Keeping a Lid on your Graphic Design Budget

Keeping a Lid on your Graphic Design Budget

Keeping a Lid on your Graphic Design Budget

 

Have your eyes ever rolled back into your head at the thought of pony’ing up the pennies necessary for professional graphic design?

 

Or maybe you’ve laid out the cash and netted less-than-desirable results?

 

It happens to the best of us. Quality design is an investment and one that many new business owners struggle to afford. In an effort to save some dollars, makers and product designers sometimes turn to services like Fiverr or 99 Designs but I have oh-so-many-thoughts about why that isn’t a wise idea.

 

The reality is that most of us don’t have the design chops needed to articulate our own brand. And tagging the pros into the ring isn’t cheap (spoiler alert: I promise that it’s worth it). But how can you ensure that your design projects hit the mark? That your logo does the job that you need it to do? That the typography, color palette, and iconography that your graphic designer pulls together resonate with your audience? That the project wraps on-time and on-budget? How can you ensure that this investment in good design is a smart investment?

 

Each and every design project starts with YOU, my friend. You’ll need to tee some things up properly to ensure that the designer has the baton firmly in their grasp and can run the next leg of the race.  Here’s my advice for doing just that…

 

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

Ever heard the term “ideal customer?” It doesn’t mean women, aged 25-65. Why? Because that’s pretty much every shopper in America who has a checkbook and two X chromosomes. Too broad, friend… we need to hone in on your perfect customer and those details aren’t nearly specific enough. And simply tacking on “who appreciate artisan products” or “who want to take better care of themselves” onto that description isn’t going to do the trick.

 

You can’t tag someone into the ring to help design for an audience until you know that audience. That’s roughly equivalent to strapping a blindfold to your designer’s face, having them down three back-to-back tequila shots, spinning them in a circle five times, and then putting a paper tail in their hand and asking them to pin the tail on the donkey.

 

A better approach: KNOW YOUR PEOPLE. What are they doing on a Saturday morning? What were their most recent Google searches? What’s on their Spotify playlist? What magazines are on their nightstand? What car do they drive, where do they vacation, who’s their favorite celebrity, how’d the vote in the last big election?

 

Unless you wake up naked on piles of cash each morning (lucky you!) and have money to burn, I wouldn’t undertake a design project until your audience is on lock.

BA_WildAirSkincare

Wild Air Skincare, before + after graduating from my Brick House Branding program

 

KNOW YOUR FRIENDS + COMPETITORS.

Think of your brand like a WWE tag-team grudge match. You need to know both who’s on your team and who you’re crawling into the ring to do hand-to-hand combat with. That information is incredibly helpful to a designer.  I once wrote a blog about complementary and competitive brands, but here’s a refresher:

 

COMPLEMENTARY BRANDS: These are the brands who are involved in the same conversation that you’re having, but they’re marketing products which fall outside your product category. They’re the other products your audience would likely be interested in, in addition to your products. They wear the same color jersey, as you’re all on the same team.

 

COMPETITIVE BRANDS:  These are the brands who are involved in the same conversation and are making products which fall within the same product category as yours. They’re the products your audience would be purchasing if your brand didn’t exist. These peeps sit on the other side of the field and they wear the opposite color jersey when compared to what you’re rocking.

 

So how does that play into graphic design? Your designer will want to ensure that you’re steering clear of the color palettes and typography in use by your major competitors. We’re trying to create sufficient differentiation and that means ensuring that you’re not in their visual dance space. Your designer can also look at complementary brands to get a better feel for what resonates with your audience and how your products might merchandise on a retail shelf alongside those brands.

 

CREATE A VISUAL LIBRARY.

When you say “green,” my brain might immediately envision the color lime while your BFF might conjure up a rich emerald.

 

Ditto for “modern.” I might see clean lines and minimalism while your BFF sees something more futuristic in nature.

 

And therein lies the problem: When you’re trying to get a designer on board with your vision, you’re probably using words to describe visual concepts. That leaves too much room for interpretation and opens the door for confusion and misfires. Instead, try collecting inspiration to build a visual library that will serve as a compass for your designer.

 

My favorite way to do that is via Pinterest! Create a secret board on Pinterest and begin pinning images.

