9 Ways to Protect Your Business During Uncertain Times

During the housing crisis of 2008/2009, my husband and I were running an architectural marketing company and overnight the phone stopped ringing, emails dried up and clients stopped paying their bills. Our world finds itself in the midst of very uncertain times again, but we survived the 2008 crisis and we can survive this as well.

Below I’ve listed some of the practical things we implemented immediately to protect our business, and these are things you can do as well, no matter the industry you are in.

Don’t panic!

Sitting around shell shocked and not acting is going to be the thing that kills your business. Take a moment to mourn the business you had and what you may have lost and then pivot and work through all the suggestions I offer below.

Take a full audit of your income and expenses

Taking a full audit of where your income and expenses sit at this moment will give you the easiest way to increase your profit margins and that means cutting out absolutely everything that isn’t necessary. Each company will have a different set of needs and where they sit financially, so it’s important to take stock of what is most important for your company.

Build your email list

No matter what industry you are in, you want to have a way to keep in contact with your loyal customers/clients. If you don’t have one yet, you need to build one. Trying to keep contact with customers only through social media isn’t a viable plan.

Use your downtime wisely

As business owners, we are busy working our businesses and rarely do we get the opportunity to stop long enough to take a true inventory of our business. Really look at what’s working. Is there something that you are holding tight to and in reality, it’s not a successful avenue of income? Are you up to date on your accounting and taxes? Are there services you dream of adding but don’t have the time to implement? What about your website and social media presence? Can you update your website and clean up and create a consistent brand style across all platforms?

Build a side-hustle

Building a side-hustle now may seem like a waste of time as so many are watching their businesses crumble, and many are out of work. That’s just not the case, now is honestly the best time and the reason being you will be filling in the gaps of a new way of life and work. We don’t know how long this will last and waiting around for life to return to normal when the reality is it may never return to the “normal” we knew before.

Offer support

As you dive into your own business don’t forget to offer support to the businesses around you. We may not be able to help everyone, but we can focus on businesses in our network, or local community and offer up assistance. Trade services to assist each other or share information and ideas for growth. We don’t have to isolate our businesses even if we are isolating ourselves at the moment.

Make a to-do list

Keeping a running list of all the things you want to work on, research and incorporate into your business or side-hustle will give you a place to return to each day for guidance. There are going to be days when it feels overwhelming and you might feel defeated, but that’s the perfect time to return to your list for the next thing to work on. Just keep going.

Be patient

Emotions are running high. Families are isolated together with partners and kids all underfoot. Finding your space to work will be important if you are working from home but being patient with each other will go a long way. The stress and worry can eat away at you and create tension between relationships, so find your patience and grace.

Take care of yourself

During these uncertain times as you fight for your business don’t forget to take care of yourself. Your health and well-being are a big asset to your company so add a bit of self-care into each day. Drink plenty of water, take a nap occasionally and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Take 30 minutes to an hour in the morning to get your head on straight. Take a walk or workout, eat a healthy breakfast, drink a cup of tea or coffee while you enjoy a good book. Don’t let the stress of business permeate every part of your life.

So, take a deep breath and begin!

7 ways to start your mornings right when social distancing

My husband and I have been self-employed and working from home for 19 years. During those years I homeschooled two kids through graduation. I found in all those years the most important thing is to have a great morning routine. Otherwise your mornings drag out and by the time you get to work your day is half-over.

There are a few things you can do to ensure you start your day right.

No phone

We all want to be informed but looking at the news seconds after waking up will only raise your stress level even before getting out of bed. That includes avoiding social media, news apps, etc. at least until you’ve completed all five things.

Get up earlier

If you’re self-isolating, working at home or your kids school is cancelled that doesn’t mean you should sleep in and get out of your typical routine. That will make for a rough return to normal. In fact, during this time I recommend getting up 15-20 minutes earlier than you normally do. For the first time you might have your spouse/partner, and kids underfoot and in your space all day, so finding time that is just yours is so important.

Write

Try journaling first thing in the morning. Julia Cameron suggests morning pages, which consists of three, hand-written pages. Essentially a brain-dump that allows you to free your mind of all the worries and clutter. I’m a planner and find that planning my next day even before leaving the “office” gives me a great start. Morning journaling, whether it’s in diary form, morning pages, or brain dump your to do list, the act of writing slows you down and gives you a fresh start. If you are looking for a great journaling technique read my post on “The Art of the Written Word”.

