Working from Home

Since I started my own small business eight years ago, there have been many obstacles. However, I think one of the hardest and easiest decisions I made was to work from home. I worried about the image of my business in this arrangement. Would people think I was not serious because I didn’t have an actual office they could visit? Would they question my skills because of this? Many thoughts ran through my head, and many doubts followed them. When I got to the core of the choice, the one reason I choose to work at home, that was what put my mind to rest. Why did I make the decision to go out on my own in the first place? Children. I wanted to be able to do all I could for them as they grow, to have that flexibility. I realize this is not for everyone; kids go to daycare every day; mine went to preschool when they were little. For me, I have the privilege to do this thanks to my husband, and I don’t take that lightly. I am grateful every day. I wanted to be the one to drop them off and pick them up from school, those 15 minutes in the car each day are important to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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With this being said, it’s not all sunny days and roses here so please don’t mistake that. There are days when becoming a truck driver sounds like a better idea. Me in a big rig driving alone for hours…alone…did I mention alone? No laundry, no cooking dinner or grabbing someone a snack in the middle of an important deadline. Sounds like a dream! I am kidding, the good does outweigh the bad, but there are always obstacles. For example, when the kids were babies my whole day was spent around their schedule. I molded my day around naptime, food and playtime. I got pretty good at that even though it was monotonous at times. Nap time was meeting time, and it worked, I made it work. The fantastic thing about my clients that I did not expect is that understood. They valued my skills; they respected my time, and they helped me make it work. I truly believe if things are right, they tend to fall into place. I was open and honest about how and where I worked, and although it stressed me to relay this to them in the beginning, they appreciated it and no one had any issues. This does not mean my life was not stressful at times; it just means that it worked itself out.

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A few years later the kids were both in school full time and an office space became available for me outside the home. I was so excited! My own work address, my own space, and no one would touch anything! I was eager and ready to take the business to the next level. The next chapter had begun, and I felt accomplished. Clients were able to come to my office, and I had neighbors, people who were small business owners just like me. We chatted and laughed together on a daily basis, and I loved it. That tiny office was a bit of freedom for a mom who just wanted to feel like herself before children. When I sit down and think about it, I realize holding on hard to my profession has been a financial choice of course, but the root of it is me. I wanted to be a mom and a small business owner too. I have had a job since I was 15 years old, I think it is just how I am programmed. I wanted to do both. Being a mother is hard work, it is the hardest job I have ever had along with being the most rewarding. I see myself working and owning a small business as an example for my children. That they too can manage a family and their dreams at the same time if they choose to do so.

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I was there for almost two years when we made the decision to move. I cried a lot. I felt like I was giving up a part of myself and that was hard. I packed up, said my goodbyes and we relocated. Now I am back at home. Things tend to work in full circles; life is funny that way. I have to say; I don’t hate it. I was as surprised as anyone. My new office at home has worked itself out, and the light is good. That is important to a designer you know. I have new hurdles of course and instead of working around nap times I use the time they are both in school. When they come home, they have chores and homework, so I get a full 8 hours of work in per day. More time than I have ever had before to work. If you are a parent working from home and struggling here are five tips for you to be more successful. It’s not an easy task and each one of these tips will not work itself out overnight but it’s a start!

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#1 Don’t doubt yourself

You can make a business happen anywhere if you want it bad enough. It can be as small as a laptop on a kitchen table, but if you focus on the goal, you will succeed.

#2 Communicate

Be honest, tell your clients the situation. If you work from home, and the UPS folks show up and your dog goes nuts in the background they may think, where is this person? If they know you work from home, just apologize and move on. They won’t even think twice about it.

#3 Mold yourself

Be willing to be flexible. If you have small children, make a schedule and get them on it. I used to find time to work at night when the days got hectic.

