How to Manage a Business While Still Doing Life

A while back, I put some feelers out to my Instagram followers.  I asked what my followers — my friends, my family, and my client-friends — would want to read or learn about.  The overwhelming response was how to manage a business, while still doing life.  How do I run a business, take care of a family, go to school, and (for some) work full time?

I want to preface all of this by saying that clearly, different things work for different people.  A great deal of being able to run your own business has its roots in motivation and drive.  If you have that, you’ll be able to do almost anything.  The trick, though, is not letting other things fall by the wayside.  I’ll be the first to admit, I still struggle with this, even on my best days.  I’m a mom to five, a wife, and in the beginning stages of Autumn Lane Paperie, I was also a full time graduate student.  Now that I’m not a full time student, I’m not even sure how I managed to handle school.  I’m baffled by how I made it work.

Business is booming with Autumn Lane now, and even though my clients don’t hear from me seven days a week, I work seven days a week.  Seriously.  If I’m not communicating with clients, answering messages, or designing, I’m handling social media stuff, researching + reading up on things, or gathering up ideas.  I don’t even handle the financial aspect of Autumn Lane, because Jeff does that.  He also handles advertising & marketing, and all administrative items.  (Truthfully, Autumn Lane wouldn’t be where it’s at right now without him on board.  He’s alleviated so much of my workload as it relates to the icky business side of things, and I am so thankful for it.  He’s also way better at that side of the business than I am.)

Like I mentioned, I’m not even sure how I handled school while working full time and having a family.  I can’t begin to imagine trying to squeeze school in with our current workload.  I’ve had to do a little self-examination over how this whole business-ing with a busy life thing works, and how I’ve made this happen.  I have a few tips that might help if you find that you’re having trouble managing.

What is your purpose or goal?

Identifying your purpose or goal with your business will immediately help put things into perspective.  For me, the purpose or goal in the beginning stages of Autumn Lane’s life, was to help out financially while being able to go to school and be there for the kids.  This allowed me to identify how much time I needed to devote to Autumn Lane’s development.  I worked on stuff during the day, when I didn’t have school work due, and was able to spend “free” time after work doing things as needed, as well as spending time with my family.

When Autumn Lane became more than something to just help out, I had to reassess what the purpose of the business was.  It was no longer something to help out, but rather the way we put food on the table once Jeff sold his landscaping company to work with me.  I poured more time into the business out of necessity.  I still am, and I often work on the couch with my BabyMac these days, so that I can be around everyone while still accomplishing things.

I’m extremely grateful for our eldest daughter, Lily, because she’s jumped into the premade logo spot for Autumn Lane, and is slowly beginning to take on custom orders.  This alleviates some of my workload, and gives her some on the job training — perfect for an art + graphic design student!  I’m also thankful that our kids are old enough and can grasp the concept of hard work.  I think that they see how often and how much we work, but understand that the massive efforts now are going to pay off in the end.

What is the purpose or goal for your business?  Is it to make some extra money, or are you making this a full-time gig?  Are you hoping to profit from a hobby, or have something to fill your time?

 

Ask the tough questions.

This is an easy one to talk about on a blog, but the questions are tough to answer.

What about your business and life is difficult to manage?  Is it time, money, effort, too many commitments?  Would you say that it’s because you don’t have enough time, while deep down you know it’s something else that is making it difficult?  Why is it making it difficult to manage?  In a perfect world with unlimited resources and time, how would you solve this problem?  Now, in your world with your life, what is feasible to solve this problem?

 

Discover your limits.

Once you’ve determined the purpose or goal of your business, limits will be the next thing that you’ll need to assess.  How much and how often are you going to work on this business or project you have going on?  What other responsibilities do you have?  Are you working full time already, do you have a family, are you in school?  Where does this business fall, priority-wise, with all of the other things you have going on?  What are you willing to sacrifice?  How much money are you going to be sinking into this venture?  What is your financial plan?

Whenever you figure out your limits, you’ll be able to quantify how much time and money you should be spending.

 

Organize and plan.

One thing that has helped me throughout this all is being organized and planning things.  It’s as simple as putting a task in my planner so it doesn’t get overlooked, like paying a bill.  It could be as big as planning for time away from work, or taking an hour to plan the week’s meals.  I’m a faithful Limelife Planner girl.  They’re super cute and stylish, and functional.

