When I first started playing around with design, those CD-ROM’s full of clip art images were the shit. (If you grew up in the late 90’s, you know exactly what I’m talking about.) Things got really crazy once I discovered Microsoft Publisher how to install free fonts on my parents’ computer and for a while I was the reigning queen of designing babysitting ads and pet-walking flyers.
Software has come a long way in the last decade since then, thankfully, and now as a business owners we have tons of amazing tools and programs at our fingertips. The sheer number of options can get a little overwhelming – frankly, I’m ready for a JARVIS–style program a la Iron Man to do it all for me – but in the meantime, I’ve come up with a list of what I use on a regular basis to help you narrow down your options a bit! I’m not going to list all of the alternative options in this post (keep an eye out for that, though) – today is just the ones that I’ve found to be my tried-and-true ones.
This is obviously where I spend a good amount of time and money on software and tools. Here’s the breakdown of my most often-used ones:
ILLUSTRATOR: AI (Adobe Illustrator) is my go-to program for design. It’s vector-based, which means designs can be scaled as big as you want without getting pixelated (unlike Photoshop, which is raster-based). I use it for branding, social media graphics, blog graphics, single page worksheets, icon design, and digitizing hand lettering, to name a few.
INDESIGN: this is where I head if I have to create anything that’s more than a page long while still making it look gorgeous. That includes fillable PDF’s/workbooks, worksheets, presentations (yup, just save it as a PDF!), ebooks, contracts, and proposals.
PHOTOSHOP: the workhorse of the Adobe programs, in my opinion. There’s always more to learn about working in PS. I use it primarily for light photo editing (I don’t love photo editing), batch editing (like cropping or watermarking photos), and making GIFS!
SKETCH: I’ve been using Sketch to work on wireframing and web design and so far I’m really liking it. The shortcuts and layouts are different from the Adobe software so there’s a learning curve, but it’s really a great tool to have in your arsenal if you find yourself doing lots of web or app design.
2. Task + Project Management
TRELLO is currently my favorite project management software. Read more about why I love Trello here – in short, it’s free, unlimited number of projects and users, I can upload images, color code things, and it’s wonderfully visual.
TODOIST is my favorite to-do list. It’s super minimal (though the premium version has some nice features, like labeling) and it’s perfect for brain dumping all of those random to-do items that aren’t necessarily things that you’d file away under project management software.
CALENDLY: I use Calendly to book any and all client-facing meetings and Skype dates. My favorite thing about Calendly is that it allows me to create multiple events, each with different time frames (ie, an event can be scheduled during certain time frames on certain days) and I can link people to book specific events – 30 minute coffee dates, hour-long branding audits, you name it. Oh, and it integrates with Google calendar so on days where I have appointments or events scheduled already, it shows me as unavailable. Perfecto!
SUNRISE: Hands down my favorite calendar app. Sunrise integrates with Google calendar (so it pulls in all of my Calendly appointments) and with Trello (so it shows when all of my deadlines are). Plus, it’s pretty and I can use it on my laptop and my phone. Boom!
I could use 30 productivity tools and still need more, but here are my favorite few.
NEWS FEED ERADICATOR: this Chrome extension hides your main Facebook feed completely. It makes me a little twitchy sometimes – that damn FOMO – but it’s a great way of preventing myself from spending ages scrolling through my feed.
SELF CONTROL: this is a goodie. It’s free, the idea is that you set it to block all sites that you tell it to block for however long you want. The catch is that you can’t access those sites again until either time runs out or you restart your computer.
MAILPLANE: I only use this on my desktop (I have Mailbox on my phone) but I’m definitely liking it. The selling factors for me were that it’s basically the normal Gmail web interface BUT you can easily have multiple accounts up at once and you just flip between tabs. SO useful if you have multiple email accounts.
SLACK: I’ve started using Slack for communication with some of my long term clients to cut down on the number of emails back and forth. Basically, it’s a dedicated chat room where we can have conversations (to replace the emails) and share files, and it’s all contained in one spot. So handy! I also use this with a couple mastermind groups to brainstorm and chat.
MAILCHIMP: these guys are tried and true, and there’s really nothing more fun than seeing that hairy monkey animation when you hit “schedule” or “send” on a newsletter, amirite?
