Monday, October 29, 2012

My Memories Review-A Great Alternative Design Software for Those of Us Who Need A Little Help

I can’t speak for other fine artists, but whenever someone tells me they scrapbook my stomach turns.  Don’t get me wrong, I have met people with mad scrapbooking skills and I respect their pursuit of creatively preserving the moments they and their loved ones share.  But telling a professional artist that you scrapbook is the equivalent of announcing to Yo Yo Ma that you recently took up the ukulele.

When I was asked by to try out their scrapbooking software I decided to take a much different approach than using it to do mostly what it was designed to do.  As a small business owner and manager, a significant portion of my time goes into designing marketing materials for my original artwork and professional services as a consultant and a creative coach.  I have a confession to make-one that no respectable fine artist should ever make- my comprehension of Photoshop is nominal at best.  In fact, “Learn Photoshop” has been my top New Year’s resolution since 2008.

Finding software that can help me design marketing images while making the design process as straightforward as possible is really appealing to me.  I often use Microsoft Publisher, but admittedly it can be rather limited in design options.  So I decided to play with My Memories Suite and see what I could accomplish quickly while relying primarily on their templates.

The digital scrapbooking software was easy to download and the website was very user friendly.  I noted that the template packages they offer online are amazing, and one can purchase them for a song.  Just the digital papers alone were enough to get me salivating, especially when I began to peruse the Halloween themed sets-my favorite holiday.

Once I had My Memories Suite downloaded to my desktop I started to toy around.  The basic software contains templates for photo albums and greeting cards.  Anything you design can be professionally printed.  This is appealing to me since I occasionally create professionally printed photo albums of my archived artwork, and I have made a few books for friends and family. 

Creating a page was incredibly easy.  Each step was simple to walk through, and the software provides a ton of options in layout, color scheme, fonts, and overall design themes.  One can tweak images, add special effects.  There’s even a video and sound component. 

In my case I made two jpegs.  These would be used by me in eblasts, newsletters, social media, on my website, or in printed marketing material.

For this image I changed the background pattern and color.  To make single page images, simply delete the additional album pages.  You can convert your image into a jpeg in the Share Album options. 
This is a good example of how you can create announcements and invitations using the preset templates.  I simply altered the colors, and added my own images and text.  Once you have saved your work as a jpeg you can use this image again and again for consistent branding and marketing.
Obviously these examples are very simple-you can create something far more elaborate, but I wanted to demonstrate how easy the software is.  Both of these jpegs took only about five minutes to create. 
If you are looking for hold-you-hand software for marketing shop at  Right now they are offering a deal: $10 off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software and a $10 coupon to use at the store (so you can buy that kick ass digital paper I told you about).  My special code for readers is: STMMMS14164. 
And if that wasn't enough: is offering a FREE software package to the first lucky reader who contacts me via email with the line, "Give me my Memories!"  Email me at for your chance to win!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Mind Your Business: Remembering What Your Social Media Presence is. Knowing What Your Social Media Presence is Not.

I recently un-liked a client’s business page on Facebook because she was using it to post her political views in a rather extremist way.  My decision to disengage had nothing to do with her political leanings, but everything to do with the fact her business page was not an appropriate forum for posting personal opinions.

