Category: business

meet “Harbor”


Transitioning into parenthood is difficult for almost everyone. It’s not that hard to anticipate the challenges themselves, but it is hard to understand how they’ll affect you, and how hard it will be to navigate all those new changes with your partner. This summer, soon after our daughter turned one, I placed a teary phone call to Brendan. I was feeling frustrated with how hard it was to be the parent with the “flexible schedule,” which basically meant that it was my job to do all the parenting that needed to happen between 8:30 and 6:30 while still running my own business. I love being a mom, but I also really love my job. A lot. And I did not anticipate how hard it would be to be the main caretaker. I also knew I should feel lucky to have a flexible schedule, to be the one spending so much time with our daughter, and to have a husband so dedicated to doing his best at work while being a bang-up parent when he was off work.

About 30 seconds after that teary phone call, Brendan called back and excitedly told me he’d come up with The Solution to all of our problems. He’d quit his job, and we’d start a company together. And then in the movie version of my life I cried tears of joy.

Brendan and I talked about his job transition a lot throughout August. We wrote down dreams of what our life could be like, down to a daily schedule, and brainstormed the logistics of working abroad with a toddler in tow (that side-dream is for 2015 or beyond). We made lists of all the things that could be great about it, and all the things that could be really bad. We did some budgeting that involves cash envelopes and prayers. In September Brendan gave notice and he had his last day in November. We invited some friends over for a brainstorming session and decided to name our new venture “Harbor.” My studio-mate and I moved around some furniture to make room for an extra desk, and as I type this, I can see Brendan just over my shoulder. It’s a dream come true. We are scared but we are happy.

Now, we take turns with the morning routine. One day a week I’ll head into the studio early to get working, and Brendan will stay home with our daughter until it’s time for daycare. The next day we switch. We both leave work in the late afternoon to pick her up and spend a few hours together before her bedtime. To make up for the afternoons, we often work from home at night, or one of us will head back out to the studio. On Monday mornings, we sit down over coffee to talk about our schedules and needs for the upcoming week, and to pick each others’ brains on our projects.

I am still busy with my stationery company Hello Tenfold, but I am helping with Harbor part time and Brendan is helping with Hello Tenfold part time, too. For Harbor, I do some project management, and occasionally design, and Brendan helps me with business decisions and some design input for Hello Tenfold. 

Through Harbor, we are taking on projects including branding, logo design, web design, advertising campaigns, copywriting, and social media communiciations/management/advertising, and have a team of other freelancers we’re working with as needed. We have launched a temporary website, as well as a facebook page, twitter account, and instagram. Please give us a like and a follow! We’ll need your help making this dream stick!


embrace the failure

Oh, what a treat you’re in for! The above video is about 7 and a half minutes long, but it’s full of things you’ll want to write down and mull over for a long time. Milton Glaser is the graphic designer most well known for his “I Heart New York” campaign, and in the above video he talks about the fear of failure.

An excerpt:

“The thing that we most fear in regard to failure is our own self acknowledgement that we really don’t exactly know what we’re doing. There’s only one solution… you must embrace failure. You must admit what is. You must find out what you’re capable of doing and what you’re not capable of doing. That is the only way to deal with the issue of success and failure, because otherwise you will simply never subject yourself to the possibility that you’re not as good as you want to be, hope to be, or as others think you are. But that is of course delusional. So my advice finally about fear of failure, which is a kind of romantic idea… there’s only one way out. embrace the failure.”

And the thing I, myself, keep mulling over? “The model for personal development is antithetical to the model for professional success.” Watch it.

via The Wall Breakers by way of Elijah Leed


howdy do it: tips for new business owners

Last week I wrote a guest post for Just Lovely Things on 6 tips I know now that I wish I new then (tips for new business owners). Hop over to check it out, and if you have tips to add, I’d love to hear them!

see past Howdy Do It posts here & here
image: pope saint victor

howdy do it: SEO tips

image via SEO Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors

Another great session I attended at the DC Week conference was “Search & Social Media Integrated” by Janet D Miller of Search Mojo & Katherine Watier of Ketchum PR.

Kathy and Janet started off the workshop by sharing their 4 Steps to Improve SEO (search engine optimization):
1. Choose keywords your audience uses
2. Label your site copy to reflect those keywords
If you choose keywords that you want search engines to associate with your site but your content doesn’t reflect that site, your keywords won’t perform as well. Make sure keywords appear in page titles and meta descriptions (see below for more on that).
4. Get links
Outside links to your website are really important for SEO. “However, it is not simply the sheer quantity of inbound links that matters — the anchor text of inbound links is just as important.”
3. Socialize
When you share your site’s content on sites like twitter, facebook, and other social media platforms, you’re gaining inbound links!


image from SEO Moz 10 chapter Beginners Guide to SEO

Since I don’t know that much about SEO (and things change by the minute), I thought it would be most helpful for me to include my session notes, along with some good links:

• Sign up for google analytics and google webmaster tools! They’re free and enormously helpful.

• Get social profiles like google+ and scribd

• Set up a google profile for your company (new as of last week!)

• Start a blog! You’ll be adding regular, new content, will show your credibility for your subject, and will be creating great content that people want to link back to. Right?

• Add a facebook like button, a tweet button, and a google+ button to all your site pages/posts to see an immediate jump in traffic. The google+ button doesn’t currently affect search engine rankings, but Watier and Miller believe it will down the road.

