get in on patio season

patioseason-june

in case you haven’t heard, i’m hosting a little something called patio season, which is an open invitation to sit & chat, network, or mutually brain-pick during either morning coffee or afternoon happy hour. take me up on it, and all this [snacks above] and more can be yours. ha.

recently, someone i’d never met before answered the call and came for a visit! she’s a lovely person, a writer, and a neighbor, ana ottman. we chatted about running our freelance practices, managing clients, how and where we might hire each other if the opportunity comes up, and life in los angeles. i’m so glad she took a chance on coming to meet a new person for a patio chat! turns out, we have a lot of friends in common and have just missed meeting somehow within the same circles, but no more—we just ran into each other at LA creative mornings last week, and she has given me the low-down on where to get earl grey pie downtown.

ottman-card

so, conquer your fears, people! there’s no better way to get some in-depth networking done than a one-on-one conversation over snacks & drinks. let’s hang!

here’s how it works. choose a morning coffee [10:30am] or evening happy hour [5:30pm] appointment, tuesday, wednesday or thursday. tell me when you’d like to meet and what you’d like to talk about. if it’s open, i’ll make the drinks & snacks, you come over and we chat. about design, about business, about ideas, about food stuff–whatever, up to 2 hours.

AIGA blueprint: freelance

aiga blueprint: freelance
jason adam, mark leroy, heather parlato, spencer cross & petrula vrontikis. photo by paul dimalanta for aiga

last week, i had a blast participating on the aiga los angeles discussion panel blueprint: freelance! i was in excellent company, in concert with mark leroy of silver echo, spencer cross of tokyofarm, and petrula vrontikis of vrontikis design office, moderated by jason adam of hexanine.

i considered the many freelance debates and debacles i’ve been through in preparation, but it seemed once we got going, we really could have talked for hours. one great thing about running your own business is that you can always learn from 3 other people if you sit down and talk about it. everyone has a different experience or has learned some specific twist that can help ratchet the industry ever closer to best & ideal practices. jason kept us from picking apart the details of every point by moving the discussion along.

we talked about a great many things, and all kinds of questions rolled in. aside from saving your money, increasing your moonlighting till you can’t stand it and attempting to take your employer as a client, i think the most general statement about the great unknown can be summed up by these 3 steps of transitioning to freelance:

1. know yourself first. you will have to search yourself for your personal philosophy about how you want to run your business. you’ll draw on past experiences, books and articles you’ve read, inspiration from mentors, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you want things to go. you’ll decide on your market positioning and your mission statement, and you’ll brand accordingly.

2. get prepared. knowing yourself is a good start, but you’ll want to check with industry references and standards. find out the main styles of business and see where you fall. learn about book keeping, accounting, tax qualifications, project management, legal specifics that pertain to design and intellectual property. learn all this stuff you don’t know!

3. learn on the job. the first two steps only describe the situations you can imagine—but the business world is all ready to throw you a bunch of curve balls you haven’t considered. there will be intricacies you haven’t prepared for, questionable situations that don’t point to a clear answer [or maybe they do and you’re just mired in it enough you can’t see it yet], interactions that make you question a policy or contract line. and so be it. you will learn what you didn’t know, you’ll consult your network, you’ll make a valuable mistake that informs your future, you will grow, and you will keep on truckin!

blueprint-4panelists
if we look happy, it’s because none of us have bosses! thanks so much to paul dimalanta for the great photos.

with that said, if you have a specific question about something, email me!. in the meantime, here’s a recap of the resources we all talked about:

jason’s recap:
on the hexanine blog!

mark’s resources:
win without pitching manifesto
the brand gap by marty neumeier

petrula’s resources:
lynda.com class running a design business: freelancing

spencer’s resources:
AIGA professional practices in graphic design by tad crawford
design is a job by mike montiero
the education of a design entrepreneur by steven heller
graphic artists guild handbook: pricing and ethical guildelines
talent is not enough: business secrets for designers by shel perkins
california lawyers for the arts
join the spencer-founded kernspiracy list: kernspiracy.com

my additions:
creative freelancer conference, blog & events!
the designer’s guide to marketing & pricing by ilise benun & peleg top [check their blog too]
freelanceswitch.com blog
smashing magazine’s legal guide for designers, check their blog too!
jessica hische’s thoughts on getting freelance work and the dark art of pricing once you have it.

