Archive for life

Projecting an Image

This week, as well as last, all of the ads seem to have been tied into President’s day. Presidential savings. Presidential trivia. Presidential this. Presidential that. That got me to thinking about image. Normally, of course, the president has a very specific image. He’s supposed to be above the fray of normal bickering, projecting a strong, confident persona that the country can rely upon and look up to in times of crisis or trouble. That doesn’t mean that you won’t see pictures of him walking his dog or playing catch. Of course you will. There’s not a president in recent memory that has missed these photo ops. It makes them one of us. An ordinary man.

Your business projects an image too. What kind might depend upon your business. Plumbers are more down-to-earth, sleeves rolled up kind of guys whereas a car salesman? Yep, that’s a suit and tie much more slick kind of presentation. Everything of course ties into your company’s brand. That’s what conveys the overall image of what your company is all about.

Personally, I like that my business demonstrates a personal touch while maintaining a professional demeanor. You’re always going to be able to reach me, I’m always going to get back to you but I can play with the big corporate boys having worked on everything from mom and pop business materials to global corporation’s collateral materials.

What does your business presentation say about you? If you haven’t looked at it in the while here’s a fun and productive way to see what your current image is. Take your collateral material and toss it on a table. Does it all project the same brand? Is is a cliché for your industry? I love thinking more creatively and not having to have a picture of money if you’re a banker – what about the people you provide services for? Use pictures of them so that they relate to your services. Does it need a bit of freshening up? Are your designs innovative and exciting or are they boring and overused?

Take a minute and see what your customers and clients see. Then call me. I can help you project the image that you should be. Let’s talk…

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

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Balancing Act

As a business owner running a successful enterprise I can’t afford to have an employee mentality. There’s no such thing as punching the time clock and working 8:00 to 5:00. It seems like my work day is never done,always emails to answer, billing to catch up on, bills to pay, office supplies to purchase and an assortment of little things that just need to be done.

Add to that the last minute emergency projects that always seem to crop up, pushing aside what I had planned and my life could easily revolve around work, work and more work. I think like most business owners I want to project an image of the woman who can do it all, balancing work, family and leisure activities. Sometimes though, its the family and leisure activities that suffer. I really try not to let that happen.

There are times that my phone rings as early as 7:00 a.m. and as late as 11:00 p.m. Why? I’m not really sure. Maybe its because people know I work a lot – seemingly all the time. Maybe they just assume that I want to be be woke up early to answer a question that could easily wait until regular business hours. I don’t know. I did really question the new client who called at 1:00 a.m. to order business cards. Did they really expect any business to answer at that hour of the night? So I’ll be honest, there are times that I don’t answer my phone. I don’t answer when I’m in a meeting, when I’m on a crunch project that I need to finish and I don’t answer when I’m watching my son’s school performance. Then I’m an engaged in the moment.

I even schedule days off. Fun, adventure days to go and explore the world, recharge my creative batteries, take photos, people watch (great for a writer!) or just hang out at the movies with my son. I think those moments are important too. They help to make up for working until 1:00 a.m. and setting my alarm for 3:00 a.m. to finish a project that my client ‘forgot’ they needed until the day before a big presentation.

There are times it feels like walking a tightrope trying to keep it all in balance. I just end up weighing what’s important in my life and what has to be done right now. Like today. I have a list of projects to get done and my son really wants me to take a break and watch his dress rehearsal. I’m lucky. Lunch is now scheduled for 2:00 so that I can be there. Yeah, the lunch that I don’t normally take because I’m working. Like I said, it’s all about balance.

I am an addict…

Okay, I admit it. I have an addiction, a serious addiction. And I’m not going to do anything about it. That’s just the way it is. No apologies. No excuses. I like the way it feels when I do it. I’ve been doing it for years and there are times when I don’t do the things I should do because I’m doing it.

I fed my addiction today and I feel so much better. I just can’t help it. I went to the bookstore to pick up a book on origami for an art class that I’m teaching on Saturday and to have on hand for my regular art students and there, right in front of me…I was too weak to resist. I picked up one and then quickly snatched up another and by then I didn’t care, when I saw the third and fourth ones I tucked them under my arm and sauntered in to find my origami book. Finally I found it but not before I’d put a fifth one in my hands….books.

Now, before you get upset and think I should have used some control and not over-indulged, in my own defense, four of them were buy one get one free, so really, was it that bad? I knew when I went there it would be almost impossible to resist getting some for myself. I could barely contain myself, I wanted to read them all at once. I wanted to devour the words, savoring the smells and feel of the pages, the delectable words waiting to dance around in my head.

I am a book addict. I’ve been one since I learned to read. I read when I’m getting dressed. I read when I’m cooking dinner. I read in the restroom. I read in stolen minutes waiting in the car to pick up a child, at the doctor’s office and when I should be sleeping late at night. I am intoxicated by the places and the people (they ARE people, not characters!) that inhabit the books and my mind when I read them.

