GET CREATIVES is coming to Propeller on July 13!

Hey, New Orleans business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs! I’ve been working on this thing with my talented friends Julia Sevin and Frank Aymami, and we want to share it with you.

Get Creatives is a pithy 45-minute presentation that packs in a ton of information you need to know if you’re the one who markets your business. Register now on Eventbrite, or read on for a few more reasons to join us on July 13 at 6pm!

Communication design: What it is, and why it matters

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You’ll learn how your investment in communication design (including copywriting, graphic design, and photography) actually increases your profits and positions your brand for bigger and better things.

You’ll get actionable tips on where to find “creatives”; how much to pay them; what to ask for; and what to look out for.

And you’ll learn how to scrimp smartly so you can save your marketing dollars without sacrificing the end quality of your product.

Register ahead of time >>>

Did you know…

  • 55% of your website visitors will spend less than 15 seconds on a given page
  • Your contract with an independent creative should always specify a kill fee
  • You might not own the rights to the photographs you commissioned

There’s a lot more where that came from.

We’re going through the entire process of working with a “creative”–everything from how and where to find quality writers, designers, and photographers, to contracts and taxes, to the best way to send feedback and get the results you want.

Join us July 13 at 6pm at Propeller Incubator to find out more!

Book Review: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin Better Than Before. Am I right or am I right/

Here’s a confession: I have discovered my soft spot for self-improvement books. I don’t say “self-help,” because that genre has long been maligned (and justly so, for titles like these), and now it just sounds stupid.

But “self-improvement” books—books based on research, on science, on facts—those I can get behind. So, when Birchbox Book Club sent me a free copy of Better Than Before, I set about reading it.

Better Than Before is an obnoxiously profound read.
I wanted to like it. And I did.

Step 1: Recognize you are just completely, totally flawed.

Rubin writes in a casual, conversational style, which is great when you’re subconsciously comparing yourself to her and losing.

I held off judgment until page 20 or so, when Rubin describes the “Four Tendencies” of people. There are Upholders, who meet both internal and external expectations, but may get exhausted and fail to find time to recharge. There are Obligers, who have no trouble meeting external expectations, but won’t meet a goal if no one’s relying on them for success. There are Questioners, who will only meet an expectation if it seems worthwhile, valid, and reasonable to them. And then there are Rebels, who don’t give a fuck about “expectations”.

I’m not one to dichotomize myself, but it was pretty gratifying to immediately identify with the Obliger tendency. Most people see me as an Upholder, but they have no idea how many of my own projects and commitments are languishing at the back of my mind, slowly starving to death. I know I should do [Certain Thing], but unless someone is counting on me to do it, there’s a good chance I won’t.

For example, my exercise schedule tends to go something like this.

Friend: “Hey, want to run around the park on Wednesday?”

Me: “Yeah, let’s do it!”

Friend: “I can’t go today 🙁 “

Me: *sits at home binge-eating pita chips and re-watching Battlestar Galactica*

The book offers more tendencies and how to identify your own—from things like when you wake up and go to sleep (Owls vs. Larks), to whether you’re able to control your food cravings (Moderators) or you’re better off avoiding temptation completely (Abstainers).

Each idea is framed by Rubin’s own experiences forming new habits, breaking old ones, and inflicting her Type A personality on friends and family members.

Step 2: Be okay with that.

The point is not simply to classify yourself, though. The point is to get a close-up view of the type of person you are–so you can approach forming better daily habits in a way that works for you and will be more likely to stick.

Rubin peppers the book with research citations and other examples that, while less scientific, are at least inspiring. This is another book that makes you think, “Well, why not?” or “What if…?”

She then offers several “pillars” for building stronger habits. These strategies are often rooted in common sense, and more often than not, the need to be honest with yourself replaces the need for iron willpower.

Step 3: Are you enlightened yet?

It’s funny, because I’m not sure if Rubin and I would be friends in real life. She says she doesn’t like music and prefers plain food, and other things that sound, well, pretty boring. But she knows these things about herself, and she is fine with them. She has enough self-knowledge to empower habits that matter to her (like enforced daily “Quitting Time”), and ditch the ones that don’t (like meditation). Seriously, though? Everyone can benefit from meditation.

