Dare Me Beautiful | Website Design

Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to work on some awesome new web design projects, and have enjoyed flexing this new muscle in my design repertoire. I always recommend Squarespace to clients because it's the most intuitive website builder and content management system I've ever worked with. It's important to not only build a beautiful website, but one that will be simple to upkeep and easy to use as your business changes and grows.

I spent some time early this year putting together a web design template for Dare Me Beautiful, a body love blog and inspiration showcase for brown females. They wanted a low-cost option to help setup their Squarespace site, so I used filler text and photos for them to edit later on. This is a great option to get your website done quickly. You can check out Dare Me Beautiful's live blog here, and wireframes of my work below! 

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3 Actionable Steps to Get Out of Your Small Business Rut | Ballast Notes

When you're working solo or on a small team, it's far too easy to get stuck in a rut. I know that as a small business owner, I've fallen victim to overthinking business decisions, feeling anxious about a lack of (or too many) clients, and simply just get stuck in my own head. After a few years in the biz, I've had the time and experience to start developing tactics to deal with burnout and feeling like you're in a rut.

  1. Build your branding. 
    It feels a little contradictory to say -- as someone who works on branding for others on an almost daily basis -- that I didn't invest enough time in my own branding. Although I had a solid visual brand down, I spent countless hours writing a re-writing website content, email templates, and blogs. Looking back, it would have been much more wise to spend time nailing down what my written brand would look and feel like at very beginning. Your branding represents what you and your biz are all about, and it's important to invest time in it so your audience really receives your message. 

    And once you have your branding established, don't be afraid to make changes. It will be natural to make tweaks a couple times a year as your business grows, and is likely necessary to do a more major overhaul once every couple years. Just like your own self, your business is not stagnant. It will grow and change over time, and it's only natural that your branding will do that as well. 
     
  2. Develop a routine, but don't feel defined by a schedule.
    One of the main reasons I didn't feel productive in a 9-5 job was the schedule. As a creative, I wanted to work on my own time -- whether that meant working remotely, working late at night, or ending my day early if I didn't feel like I was being productive.

    When I first started Anchored Creative Studio, I didn't have a good routine. Because I wanted to buck that traditional job, I would often start work late and work slowly, only to realize in the late afternoon how much more work I should be completing that day. It wasn't sustainable for my work, and I was getting burnt out my working throughout the entire day.

    Building a routine is important, and help you feels like you have more of a "real" job, even if you might be working out of your living room. For myself, I wake up around 7:30 each morning, do some yoga, eat breakfast, and start working around 9:30. I might take a few breaks throughout the day to run errands or go grab lunch, but I always wrap up by 6:30 p.m. This is my routine -- but I try to not feel defined by a traditional schedule. If I've completed everything I need to do, I don't feel the need to clock in eight full hours, or to take only a certain amount of vacation days per year. The beauty of having your own biz is being able to make these big decisions for yourself, and creating your own routine is one of the most important. If you're feeling exhausted by your own schedule, figure out the best way to work smarter instead of harder. 
     
  3. Be authentic. 
    Another cause of burnout that I've personally experienced is pretending to be something you're not. In a wild world of social media, it's so easy to compare yourself to your peers, and to not be aware of the hard work behind the overnight successes. It's easy to try out tactics that helped others, but might not be the right move for you to make in your business.

    Being yourself and finding your own niche is one of the most important things you can do in order to make your business as sustainable as possible. Authenticity is important not only for that long-term sustainability of your business model, but also for your own personal growth. Being able to practice what you preach will help your own mental health and will keep passion in your business as it grows.  
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4 Questions to Ask Before Getting Started on a Design Project | Ballast Notes

As a freelancer and business owner, I've learned over the years that it's important to ask the right questions. It can make the world of difference in creating the right type of work for your client, and eliminating rounds of unnecessary edits. Here's a few of my tips for questions to ask before your next graphic design project: 

  1. What format(s) will the final design be used in, and how will it be printed (if at all)?
    When starting on a project, this question will define many of the initial choices that you make. If your client would like to print and have the design as a PDF, it's smartest to make it in InDesign. If it's a digital-only one-page or one-image file, Photoshop will likely be best. For digital-only PDFs and/or designs that need to be vector, Illustrator is definitely the way to go.

