Summer Travel Fun

It’s time to start planning those summer vacations! I’m sharing some thoughts on using a credit card strategically to help you out.

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Y’all are already aware of my love for summer and summer travel. Two years ago I took a trip with my BFFs to Palm Springs and last summer I went to Alt Summit and then on a seven week adventure through Madrid, Barcelona, Marsielle, Nice, Paris, London and Reykjavík (I still owe y’all some travel guides).

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Travel, whether it be to a conference or on a vacation, is crucial to my sanity and for keeping my creative juices flowing. You may be wondering how the heck is all this travel possible for a self-employed graphic designer without tons of money or savings.

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I’m spilling the beans… I’m just paying off those trips a year later. But I wasn’t prancing around, being extravagant and getting myself into debt that I wouldn’t be able to pay back, this was an intentional plan. I picked a credit card that was right for my needs and figured out how much I needed to pay each month to have it payed off in one year.

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This year’s travel plans couldn’t be more different but one thing that stays the same: I still don’t have ton of money saved up. I’m getting married in October so my bachelorette party is this summer in Miami and then our honeymoon will be in October (we are thinking Tulum, Mexico). My favorite travel locations include boats, beaches or pools (as you can tell by the photos here from past trips). If you have any suggestions for Miami or Tulum I’d love for you to share them in the comments!

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When it comes to traveling, I like a credit card that allows me to earn miles and doesn’t have an annual fee. Also, when traveling abroad, a card without foreign transaction fees is key! This is exactly what makes the Discover It Miles credit card such a perfect fit for me. You also don’t have to worry about blackout dates, the miles never expire, and there is $0 fraud liability guarantee where you are never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your card. Also, as an introductory offer, cardmembers will now receive double the amount of miles they’ve earned at the end of their first year – with no spending cap. This is huge! To explore all of the rewards and discover more about the card for yourself, just click here.

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Thank you for supporting this blog by allowing me to post occasional sponsored content. All sponsored posts feature products or services that I truly feel would be of interest to you. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

May Made In Mind Social Recap

For those of you who are new around here, you probably haven’t heard about my side project. The Made in Mind Social is a local group of creative types that gather every other month to meet other like-minded creatives, learn about other local businesses and collaborate on future projects.

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Bellocq was kind enough to host us for May and Tivoli & Lee treated us to an amazing cheese plate. We did a fun raffle for some Pursuit themed gifts and Ashlee from Smallchalk created a gorgeous chalkboard for us. It was a super special event because we got to announce some fun Pursuit news and Death to the Stock Photo joined us as a part of their 2015 road trip! It blows our mind how many cool and creative people we get to meet who are ‘doing their thing’ and show up to talk about it!

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Thanks to Kristy and Allison for the photos. Interested in sponsoring an event? Find details hereNot in New Orleans but want to hold awesome events like this one? Start a Made In Mind chapter in your city! OR start your own from scratch with the help of The Meetup Guide.

Steps to Refining and Setting Mid-Year Goals

Mid-Year Goals Free Worksheet

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly believe that it is June already! The year is certainly flying by, and it is easy to start to feel panic that the year is almost halfway done when thinking about the goals you have set for your business and all that you want to accomplish in 2015.

Rather than panic, use it as a chance to evaluate the goals you set in January and see if they are still relevant. Didn’t set any? Now is the perfect time to gain focus for the second half of your year. Here are some simple ways to set or refine your goals:

Which aspect of your business is most important to you this year?

You may have a monetary goal for the year, or perhaps you want to achieve a work/life balance that suits your lifestyle needs. Whatever your ultimate intention for your year is, keep that front of mind while evaluating and setting your goals!

Which goals have you already met?

Look back at the goals you set at the beginning of the year and see which ones you can cross off. Whether it was a single item, like finding a new office space, or simply something you are ahead of schedule on, such as booking 15 new clients, take a moment to celebrate, then see how you can either update that goal or expand it for the second half of the year.

Which goals are you not on track to meet?

If you have any quantitative goals, such as “photograph 10 weddings” or “book 20 branding clients,” you should be close to reaching half of that value at this point. If you’re not close, it might be time to step up your efforts to meet that goal! Or, you may wish to adjust that goal if it no longer feels right. If you have a certain time of year that is your busy season, be sure to take that into account when calculating anything quantitative.

What has changed since the beginning of the year?

You may have had a change in your personal life that affects how much you can work. Perhaps you examined your business and started offering additional or new services. Major changes like these will alter the goals you have for the remainder of your year, so take the time to see how the changes in your life or business are affecting your goals.

How can you streamline your work?

