Bored? 3 Free Online Resources for a Creative Jolt.
I’ve reached a new level of boredom. Restless and useless only begin to express what it’s like waiting for this baby to be born. I know I should be ‘cherishing my last moments alone’. But when at the point when you seriously consider whether or not to bother with elastic pants for the hassle it is to get into them, all those fun things that would make for a truly cherishing moment seem a little less appealing. Especially things that require pants or even moderate mobility.
And so I turn to the interwebs for new ways to get entrenched in a project and learn a little something. I thought I’d share my top three sources this week for some quality time spending. Bank them for when you are sick, awaiting an event you have little control over, or when you are just a bit bored and need new thoughts in your noggin.
Do you guys know about this. So many incredible classes and some of them free. The image above is my class project from an Adobe Illustrator course that makes collages out of fruits and veggies (instructor Lydie Petit). Thanks Seattle Wholesale Growers Market for the local flowers. Lydie’s class is with a paid membership (which is totally reasonable) and other topics range from How to Make a Perfect Cup of Coffee, Baking Essentials, Branding your Business, Coding, and Writing a Screenplay. I also learned a technique to illustrate monsters and took a bomb and FREE patterning class from Jenna Frye
Here’s another collage thing with a message that an old man told me when I was eleven (and nagging my mom to entertain me). I’ve made a motto of sorts and still remind myself of this on a regular basis.
Second: Creative Mornings
This is a live lecture series that is carried out in cities all over the world. All the lectures/ talks are filmed and stored on their website. The lectures AND the local events are free and cover a wide range of topics. Search by city or topic. The next live talk in Seattle is at Galvanize in Pioneer Square on September 11th with speaker Marcy Sutton. It’s sort of like a TED talk but more casual and with local talent, business owners, and movers-shakers.
My favorite lecture is from Ben Chestnut (founder of MailChimp). This lecture received lots of laughs and a couple of fist pumps to the air. Is there an emoticon for that?
Finally: MIT Open Coursework
A bit more of a time commitment is MIT’s free coursework online. Oodles of topics to geek out on but one that has me interested is this one: Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra. Just check out the applications in the course description:
- Automated design of new and complex origami, such as
- Freeform Origami, Origamizer, and Rigid Origami Simulator by Tomohiro Tachi
- TreeMaker by Robert J. Lang
- Transforming robots by self-folding sheets or chains
- How to fold robotic arms without collision
- How to bend sheet metal into desired 3D shapes, such as
- Unfoldable polyhedra with convex faces
- Understanding how proteins fold
I mean, you really just never know when you will need this stuff. If you have any other ideas of stuff to do while waiting for baby, ugh, please, pass them on!!!!!!!
Things I Wish I Knew When I Began my Event Business: Part 2- The Expert.
I have a strong skepticism of The Expert. People who tell me how to do things are likely to get a polite listen, slow blink, nod, and about face.
This goes for all professions and beliefs people want to share. It’s not that I disrespect their experience or education, I just don’t trust that what they have to say will necessarily work in my life in the same way it’s worked for them.
This wasn’t always the case. When I began my business, I was rabid for information on how to do things right, be profitable fast, figure out how everyone else was doing things. I was sure there was a ‘best practice’ for everything. I felt vulnerable operating my fledgling business, knowing that I still hadn’t learned that nugget of wisdom that would allow me to market and operate as a professional. Until that point, I felt like I might be called out at any moment.
This led to second guessing myself and worse, belittling my own immense efforts and little business in small ways. As if to say, “Here’s my business, it’s a little scrappy, but it’s good. But if it’s not as good as you think it should be then just know that it’s brand new and I’m still figuring it all out.” The veil between confident excitement about my startup and discouragement was so thin I felt that any positive claim needed a cautionary disclaimer. Any compliment received was followed by something like, “If you think we’re good now, wait until I really figure out what I’m doing.” Not a way to instill trust in your clients and just not true.
So here’s the third thing I wish I knew when I began my event business:
There are no experts… Except you, of course.
