Building an online business is an exhilarating, satisfying and tons of fun.
But sometimes going after your dreams can be pretty overwhelming.
It’s hard to know where to even begin or what to tackle next, and as beautiful & exhilarating as the entrepreneurial journey is, let’s be real…
Building an online business is no small feat.
And if you’ve been at it for a while you know that getting your business off the ground takes some serious grind, patience, sweat, sometimes tears and a whole lotta heart (but it’s oh, so worth it).
The Business Lounge
The Business Lounge is where I’m going to be sharing everything I’ve learned about running a successful online business with you. It’s a full blow, hyper-tactical course library where online creators can uplevel their businesses, with class.
”WHERE do I even start with branding & design if I’m not a creative?”
That’s a question many entrepreneurs and small business owners ask themselves while they are exploring the idea of DIYing their own branding and social media design.
And it’s a logical question. You are either creative or you are not…
Or so the myth goes.
This thought process makes total sense, though.
When we think of creative geniuses like Mozart composing his first symphony at age 8 or the modern marvel, Steve Jobs who envisioned the future and catapulted our world into the tech age it’s easy to compare ourselves and automatically assume we are just NOT that creative.
But I want you to know that kind of thinking is straight up flawed.
I strongly believe that creativity can be learned because I’ve experienced it.
And no, it’s not a weird intuition or some woo-woo premonition.
I’m not making this stuff up because, well, the experts agree.
“Because creativity is a process of having original ideas that have value… It’s a process, not a single event, and genuine creative processes involve critical thinking as well as imaginative insights and fresh ideas.”
– Sir Ken Robinson (Bestselling Author of Out Of Our Heads: Learning To Be Creative).
Creativity is a process and unlocking it is easier than you think.
We all have the ability to be creative, some are born with natural, creative abilities while others like me just need to be a bit more intentional about getting our creative juices flowing.
I’m going to challenge you to think of creativity as a skill you want to constantly improve on, much like physical fitness, leadership or finance.
So before you go labeling yourself as a non-creative, I want to equip you with a few tools that will help you LEARN to be creative.
My Top Three Tools To Unlocking Your Creativity
Tool #1: Train Your Mind.
Like in any other area of your life, your mind is your most powerful weapon.
The first graphics I ”hacked” via PowerPoint were designed to market my husband’s business on social media back in 2012 and they were not cute. At all.
I was majoring in nutrition and dietetics at the time and I was (and still am) a science-loving, book nerd.
I’ve NEVER been able to draw more than stick figures and I can only paint by numbers.
There’s nothing ”artsy” about me and I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be creative with my social media graphics and design.
I had to train my mind to notice and learn from other creators in the real world.
So if I was walking down the street I would pay attention to the color hues on the leaves of trees and how the sunlight created a shadow effect on tree trunks. Or I paid special attention to the shapes and paint colors on graffiti art walls as I walked by.
Simple things like that make a big difference for your creativity.
Ask yourself, why do I like this art piece? What moves me about this photography? Why do I love this specific layout?
If you can train your mind to spot details on the objects that surround you and on the visuals that command your attention, your brain will soon start to do so on auto-pilot and you’ll become a creative beast.
Tool #2. Leverage Inspiration.
I believe inspiration leads to creativity.
Have you ever noticed how ”alive” you feel after a cool experience like attending a concert or hiking up a mountain?
Or maybe a totally different activity sparks your creative mojo, like going for a swim or playing with your kiddos.
Whatever it is, keep in mind that once you learn to pinpoint how you source inspiration, you can unlock that inspiration over and over again.
It’s about being intentional and leveraging inspiration to unlock creativity in your business.
Take my experience as an example. Over time, I’ve noticed a strong connection between music and creativity in my work.
So whenever I want to do my BEST creative work, I either take a Zumba class, turn on America’s Got Talent or go on a long walk while I listen to my favorite tunes.
There’s something about music, physical activity and the outdoors that lights me up, baby.
I’m actually blaring some tunes while I write this blog and I’m on fire.
Tool #3: Study Creative Work.
Now, I want to make something really clear, studying other people’s work is not the same as copying or stealing their ideas.
You’ll get nowhere trying to be like someone else because there is no power in being unoriginal.
It’s about paying attention to other creators and their strategies so you can add your own perspectives and insights to whatever you create.
There is nothing wrong with sourcing inspiration from the people in your industry or outside of it who are rocking their branding. It’s your ability to add a new perspective and put your own twist on things that will help you stand out.
So let’s make this super actionable.
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through a myriad of images on Pinterest, the next time you log in I want you to start noticing which images stand out to you.