I keep it pretty old school here, using the Instagram app, the FB website, and Pinterest app.
HOOTSUITE is the one 3rd party social app I do use, especially for scheduling Tweets, but even then I’m much more into using Twitter for real-time conversations.
MINT recently replaced Wave for me for categorizing expenses, and I’m (attempting) to do things like budgeting and goal-setting in there too. Because it pulls transactions from multiple accounts, I have very few paper receipts that I ever have to deal with. Hooray!
8. Web Stuff
Like how descriptive that category is? Yeah.
CHROME is my bae. I love Chrome. Plus I have Chrome extensions like Evernote, Adblock Plus, What the Font (very handy), Full Page Screen Capture (for screenshots of entire web pages) and Chromecast to make it even more powerful.
FILEZILLA (FTP): I highly recommend this for any of my designer or web-savvy biz friends if you need to be able to directly upload files to your web server. No frills, easy to get the hang of.
WORDPRESS + DIVI: Yup, this baby is built 100% on WordPress with the help of the Divi theme/framework (they call it a theme, I think of it more as a framework. Potato/potato.) Anyways, Divi has a lot of options so I wouldn’t recommend it for an absolute novice or technophobe, but if you’re already familiar with WordPress and are willing to poke around and follow tutorials? It’s definitely worth a shot. I’ve also been using Layers to build my shop, which is a slightly different variation on the same idea of a “visual” theme creator. Both are super flexible and made for WordPress.
PRODUCTHUNT: Ok, so it’s not software itself, but it’s worth mention. Producthunt is basically user-submitted leaderboards of amazing apps, resources, and websites for tech geeks and entrepreneurs. I’ve found some great apps + fun websites through there (and my Ultimate E-course Toolkit was even featured on there!)
BACKBLAZE: Do you have Backblaze (or a similar cloud-based automatic backup of your harddrive)? If not, get thee over to Backblaze and subscribe. Seriously. I’ve lost seen the aftermath of harddrive failures, I’ve had to replace computers without having a backup…it’s not pretty. Backblaze automatically syncs any and all updated files from your computer straight to your cloud-based account when you’re connected to the internet, no work required. Downloading backup files is easy to do, too. Trust me on this one.
So that’s my top 20 tools + programs that I use just about daily. I’ve come across this combination after testing out a lot of different apps and programs, and these are the ones that I absolutely rely on day in and day out…but I’d really love to know which ones you use? What else do I need to check out?
Lately, I’ve been feeling the fall love – sweaters and boots, apple pie, reading by the fire. I’m definitely wishing for fall to hit us here in LA, as we’re anticipating yet another heatwave this week. This (wishful thinking) moodboard was inspired by those warm and cozy fall feelings, and some of the colors from Pantone’s forecast for Fall 2015.
Let’s get real. Feeling overwhelmed and like your to-do list is ten miles long sucks big time. It sucks even more when you’ve got a business to run, deadlines to meet, and clients to manage (never mind trying to have a life). Add that to the isolation that can happen when you’re working from home every day and you’ve got the perfect emotional storm starting to brew.
Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to get to that point! Sure, you’ll still have moments where you may feel like you’re barely treading water (you’re not the only one) but there are a few things that you can do to keep yourself from throwing in the towel or eating an entire pint of ice cream (again, you’re not the only one) and to help you get back to a place of productivity and business ass-kicking.
Now, I don’t mean to literally gtfo of your biz. Rather, I mean that the first step to fighting overwhelm is to get out of your head, your office/apartment, and most importantly, get OFFLINE. Getting out of the house and away from a screen can make an immediate difference, even if you’re ready to throw in the towel by the time you finally take a break. It’s easy to want to “just power through” it or start mentally spinning in circles worrying about every little thing. But forcing yourself to physically change locations (ok, and put on makeup and heaven forbid, a bra) creates a mental and physical separation from your work for a bit and helps you take things down a few notches. Bonus points if you can get a little exercise in the process, but don’t beat yourself up if the best you can do is go to 7-11 for a Diet Coke. It still gets you away from your work for a bit, and that’s the key.
