business advice

How To Choose The Best Web Designer For Your Small Business

By Ange Hammond

Whether you’re just starting out in business or you’re looking to take your business to the next level, there comes a time when you’ll consider getting professional help with your website. When you’re swamped with a growing to-do list, hiring a website designer can be just the lightbulb moment of clarity you’re looking for. Or it can be an experience you’ll want to forget, big time.

I’ve heard all the stories. The small business owner who paid top dollar for a simple 5-page website designed by a large creative agency. The freelancer who paid a deposit to a website designer who started out doing a good job on their design but then seemed to fall off the face of the earth, never to be reached again. And then there’s the entrepreneur who wanted to save money and signed up for a fiverr-type gig only to be bitterly disappointed with the results.

The problem is there are just so many web designers out there! In a time when starting your own business has become the new black, everyone with a bit of computer know-how is giving the ‘web designer’ label a spin around the block and it’s difficult to spot the good from the inexperienced.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options, let’s explore some things to look at when trusting your beloved online home to someone. You want to look for someone who’s the right fit for you and the type of small business you’re running. You want someone who knows SEO and will implement this on your website while they’re building it. You want someone who has both design sense and functionality in mind, not to mention your ideal client.

Judge a web designer by their website
Just like any other service or product we want to invest in, visiting a web designer’s website gives you valuable insights into their skills before going ahead with them. Have a think about the following questions when browsing their website:

  • Is there a logical flow of information?
  • Has the content on each page been broken up by photos and graphics to make it easier to read?
  • Is it easy to navigate around the website?
  • Is the website visually appealing to you?
  • Do their blog posts demonstrate the knowledge and expertise they possess?

Have a good look at their portfolio and get a feel for their design style. Each website they’ve created will be different of course, but there’ll generally be a consistent style to their designs. If their past projects resonate with you, it’s a good sign you’ve found your match.

Word of mouth
Rather than googling for a website designer, which will more often than not just expose you to the world of big design agencies, ask some business besties who you trust to give you some recommendations. There’s nothing better than word of mouth to find the best people to outsource to. If you’re still struggling to find the right fit, put a post on your favourite Facebook business group and see who’s out there in your community. Perhaps it goes without saying but do not engage with website designers who spam-email you, telling you that they can build your website on WordPress for $100. Only place your trust in a website designer who leaves you feeling that they understand you and your business.

The quote
When receiving a quote from a website designer, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure are included:

  • Your website will be both designed and developed by them.
    There are graphic designers who design websites but do not build them. If this is the road you want to go down, just make sure you’re aware of this and that you’ll be paying website developer fees on top of their quote.
  • Some SEO tasks are included.
    These tasks might include some keyword research, keyword placement for your pages’ titles and descriptions and your images being optimised for web. If there’s no mention of any of these things, ask them. These tasks form the basis of your website’s SEO and really are a no-brainer that they’re included.
  • Check the platform your website is being built on.
    I recommend doing some research on the platform of your choice (eg. WordPress, SquareSpace, Shopify, etc) and finding a web designer who specialises in it. There are many platforms to choose from so it’s important to choose the right one for the type of business you’re running. Keep in mind any website functions you want to include in a year’s time… plan ahead so you’re not having to change platforms down the track.

And then there’s the price. If your instinct is telling you that the website designer is the perfect fit for you but they’re a little bit out of your price range, have a chat to them about it. Chances are that they will be flexible and can give you a suitable payment plan so that you can pay off the project price in instalments. There may be some of the website features that you’re wanting that aren’t super urgent and they can be done at a later date when you have more funds to invest in your quality website.

Your website is one of the most important assets you possess when it comes to your business. It’s where your desired clients go to find out whether they want to work with you. It’s where your customers window-shop your latest products and purchase them online. Your website is just like a brick-and-mortar shopfront, only it’s on the internet, and it deserves the right person to create it and it’s also worth the investment. Taking the time to consider the options, coupled with trusting your intuition will ensure your future website takes your business to new heights.

Ange Hammond is an inspired web designer at Resonant Imagery who loves creating vibrant and easy-to-navigate websites. She’s most at home when helping clients attract more of the very people who can benefit from their valuable services and products. Using an intuitive design process, Ange creates beautiful, informative and professional websites that’ll do wonders for any small business.

How To Keep Your Business Thriving During The First 3 Months Of Motherhood

By Stephanie Skryzowski

If you’re a highly ambitious, Type A, make-it-happen entrepreneur, who’s passionate about growing your business, AND you’re about to have a baby, you must read this.

