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    Category Archives: business tips

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    5 Tips for Keeping a Positive Mindset When Things Aren’t Going to Plan

    5 Tips for Keeping a Positive Mindset When Things Aren't Going to Plan by Dannielle Cresp on Creative Womens Circle

    Sometimes we have periods where our businesses are going great-guns. It’s hard work but things are moving quickly and in a forward direction. Nothing but awesome – it’s a great place to be. But there are also times where we might start to wonder why things aren’t going to plan, and why it feels more like we’re treading water (even if it looks awesome from the outside looking in).

    Here are some tips to work with that.

    • Take a break and get away from work. This could be an hour or two in a coffee shop or a weekend away, or even a weekend where you just do anything but work. Clear your head and give it a chance to see the forest for the trees. It can feel counter productive to step away when tasks are piling up and you feel like you should be doing more to fix the situation, but you have to take care of you to take care of your creative business.
    • Confide in someone you trust. Even if they can’t give advice, they can help share that load weighing on your mind. They might have some creative solutions, or they might just be someone who’s got your back. We all need them, in good times, but especially when times feel bad. Having someone to remind you of something funny always helps.
    • Come up with a plan. Yes, things aren’t feeling great, but now’s your opportunity to turn the situation around. Identify the things that aren’t working and write them each on their own pieces of paper. Turn your favourite music on, dance, and start to think about how you can use those things (focusing on one at a time) as jumping-off points for something much better. Sometimes it’s in the most frustrating problems that we find the best solutions.
    • Dream big and then dream small. Things aren’t going to plan? You realised that this just isn’t working as it is? Now is a great time to start thinking about what does work for you. Ask yourself: What’s the ‘big picture?’ Got it? Now dream small and turn it into actionable goals. Remember that nothing is a straight sprint to “Hell yeah!”, it’s more like an obstacle course.
    • Do something that fills you with energy. When things aren’t going well, it can feel like there’s no time to do the kind of work that fills you with energy and makes you feel great. Try to find 15 minutes to an hour a day to do the task that reminds you what that great feeling feels like. Even if you have to ride the less than great times out, this will give you something to hold onto during those times when you need it most.

    All of these things have helped me when things in my creative business haven’t been going as planned. When I came out the other side, I had all these things in my armoury, plus the knowledge that the tough times don’t last forever. Even if things are going great right now, it can be good to make a mental plan of who to reach out too and what it is that always fills you with energy. Here’s to more good times than bad!

    Dannielle is a blogger, serial organiser and passionate traveller. She has a secret love of 90s teen movies and can often be found hanging out on Pinterest. She is on a mission to help people bring happiness (and fun) back into their homes with a dash of organisation and a sprinkle of their own awesome style over at her blog Style for a Happy Home.


    Posted by: Dannielle Cresp
    Categories: business tips, organise me, regular columns | Comments Off
    Posted on

    Create a mood board to clarify your brand

    By Susan Goodwin

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    Despite not always wanting to admit it, as creatives who sell our work or creative services, we ‘are’ our brands. And in the online space, the visual impact of your brand matters more now than ever before. Having a strong cohesive look to everything from your website and social media accounts, to your email marketing and printed promotional pieces, has become increasingly important. 

    For this reason, it’s worth regularly standing back to have a look at the elements of your brand and how they are represented visually, and if that representation accurately reflects who you are and what you do.

    Ask yourself: Do they all look like they came from one place? Or are they completely varied and share none of the same visual clues? Do they tell a story or show you something you want to buy or be a part of?

    If your communications are leaving you feeling less than stellar about your brand, then don’t become disheartened. Like any marketing exercise, it simply might be time for you to start reigning in your ideas, and focus.  One way this can be achieved is ti create a mood board for your brand.

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    A mood board will create a visual look for your brand so that each time you need to take a photo, use a font, or create a marketing piece you can draw inspiration from the same source material. This way, instead of having a disjointed message, you will be providing a strong clear visual that backs up the presence of your brand.

