Entrepreneurship

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!

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

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

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

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

b. Internet, cable. Same as above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

3 ways to a foolproof web strategy

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

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

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

Crystal Clear Audience

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

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

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

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

Crystal Clear Path

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

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

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

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

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Crystal User Experience

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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


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

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

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

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

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

1) Expect the unexpected.

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

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

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

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

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


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

1 big secret to growing your business

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

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

1. Learn how to say “NO.”

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

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

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

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

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


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

How to enhance your branding in 1 day

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

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

1) Know who you are

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

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

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

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

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


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

6 silly myths about being an entrepreneur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Absolute BEST Way to Grow Your List

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What’s the key to a profitable business?

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

Well... not exactly.

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

Your audience. Your peeps. Your list.

Why Your People Are So Darn Important

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

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

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

Introducing: Jenny Shih’s Get Your First 1000 Subscribers

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

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

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

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

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

6 signs that it's time for a rebrand

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

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

1. Your logo is dated

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

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

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

3. Your website is also dated and hard to navigate

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

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

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

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

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

6. Your business model or strategy has changed

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


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

3 changes that you should make to grow your business

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

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

1. Increase your prices or change your offerings

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

2. Build a team to help you

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

3. Niche down on a specific market/client base

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


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

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

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

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

1) You’re lacking motivation.

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

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

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

 3) You’re not getting enough sleep.  

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

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

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

If branding is something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, let a professional 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! 

2 big reasons why you should package your services

I’ve covered the topic of working within retainers (if you’re a service provider, this means getting paid a one-time flat fee by your client each month in exchange for a set number of hours or completed projects) and the benefits for both the client and designer (or any service provider.) In a very similar way, packaging your services can also be beneficial to you and your clients.

When I say package your services, I don’t necessarily mean working within a retainer model, but simply offering more than one completed project at a time to your clients. For example, I offer brand packages to small businesses that either need a visual identity created from scratch or who want to rebrand in a new and fresh way. Instead of creating just a logo for them, I also design and develop a website and other branded materials to get them up and running. This can include a bundle of social media graphics, brochures, postcards, Facebook ads, display signage and more. When a client purchases the package, they understand all of the print + digital bits and pieces that come with it and that it’s an investment, like anything else in their business. It will serve them not only right now, but also in the long run. A professional identity will make “all of their things” look cohesive and legitimate, whether someone comes across their site, a business card, an ad, a video, a blog post or a social media account. When finished pieces are packaged, it improves a client’s brand and allows you to help them grow and scale their business. Below are 2 big reasons why packaging services to your client is especially beneficial…

1. You provide more overall value to your clients.

The saying stands true in this case, “you get more bang for your buck.” Yes, it’s more work to execute multiple projects instead of just one, but in turn, you’re creating more strategies, platforms and/or materials for your client, which equals more value. The longer that you work with someone, you become a trusted expert for him or her. They know that you can handle more than one thing and as weeks, months or even years go by, you’re building a more long-term relationship and partnership with them. You will end up being hired for more work and your clients will refer you to others. You get to also show off that you have more than one skillset. Within my all-inclusive packages, my client gets to see their brand literally come to life one step at a time — from the form of a static logo, to an interactive website, to other tangible products.

2. You can charge higher rates and make more money.  

Because you’re creating multiple things for the same client, you obviously get to generate more income. You can price higher flat fees, because your packages are so valuable and consist of multiple items. In the long run, you will make more money than just developing one-off pieces because packages naturally are more costly (but worth it!) and investments — and you become more an extension/team member of your client’s brand. You’ll continue to be a go-to pro for them to hire over and over again. I would personally rather have 3 or 4 solid client relationships who give me work that I enjoy year-round (and who pay well) — instead of 30 different clients who only use me one time and don’t see an investment in my work or who don’t pay me on time.   


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 benefits of working within retainers

As a designer, I still do some “one-off” work (AKA individual projects) for a few select clients that I really enjoy working with. However, I transitioned my business model last year to working with other long-term clients “on retainer.” I learned how to budget time and work within this kind of style thanks to my agency background. If you’re not sure what a “retainer” is, it’s simply a way for a designer (or any creative professional or service provider) to offer either a set number of hours or completed projects to a client for a one-time/set fee each month in return.

Now, retainers aren’t always a good fit for every client/designer relationship. It is definitely a smart idea for established brands that need regular and consistent work created each month. But, if you own a business that is starting from scratch and has some foundational materials to get you up and running, you might not need 20-40 hours of work completed each month right away. Regardless, I’ve outlined below the 3 biggest benefits (I’ve experienced) for designers and their clients alike, if a retainer partnership is developed.

