Archive for the ‘Business Practices’ Category

The Price of Success

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

It’s a question many a small business owner hears frequently:

“How’s business?”

My response in 2014 has more often than not been:


A response to which the non-business owner would inevitably smile and praise, saying something like, “That’s great” or “Good for you!”.

An experienced solopreneur may have a different take, such as, “Cool. How you holding up?”

You see, being a small business owner, you find yourself wearing a lot of hats: business manager, customer service representative, account manager, billing, vendor manager, purchasing agent, advertiser, social media manager….and of course, creative director and graphic designer (the thing you actually set out to do!).

When business is moderate, it’s fairly manageable to perform all of these duties well. Sometimes it gets brisk, so you push back billing a bit or maybe halt some of your marketing efforts until things slow down.

But in 2014, business stayed brisk. And my, oh my, I had to start shifting my priorities big time! At first I struggled, I’ll admit it. I realized that I needed a new solution for some of my systems that were in place for handling a smaller business load. To start, I exchanged my part-time web developer (don’t worry…he’s doing just fine with his own work!) for a partnership with a full-time web development firm that could work with Mix to build new sites and to provide excellent technical support for existing sites. I put in place a project-tracking system that utilizes Basecamp to assign tasks and milestones and communicate more effectively with clients. And I learned to say no to new projects that were outside of my target expertise, so I could focus my work on existing clients and new work that utilized my knowledge and skill sets best.

I haven’t got it all figured out just yet…my website needs an update, my Facebook page is a virtual ghost town, and my e-newsletter is circling the drain. But my clients’ needs are being met, and I’m proud to say that my quality of work has never suffered.

The lesson here? Being busy is good. But being busy and having the help and systems in place to handle the workload is better.

Here’s to a better 2015!

Design Profession Q & A

Monday, July 8th, 2013

I was approached today by a design student, asking me if I could answer three questions about being a graphic designer. I thought it might be helpful to other aspiring designers out there if I published my answers here.

Q. Could you describe one of your typical workdays?

A. A typical workday for me breaks down into four types of tasks:

  • 20%…Communication: reading and responding to emails from clients, answering the phone and returning calls
  • 5%…Marketing: Posting to my blog or Facebook page to stay in front of my current audiences
  • 60%…Design: Working on projects —by sketching; researching (studying clients’ target audiences, looking at trends, finding stock photos); designing comps using Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign; editing websites using Dreamweaver or WordPress; posting social media updates for clients
  • 15%…Project management: keeping track of projects in progress, adding new projects, billing completed projects

Q. What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?

A. Skills required for the type of work I do include:

  • Technology: fluent in CS5.5, Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver; proficient in CSS and HTML; Very knowledgeable in using/customizing/best practices for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, email programs (Constant Contact, MailChimp); proficient in using and troubleshooting hardware such as Mac computers, iPhone, external hard drives, printers, scanners, online faxing
  • Personal skills: Need to be able to communicate effectively with clients, which translates to being able to listen and reflect back what you hear, then present potential solutions.
  • Business skills: Need to be comfortable with being your own salesperson—some knowledge of sales techniques is extremely helpful.
  • Organizational skills: Need to be able prioritize your work and organize it well in your calendar and on your computer. Need to be able to coordinate the work of your vendors, as well.
  • Communication: Need to be able to provide progress/status updates to clients and communicate any additional costs before they incur. Also need to be able to communicate needs to vendors.
  • Design skills: Need to have a solid understanding of the principals of design and typography. Should have a very good understanding/background in the principals of marketing as well. Additionally, it’s very helpful to be a good writer and proficient in grammar.

Q. Why do people leave this field or company?

A.  Why people leave this field…

I’ve known other designers to transition from full-time positions to freelancer positions, then back to full-time positions again. It has a lot to do with the balance of earning a steady paycheck vs. creative freedom. Others I know who have transitioned from this field retired to pursue their own fine art or teach design. I don’t know anyone who just left graphic design to do something completely different. Honestly, I think once you’re in it, its hard to imagine not having your fingers in how the world around us is presented. It kind of runs in the blood after a while!

[our 200th post!!] Marketing Lessons From Feeding Birds

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

5 years illo

A few years back, we moved to a home in White Bear Township, Minnesota. Peering out the picture windows that lined our kitchen, I noticed a line with a hook hanging from the oak tree out back, and guessed that the previous owners must have had bird feeders. So, with visions of colorful songbirds flocking to our yard, I purchased a feeder, filled it and hung it out on the hook.

And waited. Three long weeks. Until finally, a chickadee stopped by for a snack. I was beside myself with joy!

