Introducing: the new Anchored Creative Studio

I usually don’t work with brand-new businesses, mostly owing to my belief that you need to work through a few struggles of business to really define your audience and realize what’s important to the business you’re building. And I’ve realized lately that this is no less true for my own design studio.

I’ll likely look back on the summer of 2018 as one of burnout and growth. After starting Anchored Creative Studio in May 2016, I went through varying degrees of full-time employment with other organizations and working on Anchored on the side; working part-time freelance on other projects outside of Anchored; and working part-time in-house at a nonprofit while working on Anchored. In January 2018, I made the decision to make the jump to full-time with Anchored, and quickly began to take on most projects that came my way, as a way to stay financially afloat and grow my business.

After about six months full time, I began to drown a bit in work. Client work began to bleed into my free time, and I found that there was a clear divide in my projects - work that I was passionate about, and work that was simply a means to keep my business running. Being pulled in both directions, I found that the projects I wasn’t devoting enough critical thinking into the turnkey projects, and wasn’t devoting enough time to the projects I was passionate about.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve put a pause on new projects, as a way to finish up all existing ones and take the time to examine both the clients I take on, and my process behind all client work. This has resulted in a new visual brand for Anchored Creative Studio (which I think speaks more to myself, what I offer, and my audience), as well as updated offerings. Here’s a list of what you can expect:

Updated brand packages. Based on past experiences with client needs, I’ve reformatted my branding packages, and have also made pricing more transparent. I’ve also introduced the Two Week Brand - an immersive experience to get your brand and website off the ground in just two weeks (!).

More of a focus on nonprofit development work. I’ve always passionately worked with nonprofits, and have continually enjoyed creating designs for them - and not just marketing materials. Earlier this summer, I learned that a nonprofit I designed a foundation grant proposal for was awarded the top prize of a $2 million grant (!!), an idea popped into my head that I’d somehow never thought of before. What if I focused on proposals, individual and corporate giving donor packets, and other reports for nonprofits? It’s a niche I haven’t found many others with experience in, and I’m ready to help nonprofits communicate with their audience on a direct level.

Resources for small and growing businesses. It’s a goal of mine to equip those organizations who may not be ready for an investment in a full-fledged brand with resources to start out with a DIY.

More focus on the importance of audience and process. I’m all about transparency, and I was to fold more of me and my experience into the narrative. I want to share more about what works and doesn’t work in my business, and hopefully teach others along that along the way.

If you have any feedback, questions, or want to get in touch, don’t hesitate to contact me! I’d love to hear from you :)

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How to Use a Moodboard to Inspire a Logo | Ballast Notes

I've written about moodboards before on this blog, and why I think they're such an asset in the client process. For any sort of design project, moodboards are a great way to ensure cohesive visual inspiration and to nail down a strong visual direction before the design process actually begins.

All of that being said, how does the moodboard actually influence the logo and overall branding of the project you're working on? Below are some tips on creating a moodboard for yourself or for a client that will ensure smooth sailing in the design process. 

All visual inspiration below was gathered for Amelia Damplo Videography & Amelia Damplo Yoga.

Gather visual inspiration focused on type, shape, texture, and color

When gathering inspiration, don't only focus on finding logos of other companies that you're in love with. Those are great starting points, but pay attention to what elements you're truly drawn to - is it the bold typography, or font, that they're using? Is it their earthy color palette? Perhaps even the shapes in a brand pattern, or the feeling that their overall branding evokes? Find images like that to be a part of your moodboard.

The above images were a few initial pieces of inspiration for Amelia Damplo's moodboard - the left as geometric typography inspiration; the middle as shape/texture inspiration; and the right as color inspiration.

 

Include variety, and establish a color palette

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Using a variety of images/graphics will help ensure a cohesive moodboard, and will give you plenty of inspiration as the design process begins. A few different types of images and graphics I often look for are:

  • Logos and other branding (business cards, patterns, websites, etc.)
  • Interior design
  • Lifestyle and nature images
  • Fine art and illustrations
  • Typography examples
  • Color palettes

I keep Pinterest boards as a way to filter inspiration; it's a great place to come back to as I'm working on new brands.

Moodboards are especially great places to establish the color palette of a brand; look for images that evoke the feeling you'd like for your brand to have, and the color palette usually falls in the line from there. For this brand, we stuck with an earthy, light color palette that worked really well.