1. Expectations are more easily met.

Using retainer models gives a client ongoing access to a trusted designer and the consistency in the designer’s schedule allows them to provide better service to the client. By purchasing the designer’s time upfront, the client receives a preferred retainer rate and gets more bang for their buck. This style of working with a designer will help a business owner to plan ahead, have less stress with tracking and paying multiple invoices and they will know exactly what they’re getting each month! Both the client and designer can be on the same page and know what work is coming down the pipeline. As a result, there is better organization and deadlines are clear. This keeps (negative) surprises from happening and there is a more efficient workflow for both parties.

2. For a designer, there is less “chasing work” and wondering where your next client or paycheck is coming from.

This was my biggest reason for transitioning to working within retainers. I don’t have to create a proposal or provide an estimate/quote for each individual project, I don’t have to send multiple invoices and I get paid a lot quicker and at the same time each month. This obviously allows me to have a more solid source of income. Rather than quoting and designing 5 different jobs for a client that might altogether total $900-1,000 at the end of the month, I can count on a guaranteed $1500-2000 a month and maybe even end up doing less work — and getting that $1500-2000 amount in one lump sum, not 5 separate payments or checks. If I have a slower month when I don’t book as many branding jobs, I know that I at least have 2-3 retainers that guarantee me with work. And, that’s certainly reassuring!   

3. More long-term relationships are developed and higher-premium work is produced.     

For a client, the biggest benefit is that they have a trusted partner and aren’t just working with a random contractor they found online, who doesn’t quite know their brand or style. This allows growth for both businesses. The client can scale their business and better plan for the year and the designer can execute better work because they know exactly what the client needs and when. I personally like to review what’s coming up for the month with my clients and outline 3-4 larger projects that they know for sure need to be completed, so that I can make notes and plan my schedule accordingly.


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!

“Like attracts like” — 3 reasons why professional branding will help you find the right clients

I was talking to a friend just last week who is getting ready to launch her new business. We were talking about branding and how she wants it to look “high premium” because her services won’t be cheap.

I told her: “like attracts like.” Have you ever heard of that phrase? Probably so. We are what we attract — what we put out into the universe is often what we get back. In running a business and developing the visual side of its brand, it’s important to remember that not everyone is supposed to be or will be your ideal client. You need to have a niche market/target demographic/specific style that you serve, so that you only attract and serve those types of people. If you offer a service or sell a product with a fancy steakhouse price tag, you don’t want to attract someone who is only looking to buy a cheeseburger at McDonald’s and not spend more than $5.

The more that your values align with your client’s, the more that they understand that what you have to offer is worth every penny and the more that you will attract the right kinds of buyers. The money won’t matter — they will believe in and need so much of what you can give them, that they won’t bat an eyelash at the price. And, they will happily refer you to other (hopefully) like-minded folks needing the same things.   

1. You will look more professional.  

Not only will you look the part of an expert, prospective clients will also look at you in the same way. When you have professional branding in place and look just a little “fancy” — you will also attract others who are sophisticated. If I am seeking a certain professional to work with, whether it’s a copywriter, business coach, etc., I’m going to look at their logo, website, social media, the way they speak, the way they write, the type of content that they put out and more. If everything is really sleek and professional and I genuinely connect with and like what I see, I’m going to reach out to chat with them about what they can do for me. If their branding isn’t cohesive, they don’t show consistency in any ways, they seem scattered or don’t speak or appear confident, they’re not going to impress me for a second and I will pass.

2. You will feel more professional.   

Plain and simple, when you LOOK more professional, you FEEL more professional. Many of us “work from home” entrepreneurs are definitely in tank tops and yoga pants most days, but when we do get dressed up, have our makeup on and hair done, don’t we just automatically walk with a little extra pep in our step? I know that I do. I feel better about myself and the confidence shows. It does for anyone! When you have a logo, website, photography and content that you’re proud of and want to show off to the world, people will see the pride and joy that you take in your work.

3. The right people will trust and believe in you.    

If you look high premium, feel high premium and have high premium prices to match, you will attract high-premium clients. This is because people who trust what you’re saying, doing and have to offer them (and believe in your brand) will buy from you without questioning it. They realize and see the importance in what you offer and that it will benefit them. They will pay you what you want and on time, because you would do the same if you were investing in a service to scale and grow your business, right? I have come to find that when I immediately connect with a prospective client, they like everything that I’m saying and agree with it, I don’t even have to work at the actual sale of my services. The conversation and process is fun and effortless. They already like me, trust me and know that I can do a great job for them. Then, when I say the cost and that I require a 50% deposit to begin the work and the final 50% due at completion of the project, they say: “Send me the contract and invoice!” Not every client is perfect and like this every time, but the more that you exude professionalism, class, expert thoughts/content, strong visuals and more (thanks to great branding) — the more likely that you will attract the same back. 


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

4 ways to refresh your brand

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.

 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!

5 ways to invest in yourself as an entrepreneur

Never stop learning.

