Everyone has their own approach to business. If I had to boil mine down to one thing, it would be “Yes, and…”
“Yes, and” is a common tool in improv, where the person in the act acknowledges the situation, and adds to it. You accept the situation, and bring something new to the table.
In the context of my own business, it means saying yes to the opportunities that present themselves, and stepping forward again and again.
Sometimes, this means that my business or mindset needs to shift.
When I was looking for a job around 2008, I met with someone who said they didn’t have a full-time job, but rather a logo they needed. It wasn’t what I was aiming for, but it was a good opportunity – so I said, “Yes, and…” took that step forward. That step led me down a path of freelancing for many clients, until I started my business full time a few year later. It wasn’t always a smooth road but without that first opportunity, I don’t know if I would be running a successful business today.
Sometimes, it means stepping off a cliff and not knowing what’s next, but knowing that yes is the right answer.
I was employed full-time for a while before I decided to branch off on my own. No one knows when the right time is – but for me, it came around the time that 2 projects presented themselves – projects that would keep me afloat for a bit while I built up a larger client base. It was time to say, “Yes, and…” take a leap of faith.
I find that I say yes more than I say no, and each yes takes me closer to the next phase of my business.
What is it time for you to say yes to?
Sometimes, it is hard to come up with topics for a blog post. Other times, life just puts inspiration down in front of you. Last week, that inspiration came in the form of our mail carrier, when I came home to this:
Every detail of how you do your job reflects on you and your business (or the company you work for). We spend so much time talking about company culture and how a business makes people feel – the personal connection that keeps people coming back again and again – but how often do we consider it in regards to the people we encounter regularly?
You don’t have to be the business owner, or an employee at a multi-million dollar retail corporation, to be an important reflection of a company. Sure the CEO may be most visible, and therefore his or her public actions are important, but it is the day to day roles that have the most impact and are the most outward facing.
When I see something like this delivery, I feel like the employee doesn’t recognize the importance of their role. The labelling is so obvious, and so clearly disregarded. As a client, it may make someone doubt the service. They delivered the package – but they didn’t go the extra mile to make sure it was delivered well.
How can we combat this sort of apathy in business? Sure, the mail carrier is meant to deliver packages – but rather than “delivering a package,” can we reframe it as “delivering joy”? Suddenly the act of delivery is important – and personal. The mail carrier feels important and empowered, and takes a little more pride in what he or she does.
This simple act served as a reminder to me that while a design as a whole is important, so are the details of the design. By paying attention and delivering work right the first time, I say to my clients “You are important. I care.”
How do you go the extra mile for your clients? Does your work reflect your company is a positive light?
You will hear a lot of designers talking about fear of the blank page – the idea that the hardest part is simply starting. I don’t usually have trouble with that – but after a few years of freelancing, I’ve decided my “blank page” is January.
To many people, January is a clean slate – an opportunity to start fresh and plan a new strategy for the year. It is exciting and exhilarating.
For me, January is one of the hardest months to power through.
While it is true that it is a fresh start, there is something undeniably nerve-racking about knowing we’ve started a new fiscal year. In December, we celebrate achieving our financial and business goals, but in January, the counter resets to 0.
Also, for many businesses, myself included, January is a slow time. Everyone is getting back from their holiday break, and getting back into the swing of things. So while instant gratification would be comforting, the reality is, we’re more likely to see slow but steady growth.
Add to all that the chilling cold that forces us indoors, and you have a recipe for some serious over-thinking.
So, what can we do to stop the January blues from setting in when fear gets the better of us?
Work on personal projects.
Use January as a time to work on marketing efforts, websites and other personal business projects that become second priority when work is busy. If you can get a stockpile of content together, it will be ready to roll out when things DO pick up again. In addition, if you keep your mind busy, you have less time to worry.
Arrange lunches and happy hours, touch base with current and former clients, and basically, make yourself visible. Not only does staying busy and interacting help your day-to-day attitude, but it also ensures that if a project opportunity does surface, you will be top of mind.
Reframe your mindset.
For tax purposes, your fiscal year may be January 1 – but maybe it would help to reframe it in your mind as July 1. This will allow you to see 6 months of successful income already in play in January. While nothing ACTUALLY changes, reframing your mindset may help to combat the anxiety that a blank slate can cause.
How do YOU combat “blank page” anxiety?
Just a quick reminder – we’ll be at the Women’s Unity Artisan Market in Baltimore this Friday! Come do your holiday shopping locally – and support women makers! We’ll be selling some specialty wine glasses and scarves from our collection. This event was put together by the lovely Mary Gardella.
