5 things to catapult you into 2015

Best resources for a great start to 2015
the journey - danny haas at society6.com/r0gue

the journey – danny haas

{artwork via here}

The New Year is an especially fabulous time for starting on new things. It all seems to fit together – a fresh mindset for a fresh calendar.

So I’ve brought together a few of the best resources I’ve found out there to get you and your business positively sproinging out of the starting gate!  There is SO much out there to choose from, it’s very easy to get overloaded; I think simple is often best so I’ve kept it concise. There are some old favourites (who can go past Seth?) and some discoveries I’ve just made recently. They are both practical, and good for getting your head facing the right direction. Here goes:


the journey - danny haas at society6.com/r0gue


1. How to Set a 100 day Goal and Stick to It with Julia Bickerstaff from the Business Bakery. Down to earth and fun. I’m doing this one for sure! Here.


2. Design Cuts Holiday Bundle: If you’ve not come across these guys before, then they might just be the graphics godsend that you need. Design Cuts cater to graphic designers large and small, and even if you’ve only got a basic understanding of image editing programs, you’ll find something that’s works for you. Not only do they provide fabulous tutorials, they also collate very high quality graphics resources (like fonts, vector images, textures and more) and present them in bundles for hugely reduced rates, often 80-90% off. Best thing at the moment though is that they have got a MASSIVE bundle of goodies for you for NIX. That’s right, free. Check the bundle out here (you’ve got to hurry though, it ends on 4th January).


3. Design your own {lovely} blog: Do you have a blog? I recommend you do (and here’s why). Marianne has an absolutely fab collection of tips and tutorials on how to get your blog looking its best – from very simple ideas on what to include where, through to the internal coding to make it all work.


4. Colour. I really couldn’t decide which colour palette generator was more useful, as they both have their strong points, as well as some similarities. Both of these sites allow you to choose colour schemes from photos, and you can choose to make your colour schemes public (to be voted on by their respective communities) or private. You can also scroll through other people’s schemes and use them.

Adobe Color CC is great for those who want to strengthen their knowledge of how colour schemes work, and gives you an on-screen colour wheel so you can visualise what’s happening. ColourLovers has been around for yonks, and that’s because it’s excellent. Although it lets you simply choose colours in your palette according to whim, it also has a section where you can create your own patterns and apply the colours you have chosen, AND then export your coloured patterns to Spoonflower.


5.  30 day List Building Challenge from Nathalie Lussier is another must-do. Does your business have an email list? If you don’t, you are surely missing out. I remember reading one time that your customers can forget to visit your website and then forget you – but if you’re in their inbox, you’re in a very privileged position. Get the lowdown from Nathalie “let’s make it a home run” Lussier here.


Bonus: Seth’s Blog. I know I said 5 things, but I really cannot go past the wonderfulness that is Seth Godin. Succinct, pointed, thought-provoking – Seth’s post in my inbox is one that I rarely miss opening. Guaranteed to expand your horizons, and make you dig deep into what’s inside you in equal measure. You can find Seth’s wisdom here. Subscribe; you won’t be sorry.


(Just a note though, don’t feel obligated to start any or all of these on the 1st January; there are other calendars around besides the Gregorian, not to mention your own timetable. Start when you’re ready, but don’t wait until everything’s perfect because it never will be. Start SOON.)


p.s. Don’t forget to check out all the tutorials on tractorgirl, and you can also grab a copy of my new book, Visual Business {Small Business Branding} for a very large 25% off here.


the journey - danny haas at society6.com/r0gue



Here’s to an absolutely fabulous 2015!

Best wishes always, Julie x

avi self portrait 2 lightest

Small biz how-to : Designing a knock-out business card {Part 2}

Business card design tips:

Your business card is a bit like a PR manager – they can do a fabulous job of introducing you and making you memorable…. or not. {Did you catch Part 1 of “Designing a knock-out business card? It takes a journey through how to choose colours, fonts, images, textures and more so you can figure out how to best convey your business’s style. You can find Part 1 here.}

Today’s post covers the practical aspects – graphic design basics, and the technical stuff you need to know to get the result you’re after. But first up, here’s a bunch more inspiration to get your creative juices flowing (again,they’re all standard size business cards to prove that you’re really only limited by your imagination).


 jan sabich

make your card useful like this one from jan sabich


collage-style from jean ming (front & back)

show off your skills like this collage-style from jean ming (front & back)


 Melody Nieves - pirate-style treasure map

make it fun – pirate-style treasure map from Melody Nieves



add some whimsy and mystery with a bit of scratchie-style


tiny twiggette - letterpress

tiny twiggette – gorgeous in letterpress


show off your surface design portfolio - the beginnings

show off your surface design portfolio – the beginnings


involve your customers - fill in the blank for kim bost

involve your customers – fill in the blank for kim bost



As I mentioned in the last post, the standard size for a business card is around 55mm x 85mm (2″ x 3.5″). These vary a bit from printer to printer, so always check.