These might be three little words, but they can have such a big impact on the mindset of an entrepreneur.

When you work from home, it’s very easy to fall into the same routine day in and day out, go days without leaving the house, not always have face-to-face interaction with others — and you can’t always talk shop or bounce ideas off of the co-workers that come with working in a traditional “day job” office. For these reasons, it’s extremely important to keep an open mind, stay relevant in your field, be aware of new trends, proficient in programs and keep growing every single day. If not, you will more easily hit walls, fall into slumps, lack motivation and education — and simply not be the best professional that you can (and should) be for your clients (and yourself.)

The best thing that you can do for your business is to invest in yourself — without you, you have no business. You simply can’t afford to stifle your mind or abilities. If you invest in yourself each year, you will see your business continually moving in new and better directions, you’ll be able to put smart strategies in place and you’ll be able to build a team (however big or small) so that you can focus on doing more of what you’re best at and love. Below are a few ways that you can keep evolving as an entrepreneur and in turn, keep your business blossoming and on the cutting edge.

1. Read books, blogs and follow your favorite entrepreneurs online.

This can be tough, as it’s easy to follow and engage with countless, amazing fellow entrepreneurs who have ridiculously huge online followings and whom you aspire to be like. It’s easy to click through 20 different emails from each one each day, read their blog posts, watch webinars and Facebook Lives (and more) — which can literally take all day and then you never get any work done — but, try to stick with following just 3-4 of your favorites. With that, see what advice they give, learn about their strategies and business models and how they structure their programs or services. There is nothing wrong with watching what others do, absorbing bits and pieces — and then doing what’s right for you and putting your own spin on things. We are all in this online business world together and there is room for everyone. If you’re going to learn from someone, it might as well be someone who is successful. You are whom you surround yourself with. Make sure that who and what you’re following has a positive impact on you and your mindset.   

2. Join a local association and make connections.

It’s easy to stay in front of a computer screen and engage with others via emails, texts and Facebook comments, but don’t forget the power of face-to-face and real, human connection. I won’t use the word “network” as that makes some people feel uncomfortable or like they’re at a stuffy corporate event. Try joining a local organization that is either relatable to your industry or just business in general. Some groups might require yearly memberships, but some are free. Attend monthly gatherings — they can be really fun! They might be happy hours or listening to interesting speakers — who you can also learn from. You can make connections to other area business owners whose services you might need (or who you might be able to serve) and again, it’s just plain healthy to get out and learn how to communicate with others in a non-digital way!  

 3. Attend a conference or seminar.

This is one of my favorite ways to learn and mostly, get really pumped up and motivated! I have attended a handful of conferences the last few years and loved each one. I feel so refreshed and inspired after listening to respected industry experts and other creative entrepreneurs. And of course, these events are a perfect way to meet others who do what you do (or something similar) and to talk shop and make some new contacts/friends. Many times, these conferences provide opportunities for attendees to meet the speakers before or after they talk, or at a cocktail hour or dinner event later in the day. Take advantage of those times and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, exchange business cards and ask additional questions or get advice.

4. Participate in continuing education and professional development opportunities.

Again, I can’t stress it enough. Never think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Years after college or just working in general, it’s easy to do what’s comfortable and in the ways that you’ve always done things. New styles and trends are always emerging in every field, as well as new techniques and software. In order to stay modern and relevant, you should try to attend classes or workshops that will keep you sharp. Or, take a class in something totally new and different to you. Anything that involves getting away from your workspace or office and puts you back in a studio or classroom, making you think or feel challenged, is positive and healthy!

5. Hire a business coach or join a mastermind group.  

You might not quite be ready to invest in a business coach and that’s OK. It’s still something that you should keep in mind and definitely consider doing at some point, though. I hired a business coach over a year ago to teach me ways to package my services, charge higher-premium prices, grow my online following and in turn, make more money on a monthly basis. With the coaching program, I also got connected to a fabulous mastermind group of five other female small business owners. Although the coaching is over, I still meet with the mastermind monthly and hope to for a long time! These are both good next steps to take in a business when you’re ready to grow and scale — and simply play bigger, make yourself known as an expert and get hired more. It’s one of the biggest and best investments that you can make in yourself. Even if you don’t think that you feel ready, when will you be? If you find the right coach or program and you feel in your gut/heart that you need to hire them in order to change your business (and in turn, your life) you will find a way to afford it. Plus, you will (hopefully) see a big ROI down the road.  


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!

QUICK TIP: How many fonts do you need for your brand?

One of the most popular questions that I get from entrepreneurs who are ready to brand their businesses is, “how many fonts do I need?” While you may use a different and unique typeface just for your logo (which is perfectly normal and fine) — you do need to establish at least a couple of typefaces to be consistently used on all of your print and web materials. Your typography selections are just as crucial to your brand as your color palette. They play a huge role in contributing to the overall look and feel of your identity — and it’s important to get them right.