    Additionally, this question facilitates another important topic: deliverables. Getting the ball rolling on the topic of how the designs will be used gives you a better idea of what the final deliverables will be, and whether or not the client needs the native file(s). Being sure that you're both on the same page when it comes to deliverables will make the project wrap-up run smoothly, and there will be no surprises at the end of your work together. 

    It's surprisingly easy to bypass this part of the information gathering process, because clients often don't realize that different types of design need to be made in different Adobe programs. And sometimes, the client hasn't even thought that far ahead yet. You know what they say about assuming -- talking about formats will ensure that every has the same assumptions about what the end result will look like. 
     
  2. What size is the final format?
    Similar to the question above, it's necessary to design to scale and to page length (if it's a print project). Any designer knows that resizing a project to a completely different size is basically equivalent to completely starting over on a project. And if you're creating original graphics in Photoshop or InDesign, making your graphics larger will pixelate them. 

    If you're working on a print project, also be sure to ask your client how it will be printed, and if bleeds will be necessary in your final export.
     
  3. Who is the target audience?
    Now we get to the good stuff: the actual content of your design. If the information isn't volunteered, be sure to ask about the target audience of the material you're designing. Since you know how it's going to be presented to its audience, make sure you're also aware of who it will be presented to. 

    The audience of a piece makes a huge difference -- children vs. adults? Prospective donors vs. existing donors? Parents vs. students? Americans vs. Europeans? This will help you make design choices that will truly impact its audience.
     
  4. Do you have brand guidelines and content ready to go?
    Last, but certainly not least. A company's brand guidelines set the stage for the logo, colors, fonts, and other graphics you'll be using in your design. Here's a few sub-questions to ask if they do not have a thorough brand  guide handy:
    Do you have your logo in vector format?
    - What colors would you like to be primary in this design? Secondary colors?
    - Which fonts should be used for this project? Both header and body fonts are helpful.
    - Do you have any other graphics or pattern files for use in this?

What other questions do you ask before kicking off a design project? Comment below!

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When to Use Adobe Creative Cloud vs. Other Programs for Graphic Design | Ballast Notes

As a graphic designer who works mainly with nonprofits and small businesses, I love to help educate my clients on best practices when it comes to design. If you're working solo or as a part of a small team that hasn't worked with many designers before, there's plenty of questions that pop up. When I'm working on custom digital designs (like social media images) or editorial/print designs (like brochures, fliers, one-pagers, and magazines), clients will ask me to create a template for them, or will ask, "Is this something I can edit?"

I totally understand this question; in all companies -- especially nonprofits and small organizations, who may need edits quicker and more often -- there's the desire to minimize your outsourcing and do as much editing in-house

It all comes down to customization. The Adobe Creative Suite programs (the key graphic design programs being Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign) allow for full customization of any sort of design file. That being said, Adobe has a steep learning curve (I've been using it for 10 years and am still finding new features) and is also quite expensive, especially for an organization on a tight budget. But there's still a ton of pros to the Creative Suite - Microsoft programs or Google Docs, there's no limit on your margins, fonts, or where you can place images. And unlike Canva or other social media share creation apps, there's no limit to filters or the fonts you use.

There is an awesome place for programs like the Microsoft Office Suite and Canva, but those are not the programs that graphic designers often use, because they don't allow for the best use of customization. If you're looking for a document you can edit in-house without the Adobe Creative Suite, it may be necessary to engage a virtual assistant, marketing professional, or someone else who may be better skilled to create a custom Microsoft or Google document. 

If you are engaging a professional graphic designer to create something for you, there's a 99.9% chance they will be designing in one of the Adobe Creative Suite programs. It's a graphic design best practice, and the steep learning curve of the Creative Suite programs are a great reason to engage a graphic designer (on a freelance, part-time or contract basis) to create your designed items. 