#4 Close the door

Work can consume you and then you never shut it off. Let yourself leave the work in your office. If you find yourself on the couch at night, and you are aching to go back to your desk or you are answering emails on your phone when you are supposed to be spending quality time with your significant other, there is a problem. You MUST shut it off! I think this is the most important point of all. Know your boundaries, keep hold of them. Think about it, you could have missed that pivotal point in Game of Thrones with Jon Snow this season because you were looking at an email, that would have been tragic;)

#5 Appreciate it

Working from home can be stressful. You may even regret it some days. But remind yourself as much as you can about why you are here. I promise this will be the easiest one of them all. Family matters and your presence will be noticed for years to come!

 

You can read a similar blog to this I wrote last year here. I do it to track my progress each year.

 

 

The Thank You Note
EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

When I was little my grandmother, I called her Mamaw, used to send me letters. I loved them. I looked forward to their arrival. They smelled like roses and were written on thin stationary paper. She talked about tulips and the weather in Virginia, simple things. I felt connected to her in those letters, they were a gift in the form of paper and ink. All those conversations were mine and it meant the world to me to have that long distance connection.

Today the art of writing has certainly changed. The thank you notes are rare and the quickness of the email is often a convenience that we sometimes take for granted. Our hearts are in the right place of course, but it is the action that has lessened the meaning of our intent. My mother made me send thank you notes, for everything my whole life. I used to be impeccable at the thank you note; I had a lot of training. People complimented me on the thank you note. Then, I stopped writing them and I don’t know why. I have no reason to give other than I said in my head “tomorrow I will write it” and then you know what happens tomorrow. It never gets done, and it’s too late to write it when the thought pops up in your head again and by that time, the quickest way to go is an email which as we all know, arrives second later.

In business, I think making a client or a customer feel valued is just as important. Technology has taken over, and we are so busy that we can barely take a moment for ourselves. This got me thinking. Why is it so hard to do something so simple? Why do we have to talk ourselves into this moment, this very important connection, this thank you! I promised myself that I would change some bad habits in 2016, and this is one of them. I have vowed to take the time to sit down and thank my clients, people who inspire me and people who help me in a note from time to time. To take the time to thank a person who helps me in my business in any way, I want them to know I am grateful. I challenge you to join me. Even if it is a short note on an invoice or a handshake. Maybe that little extra something that shows your gratefulness will come back to you!

Thank you to all who take the time to read my blogs, that is one thing I am REALLY thankful for!

The Gallery Wall

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I have always wanted to do gallery wall, but I never had a great place to display things in our old house. We had a hallway filled with photographs in black frames, but it was hard to see them since the area was dark. When we moved into the new house, I thought “YES”, a second chance! Although excited about it I put it off for a couple of months and then I finally braved it and committed.

It was a time-consuming process, to say the least, but I took the advice of other pinners on Pinterest and made a map of everything. Pinterest can sometimes be your friend and sometimes your worst enemy because when you are up late at night and you start thinking to yourself “I can do that!” Hours later you ask yourself, “Why on earth did I do that?” Either way, it was the right way to go. I used old wrapping paper, the plain white side, to display just because the pattern makes it harder to decide in my opinion. I also used washi tape because it sticks enough to hold but does not peel the paint off the walls. It will also allow you to easily move things over and over again until you get it right. I did make notes on the paper too just to be sure. After a lot of rearranging and walking away, I finally committed and started hanging. Not having the actual wall paint color on hand if I had made mistakes probably was my number one reason for going this route. I wanted to be a little more meticulous about it than normal. I cannot lie, on more than one occasion I may have just not measured where the nail should go by eyeing it. My husband may have noted it once or twice. If you are smart, you can actually use the paper on the wall to be your nail guide as well.  Live and learn friends, live and learn!

At the end of the day, I love it! I think I made the right choice to incorporate antiques, artwork, and photographs to make it more interesting. However, I think it would look great with just family photos as well.If you decide to tackle your own wall, take some time to gather the items you wish to hang. If you don’t have enough, hit up your local thrift store. You can find some great pieces that you can revamp there for a fraction of the cost. Also, find a bit of a color story to stick with. Too many colors competing will make a total mess. I stuck with the wood, the black frames and that pop of green in the “F” to keep a good balance. Take a look at the final gallery wall below, what do you think?

