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    How to design your own creative workspace


    By Diana Scully

    I was never much of a desk or office person. In my previous profession as a lawyer, I had the opportunity to work at a communal desk and then was later given my own private office. While I do enjoy working in a quiet environment, attending the same location/room/chair each day was a challenge for me. So it’s no surprise that having now moved out of the corporate world and running my own interior design studio, the opportunity to work where it suits me best, is such a benefit to me.

    While I still have my own office, where I get to display, decorate and style my own way, I don’t have to confine myself to this location, every day. Luckily for me, my role as an interior designer means I’m not always designated behind a desk, so I embrace the opportunity to mix things up and find spaces that give me the freedom to work at my greatest capacity and feel creative.

    Transitioning from a practising lawyer into an interior designer, I have learnt how how to set up my work environment to maximise my ability to think and dream creativity for my clients. In this two-part series, I will share with you how you can adapt your environment to give yourself the opportunity to maximum your working capacity and allow yourself to be creative. In my following post, I will interview other creative women from Creative Women’s Circle to see what others are doing to inspire their creativity. Hopefully, during this process, you will gather some inspiration to covert your workspace into an inspiring, creative one.

    Think beyond the desk

    I think we’ve all learnt to believe that you are most productive when you sit at a desk. After all, for many of us, going to work means sitting at your workstation in an office environment, right? Not necessarily. Some of my best work has taken place in my favourite cafe with my headphones on, in the local library on one of their many armchairs with my feet up, or even taking my meeting calls as I walk through a city park or stroll along the beach. After spending the last year in LA and not having a designated workspace, I’ve learnt that I can equally if not more so, be productive at locations that make me happy and accommodate my needs (i.e. internet access). So think beyond the office desk and immerse yourself in various environments to allow yourself to think differently.


    Your space is an extension of you

    If however, routine, consistency and organisation is what you need to work productively, then a designated workspace may be the winning formula for you. In that case, before you set yourself up and run down to the nearest office supply store for your standard desk and chair combination, reconsider your space. Why not create an environment that makes you feel excited to come to everyday?

    A few ways to avoid working from a typical workstation:

    • Choose an unconventional desk chair  - maybe a favourite armchair or dining chair? Or set up a few different seating arrangements in your space like a bean bag or sofa.
    • Bring in your favourite table lamp or floor lamp.
    • Choose a dining table for a desk and use boxes, crates, baskets and bedside tables as alternate storage options.
    • Create a vignette of little pots in one corner of your desk, filled with greenery to offer you constant energy throughout your working day.
    • Avoid bare and blank walls by hanging up your favourite prints or posters to keep you motivated and inspired.
    • Place a sheepskin rug at your feet to keep you cosy and warm at the desk.
    • Be adventurous with colour and paint a wall in another hue, or for the bigger risk taker, introduce some wallpaper!

    Co-work spaces and four-legged friends

    Last year, in LA, I spent some time in a co-work space in Santa Monica. Not only was this space a breath of fresh air from the stagnate interiors of the corporate world, it was an opportunity to meet new people, each doing their own thing. A fabulous place to network, discuss and explore your ideas with like minded attitudes and work in an environment that was comfortable, relaxed and free from rules and systems.  Plus, most co-work spaces allow you to pick and choose the days you want to come in – so there’s no on-going commitment!

    One of my favourite perks from working in this LA co-work space was it allowed guests to bring along their dogs for the day. This was such a delight! I instantly felt more relaxed and comfortable in my unfamiliar surrounding with a furry friend at my feet. Generally, dogs were well behaved, even as they roamed the hallways or nuzzled their noses into your legs, begging for their next scratch.

    If you are lucky to have a gorgeous four-legged friend, next time consider taking him on a walk on your next meeting call or to sit beside you when you work from your laptop at your favourite cafe. I found that having a dog near by helped me keep calm and relaxed during my work day and a good excuse to take a break and pop outside for a walk.