    Ideally, your mood board should:

    • be a collection of images that give you inspiration.
    • have images that show the ideals of your brand.
    • showcase your aesthetic.
    • depict colours, fonts, and styles of imagery that work together and that provide a practical resource you can refer to when creating communications.

    But, most importantly, every time you look at your mood board it should make you feel inspired, it should remind you of your goals and all the things you want to achieve in your creative business.

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    In terms of actually creating a mood board, there are many options. Your mood board can be virtual, using a platform like Pinterest; you could create one using Illustrator or Photoshop; or you could make yourself a coffee, grab a stack of magazines and get to cutting and assemble one on a cork board for above your desk (or if you’re really pressed for space, just take over the refrigerator door!).

    Mood boards are fun to make and a constant source of inspiration. And remember, they can change. As your brands grows you can add or subtract your source imagery. It won’t stop you from being spontaneous and taking a perfect Instagram image on the spur of the moment, but it might just help to bring your brand and business intentions into focus and create a better visual language.

    {Image credits: Screenshot from our Pinterest page; other images by Susan.}

    Susan Goodwin is the designer, sewer and creator of Rocket Fuel, ensuring you are decked out in style while cycling. Read her blog or follow her on Twitter @rocketfuelstyle.


    Posted by: Susan
    Categories: business tips, regular columns | Comments Off
    Posted on

    My Advice: Staying on top of admin

    By Lizzie Stafford

    There aren’t many small creative business owners who would openly admit to loving their admin work. Tasks like bookkeeping, emails, invoices and social media build up and eventually seem to take over, so you feel like you have little time left for the actual creating. We asked three organised business owners how they stay on top of the books without going insane. In the wise words of potter Ilona Topolcsanyi: “Admin is like a leg wax: if you move quickly, the pain is minimal and the results are pretty damn sexy.”

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    Check your emails twice daily. No more, no less.

    Bek Smith, photographer, Bek Smith Photography & Journal

    “Keeping on top of admin is so important when running a business and it’s sometimes easy to let the most important tasks slip past you if you don’t have a productive system in place. As a photographer running my own business, the best piece of advice I have been given is to check your emails twice daily. No more, no less. This way you can tackle your inbox in two chunks and focus your full attention on each gorgeous client.”

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    Create a routine. Schedule manageable, bite-sized tasks into your weekly calendar. 

    Nat Carroll, creative director, designer & illustrator, the Seamstress

    “Instead of leaving things like marketing, taxes and blog writing to the last minute, which leads to unnecessary stress and tight deadlines, try creating a weekly routine that incorporates these tasks into more manageable, bite-sized items that you can follow through on every week.

    Try to stick with it, no matter how busy you might be. Block it out in your calendar. I find Monday mornings are a good, quiet time in the week to plan my goals, write posts for my blog or work on my next self-promotional piece. I also like to finish up on Friday afternoons by dealing with my finances; I’m creatively exhausted by then and need a different kind of task to carry me through until the start of the weekend.

    I’ve found that approaching my business in this way creates more structure to my week, which helps when you only have yourself to answer to. I’ve also found that I am closer to my goals because I’ve worked at them every week, in little baby steps, instead of feeling overwhelmed by my ‘to-do’ list and struggling to find the time to make those things happen.”

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    Your time is important. Regularly measure and assess the value of it.

    Ilona Topolcsanyi, potter, Cone 11 Ceramics + Design Studio

    “In the first few years of our business we needed to do everything ourselves because we couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it for us. As the business grew, we assessed the value of our time. We asked ourselves: “Would we be better off paying someone to do that so we can concentrate on what we do best?”

    What are (my) roles and responsibilities? Can I afford to hand this task over to someone else? If not, then am I equipped with the skills and knowledge to complete this task within a reasonable time frame? Will it save me time and money to be trained?

    A few simple computer programs allow a lot of the boring tasks to be automated, reducing the amount of time I need to spend tied to my desk.

