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How Getting Passionate About The Small Jobs Changed My Life

How Getting Passionate About The Small Jobs Changed My Life

There are always a certain number of ‘bread and butter’ jobs in graphic design. The sort that may not be the most exciting, but they keep the lights on.

When you get your first job as a *professional*, you are excited to be given anything at all to work on. Everything’s new, and thrilling, and you haven’t done the same bread and butter job a thousand times yet. It’s enough to just be designing something.

Over time this becomes boring.

Because that’s the way with all things. But also because the learning stops and the curious mind always seeks new challenges. And the worst thing about studio work is you get pigeonholed – the more you do of one thing, the more of it your are asked to do. Which becomes repetitive.

And then there’s ambition – the ambition to work on big budget, high-spec jobs. That plays a part too.

A couple of years ago, I had a revelation that hit me with great force. I realised that the jobs were only as exciting as I made them.

Then I realised that although there will always be some jobs that won’t end up the way I would like them because of reasons outside my control, a lot of what I was doing was ending up sub-par because I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was seeing them as small jobs. As low budget jobs. As jobs constrained by strict corporate style guides or without much scope for innovation. I had pigeonholed the work.

I waited for those jobs with bigger budgets, higher profiles or better briefs to really cut loose. And those don’t come along very often – why was I waiting until they do to have fun?

But I also realised something else apart from the effect on my own personal enjoyment of my work.

I realised it with horror.

This lack of excitement about the straightforward jobs meant I wasn’t actually doing my job properly. Is not the job of a graphic designer to communicate, innovate and beautify ALL projects? Not just the exciting ones? It was time to change.

As soon as I shifted this paradigm, my working life changed dramatically. I saw new opportunities to improve regular jobs I had been working on for years. I found ways to better interpret those strict style guides. I searched for the ideas that would make the simplest jobs sing. And I pushed myself a bit harder to create a few more concepts, instead of sending out the ones I wasn’t entirely happy with.

I made one simple change to my thinking, and it made a world of difference to my work and my enjoyment of it.

Now I don’t wait for my dream jobs to get excited – instead I make every job my dream job. Just like it was when I started.

That feeling of magic I used to feel is back, and I can’t wait to get started on each new job. I do better work and take more pride in it. And I innovate and learn every day with ease and a ravenous hunger for more. Just like being a student again… but with the benefit of experience.

This is as good as it gets.


#mybestlife #letsgetcreative #ilovedesign

What Do I Need to Set Up a Website?

What Do I Need to Set Up a Website?

And what on earth is the difference between ‘hosting’ and a ‘domain name’?

There’s no arguing that nowadays a web presence is absolutely essential for anyone in business. And there are a myriad of ways to make that happen, from a simple business page on Facebook to a custom-built website. 
But for many starting out in business – even those who have been online for years – it can be hard to understand how this website caper works. There’s a whole bunch of weird jargon. There’s a whole bunch of different people offering a bunch of different services, at a bunch of different price points… and often literally bunched together as a package deal. And you don’t even like computers anyway, that’s why you became a plumber…
So what do you actually need to get a website up and running? Well, strip it back to the basics and you only need 3 key things; hosting, a domain name and an actual website.
Great! But what are those things? The answer is actually pretty simple, when you think of your website as a house that you are about to build.
Hosting is the plot of land you are going to build on. It is a chunk of internet real estate that you pay for the use of, normally for a year at a time.
A domain name is the address of your plot of land – it’s where people find you. Except in this case you will need to pay for the use of your address – this is also often for a year at a time.
The website is the house that you are going to build on your plot of land, at your address.

You can take it with you…

The cool thing is, your website ‘house’ is basically going to be a Queenslander, so you can pick it up and move it to a different hosting ‘plot’ any time you like. But unlike a Queenslander, you can take your address with you too!
The house analogy even extends to the post-build phase, because like your real house, your website will need maintenance throughout it’s lifespan to keep it secure and up-to-date.
Of course before you start, you have to go hunting for the right hosting package, domain name and website solution, and purchase the ones that suit you best. You might buy two or more of these options as a bundle from the same place, or get them all from different providers – it’s up to you. At Demelza Grace Design I provide complete packages including hosting, domain name, custom designed website and maintenance for peeps that don’t want to worry about a thing!
So there you have it, the 3 basics behind every website. Hosting. Domain. Website. GO!
#webdesign #hosting #microbusinesslegends #letsgetcreative #small business
Procrastination Elimination Hacks

Procrastination Elimination Hacks

How to set and achieve goals like a total boss!

There’s no denying it – self-motivation is one of the hardest parts of running your own business. With no one to crack the whip, it can be really easy to fall into a procrastination black hole… and once you’re in that hole it can be damn hard to climb back out.
For the last 7 years I have been working as a freelance graphic designer. Before that I had a job that required me to work remotely most of the time. And before that I had a full time day job and taught at TAFE at night – which meant a whole bunch of after hours work writing lesson plans and marking. So while self-motivation might not have been something I was born with, it is definitely something I have needed throughout my career.
So what do you do when you need to get stuff done but instead you’re just stuffing around? This is my method for fighting the faff.

