A good small business should “borrow and improve”

Web Designer Joke: A web designer walks into a bar, but immediately leaves in disgust upon noticing the tables layout.

Why a good business borrows and improvesBelieve it or not, that made me chuckle. Anyway, I’ve decided to try some public speaking. Perhaps share my knowledge of Internet marketing, Web Design, Social Media and SEO at a business workshop or club meeting. What do you think? I think I’d better not tell that joke.

There was an interesting article in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution recently:

‘Creativity’ doesn’t have to mean ‘originality’ by Rosalind Bentley

I read the headline. I paused…”Better read this article” I thought. Turns out the article is about the philosophies in a book by Austin Kleon called “Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative”. You can look him up at www.austinkleon.com. Simply put, the book says nothing is original, and anything you do has roots in something else. The sooner you acknowledge it, the more imaginative and dynamic your own work will become. So embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path.

This makes me think of a mashup, which is exactly what I create. In web development, a mashup is a Web page that uses and combines data, presentation or functionality from two or more sources to create new services. I collect, remix and re-imagine apps that combine to create a useful web presence for my clients. That mashup is presented as a visually elegant website.

Following is a great discussion on Kleon’s book and “stealing” in many contexts, including business. Enjoy!

Marketing 101 by Mountain Webs

Micro-Portfolio

 I’ve talked and working with Erica Allison, owner of Allison Development Group.

 They are a PR/Marketing firm working with small business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, chefs and people who have a great story to tell. I’m very impressed with the work Erica has done for her wide variety of clients and she is opening my eyes to new possibilities. We’ve been discussing a strategic PR and Marketing Plan for my art. I’m launching my fine art and she is kick-starting my brain to think as creatively as my paintings.

I have to admit, even though I’m outgoing and talkative, I have a very hard time calling, pitching, selling and closing the deal. It’s not a matter of confidence in the quality of my work—it’s about little experience in what to say. However, Erica sparked my interest and I came up with one way to share my work without the stress factor.

You all know how much I love Moo.com. I took their products and tailored a marketing idea to help share my work with others. It’s shows my work and is a fun “leave behind” for prospective galleries and boutiques.

First, I designed a business card to coordinate with my website, MtnArtist.com, and my fine art work. On the back, I put a place for my name, the title of the work, the medium and price. This information is necessary for juried shows, galleries or boutiques. The card is attached to the art work—double duty out of one card!

Next is the fun part: I created a set of 5 “MiniCards” (tiny versions of a business card). Each MiniCard has a different photo of my art, so people can see a micro-portfolio. On the back of each Mini-Card is a favorite art quote (just for fun) and more contact info. All are tied together with rustic twine and a colorful bead.

One small step towards showing the world what I do. So far, feedback has been fantastic. Soon we will see if the results are as great!

E-commerce Meet…Social Networking & Appointment Scheduling

Georgia mountainWow! It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged.

But that is OK because I’ve been  busy with family, rock climbing, hiking, web design (just finished The Oaks Bed and Breakfast) and launching my encaustic and mixed media art.

More fine art has entered my blog. The most interesting part is that the articles geared to small business are extremely relevant to the independent artist. I’ve been working on new small business e-commerce solutions and wanted to show you some of the other wonderful programs you can take advantage of.

Here is a list of “Ten Programs You Need to Check Out” to make your precious time more effective and efficient:

  • Adobe ConnectNow—Start web conferencing with one click. Share your screen. See the participants. Use a whiteboard, chat, and share notes. It’s almost like being there.
  • FreshBooks Online Invoicing—Focus on what you love to do by using this easy program to send email (or snail mail) estimates, invoices, accept payments online and it integrates with Quickbooks and lots of other software programs.
  • Mail Chimp Email Marketing—Email marketing that integrates with your social networking …and you can have a FREE account.
  • MatCutter.com—You create the art, they’ll cut the mats. Easy to navigate site for all artists who want to present their work in a professional way.
  • Moo.com Creative Print—When they say ‘we love to print’, they really mean it. The most creative solutions for business cards, postcards and stickers. Especially for  people who think outside the box (or for people who wish they did.)
  • Screenr.com Screencasts—You can create web-based screencasts (no software to download), embed them on your site, post them to YouTube and more. (I’ve got one on MtnWebs.com for my clients, “WordPress Intro Screencast“. Getting ready to add one to MtnArtist.com about my work.
  • Setster—Amazing! Innovative calendar not only converts web traffic to appointments 24 hours a day, it accepts payments and promotes your services over every social media outlet. Just set your available hours and let site visitors/clients schedule appointments.
  • Skype Video Calls and IM—In addition to instant messaging, I have it set up so my work number actually calls Skype on my computer. There is an email notification if you miss a call, voicemail, call forwarding and the ability to create a contact list.
  • Wise Stamp Email Signatures—No one listens to me on this one, but it’s fantastic. WiseStamp Email Apps enable users to bring functionality in every email they send. Check out the Apps gallery where you’ll find 14 social, fun and serious apps. Send all your social networking and even an rss feed of your blog through your email!
  • Wufoo Online Form Builder—Not just any contact form for you! The form builder helps you create contact forms, online surveys, and invitations so you can collect the data, registrations and even online payments you need without writing a single line of code.