Get Moving

Start your day with a bit of exercise. If this is new to you, try light stretching or a nice walk. If you are more of a morning person, maybe try turning on some music and having a bit of a dance party or a more vigorous workout to work up a sweat. Getting out of the house during this time of isolation will be important, so think of ways to keep your distance, but still be able to enjoy the sunshine.

Other ideas: go on a hike, sit outside and drink of cup of tea, take a walk on the beach, uncover that treadmill or rowing machine and start using it, watch YouTube workout videos or download workout apps to try.

Enjoy a Cuppa

Take that extra time in the morning to sit with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy a good book or newspaper. If the news is to stressful, stick with a book.

Do the Basics

This includes showering, getting dressed and making your bed. It’ll be tempting to stay in your jammies all day, and I’ve done it many times, but by the end of the day I feel nasty and my mood shows it.

During this social distancing I’ve decided to simplify

Wake up Your Office

Whether you have a designated office space or not it’s important to wake up your office. Waking up my studio is one of my favorite things. Turning on the lights, warming up the space, and opening the blinds to let in the sunlight. As soon as the studio is awake, I’m reading to work.

What are some of your favorite ways to start your day? Tell me in the comments

11 ways to keep kids busy when stuck at home

This coronavirus crisis has forced many schools to close and has left many parents scrambling to find ways to occupy their kids during the day. There will obviously be schoolwork to stay on top of, but parents are forced to find ways to keep them busy.

I homeschooled my two kids from Kindergarten through graduation so I’m quite familiar with finding things to do with kiddos at home.

Cook Together

This is a great opportunity to get your kids in the kitchen. Many people are eating out less and this would be a great time to teach kids cooking skills. Plus, having the kids as a helper in the kitchen makes things go a lot quicker. Whether they are new in the kitchen or not, this is a perfect time to share family recipes or to try out new ones together.

Teach Them to Care for Plants/Garden

If you have a garden having them help with planting, weeding and watering would be a great way to keep them physically active and working outside.

No garden? No problem. Put them in charge of watering the house plants. Teach them how each plant is unique. How they each like a different temperature, amount of sunlight, or how much water they require.

Read a Book Together

This was a favorite in our house when the kids were little. Now that we’re all spending more time at home together, we’ve decided to start this up again. We picked a book and each night we read it out loud together. Pick a book that is new to each of you or reread a favorite.

Do Something Physical Each Day

Staying physical will not only keep your bodies healthy and strong, but it’ll also help with the stress and anxiety all the negative news brings into our bodies. Take a walk with your kids, have a dance party, ride bikes, do yoga stretches or even a bit of meditation to quiet the craziness for a bit.

Learn a New Hobby

How many of us say we’ll learn to (fill in the blank) when I have some free time? Well, now that many are forced to stay home, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn a new hobby. Maybe you always wanted to learn to paint, or embroidery, or knitting. Maybe you wanted to learn a new software program or take a class. Watch YouTube videos or Skillshare classes to learn a new skill. Get your kids involved and learn something new together.

Do a Puzzle Together

This is a family favorite! We used to do puzzles all the time when the kids were little. When we pulled out puzzles the other day it was a hit! We made room on the coffee table and sat together for hours working on the puzzle. Then over the next day or so we’d each sit for a few minutes to add a piece or two. There is something wonderful about puzzles, you can’t help but stop to try a piece of two.

Our current favorite is called “Verticalville”.

Create a Sketchbook Together

The Brooklyn Art Library hosts an awesome collection of sketchbooks from people all around the world. You can order a sketchbook from their website.

Let your kids write a story and illustrate it. Use it as a journal for your time home together or for them to express how they feel about the world right now. Work on each page together and then send it to be a permanent part of the library.

Have a Special Spa Day

If you are feeling nervous about heading to the spa for a little pampering, just do it at home.

Turn on some music or a corny movie and put on a face mask, paint each other’s nails, and give each other foot massages. Your kids will love it!

Color Together

A few years ago, coloring was all the rage, but now would be a great time to bring it out again. Coloring is soothing and lowers anxiety and stress. Plus, their kids love it!

Another form of coloring is to cover your dining table with parchment paper and leave coloring crayons and water-soluble markers out and let them color on the table throughout the day or when eating. It’s a favorite at restaurants, so why not try it at home?

Tour Museums Virtually

Being stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t tour some great museums.

Travel and Leisure has a great article with tons of links to check out.

Play Music Together

Use this time to teach kids an instrument. Or if you don’t know how to play, learn one together. Being creative in a time of high stress and anxiety not only helps soothe but it works out the boredom.

Even as the world continues to get crazy, helping your kids and yourself to find ways to connect, stay busy and having fun will draw you closer and help calm all the nerves.