    Look inside then look around

    To maximise your creative energy each day, you need to understand what sort of environment you work best in. Be open to exploring different locations like a home office, co-work space, local library or cafe and if it suits you, don’t restrict yourself to the same space every day. Give yourself the opportunity to explore new surroundings in hope to encourage you to think a little differently. For some of us, who thrive on routine or require a point of reference for work, don’t limit your environment to a mundane, boring space. Avoid conventional furniture arrangements and use unexpected pieces that will help you create something special. Be passionate about where you work! Setting up a workspace that makes you feel comfortable, as well as address your business needs, will no doubt keep you feeling creative and excited about what you do. Choose to create a space and find a location that reflects who you are. After all, how you work and play is a representation of your business and brand. Embrace this to design a space that is an extension of you.

    { Image credits 1 2 3 }

    Interior Designer, Diana Scully owns and operates her own interior design firm, Spaces by Diana that’s all about designing beautiful, personalised homes to reflect the people who live in it. Diana also has her own lifestyle blog, Spaces + Places, where she regularly writes about inspiring spaces to see and visit from around the world and shares her recent travel adventures. This year she has plans to spend time abroad in the US. Follow Diana on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, organise me | Comments Off
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    How to work from home with kids


    By Emma Clark

    The ‘juggle’ of working motherhood has become a bit of a cliché, but when your days involve filling sippy cups while simultaneously emailing clients on your phone and trying to stop a baby chewing through your laptop cord, it certainly does feel like a circus.

    As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my husband and I run a handmade furniture business together, so we use a combination of grandparents, crèche and flexible work hours to care for our two young sons. This works well for us at the moment, but the wheels often fall off and I regularly find myself needing to work from home while the kids are around. It can be a challenge – there’s been plenty of of nappy changes on meeting room floors and client calls while playing Lego, but I’ve managed to come up with a mish-mash of solutions that work for our family, and may work for yours too!

    Get a routine
    By routine, I don’t mean a steadfast, inflexible schedule. Just having a regular order to your day makes things much easier for you and your kids. Having a routine helps kids feel secure, and helps you feel like the chaos is at least somewhat under control. I usually try and get any errands or kid’s activities done in the morning so I know we can be home for my youngest son’s afternoon nap. Speaking of naptime…

    Naps are sacred
    There is no one as productive as a parent who is working during a kid’s naptime. Having a time limit on your work can make you super-efficient and forces you to concentrate. I sometimes manage to complete as much work in the two hours that my son is napping as I could in a whole day of being in the studio. You can save up any phone calls, designing or work that requires your full attention for those magic hours. Grab a cup of tea, scribble out a list, then power through it. Try to avoid any distractions (ahem, Instagram) and hammer out as much work as you can in that time.

    Embrace technology
    This is obviously a personal decision, but popping Play School on the iPad keeps my older toddler occupied while my younger one sleeps… and I can get some work done. Watching TV or playing with an app can also save the day if you need to take your kids to a meeting, or make an important call that you can’t be interrupted for.

    However, technology can be a double-edged sword. Being able to get your emails on your phone at the playground or order materials online while pushing a pram is a lifesaver for many working parents. On the flipside, it can be hard to constantly switch from building a block tower to emailing a client, and you can end up feeling like you are not really present either with work or with your kids. Setting limits is a good idea, for your own sanity and for your kids. I try not to use my phone in front of my little guys unless it’s really necessary.

    Recruit apprentices
    Depending on what kind of work you do, you can let your kids ‘help’ you work. This is particularly great for any kind of hands-on creative work. My older son has a mini workbench set up at our furniture workshop and can happily spend hours hammering away. If you are working on a computer, give your kids some pens and paper so they can ‘work’ too. Office supplies make awesome toys! A stack of Post It notes, a highlighter and a holepunch can easily entertain a toddler for enough time for you to get some work done.