Colors
Textures
Shapes
Packaging
Art
Typography
Fashion
 

Ultimately, you’re collecting elements that resonate with what you hope your brand will ultimately embody. Your designer might well ask for some inspiration at the onset of the project and you can’t possibly imagine how hard it is to find inspiration “on demand.” If you know that a visual rebrand is in your future, the sooner you fire up that Pinterest board, the better off you’ll be. Then you can spend weeks-to-months casually collecting morsels of goodness that naturally cross your path via The Internets.

 

Want to see this concept in action? Check out these examples!

 

 

 

 

BA_MamaSuds

 MamaSuds, before + after graduating from my Brick House Branding program

 

KNOW YOUR PROJECT SCOPE.

Clear communication with your graphic designer (and really any professional that you ultimately hire) is key. Make certain that you’re both on the same page with regard to these things…

 

DELIVERABLES: Single Logo? Logo with tagline? Alternate logo? B+W version of your final logo? Color palette?  Fonts? Handlettering? Web Design? Packaging design? Business cards? Know what you’ll walk away with at the end of the day.

 

TIMELINE: A good designer will set realistic timelines for you both! Ensure that they’ve crafted a map that shows when drafts of each piece are due. Make certathat youyou have a clear understanding of the expected timeline for your feedback on those concepts. You should be entering this collaboration with clarity and confidence about how the process will unfold.

 

COST: How many dollar bills are attached to this project? Many designers will offer to mock up X number of concepts for Y dollars, with Z rounds of edits included.  They’re often happy to mock up additional concepts or deliver more edits for an additional hourly fee.  The key to success lies in understanding where the parameters are so you aren’t shocked by a larger-than-expected bill at the end of the project.

P.S. Get all of the above in writing!  That way you’ll both have a framework for resolving any differences should a misunderstanding arise.

 

GOOD GRAPHIC DESIGN IS WORTH THE EFFORT.

 

Promise!

 

You simply need to ensure that…

 

1. You’ve built the proper framework beneath the project by understanding who you ultimately want to target with this brand and how it will fit into the context of the larger marketplace.

 

2. You’ve built a visual library of inspiration to get the designer started off on a strong foot.

 

3. You have a clear understanding of how this project will unfold.

 

And if you doubt- for even a moment- the power that good design holds to “level” up your business in a big way, then just check out this before and after.

 

Or this one.

 

Or even this one.

 

Good luck!

 

The Lucky Break Calendar – February 2018

2018-01-25 12.26.40

February is the month of love… wholesale love that is! Have new products to roll out? Shout it from the (wholesale newsletter) rooftops! Have some new educational shelftalkers or product photos your stockists can put to use? Share it loud and proud! Now is the time to be getting your brand in front of the eyes of buyers!

 

I joined Instagram Stories last month, and it’s been a really fun way to interact with people I otherwise might not get a chance to chat with. This month, my team is taking over for a day each, so that you can get to know them, too. I’m also offering a special F-R-E-E Instagram Stories training over on Facebook Live. A social media expert I’m not, but I’ll be sharing the tips and tricks I learned to help me get over my fear of being on IG Stories, so that hopefully you can jump on in, too.

 

Whatever you’re working on this month, know that I’m forever cheering you on!

LuckyBreak_CalendarFeb2018

 

PS – Enrollment for my Spring session of Brick House Branding is officially open! I’m sealing up the doors tight on February 9, so don’t miss your chance to reserve your seat. Have a question? Join me on Facebook Live on January 31 at 12:30pm EST, and I’ll do my best to get you all squared away. See you there!

Hello from the Caribbean! A Recap of our 2018 Annual Strategic Retreat

Lucky Break Strategic Retreat

Lucky Break Strategic Retreat

 

Turquoise waters. Mimosas for breakfast each and every morning. Dessert served on white china multiple times per day. Crisp linens turned down each evening just before bed. Postcard-worthy sunsets.

 

It’s safe to say that there are worse ways to tuck yourself away and do some business planning. Right? RIGHT. The Lucky Break team has a tradition of gathering together once per year for our Annual Strategic Planning Retreat. In years past, we’ve huddled in NYC, Asheville, and Savannah (you can see my reports from those retreats here and here). But I decided to kick things up a notch or three this year and take the retreat to the seas.