The only rules to make and follow are those agreed upon between you and your clients. You do what works for you, and your client likes that or they don’t. If they don’t like it, maybe you are willing to tweak your operation or product. Or maybe this isn’t the correct client. And back and forth and back and forth until you have the right balance of what you both want.
Expert advice is useful only to give you ideas of stuff to try. I liken it to art making and art history. Learning about art history can give you knowledge about art, a deeper appreciation for it, a vocabulary to talk about it, but it won’t make you an artist. To be an artist you have to produce, experiment, and go through all the drama that comes with combining materials, ideas, humans, and time. Unexpected outcomes and all.
Expert advice is a giant pile of poo. You and I are poo shovelers. Get digging and see what parts are worth composting in your garden. The success of your garden isn’t going to be because of the poo, it will be because of your care, guidance, and hard work.
Ultimately, you gain the sanity saving knowledge that whatever you need to figure out, you will. This alone allows me to walk into new, strange projects with the confidence to dive in. Added bonuses of this sort of healthy view on experts include:
- less money spent on expert advice,
- appreciation and happiness for others’ triumphs in their business,
- less judgement of other businesses products and operations,
- and a more objective perspective on one’s own successes and struggles,
- The ability to predict if a new pile of poo is even worth reaching for the shovel,
- Big ‘ole sighs of relief.
If you missed part one of the “Things I Wish I Knew” Series and the first two “Things” , here it is!
This is the second part of a series of 10 conversations about the struggles faced in the early parts of business development. If you’d like to make sure you get the other 8, sign up for our mailing list below! You will also be able to download all 10 topics for free so you can put them in a place to remember. Sign up below!
If you liked the message here, the kindest thing you can do is share it with others that might be experiencing their own startup struggles.
Things I Wish I Knew When I Began my Event Business: Part 1- Marketing
Starting my own business has been the best education I’ve ever gotten. When I first started, I gobbled up all the advice I could from in person meetings, books, online- I’d even frequent a coffee shop that I knew had amazing flowers delivered so I could stick my hand into the arrangement and visualize how it was made. I’d then go home and try to create something similar. Some of that early education and advice made a lot of sense and I’d hear it over and over- like ‘don’t discount your services.’ However as someone trying to break into a new industry, I found it hard to be firm on anything for fear of losing the job.
Now that I feel established, I’m pretty happy with where things ended up and are going, BUT a few of these things I wish I had implanted into my being from the get go. I wish I’d tattooed it on my palm and looked at it every 5 minutes. Who knows what difference that would have made, but I can only guess that I would have discovered and marketed my strengths better earlier and shaved off at least a year in my journey toward profitability. This is the first part in a series of tasty bits I’ve learned over the year for those of you starting in, not only the event or floral industry, but any creative industry that relies heavily on community building. Part one involves marketing.
So, from me to you, striving entrepreneur, here are some marketing tips I know for sure.
“There are more ways to spend money than there are to make it.”
The number of ways there are to market yourself is overwhelming and in the beginning, most can sound like a great idea. With pockets light and desperation high, many marketing ventures may seem like a sure way to get more business. The fact is, if you are new, you may not know who your ideal client is yet and you probably don’t have lots of moolah. Most of these marketing options are little pirahnas that can turn your zest and meager resources into a skeleton in no time. My experience is that most are not for you and nothing is more discouraging than throwing money at something that yields so-so results. Here’s my checklist of questions to ask to see if any marketing endeavor is a good fit:
Do I know them? Have I read their publication, been on their tour/ show, know of their business? Used their resource/ product? If the answer is no, I postpone until I can assess. Also, if I don’t know of them, it makes me question how they know of me. Are they looking for just anyone to fill a spot and if so, are they equally as blase about curating their audience?
Is their audience/ guest list full of the exact people that will be hiring or referring me? For me, that means other event professionals, venues, catering managers, or in the wedding industry, couples. Not the couple’s parents or friends, not somebody who works for a company that I’d like to work with, not their administrative team, not even the executives- but the people who are wired to look for the exact service I provide. People who will see me, appreciate the work, and have the authority to hire or refer. For everyone else, I am just ambiance.
