Posted on 4 Comments

Being a Productive Creative on a Daily Basis

Productivity is a term I don’t use all that often, because I tend to think in terms of creativity rather than productivity. But beyond the semantics of it all, when it comes down to it, creativity without productivity equals procrastination. Yes, like most creatives, I could spend hours thinking about all sorts of designs and ideas. In fact, I tend to spend some time doing just that while falling asleep at night, and I guess that is ok for the most part. It’s during the day, when productivity should be the focus, that creative thinking alone—or anything else that becomes a distraction from being productive—can become a problem. Like Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Life presents many obstacles and distractions on a daily basis, so I decided to make a list of some of my most challenging ones and find solutions to tackle them on a daily basis as well:

1. The E-Mail Trap. Reading email can take hours, especially if you are like me and get work related email and personal message from friends, organizations, blogs, and loops you belong to. A lot of those email messages have links that you click on to read a post, go to a specific web page, fill out a form to support a cause, and so on, which in turn may lead to other pages, so before you know it you can find yourself surfing the web for hours. Yes, there is wonderful information to be found out there, but each minute you spend online is one productive minute you are losing for yourself.

My Solution: Scan your email messages earlier in the day and choose only the ones related to work, those that you need to reply to during business hours. Reply to those and close your email application. In other words, save all the non-work related email for the evening, and forget about it. You can quickly scan only for work related email during a break in your day, but avoid checking your email every 10 minutes!

2. The Facebook Trap. Whether it is to connect with friends and family or to promote a business, Facebook has become this huge social hub that everyone belongs to. Nothing wrong with that, as long as the time you spend on FB doesn’t take away from your productivity.

My Solution: If you have a FB page, visit it only once or twice a day, check if you have any new comments you need to respond to, post something on your wall if you have something to say, and sign out of FB. You can check what your friends are doing and posting about later in the evening.

3. The Blogging Trap. Yes, blogging has also become a big part in a lot of people’s lives, including mine, yet it can also take so much time to do this on a daily basis that it can also become a hindrance to productivity. As part of a marketing campaign, it is fine to spend some time blogging or visiting other people’s blogs, as long as you don’t get lost in the blogosphere, which can happen very easily!

My Solution: Blog in the evening and don’t try to finish a post at once if it is taking too long. In other words, give yourself the time to write the post, but limit it to what feels ok to you in terms of time, and leave it for the following day if it’s not done. Don’t think that you need to finish the post at once, if it’s not flowing smoothly, and take your time, or spread it in installments. Just don’t spend all evening with one post. If blogging is your main business, then this wouldn’t necessarily apply to you, of course.

4. The Self-Sabotage Trap. Well, anything can go in this category, really. We can find a million ways to sabotage productivity—from watching TV and doing house chores to unexplainable reasons to justify why we don’t just go into the studio and work. The important thing here is to identify how we do it, how we sabotage our productivity and utilize the time we should be spending creating something that fulfills us, and redirect that energy toward productivity.

My Solution: Set up a schedule and stick to it. Get things that need to be taken care of (work, house chores, email, FB, marketing, etc.) earlier in the day or later in the evening, depending on what works best for you, and leave a good chunk of the day for productivity and only that. Allow no distractions and no interruptions. Before you start creating, sit for 10-15 minutes in meditation to help you focus, release all stress, and clear your mind of other concerns. Now get to work!

Have you found your own way of being (and staying) a productive creative? I’d love to hear it here…

Posted on Leave a comment

Ethical Marketing for the Creative Type – Part II

I started this series on my Ethical Marketing for the Creative Type post and will continue with tips about what I consider ethical marketing. There is a lot to say about marketing, but instead of a long post about it, I will have short, concise posts with things you can put into practice or even just think about on a regular basis. I believe that the mind is a powerful tool, and when you start thinking about how to improve things, your creative juices get stimulated and new ideas come forth. This is also the purpose of these posts, to stimulate your creative marketing power…

There is a ton of information about marketing out there, so if you have time to do a search and check some of the web sites that specialize in it, that is always good. But take everything you read with a grain of salt. Don’t jump ahead and try to implement things without first thinking if they really apply to the type of business you run. Still you can find good advice and tricks  that you can adjust and utilize for yours, even if it is small, or if you are a free-lancer or self-employed creative type. So here are a couple pointers to get started…

1. Get a Well Designed Website

Again, I’ll repeat: Get a well designed web site. You probably already know how important it is to have an online presence, but you need to have a presence that clearly speaks about you and your business. I remember back in the days when I created my first web site from a Netscape Composer browser. I was able to change the fonts from regular to bold or italicized, and maybe add a few links and some photos and icons, but as far the layout was concerned I had no clue what to do. Of course I didn’t know anything about html back then and it all seemed overwhelming. So my web site background was a picture that was repeated a million times and made things really hard to read. Well, I have to say that I am amazed to find these types of web sites all over the place almost 20 years later! Yeah, those with the big fonts that you have to scroll down forever because they’re like a continuous sentence, with the repeated background picture that seems to yell at you, “Get out of here!”

A well designed web site does not have to be fancy or have too many bells and whistles (too many of those can actually hurt your placement with search engines and make SEO difficult), but it has to project who you are and what your business is all about at first sight. You have about 30 seconds to make your visitor leave or stay and explore it some more. Yes, 30 seconds.

