Have you ever had a friendship where you didn’t exchange something of value– something like a gift, a borrowed book, a recipe, or a good joke– with your friend? Of course not! When you really connect with someone, an exchange of value is inevitable. Business is, at its essence, an exchange of value, so it’s no surprise that business, in turn, leads to connection.
When I started my graphic design business, I was mostly looking for a way to turn my daughter’s nap times into some financial contribution to our family. I soon discovered that my business would also provide something that I needed even more– connection.
Through my work designing logos, print marketing, websites, and social media campaigns, I’ve met a lot of people and been able to help quite a few as well. I’ve gotten a behind-the-scenes look at some of the projects other entrepreneurs are working on in the Sioux Falls area. I’ve gotten a better understanding of what goes into organizing the many events in our community. As a business-to-business service, I stay connected to people who are active thinkers, because only people who keep their brains in gear get to run a business.
When my family and I moved to Sioux Falls three years ago, I hardly knew anyone. Now I run into someone I know almost every time I’m out running errands. In some ways, that makes this mid-sized city seem smaller, but in reality, having more connections makes my own world much bigger– and much more fun.
My husband and I are the kind of people that can see potential. Sometimes too much potential– which leaves us with more projects than we have time. But to be fair, there’s been many times when we’ve seen something with a lot of potential that we haven’t made into our own project.
A year or two ago, we drove past a big commercial building with a for sale sign. We stopped, got out, and looked in all the windows. The gears started turning, the calculator started whirring, and… we got back in the car, knowing that it would be an awesome building for someone else.
I couldn’t be happier with the group that actually bought that building on North Main. They’re turning it into a space for working, thinking, talking, and dreaming. They’re taking a place with a lot of potential and multiplying that potential exponentially. I hope I’ll be spending some time there in the future!
After living for no more than a school-year in any one place for the last eight years, I am now a homeowner, along with my husband. That doesn’t mean that life is any less chaotic now, but it does mean that I’ve been motivated to establish a routine for myself. After all, I can no longer say, “Why bother? We’ll be moving soon and that will upset everything.” Now, what would be much more likely to upset everything would be a lack of routine.
So here is my routine:
First: Get up, breakfast, see my husband off to work, and hope the toddler keeps sleeping for just a little bit longer.
Next: The toddler is definitely up by now. We eat eggs (second breakfast for me). I turn on an audiobook from the library (I’m currently listening to At Home by Bill Bryson.) and try to get the kitchen back to it’s daily zenith of cleanliness. The toddler chews, the dishwasher chugs, and I put things where they belong.
Mid-morning: By this time I’ve also started a batch of laundry, meanwhile noticing that there are also a lot of clean clothes on the floor– the toddler has been getting creative with her outfits. The cleanliness of the kitchen begins to decline as said toddler pulls out her box of paints and asks for a cup of water. I happily oblige and pull up a seat next to her. The fun part about having a kid is being a kid. The fun part about being a kid is being creative.
After that: Let’s face it: I’m probably still in the kitchen cleaning up breakfast or paint, or I’m back in the kitchen finding us a snack. Either way, I’m in the kitchen. At least I’m making good progress with the audiobook.
Then: By this time, I’m done with most of the items on my list that are possible to complete with a toddler around. Which means I’m stuck doing fun things, like reading books, building with duplos, playing the ukulele, or going outside if the air won’t freeze our faces off. Sometimes we run errands. (Sometimes we run errands all day, but we’re talking about routine here.)
Noonish: We eat lunch and I clean up the kitchen again. Around this time of day I switch from speaking Spanish with the toddler to speaking English with the toddler. We’re trying to find our bilingual balance.
Eventually, maybe: The toddler goes down for a nap. This usually involves a lot of me laying next to her, reading. I am sure I’ve read more in her 2.75 years than I did during my four years of college, especially if you count the audiobooks.
If she falls asleep: I sneak over to the computer and do graphic design stuff. I tweak a logo, send another draft to a client, update a brochure with new information, make a post on social media, email a prospective client, or maybe even do a project just for fun. I also try to update my poetry blog.
Otherwise: Some days, the toddler does not take a nap, in which case we replace all that graphic design stuff with tired toddler antics, then go for a walk to the library (again, only if the air won’t freeze our faces off) in an attempt to reboot our attitudes.
After nap-time: I make supper. The toddler helps. It is good to be in the kitchen. In the kitchen, there are knives, food, and fire, which means another opportunity to be creative.
At last: Husband gets home, we eat, and we have our evening. We go through the mail, we talk about our days. Either we work on the house or he works on the car. I clean the kitchen again.
Finally: We all go to bed so that we can do it again. This sounds pathetic, but that’s not how I feel about it. I don’t mind doing the same thing over again, because I can see how we are learning and growing because of good things we’ve put in our routines. I don’t mind spending time cleaning the kitchen because that’s where life happens, so I like it to be relatively clean. Besides, food is important. I enjoy the silliness of my daughter and spending time with her (except when she should be napping, in which case I spend time with her anyway). I enjoy part-time work that allows me to connect with other working people. Graphic design is one of those things that pushes me continually upward even while I just do a little every day. And that’s what routines are for.
This week I watched eagerly as one of my clients opened her very own retail space. It’s been a dream of hers for a long time.
I also watched another client make the difficult decision to close up shop. For him, running that business had also been a longtime dream.
As I sat in my kitchen this weekend, slowly munching a slice of honey-graham bread and listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I thought a lot about the local economy and my small role in it. I thought about the habits we have, the dreams we strive for, and the choices we make.