You are excited for your little one to arrive. You’ve probably meticulously planned his or her nursery (and of course you know the gender, because TYPE A!) and have all the little clothes hung neatly in the closet, arranged by size. You know where you’ll deliver and maybe even have some meals socked away in the freezer for after his or her arrival.

You are also a busy entrepreneur. You’re hustling daily (and you love it) and your business is growing, maybe faster than you’d anticipated. Your days are filled with client work, hosting webinars, and creating content for your audience. When you left your 9-5, you didn’t imagine it would all work out so well and you are energized and on fire (as much as can be for a pregnant woman).

Does this sound like you?

Then keep reading and let’s talk about what it’s like to be a new mom and an entrepreneur. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not at all like what you think it will be.

If anyone could do it all, it was me. The Queen of Efficiency and Productivity, I remember my husband remarking at my Master’s degree graduation celebration that he couldn’t believe I was even in grad school plus working full time plus commuting four hours a day because I just had it all together.

So naturally, I thought that having a baby would be similar. I’d give birth and be able to keep all of my client work going, hopping on the computer after a feeding or when the baby was sleeping. I knew I’d be tired, but it wouldn’t be that bad. I could do it all.

Turns out, even the Queen of Efficiency and Productivity needs help.

I am sharing my Five Proven Tactics to help you be fully present as a mom, which is critical in those first few weeks and months, AND continue to help your business (your first baby!) thrive.

1. Prepare financially in advance. You are your own boss and nobody is handing you any paid maternity leave, right?! As an entrepreneur you should be accustomed to saving in advance for business investments like a conference or a new computer, and maternity leave is no different. Figure out what your monthly number is then begin setting aside funds in advance. I had set aside three months’ worth of income, just in case all of my clients disappeared while I had the baby (they didn’t!) and it gave me a huge peace of mind. Voila! Paid maternity leave!

2. Tell your clients. I was super nervous about telling my clients that I was pregnant and would likely need to step away for a little while. What if they all left me and I was left with no job, no money, and no prospects? Turns out, that was ridiculous thinking. My amazing clients were not only understanding, but incredibly supportive (they even sent me thoughtful baby gifts!) and they managed to keep the lights on without me. You will feel a huge sense of relief once you tell your clients and come up with an agreement as to how long you’ll be unavailable and when you’ll dive into work again. 

3. Give yourself a maternity leave. I am serious about this. I know you love your business and will want to get back to feeling “normal”, and a true leave might feel hard. You don’t have to disconnect for a year but you must give yourself some space for a minimum of two weeks. I made the mistake of not putting an out of office message on so I felt obligated to answer emails. I even took a client call at just 7 days postpartum, where my mind was so foggy, it was almost an out-of-body experience. I looked back at my notes several weeks later and they were completely unintelligible, so I wonder how I sounded to the client! Trust me that your clients will wait (remember how long they took to finally sign your contract?!) and that you will feel much better after a break.

4. Ease in slowly. So maybe after two weeks you start answering emails, then another couple weeks you take sales calls, then a few weeks later dig into the actual heavier client work. I thought I’d have no problem handling bigger, strategic thinking type projects but I truly needed that time to let my brain begin to function normally after the hormone surge/drop and sleep deprivation.

5. Enlist help. It’s okay if sometimes that help comes in the form of car seat naps and a coffee shop. I can’t tell you how much work I got done in three hour increments while my daughter slept in her car seat. I felt like a normal human by getting dressed and out of the house, she got a solid nap (when she likely wouldn’t have slept at home anyway), and my client work got done. In fact, there was a point in time where we were frequenting Starbucks so much that her car seat began to take on the aroma of coffee beans. And, are you part of any neighborhood or community organization that uses a meal train? Get humble and SIGN YOURSELF UP. I felt weird about it at first (like, I can’t handle feeding myself?) but when that friendly woman showed up on my doorstep with a bag full of chili, artisan bread, and brownies, a smile, and then left, I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Being a mom and an entrepreneur isn’t easy. I landed myself back in the hospital at three days postpartum with an infection, and spending the night in the emergency room with your tiny newborn isn’t all that fun. But these tips will help you get through those first weeks, focusing on your baby and yourself, and give you the confidence that your business will be there as soon as you’re ready.

And I promise you that your clients won’t run away.

Happy Mom-ing, Boss Lady!

(Disclaimer: Every mom's birth and postpartum experience is different, and these tips are based on my experience alone. Sending lots of love and respect to all the new parents out there.)

