Brand Consistency = Brand Recognition

I have a pet peeve. Well, I probably have lots of pet peeves, but one I’m thinking about right now is something I think people can easily start working on, no matter what their capacity is for marketing.

Look at your social feeds: Instagram specifically if you use it.
Look at your marketing material: business cards, signage, brochures, etc.

  • Do you have 742 different colours?
  • 61 different fonts?
  • 14 different font weights?
  • 22 different imaging styles: memes, to professional headshots and product shots, to blurry poor quality pictures?

What is happening there? Why are you all over the map?

While I’m not a huge fan of highly curated social media content, where everything is perfect and the same and ya, just SO perfect, I am a HUGE fan of keeping your brand recognizable. Your social media and marketing material should tie into your website visually. Rather than thinking of your marketing channels as total separate entities, think of them as extensions of each other. Try to keep with the same font, and incorporate the same colours as used on your site. Compliment each other. Consider them the best of friends. Don’t send someone from your social to your website and have them feel like they just walked into a different home. It’s confusing. And the last thing you want for your site visitors to be, is confused.

Even if they aren’t confused, they won’t remember you because the next time you show up on their feed, there will be no visual recognition to the site they were just on.

This goes for print too. Do your brochures, signage, and correspondence have the same look and feel as your site?

If you take nothing else from this post, take this and tuck it into that corner of your brain that you use when creating content or marketing material:

Brand Consistency = Brand Recognition

Now. Let’s say you don’t know your font. Or the hex codes for the colours used on your site. That’s nothing to be embarrassed by, I can help you out! Just shoot me your name, email, and link to your website, and I’ll send you your font names, sizes, font weight, and colour codes.

 

So there goes that excuse 😉

Unless…you hate your site and don’t want your marketing to look anything like it. Then that’s a whole new conversation we should have.

 

New Year, New Me?

If there is one thing 2020 has taught me is that I’m up for a challenge. If anything I think 2020 was definitely a new year, new me, because I didn’t have a choice! 2020 pushed me into the new whether I was ready or not. (protip: you are never ready)

via GIPHY

I finally took the time to focus on my business and make plans to do things a little more strategically and to stop recreating work. There has definitely been some business take-aways from this year, and I’m one of the lucky ones in this time of uncertainty for sure. As with everyone, the end of the year brings reflection, and I’m no different.

So here we go, a look back on 2020…I spent a lot of time on my business. On MY business. Anyone who works for themselves knows this doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.

  • Wrote out my processes, with every single step. Created some email templates that I can use for inquiries and a few other communications that I do repeatedly.
  • Wrote out step by step how I do maintenance on my sites. This has proven to be well worth my time as now my virtual assistant can take over this task as needed.
  • Created a standard pdf manual for Unlimited BS clients with screenshots and step by step instruction so they are empowered to do their own content updates, change out imaging, etc. I used to create a brand new manual for EVERY. SINGLE. PROJECT.  Time savings on this is huge.
  • Created a Project Handoff document. I used to just send an email with project details, now it’s a package, it looks professional, and is just better.
  • Created a new logo. Because with the work I put into my business, I needed to step up my visuals a bit to meet that. Still my brand. Still BS. Just up-levelled.
  • Created content. A lot of content. For my site and social accounts.
  • Created a newsletter!
  • Created a new Instagram account for Unlimited BS Web Design strictly for business, and maybe the occasional pic of my pets.

  • Did some online training on social media messaging. Narrowed down my three pillars of content to Web Design, Entrepreneurship, and Processes.
  • Created a Pinterest board, not sure the benefit or need for this yet, but so far it has acted as a bit of bookmark for my favourite tools and resources.
  • Celebrated 9 years of business with a well received 9 days of giveaways on Instagram – so fun!
  • Ended the year with a new opportunity and am excited for where it will lead me. (vague-blogging)

Were there downsides? Oh hell ya. It was an emotional, draining year of uncertainty and unprecedented family time, haha!

