, sans serif and possibly script/decorative. Again, this way, the correct fonts are always used and not a mix of different ones for different mediums and platforms. If you’re not quite sure about the differences between types of fonts, checkout this post.  

  6. Brand Assets + Graphic Treatments — take a couple of pages here to show the build-out of the rest of your brand assets, beyond just your logo and a sub-logo. Show the design of any icons, photo filters, patterns, lines, splashes, textures, gradients, etc. that you might graphically use throughout any branded materials. Also explain when/where/how to use each one, so that they are illustrated correctly and never distorted.

  7. Photography — take some space to show the types of brand/personal and stock imagery that should be integrated within your branding and perhaps where/how to download the photos, if necessary. Photos also express your brand visually, just as a logo or any other brand asset does, so it’s important to provide some examples of what should be used.

  8. Applications (for templates, website, social media + more) — now that you have your brand identity designed and you’ve displayed the logo, graphic assets, fonts, colors and photos, it’s important to explain and show how these visuals should be applied in real life, for printed and digital platforms. Give examples of how your identity should be translated to your website, social media, business cards, etc. Also provide some quick examples/screenshots of how your various templates and docs should look, so that again, your branding is always carried out consistently. 

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4 tips for choosing colors for your brand

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Do you ever struggle with choosing just the right combination of colors for your brand, a client’s brand or an individual design project? There are literally countless colors that exist, in different shades and tints. Even just increasing the darkness or lightness of a particular color can change how it looks within a design, entirely.

How many should you even use? 2? 6? How do you piece together what works and what doesn’t? What do certain colors mean?

There is a ton of psychology involved with colors — and they alone play a huge role in your branding or any design project — because a palette is one of the aspects that someone remembers the most. It hits on certain heartstrings, can alter a mood and evoke a specific emotion, like happiness or anger. It can really set the overall tone for a design — like a logo, a website or a poster.  

Today, I want to break down how to even begin in general when it comes to pairing a collection of colors together, to create a palette that looks really professional, attractive and timeless. It’s important to note that I’ve even seen lovely and successful brands that just use black and white. The secret is in simplicity, using colors that are visually-pleasing and therefore, memorable — along with considering emotions associated with individual colors.

  1. Decide on 2-4 colors — It’s easy to get very overwhelmed when looking at all of the different colors that the world offers us. If you’re just starting out, stick with planning to choose a minimum of 2 or a maximum of 4 colors. For example, I’m sure that Target uses other colors within their official brand standards, but I (as a consumer) only think of two specific ones — red and white. And remember, you can always add more to your palette later, or if it’s for a brand, you can create a secondary palette that can be used in special circumstances. Extra pops of accent colors can always enhance a brand.

  2. Consider your audience — Different people may feel differently about certain colors, but overall, there is a general science behind most colors. Keep in mind who you are communicating to or trying to reach. If it’s an entirely male-dominated demographic, you might not want to use pink and purple, as they tend to give off more of a “feminine” vibe, but you might try using a mix of blues, greens and greys. If your audience is something related to children (like a school program) you could play with colors that are more youthful and exude a fun, bright and youthful flair. If your audience is professionals in the wedding industry or brides, you could consider colors that are softer or more pastel-based — over ones that are bolder and harsher. These are just general tips to follow — of course, men can like pink and some brides use darker and moodier colors for their weddings. To each their own!

  3. Consider emotion. On the other side of that same psychology coin, it’s important to think about how certain colors will evoke emotions, within a particular group of people. Colors have universal and basic associations to specific feelings, moods, thoughts and are big stimulants. The below descriptions might seem simple enough, but they’re crucial to remember. Again, think about not only WHO you are trying to attract, but also HOW your brand or design might make them feel, when they respond to seeing colors. Below is just a quick breakdown of a few, to illustrate what I mean:   

    • Red: excitement, anger, energy, heat, loud, meant to grab attention.

    • Blue: corporate, professional, cool, peaceful, serenity, calmness.

    • Green: health, fresh, nature, environmental, growth.

    • Purple: bold, unique, royal, power.

    • Orange: similar to red, but on less of an “alert” or “anger” scale. More bright, fun, hopeful and positive.

    • Yellow: similar to orange. Youthful, happy, positive, cheerful.

