Let’s face it – as people with creative businesses, there are times when we feel a lack of vision and innovation. Whether it’s because we’re working on projects that leave us uninspired or we just simply can’t get our creative juices flowing, it’s a slump we don’t want to be stuck in for long.
It’s something I’ve been struggling with lately, so I’ve come up with four ways to get re-inspired:
1. Try to remember the time when you were feeling the most creative or inspired.
There are moments in our lives when we feel like nothing can stop us and we can’t stop coming up with great ideas. The key to reliving those moments is to figure out what made those moments so special. Where were you at? What were you doing? Who were you with? What were you feeling? Try to recreate that moment as best as you can and you’ll be on the right track to getting your creativity back.
2. Take a class
We’re often inspired by new adventures and meeting new people, so taking a class or doing a workshop will help kick your creativity back in gear. Make something by hand, learn something new and connect with other creative people and you’re sure to get inspired. Some courses to check out are the Alt Summit Classes, Skillshare, Nicole’s Classes and sign up for workshops like BlogShop and Anthro Events.
3. Visit Your Favorite Places
Our surroundings are one of the things that inspire us the most, and we all have places where we feel most inspired. When you’re feeling less creative than normal, it’s a no brainer to visit your favorite places to get yourself going again. Whether you’re influenced by the displays at your favorite store or by a landscape or park you love the most, take time to visit those places, enjoy them and let them motivate you.
4. Spruce Up Your Resources
Just like buying new workout clothes might help you to get back to the gym, new creative resources can help amp up your inspiration. Download some new fonts, explore new color schemes, try out a new program or let a new design book help you dream up new ideas. Something as simple as a new font to play with can totally transform your mood and your work.
What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired? Share your tips in the comments!
I’ve been thinking and thinking what amazing topic I could share on Ciera’s blog. I’m so grateful she keeps letting me blog hop. I think I post more on her blog than my own! I had several ideas to write about but the one that sticks with me the most is generosity, or selfless giving.
My daughter had her first school fundraiser recently. She was so excited to help out her school (I don’t even think she understood that there are prizes for the best sellers). She just really wants her school to be a better place….but, no one will buy anything from her. It’s $1 for a chocolate bar or a jerky stick and you get it immediately. C’mon, it’s $1. I got to thinking a lot about this experience. What does it tell a child when they are trying to do something and no one will support them? How does it feel when adults only say “No” Or I can’t afford that? What does that teach them about money?
We went through some pretty darn hard times in our not too distant past. We lived on dry food storage for a year. It was miserable. Our family knows what tough times are but I still found ways to be generous (even if it was only a dollar here or there) because I’m not just buying a candy bar or donating to pay for someone’s medical fund. I’m investing in people. Real live human beings that need a chance and they need to feel loved.
When I started my Etsy shop I asked friends and family to simply put in a plug for me on Facebook or my blog. I even offered some pretty sweet things in return. They didn’t even have to buy anything but NO one would help me! It was pretty disheartening and it took a while for my shop to get started because getting those first few sales is really the hardest. So, I now make it a point to try to buy something from my friends when they start new endeavors. Sometimes money is too tight and I take a rain check but sometimes I give up something else I want so I can help them and then we are both the better for it.
I wasn’t always this generous. I met a new friend about 7 years back that showed me what generosity means. Often times I found people commenting on something awesome she had like a necklace or a bag and she would say, oh I’d love for you to have it and while they blinked she would hand it to them. When we went to parties, instead of sitting down to enjoy herself, she would go straight to the kitchen and start pitching in. She even gave her car away instead of trading it in because she said the kid needed it. Wow. I was the one turning down every school kid that came to my door and here my friend is giving cars away. She really helped open my eyes.
Money can’t buy everything. We all know that. But we CAN use our money to do more and to serve instead of only being a slave to it. I don’t have any specific agenda here. I’m not going to ask you for any money or tell you a charity to donate to. I just hope that the people who take the time to read this will open their eyes even more to the possibilities around them–The possibilities of the amazing things a little bit of money or a helping hand can do.
You know how when you’re on someone’s website trying to decide if you want to work with them or buy from them and you see a group of really great testimonials that convince you that you must have their product? You can have that too.