How will I be seen? I need a bold presence. If I’m asked to join in on a marketing event, I need to be there to make an impression face to face. If it’s online or in print, I need it to read loud and clear that it is my company. Just being mentioned onstage at the beginning of a dinner for which you’ve just donated 30 centerpieces and in the program at the bottom of someone’s purse, isn’t going to cut it.
Is their audience big enough? If you don’t have an audience established, you rely on those of your partners. Make sure the folks you are partnering with have a large following. It shows that they either spend a lot of effort to reach out to and engage people, they provide a great service, or both! For example, if you are considering being part of a wedding tour and there are 400 expected attendees, maybe 100 of those people are in a position to make a decision to hire you. Maybe half of those people are ready to ‘see’ your particular service as something relevant to them in their particular process, and for maybe 1/10 of those people you are a great fit for in style, price point, etc. Even still, maybe you only get in front of 1/2 of those people to make a memorable connection. So out of 400, maybe you get 2-5 inquiries. Of those, 1 or 2 are a good fit for YOU and turn into jobs. That is about typical for me. Depending on the audience and the effort expended on the event, it may or may not be worth it. The exception here is work done for other companies, event pros, and organizations that I know are avid cheerleaders for my company. We will always go out of our way to help those with whom we love to work with and who consistently refer us to their clients.
Keep in mind that for online marketing, you have even more of a need to make a memorable connection and most likely less people in 1. a position to hire you, 2. at a time in their planning or mental process to hire you, 3. in line with your style and offerings, 4. a good fit for YOU. So your audience will need to be much bigger to dish out lots of moolah.
Here’s another thing I know for sure:
“The thing you are selling, may not be the thing they are buying.”
When I began, I was a floral designer that sometimes dabbled in larger construction and installations. I thought people were buying my floral designs because I was a good floral designer and because my prices were reasonable. I was incorrect on both accounts. When I started, I’m pretty sure most everyone was a better floral designer than I was. It wasn’t for another year or two that I felt like I had gained some mastery. I don’t even like to look at photos of my work during the first year and a half or so. What people needed and were buying was the following:
- Our project management process: I was a proven manager with a documented process that put people at ease. Where event managers and planners had been burned with products and teams that did not meet their expectations, I could help them visualize what they were getting, and better still, could offer documentation that they could show their managers. They were in the know, they had a part in the design process, and because of that, I made them look good to their higher ups. Without a giant portfolio of great work. This one thing opened a lot of doors.
- Uncommon designs: They knew that what they were getting from me was pretty different than what else was available. We gave them choices and they got to decide what they wanted.
- Versatility: Our clients hire us because we can make or know who can make pretty much anything. Our best clients now are those people who came to us because they wanted something different and had no idea how to go about it. They also like that when SH** goes down (and sometimes it does), we fix it. Done.
- Our Story: People like that we hire artists. They like that we will research a wild idea. They like that we are a bit scrappy. They like our dedication to local and sustainable materials. They like that our workshop is 1/3 woodshop, 1/3 floral studio, 1/3 strange gallery. It’s 80% chaotic, 0% pristine showroom; and 100% an inspiring feast for the eyes. For whatever reason, our story fit with their organization’s story, or more likely, our story resonates with the person on the other side of the table.
Look at your own set of skills and promote them, even what you may think is boring but always shows up in your process. I’ve seen people geek out over checklists, or maybe your potential client happens to be a clean freak and you can promise a clean install…You never know what people’s pain points are. Chances are they aren’t hiring you simply because they like the line item on your invoice.
This is the first part of a series of 10 conversations about the struggles faced in the early parts of business development. If you’d like to make sure you get the other 9, sign up for our mailing list below! You will also be able to download all 10 topics for free so you can put them in a place to remember. (tattoos not required). Sign up below!
If you liked the message here, the kindest thing you can do is share it with others that might be experiencing their own startup struggles.