  • I struggled with creativity, harder than the usual rollercoaster of this business. Made me be late on deadlines and I hate that. Lesson for me here is to get better at planning and setting deadlines in times of stress.
  • I burned out on my content after my 9 days of giveaways on Instagram (protip: running contests is time consuming!) and lost my consistency of posting. ugh.
  • I still haven’t mastered a balance of marketing. I focused so hard on it, then got lots of work, and now don’t have time to keep it up!? I think I have to commit to less social, and amp up as needed. Jury is still out on that one as I don’t want to market for more work that I can’t take on? Any insight on this is appreciated, if you’ve struggled with this too and found a happy medium, please let me know?

On a personal note, I watched all of Netflix.

BUT… I also enrolled in an Anti-Racism course that is amazing. I’m learning so much and am committed to being a better human in any way I can be.

And the biggest highlight for me personally in 2020 was being asked to sit on the board for Ubuntu – Mobilizing Central Alberta and attending our first meeting. I am so beyond thrilled to be a part of this and can’t wait for the opportunity to get to know each other better, the vibe of the group was palpable.

So will 2021 be a new year, new me?

I hope so.

 

Your People

Thinking about entrepreneurship?

Who are your people?

YOU NEED PEOPLE.

Starting out people. Cheerleader people. Hard truth people.

Search them all out, you’re going to need them.

Starting out people….

this one’s a bit scary. There’s trust, insecurity, and doubt issues. You’re fragile. You need people who can give you advice, maybe an inside look at what you are about to invite into your world. And you need to trust them because it feels a lot like your heart is on the line when you’re ready to leap into entrepreneurship. Does that mean you need to heed all their advice?

GAWD NO! Don’t do that. Never take all the advice you're given...especially if it dims your light. Click To Tweet Take what you need, and leave the rest.

Cheerleader people…

oh man, you need these ones. The ones that can get fired up and excited for AND with you! The ones who will pull out the pompoms right when you’re feeling like you just can’t do it. They’ll do wonders for your ego, drive and motivation.

Hard truth people…

the ones who will give you the straight up. It’ll sting. There will be pouting. But you need them. Criticism is important. If you only have cheerleaders you’re going to walk around thinking you’ve got this. (Here’s an insider’s tip…you’ve never fully got anything ;)) Hard truths help you grow.

Find your people and keep finding them. Meet new acquaintances and put yourself in awkward situations.

Awkward situations are where all the start-up, cheerleader, and hard truth people hang. 😉

Hiring a Virtual Assistant

I’m going to let you in on a secret.

Hiring a virtual assistant is the absolute bomb for an entrepreneur. THE BOMB. I had always thought I needed to find a web designer to help me handle my workload.

I was wrong.

On some random internet scrolling into the abyss, I came across a post about hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA). That was it! The solution that made PERFECT sense for me! Hand off those tasks I so disliked, and used up a lot of my design time to someone who actually loves spreadsheets, and numbers, and invoices and all those things. An assistant that was there when I needed her, without the stress of committing to having staff on the payroll when I wasn’t sure how much help I needed yet.

Here’s how I hired my Virtual Assistant and found the person that was exactly who I needed. And the best part? She’s not a web designer!

First step was to get organized. Create a job description. What do you want them to be responsible for? Are there particular tools you want them to use to perform that job?

Then write out the process of the tasks you want them to do. You are going to have to do this once you hire, so doing it beforehand makes it much more clear on what your expectations are so they know if they are a fit.

Lastly, prepare your interview questions. In my case I narrowed it down to 3 prospects who were career Virtual Assistants, not doing as a side gig. These are the questions I asked.

