Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Key to Lasting Success In Any Business: Lifetime Relationships - Part 1

There always has been and always been one universal key to not only keeping your business going when times are tough, but truly thriving in all conditions, and that is your business relationships. Regardless of what business you are in, who you know and how you interact with the people you know will make all the difference in your success.

Why? Because when you establish yourself as someone who is likeable, easy to work with, efficient, and someone that other people can trust, people will flock to you because they want to work with you. I mean, think about it: doesn’t that sound like the kind of person that YOU want to work with?

So how to do you take your current business relationships and turn them into lifetime relationships? Here are a few tips:

  Genuinely care about people. This isn’t something that you can fake. You have to really care about clients, business partners, employees, and customers alike. Not just to the point of how they are doing in business, but how they are doing overall in their own life. Respect the boundary between personal and business, but at the same time be interested in the things that they care about, like their family, friends, hobbies, and so on. Care about their happiness and well-being.

  Help people. Do things to help people without any expectation of anything in return. If you have special expertise or knowledge or contacts or resources that could help someone out (even if they can do nothing for you in return!) offer to help them. Those good intentions will come back to you in other ways and you will find that people will really appreciate you.

  Don’t try to pitch everyone, and don’t pitch too early. This is a biggie. Often times, people will attend a networking event where they collect cards from people and automatically assume that this gives them free reign to try to sell to all of them. Don’t ever make this mistake! Networking events are great opportunities to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet and start building new relationships, not a license to sell. The only people you should be pitching to are people who you already have a relationship with and you see an immediate need that they have that you can fulfill. Then actually have to need and want your services, and if they don’t, you’re just bothering people and shutting doors that could have potentially led to something huge. You can’t fulfill everyone’s needs, and if you recognize that some relationships are not going to become working business relationships, you can allow them to simply be connections. You never know – they might not be a new customer, but they might know someone who needs exactly what you are selling and can provide you tons of business in the future. But you will never know this if you try to solicit them right out of the gates because they will likely not want to talk to you again. Along this same line of thought, don't go home and add all of your newly collected business cards to your e-mail list unless you have their permission.

  Don’t talk over people’s heads. Even if you are the expert of all experts in your field, don’t fill up your conversation with technical jargon that other people don’t understand. You might think that you’re just showing how smart you are and what you know, but instead of impressing people it will just alienate them, and even give them the idea that you have a big ego, which will push them away. People appreciate the experts that come down out of the clouds and explain things in real, easy-to-understand terms that they can get right away. They will see that your wealth of knowledge is there, but they will also feel respected instead of talked down to.

Check back next week for Part 2, which will have several more tips for creating lifetime relationships! (Update: click here to read part 2!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to Make Your Home Or Office More Green

In the interior design industry, it’s becoming increasingly more and more important to make our homes and offices as green as we can, in order to make our buildings more energy efficient, save money, and reduce our impact on the environment. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions from homeowners and office building owners is, ‘How can I make my building more green?’

Well, there are quite a few ways to green up your living and working spaces! Consider implementing some of the different options below.

1. Purchase Lower Maintenance Materials. Choose materials when building or updating your home or building that require less maintenance and will not need to be replaced frequently, such as masonry for the exterior, linoleum or tile floors, and metal or vinyl fencing. Use rubber mulch instead of natural mulch; it will last longer and uses tires that would normally just be sitting in a landfill.

2. Improve your insulation. Seal your windows with caulk or silicone in order to make sure that there are no air leaks. Purchase double paned windows to improve insulation, and use window coverings like blinds, drapes, shades, or curtains. Adding window tinting will also help during the hot summer months to keep the heat out and reduce the need for air conditioning.

3. Install solar panels. Installing solar panels is an excellent way to create your own energy for your home or building as well as either reduce or eliminate your current electric bill.

5. Reduce your electricity usage. You can do this by installing skylights to let more light in so you only need them at night. Use energy efficient light bulbs. Wash your clothes with cold water instead of hot – they wash just as well and don’t use the electricity to heat up. Hang them up to dry rather than using a dryer. Choose energy efficient appliances and use ceiling fans instead of A/C when you can. Turn off and unplug electronics that aren’t being used at night.

