entrepreneur

4 Photography Tips To Level Up Your Blog

By Gemma Peanut

As creatives, we can love our art so much that we may struggle to think of it as a business. 

It may even seem wrong to promote and sell it for monetary gain - but we all need to make a living and what better way than by doing what you are bonkers passionate about! 

That being said, I do cringe at the thought of bookkeeping and even invoicing clients which are all parts of working for yourself - but one area that I am more comfortable with these days, is marketing.

And the reason for this, is I think I’ve cracked the code...

3 years ago, I was crying myself to sleep, stressing my little heart out over what the heck I was going to do with my life.  A friend suggested that I start blogging as an outlet and a way of deciphering through all the confusion and so begun Gemma Peanut Gallery

As I continued to share my musings and adventures, I realised the power of imagery. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I quickly learnt this first-hand by seeing the response on my blog to different images. It seemed that having great visuals was a easy win on the marketing side! This realisation fed my curiosity about learning how to take better photos and so began my foray into photography… 

Today, I am a professional shutterbug on a mission to help creative creatures become the boss of their cameras once and for all so that they can produce stunning imagery that shows off their art to the masses.

I’m going to share with you the photography tips that helped me level up my blog.

1/ MOVEMENT
The most compelling photos have movement OOZING out of them and because of this, they tell a story instead of just showing a static, frozen moment in time. The viewer is drawn in and invited to daydream about what’s going on in the image. 

My favourite cues to capture a sense of motion in photographs is to take a walk or to do a twirl which instantly injects playfulness and spirit. 

2/ IMAGE BANKING
Ever typed up the final word of your masterpiece, been super eager to hit “publish” and then realised you have no images to jazz it up and to use to share on Facebook? This is where image banking comes in real handy.

To key to creating a plentiful and versatile arsenal of photographs is to shoot for variety. Consider capturing a range of emotions from smiling straight to camera, to side-profiles staring off pensively, to candid and whimsical back shots. Shoot a scene with both portrait and landscape framing and both close-ups and wide-angle shots. 

3/ FLAT LAYS
Flat lays are so visually captivating when everything falls together effortlessly - but trust me, there is a lot of effort involved! You have to select and arrange the items in a way that expresses an idea or a theme and then you have to take the photo from the right angle, with the right framing and the right lighting. 

Never fear! There are some sure-fire ways to make your flat lay ultra-pinnable! Pick a tonal palette and stick to it to create instant harmony in your flat lay and choose a background that allows these colours to shine. Matte cardstock, hardwood floors and granite bench tops work wonders! 

Now for how many objects...I find that the magic number is 3. You can create so many balanced arrangements with just 3 items such as all 3 in a row, or peeking in from 3 of the corners leaving one corner intriguingly blank which leads me to…

4/ NEGATIVE SPACE
As with many things, less is more and photography is no different with the nifty technique of negative space. Negative space is simply the space surrounding the hero of your image - so picture your model against a big, blank wall or a pretty trinket against a patterned rug. Negative space makes your subject or object really pop!

And it’s also handy for blogging because you’ll be able to easily add in some text to form a header image or a quote perfect for Instagram. 

Photography is the ultimate marketing tool and its uses to give your blog that extra edge are endless! 

Gemma Peanut is a professional shutterbug and story teller. Armed with her camera, her untamed heart and a boundlessly messy imagination. If you’d like to keep on learning about photography, check out Photography 101 with Gemma Peanut where manual mode photography is broken down into human-speak across several beautifully presented video tutorials + the super-active and exclusive Shutterbug Club. 

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.

8 Reasons To Choose Squarespace Over Wordpress

By Rachel Gadiel

One question I hear all the time is how to choose the best platform for your website.

I’ve experimented with various platforms including Wordpress, however in recent years, I’ve become a Squarespace convert and now I host all of my websites with them.

It’s the platform I use for my clients’ websites and it’s the platform I recommend most often to anyone looking to create a beautiful, well-executed, mobile responsive website.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend Wordpress - I believe Wordpress to be an incredibly powerful and robust platform - plus it can make for a lovely website, but at the end of the day it comes down to your specific needs; your skill set; and how hands-on you want to be with your site.

Many people opt for a Wordpress site simply because their designer or website developer recommend it; or because they see the insane number of plugins and programs that can be integrated.

However, in both of these scenarios you can end up finding yourself out-laying significant costs as your site evolves - simply because you don’t have the time or expertise needed to maintain the site and you end up needing to pay someone to help.

Ask any person who is starting a new business how much time they have to dedicate to learning code to configure their website and make changes - the answer is always: not a whole lot.

So today, I’m sharing 8 reasons why I recommend Squarespace as the best option for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners to launch a web presence, with maximum impact.