There are many free templates, template systems, and content management systems out there that you can use if you don’t have the money to pay for a custom design, and most web hosts offer those types of templates, but be very selective when you choose one. You don’t want to look too corporate if you are not that type of business. Just because you like a template design doesn’t mean that it is the right one for your business. Look around and think about what other web sites make you think and feel about the business or person they represent. Yes, a web site is a 24-hour representative of your business. So think about that.

2. Avoid the “Car Salesman Style” of Content

You want your web site to speak about how professional, knowledgeable, creative, or interesting you are, not just sell, sell, sell something, even if that is your ultimate goal. A good web site can hold much more information than a printed ad, so take advantage of that. Plus, these days most people who see a printed ad will check your web site before giving you a call, anyway. They expect to get enough information from it so as to decide whether to give you a call or not. And they will call if your web site pulls them in and you offer something they need or want.

Avoid the one-page-scroll-to-eternity type of design, the one that starts with a sales proposition (a free trial or download in exchange for your email address, or something like that), along with the many reasons why you should buy their product, and testimonials about the product, and a button to purchase it repeated all along. First of all, the design itself is just like a car salesman style. Second, if you are not just selling one product, but want to promote your services or something you create on a regular basis, then a one-page site will get you nowhere with the search engines. Search engines love content, especially fresh content, so a one-page web site will become stagnant pretty quickly from a search engine perspective.

The only exception to this would be a creative blog, or a blogfolio, where you place pictures of your art or designs to share and promote your services on a regular basis. This is ok because a blog is a space where you share the things you do, think, and enjoy (including your own creations). Most designers and artists with blogfolios also have a regular web site for the same reason I explained before. A web site can offer a lot more information about you and your business than a portfolio. It’s like an extension of your personality, if you want to put it that way.

To be continued…

Posted on 2 Comments

Ethical Marketing for the Creative Type

As I was growing up, my father worked for the Mexican government as an engineer doing these huge projects for power plants and such. He had majored in mechanical and electrical engineering, so he was good at both aspects of his field. At some point in his career, Japan started contracting work from Mexico, and my father was chosen to go to Japan and work on a project for an engineering company, along with a few of his colleagues.

As soon as the Japanese realized that my dad was an expert at both the mechanical and the electrical aspects of engineering, and that they could get two “specialties” in one person, they asked him to work for them directly as an independent contractor. A few projects and trips to Japan later, he retired from his government job and was making enough money to start his own business, which he did with a fellow engineer. Once the Japanese contracts were over, his company worked on projects for the government, which were pretty much what he was doing before he retired, except that this time he was making much more money as an independent contractor. And he was running his own show.

Now, I am not sure if this kind of stuff runs in the genes, or if it is my Gemini nature (as those who are into astrology would say), but “specializing” in one single thing has never been my cup of tea. When I was younger I thought that maybe my tendencies were counterproductive and I was scattering my energy doing many different things at once, but now I realize that it has all worked in my favor. I am able to tackle many a task and be focused on each single aspect (call me perfectionist) and bring it all to completion without losing the focus on my main goal. This, of course, has allowed me to manage a family business, run my own artisan jewelry business, work for other people doing free lance web design and marketing, and be a homeschooling mom!

My secret… I am always willing to learn what it takes to get things done and never walk away from the task at hand, no matter how much work it entails. Yes, it can be daunting and overwhelming at times, but in the end it’s also incredibly rewarding to see how much I’ve learned along the way, which means that things do get easier (and less overwhelming) as time goes by.

My husband and I started our Ayurvedic clinic 9 years ago, completely from scratch and on a very tight budget. He put his Ayurvedic expertise into practice helping clients with their health issues, while I put the business on the map, so to speak, through printed and online marketing. Of course, throughout these years I have learned so much about desktop publishing, printing, the internet, graphic and web design, shopping carts, photography, business management, computers, accounting, and so on. Some of my husband’s clients, who run their own businesses and can see how I manage ours, have mentioned many times, “I need a Yol!”

So I thought that maybe I should start sharing some of the business and marketing lessons I have learned all these years (and keep learning as the internet expands and changes), so that other self-employed artisans and creative types like me can benefit from my experience and insight.

Rather than making this post much longer today, I will just get started with a few thoughts for you to meditate on: You do not have to sound like a car salesman to promote your services or products. Actually, the more you sound like a car salesman, the more you will turn people off. Remember that your best marketing is your own service or product, so let it speak for itself by doing the best that you can, and more. Give 110% of your energy every single time.

Most business articles I’ve come across mention that you should do some market research to see what is missing in your community, or what sells and what doesn’t, before you quit your day job and start a business that will succeed. My guess is that this type of advice comes from standard business and marketing 101, which it is very helpful if want to start a business like say, a chain restaurant, or a kinko’s, or a dry cleaner, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to the self-employed creative type (artist, artisan, healer, herbalist, crafter, yoga teacher, etc.). Why? Because in this case I’d advise you to do what you LOVE and believe in, and not what the business manuals say. The energy you put into what you love will come back in many rewarding (and often unexpected) ways. As you focus on what you love to do, your own “style” and niche will surface.

If your budget is tight, then you will need to put a lot more of your energy to market what you have to offer the world. But first you need to make sure that what you have to offer the world is the best you can do and is truly you. And you cannot give 110% of yourself to what you do unless you absolutely love it!

To be continued…