and a couple of my own interviews:
freelancing 101, 102 and 103
creative freelancer blog’s interview with heather parlato on freelancing

recent work: wilcox look book

wilcox look book 2013

the latest project to emerge from natural curiosities founder, christopher wilcox, is simply: wilcox, a clean and modern look at art, design, fashion and music all made by hand in their echo park studio. we played with different aspects of telling this story, and settled on these dye explosions as a unique take on process that also keeps the bright color pops of this brand alive.

after a late-2012 soft launch with a blog introducing the showroom space at HD Buttercup, a full e-commerce site is just around the corner.

see more recent work here.

recent work: skift

skift.com 13 trends that will define travel in 2013

It’s been exciting to watch Rafat Ali launch his latest startup, skift.com, a news source on the business of the travel industry, reporting on everything from airline mergers to niche travel apps. For their 1-year anniversary, we created this interactive trend report for distribution at the outset of 2013, a collection of articles with full click-throughs to citations and resources. They reported very positive feedback, and I’m very happy with how it turned out. Interested in what these 13 trends might be? download a copy here.

Interactive pdfs are a great alternate tactic to direct traffic or email marketing, since you get the chance to reorganize information in a different way than you might have it online, creating new value for the reader. Also, there are those who prefer to read a 15-page report over sorting relevant items in a blog, though now with the information arranged as a trend report, these same readers are far more likely to visit your site through the relevant links provided. With InDesign, these documents offer total design flexibility and look far better than something whipped up in word, or [gasp] a presentation deck standing in for its presenter.

see more of our recent work here.

thoughts on branding, a round-up!

in place of the usual wednesday creative inspiration, i’ve collected a nice handful of articles on branding i thought i’d share, to bring others in on the experience, and get people thinking about what the next steps are with their own strategies. if you’re new to the idea of branding, i’ve got some great primers here and in my newsletter.

+ for the quick and easy: 3 hot design & branding ideas to boost summer sales from how magazine.

+ for the more in-depth how-to: great brands are about fusing product and service, how do you do it from fast company design.

+ for looking at new ways to tell your story: mining your brand for stories from my buddies at hexanine.

+ for fine-tuning your touchpoints: the personality layer from smashing magazine.

+ for thinking beyond brand: branding talk isn’t helping your company, here’s what should replace it and its follow-up, why branding is an artifact of the past from fast company design.

case study: re-imagining natural curiosities

natural curiosities identity package

For the past 7 months, I’ve been hard at work with Natural Curiosities, a collective of artists and artisans working under the creative direction of Christopher Wilcox in a beautiful studio in the Jensen Recreation Center, here in Echo Park. They have evolved from roots in archival giclée printing and silk screen to application and specimen art, gold & silver leafing, aging and paper treating, and hand watercoloring. They have a specific aesthetic celebrating a time when both scientists and artists were constantly observing and cataloging nature, and they’ve brought this around from archives of illustrations to three-dimensional recreations and objet d’art. With all these new developments afoot, it was time to do a little identity refresh, and refocus the web site on communicating all the exciting news in more of a real-time way.

brand exploration

Starting with research, we did a full company-wide brand exploration. You never know what you might find when you interview everyone in a company, but it was exciting to see how passionate everyone was about their work and the family environment in the art house. They all offered great ideas and perspectives that we incorporated into a report, and further refined into a brand brief to guide the project. Natural Curiosities had already developed a lovely logo and wordmark, so the job of standardizing its ratio, lockup, and uses was easy.

identifying the challenges

The main goals boiled down to 2 things: create a marketing strategy that would communicate the brand philosophy, and design a web site that would serve both the marketing strategy and the clients. as a wholesaler, the clients of natural curiosities are partners and external sales rather than consumers, though the site is used as a catalog to consumers as well, and has to serve both markets seamlessly. The previous site was very strong on products, but needed more of a bridge to the promotional engine and client relations. Research told us that people really love interfacing with the staff and studio, so another goal was to bring more of that experience to the surface of all communications. On the technical side, this site was built in Drupal and would stay in Drupal, but had to become far easier to update by employees.


natural curiosities home page

a dynamic, art-focused home page

One of the first challenges we faced was how to pull specific pieces out of the archive and showcase them. With a catalog as big as that which Natural Curiosities sells, even after a streamlining, we’re still faced with many collections and sub-collections, relying on the user to find them either by browsing or searching. In reworking the home page, we decided on a 5-image slide show, showing a full-screen close-up of any one piece of art that Natural Curiosities would like to feature, with each linking to the appropriate product or collection. Previews from the art house is their way of visually showcasing breaking news or exciting products, which is very easy to update on the fly.


