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    Category Archives: business tips

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    How to integrate more travel into your creative work/life

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    By Diana Scully
    To run and operate your own business and live a creative lifestyle is a dream I never knew I wanted… until now. The freedom, the flexibility, the autonomy, the decision making that gives me the drive and ambition – it really makes work so much more interesting and engaging for me.

    But I have found that to operate your own business and live a creative lifestyle is hard work and not easy to disconnect from, especially in the beginning. The expectations you set for yourself usually exceed anything you’ve experienced in the corporate/commercial world and are most often the hardest to fulfil with complete contentment.

    So where does travel fit into your work/life balance? Well, sometimes never for some of us. Working for yourself and doing something you love can make you a passionate workaholic and not the ideal candidate for putting time aside to travel.

    Why travel?

    1 / Sometimes a break from our daily routine and all-consuming lifestyle is what we need. To go somewhere where we can remove ourselves from the moment and feel untouched by others. To allow ourselves to breath and think beyond what we already know. I have learnt that this space and time is what helps fuel creativity and motivation in my business. For me, the greatest impact means immersing myself in another city, culture or the great outdoors.

    2 / To find perspective. In our daily rhythms, its hard to move away from our own set structure and routine. Travel offers perspective and allows us to let go more. When we can do this, we feel less guilty about slowing down and to making time for ourselves.
    3 / Travel opens up new opportunities and gives you a little more freedom to enjoy the creative process again. Sometimes even a little trip can be what you need to clear out the junk, change your perspective and help you start fresh.

    So it’s no surprise that integrating more travel into your work/life balance is the key to success in both work and life.  But this doesn’t always mean you need to plan a four week vacation to Europe each year. Not every trip needs to be a big one, somewhere faraway or an expensive one.

    To begin, start small.

    Sometimes all you need is to leave the office for a day and head out for a little R&R. But make it eventful and purposeful. Make sure you spend your time doing something for yourself (and not your business).

    Then, grow this idea into a weekend getaway. Recently I jumped into the car for a road trip down to Bendigo (2 hours from Melbourne) with my husband. I’ve always wanted to explore this country town but never gave myself the opportunity to do so. We spent the day walking the streets, visiting the museum, having a coffee or two and sharing a lunch together. On the road, we listened to our favourite tunes and allowed ourselves to indulge in conversations that did not involve work.What should we do this summer? What’s next to renovate at home? Who should we invite over for dinner on the weekend?

    The great thing about a short trip is that you don’t need to plan in advance or set up much preparation. If you wake and the weather is good, then just do it!

    But for some of us, a day trip is just not going to cut it. And I hear you… So try to work your way up to a vacation over a long weekend or extend public holiday period like Easter or Christmas.

    This will require a little planning ahead, so use this opportunity to inform your clients and suppliers of your absence. You can also set up social media posts in advance so you don’t need to worry about them while you are away, and if necessary, find someone to manage a few tasks until you return.

    This time frame gives you the opportunity to explore outside your city and home environment. Why not jump into the car and hit the road? Or better yet, grab a cheap air fare and travel interstate. If you don’t give yourself a break from home and your daily routines, you may find yourself running errands and tying up loose ends at home for the week. Making the effort to travel, spend some time in a new location or outside amongst nature will give you the time and space you’ve no doubt deserved for clarity of thought and rejuvenation.

    Why make a big change?

    But there are some situations in life, where we seek more from travel, than just an opportunity to break away for a few days. Sometimes its about taking a different direction or new path altogether to allow yourself to grow. Maybe its about bringing something to a close and trying something new. Whatever your reason may be, trust in your own instincts if its calling for you to make travel a bigger part of your life.

    And this no doubt can be scary and exciting at the same time. Taking time out from your daily demands and current work arrangements to give something back to yourself may help you determine which direction to take next. And for you, this may mean moving to a new city or better yet, a new country.

    In any case, I have found that travel is an essential ingredient to keeping life interesting and entertaining. It’s not about just traveling in your 20s and then coaching yourself to settle down and take on life as an “adult”. And for this reason, I want travel to remain a part of who I am. I want to find ways to integrate travel into my personal life and also my work too. Travel injects me with enthusiasm, perspective and an appreciation for interior design around the world. I not only learn what makes my home important to me, but discover what it means for others too.

    What next steps will you take to integrate more travel into your work/life?

