4 books for creative business owners

4 creative business books | dotted design

One of the ways I make sure to take breaks from client work is to keep a steady list of books to read. I try to keep a few light reads, a few business books, and a few creativity reads. With May quickly coming to its end, I’m starting to feel that mid-year urge to do some business planning and evaluation. I’m always looking for practical as well as unconventional inspiration and advice!

A few books on my list currently (a few I’ve read, a few I plan to read):

Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley: I keep seeing this one pop up on must-read lists, and I’m totally intrigued. I love that it is focused on the creativity in everyone rather than just “creative types,” since that I something I believe as well, and that it is all about problem solving. Bring it on!

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp: I loved this book. Tharp is a renowned dancer/choreographer who tells her story of staying inspired and the importance of developing routines. Great for anyone who feels like they get into creative ruts in art or business!

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk: I’ve heard this title mentioned in multiple podcasts, so now I’m just curious. This book focuses on the daunting task that is social media, and how one can have their story cut through the noise and reach their audience. We’ll see!

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei: This book is actually a collection of advice from 20 people about cutting out busywork and doing the work. Gotta love picking the brains of an entire group!

What have you read lately that really spoke to you? I’d love to add to my to-read list!

 

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life lately

House items | Dotted Design

The last month or so has been a whirlwind as B and I bought our first house! I can hardly believe that in two weeks, we’ll be homeowners. Part of me feels like we’re old people, but most of me is so excited to have a space that is our own. It’s a house built in 1927 that is teeming with charm and details, which is exactly what I wanted – I want to feel like the house has a history that we’re simply adding to, rather than the cookie cutter-ness of a brand new build with no trees. We’ll be just north of downtown Milwaukee in a beautiful old neighborhood with huge trees and walking distance to so many restaurants and shops. I’m dying to have a garden, lots of flowers, a dedicated room for my office (*happy dance*), a fireplace, room to host lots of people, and to take on decorating a new space.

While my days are filled with designing on screen for web and print, designing a home is a creative avenue I love exploring. I definitely suffer from “I want it all done immediately!” syndrome, so I’m trying to pace myself and really find items that I love and are meaningful. If it were up to me, I’d do the entire house in black, white, and gray, but luckily I have B to say, “Really? You want that room gray, too??”

I’ve been filling up Pinterest boards with items I’d love to have in the house so that we can prioritize what we need. I am in love with simplicity and neutrals (no surprise there) keeping the details in interesting shapes and our own photos.

Do you have a favorite place to scout for home goodies? Advice on home decor? Please share!

 

shop the items: diamond rug | hello mat | side table | coasters | round shelf | ampersand print | pillow | candles | hexagon mirror

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mood board: navy & white

moodboard navy blue | dotted design

One of my favorite parts of my design process is building mood boards. Today I’m sharing one for a brand that is sophisticated with a playful side. It will be feminine, but not girly, and just a hint of vintage. I am loving this navy blue palette with a touch of pale pink. We’re going to do some patterns and icons – so fun! Can’t wait to share more as this moves along.

 

photos via: pillows Fogal Brass Union No. Six Depot Oliver 

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small biz chats: Vanessa of Noirvé

Small Biz Chats - Noirve | Dotted Design

 

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Vanessa Gonzales of Noirvé. She’s a graphic designer with gorgeous style, and I’ve been following her freelance to full time journey on her blog while being inspired by her work for a long time. She’s got some inspiring insights to share today about building her business – let’s dig in!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
Noirvé is a one-woman design studio specializing in branding and website design for small businesses and bloggers. I love helping people and making them look good. : )

After gaining experience at a design agency where I eventually became creatively unfulfilled and freelancing during nights and weekends (which was exhausting!) I knew it was time to make a change and leap into new territory. I started Noirvé so I could be in charge of the work I create and the clients I take on.

 

Noirve on Small Biz Chats | Dotted Design

 

What were you doing before you launched your business?
Flashback to 2011 I actually went to culinary school for baking & pastry, it was during culinary school where I picked up graphic design while I was running my blog and taught myself Photoshop. After years of being self taught and taking on freelance projects I eventually landed a job at a design agency where I worked for a couple years to gain hands on experience. Then last September I left to pursue my business full time and have been loving every minute of it!