    • What is your availability? How soon can you start?
    • How much lead time do you require on projects and/or tasks?
    • How do you track your time?
    • How do you report your time – daily, monthly, per task, per client?
    • What is your hourly rate and how often do you bill? Per task? Weekly? Monthly?
    • Is there any minimum or maximum hours of work I have to provide you with?
    • What forms of payment do you accept? Credit card, etransfer, cheque (<—I put cheque in there for us old peeps, haha!)
    • How will you provide updates on progress?
    • How will we communicate? Email, text, phone, app (slack, whatsapp, etc.)
    • What apps, software, tools do you use? Ask for samples of graphics they’ve created if that is something you need.
    • Are you willing to learn new software I need you to use? How would that work and be charged for?

Key for me wasn’t necessarily to find a jack of all trades, but to find someone that communicated well, and was willing to learn my processes. Heather, my VA, was so honest in what her skills were, and what she’d need me to teach her to do. But was all over learning and taking over some tasks I desperately needed off my plate. So grateful to have found her.

So, when the thought of coming up with consistent hours for a part time or full time staff member, consider sourcing out a Virtual Assistant. 100% the best decision I’ve made for my business in this past year.

Have you ever considered getting a Virtual Assistant?

Make more money

The only way to make more money is to print it.

Ok, that’s counterfeiting…stay with me here. After years of working by myself and never taking the time to sit down and write out EVERY STEP of what I do, I finally did it. EVERY. SINGLE. STEP. My entire process, every single action no matter how big, or how seemingly small.

WHOA.

What a game changer for my business! Writing out the whole client experience from initial contact to final delivery, to follow up, has done 3 things:

  1. Made it clear what I need to hire out. What was wasting my time and delaying the delivery of projects.
  2. Enabled me to stay on track throughout a project and not miss any step.
  3. Forced me to track my time to the minute, for each stage in my client journey.

And that my friends, has increased my bottom line. That process, however painful, has made me more money.

Don’t wait 8 years to do this like I did. Now’s the time. Map out your clients’ journey, hire out what is not your jam, or taking too much of your time, and charge for your time.

Well mapped out processes are my new favourite thing so shoot me an email or give me a shout, I’m happy to help provide some direction on where to start.

Entrepreneurship 101: Hire out your joy-sucking tasks

I can do this myself.

I have no doubt! What’s that saying… “you can do anything you put your mind to”. The question is, SHOULD you do everything you put your mind to?

I used to say if I can do that work myself, WHY would I pay someone? Why would I pay someone to do my bookkeeping? My invoicing? My graphic work? My administrative tasks?

It wasn’t until I reached 50 clients in my books that I was looking after. Fifty. Just me. Invoicing (late), marketing (barely), creating graphics, keeping up with the maintenance. So my job had become doing all the boring, albeit necessary, tasks.

Yuck. All that is is a fast track to burn out and hating your job.

The thing I LOVE about my job is getting to know what a client is all about, why their business is so awesome, and creating a website that reflects that. The thing I loved about my job, I was getting less and less time to do.

It’s hard to come to terms with putting out money when you know (think?) you can do it yourself. But once you start, and see how you’ve not only freed up time, but your ability to fully immerse yourself in the parts of your business that bring you all the joy.

Review your processes. Are there time consuming things you do that someone else, maybe more apt at doing so, could do for you? Are there parts of your process that suck the life right out of you?

Hire a professional. Reap the rewards. In another post I’ll tell you about how finding a Virtual Assistant has been AMAZING for me and the process I used to find my perfect fit.

What task do you absolutely dread in your business?

The lonely entrepreneur

When you need help but don’t want anyone to know you need help. Does that sound familiar to you?

Why we struggle with this is really soooo ego eh? When I started my business almost 9 years ago I was so closed off. Had 5,243, 242 questions but didn’t want anyone to know I didn’t know the things I didn’t know. Um…of course I didn’t know all the ins and outs of domains, hosting, moving a site, mobile friendly design, creating backups, and maintenance, I was in civil engineering for 10 years and jumped into this new career!

I wasted a lot of time figuring things out, learning along the way, and getting burned. So much unnecessary struggle to learn it all on my own, and do it all on my own.

