Creative inspiration can come from anywhere…

So, usually I ramble on and on about biz/tech stuff (you know: getting started with WordPress, honing your brand identity, etc.)

But this week, there’ll be none of that. Today, I’m simply sharing some things—sources of visual inspiration—that I’ve been looking at lately.

You might not think about it, but the work I do doesn’t just come out of nowhere. More like, design is the result of dozens and maybe even hundreds or thousands of visual images that I take in over time. Sooner or later, a little color combo I saw on a website might show up in a painting, or a pattern I saw on some fabric might inspire the background of my next website. It’s subtle, and perhaps complex, but it’s just how things happen (not just in design, but other forms of art and creation too—like music or architecture).

But enough of me talking/writing; here are two collections of things I’ve been looking at lately, which might show up in a design someday…

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WordPress vs. SquareSpace :: Why WP is Still King in My Book

WEBSITEHey, Sweet Dreamer!

Usually, when I write about WordPress (.org, not .com), I go on and on about why it’s so awesome, but I rarely ever mention how it stacks up against the competition.

Perhaps that’s due to my unwillingness to “go there”—and maybe also because until lately, there just weren’t any competing website platforms that deserved to be mentioned in the same blog post as WordPress.

Enter SquareSpace. It’s an all-in-one website service that I’ve been hearing more and more about, and I know a few businesses—even designers like myself—who love it.

So, I thought it would be only fair to compare these two website platforms side-by-side, to let you draw your own conclusions, and to explain why I still think WordPress is awesomesauce.

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You’ve heard me say it before: WordPress is all kinds of awesome!

It is, in my humble opinion, the best website platform for small business—because it puts you in control, and you can do EVERYTHING with it! Blog to your heart’s content, sell your fabulous products, create a private community or a subscription service, manage product inventory, share your own videos and images, and so much more…all from within your WordPress dashboard (with a few great plugins, of course!)

Pamela photo croppedSo when Pamela Wamala, an artist and teacher in Lowell, Massachusetts (USA), came to me last fall wanting to upgrade her old & outdated website to WordPress, of course I was thrilled to help.

Pamela had the classic conundrum: A website she couldn’t update—which was consequently three years out-of-date—and a separate blog site that she was using to post news and behind-the-scenes info for her network of art buyers and students. All of which made for a disjointed, less-than-helpful online presence.

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{The Sweet Brand! series appears on the 1st Monday of each month, and features awesome niche brands, small companies, solo businesswomen, and even celebrity brand personalities. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to businesses that are kickin’ it in their brand, and to point out what they’re doing right—principles that you can apply to your own brand.}

2015Oh boy! *rubs hands together excitedly, at least in my head*

It’s a new year, and a new month, and that means a new Sweet Brand to be inspired by.

But before we get into it, I just wanna say: “Welcome back! Happpppeee New Year!”

As I’m writing this, today is my first official day back, feelin’ good in my freshly decorated home office (pics on my Instagram), and looking forward to helping you in whatever way I can.

So far, I’m a mix of 70% pumped about the amazing things that will happen in 2015, 20% anxious, and 10% wishing I could just be lazy. With God’s help, I’m going to kick the other 30% to the curb, and get on with whatever He has in store for me this year.

But anyway, onto the meat! If you consider yourself a creative, you’ll love the awesome biz diva I chose for this month’s feature…

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Refresh Your Business Mojo for the New Year

049P0304LLSometimes, business can be tougher than usual. And it gets us down in the dumps.

Crickets chirp. We lose our creative mojo. And sometimes, we have loads of exciting stuff planned, lots of great ideas, but can’t seem to scrape up the motivation to follow through and get it done. (That’s the boat I’m in at the moment. Not fun.)

On the one hand, I hate to admit that I’ve had plenty of these kinds of downer moments…but then, who hasn’t?

The point here, is that I’m not about to let that stuff keep me from moving forward, especially not on the verge of a new year with new plans to implement, new people to serve, and fun to be had! As I must remember: God put me here for a reason, and I’ll be darned if I let myself make excuses for not fulfilling that purpose.