1. Make a list.

Everyone knows that, right? That’s because it is absolutely the only place to start if you’re dealing with a procrastination problem. Know what needs to be done and you have an idea of the scale of the job at hand. Now, if you are a serial putter-offer, this can be the point where it all gets a bit much and you hit Netflix instead. But push on – it gets better from here, I promise.
2. Break it down.
Sometimes knowing the scale of the job feels like a part of the problem, I get that. But the remote is safely stashed on the coffee table and you made it to step 2 – so the hardest part is behind you! Now take your to-do list and break it down into separate tasks – and be specific. Look at each item on your list and work out what things need to happen before that item can be ticked off.

3. Prioritise tasks.

Yeah, I know, I just added even more things to your to-do list. But they don’t all have to be done in the next 5 minutes, so you will definitely have time to check Facebook later and go to your kid’s assembly, it’s all good. Take a look at the tasks on your list and prioritise them. Start by working out which tasks are deadline based – do these first. Then identify the high value tasks – anything that will make you money. If you can bill for it or sell it, make it a priority. If it will save you money, make it a priority. If it needs doing but isn’t time sensitive or billable, it can go further down the list.

4. Deadline each task.

This is the key right here. A list of goals is absolutely nothing without deadlines. They are the difference between the ‘gunnah’ and the doer. And make your deadlines realistic – don’t set yourself up to fail! Breaking your list down into actionable tasks helps heaps with this, allowing you to make estimates on how long it will take you to achieve each part of the goal. Prioritising your tasks helps you here too, because you can identify any tasks that rely on the completion of other tasks before they can happen. Now you are goal setting like a total boss!

5. Start.

Just start. Work out where to start – and push yourself to take the first step. Once you’re on your way, it all gets that little bit easier, and one you start ticking things off that list, it gets better still!

6. Say it out loud.

Loud and proud! Talking about your tasks is a great way of affirming your goals, and it’s also a surprisingly good way to keep yourself on track. As long as you actually work on your tasks – no one wants to be that ‘all talk no action’ guy!

7. Team up!

If you need to. When getting started is proving just all too hard, use your network. Not necessarily by outsourcing your tasks, but more as a support base. Just talking to a trusted friend or colleague about your goals can be a fantastic motivator, but you might also find you score loads of helpful advice while you’re at it!

8. Don’t wait for things to be perfect.

Analysis paralysis can kill off even the most carefully crafted to-do list, and be just as damaging as jumping in too soon. Things will evolve and change as you build your business, with lessons learned and roads travelled all playing their part in plotting your course. Leave room for this evolution. Just begin and the rest will come.

9. Review regularly.

Check in with your to-do list regularly. Let it know you care. Often we make a bold start and then shift our goals to the back burner… permanently. Priorities change, deadlines get shifted and new tasks arise all the time – and so the list must adapt. Adding a review of your to-do list to your calendar at regular intervals – for example every quarter – is a great way to keep the goals from getting dusty.

10. Reward yourself.

Why not? Achieved a goal? Completed a task? Knocked the whole list off? Congratulate yourself, you did it! Kick back, find that remote, and revel in the power of procrastination elimination!
To Trademark or Not To Trademark?

To Trademark or Not To Trademark?

It’s a question many people ask themselves when they are starting a new business – “do I need to trade mark my business name or logo?”
The short answer is no; you don’t.
But SHOULD you trade mark your logo or business name? The answer to that one is a bit trickier.
Before we take a deep dive into that, I’m going to clear up one aspect of the whole trade marking thing that sometimes comes up when I’m working with start ups. Registering your business name isn’t the same as trade marking your business name. In order to do business in Australia you need to first apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number), and then register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. You don’t need to register your business name if you want to trade under your own name, but you still need an ABN.
This registration with ASIC is really just a case of registering to trade – letting them know you’re there and you’re legit. It doesn’t provide you with any ownership or protection of your name (or your logo), and it doesn’t guarantee that you aren’t infringing on someone else’s trade marked business name.
When you trade mark your business name or logo (or another aspect of your business) you obtain the exclusive legal right to use it. Registration of trade marks is done through IP Australia and involves an application process and a fee for each business class you wish to register your trade mark in. Their website is full of great info and also has a search feature so you can check whether the thing you want to trade mark has already been trade marked.
Which brings us right on back to the question of whether or not a small business should trademark their name or logo.
There are a few things to consider. Top of the list when starting a business is usually money. According to ASIC, it costs roughly $250 to apply for a trade mark, and that fee applies for each class of business you wish to register your trade mark in. Plus if your application is rejected for any reason, these fees are not refundable. So there’s a very real chance you could be laying out some serious dosh to make your trade mark happen, especially if you need to go through the process more than once.
For most new small businesses every dollar counts and every spend needs to be on something essential. And whether or not a trade mark is essential is going to depend on your circumstances.
Give some thought to what the chances are of someone ripping off the IP you wish to trademark, and what the impact to your business would be if they did. Are you trading under your own name? It’s probably unlikely someone else in your industry will copy your logotype. Does your business only operate in a small local area? Perhaps this means your competition is limited and a clash of interests is unlikely? Do you feel that if someone was to start using the same name or a similar logo that it would be a deal breaker for your business? Or do you think you could recover from a re-badge pretty easily?
Trade marking might also be something you want to do but that you decide can wait until you reach other business goals or milestones. Perhaps this can be worked into your business plan as something you do when cash flow allows. Or when you feel your brand has started to gain some traction and become valuable enough to trade mark.
Whether or not you decide to trade mark your business name, it is well worth checking before you start your business to see if the name you want is already trade marked – just in case you are inadvertently treading on someone else’s toes! It’s also a great idea to check up on any domain names you might be after at the same time (although registering a domain name doesn’t give you any rights to use a certain business name either). That way you know you have a clear path to the identity you want for your new business, and won’t have to spend time or money repairing any branding mistakes down the road.
4 Rules For Small Business Branding