  4. Use online resources — I personally like finding inspiration in everyday things or out in nature. I even like going “old school” and taking a look at the Color Wheel to consider colors that are analogous, complementary, monochromatic and more. However, in the essence of time, it can also be quicker and easier to use a few handy websites that will automatically generate palettes for you. These are important when creating a few, so that you can compare them all and see what colors you like together and which ones that you don’t. Here are a few of my favorite online tools to use:

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6 best tips for making a mood board

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Crafting a mood board can be a crucial aspect of any pre-design process because it’s a quick and effective way to set the graphic and emotional tones of a project.

In case you’re not sure, a mood board (or vision board or inspiration board) is simply a collage of imagery that conveys the overall look, feel, personality and identity for a particular collaboration or event — very handy when you’re having a hard time presenting or expressing your vision and ideas. Most people use a mix of photos, colors, words/quotes, typefaces, textures, patterns, illustrations and more to showcase a variety of visuals that will inspire and give life to a larger design concept.  

It doesn’t matter whether you are focused on your branding, a website, a brochure or ad campaign. A mood board can be created for literally anything! It can even be used when you’re planning to renovate a room in your house and you want to curate the colors, style and vibes before you buy that first can of paint, carpet, trim or fixtures.

Without further ado, let’s dive into 6 best tips for making a mood board for your next big project!

  1. Physical or digital? Mood boards can be crafted either way — that’s the fun part! Decide what works best for you and the particular project that you’re working on. If you want to go the “old school” route, cut out imagery from magazines and paste them to a poster or canvas, go for it! And, if you want to put your puzzle pieces together digitally, you can use Adobe programs like Illustrator or Photoshop, to drop your imagery into various shapes, organized by lines — in a grid-like format. If you’re not very Adobe-savvy, no fear! I’ve included links to a couple of good online resources and mood board generators that can come to the rescue:

    Canva Mood Board — Canva offers countless templates that you can play with. If you’re not already using Canva, you can sign up for a free account. It’s easy and user-friendly!

    Milanote — This is another website through which you can grab a free account. You can use their pre-made templates or design your own, as well as use their pre-loaded imagery or upload your own. They take it one step further and even allow you to upload videos and animated GIFs, so that your boards can be really modern and dynamic!

  2. Plan with Pinterest — If you’re designing a digital mood board, you can create boards and save pins that resonate with you, save them to a folder on your desktop — and then add them to your mood board(s) later. (Or, print them off for your physical board!) Pinterest makes it easy to find specific types of images, so that you’re not spending a lot of time searching Google (even though, you can totally use Google, too.) Again, try to collect a mix of photos, colors, quotes and textures that will really capture and express the essence of your design’s identity.

  3. Think emotional, not just literal — Something important to keep in mind is not just using images that physically represent your brand (or any other design initiative.) Think “mood” after all! What feelings do you want to express? Colorful, youthful, vibrant, bold? Light, whimsical, fresh, airy? Sleek, sophisticated, elegant, chic? Whatever the direction, especially be sure to include colors that speak to these emotions — that will make someone truly feel something.    

  4. Consider your audience — Don’t just create a mood board with no clear direction or messaging in mind. Think about the project that you’re using the mood board to inspire and think about the audience who will be experiencing it. Don’t just put a collage together of random photos, text and colors that don’t make any sense. Have some rhyme and reason to the overall “puzzle” that you’re piecing together. This idea goes back to thinking about the emotional aspects of the board — be clear on who you’re speaking to and what about.

  5. Create at least 3 — There really are no rules, but I like to create at least 3 different mood boards initially (all using the same overall look and feel) and then take the best combination of imagery from each and make (1) really strong one. Tweak your board until it’s a good representation and expression of your design vision.

  6. Only use it for inspiration — Remember that if you’re pulling images from Pinterest, Google and even from publications — they have copyrights. Putting together a mood board should be strictly kept for the “conceptual” phase of your design project — and not for anything that is publicly distributed, shared or published. For example, I would be careful about not sharing it on your blog or website. I normally only share a mood board 1:1 privately, with a client. I’m not a lawyer and suggest consulting one if you have questions! Just be aware of the legal and illegal uses of imagery that belong to other people.

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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!

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!

