Category Archives: business

5 ways to improve instagram

5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram (Business) Game

Around here we love Instagram. It’s our favorite social media platform. (With the Introduction of video and stories, it’s become incredibly entertaining as well.) As the years have gone by, many are trying to navigate how to use Instagram for business. How do you show up consistently, presenting your services to the world? Are you finding creative ways to engage your audience? How do you stay true to your creative voice and raise it into a raving, paying tribe?

Keep reading for our tips after the jump!

1. Show up with your work. Everyday.

For many posting on Instagram feels arbitrary or another thing to do. If this is the way you’re thinking about Instagram, it’s time to develop a strategy. Spend an hour a week developing a content calendar. Focus on the writing first and the imagery second. Then, write and create content for your dream client, rather than yourself. How would you engage your dreamies? Write to inspire and delight. Bring original photography, type, and your work for the table. Ask yourself, do people know what I do? How am I representing this visually? Is there consistency?

2. Have a dedicated account or profile for your business.

If you’re still wanting to post less curated items, think about developing two accounts, one for personal and one for professional use. This will keep your account curated on your offerings, work, and content, rather than having to be filtered through by your audience. Once you have a page dedicated to your Instagram, create a mirroring Facebook page, allowing to utilize an Instagram business account.

3. Know lighting and study photography.

Ditch dark and dingy pictures. Make a commitment to shoot in natural light and avoid harsh shadows. This will work wonders on your photos. Look through your existing feed. If there are images that aren’t amazing, delete them. As you shoot think of a consistent color scheme and editing filter for all of your images. This will bring visual continuity. We love using the VSCO app on our phone for quick edits and using Lightroom on our computers. It’s a game changer.

4. Your Instagram bio and contact information are incredibly important.

Can people tell what you do through your business? Do they know your physical location and hours? What are the services you offer? Are you driving people to your website or email? Spend time crafting your message and a strong call to action in your bio.

5. Get your life back, use a scheduling platform. 

You don’t want to spend hours on social media. Make a commitment to yourself that you will only spend time on social media that is valuable in contribution. This means likes have no value. Choose to write authentic comments instead. Only focus on contributing content that will grow your tribe. This removes pressure that can come from social media and comparison that can occur as you spend time online. If you’re on an adventure you want to photograph or capture, spend 15-30 minutes getting your shoots and then put your camera away. Confession: almost all of our images are latergrams. They are all shot ahead of time, edited, and then scheduled using Later app. This allows us a steady workflow and keeps our mornings freed up for client meetings, emails, and correspondence rather than spending hours on social media indexing.

Ready to take your Instagram to another level?

I will be teaching a half-day workshop in Redding on May 6 talking about Instagram for Business. Find out more information for the event here.

maker stories north state woodshop

Maker Stories: North State Woodshop

I first discovered David’s work at a shop downtown. I was attending a pop-up shop and scattered throughout the upstairs loft we stunning mid century modern pieces. They had craft, melding form and function. Whether multiple layers of wood or soft curves, no detail was overlooked. They were beautiful and I realized that I had stumbled upon a hidden gem in Redding. As soon as my eyes laid on the first end table, I knew I wanted to meet this maker, hear his story, and learn about his craft. Today we launch a new column as we explore the world of makers and sit down with David of North State Woodshop.

Keep reading for the full interview after the jump!

How did it all begin? What started your love for creating? Why did you choose wood as your medium?

It all happened by accident. My background is in construction. My dad owned a construction company. I had been doing that for as long as I can remember. About three years ago, I knew I needed to get of construction and get out on my own. We had a baby boy and it was one of those things, if I didn’t switch careers when my family is young, it was going to be a lot harder when my family was older. I already knew I didn’t want to do construction for the rest of my life. Now was the time to do it. I quit working for my dad somewhat prematurely with nothing else lined up. I had all of this time. At the same time, my dad acquired a new shop space where there was space to play and work around. I started creating a few pieces of furniture and see if I could sell some pieces. Everything evolved from there.

