February 1, 2016

My day as a judge at the IAPD/IPRA Conference

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion,Social Media — lidia @ 3:38 pm


Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to be a judge in the Agency Showcase Awards at the IAPD/IPRA Conference.

The Agency Showcase Awards feature the best communication and marketing materials at park and recreation agencies. My category was email communications (one of my current design passions) and I judged the entries on four points: overall design, copy and grammar, strategy, and results.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the different approaches each agency took with their email communications and I was pleased to see the useful content they are sharing regularly with their readers and neighbors.

Best of luck to the winners!

Need help with your next email campaign? Send me a note and let’s chat.


January 12, 2016

Things I want to learn in 2016

Filed under: Creativity — lidia @ 5:54 pm


Every year, I make a list of things I want to learn rather than New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve managed to check off a few things on last year’s list (make an awesome green smoothie) though some still remain elusive (will I ever master my DSLR camera?)

Things I want to learn in 2016

  1. Video and YouTube marketing
  2. PPC (pay-per-click) advertising
  3. How to play guitar again (it’s been awhile)
  4. A digital illustration style that I can use for my children’s book ideas
  5. A more efficient bookkeeping system
What do you want to learn in 2016?

December 3, 2015

Why do moms in business give back?

Filed under: Community Outreach — lidia @ 11:19 am


This Tuesday was Giving Tuesday, or #GivingDay, a global day dedicated to giving back.

When I found out about #GivingDay, I decided to give back to Little Giraffe Foundation by donating a portion of my typebaby online shop sales toward buying holiday gifts and books for local NICU families. My daughter recently spent 3 weeks in the NICU, so this was a cause close to my heart.

I started to wonder about the reasons others had for giving on #GivingDay, so I reached out to fellow moms in business for their insight.

For every gift membership purchased today, NPN [a Chicago organization that supports local families] is donating a membership to a family in the Rush or Lurie NICU.

– Christa Reed, Associate Executive Director at Neighborhood Parents Network (NPN)

I starting giving to Kiva simply because someone invited me. What I like about Kiva is how easy it is, the array of kinds of business all over the world I can choose from, the support offered for the small business owners and mostly because it’s fun!

– Gayle Stephens, GayleForce Healing Massage & Bodywork

I am giving to the Women’s Treatment Center because I believe it’s important to give everyone, especially Mothers, a second chance.

– Misse Daniel, Owner/Wedding Planner at Honey Bee Weddings

Why did you give on #GivingTuesday?

November 19, 2015

15 reasons I love having my own business

Filed under: Small Business — lidia @ 12:27 pm


Yesterday was my 15th year in business!

Since I’m currently on my maternity leave (see #12 below) I put together a quick, fun list to celebrate this accomplishment.

  1. Feeling a sense of accomplishment
  2. Meeting fellow small biz owners (especially fellow moms in business)
  3. Being challenged every day
  4. Leaving early to hang out with my kiddos
  5. Marketing my business (I have a passion for marketing)
  6. Always learning something new
  7. Making my own work schedule
  8. Working on a variety of projects
  9. Making any day “Bring Your Kids to Work” day (see above)
  10. Spending time on creative side projects (and my second business, typebaby)
  11. Developing long-term relationships (and friendships) with clients
  12. Being able to take maternity leave with both of my children
  13. Creating a work-life balance
  14. Carrying on a family tradition of self-employment
  15. Helping organizations grow and share their message

Read my “10 year” business anniversary recap from 2010.

October 22, 2015

5 ways to get your nonprofit organization noticed on #ILGive day

Filed under: Community Outreach,Marketing & Promotion — lidia @ 10:00 am

ILGive-Logo-site--300x298#ILGive is coming up on Tuesday, December 1st. It’s a movement—in partnership with the national #GivingTuesday campaign—to support nonprofit communities in Illinois and encourage individual giving and philanthropy.

Is your organization participating? Great! Do you have a plan to promote your participation? No? Well, here are a few tips.