Which color combinations did the designer include? How are they combining photography and text? Which fonts styles work well together?
Remember, creativity is a never-ending learning process.
The best graphic designers will tell you that getting inspired and studying other creatives is PART of their work. In fact, the best graphic designers I know actually spend 40% of their time just getting inspired.
And while by no means am I suggesting that you have to devote your life to being inspired (unless you design graphics for a living) I want you to pay attention to what is working online and put your own twist on it.
Over To You
What other strategies do you use to stay inspired and unlock creativity?
Drop the wisdom in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
Over the years I’ve designed dozens of PDF freebies, webinar handouts & worksheets to help my students go through my online training programs via my favorite design tool, Canva.
In fact, my PDF lead magnets have been the primary way I’ve built my email list, added value for my subscribers and introduced them to my programs and services.
The Ultimate Content Calendar is one of those freebies, if you are one of my students or a subscriber, I’m sure you are pretty familiar with it by now. 🙂
Lead magnets are a huge asset to my business and my subscribers + I get to showcase my expertise in a visually appealing way.
Because here is the thing, anyone can take Word document put a bunch of information in it, export it as a PDF and give it away as a freebie (freebie = lead magnet = freemium, you get the point).
But I want deliver so much more to my audience.
Whenever a subscriber downloads one of my freebies, I want to package the content in a way that not just positions me as an authority figure, it also entices them to consume the content and take action.
And that’s what good design helps me do.
My freebies are so valuable my audience would actually pay for them (and I’m not just saying that, I know it because they tell me all the time) and I know it would be so much harder to deliver that kind of value without good design.
Exhibit A: My first lead magnet ever…
This is one of the first lead magnets I created back in 2013 and it was pretty popular (I also designed it on Microsoft Word because Canva wasn’t around).
While it delivered great content and it was straight forward, there was so much more I could have done with this freebie to make it stand out and help my audience consume the information easily.
Why Good Design Is A Must For Lead Magnets
I want you to pay attention to this part because you NEED to think through this before you ever create a freebie.
Lead magnets are usually ”the next step” in your relationship with a website visitor or a social media follower.
Which means people are typically giving you access to their email and inbox in exchange for your lead magnet and that is a BIG deal.
So that ”next step” in their relationship with your brand needs to be a glorious experience for your subscribers.
And of course, good design and branding can take great content to the next level.
Not only does branding and design help elevate the perceived value of your materials, it also shows your subscribers that you took the extra time to design and deliver loads of value AND an amazing experience.
So I am in the process of developing lessons 3-5 for my newest program, Zero To Branding this week and I was gathering feedback from our beta members in terms of what they want to learn more of and what they are struggling with.
And one of the things that came up time and time again was that ”designing graphics just takes too much time.”
I completely agree.
Back when I was managing client accounts the design process took up 60% of my time and when you are handling 20+ social media accounts, it gets crazy REAL quick.
So I had to come up with a few strategies to streamline the process and get my team to help out.
Now, before you read on, I want to ask you two questions…
Do you want more engagement on your Facebook page? Are you looking to find ways to design graphics faster?
If so, you’re going to love today’s post because I’m going to walk you through my own process of creating graphics for Facebook quickly and effectively.
And because there is no denying that motivational/inspirational quotes do well on Facebook, I’m using quotes as the example for this specific tutorial, but remember, you can use the same strategies to create all kinds of gorgeous posts.
How To Create Facebook Graphics On Canva In 5 Minutes Or Less
It’s now around April of last year and I’m loving Aweber.
My list had almost doubled (around 900 subscribers) and things were looking good.
But about two months later, I started to put together my plan to really build up my list because I was getting ready to release my signature training program, Zilch To Social.
I started learning about list segmentation and email marketing automation and being the tech lover that I am, I was hell bent on learning everything I needed to know to grow my list, provide incredible value to my audience and build rapport before I launched my first program internally.
The more I learned about list segmentation and automation the less Aweber sounded appealing.
I tried implementing a few automation with a lot of heartaches and that’s when a friend recommended ActiveCampaign.
I instantly fell in love with the insanely powerful automations and their visual funnel builder.
A bit unstable aren’t we? I blame it on the 14 times I moved around as a pastor’s kiddo. Loved every second of it.
Back to the story.
At the time, my husband also wanted to build automation workflows for his business LiftIt and he built several, super complex onboarding automations for both his employees and his clients.
Mind you, this is a totally traditional business and ActiveCampaign’s amazing automations worked like gangbusters.
