and planning the next big dreams for my creativity and business
I look forward to what the next year will bring! As I work to launch my new brand and blog (coming soon!) I want to know what I can do for you? What would you like to learn? What kind of tutorials, classes or lessons are you interested in? Are there any tips, techniques, expertise that I can offer to you?
Take a peek at the two talented and creative ladies that I'm calling my team, Liz and Allison.
I can't recall when I first stumbled upon Bethany's work, but what I do remember is reading her blog posts on launching her new business and her day-to-day life and work challenges on taking the leap into self-employment. I fell in love with honesty, clean designs and hilarious commentary. Meet Bethany Grow, a wildly talented designer, blogger, creative, entrepreneur and the cutest thing since cupcakes.
AN INTERVIEW WIT BETHANY GROW | DESIGNER & CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR
How did you get started as a designer and entrepreneur?
I actually got started after designing my own wedding invitations! I loved the challenge of creating the first piece that would introduce the whole look and feel of my wedding to my guests. I had such a great time creating my own that I decided to start designing more and creating wedding stationery for other happy couples! Through that I discovered a love of branding as I loved capturing the whole feeling and experience of an entire event in one design. Since then I've transitioned into working with businesses and blogs to style their look and strategize the brand experience!
Looking back at your childhood, did you have any creative talents that eluded to a career as a designer/entrepreneur?
Oh yes! I mean, I had so many ideas of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do when I grew up and I wanted to start as soon as I could! At one point I started a fake radio show called "The Cheese" and I wrote stories and songs for the show that were all about cheese. I used to draw and paint all the time and I would sell the finished pieces in my front yard (but I was never successful since I hid behind a tree when cars came because I was uber shy). I loved writing books and had many many notebooks full of novels that I would start.
I just knew that I wanted to do something creative and I don't think I understood this at the time, but looking back at my many ventures, I really wanted to run my own show.
Creativity and art has always been hugely important to me. Maybe someday I'll tell you about the one time I peed my pants in 1st grade because I just REALLY didn't want to leave art class to go to the bathroom.
How were you able to take the leap into self-employment successfully? Did you overlap your day job with freelancing for a certain period of time?
I started my business about a year and a half ago and up until three months ago, I was always working another job while freelancing. There were a few times when I actually had 2 jobs! It was crazy stressful, trying to get a business off the ground in the evenings when I was already tired and grumpy from my other jobs earlier that day. Really I decided to take the leap when I realized how miserable my 9-5 jobs were making me and how much I loved my freelance work. And while I did LOTS of planning, preparing, and saving, I honestly couldn't have made this leap without my husband by my side. Together we've been able to set budgets and cut back on our spending so I don't feel too pressured to make tons of money during this truly vulnerable time. He is so supportive of my goals and dreams and can see the joy that freelancing brings me so he has been amazing and made lots of sacrifices for me. And I'm so glad we took this leap together because I'm so much happier and have been able to do so much more with my business!
What are you doing today or what have you done in the past to successfully grow your business?
I work hard every single day to grow my business! A huge part of what I do that has contributed to my success is marketing with my blog. I've been able to connect with so many potential clients by sharing my knowledge and experiences for everyone! Beyond my blog, I'm constantly strategizing new ways to reach my target market and grow my business by creating new offerings, strategizing new marketing plans, and taking little risks that will push me further.
What's one of your greatest accomplishments?
One of my greatest and more recent accomplishments was taking the huge risk of quitting my job and giving up my steady income to invest my whole heart and time into my business. It was a big step and a hard one to take and I had many a panic attack before my first day of working from home, but with a lot of effort and sacrifice I've not only made it work but I've thrived! It was the best decision I've ever made for my business and I'm so proud of myself for having the faith and guts to do it! Because of that step I've been able to do so much more with my business and make new plans that will propel me even further!
What's one short term and one long term goal of yours?
One short term goal of mine is to finish my book! Over my Christmas vacation I got the idea and started brainstorming and just recently have had the time to get started on it. It's been a big adjustment as writing in this setting is so new to me, but I'm learning a lot throughout the process and I can't wait till it's finished!