What inspires your creative process? How do you cultivate inspiration?
I don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. Furniture serves a form and a function. I refer to Pinterest for visual inspiration and follow other wood workers. Sometimes a thought comes from random ideas. Usually it starts from an aspect of something cool or fun that I’ve seen. Then as a creative my mind moves toward, “How can I improve this and add my own flavor to it?” I really love mid century furniture and 1950s inspired pieces that have come back in vogue. They’ve proved to be somewhat timeless pieces. I try to put that twist on my pieces with all the lines and edges chamfered or rounded, softened when it comes to wood and furniture. 
A lot of times my design process begins with a sketch. Then I head to the shop and enjoy working with wood. Not so much metal. If it requires structural support, maybe metal. From the beginning of time people have been working with wood. There’s a sense of carrying on what people have been doing for thousands of years and building onto that tradition if you will. 

How does your space and shop continue to keep you inspired?

My workspaces mirror my workflow. I have one shop off site and one shop where I live. The shop at my house is much cleaner. It’s where I do my finishing, a space that’s dust-free. The inspiration for me is found in the machines and the raw wood lying around. This is a dedicated space where everything happens. There’s something about the creativity that happens when you can make a mess, having sawdust around, and you can leave your stuff at the end of the day. Then you come back and it’s sitting on the bench in pieces. With long projects you have all these pieces sitting there and there’s no forward momentum until you do a glue-up at the very end. It finally comes together and this piece, once sketches on a piece of paper, becomes real. Having the end vision in mind is really important because sometimes it’s just a bunch of parts until everything comes together. 

What are some ways you want to grow your business and your craft this year?
I want to explore and drill down my niche. What is the thing I can do better than anybody else? I think custom work is a part of that for this season. I really want to be known for mid century and custom work. But long-term, I want to explore flat-pack style furniture that can be pieced together and shipped in a box. IKEA started the whole idea and did it really well. I always ask myself why can’t you do that and have pieces that look custom and look like a $3000 end table. It looks and feels like a custom piece of furniture but ships and packs down into something that is portable and accessible to anyone in the world. That’s something I want to explore.

Tell me about life as a maker in Redding.
I’m fairly new to the game and think my answer will probably change over time. I follow a lot of other makers and woodworkers specifically. There is one guy in the Midwest and all he has for miles is cornfields around him. He has a hard time, but has done really well with custom work, even without being around any major city hub. In one sense, I really love that I can drive 2-3 hours and be in places like San Francisco and Sacramento. I can sell pieces to surrounding area. I like that Redding isn’t a major hub. Growing up in the foothills and the North Valley, I’ve always drawn inspiration from the mountains and the trees and the fact that it’s born out in the wilderness. It’s a place that feels removed and on the outskirts. I tend to do backpacking and that sort of thing. It’s perfect for my creative process.

At times in Redding, there aren’t as many high end clientele around as I would like. It’s a little harder to sell pieces in the custom furniture arena. But, I look at it as a challenge along the way.

What role do you play in transforming the community at large?

Redding is an interesting place because in some ways, I feel that Redding is a city of followers. We’ve always taken inspiration from other cities like Bend, Oregon or San Francisco or other places that are moving and shaking. But I see Redding as being full of leaders and movers and shakers that want to change that. I think we’re right around the corner of a shift. Instead of following and looking to others, we’re starting to lead and innovate. I see my part as helping that happen in the woodworking arena and pushing the envelope for design, aesthetic, and the craft. I think Redding is a special place to do that.

If you had one piece of advice to a maker starting out, what would you say.
You’ve just got to do it and get your hands dirty. Often times we get discouraged with social media. There’s always someone in our eyes who are better than us. You don’t learn and grow until you get out and just do it.

Interested in seeing more of David’s work? Find him on Instagram or the web.

working to take time off

Working to Take Time Off

When it comes to taking time off as a creative and entrepreneur, there’s always a hesitation within. Will you miss out on the call? Will your clients survive if you step away from your phone? In the first year if business, it’s easy to think that it will all go downhill if you take a day off or simply shut off your device. As a creative and entrepreneur, you are passionate and leave and breathe what you do. You got into business for yourself, not because you like working from your couch, but because you are excellent and absolutely love you what you do. It burns within you. There are definitely benefits of being an entrepreneur. You get to create your own schedule and can work from spaces that inspire you. You have a few more tax write-offs than the average person. You have the ability to work on the road and travel. Adventure and creativity are probably your love language. However, what happens when the hustle becomes too much? When you’re at capacity and haven’t had a vacation in years? What happens when you become a slave to your device?