Other sizes or shapes can be very attractive and certainly make your card stand out, but they’re usually much more expensive, AND if it won’t fit into a wallet or business cardholder, it’s probably less likely to be kept in a usable spot by your potential customer.



Now, of course you can make your own business cards, especially if you’re involved in the handmade industry. However, if you’re not careful these can very much end up looking home-made and cheap. So unless you’re feeling particularly confident about your abilities, I would avoid them.

There are two other ways to go – if you’re not confident about making the images yourself, you can take your ideas along to your local printer (who usually have in-house designers to put your design ideas into a finished printable format), or you can use one of the many online printing venues (such as MOOSaltprinttinyprints, JukeBox, GotPrint, or google one in your area) who will let you upload your own designs and they print them for you. Most of these also provide you with a downloadable template that you can use in your favourite image editing software,and they will also give you some tips on what to do and what not to do.

When you’re designing your own images to upload you need to also include a small amount (about 3mm) around the outside for bleed. These also vary from printer to printer, so do check.



Letterpress has a wonderful texture as the process results in embossed card which adds a high-end handmade feel. They’re most often handprinted by small workshops, and are therefore much more expensive, and you are also limited to one or two colours. However, good letterpress looks absolutely fabulous and is definitely worth the money if you can afford it.


Digital Printing

When you’re printing from digital files, you need to work at around 300dpi (dots/pixels per inch = about  72 pixels per cm) or higher to ensure a crisp image. So, if you’re designing a card that is 85mm x 55mm plus a 3mm bleed on all edges = 91mm x 61mm, you need to work on a canvas that is around 6550 pixels x 4390 pixels.

In Photoshop, pull out some guides to show you where the bleed area is.  Go into “View/New Guide…” and then enter the positions of your guides (here the guidelines are shown in turquoise). You can go further and add in some more guides for the ‘safe area’ of where to put text so that it doesn’t look squished in a corner.


inserting guidelines in Photoshop

inserting guidelines in Photoshop


It’s important that you also work in CMYK colour, as that’s what the file will be printed in. If you work in RGB colour (which is what is used by monitors), when it gets converted to CMYK for printing some colours can end up looking very murky.


Graphic Design Basics

– Contrast. Use visual contrast to provide focal points in your design. Contrast in size, texture, colour, direction or shape can turn something monotonous into something interesting and beautiful. Don’t get carried away with too much contrast though; it can just end up looking messy.

Contrast is also important so that your contact details are easy to read.

When choosing fonts, the rule of thumb is to use only two fonts on any one document, three if you absolutely must. You can vary the size of the same font to provide interest and hierarchy.

Alignment. Alignment is about building visual relationships on the page or frame; making sure everything in your design relates to something else on the page. If it’s out of alignment, it looks messy and ill-considered. It’s really as simple as making sure all your text is lined up (either centred correctly, or justified to the left or right) – break out some more guidelines to help you with this, or you can use the Alignment tools in Photoshop.

If you’ve got a layered image in Photoshop, alignment is simple. In the first image there are three layers plus background. To centre align them with the background, you need to select all layers. Select all your layers by holding the shift key down and clicking on them all.

Then, click on the Move tool in the top left, and then the ‘centre’ icon on the top bar.


biz cARDS - ps ALIGN


To distribute them equally down the page, you need to only select the layers you’re moving, so deselect the background. Then click on the ‘Distribute’ icon in the top bar.


biz cARDS - ps ALIGN2


Alignment can also be used with text to indicate a different level of information. By indenting text from the line above it, we indicate that it’s a different type of information.



This is the explanatory text.


– Hierarchy. Creating a hierarchy in your design is helpful in communicating what is the most important information. We can do this in various ways – through the use of different font styles and sizes (e.g. italic and bold, or all caps), and through Alignment (as above).

When you’re using small fonts though, make sure you don’t go so small that it’s hard to read. Legibility is vital! Don’t make your potential customers work too hard to get your contact information.


RepetitionRepetition of font styles, colours, shapes, etc., creates continuity and cohesiveness. Make it fit with your brand.


