September 25, 2013

A book that helped me “make my ideas happen”

Making Ideas Happen by Scott BelskyLast week, I wrote about how Evernote helped me launch my new business, typebaby. Now, Id like to share a book that helped me turn my ideas into reality: Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision & Reality by Scott Belsky, founder and CEO of Behance.

This book has been a fixture on my desk for almost a year. When I was preparing to launch typebaby, I read the book in my car while my son was napping. I read a few pages before I went to bed. And I flagged lots of pages.

Here are a 8 takeaways that I found especially helpful:

1. Break projects into primary elements

Belsky calls this the “Action Method” and it involves breaking down your project into Action Steps, References and Backburner items. This was important for me, as I was getting overwhelmed by everything I needed to accomplish prior to launching. I also liked his tip of writing your Action Steps in short phrases starting with action verbs, i.e. “Mock up a sample of…”

2. Create an energy line

I recently wrote a post on the HOW Design Creative Freelancer Blog about creating an energy line and how it was helping me prioritize my projects. This book is where I learned about it and I still update mine weekly.

3. Let go of dead-end projects

“You must be willing to kill ideas liberally—for the sake of fully pursuing other.” As a creative person, I really struggle with this. I have so many ideas and want to pursue all of them. This book made me realize that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) pursue all of my ideas. But if was really attached, I could just put an idea on the backburner and return to it later.

4. Reduce time spent on “insecurity work”

Belsky says, “Along the journey to making ideas happen, you must reduce the amount of energy you spend on stuff related to your insecurities.” This is a powerful statement. Whether it’s launching a product or writing a blog post, I’ve had insecurities pop up that kept me from moving forward.

He goes on to say, “We seek information to make our anxiety go away.” I know I’m guilty of over-researching. I postponed launching my product line until I felt everything was perfect (according to my unattainable standards). In fact, it was my husband who finally said to me: “just do it, already!”

5. Don’t go it alone

The book emphasizes partnerships. Not necessarily a business partnership, but collaborations with people who have complementary skills to help you move your project along, or like-minded people who can keep you accountable. I found this very helpful and I still reach out to my mentors and accountability buddies.

6. Seek out your competition

I thought this was an interesting concept. Belsky writes, “Ideas often have the tendency to lie stagnant until we are jolted into action by either excitement or fear.” It’s true. Watching your competition is crucial for all small business owners—and it can be a great way to push your idea into action. As Belsky says, “Seek out competition and be grateful for it. By embracing [it], you will stay at the top of your game.”

7. Go public and create accountability

When you feel accountable to your idea, you are more likely to push through and make it happen. I like to discuss my ideas with a few trusted friends who I can count on to regularly ask, “So, how is [your new idea] going?” If I know someone will be asking about it, I am more likely to focus on it.

Publicly announcing your idea also shows your commitment to it. As Belsky writes, “Only after publicly committing themselves did [leaders of new companies] experience full support from their communities.”

 8. Keep perspective and an open mind

Belsky notes how creatives can get caught up in “visionary narcissism.” We get so caught up in our idea, we are unaware of what’s been done before and consider our idea totally unique. Keep an open mind when relating with or following people in your industry—you can learn from them. As Belsky writes, “Not much is entirely new, and yes, we can adequately  learn from the past.”

Have you read Making Ideas Happen? What were your key takeaways?

 

September 18, 2013

How I launched a new business…with a little help from Evernote

Filed under: Small Business,Time Management — Tags: , , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

typebaby loves evernote

Earlier this year, I launched typebaby, a line of typographic baby & kids apparel. Starting a new business (with an existing business and a 1-year old, no less) is no easy task, but using the productivity app Evernote made it much easier.

I was already using Evernote in my graphic design business to keep track of projects, design inspiration, small business and marketing resources, and small business events (the new Evernote reminders feature is perfect for this). I also found Evernote helpful when I was searching for office space. I used it to track leasing agents and spaces I’d visited (adding photos to notes made it easy to remember places I visited).

But when I started typebaby, my usage of Evernote grew tenfold. Being a mom in addition to a small business owner, I do a lot of work during off-hours, so being able to add to and update my Evernote Notebooks and Notes from multiple devices (Mac, iPad, phone) turned out to be a lifesaver.

How did I do it?

I started out by creating Notebooks for categories relating to my new business, such as sales, marketing & PR, manufacturing, new product development, packaging, and social media. Then I started filing notes, documents and spreadsheets, articles clipped from the web, and photos.

