I took these photos a while back but realized I never posted them here on the blog. So here you go, a little peek at my workspace on a clean day! A few things you can find on my desk on an average day are my glasses, a planner, notebooks and a Pantone mug filled with coffee. So now you know what I look like while blogging or working on a design project (except for the days when I work in my pajamas).
Today I’m excited to join the Jump Blog Tour, hosted by Stephanie Hall and Ashley Wilhite, the co-creators of Jump: Into your business, your life, your dream, a must-have digital guide for new coaches and creatives. They believe in the transformational power of taking the jump and creating a business you love. This all-inclusive eBook will teach you how to start a business, find your niche, brand like a pro, and make the jump with confidence.
For those of you who don’t know how I made the jump, I’ll give you a little background. I got a job right out of college at a great advertising agency and gained a lot of experience in my four years there. However, a time came when I was no longer growing or enjoying the type of work I was doing so I decided it was time to move on. Rather than looking for a position at another agency, I decided to go freelance and pursue the type of work I was interested in. I started getting connections by doing pro bono work while I still had my agency job and it transitioned into full-time freelancing in 2010.
Over the years, I have been slowly branching out and really trying to perfect my dream business. First of all, I don’t want to have all of my eggs in one basket. If I happen to have a slow month with custom design clients, I want something else ready to supplement my income. I’m also not just going to sit around and wait for people to come to me with work. Each year I continue to branch out and expand my business. Here are ten things that can help you to expand your small business:
1. Grow your offerings, products and services
Think of new and different ways can you serve your customers. Maybe you can add entry and advanced levels to your current options. Think of logical extensions of what you currently offer. You want to keep your clients coming back for more, so what else can you offer them?
2. Take a class
I am continuously learning about design and striving to be better. Taking local classes also doubles as networking but if you don’t have access to any, there are some amazing resources online! My favorites are Skillshare and Lynda.
3. Create a passive income stream
It’s really great to have some income, with little effort required to maintain it. You could sell products on Etsy, use affiliate marketing, sell digital files, downloads or ebooks.
While online networking is great, you should also really get yourself out there and network in person! Attend a conference or find a local meet-up. Networking is also a good way to find people to collaborate with. If your city doesn’t have a local meet-up, see how to start your own here!
6. Do Pro Bono Work
As I mentioned, I started my business by doing pro bono work. This made me realize that I love helping my community, small businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs. So I continue to work with clients that I stand behind and that have a positive impact on the community. Not only has this given me a great deal of personal satisfaction, but also so many new connections!
7. Step out of your comfort zone
If your client work doesn’t allow you to do this, start a personal project to spark your creativity. I use my blog freebies to explore design techniques and new ideas. Take on a project that may be out of your comfort zone if it’s something you’ve been wanting to learn about. Remember that you don’t have to add everything to your portfolio just because you did it.
8. Ask for help
You can’t do it all, hire people to do certain things for you and learn to say no to the things you are not interested in. This gives you the time and energy to do the things you love!
This could be as simple as writing a blog post or a more extensive option like writing an e-book, teaching a Skillshare class or even speaking at a conference.
10. Expand client base
Your small business may have great brand awareness in your community, but what’s involved in expanding that awareness to a much larger market? Getting new customers is essential to growing your business. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your current customers for referrals. Testimonials from clients are important 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. Here are a few ways to get really great testimonials.
Tell me in the comments below how you are thinking about branching out your business.
I’m back from my blog break and I want to start the new year with total honestly. A few months ago I realized that I was in a rut. I was feeling like I didn’t get enough accomplished during the year. I had too many ideas and didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in or where I should put my time and energy. I have always felt confident in my design work but I was feeling a little lost managing everything.
I didn’t feel like I was reaching my ideal clients and I was getting worried that my site wasn’t portraying my services the best way possible. I was posting quality content to my blog but it somehow felt random and focused on the short-term. I decided that I needed help, I didn’t want to feel lost in my own business anymore.