Scheduling my work, building time in to do certain things, and planning meals helps take the guesswork out of the day to day for me. I love cooking, but the absolute worst thing ever is whenever it’s 5pm and everyone is hangry and you have no idea what to cook for dinner.  I can’t begin to tell you the number of times that I worked 8-10 hours, my brain was fried, and then I needed to pick something to make for dinner.  Unfortunately, going to the Mexican place next door isn’t always feasible or financially responsible if you’re feeding seven!

My must-haves?

  • My planner, because I need to know what’s due on any given day.
  • This meal planning sheet that I use on my iPad & the Procreate app, because it helps eliminate the age-old question…what’s for dinner?
  • A crockpot, because some days, you just need to throw dinner in and forget about it.

Communicate.

Communication will be key.  If your kids are old enough to understand that you need to devote an hour of your evening to work, that’s fabulous.  It’ll make it much easier for you.  Being able to say, “I need an hour, so if I get an hour uninterrupted, I’ll get done much faster.” is great.  If you have younger children that might not grasp why mom has to be attached to a computer for a bit, that’s tricky!  Consider chatting with your spouse about helping out, if necessary.

BUT!!! Ahead of chatting about that, it would probably be a smart idea to discuss your goals.  Having support is crucial to managing your business and family life.  For me, knowing goals and hopes makes me far more supportive of a venture.  There’s something to be said for thinking, planning, and not going about it haphazardly.  Goals, hopes, and planning make it easier to help your loved ones, too!  If your family is on board with your goals, you might even find that you have a helper or two.  Take that help!


The great thing about these tips is that they’re applicable to anyone at any stage in their business that feels like they’re spinning plates.  Sometimes, the answer might not be “manage” so much as it might be “change.”

That is, changing how you’re doing things so that it becomes manageable.  There’s no sense in doing the same thing repeatedly if it’s not working for you!

Tell me how you manage a business, while still doing life!  What are some things that help you manage your business while still maintaining YOUR sanity?

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Stepping Up Your E-mail Game

It’s time to step up your e-mail game.  If you run a business, especially an online business, you need to read this.

In one of my many college courses, we discussed how the world is getting smaller.  It was my Globalization course, to be exact.  We weren’t chatting about how the world was physically becoming smaller, but rather that technology makes it easier to communicate with people the next state over, across the country, and even the world.  We no longer have to wait for weeks to sail across the ocean to deliver a message, or for the post to deliver it.  People are merely an e-mail away, making it easy to effectively and quickly communicate.  In essence, the world is becoming “smaller” because of this and nothing seems too far out of reach anymore.

Technology is pretty dang fabulous, right?  But let’s face it — it can be tricky, too.  Writing an e-mail seems easy, in theory.  You type some text into a box, sometimes proofread it, and then send it off.  What happens next?  This magical process delivers your e-mail to (hopefully) the intended recipient, and you go about your business.  What about communicating your point, or making your e-mail personable?

For a business, this is crucial.  You have to be professional, be personable, and you have to communicate effectively through your keyboard.  Making all three happen in a single e-mail?  Not everyone can manage that.

Let’s take a look at a few tips to help you nail your e-mail game.

 

Greeting.

Your e-mail greeting is the introduction to your e-mail.  You should consider the person you’re talking to when you add your greeting — is it your mom, your client, or your boss?  All three might have very different greetings.  For me, I want each e-mail to feel like we’re having a conversation in my living room or at a coffee shop.  I’ve developed a brand with Autumn Lane Paperie in which people (I hope) feel warmth and as if they’re talking with a friend.  It’s simply who I am.  I usually start off with “Hey <client name>!” because I like having a casual, open interaction with my clients.  I find that attempting to communicate more professionally and in a more sterile manner really hinders my creative process.  Ultimately, I want to put my clients at ease and make them feel as though they can communicate with me honestly.

I didn’t initially plan for my e-mails to take shape the way they have — I think it’s just who I am, and when I thought about changing it to be more professional…it just didn’t sit well with me!  Yes, I’m a professional providing professional services…but really, I just love what I do, and I want people to be at ease when they’re doing business with me.

 

Pleasantry.

This is that little opener in your e-mail that tells your client you’ve thought of them, how they are, and what they’ve been up to.  You should only use a pleasantry if you genuinely care, otherwise, it’s going to seem forced.  If your client mentioned that they spent their weekend camping with their family, it would be totally cool to tell them that you hope they had a great time camping.  If they’ve been unwell, it would be awesome to tell them you hope they’re feeling better.