“Look what I found in the bottom of my bag!” Danielle said, plopping a business card down in front of me. We were both at The Little Things Birth and Baby Expo, minding our booths and making connections. The business card Danielle had found had obviously been a few miles in the bottom of that bag, but what was most notable was how different it was from her current business card, which she set next to it for comparison.
On one business card, the business name was bold and legible; on the other, it was an afterthought. One carried Danielle’s logo and the style of her brand; the other used stock artwork that no longer had anything to do with the products she carries. Guess which one she is proud to hand out? Guess which one I am proud to have designed?
For both Danielle and I, the comparison showed us a symbol of personal growth, business growth, and our commitment to go beyond the generic to create something our customers will use and treasure. And for Down to Earth Boutique, having professional branding is part of being ready to move into a retail space very soon!
Changing a business’s name and branding is a pretty big deal– you have to make some big decisions, hire a graphic designer, have your website rebuilt, print new business cards…
But when you are a graphic designer and you want to rebuild your website anyway (because it seemed unfair that several of my clients had better websites than me), all that’s left is to make the big decisions and do the work.
First the decisions. I thought about renaming my business “McKeever Design and Copywriting and WordPress Websites and Occasionally Motion Graphics and Social Media Assistance and Any Other Media Tasks That You Need Help With.” However, after much thought, I decided that “McKeever Multimedia” had a better ring to it.
Next, the work. As with all of my logo design projects, I spent time brainstorming, sketching, and getting feedback. As I built my website I leaned heavily on my previous experience building WordPress sites, but I also did a lot of new research. I dove further into CSS and PHP than I had before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a lot.
That’s the main reason I chose the name “McKeever Multimedia”: I love to learn. I needed a name that I wouldn’t have to append every time I added a new skill to my business offerings. Hopefully I won’t outgrow this business name or logo anytime soon– but I’ll keep on learning and growing, and someday I will!
I need to write more poems again.
I miss the way my brain worked then.
I also need to play more songs,
design more websites, right more wrongs,
find more clients, make more cash,
do more with my craft-stuff stash,
speak more Spanish, read more books,
spend time proving I can cook,
make more friends, call friends more,
do more with my Etsy store,
give my toddler more of me,
be the best that I can be,
yes, the very, very best–
okay, so what should I do less?
For a long time I made fun of my husband for keeping several extra computer monitors around. He had given away or junked several older computers but he wouldn’t part with the monitors. I thought it was just the little bit of hoarder in him coming to the surface. But when we got settled in our new apartment and got our desks organized, he set up one of the extra monitors for me.
I really like it.
Here are five ways I’ve been using my second screen within the past few weeks:
1. Watching Photoshop tutorials (or any teaching videos) while working in Photoshop (or any design program) on the main screen. Before I had the second screen, I had to switch back and forth between YouTube and Photoshop, or creativeLIVE and Dreamweaver, and I would get behind.
2. Expanding the media pane of Adobe Premiere Pro so that I can see all the clips I’m working with at one time without covering up my other panes.
3. Putting on an episode of “Bob el Constructor” for my daughter while I get some work done on the main screen.
4. Displaying the current version of a website while I work on the new design on my main screen. That way I can compare the two versions easily and make sure that I design a space for all the necessary content.
5. Keeping chords and lyrics visible while I experiment in GarageBand and Adobe Audition.
I’m sure I’ll be finding more ways to use my second screen in the coming weeks– it is a lot handier than I realized it would be. One of the reasons I was hesitant to use it is that I knew the Wacom tablet would need to include both screens within it’s limited drawing space. I thought that this would make pen strokes much less accurate and make it more difficult to predict where the mouse would end up on the screen, but I guess my brain made the adjustment because I hardly noticed a difference. It still seemed intuitive. Maybe for detailed illustration I would unplug the second screen, but so far it hasn’t been a problem.
How have you used a second monitor in your line of work?
A year ago today I sent a quick little message to a family I barely new, congratulating them on starting their own business and asking them if I could help them with any graphic design. They said “Yes!” and my business began.
The “Graphic Design” folder on my computer now contains over 1500 items, including folders of files for over fifteen different businesses or organizations I’ve worked with. About a dozen logos that I designed are in use today, and each of those logos is the result of hours of work and dozens of drafts.
Besides logos, I’ve designed brochures, banners, business cards, greeting cards, profile pictures, posters, flyers, labels, t-shirts, tags, invites, menus, worksheets and wall art. I’ve developed two websites for myself and one for a client. I’ve even done graphics for one temporary tap handle!
What a year of growth and learning it has been– if that was my internship, I can’t wait to start my job!
To follow my work this coming year, go like my business facebook page.
I’ve had more than my fair share of websites, but I’ve always used a tool like iWeb, Weebly, or Prosite to give me a starting point and a user interface for design. When Adobe came out with Muse, I was excited to try it out, thinking that it would allow me to go a few steps further into web design before the chore of learning code. But it turns out that I’m the kind of person who prefers to spend time learning HTML and CSS rather than spending time trying to figure out why in the world the simple website I’m creating in Muse is not behaving how I expected. Ignorance isn’t bliss. As soon as I realized that, I signed up for twelve hours of basic web design instruction with Janine Warner through creativeLive.com. Over the course of two days, it made my brain buzz and say, “Aha!” over and over. I still need to practice, but now I know what best practices to strive for, what resources to call upon, and that CSS is my logical little friend.