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    My Advice: Adding Value

    My Advice: Adding ValueBy Andrea McArthur

    How to define value and add value to your product or creative service for customers and clients.

    It’s a big question but one that can create a spark! I’ve always found that clients and customers are always happiest when they have their expectations met and exceeded. For me (being in design) it’s really important to fulfil and exceed clients expectations it’s what can set me apart from other designers.

    Small business tweaks can pay off! It’s the small details which manifest as your brand which show your worth. Showing that you care about your brand, your service and your presentation are all important details. When you strive for excellence – clients will see the additional value in your business.

    But the best and truest form of value-add that I’ve seen in practice is showing that you understand your client’s business and their needs. Clients are open to receiving recommendations. By going a step further and exploring tailored options you will blow their mind, add value and possibly have more work. Creative solutions show value and keeps clients coming back for more!


    Diana Scully

    Diana Scully, Principal (Interior) Designer
    www.spacesbydiana.com.au // Blog  www.spacesandplacesblog.com

    Working in a service based industry, adding value to what I offer comes down to my relationships with clients and therefore can be different for each project I work on. For me, its about understanding what’s important to my client, then going the extra mile to deliver it. This may seem obvious, but for me, it about supporting my client through the process in a way that best suits their needs.

    For potential new clients I have set up a lifestyle blog Spaces and Places where I discuss topics of interests relating to interior design. Sometimes its about understanding how certain pieces of furniture can work in your home, where to go shopping or breaking down the process of design so that readers understand how to apply the idea into their own home. I’ve even set up a Handbook page which has a list of showrooms and stores I usually visit for client projects! I hope that by sharing my knowledge and experiences with the community, they receive a benefit from my services, even before they have engaged me.

    Without a doubt, adding value to my business means improving customer service, as I’ve learnt, people are predominately emotional beings when it comes to their home. They are greatly impacted by warmth, friendliness, being helpful and supportive. This may sound simple, but to me, this is a crucial aspect of adding value when you work in a service based industry. A positive attitude and level of enthusiasm towards a project is what can distinguish your service from the next, especially if you’re working in an industry where there’s plenty of competition! I find that offering to manage aspects of the project like collect/return samples, process orders or make myself contactable, even after hours, are just a few little ways I can make the process more convenient and rewarding for my client.


    Steph and MicaelaSteph Parsons and Micaela Cleave, Two of a Kind Events
    www.two-ofakind.com // Instagram  @two_ofakindevents

    As we are still a young business (only a year and a half old) we are constantly asking ourselves how we can define the value we offer to our clients. As cliched as it sounds, so far it really has been a process of finding what works for us through a lot of trial and error. Event styling itself is sometimes a hard concept to define, with our clients often expecting a concrete product for their money.

    Recently we have introduced a clear step-by-step process for each of our service pathways which our clients receive when they book with us. This acts as a reference point for them to see which stage of the event design process we are up to at any given time. We’ve found this to be really helpful with managing a client’s expectations and ultimately allowing us to exceed those expectations.

    We also think it’s really important to be our authentic selves in all aspects of our business. This of course impacts the relationships we form with our clients, and is something that we can offer them that no one else can. We are our product, and staying true to that has allowed us to connect with like minded people who have ended up becoming friends along the way.

    {Image by Geelong Advertiser}


    Andrea FinchAndrea Finch, Graphic Designer & Virtual Assistant
    www.andreafinch.com.au // Twitter  @andreafinch_

    I’m great at delivering exactly what I promise, when I promise. My clients are always impressed with what I have to offer. But I can do more by going the extra mile.

    Here are three things that I do to add value that you might also find helpful.

    Creativity. When I’m designing a logo for a client, I go the extra mile and also save it out at the right size for their profile picture for their Facebook business page. This might seem little but it creates a big impact on the client. I try to be creative and think of something small that I can include to delight my clients.

    Professional Advice. As a supplier, I have the chance to offer a professional perspective on a clients’ business. My advice can help take them to the next critical step in growing their business (winner!). Professional advice could play a huge role in highlighting issues a client may not have yet considered, and if that input can help them reach big results, then the added value will be appreciated.

    Communication. I’m a strong believer that you can’t do business without communication. It is the key ingredient to running a successful business. Ensuring I keep clients up to date with where I am at with their project (even if they don’t ask) is not only good work ethic but it tends to give me brownie points when you’re keeping them in the loop.

    – – –

    Thanks ladies for opening up and explaining some of your processes that work to add value in your creative businesses.

    Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as an Art Director and Designer for the Brisbane Festival. Design is her true love and she goes weak at the knees over strategic branding. You’ll find her sharing on Instagram @andyjanemc.