Testimonials from clients are important for your website because without them, potential clients don’t always know your credibility or what you’re like to work with. It’s someone’s outside perspective that gives them the confidence to buy from you instead of moving on to the next website.
There are a few ways to get really great testimonials:
Reach out to past partners, customers and coworkers
While it’s not always easy to reach out and ask for testimonials, it’s the first step in getting great feedback, especially from clients and coworkers who love you and your work.
To do this, write them a short note on why you’re reaching out to them and what you’re hoping to accomplish from getting this testimonial. Tell them how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and would love to share your experience with future customers.
Then, provide a list of questions for them to answer – questions that will bring out the types of phrases you’d love to include on your site about how the two of you worked together and what was accomplished.
It’s best to reach out to clients while your work is still fresh in their mind, so as soon as you’ve wrapped up your work with them, send them a testimonial request – if they’re happy with your work they’ll most likely fill it out right away!
Pull from Social Media
Another really great way to get testimonials for your website is to pull quotes about your work off of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Lots of times when someone is excited about a new product or service they’ve purchased, they splash it all over the web. If one of your past customers has done this about your offering, ask them if you can use their quote for your site. Since they shared it with everyone they know, there’s a good chance they’ll let you post it on your site too.
Once you Get the Testimonial
When you get your testimonials, there are a few effective ways to display them on your website.
First of all, make sure they fit with the product you are selling or are general enough to be displayed on your site. I work with lots of different types of clients – from brides to small businesses to antique dealers, so not all testimonials from everyone will work on my wedding site. Choose the ones that you think will be most beneficial to future clients.
Then, decide where you want to place your testimonials. Good practice is to have a page devoted to praise, display them on your sales page or have them scrolling in the footer or sidebar.
Also, consider including a picture and a location of the person you received the testimonial from. People make connections with images and locations, so the testimonial will be more credible and believable if there is a face and location to associate with it.
And that’s it! Follow these steps and be on your way to getting great testimonials from past customers that grab the attention of new customers!
Let’s face it – we’re all influenced by others in our lives, and your customers are influenced too. Those influencers help them make decisions on a daily basis – from what they buy to the music they listen to. In business, we call this your customer’s key influencers, and they’re more important than you think.
Types Of Key Influencers & Why it Matters
There are two types of key influencers – the first type are the people who are in your customer’s personal lives, like friends, family and co-workers.
These people are giving their opinion about different products and recommendations on their favorite things. They’re also the people who your customer will potentially consult with if they want to make a purchase from you. When your customer wants to do a total rebrand, go to a conference or purchase a big online program, they’re going to consult their spouse and friends for advice or approval, and usually the opinion of these people are very important to the buying decision. That’s why these types of key influencers are so important.
The second type of key influencers are the people your customer follows online, the blogs they read and the conferences they attend. It can also include the celebrities they watch and the music they listen to. Your customer is highly influenced by these media types, and it’s often where they find ideas about what to buy, wear and listen to. It’s not the group of people they have to talk to about buying, it’s the people who seriously influence what they buy.
As you can see, the people influencing your customers are pretty important, and as a business you need to get in front of both types of key influencers in order to get someone to buy from you.
How to Use Key Influencers to Sell Your Stuff
There are a few ways you can help your customer convince the first group of key influencers. One way is to provide them resources for talking to their family and friends about buying your products.
For example, if your customer really wants to buy your big-ticket product, they will probably talk to their close family about why they want to buy it and whether the cost and time is going to be worth the reward of purchasing. This group of influencers is most likely going to need a little bit of convincing, and your customer may need a little bit of help explaining what the benefits of buying are.
To help them, create a downloadable pdf of questions and comments that family members would normally ask about your product with an answer for each one. That way your customer will be prepared for the questions and can respond with a smart and confident answer, which will help them convince these key influencers to buy your product. You can see an example of this here.
As for the key influencers your customer follows online, you can use them to get in front of your customer as well.
If you know where your customer is hanging out online, you can pitch guest posts to those blogs or websites. If you have a physical product, you could send a sample to the editor of their favorite blog and pay for a feature, or you could donate your product for the swag bags at the conferences your customer might attend. If they see their key influencers using or featuring your product, they’ll be more interested in trying it out!