My last and most important piece of advice to you is that when your husband returns home to see your great creation and asks you if you think it’s too much, walk on friends, just keep walking on.

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Is Blogging Painful?

People often ask me if I like blogging. You may be surprised to hear this but in the beginning, I despised it. Why? Because it use to scare me. I am talking knees knocking; I may be too sick to write this type of afraid when I began. Today everyone claims to be a guru on literally every topic of conversation out there so why would people listen to me? Am I redundant, do I sound educated, will I look like a fool, what can I add that hasn’t already been discussed? These thoughts would snowball in my head and then something that could have taken less than an hour to write takes me a week. It’s self-defeating and a waste of time. So, how does one overcome all of the emotions and move on? I think this is the point of the conversation where you want a quick remedy, right? I am supposed to provide that. News flash, there isn’t one. However, I have some suggestions to make your blogging life a little bit easier and keep those knees steady.

Blog on topics you feel comfortable discussing.

No one wants a lesson they can get from a handbook, but they want to be informed. Try picking topics that you are knowledgeable in but home also some life experience with as well. It’s great that you are a photographer who knows all the rules but can you help me apply them to my daily photo shoots. Give some real life examples and feelings about the subject to want to explain. People are interested in the facts but want to feel a part of the conversation, and it’s important to do that with words.

You may be an expert on a subject.

Experts are great but opinions are too, and that is the freedom of the blog. Speak your truth, tell us what you know but don’t leave out the “real world” stuff because that is what usually drives a reader. How can you help us? What do you like better? Use links, photographs and videos to tell your story. Make it comfortable for the reader and I promise they will be back to read more!

 Time yourself. Painful but true.

Give yourself a time limit and then walk away. Now, if you are on a role and can’t stop, don’t. But if you are writing while Snapchatting, checking Facebook and coloring in your new adult coloring book then walk away. Focus is key and you are not getting through this with a colored pencil in your hand.

 Listen to great music and have coffee at the ready.

Get your groove on! What helps you write? For me, it’s Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. I love Miles and the music just keeps me going, it truly helps. Coffee is self-explanatory. Who doesn’t enjoy a good cup of joe and maybe a scone to nibble while typing away!

Be prepared to have at least 800 words to write. Seriously, don’t kill me, this is 501 right here!

Some blogs will be longer than others. I usually shoot for around a thousand words myself; it’s a personal goal. Just make sure your blog has meat to it, not the kind you eat. You need words to justify those pretty photographs. Plus it is great for your SEO! Try hard to think about what you want to say and before you know it you will have written a hundred words without even realizing it! See, we are already at 583, my time flies by fast.

Give yourself talking points, just like these.

Talking points are helpful because not only do they keep the writer on track, but they let the reader skip to the points they are curious about without having to read the entire blog.  If you break down the blog into mini-stories, it accomplishes more with your reader and lets you connect. Does this defeat the purpose? No, because even if they absorb certain talking points if the writing is of quality to them they will return.

Pay attention to your font sizes and make it pretty.

This is a personal preference, but I believe if you take to time to break down your thoughts and create a fantastic blog you should make it look good. For example, your talking points should be bold or different from the paragraph text. Photographs should be the best quality you can find. Often if I have a photo I love but is not perfect, I try to do a little editing before sharing it. People are visual; they want images along with their text, give them what they want! A photograph just won’t do? Hire a graphic designer, explain what you need and see if they will work with you within your budget. Itl gives you an edge not many have, a unique look.

Find your voice.

Be you, we want your voice. We want your fantastic personality and views to shine. Tell us what you think because that is what we are interested in, that is why we are here.

Check you’re grammar.

Yes, I know that is wrong. I did it on purpose because we make mistakes, all of us make them. However, try to make as little as possible in your work. Check things, question yourself and make sure you check your grammar.

 

Probably the most important, save your work.