5 ways to get your nonprofit organization noticed on #ILGive day

  1. Create engaging and shareable social media graphics to promote the event and encourage likes and shares. Here are some ideas.
  2. Add a custom graphic and short blurb about #ILGive to your home page. See their Resources page for shareable info.
  3. Use the #ILGive hashtag and consider creating a custom hashtag for your organization, ie #GiveMyOrg.
  4. Add an #ILGive graphic to your email footer
  5. Feature #ILGive in your next email newsletter. See a sample email template here.
  6. Create an #ILGive flyer and include in mailings, brochures distributed at events, etc.
  7. Write an #ILGive-themed blog post

Need help engaging your supporters and expanding your reach? We can help design social media and newsletter graphics that will get noticed. Send me an email or call me to get started.

Here’s to a great #ILGive day!

August 31, 2015

How smart is your social media branding?

Filed under: Branding,Marketing & Promotion — lidia @ 10:00 am

How smart is your social medai branding

Social media is a smart way to promote and increase awareness for your organization or nonprofit. In fact, social media might be the first place someone learns about you. Are you using your social media branding wisely?

What is social media branding?

Social media branding is how your organization is perceived on social media. This encompasses both visual (logo, imagery) and verbal (writing, voice) but for now, we will be focusing on the visual aspect.

Keep it consistent

One of the first steps to social media success is having well-designed and consistent branding throughout. You want people to easily recognize your organization or nonprofit on social media

Design a smart social media brand

The first step is to claim your page on all the major social media channels (even if you’re not using it yet): LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest. Ideally, you should choose the same username for all channels.

Then, you need to upload the required images, which includes:

  • Profile
  • Header
  • Cover
  • Background

You can use the same or similar images for each social media channel, but be aware of the different sizes and specifications required by each. Whatever you do: DON’T just drop in your logo or stretch it to fit!

TIP: Sprout Social has a great “always-up-to-date” social media image size reference here.

Have some fun with it…

With some of my clients, I will create a custom version of their logo for social media purposes. Since you are not limited by paper size or ink colors, you can get creative with it.

Bring more awareness to your events or programs

You can also create social media headers or cover images to promote special events or programs. Your social media branding can—and should be—constantly evolving.

See some of my social media branding design examples here. And stay tuned for more posts on designing smart social media branding.

I know it can be overwhelming keeping up with ever-changing social media specifications and the myriad required images for each channel. Let us help! Check out the social media branding we’ve designed and then give us a call.



August 28, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: create a daily marketing schedule

 10-Minute Marketing: create a daily marketing schedule

As a creative person, I often find myself jumping from task to task throughout the day as inspiration strikes. Though creatively-freeing, it’s not always the most productive way to work.

Which is why I bought myself a whiteboard and started planning out my daily marketing activities.

My weekly marketing calendar

  • Monday: Social media: posting, scheduling
  • Tuesday: Blog: writing, commenting, outreach
  • Wednesday: Prospecting: research, outreach, follow-up
  • Thursday: Portfolio: updating, photography
  • Friday: Invoicing/accounting

Now granted, I don’t always follow this schedule. But, having the structure—especially in a visual form—makes it easier to stay on track.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Create your daily marketing schedule. Post it prominently in your workspace.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

August 27, 2015

How to design bad direct mail for your organization

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — lidia @ 10:00 am

How to design bad direct mail

Direct mail has been declining in popularity—which means it’s a great time for your organization to take advantage of it (your piece is sure to stand out).

Being a marketing designer, I can’t help but analyze the direct mail that hits my mailbox. Below are some of my “don’ts”—and ways to make your direct mail more successful.

Direct mail DON’Ts, i.e. pieces that go straight to my recycling bin:

  1. No return address: Who is this coming from? Why should I open it?
  2. Generic content: How does this relate to me? Why would I buy this?
  3. Poor design: This seems like a no-brainer to a designer such as myself, but trust me: good design sells.
  4. Cheap paper: If you’re spending the money on printing, please use a nice, heavyweight paper*—especially if your piece is targeted to creative people (we’re a finicky bunch!)
  5. No design: I’ve received direct mail that resembles an office memo, 2 pages typed and stapled together. If you are reaching out to me, at least make it interesting to read.
  6. Too many mailings: A weekly postcard is not necessary. Save your dollars and send to a small, targeted list.