Many of these innovative small business solutions integrate with one another so you can import or export contacts to target new contacts or keep current clients.

I use EVERY ONE of these fantastic business solutions on my web design site, my fine art site or website’s that I design for clients. So, they have been personally tested and I only have rave reviews to report.

I’d also like to introduce you to a wonderful blog: ArtBizBlog: For the Business of Being an Artist by Alyson B. Stanfield. She’s got tons of great posts about the business side of art. Check out this one: 5 minute Self-Promotion Tasks. Great for anyone that gets totally overwhelmed and says “I just don’t have the time to deal with that Twitter thing.” Again, her blogs apply not only to artists but almost all small business owners.

Fine Art and Web Design Inspiration

We went to the National Gallery of Art in DC and saw works by Renior, Picasso, Monet, Rodin (my favorite), Cassatt, Van Gogh, Degas and more. Also, walked through the Sculpture Garden and saw a Calder and Lichtenstein. It was breathtaking and I’m so glad my sons got to see the paintings and sculpture in person.

All media are inspirations for work. Encaustic painting is my newest fine art attempt. I have a Bachelor of Fine Art from Auburn University, but did not learn encaustic painting while there. It could be explained as painting with heated wax, yet the creative possibilities are endless. You can include unique Japanese paper, image transfers, text, texture and any mixed media you can come up with. Encaustic involves a good sense of design and a huge sense adventure. Can’t wait to get started!

Two illustrators that are inspiring to me are James Noel Smith and Laura Coyle (who is also an amazing Jazz singer). They have very different techniques—individualism expressed through visual art. Check them out. Some of my other inspirations are: Savion Glover, Auguste Rodin, Édouard Vuillard, Vincent van Gogh, Daylilies, Isadora Duncan, W. H. Auden, Maya Angelou, Yo-Yo Ma, Donnie Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Iron and Wine. See the video:

Design in art: Various elements in the creative flux…

“Design in art, is a recognition of the relation between various things, various elements in the creative flux. You can’t invent a design. You recognize it, in the fourth dimension. That is, with your blood and your bones, as well as with your eyes.”—D. H. Lawrence

Dobry den! Greg and I just returned from a magical trip to Prague in the Czech Republic. Never could I have imagined the beauty that was constantly, almost nonchalantly displayed at every corner, in every building. It seemed like millions of cobblestones lead me to marvels that somehow survived what history had dealt them.

People have asked me about my favorite parts of the trip. That’s a tough one. The very Gothic Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague was an awe-inspiring place of worship and symbol of holiness and faith.

Also, the majestic Charles Bridge that crosses Vltava river in Prague. It was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in 1357 and has seen the good and bad eras of history in that area.

 

In contrast, the The Lennon Wall is a totally different creative inspiration. Once a plain wall, since the 1980′s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles songs. In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime. Young Czechs would write complaints on the wall and this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the Charles Bridge (mentioned above). Now, the wall symbolize love and peace.

 

In the midst of all this history are remarkable contemporary bronze statues sprinkled throughout parks and courtyards in the city. The clean, rounded lines contrast with the intricate tangle of vines, patterns and seemingly hundreds of visual layers carved into the historic buildings (even each door, window, and every other  structural element). Some of the contemporary works are comments on modern life. D.H. Lawrence was an English author, poet, playwright, essayist and critic. His work represents a reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. In Prague, sculptures with the same theme are placed next to a building that was built before the 1500′s. And this contrast works, not only in theme but visually. One gives you a rest from the other. Let’s you appreciate the properties of all without personal saturation or having to “choose” which art you want to experience in such a large city.

There are artistic treats and surprises around each turn. These surprises and their contrasting styles have re-opened my eyes to the design possibilities in all medium. The chaos and balance even translate to web and graphic design projects. Contrast can create visual drama and an experience client’s cannot turn away from. Why not take the risk?

P.S. No rock climbing pictures of Stacy this trip—foot still broken. Greg climbed in the Czech Republic near Poland, though. I’ll have to wait ’till the broken foot heals and stick with the incredible climbing near Hendersonville and Asheville.

Nashledanou (Good bye..for now)

Website Marketing Turnoffs from Entrepreneur.com

Happy Independence Day, Everyone!

This article is interesting and a quick way to check your own site. The Entrepreneur.com article mentions posting to Digg and Delicious. I’d also like to add Stumble Upon to the list of places I like to post blog entries. Check it out…

Website Marketing Turnoffs – Entrepreneur.com

 

P.S. Yes, it’s me and my husband :)

And here is a glimpse at my fine art.