Monday, 5 August 2013

Guest Post: Designing a Business Plan for your creative business

This guest post comes to us from the fabulous Helen Roe from The Orange Lantern who provides marketing and business planning for creatives. 

Do you have a business plan? Why does your business need one? Does the thought of creating your business plan or even updating it leave you cold? A business plan is the cornerstone of your business. Here we look at why you need to invest time in creating your business plan.

You’re an artist. Regardless of what you make, design, create or even service you offer, your business plan is an extension of you.  Your business vision and values are reflected in this work of art. The ‘document’ or ‘template’ that you may have (gathering dust somewhere?) needs to be a breathing, living, work in progress.

 Your Business Plan guides you, directs you and keeps you focused on where you’re going. It’s your roadmap to business growth and success.

A business plan does not have to be boring. Just because you need to include a spreadsheet or financials along with goals, strategies and actions does not mean you can’t include colour, personality and you. If your business plan is to be an extension of you it needs to reflect that – your vision, your voice and your thoughts.

Here’s the milestones you need to cover:
Executive Summary
This is a brief overview of your business, your business mission, purpose and vision. As this sums up your whole business in a nutshell it’s often easier to write last, after doing the rest of the plan.

Business Vision & Values
This company overview forms the foundation for the rest of your plan. Here you describe what type of business you’re in, where you want to go and what’s important to you and your business.

Business Landscape
The competitive analysis is where you take a look at your industry, your marketplace. Once you understand your marketplace you can identify your opportunity and niche, where you stand out from the competition.

Marketing Plan
This is where you spread the word and outline how you will get your product/service out there, into the hands of your perfect customers. You establish goals, tactics/strategies and assign a budget to each activity. Your sales process is also included here.

Financial Picture
Your business is no longer a hobby when you have a proper financial plan. You track all the money flowing out of your business and into your business. It tells you how you will make the moola, outlining how much you need to sell, and how much you need to make to be a profitable business.

Your Team
This is human resources – the people that support you and your business. Here you describe your skillsets, qualifications and experience and identify who helps you, what they do and what they get paid.

Action Plan
Here’s where you outline how you will implement and get things done. This is about taking your business vision and values and making them real. You set goals, identify tactics or strategies to achieve them and detail your action plan or ‘to do’s’ to get the job done.

Operational Plan
This section describes your business systems, processes and procedures. Here you talk about what you do from the first customer call or encounter through to delivery and customer support. It’s steps, flow charts, arrows and all that lovely stuff.

A visual Business Plan overview
And finally, here’s some tips to get you started:

Get started with some Free downloads and playsheets over at

Use inspirational material for your business plan. It doesn’t necessarily have to be formal, typed and bound. See here for some great ideas.

Get it all down – it’s okay if it’s not in the right sections. Brain dump ideas and inspirations, you can tidy things up later. It does make sense to start with your business vision and values, the fun part! The details will then follow.

Then take each section at a time, building and adding as you go. Remember this is a work in progress document. You can revisit a section at any time.

Need help with yours? The Orange Lantern is a licensed facilitator for The Right Brain Business Planning workshops.These are fun, interactive workshops where you get to create your real, authentic business plan, your visual map for the success of your business.

Click here for my next workshop dates. I also offer consulting sessions on business planning for creatives. Contact me if you have any questions 

Helen Roe

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Choosing a business name and rebranding

When you have a small business, you need to keep your costs low during the start up phase in order to survive. Presenting yourself as a professional looking business is one thing you really should spend a little money getting right in the beginning. And if you didn't, then do think about a rebrand before you take your next step to grow.

Choosing a business name
I know this will sound harsh but i literally cringe when i hear a baby or childrens business named after children (and or pets). I'm sorry but it's a big no no in my book. It just screams "i had kids and decided to make a business out of it". In other words, it scream small and inexperienced. 

Yes ok i know there are loads of you out there saying "Well poo to you, i love the fact that i called my business after my kids". Time to build a bridge and read on.... 

So the one KEY thing you want to focus on when choosing a brand name is: Does my business name explain what the business does or makes? If someone was to read your business card and have to ask what you do, then you are not achieving your goal. A business name should always be easy to say, spellwrite & remember.

Here are some great examples of what not to do (these are made up names so as not to offend anyone.)

