Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

Come On, Get Happy!

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joyI’ve said it before – and it still holds true – running a business is hard. Really really hard. But it shouldn’t be so hard that you resent it, or even hate it. It shouldn’t become a grind that you dread every single day. Otherwise, why do it at all?

Yes, there are stresses, there are problem clients or employees, and there will be times when you wonder where the money will come from to keep the doors open. But that shouldn’t be every single day. There should still be moments (days, weeks) of joy! There should be some (or lots of!) fun and laughter – or none of your hard work is really worth it.

If you find yourself caught up in the grind, or unable to see the pretty forest for all the mean trees, then I have 10 tips to help you get your happy back!

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1. Schedule joy. While you’re setting your schedule and packing it full of meetings, remember to schedule something fun in there, too. At least once a week, put a fun item on your calendar. It can be as simple as going to a museum or picking your child up early from school for an ice cream date. But put it on your calendar and don’t move it off for any reason.

2. Turn it off. It’s a proven fact that our electronics cause us stress. If the election is making you crazy, don’t watch it on TV. If your phone buzzes all the time, turn it off so you can get some work done. And stop scrolling through Facebook. You may think that you’re just connecting with friends, but when you’re under the gun, those photos of someone on vacation may give you some serious guilt/envy.

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3. Simplify. Put only 3 things on your “have to do” list for each day. If you keep making super-long lists of things to do, you’ll only make yourself feel like a failure if you don’t accomplish them all. It feels so good to check things off your list, so make your lists achievable!

4. Take care of you. Why is it that we seem to push our own self care to the back burner? We are our company’s best asset, so why in the world do we come last in most cases? You have to eat right, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and be mindful of how you’re moving through your life. It’s critical to your personal life and your professional life. Make the time to take care of yourself.

5. Have a gratitude attitude. I keep a gratitude journal every single day. I always write down the things that I’m grateful for in my life, or that happened that day. It reminds me of why I started my business, of what life is really all about. That’s so important. And celebrate every single success in your business! We tend to just push towards the next goal without really celebrating, and that is a real thief of joy.

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6. Laughter IS the best medicine. You should find the humor in something every single day, even in some mistakes or challenges. Sometimes it’s either “laugh or cry” so choose laughter! And really, if you ask yourself how much something will truly matter in a year, in most cases the answer is that you’ll barely remember it.

7. Meditate. I can hear you say, “How in the world am I supposed to schedule joy, make time to exercise, AND now meditate? I’m too busy!” I get it. We get caught up in the whirlwind and we think everything is so critical that it just can’t wait. But you know that isn’t true. You can take 10 minutes to do some yoga poses. You can have that phone meeting while you’re walking. And you can definitely take 5 minutes to be still and breathe. It’s been proven to reduce stress levels AND to help you focus!

8. Keep your eyes on your prize. Don’t look at what others are doing and think they have some magic sauce that you don’t. You don’t know what their struggles are (and they definitely have them), so don’t be envious of what you think others have. Keep the focus on you.

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9. Delegate. It can be tough to shoestring a budding business, but you definitely need help. Don’t try to build your own website, don’t try to do your own books, don’t try to take on every task by yourself. You’ll burn yourself out! You should focus only on what makes your company money – that’s it. Outsource anything and everything you can – and if your budget for that is tiny then just pick one thing that someone else can help you with right now.

10. Don’t blame your business. Your business is not there to make you happy. It can help you get to goals that will eventually make you happy – but it can’t be the entire source of your happiness or your life. That’s expecting way too much from your company. Look outside your job for other sources of happiness to help get you through the stressful times at work.

Try these 10 tips to get you back on the happy train! You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll get done when you’re feeling more upbeat – and at how much you enjoy it!

xo,

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What Are You Afraid Of?

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It’s hard to take a leap and try something new, or to launch a new idea, company, or product. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself, and your ideas, out there for the world to judge and evaluate. But when your concept or service is a really good one, it’s so worth it!