2. Say no. Then do it again.
One of the key reasons I’ve found for a crazy amount overwhelm is that I feel like I have to do all of the things. Literally, it’s that heart-racing, omg-my-to-do-list-is-a-mile-long feeling. Know what doesn’t help that feeling? Taking on MORE responsibilities. For me, I have trouble saying no to small projects and friend favors. No one wants to be perceived as a jerk – but you won’t be able to help anyone if you totally lose it because of saying yes to everything. Read this article on saying “fuck yes” – I’ve tried to make “fuck yes or fuck no” my decision-making mantra. Does a new collaboration or project make you say fuck yes? Then do it! If not, it’s a fuck no and keep it off of your to-do list.
3. Take note of your triggers.
What immediately sends you into stress/anxiety/overwhelm mode? There’s a difference between regular stress or nervousness and that full-on “oh man I don’t know if I can do this” overwhelm. Think about what makes you feel the latter. It could be something like getting tons of emails from a client, or feeling like you’re trying to juggle too many projects. Maybe it’s not even business-related; you might get to that point of overwhelm because you’re stressed about how much housework you have to do, or because your kids won’t let you work in peace. Whatever those triggers for overwhelm mode are, write them out and then take a close look at the most painful/stressful couple of things. Is there someone you can outsource these to, like a VA? Maybe you can do a trade with a friend for childcare a day or two a week so that you can work quietly. Maybe you need to work with less clients (but with higher budgets) and change things up a little in your business model so that you can work smarter and not harder. Also, just being aware of the specific things/situations that really send you spiraling into anxiety mode can help you keep an eye out for them and avoid them in the future.
4. Get a support group
This has been one of the best ways for me to combat all those crazy moments in business ownership. Whether it’s a facebook group, a Slack group of your favorite business owners, or even just a couple local entrepreneurs that you’ve found from a networking event, it’s key to have other people who’ve been there to talk to. They get it. They’ve gone through it too. And best of all, they probably have some really good advice to offer you from their own experiences. Even if you’re in different industries, so many of these struggles are universal for business owners, so don’t be afraid to reach out!
5. Do one small thing. Then move on to the next.
Stop trying to multitask! Having multiple screens and six zillion browser tabs is a huge source of anxiety! Add on to that the 20 different ways people can get ahold of you and it’s overwhelm waiting to happen. Instead, close everything down, take out a pen and a good old fashioned piece of paper, and dump everything out of your brain. Seriously, it’s like brain vomit…just get it allll out. This is one of my favorite techniques (learned from this awesome skillshare class). He covers more in depth how to organize these “open loops,” but I like to just write everything out, highlight the top couple of must-do’s, and then tackle them one at a time. The one at a time part is the key— you get to cross shit off your list and by focusing on just one small task, it makes it feel so much less overwhelming than the feelings of “omg I have to do all of the things!” Trust me, I’ve been there.
Hopefully, this will help you keep back from that scary precipice of overwhelm next time things start getting crazy. You don’t have to apply them all – try one or two and see if they help! And when in doubt? Underwear dance parties to 90’s pop hits and corny movies are always a good solution. Or just shoot me an email and we’ll chat…you’re not alone in this!
I’m so excited to finally share this project! My friend Brigitte is the leading lady at White Apron Chef, where she’s a personal chef and has a school to train personal chefs on how to run their businesses. We’d decided earlier this summer to do a collaboration marrying design and Bigitte’s tasty as hell recipes, because who doesn’t love deliciously-designed goodies? The theme of this project was simple summer salads that take advantage of seasonal produce and are anything but your traditional green salad, and the goal was to make something that was shareable (because B’s recipes are fabulous!) and also looked amazing.
It was also a challenge: most recipes and food blogs rely heavily on photography to make the recipes look exciting and delicious. Since we didn’t have photography to work with this time around, I instead created a series of fun line icons and coordinating patterns showing off the ingredients we used in each recipe. Plus, these icons were so fun that I’m going to be using some of them on products when the new shop launches next week (eggplant mug, anyone?)
Here’s one of the recipes – I can’t wait to make this one!
Here’s what one of the prints looks like in action:
Super fun, right? And even better, the recipes are all available as a free download –
We’ve made it to another Friday, which means it’s time yet again for fuck yeah, Friday! This week, tons of tips and tricks from SEO to blogging to knocking your email list out of the park…
1. This post from Femtrepreneur on email list building has so much great wisdom, I want to print it out and frame it and kiss it. Or something less creepy, like bookmark it.