So I figured now would be a great time to remind myself, that there are plenty of “tools” in my box that I can use to get back on track. Hopefully these will prove helpful for you as well, in all your ambitious new adventures for 2015! ;)

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Time vs. Money: The age-old dilemma…

dollars versus hoursDeciding whether to apply your time, or your money, to solve a problem is never easy…

…especially when you’re a small business owner and you know how valuable both of those resources are!

Believe me, I’ve been there: That state of pushing things back, because I lack the time and/or the funds, and yet knowing that it’s only going to hurt me & my business the longer it remains undone.

So I know, that when someone puts off getting their website done, or waits forever to finally commission a cover for their book, it’s likely due to a conflict of time vs. money. As in, there’s not enough funds or hours in the day, or even if there’s plenty, it’s not always easy to decide which is best resource to use.

If you find yourself stuck between those two opposing forces, but know you need to get that website/logo/magazine DONE, here are the 3 steps you can take to get out of indecision, and on to taking action…

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{The Sweet Brand! series appears on the 1st Monday of each month, and features awesome niche brands, small companies, solo businesswomen, and even celebrity brand personalities. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to businesses that are kickin’ it in their brand, and to point out what they’re doing right—principles that you can apply to your own brand.}

girl with question mark symbols around her headI think this is one of the hardest aspects of branding to figure out: Your personality.

It’s quite a dilemma, isn’t it?

Deciding things like “How much of my personality should I share?”, “Should I be totally candid and relaxed, or more reserved?”, and “What about the balance between showing my true self vs. crafting a brand personality that my peeps will love? Are they one and the same, or no?” can all be overwhelming at times.

Rest assured, we all struggle with this. And while I can’t hand you a tried-and-true formula (your brand has to be yours & YOURS alone), I CAN show you a fabulous example of a very well-known female entrepreneur who has totally mastered her brand’s personality.

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timersWhen it comes to technology, slow is definitely NOT good. There’s nothing like a sluggish computer, slow internet, or a smartphone that freezes up on you, to get on your nerves—right?

Think about your website visitors…you can imagine how frustrating it might be for them to sit and wait for your web pages to load! Cue the finger-tapping and sighing…followed by lost patience and a desire to give up and find what they’re looking for elsewhere.

So how do you make your website speedy and efficient, to avoid losing people?

Here are just a few simple steps you can take to make your pages load fast like Speedy Gonzales ;) …and of course, give your site visitors a seamless experience…

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home-sweet-homeYesterday, I was spending time with friends in their adorable (shared) rental house/cottage.

Inevitably, we started talking about their décor, and how cute they’ve made the inside of the house look… But they lamented that the exterior color scheme of the house leaves much to be desired (and being only tenants, they have little say in it).

That surprised me because, prior to her mentioning that, I hadn’t even paid any conscious attention to the exterior of the house! Because all our fellowship time was being spent indoors, it was the interior of the house that I really soaked up and appreciated—while I completely overlooked the outside.

So this morning, as I was thinking about what to write for this post, it occurred to me that websites are a lot like that. I mean, if you look at which pages your peeps spend the most time on, chances are your Home page is very low on that list—maybe even at the very bottom.

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Sweet-Brand-graphic{The Sweet Brand! series appears on the 1st Monday of each month, and features awesome niche brands, small companies, solo businesswomen, and even celebrity brand personalities. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to businesses that are kickin’ it in their brand, and to point out what they’re doing right—principles that you can apply to your own brand.}

You know how much I love to celebrate design…beautiful colors, bold type, gorgeous branding…*breathes contented sigh*

But Sweet Dreamer, you know what’s even more beautiful and magnificent than design itself?

When someone brings their full truth & authenticity to the (business) table, and shows it in a big way through their visual brand.

And that’s exactly what copywriter and “Communication Stylist” Nikki Elledge Brown has done.

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