Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

5 Ways to Reset Your Creativity

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I have a question for you: Why did you get into the business of being a designer in the first place? It was because you’re a creative, right?! Too often, all of those things that are critical for running a business can keep us from flexing our creativity muscles – and that creativity is actually key to our business. That can seem like a vicious circle because day-to-day business can be a creativity killer, but without being creative, you aren’t going to have any business.

Being more creative, really delivering the best designs that you possibly can, is going to prove that you’re worth what you charge. It’s going to bring you new clients, it will get you published, and it will help you expand your business so you can hire more people, which then allows you more time to be creative.

Designers at ALL levels still work at this. You don’t just wake up one day and realize that you’ve peaked creatively and so you no longer have to push yourself! People at the top of their game really have to work even harder to continuously deliver something that is fresh and inspired!


So how do you kick your creativity into high gear when you’re super-stressed and overwhelmed with the business side of your company? Well I’ve got 5 tips to get you going:

1. Seek out inspiration. To be creative, you have to be INSPIRED. That can be different for every one of you, but set aside time to find your inspiration! That can be going to a museum, traveling, going to a fashion show, or looking at art books and magazines that are not the usual shelter publications. But set aside time for this – don’t let it be negotiable.

2. Schedule creative time. Yes, I am aware that sometimes you aren’t going to “feel like” being creative, but if you don’t block out time to focus on creativity, it’s never going to happen. You have to set aside time to let the right side of your brain, the creative side, take over.  Once the left side of your brain – that’s the analytical side – is engaged – it takes about 15 minutes of a break to get the creative side of your brain to kick back in! So you can’t switch back and forth. That’s why I set a specific time to go into my workroom and create designs. My team knows that I cannot be interrupted! And I turn off my phone and my email – that keeps me from switching from one side of the brain to the other, which really prevents me from creating my best and most creative work!


3. Trick yourself. Science is on your side here! Research has shown that you can stimulate that right side, or creative side, of your brain. Laughing triggers that side of your brain and makes it more active, and looking at the sky blue color does the same thing. It stimulates the creative center of your brain. Here’s a crazy trick that works, too: Squeeze a ball in your left hand for 45 seconds, and then repeat that 3 times. That creates a reaction in the right side of your brain and gets it all woken up and firing off ideas.

4. Get outside. Getting fresh air – a great hit of oxygen – does two things for you. First, studies show that it will fire up that creativity center in your brain. Second, it’s also a fabulous place to find inspiration!

5. Don’t lose focus! But here’s a warning – do not ever look at your email while you’re trying to be creative. Reading makes the left side of the brain take over, and you don’t want that to happen when you want the right side of your brain to be at its best! So keep your email closed, don’t try to text, and don’t start surfing Facebook. Stay focused!

Use these 5 tips to fire up your creativity and rediscover your passion for this business. I want you to exercise your creative muscle just like you get exercise for your body. So get out there and hit your creative zone!







4 Ways to Survive the Holiday Chaos

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This time of year can be magical and special, but if you’re a small business owner like me, it can also be stressful, frustrating, and insane. Interior designers especially know what I mean because half of our clients want us to transform their homes into a showpiece in the 2 weeks before their guests arrive for Christmas.

It can be hard enough to balance your work and your personal life on the best of days, but it is incredibly hard to do during the holiday season when everyone wants something from you right now. What can you do? I have 4 ways for you to keep the crazy at a minimum so you can enjoy the best of the holiday season!


1. Remember to say no. You can’t say yes to every client request and you shouldn’t say yes to every event or party that comes along, too. There’s only so many hours in the day, and only so much of YOU. Say no to the good to make room for the great! Choose wisely so you can give your very best to everything that you say YES to.

2. Buckle down early. Put your head down and focus on your work in the first two weeks of December, so you can really let go and enjoy yourself with family and friends during the weeks of Christmas and the New Year. You don’t want to be the one at the office on Christmas Eve, so keep your eye firmly on work so you can get all of the tasks on your list completed and checked off. If you aren’t an early planner, make it your goal next year to do your client gifts and cards in October so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.