Space. DON’T crowd your cardLeave space – it looks better. Less is more.

Space can also be a useful thing for either your customers to write notes on about you and your goods and services, or for you to write a short thank you to your customers.



DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING before printing. Get someone else to proof it too.
It’s embarrassing and/or expensive to find that typo after they’re printed!!!




Have you got a great business card already? Or you’ve got an okay kind of business card but you’re not quite sure what you can do to improve it? I’d love to see! Feel free to hop on over to my Facebook page and post a pic of your card and promote your biz at the same time!

Or have you got a burning question about business card design (or any other kind of graphic design or branding question) pop a comment below and I’ll get you an answer. Your question might just be the one to help another small business too – share the love! 

Julie x

Small biz how-to : Designing a knock-out business card {Part 1}

Business card design:

It’s an exciting thing when you give your card to someone and they say, “That looks great!! Can I have another one to share?” Or they turn to the person next to them and say “Hey, look at this!”

Awesome, huh!?


duct tape and glitter - via businesscarddesignideas.com

duct tape and glitter – via businesscarddesignideas.com


Have you kept other people’s business card just because they look great? Get them out and have a think about why that is.

A while ago, I came across this trick to help you figure out some things about effective business card design. Find all the business cards you can and lay them out on the table. Close your eyes for a few seconds and then open them. Guaranteed some of them will grab your attention straight away – pick those ones out and analyse what it is that grabbed you. Colour? Images? Great font or logo? Vertical layout? Texture? What else?


patterns via anamublog.com

patterns via anamublog.com


 rio mas by melisa sceinkman - via pastemagazine.com

rio mas by melisa sceinkman – via pastemagazine.com


angela and evan photography - via factorynorth.com

angela and evan photography – via factorynorth.com


candle belle by alan cheetham - via pastemagazine.com

candle belle by alan cheetham – via pastemagazine.com


david and claire wedding invite - via fellowfellow.com

david and claire wedding invite – via fellowfellow.com


making lemonade - via designrfix.com

making lemonade – via designrfix.com


jane lindeman - via moo.com

jane lindeman – via moo.com


thedarlingroom - via webdesignerdepot.com

thedarlingroom – via webdesignerdepot.com


{Except for the last one, I’ve chosen the above examples for their simplicity and effectiveness on a standard size business card. Click the images for the original source.}


Business card design can be a fabulously effective tool for your business. Or not. Remember ever tossing a boring business card in the bin? Sure you do. You don’t want yours to suffer that fate, do you? So, make it interesting. And remember, your business card is NOT there to show and say everything about who you are; it should be a introduction, a conversation starter. Use them to showcase your work and style. And it DEFINITELY needs to fit with your brand. {Have you got that sorted? Here.}


Your Layout.

– The weight of card makes a big difference to how your business is perceived. Heavier card sends a message of quality; flimsier cards send a message of cheapness. Don’t print your cards on anything much less than 300gsm (grams per square metre) – anything thinner feels like throwaway material.

– The texture of your card can add another level of class – of course there is the standard choice of matt or gloss, but you can also get textured cards, or even letterpress embossed.

Other materials:  If you’re prepared to pay, you can get cards made out of lots of different things, for instance wood, metal or transparent plastics.

– Special sizes and cuts:  A standard business card size is 84mm x 55mm (3.5″ x 2″). You can really make your card stand out by making it an unusual shape or size, but that will add to the cost. Simple rounded corners on a standard size card don’t usually cost much, but I’ve also seen circular ones from a smallgoods store that look like a slice of salami, and one from a furniture maker that folds out into a miniature chair. Another trade-off to consider is that it’s harder for your customer to carry or keep if they have a standard business card holder (although, is your ideal customer likely to have one of those things?).

– Readability is important. Overly fancy or stylised fonts, or even something that is too small…. don’t use’em. You want to communicate clearly.

Images: Especially useful if you’re a photographer, artist or a maker. Great images of your work can act like a sneak peek into your portfolio. Cover one side of your card to serve as the main ‘face’, and print your details on the other side.

Borders: Don’t use a layout with a border; even a tiny shift in alignment of the cutters at the printer will result in lopsided borders (which is why when you’re designing a card, they usually allow a ‘bleed’ area of around 3mm).


It’s For More Than Just Your Contact Details.

If you make your card useful, people are more likely to hang onto it too. Include a discount code towards the next purchase, include a map, a ruler, or handy reference info that is relevant to your work.When you make your card useful AND pretty, you send a message about your business as a provider of useful stuff.