2. Little Farm Media is dropping some great tips for how to boost your SEO in time for the holidays.
3. If you’re like me, inbox zero is some mythical state of being. 99u agrees and has a better idea for handling email overload!
4. Confidence is key in business (and life!) and as always, Ash Ambirge lays down the law on how to seem confident, even if you’re not!
5. ByRegina knocks it out of the park again with 20 tips to up your pro blogging game!
What’s on your reading list this weekend?
This tech tutorial is one that has been requested a ton: how to create custom, branded Pinterest board covers! It’s worth spending a little time to create custom Pinboard covers – it’s easy to do, they make your page on Pinterest look cohesive and organized, and they create a fun and effective extension of your brand. Scroll down for the full how-to, and (because I love ya), a free Pinterest cover template for making your own covers in Adobe Illustrator!
HOW TO CREATE CUSTOM PINTEREST BOARD COVERS
1. Go to the individual board whose cover you want to customize.
2. Don’t forget the details!
Make sure to add your description (with your business name) and then in the search box, type in the board name where you’re adding this.
3. Edit Your Board Cover
Once your pin is uploaded and saved, you’ll be taken back to the main page for that board. Click on the “edit board” in the upper right corner, and then in the window that pops up, click “change.” You should see the most recent pin uploaded to the board, ie your custom cover image! You can click and drag the image to recenter it in the crop window, if needed.
That’s all you have to do! It’s a little roundabout, but it’s just a couple easy steps and it makes such a huge difference in how your Pinterest page – even if it’s just on your first couple rows of boards –will look at first glance.
You can make your own covers with a program like Photoshop, Illustrator, or even Canva (or, if worst comes to worst, Powerpoint!). The official size for board cover images is 217×146 pixels, but I’d create the images at 2-3x that size, since Pinterest will automatically downsize your image for you. Save your images as a png (or png-24 if you have the option) and you’re on your way.
And if you’re an Illustrator fan like me. you’re in luck – I created a free template for Illustrator to help you out! Just fill out your information below to unlock your free Illustrator template download.
Get your free Pinterest cover template for Illustrator!
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Oh yeah, I’m going there.
I don’t usually talk politics on here, but after following the election news recently, I just couldn’t hold back. In the last couple of weeks, Donald Trump has gotten a huge (and disproportionate) amount of attention from pretty much every major media network. He’s gone from an outspoken millionaire and property mogul to a political candidate that some of the electorate is taking quite seriously. The key to this? His unique personal brand has allowed him to break from the election norm and stand out among the candidates. Here are the top 3 takeaways from watching how he’s done this.
Full disclosure: I think the man’s beliefs/politics are perfectly crazypants and would never in a million years vote for him. Just so we’re clear.
1. Know Your Targets
Much to the dismay of the Republican party leadership, Donald Trump has become their numero uno guy for comments that are sexist, classist, racist, and just about every other negative -ist out there. To them, it’s a PR nightmare (and rightly so.) But what Trump is doing is actually spot-on from a personal branding standpoint: he’s tailoring his speeches to say exactly what a lot of people want to be hearing. Although I personally disagree with everything he says, he’s gaining popularity because, to his supporters, he’s the only candidate being honest and upfront. Since his earlier days in the public eye on the Apprentice, Trump has always played the part of the business-savvy but tactless “tell it like it is” guy, and he’s playing that up in his campaigning to appeal to his target demographic. I’m not about to recommend that you go out ranting against women or Mexicans (please don’t do that!) but what you should learn from this is the importance of tailoring your voice to those people you want to work with and who can eventually be huge cheerleaders for your brand.
2. Get Clear on Your Core Beliefs
This goes hand-in-hand with the way Trump panders to his audience. He leverages his unapologetic and unfiltered persona to share his core beliefs: he knows what he believes in and he wants everyone else to know it too. Every brand should have a set of core beliefs, whether it’s Amazon’s value of embracing failure or Toms’ belief in always giving back, having a set of core brand beliefs/values is key to being consistent and creating a solid brand and business. Donald Trump, similarly, has talked about his own core beliefs and his goal to “make America great again,” and leverages those core beliefs to try to find common ground with his audience and make himself seem more relatable.