Her main commandment is “Be Gretchen”. That earned her my grudging admiration (you’re welcome, Gretchen. Surely you were sitting at home, waiting for that).

In some way, it’s almost like permission to “Be Lianna”. It’s a heady feeling for someone already deep in the process of trying to be her best self (still talking about me here). This book is Mindfulness Lite, for people who want to gain more self-knowledge—which makes it especially funny to me that Rubin didn’t see any benefit to meditation.

But far be it from me to call the kettle black. I can’t promise that I’ll stick with my newly re-energized dedication to 10 minutes of daily meditation, or with the  bright yellow blocks of time on my calendar dedicated to twice-weekly yoga. Or that I’ll stop eating sugar. (Hell, I ate half a bag of Hershey kisses while I finished this post.)

But the one  lesson of Better Than Before that stuck in my mind (and was promptly supplemented by this TED Talk) is that once you’ve decided to do something, you’ve decided. You need waste no more time on agony.

I hadn’t thought of my life like that before. It seems like a game-changer. We’ll see what happens.

 

How to Build a Better Bookshelf

Let me ask you something: How many of the books on your bookshelf have you read more than once?

Do you have a book (or books) that you reach for when you’re feeling down, or motivated, or adventurous?

Side note: If you don’t have a bookshelf, GTFO. I refer you to this John Waters quote.

Here’s the Best Bookshelf for Me — What’s Yours?

Here's my much-loved shelf.
Books, whiskey, pictures of friends and family. Plus a gumball machine. What’s not to love?

I’ve been too focused on screens lately. Using RescueTime, I can tell exactly how long I’ve been on my computer–and it’s around 45-50 hours every week.

I’ve been forgetting to read. 

When this happens, I get a handle on my brain by standing in front of my bookshelf. I reach for the first title that speaks to me. Usually, it’s fiction. Usually, it’s something I’ve read before.

We overuse the word a lot, but I believe your bookshelf should be “curated”–so that when you make the conscious decision to read, you don’t grab something that sucks and spend a half-hour trying to believe the narrator.

Right now, I just have this one bookshelf. Space is at a premium. I regularly cull titles that I didn’t love, or that I know I just won’t read.

The result is a highly selective, tiny library of the ideas that move meMy shelves are loosely divided into categories: Fiction I Love, Fiction I Haven’t Gotten to Yet, Business/Grammar Nerd Stuff, and Creative Shit (where craft-making books and all of my favorite graphic novels from high school live).

Here’s the top shelf, where I keep some of my favorite fiction, and a few novels I haven’t read yet, so they’re on my eye level. (Also, whiskey is a plus.)

This is the top shelf of my bookshelf. It contains a lot of my favorite things.
That little blue car is a flask.

Every single book here is meaningful to me in some way, whether I love it, I hate it–but grudgingly respect its incredible craft–or I haven’t read it yet.

I’d say I’m saving the unread ones for a rainy day, but my inbox has nothing to do with the weather [click to tweet]. Working on that.

It’s Okay to Be a Creature of Habit…

…as long as you know that about yourself.

I’m a bit predictable sometimes. I like to know what I’m getting. I often order the same sandwich from the place down the street, because I know it’s good. It’s not that I don’t want to try new things; it’s that I search for familiar feelings because I’m still pinning down what, exactly, I love most.

I reach for Plainsong by Kent Haruf when I want to revel in the simple beauty of the English language. I pluck my well-worn copy of Burning Chrome, by William Gibson, when I want to be transported to other universes and times (actually, this one just lives on my bedside table).

I page through Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath when I want a no-nonsense reminder of what works in marketing psychology, and what doesn’t.

Sometimes, though, I grab a title I haven’t read yet. The last two books I ended up with were The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, and The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. Both were fan-fucking-tastic. I didn’t shut up about Devil in the White City for weeks.

Simply Put, Your Bookshelf Should Make You Want to Read.