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

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

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

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

1) Expect the unexpected.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Fall + winter color palettes for seasonal graphics

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

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

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

1. Fall into the warm + cozy

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

2. 50 shades of…

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

3. Links for inspiration:

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

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

Winter Colors: 9 Palettes for Web and Print Designs


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

3 simple places where inspiration can be found

“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.”

–Bruce Garrabrandt (author/colored pencil artist)

Whether you’re a graphic designer trying to find visual solutions for your current project, a chef perfecting your next unique and delicious recipe, a writer crafting your next award-winning story, a teacher decorating your classroom door or a bridesmaid trying to plan your best friend’s wedding shower, it’s happened to us all — the dreaded “creative block.” When you hit this annoying wall and you can’t seem to find a way over or around it, what do you do and where do you turn? While I’m still (and will always be) guilty of stalking Pinterest boards and my favorite online designers that I admire — I’ve also learned to go back to some old school and simple ways of finding the best kinds of inspiration and creative boosts that I need to get back to the drawing board and actually be productive!

1) Step away from the work.

Sometimes the best thing that will benefit your work is actually taking a day off (or at least a few hours.) And, if you need an even longer amount of time, take a vacation! When you walk away from something for a little while and actually stop thinking so much, that little invisible light bulb above your head magically goes on and the methods, processes and results that you’ve been longing to find and execute all of a sudden just come to you. It’s really that simple. And, it’s also known as one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

2) NOT looking at what others are doing.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the virtual comparison game. You know the one — just like in real life — when you find yourself looking at what “everybody else” is doing, instead of focusing on what YOU need to do for yourself. It’s easy to get sucked into that black hole of the Internet, not feel good enough or as confident as you should — which doesn’t end up getting you anywhere. Instead of following everyone on your Instagram feed, choose just 2-3 individuals or businesses that you admire and take what bits and pieces of inspiration that you need from time to time — but NOT ALL of the time. The less time you spend worrying about everyone else, the more time that you will have to create something really special, genuine and unique. In turn, others will be admiring the great work that YOU put out into the world — and they will draw their own inspiration from it.   

3) Everyday things.

There truly is so much beauty in the world, but we often get too caught up in our digital platforms — living and working behind screens that keep us from getting outside and breathing in some fresh air — and keeping us from really “taking it all in.” Similar to stepping away from the work, it’s important to observe nature and the environment, animals, people and conversations happening around us. With a clear mind and through real life experiences, we can better understand and appreciate colors, sights, sounds, textures, smells and stories that can be more easily translated into a design, onto paper, a canvas, or party plan. Take a walk or go for a run — activity away from your desk is just plain healthy, anyway.

Creative blocks can really keep you from scheming up something amazing, but only if you let them. If you take even just a small amount of time, step away from what you’re struggling with, don’t spend time comparing yourself or your work to others and observe the everyday world around you, you’ll allow your mind to be opened up and stimulated “non-digitally.”   

And, if you still can’t seem to shake a creative block when it comes to your next big idea or business, maybe I can help

Spring color palettes worth checking out

I don’t know about you, but Daylight Savings Time has kicked my booty the last couple of days. I’ve felt more tired and like I’m just dragging myself around, trying my best to be productive. It’s definitely been tough pushing those clocks ahead an hour, here in the U.S. Now, don’t get me wrong, I also LOVE the time change. It stays lighter out longer and as each day comes and goes, we’re getting closer and closer to summer. Bring on the (consistent) warmth and sunshine!

With Daylight Savings Time also comes the official start of spring — on March 20th! In celebration of that, with the help of some great resources, I’m giving you the scoop below about the popular, seasonal colors to design with during this time of year. These might be ones that you can incorporate into your social media and blog graphics, while still not straying too far from your brand colors. Or, they might give you some inspiration to create or expand your palettes. Either way, enjoy! Comment below and let me know what some of your top picks are…

What Pantone says…
It’s going to be a season of bright and cheery, but also earthy. The hues that Pantone has picked out are reflective of nature and the environment, to evoke and stimulate certain emotions. Click here. 

Creative Market’s choices   
This fabulous, go-to resource for many designers has created and provided (15) different palettes to help you with your creations. They’re inspired by a lot of colorful flowers and food and they’re a mix of warm and fresh! Click here. 