I try to use a pleasantry as much as possible, but it’s often not even a thought or something I consider — it usually just happens, because I really love hearing what my clients have been up to.  It’s great for my creative process to know who my clients are and what they enjoy outside of what I’m working on for them.  It enables me to inject bits of their personality in what I’m working on so that they can connect with it even more, and really take ownership of their brand.

 

Gratitude.

Appreciate their response or their feedback?  That’s important.  Let them know, especially if they’ve gone above & beyond to answer the questions you’ve asked them or respond to something you’ve provided them.  It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you leave out that gratitude part, your e-mail will lose its warmth.  Additionally, you don’t want to make your client feel that you don’t care about what they said or that you’ve taken for granted that they’ve made an effort to collaborate and respond.

 

Information, Details, Answers.

This is the meaty part of your e-mail.  Sending an attachment?  Explain what you’ve attached, why they need to look at it, what feedback you might need, and so on.  Answer questions that were in their e-mail, and re-state anything to clarify.  Spending an extra five minutes on that e-mail now will save you fifteen minutes later when you have to go back to clarify because you didn’t do that the first time.  Re-stating ensures that you’re clear on what was asked, and so that your client knows that you’ve taken the time to read their e-mail.

Have a lot of questions to answer?  Use a bulleted list, numbered list, or the good ol’ copy/paste with answers in bold.  Do what works for you and what will make your e-mail as clear as possible.

 

Call to Action.

Request your response, and be clear about it.  Your e-mail might contain a ton of info & details with no specific questions, but you still need your client to confirm information or agree that they’re on board.  Don’t leave that to them to decide whether or not a response is necessary — ask them for one.

You don’t have to be stuffy about it and say, “Please respond ASAP.” or even super rigid like “A response is requested immediately.”  A simple “Let me know what you think!” or “Tell me your thoughts!” should do the trick.  If all else fails, simply pose your question to them: “What do you think?”

Related to this, if you require a response in a timely manner, ensure that you’ve provided a time frame in which you’re hoping to have a response.  Don’t leave it to anyone’s imagination!


There are, of course, other things you should consider with your e-mail that aren’t related to the content of your e-mail.

 

Tone.

I’m guilty of this just as much as the next guy or gal — reading tone into a message.  At the end of the day, you need to ensure that you’ve done your part to ensure your clients read your message the way you intend it to be read.  A great deal of that is how you provide your details, ask your questions, and ensure that you’ve communicated adequately the points you’re trying to make.  This keeps anyone from reading tone in that isn’t there.  However, you can’t control how anyone else composes their e-mail.  Keep an open mind, and realize that you might be a bit reactionary if you take offense to a statement that could be read any number of ways.

 

Punctuation.

Punctuation might help a bit with the tone issue.  Selecting the appropriate punctuation will aid in deciding how a message could be read.

Take a look at this:

It’s ok.  Meh, it’s alright. 

It’s ok? You can do that?

It’s ok! No problem, that’s cool!

its ok I acknowledge that but don’t care enough to say more.

Furthermore, punctuation helps establish where one thought ends, and the next begins, and it helps clarify your thoughts.  Have you ever been sent an e-mail that was one giant paragraph of a run-on sentence?  It hurts my head when I get those, and I often have to copy/paste the e-mail into another window and separate it myself to decipher it.  I used to be a linguist in my previous job; I don’t want to do that again.

 

The Return Key.

Similar to punctuation, make use of your return key to separate your ideas and paragraphs.  A wall of text can be rather daunting for people, especially if you suck at using punctuation.

 

Proofread.

THIS.  So much this!!  I’m not a robot by any means, and I still make mistakes or don’t catch typos, but I can’t even begin to tell y’all how many typos that I’ve fixed that saved me from a ton of embarrassment!  Proofread your e-mails.  Spelling, clarity, and making sure that your ideas make sense.  I have received e-mails that were so bad that I’ve had to ask for clients to restate or resend because it didn’t make sense.  Don’t do that, especially related to business!


All in all, e-mail is hugely convenient: instant communication around the world, answering at your convenience, and being able to keep your thoughts in writing.  What are some tips you have for your e-mail game that have worked for you?