On September 15th I went down to iStrategyLabs to check out ContraryCon with some of my favorite freelancers in Freelance DC. ContraryCon advertises itself as the “anti-conference” for people who “upset, astound and evolve” the creative industry in DC. I am happy to share my favorite quotes and insights from a few of the speakers.
José Andrés is Chef/Owner of ThinkFoodGroup. He talked about what it means to be disruptive.
“To be disruptive you have to get to people.” – you can’t be disruptive if no one knows about you. You have to stop talking and start moving forward. While it may seem fantastic, “Reach for the impossible and anywhere you fall in between will still be good for people.”
One of the inspiring things that he said was that, “Sometimes the people that seem like followers are actually leaders.” You may not feel or look like a leader in the conventional sense, but you may still be implementing big change. “At times it’s going to be unclear who is a leader and who is a follower and that’s ok – we need everybody.”
Christian Dutilh & Jacob Weinzettel
Christian and Jacob are co-owners of Composite Co, a multidisciplinary creative studio for branding. They spoke to use about being different.
“We are all born different. Later in life it takes an active effort to take pride in the fact that we are different.”
They talked about establishing their company, and repositioning. Essentially, “repositioning yourself is about tapping into something unique and authentic and bringing that out. Be the thing. Don’t be afraid to call yourself what you are.”
In a design process, “Good taste isn’t enough – you have to have concept and rationale behind it. Research, research, research – but then do your own thing.” They spoke about how we get bogged down in research, and often try to recreate what we see – but in reality, we should use the research to inform, and still use our intuition to guide us on the design journey.
They reminded us that “Creativity is something you can learn and hone and it doesn’t happen for no reason.” You have to practice creativity, the same way you practice every skill. The more you use it, the more you will have…
Kalssom Lakhani is Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate. She talked to us about being vulnerable and honest as entrepreneurs.
“By not saying [doubt/fears] out loud I am stoking people’s feelings of inadequacy.” She questioned why we all put on a facade, and reminded us that by hiding our struggles, we make people believe that the struggle doesn’t exist for us, and shouldn’t exist for them. “It’s ok to be afraid of failing.” We all are.
She also reminded us that we need to take care of ourselves first. “You can’t be in service to others if you’re not first in service to yourself.” If you sacrifice your own health and wear yourself down, you can’t be helpful to other people.
In the end, “Success is a process and not an end goal.” Our businesses are forever changing and evolving. We have to celebrate all the victories, as they are today’s success.
All in all, ContraryCon introduced me to people doing really amazing work in DC. Definitely well worth the $20 price point. I’d recommend it, and I’ll see you there next year!
The cooler weather is slowly rolling in to the Northeast, and with that comes the desire for Fall and all things pumpkin. With that in mind, we were inspired to roll out a fall printable for all you holiday decorators out there. Visit our shop to purchase your very own, “It’s Pumpkin Spice, Ya’ll” printable for only $3! The fun, festive colors and typography are the perfect inspiration to start your fall home design. We also have a download of the SVG file, for those who want to use it to create their own vinyl decals, t-shirts, signs and more. Keep an eye on the store as there are more fall themed products coming very soon!
Use coupon code FALLTENOFF to get 10% off your purchase between now and October 20, 2017!
Typography is popular in wedding settings and can produce some amazing decorations. Did you know you can make your own typography décor? Typography is arranging type to whatever font and size you want with particular spacing in-between. It can create a cute sign, a beautiful saying, or a bold statement. There are so many different ways to display your greeting or message that will suit any style of wedding.
Some fonts can make lovely rustic or vintage wedding designs and decorative items. They can be used on wedding invitations, menus, greeting signs, schedules, table numbers and much more. Frame your typography stating words like “love” or “forever” for a classy display of affection on your wedding day. Decorate your wedding and reception with the power of words. There is no limit to what you can do with typography, especially for a rustic wedding.
Create Your Own
You don’t have to pay for a custom piece when you can make your rustic typography decorations. Cutouts of the words you want can be tricky, but there are easier ways to get what you’re looking for. Try using a single piece of wood in whatever sizes you would like. For wedding displays or greetings, it generally should be larger so everyone can see it. Prime and paint the wood whatever colour you choose. It can be stained too if you like the natural look.
Using sandpaper you can distress the board a bit and let some of the wood come through the paint for a vintage feel. It is optional if you would rather leave it painted in its entirety. Using cardstock and scissors or a Cricut machine, cut out any number and letters you want to the size you prefer.
