Is the business card dead?

Interesting thought about business cards, are they really dead? I think this one is a matter of opinion, but in this graphic designers mind, they are most certainly not.

Social media dominates our world. All you have to do is look at the phone book that was recently delivered. That book is an old dinosaur to most folks. I used to sit on the directory as a child when I needed to be higher up to the table, and it weighed quite a few pounds. The recently delivered telephone book was about the size of a journal. The bigger questions is how many times do you refer to that book in your daily life today? Never would be my answer because I go online and search for what I need.

This leads me to the topic of conversation, the business card. Will it soon join its friend in the land of the dinosaurs? I don’t believe so and here is why.

Let’s do a little scenario. You are at a networking event and have to introduce yourself quickly to multiple people. What is the quickest way to do that? Business card.

Second scenario. You have been invited to speak at a monthly meeting, and these people could be your potential clients. You have 3 minutes to leave a lasting impression, and you can hand out materials. Leave the brochure, leave the rack card but make sure you leave the business card too because that is what will get kept. It may go in a bowl or a Rolodex, maybe even thrown into a drawer but it will be there and when they think of you and what will they search for? Business card.

Third and final scenario. An existing client has a meeting and meets someone who could use your services, but you are not there. They chat about you, talk about what a fantastic business you are, it’s a perfect fit. Luckily what does the supporter have to pass on to this possible new customer? Business card.

Ok, I think that is all the role playing we need for now. Hopefully, you are beginning to see my point. In our world today I still firmly believe you need a card to identify and remind people what you do. A friend recently told me she heard a podcast where they were discussing why you no longer need business cards because social media was your story. I believe that is partly true. Social media is a great tool for showing people what we do on a daily basis. However, the beginning of the story, the cover of your book starts with you and your business card.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

Many people have said to me lately “I don’t know exactly what you do.” When I hear that I get worried. I think to myself am I not doing something right to communicate to my clients what I actually do? What can I do better? Have they not been paying attention to my posts on social media? But then it dawned on me, I truly don’t think people understand all that graphic designers do.

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If you Google this question here is your answer:  “Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for various applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.”  But what do graphic designers, freelancers like myself actually do? There is a long list so get a cup of coffee, sit back and be ready to be amazed! Ok, we don’t have to go that far but here is the list.

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Logos. Branding. Business Cards. Packaging. Menus. Brochures. Rack Cards. Promotional Items. Consultation for Non-Creatives. Invitations. Blog & Website Concept Design. Digital Banners & Ads. Letterhead. Custom Stationary. Billboards. Appointment Cards. Post Cards. Surface Pattern Design. Signage. Folders. Mailers. Stamps. Stickers. Posters. Printables. Thank You Notes. Tote Bags. Wrapping Paper. Gift Boxes. The Label on Your Favorite Salsa. Your Favorite Dress. Umbrellas. T-Shirts. Get Where I Am Going With This? We Are Literally Everywhere.

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My, my where do I start. There are truly so many things we are capable of. However, many of us have a strong point. Something we love in this crazy design world more than anything else. For me, it’s a logo. But it doesn’t just stop with a logo, I love all the things need for creating an entire brand such as business cards, letterhead, I love to make it all work together. Many times before people ask why I enjoy it so much and the truth is, I can’t stop it. I drive by businesses every day and think to myself, “How would I have done it differently.” I know that sounds crazy but I do believe there are some things you are just really good at in life. This is mine. Now, with this being said, this does not mean I won’t do anything else. Of course, I will! I have the skills needed to design and have printed many items on paper or digital or any surface really. We are the folks who set up the things you need for your life with programs you have no idea how to use. Like a plumber who comes to fix a leak in your house that you also would not attempt to do yourself. Hire a designer, be proud of your results. Hire a designer who is an actual person you can talk to and not someone somewhere who you will probably never meet or know their name. Hire someone who wants to make you and your business better, who invests in you equally as much as you invest in them.

Graphic designers have a skill set of style cultivated through many years of education, along with many aches and pains…kidding. Critiques are rough y’all! But we are flexible, we want to help you with various projects, not just your logo but also that menu that has the logo we helped you create on top of it. We know a lot about printing and could probably give you some money saving advice without compromising the vibe of your business. I highly encourage you to create a relationship with a designer you know. You just might find a sensible friend at the other end of the line.