 

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Party of Sarah Brand + Website Launch

Party of Sarah Brand + Website Launch

Meet Sarah!  We had the ultimate pleasure of working with Sarah on her brand and her website over the last few months.  We’re super thrilled to (finally get around to) announce that her site launched in January of this year!  She’s been blogging up a storm since the new year, and I think you should go check out her site, Party of Sarah!

 

Learn More About Sarah

Tell us a little about yourself & what motivates you.

I‘m Sarah, the lifestyle blogger behind PartyofSarah.com and an aspiring author! Almost all of my writing, from my first novel, to my blog, and even down to my SnapChat is about celebrating the craziness/loveliness of new adulthood, and connecting with other fabulous post-grad women! I’m motivated not only by these connections, but also by the dream of being able to write full-time as a blogger and author! 

Can you tell us how you arrived at the point that you are now in your blog & where you’d like to be in 5 years with your site?

Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day and trust me, neither was this blog! The learning curve that’s required to blog at the caliber that I wanted to blog is STEEP, y’all. I was very overwhelmed by it. Now that I’m finally launched I still have a lot to learn, but I know I couldn’t have gotten this far without Beck and Jeff. They fill in the gaps where I’m still learning, allowing me to focus on content and building connections. In five years, the dream would to be blogging full-time at PartyofSarah.com and (fingers crossed!) expanding the biz enough that I could hire on some staffers! 

How long have you been thinking about taking this step & do you wish you’d done it sooner?

I made up my mind that I want to become a blogger after I was advised that it would be a great way to build a readership, and attract the attention of publishers to my writing. Well that was (drum roll) over three years ago. Do I wish I’d done it sooner? I wish I COULD have done it sooner, but I had so much to learn, I’m not sure it could have come together any sooner than it has. That being said, blogging has changed a lot in the last couple of years and there are so many amazing resources now. Not to mention, I found Beck and Jeff. I’m grateful for that, but I wouldn’t have waited any longer than I did! 

What do you find particularly motivating with respect to celebrating one’s life in the moment?

For a very long time I held myself to a standard of perfection. I’m still a recovering perfectionist, but I’ve found that having gratitude in the moment is the most joyful and fulfilling way to live. I’m hoping to make a living as writer and creative entrepreneur…if I was ONLY focused on the future, I would go crazy! It’s going to be a long road, and I hope to enjoy every second of it. 

Will you be partnering with anyone in the future on your blog?

I’m just starting out, but I absolutely hope to! 

What do you hope to become known for with your blog?

 Being a voice of positivity and joy for women in a period of life that is often looked down on, or ignored entirely. 

Do you have any words of advice for people thinking about taking the same step as you & launching their own blog?

Make a list of everything that’s holding you back. Whether it be fear, specific skills that you don’t yet have, the time to put into it, etc. From there, identify what things you can solve or learn on your own, and what things you’ll need help with. There’s a lot of been able to learn on my own with the help of Pinterest, but things didn’t really move forward with my blog until I finally decided I needed design and site maintenance help. It was just too overwhelming to take on by myself. If you’re in the same boat as me, I highly recommend the team at Autumn Lane. If you think you can learn it, learn it! If you don’t, get some help! You can do this. 

 

Check Out Her Brand!

Sarah’s brand, overall, is super fun, playful, and celebratory…and it suits her!  I think that Sarah may be one of the most positive and upbeat clients I’ve worked with, and seriously, she made it a breeze.

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How to Show Your Creative Professional That You Value Them

I want to tell you how to show your creative professional that you value them.  I’ll tell you how, SUPER early on in this post, so you don’t have to read further if you don’t want to.  (But you should.)

Pay them what they’re asking.

I’ve been in the creative professional realm for years now.  I had my start in the photography industry, which meant that I had exposure (Ha!! See what I did there?) to not being taken seriously. Most people assumed I was a MWAC — a mom with a camera — and that I took photos for fun. I did take photos for fun and because I enjoyed it, but I also had every intent of making a living from doing something I loved.

Although I didn’t charge at the outset to build up my portfolio, every other inquiry I had from friends + acquaintances started out with, “I’d love to have my family photos done by you!” It ended with “…but I don’t think we can afford that…if you don’t charge us, you can use the pictures for your portfolio, it’ll be great exposure for you.”

Oh, honey. If only your smiling face put dinner on my table.

I wasn’t terribly surprised to find that it was the same in the graphic design + website world. Once Autumn Lane took off, I had a few friends tell me that they’d make sure they referred me to their friends if I just did a logo for them. I did have a few people that I stuck my neck out for, really giving them the benefit of the doubt. It was a mistake. Hindsight is always 20/20. Never again.