    { All images courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo }
    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, regular columns | Comments Off
    Posted on

    How to manage social media (without letting it take over your life)

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    By Domini Marshall

    The beauty of social media is its ability to bring people together from across the world. The way creatives everywhere are able to share their stories, art and work with an audience that transcends oceans. Social media has heart and for this it can bring brands to life. It gives us a glimpse into what makes up a business, into the person behind it and their reasons for waking up in the morning and doing what they do. It can help to ignite change, unify cities and allow people to learn and grow.

    For all these wonderful qualities however, social media can, in small or big ways, start to creep in and take over your life. All those wonderful stories and beautiful images can suck you in for hours. I know that, for me, it’s the ultimate procrastination tool. I could do that work, or I could sit on Pinterest for hours and look at pretty pictures…. Tough choice. It can also be a source of frustration for creative businesses who want to be active on their social channels but don’t know where to start or how to keep up.

    So, with those frustrations in mind, I’ve put together some ideas and steps to help you manage social media without letting it take over your life.

    1. Plan ahead
    There’s really no substitute for planning. Planning ahead means that the work you do is much more focused and effective. It also means you can say goodbye to waking up and thinking ‘What am I going to post today?!’ Use a content calendar and plan out your content ahead of time. Organisation brings freedom and getting your content organised will free you up to enjoy the beauty of social media. Don’t forget to cross promote your content across your different channels so you get the most out of it too – make a note of where you’ll be posting on your content calendar, or use IFTTT to cross post for you. IFTTT lets you create handy rules such as ‘Post every Instagram post to Facebook’. You just have to set the rule and sit back. This leads nicely into the second point which is…

    2. Batch & schedule
    Batching up your social media posting is a great way to get your content ready quickly. Once you’re in the social state of mind, it’s so much easier to create content, especially if you’re working around campaigns, events or special projects. Once you’ve planned your content, put aside a couple of hours each week or fortnight to create it. Then schedule it in advance so you don’t have to jump on each day to post your content. Schedugram or Latergram are great options for Instagram, while Facebook has its own inbuilt scheduling tools. Hootsuite and Buffer are always handy tools that offer scheduling for a number of different social channels.

    3. Make friends with analytics
    Looking at social media analytics might not be the most exciting way to spend your time but they can be super useful in helping you get the most from your social channels and the most out of your time. Facebook has inbuilt page insights that will show you the best times to post and what posts are most engaging, which means you can focus your efforts on content that counts. Iconosquare does the same for Instagram, Pinterest has inbuilt analytics and Tailwind can be used for more detail, while Followerwonk can be used for Twitter.

    4. Schedule time for customer service & community building
    We know that social media is all about creating a community, not about selling and advertising. Instead of getting distracted for hours, schedule in time each day for customer service and community building. Use this time to respond to your audience, find brands and people to follow, and be an active member within your community. Just be sure to set yourself a time limit so it doesn’t turn into an all day ‘inspiration’ session.

    5. Find the tools to help you create content quickly and easily
    Creating original images can often be the one thing that holds people back from embracing social media. There are some seriously handy tools out there designed to help you create beautiful pictures in minutes. Canva is like Photoshop made simple and it’s free. Studio Design and Word Swag are apps that let you design inspiring quotes on your phone perfect for instant sharing, while Buffer (mentioned above) is a scheduling tool that offers analytics and curates content for you to share. That’s right, it actually does the curating for you!

    One last tip for quick and easy content is to create a social media album on your phone. For those moments when you see something snap worthy, create an album specifically for social media pics. Add photos that might be perfect for posting at a later date for a special event or for adding a quote to, or just photos that you want to save and share later. This way, when inspiration strikes, you always have an image on hand to go with your beautiful words.

    I hope these ideas help you find a way to manage your social media channels that brings you a little more balance and love. If you’ve got any questions or comments, feel free to shout out.

    {Image via DTTSS)

    Domini Marshall is a freelance writer living in Melbourne. A love for great stories and connection inspires her work for brands and businesses in copywriting, content creation and social media. A creative at heart, she also writes short fiction and screenplays and you can find her sharing inspiration and more on Instagram and Pinterest.


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, what's new in social media | Comments Off
    Posted on

    Growing pains: How to hire your first employee

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    By Emma Clark

    So, you’ve built your business up from scratch and poured your own blood, sweat, tears and cash into it. You have more work than you can handle and are in need of help. If you’re a one-lady operation, bringing someone else into your business can be daunting, especially if you are used to doing everything yourself.