4. Improve your water efficiency. Install low flow water fixtures so that less water is wasted. You can also install a drip sprinkler system rather than a standard sprinkler system, which is more effective anyway.

Even just incorporating a few of these things into your home or office can make a difference! You could set a goal of installing or changing one thing every three months and watching what a difference it makes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Awe of Abstract

"Magic Forms 1141" © Lucia Gomez (Painting)

I absolutely love abstract art. There is something magical about a really good abstract that makes you stop, regard, question, and contemplate. Each person will see different forms, messages, and stories within the lines and shapes and colors. And each person will interpret them differently. No other type of art gives the viewer as much permission to explore and imagine and create within a finished piece in the way the abstract does.

"Amber Dreams 4" © Tien Frogget (Photography)

"Echo" © Bonnie Kelso (Painting)

"Enchanted Forest 4" © John R. Math (Photography)

"Catalyst 3" © Wendy Froshay (Painting)

Although it is one of the most free-flowing types of art that exists, it is actually one of the most difficult to create. True artists do not just splash random paint across a canvas and call it art – they have a deep well of knowledge about composition, values, color, and much more. To create something great, they must use this knowledge with their talent to compose an abstract that draws the viewer in and makes their eyes want to continue to wander the canvas, soaking in the details and absorbing beauty.

"Texture Under Pressure" © Jerry Solomon (Photography)

"Street Reflections" © Ricardo Vela (Painting)

"Ecliptical" © Tom Druin (Photography)

I also want to clarify something. A lot of people seem to mix up impressionism and abstract. More people than I can count use the words interchangeably as if they are the same thing, but they are two completely different types of art. Impressionism is painting something that the viewer can tell what it is: a landscape, a still life, a person – but making it somewhat messier, less perfect than photorealistic. Their goal is to give the impression of their subject, so that you know what it is, and yet it is clear that this is a painting, and the painter took liberties to add their own perspective into the art.

"Defining Expansion 1" © Wendy Froshay (Painting)

"Canoes Orange" © Tien Frogget (Photography)

"Soulmates III Reunion" © Lee A

Abstract, on the other hand, takes the idea much further. Often times, you cannot tell what the subject might be (if there is one at all.) Forms and shapes intermingle and merge together in a dance that makes you wonder what the artist is trying to say. You may be able to see objects in the image, but they are often half-formed or changed to look like something else. In the case of abstract photography, the image is often a close-up of something, making it difficult to tell what the subject is, or tiny details in a subject, or elements of the photo have been blurred or colorized to create something new.

The images on this post are some wonderful abstracts created by OC Designer Source artists – some of them are paintings and some of them are photographs. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking through them! Our artists are so talented.

"Heavy Equipment" © John R. Math (Photography)

"Bamboo Verdi III" © Charaka Simoncelli (Painting)

"Along the Heavens" © Tom Druin (Photography)

"Stopping Time" © Emelina Figueroa (Painting)

"Sacred Bath" © Terri Leo (Photography)

"Silent Spaces" © Elizabeth Khorey

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Creativity Booster: Collaborate

Is your art/ photography/ design/ writing (fill in the blank with any creative medium you like) getting to be a recycling of the same concepts and ideas? Are you looking for something to bump you out of the rut and into a new realm of creative projects? This creativity booster might be perfect for you.

Why not try teaming up with someone else to create something new?

Musical artists do it all the time. They are constantly teaming up with other singers and musicians to create new songs and fuse their styles and ideas together. They feature each other on their music albums and share the work with their fan bases and their listeners discover new musicians that they like. By teaming up, they bounce ideas off of each other and come up with things that they wouldn’t have otherwise come up with.

So why is it that artists do don’t the same thing very often? It seems like creating a painting or a photograph is often a solo endeavor – something that we tackle on our own. But imagine the possibilities if you decided to create something with another artist! It’s not something that you have to start doing all the time (unless of course you really like it) but it can be an excellent way to get fresh perspective and get your creativity flowing.