Let me repeat that: NEVER AGAIN.

Forgive me for being angsty about it, but anyone that is a creative professional knows exactly what I’m talking about. You guys get me, right?? What a freaking slippery slope, let me tell you. You do *one* thing for someone, and they expect a second, third, and fourth. “If you can just….” turns into a checklist of things. Meanwhile, you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “You said this would be easy and simple….” That type of thing can ruin a friendship, for reals. Thankfully, it didn’t ruin any of mine, but I learned quickly that I needed to stand up for myself and my business.  Yes.  Business.  Not hobby.

People, in general, seem to be under the impression that photographers, artists, graphic designers, authors, website designers, and other creative professionals do this type of stuff for fun.  I think that it is assumed that we must have a *real* job in the corporate world, or that this is merely a hobby. Let me say this.  That free logo doesn’t feed my family. That photo session on the house doesn’t buy my kids’ Christmas presents.

Even worse are the ones that approach you, ready to pay, but want to haggle with you.

I once had a gal that submitted an inquiry about a $25 premade logo, asking for me to throw in a $20 sublogo for free because she found another designer that would. She said — kindly of course — that if I was willing to do that, too, she would give me *her* business. Oh my!! I politely declined, noting that if she wanted to purchase a sublogo along with the premade logo, she had to use a specific link. Needless to say, she didn’t become a client.  I was ok with that.

Neither did the girl that messaged me asking us to design her website for free. She claimed to get a ton of traffic on her blog, and thought we should work together — we do the website design for free, and she would make sure all of her blog traffic knew about it.

One of my favorites?  The person who messages you, recognizing that you work really hard and that branding is a complex subject…  But, they’re broke, so isn’t there a cheaper way to do this?

So, let’s go back to how to show your creative professional you value them and the work they do. Pay them. It’s so simple that it’s ridiculous!! Pay them what they’re asking.

They’ve spent countless hours educating themselves, either formally or informally. They’ve spent countless dollars on equipment & supplies in order to turn their passion into something that they can rely on. Blood, sweat, & tears go into their business.

If you are at all considering hiring someone for the work they do, you’re considering it for a reason.  More than likely, it’s because they’re good at what they do, and because you like their style. Asking a creative to come down on price point is very rude — chances are, they’ve worked very hard at honing their craft, and bargaining devalues their work. I truly think that many people don’t realize what a low blow it is to a creative person to hear, essentially, “I love everything about what you do…but I can’t pay you for it / you’re too expensive / but I don’t want to pay for it / but so-and-so is offering it to me for less.”

If the creative professional you’re looking into hiring is out of your price range, there are two things you can do to make it work for both of you:

Payment Plans

Ask about a payment plan and how to split the work / product up. For example, web design isn’t cheap, right? Autumn Lane Paperie different payment options to make it more feasible for our prospective clients. We would much rather hear, “I love your work, can we work out a plan that is good for both of us?” than “Billy Bob Designs said they’d do this for $500 less.”

More often than not, there are options available for bigger ticket items.  For our website design, we offer a solution that involves monthly payments.  For some of our branding packages, we offer the opportunity to use Paypal Credit as a means of paying off something that is vital to your business’ success.

Wait.

Seriously. Simply, just wait. Save your dollars until you can hire them.


One thing I always mention when I get ranty about this with my family + friends is this… You wouldn’t ask Gordon Ramsay to make you a beef welly for free and give him exposure, would you? (He doesn’t need it.)  You wouldn’t ask Justin Timberlake to give you a free concert…would you?  Similarly, you wouldn’t walk into any local business or major chain and tell them that you’ll leave ‘em a good review if you get your groceries for free…would you??

Same principle, folks! Speaking for all of the creatives out there — we want to work with you and we want to make beautiful, fabulous things happen — we also want to be respected as professionals, *and* we want to pay the bills, too. If you want quality work done, whether it’s graphic design, family photos, interior design, artwork — you shouldn’t expect a freebie.

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Badass Boss Babe Inspo

Happy Friday, girl bosses!  Here’s some badass boss babe inspo for you today!

I’m digging this quote from Joan Jett.  Bottom line?  OWN IT.  You can do anything you want to do, and YOU are the one that makes your own successes…at the same time, you have to own those mistakes + failures, too.  They’re a part of the learning process.