What to Put On Your Card.

It’s so easy to connect with people once you have a website. And when you overload your business card with too much text it looks messy and yuk. So keep it simple, and remember that “Less is More” (my fave quote from one of my fave architects).

Absolutely essential:
– business name.
– website (preferably just the one – don’t confuse people).
– contact details eg email addy.

– business tag line or description (if you think it’s necessary to explain what your business is about).
– an image of your work.
– further contact details if it’s appropriate – a street address, phone number, your name, your job title.

Probably not: {because don’t clutter your card with unnecessary information.}
– social media. It’s not what your business card is for; if people want to connect with you, they’ll find the info when they go to your website.
– multiple web addresses. don’t confuse people. One, or two at the most.





So get designing!! In Part 2 of this post, I will go through some basics of graphic design so that you get a REALLY fab looking card, and some of the technical stuff of printing so that you get exactly the result you want.

See you then!!
Julie x


LAUNCH!! Visual Business : Small Business Branding

YAY! It’s here!

After months of preparation, this is it; ready to take you to the next level in your business.

It’s my new e-book, “Visual Business”, and it’s aimed specifically at people like you with indie businesses, who want to improve their online presence, but don’t have the time to research all the stuff you need to make it happen.

When you’re not quite sure where to start because we humans are a walking bundle of quirks and contradictions. How do you get clear on who and what you are? When you know you’ve got style, but you don’t know how to convey that in your website/shop banner/business card/product photos/whatever. AAARGH!

When you’ve bootstrapped yourself this far, and you want to get professional-looking without having to sell off your first-born.

You want to communicate your style to the world. You want to be able to deliver a consistent message about who you are and what you do. You want your customer to want you, because you and only you have exactly what it is that they need.


visual business bookcover 2 final 350x306


page excerpts 3 turquoise

Here’s what’s inside.

– Getting started – your introduction to Branding for Small Business, and instructions on how to get the best value out of the book and its worksheets.

– Identifying your Business Personality in words AND in images, and sending a clear message about who you are.

– Identifying your ideal customer so you can speak their language

– Perfecting your products and identifying your Point of Difference

– All about colour and how to choose the right ones for you

– Choosing the right fonts for your business

– Graphic design basics : how to put your ideas together in a professional way and make them look fabulous

– A list of resources that you can use now, and for when you’re ready to grow in the future.


Each of the six chapters comes with its own worksheet, designed to engage and enlighten you, and to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to bring your own brand to life.

I wrote this book because creating a cohesive shopfront  and brand is the one thing that small business owners like you identify as their biggest problem. “How does my shop look?” “How can I improve my product images?” “I’m not sure about my shop banner – what do you think?”

I wrote this for small business owners because I truly believe everyone is capable of good design when equipped with the right tools and knowledge. I draw on many, many years of experience as a qualified teacher, designer and artist so that you get the skills and the thought-provoking prompts to build your business and your brand step by step to reach your right people.

You can do it. You’re ready to shout your brand to the rooftops! Get started NOW.


click here:25 LAUNCH DISCOUNT

SPECIAL!! Everyone gets a 25% discount for the launch, with the code 25BRANDME at checkout –
that makes it $30 instead of $40!


(OR you can join the mailing list and get a 40% DISCOUNT CODE. Available for a very limited time only!! $24 instead of $40)


Small Biz : 7 tips for using Pinterest effectively


Visit tractorgirl’s profile on Pinterest.

{my latest pins}


Pinterest is a great business tool! It’s useful for driving traffic (about 1/3 of my blog’s total traffic), for spreading the word about special offers, competitions or important articles, and for raising awareness of anything you consider important. I also use it for finding tips and tricks for my own business, for finding new artists to feature, and for just plain old wonderful inspiration.

Collecting lots of pretty images is fun, but if you do wish to use it effectively for business, there are some strategies you need to think about in order to get the most out of your time there. Because when you’re in business, you don’t have endless amounts of time to waste, do you? To get the most out of it of course you need to have a reasonable number of followers, and you need to pin the most interesting and/or beautiful images so that they get shared and clicked on.

My good friend Dannielle wrote an article recently on how she managed to grow her Pinterest following dramatically (you can find it here). She’s got some fabulous tips! I do suggest if you want to get serious about Pinterest, you must read it.

Now, I’m not strategic about Pinterest all the time, and I am not completely obsessed with it either, although I do pop in fairly consistently – around 4 or 5 times a week, somewhere between 15-30 minutes per session. As I write this, I’m heading up to 6,500 followers, and about 5,000 of those I’ve gained over the past year or so [edit: it’s now at about 10K followers].