A long term goal of mine is to travel all over Europe and Asia! I know that doesn't seem business related at all, but one of the many many reasons I wanted to quit my job to become a creative solopreneur was to have the freedom to pursue my dreams and not just my business dreams, but all of them! It will require a lot of work on my part to earn the money to do it all, but I'm determined and I'm making the steps to eventually get there. Hopefully it's not too far off! I'm itching to go see the world!
Ooh a book, do spill!
I'm so excited about this book! It started as a way to fully gather my advice and lessons that I've given to design and consulting clients that have struggled with creating and maintaining a professional and successful blog.
In working with these clients, I've discovered that many don't understand the concept of branding and are missing out on a hugely important part of what they do that can really propel them forward in the blogosphere.
Have that brand experience- the stories, voice, feelings, actions, expectations, style, everything that goes into creating a brand- is what will set them apart and help them be more successful. My goal is to show them how they can create a brand for themselves and their blog all on their own with lots of brainstorming, strategic planning, some helpful tools, and tons of work. I want to empower readers to go out on their own with clarity on who they are, who they want to reach, and how they're going to reach them and then the confidence to go out and do!
What's one challenge you've encountered as an artist and what did you do to overcome it?
One challenge I really really struggled with for a long time was comparison. It's so hard to not compare myself to other creatives when everything seems to be so quantifiable these days! They are making more money than me, they've had more sales, they have more readers on their blog, more Twitter followers, everything! But almost a year ago now I was having a conversation with a friend about competition in the creative fields when it hit me that we are all so different and have so many different styles that why on earth do we compare ourselves to others? That's the great thing about being creatives is that we can all work in our own ways and have so many opportunities to be unique! Since then I've made a huge effort to avoid the comparison trap (though I admittedly still fall into it sometimes) and instead focus on putting my heart and soul into the work that I do. I am unique and do great work and that's all that matters!
Any words of advice for other creatives and artists looking to start and grow their expertise and business?
Remember to relax. It's funny because I almost wrote "work hard" because of course a lot of work is required to grow any business.
So much time and energy goes in to running your own show, it's so easy to become a workaholic and let your life revolve around your work. But don't forget to live your life!
Get outside, go on vacation, read a book, see your friends, try new foods, go see a movie! Regularly stepping away from your work will be so good for your sanity and creativity. And chances are, if you take a step back you'll be so much more excited about being able to get back to your work and it will remind you why you love what you do so much!
What's the first and the last thing you did today?
The first thing I did was cuddle with my dog Bruce Wayne in bed. I'm not a morning person at all so I like to wake up slow (and late) and what better way than to hang with your cute fluffy pup? The last thing that I always do before going to sleep is write in my journals. I have one to record my day to day activities and another Q+A journal where I can answer fun questions! I love to take time every night to look back on my day and write down the things I really want to remember.
Tell me more about your journaling process - the Q&A sounds interesting.
I've always been really terrible at journaling. I love writing and I love the concept of saving memories and being able to go back and remember the good stuff, but I've always been terrible at committing to a journal and sticking to it. So this year I started two different journals- the one line a day journal and the Q&A journal.
The One Line A Day Journal is five year journal where I can record just a few short sentences about my day. It helps me to stay focused on the things that truly matter that I'll want to remember in years to come. Each day in the journal has five different lines, one for each year and in years to come I will keep writing in that journal and share my quick thoughts on my day. So in five years, I'll be able to look back on the things that happened on each day for those years and see how things have changed!
Then there's the Q&A journal. It's similar to the One Line A Day Journal as it only lets you write a few sentences and it's also a five-year journal. But instead of just summing up my day, I answer a random question! This is a fun way to record the simple stuff that might not be important enough to mention in my One Line a Day Journal, but things that will be fun to look back on. Like the song that was stuck in my head all day or what I wore today or who I'm mad at or if I could travel anywhere, where would I go? I have a feeling that these answers will be fun to compare in the next five years.