Feel free to snag this graphic by clicking to download — post on your social media, and feel free to hashtag it with #autumnlanepaperie.  You can also click here to download!

 

Want font info?

I’m loving this combo of Harman Elegant with Manhattan Darling.

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That Time I Sold My Camera Equipment

My love affair with photography started when I was in high school — my junior year, to be exact. It’s a bit of a funny story, looking back on it. I took all honors and AP courses throughout my junior high and high school years. During my junior year of high school, I wound up with Photography as an elective. Ick! I freaked out about it, actually. It wasn’t an honors class, and it wasn’t an AP course, and I was really ticked off that the school would randomly choose this elective for me given that I’d signed up for additional courses that would be weighted differently than a regular ol’ course. I had to experience it for a few days, and my mom told me to keep an open mind before I tried to go to our guidance counselors to change classes.

I loved it, though. It wasn’t so bad after all. We got to check out SLR cameras, buy black and white film, and we processed the film ourselves, and then did all of the darkroom processing, as well. I loved everything about it, so much that I signed up for Photography II and AP 2D Design during the rest of my time in high school.

I had a love-hate relationship with my instructor. His name was Mr. O’Neal, and I think he passed away years ago. I knew that I was one of his preferred students. I also knew that he was going to be tougher on me, and I definitely had an attitude about it. On one assignment, he docked points for a reason that was beyond me — I challenged him on it, and pointed out that I met all of the design principles required for the assignment, and that art was totally subjective. I got those points back. Squeaky wheel gets the grease, I suppose!

I had my first experiences with Photoshop and digital cameras in that class, too. The digital camera was like a freaking brick. It was huge, and heavy. And it’s so funny to think about that now, when you can put a bajillion megapixel camera in your back pocket.

That’s where it all started. After that point, I had fallen in love with photography, and was always interested in the latest technology or subjects to shoot. It wasn’t until I was in the Air Force that I got my first DSLR and thought I’d make a go of a photography business. My first shoot was for a coworker, and even though she said she liked the pictures, they really sucked. Like, bad. BAD. But I kept at it, learned from it, did a lot of reading and practicing.  Eventually, I began charging for my services. I was working as a government contractor when I decided to quit my job and give it a go full-time. I had business, but not a ton of business, but I figured that it would grow as I did, too.

When I moved to California from Georgia in 2012, I had extremely unrealistic expectations about running a business here.  Saturated market, barely knowing anyone here…  I had a few gigs, and donated some of my time to some great charitable causes, hoping that it would push my name out there to some folks. It did get pushed out, but the word “free” also got pushed out because of the work I did for military families and military homecomings. If “free” paid the bills, I could have made a killing.

Two years into it, it simply wasn’t working. I couldn’t get anyone to hire me for family shoots (what I wanted to specialize in) so I opted to go a different route — weddings. I advertised with a well-known wedding-related group, but had a single inquiry (that did not result in me being hired) over a year’s time. Did I mention, I freaking hate weddings anyway? I would have done anything to stay in the industry at that point, though. My hopes of becoming a full time photographer that would be able to contribute to family bills were shot to hell. I tried everything that was within our means to make it work, but it simply wasn’t working, and we couldn’t fork out more money on the off chance that something would change.

While my photography business was failing miserably, I was going to school full time, and I was also exploring other options. I figured that I already had the know-how when it came to design-related things, and I had enough of a diverse background from previous work & school experiences that it might be useful knowledge to apply. I began designing wedding suites, which then turned into Autumn Lane Paperie and what it is today.

That’s not what this post is about, though!

When my photography business finally croaked after a long, painful death, and Autumn Lane was doing well, I made the decision to sell off part of my photography equipment… A camera body, a few lenses, and some other implements.  We met up with a guy who answered our Craig’s List ad for the equipment. He checked it all out, we checked his bills, and bam! I was pounds of photography equipment lighter!

It was so bittersweet. I’d spent so much time, effort, and tears on that business. I put so much time into honing my skills, trying to put myself out there, and it just didn’t work. Selling off my equipment (I kept one body, the kit lens, and my 40mm) was also liberating. It was basically closing the door on something that had caused so much heartache. Yet, it paved the way for the thing that was working. Over those two years since moving to California, my passion for photography had dwindled into nothingness and frustration. Pulling out the camera to take pictures of the kids was even difficult and it was a chore. It was a chore to edit any images, too, because it felt like a reminder of my failure.