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
A lot of my very first clients actually came from the readership I had built up through my blog. Blogging has helped me grow in so many ways, I share bits of my life, my design projects, my process, and using blogging as a creative outlet has let me really hone in on my aesthetic and eventually potential clients see that. What has really helped my business grow is word of mouth. Past clients will refer new clients my way, other design pals will refer work to me if they have an overflow of projects, and I’ve also had people contact me who have found me on Instagram and Twitter. The internet is amazing.

 

Noirve on Small Biz Chats | Dotted Design

 

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
I’m currently obsessed with Pancake and Teux Deux. Pancake helps me keep track of invoices, clients and project management. I use Teux Deux every single day and love that it syncs with my phone. There’s also the Self Control app. If you’re like me, I get SO distracted during the day with social media. This app will block specific sites from you for a set amount of time which allows you to focus on work.

Noirve on Small Biz Chats | Dotted Design

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
I have absolutely fallen in love with designing websites for clients. There are so many options, and it’s so fun being able to come up with unique interactions and effects. It’s also great being able to collaborate with developers on how to make my designs come to fruition on the web.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Don’t try to do it all. If there’s an area in your business that you’re not good at, hire it out. I’ve seen so many business owners get caught up in trying to do every single thing, but sometimes it’s better mentally to just hire someone who specializes in areas where you don’t particularly flourish. For example, everyone freaks out about taxes, and I can’t recommend it enough to just hire a CPA! Especially if starting a business is new for you : )

Thanks to Vanessa for sharing her insights!

Find Noirvé online: Work  Blog • Instagram  Twitter  

All images are copyright Noirvé.

 

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tips for mixing typefaces.

tips for mixing typefaces | Dotted Design

Every typeface as a personality of its own. Finding ways to combine them is truly an art form. It’s often easy to spot bad combinations, but how do you figure out good combinations?

While there are no absolute rules, here are four quick guidelines for mixing typefaces:

  • Keep things simple. Just like you wouldn’t want to use 12 colors in a graphic or a brochure (unless it’s about a rainbow), the same goes for typefaces. When you have too many going on, it becomes distracting to the reader. Of course, you want your message to be legible. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 2-3 on any given project.
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    simple typefaces | dotted design

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  • Create contrast. If you use two typefaces that are too similar, it is going to look more like a mistake than an intention. The point of using multiple typefaces is to bring a different character into the project, so anything too similar won’t achieve that goal. It’s a good trick to try pairing a serif font (the letters have those little feet on them) with a sans serif font (straight edges on the letters).
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  • Use different weights. While you are pairing contrasting types, try using different weights to help create that contrast. Using two very bold fonts might feel like someone is just yelling at you, while using two very thin fonts might not create enough interest.
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    contrast typefaces | dotted design
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  • Keep the typeface personalities complementary. Just like people, you want your typefaces to be in harmony! While the styles and weights should contrast, the “vibe” should be in sync. You don’t want a Victorian-feeling typeface sitting next to a modern, sleek one. It creates confusion in the story your graphic is trying to tell.

personality typeface | dotted design

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While there are endless combinations to try, one bonus point is to make sure you aren’t a slave to trends. Just because you notice everyone is using handwritten typefaces doesn’t mean you have to as well, for example. Always make decisions based on what makes sense for your brand!

What are some of your favorite font combinations?

 

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current favorite podcasts.

Podcasts for Creatives | Dotted Design

One of my favorite ways to keep up on what’s happening in my industry and learn from others’ experiences is by listening to podcasts. They are great when you are doing any mindless activities, or you can listen while taking a walk or exercising. I still listen to many on the last podcast list I made, but I love discovering new or new-to-me podcasts. These are some of my current business favorites:

Being Boss: Hosted by Kathleen Shannon of Braid Creative and Emily Thompson of Indie Shopography, it’s for creative entrepreneurs covering all sorts of topics related to running your business. Their ongoing catchphrase is always “do the work” – so true!

Creative Start: This podcast features interviews with creative entrepreneurs telling how they got their start and built their business. My favorite was #12 with designer Anelise Salvo (no surprise)!