Then there’s the benefits of being self-employed. What happens when you don’t take time off and avoid the natural rhythms your body needs?

Over the past year my business has evolved and had numerous faces. I’ve started partnerships and ended partnerships. I’ve brought on employees. There are a million lessons that have come from the past year; however, over the past month I’ve come to some painful realizations. Behind the blog, the curated feed, and creative hustle that fills my days, there’s been a reality. A painful reality of business and the business of business. It’s common where I’ve stayed up until 2 or 3 AM putting in hours of work from the couch, only to have my alarm be voided by earlier text messages, emails, and the immediate requests of clients. I’d roll out of bed, panicked, that I had messed up, and would spend the rest of my day exhausted, concerned I would loose vital clients to my sales projections. More often than not, this would be the norm that will fill my days. I didn’t know how to function without stress, hustle, and grind. It was the nature of the beast and something that I thrived upon. Could it be something I could thrive without?

After months of attempting to navigate this world, I knew something needed to be different. I was at a physical breaking point and I knew it. With every email that came in, I was no longer energized by the prospect of new clients, but rather overwhelmed. I was far past my capacity and desperately needed time off.

Maybe you’ve been there.

What if working served a different purpose? What if past the strategy and meetings, you have longer term goals in mind? How do you work toward time off?

Put it on your calendar.
I live by my Google calendar. If it’s not on the calendar it simply doesn’t happen. It holds everything, gives me reminders, and keeps me incredibly organized. Sometimes you need to schedule things on your calendar to make them a priority. Whether it’s a dinner break, a month off in the summer, or a maternity leave, begin to make days or times off a priority. Know when you’re going to be away and close out projects with this in mind or put in more hours to work ahead for when you’re gone. In the blogging world, this means going on break or prepping posts for months at a time. In March, I’m heading to Australia and working ahead is the name of the game.

Learn to say “No.”
As someone starting out in business, it’s easy to say yes to everything that comes your way. It’s a way to have a huge client base and make sure the bills are covered every month. However, it can quickly lead to difficult clients, feeling under compensated and overworked. Know your non-negotibles and be mindful of what you commit to. If possible during the work week, set office hours. This will give clients an idea of your availability, but help them understand you can’t be on-call for a project 24/7. It protects your time off. Working on a big project? Make sure to spend 8 hours away from your desk a day. (This includes sleep.) Trying to complete a project with minimal sleep and human interaction is a terrible idea.

Know when to ask for help.
There comes a point in every business where you’re at capacity. The financial incentives of hustle have waned and you’ve found yourself maxed out. Know the places where you can delegate to others to keep moving forward. Identify the problem areas in your business and look into hiring someone to complete those tasks for you. Creative assistants are the best and have allowed me to expand my business and increase my capacity.

Work toward taking time off.
The trip you’ve always dreamed of and hitting the open road are always the promises of the freelance and entrepreneur life. Making money and build the life you love was why you started your business. Don’t forget your values in the process. Work toward the road trip, adventures, and globe traveling expeditions you love. It brings vision and purpose to the daily grind.

What about you? How are you working to take time off?

We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below.

blog business plan

How to Write a Blog Business Plan

When it comes to managing and running your own business, there are countless lessons I have learned. When I graduated running my own business was the last thing on my mind. I saw design as an additional skill set I was good at, but I was far more concerned about finding a job as a pastor than I was about numbers, sales, and setting my own hours. Two years later life had taken a few surprises and here I was, a 1099 designer for a company. How would I grow my business? What did taxes look like? Where would I even begin? Simple day in and day out tasks have learning curves. In a perfect world, I would love to focus solely on content creation, art direction, and clients. In reality my days are filled with emails, pitches, media kits, contracts, invoices, and bookkeeping. How do you keep moving forward? I love dreams and putting action steps to them. Meet the blog business plan.