What I learned from it is that it’s ok to fail. It sounds cheesy and like it’s some sort of line that some life coach or something would throw at you to make you feel better about your shortcomings…but it’s true. It was ok for me to fail, because I made it through. I’m not failing now. (I’d like it to stay that way, please.) When things didn’t work, I found what did, and I found something different to be passionate about. I learned that sometimes you need to know when to quit, move on, and cut out the negativity.

Selling my camera equipment was freedom from that negativity.

What happened after that is something that surprised me. I still had that other camera body & lenses, but I stopped taking it with me. I used to carry my camera everywhere with me, just in case I saw something cool that I felt I needed to capture. Eventually, I stopped carrying that camera with me, and it lived in a drawer under my desk. When I stopped carrying the camera, I stopped feeling obligated to capture every last moment. I started actually paying attention to those moments. It felt like I was more a part of every moment, rather than watching from the outside as everyone else had those moments. I was no longer concerned with catching that split second. This sounds cheesy, too, but…it was like I was living along *with* everyone, not through them.

That was 2014. And, this summer, I let that other camera go. I handed it off to Lily & Kate, along with the lenses and tripod that I had, since it had been in the drawer for months without being touched. It was time to let that one go, too. I used to watch people at the zoo or at the park, taking pictures with their cell phones and thinking to myself, “Ha. They’re taking such crappy pics, the ones I could take are going to be so much better quality.”

I’m that girl now, and I was wrong. Those people were living in the moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 megapixels or a million, it’s still the best damn picture ever if it makes them remember that one time.

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Four Tips for Writing Your Business Policies

Policy writing sucks, right? Those policies that are so tough to write and consider are the very things that will keep your business protected, and extend the same type of protection to your clients. Reasonable, sound policies will actually help your business and establish trust between you & your client. Here are four tips for writing your business policies.

1. Keep it short, & concise.

There are a few things that you should spell out for your prospective clients as you’re writing your business policies:

Your shipping policy, if applicable. State plainly how you will ship, what company you will use, and any time frame information that might apply.

Your refund or satisfaction policy. You need to decide if you will have a satisfaction guaranteed policy, or whether you will dream up a refund policy of your own.  Whatever you do, make it clear.

Your privacy policy and how you will handle information that is provided by your client during the purchase process.  This includes your client’s name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and so on. Your prospective client will want to know what you plan on doing with that information, and whether or not you plan to share it.

2. Don’t use that legalese stuff, and don’t be angsty or confrontational.

You can write your policies without using legal jargon.  It’ll make it way more simple for your prospective clients to understand, and it won’t sound sterile and like a machine wrote it. Angsty or confrontational policies won’t earn you business.  Don’t fall into the trap of editing your policies after you’ve had a bad experience with a person and want to avoid it happening again.

3. Make a frequently asked question section somewhere on your website or blog.

Provide a link in your policies to the FAQ!  Most of what goes into the FAQ is not policy-related, so you need to draw a clear distinction between your policies and FAQ. If you include your FAQ with your policies, it’s going to overwhelm your prospective client with information when they really just want a quick answer!

4. Make the policies easily accessible.

No one wants to hunt for policies.  That makes your business seem shady if it’s not out in the open.


Re-read your policies before you make them a for-real thing. You should feel comfortable and protected by your policy.  Similarly, your prospective client should also feel protected by your policy and should not be left with any questions as a result of your policy. Make a point of revisiting your policies every 3-4 months to make sure that it’s still applicable to your business & what you’re doing.

Remind yourself of your own policies, as a business owner, and stick with it.

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The Key to Foolproof Feedback for your Designer

Congratulations!  You’ve hired a design professional to work on your brand and/or website!  I know that this is a huge step in setting your business off on the right path.  It was probably no easy feat to put together ideas for your brand identity.  It’s my job as a designer to pull bits & pieces of information out of what you give me to form a cohesive idea for a logo.  Once those logos have been presented to you, it’s time for feedback and potential revisions!  This is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a great start for giving foolproof feedback to your designer.

