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.

Netwerk Like it Ain’t Work!

Networking. Some of us love it, some of us hate it. Either way, it is essential in your small business!

I have been very lucky to have many clients through word of mouth over the years that I didn’t have to face the networking crowds when I lived in Florida. It wasn’t until our recent move to Georgia when I found myself needing to get out there and meet my new community. I didn’t want to work here without being involved in the local area and knowing what clients needed out in the low country.

Here are some helpful tips to boost your confidence and get you on the right track for networking in your community. You will be a pro in no time and remember, everyone, is just as nervous as you are so werk it!

Where to Go
There are many networking groups in every city, the number one place to start looking is the Chamber of Commerce if you are interested in starting with a trusted source. You can also google networking groups in your town. I highly suggest asking locals for advice; there may be smaller groups you didn’t even know that fit your niche better. The bigger the city, the more choices you will have. Choices are a good thing! Most groups allow you to visit once for free if they require membership dues. They get to meet you, and you get to see if it’s the right fit for you too. When trying out a group ask yourself after, did I meet enough people who might need my services? Was there anyone interesting I would like to get to know more and possibly use their services? Does the time of this meeting work for me monthly? Being able to attend regular meetings after you join is paramount so make sure you can benefit from the membership fee you will have to pay. With this in mind take advantage of these one-time expeditions. Network with the folks you meet, don’t pass up any opportunity.

Find an Event
Ok, hopefully by now you have picked the right networking group; it’s time to breathe! Let’s talk about going to your first event within that group. Make sure you dress the part. If the event is a formal one don’t show up in casual attire, impress them, so they remember you! If it is a monthly meeting, feel free to wear day to day work attire but try to amp it up a bit. I can’t stress this enough; you need to be you but still look professional! I sit in front of a computer all day. I wear jeans because they are comfortable and I love them. Attire for an artist is just as important as it is for anyone else in the business world. However, when I go to a meeting I still wear jeans, but I certainly like dress them up to make an impression. Fun jewelry or scarves can certainly make any outfit pop so get creative and be memorable!

Ask a Friend
Know someone in the group? Ask them to join you! Friends make things more fun so why not use this as an opportunity for you both to mingle together. It’s a lot less painful I assure you. Plus it is a great way to cross network, they may know business owners you don’t and vice versa.

Have Enough
When I say have enough I mean have enough on all accounts. Have enough business cards, have enough courage to talk to people, have enough energy to be present, have enough skills that you can openly talk about and look knowledgeable in your field, have enough confidence to know you’ve got this! There have been many times when I have gone to an event and walked in the room and though, wow, I should have gotten better sleep and I probably should have ironed this shirt a little better. If you don’t feel 100% you probably won’t perform your best so give yourself some slack. Know in your heart this just might not be the right day to show up, it’s ok to miss one meeting, don’t beat yourself up for it.

It’s not over yet
So the event is over, and you feel pretty good about it. You have passed out business cards and have received some in return. Now, what do you do? Go back to the office and get to work? Of course, but don’t forget to carve out some time later that day or the next morning to email those kind folks who connected with you and gave you a business card. Even if you email them and they do not respond, even if you probably don’t see yourself doing business with them directly…they will remember that email and maybe down the line need your services or know someone else who might. If you do get a response from them, ask if they would like to meet for coffee to learn more about them. You can advertise as much as you like, but word of mouth clients are truly priceless. You can only obtain them through your ambition and drive to make your business the best it can be. Remember to be polite and available to connect and it will be rewarded, I promise!

Photo by Hope Farm Co.

In closing I would like to say, I got really lucky. When I started looking for that perfect group that would fit me best in my new community I found a creative group that made me a better. A better businesswoman and a much better artist! They inspire me and I am so excited each month when I get to see them all at our monthly meeting. There is a constant feeling of support and collaboration, they want to lift each other up which is a true gift.  I have been honored to help some of them with their branding and in return, they have helped me so much as well. I also recently joined the Chamber of Commerce in our area too and I am looking forward to meeting more businesses in the future.

I will leave you with this last piece of advice, don’t be afraid. Others in the room are just as nervous as you are, know this when you walk in. Make eye contact with someone and just say hello to start that conversation. Now, put on your big girl pants and get out there, it’s time to NetWerk!

 

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.

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Digital

 

 

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!

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!