*No neon shades of copy paper, please!

Direct mail DOs, i.e. pieces that encourage me to take action:

  1. Simple yet eye-catching design and layout
  2. Well-written content that I can relate to
  3. A multi-channel campaign: a postcard followed up with a corresponding email
  4. Unique format or size: i.e. an interesting fold, square or oversized**
  5. An offer I can relate to or take advantage of
  6. A personal note or handwritten message that conveys a personal touch

**Make sure to check postal requirements

Don’t have an in-house team to give your direct mail the love it deserves? We would love to help your next direct mail campaign achieve results!

August 19, 2015

Winding down…

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion,Time Management — lidia @ 2:47 pm
chicago summer skies

Chicago summer skies…

Back-to-school photos are all over my Facebook feed (and probably yours too). Though I’m a bit out of the “back to school” loop (my little one is only 4 years old), I am starting to feel like things are “winding down” as summer nears to an end—and I start to plan and prepare for my upcoming maternity leave.

How am I winding down?

I’m wrapping up client projects, kicking off new projects (that will hopefully be completed by the time my leave starts in October!), doing last-minute prospect follow-up, and clearing the clutter in my office.

There is something about a new season—whether it’s back-to-school or fall—that creates the inspiration to wrap thing up and start fresh.

READ MORE: Are you a fellow expecting mom preparing for maternity leave? Read my tips for preparing your business for baby on the HOW Design Creative Freelancer Blog.

How are you winding down to prepare for a new season?

August 17, 2015

Featured biz mama: Mo Zhou of Daycare Discover

Filed under: Biz Mama — lidia @ 10:00 am

Featured biz mama: Mo Zhou of Daycare Discover

Daycare Discover helps busy parents find suitable daycare for their family through concierge service and technology development. With concierge service, Daycare Discover specialists tour the daycare, interview the references and collect information tailored to individual family needs. They are working to sign up Chicago corporations provide our concierge services as employee benefit.

Daycare Discover also developed a free mobile web app “Daycare Tour Buddy” for first-time parents to tour day care more effectively when they choose to research day care on their own. Using Daycare Tour Buddy, parents can easily access all the important questions on their mobile device during the tour and easily collect answers for later review and compare daycare at decision time.

Based on Daycare Discover’s recent survey study, 90% of the child care research are done by moms. Daycare Discover’s mission is to take this burden off moms’ shoulder, so they can thrive in their career and spend precious time saved with their family.

Mo Zhou of Daycare Discover

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

I am the founder and CEO of Daycare Discover. As a CEO of brand new startup, I wear many different hats. On some day I can be crafting corporate strategy in the morning and doing front end developing in the afternoon to crafting financial projection into the midnight.

What are the ages of your children?

I have a two-year old boy Aero.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I founded Daycare Discover because I have personally faced the frustration of trying to find a suitable day care. My work was affected during the time because I was trying to play phone tag and carrying on Q&A with daycare during business hours, the only hours daycare is in operation. I took time off work to tour day care only to find disappointments. I believe with all the modern technology available today, the search process shouldn’t be this hard. Daycare Discover’s mission to empower working moms with easy day care search so they can find quality affordable daycare while not affecting their work and life.

How did your business life change after having children?

I started the business after having children. It is very different compared to my consulting career where I have set hours on client site. I love the flexibility of entrepreneur life. Mostly, I love that I am passionate about what I do. Daycare Discover is my other baby.

Describe a typical workday.

I drop off Aero at his daycare around 7:30 am. From 8 am to 9 am, I check my email and reply to emails. At 9am, I will usually head out to tours or corporate client meetings scheduled for the day. I would tour daycare centers for my clients. After returning from the tour, I would entered the information into the database. I pick up Aero from the daycare center at 5 pm and start our night routine. After he goes to bed at 7 pm, I would get back to either web development, marketing tasks, or other company related tasks.

What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?

Prioritize. There are always million things to do and million ideas to implement. It is very important to prioritize to make every move count.

Daycare Discover
Chicago, IL
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