Other tips when you're working with a graphic designer (I'll expand more on most of these in future blog posts!):

  1. Have your content finalized before hiring a designer. Not only will the process move quicker, but the designer can create the initial design with the actual amount of text and graphics you'll be using, instead of relying on filler text that may not give the right visual. Also, there will be fewer edits for the designer to complete if all of the content is final.
  2. Specify what format you would like your design file to be created in before the designer gets started on your project. If you would like the file to be editable in a format other than Adobe, let the designer know at the very beginning -- it will allow for a quicker process if there's no backtracking. When a file is created in an Adobe Creative Cloud program, it won't be editable in any other program.
  3. Be clear on the project deliverables, and how the designed files will be used. From the graphic design side, we refer to the working files we are creating as "native files," and any finalized, user-friendly files as "deliverables." For example, an Adobe InDesign document would be a "working file," and the final PDF of a brochure that you print out is a "deliverable." Be sure that both you and your designer are clear on whether or not the native files will be delivered at the end of the process, what file type they will be in, and what deliverables are expected at the end of the process. Depending on how you'll be using the final files (ex. for printing on a standard printer, professionally printed, for digital use only, etc.), your designer may recommend specific deliverables.

Hopefully these tips will help your process next time you consider the jump into Adobe Creative Suite, or need to work with a graphic designer! What other tips would you add for someone who is considering using the Adobe Creative Suite for a project? 

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Using the 2018 Pantone Color of the Year (Ultraviolet) in Creative Graphic Design

When Pantone announced their 2018 Color of the Year as ultraviolet, I was initially a bit wary. All purples tend to make a splashy entrance, with the color historically being associated with royalty and the upper class. It's also usually viewed as a feminine color, and I often steer clear of it unless I'm working with a client who specifically requests purple. I tend to gravitate toward more neutral colors in my designs - but after a bit of time, I came around to ultraviolet. 

Over the past several year, muted color palettes have been all the rage. Ultraviolet is quite literally the opposite of that. Although that can be a bit jarring, I think that a major switch like this is the best way to signal a change in the industry. Pairing bright colors like ultraviolet with pastels, neutrals, and black and white makes a brand really stand out; and I think flashy branding is the way of 2018 and years ahead. 

BRIGHT & BOLD BRANDING

Bright purple is often associated with royalty, which makes it a great fit for a business that wants to communicates a bold message. A standalone purple can communicate luxury, while purple paired with other colors will seem future-facing and outside the box. Bright violet is a great main color to choose for your business in order to stick with both current trends and classic color palettes. 

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MYSTICAL IMAGERY

The first graphic I thought of when I heard "ultraviolet" was a rich, purple night sky. Using deep and bright purples is a great way to add a bit of mystery and magic to your designs. This style won't work for everyone, but space imagery is also very on trend in graphics today, so it would be a great to use if it's a good fit.

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NEON-INSPIRED LETTERING

I'm all about 80s-inspired branding and design, and am excited about the possibility of more retro design in the future! Neon-style lettering is a great way to make a statement, and a bright color palette truly catches the eye. 

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CONTINUED USE OF FLORALS

Florals have been enjoying their day in the sun, especially in delicate, feminine branding as well as event collateral such as wedding invitations. Although pastels are usually the colors most often seen in this type of design, violets and other bright colors are used from time to time. These bolder hues provide a pop of color that help invitations really stand out. 

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DRAWING ATTENTION AMONG A MUTED COLOR PALETTE

Bright purples are often used among very muted colors, usually as the accent color among black, grey and white. This is a trend that I can see continuing, and I can also see bright, bold colors in general used as accents being a trend that continues to grow. It's a great way to brighten up print and digital design, and to add information blocks that draw the user's eye to the most important information

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What do you think of Pantone's 2018 Color of the Year? As a creative, how do you think you'll use the color in your work this year? 

All images via Pinterest and Unsplash

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Pros and cons of freelance, part time, contract, and full time graphic design work | Ballast Notes

Welcome to Ballast Notes, a new venture from Anchored Creative Studio! Ballast Notes are different resources for nonprofits and small businesses looking to DIY their brand, new graphic designers looking to learn more about freelance skills, and more. 

This is part three of a series on how to learn graphic design skills on your own time. To read about my start as a professional designer and tips on how to start your career, check out part one; to read about some of my favorite graphic design resources, check out part two

Happy Thanksgiving week to all of my American friends! It's been a big year of opportunity for me, and I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Between Thanksgiving and Christmastime every year, I take time look over my work from the year prior and set goals for my year ahead. If you're plotting a career move, this is a great time to reflect over your goals and see what types of positions might fit best with your wants and needs in a job or jobs. 

