No new clothes: a story about branding and freedom

Branding and freedom aren’t two words you usually see together in a sentence. Let me tell you a story …

I used to go to job interviews in a suit. A nondescript black or navy trouser suit that was ill-fitting in so many ways. Firstly, the anatomy I’m blessed with makes finding a flattering off-the-shelf trouser suit quite difficult. Vanity aside, there I was, a young excited professional creative, going to find a job in my field, looking like an accountant!

Somewhere along the journey into adulthood, I had picked up this idea that this is how things were done. Serious situations like job interviews called for “serious” attire and, we all know that means a suit. Despite the fact that people who already worked at these places never/rarely wore suits. Despite the fact that I was largely being judged on my creativity and, we all know how your visual presentation has the power to influence decisions. My choice of clothing just didn’t make sense.

Presentation is everything

Continue reading “No new clothes: a story about branding and freedom”

Expand in creativity, business and life – September round-up

Regular readers may have noticed my blogging hiatus, as I reconfigured my life and business. However, Afri-love subscribers have been less neglected, thanks to A week of Afri-love: a weekly email I started a few months ago, where I share 5 Afri-love-worthy things. Each edition includes:

  1. Buy African: featuring exquisite African-made/made in Africa goods
  2. Something to look at, read, watch or listen to
  3. Some visual place to get lost in (usually amazing Instagram feeds that will fuel your imagination and take you places!)
  4. Events across the world
  5. Last but not least, an “expand” item – something that I’ve come across that has been useful for me in my quest for better health, creative excellence and success in my business

For those who don’t receive these nuggets weekly, I thought I’d do a round-up of “expand” posts, every 2 months, selecting just 5 of my favourite items.

Here’s edition number one! Continue reading “Expand in creativity, business and life – September round-up”

Goodbye Asilia: new business directions

This month marks 5 years of running my business. It’s been a hell of a ride – high moments, challenging times and everything in between. All with a great business partner and an amazing team by my side. But now, it’s time for a change …
A key part of the Asilia ethos has always been about following your heart and doing work you love. We’ve constantly strived to practice what we preach. That’s why we love working with other passionate people and why our self-directed projects are so important to us.
Over the past 5 years, these projects have evolved in different ways. Some have been more satisfying and successful than others – Afri-love, Afriapps and Black White Simple being the ones that have most resonated with the wider world.
 
Products of change
These projects, along with our experiences working with clients over the years, have taught us important lessons; opened up new opportunities we couldn’t have foreseen and; challenged and expanded our visions, when it comes to the contributions we want to bring to the world.
In being true to ourselves, our passions, our new circumstances and environments, we have decided on a new future for our professional paths.

Continue reading “Goodbye Asilia: new business directions”

Finding the right graphic designer for you – dos and don’ts

This post was originally written for Your Radiant Business – a blog created by my homeopath, Tracy Karkut-Law, and I, born out of our shared passion for the web and social media. On the blog we share everything we know about building a great online presence. It’s targeted towards homeopaths but a lot of the content is transferable for people building a business in other fields. This post fits that bill and I thought I’d repurpose it a little to share with you.

—————————

People are naturally very visual and, like it or not, many of us make judgements based on how something looks. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is a common warning for a reason!

It’s important to think about whether your communication materials are aligned with the personality of your business, your values, what you want to be known for and how you want to make people feel. All of these things can be expressed through the design decisions you make, be it the colours and fonts you choose, the style of your imagery and how you put all of these elements together.

Let’s face it, this can be fiddly. And it’s hard to know if you’ve got it right. What might seem sufficient in your eyes, may not be effective in communicating your message to the world and, specifically, to your prospective clients/customers.

How can you create materials that let people know that you’re the right option for them (and keep your sanity at the same time)?

Continue reading “Finding the right graphic designer for you – dos and don’ts”

Interview with Screenprinter, Lusungu Chikamata of Creativity and Noise

Today’s interview features screenprinter, Lusungu Chikamata, founder of Creativity and Noise. It’s a great story of persistence and resourcefulness – I think sometimes we think everything has to be perfect before we can begin when actually, just getting started gets you to perfection faster! Find out how Lusungu learned a brand new skill and launched a creative enterprise, all alongside his day job.

