Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

Get It In Writing!

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If you’re in a small business that works with clients – like mine with interior design – do you have contracts, or at least a letter of agreement? Many people don’t operate with them, seeing them as too much of a hassle. Sometimes they’re just too embarrassed or timid to ask their clients to sign a contract, or they don’t want to be held to an agreement themselves. And sometimes they think they just don’t have the time to sit down and iron out the details for a contract that the client will sign. But that’s just flirting with disaster!

Having a contract protects you and your business just as much as it holds you to specific standards. For example, you can cover return policies for products, you can specify that you have the write to promote a successful project, that you must be paid for out-of-town or out-of-state travel, and more.

verbal contract

Even more critically, your contract can spell out your fees, payment schedule, and retainer policies. It can cover liabilities and warranties. The contract is the place to spell out all the parameters of the job and any issues that can come up later. They minimize risks – for you and for the client.

And this has to be created with a lawyer – period. Don’t think that you can just type something up and use it as an agreement. You want to button up any possible future issues, and that’s what a lawyer can do for you. It’s worth the money and the time that you put into it.


I can hear a lot of your creatives out there saying: “Ugh, Tobi. I know I need one, but it’s intimidating to sit down with my clients and try to make them sign a contract.” I hear you, I know this isn’t fun. But you HAVE to do it. It’s non-negotiable. What I tell my clients is that this protects THEM, too. Because my company will also have to uphold everything that’s spelled out in the contract. It keeps the relationship running smoothly.

And I always sit down with my clients and go over the contract together, in person. That allows us to talk about all the details, like why I have to be able to photograph their homes for my business. And they actually appreciate that I want to protect them as much as I want to protect myself. It professionalizes our relationship – and it shows them that I really mean business. Too often, creatives bootstrap their businesses to the point where their own clients almost don’t consider them a “real business,” and this is one area where you can really change that.

So I hope I’ve convinced you how important contracts are for your business and your clients! Let me know in the comments below if you have a contract and how it’s working for you.







Must Read Business Books

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biz books

I love to read! I have my Kindle out on every trip and at just about every free moment. And my go-to books are almost always selections that are empowering and about business, or about personal growth. I’m asked so often about my favorite business books and there are so many that it’s hard to name just a few. Plus each year as I read new books, I add more and more to my list of favorites.

But just in case you’ve missed reading any of these, I thought I’d give you a list of a few of my “must reads”. Let’s take a look.

Start with Why,
by Simon Sinek. This is a book that I refer to constantly in my courses and live events. It gets right to the core of each one of us by asking a simple question: Why? Why do you want to go to work? Why do you want to own your own business? Why do you get out of bed every day? The answer can’t just be money – it has to be deeper than that. There has to be a passion, a deep reason that we each decided to do what we’re doing. If you recognize what your “why” is, and you keep that constantly as your focus, you will succeed!

weWorth Every Penny, by Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck. This isn’t a book that you just go through once and then put on a shelf – it’s the type that you’ll refer to over and over again. It lays out exactly how you can (and should!) charge what you’re worth. And it focuses on the idea that you should never compete on price, but instead should offer something unique and make your customer service completely over-the-top and consistent. A must-read for any small business owner.


Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg. There’s a reason why this book by Facebook’s COO got so much attention – it’s a game changer for women in business. Sandberg reminds women that we need to lean in instead of pulling back in business, that we need to stop thinking it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, as powerful (or more) than men. And she says that women must raise our expectations of what we can achieve! This is an honest and straightforward book that redefines what and who women can be in the business world.


Rising Strong, by Brene Brown. You may not think of this as a traditional business book, but for me, it really is. Brown writes about failure in a different way than most books and blogs have. She not only recognizes that each one of us has failed, but that we will fail again soon. But it’s how we react AFTER failing that’s the key, she believes. She points out that we all have to be brave to fail – that we have to have the courage to try something new before we can fail at all.  Once we see that, it takes the fear out of failure and shows us we can “rise strong.”


The 10x Rule, by Grant Cardone. I’ve used Cardone’s “massive action” approach to really propel my own business, so I know it works. The idea is that you should apply 10 times the effort to whatever your goal is. You have to move beyond normal action to separate yourself and your company from everyone else! You must set big goals – 10 times bigger – and then increase your amount of action and effort to get there. Most people settle for less, and that’s why they don’t achieve their dreams.


The Confidence Code, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about confidence – I really believe that it’s a problem for so many in business, and it’s really holding people back from getting what they want–particularly women. This is a practical guide that tells women how we can up our confidence quotient through less people pleasing and perfectionism and by taking more action and risks, and by failing. Because through all of that, you learn that you can survive, and thrive!

What are your favorite business books? What do you read that inspires and empowers you? Let me know in the comments section below – I’m always looking for something to read!







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!


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.


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.


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.


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!







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.


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.


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!







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.


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.


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!







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!