No No
Fork Bug - explains nothing about anything
iBot, iRock, iAnything - Don't jump on someone else's bandwagon
Sherryn Designs - Overused, screams that you aren't a real designer 
Milly and Poppy - naming after kids / pets screams small biz
Pugatetum - Unfamiliar to pronounce, no one will remember it to Google it
Chow Chow - (This is one is real, it's a friends band name) Naming it after something that already exists creates a linguistic nightmare on Google

And some good examples (these are real business examples)
The Commitment Company - A marriage celebrant business - simple, easy to remember and explains what it does 
Period Details - A store that sells federation period style homewares and products like period fireplaces
MiniMink - Children's mink fur accessories - Rolls off the tongue, does what it says on the tin - Uses the perfect keywords that their customers would type into Google
Hawthorn Car Repairs - If you are a business that mainly services a local area, add your suburb or city. It may sound boring but if it means you'll get customers easily, who cares!

OK so what about those huge companies that use made up names like Google and Ebay and Etsy i hear you say? Unless you are reinventing the wheel, i would stick to a finding a name that explains what you do. Google didn't get where it is today because they picked an obscure name, they got there by being the best at what they do and by having a great marketing plan. 

Random fact: The name Google comes from the word googal - the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. It signifies the large amount of information hits achievable by their search engine. It was misspelled on a check made out to them as "Google". Their original name for the search engine was "Backrub". Can you hear yourself saying "Backrub it"?

OK so you went ahead and picked a crappy name already and now you wish you could fix it but you feel like you will lose your whole customer base if you change it? False. Rebranding can (if done correctly) take your business to a new level. 

Rebranding is not necessarily changing your name, it might be just changing your logo, colour scheme and fonts used on all your marketing materials.  In order to rebrand effectively, it is important to get a graphic designer to do it with you. Trying to do it yourself if you have no training in graphic design and marketing WILL send you even further down that creek without a paddle. 

Case Study 1
Amy had a little business called Aimless Designs - handmade greeting cards. After discovering that blogging about her business and crazy life was taking off more than the cards were, she needed a new approach to her business that incorporated her blog about being a mum to 3 boys, her other passion cooking and her creative business. 

Amy decided on a new name for her blog "Adventures of a Crazy Mumma". As a blog name, it tells me exactly what this blog is going to be about - hilarious antics. So it gets my tick for a good name choice. 

Taking inspiration from Amy's facebook page, here's how we came up with a rebrand for Amy's business. 

Inspiration from Amy's facebook page

The new blog header

The new logo of the blog (perfectly square for social media)

I felt that Amy's creative business still needed to be kept a separate entity and so i developed a separate logo that she could use for her Aimless Designs facebook page. 

Old Logo
New logo

Notice that the new design is very similar to the old one so as not to completely confuse customers but looks fresh and professional. 

Case Study 2 
Milk and Honey Handmade Crafts had a great name but needed a fresher version of their logo and branding. They needed a new look and feel that still conveyed their old school, passionately handcrafted vibe and they still liked their colours. We continued the bee theme as it spoke well about the long processes they used to hand stitch theirs products. 

Old logo

Rebranded logo - (webstore banner version)
We also of course developed versions for facebook, for black and white documents etc to make each size and format workable and readable.  

As you can see, rebranding does not have to be a complete backflip from your current look. It's about bringing a brand to the next level, making it look professional & timeless and making it relevant for any current forms of marketing (eg social, web and print forms). 

And yep, here's where i shamelessly plug my graphic design services...

We have a great special on from now until Christmas. 

Book in any website or webstore design and get a free branding or rebranding package valued at $800. Projects can be done pre or post Christmas if needed, a deposit is just required before Christmas. Head to my graphics page for more details and prices.  

Ciao for now. 

Nicole Herrick
Head Honcho at Kids Style Hub

Founder of AADR
The Australian Alliance of Designers and Retailers 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

SEO... when you're a struggling, one person small business

Right, SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION, you've all heard the term and know roughly what it means. You know that it's all about keywords and rankings but that's about it. For some reason, most of us in small business are still a bit clueless about what it really entails, how much it costs for someone else to do it and why on earth we avoid it for so long. 

I've been running several small businesses for 2 years now and have happily had my head in the sand up until now. So what made me change my tune and start to research it? Well i guess for me it is all about taking things to that next level. I feel like i have done everything on my own for such a long time and have finally jumped off the cliff and started outsourcing a few things. I now have a cleaner once a week, an intern part time and business partner in our kids parties side of things. 