To close out my three-part series on becoming a graphic designer and my personal journey, I'm going to discuss some of the different graphic design positions you'll find and the pros and cons of each. One of the awesome things about design is that there are a lot of flexible, temporary, and part-time positions for a ton of flexibility. Of course, those same positions can have lots of negatives, too. These are some of the pieces of information I wish someone had told me before I started.

Freelance

Almost all graphic designers will freelance at one point or another. Whether it's something they do on a full-time basis, to get them by between other jobs, or in their off-hours, graphic design is arguably the most popular field for freelancers. In this type of position, you are paid for the work you create on a per project, hourly, daily, or retainer basis. 

Although there are full-time and/or in-house freelance positions, the majority of freelance jobs are remote and part-time/per-project. There's also "permalance," where you are a long-term freelancer for a company but not a staff member. The huge perks to freelancing is the flexible schedule and the ability to work as little or as much as you'd like. 

With freelance jobs, the largest con is irregular work. For the most part, clients are under no obligation to provide you with regular work, and much of your time communicating with and searching for clients is not billable time. From my personal experience, I love freelancing because of its flexibility, but I would recommend easing into it before going full-time so that you can take time to figure out a realistic billing structure and client funnel process. 

Contract

Although you should have a contract with any freelance position you take on, "contract" positions are design jobs that are for a set amount of time, as defined in the contract you sign. This can range from small jobs during a one-month contract, or up to a several year time commitment. 

This biggest perk to this type of job is listed right in its name: because you have a contract, you know exactly what the scope of work is and how much you'll be paid. Outside of that scope of work, you will be able to negotiate new terms, which allows you to avoid any nebulous job descriptions and getting saddled with responsibilities you didn't sign up for. 

But regardless of how long your contract is for, the time commitment is the most difficult thing about these positions. If you end up really liking the work you do, you'll be dependent on the organization offering you another contract to continue working there. On the flip side, if you don't like the work, you're obligated to stay at the position for as long as your contract states. As you're looking for positions to fill your schedule after the contract job is up, it can also leave gaps in your schedule before another position starts - which you will need to account for when deciding your rates. 

Part-Time

Part-time design positions are usually less common than the other types of jobs listed here, but have a lot of positives if you can find them. Unlike freelance or contract positions, these are permanent jobs that make you a staff member at a company or agency (unlike permalance positions, where you're still considered a freelancer).

Although you will likely not be eligible for benefits like vacation time and medical insurance, you might receive other office perks like design supply write-offs and in-office computers. Part-time positions also come with the perk of working with a team, and having steady work and guaranteed income, but being able to work on other projects during your other available hours.

The negatives to this type of position is the possibility of various workplace issues, as well as managers or coworkers mismanaging your time, with the work that needs to be done not fitting into your scheduled time at the job. It's important to clearly define the times you will be available at a part-time job, as well as what an overtime structure looks like. 

Full-Time

Just like any other full-time job, being a full-time graphic designer at one company has a ton of perks: salaried pay, benefits like medical insurance, holidays and vacation time, the possibility of expensing things like conferences, art supplies, your Adobe CC membership, and more. There's also the benefit of steady employment, the ability to work on one brand (working in-house) or a variety of brands (working with an agency), to have regular coworkers and an office presence, and set work hours.

The main negatives to having a full-time position as a designer are usually the same as other full-time jobs: the possibility of management issues, a lack of creativity or flexibility, and being pigeonholed into working on monotonous projects.  

 

And that's it! What types of graphic design positions have you worked in the past? Which were your favorites? 

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My design story + tips for learning about design on your own time | Ballast Notes

Welcome to Ballast Notes, a new venture from Anchored Creative Studio! Ballast Notes are different resources for nonprofits and small businesses looking to DIY their brand, new graphic designers looking to learn more about freelance skills, and more. To start out the Ballast Notes blog, I'll provide some insight into my design background, and some tips on how to jump start your own design career or learn new skills on your own time. 

How I became a graphic designer

To start off my very first Ballast Notes Blog entry, I want to talk a little bit about my graphic design journey. Most people I talk to who work outside of the design field assume that design is a difficult career to break into, that you need a ton of formal schooling in it, and that you need to be a fine artist to be designer - none of which are true. Graphic designers come from all sorts of background and walks of life, and my story is a testament to that. 