3. Tread Carefully
The key problem (and maybe the biggest personal branding lesson to be learned here) is that Trump has taken the ideas of marketing to your target demographic and embracing core values to an extreme. As a result, he’s created an interesting situation for himself: he’s getting plenty of press and voter support, but he’s also damaging his once business-minded brand and turning it into a political one that has turned off many of those who previously thought of him as only a businessman. As a brand, it’s key to know who you’re targeting and being crystal clear on your values, but when you take it to an extreme as Trump has, negative consequences (in his case, losing multiple sponsors and business deals) are almost guaranteed to occur. So while he’s doing extremely well in the polls, and his new personal brand is working for him politically, he’s seeing some economic fallout. In sum? Know who you’re talking to and what you stand for, but be aware of people’s reactions to you, and be conscious of that if your messages may be seen as extreme or polarizing!
What do you think? Has he damaged his brand beyond repair? Would you ever embrace this kind of “no holds barred, give no fucks” attitude? Do you think he’s simply gotten to the point, business-wise, where he can afford to do this with his brand? Lots to think about. And I bet you didn’t think there were branding lessons to be learned from the man with the worst combover in America.
When I first heard about Gumroad’s Small Product Lab challenge, I was intrigued and frankly, a whole lot intimidated. The concept is that, in 10 days, the participants would conceptualize, create, and launch a “small product.” I didn’t think I could come up with an idea in 10 days, much less an idea that was feasible, marketable, and that solved a problem that actually needed solving. I signed up anyway and the emails promptly got lost in the inbox shuffle.
Then, Gumroad ran the challenge a second time and a group of us decided to tackle this challenge head-on. Long story short? Last Thursday, I launched my first ever ebook: The Ultimate E-Course Toolkit!
The entire process was such a whirlwind; I’m still a bit shellshocked (and recovering from sleep deprivation) from it all. Nonetheless, I’m so glad I committed to doing it this time around and managed to create 26 pages of super sexy worksheets, planners, calendars, and resources that I can both sell and send to my e-course clients. YAS!. I learned so much from doing this, so after 10 days of craziness, here are my top 5 takeaways from the SPL challenge!
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
One of the best parts of the SPL challenge is that, even though it was a super tight timeframe, they plan out what you should be doing each of the 10 days. Plus, they have you create your own gameplan to carefully map out every aspect of what you’ll be creating, how you’ll be delivering it, and how you’ll promote it. When doing something like the SPL challenge, it helps so much to make a plan, and force yourself to stick to it!
2. Get + Stay Organized
I’m pretty bad at this, if I’m being completely honest; organization is definitely not my biggest strength. I found, though, that at least having some semblance of organization was crucial to succeeding here. For me, the best way to organize my ideas was a combination of trello and a master document where I put all of my links, research findings and other notes. I began the challenge with a super detailed outline and referred back to it every time I’d start veering off course.
3. KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid)
You’d think this one would be a no-brainer, but at some point I found myself with 20+ pages in the Toolkit and wondering if I needed to add even more sections! 10 days seems like a good chunk of time but in reality, when combined with client work and, ya know, life things, 10 days is a crazy short timeframe to create and sell a product of that size. Keeping it simple and sticking to my original plan was the only way I was able to launch in 10 days, and even then it required an all-nighter to pull it off.
4. Embrace the Unfollowers
Despite the fact that my email announcing the toolkit was the first one I’d sent out in over a year and included an exclusive discount, I still got a few unfollowers. My initial reaction was to be bummed (ok, and a little indignant), but then I reminded myself that it was a good thing. Why would I want people on my email list who don’t care about what I have to say for the first time in so long? And if they’re not as excited as I am about this crazy entrepreneurship rollercoaster that we’re on, then why bother trying to appease them? My list might be a little smaller, but at least I know it’s full of people who are interested and invested in what’s going on.
5. Have a Support System
This was definitely what got me across the finish line with the SPL. I had a group for accountability and was in the SPL Facebook group as well, where we all shared our progress, worked through our (many) challenges, and helped promote each other. Having other people to bounce ideas off of and cheer me on was great, and it also inadvertently created a bit of a “peer pressure” effect for me – since I’d publicly committed to creating and launching the toolkit in 10 days, I had no choice but to follow through!