These days there is a fine line between what is private and what is public.  If you use social media to market your small business you have to be especially careful about what you post, even on profiles you have designated as personal.
I use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook as my three primary ways beyond my website ( to share information about my services as an educator, small business consultant, creative coach, and professional artist.  On LinkedIn and Twitter, I never share personal opinions. Instead I use both as a way-station for information I think my followers will find interesting: articles, etsy treasuries, links to my newsletter and business announcements, etc...  I recently signed up for Pin Interest.  I use this website as a visual means of passing along items from both of my etsy shops, and the things that inspire my creative life.
I believe-more than any other social network-that Facebook can get especially murky for most professionals.  It is extremely important that you know exactly what you want out of your relationship with Facebook, and why you are on Facebook, before joining the Facebook masses.  Going into it with a clear set of boundaries will potentially save you from damage later on. 
I know entrepreneurs who-despite having a personal page in addition to their professional page-never post images or updates about their family.  I know entrepreneurs who are very intentional about who they friend on Facebook, and if any of their friends post items they deem inappropriate they disconnect from that person immediately. 
You may think these methods are a bit extreme, and perhaps you feel you have found a happy medium between business and pleasure in social networking.  But it is much too easy to lose sight of what your involvement was all for in the first place.  Going back to the client’s business page; she and I had set it up as a means for her to share her wisdom and expertise as a healer so she could attract new customers.  We had discussed her loading up relevant articles about her industry, her writings, blog posts, videos, and the like to demonstrate why her services were better than other local competitors.  Yet, recently all she has posted are personal rants.  How does this convince a client that he/she will gain health and balance by working with her?  How does this advertise her business in a positive way, or for that matter, in any way at all?
I had another client recently post on her personal page that she was having a tough day as a business owner.  DO NOT DO THIS!  Even if you have been careful in arranging your settings on Facebook, and friending only people who have absolutely no direct connection with your business (and let’s face it, you probably haven’t been as careful as you should be with your settings, and you know you have some employees and clients in the friendship mix) this is absolutely not the appropriate venue to vent your grievances.  It is all too easy to connect the dots between you and your business.  Before you know it, your staff, your clients, and your competitors are going to see things are not as successful as you would want (and need!) them to believe.

So please, proceed with caution.  Delete questionable posts.  Remove from your personal accounts people who have no business being your friends because they are your business.  Get back to why you created your blog, your business page, your networking accounts.  Use them all as a way to share WHO YOU ARE (in business), WHAT YOU OFFER, WHY IT IS DIFFERENT FROM YOUR COMPETITORS, and ultimately WHY CUSTOMERS SHOULD CHOOSE YOU.
Here is a helpful links on how to use Facebook successfully:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Are Your Ah-ha Moments?

I love ah-ha moments, even painful ones.  They are the moments in your life when the light bulb pops on, casting a glow on your current circumstances, and showing you the way you should go from this point on.  All they ask is that you have a mindfulness to be on the lookout for them, otherwise they can be easy to miss.

Ah-ha moments are the guides that can help you save time/money/energy.  If heeded they can prevent you from wasting your resources on wrong commitments to people, places, professions, and preoccupations.

So what do I mean by ah-ha moments?  Let me tell you about one I recognized but essentially ignored; much to my regret.

I graduated from art school into an uncertain economy with very little life skills.  After floundering around for a while doing jobs that did not require a high school degree, much less a college diploma, I saw an advertisement posted in a newsletter from my alma mater: local artists were needed to work on an independent film.  I scheduled an interview.  During the interview the film's art director basically brushed me off, telling me I could do some menial jobs that would normally be handed off to a production assistant.  I was offended, and for one of the few times in my rather unassertive life I stood up for myself, reminding her that I had just completed four years at one of the best art colleges and the country, and that I wasn't going to give her my time/money/energy for anything less than real work and a credit on the film.  After huffing out of the interview I got a call with an invitation to be her assistant. 

During the two months I worked on this film I learned a lot about myself-my work style, my strengths and the type of job I am suitable for.  I learned I do best being my own boss: creating my own schedule and organizing and managing my own list of tasks.  I was asked to make all of the artwork for one particular character in the film and to design all of her art-related sets.  This required tons of self-motivation as I had to do in-depth research, paint the work on my own, and supervise the teams building the sets.  My efforts were met by and large with praise; the team could not believe they had left someone so young in charge of such an important task and that I had succeeded.  Several higher-ups, most of whom were established in Hollywood, asked me if I would be interested in continuing in the industry.  They told me they could introduce me to people, set me up with more work.  And do you know what I did?  I turned them down, saying I was relocating from Boston to Atlanta to get away from a horrible boyfriend.  Yes, I let a loser and my lack of foresight derail me from what would have been a dream career for me.  I absolutely love film.  Blessedly, life tends to make adjustments to your (often poor) choices, so I simply took a different path and moved on.  But I do often wonder what my life would have been if I had simply said, “yes” instead.