 

1. Squarespace offers an all-in-one hosting and publishing solution.The most significant difference between Wordpress and Squarespace is that Squarespace offers an all in one web publishing solution, with all of their services including hosting and publishing bundled together.

Given this, it offers new business owners simplicity, ease of use and the convenience of having their website, hosting and publishing tools all safely housed in the one platform - which is a very attractive offering to time-poor entrepreneurs and business owners.

The biggest upside to this means that you don’t need to worry about having multiple providers when it comes to your domains and hosting.

The integration Squarespace provides with third party domain providers is brilliant, making it a seamless process to integrate your domain from providers like Google, GoDaddy and Blue Host.

Plus, it also offers the ability to connect multiple domains and then choose a primary domain and configure all other domains to point to your nominated primary domain.

It is important to note that your website code base ultimately belongs to Squarespace as it is hosted on their servers.

But, unless you have a very specific reason as to why your site requires self-hosting (for example, organizations like banks and telecommunications companies have unique security requirements), given the level of convenience Squarespace offers, the benefits are overwhelmingly compelling.

 

2. Simplicity and ease of use.The simplicity and ease of use of Squarespace is not just limited to their hosting and domain bundling - it extends to their entire publishing platform.

Not only is it easy to navigate your way around the various functions of the site, the seamless process it offers users to update images, copy, add pages, forms, newsletter integration, or audio files, make it an incredibly attractive option.

Users need zero coding experience to navigate their way around and the highly intuitive platform, making it a breeze to use.

 

3. Beautiful range of fully customizable designs.Given Squarespace is a closed source platform, the only designs available are the templates they create and offer to their customers.

I see this as a huge benefit as there are so many beautiful design options to choose from. In the majority of cases, users will be able to find a design that matches their requirements.

And if not, they can tweak the templates via the ‘content blocks’ Squarespace offers to suit their needs.

What I love about Squarespace is they are continually updating their range of designs and there are always new designs being added.

4. Seamless eCommerce integration.
Opening an online store has never been easier with Squarespace. All stores integrate with Stripe and incorporate the appropriate taxes rules for your region.

Inventory management, coupons, discounts, order confirmations and invoicing are all taken care of within the platform.

 

5. Your website can grow and evolve as your business does.This is probably one of the main reasons why I’d go for Squarespace over Wordpress. I remember when I had my Wordpress site and any time I wanted to add a new page, or change the layout of something, I’d spend hours trying to work out how to do it, eventually getting frustrated by it and ending up pay someone to help me.

It is natural for your business offerings and services to evolve and grow over time. It should not mean that you need to hire a developer each time you want to add a new feature or page to your site and Squarespace makes it super easy for you to do so.

 

6. All designs are mobile responsive.64% of americans own a smartphone which means there is a strong likelihood the people checking out your website will be doing so from their mobile device.

Add into the mix the latest Google SEO ranking factors meaning organic search results will now take into account how well your site has been optimized for a mobile-friendly experience.

Never before has it been more important for your website to look amazing and offer an exceptionally seamless user experience across all devices, including mobile, tablet and web.

All Squarespace designs are fully mobile responsive, which essentially means that regardless of what size or type of device you are using to view a website, the design will automagically render to fit your screen.

No more having to configure multiple design layouts to work across various browsers; no more ugly designs randomly showing up because the design doesn’t work on a specific screen - none of these are a concern with your Squarespace website.

Even better - there is even a nifty viewer in the content management system to switch between your design and how it will look on each platform.

7. Cover pages are a smart way to promote special offerings, launch products or services and encourage newsletter sign-ups.
I
 love the ability Squarespace offers to create and add cover pages to your site which can be used to your advantage in numerous ways.

From promoting features, special offers or even to as a way to grow your newsletter database, you can put cover pages to work in just about anyway you want.

It also means that if you are just starting out and building your site, you can put up a cover page on your domain and start generating buzz for your site launch, along with capturing email addresses at the same time.

And, if at any point need to update your site design, a cover page will allow you to seamlessly make the transition between your old and new website design.

 

8. Squarespace support and documentation.In case you need more convincing at this point, I think it’s worth mentioning the fantastic support Squarespace provides their customers. Any time I’ve needed support with my site, or even just to ask a question, I’ve been easily able to have a live chat with one of the friendly Squarespace team members who are always incredibly helpful!

There is also a huge archive of support documentation available so it’s super easy to find the information you need.

Their documentation is written in plain English - meaning you don’t need to understand complex coding or design language - it’s written in a super digestible and straightforward way that is easy to make sense of.

Still on the fence? Here are a few questions to consider when choosing the best platform for your new website:

  • What is the most important thing you need your website to do for your business?
  • What are the main functions you need your website to perform?
  • Are you happy to get your ‘hands dirty' and learn some basic (and potentially more advanced) HTML and CSS?

Nothing gets me more excited than helping ambitious women launch their businesses to the world with a strong brand that gets you noticed.