3. Schedule some ME time. Find one hour here and there to get a massage, meditate, take a yoga class, anything to calm your mind and help you relax and recharge. It will make you better able to deal with clients and to enjoy your family!

4. Check out completely. On those days that you’re supposed to be off with your family, turn off your phone and be present with your family. The world won’t end if someone can’t get in touch with you. Take a deep breath and enjoy the season.

I hope these tips help you keep the magic of the season first and foremost as your goal! Let me know what you love about the holidays in the comments section below!








Make Time for Gratitude

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Now that the holiday season is about to hit full swing, chances are that you will soon be giving and receiving and thanking up a storm! It’s interesting how we can show so much appreciation and gratitude for friends and family, though, and can forget to thank the people we spend an enormous amount of time with. And that’s our employees and our clients!

We all love to feel appreciated for our hard work, and it’s no different for the employees and contract people that you work with. MIT professor Daniel Ariely’s research has shown that employees actually leave jobs more often because they feel undervalued and underappreciated, rather than because of pay issues.

It’s important to remember to thank someone who works for you, to show true gratitude for all the ways they contribute to your company’s success. It can be as simple as telling them what a great job they did on a specific project, to writing a formal note, to giving them a bonus at the end of the year.


Other important ways to show appreciation include welcoming their ideas, thanking them when appropriate, offer flexibility in their schedules, following through on what you say you’ll do, and celebrating milestones with them. Even just being on time for meetings, keeping your word, and being positive in your work will show respect and appreciation for others.

How important is this? Studies show that when employees don’t feel valued, their enthusiasm and productivity goes down, and the lack of excitement they feel could start to impact your clients and your business. And that is definitely not good.


Speaking of your clients – how are you showing THEM that you’re thankful for their business? If you want their repeat business, or if you want them to recommend you to others, then you definitely should be sure that they know how much you appreciate and value them. I love to show gratitude to my clients with small gifts, notes, and emails through the design process that let them know how much I love working with them. And at the end of the project, there’s always a little something waiting for them in their homes to say thanks for their business.

It’s so important to practice gratitude every day, for the things we have, and for the people in our lives. So during this holiday season – and throughout the year – be sure you’re telling your “work family” how thankful you are for them, too! Make gratitude part of your business plan today.

Thank you for being here with me – for reading my blog and for commenting! I appreciate each and every one of you!

In gratitude,






3 Tips for Protecting Your Brand Online

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It’s a sign of the times that you can provide top-notch services and the best customer experience, and yet have a very different reputation online. One stray comment or one misstep on your part, and suddenly your brand could have a serious problem. So what’s a small business owner to do?

It’s so important to protect your brand in the online world, just as you do in your own city and state. Here are 3 tips for keeping your brand in good shape in the world WILD web:


1. Google yourself. No really, go do that now. You want to enter your name and your company’s name, and for both searches include your city so it will help narrow down the search. Be sure that you look at links further back than just the first page or two of results. You need to be sure that what you find is positive, that you’re getting credit for your own work, and that you’re actually coming up in the first page! Look for comments, posts, and anything else that might be an issue for you. It’s good to do this every month or so, just as a check-in.

2. Watch for comments and questions. Have you noticed that Facebook now ranks your business page based on how quickly you respond to comments? There’s a reason that it’s called SOCIAL media – it’s meant to be a conversation. So any time you don’t respond, it’s as if someone walked up to say hello to you, and you turned your back on them. However, you have to weigh that against the time you have – I know that better than most! I try to answer questions on Facebook and my blog, “like” retweets and thank people for great tweets on Twitter, and respond to serious requests on Houzz. But I can’t answer every single “what paint color is that” question that I get – no matter how much I may want to! There just aren’t enough hours in the day. So that leads me to…


3. Head off not-so-nice feedback. On Houzz, I tend to put info like paint colors right into the captions so people don’t have to send me as many questions. That helps the online viewer and me, and it avoids posts from irritated DIYers! And then there are the “ugly” comments or less-than-stellar reviews. Some people think it’s okay to delete all of those, but I believe it’s a great opportunity to show that you care enough to respond and try to address whatever the issue is. In fact, my friends at Houzz said they encourage people to respond if they ever get a “poor” review. It gives you a chance to showcase your amazing customer service! And yes, I get those more “wacko” comments on social media, too. If they are really abusive and weird, I will delete those.