But onslaught of birds, it was not. It took quite a while for other birds to discover my humble feeder. Eventually, they came. I added specialty feeders, a variety of seed types, and a water bath. My yard flourished with activity.

Until a raccoon came. This big son-of-a-gun was so bold, it’d just sit under my feeders, chomping down the seed, and wouldn’t flinch when I stood on the deck and waved my arms at it. At night, it attacked my feeders, ripping them apart to get at the seed. I had no choice but to let all of my feeders sit empty until he went away.

When I finally deemed it safe to fill my feeders again, my birds were gone. Until finally, a single chickadee stopped by. . .

I got to thinking about the experience and realized that I’d learned some lessons from feeding birds that apply to marketing, too. For example: 

Have Patience. Even though I had the right location, feeder and seed, it took time for birds to come. But I stuck it out, and you should, too—it takes time to build a business! Have a marketing plan in place when you launch and give it time to work—the customers will come. Make changes to your marketing, products, or services once you’re able to understand customers’ purchasing habits and are able to get feedback.

Market to Your Target Audiences. Providing specialized seed mixes in specialized feeders allowed me to attract specific varieties of birds to my yard. Understanding your target audiences and marketing to them directly through your product selection and branding will help you to attract the customers you want (and even discourage customers who aren’t a good fit for what you have to offer).

Be Consistent. I was most successful at attracting birds when I provided a consistent source of seed. Letting my feeders sit empty, even for a short time, resulted in a loss of visitors. It reminded me of the importance of supplying a consistent marketing message. Imagine the raccoon represents a hurdle in your marketing efforts (i.e. becoming too busy, feeling overconfident in your presence in the marketplace, or quitting your marketing efforts due to expense). No matter the hurdle, stopping your marketing efforts results in a loss of customers (existing or new).

If you have questions about your marketing efforts, feel free to give us a call (612-226-5717) or check out our blog for some great resources. And if you have questions about feeding birds, by all means visit the folks at All Seasons Wild Bird Store. They’ll get you set up!

Top 3 Items (Besides a Logo) Every Brand Must Have

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012


Note: this article is reprinted from our monthly e-digest, >the mixer. Click here to be added to our email list.

All about us


For companies that are serious about defining their brand and audiences, a creative brief is the essential first step. Here at Mix, our work with a new client starts with an in-depth question and answer session with our clients that gets to the heart of their business. From there, we prepare a written creative brief that guides the work we do together. What’s in the guide? For starters: the company’s objectives, audiences, competitors, personality, unique selling points and much more. The brief paints a picture of the company from past to present and into the future, and informs all of the visual choices we make about the brand throughout the design process.


Color PaletteDetermining a company’s color palette is about more than aesthetics—it’s setting the groundwork for creating readily recognizable designs to represent your business. A brand’s color palette takes into account the logo colors, primary and secondary text colors, colors for links and rollover states, accent colors, seasonal or specific product variations and more. The color palette is crafted to set your brand apart from competitors and express your brand’s personality. Implemented correctly, a brand’s color palette should be as recognizable by audiences as their logo. To prove my point, answer the following: what colors to Target employees wear? What are the colors of the Walmart logo?

Brand Fonts3) BRAND FONTS

Simply put, fonts influence meaning. Imagine you see a billboard for two similar retail shops. Billboard 1 features a sleek, edgy font you’ve never seen before. Billboard 2 features Arial, a font available on any PC. Which retail shop do you assume has a larger marketing budget? Which do you imagine is more successful? It’s incredibly important for a brand to select an appropriate font or set of fonts to use as part of their brand identity and stick to it. Consumers will come to associate the font with your brand, serving as a sort of mental shortcut in conveying your brand message. See our blog post for more on selecting fonts (including a fun mind-bending activity!).

WordPress Resources

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Stuck writing a post or editing a page on your WordPress site? Help is on the way! has a ton of “how-to” content to help you accomplish what you need. Here are a few resources to get you started:


Facebook Page Q & A

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Because we assist clients with the branding and marketing strategy of their Facebook Timeline for (Business) Pages, we’re often asked to provide answers to some Facebook “How-to” questions. So. . .here’s a quick FAQ to help you out!

Q. How do I upload a photo to my Facebook page from my iPhone?

A. Use the Facebook app on your smart phone (note: directions may vary depending on the version of the app you use and your phone, but the basic instructions will be the same):

1) Open the Facebook app
2) Tap on icon with the three lines at the top of the app window
3) Scroll down until you see your page name listed under “PAGES”. Tap on your page name. Now you’ll be using Facebook as your page.

4) Return to the wall page in the app.

5) To take a picture, simply tap on “Share Photo”.