natural curiosities art catalog

the art catalog

Our first task was to map out the art catalog, which was no small feat. Flow charts, graphics and full wall murals were involved! The general feeling was that the categories and collections were not intuitive enough, so we reworked the names, resorted the art, refreshed the overall collection [adding new pieces, retiring others] and stacked it into a grid of highly-colorful art folios to reiterate the sense of archive. This is a main landing page for regular site users, so it has become more inviting, and easier to use.


natural curiosities search & products

enhanced search and products pages

Another section ripe for opportunity was the search function, which wasn’t returning as many results as it could, and showed the results more like data records than art. We installed a module that would perform a wider search, give the user options to narrow the search by category, and suggest alternatives, with results coming in as large thumbnails for quick preview and selection. The product pages have been rearranged to be image first, support information second for visually-driven clients. When authorized users are logged in, pricing and buying options appear here as well.


setting the mood

setting the mood

With clients in mind, we decided to add a design & interior-focused section to put art in context into the spotlight. This is a more extensive slide show which offers Natural Curiosities another way to showcase products, overlay editorial and cross-link styles from inspiration shots to related collections or blog posts. It’s also the first of a few more client-partnership aspects we’re building into the site.


explore & about sections

a look inside

Giving outsiders a look inside the studio, we created a section called explore which is starting out as a video gallery of art processes used at Natural Curiosities. The about section has given more weight to the story behind the formation of the collective, how they operate now, and the influence of the place as inspiration. Also featured in the about section is a retail location search, for retail customers looking to buy, and all the FAQ, shipping, privacy policy and terms & conditions information buyers may be looking for. These sections have been given the flexibility to grow as the art house has new things to share.


notes from the art house: the blog

a new & improved blog!

As another, more dynamic opportunity for communication, we’ve introduced a new blog with a unique layout from the rest of the site, and an editorial calendar to fill it with sources of beautiful design inspiration, product showcases, video posts and news missives. The blog is going to be a pivotal point of the communication strategy, as another place to bring clients into the natural curiosities experience.

+ Read more case studies here.
+ See more of our work for Natural Curiosities.

is your social media marketing working for you?

social media communities have been around long enough to have a first generation in their wake, so it would seem we’ve all had enough time to learn their ins & outs. while many of us have mastered the art of staying in touch, i’m seeing a common thread among clients and colleagues alike: many of them are spending more time creating content and cross-linking these communities to each other than whipping them into the marketing strategy they came for in the first place.

sharing content online is all kinds of fun, and a great way to raise awareness, but using it for marketing should always be part of a bigger plan to connect back to the content you create on your own site. if you’re spending all your time creating awareness on social networks without consistently linking back to your home base, you’re working for them—for free. that’s not what you got into business for! but hey, it’s okay — you can turn the tables anytime and start making them work for you.

best practice vs. a common example

marketing in the social media arena should be an all-roads-lead-to-rome strategy by the most direct route possible. think of it like a multiple funnel system, where each funnel is a social community designed around a unique aspect of how people like to communicate. creating awareness about your business or projects is as simple as participating in the communities that suit you best, and periodically saying “hey guys, i’m doing something cool, come take a look” with a link to the most relevant landing page on your site. participation and link strategy should look like this:

best practices for social media marketing link strategy

however, that’s not always the case. what i often see when i analyze a social media campaign in need of help is that some link strategies are sending users to 2 or 3 different communities to get piecemeal information, with links to the main site infrequent at best. the mistake here isn’t just that you never get eyeballs on your site, it’s can also be a turn-off to your audiences too. each of them have made a conscious choice about the community they prefer, and would be a lot more likely to check out your site than trek around to communities they don’t like. here’s what i generally find when social media marketing is a bit scattered:

example of a scattered social media marketing link strategy

lots of effort going everywhere but home

sites like facebook have so many tools to keep you busy creating content [for them] that it’s easy to spend all your time building photo albums and posting informative updates while forgetting to promote your own site. in their desire to compete, social networks provide apps for automatically updating other communities, which is really just traffic-poaching disguised as a convenience tool, giving you crappy-looking updates in the process. [ever seen a truncated facebook post & link on twitter? do your twitter followers even care about facebook anymore?] or sometimes, it’s just easier to think “but all my videos are on youtube, why not just send traffic there?” youtube subscribers may be a secondary benefit of hosting videos there, but the videos should be embedded and showcased on a relevant site page of your own.