OK, i think to myself, time to get more serious and take this baby to "profitsville" before i end up bankrupt. SEO seems like just about the only thing i haven't tried so far so let's give that a crack and hopefully that will just magically make everything start selling better and life will be sweet. 

So my next step is to jump on google and find myself an SEO consultant. In my head i'm thinking maybe like AUD$2000 or something as a one off fee. Turns out, you can't really just do it once and then expect to stay high in the rankings of the almighty Google. Apparently  you also have to take out a "monthly plan" which starts from around $400 per month. Now that may not seem that exorbitant to you (or you may already be sheding in your pants), but my main business is in a VERY competitive industry, ie children's clothing, toys and gifts and there are around 2,000 products on my website. So for me to really have effective SEO management i'm looking at a set up fee of anywhere from $2000 to $8000 and a monthly plan of around $2000. 

....... cue crouching into the fetal position and rocking. 

Anyway, i could stay in that fetal position forever OR get off my butt and figure out a way to do it myself. Now i must admit, i am a bit of a techy geek so for me, as long as i teach myself how to do it and find an extra 12 hours up my sleeve every day for a month, this seems achievable. For  those of you that aren't quite so technically "elegant", i wanted to write some basic layman's tips on how to start implementing this into your everyday business life. 


Step One: Get yourself a free Google Analytic's account to track what your website traffic does. In a month or two, jump on it and have a look around, it can be overwhelming but it will soon start to make sense and provide you with some really interesting info. Even if you can't make sense of it right now, it is super important to set it up as early as possible. I always set mine up as soon as i make a new site. 

Step Two: Set up a free Google Webmaster Tools account and learn how to use it. This will help you TELL Google to look at your site. Any time you add new info or a new product, you want Google to go have a look to see if you rank a little higher now. To tell Google to crawl your site, you want to submit your "site map". All the info on how to use Google Webmaster is easily learnt just by using it and following prompts. 

Step Three: Now that you have had a little play around with Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, you will have learnt a bit more about what keywords are sending people to your site. The next step is to ask yourself, what is the ultimate 1- 5 keywords or key phrases that i "want" people to type into Google and up bings my website in top spot? 

For me, the top keywords are:
Kids clothing
Kids Toys
Baby Clothing
Baby Toys

Then there is also a whole bunch of secondary keywords that i think should be getting them there like: Melbourne, maternity, artwork, bedding, dolls, newborn, gifts, stationery, hair accessories, party products, kids shoes, craft, nursery, cot, swimwear, pyjamas, play rugs, etc. I could go on forever with the amount of products we stock.

Now you have to figure out how to get more of these keywords into your website LEGITIMATELY. You can't just copy and paste them from your word document, it all has to make sense and be RELEVANT to your products. Basically, don't try and cheat, just think KEYWORDS before you enter your next product or service title, description, page details etc. 

A good starting point is to make sure that each of your main page addresses contain good keywords. If you use a templated online website building system, usually the address will just be what ever title you initially give it. For example some of my pages used to be called:

But a better way to name these pages using keywords for my industry is:

Step Four: Write a bloody blog! If you are that intelligent to start your own business then trust me, you are smart enough to write a blog. A blog is the second biggest tool for upping your ranking on google after keywords. Use a free platform like Google's blogger. Most people think "oh but who would want to hear what i have to say?" Forget about an audience, you can pretend your one and only audience member is the almighty Google and you write for his/her pleasure. The more you please him/her with keywords RELEVANT to your industry, the higher they will rank you on the leaderboard. 

The trick with a blog is not to hard sell. Just write about your work or your industry. If you're a plumber, write about funny plumbing stories or tips on keeping your plumbing in tip top condition. If you're a dance teacher, write about all the styles of dance. If you're a clothing retailer, write about what's hot in fashion. In all respects, pick something that you like, that way it's easier to write about.     

OK that's enough to make your head spin i know and there's plenty more to it than that. But before you reach for the phone and remortage your house to hire an SEO consultant, think about this... Why on earth would i pay someone to write words for my business (cause that's what SEO consultants do really) when no one knows my business better than me. 

Want to learn more? Google's own SEO GUIDE is straight from the horses mouth.

A very talented designer recently said to me "Race you to a million?" and we're talking profit per annum here..... My reply "Challenge accepted my friend, challenge accepted!"

Nicole Herrick
Head Honcho 
Kids Style Hub
KSH SHOP 436 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Melbourne

The Australian Alliance of Designer and Retailers