So of course, the little tool addict in me whispered in my ear, ”Okay, maybe the third one is the charm. You should explore this ActiveCampaign thing.After all, if Chris can save tons of time and close more leads with this traditional business, it can work miracles for your online one.”
And I moved. Again…
You Should Consider Aweber If…
Deliverability is a big deal to you (it should always be).
You want to segment your subscribers into lists.
You want simplicity.
You are willing to spend a bit more than if you were to sign up for Mailchimp.
You don’t want to be charged per total amount of subscribers (Ex. Aweber counts a single subscriber who is subscribed to two lists as two subscribers instead of one which drives up the monthly fee).
Who Can Benefit From A More Advanced Tool
Folks who are really serious about growing their email list.
Folks who want to build more advanced and higher converting online sales funnels.
Anyone selling online products and wants to scale.
Can you be serious about building your email list and scale your online business with Aweber? Of course! It will just be a lot more challenging.
I had arrived. I was using Ontraport… and the excitement lasted for about a day.
I spent an entire week migrating my list of about 3-4k subscribers and it was painful.
Their knowledge base was robust but I couldn’t find the articles I needed.
Setting up the membership site was a disaster and on top of that, Wishlist Member was conflicting with their plugin, PilotPress.
Again, unhappy customer emails were landing on my support team’s inbox and many, many tears were shed.
And this is coming from someone who considers herself quite the techie gal.
I spent 3 hours on the phone with their support that week and dished out a few hundred dollars to a consultant.
After a few months, things were okay.
I didn’t have a single issue with onboarding new clients who purchased my programs, I could easily see how much money I was making and upgrade clients from one program to the next really seamlessly.
Sending emails was a breeze and I had most of the stats I needed.
But I still wasn’t happy.
I wanted to see at what stage of my funnels my subscribers were purchasing, where folks were unsubscribing and the conversion stats for my email sequences.
And I couldn’t do any of that easily.
I couldn’t see at what stage of a sequence my subscribers were in, whether they had opened a specific email or several of them and to make matters worse, purging my list to determine which subscribers were no longer opening my emails was nearly impossible.
Okay, I know all of this IS possible inside of Ontraport but I got tired of having to hire a consultant for every little thing and not being able to see my stats at a glance was a major turn off.
I gave Ontraport a good 7 months to test things out and give it a fair chance but I was still unhappy.
I needed something better. And so I went back to the drawing board to research… once again.
You Should Consider Ontraport If…
You have an established online business.
You want a full-fledged CRM.
You don’t mind taking the time and energy to learn the ins and outs of an advanced tool and probably hiring someone to help along the way.
You prefer tagging your subscribers instead of organizing them into lists (far more effective).
You are selling digital products and want to build a powerful funnel.
There were no fancy automations like the ones ActiveCampaign and Ontraport had, there was no visual funnel builder and the switch seemed like a step down from the tool I already had.
I canceled my account and asked their sweet support girl to let me know if they ever released advanced automations.
So when I began my hunt once again for the perfect tool, I didn’t even consider Converkit.
I reactivated my ActiveCampaign account, I signed up for GetRespone and Agile CRM and even demoed Infusionsoft once again.
They were all amazing but were all missing one or two key elements I wanted.
Here is my criteria:
Easy segmentation of my subscribers based on tags and behaviors.
Simple but powerful conversion reports for my funnels.
Tagging vs. List segmentation.
The ability to track opt-ins to a particular form on a daily basis.
The ability to send simple, plain-text emails.
Integration with the most popular membership plugins (I was looking into MemberMouse).
Integration with SamCart, my favorite shopping cart.
In my search I stumbled on a few YouTube videos about Convertkit and signed up for one of their webinars.
The webinar presenter, Matt, was awesome, answered all of my questions and walked us through all of their automations.
I quickly realized I didn’t give their tool a fair chance the first time I signed up, so I was determined to figure out if it could potentially be ”the tool” I was waiting for.
I signed up for an account and started testing it with new subscribers for one of my funnels.
I couldn’t believe it!
All of the conversion stats I needed, the simple but powerful segmentation AND the automations were working to perfection.
I could put into play some powerful automations like tagging anyone on my list who went through a sales funnel and clicked on an email link that led them to the sales page so I could segment folks who were actually interested in buying.
I could even see which forms where getting the most amount of optins and which pages on my site were referring them.
It’s no surprise I loved it so much. Convertkit is specifically designed for bloggers and info-product creators and it shows.
Someone once described it as ”The simplicity of Mailchimp and the power of Infusionsoft” and that couldn’t be more true.
So of course, I made the switch and the transition was the easiest I have ever undergone.
