Why A Generic Logo Design Will Hurt Your Business Keri | January 28th, 2016

A huge part of what we do in customer service here at crowdSPRING is working to make sure creatives produce original work, respecting the work of others, and that buyers walk away happy with a design all their own. We often get asked why we are such sticklers about the use of generic concepts and why we are against it, so here’s the rundown for buyers and creatives.

Buyers:

Some Buyers come to the site know exactly what they want, and others are just trying to figure it out. We realize that newcomers to logo design may come to a project open to any kind of design. They see the overused stuff and love it! It’s popular for a reason. But we here at crowdSPRING see the projects day after day and trust us – we know when something has been done and done and done. We don’t want your logo to be confused with someone else’s logo down the street. You need a brand identity to call your own.

Storefronts Read the rest of this post »

The Science of Productivity and Happiness: Why Your Office is Hurting Your Company Arielle | January 27th, 2016

sit-less

Working in a cubicle is my worst nightmare. The idea of being confined in such a small space with little variation for many hours a day sounds unbelievably boring. Thankfully, I am fortunate to work in an open, flexible environment.

Unfortunately, most offices aren’t built with our well-being in mind (or for getting actual work done). The typical full time employee spends eight hours a day sitting at a desk away from sunlight, in an environment that is almost always too noisy or quiet. Office layouts that foster that type of environment have been found to contribute to lower levels of creativity, productivity, health, and happiness.

There’s a great deal of research on this subject. For example, researchers have found that common office layouts promote continuous sedentary behavior. Sitting all day positively correlates with higher rates of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Even worse, sedentary behavior for most of the workday increases mortality rates. Not surprisingly, a majority of the adults found suffering from these problems worked office jobs, where they sat for an average of eight hours a day. Traditional office spaces with single-height desks are actually detrimental to our health.

Fortunately, smart companies have started improving their office layouts in order to promote better health, happiness, and productivity. Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University says that in order to combat these negative effects, “The key is breaking up your activity throughout the day.” He suggests setting an alarm to remind yourself to talk a short walk, or to stand up and stretch.

You can also change your work tools. Sit/stand desks offer a great way to combat sedentary behavior. You can inexpensively convert your desk to a sit/stand desk by using a simple cardboard box – or you can purchase an electronic sit/stand desk (these are the ones we use at our office) with preset heights.

Sit/stand desks allow employees to have control and flexibility over how they work, allowing employees to choose the best intervals to change their position without breaking them away from their work. Employees improve their posture, attitude, and general health and happiness when they are able to break from the sitting norm.

Sit/stand desks or interval breaks aren’t the only ways people can change their work habits. An experimental studio called Rietveld Architecture-Art Affordances created an installation in Holland, designing their interpretation of an active workspace based on numerous studies on the dangers of sitting all day. The installation looks like a massive, geometric playground, eliminating traditional desks or rooms. Instead, it creates a maze of shapes, allowing employees to sit, stand, crouch, lie, and work in any position they find comfortable.

The health hazards associated with long stretches of sitting aren’t the only problem with office layouts. In a 2014 study on light exposure in offices and quality of life, researchers at Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered the importance of natural light for health and productivity. Employees who worked in offices with less natural light suffered from more negative health effects than employees who worked in offices designed to maximize natural light. Phyllis Zee, M.D., a neurologist, study author, and sleep specialist from Northwestern Medicine commented on the study’s findings:

There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day — particularly in the morning — is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism. Workers are a group at risk because they are typically indoors, often without access to natural or even artificial bright light for the entire day.

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What We Get When We Help Others Ross | January 26th, 2016

There is a famous Chinese saying:

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.

Many people become involved with efforts to help the environment, cancer research, and other big causes. Those efforts are worthy and important.

When it comes to small-scale efforts, there’s far less interest. After all, if you can spend one hour helping many people, why spend one hour helping just one person?

The truth is that we rarely have good opportunities to help large-scale causes. We  always have good opportunities to help on a smaller scale. For example, several times per week, during my commute to the office, I have calls with young entrepreneurs working on their first startups. My commute is about 30 minutes and I’m either listening to podcasts or talking with other entrepreneurs. Either way, it’s a win/win because I can help them avoid making some of the mistakes I’ve made, and I continue to learn – even when I am asked for advice.