It should fill you with joy, not aversion. It should make you pause. It should calm you.

I have nothing against Kindles; mine’s in a cute little red-leather case so I can pretend to use it for work. But nothing can replace the scent and heft of a book in your hand–and the sweet relief of giving your eyes a break from Netflix, texting, and obsessively refreshing Facebook.

What are you reading?

 

Sharpen Your Focus: 5 Ways to Kickstart Your Freelance Life

Remember this post? It was all about ways to treat yourself for less than $10 on Valentine’s Day, with or without a valentine.

10 Ways to Treat Yourself (For Less Than $10)

It’s not Valentine’s Day today, but I’m always looking for small (read: free) ways to appreciate what I have, and improve my quality of life. Aren’t you?

Today is Friday, though, so I’m thinking it’s an extra-appropriate time to go into the weekend mindfully and kindly–considering how you can get the most from your your body, your home, and your freelance life.

(Spoiler: You can be kind to yourself every day. But somehow, kindness doesn’t seem as accessible on a Monday morning.)

Give these ideas a try this weekend, and let me know how it goes. And don’t forget that sometimes, taking five deep breaths is the best gift you can give yourself.

1. Lay out your clothes every night

Let me tell you how often I don’t do this. But when I do, my day starts much more quickly and smoothly.

Especially when you work from home, it can be easy to sit down in your pajamas with a cup of coffee (or wine, depending on the time of day/level of alcoholism to which you adhere). Before you know it, it’s 11AM, and you feel, well, kind of gross.

Beat that feeling to the punch, and stop stumbling around in the morning, trying to find clean pants through all that crusty eye makeup.

PRICE: Free.

2. Walk around the block every morning

This is the natural next step after getting dressed in your laid-out clothes every morning. I read somewhere that somebody famous did it. You want to be famous, don’t you?

PRICE: Free.

3. Drink a glass of water before you eat

Are you hungry? Are you sure? How bout you drink some water first?

God, I love food. I try to remember to hydrate before I dig in, though. It’s a great tool to keep from overeating.

PRICE: Free, unless you live in California or sub-Saharan Africa, in which case: Damn, sorry.

4. Change your pillowcases

Studies show you’ll sleep better when the fabric next to your head doesn’t smell like morning breath and face dirt.

Okay, no one’s done a study on that, but you’ll have fewer breakouts if you change your pillowcases at least once a week. Plus, it’s my personal opinion that the smell of laundry detergent helps you fall asleep.

PRICE: Depends on how often you do your laundry. Basically, free.

5. Write down what you’re grateful for

Do this either at night before you go to sleep, or take a few minutes before you start work every day. By noticing the little things, you’ll start to build a naturally grateful outlook–which benefits you, your work, and everyone you know.

PRICE: Priceless.

 

Anything to add? Leave it in the comments!

Fashion Friday SPECIAL EDITION: Interview with Amanda deLeon!

Today’s post is extra-special! Written by Megan Hargroder of Conversations LLC, this week’s Fashion Friday features fashion designer Amanda deLeon. Amanda is known for her pieces’ structural focus, immaculate craftsmanship, and bold lines.

Megan asked Amanda how to wear capes–because honestly, none of us are doing that right (if we’re doing it at all).

Fashion Friday #fashionfriday

INTERVIEW WITH AMANDA DELEON

By Megan Hargroder

Amanda deLeon has captivated Southern fashion lovers with her clever, innovative, and yet wearable pieces since the very first New Orleans Fashion Week.

But it’s not just New Orleans giving her high praise! Amanda stole the scene as an emerging designer at last year’s New York Fashion Week.

Lucky fashionistas have been able to nab her pieces on her web store, as well as on Etsy, but we wouldn’t hold out too long to get your own Amanda deLeon original–this lady’s star is rising fast.

I sat down with Amanda this week (okay, it was an email interview) to find out more about her current Etsy collection of colorful capes and how we could go about rocking those IRL.

 

MEGAN HARGRODER: You’ve got 3 lovely capes on your Etsy store right now, and I’d love to tell people how to wear them! How would you, as the designer, pair each of these capes?