I am an addict. My addiction doesn’t hurt anyone, right? As long as its only me that suffers with this problem then I see no need to get help. So what if I read product packages? Its okay, right? I speed read so I can read more, so much more quickly. I need to read. I have to read. I will read..

I have to go now. There are five new uncracked book spines in my house, books waiting for me to read them. Blogs online asking for me to read them.

My name is Debby. I am an addict….

Out With the Old, In With the New

It’s an expression that I’m sure you’ve heard before. You have probably even used it yourself a few times, “out with the old, in with the new”. Would you use that when referencing your clients? Of course not! But now, ask yourself this, do your clients feel that way? Or do they feel like the attention and time that you initially gave them has dwindled, and that you’re spending most of your time with new clients?

It’s a tricky thing to cultivate new clients while maintaining solid relationships with long-term clients.Sometimes the thrill of the chase is so alluring that you forget to properly handle the relationships that you’ve had for years. You cannot sacrifice the relationship of a long-term client that you’ve worked so hard to build for a new client who might bring something new to the table.

It goes back to that old adage, “treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself.” While you may not need to spend as much time taking care of what your established clients need, you still need to let them know that you are there for them. You need to be sure that they are ‘feeling the love’ too. The more clients you get the harder that is to do, but just as when you were starting out, each client is highly important to your business. Without each and every one of them you wouldn’t have a business.

Offer specials to your established clients. Do something nice and unique for them, letting them know that you appreciate their business. You’ll be so glad that you did. And so will they.

New Beginnings – Plan Your Year

2011. A new year and new resolutions that won’t be kept. I have to say, I think at this point in time resolutions are really over-rated. I’m not resolving to do anything at all this year. Shocked? Don’t be.

While I’m not making resolutions what I am making are both personal promises to myself and a concrete business plan that I can really follow throughout the year. One of my first promises to myself was to step up my business and add a few more things to my plate. I know that initially concerned a few people in my life who were probably wondering where that would leave time for them. However the good, no the GREAT news is that with my business plan in place I’ll be taking more control over my time and my life and adding more hours essentially into my day.

I am so excited to be able to do this. The reigning post-it queen I am making a huge effort to work more efficiently by incorporating more digital lists (I do love several note apps I have on my phone and iPad for their new usefulness in my life) as well as making plans for every month in advance. As an example, I have a list of blog topics by week for the entire next year. Yes, that means I’m going to blog at least once a week on a consistent basis and share more marketing and design tips and tricks but the better news is that I won’t waste time while I ponder which idea to write about and wonder, “did I just write about that recently?” at which point I’m forced to go back and re-read all of my blogs for a while, killing whole hours in my day. Plus, and here’s a big plus, I can still blog spontaneous topics on other days of the week. Impulsively blogging is so much fun and I can still do it but now I WILL blog regularly. Wish you could see my smiling face! : )

Maybe even more exciting to me are the business plans that I’ve written for clients. Yay! We have a whole year of ideas that we can utilize to move their businesses forward. But you know what else we have? We have a plan…deadlines to get things off to print well ahead of an upcoming trade show. We have less stress in my life because all I have to do is look at the calendar and remind them about the project or be proactive and design it sending them off a draft that’s ready early. I positively love this because that just put me back into control in my life, gave me hope of more than one weekend off a year and extra hours into my day. Deb is a happy designer!

If you need help creating your marketing design plan for the year, let me know. I now have plenty of ‘extra’ time to help you with your work and reduce the stress in your life. You can email me at djohnson@debrongraphics.com.

It Must Be a Sign

I woke up this morning anxious and ready to paint and write. My fingers were itching to wrap themselves around a paintbrush, gliding the bristles through the nice, rich, wet thick paint. I could see the glistening strokes before I even opened my eyes. Long, flowing, perfect. Ahhh, such a blissful thought as my lashes fluttered open.

Along with that words danced and pranced around in my head. Lines of dialog floating around as characters chatted casually back and forth. “What a marvelous day this was going to be,”  I thought.  An amazing, creative Sunday.

That’s when my creative caravan screeched to an abrupt halt. Wasn’t there something I was supposed to do today? Oh, yeah….now I remember, I know what it is. No wonder I’m feeling so deliciously creative. I have floors to scrub. Laundry to wash and fold. A design project to get off to print. Christmas cards to write. Bathrooms to scour. I could feel my mood sinking, the creativity being sucked out like a vacuum cleaner stealing away my little creative projects that circled around in my brain.