Thank you for signing up to receive my newsletter! Every month I will send my latest blogs, work and a few little juicy secrets to help your small business grow.

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Digital

 

 

Pro BoNo!

For any designer or artist, this topic is difficult. At the beginning of a freelance career, it is very common to be asked to do a project for free or pro bono. Here is the interesting part, it is also common in the middle of your design career and from what I understand until the last day of your design career. People honestly think they are doing you a favor by giving you the opportunity to create something for their business based on recognition only, no payment. It baffles me. I also don’t think people are not trying to be malicious. I believe they genuinely feel like they are helping you in some way. In my head I have the conversation with myself when this question arises, “You wouldn’t ask a plumber to come over and fix a leaking pipe for free, so why do you ask me?” Ironically, Jon Acuff had this same thought as well and wrote a fantastic blog and did a video about it too, take a look at both of those later on. The question arises here, how to say politely no when asked to do something pro bono and still get the work. It’s a thin tightrope to walk, but here are a few ways to think about it. It’s time to consider if you are ready to put your acrobatic skills to work!

When should you and when shouldn’t you do pro bono jobs for clients or potential clients.

When it benefits you

If the potential client has an audience that you cannot reach other than by doing this project, consider it. For example, a non-profit that you support. Non-profits have strict budgets, but they also have business owners who donate money and can afford your services. If they see you are a like minded business owner, you may find yourself with a few new clients in the long run. My advice to you in this situation is you need to set parameters in the very beginning. I have worked with many non-profits, all said and done exposure is good. If you get your name on a step and repeat or on a flyer that goes out to 5,000 people that’s considered good exposure but it doesn’t always mean you will get a job out of it. Keep it in perspective and if there are many people on a committee making decisions, make sure you have one contact only within that committee. You DO NOT want to be part of an email war about why the guy in finance wants the design to be purple when the vice-president loves blue! The power struggle there is not yours to deal with. They can elect one person who is your contact, I urge you to be upfront about this in the beginning. Also, be VERY clear about what services and time you are gifting them. If there has ever been a time for open communication and being clear, it’s time to get crystal clear!

Long-term client who pays consistently

If you have a client who pays on time and gives you consistent work, I say do it. It is a kindness that says hey, I appreciate your business. Now, this doesn’t mean create an entire book or a logo for free but if it is something that can be done quickly and within reason for them personally, this is where to do it. Words cannot express how much I value the constant client, and they deserve special treatment. I promise you this is where the pro bono comes in very handy, and you won’t regret it as long as you and they are realistic about what you are doing for them. Cover your bases as always and communicate that this is a one-time favor.

Because the design is just that bad and you see it as a challenge, yes, I just said that out loud

First off, never tell your potential client this is why you took this low paying gig. And when I say low paying, there needs to be some type of barter or small fee here. I have often driven by a business that I love and want to walk in the door and just say, “I will help you for free, just don’t close your doors because I can’t live without your product or services.” However much in your head that is a compliment, I assure you it’s not. Conversation is the key here. If you frequent a local place, and they are a start up business, most likely they are just trying to make it like the rest of us. If you have an opportunity to discuss this matter face to face, I can assure you this conversation will go well if you start off along the lines of “I love what you are doing here, have you chosen a design company to work with yet?” This is the time you use to feel them out. Who have they spoken to and do they have any money at all for advertising? If you feel like helping this business will come back to you, meaning they are going to grow, and you want in, this might be a perfect pro bono situation.

Family & Friends

This one is tough. Mom wants a fantastic Christmas card in your spare time and cousin Sherri is turning 40 and wants to invite her besties to her party and only needs ten cards, can you help? The list is long, and you may want to strangle them because they are family but try hard to resist. At the end of the day if you want to help, do it. If not, tell them you have too much on your plate, and you can’t manage it at this time. Be honest and move forward.