Tell me some ways you are keeping your kids occupied.

Art in the Written Word

Handwritten letters are a lost art form.

Modern technology and convenience have replaced handwritten letters (even viewing them as archaic) and replaced them with a crazy form of shorthand, filled with abbreviations and emojis.

I may be somewhat old-fashioned, but I love handwritten letters and journals. It’s my goal to find handwritten journals, diaries, datebooks, and letters when I visit antique stores. It’s also why I love keeping journals myself. There’s something powerful in letting the emotions travel from your head out the end of a pen. For me, writing helps me to understand, to see in clear black & white some of what’s rattling around in there.

We tour museums just to see handwritten notes of artists, writers, and scientists. They wrote to flesh out ideas, to plan their days or even to explore their feelings on life and their art. We are fascinated and eager to glean even a tiny bit of their brilliance from these handwritten notes in hopes that we can figure out a bit of our own. Writers turn entries from their journals into books. Businesspeople flesh out concepts and ideas. Screenwriters and playwrights find nuggets of dialogue.

I can quote you tons of research on why journaling is healing and therapeutic. I can offer you examples from my own life where it was a lifeline and the only thing that got me through difficult times, but instead, I’m just going to jump into how I do my daily journaling and ask you to give it a shot.

Journaling is very individual and there are no wrong ways to do it. I’ve taken classes on journaling, read books on the subject and read many, many diaries and journals of others. Each one was unique and individual to the person who penned them. I’ve tried many techniques over the years that haven’t worked for me, but in trying them out I’ve discovered what I like and what I don’t. If you haven’t found your journaling groove yet…I hope you give some of the below tips a try.

The Notebook

There are tons of notebooks out there and each person has their personal preference. I’ve finally found ones that I love and buy repeatedly. I’ve also got a stack of journals I can’t stand for one reason or another, so my advice…just buy one and try it out. If you hate it, move on to another one. Buy the cheapest one you can find and just get started.

My current favorites are:

Amazon

Mini Amazon
5×7 lined Amazon
Amazon

Pens

Same advice as above. I have different pens for different journals. Certain pens just perform different on different paper, so try them out. I like to turn to the last page of each notebook and try out tons of pens to find the one that works best.

Amazon

Daily Practice

Journaling is a valuable part of my day. It’s morphed over the years into something extraordinary and profound. Living through immense grief forced me to look at not only myself and how I view my space in the world, but it also had me questioning my faith. So, journaling became a hybrid of these things. I needed to find a way to connect with my feelings, to process them but also to communicate with God about those things. My journals needed to be a safe place to voice my worst thoughts and feelings, but also a place where I found answers and ways to be thankful and to stay aware of things outside of my pain. Without those things my journals quickly turn into a dark dumping ground. I wanted my journals to allow for expression but not a place I got lost in the darkness.

Here is a basic breakdown of my journal entries…

Praise / Devotion: I like to start by appreciating something about God. A quality or attribute I appreciate about Him.

Thankful: I write about something I’m thankful for…can be something small or big.

On difficult days these first two can be hard for me. If I’m feeling angry, frustrated or upset in someway these can be more difficult for me to express. Often, I can push myself to write about them anyway but other times I know if I force myself, I won’t journal at all, just avoid them, so I move ahead without them. Journaling is about what works for you.

Prayer: Here is where I talk to God. I unload all my questions, my concerns, my feelings, etc. It’s like a daily letter to God.

You could write to mother earth, the universe or whatever higher power you’re comfortable with. You could write to your future self or even to your children.

Scripture: Then I ask for a scripture to help me with something I’m struggling with. This could be an inspirational quote or mantra.

Once I’ve found a scripture that speaks to a concern I’ve voiced, I will dig into additional research and articles. I like to make note of any key points I gleaned.

Journaling: I like to wrap up by adding additional thoughts I’m having. This is the general journaling portion of my daily entry. Some days this final portion is long and other days I have nothing to add here because I got it all out during my prayer portion. Other times it’s a space for me to reflect on how the scripture and research answered any of my worries or feelings.

It usually takes me about an hour and I always feel lighter when I’m finished.

If you have a daily journaling practice, I’d love to hear all about it! If you give this method a try, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Splatter Inky Illustrations in Adobe Fresco

My latest Skillshare class just launched and I’m so excited to be working again in Adobe Fresco.

For this class we’ll be creating digital inky splatter illustrations using Fresco’s Live Watercolor Brushes. They are seriously cool brushes and using them to create inky splatter illustrations has been such fun.