When you help another person, that person isn’t the only one who reaps the benefits. You benefit too. Plainly put: it’s good to be good. Researchers have found that helping others is more likely to create a happier, healthier, longer life for you. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, doing something good for someone else leads to more happiness than doing something for yourself (such as buying something new).

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Fresh from the SPRING: kokoyangkoo Audree | January 26th, 2016

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for kokoyangkoo. Check out more great work on kokoyangkoo’s profile page.

Nicely done, kokoyangkoo, nicely done!

kokoyangkoo

 

Twitter Link Roundup #294 – Terrific Reads For Small Business, Entrepreneurs, Marketers and Designers! Ross | January 22nd, 2016

When it comes to business, just as in our personal lives, we tend to quickly stereotype people when we meet them. Often, these stereotypes often get in the way of business and personal relationships. Here’s a humorous and unfortunately, not entirely untrue look at what one might see if they put on “racist’ eyeglasses.

The lesson here? Be open minded when you meet new people and suppress your urge to stereotype everyone you meet.

Now it’s time for you to enjoy another great set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our crowdSPRING Twitter account (and on my Twitter account). We regularly share our favorite posts on entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

10 Important Web Design Best Practices & Tips for Small Business Websites –

To Motivate Employees, Do 3 Things Well –

8 Smart and Practical Ways To Increase Your Small Business Profits –

Five Public Speaking Tips and Tricks for Small Businesses | crowdSPRING Blog –

How to Hire –

Seven Tips On Being A Great Customer –

The Logo Store Nightmare: Ready Made Logos Harm Your Business –

Empower Your Small Business – Website Best Practices, Great Tools for SmallBiz, Successful Biz Meetings & more –

Four Things Working at Facebook Has Taught Me About Design Critique –

Night Owls vs. Early Risers: What’s Best for Your Business? –

Three Great Web/Mobile Tools (social media, customer service, legal) for Small Businesses & Startups –

startupsblog

Not Everyone Gets a Seed Round –

How to Build a Company Employees Believe In | Zenefits Blog –

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast –

Night Owls vs. Early Risers: What’s Best for Your Business? –

How to Hire –

Collaborative Overload –

Managers Can Motivate Employees with One Word | HBR –

Calming Your Brain During Conflict | HBR –

How Important Is It For a SaaS Startup to be Profitable? | by

“A CEOs job is not to know all the answers — it’s to find people who do.” –

In Silicon Valley Now, It’s Almost Always Winner Takes All | The New Yorker –

7 Habits of Successful Startup Founders –

How to Analyze Your Startup Like A VC in 15 Minutes Or Less | by

Manage Expectations vs. Exaggerations –

The Most Common Founder Disease is Perfectionism –

How Much Cash Should Your Startup Burn? | by

Freelancers Will Dominate the Workforce by 2020 –

10 Reasons Your Product Launch Will Fail –

To Motivate Employees, Do 3 Things Well –

The Metric that Matters for Startups in 2016 | by

Good insights from on culture, products and more (video interview at TNW Conference USA 2015) –

Four Things Working at Facebook Has Taught Me About Design Critique –

Which is a More Efficient Way to Build a SaaS Startup – Bottoms Up or Top Down? | by

Three Great Web/Mobile Tools (social media, customer service, legal) for Small Businesses & Startups –

Five Public Speaking Tips and Tricks for Small Businesses | crowdSPRING Blog –

The Logo Store Nightmare: Ready Made Logos Harm Your Business –

8 Smart and Practical Ways To Increase Your Small Business Profits –

Read the rest of this post »

Five Public Speaking Tips and Tricks for Small Businesses Arielle | January 19th, 2016

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Conferences, meetups and other public events offer many unique opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners to market their business. Yet many people turn down opportunities to speak in public.

If the thought of speaking in public causes you to panic and sweat profusely, you are not alone. 74% of people fear public speaking. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that some of your favorite celebrities and public speakers also have a strong fear of public speaking.

I understand how daunting it can be to speak in front of a large audience; public speaking is one of my biggest fears. But I know that to succeed, I will need to be comfortable speaking in front of large groups, so I try to find ways to cope with my fear and learn from those who don’t fear public speaking.