At the end of the day, there are many other situations for the pro bono experience. I have learned, more than once, that you have to go into it knowing you may be burned. I don’t like saying that, but I want you to be aware. I remember a t-shirt design I was supposed to do for a volunteer type project. I spent a lot of time trying to make everyone happy ( so many cooks in the kitchen) and when the t-shirts were delivered there were changes to my design that I didn’t exactly know about. Surprised? Me too. It turns out, the person in contact with the printer requested those changes and the printer did it without my consultation. I guess they didn’t think it mattered to me. Shame on me for this one, lesson learned.

On the flip side, when I believe strongly in something I do give breaks in regards to design. Not all of my experiences have been bad. Non-profits imparticular hold a special place in my heart since it is where I came from. I do believe it is good to help others but I also believe we should protect what we create and don’t abuse it by giving it away. Pay it forward when you can because good karma is important my friends! Pro BoNo? Maybe Pro BoYes?

 

Hashtags and Your Small Business

What the heck is a hashtag and do I need to use them? You probably aren’t going to like this but the answer is yes, you probably should. Once you understand the purpose of a hashtag and the best place to use them they will become less scary. So, what is a hashtag, let’s check Wikipedia first, shall we?

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A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character (or number sign), #, to form a label. It is a type of metadata tag. Words or phrases in messages on microblogging and social networking services such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, or VK may be tagged by entering # before them,[1] either as they appear in a sentence, e.g., “New artists announced for #SXSW2014 Music Festival”[2] or appended to it. The term hashtag can also refer to the hash symbol itself when used in the context of a hashtag.[3]

A hashtag allows grouping of similarly tagged messages, and also allows an electronic search to return all messages that contain it.

Because of its widespread use, the word, hashtag, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014.[4][5]


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 I am going to make it simple for you. A hashtag is basically a group of words that describes an image, topic or an event. For example, I take a photo of my cat, he is black, his name is Finnegan, and he often he sits next to me while I work. So I would hashtag his photo #cat #kitty #blackcat #Finneganthecat #lovemycat #hedoesntgetpaid. These are just a few hashtags that I could have used, there are MANY more and it is entirely up to you what you choose to hashtag.

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Hopefully by now I have you thinking about how you actually use a hashtag but I bet you are going to ask “Great, and the photo of your cat helps me in my business because…” The photo of the cat is just for you to understand using the lingo, it’s not going to get you a job. What is does do is make you think outside of the box gives you a little taste of the “personal brand” we are always trying to keep in check.

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IMG_8376The next example is something more related toward my actual clients. One night I was bored and really wanted to do a logo over the holiday when everyone is out of town. Designers get restless and begin to redesign things all the time, even our own logos. I messed around with a version of my logo and posted it for fun. My post looked like this on Instagram,: “Just playing around. #toomuchdoodling #readytowork #lovealogo #bird #logo #create #design #type #bold #graphicdesign #stillneedswork #justforfun #typebird”. Can you see where I am going with this?

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Hashtags are great for social media outlets such as Twitter or Instagram. What the hashtag allows you to do is group yourself with others of a similar image, title or event. So if you put in #cat you would likely get images or posts with words involving lots of cats. If you are attending an event you can hashtag images or topics from that event and they can be found easier online. Usually a seminar or event will give you a hashtag to make it easier. For example, I am doing what I call the “Doodle A Day” project for myself because I love to doodle but I don’t make much time for it. So by tagging it #typebirddoodleaday I can go back at the end of the year and be able to find all my images online from the hashtag alone.

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At the end of the day must you hashtag everything, the answer is no. Is it good to hashtag, yes. Once you get the hang of it it’s a pretty simple process and once you start looking at the results using hashtags it will make you want to continue the process.

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Stay tuned for more posts on social media and your brand, it changes everyday so the advice never ends.

If you would like to sign up for my monthly newsletter 
Thank you for signing up to receive my newsletter! Every month I will send my latest blogs, work and a few little juicy secrets to help your small business grow.

 

If you are interested in learning more about social media I do offer training courses that can put you on track in your small business. I can also help set up a plan for you and your daily social media dose. You can contact me directly at tammy@typebird.com or by phone 239.247.3350.