A goal for anyone should be to operate in a way that doesn’t waste your time – or your client’s time. Take a look at your systems and see what items could be refined or made more efficient, such as finally writing those canned email replies, updating your website’s contact form to ask better questions or actually hiring that VA. Make it a goal to accomplish those smaller items that have big impact.

While different businesses require different types of planning and goal setting, it is always crucial to have an objective and develop a plan to get there. Need more help with goal planning? Check out 3 Steps to Planning & Accomplishing Your Goals.

 

The Free Mid Year Goals Worksheet

To get the worksheet, sign up for our email list by clicking the button below. Signing up will also give you access to the full library of resources for bloggers, designers and business owners!

(password is included in all of our newsletters)

 

Portfolio: Brand Identity Design for Health & Wellness Advocate

I love sharing new work with you guys and I’m super excited about this project! It was really fun and I’m so happy for it to be out in the world.

Bright, Bold, Fun Moodboard for Brand Identity Design

From time to time I have the pleasure of working with local design studios and agencies. It’s always fun to collaborate with a larger team! In this case, I got to work with the same studio I worked at full time from 2006-2010! This was a re-brand for a well known health and wellness advocate, speaker and author. Ellen was clear that she wanted her new brand identity design to have dimension and be full of energy. We knew it had to be bold, beautiful and fabulous just like the woman behind the brand! First, we pulled inspiration into a mood board that represented these feelings. Then we moved on to finalizing the color palette and designing the main logo along with a few variations for different applications.Brand Identity Design for Health & Wellness Advocate

We also did a total overhaul on Ellen’s social media presence. I designed templates for her to use along with posts on her Facebook page so that everything looked completely consistent across all platforms. The next step was the website to showcase all of her amazing content. I created a mockup which was then handed over to the developer to bring to life. It’s so satisfying to bring someone’s ideas to life and to give a visual identity to a brand that really showcases what they are all about!

Web Design for for Health & Wellness Advocate

Moodboard Resources: Bri Emery / Interior / Letter A / Nicola / Fan / The Girls With Glasses

Indie Script Font by Lián Types

Indie Script Font by Lian Types

I have a new favorite script font called Indie that you totally need to add to your collection! Maximiliano first discovered his love for typography while studying graphic design at Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. As an innocent font hobby turned to addiction, his type design career matured at an incredibly rapid rate, due much to his fascination with calligraphy. He founded Lián Types in 2008 and it took him only two years thereafter to develop his own approach to the art, mixing his interest in calligraphy with a growing skillfulness in digitizing the most challenging of curves. “The truth is that I’m also doing my best to be a good calligrapher, and I don’t like making fonts which I can’t do myself by hand. My letters are me!”

Inspired by many styles of calligraphy, Lián Types is now among the most successful foundries specializing in script fonts and ornamented display type. “Designing script faces is not a game,” he said. “They’re not ‘the easy ones.’ They’re not for beginners, as some may think. A well-made script is like a marvel you just can’t stop staring at. Like history tells us: the written word can be as precious as any other art work.”

Maximiliano has won prestigious awards and his fonts have been adopted by some of the best designed publications around. His best selling typefaces include Selfie, Brand and Heroe and now he has just launched the latest Indie, which may be my favorite of them all. It’s on sale for 30% off until Wednesday night, so don’t miss this sale!

 

The Best Social Media Marketing Tools That Every Blogger Needs

Social Media Tools for Bloggers and Small Business Owners

It seems like a blogger’s work is never done. You write your post, edit, create graphics, insert screenshots and examples, promote your posts, engage with followers, and then rinse and repeat. So to say that we need a few tools in order to make things even the slightest bit easier for us is quite the understatement. And since social media is such a prevalent marketing avenue for those of us in the online blogosphere, I’m sharing with you my top eight favorite social media marketing tools for bloggers.

1. Buffer

Buffer is a social media scheduling app and I seriously cannot sing enough praises for it. I have said this time and time again. There are a number of reasons that I choose Buffer as my personal scheduling app:

  • Interface: I have used other scheduling apps before and the interface isn’t nearly as pretty or user-friendly as Buffer’s is.
  • Analytics: I love the analytics in Buffer–you’re able to see how many clicks, retweets, shares, etc., that each of your posts got. It shows you your top posts of the week and even emails you a weekly summary comparing this week’s posts to the previous week.
  • Bookmarklet: This is probably my favorite part. If I’m reading an article that I want to share (even on my phone or tablet), I can add it to my Buffer queue directly from the article. I have a browser bookmarklet on my computer and can add the app to my preferred sharing tools on my mobile devices.
  • Scheduling: One thing that is extremely time-consuming with Hootsuite is having to individually schedule each one of your outgoing posts. Buffer allows you to create a preset schedule so that each time you want to schedule an article, you only have to add them to your queue and they automatically go out at their specified time.
  • Pricing: They have both free and paid options

2. CoSchedule

This is probably one of the coolest scheduling apps because its interface is a freaking calendar. Um, genius? Yes, I think so. And it has multiple uses. You can use this plugin to view the posts you have published for the month, posts that are in the works, and the posts that you have planned. Not only that, but you can also share your blog posts to your social media right from the CoSchedule plugin! AND (this is my favorite part) it can be integrated with Buffer to up the social sharing ante even more.

