Mastering Business Basics with the Computer Arts Design Studio Handbook

Computer Arts Design Studio Handbook

Computer Arts has been killin’ it lately with their handbooks and the recently released Design Studio Handbook is no exception. Whether you’re a creative that’s always dreamed of running your own studio or you already are, this guide is for you.

This issue covers all the juicy business details that I’ve often found to be scarce in detail when searching online. Topics covered include what it takes to launch your own studio, managing money matters, how to be more efficient, how to win more work, the nitty gritty of dealing with clients, advice on building the perfect team, creating an awesome studio culture and more. Even better, a resources section is included in the back of the guide with links for startup advice, basic business information, the best design blogs, events and of course, books. Everything you need to acquire essential business savvy is at your fingertips. Pretty awesome.

In the first chapter about launching your own studio, that pesky document a lot of designers tend to skip over when launching their studios is right there, in a very simple breakdown: the business plan. With the design industry becoming increasingly competitive, this is a must-have. What I like most about their explanation of what to include is that all the jargon is cut out — which, if you’ve ever researched business plan how-to’s, is definitely the exception. Funding is also covered, as well as how to make your business legal.

Next up is money. Most of us creatives hate talking about it because it always feels a little dirty, like we’re admitting to not just doing a project for the sheer love of it. There’s no escaping it, though and the better informed you are, the better you’ll be able to manage your bottom line and heed off potential disasters. Setting rates is always a struggle — do you charge the same for a similar project scope but for very different clients? How do you build in pricing that takes into account your reputation and experience? This is all covered, including the basics of balancing the books (ugh)! Oh, and project management software options are also recommended.

As a studio, if you want to be profitable, efficiency is key. Time is money and the more efficient you can make your processes, the more time you’ll have to focus on the creative side of your business (which is what we all really want, right?) Understanding the basics of creating an automated workflow that functions in a similar manner for all of your clients is so important — the more informed they are, the easier it will be to manage their expectations and avoid disappointments.

Without new work, your studio will grow stagnant. But the process of how to win it can be a little fuzzy. This guide details how to spot opportunities and what to consider for your pitch. Pitching takes a lot of research, polish and confidence and it’s important to know what to include so you have the best shot of winning.

Computer Arts Design Studio Handbook

And without clients, your studio wouldn’t exist so it’s important to take care of them. After all, word of mouth is a powerful thing and happy clients create happy referrals. Managing expectations and giving them what they want (before they even know it) is key. The basics to building long-term relationships are covered and I especially agree with the tip to “become irreplaceable.” That, my friends, is key. But not all client relationships are meant to work out — understanding how to choose them wisely and recognizing red flags will take you far.

Finally, for a studio to grow, it takes a team. Understanding how to expand it in a healthy, flexible manner will keep you from becoming overextended both mentally and financially. With employees comes a whole set of laws so understanding what you’re responsible for before you get in over your head is also important. And, once you have a team in place, you need to take steps to keep it (thank god that’s covered as well)!

I adore these guides (remember, I covered the Design Student Handbook a few months back?) because the information is very straightforward and avoids fussy language that only accountants and lawyers can understand. I love that these issues are written by creatives for creatives. Computer Arts constantly knocks it out of the park — while beautifully designed, their publications are never just about the ‘pretty’ — I always feel like the business side of design is demystified and for that, I’m forever grateful.

Images: Computer Arts Design Studio Handbook.

Tools of the Trade #10: Spice Up Your Placeholder Text With Meet the Ipsums

Tools of the Trade

I’ve been tackling a number of web design projects lately and truth be told, using the Lipsum Generator to fill up my layouts was getting old. I wanted some personality splashed into my placeholder text!

Thankfully, a friend just introduced me to Meet the Ipsums, which is an aggregator that pulls together all the eccentric ipsums from across the internet in a beautiful, easy to navigate interface. Of course, there’s something for everyone — cupcake ipsum, cat ipsum and cheese ipsum just scratch the surface!

There’s nothing like injecting some fun into the mundane and Meet the Ipsums does just that.

What’s your favorite ipsum of bunch?