Stephanie is the Owner of 100 Degrees Consulting, which provides financial leadership to help nonprofits and entrepreneurs change the world. Having spent nearly a decade in Afghanistan, Nepal, Malawi, and other far-flung locales, Stephanie has vast on-the-ground experience crunching the numbers to help organizations make better strategic decisions for their business. Stephanie brings energy and passion to all things in life. She loves her work as a CFO, running marathons (7 to date!), hiking, and traveling off the beaten path. She is a new mama and currently lives in the US with her husband, dog, and five-month-old daughter, Kyla.

Why Self-care Needs To Be In Your Business Plan

By Kit Cronk,

Self-care, mental health, treat yo self, me-time, chilling out …

We throw these buzz words around at each other when we’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and desperately need a break.

Unfortunately, the concept of self-care (my preferred buzz word) is too often used when talking about some reactionary, last minute decision to stop everything and give yourself some chill time.

Spoiler alert: This doesn’t actually WORK. Not in the long term, anyway.

Self-care is all about taking care of yourself (surprise!), which means you need a plan of attack. You don’t accept the responsibility of caring for something, like a pet, without planning when you’ll walk it, getting things ready to feed and house it, and being prepared to dedicate some time to the task!

Especially if you’re running a business, which usually means you are doing #allthethings, you cannot afford to push aside self-care for when you “have time” (ha!) or really need it.

Here are some truth bombs that you need to hear:

1. If you don’t take care of yourself, you WILL burn out. You’ll get physically ill, have a mental breakdown, or just loose the will to work. You’re no good to ANYONE if that happens!

Taking care of yourself NOW ensures that you’ll be able to keep going LATER. It’s an investment.

SIDE NOTE: I learnt this lesson the hard way, when I went overboard working crazy hours to meet some deadlines… At the end of it, my body was so run down that I didn’t recover to full health for six weeks. None of us can afford to be out of commission for that long! ESPECIALLY when you’re running / building a business!

2. It’s possible to burn out even if you LOVE your work. Busyness is still stress, even if you enjoy the tasks. Lack of sleep, exercise, human interaction, eating well, are all going to end up with you in a bad place.

3. Women aged 20 – 40 are suffering from more mental health issues than any other time in history. You’d be hard pressed to find ANYONE these days who doesn’t have anxiety / depression or know someone close to them who does. Self-care is one whopping big weapon in our arsenal to manage mental health.

4. It’s up to you. You are the only person who can take responsibility for your self care. It helps if you have people around you who’ll prod you when you look like you need a day off, but you are ultimately the only one who knows what’s going on in your head. Don’t wait for other people to give you permission to take time for yourself.

There are plenty of different ways to integrate self-care into your business life… I’m going to break down some ideas by “level” for beginners to experts! Pick a few and start implementing them THIS WEEK!

LEVEL 1: NO TIME FOR SELF CARE
You’re tired all the time and just want another day in the week. You’ve got a bajillion things going on and there’s no way you can just up and leave for the holiday you desperately need.

Never fear! There are super simple ways to start your self-care that will leave you feeling more refreshed.

GET. ENOUGH. SLEEP.
I can’t emphasise this enough! The very FIRST thing we all need to do is consistently get 7-8 hours sleep. If that means going to bed at 8pm and letting the washing go un-folded for a few days, that’s OK.

HYDRATE
Get yourself a water bottle and make sure you drink it all 3 times each day (or whatever the equivalent of 2 – 3 litres is). If you can manage it, try to have one less cup of coffee. It dehydrates you and makes your heart race.

UNSUBSCRIBE
Go on an unsubscribing rampage. Every email newsletter you don’t read, page that is clogging up your Facebook feed, and person whose constant selfies are driving you crazy on Instagram. You’d be surprised how much some digital “spring cleaning” can help your stress levels!

CELEBRATE
Pop some mini-champagne every time you get something done. Taking the time to congratulate ourselves and dwell on an achievement / success works wonders for your brain! Keep on filling your mind with positive reminders of what you’ve done – You can even keep a list somewhere you’ll see it regularly.

LEVEL 2: I COULD BE BETTER
You’re not constantly exhausted, yay! You might be getting by, but you know you could take better care of yourself. It’d be nice to feel like your brain doesn’t have too many tabs open.

TIME OFF
Plan a non-work day every week. Even if you’re side hustling, you can choose a night of the week that is purely to rest. Don’t even try to read blogs or just do one social media update. This is totally guilt-free time to NOT spend on your business.

FOOD SWAP
As a hot chips addict, I do not say this lightly. You need to look at what food you eat and consider if you can improve it. Swap out your 3pm chocolate bar for some crackers and cheese. It doesn’t have to be an all-out diet, but you can try some substituting a few things.