You really shouldn’t use more than (3) typefaces on a regular basis. When more than three are used and not consistently, it makes your brand look confusing, not sophisticated and not professional. Plan to just stick with a classic serif (for example, think “Garamond”) as well as a clean and modern sans serif (again, think “Gotham.”) The third exception is a script/handwritten typeface, which can be used in special instances. Read below to find the definition of each one. Above all else, always remember to keep it simple!

1. Serif

A serif typeface has little lines (or strokes) added as embellishments at the ends of characters. Times New Roman is a generic example. These are good to use when reading large blocks of text (like you often see in books) and are great for professional and traditional purposes.

2. Sans serif

A sans serif typeface doesn’t have the serif strokes coming off its characters. Arial and Helvetica are common examples. This style of font has a cleaner, more modern look and feel.

 3. Script  

Finally, a script typeface is, as you might guess, “script-y.” It’s meant to look like cursive handwriting, or on a fancier level, even calligraphy. It’s meant to not be overused, but is great for accenting pullout or highlighted words in a headline or quote. I like to use one to complement my pair of serif and sans serif fonts in a brand to give designs a personal, classy and sophisticated touch.


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

4 ways to create consistency in your business

With so many ideas in our minds, goals that we want to set and actual work that we need to do, it can be overwhelming to keep showing up everyday, growing our businesses in the ways that they need to. Today, I’m covering 4 ways to create consistency— so that you can hold yourself accountable and be the professional that you need to be (and that your business deserves!)

These tips will help you to stay on track with “all of the things” that you need to do — so that your potential dream clients can find and follow you (and know that you mean business!)

1. Decide what you need to accomplish.

Sounds simple enough, but sometimes, you really just need to sit down and figure out what you not only want (but need) to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Talk to friends, family, business besties, masterminds, whoever you can. Write down all of the different tasks that you have in your business. These can be business development and client-related ones. Go back and decide on a set number of realistic projects (and reach ones) that you will start taking action towards completing. What do you need to do in your own business and what clients do you need to serve (or products that you need to create) daily, weekly, monthly? Make sure that these are all items that will truly make an impact and help you grow your business.  

2. Decide on timeframes.

Once you’ve decided on the tasks at hand, put deadlines on them. I keep a running list of daily “to-dos” on a digital sticky note on my laptop’s desktop. I also keep a day or time that I need to have them done by and sent off to a client — or be prepared for scheduling. Sometimes, the most important and effective thing that you can do is giving yourself an actual timeline/deadline — and then stick to it. Again, these can be daily, weekly or monthly. Some tasks are going to be recurring or short term and others are going to be in the queue for later down the road. Either way, they ALL need to get done at some point. This is where you specifically decide on those times.

 3. Setup your systems.  

Now that you know literally what you need to do and when those things need to be done, setup the systems that will make it all happen! For me, my tasks are split between two categories: business development (my own marketing) and client work. Business development includes weekly blogging, emailing my list, posting to social media and engaging in Facebook groups. My client work is my monthly load of money-making projects — my bread and butter and what I consider my priorities. I use a couple of different platforms like Asana and Dubsado to setup my jobs, keep track of client/project notes, deadlines and more. I also keep an “old-fashioned” pretty planner that I write in and use to keep track of my calendar (along with my Google calendar/iPhone, of course.) These systems enable me to know what I need to get done now and what I have coming up and need to prepare for. I also use Dubsado for sending client contracts and FreshBooks for generating and delivering invoices. When it comes to my own business work, I write my blog posts ahead of time and then schedule them within Squarespace. I also create and upload my weekly graphics that go out in Buffer, a social media-scheduling app. Of course, I dabble in a mix of other areas to keep things running, but these platforms are the main ones that I use. I’ve described them here so that you can see how important it is to use different tools and programs to track, create, schedule and more. I’m in these platforms daily because they keep me accountable — and I can see everything that I have going on in my business at any given moment. I have things that need done daily, weekly and monthly — and my systems help me to get them done, which allows me to keep showing up and being visible in front of my audiences (clients and prospects.)

4. Commit and…DO IT!  

For real, just do it. You know what you need to do, when you need to do it and how you’re going to get it all done with the systems that you put in place. Do whatever works for you — not everyone else. Whatever you need to do each day in your own business and for your client base, DO IT. Whatever you need to do each week, each month, each quarter and each year — DO IT. We can write things down, think about them, track them and stay organized/conscious of our time, but if we are not physically “doing the things” no one else is, either. (Unless you’ve hired a team, of course!) Regardless of what you’re responsible for (or any helpful assistants) — just take each task seriously and work until it’s crossed off of your list! The more that you show up consistently, the more professional that you will look in general — and the more seriously that you will be taken! 


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