Every year I sit down and write a business plan for the blog. This includes collaborations, ways to have passive income, and engagement goals. By writing things down I have a solid idea of what I’m going to do and direction each and every year.

Are you looking to start a blog? Wonder what it takes to find your readers and turn a blog into a business?

Keep reading for the full how-to after the jump!

Begin by asking yourself:

What systems are working?

What are natural growth points for my business? What are the natural pain points?

Once you’ve figured out the answers to these questions, it’s time to dive deeper.

What are you goals for increasing sales and engagement?
Every creative offers either a product or a service. How do you want to focus on goals for each quarter?Break your long-term production projects down into deadlines that can be accomplished in month or three month increments. Keep these milestones in front of you. For me, it’s important to look a spots to fill, collaborations to build out, and financial sales goals to hit, so I have a bulletin board that helps me build these out. I know where money is coming in and where it is going out.

You know your business better than anyone else.
Discover where you thrive in the creative process. Are you someone that is methodical and fluid in your client onboarding? Do you gather inspiration, placing long hours in the strategy at the front end of a project, building creative energy? Do you prefer long-term projects or smaller projects with tighter deadlines? What is it that you love to create? How do you free yourself up to focus on what you love this year?

What do you love to create?
I find that I love art direction and content creation. The administrative work behind it can zap all of my creative energy pretty quickly. I find that while season things on Pinterest are great and can be click bait in the blogging world, I don’t love doing craft projects and things that are overly fussy. My house isn’t seasonally decorated and I love food that is simple and fresh. With this in mind, it’s easy to schedule out a quarter of an editorial calendar and fill it with things that aren’t true to me or my brand for the sake of readers. Finding a blend of what I love to create and what readers love is the sweet spot in curating editorial content.

What is the purpose for the blog?
What starts as a love for blogging, once it evolves into money becomes part of your job. While it’s fun and inspiring (I absolutely love this part of my job.), every post you see on the blog serves a purpose. Whether it is the continual resume for my design studio, positioning myself as an expert with consulting, or partnering with affiliates, each post is thoughtful and intentional in the takeaways for the reader and myself. What is the purpose behind your blog? Is this message clear to readers?

Go fast by going alone. Go far by going with others.
As a creative who works from home, it’s far too easy to be somewhat isolated from the creative community. Find companies, local brands, and creatives to collaborate with. Whether it’s guest posting on other blogs, foodie collaborations, or maker interviews, champion the creatives in your town. I try to add 10 new collaborations a year. This lends itself to phenomenal cross-traffic, gaining new readers, and building a phenomenal creative community.

Time to Get Honest. Where are you really at?
Review your social media. How many followers do you have? What is your engagement rate? What content do people love and on what platforms? This is a great way to gauge what content your audience loves and direct how you plan for the next year.

What is your capacity?
As you blog grows, so will the hustle. What do you say “Yes” to and what do you say “no” to? How do you determine your capacity of time and money? At what point do you hire a VA, an accountant, a web developer, etc to help you make things happen? This year I learned the value of having an personal assistant and I can’t tell you the difference it has made. I’ve been able to free myself up for clients on retainer, putting in long hours, rather than being buried in administrative tasks. As your business grows, recognize when you will need to bring on help, even if for solely 12 hours a week.

Ready to start your blog? What questions do you have? We’re starting a series on blogging basics. Send us your questions.

We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below.

how we make blog posts

How We Make Blog Posts

When I started the blog over 2 and a half years ago it started as a hobby, a creative space to freely express anything my heart desires. Today, it has evolved to a the online platform for my business, building it into a full-time design studio. Starting out as a blog that only few read, I now have a part-time employee. While it allows the word “blogger” to be added to the resume, it hasn’t been arbitrary or an online journey. It has been fun a lot of hard work.

Today, we are pulling back the curtain and letting you in behind the scenes, answering the question, “How do we make blog posts?”

How it all begins.
A month prior to every quarter we begin the brainstorming topics that we know are true to us and our readers love. The goal for each blog post is one of the following- to provide inspiration, information, or remain deeply personal for each of our readers. Each post remains written by me and current with what is going out in my personal wold. Our goal is appeal to our tribe and grow our reach as much as possible. With each blog post, there is loads of strategy on the back end of things, whether it brands we create content for or original content from our brand. There’s an overview. Now here’s the breakdown of how we makes posts from start to finish.