Creativity and Baby Making.
Always be making. This is kind of my maxim. It’s not really a motivational thing so much as just the way things are.
The drive to play with materials and make something is why I started Lola Creative and why I can say I’ve got the best job ever. Last week we made a giant 12 foot octopus. This week it’s vintage computer geekery. For the last seven months, I’ve been making my first human.
Human production, as it turns out, reduces one’s available brain space for most everything else. Add onto that the daily requirements of a business and there’s just not much left for free-creating- making stuff for fun, making stuff not related to my business projects. About all I have energy for right now is to make these here Skittles, sitting next to me, into painting apparatus with my own spit and draw smiley faces on my humpty-dumpty belly. (I mean, if I weren’t pregnant, at least they’d be an impressive design).
and then there’s the fear that once this squirmy bump IS actually a human, what if I have even LESS creative mojo? Oh man! Is creativity like love, it just grows to satisfy a greater desire to give it? A muscle? Just plain old discipline and habit (ergh)? I’m hoping for the first since that seems lovely and easy. But just in case, I’m inviting myself to casually make with whatever is available.
The wise woman in me says, “Oh honey, a creative outlook doesn’t go away, it’s just cast upon whatever you are doing. You will never be wanting of creative outlets that satisfy and inspire you. ” The neurotic pushy person in me says, ” Better get to making or your abilities will dry up like pregnant feet in flip flops made of asphalt and good intentions.”
This is what wise woman probably looks like
Now I’ve learned that the wise woman is usually right and the pushy person is lovable but misguided. But a little casual making never hurt anyone, right? So here’s my first share from a trip to my sweetie’s family cabin of making just to make. Materials are whatever is in front of me. Thanks nature for the materials.
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Happy Cinco de Mayo! Mexico taught me this…
The central highlands of Mexico are some of my favorite places to be on Earth. (I haven’t been to ALL the places on Earth, but I’m pretty sure it would still be on top). The combinations of weathered raw materials, handcrafted everything, and bold colors and textures still inspire many of my designs. Stories are everywhere. In fact, one of them is story I tell as a pivotal moment in my early twenty-something life that rocked what I knew to be true about achievement, community, and self-sufficiency. Read it below amid a peppering of our Cinco de Mayo lunch table setting. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
I spent a quarter of my last year in college in Cuernavaca to assist our architecture department in building a kitchen for an elementary school in an ‘underprivileged’ community outside of town. As we worked with and spent time in the homes of this community, it became obvious that this town was rich in ways that were unfamiliar to me.
My American upbringing and education seemed to be one giant helping of the following message repeated over and over in different ways:
- You are here to express yourself as a unique individual.
- You are special and above average.
- You can be anything you want.
- You can and should achieve as much success as possible.
In this community, we are irritated with stagnant growth, frustrated that we are not receiving the support or resources we need due to our circumstances, or the government. Frustrated that we are not recognized for our obvious above average-ness. This community can be lonely and endlessly interested in what happens next. We are obsessed with our wins and others failures.
Contrast this with what I perceive as the Mexican message to their kids:
- You are an important and useful member of this community.
- You are, and always will be a loved and involved member of this family.
- You can and should learn lots of varied things that will bring you joy, and support your family and community.
In this community, the people make and do the things that their community needs. If there’s a gap, they fill it. For the most part, they don’t rely on anyone outside of their own community. This community is vibrant, connected, and really, really happy because their measure of success can be achieved now and for the rest of their lives.
One message prizes individuality, connects happiness with future success, and assumes that if you haven’t achieved what you want, you are not doing it right. The other message prizes connections and supports the idea that things are great now, if things get bad, we can figure it out together, and please pass the mole.
So, every Mexican celebration, I give thanks to one of the happiest, supportive, and inventive communities I know. Whenever I get frantic in pursuit of a dream, I am reminded that things are pretty great now. Ultimately, there is no need to push. There are people to be loved, and connections to be made and cherished, for a life of daily success. This week, success included lunch on my sister’s patio with some old and bold table decor.