After a little over two decades of putting subjects through the Trier Social Stress Test and other studies, researchers have concluded that any form of public speaking triggers a release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is released because we intuitively fear judgement, and public social settings are a definitive place where judgement will happen. This means that everyone, whether they feel it or not, experiences some sort of anxiety before and during public speeches or presentations. This is not necessarily bad – some level of stress is good:

How can people shift into a stress-is-enhancing mindset? Start by recognizing that stress can be useful. ‘We only stress about what we care about,’ Crum [a psychologist at Stanford University] says. She points out that achieving goals necessarily involves stressful moments. If we know that stress is coming, then we can see it for what it is: part of the process of growth and accomplishment.

But of course, there’s a difference between controllable stress and run-away stress. Researchers have found that people who seem to have no fear of public speaking have been able to find ways to control their cortisol levels. In fact, some people don’t release as much cortisol as others, while some people find ways to control their anxiety.

Researchers have discovered some broad techniques that relieve anxiety for many different types of people. When applied to a situation where someone fears public speaking, these techniques can help calm the fear and make the feat seem more plausible. Sure, you can follow the common advice to imagine your audience in their underwear, but that mostly confuses me. Instead, here are five of my favorite tips (they work for me!) on calming the anxiety to make public speaking a little easier:

1. Step away.

Right before a public speaking event, sometimes the worst thing to do is to reread notes or practice the presentation. The constant practice can trigger even more anxious thoughts, and aggravate the fear. Before I have a public speaking event, I like to step away and take some time to clear my head and center my thinking. My favorite ways to do this are to listen to acoustic covers of songs that I know well, or practice yoga. Other people like to meditate or get massages, but I personally find that without a specific focus, my thoughts wander back to public speaking far too easily, once again inducing the fear. Instead, I change my focus and am able to forget about my fear.

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: anapekic Audree | January 19th, 2016

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for anapekic. Check out more great work on anapekic’s profile page.

Nicely done, anapekic, nicely done!

anapekic-Spr

 

8 Smart and Practical Ways To Increase Your Small Business Profits Ross | January 18th, 2016

profits-keyboard

Every small business owner has a lot to do but little time to accomplish everything. In the long run, successful small businesses find ways to improve their profitability (the amount of money remaining after all business expenses are paid). But short of raising prices and alienating customers, it’s not always easy for a small business owner to take the time to focus on profitability. Unfortunately, failure to do so can doom the business.

Here are eight practical tips that you can implement today to increase the profitability of your small business:

1. Evaluate What’s Working And What Isn’t.

Wasted time could be a small business owner’s worst enemy. Your time – and your employees’ time – is limited but you have a great deal to accomplish every day. It’s fine to have occasional unproductive days, but most successful small businesses figure out what works and what doesn’t – and focus on the things that work for them.

For example, it’s entirely possible that a huge amount of your effort is spent on daily activities that aren’t contributing to building your brand, your sales/profits or accomplishing the other meaningful goals you’ve set for your business. It might be fun to spend two hours daily on Facebook or Twitter hunting for customers, but the more important question you should be asking is whether your prospective customers are looking for you on those social networks.

Here’s another typical example: some small business owners are so protective of their accounting that they will resist the need to bring in a part-time accountant to help them to maintain their financial records. While this appears to be prudent – after all, you’re saving the cost of paying a part-time accountant – such decisions turn out to be very short-sighted for many businesses. If you’re running a solo business, you could be focused on sales during the hours you devote to accounting. Or you can be working to improve your product or service. You should personally do the things you do great and outsource (to your team or vendors) everything else.

How You Can Start Today: Start by listing on a sheet of paper – or in an electronic document – all of the tasks you do on a regular basis (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly). Do your best to break these tasks into logical areas, such as sales, accounting, marketing, inventory, etc. Second, assign times to each task. How long does it take you to pay your bills every week/month? If you have to maintain inventory, how long does it take you to review your inventory and order replacement inventory? Do this for each task to begin to understand the time you are spending on each activity. Third, assess whether each activity is important. You’d be surprised how many things we all do during a normal day that add little value to our business. Once you understand the importance of each activity, rank the activities (or logical areas) to better understand where YOU should be focusing. If you’re like me, you’ll find plenty of activities that are only modestly important – but those activities sometimes take the most amount of time to accomplish. Determine whether those activities are sufficiently important to continue – or whether you need to find someone else (part-time or full-time) to help you with those activities. We all have areas in which we excel. And we all have areas in which we don’t. Focus on the areas where you bring the most value to your business and find the right people to fill the gaps in areas you don’t. If you focus on the things that work, you’ll be more efficient and productive, and you’ll see meaningful impact to your bottom line.