We brainstorm. A month before each quarter, we throw out ideas. Involving a massive whiteboard and a beautiful space, we think of every option possible. Some ideas stick and others we toss. Keeping regular column categories in mind, we fill out post options, brands to collaborate with, and companies to pitch to for each and every quarter. As we brainstorm, we keep in mind long-term goals, and you, our readers. We know what posts have done well in the past, what readers love traffic-wise, and what keywords are ranking on the Interwebs. Keeping this in mind, we parse out what posts will go live and what ones we will table for others. I also firmly believe in a few core values that affect how we produce blogs posts. I believe life is to be experienced, not solely captured. How does this affect our process? There’s wisdom in not having every facet of life on the internet. Filled with critics and opinions, there’s a time for everything. Knowing how and when to communicate facets of my life is a big deal and something that I don’t tread lightly with. Whatever we post, we hope to show you our ability to curate phenomenal content, through images, word, and design, bringing strong messaging and beauty to the world.

We talk through the best 90 ideas and schedule them out.
Using Evernote and Google Calendar, we begin to create content calendars for the next three months. With two separate calendars in Google, we plan out shoots, writing content, and when posts go live. Beginning with when posts go live, we schedule each day and then move backwards to pre-production calendars. By gauging the work load, we schedule certain posts with more lead time and then balance it with posts that are less time-intensive to produce.

Shooting the post.
Using shot sheets and Pinterest as inspiration, we begin curating images for the post. Whether shooting a favorite recipe or a fashion look, we plan for a variety of long, medium, and detail shots, bringing a variety of crisp images for use across multiple social media platforms. We typically use a long shot with type as the feature image of a post and as the post progresses bring the viewer in closer. As we shoot we combine a variety of details in both horizontal and vertical orientation, allowing for a post template to occur. (This give the blog visual continuity from post to post.) For particular shoots, we might hire a photographer for various uses, but keep our shooting to as few people as possible.

Edit images and layout post.
Using Lightroom, we edit images with standard presets and go into WordPress to layout the post. Adding photos to Photobucket, it keeps our site speed fast and hosts our photos as a third-party. When editing I like to keep blacks black and whites white and images in focus and as clear as possible. With sync tools in Lightroom, it keeps our edits and colors consistent across the board, allowing for visual continuity throughout the post. Sometimes this looks like sketching images out, but for most posts, this means following a simple template.

Write out the post.
I’m someone what can obsess over my writing. A perfectionist at heart, it’s something I’m still trying to curb. Nonetheless, I can let perfectionism cripple me from beginning posts, particularly those that emotionally are more challenging to write. By setting an hour alarm on my phone, I put limits on writing and try to complete the rough draft of each post within an hour. Sometimes boundaries, give creative freedom.

Proof copy and images. 
A second pair of eyes are invaluable when it comes to proofreading blog posts. We try to keep things colloquial and friendly, upbeat and positive. Knowing our style and voice, edits are mades, bringing the copy of each post to our editorial standard. Making sure each post has a strong takeaway and call to action, each post ends with a question or prompt for you, the reader to engage, share, and love it.

Publish and index on the Interwebs.
Once the post is scheduled, it’s time to get social. Using Hootsuite and Later, we let our audiences on social media know the post is live, by scheduling our rollouts for each post. This is optimized for when our users engage and the timezones they are in. We also use to manage our links and provide the analytics to best engage with our readers. Once posts are live, we engage with those who comment on either the blog or various social media platforms.

It’s a lot of work and steps to start a blog post from start to finish, but we hope this gives a small view into our daily lives. While I had a background in interactive media in schooling, MySpace had just been released, a far cry from what we now know as the blogging industry today. Most of this is done from our dining room table, surrounded by laptops. While the team behind this space and studio are small in number, I love the post and content that are rolling out and you can expect much, much more from us in 2017! Thank you to each and every one of you that have been with us along this journey. You are our priority. We love curating content for you and hope you love the content just as much!

Have any questions about blogging? Anything you want to see on the blog for 2017?

Let us know. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.