I just love being able to spend a few minutes every night before bed thinking back on the day and remembering the things I should be grateful for. It helps me to clear my head and to go to bed feeling happy.
What's the last music you listened to?
The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack! It's my favorite movie and I listen to the soundtrack a lot while I work
What’s the last book you read?
Daring Greatly- amazing read! Go read it. Do it.
What's your favorite dessert?
Right now, eclairs! But that will change in a week.
Coffee or tea?
Hot Chocolate! I actually don't drink either coffee or tea, but you can often find me with a mug full of hot chocolate!
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
Routines are like framework. By knowing our limits, creating a workflow that matches our energy levels and making time for what matters we can achieve greatness.
Adapted from this book and almost two years of experience, I have 7 tips that have helped me build a solid routine.
1. Creative 1st, Reactive 2nd
A few months ago I finally kicked the bad habit of checking my emails immediately after I woke up. My entire morning would feel rushed because I knew that other people were waiting on me, like clearing my inbox and responding to every email was the only way I could focus and carry on my day.
Today, I block off my entire morning for me to wake up, drink coffee, eat, write, read, meditate, brainstorm, create and exercise with the phone on silent and emails unchecked.
It's feels a little difficult at first putting yourself before others' expectations, but you will soon feel liberated and in control when you make time for you. I wrote about this in Letters from Meredith too.
"To truly excel, you must also continue to create for the most important audience of all: yourself." - Todd Henry
2. Energy Rhythms
What times of day do you feel the most energized? Months ago, I took note of when I felt the most energized and when I felt the most drained. I then aligned my creative tasks with my most energetic rhythms. For example, I'm most energetic from 8-11am, then again from 3-5pm. So during those time I paint, draw, write, design and brainstorm. Then in between those times I return emails and complete administrative work.
We are said to follow ultradian rhythms which are ninety-minute bursts at the end of which we reach the limits of our capacity. To stay energized, take a break or go outside for walk in between each burst. This will increase productivity and renew your energy.
Figure out what your associative triggers are and repeat them daily. Sitting at a clean desk, showered, with coffee and listening to music tells me it's time to work and create. On days I don't shower, have a messy desk or work in silence, I feel unproductive and scrambled.
4. The to-do list
Know what you can achieve in a day, jot it down, and let go of the rest. Mark McGuiness suggests writing your daily tasks on a 3x3" Post-It note "because if you can't fit everything on a list that size, how will you do it all in one day?"
I've recently updated how I write out my daily goals to separate "for me" and "for my business" instead of "home" and "work" tasks because it feels more intentional. For the most part, this is still how I approach my to-do list.
5. Your ideal day
Imagine what you want your day to look like and stick with it. Set a time of day when you start and end work, dedicate times of day for creative work, meetings, admin work to stay productive and help you avoid workaholism.
I work every day from 12-6:30/7pm and would like to end my days earlier. I'm slowly working at fine-tuning my schedule to accomplish that. I talk a little about my day-to-day hereandhereand have this worksheet for you so you can write out what you want your daily routine to look like.
Close Facebook, Pinterest and your emails while you're trying to work. multi-tasking is a myth and we need to focus to get real work one. Distractions interfere with our productivity and creativity. Stick with your schedule and dedicate time for accomplishing work, and other times for social media, emails and distractions.
It's essential to find solitude every day so that we can listen to our inner voice and learn what it has to teach us. For me, the best time to mediate is in the morning. Mediating doesn't have to complicated, in fact it's simply sitting and doing nothing. I dedicate fifteen-minutes daily, but maybe it's five or thirty-minutes for you. The most important thing is that you make time for it everyday.
"The calming of the mind helps us to figure out what really matters and to hear our creative voice." - Leo Babauta
What are you doing today to stay focused, productive or creative? Any tips or resrouces to share?
Today I shared 47 exclusive tips, books, blogs, articles, tools, materials and websites to help you grow your craft, expertise and business successfully with my newsletter subscribers. Receive your very own list by subscribing to my newsletter:
The first learning curve I faced when starting my online business was how to communicate with my clients through emails. I always had jobs that were face-to-face. Transforming body language, facial expressions and tone of voice into an email was a whole new ballgame.