don’t send your audience on a wild goose chase for your content. first thing’s first. put the time in on your own site or blog to make sure anything anyone would want to know about you or your business is easy to find. create the content you want to share there, around one main idea at a time, and then report on it in each social media community with a direct link back to your blog post, or relevant pages on your site.

put yourself first

the first place to generate content is on your own site. if you need to make regular announcements or have new and changing content you want to talk about and you don’t have a place on your site where you can do this, it’s time to get one [hint: i can help]. consider adding a blog where you can update revolving content. make your full announcement here first, with complete information and photos or videos, when applicable. this is what you’ll be linking to everywhere else.

the philosophy here is that you’re training people to learn that your site is where it’s at for any information they’d ever want to know about you. sure, they’ll catch your posts on twitter, facebook & tumblr, but after 3-5 times of clicking through to your site, they’ll make the connection that they can always find what they need on your site. and hey—people who don’t use ANY social media will be able to find it there too, imagine that!

choose your communities and let them know

write custom posts for each community, tailored to how each one showcases information best. i understand the temptation to save time by writing one great post in one place and let that service distribute it for you, but these distributed posts rarely look good elsewhere. often, they take your snappy teaser copy and truncate it to nonsense, replacing half of your sentence and any photo with a generic link [so they can advertise their great service to another sucker]. if you truly believe you don’t have time to write one sentence for each community you’re in, get honest about which ones are a priority. a half-sentence tweet that only links to facebook says loud and clear: “i don’t care about twitter.” keep your community members in mind, and write directly to them. “hey guys, i have something cool to show you, here’s why you might like it,” post your link, select the best photo preview if applicable, and send it off.

need an example?

i’ll walk the talk here for you. first, i wrote this article and posted it here on my blog. i usually write these articles as the main entrée to my newsletter, so i wrote and sent my newsletter. then i went to facebook and posted it on my business page. the same goes for linkedin, though they are tricky to link to, and google+. i created a shortened url so i’d have most of my 140 characters to tease it on twitter. if this were a creative inspiration post, i’d pin it to my pinterest board of the same name. i created my content and reached out to each community individually with a unique message to let them know about it, linking right back here. and at the bottom of this post, i let you know that you can get more useful info just like this in my irregularly-delivered newsletter.

but what about building community on each social network?

hey, there’s nothing wrong with adding to your photo albums and posting quickie updates without always linking to your site — AFTER you finish your self-promotion, that is. give your facebook fans photos to share, post instagram shots to twitter & tumblr, encourage conversations, share support information and press that links to other sites. blend these things in as you see fit, just make them secondary to your main objective…YOU!

have questions?

these are the basics, but there can be a few levels of social media engagement integrated into an overall marketing plan. my penchant for organizing these strategies is also a service i offer. if you need help figuring out how to implement a system like this or want to fold some existing efforts into an overall campaign, reach out and we’ll figure it out!

if you liked this article and want more like it, sign up for the parlato design studio newsletter for your monthly power shake of design, branding, marketing & promotion!

how’s creativity issue for 2012

how's creativity issue, may 2012
how's creativity issue, may 2012

it’s that time of year again, and i’m honored to say i’m back in HOW‘s creativity issue, compliments of ilise benun’s freelancing piece, fighting the crowd. it was humorous to come home from a morning meeting where i’m discussing picking up the pieces of a failed crowdsourcing experiment, to see myself quoted on the pitfalls of this practice.

fighting the crowd, by ilise benun
fighting the crowd, by ilise benun

awhile back, i wrote about why crowdsourcing not only isn’t the best choice for most businesses, it’s not the answer when you don’t have a budget. if price is the main thing on your mind, look further into what you can offer in trade. sometimes cross-promotion is an opportunity worth more than money to a well-paired team. read get design on a budget without a crowdsourcing contest here, or pick up the latest issue of HOW on newsstands this month!