But wait! Maybe not all is lost! A glimmer of hope fluttered across the horizon. Today was going to be a marvelously creative endeavor after all! There are three times and/or places that seem to always inspire me. Driving. Lots of great ideas and I’m so thankful for my little recorder to capture them. The shower. Did you know its really hard to write with soap on the shower wall and read it later? Cleaning house. Yep, something about cleaning makes me come up with lots of new ideas. Some might think then that waking up thinking creatively might be a sign that my house needs cleaning…I think its a sign that cleaning my house is going to lead to an amazingly wonderful, creatively filled day!

A Great Idea Just Demands Life

Okay, let’s face it. Some ideas are okay. Some are good. And some are great. The reality is that great ideas don’t come along all the time but once they have been conceived they grow and take on a life of their own. Yeah, sure, you can put them off for a while and try to ignore them. But they just won’t let you go that easily. Yes, I meant exactly that – THEY won’t let you go.

A great idea tries to be come a part of you, needling and prodding you to nurture it and let it blossom into the idea that it deserves to be. I know. I’ve had one of those ideas and I’ve stuck in a corner, stuffed it in a closet, hidden it on a shelf. Okay, not literally – just figuratively.

But my point is that I’ve tried to hide it away and it just won’t be hidden. It thinks that it deserves to see the light of day. It thinks that it deserves to be welcomed and allowed to grow into a full-fledged project.

So, if it’s so great, why am I ignoring it hoping that it will wither away and dry up into a small pile of insignificant dust to be swept away under the carpet or blown away by the wind like some dandelion? Hmmmm… now that’s an interesting question! The truth is that I just might be a little afraid to take a chance on success. I might not want to leap from a 20-story window without the promise of a safety net below.

What happens if I try and fail? What happens if I try and succeed? Perhaps both ideas scare me equally. And of that’s the case what is a girl to do?

Busily Bored…

Okay, let me start this with I have a LOT to do. My list of pending projects looks like Santa’s Christmas scroll. I could unroll it and it would bounce happily down the hallway, cascading down the stairs and continue going. I have a lot to do.

The problem? I don’t want to do any of the things that I have to do. I want to do something. I just don’t know what. Should I play a game on my iPad? Should I paint? There are gifts to make and craft shows to get ready for but “I’m not in the mood”.

The reality is that I’m just not inspired. I’m not feeling the creativity sweeping over me, surging through my veins begging to be released. Maybe that’s because I create for a living. Whether I’m designing a project, writing or painting, its all ‘work’. Now don’t get me wrong – I LOVE what I do. I am so lucky to be able to create for a living.

Just sometimes its hard to sustain that. Sometimes its hard to force yourself to sit down and begin the creative process. Once I begin the process takes over and the ideas spill forth like water tumbling from an island waterfall. Its the getting started that’s the hard part.

So I find myself reading everything I can find online. News stories that normally wouldn’t get a second glance become so captivating that I must read them. I have been bitten and infected with a deadly virus…

Procrastination. The enemy of all mankind and especially the creative mind.

Bombarded and Overwhelmed

I hear people say all the time, “I don’t know what to do”. Wow, that is NEVER my problem. My problem is that I just don’t know what to do next. It seems like the more I exercise my creativity the more I find to do. Well, that’s not exactly true. The more things find me.

Sometimes I literally cannot keep up with my notes and tickler file of ideas for projects ranging from stories to poetry to pictures and paintings. One little idea trickles into my thoughts, dancing and prancing as if to say “look at me” and before you know it that little idea is joined by its brothers and sisters and long-lost cousins – a bevy of ideas begging to be noticed.

It’s not so bad when I’m at the office in front of my computer and pen and paper but when I’m driving, well, it can be dangerous. Trying to juggle pen and paper while perched at a stoplight can be hard. Thankfully that hasn’t happened as much since I discovered its easier to use a small recorder. What a lifesaver.

I have been known to chant a story over and over, dashing through the front door, still reciting the dialogue over and over again in my sing-song voice, plugging my ears and violently shaking my head no as family runs to greet me. I have to commit the words to paper before they flitter off into the heather-filled mist.

Just having notes on scraps of paper in my ever-changing filing system doesn’t seem to make the little tykes happy. They demand to be created – for me to breath life into them, giving them substance and form. Not one at a time but all at once.

There are much worse problems that I could have. I could suffer from a barren wasteland, a dry and scratchy desert devoid of growth of any kind, cracked and dry and dying. I’m content to be bombarded and overwhelmed.

Do you ever have one of those days?

Do you ever have one of those days when ideas just keep bombarding you, bouncing around in your head, multiplying quicker than a group of rabbits in the spring? Well, today is one of those days!

Here I am all set to tackle the laundry, mop the floors and scrub the sink when suddenly I have ideas dive bombing me. What’s a girl to do? Being the creative maven that I am I guess I have NO choice but to put off those boring and mundane chores until I’ve grasped each and every little idea and safely tucked it away into its cubby hole, ready for use when I can implement it.

What a curse! : ) Forced to create instead of clean…its a burden that I must carry. Someone has to do it!

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