Oct 2014

4 Things I Wish I Had Known When I First Started Blogging

Last week I had the privilege of sitting on the guest panel at the Bloom Workshop, answering questions about blogging and design. One lady asked us what we wish we had known when we first started blogging. What a great question! Today I thought it might be insightful to share my answers for those of you who are considering starting a blog, too. 

4 things I wish I had known when I first started blogging // Elle & Company

1. Blogging takes time

On average, it takes me 2-3 hours to write and prepare a single post. Multiply that by 5 days (and sometimes more if I post twice in one day) and you have a grand total of 15 hours a week. I'll admit, I probably spend a little too much time writing and editing my posts, but regardless, blogging is one of those things that takes more time than you originally think it will. My advice to new bloggers is to set the bar low when you're deciding how often you will post; you can always add more posts to your blogging schedule as you go. Set aside time to plan out your posts, come up with original content, take photos/design graphics, write, edit, publish, and share your posts on social media. 

2. Don't post for the sake of posting

When I first started blogging, I had a lofty goal of posting once a day. It was a great goal - I post daily now - but I made the critical mistake of not planning out my blog posts. Instead, I would wake up each morning and scramble to find something to post that day. The result? Watered-down content that no one cared to read. If you're a new blogger or you're considering starting a blog, I highly recommend taking time to brainstorm and come up with quality content that benefits your audience in some way, whether it's through instruction, insight, or entertainment. Use a blog calendar (like this one) to map out your posts so that you aren't scrambling around last minute, posting for the sake of posting. 

3. Offer something different 

This one is extremely important! If you're hoping to start a blog and post about the same things everyone else is posting about, please reconsider. The most popular blogs out there gained popularity because they broke the mold and offered something different. Don't sell your creativity short by going along with what's already been done before; come up with an original idea that will set you apart!

4. The possibilities are endless

Blogging opens doors to partnerships, business opportunities, networking, advertising, product launches, book writing - you name it! I started blogging two years ago as a way to "scrapbook" events from college graduation and our wedding, and now I'm designing full-time, I've added on a little shop to my site, and I'm speaking to other ladies about blogging, business, and design. Get started, set goals, and always be brainstorming to come up with new ideas. The possibilities are truly endless!


For all of you seasoned bloggers, what do you wish you had known when you first started blogging? And for those of you who are just starting or are hoping to start a blog, what helpful topics would you like to read more about?

Step Two of My Creative Process

Like most occupations, it's helpful to have a process in place as I go about my work. I haven't seen many creatives approach this subject, so I thought it might be helpful to spend the next few weeks sharing my own creative process. While my method may not work for everyone, my hope is that these posts will encourage you to streamline your own process and think through the steps you take as you go about your work.

A step-by-step blog series on a designer's creative process! // Elle & Company

It wasn't until Jake came on board this past summer that I began to understand the importance (and fun!) of brainstorming to come up with new ideas and content. One night in May, the two of us stayed up for 3 hours coming up with solutions to some of the problems I was having with Elle & Company, and from that point on I've made it a priority to set aside time to research and brainstorm for each one of my design projects. This casual step gives me time to explore, compile information, and get creative, and it's become fundamental for my business and my process. Here's a look into what this step looks like for me:

Research.  After I've talked to my client about their design needs (defined the problem), I start looking for more information about their industry. I can't clearly communicate a business's mission through design if I'm not familiar with their field, so I do some research. This includes looking at my client's current website and social media accounts, viewing the websites and social media accounts of others in their field, reaching out to the client with specific questions, and reading instructional blog posts and articles related to the industry. These first steps lay the foundation for my project and each step builds upon them, so even though I may only spend an hour or two researching, I can't skip it!

Create an inspiration board.  This could probably fall under the "research" category, but we're just going to roll with it. Because I'm a visual person, I ask each client to pull together images in a Pinterest board that encompass the mission and look of their business. I have them write a sentence or two describing what they like about each image - colors, patterns, textures, typefaces, illustrations, "feeling", etc. - and I use those images to pull together an inspiration board. I keep that inspiration board with me as I make design decisions and develop the entire brand. Here are a look at some recent inspiration boards that I've worked on recently :

Creative at Heart inspiration board by Elle & Company
Inspiration board by Elle & Company
Inspiration board by Elle & Company
Grace to be Free inspiration board by Elle & Company

Brainstorm.  Now that I've spoken with the client, discussed their design needs, and compiled some research, I'm ready to shut down my computer and hide away with a full coffee mug, a print-out of the inspiration board, and an empty sketch book. I write down and sketch out ideas for a couple hours before I ever create a rough draft. This step is always the most difficult for me because I can't stand writing down ideas or sketching things if they aren't going to be 100% perfect, but the point isn't to come up with a perfect solution right off the bat; it's to get my creativity flowing. The more I do this step, the better and more original my work gets.

