What I learned from my rebrand: it's time for some #realtalk

Ok so if you've followed me for a while, then you know I started talking about my rebrand in late 2017. That's right. A solid 7 months ago I decided that my original hasty branding wasn't cutting it anymore. Today I'll share with you why I made the decision to rebrand myself and where the journey of the last several months has taken me.

Custom Wedding Invitations from Hands of Hollis in Dallas, Texas and what I learned from my rebrand.

Over the first year and half of my business, I learned a lot! Mostly I learned who my girl is and what kind of brand she's looking for. I also learned that my own brand wasn't really in line with that new vision. BTW I'll save you the trouble of a TL;DR situation: I did complete my own branding, saving myself hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars BUT it took months longer than expected and the entire process was fraught with second guessing and indecision all the way. In the end, I feel like I was just too close to complete it in a timely manner. It was like this never-ending rabbit hole of "mood boards" that looked so much better than mine.

Custom Wedding Invitations from Hands of Hollis in Dallas, Texas

I will say though that I am *in love* with my new branding, and I'm proud of myself for creating and committing to this redesign! I'm still sneaking every bit of it into my site, print collateral, and my social media but it is done. There's meaning and intention behind every decision and element you see.

At the beginning of the year began the planning - arguably the longest phase because this part forces you to examine every aspect of your business. Your why, your how, your WHO and WHAT! It's just not a pretty logo. It's this all-encompassing characterization of your business. Like if you were a pattern, what would you be? What about if you were a series of colors? Apparently I'm cracked stone lazily adorned with gold flakes because that's where the process led me. Btw, I read this awesome book that really helped me find direction. It's aptly named, "How to Style Your Brand" by Fiona Humberstone and I highly recommend it if you plan on going it alone.

My big picture came from this idea that winter is coming to an end and the first signs of spring are starting to emerge. Everything is still relatively dead and neutral, but the signs of life are there! Bare branches soon show foliage, and while small and frail at first, it is a sign of what's to come. A new beginning.

Custom Wedding Invitations from Hands of Hollis in Dallas Texas

Now, again, if you've been hangin around HoH for a while then you know that gardening is a huge part of not just my life, but my husband's and our children. Everyday we are toiling, elbow to elbow, in our garden. We care for our trees, our fruit-bearing plants, and our flowers. I tried so hard to stay away from leaves and flowers for my rebrand because it's so freaking popular. But in the end, it's just what suited me. It's what suited my business. A conclusion, no doubt, that if I'd hired a professional would have been drawn much sooner.

The indecision is what almost killed me. See, I've designed brands for others. I've made logos and social media templates and print collateral. Sometimes, when creativity is at its strongest, the big idea behind some of those brands came in just a single day. But for myself? That never happened. I waffled back and forth between color palettes, patterns, stock imagery, you name it. I couldn't decide. Fonts. OMG fonts. Never have I hated fonts as much as when I was rebranding my business. The road blocks seemed never-ending!

Are you beginning to sense the moral of the story? Just save your nickels and dimes and hire a professional to do your branding already. I don't even want to think of the hours lost on this project. It turns out, I am my own worst client! I am slow to commit, indecisive, unsure, and constantly a victim of comparison. I also went way past my own deadline - something this former newspaper employee legit hates.

Just do the math, save up, and get your branding done the right way. Though you still shouldn't expect it to be done instantly, it will free you up to do what actually moves and motivates you. That way you can focus on the decisive clients that are paying you in actual money and not that b**** who can't decide which serif looks better when we all know, at the end of the day, no one but you can see the difference.

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8 things I've learned as a work at home mom

So I know it seems crazy to start a business while your primary role is caretaker to two kiddos and a house that is never clean enough. But hear me out! When I started planning for my business at the beginning of last year, my babies were still just that - babies!

My son wasn't even walking yet, and my daughter still resembled something of a toddler. Juggling my new desires to branch out into entrepreneurship was daunting at first but with careful planning, dedication, lots and LOTS of coffee, and let's be honest, a little help from the TV and a wonderful community of creatives, I've been able to grow my business in ways I never thought possible. Here's a sampling of some of the things I've learned over the last 18 months that have helped me stay sane and stay productive.

8 Things I've Learned as a Work At Home Mom Hands of Hollis Fine Art Stationery

1. KEEP REGULAR BUSINESS HOURS

I'll start with this one because it's probably the most important thing I've learned, and it was NOT easy at first. As my daughter has gotten older, I've even recruited her to help me keep an eye on the clock. This way the kids know exactly when mommy is working and when mommy is ready to play. Ideally it also keeps me from getting distracted because I know at a certain time, work stuff will be shut down and playtime will begin. Since my kiddos are little and I'm not at all a morning person who wakes up with patience and joy, (until I've had my coffee) I spend my mornings responding to emails and getting the boring business-y stuff done first. Also, I always always always work during nap or rest time. That's like when moms get stuff done! If you look closely at my social media, you will notice a trend of posts between 1-3 pm because that's when my kiddos are asleep and out of my hair. For me, I've learned that a regular schedule makes it way easier to get things done.

 

2. LEAVE YOUR HOUSE SOMETIMES

Ideally we'd do something everyday, but that's not always the case. I worked really hard this summer to make sure my kiddos had playdates, activities, and structured events like they do during the school year. A bored child will NOT let you work! Their minds need stimulation and play and the TV will not do the job. A quick trip to the library or treating your kids to ice cream will liven the mood and keep everybody from feeling the cabin fever. I've learned outings big and small are 100% crucial to everyone staying calm. I mean, who doesn't love a change of scenery once in awhile?

 

3. MAKE YOURSELF UP A BIT

 this lularoe irma is one of my fave things in the closet!

this lularoe irma is one of my fave things in the closet!

Sure, I work at home and me and the kids spend most of our time here, but the basis of this journey has always been to put myself first sometimes. That goes for my appearance as well! No, I'm not talking about a full face and high heels at home - unless that's what you're in to! But for me, I feel like I've reached a happy medium somewhere in the mom-chic world.

Thanks to leggings, tunics, cardigans, (if it's ever cold in Texas again) tons of easy dresses and comfy, cute shoes that match everything in my closet, I've got an easy style that's comfy and looks great all day. My hair might be in a top knot or braid, but I've learned to be ok with that! I almost never have time to blow dry my hair, and when I do, inevitably that's the day I get all hot and sweaty in my garden. Ok, that's everyday... 

I've also figured out how to get my makeup routine down to about five minutes thanks to a BB cream, eyeliner, and mascara. And most importantly, I learned to give myself a break for those days that even easy outfits and hair are too much. 

 

4. LISTS AND PLANNERS ARE YOUR BFF

For real, I don't know what I'd do without my Passion Planner. I have so many plates spinning in the air at once that it'd be impossible to do it all without it. What's great is with my planner, I can separate both personal and work goals for the week. I can even list them by priority, so I know what really needs to be done and what can maybe wait.

I'm also going to piggyback on this planning section to tell you that you NEED to be automating as many things as you can. While still pretty new to automating my business, it's been a total gamechanger! There are plenty of platforms, both free and paid, that allow you to schedule your social media posts and keep them organized. I have friends who sing their praises for Hootsuite, and I myself am a yuuuge fan of Planoly for Instagram. The tools are out there to keep you organized and once you start using them, you'll learn how crazy you are for waiting so long to find them.

 

Things I've Learned as a Work At Home Mom Hands of Hollis

5. FIND YOUR TRIBE

If you've followed me for long then you know I'm a BIG fan of collaboration in my field. Working with others has taught me more than I ever thought possible about this crazy creative industry of mine. My advice is find a network of people that makes you feel like you have coworkers. I have found it to not only be invaluable to my business, but I've made a ton of friends! They are my soundboard. They listen when I need to vent. They lift up great ideas and gently hold me back on ones that might not be so hot.

Whether it's a small local circle of like-minded business people or you're part of a large national group, like The Rising Tide Society, finding your tribe can make all the difference for those who work at home. Especially because a lot of us are one-man shows, and the kids don't have many ideas beyond fart jokes. Then again, I'm sure there's a market for that!

 

6. FIND THE POSITIVE

 In this moment, I had so much work to do, but then it hit me. I realized... that this is all of us. Messy hair, a cold cup of coffee kept company by endless to do lists, sitting backwards in my chair with a sleeping toddler on my back while designing and trying my best to stay on task. See what i mean? Definitely not my prettiest moment, and yet the good is there. I got my work done, and my son got his nap! Word is still out on that hair though. Yikes!