Images: Meet the Ipsums.
Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here

What I Wore: 7.21.13 | Coming Up Roses

What I Wore: Coming Up Roses

Yesterday we spent the morning walking through the rose test gardens in Ladd’s Addition. This dress has been in constant rotation in my wardrobe over the last month (see here, here, and here) and especially while traveling since it’s wrinkle-free. There’s nothing worse than opening a suitcase to a jumbled pile of wrinkled dresses with no iron in sight!

What I Wore: Coming Up Roses

And have you checked out the shoe sale on Zara? They have a lot of nice, affordable sandals left. These got a bit damp as I ran through the rose gardens but hey, it was fun!

What I Wore: Coming Up Roses

I like that this dress has no zippers or buttons — no fuss! Just throw on and go. Ladd’s is only 10 minutes from my house but feels like a whole different world.

What I Wore: Coming Up Roses

I wore:

ASOS textured dress
Zara combination wedges
H&M tights
Gold Door woven bracelets

P.S. Jess Lively just interviewed me for her Design Your Business feature and I shared five key ways I run mine with intention. Check it out here!

A Photo Booth and Booze Filled Afternoon: The Blogcademy New York Meetup

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

I’ve always felt that the biggest benefit of hosting a workshop in person is that it fosters so many meaningful, real life connections. We’d all like to think (myself included) that we can drum up endless business relationships and friendships online but even if they begin there, the real solidification happens the second you meet that person face-to-face for the first time.

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

While the private forum we keep for all Blogcademy graduates to participate in is great (there’s the opportunity to mingle with women who weren’t necessarily in your class), we still feel strongly that taking anything to the next level means meeting in person.

When we were in New York, we set up a lunch date with the first group of New York graduates from last October and invited along any other blogcadettes who happened to be in town. And it went swimmingly — this colorful bunch kept us entertained for close to three hours!

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

It helped that the restaurant, The Smith in the East Village had a photo booth tucked away in the basement, delicious food and drinks….and a peephole hidden in the wall full of naughty vintage movies we later found out about!

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

I loved the meetup because it was an opportunity to get to know some of the women a whole lot better and to catch up on life — we chatted about relationships, jobs and balancing a laundry list of commitments with blogging and trying to find that often fuzzy balance.

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

Having the opportunity to meet up with that first group of girls again was really special — they believed in what we were doing from the beginning. There were no videos, no testimonials and our overview was a lot less defined than it is now. They put their trust in us and by buying up all the available seats in 6 days flat, allowed us to make our dream a reality and I will forever be grateful for that.

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

Even though that first class was far from perfect, the women in attendance dutifully filled out surveys and their feedback helped make the class what it has become. I remember how nervous we all were on that first day — there’s no way around that feeling when you’re doing something for the very first time. No matter how defined the curriculum is, how polished the workbook is or how much you’ve planned for every possible scenario, you never know how it’s all going to go over until you’re there in person.

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

Watching that first class grow has been immensely rewarding. One of the big success stories has been Latanya Rene of Sprinkles and Booze. When she attended our class last October, she didn’t even have a blog yet — and now, it’s her full-time gig! Of the experience, she said:

“I realized that the Blogcademy was more than just a two day workshop but a sisterhood. I already had an overwhelming feeling of unity between all of the wonderful women I have met and continue to meet because of the Blogcademy. This feeling is so strong. Like, Incredible Hulk strong.”

Latanya Rene

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

And that’s were the real power is — women forming relationships that begin with a common interest in blogging but blossom into so much more.

Another London Class Just Added

Blogcademy New York Meetup at The Smith

There’s another big announcement today! As of last night, we officially sold out our upcoming London workshop and made the decision to launch a second date while we are in town. It will be taking place Thursday, September 5th and Friday, September 6th. This weekday class is ideal for creatives including freelancers and wedding industry folks who just can’t swing weekends.

Feel free to register here for our weekday class and shoot us any questions you may have at headmistresses @ And remember, if you’re on this side of the pond, our last date in the U.S. takes place in Austin in August and we have a few seats left.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you on the road!