    I use Campaign Monitor (to manage the studio mailing list and e-newsletter). We have an ipad in the studio with a link to the subscriber page (on our website), which allows visitors to join the mailing list. Gone are the days of transcribing the long list of illegible email addresses.

    For the bookkeeping we use QuickBooks and take advantage of features such as automated recurring expenses, importing electronic bank statements and issuing quotes that I can easily turn into invoices. While we can’t afford a regular bookkeeper, we also can’t afford countless wasted hours trying to figure it out. So we invested in some basic training.

    For the rest of the tasks that I can’t teach my computer to do for me I allocate two mornings a month with a lovely cup of coffee, a raspberry danish from Dench Bakery and re-runs of Sex in the City.”

    Lizzie Stafford is a freelance writer and editor and owns and runs Künstler, an independent magazine and bookstore based in Winn Lane, Brisbane. She is the Brisbane events coordinator for CWC.


    Posted by: Lizzie Stafford
    Categories: business tips, my advice, organise me, regular columns | Comments Off
    Posted on

    How to write a great design brief

    Our guest columnist Nat Carroll is back today with a follow-up to her popular article Why Write a Design Brief. Having been convinced that this is essential for the creative process to flourish between client and designer, she outlines what should be included and how best to get your point across (or draw it out from a client). Thanks, Nat!

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    You’ve been pondering over your business idea for weeks, months — perhaps even years. You know it inside out and back to front. It’s your baby, and it WILL be brilliant! But, here lies an obstacle: how do you best communicate to a graphic designer the details, tiny nuances and objectives you have, that require their creative input?

    Achieving design that truly represents – and hopefully accentuates – your project, begins with a healthy amount of dialogue between you and your designer. It’s time to gather up all of your thinking – the what, why, how and what if’s – and arrange them into some sort of sensible explanation. We designers make use of a helpful series of questions – commonly known as the design brief – to assist you in identifying the information most relevant. It should be said that some design briefs though, are more superior to others. Being asked the right set of questions by a designer and understanding why they’ve been asked in the first place, lays the foundations for a better project outcome.

    Why write one in the first place, you may ask? Why not just have a brief phone discussion and get the ball rolling? Writing a design brief, whether you write it yourself, or have your designer write it for you, has numerous benefits. I’ve explained some of those benefits in my previous blog post.

    So, what constitutes the contents of a well-written brief?
    When working with clients in my own practice, there are the things that I really like to know about before moving towards the research and concepts phase, and I’d like to share them with you here.

    01. Who are you, really?

    Tell your designer all about yourself. And I do mean ALL. Your designer is now your new best friend. It’s crucial to work with a designer that you know in your heart of hearts you can trust. The more openly you can speak with them, the more they will understand your expectations and motivations. This leads to design that addresses your bigger goals, rather than narrowly focusing in on the smaller, mandatory details only. A well-written design brief should cover expansive knowledge of your brand. Often I find the simple mistake here can be to resist revealing all – this really shouldn’t be a time for a modest elevator pitch.

    Give a background on the history and where you’re at, present day. What do you create, provide, represent? What do you see it growing into? What are the big goals, issues to achieving these, and where does it’s strengths and weaknesses lie? What are it’s values, tone of voice, attributes? If it were a person, who would it be? Who are it’s competitors? What makes your brand unique? What problems does it solve?

    Answers to these questions add up to giving your designer a good overall sense of the big picture – often forgotten in the determination for the project’s details. Your designer is now better equipped to be able to advise you and steer you in a direction that is more tailored to fit you!

    02. Who is your audience?

    It’s unfortunate that you cannot be everything to everyone in this world. There’s no point in trying. But, there is an upside to this! You can be meaningful to a select group, one that will stay loyal to you, if you are loyal to them. Narrowing your focus and understanding as much as you can about your selective audience and catering to them specifically, will pay off in dividends. Tuning into your audience and understanding what motivates them, pleases them, frustrates them, helps immensely in formulating an informed visual direction for your designer. Speaking succinctly to your audience, in THEIR language – be that visual and verbal – is the goal here.

