Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

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!

What’s Distracting You?

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Happy Halloween! Did you get your candy for tonight? Are your kids’ costumes ready? Oh, and be sure to get something for dinner. And the dog needs his flea meds. Did your mom call you back? Need to check in. Hey, look what your friend posted on Facebook – that’s awesome! Let’s go see what’s on Instagram.

No, I’m not practicing stream-of-consciousness writing. I’m giving you an example of “monkey brain” – an overstimulated, unable-to-concentrate thought process that most of us experience in today’s wired world. The problem? There’s almost no room for focus. We’re just too distracted! And that can hurt our clients and our businesses.

It’s so bad – thanks to the Internet and all of our favorite apps – that Harvard Medical School research shows we have “culturally generated ADD.” We’re all now inattentive, disorganized, overbooked. Yikes. Not a great set-up for small businesses that need ALL of our attention.


It’s so bad, that most medical research on multitasking now calls it attention switching, with your brain trying to switch constantly to other topics or chatter at you until you stop focusing on the task at hand. So what’s a “monkey brain” to do?

Stanford University research says that focus can be developed, like a muscle. We just have to literally practice focusing. How do we do that? You know the answer. You have to clear the decks of ALL distractions.

Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur who has written five books, found concentration so hard for him that he actually booked round-trip flights to Tokyo just so he could write without anything grabbing for his attention. He found it to be a small price to pay to get his books done. But I love flying today for the same reason – no distractions. You just have to try to resist the temptation to log onto inflight WiFi.


Here’s how to start using that focus muscle without a flight to Tokyo:

  • Turn off all alerts on your phone. You do NOT need to know how many people like that photo you posted. You can look later. It’s hard to resist the temptation to look, so help yourself by eliminating those alerts.
  • Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. You can set it so your child’s school can still get through; no one else really needs to. So shut it down. We used to live through whole days without talking to people who weren’t involved in our actual jobs, so you can do that for a few hours each day.
  • Turn off every window on your browser except the one you require for the task at hand. That includes Facebook.
  • Tell your team/spouse/mom/whomever that you are working and can’t be disturbed. Period. Hold them (and yourself) to it!
  • Turn off the noise. That includes televisions, radios, anything else that’s distracting to your concentration. Consider using white noise machines, a fan, anything to block whatever might cause your brain to disengage.

It can take up to an hour to get your brain back in gear once you’ve been distracted, so don’t let that monkey brain run away with you! Think about how much more you could get done in a day if you really and truly focused on your business. It could be a game changer!

What distracts you from your work? Let me know in the comments section below!








4 Ways to Rethink Your Work Team

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I’m asked all the time when a small business owner should hire employees – and there’s really no easy one-size-fits-all answer. You have to determine that for yourself based on your income and overhead. But I will tell you that I have completely revamped how I work with team members, and you can too! Let’s take a look at 4 ways to create a lean-and-mean productive team:

1. Make a list of all your tasks and jobs required in your company. Remember what I always say: You should spend 80% of your time on the thoughts and activities that will produce the most results (aka MONEY) for your business. So look at that list and mark the things you need to do to make your company money or that require your skills. If an activity doesn’t give you a strong return on investment, then you should not be the one doing it. You have to assign tasks that you should not be performing to other people. That’s going to make your company more productive. After all, if you are the most important asset your company has, can you really afford to be the one taking out the trash or cleaning your office? Making that list will help you focus on where you need help.

2. Once you know you have job duties that you should pass on to someone else, it’s time to decide what type of person can handle them for you: an outsourced hire or an employee. The advantages of outsourcing include: getting specialized experts for a fraction of the cost. You also don’t have to pay for insurance, retirement, payroll taxes, office supplies, a workstation or a computer. In most cases, you pay when the work is complete. And you don’t have to manage anyone in-house. I outsource things in my company like bookkeeping, web design, IT help, graphic design and more.


There are advantages to having an employee, of course. You have someone to work with you and to bounce ideas off of. They are on-call immediately and can help when there’s an issue. Once they’re trained, they know the “ins and outs” of the business and can help make decisions without your guidance, which comes in handy when you need to take time off. Once you really think about the pros and cons of outsourcing versus having an employee, you need to do a cost/benefit analysis to determine which type of employee makes the most sense for your budget and your needs. You may want to use a hybrid, like I do, with employees handling some jobs, and other things being outsourced.

3. Think global rather than just local. In today’s world, your team doesn’t even need to be in the same place – you can hire the right person for the job, regardless of where they’re based. As many of you know, I have full-time team members in different states, and my outsourced people are in other states, too. Because of today’s technology, we stay in touch and work together just as if we were all in the same office. Having a virtual team allows you to get the best and brightest in the field and not settle for less just because that’s all you can find in your area.

4. Get connected. We are so lucky to have so many tools available to us today that let us connect with people around the world. They also help keep a hybrid work team connected and productive. Some of the tools we use are Studio Webware, Asana, Dropbox, Skype, Google calendars, Time Tracker, and more. It creates a seamless work system that feels as if we’re all working in the same office.


You’ll also have to meet and check in with your team a little more often just because you aren’t sharing the same office space and you don’t have the luxury of gathering around the water cooler or break room and casually discussing topics. Organize time when your team can socialize and get to know each other and build a relationship that will last.

Building a team, like building a company, takes some work and time but if you put these ideas into place, you should end up with a more productive and smoother-running company in the long run. Let me know what you think in the comments section below!