Social Media for the Creative Business Owner

Social Media is very time consuming, you could honestly hire someone in your marketing department to just focus on that aspect of your business. If you calculate the time you spend posting and checking your Facebook page daily you would be amazed at what a time sucker it can become. The question is, do you need it?

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In order to understand how social media can work for you let’s look at a concept client. We will name her Flora, she is a florist. Do you think Flora needs any involvement in social media? If you said no…you are wrong! Flora designs floral arrangements for weddings and events, that is a visual element in her business so social media would be a great thing for her to start. The real question is, where does she start? Let’s get a little background about her business. Flora has one employee, herself. She is the marketing department, the financial department, the delivery driver, the floral designer, the clean up crew and customer service. Clearly, Flora has little to no time left in her daily routine for much else. On the bright side she already has a logo and a website, so if she asked me for help I would suggest the following; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram. If she likes a challenge I would also ask her to join Google + for good measure on the SEO side of things. Let’s be realistic, that is a lot of work!
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So basic things first, she needs to set up her Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram pages/accounts and then walk away. That’s right, I would tell her to walk away for that day. The next day or two she should start practice posting but she shouldn’t stress herself out about it or she will quit. She should post because she has a moment or news she is excited to share. What does she want to show her clients and what do they want to see? In Flora’s case she wants to show off her talents so she should focus on beautiful images of her floral creations. What Flora can do here is take a photo on her Instagram account and then post it on her Facebook and Twitter page all at once. Did you know that was a possibility? It is, and once you get the hang of it it’s so effective you can do most of your social media work from your phone which is perfect for a busy lifestyle.
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Her next conundrum is what and how often do I post? This is a tough question for many. I personally only try to post once or twice a day on Facebook. On Instagram and Twitter you can post as much as you desire. I think the key is to make sure your content is interesting. Take note, if you post something and people keep talking about it then it was a good post for you and you might want to consider a similar one in the future. Here are my top five favorite posts for creatives.
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#1 Your work.

Post something that is almost finished or you are just starting. You can take advantage of the before and after time. People love to see the process of something happening. To see you actually working makes them excited and they, like you, can’t wait to see the final product. When people compliment, THANK THEM! It may be impossible to thank all of them but try, even if it is a general thank you, acknowledge they took time for you and give it in return.

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#2 Ask a question.

For example: “Today on the way in to the office I decided I need some new tunes, does anyone have a good band or musician they would like to share to get my day started?” People have opinions and advice, they love to get it and you might find a some great new tunes in the process. If you do, be sure to thank the person who directed you. Here is an example: ” (Make sure you key in the @ sign before addressing the person so it tags them) @John Doe thanks for the great tunes suggestion! I have been listening all morning!” The “@” sign will disappear and it will address the person so they get a notification to see the post.

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#3 Share a site you admire. 

It never hurts to share the love. If you love another fellow artists website or page, share it. You can even give a shout out to a fantastic product you use and say why you love it. It’s simple, it’s kind and it’s honest which is what you need to be online!

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#4 BLOG!

I cannot stress this enough, you must blog. What is blogging? We will address that in another post entirely but if you know how and you aren’t doing it, start today. I am the worst, it took me forever but it does work. Create a timeline, think about topics, keep a journal full of ideas. You have so much more to say than you think and people want to hear it!

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#5 Be personal

Be yourself! It is very important for you to give some fun posts that let the audience know who you are. I personally share my Lego Mini-Figure obsession. That’s right, I am 41 years old and I love Lego. I share it because it is funny and it makes people smile, they love it. Share something fun about yourself and let people know who you are. Do you like animals? Do you travel? Are you a major DIY fanatic on your down time? Do you collect pennies like an 90 year old woman because I do too and that’s ok!

 

At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy the posting and have fun with it, you aren’t going to make time for it in your day. Social media is a necessary evil that you could really enjoy as a fun aspect of your business if you approach it right.

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Stay tuned for more posts on social media and your brand, it changes everyday so the advice never ends. If you would like to sign up for my monthly newsletter we would love to have you, sign up on the bottom of any page on my website! If you are interested in learning more about social media I do offer training courses that can put you on track without spending thousands. I can also help set up a plan for you and your daily social media dose. You can contact me directly at tammy@typebird.com or by phone 239.247.3350.