Oh, and a bonus #6? As always, done is better than perfect.
If you’re curious about the toolkit or are ready to snag your copy, head on over here! If you’re planning on creating an e-course any time soon, you won’t want to miss out on this crazy good resource.
So, you know your brand is ready for a change. Maybe you want to up your game. Maybe you’re sick of blending in with your competition. Maybe your current look is attracting the wrong kind of customers. Either way, you’re ready to finally take that big leap.
If you’re like a lot of clients who come my way, you’re probably super stoked but also nervous, scared, and maybe even a little jaded about it because of a bad past experience. I totally get it– rebranding is a huge commitment to make with your business baby! It’s a lot like redecorating your entire house (or in this case, your home on the internet), and while you hope/know that the final outcome will be amazing, it’s a messy process and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the meantime.
To make that process a little easier for you, here are my ABC’s to follow for when you make that decision to change things up in a big way!
This step is crucial! When I get a new branding/site client, I always do a brand audit, but it’s something you can and should do yourself before talking with a designer. This will help you figure out what you already have, what you need, and holes in things like your systems. For example: are your email headers branded? What about your PDF’s? Do you have an email signature?
When you go to rebrand, you’ll want to change all of these things to keep your brand consistent. Maybe you don’t have a header for your email, or you haven’t been doing blog graphics with the same fonts and colors. A good designer/strategist will help you figure out exactly what you need, but it’s important to know what that might entail so that you can a) be sure to ask for it and b) not be surprised when your designer suggests it!
Admittedly, this is one of my favorite things to do– it’s Pinterest time! This is another step that I do with my branding clients, but it’s also a really useful thing to do when you decide that you want to rebrand. When you first start thinking about changing up your brand, create a pinboard. This will become your digital “filing cabinet,” where you should put any and all inspiration! When I say inspiration, I mean screenshots of sites you love, fonts that strike your fancy, even photos of rooms and fashion that make you happy. As you compile more pins, you’ll (hopefully) start to see some patterns in what you like! Maybe you lean more towards boho chic, or maybe you’re inspired by a much more clean and modern look.
The best part of this step is that, as you see your style start to come to life, you’ll be able to look for designers whose style and philosophy is aligned with that. I’ll be the first person to admit that my designs aren’t shabby chic or masculine and grungy, so someone wanting that kind of look and feel would probably want to find a designer whose portfolio shows that. For someone wanting a bold, fresh, typography- and strong-color driven brand, though, they’d definitely be landing in the right place when they went to my site! Which leads me to the final pre-rebrand step…
There are a LOT of designers — and people who call themselves designers — out there, thanks to the accessibility of the internet and Photoshop. You may or may not have a referral to a specific designer, but I would always recommend looking closely at a person’s portfolio. Most designers don’t have a ton of pieces, but the good ones will have their best pieces posted in their portfolio or behance site. How does their work make you feel? Does it move and inspire you? Is it in line with the types of images you’ve been pinning or is it a total 180 from what’s been inspiring you? Does their copy make you feel comfortable and welcome? Do you feel like you want to work with this person, and does their work make you feel confident in their abilities to do your rebrand?
There’s a lot more that goes into a brand identity, but these ABC’s should help you start to prepare for a fun and exciting next stage in your business! If you’re itching to experience the magic of a rebrand yourself, drop me a line and we’ll talk about it — I’m currently booking for the end of the summer and into the fall!
3 weeks in a row for a series! This is totally a record for me, so count that as yet another reason to say FUCK YEAH, FRIDAY! Without further ado…
- Jet is being called the new combination of Amazon + Costco, and they’re offering free 3-month trials. Idk about you, but that sounds pretty rocking to me.
- These toolboxes from Oh So Beautiful Paper are all sorts of fun. Every designer needs a toolbox for their pretty pens and stuff, right? #bizexpense
- Paying taxes sucks, but this guide from the Freelancers Union might take some of the sting out of doing them quarterly!
- Crappy clients can suck the life out of you. The always-fabulous Marie Poulin talks about why getting good clients (and only good clients!) is a must do.
- No niche? Fizzle talks about why this is a good thing (and I’ve got to agree!)
- The Blogging Brew covers group pinterest boards, and how they can help you grow your biz. Love that advice!