 

See it all come together

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Spending some extra time at the beginning of the branding process on a moodboard can take a little bit of time, but it pretty much always pays off. Using this formula to gather visual inspiration will help both the client and the designer find a way to understand the exact direction of the brand they're building, and sets you up for success from the very beginning. 

 

All images used in moodboards were found via Pinterest, and are meant for visual inspiration only. 

Branding: True North Alignment

It was such a pleasure working with Kari Johnson on her new brand, True North Alignment. Kari is a life coach for women and yoga teacher based in Colorado, and is planning to expand her business. Previously operating under a business based on her own name, Kari was ready for a total branding overhaul, and engaged Anchored to develop the organization's name through a brand strategy and development session, and create a new visual identity. 

It was such a joy to work with Kari and discuss her vision to help women at a precipice in their life - to deepen their relationship with themselves in order to launch their future forward. 

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4 Steps to Take Before Hiring a Graphic Designer for Your Brand

Psst - before we get started, if you're ready to leap into your visual branding with a designer, don't hesitate to get in touch

1. Define what isn't working for your current brand, and begin developing your brand style.

If you already have an existing organization or product, what isn't working for your brand? Are you not reaching the audience you want to, or not selling at the price point you desire? Once you're able to identify the specifics behind why you aren't happy with your existing brand, narrow down how you think your visual brand can change.

At this point, whether your product or organization is brand new or existing, you can start defining your brand style. Who is your audience, and what are some of the visuals that might attract them? What is your brand's mission, and what are some of the images and graphic styles that could represent that? Through narrowing down these ideas and experimenting with what overlaps, you can start to see a brand style emerge. 

2. Find imagery that matches your brand style.

I used to think mood boards were a little hokey. But once I started using them, I saw a dramatic change in the brand discovery process. Sometimes the feeling of your brand is hard to put into words, and instead putting your brand into visuals is the best way to elicit the emotional response that you want and need. Sourcing imagery that matches up with your brand style - whether that's photos, logos, colors, typography, or other graphics - is the best way to show exactly what direction you want to head in. 

3. Have an idea of what you want to spend, and what you want to get.

Before diving into the search for a specific designer, think about the amount of money you have to invest in the branding of your business. Not only does this help you come up with a vague number, but will also help you establish what exactly you want to get out of the process. If you have a very specific idea of what you want and simply need a designer to execute it, you'll likely spend a bit less. If you're hoping for more strategy and/or need more deliverables at the end of the project, you're looking at a higher price tag. 

4. Get in touch with graphic designers that will play to the strengths of your brand.

Now is the time to begin looking for the designer that will make your brand come to life! The secret to finding the perfect designer to you relies mostly 1) in their work process, and 2) in their prior work. By viewing their prior work, you'll get an idea of the types of brand design they excel at, and how you could possibly work together. As you get in touch with these designers, be sure to ask about their process, timelines, and how you can best work together to create something awesome.

And as a pro tip - if you're not ready to invest in your business, you can still start shopping around to have a few designers in mind when you're ready to sink that cash into your organization. 

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On Knowing Your Worth and Raising Your Prices | Ballast Notes

During a rainy Wednesday a few months ago, I was chatting with a branding client. The client was kind and did great work, but the type of business she ran was different than most companies I work with. Although the beginning of our project together was a bit rocky, we were nearing the finish line and I was excited to wrap things up. As she reiterated that she was enjoying working with me, she said, "And honestly, I think you should be charging more."

Wait, what? Charging more? When I initially quoted this client, I remember opening her response email with my heart beating out of my chest because I was worried she was going to say it was too much. I was going through a tough time financially, and really needed a client to pull through for me. But I never would have thought about actually charging her more. 

I thanked the client, and she explained that she went to an event recently centered around the psychology of money. All attendees were instructed to write down a big purchase they had recently made and felt like they spent too much; as well as an item they had recently purchased and felt guilty because they may have gotten too good of a deal. She said she wrote down my services for the latter.