That is where Ashley of Your Super Awesome Life came in! I told Ashley my concerns and she had me fill out a business assessment. Once I answered some questions on paper, we had a Skype session where we talked through what was working and what was not and what I really wanted for my blog and business.
I was actually a little surprised at how well she communicated and understood what I was going after even though she isn’t an insider to my business or blog. I felt totally comfortable talking to her and suddenly everything that was spinning in my head made sense again.
At the end of our first session Ashley helped me to come up with an action plan that covered the main points we discussed and mapped out all of the steps to begin making my goals a reality. We wanted to get really clear on what I wanted my business to look like moving forward. All of my goals suddenly seemed so attainable.
After our first session, I updated my services page, I still have some work to do here, but I think it’s a much more clear representation of the design services I offer. I’m currently taking on clients so feel free to reach out!
I created an end of the year reader survey to find out what y’all want to see more of here on the blog in 2014! If you haven’t taken it yet, the survey is still open. Until I take some time to review all of the responses, I’m going to take it slow and post content here very intentionally.
I’m also starting to reach out to blogs to guest post on, so let me now if you are looking for some guest contributors in 2014!
A few weeks later we had a follow-up call to make sure I was on track. I still have a lot of work to do to accomplish the actions we came up with but I feel like I’m back on the right path! It wasn’t easy for me to reach out for help but this year I really want to take my business to the next level and after Ashley’s sessions I’m ready and confident to take on 2014, so let’s do this!
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!
Jasmine and I have been busy planning Made In Mind’s October Social(which is tomorrow, come if you can!) so it somehow took me a month to get this post up, oops!
Last month I got to attend Circles Conference in Grapevine, Texas. As described by the founder, it’s a place to learn from world-changing thinkers and innovators for the creative community. It was amazing. So inspiring. The main message I took away was to design my own life. Figure out what will make me feel satisfied and happy and create that life for myself. You can’t see someone else’s life and say “Hey, I want that life” you have to make it for yourself!
Two days packed with meeting new people and listening to inspiring talks from amazing creatives across multiple disciplines. It was great to meet people who were previously only Twitter friends, as well as make plenty of wonderful new friends.
It turned out that Justin Shiels, a fellow New Orleanian, was attending so we got to know each other better! Blog buddy and fellow graphic designer Patti was nice enough to let me crash in her room. It was really fun hanging out and sharing stories of running our own businesses. I also got to meet Ismael Burciaga (the event coordinator) who has been an online friend for a few years now. It was wonderful to meet him in person, he is so talented and generous and was a great host! And then I met the lovely Joanna Waterfall who happened to be on my flight home for a vacation in New Orleans for a few days!
The thing I loved most was that the speakers told their personal stories. It was very honest and genuine and no one was scared to share their struggles which was very refreshing to hear. It was great to hear so many talented people talking about their personal journey and not just telling us their design process. It was nice to take it all in and learn from their experiences. The intimacy was something you don’t get at larger conferences.
The after party was also a blast, we got some good Texas BBQ and it was great to mingle outside of the conference setting.
Another plus is that Circles is very affordable compared to a lot of conference and since it’s in Texas the travel was affordable for me too! I definitely recommend attending next year! I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite quotes from different speakers on the blog in the future!
All photos courtesy of Bethany Marie Photography, a very talented lady who I got to have lunch with one of the days at the conference!
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!
A few months ago I started a Pinterest board to collect inspiration for my dream office. I always try to create a workspace that inspires me. Since I am at my desk and on my computer a lot, I need the space around me to be stimulating. So I was pinning away and realized that almost every image had a little pop of pink in it! I have never been that into pink but I guess now I am?!
My office is also my front entry room so I’m always looking for furniture and storage with dual purposes and flexibility. In my pins, I was also drawn to white walls which could really open up my space! You can check out all of my dream office inspiration here and in the descriptions I tell you why I like each idea for my office.
This board was created for a BHG Insiders Pinterest contest and it just so happens that I won! As the winner, I was not required to write a blog post, I just wanted to share my inspiration! I had so much fun making the board. All images are pinned from BHG.com and are linked through my Pinterest board.
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!
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?