Photography: June Cochran
Location: The Smith

The Week In Pictures: 7.19.13

The Week in Pictures

The Week in Pictures

How was your week? The highlight of mine was picking out this bench for our backyard. Until now, we haven’t had any seating at all so this is a much welcome addition. We used some leftover yellow paint from another project on it and tucked away in a shady corner, it’s the perfect place to lounge.

The Week in Pictures

These are a few of my favorite things at the moment: I’ve been a fan of Alphabet Bags for a long time and they sent along these adorable heart pouches for our New York workshop — I use mine as a makeup bag. It’s always a good day when I check my P.O. box and have sweet postcards and letters waiting. This one was from my friend Melissa. After chatting online for 5 years, we finally got to meet while I was in New York. I am still constantly wearing that silver ball necklace from H&M — it always livens up a basic black t-shirt. These Dries Van Noten sunglasses are the only ‘nice’ pair I have…yet I always seem to forget them when I travel! And when it comes to lipsticks, I’m always a fan of NARS Love Devotion and Heatwave.

The Week in Pictures

Last Friday, my dad took me out on the town (which meant a lot of ice water — no alcohol was allowed on my cleanse) and our third stop was my favorite by far. I looooove the Backstage Bar, which is actually the backside of the Bagdad Theatre. The ceilings are actually much higher than what these photos show (seven stories!) and there are vintage chandeliers everywhere.

The Week in Pictures

While I’m a fan of most of the McMenamins properties, this is such a sweet little hideaway — if you’re visiting Portland anytime soon, add this to your must-see list.

The Week in Pictures

This is my favorite little corner of my office. Big bunches of flowers from Trader Joe’s always liven things up. Below are my flat files which hold everything from proofs to notebooks to supplies. The print is by Antigirl.

The Week in Pictures

If you need me…I’ll be right here.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Hell Has Officially Frozen Over: I Did a Cleanse…and I Liked It

The Clean Program Cleanse

Up until two weeks ago, I’d never done a cleanse in my life. Or, been on a diet. While self-control and focus come easily to me in my professional life, with food, it’s always been a different story. If there’s a basket of bread in front of me at a restaurant, you can bet that I’ll polish off the whole thing. If there are pastries sitting out, I’ll eat two without a second thought.

Overall, I’ve gotten lucky and managed to slide by with little effort while still fluctuating (give or take 10 pounds) near the same weight I was when I graduated high school in 2000. But internally, I knew that I wasn’t operating in top form. I just lived with that feeling, though because my clothes fit and I was low on motivation. While that bread basket was damn delicious every time, I’ve never, ever had a flat stomach (I jokingly refer to it as my “energy pouch”). I just assumed it was the way I was built.

Sometimes, the right people enter our lives when change is needed and in April, I met Dhru and Kaya Purohit at our LA Blogcademy. Lithe, clear-skinned and possessing energy by the bucketload, I wanted to know their magical health secrets. Soon enough, I found out that they were part of the Clean Program. I wasn’t necessarily ready to take part but a few weeks later, a brick-sized box arrived on my doorstep filled with their vanilla shake packets.

Was that enough to convince me to change my ways? Not quite. I’m a tough sell. And stubborn! The box of Clean goodies sat untouched in my office, taunting me for a solid two months.

But then, I hit the road again. Sprawled across the couch in our rented New York apartment and too tired to go out and fight the suffocating humidity after teaching our workshop, Kat, Gala and I ordered Thai take-out and gleefully watched Behind The Candelabra. We did the same the next night. And, again. By the time I was hopping on a plane to Minneapolis, my skinny jeans were waaay snug (haha).

Vowing to get back on track (when you’re traveling, you know how hard that is!), I ordered the local fish for dinner my first night in Minneapolis. But I forgot that when you’re in the Midwest, everything seems to be breaded or deep fried. Everything. Then, the stream of bagels and lattes crept in as our early mornings teaching the workshop set in. Of course, when you’re in those parts, deep-fried cheese curds and kitschy mix drinks named after Prince are around every corner and who am I to say no to such delicious delicacies?!