Now I have mentors. Mentors in web design. Mentors in business.

I have a successful business with over 50 clients, many of them repeat clients.

I am confident and feel secure in my business decisions.

Entrepreneurship is hard, don’t let anyone tell you any different. But it doesn’t have to be polarizing. Find someone in your industry you trust to bounce things off of. And even if you can’t find that? Find another entrepreneur to connect with on a regular basis. Join a networking group. It provides accountability, motivation and inspiration. You NEED this, especially if your are a solo entrepreneur like me.

Nobody does this alone. Find your people. Drop the ego.

Have you found yours? Shoot me a message, I’d LOVE to know how you found your mentor and what it’s done to help your business.

What redesigning an entire website taught me

I never used to ask my clients the right questions.

When I started this gig, my biggest learning experience and kick straight to the heart was having to redesign an entire site. The one and only time and it made me feel like a failure, doubt myself, and think “how can I call myself a web designer?!” But I did it, I redesigned the whole site, from top to bottom, and learned two valuable lessons.

  1. Be confident in WHY you do what you do, tell your clients why you chose to deliver the product or service the way you did. You are unique, be proud of that and communicate that uniqueness in a straight forward, non-defensive, non know-it-all way. If you educate them into why you made the decisions you did, you may just see them do a complete 180. In this case, I was brand new, I knew why I designed the layout of the site the way I did, but I wasn’t confident to explain that to them. We 100% could have met in the middle had I spoke up.
  2.  Ask the right questions of your potential clients/customers. Be sure your product or service IS the right answer for them. Because you can’t always be the right fit for everyone. Ask
    • Will it solve their problems?
    • Will it make life easier for them in any way?
    • Will it save them time?
    • Money?

Knowing your demographic, and more importantly, knowing your ideal client will ensure you are directing your marketing, and your product/service to the people who want and need it.

My mistake

In this case, I didn’t pay attention to the clients’ demographic. It was a site for primarily senior citizens, and I designed it for 30 year old nature lovers. So the whole thing was directed to attract younger viewers, not the people that were actually engaging with their site. 100% my fault. I was so excited to do the project and flex my creativity, I designed it for what I wanted. Rookie mistake. And I instantly knew I had totally missed the mark, I hadn’t designed to appeal to their audience.

there’s more…

The other mistake was not educating on what I did know.  And I did have a great handle on the navigation and usability of the site, but because I wasn’t confident enough to explain WHY it was the most user friendly way to have things laid out the way I did, I just did things exactly, to the tee, what they told me to. I pushed aside what I knew to be right and best for them.

So my advice to you is to spend the time educating your client or customer via your website, your marketing, your face to face interactions. They need to see and understand the value you provide.

I 100% get what it feels like to feel like you are so new, how can you say “Hey, I know what I’m doing, let me tell you about it”, but chances are good, if they are coming to you for a product or service, they really want to know YOUR solution to their problem Don’t leave them wondering why you had no advice or information to give.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost 9 years and some days I still feel like why would anyone listen to me? My hope is that they do because they can feel my love for working with other entrepreneurs and business owners and want to provide the best possible result.

Be confident. Show up. Educate. Ask the right questions. You got this. Click To Tweet

 

 

I’m happy to report, these same clients hired me a couple years later to do another site and it was a resounding success, for both of us. ?

Top 10 Small Business Tools to take you into 2020

Eight years of business and I’m going to say I’ve learned a thing or ten. I’ve tested processes, failed, and tried again. So here it is, my attempt at saving you some grief of eventually finding GOOD resources to keep things on track, organized, and less stressy. Here’s your shortcut! A list of things I use regularly and would recommend for any entrepreneur starting out, or even years in and still struggling to find the right tools.

Something you should know: I 100% recommend all these and do not get any kickback for pushing them, EXCEPT for Flywheel and GSuite, I have affiliate links for them. If the others would like to send me dollar bills for mentioning them, I’m here, throw it at me.