I have to thank you all for supporting all my classes. I know you’re going to love this inky class and the best part there is NO MESS!!

If you aren’t a current member of Skillshare… Follow the link to get 2 free months of Skillshare premium if you’re a new student!!

By becoming a Premium member, you’ll get access to ALL classes on that platform.

What is Skillshare?

Skillshare is an online learning community. When you join and become a premium member on Skillshare, you get instant access to thousands of classes…Including ALL of Mine!! You have access to theses unlimited classes as long as you’re a premium member! Membership is $15 a month or $99 a year, depending on your subscription plan

Using Color Swatches in Collage Journals

I hope you all had a chance to play with color last week and that you were able to discover which colors evoked emotions. Were you able to find a color palettes that spoke to you? What did you decide to create with your selected color palette?

During my color play the purples were calling to me. The mood I was in this week was a bit dark, but there were moments of hope and for me purple inspires me without being overly bright and cheery.

I decided to use the color swatches in my collage travel journal. I went through my ephemera stash to find things that I felt would work well with the color palette I had created.

Watch the video below to see my process.

Explore Your Favorite Color Palette

This week we’re continuing to explore colors and how colors affect our emotions. Your project will be to create color swatches and color mixing charts using watercolor paints.

Colors Swatches

Starting with the paints you currently have on hand. I want you to swatch out each color so you can get a true sense of the base colors you have. If you only have a limited palette of primary colors, that’s ok to start with. If you’ve got a couple of palettes or lots of miscellaneous paint tubes lying around, I want you to swatch those out, so you get a clear idea of what colors you are starting with.

Once the swatches have dried, I want you to select your favorite colors. The ones that the second you saw them; you felt a pull in your gut. The emotions these colors may have brought up could be happy and joyful or even a bit sad and lonely, but for whatever reason, they spoke to you. That’s the feeling I want you to focus on for the next step of this assignment.

Color swatch palettes are such fun to make. They are not only relaxing, but they are beautiful in their simplicity. 

These can be used as bookmarks, or even framed and hung on your walls. They can be added to art journals and collage journals. 

I have these little color palettes all over my office and I find them in old books all the time. 

Color Mixing Charts

This can be really fun to explore your current paints and all the amazing colors they can create. A very limited palette can create a plethora of beautiful colors, so don’t think you can do this step if you only have a couple of colors.

I’ve included a 6-color mixing chart for you to download and use as a template when creating your own color mixing charts.

Using a lightbox, or even a window to trace the chart onto the watercolor paper of your choice. I like to use Canson Cold Press Watercolor Paper in 140lb.

There are a few ways of creating color mixing charts, but for today I’m going to show you two different ways. 

Option 1: Same color selections on horizontal and vertical lines.

Once you have your chart traced onto your paper, paint the first vertical column with your selected colors. I like to use a deeper color in this color. In other words, use less water when picking up your paint. On the horizontal row, use the same six colors, but this time add a little more water to create mid-tone colors. Finally, add a light wash, by adding a lot more water to your paint selections and add those down the diagonal line.

Once your colors have dried add the names of your paint colors for future reference.

Now that the first lines are dry, let’s begin to color mix.

When color mixing, I use the deeper colors on the first vertical column, add in a smidge of the horizontal mid-tone color and mix together, then add the paint to the correct box. I work through the entire sheet this way.

Then when filling in the remaining colors, you’ll take the mid-tone colors from the horizontal line and add a smidge of the deeper tone from the vertical column and mix together, painting in the remaining boxes.

Option 2 Mixing different colors together

For this option, you’ll select 6 colors for the horizontal row and 6 colors for the vertical column. Working through the sheet the same way as option 1, but this time you’ll be mixing different colors together and creating new colors, rather than mixing the same colors with different tones.

Project

The final piece of this week’s project is to create something with your color palettes or color mixing. The options are unlimited so let your imagination run wild. I’m not going to give you a ton of direction on this one because I want to see what you come up with. 

My hope is you’ll share your projects with us. I’d love to see your palettes and what you created with them. Tag me so I can see everything using #monthlycreativeconversation 

Next week I’ll share the project (along with process video) I created using my selected colors. Have fun this week making swatches and color mixes. Turn on some music or your favorite Netflix show and let the colors play together. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

Color and Your Emotions

For 2020 I’ve decided to select a theme for each month and then focus on that.

This is how it’ll work.

Week 1: I’ll introduce the theme and write a post on that topic.

Week 2: I’ll send out an assignment. A fun project that will have you exploring the month’s topic. I’ll even share some fun color palettes and mood boards to get you inspired. We’ll even have a #hashtag to use so we can see what everyone is creating.