What could this step look like for you? Do you intentionally set aside time to come up with new ideas and solutions for your business/blog/job? What tips and tricks have you found helpful for creating original content?


Other posts in this series

The First Step in My Creative Process

Like most occupations, it's helpful to have a process in place as I go about my work. I haven't seen many creatives approach this subject, so I thought it might be helpful to spend the next few weeks sharing my own creative process. While my method may not work for everyone, my hope is that these posts will encourage you to streamline your own process and think through the steps you take as you go about your work. (Why is it important to have a process? Find out in last week's post!)

Visual Communication Design. I always wondered why they changed a simple, common name like "Graphic Design" to an unrecognizable name with so many syllables. I feel the need to explain myself when I tell people that my degree is a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design, so I end up bypassing it all and sticking to what everyone is already familiar with: "I have a degree in graphic design."

But the longer I'm in this field, the more I see that the name is a perfect fit. Graphic design isn't only about creating pretty things (although that's definitely one my goals as a designer); it's about problem solving to visually communicate an idea.

Clients come to me with problems: they don't have a website for their business, their current logo and website don't accurately capture the mission of their company, they're narrowing their focus and they want their brand to reflect their change in direction, etc. In order to solve their problems, visually communicate their ideas, and meet their needs, I have to clearly understand what their needs are. Which brings me to step 1 of my creative process...

Defining the Problem

It seems so simple, doesn't it? But if I miss this step, I miss the boat. If I don't clearly define the problem and communicate with my client before I put pen to paper, I will end up with 10+ revisions and an unhappy customer down the road. I have to have a good understanding of what the client's goals and expectations are in order to deliver a brand that accurately displays their business.

What does this look like?

Like most designers, I meet with my clients in person or by Skype for an initial consultation to discuss their project. This usually involves many questions, some clarification, and a lot of listening. I start by asking questions about their business before I begin asking about their design needs. What is the purpose and mission of your business? How did you get started? Who is your ideal customer? What are your business goals? Then I move onto more specific questions: What are you looking for in terms of design? What are some keywords that come to mind when you envision your new brand and website? While I listen to the answers, I jot down lots and lots of notes on my Client Detail sheet. I keep those notes nearby and refer back to them when I move into the next step of my process (more on that next week!)

Many designers create a creative brief after they meet with a client to compile their notes and nail down project goals. A creative brief is a usually a single-page document that outlines the purpose and expectations of a project, and it's a great way to make sure that you and your client are on the same page. (Visit this great article for more insight into creative briefs.)

Communication is fundamental in my design process and in my occupation. In order to visually communicate an idea through design, I have to define the problem and know who and what I'm designing for. 

What could this step look like for you?

Whether you're an engineer, teacher, hairstylist, bank teller, photographer, or even a student, chances are your first step deals with some sort of problem solving and communication. So what could this step look like for you? What tips and advice have you found helpful for clearly communicating and documenting expectations with your clients and coworkers?

A Look at My Creative Process

As I've been navigating this foreign world of entrepreneurship, I've realized how important it is to nail down my creative process. It may seem like creating a logo or illustrating an art print would be fairly straight-forward - sit down at the computer, draw for a little while, and you're done - but it's never quite that simple. Designers are problem solvers, and there are many steps that we take in order to come up with the right solutions.

Like most occupations, it's helpful to have a process in place as I go about my work. I haven't seen many creatives approach this subject, so I thought it might be helpful to spend the next few weeks sharing my own creative process. While this method may not work for everyone, my hope is that these posts will encourage you to streamline your own process and think through the steps you take as you go about your work.

My Creative Process // Elle & Co.

Why it's important to have a process

Before I jump into the first step in my design routine next week, I thought it would be helpful to explain why defining your creative process is beneficial in the first place. 