Refinery 29 has their “it colors” picked for the season
This is more fashion-based, but Refinery 29 is all about the fluorescent palettes this spring. Think hot pink and neon orange! Click here. 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
Here we are, 2017! 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!

4 big changes I made in 2016, to help shape my 2017

Happiest of new years to you! If you’re an entrepreneur like me, you’re constantly planning, setting goals, dreaming up your next offering or service, the next best way to generate some cash flow and hoping to double your income from the previous year. You’re thinking of the best ways to do all of the above, while still doing what you love, being authentic and providing your clients with the best value possible, with everything that you deliver to them.

I started 2015 still working for an agency full-time, but freelancing on the side. I started 2016 having just left that beloved agency, my fabulous boss and co-workers (who I still miss dearly) – and preparing for the transition to working for myself full-time. Now, here we are in 2017 – and I’ve been working solely for myself for exactly 12 months. With every twist and turn, pro and con and up and down that I faced in 2016, I learned many invaluable lessons in not only business, but also in life. In order to grow, we can’t just dream, think or plan. We have to physically take action and DO. For this to happen for me, some changes had to be made, so that I could work quicker, more efficiently and serve my clients better, without feeling complete burnout. If you’re in the same boat that I was a year ago, try out one (or all) of the big changes that I made, which not only impacted my 2016, but will also continue to benefit me in 2017. You will definitely see results. Happy change making!

1) I hired a business coach.

In March of 2016, I came across Jenny Shih, an uncompromising business coach who believes in “success on your terms.” Jenny emphasizes that you can do what you love, while also living a life that you love. I came across her name somewhere along the line of following Kendrick Shope’s emails. (I heard about Kendrick through the Being Boss podcast.) She came highly recommended, so I made contact with her assistant, originally interested in one-on-one private coaching. Instead, I came to learn that she was actually getting ready to open a group-coaching program called “Make $10K [Every Dang Month.]” It was exclusive to just a small group of female entrepreneurs who had been making a consistent amount of money each month, but were ready to double it — and learn the ways to work towards that. I applied and was accepted! I was involved with this coaching from May-October, learned how to look at my business differently and put better systems in place to run it. Hiring a coach and joining this program was the biggest financial investment that I made in my business to date, but you have to spend money to make money. When you are ready to take that next step and make more, you need counsel outside of family and friends. You need to learn from someone who has been there and knows how to grow an audience. Even with very simple ideas and strategies, Jenny helped me to see things more clearly and instilled a new confidence that I could do what I wanted, charge what I wanted and still be of good service to my clients. Every business owner will reach a point sooner or later when they are ready to hire a professional to help them grow their business and I’m so glad that I found Jenny. I also became good friends with the five other fabulous women in the group, which segues into the next big (and best) change that I made in my business. 

2) I joined a mastermind.
Thanks to “Make $10K” and Jenny, I was able to form a mastermind group with the rest of the ladies in the group. I feel very fortunate because a lot of entrepreneurs pay to be in high-level groups like this, which meet weekly. While I made a big investment initially with “Make $10K” and got to join this group as part of it, the ladies and I still meet weekly, even though the group coaching ended last year. We all wanted to stay connected and still meet for two hours every Monday, so, we do! It’s inspiring, emotional, educational and full of friendship and fellowship. We all do different things for a living and are spread out throughout the U.S., but we all have bonded, bounced around great ideas, built each other up when needed and learned how to grow our businesses. We’ve gone through not only professional changes, but also personal ones — and been there 100% for each other along the way. I’m so grateful for this group — they are my go-to when I need help brainstorming the next big thing that I want to do.   

3) I put new systems in place for more efficient workflows.
Thanks to Jenny’s (and the group’s) help, I learned about (new to me) platforms to use in my business, so that I could work smarter and not harder. I work hard enough in my business and enjoy it, but now, I can automate a few things a little easier, so that I get some time back in my day to focus on more important things – like client work. I started working more in Google Docs, so that I could keep my client and income tracking, website copy, goals, service/offer outlines and other necessary items all in one place for better organization and easier editing. I started using Asana as a way to manage and keep track of my client projects. I also setup an account with Buffer, so that I could upload and schedule my social media posts for each week. These are all simple tools to use, but they really help me to stay a little more organized and on schedule. 