Here are some specific ways I use Evernote.

Research and reference

Because this was my first foray into product development, I did a lot of research before I launched and saved useful articles and posts in Evernote.

Spreadsheets

Having a product business, I maintain a lot of spreadsheets with information regarding inventory, sales, retail customers, blogger outreach and public relations, so being able to save and view Excel files in Evernote is a great perk.

Inventory tracking

Inevitably, I get requests from retail stores in the evening when I’m away from my office, so having copies of my inventory spreadsheets in Evernote is very useful.

Manufacturing details

I keep track of manufacturing details, such as vendors, online catalogs, invoices, and cost analysis.

Social media marketing

typebaby is very active on social media, so I keep a copy of my social media marketing plan in Evernote for easy reference. I add notes for potential blog posts or other social media engagement ideas.

Trade shows & events

I create Notebooks for trunk shows or special events that I’m participating in to keep track of correspondence and details. I also create a list of monthly tasks (with reminders) to make sure I’m on track.

New product development

Being a creative person, I’m always coming up with new ideas. Now, instead of scribbling them onto sticky notes, I file my new product ideas in Evernote and refine or develop them in a more focused way.

In short, Evernote can make launching and running a new business much easier—especially if you’re a busy Biz Mama like me.

New to Evernote?

Check out these useful webinars from Evernote. I also find the best way to learn about Evernote is to learn from other users, so feel free to reach out to me with your questions.

Editor’s note: I was not paid by Evernote to write this. I truly love and appreciate this app. But if you use my referral link to sign up for a free or paid plan, I will get a little bonus. Woohoo!

Stay tuned to the blog this week for a book review of another resource that helped me launch typebaby…

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July 18, 2013

Baby AND a business? Yes, it’s possible!

Filed under: Biz Mama,Small Business — Tags: , , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

baby & business? Yes it's possible!

Now that I’m a mom, I have a whole new appreciation for mothers—not to mention mothers who also run a small business.

My son is about to turn two years old and I’m comfortable with my new work-family routine (or lack, thereof). However, I went into motherhood with the concept of “balance” in my head. After the first few months of sleepless nights and baby-caring days, I realized balance is not humanly possible when you have a child.

Make it work.

I was happy to hear Meg Mateo Ilasco, co-author of Mom, Inc., introduce a new term for us working mamas in this Design*Sponge post: “making it work.” You may not achieve perfect balance every day, but you can make it work for you.

Do the juggle.

Joy Deangdeelert Cho of Oh Joy! wrote a wonderful post last year about how she prepared for and ran her creative business with a new baby. She calls it “the juggle,” which is truly accurate. My days are constantly shifting and changing, as I juggle whatever work/home situation arises.

Make a plan.

As Joy mentions, being prepared is key. I wrote a post on the Creative Freelancer blog about how I prepared my small business for baby. Of course, you can’t anticipate everything (like a baby who decides to arrive 2-1/2 weeks early!) but you will feel more relaxed if you have a plan.

I’m constantly inspired and uplifted by my fellow mama-business owners who truly are getting’ it done!

• • •

Speaking of… please vote for me in the Red Tricycle Awards for Awesome Mom-Run Businesses in Chicago! Click here and vote for typebaby.

Do you know any other moms in business who are getting’ it done?

 

June 19, 2013

Have you hugged a small business lately?

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , — lidia @ 11:06 am

Hug a small business this week.

June 17-21 is the 50th annual National Small Business Week. Being a proprietor of two small businesses (Lidia Varesco Design and typebaby), I’m always happy to spread the word about supporting small business.

This week, take this challenge with me:

When shopping for a gift or choosing a service provider, choose a small business. Share your experience with others and encourage them to do the same.

Visit the SBA National Small Business Week website for live broadcasts and other events this week.

 How are you supporting small business this week?

May 20, 2013

Freelancers, do you ask for help? [CFC blog post]

Filed under: Small Business — lidia @ 2:00 am

Until I had a baby, I had trouble asking for help—both personally and in my business. Now, I regularly to reach out to my connections when I have a business challenge or need to brainstorm a new idea.

Read more of my thoughts on asking for help on the Creative Freelancer Blog.

• • •

See all of my small business posts on the Creative Freelancer Blog here.

May 1, 2013

4 easy ways to celebrate National Small Business Month

Filed under: Small Business — lidia @ 2:01 pm

4 ways to celebrate National Small Business Month

May is National Small Business Month. I’ve recently participated in trunk shows to promote my baby apparel line typebaby and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with fellow small businesses (including fellow biz mamas!)