Elise Gets Crafty: This is one of those new-to-me ones – hosted by Elise Blaha Cripe, it features small business insights about motivation and creativity and how to utilize your time and skills. Love the one on introverts!

Creating Your Own Path: This podcasts shares interviews with all kinds of people in creative industries. Great for inspiration on not having to follow the typical path.

And a bonus, non-business one:

Invisibilia: An NPR podcast, it examines all the forces that impact human behavior. With storytelling and science, it looks into how ideas, assumptions, and beliefs all impact how we behave as humans. Interesting stuff!

What is your favorite podcast these days? 

 

 

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running a business as an introvert.

business as an introvert | dotted design

When many people think of entrepreneurs or people trying to build a new business, they often think of someone who is always talking to new people, gregarious, and even a master salesperson. I’ll admit: growing up, I never envisioned myself starting my own business or feeling comfortable talking about what I do since I consider myself an introvert. But guess what? That shouldn’t stop you!

Being introverted means you draw your energy from alone time rather than from time with other people. This doesn’t mean you hate people or that you prefer a life in complete solitude. It just means that after a period of time with people, you recharge with time by yourself, not having to talk to anyone.

Part of the reason why running my own business appealed to me was that I would have the ability to work on my own and focus without the interruptions and constant interaction with coworkers. The idea of talking with people on my own terms rather than whenever they showed up sounded amazing! It’s really transformed the way I work. (And now my extroverted friends are screaming, “A day without people?? How awful!”)

While my nature is great for getting work done, it presents its challenges when talking with clients or participating in meetings. Another introverted trait is that we feel best when we’ve had time to think through things before speaking, rather than offering words on the fly. We also tend to dislike small talk (we’d rather have deep, meaningful conversations, or I’d rather ride an elevator in silence rather than chat about nothing the whole way up!).

Both of these things can be important components of business – offering up ideas during a conversation, and getting to know a client – so how is one to handle this? I’ve got a few tips to help you out:

Write out any elevator speeches or summaries ahead of time. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than being on the spot, so I plan ahead by composing some “stump speeches” if you will about myself. It’s a totally normal question to ask at the start of a call, “So, what do you do?” or “What is your business about?” Rather than stumble to string together a cohesive story every time someone asks, take a little time to write out an answer that is brief and clear. Then, you’ll have that story in your head every time and don’t have to worry about speaking on the spot!

Take notes before a meeting or phone call. If you know what the topics of your meeting or call are going to be before it starts, take some time to write out some notes about the points you’d like to make or the questions you anticipate having. This can be in sentences, bullet points, or just fragments. It will help you visualize the things you’d like to say and in what way before you actually have to say them. This is especially helpful in difficult phone calls or when you need to explain something. You will sound confident and clear to your listener and feel less anxiety about what you’ll be saying while having the conversation. And, I always make sure that my clients schedule phone calls ahead of time rather than call me unannounced. This gives me time to feel prepared and organized so that it can be efficient and productive. Plus, then there is less time for rambling small talk while we figure out the point of the call!

Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Had a long day, and your friend texts you to meet for happy hour? If you are out of energy, don’t force yourself to get out! You will get depleted so fast if you are constantly meeting and spending time with people and don’t take your time to recharge. Set a date for the future instead. Or, if while on a phone call a client asks for answers immediately or wants a project done ASAP, learn to be confident in saying, “Actually, I need time to process this to give you the best outcome. Here is when you can expect it.” Don’t give in to someone else’s timeline when you know what it takes for you to deliver your best work.

Don’t be afraid to say “yes.” While it’s vital to give yourself time to recharge by yourself, it’s also important not to become a hermit. This is so easy when you are a solopreneur, especially if you work from home! Pick a day or a few days where you’ll meet someone for coffee in your field or go to a conference. It is all about the connections you make, and while making them online is fantastic, nothing beats connecting in person once in awhile. Just make sure you go home and recharge afterwards ; )

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you think that has affected how you do business?