 

 

Earlier this month, Shannon, Melissa, and I boarded a Royal Caribbean ship and set sail for a 7-night cruise through the Eastern Caribbean. Yes, there was horseback riding through a 2,200-acre Puerto Rican ranch. Yes, there was catamaran sailing. Yes, there was sea-turtle-spotting, acrobatic shows, jaw-dropping sunsets, and plenty of poolside sunbathing. It was divine in so many ways. It also involved a fair amount of seasickness, which was far less divine. It’s all about balance, right (no pun intended)?

 

 

This year, we decided it was just too damn cold to stay stateside. And we’ve been digging extra deep in our workloads lately, too, so some teal Caribbean waters felt like just the ticket. And the Caribbean did not disappoint. Exhibit A…

 

 

We stayed in a swanky Royal Sky Loft Suite, which meant that we had two (!) bathrooms, a generously-sized balcony, a dining area, a bigger living room than I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship, and a lovely loft bedroom. Melissa and Shannon crashed there, and I slept where I always do: on the balcony. The room stewards always think I’m slightly mad to sleep outside, but have you ever seen the nighttime sky from the middle of the ocean? So. Many. Bright. Stars. And the wind swirls around me as the waves lap against the boat and I promise you: it’s the best sleep ever.

 

 

Some of our favorite moments:

  • Melissa had recently commented that she had never had a corn dog (HOW? How is that even possible?). I scoured that boat for corn dogs to no avail. I finally asked our room steward where a girl could get a corn dog and the answer was: Not on this ship. But a few evenings later, the chef paraded out a plate of the most decadent corn dogs, especially for Melissa!

 

 

  • My birthday is in January. and I typically take a very Buddhist view of the occasion. It’s a quiet affair by choice: no cake, no balloons, no parties. I prefer to spend the day in quiet reflection. I sleep in a bit, eat something delicious, get in some extra meditation time, and think about what I want for myself in the year to come. Our room steward noticed that my birthday was coming up soon and surprised us by decorating the room with signs, mobiles, and crepe paper pom-poms suspended from the ceiling. The chef and wait staff presented me with song and cake at dinner. It was much more “high key” than I generally prefer, but it was so incredibly sweet that it made me cry.

 

  • Mimosas that magically appear when you sit down to breakfast. And wine glasses that never go bare at dinner.

 

 

  • Melissa was one of just three (out of 6,000 people!) selected for additional screening by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That sounded intimidating at first blush, but it simply meant that we were able to skip the dreadfully long passport lines and go directly to an enforcement agent who informed us that “This is all b.s.!” and sped us right through.

 

Inbetween the ice cream cones and sunbathing and swanky dinners, we accomplished a surprising amount of work. At each retreat, we pull sales data and financial reports. We launch surveys for each of our key programs before each retreat and review the insights those surveys reveal. We review the report from the previous year’s retreat and reflect on what we did (and didn’t accomplish). We pull back and look at the bigger picture of what we’re doing, reconnect with our core values, analyze team responsibilities and technology to look for fresh efficiencies. We perform competitor analyses, so we can keep a finger on the pulse of the landscape. We explore new collaborators and colleagues, too.

 

And the very last thing we do is plot every product launch, speaking engagement, and enrollment period on a giant desk calendar that we’ve deconstructed and taped to the wall. Color-coded post-its are arranged and rearranged until we have a solid roadmap for the year ahead.

 

 

So what decisions did we make this year? I can’t dish on all the good stuff just yet, but here are a few sneak peeks:

 

  • My book on the psychology of smart pricing will be published this year! Look for it this summer. This is a subject that I’m hyper-passionate about… how do you go from a pricing system that’s based on your costs to a pricing system that’s based on your brand? I’ve been collecting examples for the past few years and I have some interesting strategies up my sleeve.

 

  • We’re playing with the idea of introducing a whole new product category to Lucky Break’s offering. It would be a big departure from what we do now (*insert big tease here*). I have an appointment with my IP attorney in the next few weeks to get the green light, but I’m so excited about the possibilities!

 

 

  • I finally moved over from Snapchat to Instagram Stories. I know, I know… you’ve probably been there for a year already. What can I say? I’m late to the game. But I’m having a ridiculously good time with it. I’d love to have you follow along!