3. Click to Tweet

One great way to encourage social shares in your blog posts is to include a one-click, pre-made tweet for your readers. CoSchedule has a really great FREE Click to Tweet WordPress Plugin that allows you to insert said pre-made tweets right into your blog post! Here is a sample, go ahead and try it out!

4. TweetDeck

Are you a Twitter chatter? If not, then you need to be. Check out this fantastic calendar for Twitter chats for creatives. (or join my favorite chat, #createlounge, every Wednesday at 7PM CST!) If so, then you know how incredibly fast those things move. TweetDeck is my absolute favorite way to keep up with the craziness.

Simply login with your Twitter handle and then create a separate column for: your notifications (so that you can see when someone replies to your tweets or directs a question/comment to you), the Twitter chat’s hashtag (so that you can see all of the tweets for the chat), and the host(s) of the chat (so that you never miss a question). I participate in Twitter chats once or twice a week and have found that this is the best way for me to not miss any of the action!

5. OnePress Social Locker

I personally have never used this plugin, but I think it’s a fantastic idea and I keep it on standby. This free WordPress plugin allows you to lock certain content until a reader shares it on social media. This guarantees a social share for each person who wants to read your post.

6. HelloBar

This is an awesome app to include on your blog and it has several different uses. I started a new Facebook Page when I rebranded my blog (one, because I couldn’t change the name of my old Facebook page and two, because I plan to do a case study of how I gained likes and exposure to my page), so I use the HelloBar social converter to add a box in the lower righthand corner of my blog that allows readers to easily like my Facebook page. It’s done really well so far, so I highly recommend it.

However, you can also use HelloBar to drive traffic to another page of your site or to gather email addresses for your e-newsletter. They also have both free and paid options.

7. Topsy

This tool is amazing for so many things:

  • Searching for relevant content to curate.
  • Searching for social media analytics on specific users, hashtags and keywords.
  • Checking out current trends on social media.

It’s seriously an all-in-one for any kind of social media information you could possibly look for. Search for a topic that you’re interested in finding good articles to share on your own social networks. Check out your own replies or the replies of fellow bloggers in your niche. And see what’s currently trending that you could play off of by writing your own blog post or social media post.

8. Google Docs

This is one of my favorite ways to create my social media editorial calendar. I create a document, add a table with seven columns (one for each day of the week), then I put all of my statuses, links, and images inside of the table before scheduling them all out. This makes it easy for me to visually see what content I have planned all at once. And you can use it fo’ free.

Haven’t started blogging yet or in a rut? Check out Ciera’s new e-book, Blogging With Intention and How to Give Your Readers Exactly What They Need.

Do you have any favorite tools that we missed here?

 

Graphic Love: Picasso’s Portrait

Picasso's Portrait Inspiration Moodboard

The idea for this photo shoot came to me out of nowhere. Hours after seeing the image on the top right of the moodboard, a shot from the 2015 W Mag Movie Issue, I was researching Picasso’s work and different make-up techniques inspired by his work.

Picasso Inspired Woman with Lemon PortraitPicasso Inspired Woman with Daisy Portrait

Fun fact: One week after we shot, Picasso’s Woman of Algiers painting broke the record of most expensive painting to sell at auction, going for $160 million. I love when things turn out to be unexpectedly relevant!

Picasso Inspired Portrait Red and WhitePicasso Inspired Portrait Red Pants

I wanted to take this concept in a much different direction from our last feature, Glitter Mania. The focus would be portrait shots to showcase elaborate make-up. We would create a specific scene by shooting it in a studio, with no distractions.

Picasso Inspired Photographic PortraitWoman with Picasso Inspired Makeup

Each model had a specific theme and color scheme. I wanted to pull colors from Picasso’s work—bright and rich blues, greens, reds, oranges and yellows. I love how direct and purposeful his work is, no matter how elaborate, and I wanted to explore how you could break his harsh and direct lines down on a real human face.

Picasso Inspired Makeup and Portrait Picasso Inspired Makeup and Portrait

I took some later inspiration from a small Snapchat / Tumblr trend inspired by Steph, #burntpicasso. The whole idea of making yourself a piece of art makes me warm inside. Have a great rest of the week!