This goes back to the American "sale" mentality - if we get something for a good deal, we want to put it to its full use. I'm not a psychologist by any means, but this really got my wheels turning - do I notice a difference in my clients' feedback based on how much they've been charged? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my higher paying clients were often more organized, and our projects got done quickly, whereas lower paying clients (who were repeat clients who I honored previous pricing for, and/or had very small projects) often draw out the process, and aren't as quick to respond and provide feedback.

All of this is making me realize that I need to take a deep dive into my finances and how I'm charging clients - and what best serves both of us. I want to stay affordable and accessible, but know that my business model needs to adapt as I expand my business and see how my long-term goals fit in. Those higher-paying clients are making a big investment in their business, and are making my services a priority in their biz life - and those are the types of people I love working with. 

I've always prided myself in keeping my prices affordable for the small businesses and nonprofits that use my services, but I'm also coming to realize that upping prices a bit can very much expedite the process. Ensuring that clients realize they are making an investment and gathering all necessary information before kicking off our process; and allowing me to focus intently on a few clients, instead of being spread thin over many. 

If someone is paying less for your services, they're probably not going to feel bad asking you to do more. Especially if it's an hourly project - someone you charge $25 an hour is definitely going to have you do more than someone you charge $75 an hour - it's simple math. And in those sorts of situations, you really lose the most valuable thing - your time. 

Know your worth, and don't be afraid to charge for it. Amazing things might happen, and who knows what you'll find. And don't forget to add tax! I'll be popping back in here to update you on the varied changes that I've made.

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Logo a Day Project in Review: What I Learned in 30 Days

This April, I started a 30 day logo project on Instagram. Inspired partially by my need to actually complete a monthlong challenge, and also to give me a break from the stress I often find in content planning, I learned a lot. Thinking about doing a 30 day design project, or even a 100 day one (which is far too much commitment for me)? Here are a few of my pros, cons and general thoughts. Keep scrolling to check out the full collection of logos:

  • It was both exciting and stressful to design without a client in mind.
    So. Many. Options. Clients usually reign me in, giving some creative direction while keeping my style at the forefront. Having so much freedom was great, but it was tough to find a place to start.
     
  • It took up a lot of time. 
    Although it was a mental break from blogging so much and planning out Instagram captions, it took up a good chunk of my time - 2 or 3 hours a week. I still think it was a worthy idea to devote my time to, but I couldn't do it every month.
     
  • It made me realize I'd much rather work on brand strategy than logos.
    About halfway through the logo design process, I almost quit. All I could think was "why am I doing this?! I always say that branding isn't just a logo - and that's exactly what I'm doing!" I ended up sticking with it, bringing in other elements like sublogos and patterns. But it made me realize that it's actually creating "just a logo" that's the hardest thing for me - when there's little to no strategy behind the logo and possibilities are endless, it's hard to find a place to begin.
     
  • I found out a lot about my style.
    I was excited to do this project to figure out what types of branding and design I naturally flow toward. My designs have shifted a lot recently, and I felt like I couldn't properly define my style. This project served as a way for me to redefine what I really love to do. Although all of my designs are considerably unique, I always focus on all designs having purpose, and communicating the mission of the organization.
     
  • I realized how few fonts and typefaces I really use. 
    Toward the end of this project, it was a challenge to think of new typefaces to use. I always knew I had a few favorite fonts, but now I've truly realized that I rarely steer outside of the same 3-5 Serifs and Sans Serifs. And you know what? That's fine by me. They work well for a reason, and are wonderfully versatile. 
     
  • It made me think a lot about color. 
    The three main parts of a logo are typeface, color, and illustration. All logos should be able to be viewed in black and white and still be recognizable, but color makes a huge impact on the personality of a brand. I pre-chose all of the colors I used in this challenge, purposefully picking colors that I don't often use (as you can tell by the excess of pink). As I brainstormed possible business names and ideas for the identities I was creating, I realized just how much color is associated with an identity. 
     
  • I realized what I'm capable of.
    Looking at all of these logos, I have a "woah" moment when I realize I created all of them in a month, on top of my existing client work. These types of projects are a big undertaking, put you outside of your comfort zone, are are something you should be proud of.
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Branding: Sarah Kuszelewicz Photography

True life: most times I sit down to write to write a recap of a new brand or project I worked on, I want to claim it's my favorite work I've created. One of the blessings of being in a creative field is consistently being able to visually see your work growing and improving. I connected with Sarah Kuszelewicz, a fashion and wedding photographer looking to brand herself after recently striking out on her own full-time. 