Continue reading “Interview with Screenprinter, Lusungu Chikamata of Creativity and Noise”

Afri-love and Step and Stone present: ClarityCall – 10th January 2015

I know many of us are counting down to Christmas and the opportunity to take a break; spend quality time with family and friends and; rejuvenate our energy and spirits. For some people, thinking about work is the last thing they want to do as the year rolls to a close. But for a few of us, whose work is fuelled by passion and a desire to realise a dream, there is no ‘off’ button. If you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to the down time, so that you can spend it strategising and planning how to take your business to the next level, in 2015.

Continue reading “Afri-love and Step and Stone present: ClarityCall – 10th January 2015”

5 Better Ways to Network: Entrepreneurs Need People, Part III

The term ‘networking’ used to put me off. I’d imagine an awkward room full of strangers, standing around trying to impress others. Others who, had already made up their minds about who they were going to pay attention to or not.

Cynical, I know but, I’d spent countless evenings at networking events, hoping for a different experience, in vain. Instead, I’d come home feeling, if I’m honest, a bit less confident and wondering if there was something wrong with me.

Yup, been there. Over it.

Continue reading “5 Better Ways to Network: Entrepreneurs Need People, Part III”

Hobby or Business: Should you Take your Creative Pursuits to the Next Level?

Creative-Hobby-or-Business-Which-Way-To-Go-Tips

 

My experience of running a business has been rewarding in many ways but, it’s no walk in the park. If you’re creatively inclined like myself, you may have had the thought: “how can I design my life so that I get to do more of this making stuff?” It’s no secret that I’m a big advocate of this – I’m often encouraging people to go for it. However, if you’re planning on making a living from it, it’s important to really think about whether you want to create a business of it, or if you’re better off with a creative hobby. 

Here are some questions to help you decide:

Passion
a). Do you have an unwavering love for what you do? Do you eat, sleep, breathe and think about it all the time?
OR 
b). Do you just like it a lot right now?

Focus
a). Do you have a relatively clear vision of the career and lifestyle you want to have?
OR
b). Does your vision change fundamentally, with every day, every encounter and every new experience?

Drive
a). Are you a self-starter?
OR
b). Do you prefer to have things all planned out for you?

Multi-tasking ability
a). Are you adept at juggling several different tasks and responsibilities?
OR 
b). Do you prefer to work exclusively on one thing at a time?

Confidence and fearlessness
a). Are you proud to show and tell the world about what you’re doing?
OR
b). Do you hate talking about yourself?

Resilience
a). Do you have a thick skin when it comes to what others think and say about you and your work?
OR
b). Would you rather not put yourself out there for scrutiny?

If you responded ‘yes’ to most of the ‘a’ questions – welcome to the wonderful and challenging world of enterprise!

If you responded ‘yes’ to most of the ‘b’ questions – why ruin a good thing? Why not nurture your creativity without the pressures of business, for now?

If I had to sum up the qualities I think it takes to make a living from your craft, I’d say that these are up there: passion, focus, drive, multi-tasking ability, confidence (at least enough to fake it well), fearlessness and resilience.

At the end of the day, running a creative business is about so much more than just making (see my post on non-creative business priorities for creative professionals). Some people welcome this as a necessary part of the lifestyle they want to lead but, for others, these demands destroy their enjoyment of their craft. With a creative project, you can change your mind, change the plan at a whim or quit at any point. You can do so with a creative business too but, the consequences of this kind of spontaneity could be more significant.

Let me know if this post has been useful to your decision-making. 

————————————————————————

Related:

Continue reading “Hobby or Business: Should you Take your Creative Pursuits to the Next Level?”

Beyond Making: Non-Creative Business Priorities, for Creative Professionals

Beyond-Making-Non-Creative-Business-Priorities-Creative-Professionals

 

I wanted to be a creative professional because I like to come up with ideas and to make things. I wanted to be an entrepreneur because I wanted more freedom over my ideamongering (yes, I made that up) and my making. The hard truth of the matter is that, running a creative business is still running a business. As much as I would love to spend all my time developing concepts, drawing and designing, in reality that has often only taken up half, if that, of my work time. 

I’m not complaining because my situation does indeed enable me to live life (a little more) on my own terms. With the wisdom of experience, I continuously make adjustments to free up more time and space to create. It’s about finding a balance. A team and a business partner can certainly help with that but in the beginning, that may not be an option.

Before you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, it’s good to know what will be in store – to appreciate the various hats you may have to wear by your lonesome. Here are ones that I can think of:

Legal matters
Registering your company or setting yourself up as a sole trader. If you have employees, you will need contracts. You will also need to think of creating company policies and ensuring that they’re in line with statutory requirements.