Business Tools

These are recommendations that would fit any business, not web design specific at all.

Accounting

Wave

Me, every year end: “Ok, this entering nine million things sucks, I’m going to enter my stuff every week this year! New year, new me.”

Me, every April: “shit.”

Although clearly I’m not a fan of accounting, I’m still in mad love with Wave. Mostly because when I started 8 years ago, I created my invoices in Word which was time consuming and never really left me with any reporting, nothing to look back on, nothing but more paper. Now I have my stuff set up in wave, invoicing is quick and painless. I can see when the client has viewed the invoice, I can send reminders, receipts for payment, all the things. Saves me some bucks at tax time too as I can print off my reports and send to our bookkeeper. Wave can do MUCH more than this, I just haven’t taken advantage of yet – online payments, sync with bank account, estimate creation, and probably more. You can take a picture of your receipt and have it auto-upload as a transaction!

Price: free for basic, all I use at the moment

 

Email

GSuite

I used to have my email through GoDaddy. Didn’t know I wasn’t a fan until I changed to GSuite. SO MUCH BETTER. No overage warnings, I can access easily from anywhere, it’s reliable, and after changing a couple of my habits in it’s layout, way more manageable..

Price: I pay $7/month for basic
Promo codes: G Suite Basic Plan: PALNWQY6F4N7XDH | G Suite Business Plan: E4N44C6NTRFPWGH

Each promotion code provides 20% off the first year on either G Suite Basic plan or G Suite Business plan.

 

Project Management

Evernote. I love you. So much.

Early on, EVERYTHING was in a journal. Literally everything. Every note about a client, every login, every design element, every maintenance update, every thing. I flipped around a lot. And rewrote it more times than I care to admit because I love me a new journal. After reading this post on setting up for my line of work specifically, I went all in. Now I can EASILY access all my info, and keep great records of my history with clients, what level of maintenance they are signed up for, emails I want to keep, web grabs of design elements or colours I’m inspired by, EVERYTHING. Love, love. Can’t say enough and really I still don’t use it to its full potential. You can use it for organizing your personal life too.

Price: free for basic and I totally recommend starting out there.

 

Time Management

This is a big one, with a few recommendations. It may be a sign I sometimes struggle with it.

Toggl

A friend recommended this while doing work for me. She tracked all her time and submitted detailed invoices to me for payment. Awesome for 2 reasons.

  1. I’m getting better at invoicing properly for my time and
  2. It has been significant in keeping me on task! Once that timer is running, I need to stick to one thing. That means less bouncing around to other tasks, or social media.

Price: free for basic (unless you have a team, you only need free!) It looks like their are only paid plans, but there is free, it’s just kind of hidden, snoop around.

 

Strict Workflow

This is an extension I added to my chrome browser. I’m sure you can find for every browser out there, search for “Pomodoro Time Tracking”…unless you are using Internet Explorer, in which case google “get a new browser”.

If you find yourself wasting your time, YOUR LIFE, on social media or random sites that are doing nothing for your brain, install this. Once you’ve hit it once, you’ll be on track for the day. It blocks any urls (sites) you set up so you can’t visit them for 25 minutes. It’s borderline frightening when you first use this and repeatedly try to load twitter or Facebook and it tells you to get back to work – it’s such a habit that even though you’ve just set the timer, you still click to check. Gross. Anyway, try this. Report back. Don’t worry, after the 25 minutes, the tomato turns green and you get 5 minutes to piss around on any site you want. Then it’ll ring at you and you’re back to 25 minutes work and blocked elsewhere. And repeat, although you will likely just find you are in the groove of work now and don’t need it.