Convertkit even offers a concierge service for customers with 10,000 subscribers or more (which I didn’t use because I wanted to test things out on my own).
It’s been almost a month and the team and I are beyond happy. Every day we find a new feature we want to start using and we’re positive we’ve found our forever home (FINALLY).
DISCLAIMER: I am a proud Converkit affiliate and the links to the tool that I included in this blog are affiliate links. Why? Because I friggin’ LOVE this tool and I would never recommend something I don’t love, use and stand behind. So whether you sign up via my affiliate link or not, please check it out regardless. And if you have questions or want to figure out if it’s the right tool for you, ping me at email@example.com.
Am I saying you need to ditch the current email marketing tool you are using if you want to be a successful online business owner? Heck no!
I just wish someone had sat me down when I first started doing online marketing and taught me about the importance of setting up your business for long-term growth.
Of course, I don’t think Convertkit was even around back then, but if they had I would have saved myself so much heartache and craziness.
The thing is, aside from ActiveCampaign and Convertkit, most email marketing providers that have powerful automations are premium tools (Ontraport & Infusionsoft) and when you are getting started dishing out $500/mo is an impossible commitment.
In case you are wondering, ActiveCampaign plans start at $9 and Convertkit plans start at $29. Crazy inexpensive!
And keep in mind, both of these tools will charge you for a single subscriber, regardless of how many times they opt-in to your list or get tagged, whereas tools like Aweber, Mailchimp, and even GetResponse consider folks who opt-in to multiple lists as duplicate subscribers.
Okay, so which tool do I recommend?
I think you know where I am leaning.
Having used both ActiveCampaign and Convertkit at different stages of my business with much success, I definitely recommend ActiveCampaign for traditional businesses and Converkit for online marketing folks.
Here is what one of my students, Tese Osman said in our private Facebook group:
”Convertkit just makes sense and it’s so intuitive and the natural automation rules and drip email campaigns is fantastic icing on the cake. I honestly think that is it worth the investment for what you get, for the ease of use.”
If you want to check out Converkit, my affiliate link is right here and you can either pop in the comments section below with your questions OR send me an email over at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress and lookout for a video review very soon.
After 4 years of trial and error designing over 1,000 original graphics for over 22 brands and hundreds of hours of research, experimentation and at times, tears, I’ve learned quite a bit about design and how stunning visuals can set a brand apart in today’s ultra noisy world.
So today I dusted off one of my most popular videos from the archive because lately tons of you have been asking how to create better social media graphics. Specifically, how I design my graphics via Canva.
I’ve always had an interest in graphic design but never actually took any formal courses. In fact, I started designing my own graphics to market Chris’ start-up back in 2012 on PowerPoint (don’t judge).
As time goes by I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at it. And although now my business is at the point where I should probably hire a professional graphic designer, I love doing it so much (for better or worse) that I haven’t fully let go just yet.
Every graphic you see on social media, every image on my blog and my website, every element in my membership site and every ad you ever see from us was custom designed from scratch via… you guess it, Canva.
But before we dig in, I have a few stats that might blow you away.
If you’re still not sure if you should be investing your limited time & resources on creating top-notch visuals because you’re not convinced it’s THAT important. Think again.
“..Unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear…” – Dr. Lyann Burmick, a visual education expert explains the power of visual imagery.
I could quote hundreds of studies but this one, in particular, caught my eye (pun intended). It found that after three days, a user retained only 10-20 percent of written or spoken information but almost 65 percent of visual information.
What does that mean for us as online entrepreneurs? No matter how much valuable content you throw at people in the form of text, or spoken words, at the end of the day, visuals are what helps them remember your marketing messages.
That’s why graphics have never been more important for your online presence than now.
The good news is, thanks to modern tools like Canva, PicMonkey, Venngage and GIMP, you don’t need to be a design maven to make stunning designs or spend hundreds of dollars on fancy software that is so hard to understand you’ll want to pull your hair out (I’m looking at you, Photoshop!).
And since I know you’re an incredibly saavy entrepreneur, I’m about to show you how to take your graphics to the next level with Canva(a super-cool free tool you can’t afford not to leverage).
It’s an oldy but a goodie and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
Plus, today I’m super excited to announce we are expanding our Zilch To Social product suite with our new mini-course, Zero To Branding (the name is still in beta).
We’ll be launching it in the next couple of days as a beta course and if you are interested in becoming a beta member, you can pre-order it here & get an 80% discount.
This offer is now over, but you can still sign up for the Insider’s List & get branding & design tips + access to exclusive discounts on the course.
Here’s to building stunning brands despite not being designers!