It provides structure. Defining your process helps streamline your work, set up a timeline, and create structure in your daily routine. It sets the stage for your workweek and gives you definite starting and ending points.

It helps you juggle. Two weeks ago I wrote a post on how to juggle multiple projects at once, and writing out your process was the first step on my list. When you've thought through each step in your routine and the amount of time each step will take, you have a better idea of how many projects to take on at once and how to space them out in your schedule.

It increases productivity. Outlining your projects and setting up a system allows you to get more done in less time. You're able to stay productive and on schedule because you have a step-by-step guide to follow. 

It fosters creativity. Sometimes my creativity is at a low and ideas don't come quickly. When you have a process in place, you can account for those uninspired moments by adding steps for brainstorming, researching, and gathering inspiration. My creativity usually flows freely when my process is clear and defined. 

It streamlines collaborations. Having a timeline and a step-by-step guide makes it easier to collaborate with clients and other business partners. It gives them insight on the time and effort that goes into your work and they know what to expect from you.

Now it's your turn! What does your creative process look like? I would love to hear the methods and routines you've found helpful for staying organized and productive during your workweek.

Brand + Blog Design: Grace to be Free

I don't know what has had me more excited about today: the fact that I finally get to share one of several branding projects I've been working on or the launch of my client/friend's new brand and blog, Grace to be Free. So much heart has gone into this one!

You might remember my "client" from this Coffee Date back in May. A couple months ago Logan contacted me about starting a faith and lifestyle blog. I loved the mission behind it (and I had been secretly admiring Logan's writing style since our art history classes together at Tech), so I was thrilled when she asked me to take part in the brand and blog design. We started from the ground up and created a gorgeous new site that has become one of my favorite projects to date!


Since a branding project is a partnership between a client and a designer, I thought it would be fun to share the design process from Logan's perspective. Here's her take on the last couple months that we've been collaborating on Grace to be Free.

Why did you originally reach out to Elle & Company for design help?

The honest answer is, God told me to. I was thinking about starting a blog but was at a total loss as to how I would actually create a website. While looking around her inspiration online I began frequenting Elle & Company, drawn to it for Lauren's creative design and the curiosity of seeing what an old college friend was up to. I sent her a message to congratulate her success, and she sent one back congratulating me... it ends up Lauren had been following along with me as I was on an 11 month mission trip. The more we caught up with each other, the more I felt God telling me to ask her for help. I was hesitant at first because I didn't want to come off as being a friend for convenience's sake. Thankfully, I listened to God on this one. My initial request was just a time where I could ask her some general questions and get advice on starting a blog. One thing led to another (aka God working) and Lauren and I embarked on a collaborative creative adventure I could not be more thankful for. 

What were your initial design goals?

My initial design goals were to have an easy to use website that was also beautiful and creative with a look that would draw people in. I also wanted branding and a logo that represented the heart of the blog - God's grace gives us freedom. (And the even more real truth is that I wanted my blog to "look legit.")

What keywords came to mind when you imagined the appearance of your blog?

Bright. Clean. Fresh. A cleansing breath, and a new start. Light. Freedom. Joy.

What was your favorite step in the branding process?

Oh that's a tough question! I think for me it was just seeing how Lauren could take my words and ideas and then translate them into an actual design. But I also so appreciated Lauren's organization, creativity, willingness to listen, and her mix of professionalism with genuine friendship.

Were you surprised by any part of the project?

Every time I talked to Lauren I was surprised, but in such a pleasant way! It was always so thrilling to get on my website and see what new additions she made. I was also surprised at just how much detail goes into creating a blog/website, and so thankful that Lauren did the real work and simplified the rest for me.

How was the overall experience? Did we successfully accomplish your design goals for Grace to be Free?

Consider my design goals achieved! And the experience was not only fantastic, but one I would recommend to others and repeat myself. Lauren has a heart for helping people which so successfully translates into this design process. Her passion to create what I wanted and needed made me even more excited to start Grace to be Free. 

Logan, I'm so grateful that I could play a part in the making of Grace to be Free. Thank you for trusting me with the design of your brand and your blog; it was a joy to work on and you were a joy to work with! Best wishes with this new venture. I can't wait to follow along and see where it takes you. Happy Launch Day!

Follow along with Grace to be Free

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