As you probably guessed, I didn't start off my career as a graphic designer. As a child, I wasn't particularly gifted in art or computers, and really didn't have a particular grasp on what a graphic designer even did until I was well into college. I steered more toward English and writing, and joined in the newspaper staff in high school. I loved writing articles, but ended up as the Photography Editor my senior year, editing photos in Photoshop and placing them in the newspaper pages in InDesign. I was also in AP Art History to fulfill my arts requirement (I'm being serious when I say the fine arts were not my jam), and loved learning about art theory. When I graduated and went off to college, I initially enrolled as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Art History student, thinking I might figure out how to work all these interests together.

As it turns out, I went to my first general BFA meeting in college and was completely intimidated. I was surrounded by incredibly gifted artists, and immediately felt like I didn't belong. Although I'd been reading about a major called "visual communication design" and wanted to learn more about it, this initial meeting completely freaked me out by the sheer number of drawing, painting, and sculpture classes every BFA student was required to take. I ended up completely changing my major to a BA in Journalism, and ended up double majoring in Political Science down the road, abandoning my idea to work the arts into my future career, thinking this would be a more practical route. 

It me! At the Yellow Conference in August 2016, just a few months after launching Anchored Creative Studio

It me! At the Yellow Conference in August 2016, just a few months after launching Anchored Creative Studio

After graduating from college, I struggled a bit to find a path. I ended up lucking into a temporary full time position with a small nonprofit, working in marketing communications. I excelled at writing, which always came naturally to me, and loved being able to work with and help spread the stories of the small companies this nonprofit represented. I hopped around a few more full-time jobs over the next couple of years, never really finding the exact right fit. I was very good at the marketing communications jobs I was working at, but was never really in love with any of them. When I was working as a marketing manager at a school, I started tinkering more with design, making basic website banners and a brand book for teachers to use. I slowly started to realize that not only was I interested in pursuing graphic design as a possible career change, but that I wanted to move into a position where I was no longer working full-time at one company, but as a freelancer and entrepreneur. 

Over the following year, I started taking a few basic online classes as well as testing my design skills on my own time, eventually taking on a few small design projects for friends. I ended up launching Anchored Creative Studio in May 2016, as a studio to help nonprofits and small businesses define their own brand. I feel like I've been able to not only truly find a career field that I love, but has also helped me find an entrepreneurial spirit inside me that I hadn't tapped into before.

Obviously, I took a bit of a roundabout path to finding my passion. I don't regret it a bit, because it gave me a lot of perspective about what I love doing, but there are a few tips I would give anyone who is looking to make graphic design into their full or part-time career

1. Educate yourself on what exactly a graphic designer does. 

If you have a graphic designer friend, ask if you can grab coffee and learn about what they do on an average day, or ask to shadow them for a few hours. Because graphic design requires a lot of technical skills, it can sometimes be a difficult career to fully understand what's done by a designer on a day-to-day basis. The biggest misconception about graphic designers is that we are artists. Much like how a journalist is a writer that has a lot of rules to their writing, graphic designers are a certain type of artist. I didn't go to school for graphic design in college because I was too intimidated by the fine arts requirements. Although I know now that I could have succeeded at those courses with a lot of hard work, for an 18-year-old who never got higher than a B in high school art class, it was easy to be intimidated. Although you definitely need to have an artistic eye and a technical understanding of color theory, you absolutely do not have to be a great fine artist in order to be a great designer.

Since the majority of the best graphic design undergraduate degrees are BFA programs, this is a little bit of a controversial statement. And although I definitely think a college degree in design will give you a great base to becoming a designer, it's not completely necessary. My background in marketing and writing has been a great asset to me, especially as a business owner. Unless you're working at a large corporation or agency, you will likely still need to write some copy, communicate with clients, and explain your creative vision to your superiors and/or clients. In my experience, it is just as important to learn this practical skills in addition to the technical design expertise.

2. Practice. Design is a process. 

Even more important than artistic and practical skills are the technical skills that come along with graphic design. You will need to know the ins and out of the Adobe programs (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign being the most popular and common), which you'll be using for the vast majority of all of the actual designing you will do. All of these programs are pretty intimidating when you first start using them, but don't forget that everyone had to start somewhere.