    Tags: Advice, business, business tips, my advice, Value
    Posted by: Andrea McArthur
    Categories: business tips, my advice, regular columns | Comments Off
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    12 productivity tools and tricks for creative businesses


    By Monica Ng

    As a small business owner, it can be difficult juggling multiple responsibilities simultaneously. On top of the day to day of fulfilling orders, planning for and creating new products or services, updating multiple social media channels, connecting with fans and peers in your niche, replying to a seemingly endless stream of emails, blogging, and project management, trying to manage it all without the right tools can be overwhelming!

    So today I’d like to share with you my top 12 productivity tools, tips and tricks I use everyday for my online jewellery business.


    1. Use Boomerang to schedule emails

    With this Gmail plugin, you have the ability to write your reply whenever it’s convenient for you and schedule it to be sent at a specific time in the future. Not only this, but you can schedule email reminders. Hurray if you’re a night owl or an early bird (but don’t want clients to know you are working after business hours ;))

    2. Use Gmail Undo when you regret hitting ‘send’

    Ever regret sending an email, because you accidentally added someone in as cc when they were supposed to be bcc, attached the wrong document or sent an email or addressed it to the wrong person? After this, there’ll be no more email regret!

    • Login to your email inbox, click the gear drop down menu in the top right, select settings
    • Scroll to “undo send” and click enable
    • Set the cancellation period and save changes
    • After you click send, a yellow box pops up to confirm your message was sent complete with an “undo” and “view message” link.
    • Click “undo” within your chosen cancellation period to retract the email you just sent.

    3. Write template email responses to save time

    Do you receive a lot of emails for wholesale enquires, PR requests, advertising queries etc. that require a very similar response? Having a pre-written response to these types of emails can save you a tonne of time each day. In addition to a basic cut-and-paste technique, Gmail’s canned responses let you insert a pre-written response with just a couple of clicks. TextExpander for Mac allows you to create keyboard shortcuts for anything from a lengthy response to a simple phrase or web address you find yourself constantly typing out.

    4. Turn on Inbox pause

    Do you constantly get interrupted and distracted by the familiar ‘ding’ or notification popping up, alerting you of a new email? Take back control over your inbox!  This plugin for Gmail allows you to temporarily pause emails from arriving into your inbox with a click of a button. You can choose to send an auto-responder to anyone who sends you an email whilst your inbox is paused. All messages are rerouted to a special label until you un-pause your inbox.

    5. Use Unroll.me to declutter your inbox

    It’s easy for your inbox to get clogged up with junk emails you can’t even remember signing up to. This service scans your inbox for all your subscriptions and lists them all, allowing you to keep them or unsubscribe with a simple click of a button. Keep the subscriptions you love and unsubscribe from the ones you don’t.

     Social Media

    6. Make Photoshop templates for your social media updates

    Create set size templates for all your social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Then, when you need a new image, just change the text and image and voila – perfectly sized images for each social media platform.

    For your reference, here are the current recommended sizes:

    • Twitter header: 1500 x 500
    • Twitter profile: 400 x 400
    • Instagram: 1080 x 1080
    • Facebook cover photo: 851 x 315
    • Facebook profile: 180 x 180
    • Facebook link preview: 600 x 315
    • Pinterest board cover: 217 x 146
    • Pinterest pins: 735 x 900-2100

    7. Use Pinterest secret boards

    Need a bank of inspiration ready for you to share and curate on your social media channels? Start up a secret Pinterest board. Only you (and anyone else you invite to the board) can see the pins and the pins you’ve pinned won’t show up anywhere else on Pinterest.

    8. Make text-based images with Notegraphy

    Funny, inspirational or motivational quotes spread like wildfire on social media, so this mobile app makes it easy to create and share beautifully designed images for your fans in under 20 seconds. Simply just type your message, choose a style and share it on your chosen social media channels.

    9. Use Buffer to schedule social media updates

    Schedule your social media updates with ease amongst multiple platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and most recently, Pinterest. Spread out your updates across the day and the week, so you don’t need to be constantly glued to your computer or phone in order to have a social media presence.

    Blogging & Project management

    10. Organise your life with Trello 

    Organise, plan and schedule projects and blog content with your team or as a solopreneur. Think of it as virtual post-it notes that allow you to track your progress for your tasks. Provide comments for instant feedback, set due dates, checklists and add attachments. All updates occur in real-time and you can see everything at a glance. It also syncs with your smartphone for list-making on the go!

    11. Reduce email noise via Slack

    Real time messaging to help you communicate with your team and reduce email clutter. Create channels for specific projects, topic or team members, send direct messages or make private groups. Slack syncs up to services like Google Drive, Dropbox or Box too – they sync in real time and all documents are searchable too.

    12. Plan for the future with Wunderlist

    Though not as robust as Slack, Wunderlist is a fantastic mobile and desktop app I use for personal planning. It’s a space that helps you plan for anything, whether it’s your grocery list, an upcoming holiday or work related tasks etc. You can set due dates, reminders and share your to-dos with others.