If you’re in the market for a new website, I’d love to chat more about how I can help create a gorgeous Squarespace website for you that will let your dream clients find you; connect with you; as well as positioning you as an expert in your field.

3 ways to solve problems like a designer

By Calli Reynaga

As a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and blogger, I write about things that I’m passionate about: technology, starting a business, marketing, organizations, people, behavior, leadership, productivity, and goal setting. I am always learning and expanding my knowledge base and skills.

For those who are looking for something fresh, and written from a different perspective, keep reading.

My appetite for information is vast and constant. I like to read blogs that teach me something, are entertaining, and well written. I also try to write about interesting topics within my expertise. For those who are currently reading this article, we are going to define UI and UX in technical terms so you can say you learned something and then apply it to solving problems with design for people.

UX Design is another way of saying User Experience Design, while UI Design means User Interface Design.

In general, design is like a blueprint or a plan or rendering to show the look and function of a product (digital). Both are crucial elements to a product and work closely together. UX is more analytical and technical whereas UI is what we mostly know as graphic and visual design.

If the digital product is a human body, the bones give structure just like code, and UX design are the organs measuring and optimizing for supporting life functions. UI design are the cosmetics of the body - presentation, its senses and reactions. You can read more about this relationship. in a layman’s guide.

The best-designed solutions happen when we truly understand the underlying needs. Problems are actual challenges while solutions allow people to understand something. Designers have to cut through the clutter to create a solution that can be communicated to users.

There are a few things you can do to think like a designer. Design thinking is about empathy. This empathy goes beyond knowing and responding to how a person feels. To approach problems through the eyes of a designer or design thinking, empathy is the starting point in a process for innovation. This often leads to better insight into human behavior and inspiration.

In psychology, there are three types of empathy. The first is purely cognitive. This is being able to understand things from another person’s point of view or perspective. This is what UI designers do. The second type, personal distress, is to literally feel another’s emotions. The third is emphatic concern. This type is what most people refer to when they say, “empathy.” It is the ability to feel another person’s emotional state or to feel in tune and show appropriate concern.

All three definitions are what a good designer feels in order to design for people and create solutions to design problems. They must practice empathy and design for people by communicating and with creative problem solving.

Just like a designer, I can use empathy to catapult innovation. By observing, analyzing, and interviewing to create a process, the information I’m gathering will lead to a solution.

Here is a real life problem: my desire is to target a specific demographic of women for an online campaign. After reading about empathy and innovation, these are the 3 steps I plan to use:

1.     Observe

  • Use Facebook groups for ideas and to get in touch with my target audience.
  • Look for and at women’s forum’s to see what they are saying.
  • Go to a group (in-person) for the women you want to talk to.

2.     Analyze

  • Calculate
  • Try to identify patterns in the way people behave.

3.     Interview

  • Use Facebook groups to reach out to women.
  • Message or email to connect, add friends
  • Survey monkey
  • Face-to-face
  • Email
  • Ask how they feel and how to improve their situation

We start with individual needs because designing this way leads to greater awareness and inspiration. The best solutions come from insights into human behavior. I will get a good idea of what my audience thinks, feels, and behaves by observation and through interaction.

What I’ve determined is that I would like to wear the design hat more often. As a creative I can relate to being empathetic and writing to your audience. What I appreciate about designers is the power to solve problems systematically and with creativity. It has given me an efficient way to think through and address problems as they come.

The most useful thing I’m taking with me from this is to feel what your audience feels, whether it be joy, frustration, enlightened, or unsatisfied. You can better relate to their pain points and success. This is crucial when solving problems and creating digital content.

Calli Reynaga is Zen master – a Silicon Valley founder, and creative force behind EVOLVE OS. 

She brings innovation and perpetual improvement to her content, communication strategies, and marketing. She is passionate about helping start ups and individuals communicate articulately both visually and narratively. She has recently consulted with companies, curated web content, and produced copy for corporate stories. Her specialty is messaging and branding. She has studied arts and humanities and is a Communication Specialist at Innowest. Follow her on Twitter and her blog.

5 Things You Can Do Today To Build an Epic Personal Brand

By Stacey Murray

Once upon a time, personal branding was reserved as one of the many‘first world problems’ of celebrities, public figures, the rich and the famous… well, at least it used to be a consideration exclusively for those in the public eye. The concept of personal branding is hardly a new one, however in this age of social and online media, virtually anyone with an internet connection can access and utilize countless platforms to be seen, heard and searched.

So how in the heck do you even begin to distinguish and position yourself favourably in a very noisy and crowded online sea of people and info?  Simply by creating and leveraging your powerful personal brand, you savvy thing!

Personal branding is your reputation; how others perceive you. It is how you project your message and your image which assists others to form an impression of you. It is what you’re associated with and what you are known for. It also helps to manage misinformation. In its simplest form, it involves presenting yourself the way you would with your own company brand.