To anyone beginning their design journey, I would recommend downloading the 30-day trial of each of these at different times and simply playing around with the programs. The biggest mistake I made in the beginning of my graphic design career was assuming I'd be able to easily tackle these programs and learn everything I needed to know quickly. In reality, I'm nearly 10 years into using InDesign and still finding out new ways to use it.

All-in-all, you'll need to learn these programs in order to be a professional-level designer not only because of the file types, but because of the vast amount of customization they can achieve. I'll talk about this more in a future Ballast Notes blog, but the Adobe programs are basically a blank slate for the design you're looking to create. Because of that, there's a bigger learning curve to InDesign than Microsoft Word, for example. The the ability to customize opens up the door to create basically any sort of design that you want to, which is amazing - but intimidating, too! 

3. If you don't know how to do something, look it up and find a good tutorial.

YouTube was legitimately my biggest asset when I started my design career. Even several years into being a professional graphic designer, I still have to YouTube specific Adobe shortcuts I've never done before, or will use the Internet to brush up on a design action I haven't made in awhile. 

If you're not looking for a skill for a specific project, turn to the Internet for tutorials on new design skills that interest you. There's always more to learn, and there's great tutorials for free or inexpensive all around the web. Skillshare is one of my favorite resources, and I'll list out a few more next week.

Next week, I'll be continuing this series with a list of some of my favorite educational resources for learning the Adobe programs and other design skills on your own! Stay tuned! 

Have any questions about my design story or tips for learning on your own time? Drop your questions in the comments below. 

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Prioritizing Long Term Planning in Your Businesss

This post originally appeared as a guest article in the Rising Tide Society's October 2017 Creative Entrepreneur's Guide to Business Planning

As a solopreneur or small business owner, it’s easy for long-term planning to fall off your to-do list. Seeking out clients, promoting your business and doing client work becomes a priority during your day-to-day work, and without the right business planning in place, you can get years into your work and realize you haven’t taken the right steps to evolve your business to the level you want to be at. There has to be a better way to long-term plan than just writing ideas down and forgetting to act on them, right? The only way to achieve those long term goals you want in your business is to properly plan for them. As someone who is not naturally organized, that idea might make you want to immediately scroll right past this article and never look back. But I promise these steps are simple, non-painful ways to build structure and make big strides in prioritizing your long-term business planning.

Set up a time each week to review your ideas and prioritize them.

Sometimes I get blindsided by a great idea and want to act on it immediately. But when I look back on work I did quickly after inspiration hit me, it’s not as refined and as well thought-out as it could have been if I’d worked through it more thoroughly.

Make an idea wall.


So, what to do with those ideas you’re not going to act on right away? Store them! I need things in front of me to remember to actually do them, so I have a physical idea wall next to my desk. I have running paper lists of blog ideas, social media posts, and bigger ideas for my business. Also, I’m an avid Pinterest pinner. Whenever I see colors, branding, illustrations, and more that I’d love to use, I make sure to save them on my Pinterest boards. This way, they’re tucked away in one place so I can look at them whenever I need them.

Keep yourself in check with monthly and quarterly goals.


For all of those larger business goals, I have monthly and quarterly check-ins with myself to tackle them. As a small business owner, it’s often difficult to prioritize those big picture ideas; I use these check-ins to break big goals into manageable pieces. At the beginning of every quarter, I map out an overarching goal for my business, with smaller action items for each month of that quarter. Usually, the goals for my months and quarters evolve organically through what I’ve been putting on my idea wall and to-do lists, and fit in with the needs of both my clients and my business. For example, I already know my main Q4 goal will be to create more content through courses and blog posts. One of my smaller monthly goals might be to complete writing and designing a course for clients, or to create a social media content calendar for the upcoming year. Although priorities may change depending on extenuating circumstances, it’s often easier to set your business priorities with a clear mindset when you know what you’re choosing to focus on that quarter. Establishing clear goals and strategy for your business will help you achieve goals and see true growth in your business.

Build long term goals into your payment structure and hourly time.