As you’re preparing to provide feedback, the following items might be helpful:

Color

  • Are the colors in line with what you originally requested?  Undoubtedly, each logo presented will have a slightly varied color palette, depending on the graphics contained within the logo.  Sometimes, color can be adjusted within the graphics or within the palette, but please keep in mind that adjustments to color will change the entire nature of your logo.  You may *love* a specific purple tone, but that other pink color that you love so dearly might not work well with it. That might mean we need to swap out those lovely flowers for something different.
  • Do you have an image or code to reference for your preferred color, if you’re requesting a specific change? That’ll be super important. If you don’t believe me, Google “coral hex code” and see how many options pop up!  Specifics are important if you have something etched into your mind that you’re hoping for!
  • Is the color close to what you’ve requested or noted as your preference? How much does this make or break your logo?
  • Is there a color issue where things just don’t add up?  If you think there is a color issue where things don’t look the way you think they ought to, have you viewed on a second or third device? If we’ve sampled color from something you have provided, you may want to view on a different device if things look off.  Our monitors are calibrated appropriately because we work in the field of graphic design & visual arts — what you see might not be what we see!

Fonts and/or Hand-Lettering

  • Are the fonts in line with what I originally requested?  Unless you’ve specified a specific font as *the one* ahead of time, we use a variety of similar fonts in order to provide you with the best possible opportunity to identify the one that you love the most for your brand.
  • Is there a sound reason for your preferred font not being used?  Feel free to ask us!  Sometimes, your fav calligraphic font doesn’t pair best with the serif font that you noted you preferred in your branding questionnaire. We’ve used our best judgement to pair fonts for you in a way that is sensible for your brand!
  • Do specific letters stand out to you, positively or negatively?
  • Have you looked at the case on the text or considered its impact?  Uppercase to lowercase, lowercase to uppercase?
  • Do you want to switch to a font in another proof?

Graphics

  • Are the graphics, if any, in line with what you originally requested? Graphics are the artwork portion of your logo, whether it’s a flower, a geometric symbol, a watercolor background — anything that is *not* text!
  • Are the graphics in the artistic medium that you requested or mentioned? (i.e., watercolor, pen drawing, etc.)

Variations

  • Did you have multiple requests or ideas in the logo questionnaire? If you did, your logo proofing may be limited to 1 or 2 per idea you had.  If ideas are drastically different from one another, your designer should address this ahead of time in order to rule out ideas or communicate expectations.

Layout

  • Does the layout of the logo match what you had in mind?
  • Did you specify that you wanted a horizontal logo (more rectangular), circular, or square? Do the proofs follow this layout?
  • Does the layout need to change?
  • Have you considered the number of ways you can use the logo, and will the layout of the logo be appropriate for those uses?

Image & Perception

  • Imagine you are a prospective client for your own business or a prospective reader for your blog.  Someone that has just found out about your business, either through the internet, word of mouth/referral, or because someone told you about (your name here) Fabulous Business or Blog. If you were to take a look at each logo individually as if it was a first-seen for you, what is your impression? Does it make you feel comfortable and instill a sense of trust? Does it fit well with what you know about the business?

Detailed feedback is what designers need the most in order to revise your logo proofing in a timely manner!

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A Little Something for You, Girl Boss!

I love designing for fun, too.  It’s not only a job for me, but something that I’m passionate about and something that I enjoy.  The process is a lot of fun, and it’s also rewarding to see the final result of the design.  I’m usually left wanting to share it with other people, too.  That’s one of the reasons why I started the blog, too.  Sharing is caring, right?  I made a little something for you, girl boss!

A Little Something for You, Girl Boss!

Check it out!  I made a printable for you that you can display in your office, on your desk, or wherever the heck you want.  A girl boss can put this printable wherever she chooses.  It’s sized A4 for printing, and it’s available as a .jpg and as a .pdf file.

I hope you have enough space on your walls and your desk.  There will definitely be more where this came from!

In the meantime, have you checked out these tips for building trust in your brand?  You don’t want to miss this!

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Badass Boss Babe Inspo

Badass Boss Babe Inspo

Who needs some badass boss babe inspo today?  Who loves Nirvana?  I know I do!  I love this quote, too, from Kurt Cobain.  This quote’s definitely applicable to the business world, and real world, too.  There’s quite a fine line to be drawn between inspiration and totally trying to be someone else.  It’s pretty easy to get lost or get in your own head when it relates to what other people are or are not doing.

YOU are enough, you don’t need to be anyone else but yourself, Boss Babe!

Feel free to grab the image to your left, and post it on your social media if this quote resonates with you.  You could also download it by clicking here!

 

Want font info?

This font is called Spectra!  There are all sorts of goodies in this font, too!  Check it out!

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