Keeping an eye on your online brand, and being responsive to your “tribe,” is the way to protect yourself from angry potential customers and keep your reputation in good standing. Let me know how you keep up with your online brand in the comments section below!








4 Reasons to Give Yourself a Paycheck

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Here’s a question for you: Who is your most valuable employee? The answer is YOU are your most important and most valuable employee, and you need to treat yourself just as you would any other staff member who’s important to the success of the company.

So are you paying yourself? Most small business owners think they can (or should!) put off paying themselves until they’re “making it.” Whatever that means. But that’s actually the wrong way to think about it! Not paying yourself a real salary and just assuming that you will use whatever profits are left at the end of the year is a very dangerous game of smoke-and-mirrors. Because if you are just making enough to pay your bills, or fooling yourself that the $10,000 left over at the end of the year is a job well done, then you don’t have a good grasp on your financials and you don’t have a clearly defined path to profitability. Basically, you don’t have a sustainable business model.

I know it can be hard to set that money aside, but here are 4 reasons for why you have to start paying yourself today:

1. This is a business, not a hobby! If you’re subsidizing your business by not paying yourself, then your company isn’t in good financial health. Too many small business owners think they should be the last to get any money when they’re starting or growing a business. But that isn’t true! You have a better chance of starting on the path to a real and profitable business if you have a salary included in your overhead from the very first day of business and you make a plan to cash flow your operations including your salary.


2. You can’t ever hire if you aren’t paying the ONE employee you have now! That would be you. Think about everything that you do for your company – all of your responsibilities and tasks. Wouldn’t you pay someone else to do all that work? Exactly. But it’s going to be tough to add someone to your overhead and come up with the money to pay them, if you’ve been just “volunteering” for your company all this time to complete those same tasks. You have to be able to afford employees as your company grows, and you can only do that if you have a budget line for salaries.

3. You have to pay yourself to keep the passion for your business alive. If you aren’t making anything out of this business, then what’s the point of doing business at all? No, really, what’s the point? Running a small business is hard. I know from experience that, if you haven’t already, you’ll soon find yourself managing people and tasks and you will have very little time to do the thing you started this business for to begin with. And if you’re working for free doing these tasks you don’t love, it’s even worse. You’re going to burn yourself out and you’re going to be angry and resentful about your business and lack of funds. That isn’t exactly a great mood to be in if you want to attract more clients and more business.


4. It’s a great incentive. If you do want to attract more clients (and I know you do!), then what better way to motivate yourself to work harder than you already do than to give yourself a paid incentive to bring in more money. If you’re really being disciplined about your finances, then you know exactly how much money you need to make each month to meet your overhead. And you should then know how much more you need to make in order to give yourself a raise. And realizing all the things you can do with that money from taking your family on a vacation to saving for your kids college funds, can be a real reason to work even harder and put some more of that money in your own pocket.

I know getting serious about business and making money can be tough, especially for creatives, but it’s critical to getting your company into great financial shape and operating it like a real business should so it can afford you your dream life. So get out that checkbook and write a check to yourself TODAY! And leave me a comment below and let me know if this is one of the things you struggle with in your business and if you’re willing to make the leap towards valuing yourself as the key part of your business right now.  You can do it!







PS – Need help getting your financial house in order? My Financials for Creatives online master class will give you the strategies and tools you need to become that financial genius that I know you have inside you! There are 9 modules, each designed to help you get a handle on a specific part of your income, your fees, and your cash flow. Each module is a video webinar, designed to deliver you the information you need so you can work through them on your own schedule and at your own pace. Click here to learn more!