Orange Edwardian Cape by Amanda deLeon
Are you thinking of pumpkins yet?

AMANDA DELEON: I would wear that with a simple A-line dress that needs to be amped up, and a pair of modern sandals (for the summer). For a cooler climate, I would pair it with a women’s suit and some amazingly wicked shoes.

Mint Green Summer Cape by Amanda deLeon
Provides a gentle whisper of “I am way cooler than you, but you can talk to me anyway.”

AMANDA: I think this piece would be great with a classic pair of cigarette pants, patent leather pumps, and a pair of leather driving gloves.

Sheer Fuchsia Cape by Amanda deLeon
Everything’s coming up rosettes.

AMANDA: This, I see with a black satin fitted ball skirt with a mermaid flair, and a decorative bustier top…and a killer beehive.

 

MEGAN: What was your inspiration for creating this line of capes?

AMANDA: This Etsy shop is to sell my one-offs, runway samples, and random pieces created from collected fabrics. The capes were created due to what would work best with those beautiful fabrics. Also, capes need to make a serious comeback. They have an equal amount of power and femininity…dark and demure.

 MEGAN: What are you working on now? Could we get a sneak peek? (Even the tiniest little peek of a peek?)

AMANDA: My brand collection/work can be found at amandadeleon.com. As of this moment, I am finishing up a leather chest piece that is to be shipped to a customer in Germany.

This is the same chest piece that was sought out by Kat Von D. My crew and I are submitting the fashion film “Réunion de la Mélancolie” to several short film outlets, as well as the behind-the-scenes video of my show at New York Fashion Week Fall 2014, presented at the historic Algonquin Hotel.

Also, I am working on a few extra things that will be popping up into my online shop in the near future.

Rockstar status: Achieved.

Readers–have you ever rocked a cape? Pics or it didn’t happen.

 

5 Ways Giving Up Netflix Will Make You a Better Freelancer (and a Better Person)

5 Ways Giving Up NetflixWill Make You a (1)

(Note: You probably won’t understand the introduction to this post if you don’t watch “House“. That’s okay. Just skip to the list for how giving up Netflix made me a better freelancer—at least for a week).

 

It’s 11:29 pm. You’re sitting slackjawed on your couch, watching your third episode of “House” Season 2 because Netflix is on autoplay, and the cat is curled up next to you.

You did not do your laundry. You did not blog. You definitely didn’t do any other work.

You did not cook dinner; instead, you foraged for stray carrots and dipped them into two-week-old hummus while watching House chew out other doctors for thinking it was lupus.

It’s NEVER LUPUS.

 

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I caught myself trapped in the scene above. I was tired, but hadn’t spent my time on anything worthwhile. I was annoyed at myself.

And I had noticed myself opening Netflix by default, almost without thinking. I don’t like being a thoughtless robot.

So I decided to see if I could abstain from watching Netflix—and all other shows and online video diversions—for a week.

Here’s what happened.

5 Ways Giving Up Netflix Will Make You a Better Freelancer (and a Better Person)

  1. I was more creative. I made my own creative escapes instead of diving into “House” reruns.
  2. I was more mindful. I realized how much time I was spending zoning out. Now I can choose when to zone out. Hopefully it won’t be as much.
  3. I read more. Like, a lot more. Like a book a week more. And they were such good books!
  4. I went to bed earlier and slept better. Early to bed, early to rise, and all that crap. Seriously, though. That last 40-minute episode before bed makes a difference in your sleep quality, not just quantity. Though I have f.lux, I suspect watching a screen before bed still fucks with your brain, blue light or not.
  5. I had to be with myself. God, it was uncomfortable. And necessary.

If giving up Netflix for a week seems impossible for you—that means it’s all the more important to do it.

Try it. Let me know what happens. And if it gives you a boost, share this post.

The 5 Easiest Tools for Keeping an “Idea File”

5 Easiest Tools for Keeping an Idea File

Y’all, we’re all geniuses. We have a lot of great ideas, and if we lose them, THE WORLD LOSES THEM. So we write them down and save them for later–but where do we write them?

