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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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    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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    Accounting tips for your creative business


    By Monica Ng

    One of the biggest challenges for creatives can be understanding and keeping up to date with the accounting side of their business. Understanding the numbers in your business is a vital skill that can remove much of the guesswork when you make decisions regarding the profitability of your work. When you have access to real data and can identify concrete trends across the profitability of the products and services that you offer, you can make decisions based on real information, not just a gut feeling.

    As a jewellery maker and designer myself, I completely understand that managing the books can be a difficult and tedious task, because before I changed to a creative career, I was working in the accounting industry. So today I want to help you gain a better understanding of your numbers and the areas where you generate the most and the least amount of money, by explaining two must-have ‘business report cards’ and guiding you through how they can assist you to monitor and assess your business profitability.

    1. Profit and Loss Statement

    Your Profit and Loss (P&L) statement shows how your business performed during a period of time. There are three main factors of a P&L statement:

    Revenue: Any sort of income you earn, whether it be from sales of products or services, commission etc; and

    Expenses: Any sort of expense you spend in the course of running your business like:

    • Cost of goods sold
    • Supplies and materials (raw materials you use to make your products – fabric, beads, glue, metal etc)
    • Rent
    • Advertising (Facebook ads, Google adwords, marketing materials like business cards, post cards etc),
    • Fees and charges (online shop fees, PayPal/credit card transaction fees, bank fees, EFTPOS fees, website hosting fees, stall hire fees, consignment fees)
    • Office expenses (stationery, printing)
    • Subscriptions (magazines/journals related to the industry your business operates in)
    • Postage
    • Utilities (electricity, gas, water, telephone, wifi)
    • Insurance (home and contents, theft, public and product liability)
    • Professional services (legal, accounting)
    • Repairs and maintenance (equipment your business uses)
    • Wages, superannuation etc.

    (Please note this is a example of the kind of revenue and expense items a typical business may have – yours may vary.)

    COGS (cost of goods sold): COGS refers to the costs directly associated to the production of a product. This includes any material costs, labour, shipping and other costs to transform the product to be ready for sale. Determining the COGS can be one of the more difficult things to calculate and the value changes depending on which valuation method you use when you’re doing your books. But to explain the concept simply, let’s go through an example. Let’s say, I have $100 worth of beads in inventory at the beginning of the month. I buy an extra $20 worth of beads during the month and have $50 worth of beads at the end of the month. How do I calculate my COGS?

    (Beginning inventory: $100) + (Purchases: $20) – (Ending inventory: $50) = Cost of goods sold: $70

    For more information or assistance developing your specific COGS, have a chat with your accountant!

    Now here are some key formulae for a P&L statement:

    • Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) = Gross profit
    • COGS = opening stock + purchase – closing stock
    • Gross profit – expenses = Net profit/net loss

    Remember to keep receipts for EVERYTHING you purchase, whether it be offline and online. For online purchases I like to save each receipt into a specific folder on my computer (and I also back it up regularly). You might prefer to print out your receipts and keep them organised in folders dedicated to a single month or specific financial year.

    2. Balance Sheet

    Your business’ balance sheet shows your assets, liabilities and owners equity as at a specific date.

    Assets: Cash, accounts receivables (money you have invoiced your clients that you have not yet received), inventory, investments, tools and equipment and any other asset your business owns

    Liabilities: Money that your business owes (you have been invoiced for a service you used and have not yet paid or materials you have bought but not yet paid for), accounts payable, bank/credit overdraft and any other debt

    Owners Equity: Anything that is left over, once liabilities have been paid for from assets. If your equity is high, it means that your assets outweigh your liabilities, if your equity is negative, you’re losing money, and your business isn’t making enough money to carry the level of debt it’s carrying.

    The basic accounting equation for a balance sheet is: Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity

    Ageing receivables and payables.

    If you sell products or services, you’ll need to keep a track of the ageing of receivables and payables. Ageing is usually broken up into four categories: 0 – 30 days, 31 – 60 days, 61 – 90 days and 91+ days.

    When you issue an invoice to a client or customer, the longer the invoice goes unpaid, the higher the likelihood that you may not get paid at all. It’s important to monitor invoice payments, so you can chase up a client if the invoice becomes overdue. A debt is said to ‘go bad’ when the client doesn’t pay or can’t pay, which may mean you need to write it off as a bad debt. Not getting paid is certainly not good for your business!

    Other useful accounting tips

    Set up a dedicated bank account

    It’s a good idea to set up a dedicated bank account for your business. Therefore, whenever you update your financial information, you don’t need to wade through all the transactions to pick out the ones that are personal and which ones are business-related transactions.

    Let technology help your keep track of your data

    There are lots of techonology options to help you manage the data your business sales generate, so you can turn it into information that’s accurate, relevant and timely for decision-making. If you’re just starting out or your revenue and expenses are quite straight forward, you could use something as simple as an Excel document to keep track of everything. Otherwise, cloud-based accounting software such as MYOB, Xero or Waveapps offer a host of benefits – though some might incur a monthly fee (but most have a free trial period so you can see if the investment works for your business needs).

    Make accounting part of your weekly or monthly routine

    Depending on the level of activity your business generates, you should update your financial information weekly or at least monthly to give you a good indication as to how your business is performing. Choose a day or even half a day each week/month, and dedicate yourself completely to managing and reviewing your P&L and balance sheets. Remember, this day is important to spend on your business and not in your business.

    Do your own books (or at least keep a close eye on them!)

    When you’re just starting out, I totally recommend you do your own bookkeeping so you can understand what is happening in your business, rather than outsourcing it straight away to a professional bookkeeper or accountant. As your business grows, and your business generates more activity, it may be worthwhile bringing on a professional to assist, so you can concentrate on the things you do best and provide most value to your business. Bu having said that, even when you have outsourced these tasks to other people, it’s still important that you understand the accounting and continue to review the numbers from month to month.

    Get started today

    If what you’ve read sounds great, but still a little overwhelming – never fear. Over at my website I’ve created a customisable P&L template for you – so you can use this immediately for your business! The template contains instructions to guide you. Try it out and I’m sure you’ll get addicted to how knowing how your business is going financially. Happy accounting everyone!

    NOTE: This article is intended as an EDUCATIONAL GUIDE ONLY and is NOT INTENDED to be taken as specific financial advice. Please discuss your business’ financial performance with a qualified accountant, solicitor or financial advisor.

    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
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    How to integrate more travel into your creative work/life

    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.
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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, regular columns | Comments Off