get design on a budget without a crowdsourcing contest

crowdsourcing & design contest vs. partnerships and volunteer opportunities

so, you find yourself in the position of needing design services, with the little problem of not having a budget for the designers you want to hire. and maybe you’re thinking “hey, let’s have one of those contests where people will design stuff for us as part of a competition, and we’ll award some kind of prize for the winner!” why not, we’re seeing all kinds of larger brands hold crowdsourced design contests, and it seems like a good deal for everyone, right? well, i can understand the eagerness to want to jump to this conclusion, but there are a few problems here, not least of which is that there’s actually no real benefit to your winning designer. big brands don’t hold design contests for the purpose of supplementing what their creative teams can provide, and this is where smaller businesses stand to make mistakes when they emulate big companies. we’re all in this together, and we all have valuable services that can add to each other’s businesses greatly if we trade them strategically. there are smarter ways to get the things we can’t yet afford by searching ourselves for equitable trades and creating volunteer opportunities, and i’m here to set you on the path that’s better for everyone.

so, what are crowdsourced design contests?

by definintion, crowdsourcing is the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to an undefined large group of people or community (crowd) through an open call. When applied to a design project, the contest seeks to replace paid work with spec work, which is essentially work that is only paid for conditionally after completion if accepted, leaving the designer to put out effort on good faith of payment. [clue: professional designers usually work on a payment system, where a deposit and payments are made at project milestones along the way, not after.] the general feeling of the design industry is that spec work, including crowdsourced contests, are frowned upon. when a company decides to replace paid work with a contest, we talk about it and tend to agree it’s not worth our participation. believe me, designers are asked to work for free all the time, and unless you’re saving kittens for the greater good, or you’re my mom, we’d prefer it if you factor the cost of business into your budgets.

so, what’s the problem with them?

here’s what they look like: a company announces a contest to design them a poster or a logo or an ad, and after reviewing all entries, the company will select a winner who will get a prize of somewhere around 500 bucks. [clue: this prize is usually far below market value for the design work solicited] on the surface of it, it seems harmless, maybe even fun to the amateur on a lark, but let’s take a closer look. statistically speaking, the likelihood of winning is extremely slim. contests like these usually have legal provisions allowing them to take exclusive rights to ALL work submitted. if you were thinking of showing it in a portfolio as the winner or even as a contributor, think again—the company can demand you make no public reference to the work you did. so let’s get this straight: hundreds of people do the same job, one person gets paid below market value, and all of them get stripped of the ability to promote what they did. is this how we want to treat people who do free work for us?

so, why do big brands have design contests?

i’m of the firm belief that big brands have crowdsourced design contests for entirely different reasons than smaller companies, and that they’re not at all used for actually sourcing design. big brands all have budgets for the design they need done, and they know the value of having it done professionally. if they don’t already have a big in-house team, they have an agency they trust implicitly and use regularly. i promise you there are no creative meetings that result in the design team running in a panic to marketing, saying “we’re fresh out of ideas! quick—call in the public to help!!”

so, if they don’t need design, what are the contests for?

here’s where i’ll tell you a branding secret. creating a strong brand is about creating a lot of positive thinking around your company or product. designers start this by designing your brand for you, and you continue it by delivering good service and growing the brand in line with your core commitments. the reason good branding works is because allows the customer to project their strongest personal narratives when they interact with it. when i think about buying the running shoes i’ve been coveting, i think of myself a healthy person who likes running more than i do while promising myself i will go running more than i will. when a big brand launches a design contest, they get hundreds of thousands of people to think about advertising for them. even if they only get 5000 submissions, they may have gotten 50,000 people or more to imagine creating something for them—thinking positively about their brand—which is infinitely more valuable than getting free design. [clue: when they cast you in the role of their designer, they’re getting you to make positive statements to yourself about them—sneaky!] moreover, they can test the reach of their advertising and brand loyalty by seeing how many people participate. it’s actually a way to take the market’s temperature, get people rallied around them, appeal to our sense of narcissism [maybe i could win!], and get participants to take action in the name of brand loyalty. that’s the power of positive thinking, only they’re using your brains to do it!

the thing is, while we may write these contests off as publicity stunts, most people see them as legitimate, and they do a lot to create the perception that design is a simple thing that can be done equally well by anyone for about 500 bucks. with obama’s recent art works campaign [design of a poster in exchange for 1 signed copy of the limited edition print], common reactions to designer criticisms said “but this is volunteer work—just like the folks going door-to-door!” i’m sorry to say, but just because entry is voluntary doesn’t make it volunteer work. volunteers should have a connection to the effects of the work they do—that’s the rewarding feeling they’re working for. contests like this ask thousands of people to do work that no one will ever see, rewarding only 3 finalists—and not by using their art in the campaign, but merely selling prints in their store. they’re missing a bigger opportunity to show more of the work and celebrate being inclusive rather that just getting people thinking and talking. i could go on, but instead i’ll leave it at this: the design community respectfully asks bigger businesses to find more creative ways to increase brand loyalty than contests that cheapen the value of the design profession.