Over the years, here is what I learned works for me:
1. NEVER SEND/CHECK EMAILS AFTER HOURS
Nothing looks more unprofessional than receiving an email from an expert at midnight. Think about it, have you ever received an email from J.Crew at midnight? No. And that's because everyone has gone home and to their personal life. And as for checking your email at midnight, I am guilty and never happy when I get an email from a client who needs more revisions on a project that has revised for the last time. It's stressful and will keep you up at night reading emails like that. My personal goal is to leave my phone outside of my bedroom so I am not tempted to check email before bed or when I wake.
2. CONSISTENTLY & PROPERLY PUNCTUATE
I'm not a smiley face kind of gal, but every once in a while a smiley face is the only way I can show how happy I am to others. I have also learned to be mindful of punctuation marks from start to finish. Back when I was learning how to send email aka communicate with clients, I asked Emily (during a 3 in 30 session) what she thought of all of this. She offered a tip that stuck: be consistent with punctuation. For example, if a client contacts me and I am full of exclamation points and smiley faces - then when we get to thick of the project and I am only sending brief responses with little-to-no punctuation, then my client can interpret that in the wrong way.
3. RESPOND WITHIN 24-48 HOURS
A good rule of thumb is to respond to emails within 24-48 hours or sooner. If you can't get to the message right away, mark it as unread or somehow distinguish that you need to respond to the email. That way email don't fall through the cracks.
4. HAVE YOUR RESPONSE READY
Of course every email calls for a personalized message, questions answered, etc. Once you have the custom part of the message done, copy and paste or attach a pdf of your packages/info into the email. That way you don't have to rewrite the same copy over and over again and you can respond more efficiently. I save my rates in my notes app on my computer that way if I am traveling I can copy and paste it from my phone too.
5. DON'T OVER DO IT
Have you ever received an email that contained a "signature" bigger than the email itself? It's distracting, unprofessional and overdone. It's like getting spam within an email that you want to erase asap. At the very bottom of every email I send is a personalized signature which includes my logo and information. It's small, tactful and professional. Keep it simple, small and easy to read, that way your message isn't immediately deleted once opened.
6. A CLEAN INBOX
An ever-growing inbox stresses me out. Folders are your friend. I have over a dozen different folder categories in my gmail from receipts to music shows to business tips. If you can't read the latest newsletter, save it in a folder for future reading. This also makes it easy when you need to print out receipts for taxes.
After I have received an inquiry and responded with my rates and info, I leave the message in my inbox for 1 week. After that week I send a followup email then archive it. If they respond, great, if they don't no more emails will be sent. It's a way of showing you care which can be just enough to close a sale.
As I've mentioned here, a huge piece of successfully accomplishing your goals is sharing them with others. So I am taking my own advice and sharing with you my goals. From now on, I will be sprinkling in my 2014 goals on Instagram, from business goals like teaching calligraphy and cursive, to personal goals like saving money to travel overseas.
Have you written out your goals for 2014 yet? Check our these dream catching and resolution accomplishing tips here and hereto help you get started.
So lets' hear them, what are a few of your 2014 goals (remember - sharing them will help you hold yourself accountable)?
Lately, I've been working with creatives to identify their mission, discover their dream clients, and create a brand that reflects their personal style. Like this brand design for Sarah Elizabeth Dunn.
Sarah and I dug deep searching for things like what her ideal scene would look like, what sets her apart from others, what stories she wants to tell and why she does what she does. This part, the digging deep, is my favorite part of the process.
We developed a brand to reflect her vision mixing pale, subtle colors with hand-painted watercolor lettering and botanical illustrations. What we came up with is a soft, organic and romantic brand that's clean and sophisticated.
Do you have a logo that needs refreshing or you simply need a brand overhaul? Email me to see how we can work together to create a brand your proud of and a brand that reflects your personal style: firstname.lastname@example.org