So many of us are afraid of failure, that our companies won’t make it or that the idea that we think is fabulous might not strike a chord with anyone else. But a lot of people are afraid of success, too. It’s that thought that we shouldn’t “get our hopes up,” or that believing that something great can’t happen for us and we’ll just be disappointed if we think it will. It can be paralyzing and can keep so many from taking a leap in their careers.

This is such a common feeling that there are therapists and books that specialize in helping people see that they should never fear success. Fear of success can make people feel that if their idea does hit big, then people might accuse them of “selling out” or becoming someone else that isn’t authentic.

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People who fear success also might feel guilty about having so much, when others don’t. Or they think that they don’t really deserve to be successful. And there’s even a worry that if you do find success, then you’ll have to almost compete with yourself to keep sustaining or passing that success with even more great ideas, money, or projects. Whatever it is that causes it, fear of success can stop you in your tracks, and make you quit before you even get started.

These types of fears can make really keep you from reaching your goals. You actually get in your own way and you can find yourself procrastinating, or letting that “mean girl” in your head tell you that you aren’t worth it.

So what can you do if you’re caught in this fear cycle? First, just like with fear of failure,  you have got to let go of worrying about what others think about you! Why in the world would you hold yourself back because of what someone might say or think? I can promise you that people will talk anyway, and they are entitled to their opinions but you don’t have to hear them!  There are “negative Nellys” out there who are going to knock people down no matter what. Don’t let them keep you from what you deserve.

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You also need to recognize that you’re worth the time and trouble you have to go through to reach a goal. You really are! Stop all the negative talk in your head, let go of whatever leftover insecurities you have from the past (easier said than done I know but there are books and people out there to help you overcome this), and tell yourself that YOU are worth whatever it takes to find success. And if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your family. This is about you and them – and nobody else!

Recognize when you’re using these types of excuses to keep from taking the steps you need to take and to get closer to your goal. It’s easy to stick to familiar patterns, even if they aren’t good for us and our business, because they’re what we’re used to and they are comfortable.

Snap out of those harmful routines! Stop putting excuses in your way and move closer to your goal. You deserve success, and you are worth the time it takes to get there. Don’t let fear hold you back!

xo,

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Run Your Own Race

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Business is hard. I’ve owned my own business for 17 years this month and I definitely couldn’t have made it this far without the help of a few key people including my business coach. And whether you call it a mentor, a coach, or a consultant, I am a firm believer that small business owners (and probably all business owners for that matter) need help from someone who can guide them through the difficulty of running a business, or at the very least to be a sounding board for ideas and issues that come with owning your own company. I’ve had a business coach for years, and I honestly can’t imagine that there will ever come a day when I would be in business without one!

It makes all the difference to have someone help you take a step back from the daily issues and concerns of your business and get some perspective. We often need to define a new path when things aren’t working the way we expected them to. Or we need a support system to give us a boost when we’re feeling worn out or worse, burned out. And I love bouncing ideas off of my coach and to have him say: “That’s great, but what about…” It helps me open my mind to other possible solutions I hadn’t envisioned and to focus on new revenue channels and ideas. Plus he keeps me on track when I have too many great ideas and want to try them all at once. Yes friends, I coach other people in business, and even a business coach needs a business coach.

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But here’s the thing – you only get out of business coaching what YOU put into it. Advice and guidance are great, but the coach isn’t actually going to do the work for you. That’s YOUR job. Trust me, there are plenty of times when I wished someone else would make the hard decisions for me, or would take the “not fun stuff” off my plate. But that’s not what a coach is there for.

You can have a lot of people cheering you on, or coaching from the sidelines, but this race is really YOURS to run. We all have to remember that. If you aren’t willing to put in the hours and hard work that it takes to run your business, certainly no one else is going to do it for you.

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You are the one that has to buckle down and get your finances under control, work on business development, market your services and products, and decide on your company’s branding and direction. Yes, others can give you their opinions and ideas, but they can’t – and shouldn’t – be the ones making the decisions.