    What do you know about your audience, or the audience you would like to attract? Describe a typical member of your tribe: Are they predominately male? Female? Does your brand have more than one audience? Where do they live, work and play? How much do they earn? What do they spend their money on? What are the motivations behind their purchases or use of a service? Do you have any data you can share with your designer? Do you have past surveys, focus groups, Google Analytics or data from your Facebook Fan Page? And what about feedback?

    Understanding your audience will allow a designer an insightful view into communicating with them in a language that is appropriate. Creating a story that speaks to your audience in their visual language will create a sense of belonging, which in turn builds brand loyalty.

    03. How and why did your project arise?

    It may be that your brand has lost it’s way a little, a whole lot, or that you are simply in the start-up stage. It may be that you’ve discovered a gap in the market for a new product. Maybe you’ve just about finished your artistic endeavors, but you need to visually package everything together. Giving your designer an insight into the way your project came to fruition, helps them to understand the motivations and objectives behind your project. This section of a design brief really helps to define the design ‘problem’ – big, small or somewhere in between – highlighting the issues your designer needs to fully address and resolve.

    Tell your designer about your ‘problem’. Give them a summary of your project and the main reasons you are commissioning them for their creative input. How did this all arise? What are the goals you plan to achieve by undertaking the project? Is it to create further recognition? Develop your audience? An investment or financial gain? What specific design deliverables do you believe addresses your ‘problem’? And how will you measure your success?

    These factors will drive a designer to find and create an effective aesthetic and strategy that is in tune with addressing your goals.

    04. What is the key message you are giving to your audience?

    Often in communication, we tend to muddy the waters by saying too much. It is important now more than ever to simplify and pinpoint. You are competing in a sea of information, a decreasing of attention spans and the increased perceptions in lack of one’s time. You have about five seconds, more or less, to make an impression – so – make it count. What is the single, key message you wish to impress on your audience? How would you like them to respond, feel, react and/or act?

    Your designer will now be sure to focus in on illustrating this message succinctly and simply.

    05. OK! Now, for the details.

    This may come across as rather obvious! However, ensure you tell your designer what you require from them. Provide as much detail as you can. The outcome of a project is affected by it’s constraints, so it’s important to be upfront about these before a project moves to the concept stage. A thoughtful designer will be able to forewarn you of issues that may arise because of said constraints and steer you towards a direction that bests reaches a compromise.

    Give them an idea of your deadline, and any outside factors that may affect the date. How many people will be involved in the signing off process? Are there mandatory, non-negotiable factors that must be adhered to? What is your printing and/or development arrangement? Is there any text in the works that needs to be finalised and supplied? Will the scope of the project likely remain as it is?

    Keep your designer abreast of these details, and any amendments as soon as they arise, and you’ll find you’ve created a more mutually collaborative relationship.

    …..

    Gathering and sharing all the information – research, data, plans, goals, thoughts, samples, inspiration – you have at your disposal, enlightens your designer with much more knowledge to operate from. If you let them into your inner circle, by placing emphasis on partnership, rather than just relying on their technical know-how, you’ll find it will allow a designer to respond by creating a meaningful, engaging outcome. One that is much more in tune with your goals and your audience’s desires. This is the unequivocal benefit of mastering an excellently written design brief!

    If you’re wondering about the specific questions of a design brief, try searching for samples online – there are plenty out there to pick and choose from. In my own design practice, I’ve formulated a series of questions from over ten years of reading and putting them together – feel free to utilise this one if you see fit!

    Nat Carroll is NSW-based creative director, designer & illustrator with an artisan style and strategic approach, working under the moniker, the Seamstress. She carefully crafts visual communication — brands, design & illustration — for the creative, cultural, business & non profit fields.

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, guest blog, resource | Comments Off