    The first step is realising that you can’t do it all, which can be both a revelation and a frustration. The second step? Relinquishing control and realising that hiring the right person will save you time, money and stress!

    My husband and I run furniture studio Gratton Design and employ an apprentice furniture maker and a permanent full-time cabinetmaker, plus we use a range of contractors and specialist makers for different projects. Having staff isn’t always smooth sailing, but it has also allowed us to take on bigger and better projects, have more flexibility so we can spend more time with our kids, and do less of the boring tasks that we don’t want to do.

    Having said that, hiring your first employee is best delayed for as long as possible. Make sure that your business is viable and profitable enough to regularly pay another wage. More staff means higher overheads, so staying solo until you cannot handle it any longer makes good business sense. And consider that employees cost more than just the salary: you might need new equipment like computers or software, fuel or travel expenses, plus Work Cover, superannuation and taxes.

    When you have more work than you can handle and are ready for some help, it’s time to recruit some backup. Hiring your first employee sounds a lot more daunting than it really is. The most important part is finding the right person!

    Write it down
    The first step is to decide exactly what the job is, and get it all down on paper. You might need someone for several hours a week to pack boxes, or you might need a full time manager to oversee operations. Writing out a list of all the tasks and areas of responsibility helps to clarify the role in your mind, and makes it easier when assessing potential candidates. Depending on the role, they might be able to work flexibly, from home or irregular hours, so it’s important to consider all these options when writing a job description.

    You also need to decide how much to pay them. There may be an award covering minimum wages and conditions, which you can find more information about at the Fair Work Ombudsman site. The site also have plenty of helpful info about record-keeping requirements, calculating leave and fair work practices, as well as superannuation, Work Cover and tax requirements.

    Contracts, lest it need be said, are also very important so that both you and your new hire are aware of each parties’ responsibilities and rights. A professional contract lawyer should be able to help you with this, and getting the right advice in this area will probably be the most important investment in the step towards business growth with your new employee.

    Who to hire
    Depending on the type of work you do, you might want to look at hiring a contractor, intern, student or apprentice, rather than a salaried employee. This can avoid a lot of the administrative burden and many workers are used to being employed this way. It also means you can hire people for specific projects and don’t need to worry about having enough ongoing work to sustain two wages. If you are looking for a student or intern, try calling a few schools or universities that specialise in your area of expertise. Design students are often happy to get a foot in the door and may be able to work flexibly (and cheaply!) in return for the mentoring and experience you will be offering. You can find contractors by asking around, or through online resources (such as the Circle Database!).

    Finding your person
    Look at your immediate network for any candidates first. Often, if you like someone and get on well with them, that can be more important than their skill set or past experience. Many skills can be learnt on the job, and depending on the role, you might be spending a lot of time with this person; so choosing someone who is fun to work with can bring fresh energy and new ideas into your business. And try not to settle for the best of a bad bunch. It’s worth waiting for the right person than settling for the most available person.

    If you’ve exhausted your friends and friends-of-friends for potential staffers, then use more traditional means. Putting a ‘We’re hiring!’ post on your social media platforms gets the word out to would-be employees who already know and like your product or service. An advertisement on Seek costs $255 and can lead to loads of offers, as can job ads on industry-specific sites such as The Loop, Artshub and Pedestrian.tv. We’ve even successfully hired people from the Work Wanted section of Gumtree.

    Making it official
    Once you’ve had a few interviews and have found The One, you better make it official. Get all their information, including tax and superannuation details, and file it away somewhere safe. The ATO requires you to keep all wages and timesheet information for seven years, so keep all your employee information together and readily accessible. It is also worth setting up your payroll system ahead of time – we use Xero for all our bookkeeping and payroll and LOVE it (well, as much as one can love bookkeeping software). Once your tax requirements are complete, you can get used to life with a wingman or winglady.

    The hiring part is just the tip of the iceberg. Managing people – even if it’s just an intern for a few hours a week – is a whole other topic that probably fills several shelves of your local bookshop. But after an initial settling-in period, you will soon find out how you work together and the best ways to manage your productivity and get the most out of your employee.

    As business owners, we have found delegation one of the hardest things to learn. When you are used to doing everything yourself, letting go and trusting someone else is hard work! It’s important to remember that just because someone doesn’t do it the same way as you, doesn’t mean their way is worse (it may actually be better)!

    {Image via Pexels}

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


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

    Customer journey – do you know yours?