Figure out who your customer’s key influencers are and figure out a way to get in front of them! It will help bring you devoted customers and more sales.
Who are your customer’s key influencers? Share your ideas in the comments below!
We’re all looking for better ways to connect with our readers in hopes that they come back and read your blog on a regular basis or buy something from you at some point, right? Lucky for us, there’s a trick to giving them exactly what they’re looking for. Here’s the two-step process:
1. What Problems Do Your Readers Have?
Knowing what your readers are struggling with is the key in figuring out exactly what they want. You have to figure out the types of problems they are having in your field of expertise so you can help solve those problems.
If you’re a web designer and blog about your work and inspiration, it’s possible that your readers are other designers or business owners who are starting their own website or are inspired by your work. They may be dealing with a variety of problems – from where their email sign-up forms should be on their website to what fonts are easiest to read on the web. Some may not know the questions to ask web designers when they start working with one, and others may not know all of the important information they’ll need to give their designer to get started. These are all things you can help them with (and problems you can solve) on your blog.
On the worksheet provided, make a list of all the different problems your readers might have that you could solve with your knowledge in your field. Think back to the basics – maybe some of the topics in classes you learned back in school or some lessons you’ve learned in the past. Remember – no problem is too big or small to write down.
2. How Can You Solve Their Problems?
Now comes the getting more followers/better customers part! Once you know the problems your readers have, you can instantly turn those problems around into solutions.
Starting on page 2 of the worksheet, write down each problem, and underneath it list out all the different ways you could solve this problem for your reader. You may be able to think of multiple ways to fix each problem – write every idea you have down.
Some of the problems you’ve written down may be perfect for new blog posts or series, and some of them would be great new offerings you can add to your list of services. Next to each solution, check mark which you think it’d be better for and start brainstorming ways to put each into action!
When you’re able to solve a problem for someone, they feel like you’ve given them insider tips & tricks and in turn form a stronger bond with you and your brand which makes them more likely to come back for more and buy from you.
Last July I quit my full-time corporate designer job to venture out on my own, and I had so many ideas about how wonderful working from home was going to be. I learned very quickly that working for yourself can be a difficult job – you must have a lot of self-control and focus. Here are some tricks I’ve used to keep myself on track while being my own boss.
1. Set Work Hours
One of the reasons I quit my full-time job was that my husband was tired of me coming home after an 8 hour day and spending 4 more hours working on side projects. And to be honest, I was tired of it too. So when I started working from home, I set a rule that I wouldn’t work nights or weekends anymore.
For the first few months, this was really hard to control. I was enjoying my freedom during the day by going on walks and getting housework done, but I was putting off design work for the evening – which made me quitting my job pointless.
When you work from home, you need to find a happy medium – one of the best things about working for yourself is the freedom you have to come and go as you please, but you need to have the self-control to get your work done during the day.
That’s why setting work hours is a good practice. If you feel more motivated and can concentrate better in the morning, then set you work hours from 9 to 1 and run your errands in the afternoon. Or maybe work a normal 8 hour work day and allow yourself an hour lunch break like a normal job would.
Of course, you’ll have to adjust these hours depending on your workload or when your clients can meet with you, but whatever hours you choose make sure you stick to them so you’re not working when you don’t want to be.
2. Create an Inspiring Workspace
Having a creative space set aside for you to work is another important aspect of working from home. Being able to go to your ‘office’ each morning and being inspired by your surroundings will help keep you focused on your work and away from distractions. Having your own workspace helps keep your work organized, and it will make it easier for you to distinguish work life from home life.
Even if you spend part of your day working from other areas of your house (like your bed!), it’s nice to have a space dedicated just to work. Plus, it’s fun to have a place just for you to keep your pretty design & craft supplies, right?
3. Get Motivated
When you work from home, there are going to be days you don’t feel like getting out of bed. Taking the day off one or two days a month isn’t the end of the world, but taking 3 days off in a row when you have projects due isn’t going to make you a successful entrepreneur.