It is really really hard work to build a successful business. And working with coaches and mentors can help lift some of the stress that comes with it. But ultimately, reaching your goals and your business potential is your responsibility. If you want fame and fortune or even just fulfillment and financial freedom, you need to make it priority and really commit to doing the work.

So get your business in great shape and commit to running the very best race you can! Plus find that perfect mentor or coach to guide you and cheer you on all the way to the finish line! If you do that, I know you will be a winner in every sense of the word.

And remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Good luck!

xo,

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PS – If you’re interested in private coaching with me, I would love to help you develop a gameplan for your business today! Learn more here!

Just Say No

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A few weeks ago, I talked about how important it is to say no to the “good” in order to make room for the “best.” But I wanted to dive a little deeper into that concept so that you really understand how important this is. Because I want you to start saying NO, and often!

Too often in my consulting business, I talk with creatives who let their clients cross professional boundaries. They give in on their fees, they give in when pushed about their hours, they take clients that their gut says won’t be ideal, and they take on too many commitments and responsibilities. In each of those cases, they should have said no.

There’s often a fear factor at work, a fear that the client won’t work with us if we don’t say yes to right now, a fear that we won’t get any other clients than the one in front of us, and a fear of missing a great opportunity. And we even tell ourselves that we’ll just give in this once, that we won’t do it again later. But once you let that guard down, it becomes far too easy to let it down again and again. It becomes a habit.

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Unfortunately, our clients often talk to each other. So if you give in on your fees, going lower than you really should just to get a client, you may find that client telling others to work with you because of your “great price” aka you’re cheap. And then you’re stuck and saying no becomes even harder.

When I see designers and creatives who I work with, continually charging less than they are worth, I ask them this important and valid question…”Why would you take money away from your own bottom line and ultimately your pay check (which impacts your family’s budget), just to help a client get a cheaper deal? Does that even make sense? I’m sorry, but it’s not your responsibility to help other people furnish their home to your family’s detriment. You are in this business to make money. And I know your clients REALLY want that stuff that is outside their means, lot’s of us want to buy stuff we can’t really afford. And we as designers and creatives really want them to have those things, especially if we can take pictures of the finished room and get it published. But it’s not your job to discount these items if it takes money out of your pocket. You have to say no to protect your company’s income, and the salary you use to support your family. Think of your family and your grocery list and your kids’ college funds the next time you are tempted to give yourself and your products away for less than you should and just say NO!

There are a number of reasons (not just budgets) that taking on a client who raises red flags is never a good idea. Think of it this way, if you say yes to that not-so-great client, you’re not only going to drive yourself crazy, that client is going to take up way too much of your time and energy that could be focused on finding the right client. They’re going to burn you out and drain you.

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And if all these fears we have regarding potential clients weren’t enough to keep us totally over-committed and underpaid, then there’s FOMO. You know what I mean, it’s the Fear of Missing Out. Earlier in my career, I felt like I had to be at every event, take on every challenge, say yes to every single interview and opportunity. I thought I was really making a name for myself and raising my brand awareness, which was true to in many ways. But I also was burning myself out – not sleeping enough (I need 8 good hours), not taking care of myself or eating right, not there for my family as much as I would have liked. It wasn’t worth it. I could have said no to just a few of those events and saved myself a lot of heartache.

Now I think of FOMO as Frankly One More Obligation – and I remember to say No to the so-so or only good events so I can say a hearty YES to the great things that have come along. I’ve learned to really weigh the client and the opportunity against my company’s bottom line, only taking on the things that give me a great ROI.

And yes, I know how hard it is to say no. Especially when a friend is asking the question. So here are a few ways to start practicing how to say NO so you feel more comfortable saying it during those critical times. First, ask for time. If you feel yourself cracking, say something like “I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.” That gives you time to build up your confidence and to remind yourself of why you need to say no.