In an Idea File, of course. Check out the simplest 5 tools for keeping track of your brainwaves–from smartphone solutions to good ol’ pen and paper.

Just remember: However you choose to catalogue your creative impulses, don’t editorialize, judge, or dismiss them. Just write them down, and look at them later to find the ones that shine.

Gmail task list

This is where I, trained as a ninja in the art of digital task management, excel. Like many of you, I use my main To-Do list to check off items when I complete them (and give myself a boost of glorious can-do motivation).

But I also keep a separate list, creatively titled “Ideas”. It’s a good dumping ground for the times when I’m stuck in my email and don’t want to open anything else. And when I use an idea from the list, I can check it off and get that same boost.

Also, if you’re not using Gmail, what are you even doing with your life?

Evernote

I’ll admit: I was slow to come to Evernote. But now that I use it to keep track of my workouts (hello, Stone Age), I’ve come to appreciate its magical capacity to sync across platforms.

Also, I lost my phone during Mardi Gras, and it took losing all of the ideas in the phone’s Notes app to get me to use Evernote. The world will never know about circle bacon.

Fishbowl with scraps of paper

Sorry, no link. This is the most old-school method ever, and I hear it works really well–from the four people who still use it.

Just kidding. If you’re ever hard-up for inspiration, fishing a scrap of paper out of a bowl (or jar) can be the touch of whimsy you need to see an old idea in a new light.

Index card organizer

I like to think of this method as the more tangible, less fire-and-hurricane-safe version of Evernote. You can organize your ideas by alphabetical order, type, or degree of separation from Kevin Bacon. Then, you can use your cards to create an outline for your sixth-grade history paper!

Pinterest, Polyvore and other virtual bulletin boards

Artists, stylists, and other people who think and work more visually should give Pinterest and Polyvore a try. Though Pinterest does have a lot of crap (you only need so many recipes for “green juice,” after all), it’s easy to make private, curated boards that convey a mood or theme without words.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’d love to hear what other people do. How do you keep track of your ideas?

Dear Creative: Know How to Answer These 3 Questions

Sunken City

This post is shared from my friends at Sunken City. Share it yourself, and show them some love!

Today we got to pitch Sunken City to a small group headed by Robbie Vitrano and Tim Williamson, founders of Idea Village.  The event, BarPreneurs, gives a handful of entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their idea/company for one minute.  From this, three semi-finalists are selected for a question-and-answer period, and one finalist gets to stay and have lunch with the big wigs. Sunken didn’t make it past the first round, but on a whim, we stayed to see what we could learn from the Q&A.  There, we picked up three seemingly simple questions that, as artists, we don’t think about nearly enough:

1.) What is your business (in one sentence)? 

2.) How will this make money? 

3.) What do you need to make this happen?

Personally, we spend most of our time thinking about the vision of Sunken (“Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a TV comedy about NOLA made by artists who live here?”) and not enough time thinking about the business angle of what makes our show profitable and attractive to investors. Among artists, there is often a natural aversion to “money talk”; it feels nobler to imagine that we can continue making art simply in the name of love, truth, and expression.

However, the truth is that whatever you are making–a web series, a fashion line, a giant man of straw–you need money to make it. And someday, you will find yourself face-to-face with someone who possesses the very resources and connections you need. It may be in an elevator, a restroom, or crowded somewhat awkwardly around a bar in the French Quarter. Wherever it is, be prepared to describe why your idea is awesomehow it will make money, and what EXACTLY you need RIGHT NOW to level-up.

The best way to get there: practice. Pitch as often as you can. There are no shortage of pitch events and networking meet-ups in this city. Go make yourself uncomfortable. And when you aren’t selected to move on to the “next round” at one of these events, don’t leave.  Instead, nurse the one free cocktail you got, stick around as long as is socially acceptable, and see what you can learn from those who are selected.

Also: check out FitLot. We think they’re gonna be big.

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Follow Sunken City on Twitter @oursunkencity to learn how you can support the show!