    Be creative
    Sometimes, no matter how organised you are or how independent your kids are, you have a deadline and you really just need to work. This is when you can get creative and call in back up. Ask a friend to hang out with your kids for a couple of hours so you are free to work (and return the favour!). Take your kids to the playground and explain that you are going to make phone calls while they play. Work from the library or a café on the weekend while your partner takes over kid duties. A photographer friend of mine takes her kids to an indoor playcentre with free wifi so she can edit while they run around for a few hours. Like everything to do with parenting, no one solution will work every time, so it’s a good idea to have a few back up options.

    No matter what you think of Disney’s Frozen, sometime you do just have to “Let it go, let it goooooooo!” Your house will probably be messier than usual, you might not get as much done as you planned, and your kids (and you!) might still be in pyjamas at 3pm. That’s okay. Nobody is a perfect parent, and nobody is a perfect creative business owner. Working from home with kids is hard work, so embrace the chaos and remember, tomorrow is a new day.

    Emma Clark is an interior designer, writer and podcaster who, alongside her husband Lee, runsGratton Design, a timber furniture and architectural joinery company. She blogs at Worst House Best Street and posts endless photos of her sons on Instagram at @emmamakesthings.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, my advice | Comments Off
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    Learning from mistakes


    By Jes Egan

    I’ve made some errors in my career, believe me. Some of them I’ll call mistakes; some of them I’ll call a steep learning curve that took many directions (not always upwards); and others I’ll blame on my madly creative upbringing (at least one of them has to be someone else’s undoing!).

    Although at the time most of these mistakes were either painful, stressful, financial or just pure embarrassing, I don’t look back at them in as much horror as I probably felt at the time. Because making mistakes aren’t always a bad thing. Yes, the dictionary definition of a mistake is something misguided or wrong in the context of what it was intended, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Maybe, just possibly, a mistake can that intention into a new (maybe better) direction or as a result you might simply know what to do differently in the future.

    Mistake: not understanding a creative brief
    Lesson learned: let the experience go and re-do the work (paying careful attention to the client’s needs/wants this time and next)

    Perhaps you have spent hours (or days) working on a project, to then sit with the client and realise before anything is said that you’ve made a mistake in the direction or misunderstood part of the brief, and that it’s back to the drawing board. The heart sinks, the fear pops it’s little head up, and then there is the frustration of ‘I should have asked this question/not assumed that/clarified their needs’. I’ve done this enough times now to know that these feelings, although totally genuine at the time, will pass and I’ll get something out of this experience in the future. I will think about it again, in time, when I’ve processed and I will learn from it. Sometimes an experience like this lead you somewhere you may never have got to before and sometimes it’s just extra work (that you will have to do. For free.). My importantly, hopefully you learn how to better understand a client’s wants and needs for a project before diving head first into the solution.

    Mistake: under-quoting for a job
    Lesson learned: ensure your quotes are always detailed and that the client is aware of what is covered and what is not

    I know that I’m not the only one who has made mistakes when putting together a cost estimate for a job. Simple things, such as not including enough detail about the tasks to be completed, or quoting a ‘fixed price’ and not telling a client when they increase the scope from the original brief the price will increase. These are easy mistakes to make. (Once, when I was starting out in the advertising industry, I was tasked by my boss to put a quote together. Before sending it to the client, I consulted with a senior member of staff to check the numbers added up and that there was an appropriate amount of detail. The thing I didn’t explain to the staff member who kindly checked it was the full brief detail, which I also didn’t put it in the quote. The next day my boss told me the quote I had sent should have been closer FIVE TIMES what I had estimated. Way off track. Fortunately for me, I had a great boss – and client – and they agreed to let us resupply the quote that better reflected the project brief. Phew…).

    This is where a mistake can put you in a poor (or even dire) financial position. If you work for yourself, this is often the part that can hurt the most. As I’ve written about before, when it comes to quoting, the devil is in the detail: be very clear about what is included and not included in the cost, it allows you to more successfully negotiate more when it is needed.

    Mistake: Saying something silly
    Lesson learned: It’s good to have a laugh at yourself sometimes!