If you want to read more, I can’t recommend these books enough:

Quiet: Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Charge Up: Build a Business and Manage Your Energy with Introversion Superpowers by Claire Deane and Allie Lehman

 

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small biz chats: Jessica Levitz of June Letters Studio

Small Biz Chats: Jess Levitz  | Dotted Design

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Jessica Levitz of June Letters Studio. She’s a graphic designer and illustrator who loves working with creative clients. I love seeing her illustration and sketching work, and she’s worked with clients like Vanity Fair, West Elm, Threadflip, and Yelp. She has a beautiful soft style with some gorgeous hand lettering skills as well. She has a great story to share – dig in!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
I am a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, working under the business name June Letters Studio. After several years working at tech companies as an in-house designer in San Francisco I decided to strike out on my own as a full-time freelancer. While working in-house, my requests for freelance continued to increase, and so after saving up some money and securing a few great freelance clients I took the leap!

jess levitz | june letters studio

What were you doing before you launched your business?
I was working as the lead visual designer at lingerie company True&Co. I designed everything from clothing labels to the website to printed packaging. It was a great job, but I knew that I truly feel happiest when I can work on many projects at once and from the comfort of home!

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
About six months before I took the leap to start my own business I did a major overhaul of my website and started blogging almost daily. I found that people started to pin my work and my readership grew very quickly. Most of my clients find me through Pinterest! It is really incredible what that platform can do for a visual business.

jess levitz | june letters studio

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
When I first started out I kept organized by writing out lists on random pieces of paper – this of course didn’t work for long! I now use Asana to manage tasks and projects. I also keep a (mostly) organized folder for each client on Dropbox. I like using Dropbox for my clients so that I feel confident I won’t lose their work!

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
I luckily love so many aspects of my job – but probably my absolute favorite thing is the sketching that I do at the start of a project. I love breaking out my paper and pens and just getting out as many ideas as possible. I feel so much more creative with a pen in my hand than when I jump straight to the computer.

 

jessica levitz | june letters studio

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Plan ahead and get some practice before you fully launch! While it is tempting to just suddenly quit your day job and pursue your passion, you will be so much happier and more successful if you plan your departure carefully. Write out a business plan, gather advice from friends and family, start a savings account!

Thanks to Jess for sharing her insights!

Find June Letters online: Website • Instagram  Twitter  Pinterest • Facebook

All images are copyright June Letters Studio.

 

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how to prepare for brand identity design.

prepare for logo design | dotted design

Yay! You have a new business. You’re so excited to get going and share it with the world. But first: you need a logo and a brand identity.

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses can make when seeking a new logo is working on it too early. Your brand’s visual identity is a reflection of what you stand for, the clients/customers you want to attract, and the product or service you will provide. If you aren’t sure what these are yet, then it is probably too soon to start working on the logo.

So, what should you know before reaching out to a designer to work on your logo and visual identity?

  • Why did you start your business? If you aren’t sure why your business exists or what you hope to accomplish, it will be pretty difficult to build a brand that reflects that. Know what you are offering and how it will serve your customer!
  • Who is your target audience or dream customer? Your visual identity will want to be something that resonates with this crowd and connects them with you or your products. Define who it is your business will connect with and serve, and this will help your designer build something that appeals to that audience.
  • What makes you uniquely able to provide this product or service? No matter how many other people are out there doing what you do, there is something that makes you distinct. Knowing these quirks or special angles of your business can help a designer translate that into the visual aspect of your brand.
  • Where will your logo be used? Maybe your business is all online, and it will live mostly on web pages. Perhaps you are a brick and mortar and it will appear on packaging and stationery. Having a logo that can adapt to all its applications is key to a successful identity.
  • Do you have any strong preferences about color and type? Maybe you can’t stand the color orange or you love when words are in all-caps. It’s no problem if you don’t have any strong feelings, but any that you do have should be mentioned up front. You’ll use your visual identity too much to have something you don’t connect with.

 

As you can see, knowing all about your business is essential to create and logo and identity that truly reflects what you do and connects with your people. What piece of information do you think is most important to share with a designer about your business?

P.S. My newsletter goes out this Thursday! Are you on the list? My word of the month is “focus” and there may or may not be a paper shop discount… ; )

 

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