READ
Getting your head out of reality and diving into a good book will do wonders for your mental health. Research has found heaps of benefits to reading regularly – not the least of which is giving your brain a break from constant screen use. Try starting with a book every 2 weeks!

STRETCH
Set aside 10 minutes a day for stretching. Preferably away from your desk. Really focus on deep breathing and stretching SLOWLY. Your body will thank you for it, and there are plenty of youtube videos that will take you through a little set if you’re not sure what to do!

LEVEL 3: FEELING LIKE A TOTAL BOSS
Not that you’d brag about it, but you’re doing pretty well. Some days you don’t even NEED coffee, and you’re good at switching off your “work brain” when you need to. This is the big leagues now.

GET A HOBBY
Wait, what? Start doing ANOTHER thing? Yes. Find a fun hobby you can get stuck into. Personally, I love knitting. It really relaxes me and is a great little skill to have. Working on a creative project OUTSIDE of your business is a great way to keep your brain active, but still taking a break from the every day.

EXERCISE
We all knew this one was coming. Regular exercise is proven to have a positive effect on both the mind and body. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – You could do Pilates, go for a slow walk, or take a stretch class. Experts recommend 30 – 60min a day… But there’s no shame in starting smaller than that! It will get easier to increase and form a habit over time.

UNPLUG
Try to go totally technology free for a while. If you can manage it, do at least half a day each week or maybe a completely unplugged holiday for a few days! I promise you that all the latest news will still be on your Facebook feed when you get back to it.

TREAT YO SELF
Do you plan treats for yourself when you hit milestones? Maybe it’s a financial goal, you finished a project, finalised a collaboration, or just survived another quarter. Set a date and treat yourself. Go see a movie, get a facial (my personal favourite!), or schedule a weekend getaway!

Kit Cronk is a freelance graphic designer and letterer. Her retail line, Ruby & Pearl Press, is full of funny cards, cute stationery, and inspirational quotes. When this Brisbane girl isn’t working, you can usually find her watching re-runs of 90’s sitcoms or reading another fantasy novel with iced mocha in hand. Follow Kit’s work on Instagram or browse all the awesomeness on her website.

Image: Camille Styles

Managing Overwhelm And Finding Your Zen

By Paula Bailey

Respond to emails. Create new content. Brief VA. Develop new product. Make sales target. Check client agreements. Tweet this. Automate that.

Business can be so busy and so very overwhelming at times!

Ever find yourself in a big mess by mid morning, stressed out by what to do next because everything seems to be vying for your attention and feeling like you’re almost frozen by the overwhelm of it all?

You are not alone! After years of dealing with these feelings myself and now helping other ambitious business owners also conquer the emotional rollercoaster that is running business, I have some key tips for managing the overwhelm and elegantly bringing some zen into your busy day.

Seek First To Understand
Understand what overwhelm is. When we feel the tendrils of anxiety slowing curling around our gut it’s useful to know that overwhelm is really your mind projecting you into a future - a future that doesn’t even exist yet. A future that doesn’t ever have to exist either. Accepting this without judgement on yourself opens the gateway to being able to glide through those moments in business.

Play Observer
Rise above it. With your new knowledge of what overwhelm is, if you catch yourself going ’there’ change it up. Rather than living in it and letting your mind run rampant, rise above it. Literally. Imagine yourself in the clouds. Rise above your body for a moment and look down at  yourself. Play observer. Notice that you are not really in this non existent future and that you can choose to remain present.

Follow These Steps
Now that you are a little more present, follow these steps to move from chaos to zen.

  1. Be Still: Cease everything you are doing in that moment

  2. Now: Feel the seat beneath your bottom. Feel the floor beneath your feet.

  3. Breathe: As you tune into these sensations, slow your breathing down. Take a deep breath in, BIG breath out. Inhale, then exhale….

  4. Gratitude: As you notice the seat and floor beneath you, acknowledge the support they give you. Tune into the infinite support that is around your every second of your day.

  5. Reflect: Keep breathing and your reflect on this moment now. This perfect, now,  silent moment.

  6. Ask: What do I move forward on next? Choose one small thing that you can complete today. Begin it now with the commitment to complete it today.

  7. Peace: Continue on with your day knowing that you can come back to this now moment any time you need by using these simple steps.

I hope this helps to provide mindful peace in those times when business seems to be chaotic and overwhelming. Remember you always have all the resources you need to be make your awesome business the success you desire!