 

  • We’ll soon launch Instagram Story takeovers featuring some of our favorite clients. I’m so eager for them to pull back the curtain and give you a peek inside the day-to-day mechanics of running their empires.

 

 

  • At the end of 2017, we hired a part-time Technical Product Manager (Hi, Helen!) and that opens up a world of possibilities with regard to new product development in the software space. We’re still deciding which direction we want to take that, but the possibilities have us positively giddy.

 

  • We also just hired a new full-time teammate (Hi, Angie!) who was onboarding while we circled the Caribbean. She’s whip-smart, decidedly lovely, and she has a few skill sets that we’re exploring how to put to work, too.

 

 

All in all, not a bad way to spend a week. We have some big things on tap for 2018 and I hope you’ll keep an eye on Lucky Break as we roll out new things. Even better: hop on my mailing list and you’ll never miss a thing (Bonus: I’ll deliver free business wisdom to your inbox every few weeks). Will we take the retreat to the seas again next year? Who knows, but I certainly wouldn’t mind it!

 

What Kind of Brands Does Lucky Break Work With?

Lucky Break Clients - Pen + Pillar

Lucky Break recently celebrated its fifth birthday (damn, that makes me feel old!). It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that I began this journey that many years ago! For a long time, I believed that my first company (an apothecary brand catering to the spa market) was the alpha and omega of my career.  It was my one and only plan. I was obsessed with building an empire… reinventing myself from single-mom-on-food-stamps to self-reliant-role-model-for-my-girls.

 

But after spending a decade building that skincare company, I launched Lucky Break to help other makers and product designers avoid some of the pitfalls I had become snagged in as I grew my business. I had made so many mistakes (sooooo damn many) in those early years and I relished the thought of helping other entrepreneurs avoid some of the landmines as they navigated their own entrepreneurial landscape.

 

Truth be told: I had no idea how to best deliver curriculum when I launched Lucky Break. I’d never attended a webinar or built a PowerPoint. But I had bootstrapped a multi-million dollar business. And I had a tremendous passion for helping others, even though I didn’t necessarily have a firm grasp on what kinds of entrepreneurs would tag me into the ring to help. Helping others on this wild ride of owning a business helps me evolve my crash-and-burn mistakes into key business lessons, deep empathy, and an uncanny ability to understand the challenges facing modern artisan businesses. So I put my nose to the grindstone and cultivated the tools, techniques, and strategies that have become Lucky Break’s hallmarks over the past few years.

 

In honor of Lucky Break’s fifth birthday, I indulged in a leisurely walk down memory lane.  As I poured over my client list, I was struck by how incredibly varied it is.  Some brand owners come to me in the pre-launch phase. Others seek out my help after they’ve been hitting the pavement for a few years. And sometimes I have the opportunity to help refresh or reinvent a business that’s been around for a decade or more! There’s not just diversity in the length of my client’s business journeys or their annual revenues, but a tremendous diversity in the kinds of artisan products I have the pleasure of working with, too.

 

I curated a list of some of my favorite clients and I thought you might enjoy a peek. Some have put Price-O-Matic (my pricing software tool) to good use. Others have worked more intimately with me on their brand development via Brick House Branding. I’ve created gorgeous line sheets to put their best foot forward with retailers, and I’ve helped many of them reach out to new retailers via my Wholesale Matchmaker service. However we’ve ultimately worked together, it’s been an honor to help nudge these savvy brand owners in the right direction while avoiding some of the trickier pitfalls along the way.

 

I hope you’ll explore their sites and throw some love in their direction!