Needless to say, I was relieved to get back to Portland where my husband, a diehard vegan for the last 20+ years, does all of our cooking. While that helped, I still felt pretty gross and lethargic. The thought of anything fried made my stomach turn but I still devoured plenty of buttered toast and downed many lattes as my schedule sped up.

The Clean Program Cleanse

After a few days back home, Kat and Gala both emailed me, saying that they were feeling pretty icky post-vacation too and suggested that we all try the Clean Program together. Okay, okay. Fine! I’m super competitive and I wasn’t about to be the lone loser. So I chugged the vanilla shakes every day, denied myself alcohol, caffeine or processed foods and stuck with nearly all fruits, veggies and nuts (like I said, hell froze over).

Day one was a breeze. “What?! This is NOTHING!”

Day two wasn’t so kind as I struggled through a splitting headache all afternoon. Was it the caffeine or sugar withdrawals? Probably both.

By day three, all I could mutter repeatedly to Joey was that I wanted a bagel.

By days four and five, I was beyond sick of subsisting on veggie soups and salads, even though I admitted that they filled me up and I did feel healthier. The night of day five was the most fun challenge: I went out on the town with my dad and three bars later, I’d managed to avoid alcohol completely. Sipping ice water in Portland’s hot spots is cool (or, at least that’s what I told myself).

The weekend didn’t even faze me — days six and seven I was so busy with projects that I didn’t have time to dream of my old vices.

Lessons Learned

Now that my foray in clean living is up, I’ve learned a lot about myself:

1. The bloat I’d always had in my stomach was indeed diet-related, not genetic as I’d assumed. Within three days of kicking bread, it was the flattest it’s been in years.

2. Anything worth doing is hard. I kept putting off diet changes because I’m not overweight but I was missing the bigger picture: it’s not about just about weight, it’s about HEALTH.

3. I realized that since Joey does all of our cooking, I was actually already eating “clean” about 75% of the time. It was just a few extra additions that were making me feel like a garbage disposal (mmm, pastries).

4. I made too many excuses about being busy and often skipped walks with Joey and Rocky. Since doing Clean, I just get up and go. That bit of exercise clears my mind and I do feel better.

5. A week (or two or three) is a manageable enough chunk of time to make changes and if you don’t like them, you can revert back to your regular routine.

In Closing

Will I do a cleanse of any kind again any time soon? Probably not. I’m focusing on moderation so that I don’t feel deprived but I’m much more aware of what I’m putting into my body. While doing a cleanse was a good way for me to jump-start new habits, it’s not a manageable way for me to exist long-term. I just want to feel healthier and by being more aware, I know that I can keep up on the basics I learned by eating clean. I can live with that.

I want to know: Have you ever done a cleanse? Did it help you jump-start new eating habits for the long run or did you revert back to unhealthy habits the second it was over?

Special thanks to the Clean Program for providing me with the tools to jump-start my diet for the better. All opinions expressed are my own. Photos by Made U Look.

Link Love: 7.18.13

link love

link love

Source: Raw Color

• I love Alexandra Franzen’s collection of 21 mantras for people who are feeling completely overwhelmed.

• Fancying up old bottles and jars with a few coats of spray paint and reusing them as vases is a fun, easy project.

• I am a HUGE fan of Moo Luxe business cards (we use them for The Blogcademy) and they’ve just expanded the line to include notecards, postcards and minicards in the same amazing quality!

• Bottom shelf nail polish names made me laugh.

• The folks over at Design*Sponge are talking about the luxury of taking time off and I like what they have to say.

• There’s a new free watercolor brush set set up at Pugly Pixel.

• Six steps for launching an e-course.

• Models with enviable personal style have instagram accounts, too. Here are the best ones to follow.

• I love seeing collections of people’s stuff organized by color. Sara Cwynar’s Color Studies series is awesome.

• What is stored in Facebook’s shadow profiles? More than you think.

• Fourth-grader Zachary Maxwell made a short documentary film about the lunch program at his New York City public school and it’s called Yuck.

• Could you write your autobiography in just seven words?