Price: free

 

1Password

Holy jeez. I’m not sure how I ever went without this. Thank you to a twitter peep who introduced me to this one! I have SO SO MANY passwords and logins it would make your head spin. I used to keep them all in a journal and flip to the page EVERY SINGLE TIME. Now, 1Password saves me so much time it’s crazy. And secure. I have these passwords now: 41jjT3!3*oG28llL30)O2@58…you get the idea. I pay yearly, it’s under $60 and well worth it.

I had a few issues setting it up, but once it’s done, it’s done. And the saving of your sanity begins.

Price: varies, they have personal, family, team, and business options

 

Design Hack

Canva

I recommend this ALL THE TIME. Need a social media share image, maybe with some text overlay, or something a little more creative than you can pull off? Canva is your answer. So many templates to choose from and if you get the paid version, your options open up. You can resize your same design for different social media channels, set up your brand’s fonts and colours, all the things. The more time you spend in there, the more comfortable you will get and you’ll be banging out posts that look nice from here until eternity…or until the next thing comes along 😉

Price: free for basic

 

Website Business Tools

What I use and love.

Hosting

Flywheel

THE BOMB. I’ve progressed over the years. GoDaddy in my early years of web design, to WP Engine which was amazing WordPress specific hosting but the cost got too outrageous for me, to FlyWheel! I have my very own person there always looking out for me and giving me suggestions on ways to do things differently, better, save money, etc. Initially I saw WP Engine as a superior hosting company, but FlyWheel has advanced significantly since I signed up a few years ago. Staging environments, SSL certificates, daily backups, all the features. There is not much lacking now, they add features on the regular to make my life managing 50+ sites easier. I really enjoy their newsletter too – Layout – one of the few I won’t unsubscribe from on Black Friday. (side note: Flywheel has actually joined forces with WPEngine, but my prices didn’t change, yay!)

Price: varies, single site $23USD/month

 

Domains

GoDaddy

You know I think this is just a comfort thing for me. I started with GoDaddy, find their interface easy for DNS/domain settings and have just stuck with them for my domains. Having said that – DON’T LET YOUR WEB DESIGNER PUT YOUR DOMAIN UNDER THEIR ACCOUNT – get your own!! Your domain should always be under your business’s account. Otherwise it WILL be a pain in the ass down the road, I can pretty much guarantee that.

Price: varies depending on domain and if you want to add privacy. Add privacy 🙂

 

Design Hack

WhatFont

You ever see a font and think I LOVE THAT SO MUCH but you don’t want to spend 10 years trying to figure it out? This chrome browser extension gives you the goods. Install. Click on it and hover over the text. Boom. I often see posters, or signage or things when I’m out that I wish I knew the fonts, the number of pictures on my phone of inspiration is out of control, at least this gives me some satisfaction when I see something online that catches my eye.

Price: free

 

Event Management

Two extra recommendations for running events. A couple of randoms from my old life of planning social media breakfasts…here’s what made planning them a breeze! Like not a light breeze, but a manageable breeze ?

Team Communication

Slack

Communication desktop and smartphone app for a team. SO IDEAL. You can start different channels for different topics, send private messages to a single or side group of team members, video chat (I have yet to find a better video chat thing I like) everything. Here’s the hard truth people: email chains SUCK AND NO ONE LIKES GETTING ROPED INTO ONE. Get Slack and never do that again. With this recommendation, keep in mind that you need all team members on board with participating on this or you aren’t getting anywhere using it.

Price: free for basic, all I’ve used

 

Scheduling

Trello

I’ve had recommendations for using Trello for website design. Not a fan. It’s just not productive for me. However, using it to plan out an event is a huge yes. I used it to plan out the year of sponsors, speakers, locations, breakfasts, it really saved my life. It’s free, user friendly, and you can have a team on it so everyone is in the loop and can document in one place. Simple to use.

Price: free for basic, all you need in my opinion

 

By the time I finished this, I thought of other things I use but top 10 is going to have to cover it for now. Good luck! And if you try any of these, let me know your thoughts.

Here’s to a prosperous, well organized, and less stressy 2020!