For those days you just can’t seem to find any motivation, create a playlist of all the songs that pump you up or inspire you. I have a Spotify playlist called Biz Inspiration and anytime I need a pick me up, I listen to those songs and am instantly inspired to get stuff done.
Another way to beat being unmotivated is to get out of the house. I’ve found that if I go to my favorite coffee shop, grab a coffee and put my headphones in, I can get so much done in an afternoon. Being away from the distractions of home helps me focus on my client’s needs instead of my own, and gets me motivated to get more work done.
As hard as it can be at times, owning your own business is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life, and all the struggle is worth it in the end!
What tips do you have for working at home? Share them in the comments!
One of my awesome sponsors, Bonnie of Rodan + Fields is here today talking about summer skin care. I desperately needed these reminders a few weeks ago as I got a miserable sunburn at Jazz Fest. I was so mad at myself for forgetting sunscreen!
“Bonnie, you are 23, you are way too young to have skin cancer. This concerns me.” As if those words were not scary enough to hear, at least five additional times I heard the doctor say “He’s way too young for this…” sounding incredibly concerned each time he muttered it.
That was 22 years ago. Aloha. My name is Bonnie Cribbs, and I blog over at Beach Money CEO, tweet at @boatingBonnieC and I am addicted to the sun. OK, so “addicted” may be a very strong word, but I sure do love all things summer & sunny. I spend much of my summer at the lake having fun on my boat and I absolutely love the ocean and sitting by the pool….and I drive a convertible. I’m overweight and balding, so having a good tan has been rather important to me – at least I can have a good tan going for me, right? And for a living, I sell skin care products. It almost sounds like a conflict of interest, doesn’t it?
As summer is approaching, I want to talk about taking care of our skin this summer. It will be a Hodge-podge of how-to-protect-your-skin tips. Katie Rodan, one of the infamous doctors who created Proactive Solutions and most recently founded Rodan + Fields Dermatologist said “Genetics are only responsible for 20 percent of how your skin will age. 80 percent is in your control and that’s great news. It is never too late to change your skin’s destiny.” The sun is the culprit for most of that 80%. So that’s great, we know what to protect ourselves from. Now we just have to know how….and actually do it.
10 Minute Rule
In the time it takes you to have your morning cup of coffee, or wait in line at the Starbucks Drive Thru, the sun is working it’s magic on your skin. Before leaving the house, always use sunscreen. Sunscreen is not just for a day at the pool or for a few hours at the park. If you are going to be out in the sun any at all, wear sunscreen. In my car I keep a bottle of sunscreen and a hat. I love having the top down, but I always want to protect myself from the harmful and dangerous rays.
Reapply Every Two Hours
“I’m not burnt, I don’t need more sunscreen.” That is really bad logic. There is a deeper purpose than simply preventing being burnt, your skin needs to stay protected from the sun. In addition to applying sunscreen before leaving the house in the morning, reapply every two hours…and yes, especially when you’ll be out in the sun. But don’t be fooled, UVA damage can also occur in the house.
A little Dab A Do Ya
That’s such a misconception. When applying sunscreen, most people do not apply enough, so make sure you follow the bottles direction and apply liberally.
That’s not just the question people will be asking you when you tell them you are only 30 when your skin looks 40 (or visa-versa if sunscreen is used), but it’s also the question you need to ask about the bottle of sunscreen you are applying. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time, so always be sure to you check the expire date before you buy or before you apply.
It’s So Cloudy Today!
As I mentioned earlier, I have a boat and spend much of the summer out on the lake. Those cloudy days when the suns rays are not directly beaming down on us are always the days people get sunburned the most. And then they wonder why. Don’t be fooled by the cloudy day, the sun is still getting to you. If you see light outside, the sun can do damage to your skin.
Avoid Tanning Beds
I was in college in the late 80′s. This was before the time that everyone knew that tanning beds were bad for you time limits were on the beds. In the Spring I went to the tanning bed a few times a week and stayed in for 45 minutes each. Yes, I had an incredible tan and remember well that my time in the tanning bed was definitely some of the best naps I had in college (while listening to the cassette tape of Dirty Dancing), but, well, did I mention skin cancer at age 23? Avoid tanning beds. They’re not worth it.
Is There A Pill For that?