Week 3: I’ll share my own project. I’ll be sharing process videos and my own inspiration for the project.

Week 4: The final week will be a wrap-up on the month’s happenings. Things I’ve read, interesting things/articles I’ve found around the internet. I’ll share beach updates and found treasures. It’ll be a fun way to share all that’s happened.

Color and Your Emotions

Colors affect our emotions. There is no doubt about the impact color has on each of us. During my research on the subject, I found that the colors we typically think inspire certain emotions aren’t the same in each culture. White is typically thought of as peaceful, pure and innocent, but in Eastern cultures, however, white is linked to death and sadness…as it’s typically used in funerals and other mourning rituals.

One of the things I love about color is that it can affect us on such a personal level, truly giving a voice to emotions we may not even be able to express with words.

After we lost our baby boy and I was in bed recovering from all the surgeries and physical trauma words were not possible. I was in such pain physically and emotionally that I literally couldn’t find the words to express the pain, anger, fear and utter sadness I was feeling. However, through color, I was able to do so.

Art was my journey. Art and color allowed me to express emotions I couldn’t otherwise express. There were days that my color palette was muted or monochromatic because I couldn’t see color. The pain was so dark and thick I couldn’t see through it. Yet, there were days bright colors found their way to my palette and it felt freeing and refreshing to use such bold, bright colors.

I think one of my favorite kid’s movies is Inside Out because not only are they giving a voice to children’s emotions, but through color, they were able to provide a visual representation. I remember the first time I saw that movie, it made me cry. I had little kids at the time and I was thrilled Pixar had given a voice to their emotions.

This month our focus here in this space will be to use color to connect to your emotions. If you’re here you probably have a leaning toward artistic creativity, but if not, I want to assure you that art isn’t an exclusive club that only the gifted can access.

This month’s assignment will be released next week, so make sure to check back here or subscribe to the newsletter so you can get notified when it’s published.

Until then, I want you to think about color. Notice the colors in your home and how they make you feel. Do you feel peaceful or do you find yourself feeling agitated or irritable in a certain area of your space? Look at the art in your home or office that speak to you, what colors are included? What are your favorite items of clothing? What color are they? Do you veer toward the bright, loud colors or are you more into the pastel, soft colors? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

See you next week!

2020 Word for the Year

It’s been a few years since I picked a word to focus on for the year. After everything we’ve endured the last two years, the loss, the trauma and the grief, it felt like the time to pick a word again. When I first did it many years ago, we’d had a rough year with some serious health issues with our son, I was in a very fearful place and it took picking a word to really propel me out of that darkness.

I find myself in a similar place again. Feeling the weight of the difficulties we’ve had and needing very much to find a source of light.

My word for 2020 is Simplify.

For many this word would signify a shrinking and weeding out and there may be some of that for me, but really simplify means focusing my energy on the things that matter. It means taking this time with our 19 year old daughter (who may not be under our roof much longer) and our 17 year old son as they transition into adulthood. It means redefining my career and letting go of the “should do’s” and giving myself permission to speak my voice. Grief in many ways takes away your voice and this year, it’s my hope, I find mine again.

What about you? Have you picked a word for the year? I’d love to hear what it is and why you chose it.

Adobe Fresco – Illustrate with Layer Masks

I’m so excited about my new Skillshare class…Create Illustrations using Layer Masks in Adobe Fresco!!

Adobe came out with a new drawing app called Fresco. I wasn’t a big fan of the other drawing apps they had, but this one has a lot of pluses. I am a Procreate fan, so I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about Fresco.

You can download Fresco at no cost if you have an Adobe CC subscription. Otherwise, you can download and pay for the app monthly.

My favorite part of Fresco is their Live Brushes, that mimic actual watercolor and oil paint.

After playing with the software a ton I created some fun layer masks techniques that I use daily in my illustrations and decided to create a class sharing all those tips and tricks.

About the class

Learn to use layer masks to create illustrations in Adobe’s new drawing app Fresco.

I’ll be using the live oil brushes and layer masks to create 3 different illustrations. 

In lesson 1 we’ll create a background then add a line art illustration on top. Then we’ll use layer masks to block out a portion of the background.

Lesson 2 will show how to use the selection tool with layer mask to create a floral illustration.

Finally in Lesson 3 we’ll use the brush tool and layer mask to draw our illustration into the background.

By the end of this class you’ll be comfortable using layer masks when creating your illustrations.

So grab your iPad and let’s get started!

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Follow this link to get 2 free months of Skillshare premium if you’re a new student!