6) Select either “Take Photo or Video” or if you already have a photo you want to upload, tap instead on “Choose from Library”.
5) Tap on the words “Write a caption” if you want to include a caption, then type in the box
6) Tap on the “Done” button when you’re done writing a caption
7) Tap on the “Upload” button to post your photo and caption

Q. How do I invite my friends to like my business page?

A. On your admin screen, click on the Build Audience tab, then scroll down to “Invite Friends”.

Follow the instructions from there. Here’s a helpful step-by-step tutorial:

Q. Can I friend (or Like) a profile from my business page?

A. In a word, No. Facebook is set up so that profile pages (personal pages) and business pages are kept separate. From your business page, you can like other business pages. And individuals can like your business page. But you cannot like individuals as a business page. That’s just how it’s set up!

Q. How to I upload multiple photos at once to my Facebook page?

A. Click on the box under your cover photo and next to the “About” that says “Photos” beneath it. Once you’ve done that, click on the “Add photos” button in the upper right corner of screen that appears. Browse your computer and hold down the shift key to open multiple photos. Give each photo a caption and title as indicated for the best results, then save your changes.

Q. How do I change the photo that displays in the “Photos” box below my cover photo?

A. That box always shows the most recent photo you uploaded. So, to change the photo that’s being displayed, upload a new photo. If it’s a photo you’ve uploaded in the past, try deleting the original and uploading it again so it displays in the photo window. You can always select to hide the upload from your timeline if you don’t want people to see the mechanics of this; the photo will display whether or not you hide your wall post.

Q. How to I add a Pinterest app to my Facebook page?

A. To add a Pinterest tab (in a box that appear under your cover photo):

    1. Log in to your Facebook Page
    2. Visit the app page:
    3. Select your page name from the pull down menu and click the “Add Page Tab” button
    4. Click the “Authorize Page Tab” button
    5. Enter your Pinterest page name in the box provided
    6. Adjust the other settings as needed, then click the green “Save Settings” button to finalize.

Have any additional Facebook for Pages questions? Comment here or send your questions to, and we’ll update this post with more Q and A. Thanks!

3 Big Blogging Tips for Marketing to Women

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

How to Write Effective Blog Content For Women

For several years now, we’ve touted the power of blogs to drive traffic to your site, position your company as an expert in the field, and inform current and prospective customers about products. Turns out, blogging can be equally beneficial when marketing to women online. Why?

Well, for starters, women are nearly twice as likely as men to use blogs than social networking sites as a source of information (64%), advice and recommendations (43%) and opinion-sharing (55%), and 45 percent of survey respondents stated that they decided to purchase an item after reading about it on a blog (1). Consider how women shop online, and a deeper picture emerges: studies show that women research products and services extensively before making a purchase, mirroring how women shop in brick-and-mortar stores (2). And, women spend about 20% more time on retail sites overall than men; 25% of that time is spent comparison shopping (3).

So what should you blog about? Here are three tips for creating blog content that will resonate with women:

BLOG TIP #1: Write honestly about your products and provide exclusive insights. (more…)

Some Fun Facts about Women and Travel

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

This month I’ll be taking a much-needed vacation with my mother to Italy—a dream trip that’s been years in planning. As a result, Mix Creative will be closed from April 19–May 2. Please send non-critical requests to me or use the form on our contact page.

With all of this talk of travel, it’s got me thinking about women and travel. For example, according to Why She Buys by Bridget Brennan, trips where female friends and family travel together—dubbed “Girlfriend Getaways”—are increasing in popularity. (more…)

Getting into Pinning

Thursday, April 5th, 2012


Ten Pinterest Board Ideas for RetailersPinterest, a virtual visual bulletin board, is getting a lot of buzz these days—and for good reason. Attracting primarily women (68%) with average annual incomes of $100,000+, this social media site has shown itself to be a major source of referral traffic on the internet, outpacing YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined. If you’re a business marketing to women, it’s time you take advantage of how Pinterest can increase traffic to your site and better target your products and services to your audiences. Here are three tips to get started:

1. Get on Pinterest. Using either a Facebook or a Twitter login, you can start a Pinterest account and give it your company name. Once you’ve got an account, you can create boards—categories of images that focus on a topic. (more…)

An Excellent Company Apology

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

In today’s social world, a quick and effective apology is a company’s best strategy for damage control after committing an error in customer service. Here’s a great example of such an apology I received from Not only did they manage to apologize and make things right with a 15% discount and free shipping, but they also subtly communicated that their company’s services are in demand. Genius!

Also of note: they clearly explained what happened without excuses and communicated how they are fixing the issue.

The cute little monster doesn’t hurt either. Well done, 48hourPrint!

Effective apology email from