I have two points to make here. Yes, there is a pill to take to get your Vitamin D. So don’t use “I need my Vitamin D” as an excuse. The other point is this: If you are on medication, be sure to know how it affects your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. There are a lot of medications out there which increases your skin’s sensitivity toward the sun so don’t be caught by surprise and burn at even a faster rate.
I See Spots
If you have new bumps, hard spots, new growths or changes to existing moles, freckles, birthmarks…be sure to ask your doctor about them. It’s always best to catch it early. Catching them early is a very good thing – it allows you to have the spots removed before they spread. Again, check with your doctor.
The Speedo Rule
If you are a guy and have a desire to wear a speedo, resist that urge. Just don’t do it. OK, so this has nothing to do with sun protection and should just be considered a public service announcement.
At Rodan + Fields, all of our skin care regimens have sun protection at their core, including sunscreen in our cremes. We also have sunscreen, lip shield, etc. We have you covered from head to toe. You can visit my shop to find out which products are right for you.
As I mentioned earlier, I blog at Beach Money CEO. Most of my post are related to helping your business succeed, business tips, motivational pieces, some skin care tips and the occasional post about something personal. Please feel free to stop by and visit me there!
As if these awesome skin care tips were not enough, Bonnie is also offering one lucky Ciera Design reader a $50 American Express gift card! You can use this to purchase all of your summer skin care necessities! Or whatever else you may need for the summer!Giveaway open to US shipping addresses only.
Good luck!! Have any questions? Feel free to contact me. If you are in a reader click out to access the Rafflecopter entry form. Please note that your entry will be removed if you do not complete it correctly. Photo from Anthropologie, design by me.
These days, it seems like everyone is starting their own business or blog, which crowds the market and makes it hard for anyone at all to stand out – unless you make yourself different, memorable and remarkable.
Today I’m sharing a few ways to make your business stand out from the rest.
1. Take the rules and throw them out the window
There are just some things that certain niches don’t do, simply because no one has done it before. One way to become memorable is push the envelope and think outside the normal box that everyone else in your industry lives in. It can take lots of brainstorming and work, but creating a service or a product that is different from everyone else’s will pay off. Think of Virgin America Airlines – what other airline has mood lighting and screens in every headrest that allow you to watch tv and surf the internet without a laptop? They thought outside of what other airlines were doing and are hugely successful because of it.
2. Use practices of your favorite brands and infuse them into your own
You love your favorite brands for a reason – maybe they offer little extras with each purchase or they have the best customer service on the planet. Write down all of the reasons you love your favorite brands, and try to figure out ways to infuse some of those things into your own brand. This will help you build a brand you love while standing out because you’re a little bit different from the rest of them.
3. Offer something unique
Just because other designers offer branding, web and illustrating services doesn’t mean you have to too. Know what you’re good at and stick with that. If you have restaurant experience and love the fast paced world of hospitality, think about focusing your design services just toward hospitality companies. That way you’re working only with clients who are in an area of work you’re an expert in, and you’ll become known for just working with those certain types of clients. This helps you create a unique brand among others who are offering all sorts of services to all sorts of people.
4. Don’t wait for permission
If you want something – go for it! Don’t wait for people to reach out to you, if there’s a project you’re dying to work on or a collaboration you want to do, be the person that reaches out. You don’t have to wait around for someone to give you permission to make your dreams happen. Be the connector and people will see you as a person who knows what they want and knows what types of projects they want to work on. You’ll set yourself apart from those waiting around for success to fall into their lap.
What ways have you tried to set yourself apart from the crowd? Share them in the comments!
Q: What tips do you have for developing a project production schedule?
A: Ideally, your client will allocate ample time for project development, allowing you the luxury of setting your own production schedule. But don’t abuse the situation by keeping the deadline open-ended. Set a detailed schedule and communicate it clearly with your client. Here is a sample production schedule I might send a client after I receive a signed agreement:
Initial Design and Development Delivered by: Wednesday, March 13th
Revision 1: 2-3 business days from when I receive feedback
Revision 2: 2-3 business days from when I receive feedback
Final Delivery of Files: 1-2 business days from when I receive approval
Sending a specific and detailed schedule like the one above sets realistic client expectations and prevents clients from calling you daily for project updates. It also is a tactful way of warning the client of the repercussions of delayed feedback. Nothing is worse than waiting weeks for a client to get back to you with feedback and then them expecting the original delivery date.