Sarah wanted her main brand colors to be a deep red and light pink, and also favored sans serifs and flower imagery. What resulted was a feminine, classic brand identity, and it was awesome to flex my branding muscles in a new way with this project. You can check out Sarah's work on her website, and scroll below to check out the final moodboard and brand identity. 

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My Goals for Q2 2018: Ballast Notes

It seems quite fitting that it's writing my blog post about Q2 goals about half a month into the quarter. If Q1 was slow and steady for me, Q2 is shaping up to be quite the opposite. I've been rapidly picking up client work, and will likely be spending this quarter focusing more on clients' growth than my own, which has given me pause to tweak a few of the goals I'd already worked out. 

My theme for Q2 is "Be." Short and sweet, I want to really embody my year theme of Cultivate through not doing more than I need to, and working smarter instead of harder. Hustle can be exhausting, and I'm planning a wedding and picking up an additional career of yoga teacher this quarter, so I'm focusing on not being to hard on myself.

And without further ado, my goals!

  • Continue blogging and tie in with #BallastNotes on Instagram.
    I've loved blogging so much this past quarter, and really want to keep it up. I've also been coming up with separate, bite-sized wisdom to share on Instagram, and want to better integrate the two - bite-sized wisdom on the 'gram (and other social media - more on that in the next goal), and want to expand more on that for those interested in reading more on here. 

  • Tailor my audience.
    As Anchored continues to evolve, I'm consistently looking to tailor my audience. To see who my message connects with the most, and the types of people I love working with. And as I narrow this down, I want to work on better reflecting this on my website and other platforms. 

  • Create more social media consistency and share on all platforms.
    After focusing most of my social media time and energy on Instagram, imagine my surprise when I realized I actually get the most website traction from Facebook. This quarter, I want to be better at sharing unique messages on each platform, and to not take the easy way out.

  • Work on securing more retainer clients.
    Ah, the elusive retainer client. As I shift into more long-term planning for my biz, I'm looking to work more with organizations who want to use Anchored's services on a long-term basis. Although I don't want to put a number on the amount of retainer clients I want to score this quarter or year since that's out of my control, I plan to make some major steps to grow this next level of business.

  • Website refresh to attract my desired audience.
    As a tie-in to tailoring my audience, I want to slightly refresh my website by the end of this quarter. Although content will stay mostly the same, I'm planning to redo my homepage to better serve clients and display my work.

  • More of an overall weekly set schedule.
    I set the building blocks in Q1, but I'm ready to make habits in Q2. Continue with my morning routine, set days for social media scheduling, blogging, creating emails, etc. - leggo, y'all.

  • Set personal projects that are a better use of my time.
    One of my goals for Q1 was to create a personal project every month. I loved doing that, but a personal project I set it December didn't always work for that month ahead. This quarter, I would love to finish up an Instagram challenge, create a new workbook, and finish up a personal branding project - but we'll see what order they fall in.

  • Be more personal in my newsletters & set a schedule for this.
    I got my newsletter off the ground this past quarter, and I want for it to flourish this next quarter. An email mini-course might even be in the works! 

And, that's it for my Q2 goals! What are your thoughts? Have you tackled any of these goals in your biz? Let me know in the comments!

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    Evaluating My Q1 2018 Goals

    I love me some good quarterly goals. I started getting in the habit of setting monthly, quarterly and yearly goals a few years ago, because I've found that breaking down big-picture items into smaller manageable tasks is the best way to really get things done. Though I didn't talk too much about my goals on this blog, I shared the inspiration behind my theme for the year and my specific Q1 goals over on Instagram. 

    I'm going to be refining my Q2 goals over the next few days, and will also be sharing them here. Because what better way to hold myself accountable than sharing them with the world, eh?!

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    • Create a morning routine
      I did make some headway on this, though it's not nearly where I would like for it to be. I am not a morning person, and my biggest reasonings for creating more of a routine was to 1) enjoy my mornings more, and 2) wake up earlier. Number one has definitely been more successful. I backslid into waking up later and later throughout the quarter, making my mornings more rushed and kind of negates the point. But I have been taking time to make myself breakfast (even though it's usually cereal), and usually journal and do a bit of yoga every weekday, so I've definitely improved.
       