The layout is essential, and you can arrange it however you would like. It is where many people get creative with both the fonts, sizing, and design to create a beautiful and original piece. Attach the letters and numbers using glue like Mod Podge. After they are placed and have dried a bit, you can then paint over it with the glue to seal it all into place.
You can make wooden cutouts of your typography too! It is a little more involved, but it looks stunning. Decide what font and word or words you would like and print them out in a large size. Print them out large enough to make them your pattern to place on the wood. Cut out your words and glue them onto your piece of timber. The adhesive can be removed using sandpaper so don’t worry too much about this part. Cut your word out using the appropriate tools and be sure to wear safety glasses. Power tools can be dangerous, especially when cutting out letters or words because of the angles.
Once your word is cut out, you can give it a quick sanding and then paint or stain it for a beautiful DIY rustic wedding decoration.
You can use Typography just about anywhere. From wedding invitations, pillows, signs, artwork to many others. It is an attractive way to display affection or announce your big day. It can be used for your guest’s table number or to label items at the bar or at the buffet or snack table. There are fonts for everyone and everything, especially for events that have a rustic or vintage flair to them. Typography is a creative process that has an attractive outcome. It can add the finishing touches to your wedding day and reception, and you can later display your creation in your home.
Sarah, has learned a lot about DIY projects and woodworking. She hopes to share that knowledge on The DIY Hammer, where anyone and everyone can learn how to use their creativity and imagination with DIY!
Sometimes, I reflect on how lucky I am to be able to do what I love to do – and do it on my own terms. The road to owning my own business didn’t happen overnight. There is no perfect formula, but to those starting out and looking for your first clients, here is what I would say:
Meet people. Lots of people.
When I first picked up freelance projects, I was actually looking for a job. I was meeting anyone and everyone to try to get a foot in the door. This brought me a few of my very first clients, but it also taught me an important lesson – you never know who you will meet and how you may be able to help each other. Maybe someone doesn’t have work for you right away – that’s fine – it is still worth taking the time to connect with them.
Don’t be discouraged. There are GOOD PEOPLE out there.
Sometimes, it will feel like people are trying to dull your sparkle. Realize it isn’t always about you. Keep your head up and seek out the people who are good. Let them inspire you and hold on to them as clients and/or colleagues. The good people far outweigh the bad in the long run.
And in that vein…
Do right by people.
In the same way you want clients and connections to do right by you, you should do the same. People will remember it, and respond in kind.
Do your best work.
It may seem obvious, but always strive to do your best work, regardless of the client or the budget. In a lot of ways, the work will speak for itself, and if clients are happy, they will come back or refer other clients to you. A small budget project may lead to a huge contract later. You just never know.
Utilize social media.
I have met a few wonderful clients on social media. It is a great and inexpensive way to show people who you are, and to get your name out there. Have conversations, share tips, interact… It will help keep you top of mind when that project DOES materialize.
What do you wish you had known when you first started your business?
What I love about design is that every new project is a learning experience. Recently, I had a client request metal business cards. As with every project, the medium helps determine the design. Metal business cards are no different. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned for those interested in designing their own metal cards:
Say No to Sharp Edges
This is obvious, but also easily overlooked. While normal paper business cards can have sharp corners, on metal business cards, these corners become dangerous. All sharp edges on the card need to be rounded slightly to accommodate for this.
Eliminate Overlays and Clipping Masks
Use the Pathfinder tool in Illustrator to eliminate all overlays, and to remove all clipping masks. Be aware that this can be a lengthy process if you haven’t built the design to accommodate it – so my best advice is to plan for it as you design.
When Etching, Avoid the Edge
Some card providers may allow etching to the edge of the card, but the provider I chose required a border. It is worth inquiring with the provider early to find out if the border is required so that you can design with that in mind.
Design in 2 Tone, Along with Solid Black or Color
I spoke with two different providers, and their file setups were basically the same. For a silver card – use dark grey as your solid, light grey as your etching and white as your die-cut area. Solid black or any other solid color should be used for solid fill areas that will be etched, then filled with color (i.e. red areas should be red, blue should be blue and so on). This file setup is fairly intuitive, and will make it easy for you, as well as the client, to visualize the final product.
Take Advantage of Textures
One of the things I would recommend is to take advantage of etching or die-cutting textures into the card for an interesting tactile effect. This is one thing that sets metal business cards apart from a flat printed card.
A metal card design file with etching (and no die-cut) might look something like this: