Blog Business Advice Needed

So in the midst of all the last minute wedding planning craziness, I’m of course still working on my business and coming up with a plan to help it grow and be successful. But I’m at a point where I’m stuck now, and I could really use the advice of people who know me through my blog, since it is somewhat web-related.

A little background on my situation: I graduated college in 2007 with my BFA in Graphic Design. After college, I worked at corporate for American Greetings card company, then at corporate for a supermarket chain in the upper northeast. I designed cards at AG and food packaging at the supermarket. I loved both these jobs, and I love what I chose to do with my career. Design is my favorite thing ever. :-)

When Joshua returned home from Afghanistan, I left my job and started my own freelance graphic design business, Graphic Grace Design. Work has been steady but slow, but I was recently informed that my biggest client will no longer be hiring freelancers. In one way, this is a good thing— it forces me to put myself and the company out there more to get more clients, and pursue the type of work I really want. On the other hand, I’m scared shitless. This company has been my primary source of income for almost a year now, and I’m nervous and anxious about what comes next.

The question is now, what to do? I have this blog, Hard Corps Love, which is my personal blog that started as a deployment journal when Joshua was away. It is mostly military, wedding, and relationship focused. But then, I want to blog about my business and share my design projects and ideas, templates, giveaways, tutorials, etc.

Do I start sharing those things here, or do I start a new blog that is strictly business? Do I keep my personal & professional blogs separate, or do I combine the two? I’ve seen several successful bloggers who do combine the two, and their reader loyalty also helps their business.

But then, I don’t want my blog to be all business.

And then again, I don’t want to have so many different blogs, profiles, and websites to have to manage and keep up all the time.

As it is, I currently have this blog, my GraphicGrace website, our wedding/personal website (joshuandanielle.com), my personal Facebook page, a GraphicGrace Faebook page, a GraphicGrace Twitter page, and my blog Twitter page.

So I feel like the Facebook pages and Twitter pages are, whatever. Those are small things that are easier to manage, and not a big deal to me. But the blog/website issue is a huge deal.

What would you do?

I’ve thought about moving this blog to joshuandanielle.com, keeping all of our personal life together. Then I’d create a separate business-related blog for GraphicGrace and the website. But can I still make that personal? And if I move this blog to joshuandanielle.com, do I keep the name, Hard Corps Love, or do I change it?

Help! Please?

It’s Official!

Hi everyone… I could not be more excited right now. I’ve officially launched my website, Graphic Grace Design! I’d love to hear your feedback and get your opinions on what is or isn’t working.

I’ve gone through much debate about whether to include the link to this blog or start a new “professional” blog. I’ve gotten mixed responses from family and friends, but ultimately I decided not to include a link to Hard Corps Love on my professional website.

Now the debate is whether to:
A.) Start the new professional blog & continue keeping this personal blog.
B.) Keep only this blog and not worry about having a professional blog.
C.) Combine both blogs into one blog, either under Hard Corps Love or a new title.

What do you think?

P.S. I love 2011 already.

Taking Care of Business!

So I’m not sure how much I’ve gone into this, but I’m a graphic designer… and I’ve recently branched off from the corporate world to start my own business.

I had a completely awesome job in New York designing food packaging— it was so fun! I loved my job and the people I worked with. I was there for about 2 1/2 years, and before that I worked at American Greetings in Ohio, designing greeting cards. I’ve also done various freelance jobs in between and had lots of internships before I graduated college (seriously, I interned for fun… starting my junior year of high school. I just loved it).
I love graphic design. When I was little, I always used to want to be an “artist.” I love that design is art that is paid. I love that it deals with computers & technology, but is so creative. All in all, I love what I do. :-)
As much as I loved my job and working in New York, I left so I could move to North Carolina to be with Joshua when he returned from Afghanistan. I set up an office in the corner of our bedroom, and it’s from here that I’m working on starting my own business and branding my company.
It’s tough work, let me tell you! I have stacks of business books, dozens of post-its scribbled with notes, and monster to-do lists. This is something that I’ve been planning to do for over a year, but it’s only now becoming a reality. I would love to be able to be successful enough to keep working from my home and to be able to do this when we have children, too. Design pays pretty well, but I hope to stay home with my future kids instead of sending them to daycare!

For the record, what I really love designing is stationery… invitations, cards, announcements, etc. But since I haven’t been doing that for long enough yet, my current portfolio mainly features logos, packaging, posters, brochures, magazine spreads, etc.

I guess, in a way, this happened by accident. Ever since I met Joshua (coming up on 3 years ago this January!), I’ve looked for design jobs here in the Lejeune area. Nothing ever really came up, aside from a few places I sent my resume to and the occasional interview. So that’s what I realized— hey, I’m soon to be a military wife and I need a “portable career,” so why not work from home as a freelance designer?
Joshua wanted me to be with him and still keep doing what I love, so he was more than on board with the idea. A few months ago, he bought me a beautiful new iMac computer, since my 5 year old Powerbook laptop was slowly on its way out. I was close friends with my boss in New York, and she gave me all the necessary programs I didn’t already have. When I left, her and my other teammate’s parting gift to me was a brand spanking new Pantone+ swatchbook… any designer’s dream.

So I came to North Carolina prepared to work, and that’s what I’ve been doing! I started with my business name… Graphic Grace Design. My middle name is Grace, fyi. Then I bought the .com address. And then…

I finally, finally completed my logo… thanks to my incredible husband-to-be. He has the best input and I value his opinion so much! Especially since I find it terribly hard to design for myself. I’m so overly critical and never satisfied with anything. I go back to it a million times to revise it. So actually completing this was huge! Phew.

After that, I ordered my business cards, and I’m currently working on my in progress website. Web design is definitely not my forté, so I’m taking the time to learn Dreamweaver and design in the process. After all, you can’t be a designer and not design your own website! It’s just wrong.

I’m working out all the legalities, too. That part is my least favorite. So many lawyer terms and copyright/trademark info and tax business.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to! I’ll update again soon when I have the time… I’ve also been designing our wedding save-the-dates, creating a new wedding website for us, freelancing for my previous job until they fill my position, and getting all sorts of inquiries from newly engaged friends asking me to do their wedding invitations or Christmas cards. So fun!

Those of you who are military spouses or soon-to-be, if you’ve ever had a dream to start your own business and create your own “portable career”… DO IT! Just jump right in, as scary as it is. It’s the only way! 

As always, feel free to email me for advice or design tips if you ever want help!

Life at the Beach

I’ve officially made it and I’m in North Carolina! I’m at the beach house that is to be our home for the next three months, yay! Not much longer until my love comes home. The past week and a half, I’ve been busy moving in, unpacking, and hosting company. My mom and cousin drove down with me from New York to help me move in, but I had to put the unpacking on hold when two of my girlfriends from NY also came down to spend five days here. My mom and cousin ended up staying six days too since they liked it so much! I hope the husband-to-be likes it as well.

It’s been a LOT of work. You see… no one ever warned me about the “water bugs” aka “palmetto bugs” aka ROACHES that live in the south. Up north, it’s spiders and black ants, and I can deal with either. But down here, I wasn’t expecting the roaches! It’s a funny story, really…

After about a 13 hour drive down from NY with my mom and cousin following behind me, I arrived to the condo around 2am… only to be greeted by two dead roaches on the carpet! Ew! After the three of us completely freaked out, we decided we were tired enough to just go to sleep and deal with it in the morning. But then… there was a roach crawling up the wall in the living room. We screamed, grabbed our bags, and left for a hotel.

I was near tears at this point, thinking the condo was infested; that I’d have to move back to NY; that I wouldn’t be able to live with Joshua; that I already signed the lease and would still have to pay for it even though we couldn’t live there; etc. So that’s when the kind people of the south assured me that “water bugs” are completely common down here, and they’re nothing to worry about. First, the man at the hotel. Then, the cleaning lady they sent over the next morning after I called at 8am, half hysterical. Then, the exterminator they sent over. Then, both ladies at the rental office. Then, the locals… and finally, my fellow Marine wives and girlfriends who have been living down here already.