The person that you decide to collaborate with will have a completely different history, viewpoint, and way of thinking than you do. They will inevitably approach the project differently than you do, and take it in an unexpected direction, and you will do the same for them. If you can go with the flow and play off of each other, you might just create something completely unique! (Especially if you collaborate with someone who’s style of work is vastly different than your own.)

It’s definitely worth giving a try – and if you find that you conflict with the person that you teamed up with, try someone else. It’s important to find someone that you work well with and you can both let go of the end result in order to just enjoy the process. The goal isn’t to create a masterpiece, it is to have fun and discover new ways of creating together, bouncing ideas off of one another and moving in new directions. (Although you might just end up creating a masterpiece anyway.)

Give it a try! What do you have to lose? And think of what you might create… !

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Selling Your Art: Print on Demand vs. Licensing to Manufacturers

It’s a brand-new year, which means everyone is still fired up about New Year’s Resolutions that they’ve made. Did yours include making more money from your art in 2013? (Even if it didn’t, it sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?) So let’s take a look at two very popular methods of using your creative talents to make money and weigh the pros and cons of each.

First of all, if you’re unfamiliar with these two different avenues, it might be helpful to get really clear on what they are.

Print on Demand companies, like ImageKind, DeviantArt, Fine Art America, Zazzle, RedBubble, Cafepress, Spreadshirt, etc. will take your art and display it on various products (canvas, prints, t-shirts, mugs, home d├ęcor, and so on) within their marketplace. You create a shop front and choose what to display your work on. No physical products are created until it sells. When someone sees the product with your art and buys it, you make a commission. Some sites also have shop fees.

Licensing your work to Manufacturers involves giving a company the right to reproduce your work on products and sell them to physical stores where consumers buy them. You make a commission when the products are sold to retailers.

Both are very viable ways to make income, and both have advantages over the other.

For example, with a print on demand company, you make money selling one or two products at a time, which means the volume of sales is typically low. Whereas when you license your art to a manufacturer, they will usually sell hundreds or even thousands of products at once. With manufacturers, however, the commission is usually a very small percentage. You usually make less than a dollar for each product you sell. With print on demand companies, you can often set whatever commission you want to make – anywhere from $1-15 a product, depending on what it is and what people are willing to pay for it because they like it so much.

This means that if you could find a way to promote your print on demand products and sell a high volume of them, you could potentially make a LOT more money this way than through licensing. The downside? This rarely happens. It’s extremely unlikely that you will ever sell such a high volume to print on demand companies, because the markets are so different – not to mention the contrast in the number of eyeballs actually seeing your work.

When someone walks into a store and buys a mug, they are usually thinking, “I chipped my favorite coffee mug and I need a new one.” They wander through the store, find the mug they like the best, and buy it. But when someone is searching for a mug online through a site like Zazzle, they’re looking for something that is very personal. They want something that speaks to them about who they are, what they like, and they really connect with. You’re less likely to make the sale because your work is pretty – it has to resonate with them. They will choose it because they see it and think, “that’s me!!!” If you want to make money through print on demand, you will need to find a way to make your art target a very specific audience that will fall in love with it when they see it, and then promote it to that audience so that they actually do see it. You are more involved in the marketing of your art than you would be in licensing.

The thing is, licensing your work to manufacturers is not an easy thing to do. Submitting your work to them can often feel like talking to a wall. You often never hear back from them, and you never know why you aren’t what they’re looking for. It can take years to break into the licensing business, and when you do,  you still might not make the amount of money that you were hoping for because everything is out of your hands. Sometimes these companies are dishonest and they make it seem like you will be making a larger commission than you actually are, and they may make hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit that you only see $500 from.

The benefit of print on demand is that you have total control. You don’t have to schmooze your way through back doors and learn all of the ins and outs of the licensing industry – you can upload your work to one of these sites today and there it will be, up for sale to the world. You can upload as much as you want to as many places you want and the amount of sales that you make will depend on YOU and your ability to promote it to enough people that you make money. The thing is, learning how to do that and spending time doing it can take just as much time as it does to break into the licensing industry.

There are pros and cons of both avenues, and each one requires a very specific, specialized strategy. What do you think about print on demand vs. licensing to manufacturers?