so, where does that leave smaller businesses?

here’s the big disconnect i see. while i’ve almost never seen the winning work from a big brand’s design contest [clue: big brands don’t break brand continuity for contest winners], there are lots of smaller companies and non-profits running similar contests for major parts of their branding. sometimes their logo, sometimes a major promotion poster—money-making promotional items they should budget in as the cost of doing business, but for whatever reason, they don’t. it might seem like a great benefit to the contest-holders to have hundreds of samples to choose from for the price of a prize, but you’re asking hundreds of people to all go through the same effort, rewarding only one. considering most professional designers abstain from participating, ask yourself who is even doing this work? unlike a big brand contest designed to excite people about a familiar brand, the participants of a smaller, lesser-known contest don’t have much to connect to. and anyway, do you really have time to review hundreds of mediocre samples, retrofitting a final choice into an appropriate brand for you? when small businesses do it, it looks a lot more like what it is: someone asking for something for nothing. there’s a much better way to get what you want without wasting the time and effort of everyone involved.

scrap the contest idea and get real

as i said before, we’re all in this together. we could be building lasting partnerships instead of trying to get stuff from each other for free while slapping the word “contest” on it. treat this work like what it is: a job. prepare a full creative brief and advertise for it with honest compensation. if you don’t have the budget to pay for it and you’re looking for an outright volunteer, say so, or start asking yourself what you can offer in trade and quantify these things in an offering. not empty promises of future work, unqualified referrals or portfolio building, because we’ve all heard that before, and they sound just like the lies they are. consider things you might normally charge for that have little overhead for you, that would be as valuable to your designer as their design work is to you.

dig deep and mine the value you can offer

for starters, you will want to take ownership of the work, but always allow your designer a credit in print on the piece, a link online [preferably in a “thanks to our sponsors” or similar credit], the right to display the work in a portfolio, and to enter contests for the purpose of garnering awards. [clue: this is what paid designers ask for, so it should be a given for in-kind trade work.] taking it further, write them a testimonial they can use on their site and on social media networks. if your site has a page of trusted partners or online advertising, link them up. if you’re in the business of putting on events where there is some form of collateral, offer them sponsorship placement on signage, an ad in the program book, and let them leave print matter for attendees to take. if you’re in a particularly related industry an there are speaking opportunities [say you put on a conference and have a panel your designer would be a good fit for, or if you run a trade show and can offer them a booth] see how you can work them in. if you deal in products or services the designer might be interested in, be open to offering an equitable amount of products or services in trade. make sure the things you’re listing have real value, and if you can ballpark what their monetary equivalent is, you can come up with a suite of offerings, perhaps a combination of promotion, service and product that comes in right around where the project fee would be. if you find a designer who is interested in these things, and whom you feel is a good fit for your design project, you’re in business! draw up a trade agreement of exactly what each party will do for each other, with a timeline for milestones and deliveries. lo and behold, we have reinvented the barter system!

what if i don’t think i have anything of value to trade?

hang in there kitty! if you’re in business in any capacity, you will have something to offer and probably just have to think harder, but if you’re not finding a designer who wants to take you up on your trade, start smaller. many new businesses think they have to come roaring out the gate with all the fancy collateral that larger, more established businesses already have in order to compete. here’s another secret: you don’t, because you’re not competing those businesses yet. start with what’s free and work your way up. can’t afford a web site? get all your social networks set up, add business pages and start communicating with people there. can’t afford a logo and identity? set your company name in a nice, clean, appropriate typeface, and make yourself a simple business card [clue: ask me for referrals on affordable printers]. look into networking events for small businesses, and for your industry, and get out there and talk to everyone you meet about what you do. tell them you’re just getting started, and you’re really excited about it. you can get much farther on good service and a good attitude with a simple identity than flashy design that attempts to cover unfocused service and untimely delivery.

…and save your money as you grow, because if you’re doing it right, you’ll have the beginnings of a brand promise people are eager to associate with visually, and for that you’ll need the budget for an awesome designer.