    • Check in on finances weekly (personal and business)
      For the most part, I'm avoiding my finances much less. Yay! Bucking up and being an adult to finally figure out what you can afford, and in what parts of your business you're undercharging can be a game changer.
       
    • Publish a branding workbook for DIY creatives and nonprofits
      I did this! And I loved it. I really can't wait to make more workbook courses like this in the future. 
       
    • Create a new font
      Whoops... I didn't do this. But, I don't really feel guilty about it. I definitely want to create 1-2 fonts this year, but I just don't think that this quarter was the correct time for that. It requires a lot of devoted time, and the drafts I created simply weren't the quality that I wanted. It's my goal to keep working on this and not rush it - I'm looking to make a handwritten, elegant coordinating serif and sans serif, and block letter fonts in the near future.
       
    • Publish new items on Etsy
      Heck yeah, did this too! I published five new wedding invitation suites in February. 
       
    • Illustrate more
      I kind of did this -- but again, not enough, and it felt rushed. One of my goals for next quarter (spoiler alert) is going to be to plan out my weekly schedule on a more regular basis, working in time for things like illustration. It feels like I went through lots of illustration phases, but never really got to sticking to a schedule.
       
    • Blog every week
      Heck yeah - I'm proud of myself for sticking to this. And blogging more often means that I've had an outlet to create more content for all of my social media platforms. 
       
    • Launch my biz newsletter
      I did this too! I also launched a new mini-workbook that you'll get for FREE when you sign up. I've also been sending out monthly updates with news, blog roundups, and more.
       
    • Secure three new branding clients and one nonprofit client
      I actually made it to this milestone in early February, which was awesome. Looking forward to upping my goals in Q2!

    Setting Boundaries with Yourself & Your Clients | Ballast Notes

    Last week, I got a package in the mail that came with a bunch of paper in the box that was used as padding. The paper has been sitting on my living room floor for a few days, and my cat has taken it upon him to make a little bed out of the paper (I swear I'm going somewhere with this -- hang in there, cat haters). I often get annoyed with how my cat tends to prefer boxes and packing supplies over any toy I purchase him, but cats like things they can sit in or make a structure out of, because they prefer boundaries. Wide open spaces can freak them out, and they prefer a safe space where they can feel secure.

    And whether we like to admit it or not, humans prefer boundaries as well. It can be difficult to accept, but in creating boundaries and limitations in our personal lives and in our businesses, we can make ourselves more productive, and attract the audience we want. 

    • Set work hours.
      Yes, this includes set email and social media hours as well! If I've learned anything from working for myself, it's that multitasking does not equal being more productive. In order to really hone in your efforts, only work on business tasks during work hours, and set that boundary with clients that you're not available at all hours of the day -- because it will slowly drive you crazy. It's natural to feel like you need to always be available for client work, but it's not the best long-term move. 
       
    • Block out your time.
      If I didn't block out my time, I would never get anything done. I used to simply make a to-do list for every day, but I would usually only end up completing three or four of my five or six tasks. I now write out exactly how much time I'll spend on each task so it looks something like this:
      9-11 a.m.: Project #1
      11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Project #2
      1-2 p.m.: Break/Lunch
      2-4 p.m.: Project #3
      4-6:30 p.m.: Spillover time for projects that didn't get done


      Through setting up time this way, I a) ensure I only work on the tasks that really need to get done that day, and b) don't spend too much time on one specific task. It also makes sure I stay focused to maximize my time on that task.
       
    • Only accept clients that play to your business core values.
      When you're in a lean time of business, it's hard to turn down a potential client. But if they don't align with your brand's mission and values, what good will it do for either of you? They could work with a business more aligned to their needs, and you could find clients that better align to yours. If you're still figuring out what exactly your brand needs are, check out our Branding Your Biz workbook to dig deep into your business needs. 
       
    • Take time to create communication templates.
      Crafting emails to potential and current clients can take up much more time than you realize. By taking some up-front time to create email templates to base you communication on, you're able to have a solid base to build individual client emails off of. This may feel a little bit impersonal at first, but this creates a boundary that both saves you time and provides that you provide consistent information to every client. I love Canned Responses in Gmail for setting this up! 
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