Flash forward a year or so.  I was living in Atlanta and teaching children's art classes (one ironically in film-making) on the weekends.  Oh, and I had a new horrible boyfriend.

I had just found out that the new horrible boyfriend had cheated on me.  That same day as I was opting to feel sorry for myself rather than kicking this loser to the curb, I got a letter in the mail.  It was from a little girl who had attended my recent photography course.  She wanted to tell me how much she had gotten out of my teaching.  She said I inspired her and that she was thinking of becoming a photographer when she grew up.  While I was tuned in enough to appreciate the dichotomy of positive (you have value) versus negative (you do not have value) I did nothing further about it.  I didn't use this as an ah-ha moment to get rid of what wasn't working in my life, and focus on what was.  Soon after that I stopped teaching.  For years I held onto the horrible boyfriend

Forward to now.  At this point I have been a small business consultant and a full-time artist for over a decade.  I have been developing and teaching professional workshops for creative entrepreneurs since 2008.  And because people often need the benefit of undivided attention and guidance I have offered creative coaching since 2010. 

For quite a while now I had been discontent in my work as a small business consultant.  While I have gained a lot of important wisdom through managing businesses-wisdom I then apply to my own art career and to my lessons for freelancers, I feel my time is too divided.  It is easy to allow ensuring the success of others to overshadow ensuring my own.  The desire of my heart for a while now is to dedicate myself completely to my own art career, which I feel the teaching and the creative coaching are extensions of.  As a Christian, I love Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  I feel God has been telling me- gently at first but then more overtly-to focus on my art.  Now in this economy my natural response back has been, “With all due respect, You are crazy.” 

Once I began ruminating on this desire, once I felt I had the “green light” from God I began to recognize ah-ha moments all around me.  Like the palpable excitement amongst my workshop participants as we shared ideas and supported each other.  The expression on their faces as they exited the classroom feeling empowered to make some big, positive changes in their lives.  I got a gift from one of my creative coaching clients, along with a card sharing her gratitude over how much I have helped her.  Another creative coaching client made me a collage expressing enthusiasm over what she has gained from working with me and anticipation for where her path is leading to. 

As of this week I changed my schedule so that my art career is first priority in my work life.  It was scary; making this alteration, realizing that with it there is the loss of a dependable, significant portion of my income.  But I pinched my nose, squeezed my eyes shut, and took the plunge.

In the past four days I have earned from art sales and creative coaching as much as I bill for two weeks of business consulting work.   And as I write this an email has come in from a company that supplies original art for corporate work spaces, asking me if I would be interested in working with them.

So, what are you ignoring in your life, a message that keeps appearing to you but that you turn away from because of your anxiety of change,  your fear of the new?  Have several friends or family members told you the same thing lately?  Have your eyes fallen on the same word over and over again?  Have people been genuinely, consistently touched by a certain talent or ability of yours?  Do you find yourself stuck in a rut, repeating mistakes, dealing with the same kind of circumstances over and over, interacting with the same types of individuals? 

Looking back at your life, do you recognize moments that presented you with crossroads?  Were you open to taking the right path or did you keep your face down, stare at your feet, and just shuffle ahead?  Are you brave enough to look up, to listen?  What is your heart saying?  What is your soul singing?  What is your mind envisioning?
Here is some reading for inspiration:



Monday, October 1, 2012

Good Morning, Entrepreneur

I have crawled and clawed my way to the end of what is always the craziest month of my year-good ole' September.  This means I am now scraping myself off, and at least starting to sit upright at my desk again.

I know it has been too long, and for that I apologize.  But I promise October will bring with it at least one (hopefully) insightful post.

In the meantime, please enjoy this:

9 Life Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Know