Monday, April 26, 2010

Creativity in Practice

I'm so excited to be quoted in "Creativity in Practice", an article in the May issue of How magazine. How is a national magazine dedicated to the creativity and business of graphic design, and it's a publication I've been reading since college — so for me, it's a great honor! The article discusses ways to apply the same creative thinking to your business as you do to your design work. Here's my full quote:

My wicked awesome quote:

My new and exciting way of business development for my one-man-band design studio is to be myself. I know, seems obvious and old-school, but I find a lot of other small design studios are trying to be something they are not. As a soloprenuer who works with small businesses and associations, I’ve found that embracing my small, yet creative business is far better than trying to make me seem larger and more corporate. I am able to get more personal with my clients because they deal directly with me as the creative guru and business owner; they feel more comfortable because they actually get to know me (and as a solo worker, “me” is pretty much the brand of my business); and they respect my advice because I can relate to their small business needs, fears and triumphs. It’s all about really understanding who your clients are. Instead of going to a potential business meeting in a stuffy suit, I usually show up in creative business casual (even jeans on occasion!). I’ve found that this what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude puts clients more at ease and creates a trust-relationship much faster.

If I am able to do a one-to-one in-person meeting with a potential client, showing them my work, but also getting to really understand their business needs, I am usually able to land the job. I don’t treat clients as the next paycheck , but as a business relationship that will grow as time moves on. I’ll admit, I’m pretty new to this self-employed bit, but I am certainly content with both the caliber and amount of work I’ve been lucky to receive. In the two years I’ve been in business I haven’t sent one self-promo out! All jobs have been strictly on a word-of-mouth basis and its definitely working for me!

What do you think? Do you have any additional input or creative ways you run your business?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gettin' Social: Facebook Fan Page

We've all heard of Facebook, you may even have your own profile. And if you're ahead of the game, you may even be using Facebook to promote your small business! (Go ahead, pat yourself on the back). Here are a few quick tips on how to use Facebook Fan pages for your business.

Facebook Pages are different than profiles. You have a profile for you, but must have a page for your business. A Page can include all the important information about your company. They’re useful because you can include everything that relates to your business such as company overview, website & contact info, press releases, videos, Blog RSS, company news and status, photos of new products or projects, plus customer interaction, to name a few.

To learn more about how to create your business fan page, click here. Then, follow the directions to create your own page. BUT WAIT! Before you create your own fan page, please read my latest eNewsletter, that will help you to plan why, who and how you will use your page. It's not enough just to have one, you must first strategize how your fanpage fits into your business marketing plan.

Once you have a fanpage, there are all sorts of fun, and thoughtful ways to make it stay consistent with your brand, while getting the most out of it. First, make sure to set a custom user name for your page. Usernames allow public entities to easily promote your presence on Facebook with a short URL, such as This username can be used in your marketing communications, company website and business cards. If you didn't select a user name when setting up your page, go to, then click on the bottom link "Set a username for your Pages" and select an available name.

Second, create a unique landing page that stays consistent with your brand. The landing page would be similar to a website homepage—you want to very quickly let the viewer know who you are and what you do. Plus, you want to encourage them to become a fan of your page! Check out Kalico's landing page for an example. Landing pages must be created using FBML, which stands for Facebook Markup Language. It’s similar to HTML for writing websites, so unless you are familiar with HTML, you may need a designer's help for this part. Here's a great How-To Video that walks you through the steps.

There are tons of additional applications you can include on your facebook fan page. Here's a great list to start choosing from. You don't need all of these, of course...just pick the ones that work the best for you and your business! For instance, for Kalico, my goal was to increase subscriptions for our eNewsletter, so I have an app that includes a newsletter subscription form right on my fanpage. I also use the Photos tab as a way to showcase some of our portfolio works. My next step is to add an RSS feed for our blog. (yep, the one you are reading right now!) The possibilities are endless, and I'll admit I'm still learning new ways to use Kalico's Fan page everyday!

And last, stay on top of it! It will take time to build your fan base, so keep sending out invites to new contacts asking if they want to become a fan of your business Page. Keep your content up-to-date and give people a reason to check in on your page regularly. Constantly promote the Page in any way possible, and before long you should see a large portion of your website’s referrals coming from Facebook!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Combating the Burn-Out Crisis

This past winter was rough, and not just because of the abnormally large amounts of snowfall we had here (Maryland)! Work has been crazy busy, personal life has been crazy busy, family life...yep, you guessed it, crazy busy, and so on. I'm sure you can relate. I feel like I have been going nonstop for the past 3 months (or more), and I'm coming close to my breaking point.

As a self-employed business owner, this is scary and overwhelming. Don't get me wrong, I am ecstatic Kalico has been so busy, and I continue to enjoy what I do. In addition, I also love the extracurricular activities I'm involved with, and I enjoy serving as a director on multiple Boards. On top of it all, I do try to manage a normal life, spending time with my husband working on our house, or visiting with family and friends. But sometimes it just all gets to be too much! I'm the first to admit it—I am reaching my "Burn-Out" point, and I'm not entirely sure what to do.

As I talk with more and more people, I've discovered I am not the only one feeling this same way. This winter really took it's toll on businesses as well as individuals. So, I decided focus on ways to overcome this Burn Out mentality. OK, maybe I haven't done all of these things yet, but just writing them down will help motivate me to make some changes, which will hopefully bring me back to my normal self! Here goes:

1. Always take a lunch break! (Not at your desk)

2. Get plenty of rest and sleep.

3. Get outside (especially now that the weather is nice). That fresh air can REALLY make a difference!

4. Listen to relaxing music while working. Lately I've been switching up what I listen to, and it has really helped keep my mind fresh.

5. Set a cut-off time...sure, we all need to work late now and again. But, you get to a certain point when you just aren't productive anymore. Figure out when your stopping point is, then come back to your task in the morning. You'll be likely to get more accomplished.

6. Exercise. If work permits, take a walk during the day (I am going to try to take the dog on daytime walks), get up and walk around the office a bit, do some light stretching. Anything that gets you moving for a bit.

7. Breathe. Sometimes just taking a few minutes (away from your computer, or your current task), to do some deep breathing exercises can really have a calming effect. Plus, it gives your mind a small break to just be and relax.

8. Break your tasks down into smaller, more direct steps. I recently started using a task management software program called things. It allows me to break down each of my tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. I check off each of these steps when I'm done then move onto the next one. It really helps to break down those big To-Do Items into less daunting tasks. Plus, it looks like you've accomplished more at the end of the day!

These are just a few of the things I pledge to try, and hopefully these little changes will help get me back on track! Any additional suggestions are greatly appreciated! How do you cope with burn-out?