In this moment, I had so much work to do, but then it hit me. I realized... that this is all of us. Messy hair, a cold cup of coffee kept company by endless to do lists, sitting backwards in my chair with a sleeping toddler on my back while designing and trying my best to stay on task. See what i mean? Definitely not my prettiest moment, and yet the good is there. I got my work done, and my son got his nap! Word is still out on that hair though. Yikes!

One thing you might hear me talking about from time to time is meditation and mindfulness. These things will help you to not dwell on what you didn't get done, and instead consider the things you did accomplish, both professionally and with your kiddos. It will help you find your peace and find the joy in your day through mindful reflection. At the end of the day (or beginning like me) reflect on what's happened or what's to come.

Maybe you didn't get to everything on your list and didn't check all the boxes in your planner, but did you guys go outside and paint for an hour? Or play in the sprinkler? Did you get that blog post written or those social media posts scheduled? Or did you fold that mountain of laundry that's been waiting for 3 days? Did you actually make it to the post office before it closed for once? Or maybe instead you and your brood plopped on the couch for a rainy day movie. Or maybe you went to the gym. Oh yeah, have you drank enough water today? Texted your mom back? See what I mean? It's a lot and the point is, you might be able to get it all done, you might not. The thing to remember is to give yourself some grace when you fail and not just praise when you succeed. Remember y'all, we can have it all, just not all in one day.

 

7. BUSY DOES NOT EQUAL PRODUCTIVE

I will preface this section with THIS IS WHERE I NEED TO TAKE MY OWN DAMN ADVICE! Close down your social media, I repeat, close those tabs (well maybe not this one yet!) and FOCUS on what it is you've got to get done today. Refer back to those lists and your planner to stay on track. Believe me, I have two kids, three cats, a husband and probably 200 plants out back that need me every single day. Distraction is the name of the game around here. It's easy to lose focus then all of a sudden you realize you've been surfing reddit for the last 20 minutes. I've learned to try and save that busy work for when clients and little people are no longer counting on me. It's still a work in progress though!

 

8. YOU DON'T NEED TO BE A MARTYR BY WORKING ALL THE TIME

Reality check! Are you working to live or living to work? I would rather have less money and more time to do what I love with the people I love rather than spend all my time working and worshipping the almighty dollar. Obviously we want to be comfortable, no one wants to struggle to pay their bills, and the purpose of operating a business is to make money. Ok. I get that. Sometimes to make ends meet you just gotta take a second job or work some freelance on the side. I get that too. But the end goal should always be to get out of that rat race as soon as you can. Scaling back on your lifestyle and maybe sacrificing eating out is the key - it was for us! Because before you know it, your babies will be grown, your youth will have passed, and what will you have to show for it? A thriving business is a HUGE goal of mine, and I'm getting there. But I'm never going to put it before my family, because they are the reason I've begun this journey in the first place.

 Photo by Melissa Claire Photography

Photo by Melissa Claire Photography

 Photo by Melissa Claire Photography

Photo by Melissa Claire Photography


BONUS: THE KIDS ARE LEARNING SOMETHING TOO -- INDEPENDENCE!

In a world with the perfect pinterest moms, helicopter moms, homeschooling moms, it's easy to think you should be spending every moment teaching or entertaining your kiddos with something. But it hasn't always been that way. When my kids see me work, not only do they see me doing something I love and working hard to achieve that dream, they are learning to keep themselves entertained. Whether it's a book, coloring, painting, toys, sometimes a little TV, it's not my sole purpose to entertain my children. Learning how to be independent is one of the most important gifts I could teach them at a young age. In fact, the sooner the better!

SO there you have it. Working at home with kids, whether it's for yourself, for an employer, full time or part time, is freaking tough! But if working towards your goals really lights your fire every single day you sit down at your desk, then you're in the right place. You're doing the right thing. So don't give up and don't stop!

 

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Let me tell you a bit about starting a small business

Before I get into that, let me tell you a bit about the big WHY I started this crazy adventure and the events leading up to it. I've always worked. Since I was 15, I've always had a job and seemingly endless personal projects. Design is in my blood. Whether it's DIY stuff off Pinterest or refurbing furniture off the side of the road or overhauling my closet, my diet, or myself. Anything really. I'm constantly moving forward towards a different and better version of what's next.

Starting Creative Small Business Hands of Hollis - Custom Wedding Invitations in Dallas, Texas
 Back in 2015 while 37 weeks preggo with #2!

Back in 2015 while 37 weeks preggo with #2!