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    By Jes Egan

    A few months ago I wrote a post about service design, and today I’d like to talk about an aspect of business that is closely related: looking at the journey a customer or potential customer might take with your business and ensuring you understand how to possibly maximise this space. Not necessarily just for sales, but to build your customer relationships and to ensure that they see and engage with your business at certain stages.

    When I first started working at a big ad agency in London I was told: “It is cheaper to keep an existing customer than to gain a new one”. To this day I still believe this to be true. There are many ways to keep a customer happy, but one way that I believe can work across many different disciplines, industries, products or services is to understand and get to know your customer and their journey that they take with your business. I’ve heard people say to think of it as your customer’s story, imagine they’re telling you the process they went through from when they thought they might need your product/service to how they made the purchasing decision and what happened after they paid.

    Putting together a customer journey map will help you find opportunities that are possibly not being used to their full potential. Simply, it is putting your customer at the forefront of your business, making you think about their needs and requirements in relation to what you do.

    So, where do you start?

    Getting to know your customer
    How well do you know your customer? This is a question that we should all ask of our businesses. Sometimes we think we know more than we actually do and it can be detrimental. We have to be careful of making decisions about our customers based on assumptions. However, there are many ways to get to know them through a little bit of research: look at your existing sales data, web analytics, social media followers – these are examples of things you can quickly review to find insights about your customers, e.g. where they’re coming from, what they’re searching, or what they are saying.

    Anecdotal research, such as surveys or asking questions of your followers on social media, are great ways to get a quick understanding about who they are if you don’t have access to other data. If you are lucky enough to have staff working for you, remember to ask them about their insights into your customer base too, as your ‘front line staff’ can be a wonderful source of information.

    Customer journey map
    A customer journey map is a map of the process people go through when they start to look for what they want, how they get to the purchasing decision, then how they deal with your company and what happens after that. Usually a customer journey map is best understood when displayed as an infographic or a table. There are many different ways to map the process (and there are even online tools to do this if you’re willing to pay for them).
    The following five channel phases are a guide and a possible place to start creating a customer journey map for your business.

    Awareness / Research
    How someone becomes aware of a product or service is something personally I find really interesting. Do they see it on someone they admire, in a shop or in advertising? Once aware of a product or service, it’s not uncommon for a customer to use the internet, Instagram, Google, Pinterest along with the traditional channels of stores, markets, etc to do additional research before they get to ‘buy’.

    The question for you, is: Is your business visible in all the places where people might look to find you or start researching for your type of product or service?

    Evaluation
    This is when a potential customer evaluates like companies / products, and weighs the the pros and cons between them (and this isn’t always about price), before making a decision on which one they like or are more suited to. This might be achieved by be looking at comparison sites or just reviewing a range in a shop.

    Question for you: How do you compare to your competitors in this phase? Is your USP (unique selling point) standing out in this stage? How can you stand out enough to ensure that you are the one they chose?

    Purchase
    The next phase is to understand where and how your customers make their purchase. Is it purely an online purchase? Is it through a third party supplier? Or do they buy it from you at a market, trade show etc? Another pertinent question here is also: where do they want to purchase? Not everyone wants to buy online, and often this decision depends on your audience and what you’re selling. Be where customers expect you to be, as well as want you to be.

    Delivery
    Think about how your customer receives what you are offering. Is it a face to face sale? Are you delivering a service personally or via online/telephone communication? Do they pick the item up or does it get delivered (by post or courier?). Question for you: Where is your customer when they get to this touch point, and what is the experience they are receiving?

    After sales / post purchase
    Once your customer has the product or service, consider if there is any further communication between you and your customer. Do they purchase again? Do they post pictures/comments on social media of their purchase, if they’re happy or not? Do they come back into the shop or write a review? Think about how you can be more involved in the process, become aware of their thoughts and reactions, and importantly, how do you respond to positive and negative feedback?

    Here is an example of how I might start to put together a customer journey map. Once I’ve got all the information I’ll then get it nicely put together in a digital version.

    Customer Journey Map

    Getting to know your customer’s journey is really important, there are many insights you can take from it if you get the information right. By acknowledging and mapping it you can see where you might be able to make tweaks or changes and help build a better customer relationship. It goes back to what I said at the beginning: It’s cheaper to keep an existing one then gain a new one, so it’s a great investment in your creative business to get to know the ones you’ve got.

    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.

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