Paula Bailey is a mindset and performance expert for ambitious women in business. Known a the ‘Sassy CEO Strategic Planning Queen’, she teaches her clients how to build and scale their businesses using a unique mixture of mindset, consciousness, performance and planning strategies based on the fastest start companies on the planet. You can find her at paulabaileylive.com

The Joy Of Failure

By Smack Bang Designs

It’s our fault. We screwed it up from the start. We gave a word the wrong meaning. The dudes from Collins got it wrong. The peeps behind Merriam Webster missed the memo. Even the guys from Macmillan stuffed it up.

We made history of a word and left out a crucial part of its meaning. Don’t get me wrong, words have dual meanings and complex concepts for sure. But ‘Failure’ in its current definition has just about the solidity of Aeroplane jelly only 20 minutes into refrigeration. When I read the dictionary definition of failure, my brain does not compute. Because to me, the definition of failure should at least mention a thing or two about learning.

Failure is a state of inability to perform a normal function. Yes that’s correct, but what happens after that? Failure is a state of inability to perform a normal function to leverage change or learning. Better? I think so.

I understand that to some, failure feels like an ending, but I will never stop wholly believing that to fail is to leverage a point of change and learning. Failure is not only a steep and inspiring learning curve, but it is also a door to new experience, understanding and excellence. For those who receive failure with the right attitude, it can be an incredibly motivating kick-in-the-bum to do more, be more and get back on the dang horse. It can provide that perfect ‘a-ha!’ epiphany and draw us out of same-same. I would go as far as to say that failure is vital to our growth and continued approach to reaching our dreams!

  1. CURVY LEARNING
    Some people trade learning curves in Mexican back alleys for cold hard cash and a black eye. Some people trade learning curves for multidimensional designer drugs and raving bush doofs. Some people trade learning curves for family crises with no happy endings. We all trade learning curves for heart-ache, heart-break and a heart-shake. Without these experiences of hardship or ‘failure’, where would we be?

    I currently trade learning curves with a 24/7 revolving door of work, heated encounters with the ATO, a bank balance that constantly mocks me and being a young leader with a lot still to learn.

  2. GLASS CASE OF EMOTION
    Some days I’m in love with what I do for the sheer joy of creating and watching my vision come to life.

    Other days I wait anxiously to find out if something I’ve emailed off has reached the hands of a happy customer who appreciates the work, because if not, obviously I have failed as a human being.

    Other days I frump around because my latest marketing activity seemed to flop faster than an Adam Sandler blockbuster. Then of course there are the dark days where I close my laptop and consider becoming a greenskeeper.

    Like most people, I swing between various emotional states. And when I say swing, I mean a full-blown pendulum action – just ask my darling boyfriend. But even in my lowest of lows, my pitch black days when it feels like all I am is a 6-foot hot mess of epic failure, I still know, deep down in my anxiety-riddled heart, that right in that moment, I’m learning something.
     
  3. HOW BAD CAN IT BE?
    Think about your absolute worst-case scenario. That time you positively longed to melt into the ground below you and die a thousand deaths before gouging out your eyeballs with a teaspoon. When the taste of your perceived failure was so acidic that you couldn’t stand it. And ask yourself, 1. Can you handle it? and 2. Can you learn from it? The answer, will almost always be yes.

    Sometimes you need to hit the bottom of the bathroom floor to find the gemstones. While it can be agonising to endure and wrought with emotion, it’s important to allow yourself the freedom to fail. Often, the very act of failing – the mechanics of the process – reminds you how to muster the courage to see the silver lining in everything (cos just about anything is better than how you’re feeling in the pit!)

  4. BACK ON THE HORSE
    It’s in those dark moments, we need to get all bootcamp bad-ass on ourselves and force ourselves to get back up again. In life, and most certainly in business, real strength means picking yourself back up and trying one more time.

    Even after humiliation, anger and pain.

    Even after your 28th hard drive crashes into eternity with your holy grail of files.

    Even after the phone call politely parting ways with your services.

    Even after the revelation that you’ve missed the cut off to submit your work for a coveted award.

    Up you get, on your feet and face the flame. Stronger, wiser, and more determined than ever.

    You might make a risky business move and end up falling flat on your face. You might pour in your heart and soul into an idea only to find out that there is no market for it. Or perhaps your investment deal that looked oh-so-promising turns sour and leaves you for dead. The book deal crashes and burns. The new manager doesn’t last. The client hates your work.

    You feel like the star of an ‘epic fail’ Youtube montage.

    They don’t come up with monotonous cliches for nothing. For doesn’t kill you really will make you stronger, because when you try your best and learn from the rest, you never really fail at all. So welcome failure with open arms and a new perspective on what it means for your future!

This post originally appeared on Smack Bang Design but has been republished here with permission. For more great life advice visit their website.