    If you liked Monica’s 12 tips, hop over to her website to download her guide to 8 more productivity apps for creative businesses!

    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 at her blog or on Instagram @geometric_skies.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, technical tips, what's new in social media | Comments Off
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    My Advice: Photography Tips


    By Andrea McArthur

    Human beings thrive on the visual, especially those who consider themselves creative. The online world reflects this – today our businesses and creative output is supported by image-heavy blogs, websites, and social media feeds which make it important to represent yourself and your imagery in the best possible way.

    This month, I asked three professional photographers for their tips to improve the result when you’re tasked with presenting your products or work in the best possible light.

    Karina Sharpe, Conceptual Artist and Product Photographer
     www.karinasharpe.com.au //  Instagram // @karina_jean_sharpe

    Karina Sharpe

    Imagery is big these days, and high calibre imagery has become both the norm and the expectation. I teach a lot of people how to take good photos more effortlessly – and less by accident – in my Benchtop Photography workshops. These are the three tips that people seem to find of most value.

    1. The direction of LIGHT, in relation to an object’s position and orientation, can be the single most transformational element of your photographs. This is because objects have a form that will show itself differently depending on how its surfaces are lit up. Begin to notice the light around you and where it is coming from. Try and set your arrangements up on something that you can spin around in relation to the light source. Then, play with how the light falls onto, and across, your objects. Observe what gives the most captivating result.

    2. SHADOWS are definitely not your enemy. In most situations we want to engage with our audience on an emotional level, and shadows provide depth, tangibility, realism and substance. However, we want to try and avoid the shadow of one object falling across another object, so become aware and move your objects if shadows are falling in an unfriendly manner. Also, try to avoid double shadows. If you notice this is happening, try to eliminate any extra light sources.

    3. Creative use of BACKDROPS allows our images to standout, be recognisable, and build consistency for our brand. Coloured paper or cardboard are easy options, and things like tiles, fabric, flooring offcuts and fake timbers & textures give even more scope. Choose surfaces with your brand’s ethos in mind; timber is not just timber – white-washed might look refined and adventure-y, whereas a dark rough grain would be more earthy and homespun. Ask yourself, which timber am I?

    Karina Sharpe

    Photo by Karina Sharpe for Kim Wallace Ceramics.

    Jessica K Reftel Evans, Photographer
    www.amorfo.net // Instagram // @amorfophotography

    Jess Evans

    Before setting out on taking your images it’s a massive time saver to work out clear visual objectives. Storyboard what it is that you’re trying to achieve; a colour palette/mood-board and if you want these images to be more editorial/environmental or clean/factual. Take these thoughts with you as you prepare the shoot with backgrounds and props. Keeping the styling consistent is the key.

    To display most products honestly and flatteringly I would suggest using a soft light source. If you don’t have special lights you can use a window. Avoid direct sunlight and diffuse the light with a photographic scrim or thin white fabric. If the shadows are too heavy use a white card or another piece of white fabric on the shadow side of your product. Also, turn off your roof lights since they might change the colour temperature and light of your image. The colour of daylight changes throughout the day. So to make sure that your images have consistent and accurate colour representation use white balance settings. This can be done either on your camera or in your image processing software.

    And remember, you might not get the perfect image the first time. So just practice, experiment and most importantly have fun. Happy shooting!

    Hannah Rose Robinson, photographer
    www.hannahrose.com.au // Instagram // @hannah_rose_robinson

    Hannah Rose Robinson

    Tell a story. In today’s world we are so bombarded with images everywhere we turn that it’s hard to stand out. A visual identity is so important – carving out a style that is unique and becomes a recognisable brand, they tell a story through all the elements involved. Photography is just one element of that but an important one. Use imagery that tells a story, or evokes an emotional response. Put multiple images together to create a mood, or piece together a narrative. Write something to accompany the image/s, tell a story. I want to know what people are about, how they feel, their views on the world. Show your process. This is engaging and people like to be invited into the intimate space you can create with images and words. No matter what the subject matter, food, products, people, how can they be a story. What else is in the picture, what else can help tell my narrative.

    Be unique. We are all guilty of scrolling Instagram or a favourite blog and getting tunnel vision on someone else’s style when we see an image we fall in love with. Try not to get lost in this. I like to see people be different from the masses, find their own vision. There will always be trends that will come and go, but if you spend some time looking deep and hard on what your core vision and personal brand message is, you should be able to start carving out your own style. Be inspired by the images you like, but don’t look to be a copy. Look to what the elements are that you like in those images (maybe it’s the light or tone or mood) and be inspired by them to create your own unique look.