 

Lucky Break Clients - Pen + Pillar

Pen+Pillar

STATIONERY + GIFT

Pen+Pillar
Wayfaren
Native Bear
Of Unusual Kind
Smudge Ink
Pigment & Parchment
Whimsy + Wild
Little Truths Studio
Arden Hands Studio
Best Day Ever
Indigo Ember
Unicorn Crafts
Wholesome Soul
The Pursuit of Cocktails
Print Therapy
Tiny Bones 
Print Arms
Tick Tock Press
Studio Pep
Felicette
Fresh Out Of Ink
Pixelimpress
Iinky 
Paper Berry Press
Studio MME
California Lustre
Type Shy

 

 

Lucky Break Clients - Osmia Organics

Osmia Organics

APOTHECARY

Stewart & Claire
Azalia Spa Goods
French Girl Organics
Comfort & Joy Apothecary
Sweet & True Sugaring Co.
Sigil Scent
Oille
Leahlani Skincare
Bambu Earth
Zandra
Outlaw Soaps
Osmia Organics
Rachel’s Plan Bee
Lily De Mai
Oyin Handmade
Thorn & Bloom
Goodnight Darling Co.
CeeCee & Bee
Laurme
Pure Thoughts
Vertere Skin Care
Florapothecarie
Barnwell Co.
Naturalicious
Aveseena
Wild Air Skincare
True North
Redbudsuds
Femme Noire
Ambika Herbals
Etta + Billie
KBShimmer
Yuzu Soap
Wildflower Gypsy
Miyu Beauty
Blossom’s Barn
Pep Soap
Burly Stone
Black Ship Grooming Co.

 

Lucky Break Clients - Standard Wax

Standard Wax

CANDLES + HOME FRAGRANCE

Standard Wax 
Opal & Wonder
Candelles
Sawdust & Embers
Southern Elegance Candle Company
Sparklefly Candle Company

 

Lucky Break Clients - Waxing Kara

Waxing Kara

SPECIALTY FOOD

Hudson Henry Granola
Blue Flour Bakery
Dell Cove Spices
Waxing Kara
Artisan Sugars
Prana Foods
Plum Deluxe Teas

 

Lucky Break Clients - Elizabeth Benotti

Elizabeth Benotti Handmade Ceramics

HOME + GARDEN

Unique Pl8z
Elizabeth Benotti Handmade Ceramics
Quiet Clementine
Claire Crowe’s Alchemy Collection
Wood & Barrel Co.
Small Company Artworks
Oh! You’re Lovely
MamaSuds
Apricity Ceramics
Happee Monkee

 

Lucky Break Clients - Siamese Social Club

Siamese Social Club

PETS

Janery
Treats for Chickens
North Range Dogs
Siamese Social Club
The Blissful Dog
Big Daddy Biscuits

 

Lucky Break Clients - Inkling

Inkling

BABY + KIDS

Inkling
Hi Tree! 
Modern Moose
Goobie Baby
Venetian Decor Oh Baby
Sasa Loo
Euphoric Herbals
Because of Zoe
Handcrafted HoneyBee
Zoe Organics
Baby Blossom Company
KidEssence
MarshMueller
Hemmed In

 

Lucky Break Clients - Zenned Out

Zenned Out

JEWELRY

Zenned Out
Izaskun Zabala
Kate & Moose
Kendra Renee
Metalicious
Amy Bond Glass
Jen Crowe Studio
Marja Germans Gard Studio
Tree Myriah
Charliemadison Originals
Zoe & Piper
Raegen Knight Jewelry
Beth Jewelry
Cindy Liebel
Alexander Betty
With Care Jewelry
Tiny Hands
Freshie & Zero
Laura Tanner Jewelry

 

Lucky Break Clients - Tal Angel

Tal Angel

APPAREL + ACCESSORIES

James Vincent Design Co.
Wee Rascals
Tal Angel
Married & Bright
Bagnet
Trovelore 
Pineapple Grip Socks
Maiook 
Mr. ShorTie

 

The Lucky Break Calendar – January 2018

Hip hip hooray! It’s official; we survived 2017 and have landed firmly in January of the new year. I hope you recovered nicely from that big holiday push, because if you’re looking to grow your wholesale business, then there is no rest for the weary, my friend. Your big outreach period begins this month!

 

The Lucky Break team is setting sail this month, huddling together around crystal clear Carribean waters as we plan what’s happening in 2018. We have some big ideas in mind, and I can’t for you to hear all about them. Wish you were crusin’ with us? Although I’d love to bring you along, tune into my Instagram Stories (I’m @lelabarker!) for the next best thing. I’ll be sharing our trip all week.

 

Whatever you’re up to this month, know the entire team is cheering you on! Let’s kick 2018 off in style!

 

 

LuckyBreak_CalendarJan2018