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    Learning from mistakes

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    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
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    7 tips to sell more at markets

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    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.


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

    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.

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