    A few years ago now I was sitting in a big creative ad agency meeting. There was much discussion and different ideas flowing, everyone was on a different page. To end the meeting and action everyone into gear (as was my job), I said, quote, ‘Let’s all go and get our pigeons in a line’. To which everyone went silent and the copywriter (naturally) said, ‘Jes, I think you’ll find it’s “let’s go and get our ducks in a row”’. Yep. That was where I was trying to go with it.

    I am notorious for getting my metaphors wrong and just as I think I’ve got them all straight, I let another doozy slip and there I am again, back to the beginning. (That one I’m going to connect to my madly creative upbringing, because I heard a family member do just the same thing recently, to a metaphor that I have in the past been corrected on, and it made me smile).

    Mistake: Making an error in your creative work that can’t be ‘undone’
    Lesson learned: Adapt to the change in direction and see where the work goes from there

    These days, my creative work sees me spend many hours cutting intricate designs out of paper. While I try to me methodical (and careful!), in the past when I’ve cut something vital out of a work, instead of a total ‘re-do’, I ask myself – ‘Did anyone else know that was supposed to be there? Nope? Well, what they don’t see they won’t miss”. I always continue with what I’m doing and find a new / different direction, which might not be what I initially intended, but I’ve found that being adaptable is sometimes creatively more challenging and rewarding at the end. However the nature of a commission means there is certain expectations, and this if I make a mistake is when my perfectionist self will kick in and it is a start again. But I don’t throw it out, I carefully put it away and one day I may pick up again and repurpose and reuse for something else.

    Over my career thus far, what I’ve learnt from my experience (or lack of) is the pain associated to a ‘mistake’ at the time is sometimes worth it. We can’t always get it right the first time or be perfect in each and every transaction. And it is totally okay to not to be. I encourage you to think about the mistakes you’ve made, and consider how you can use them to find a new direction and earn from what you have done wrong. What doesn’t kill us just makes us stronger (or should I say, better?). I believe so.

    Jes is a ‘practical creative’ and a very busy lady, doing the business in a digital agency, being an artist, a university lecturer, and small business owner who can creatively be found cutting up a storm at paperchap.com. Follow Jes on Instagram and Facebook.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips | Comments Off
    Posted on

    7 tips to sell more at markets


    By Monica Ng

    It’s a bright sunny day, your stall is all set up and you’re waiting patiently for the doors to open and the flood of customers to enter the market place. You start to feel nervous and nagging doubts begin gnawing at the back of your mind.

    Whilst perfectly natural to be a little nervous, it’s important to get into a positive mind set at the beginning of your day. Perhaps set an inspiration quote or mantra as your phone’s background. Look at it, close your eyes and repeat it in your mind. Take some deep breaths and off we go!

    1. Greet everyone and be genuine!
    There’s nothing more annoying than approaching a stall and being completely ignored by the person behind the stall because they’re too busy chatting to their stall neighbour, reading a book or on their phone etc. If you do not look interested and open at all times, this can make customers feel they won’t get assistance with their questions/purchase so they may only browse quickly and then move on.

    • Say “hello”, “good (time of day)”, “welcome to (shop name)”, smile and make eye contact.
    • Gauge the customer’s response to see if they wish to engage in further conversation or they’re happy to browse on their own.
    • If the customer is open for further conversation, you can always encourage them to pick things up to have a closer look, try things on and explain some features and benefits of the product to them.
    • Tell them about your special market promotion and give them a business card as they begin to leave
    • If the customer is happy to browse on their own, tell them if they need any assistance, to let you know and then keep your body language open and approachable.
    • Stand up, tidy your stall and refill sold stock if it’s quiet

    2. Have a creative and cohesive looking stall setup
    Your stall space should be welcoming so people are drawn to having a closer look! Imagine if you looked from afar, what’s the best way to attract a passer-by’s attention? Do some research at other craft markets and shop merchandising displays to get inspired. Do your products look best on shelves? Racks? Tiered? Laid flat on a wall? Standing upright? Can you buy these display items or will you be making them? Make sure there is enough product on display and that the display looks tidy.