4) I packaged my services + updated my pricing.
I always read that in order to serve clients better and to make more money, you need to package your services. I used to give custom quotes to potential clients and I started experimenting with branding packages in 2015, but it wasn’t until the “Make $10K” group coaching that I learned to really dive in, figure out what I wanted to do (and didn’t want to do) and add more value to my services. While you can always revisit your offerings and change things up, I learned how to increase my prices so that I could focus on 2-3 branding clients a month, make a little more money — but most importantly, give more to my clients. Not only can I carve out more of my time for them, but I can deliver more tangible results, give them continued support even after the logo is designed, the website is live and the business cards are printed. I can provide more strategy and deliver to them much quicker. I also transitioned a lot of the one-off services that I was doing consistently for some regular clients to monthly retainer models. These work out great, because I can invoice one time, the client pays one time, they know exactly how many projects I will complete each month for them and I can plan my month better. Again, it’s simply better organization and clearer expectations that are met all the way around. I will again be making some new changes to my services for 2017, so check back here to my site in the next couple of weeks. A lot will stay the same, as I liked the way things worked overall in 2016, but I’m adding a few more bells and whistles that I know will benefit my clients and what they need for their businesses even more.    

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

(4) Fall resolutions – how new seasons bring new things for your biz

Happy New Year! Oh wait, I mean, Happy Fall! It may not be 2017 just yet, but with the changing of the new seasons, we can still “turn over a new leaf” or two (no pun intended) within our businesses — in order to finish out the third quarter of the year strong and with full steam ahead into the final quarter.

There are so many things to love about the autumnal season – being outdoors, curling up in a hoodie and sweatpants (that’s all year long for me) – the beginning of football season, pumpkin (EVERYTHING!) and more. We’ve spent the last few months sweating away, cranking out work and probably feeling some burnout from it. But once the leaves start changing colors and hitting the ground — and there’s a cool crispiness to the air — it might be good for us to breathe it in, trade in our summer wardrobe for sweaters and boots and get to work readjusting our sails and trying new things to help us transition into the holidays and with finishing out the year.

I’ve spent some time thinking about what I’m going to change in my business for the last few months of the year (because it’s never too late) with the changing of the season and I’m thinking that they might just help you, too, if you’re feeling stuck:

1) Figure out what worked best so far this year.

The biggest and best investment that I made in my business this year has been hiring a business coach and becoming involved in a group program with other female entrepreneurs. I could literally write a blog post alone about all of its benefits (and will down the road, so wait for it) but, long story short, it’s literally changed the way I do business, look at my business, feel about my business and as a result, changed my life. I’ve increased my rates, packaged my services (and added more value to those packages.) I’ve started working with my regular monthly clients on a retainer basis, I’ve been published on the Huffington Post and interviewed on two podcasts. And, all of that alone has happened just this summer. If I could do all of that in a short three months, I can definitely keep the engine running and do the same throughout September, October and November. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I will keep benefiting from the coaching and incorporating new systems and practices into my business that have been working for me recently. Who knows where I will be one or even two months from now! Maintain your momentum, keep using the systems that help you run your business easier and more efficiently (whether it’s with social media, blogging, accounting, emailing, etc.) until it no longer works or you grow and need to start implementing bigger and better things.

2) Decide what isn’t working.

Why keep riding a bicycle with a flat tire? Why settle and spend your time on and with things that don’t make you any bigger, better, stronger, happier or more money? Cut out the fat. Remove any systems (whether they are digital platforms or contactors you outsource to) that are proving to be a waste of time or not giving you a return on your investment. Are you selling products that cost more to make? Are you providing a service that isn’t benefiting your niche market? Get rid of it! I’m all about quality over quantity. I would rather sell one or two types of services that truly benefit my clients and help them make money over five other ones that don’t (just because it might look impressive on my site or makes me APPEAR a certain way) and have an email list of 30 truly loyal followers and future clients than 1,000 nobodies who will never buy from me. Take a really hard look at what serves a purpose in your business and what doesn’t. Keep things simple and running, as they should.  