More often than not, a client will set a specific deadline. For example, a client needs a sales sheet completed and printed for an upcoming trade show. In this situation, you will still need to send a detailed schedule. Just work backwards from the deadline to set your schedule, taking into consideration printing and/or or shipping timelines.
Q: What do you do when a client needs a project done yesterday?
A: Consider WHY the project is so pushed for time. Do you get the feeling that it is because the client is disorganized and waited until the last minute, or was it more outside the client’s control? If you know the deadline would require pulling all-nighters and working weekends, you may consider charging a rush fee to complete the project in the required time frame. If the client is not willing to pay the rush fee, then my advice is to walk away. These types of clients do not appreciate your time or talent. If you take on the project and do not charge a rush fee, the client will continue to manage future projects in the same manner – rushed and last-minute. In a sense, you would be inadvertently ”training” your client for repeat offenses.
Q: How do you handle multiple deadlines/overlapping projects?
A: As a freelance designer, time management is a skill that needs to be constantly honed. We would all like a steady and consistent stream of projects, but the reality is that there are typically dry spells when you are wishing for more work and then BAM – multiple projects hit and you end up running around like a crazy person. When you are balancing multiple deadlines, I suggest taking out your calendar and prioritizing. Break up the work into chunks and set “mini” internal deadlines for yourself. If you have a 24-page newsletter you are designing, set a goal of completing 6 pages by a specific date. The next day you can change gears and work on another client’s logo. It’s ok to bounce back and forth between projects – just make sure you are still working efficiently and that you don’t sacrifice quality on one particular project because you spent ALL your working hours on another project.
What about you? What has been your biggest challenge in handling timelines and project management?
This time of year it can be hard to stay focused on what you need to accomplish, especially if you work from home. Now that spring is here, staying productive gets hard when the sun is shining and the warmer weather is calling your name.
Today I’m going to share tips on how to stay productive and get your tasks done. Then use the productivity worksheet to help you organize your lists and goals.
Focus on Five
Making a list of everything you need to accomplish can get pretty overwhelming. Instead of focusing on the entire list, pick just 3 to 5 tasks that you must accomplish today. Then focus on completing just those things. If you’ve got time or are feeling ambitious to get more done, then work on more tasks but make sure you have your ‘must accomplish’ things done first.
Break Down Bigger Projects
Have a big project that you keep avoiding? Break it down into smaller, more doable pieces. Once you have it broken down, schedule the smaller pieces on your calendar and little by little, you’ll get the project done.
Find Your Ideal Work Time
Figure out what time of the day or week you are most productive and reserve those hours to get your work done. Maybe you’re trying to work around your kids’ schedules or you might like to take afternoons off. Decide what time you do your best thinking and best work and work during those hours.
List What You’ve Accomplished
Lots of times we focus on what we have to do and not what we’ve already done. Each week, make a list of all of the things you’ve accomplished and you’ll (hopefully!) realize that you’ve done more than you thought. It will make your to do list seem a little more accomplishable.
De-Clutter Your Mind
Ever stay up at night thinking about all of the things you need to accomplish in life? It happens to the best of us. One way to de-clutter your mind is to make a list of everything you need to do – from picking up groceries to writing that book you’ve been dreaming about. Take some time to clear out everything you’ve been thinking you need to do then categorize it into 5 different sections – 1) to get done this week, 2) to get done this month, 3) to get done in the next 6 months, 4) to get done in the next year and 5) to get done in the next 5 years. When you know what’s priority, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to get accomplished right away and what you have some time to work on.
Do What You Love
Most of all, doing work that makes you happy helps you stay productive because it doesn’t feel like work. Try to incorporate your hobbies into your work and it’ll be much more fun. For example, if you hate doing the bookkeeping for your business but you love blasting your music throughout the house, only allow yourself to do that while you’re working on your bookkeeping. This will make the task more fun, and you’ll look forward to that time instead of dreading it.