You can also look to see what’s working and what isn’t in specific marketing channels. For example, take a look at Buffer’s 5 Unique Ways to Measure and Evaluate a Social Media Campaign. If your website looks like it was designed in 1999, consider a redesign. More about this in 10 Important Web Design Best Practices and Tips for Small Business Websites. And although it might seem smart to have a huge site selling as many products as possible, the opposite is often true. Here’s a good read from Moz on Pruning Your eCommerce Site: How & Why.

2. Experiment With Hyper-Local Advertising.

Most small business owners don’t know that it’s possible to target prospective customers on Facebook based on the language they speak and where they live/work. This means that a bakery can advertise to people who live within a certain mile radius of the bakery. A language tutor can advertise to families who speak Russian or Chinese – within a 10 mile radius – to target families that may want to hire a tutor for their kids.

Read the rest of this post »

Seven Tips On Being A Great Customer Keri | January 14th, 2016

The most successful companies often also provide exceptional customer service. But as anyone who’s worked in customer service can tell you – not all customers are the same. Sure, we do our absolute best to treat each customer with respect and empathy and to solve their problems. But we will go out of our way to help great customers – people who make us smile (even when we’re trying to help them solve a frustrating problem).

Great customers not only help us to do our jobs better, but also help themselves. Being a great customer doesn’t mean you spend a lot of money, are a regular, or are famous. It has nothing to do with those things. Want to know the secrets? Here are 7 tips from the insiders on how to be a great customer:

1.Practice the Golden Rule.

We all know that tried and true golden rule of treating others as you wish to be treated. When dealing with customer service, remember that they have the ability to help solve your problems. They want to help you, so be sure to remember you’re dealing with a real person who deserves the same respect you seek.

goldenrule

2. Allow yourself to be surprised.

Don’t go into a situation having already decided how things are going to go. If you heard that someone had a negative experience, still allow yourself to be open to the idea you could have a different experience. You never know why someone had a bad experience, so don’t let their experience dictate yours. We celebrate in our ability to delight our customers every day. And customers appreciate this. In fact, we’re pretty proud that our team has a 100% customer satisfaction rating for the past three weeks (and a 98+% rating for the month prior).

lucy-surprised

Read the rest of this post »

Three Awesome Tools for Small Businesses and Startups Arielle | January 13th, 2016

mobile-apps

It’s not easy to start and run a successful business. After all, business owners must manage many different things and wear different hats in operating their business. From developing products and services to hiring to payroll, owners have a lot on their plates!

Fortunately, there are some terrific mobile and web tools that entrepreneurs and business owners can use to run their businesses more efficiently. At crowdSPRING, we rely on a number of mobile and online tools to help us be more efficient and to reduce costs.

Managing Social Media Posts – BUFFER

Buffer-product

 

One of the most time consuming tasks for an entrepreneur or small business owner is managing  social media accounts. With numerous platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more, it’s a hassle to continuously update content and monitor customers and competitors. It’s easy to fall into a trap of dedicating someone’s time to only social media accounts. While this may work for large companies, small businesses and startups typically don’t have the resources to do this.

One of my favorite social media tools – and one I’ve used for more than a year – is Buffer. I have used Buffer to manage everything from my personal social media accounts to business accounts, and it has saved me a lot of time. Buffer allows users to schedule social media posts ahead of time across several popular platforms. With pricing tiers starting at $0/month (that’s not a misprint – they offer a free plan), Buffer offers different tools to help businesses manage their online presence. Buffer is also extremely accessible – there is a browser extension, website, and iOS/Android apps. Importantly, Buffer can help you find images to use in your posts, and can also suggest useful content that you can share. By using Buffer (or a similar tool), small business owners and entrepreneurs only have to devote a fraction of their time to gathering content and scheduling their posts. This frees up additional time for other employees to focus on other tasks.

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