So, given that you’re reading this because you want to use Pinterest to grow your business, the first thing to remember is to include your site address in your profile, and write something about your biz in the “About You” section. Done that? OK good; now onto the important stuff.


1. Pin stuff that is relevant – cultivate your “tribe”

The idea is to attract people who are interested in the same things as you… so pin a wide variety of images that are relevant to your particular “thing” – if you’re all about crochet, pin lots of yarn-type crafts, and if your work is geometric with clean lines, then pin lots of slick, clean, geometric shaped stuff.

Feel free to pin pics of your own work, but don’t JUST pin your own work – it’s pretty boring for your followers, and you’ll probably run out of things to pin pretty quick too.

When you do pin stuff from your own site, you firstly need to make sure that your images are BEAUTIFUL and shareable, otherwise they’re not a good use of your time. Depending on what your image is, sometimes it can be useful to have a small watermark with your site address in the corner, so that if the description or link to your image gets changed, then it’s still clear where the image originated from.


2. Give your boards titles that make sense

Please, keep your board titles simple – if you have something ‘inventive’, potential followers are less likely to bother investigating your boards.  If people are interested in surface design, they’re more likely to follow a board called “surface design” than one called something silly like “printsy prince”.


3. Arrange your boards so that the top row/s are your most popular

The core areas of your business should be reflected in the boards you keep at the top of your page, so that when people check out your profile, they can see exactly what you’re about. You can rearrange your boards easily by simply clicking and dragging.

On my Pinterest, it’s obvious that my two favourite loves are pattern and craft – the labels say exactly what’s in them, and these boards are also right at the top. I’ve also got a bunch of other things I’m interested in there too – Workshop Space & Tools, Architecture & Space, and a series of ones for Small Biz – Tips & Tricks, Visual Design & Branding, and Words of Wisdom to Inspire.

I’ve also some got more general interest boards in there, but they’re towards the bottom of the page, and some other ones that I keep secret – stuff for our new house that we’re building, sewing techniques I want to investigate, and my own business vision board. Definitely add your own secret boards – they’re great for pinning things that are not important/core to your business, or even for things that you’re planning to do in the future.


4. Share the good stuff. Often.

Why people follow you is because of what you pin, of course! So it makes sense to only pin the good stuff – don’t just pin everything you see in your feed.  ALWAYS and only choose the best of what you see to repin. Which brings me to my next point.


5. Don’t clog up your feed with rubbish.

If you are using this for business, you want more effect with less effort. So, don’t clog up your own feed with crap!  If you are consistently seeing stuff in your feed that you don’t want, it’s easy enough to go to that board and unfollow it.

Be very choosy about boards and people that you follow – if you follow a person, DO take the time to check their boards. Even if they have great taste in photography or surface design, they might also be fascinated by Justin Bieber, or makeup tips, or a whole bunch of other stuff you’re not interested in. And if you’re not interested, Unfollow that board! Leave more room for the good stuff – less trawling, more pinning.

You can also decide whether to follow a person or not by checking how many pins they have on each board – so if they only have 3 pins on “pattern” and 500 on “cute kitties”, I’d reckon it’s a safe bet they’re not really that into pattern.

You can always find TONS more boards to follow (thereby improving your feed) by clicking on a pin that you like, and then look to see what other boards it’s been pinned to. Check out a few of those boards, and you’re bound to find some interesting ones.


6. Share helpful pins

Helpful pins are always good – you want to help your followers of course!! Tips and tricks are always welcome, and they get shared too.


7. Spend time on Pinterest 

Like anything, the more time you spend on learning about it and doing it, the better you become at it – the key is consistency. And don’t forget that with Social Media, the keyword is social – you need to be actively participating to get useful results.

Commit a certain amount of time to it (e.g. 20 -30 minutes a day), or make it a goal to make a certain number of pins. It’s pretty obvious that the more you do, the more followers you get, the more that can raise awareness of your business and bring customers to you.




There is SO much more to getting Pinterest to work for you!! At the very least though, the tips here will get you up and speeding ahead in no time.

I’d love to hear what your experiences with Pinterest have been!! Have you had any bad experiences? Do you have any issues or don’t know how to do something? Leave me a comment and tell me about it.
{p.s. And hey, leave me your Pinterest links as well!!}
{p.p.s. You can find my Pinterest here.}

Julie 😀