    Don’t forget to display your shop name. Get something professionally printed or perhaps you can turn it into a DIY project!

    Sometimes market days can be overwhelming and customers prefer to buy online or at a later time. So don’t forget about marketing materials! These could be business cards, postcards, mailing list signup and branded packaging (which could be as simple as having a customised rubber stamp made) and stamping your packaging. As your customers walk around the rest of the market, your cool packaging with get people’s eyes looking and their minds wondering what cool items they bought from you!

    3. Design a collection that has different tiers
    Consider creating a collection that contains ‘gateway’, ‘aspirational’ and ‘upsell’ products. Gateway products introduce customers to your products and brand. They’re often simpler in style and less expensive than your aspirational products.

    Aspirational products are the higher end products that may be bolder in style and more expensive than your gateway products. Your customer shares and talks about these items with their friends/family and aspires to buy them further down the line when the time is right.

    Upsell products are items that you may add onto an initial sale. They’re generally at the lower price end of your collection and have a matching item in the gateway or aspirational categories.

    4. Run a special promotion especially for that market
    Create a special promotion in conjunction with your market appearance! The limited time frame of the promotion creates a sense of urgency and will naturally encourage customers to act then and there. This could be a Instagram (or other social media channel) competition to win item/s from your shop in exchange for reposting a pic and following your account, 2-for-1 deal, gift with purchase to coincide with Mother’s Day, Valentines etc or signing up to your mailing list for a future discount or free shipping coupon.

    Although it’s fantastic to build up and have a large and dedicated social media following, in some ways, having your customer’s email address is even more valuable. Having this information allows you a direct line of communication to your customer. If your customer follows many accounts on social media, they may not see your updates or in the worst-case scenario, your social media account could get hacked or suspended and that could mean bye-bye to your large following.

    5. Offer multiple payment methods
    As we move more and more towards a cash-less society, more times than not, if you offer EFTPOS/Credit card payment options, this will be the tipping point for the customer to buy your product. I personally use PayPal Here, which is a great app where you can either just use it via your smartphone or choose to purchase a mini card reader.

    Of course, for those who still like to pay with cash, make sure you have appropriate change in your float.

    6. Know your product and let your passion shine!
    Does your product have a concept or story behind its design? Did you use a special technique to make the item? Is the material used unusual? Is this a new product or a best seller? Is the item limited edition? But above all, ask your customer what their purchasing occasion is! Helping the customer picture using your product helps to develop an emotional attachment to your product.

    Think of some unique adjectives to describe it and how it can be used or worn. For some of my bolder items of jewellery like the body chains, I often get asked how it could be worn or what it could be paired with. To address this question, I come up with different outfits ideas e.g. pairing a slim fit monochromatic dress with a bolder body chain to let the body chain shine as the statement piece in the outfit. What ideas do you have?

    7. Don’t forget about after sales care
    If a customer comes back with a problem with their product (faulty, wrong size, change of mind) listen to their problem and be solutions-oriented so both parties can walk away win-win.

    Make sure you have determined your exchange/refunds policy prior to attending the market and let customers know what they are before they make a purchase. E.g. No exchanges or refunds on earrings due to health reasons, but other items such as bracelets, rings are fine. Also, don’t forget to pop in some business cards with your customer’s purchase, so if they need to contact you, they have your details.

    Remember, success at markets isn’t all about sales. You’ve made new friends with other designers/makers, established new connections with customers and got your shop’s cool products in front of people’s eyes! You never know what opportunities may come to you later down the track, from a simple interaction you had at the market. Good luck!

    {Image via www.pexels.com}

    Monica Ng left her accounting career at the end of 2013 to run Geometric Skies, her Etsy jewellery business, alongside her jewellery and object design studies at the Design Centre in Sydney. Find Monica on Instagram @geometric_skies or at her blog.

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips | Comments Off