Creative Direction: Ashley Monaghan | Photography: Malarie Zaunbrecher | Make-up: Meghan Mcgee | Stylist: Makenzie Godzo | Clothing: Time Warp

Come Party With Made In Mind and Death To Stock Photo!

Party With Death To Stock and Made In Mind

If you are in the New Orleans area you should totally come party with me and Death to the Stock Photo this Thursday at Bellocq! We are delighted that they have partnered with us as a part of their 2015 road trip! As always we are excited to catch up with our creative friends and celebrate our progress so far with PursuitWe have been putting in some serious overtime to produce a creative conference like no other. Come hang out and enjoy:

  • $6 happy hour drink specials
  • a mixology demonstration
  • fun raffle prizes
  • light bites provided by Tivoli + Lee

RSVP TO THIS FREE EVENT!

Death To Stock is a lifestyle image resource with a fresh approach, built for dreamers and doers smashing the mold. A percentage of their premium memberships go directly back into helping people who want to create or take risks with their work – and they are doing just that as supporters of New Orleans’ own Pursuit ConferencePhoto via Death To Stock | Design by Ciera Design Studio

6 Simple Ways to Brainstorm Blog Post Ideas + A Free Worksheet

Free Worksheet to Brainstorm Blog Post Ideas

Blogging can be a great tool for small business owners. It provides a way to connect with your audience, share your expertise, and even help convince people to work with you. It can also be a fun creative outlet or provide a needed break in your daily routine.

While the pros are easy to count, that doesn’t mean it is always easy to come up with new blog post ideas! Especially if you’ve been blogging for a while, you may feel like you’ve hit a wall with new post ideas. Luckily, there are several simple ways to generate some quality post ideas.

Why do you blog?

The first step for any blogger is to identify who you are trying to reach. Many bloggers get overwhelmed or feel unfocused when they aren’t sure who to write for. If you are a business owner, you might be writing to attract potential new clients. If you have a personal blog, you might be hoping to connect with fellow fashion lovers or food connoisseurs. When you identify this, it makes your focus that much clearer and the ideas easier to form.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Think about the blogs you read, and make a list of ones you can’t wait to dive into when you see a new post. What about their posts attracts you? Perhaps they share knowledge, share personal stories, or use a unique voice to tell their story. When you identify what attracts you to your favorite posts, it will help you write your own!

What is a problem you recently had and then solved?

People love reading free tips and learning from their peers. A great way to connect with your readers and contribute to your community is to share something you learned. Not only might you help someone with the same problem, it helps you relate to others by showing you are human and don’t always have all the answers right away either.

What is a question you get asked all the time?

Do you find yourself receiving similar emails, tweets, or queries often wanting to know the same things? Make the answer a blog post! Not only will this help position you as an expert with the answers people are looking for, it will make your responses oh-so fast by simply directing people to your post for an answer.

 

What is something you wish people knew about your business, industry or passions?

Is there a misconception about the industry you are in? Share your perspective and experiences! Do you find yourself running into the same problems with clients or customers? Write a post sharing your advice on dealing with the issue. Instead of feeling frustrated, use the energy to share a positive post and help others who might be fighting the same battles.

What resources or tools that you’ve found could help someone out?

Making a list of helpful resources is a great post generator. You could include tools you use to run your business, people in other fields that could be resources for your clients, or even podcasts within your niche that you love. As with many of these points, being generous with your knowledge not only builds trust with your readers, it will bring them back time and again.

To make this even easier, you can use this free brainstorming worksheet to get your creative vibes flowing. There is also space for those moments when you have a post idea and need to jot it down somewhere before you forget! Try setting aside a small amount of time each week to knock out your ideas, and writing will become even easier.

While blogging can seem overwhelming, it is a great tool for connecting with others in your industry, with clients, or with your community. When you look at it as a way to share and have fun, it won’t seem like a daunting chore anymore! Need even more help getting started? Check out Ciera’s new e-book, Blogging With Intention.

 

The Free Brainstorming Post Ideas Worksheet

To get the worksheet, sign up for our email list by clicking the pink button below. Signing up will also give you access to the full library of resources for bloggers, designers and business owners!

(password is included in all of our newsletters)

 

Stock Photos and Great Design To Help Nepal

Help Nepal With Great Design

Y’all know that I am a big fan of Creative Market, both for purchasing stock imagery and graphics and also for selling some of my own goods. And now there is even more reason to shop with them! Throughout the month of May, participating Creative Market shops will donate up to 100% of their earnings to Nepal disaster relief. And in partnership with the Autodesk Foundation, they’ll also match the first $20,000! These funds will be sent to All Hands, a non-profit organization that addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. I’m donating 50% of my sales, so if you are in need of some stock photos go check out my shop and join us in our efforts to help Nepal!