    Switch off. The online world that we are all so intrinsically plugged into these days is immense. It takes up a lot of our time, we devote it our time, and it demands our time. Our technology and online lives are so ingrained in our experiences these days that it frankly makes my head ache. So my big tip is to switch off. Every now and then just switch it all off. Don’t take a picture, don’t blog, don’t scroll. Go do the things you love to blog about and reconnect with them on a fully present scale. It’s easy to miss the essence of a moment, lose sight of the essence of your work- whilst being lost in how to capture and share it. Every now and then, switch off and revaluate the process. Go climb a mountain purely to feel the joy in the ache of your legs, to feel the air sweetly fill your lungs, to drink in that view from the top, be fully present. Don’t take a picture. Make a memory, and keep it for yourself. Put them in your bank to inspire you. It reboots your brain, and will only mean great things for all your creative endeavours.

    Hannah Rose

    By Hannah Rose Robinson for Jude Australia 2015 Winter Campaign. Background illustration by Inga Campbell.

    Film image from 'The Last Nomad' series by Hannah Rose.

    Film image from ‘The Last Nomad’ series by Hannah Rose.

    - – -
    Thank you ladies for sharing your photography tips. I am definitely going to have a play with my camera soon!

    {Title image by Karina Sharpe}

    Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as an Art Director and Designer for the Brisbane Festival. Design is her true love and she goes weak at the knees over strategic branding. You’ll find her sharing on Instagram @andyjanemc.

    Tags: Creative, learn, my advice, photography, technique
    Posted by: Andrea McArthur
    Categories: business tips, my advice, regular columns | Comments Off
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    How to give an amazing talk: Part 1 – the killer visual presentation


    By Jes Egan

    So, you’ve been asked to give a talk to an audience on a topic that you’re somewhat of an expert in (even if the topic is yourself and your career/business!). Congratulations! Speaking publicly may strike fear into the hearts of some, but for those who want to overcome this hesitation or who simply love engaging with a captive audience and sharing your story, I’ve composed this two part series to make your talk even more amazing.

    While the ‘talking’ part of the talk is a given (I’ll go into this in more detail next month), what is optional is a visual presentation to highlight key sections, underline points, and generally give the audience something else to engage with. But, you can’t just create a visual preso ‘off the cuff’ – it requires careful preparation and planning, even if your presenting style is more freeform on the day.

    What is on your slides, paper, boards, or whatever it is that you are presenting from, can be simple but it needs to be considered. Here are my top tips for designing a killer presentation.

    1.Text on screen: Less is more.
    This is personally my biggest bug bear, but also one that I have been guilty of in the past. When putting the presentation together, it is very tempting to put every single word you want to say as copy on the slides. But often times this distracts your audience from what you are saying, given that they are trying to read and listen at the same time. This practice can even lead you down the path of simply reading your presentation from the screen. Use a text slide to highlight the topic or key phrases, and if you are worried that when you leave your audience won’t remember what you said, consider summarising via a flyer, emailable presentation file, or other takeaway item.

    2. Images are your friend.
    Images and infographics on screen can replace words in many instances. Heard the saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’? For a killer presentation, it is true. Find relevant imagery that helps communicate your story, and let the image support what you are saying while your audience listens to your words.

    Infographics can be a creative way to present information/data in an attractive visual format, and it can make it much easier for the audience to digest information that might otherwise be technical or dull. There are many online applications that will assist you to create infographics. Using these where you can keeps your presentation interesting and visually exciting without losing the integrity of the information.

    3. Don’t overlook the basics
    When putting together a presentation, some basic things can be overlooked, but they may be crucial when the purpose of a presentation is to pitch for a job or represent your brand in its best light.

    • Spell check! If the program you are using to compile your presentation doesn’t have a spell check option, simply copy and paste the text into a program that does and fix errors where required. Don’t forget to double check that the company or client’s names (if they appear in the presentation) are spelt correctly. It’s a rookie mistake but often overlooked, and these types of errors are unfortunately more obvious on the big screen!
    • Name your sources. If your presentation includes any statistics, quotes, images or content created by a third part, be sure to give due credit or ask permission from the source. Name it, either on the relevant slides or at the end of the document. Don’t claim it if it is not yours.
    • Check the presentation file loads correctly on a third-party computer, and have a backup saved somewhere else with you when you go in (e.g. on a USB stick or online). Make time to ensure the equipment at your presentation location is able to handle your presentation file, and test it (with time to make changes, or come up with a plan B if necessary).
    • Consider adding slides that ‘Open’ and ‘close’ the presentation, to make sure your audience know when you’re done.

    Finding the balance between what goes in the presentation slides and what you say can be difficult, but spending a little time to consider these things can make for a stronger and more successful presentation. Plus, feeling prepared can help to make you feel more confident for when you get up and present.

    Stay tuned for my next post in September, where I’ll cover things to consider when you actually get up to speak!

    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: advice for students, business tips, how to, technical tips, workshop | Comments Off