Finance
Perhaps the most important because, at the end of the day, if you’re a business, you need to make profit. Knowing your numbers is key, i.e. having targets and planning your activities in order to meet them. Getting paid is the main step and this involves invoicing and the thing we all hate – chasing payments. Then there’s making payments to others: suppliers; payroll for employees and; the government (corporate tax, National Insurance/Social Security contributions, VAT etc.). You need to have systems to keep track of all of this.

Procurement
This involves researching and identifying appropriate suppliers and then liaising/collaborating with them. For some businesses, this will be more involved than for others. If you’re providing a service, as opposed to creating products, this may be less demanding. 

For example, when providing graphic design services, the only procurement I really have to do is printing and oftentimes, even this isn’t necessary (e.g. on logo design projects). I did have some one-off procurement to do at the start of my business though – a computer and software – and every now and again, I need to stock up on stationery.

However, if I was, for example, a fashion designer, I would need to think about: where I’m sourcing my material; how my prototypes are getting made; production of orders; packaging for deliveries and/or purchases in-store etc.

Sales
Sales is often considered a dirty word yet, we all engage in it on some level. Even as an employee, you had to sell yourself well to secure that position and, it’s likely that you have to continue to sell yourself well to ‘move up’ or, in this day and age, to keep it! I think we need to reimagine the idea of sales. Some people have things that other people want – things that add value to their lives in some way. Sales is simply a way of identifying the people who need what you’re offering and enabling them to get it.

Whether you’re selling your goods yourself or being stocked by others, you will need to approach people, interest them, take orders and fulfil them. This will involve customer service; shipping and handling and; managing your inventory.

New business 
New business is a similar concept to sales and arguably, it’s what comes before the sale. It’s about identifying opportunities for your business by engaging and networking with people and, building and nurturing those relationships. In my line of work, it’s very common to have conversations with a prospect and then wait 6 months to a year before they’re ready to actually commission any work. A lot of people don’t have that kind of patience or, get demoralised when it seems like their efforts have been in vain. If I can sum up entrepreneurship at this moment, I may have to go with: ‘faith and persistence'.

Marketing
I saved this for last because it’s the area I enjoy the most, second to making things. There are some blurred lines between sales, new business and marketing so I’ll define what it means to me in essence: getting the word out about what you’ve got to offer (i.e. doing your work justice!).

You will have some initial collateral to create, for example: website; business cards and other stationery; signage and banners; core promotional materials (flyers, brochures, catalogs etc.). 

You will also have to consider some ongoing activity. This could be online: llist-building; email marketing; content marketing; blogging; social media; ad campaigns etc. Not forgetting the power of offline channels such as print materials; live events; advertising in print or on air. 

Then there’s PR: creating press releases; media relations; blogger outreach etc.

Ideally, you will create a strategy and plan for all of these things. 

Worth the juggle?
Phew! Tired yet? If it’s any consolation, it is possible to do all these things. If the reason why you’re setting out on this journey is big enough, you will develop the time management and focus skills necessary to master this. If you do a valuation of your time, you will also realise the benefit of outsourcing things that are beyond your core skill/competence and that includes non-work-related tasks like cleaning the house.

At the end of the day, you might decide that you just want to create for the sake of it. That you want your craft to be a hobby that’s not influenced by customer demand and the other pressures of trying to make a profit. For many, that’s the choice they have to make to keep their creative passion alive. However, there are many who are running thriving businesses as they push their creative muscles and satisfy their desires to add more beauty, intrigue and examination into the world.

PS We made a tool a few years back – Anza – a checklist for start-ups and entrepreneurs. It outlines all the things you will need to think about when setting up your business. You can download it for free (currently available for Android only).

Illustration by Lulu Kitololo

————————————————————————

Related:

Continue reading “Beyond Making: Non-Creative Business Priorities, for Creative Professionals”

Protecting Your Intellectual Property Rights as a Creative Professional

It was World Intellectual Property Day this past Saturday – an opportunity to think about our rights as creatives and why it’s so important to understand them. One of the biggest challenges I have faced in running my creative business is communicating that ideas = money. Ideas are some of the most valuable things we have, especially being that we live in the Information Age.

When people commission Asilia to create something for them: part of the fee covers the fact that we can use computer programmes that they might not be able to; part of the fee covers our design and technology skills; part of the fee covers the collective experience that we have, especially given our different backgrounds and perspectives but; as far as I’m concerned, the true value that we bring is through our creativity – our ideas.

Continue reading “Protecting Your Intellectual Property Rights as a Creative Professional”