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    Category Archives: business tips

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    Advertising tips for small creative businesses

    Today’s post is by guest blogger Jes Egan of Paper Chap. Welcome, Jes!


    Creativity is in my blood. I come from a mad creative family and I had a pretty conservative schooling, which I tried to conform to, but in the end the creative flair won and I went and studied design at university. Being surrounded by creative people is inspiring and a guarantee you’ll get a taste for coffee or wine. Or both, as in my case. Upon graduation, I went travelling. However, in fighting some of the madness of my upbringing, a sensible and practical person developed alongside my creativity. So instead of sticking to being a designer, I went to what I aptly call the ‘dark side’ and became a ‘suit’ in the account management department of some of the biggest advertising agencies in the UK and Australia.

    Now days, my brain is back in creative mode and I run my own little business, Paper Chap. My creative outlet, illustrated and hand cut paper cuts that I can make with love. My practical side still exists however, and it is possible to be creative and business minded, it just doesn’t always come naturally. I share my practical side with design students, lecturing in ‘Design and Business’ at Billy Blue College of Design.

    My past life in big-brand advertising has taught me many things that can be applied to a creative business and successful brand.

    Find your point of difference.

    There is so much competition, there are other companies who do what you do, just under a different brand. But you will have a point of difference (POD), this might be service, design, price, it can be anything that is a benefit to the end user and is different to your competitors. Find out what yours is, if you can’t pin point what it is then neither will your customer. Once you know what your POD is you can use this to your advantage. We are so used to choice these days, we expect it and we make informed purchasing decisions daily. Stand out from your competitors, be bold and show how you differentiate yourself.

    Know your audience.

    It doesn’t matter what type of business that you are in, knowing your audience is paramount. You can waste time, effort and money targeting the wrong audience. Depending on what you do there are numerous different ways to find out who your audience are and if you are a small business one of the best ways to do this is look at your existing clients/customers. So many key learnings/insights can be taken from them.

    Be targeted.

    When you know who your audience is target them specifically, this will save you time, effort and money. For example if your audience frequent certain types of websites or publications, or favours Facebook over LinkedIn, put your time and efforts into those places. Be it paid advertising or just doing it on your own, you are eliminating wastage and sending your message to places where your audience is.

    Chose your social media sites carefully.

    You don’t have to use all the social media channels out there, chose what will reach your audience best and focus on those. Don’t over stretch yourself, if you are selling a creative service or product then visual channels might work best for you such as Instagram or Pinterest. If you sell a service then maybe LinkedIn, Twitter etc are better. It will be depend on where your audience is participating in social media as to where you need to be.

    Be on message.

    Often businesses try and cram every message they want to say into a very small space. This can dilute your message and make it really confusing for your audience to understand what you are trying to get across. Try and stay single minded. Even if it is a tweet or a Facebook post, if you have two things to say, do two messages. It might sounds simple and that is the point, it should be simple. It will take little time and effort and be more effective.

    It is better to pay more for fewer ads in the right places than less for multiple ads in the wrong places.

    Does paying for advertising work? Given my background, this is often a question I am asked. Without doubt, it you have the budget to pay for advertising then yes it can pay off. It can build your brand awareness and potentially convert into sales and hopefully you’ll get a decent return on your investment. But if you’re going to do it, do it properly. Make sure your creative is on message, targeted and made well. Also, make sure you are hitting your audience – don’t try hit the masses by buying cheap ad spaces across as many channels as you can. It goes back to knowing your audience. Don’t let your add get lost or ignored.


    Putting yourself and your creative business ‘out there’ can be easier said then done, I know. Particularly if your heart is entrenched in what you do, which is often the case in the creative world. But there are so many ways to put effectively advertise and market your business while staying true to your values and integrity, it’s just about making an educated decision on which avenue you want to explore and being creative with your budget.

    Jes is a ‘practical creative’ with a past life in advertising. These days Jes is an artist, lecturer, and small business owner who can be found cutting up a storm at paperchap.com. Follow Jes on Instagram and Facebook

    {Image by Jes!}

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: advice for students, business tips, guest blog, my advice | Comments Off
    Posted on

    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
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    Create a mood board to clarify your brand

    By Susan Goodwin


    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.

    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.


    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
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    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.”


    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.”


    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.”


    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.

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