Then pregnancy happened!

I'm sure some of you can relate to the unplanned progress of your life towards parenthood. It doesn't make it any less sweet, but it does absolutely alter the path you take. And given my equally unexpected and sudden unemployment during my first pregnancy, we decided that me staying home with our baby was the best option for everyone.

Let me tell you, those first few years at home with my baby girl brought me unimaginable joy. It was the ultimate new "project" and one of the most fulfilling phases of my life. We then added a little boy to the mix in 2015, and it was like he'd been there all along.

As my babies started getting more independent (ok, Kal was 1 when I started my business ha!) I felt like it was ok to be a little more selfish than I'd been in the previous 4 years. Plus after all that time of selfless mothering and dedication, I started to feel like I was losing an original piece of my puzzle - one that included my version of creativity. I realized I hadn't made any time for that in a long time and it was on me to find it again.

 

Enter: My crazy idea to start this business!

Equipped with my education from The University of North Texas and a desire to carve out a new artistic life for myself, I began planning my business in early 2016 with my official launch on June 1 of that year. I tried to track down a photo of me from that time where (picture this) I'm sitting at my desk, chair turned about backwards, with a sleeping baby on my back. It was thrilling, and I was ready to conquer the world!

Initially, I wanted this business to be about my stationery sets, but what I didn't realize was my skills as a graphic designer were emerging as a far bigger opportunity for business growth. And like a lot of new entrepreneurs, I was also afraid of failure, which kept me in my comfort zone of baby showers and kids' birthday parties. Weddings seemed so scary and like so. much. pressure. But they also seemed like a challenge. And with those challenges came goals!  I never thought I'd see myself as a wedding stationery designer, yet here I am, fully in love with my work and the daily challenges it creates.

Starting a business felt overwhelming and lonely at times. There were times when I thought, what did I get myself into and WHY? That was until I was introduced to a group called The Rising Tide Society. Suddenly I was thrust into this world of like-minded creatives who were seriously kicking some ass. All on their own. With no boss and collaboration with other creatives in the field and (oh yeah, most importantly!)  loads of admirable, fearless determination. Together they were raising each other up and finding purpose in their creativity and sharing it with the world. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they brilliantly quote JFK.

Suddenly I shared their determination! There was this fire to turn my craft into something more. I had studied entrepreneurship, business, advertising, and marketing in college. And even though my degree was in journalism, I had carved out my own teeny creative world within my uni’s newspaper. I realized I had everything I needed to make this dream a reality. It was with RTS that I realized I have what it takes. If these fearless women could do it, so could I!

Starting Creative Small Business Hands of Hollis

So if you've made it this far...

Now you know why I decided to make the crazy decision to start a business with two kids under 6. Allow me to let me enlighten you on how it’s going so far… It. Is. Tough. Like hilariously tough! The WAHM struggle is 100% real. So real, in fact, that I can tell you while writing this initial blog post, my daughter tried to argue with me about taking her afternoon nap. It was 10:15. I had to change two unspeakably awful diapers and break up three fights over not sharing the same damn toy when we literally have 50 million toys. I also received four phone calls, none of which could have been ignored. And twice someone knocked on my front door, both of which were absolutely ignored. Ain't nobody got time for that!

Where were these distractions when I felt compelled to clean the playroom for the third time this morning? While making breakfast like a zombie? Or while folding my third load of laundry?! Nope! They come right when I somehow manage to get both kids to play quietly in their rooms, so I can settle into work-mode. That's the work-at-home mom life in a nutshell!

 Work life + mom life = real life

Work life + mom life = real life

It's comically difficult, but somehow you just work through it. It means late nights and maybe never sitting down. It means cold coffee and maybe lunch was at 2pm. And maybe it was hot dogs. Sometimes it means tossing the kids in the backyard with a big cup of iced water and saying GO PLAY! 

But really I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being busy (like this) has kept me more motivated and creatively charged than I’ve felt in years. I have so many ideas that my journals are exploding with thoughts. My hands can’t keep up or rather my free time. Honestly it’s both!

As I sit here typing this, all I can feel is how grateful I am for this chance. How grateful am I to have been given the clarity to truly find something for myself again? This business is hard work, but I’m not afraid of that. I get to show my kids how to follow their passions and how to work hard for them. I get to show them that, yes, it's really hard, but it's still completely worth it. Never ever stop chasing those dreams.