4 Rules For Small Business Branding

Starting and running a small business is daunting. No doubt about it. The number of things that need to be weighed up and decided upon is endless, and varies so much from industry to industry that even seasoned business people can find themselves on a very steep learning curve.
The main focus during the start up phase nearly always ends up being money. The whole, “do I need to spend money on this?” thing, as well as that other old chestnut; “how do I keep the money coming in?”
For business with a customer focus (that’s most of us) who are looking to create and maintain a reputation, strong branding is a key part of the process. How you brand your business can have an impact on several aspects of your sales cycle, from grabbing the attention of potential customers, to reassuring current ones, to generating repeat business.
Large corporates, of course, have the luxury of spending big bucks on agencies or even employing their own teams dedicated to making sure their branding is always on point. For the small- or micro-business, though, branding can seem like a sidebar. Something you shove on the backburner until the business takes off. Or – you know – “I’m a plumber and I’m good at plumbing and people will realise that when they hire me so why would I need to worry about my brand??”
Now obviously, as a graphic designer my first piece of advice is always gonna be “invest in a great logo”. But branding doesn’t end once that’s sorted, and with a healthy respect for the image you are projecting and a little bit of diligence you can create a strong brand with even the beeriest of beer budgets!
Here are my 4 essential rules for managing your own small business brand to perfection:

1. Keep it consistent

This is the name of the game, my friends. If you can maintain a consistent look and feel across all the visual aspects of your business, you’ve got a brand! You can hire marketing professionals who can drill down into every little thing for you and style it, but for the cash-strapped startup, consistency can be achieved just by paying attention to the little things.
If your designer has provided you with a style guide, make sure you use your corporate fonts and colours for any documents you generate in-house. Check your social media profiles are all using the same logo, and that any header images team with the theme. Think about your social media posts and keep them consistent in tone and in look – if you’re creating images for your posts get those corporate typefaces and colours in there wherever possible. When outsourcing design work for things like promotional flyers or a website, use the same designer for everything – or choose one who has a good understanding of the importance of branding (some designers like to play a little fast and loose with your established style).

2. Consider your target market

If you’ve written a business or marketing plan, you will already be familiar with who your target market is and what they are into. But if you haven’t yet gone down this road, now’s a great time to give it some thought. Once you know who your customer is you can begin to tailor your branding towards this demographic.
The most obvious way to tailor your brand to your target market is to choose a visual style that is likely to appeal to this group, but you should also consider the content you generate and the language you use to write it. If the people you need can relate, you are part way there!

3. Mind your spelling and grammar

This stuff is so important to the image a business projects. And we aren’t paying enough attention to it any more.
Proof read and correct any spelling and grammatical errors on everything your business puts out into the world. It is cheap, it’s easy – and it can make a huge difference to the way potential and existing customers view your brand.
Don’t limit your proof-reading to printed matter like brochures and reports – be sure to give all your email correspondence and social media posts a good checking as well. The rise of social media and the DIY-ness of it all means that many businesses are cranking out content that’s barely intelligible – which doesn’t inspire confidence.
Don’t get me wrong – the odd typo happens to us all, and they can elude even the most fastidious proof reader. But nothing should go out without a few read-throughs and tweaks to make sure it makes sense and sets your brand in the best possible light.

4. Resolution, baby!

I know it comes under the banner of boring designspeak, but image resolution is important.
Nothing looks dodgier than a pixellated logo or graphic. Like bad spelling or grammar, it can really effect the image your business is putting out there.
Choose a designer who will provide you with your logo files in various file formats and sizes, and then file them away (regardless of whether you can open the files on your computer). Web logos and graphics need to be low-resolution to optimise page loading times, so don’t assume that you can download your logo from your webpage (or images from someone else’s page – yikes!) and use them for printing.
Another hot tip is to never squash or stretch your logo when scaling it – always preserve the ratio. If your designer has provided a style guide you might also find she has created a series of ‘do’s and don’ts’ around using your logo, and these should always be followed. If not, just use your common sense (don’t place it on a crazy background so you can’t read it… things like that).
At the end of the day, your brand is one of the most valuable assets your business owns. When your business is in the start-up stage, every day can feel like a slog – but by keeping one sneaky eye on your image, you can make sure your brand is working as hard as you are to bring customers through the door.
Go to it small and micro business legends!