• Expand your social reach and network. Keep in mind that tweets are probably not showing up in your follower’s feeds after about 3 hours. Use hootsuite to maintain social media pages without losing a ton of productivity.

• Follow journalists and important people within your field. Follower Wonk lets you search twitter for people who will be relevant to you, and track/analyze your followers.

• Make sure you can edit your meta descriptions (WordPress users: see this SEO plugin). Your meta description is what shows up in search engines under your page link, and each page of your site should have a unique description and use keywords in that description.

• If your site publicizes events for your company, use sites like Craigslist and other free event listing sites.

• Have videos and images associated with your site. Images and videos now appear on the first page of a Google search, and get good click-through rates.

• If you want to “ride the trends” to increase site visits, check out Google Trends. They allow you to search for trends by keyword, so you can see what topics are trending in your industry and write posts around those trends.

• Having an XML site map is really important. WordPress has a plugin for an XML sitemap, which tells Google every time you update your content.

rel=”author” tag connects authors to their content (WordPress users, see this post about rel=”author” and rel=”me”). Search engines now give people weight, rather than just sites or pages or content.

• Work on your mobile site this year. Not in the next two years, this year! By 2013 Google predicts that mobile traffic will surpass PC traffic, and there’s been a huge increase in ad spending and clicks (especially on tablets like the iPad). check out GoMo from Google for help in thinking about your mobile site, or templates to create a temporary free mobile site (and see what works for your biz).

• If you have a brick and mortar, register with Google Places today! It only takes a second.

SEO Moz is a helpful tool. It’s $99/month so you might not want to spring for it, but there’s a 30 day free trial and it’s a great starting place for you to analyze your site’s performance in search engines and figure out what to do to make it better. SEO Moz will take Google personalization off of your results, so if you’re in New York you can see how your company does in California searches, for example.

• read “digital marketing evangelist” Avinash

Thanks Janet and Kathy!

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Howdy Do It came from “how do you do It,” the question Ellie & Margot found themselves asking about their freelance lifestyles, and so Howdy Do It was born, a column about the things we do to keep ourselves organized, inspired and on track.

howdy do it: legal tips for starting a new business

Brain Storm print by Grayhood

Last week I attended the DC Week conference (and recommend it to you for next year!). While many of the sessions were geared toward developers and non-profits and didn’t apply to my business exactly, topics like social media, search engine optimization, tax and legal tips, and managing companies drew me in. So this week I thought I’d share a little bit about what I learned, starting with one by Clarity Law Group titled “Top Ten Tips for Staring a New Business.”

The Washington Post interviewed presenters Sue Wang and Leah Goodman for this article, which is a great summary of the session. I thought I’d also share my own notes… a combination of things I learned last week and things I learned while incorporating my business this summer. This is by no means an extensive list, and y’all know I’m not a lawyer. So get one and talk to him/her to get the facts. Lawyers are expensive but necessary, and can help prevent big problems.

You might not own a business where people are likely to trip and fall, and in my case a paper cut is probably the worst that could happen to my clients. But as designers, it’s important to protect ourselves against the complicated world of intellectual property law (see this recent Design*Sponge post), and for that reason (and other really important reasons, like protecting your property and assets), incorporating might be a really good idea. I mentioned you should talk to your lawyer, right?

It’s important to respect the difference between the company’s money and your money, especially in the event that you have to prove that in court to uphold your “corporate veil” (basically, to protect your assets regardless of your corporate status). This will also prevent total meltdowns come tax time. Trust me.

Another way to respect the difference between the company and yourself, and respect your role in the company, is to hold annual meetings where you elect officers, have official annual reports, and document big changes like shareholders or a change in your business location (not an extensive list, I’m sure). All of this should be held in a notebook, preferably the fancy leather embossed ones your lawyer can order that make you feel legit. This applies even if the company simply consists of you.

I’ll be the first to admit I know nothing about this one, but I learned a few helpful tips at last week’s conference. If you’re accepting investors, including family and friends, remember that you don’t want to be stuck with bad business partners for life. Shares in your company should be closely held… if you think a 1% share is a nice and small thing to give a dedicated employee, for example, think twice! You’ll have responsibilities to your shareholders regardless of what percentage of the company they own, and getting rid of them is easier said than done. If you do want to give someone equity in your company, talk to your lawyer about investment schedules.

Always! Whether you just hired a friend to do a few hours of work, your first full time employee, or started a project with a client… make sure you’ve got it all in writing. You’ll want to sign contracts with the company name, not your name, and your official title.

One thing I’ve learned from experience: don’t sign a contract without having a lawyer look it over. I’ve made this mistake once, and won’t be making it again! You know what they say about assumptions.
As far as payments, be sure to split them into deposits or advancements, so if things go south you won’t be out the full contracted amount. Have an invoice policy in your contracts, listing due dates and what happens if they are missed. Explain late fees and interest policies, and if a collection agency is required, your client should have to pay the collection costs.

Think lawyers, accountants, business people, and mentors. Help is good! And not everything you read online is true.

A big thanks to Sue and Leah, not to mention my own lawyer, who allowed me to feel super proud last week when I realized I already knew the “top ten business tips,” and more.

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Howdy Do It came from “how do you do It,” the question Ellie & Margot found themselves asking about their freelance lifestyles, and so Howdy Do It was born, a column about the things we do to keep ourselves organized, inspired and on track.