So, fellow northerners… if you move to the south… don’t freak out when you see a cockroach!!! Lucky for me, I’ve only seen one more since that first night. At my place. Tonight there was one at my friend’s house, and she doesn’t even live in the same town. Creepy little critters. Ew!

Other than that initial horrible first impression, it’s been GREAT! I’ve been so busy since the day I got here, it’s insane. The condo we’re renting is fully furnished, but the owner’s decor was simply hideous. So I spent a good half a day taking off all their bedspreads, pillows, decorations, whatever and throwing it into the extra closet. Along with their kitchen utensils, plates, gadgets, also whatever. I’m using all my own things.

Shopping has been fun. I bought two sofa covers for the living room and new comforters for both beds. Lots and lots of cleaning supplies… I spent a good four days moving every piece of furniture and deep cleaning after the roach scare! While my amazing mama was here, she helped me rearrange all the furnitire and make it more “livable.” I’ll post photos soon! Everything is done except for the master bedroom, which I’m still working on organizing. I’m setting up my desk and workstation in there so I can freelance and have my own space. So far, it’s working out just fine.

I’ve been on base several times and shopped at the commissary! I actually loved it. I went mid-morning and there were no lines and minimal screaming children. I also went to the return & reunion brief for Joshua’s battalion, which basically consisted of a bunch of wives bitching about everything that went wrong during deployment. Oh, Marine wives… such an interesting bunch!

Clutter-free Wannabe

I am so exhausted. I’ve been going nonstop since I woke up this morning and I feel like I got so much done… my bedroom is immaculate and completely organized everywhere except my desk, which I had to save for another day. Then, I began going through all my boxes and bins in the basement. I got rid of 3 boxes full of clothes, a few more full of household things for the Good Will, dozens upon dozens of books that I’m going to try to donate to the local library, and about five or six huge trash bags full of crap I just decided to throw away.

I feel lighter, somehow. :-)

Can I just say it is SO HARD going from having your own apartment for several years to moving home and only having one bedroom? I’ll be so happy to have SPACE again!

I still have 3 boxes full of kitchen things, 1 box full of desk supplies, and a giant bin of art supplies to go through. Not bad though. But then of course there’s the garage full of things I forgot I must sort through… must add that to the list! I have so much stuff, for real. My problem has been that I keep everything, so I’m finally just getting rid of it.

How? I tell myself that I’ll soon be a military wife and whatever I keep is what I’ll have to take from base to base with me every time we PCS. Goodness, it’s helping! So here’s an update on my progress. Bold is in progress.

TO DO:

1. clean/organize bedroom (all complete except desk area & closet)
2. organize boxes in basement (5 more boxes/bins to go!)
3. pack!!! 
4. send clothes to Good Will
5. make appointment with florist 
6. make appointment with event planner 
7. make appointment with DJ 
8. update wedding binder
9. get car visor replaced (my awesome cousin who works at Honda ordered the visor and is coming by tomorrow to install it for me, yay!)
10. make hair appointment 
11. organize boxes in garage
12. photograph portfolio 
13. return clothes to Victoria’s Secret 
14. send claim for contacts to insurance
15. update recipe binder 
16. burn backup CDs of photos 
17. load new music to iMac 
18. scan scrapbook layouts 
TO GO:
20. BJ’s with Uncle Tom 
21. meet with event planner (Wednesday morning)
22. crepes with Alison & Liz (Wednesday evening)
23. visit Sue in Boston (all day Thursday)
24. hair appointment (Friday morning)
25. Aunt Vicki’s surprise birthday party (Saturday afternoon)
26. Alison & Eric’s party (Saturday night)
27. lunch with Beth & Josh 

Lord. I hope I can get everything done by Sunday. I’m feeling a bit stressed/overwhelmed again. Not to mention, I hope everything I’m packing to move will fit in my Civic and my mom’s Jeep. If it doesn’t? Umm… I’ll have to leave it here until late October when I next come home… with Joshua, whoo hoo!