In celebration of Small Business Month, I’ve put together 4 easy ways to support a small business this month. Try to do one per week!

4 ways to support a small business this month

  1. Shop for gifts at a local boutique or an online marketplace like Etsy.
  2. Contact your Chamber of Commerce for referrals to local service providers.
  3. Reach out to a fellow small business owner and see how you can collaborate.
  4. Buy lunch at an independently-owned restaurant or food truck.

What will do you do to support small business this month?

March 23, 2013

Productivity must-haves for the working mom on-the-go

Filed under: Small Business,Time Management — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 12:16 pm

Productivity must-haves for working moms

Now that I have a child, I’ve realized that spending 8 hours straight in my office rarely happens anymore. But with these tools, I’m able to stay productive by managing my projects and marketing tasks on-the-go.

My productivity must-haves:

  • Remote access app: I use Team Viewer, but any application that allows you to connect remotely from your laptop to your office computer is a lifesaver.
  • Evernote: I use Evernote religiously. I keep track of projects I’m working on when I’m not in the office by updating my documents and spreadhseets, collecting references from the web, and emailing notes and reminders. It also syncs beautifully with my iPhone and iPad.
  • Smart phone: Being able to check email or follow-up with clients when I’m out of the office is a must.
  • Tablet: Makes writing blog posts or updating a website easy—especially if you have a little one napping in the car.

What are your must-have apps or tools for managing your business on the run?

 

March 4, 2013

Good advice from a Biz Mama: work ahead of deadlines

Filed under: Small Business,Time Management — Tags: , , , , , , — lidia @ 5:28 pm

Biz mama tip: work ahead of deadlines

Earlier this year, I chatted with fellow biz mama Alisa Bonsignore of Clarifying Complex Ideas who had this great advice for busy moms:

..learn to work as far ahead of deadlines as possible, not just because it gives [you] an extra opportunity to read through things with clear eyes, but because you just never know when a sick kid is going to wreak havoc with your deadline.

This advice rang true for me this winter, when my toddler got sick and then I proceeded to catch a nasty cold that kept me out of the office for almost a week (somehow Hubby was spared of this germ fest).

Of course, during this time, I had a large proposal due and several other time-sensitive projects. I was grateful for: 1) my laptop at home with remote access to my office, and 2) working ahead of my deadlines.

Because I like to work ahead of schedule to give myself time to mull things over, I had already started on projects with upcoming due dates. So the day I had to miss work because of a pediatrician appointment—and subsequent pharmacy run—was not as stressful as it could have been. So, I’m glad I took Alisa’s advice and prepared in advance.

How do you manage to stay on top of your workload—especially when you have sick kids or an unpredictable schedule?

February 13, 2013

Tactile design and old-school interactive: my chat with Creatives’ Cupboard

Filed under: Biz Mama,Creativity,Small Business — Tags: , — lidia @ 4:58 pm

My friend and fellow Biz Mama and graphic designer Crystal Reynolds invited me to a web chat for her awesome blog Creatives’ Cupboard.

On Creatives’ Cupboard, Crystal connects one-on-one with fellow creatives. She recently chatted with fellow designer/Illinois-dweller, Justin Ahrens of Rule 29.

In our fun and insightful chat, Crystal and I talked about running a business when you have kids (which we both do), tactile design (which we both love), blogging strategies, connecting at conferences, and the “old-school interactive” element of typebaby, my new line of typographic infant apparel.

See our chat on the Creatives’ Cupboard blog.

Read a “Biz Mama” interview with Crystal here.

January 17, 2013

What can I learn from this?

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 9:22 am

What can I learn from this? graphic

I’m currently reading JJ Ramberg’s It’s Your Business: 183 Essential Tips that Will Transform Your Small Business, a useful guide for new or experienced business owners. The book is organized by category, with useful tips for each.

One of the tips that resonated with me was: Tip #44: Learn from your failures.

As small business owners, I think we’ve all experienced failures or disappointments. Situations that didn’t quite work out as expected. But the key to success is turning these situations into learning experiences. Saying to yourself: What can I learn from this?

I recently went through a challenging experience with a personal project. It was an area that I was unfamiliar with and things didn’t go as expected. As soon as I let go of my disappointment and negativity and approached it as a learning experience, the situation turned around and new opportunities appeared. (Coincidence? I think not.)

Do you learn from your failures?

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