All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. – Tom Peters in Fast Company

Crafting your personal brand is emerging as a digital age necessity. Going on a date? A job interview maybe? Networking or going to a business meeting?
You’ll probably be Googled and checked out on any number of social media sites, And don’t go pretending like you haven’t done your share of online stalking of other people too! Let’s honest - what have you found about others online that has shaped your impression of them? 

In a previous life I was a recruiter. Long, long gone were the days a firm handshake and taking someone at their word is enough to get a job. The checks I undertook were ex-tens-ive. No joke, they were something you’d expect of Homeland Security. This very much included Google searching and social media checks. It was my job to interrogate assess a candidate’s fit to the position and the company.

What could I possibly find that could potentially impact a candidate’s consideration for a job? Try mug shots and news reports, semi + fully nude photographs, racist / sexist / homophobic content, evidence of wild weekends including drink skolling / drug taking / unconscious photos. I’ve even caught out lies and inconsistencies on CVs and info told to me in interviews! You name it. I’ve seen it. And if I can find it, so can everyone else. Of course if that is the image you are trying to project – though it physically pains me to say: go for it! But for the rest of you trying to establish some sort of credibility, authority, professional and authentic image, it’s time to get serious about creating an epic personal brand.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Oprah Winfrey? Kim Kardashian-West? Sir Richard Branson? Martha Stewart? Coco Chanel? Warren Buffett? Ellen Degeneres? Walt Disney? Of course you have! What comes to mind when you hear each of their names? Those are the attributes that help comprise their personal brand.

Many of today’s most identifiable, enduring, affluent brands are the personal hallmarks of identities and entrepreneurs who have built their reputation and wealth with their great hair faces, personality and expertise at the forefront of their brand. Love them or hate them, they have emerged as popular or respected authorities and experts, influencers, thought leaders and innovators in their fields.

Even individuals need to develop a brand for themselves …. Whatever your area of expertise, you can take steps to make people think of YOU when they think of your field – Accelepoint Webzine

Good news: you don’t need a herd of PR + branding experts to manage ‘your brand’ (though these tips are designed to help you look like you do!). You’re probably in some way already doing it without realizing it.

Building a brand need not be headache inducing or terrifying exercise! Let’s begin with 5 steps you can start from today (with bonus actions you can tackle further down the track). Remember, above all else, be creative, be real, be consistent, be you.

1.      Get To Know Yourself

NOW: Create a mission statement outlining who your audience is and what you want to achieve. What do you want to be known for? What do you believe in? What are your strengths (and weaknesses)? What makes you different, distinguishable from other people? Write this down. Use your natural tone and your voice as you would in person. You don’t want to sound like two different people online and in real life!

2.      Digital Audit

NOW: Update your online/social media profiles | Clean up unfavourable posts/content | Ensure your email address is professional.

LATER: Write a bio | Consistent branding across all platforms | Professional photography | Own domain name | Create a portfolio | Testimonials.

3.      Create Value

NOW: Begin regularly posting, commenting and sharing valuable content | Join relevant communities or groups | Participate in online forums + chats.

LATER: Blog | Write articles | Create communities | Offer your knowledge freely | Collaborate.

4.      Get Personal

NOW: Be on the lookout for potential networking opportunities + speaking engagements (and seize those that are a good fit!),

LATER: Teach classes / workshops | Business cards | Volunteer your skills and expertise to a worthy cause or group | Project work | Become a mentor.

5.      Learn, learn, learn!

NOW: Monitor for feedback | Handle criticism and rejection graciously | Keep up to date with what’s going on in your profession/industry.

LATER: Plan | Be a student of your craft/profession and keep learning + developing | Engage a mentor, influencer, expert in your field.

Building an authentic personal reputation is much like building a business or career: it is a marathon, not a sprint.

Creating a brand that is truly genuine and authentic to who you really are is as liberating and exciting as it can be daunting. Don’t be intimidated by putting yourself out there. People connect with people, so be real, be vulnerable, be human! Knowing who you are, living the values you espouse, presenting your image in its truest form is what attracts the sincerest personal connections, draws dream opportunities from ideal employers, and invites loyal clients, customers and colleagues to you.

To embrace who you are is to champion your (epic) personal brand.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – what fears or barriers are holding you back from building an effective personal brand?  

Stacey Murray is the founder, and Chief Partner in Crime at Her Signature Life. She believes we all deserve to make a living doing what we truly love.

During the day Stacey answers to Master T, her one year old boss. By night, she talks incessantly, teaches passionately and writes crazily to support other creatively skilled + professionally trained mothers striving to build meaningful businesses and careers. Also a chaos tamer in training, keen traveller, Game of Thrones tragic, and aspiring cider taster. Say hi on Twitter or Pinterest!