Last, but certainly not least. One of the biggest (and easiest!) mistakes an entrepreneur can make is not making sure they have the time and money to allow themselves to prioritize strategically growing their business. Be sure to work at least a few hours a week growing your own business through checkins and website, social media, and blog management. Figure out the best way for build those hours into your payment structure so you feel comfortable spending non-billable hours on yourself. Building this into your long-term structure will allow you to be more organized when it come to growing your company, and not letting that growth fall by the wayside.

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Branding: The ShutterBee Effect

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As a graphic designer, I love the variety of projects I have the opportunity to work on with small businesses and nonprofits. But every time I wrap up a branding project, I know this is the real bread and butter of my business, and what I truly love doing the most. 

I connected with Britt Trappe through The Rising Tide Society group on Facebook. She has run her photography business, Brittany Trappe Photography, for several years during college and as a weekend gig during time off from her full-time job. But as her photography style has changed and matured after a few years in business, she was ready to invest in new branding elements that really showed her personality and shooting style. 

After chatting on the phone and collaborating on some visual inspiration, I created the mood board above. Britt loves shooting in woodsy, moody tones, and has a close relationship with nature. She wanted that to come through in her logo, and was also drawn to tree, camera, and bee imagery. Britt was also taking this opportunity to rename her business to "The ShutterBee Effect," which will better fit her business as it grows. 

Initial Concepts

I took a few different directions with initial logos, with our final logo concept looking like a good mix of #1 and #3. Although I really loved the minimalistic bee, it ended up not being the right fit for this project. Maybe you'll see it somewhere else in the future :) 

Final Concept

For the final versions of The ShutterBee Effect's branding, I made a circular shutter for the background, edited the handlettered portion of the logo to make "ShutterBee" into one word, added the small bee from logo option #1, and voila! I was so excited to help bring Britt's vision to life for her new brand. 

About her experience, Britt said: "It was so much fun working with Anna. Her ability to get inside my head and creatively bring my vision to life truly excited me! I was thrilled whenever her emails popped up in my inbox. Would love to work with her again.

Design Tutorial: Creating Solid Backgrounds in Photoshop

It's my cat's birthday today! For anyone who knows me personally, they know that Roscoe Santangelo is my little BFF that I spend an inordinate amount of time with since I work from home most days. A few days ago, I set up a little birthday photo shoot for him so I could get a good picture for social media, complete with confetti (which he kept trying to eat). I wanted the background to be white, so I set up a couple pieces of white posterboard, but it didn't totally come out the way I wanted to. 

Most people assume that if they can't get the background they want in a photo, it's a lost cause. This couldn't be further from the truth, because it's actually super easy to do - all you need are some basic Adobe Photoshop skills and about 15 minutes.

Here's the steps you need to make it happen:

  • When you're setting up your photo, make sure you have something in the photo that you can base your background off of. For me, it was the while posterboard. Even though I couldn't get it all in the frame, it's still a large part of the image. And most importantly, I wouldn't have to edit the background of any of the main elements of the picture (the cat and confetti). Basically, be sure that it's easy to remove all the parts of the photo you don't want to use.
  • Once you import into Photoshop, create a Layer from your Background Layer use the Lasso Tool to select the parts of the photo you want to take out. The best way to do this is to select big swatches that include very little of the background color you want (white, in this case). This way, Photoshop can tell that you're going to want that background to look white. Once selected, hit shift + F5, or Edit > Fill to use your Content Aware tool. Make sure "Content-Aware" is selected before hitting "OK."
  • It will probably take some trial and error before Photoshop figures out what you want the background to look like, but your background will look much more natural once it gets the hang of it. After most of your image is done, you're likely going to have a few parts the Content Aware tool can't figure out, or just look a little funky. To get rid of these, use the Clone Stamp tool, which you can access in the main Photoshop toolbar or by hitting "S." Make sure you have the correct layer selected, and simply click and hold down Alt in the area you'd like to copy. Then, use the tool to paint the cloned area. Just like with brushes and Erase, you can change the opacity and brush size of this.
  • The Smudge or Blur tool is also great to use if you need to smudge up an area. 

And that's it! It's relatively simple exercise to make a big difference in your photos. Check out the video below to see my process and the finished product - it only took me about 12 minutes to remove my background and add some text to the image.