We have all been there. Working until the wee hours of the morning, so proud. We step back admiring our work, and the power goes out. Complete panic mode sets in. Why didn’t you spend the extra $5 on that surge protector with battery backup? Why didn’t you save it when you were done 5 minutes ago instead of gazing into your creation like it was the first time anyone in the entire world had ever written something. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Now this I have a simple solution for, SAVE YOUR WORK! It’s easy, but we all forget from time to time. I try to save at the end of each paragraph to give you a quick idea of how easy it is. Trust me, it only takes one or two times to learn this most valuable lesson. Ok, maybe three times, but whose counting.

 

So here we are, at the end. Now that I started this blog I realize I could go on, but we have made it to over a thousand words in under an hour. You can create fantastic content in a timely manner but don’t be too hard on yourself in the beginning. People will comment, sometimes complimentary things and then you have the trolls. Ignore it, you need the experience. Answer comments politely and move on. You will be a better person for it and a better writer too. Remember practice makes perfect, or at least pretty close!

 

Clients, I have favorites, shhh!

There are many types of businesses and many types of customers. After years of owning my own business, I have discovered my favorite type of client, and I am not afraid to share why. Are they the only client I have? No. But there is one type of client that I enjoy working with from start to finish. Graphic designers do have favorites, but don’t tell anyone, shhh!

My most favorite type of clients are the creative entrepreneurs, non-profits and the clients who get the brand.

I love my Etsy folks and small, local businesses alike! Working with other creatives is so rewarding for me because I understand the hard work it all takes. I appreciate their process, and I make it a point to learn as much as I can about their product and what they care about their clients seeing. Every business man or woman has an idea, a dream in their head, I am always grateful to be a part of that moment. It’s the excitement in their voice after seeing something on paper with their name that makes it come to life for them. And when the logo is finished, the website is launched, and the product it launched it is still important that I promote them every step of the way. Here are a few of the many creative small business owners I have had the pleasure of working with.Creative

Entrepreneurs Unite!

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One of my favorite makers is Caroline Randall Made. I have spoken about this business before with her beautiful Mason Jar Tumblers, but now she is making stunning monogrammed pillows! We created her logo together awhile ago, and I am always excited to see what she comes up with next. Make sure you check out Caroline’s Etsy shop online for handmade gifts. She creates everything from the pillows we spoke about earlier to mason jar tumblers, pencil cases, organic baby teethers, key fobs and more.

Meditation_Buzz_Logo_textDo you meditate? Did you know you can learn how to meditate properly to relieve stress in your everyday life? You can at Meditation Buzz! So many of us could certainly use this technique for ourselves. I think this is a brilliant idea that will help so many people manage the day to day stress. Melissa has various types of classes and will teach you how to take a moment and breath, the correct way. I encourage you to take a look at her website, and if you are in the Jacksonville, Florida area you might want to check it out!

 

Non-Profits Make You Feel Good!

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These kids, WOW these kids! I have been so honored to work with this group of kids out of Immokalee, Florida. Once a project, now a business. We started working together not so long ago designing the logo and brand for Taste of Immokalee, my how it has grown. They went from creating a tasty salsa to an entire line of products! Recently the line was picked up by various Winn-Dixie and Publix stores in the Lee County area of Florida. A friend messaged me on Facebook today saying how they love these products and will continue to buy them because of the taste and quality. Completely made my entire day! If you see these products, please grab them and open them up as soon as you get home. I promise you the story of how all it all came to be will inspire you, and the taste of the products will delight you. If you are out of the area and want to purchase the products online, they ship and make great gifts for any occasion!

 

You Get Me, You Really, Really, Get Me!

I love the client that fully understands the purpose and need for a brand. It is important that no matter what you promote for your business it has a consistent feeling in everything you do from your logo to your social media, it matters. Many people starting a business have a budget, and I am always aware of that but using your money wisely in your marketing budget to create your image is so important from the get go. Working with a designer can guide you in the right direction in telling your story. Don’t miss the opportunity to ask questions before you take a huge step in this process. Be you, be consistent and be unique!