3) Think about where you see your business in the next six months, a year or 3-5 years…

I am always setting goals and making plans and projections in my mind and heart. Whether they’re personal or professional aspirations, I am always thinking about “what’s next” or what I can improve on (while also enjoying being in the moment – which is just as important!) If you’re going to have a business that doesn’t just survive, but actually thrives, you need to set it up for that success. Whether you plan to make $60,000 in a year or $250,000, you need to think about the things that you need to invest in (or again, the systems that you will need to put in place) in order to make those financial dreams a reality. What are the next steps that you need to take? Do you need to outsource more, so that you can focus on what you’re really good at and passionate about? Do you need to hire a coach? Are you making a certain comfortable amount monthly, but want to double it? There are people and programs all over the world waiting to help you – go figure out and find the best fits for you and your business, so that you can get where you want to be!

4) Hone in on what you truly want to be known for and your dream client base.

In business, it’s not about being a “jack of all trades.” When you’re not known for doing something specific, because you offer a little bit of everything, people are not going to buy from you as quickly or easily because they’re not going to know you or exactly what you do. As such, if you try to be everything to everyone, you’re going to run into A LOT of not-dreamy clients, who end up giving you more tedious work to do than work you love, emotionally drain you and don’t pay you enough. When you really focus on the maybe 1-3 things that you do well, the exact services and products that you want to offer, the work that you TRULY love and find the right clients who you can truly help, you will find that making money is much easier and doing the work is much more enjoyable. Find the right niche market – for yourself and your clients.

What are some of your “fall resolutions” and things that you will be readjusting for your business within the next month or two? Let me know in the comments below!

If branding is something that you could work on and make better within your biz, you don’t have to wait until the New Year to start. 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 a professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! If you do decide to hire a professional, I have branding “starter” and “expert” kit packages available for businesses at different stages and budgets. Let me know what you’re interested in today!

 

3 simple places where inspiration can be found

“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.”

–Bruce Garrabrandt (author/colored pencil artist)

 

Whether you’re a graphic designer trying to find visual solutions for your current project, a chef perfecting your next unique and delicious recipe, a writer crafting your next award-winning story, a teacher decorating your classroom door or a bridesmaid trying to plan your best friend’s wedding shower, it’s happened to us all — the dreaded “creative block.” When you hit this annoying wall and you can’t seem to find a way over or around it, what do you do and where do you turn? While I’m still (and will always be) guilty of stalking Pinterest boards and my favorite online designers that I admire — I’ve also learned to go back to some old school and simple ways of finding the best kinds of inspiration and creative boosts that I need to get back to the drawing board and actually be productive!

1) Step away from the work.

Sometimes the best thing that will benefit your work is actually taking a day off (or at least a few hours.) And, if you need an even longer amount of time, take a vacation! When you walk away from something for a little while and actually stop thinking so much, that little invisible light bulb above your head magically goes on and the methods, processes and results that you’ve been longing to find and execute all of a sudden just come to you. It’s really that simple. And, it’s also known as one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

 2) NOT looking at what others are doing.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the virtual comparison game. You know the one — just like in real life — when you find yourself looking at what “everybody else” is doing, instead of focusing on what YOU need to do for yourself. It’s easy to get sucked into that black hole of the Internet, not feel good enough or as confident as you should — which doesn’t end up getting you anywhere. Instead of following everyone on your Instagram feed, choose just 2-3 individuals or businesses that you admire and take what bits and pieces of inspiration that you need from time to time — but NOT ALL of the time. The less time you spend worrying about everyone else, the more time that you will have to create something really special, genuine and unique. In turn, others will be admiring the great work that YOU put out into the world — and they will draw their own inspiration from it.   

 3) Everyday things.

There truly is so much beauty in the world, but we often get too caught up in our digital platforms — living and working behind screens that keep us from getting outside and breathing in some fresh air — and keeping us from really “taking it all in.” Similar to stepping away from the work, it’s important to observe nature and the environment, animals, people and conversations happening around us. With a clear mind and through real life experiences, we can better understand and appreciate colors, sights, sounds, textures, smells and stories that can be more easily translated into a design, onto paper, a canvas, or party plan. Take a walk or go for a run — activity away from your desk is just plain healthy, anyway.

Creative blocks can really keep you from scheming up something amazing, but only if you let them. If you take even just a small amount of time, step away from what you’re struggling with, don’t spend time comparing yourself or your work to others and observe the everyday world around you, you’ll allow your mind to be opened up and stimulated “non-digitally.”   

And, if you still can’t seem to shake a creative block when it comes to your next big idea or business, maybe I can help