Second, make a mental post-it note that you can refer to over and over. It could say “You are the CEO and you cannot give in.” Or it could say, “Is this the right decision for my business? For my family?” Whenever you feel cornered, picture that post-it in your mind. You can even make one for your desk so you can look at it when you’re on the phone or answering an email request.

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Third, don’t make it personal. You’re saying no to the request, not to the person. It isn’t rude or “mean” to say no to something. You aren’t obligated to fulfill every request someone makes of you. You’re a busy professional with a jam-packed life, others should understand that sometimes you won’t be able to say yes.

Fourth, remember that there is strength in standing firm. People often test your limits to see how far they can get. And many times they don’t actually respect someone they see as a pushover. Stand firm in your decision. You can even say something like: “I know we’re both strong-willed people, and I wish I could give on this, but I really can’t.”

Finally, practice saying no. You can use a friend or family member as a sounding board, as someone to practice with before you meet with that pushy client. Just like giving in can become a habit, so can saying no.

Let me know when you’ve faced a decision where you stood firm and said no, or where you wished you had, in the comments section below. Remember that you’re saying no to the so-so to give you the time and energy to say YES to the fabulous clients and opportunities that are out there waiting for you!

xo,

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Your Business Is Your Passion, Not Theirs

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-Work for your dream, not someone else's- (1)

If you own a business, you are seriously passionate about it. I know you are because I’m just like you. You want it to succeed, you want every experience someone has with your company to be stellar, and you think about it 24/7. But let me tell you a little secret: Employees, freelancers, and subcontractors don’t feel the same way about your business. And if that bothers you, you’re being a bit unreasonable.

I know that seems harsh, but think about this idea for a minute. Many people who work for you are there for a paycheck and then they want to go home. Some even really love the industry you are in and love your company. But after a full 8 or 9 hour day, they are ready to check out. To punch the clock. To decompress. That doesn’t mean they don’t care, or that they don’t want to do a great job for you. Most do. I’m just saying that your passion is probably not their passion.

They did not start this business and nurture it, they didn’t worry over it and dream about it. That was you. So expecting someone else to want to think about it over the weekend, to burn the midnight oil, or to come up with great ideas on their own time is unrealistic. Even your very best employees are still never going to feel the same passion that you do. It is your business and it is your dream.

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Your personal life is likely completely tied up in your business.  But typically those who work for you won’t want to give up their personal time this way. It took me years to understand this. It was only after I became a mom that I understood there were some things more important than my business, even for me. And I had been working hard for likely a dozen years or so before I really relaxed and knew my team was really committed to me and the firm, even when they wanted to leave at 5:00 or 6:00 pm.

They have their own passions and their own dreams. They have families and they like to do what they want in the evenings and on weekends. They daydream about their vacations and about their futures, which may not include you and your company and that’s ok. When I was growing up, it wasn’t unusual for people to work for my family’s company for 30-40 years. Today, it seems I’m lucky if people stay 3 or 4. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t a great part of the team while they were there. Times have changed and so have employees. People have so many options and many fewer barriers to changing jobs. Why shouldn’t they make choices that are right for them? You would do the same. And I know you would want the same for your children, right?

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Leaving work at work (or at least wanting to) is normal human behavior. I need a little more of this “normal behavior” in my life sometimes. And though there are some employees and team members who go above and beyond, you are setting yourself up for disappointment to expect them to.  It doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they have boundaries. And you need to understand that and respect it. If you are like me, you may need a few boundaries in your own life. I know it certainly helps us feel more healthy and balanced when we turn our work off and go home to replenish and relax. And don’t we want our team healthy and balanced too? I know I do because they are helping me take care of some of our most precious company assets, our customers!

One thing you can definitely expect from your team, is to do the work you pay them for, on time and competently, or even expertly. And you can even motivate them to get excited about what they do, and to care about it enough to want to help your business improve and grow, to help you get closer to achieving your goals.

You want engaged and motivated employees, and you want them to be invested in your company’s success. But don’t ask them to dream the impossible dream that is uniquely yours because they likely have a dream that’s all their own.

xo,

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