Sep 29 2017

What Your Website Builder Isn’t Giving You

website design e-commerce portland
There’s more to building a good website than just putting it online.

With website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and others coming into their own, it’s becoming easier to put a website online. And, that makes it harder for the average person to tell the difference between what you get from a website builder, and what you get when you hire a website professional. After all, why would you pay top dollar for a website, when you can build one yourself for $19/month?

If you only look at cost of the website builder itself, a website building tool may look like a no-brainer, at first. But there are, in fact, several reasons why hiring a website professional is head-and-shoulders the better option for a business owner looking to make a serious impact online.

A Website Builder is Just a Tool

Companies like Wix and Squarespace have built tools that make it relatively easy for tech-novices to put up a website. But, these tools are exactly that: tools. They give you the parts you need to build something, but not the knowledge you need to make the best possible use of them.

Sitting an average person in front of a computer with a website builder would be like plopping me down in front of an old car and handing me a toolbox. An average person doesn’t know much about building websites, and I barely know how to change a tire. I theoretically have what I need to get that car running, and it sure looks like a car, but: will that car actually work when I’m done with it? Probably not, and definitely not as well as it could work if an expert mechanic had that toolbox.

Do You Know What Your Website Needs?

It’s pretty common for a business owner to think, “I need a new website!” without having a clear idea of why that is. Do you know what you need to post on your website? Do you know why your current website isn’t working for you?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions, then I have some bad news: that website builder tool you’re using can’t give you those answers, either.

The good news? A website agency or developer can guide you through all of this. They’ll have answers to all of those nagging questions you might have, such as:

  • What should my homepage say? (it depends on your business and your goals)
  • Do these colors go together?
  • Do I need my full bio and CV on my homepage? (probably not)
  • How do I rank higher on Google? (hint: it’s not just META tags anymore!)
  • How do I set up my e-mail with my new domain?
  • Can I just use these photos I have on my phone? (possibly, but it may not be the best idea)
  • How do I connect my website to my e-mail newsletter?

The website professional you choose to work with has built numerous websites, and gained the special skills and expertise required to make the most of those website building tools. They’ve heard these questions, and they know the answers.

You’re Not Just Paying for Tools, You’re Paying for Knowledge

Website professionals have years of knowledge, and that’s where their value lies. When you have a website agency on your side, they can not only fill in those blanks that you don’t know the answers to, but remind you of the questions you didn’t even know needed to be answered.

When we work with clients here at Upswept, we’re guiding them step-by-step through the process of building a website. We’re using our knowledge to find the right tools in that toolbox, and use them in the right way, to get that car running beautifully.

That means we do things like helping you identify goals for your website, and creating calls-to-action that achieve those goals. We can help you choose the right photos for your homepage. We provide you with a content structure, so you know what pages you need to fill. We remind you that your logo image needs to be a different size, or that you might not want to use a photo from your cousin’s wedding as the professional headshot on your About page.

We also do things like set up e-mail addresses, offer web hosting, or even contact tech support for you when your existing web host isn’t working like it should. We’ll help you set up an e-mail marketing account, and integrate it into your website so you can start building your mailing list. We make suggestions for what social media platforms would be the best to promote what you’re selling. We can set up your shipping calculations for your e-commerce store, and train you on how to use your new store.

Does a website builder do any of that?

Know How To Get Where You Want To Go

Website builders can be a terrific tool, especially for a new business on a limited budget. If you just need a web presence that you can put on your business card, then Squarespace or Wix can definitely help you do that. But, as you get a clearer picture of where you want to go, a website professional can help you make the smartest use of the tools in the website toolbox.

Are website builders not getting you the results you want? Team Upswept is here to guide you through! We’re a comprehensive creative studio, and we have years of website design expertise to put to work for you. Get in touch to learn more!



Feb 02 2017

How To Build A Brand That Reaches Your Dream Clients

Branding can be a hard thing to understand. You know that a strong brand can help you land more clients and make more sales, but you may wonder: how does that happen?

It’s important to make your brand distinctive, so it sticks in your clients mind. That means knowing your own values and staying in touch with your Why, instead of focusing too much on your competition. But, knowing who you are is only one piece of the puzzle: you also need to know who your customer is.

Know Who Your Brand is Talking To

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all brand. It’s often said that, “you can’t please everyone,” and that’s especially true for branding. A brand that appeals to a hip, trendy 20-something isn’t likely to attract a 40-something shopper who’s more interested in quality than trends.

To build an effective brand, you need to know who you’re talking to. That means making choices about what kind of people you want to attract! Think about their age, their preferences, their habits, and you can start making choices about how your brand will engage with them and appeal to them.

Choosing your audience might seem scary, at first. You might feel as if you’re turning away other customers by choosing an ideal audience, but trust the process! Your brand will be much more powerful when you tailor your brand to a specific group, instead of trying to please everyone. If you try to attract too wide of an audience, you can easily end up with a weak, non-specific brand that doesn’t resonate well with anyone.

Are You the Same As Your Customer?

When you’re an independent business owner, it’s easy to think that building your brand is just a matter of choosing things that appeal to you. If that’s what you’ve been doing so far, STOP for a second, and ask yourself: “are my ideal customer and I actually alike?” 

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that their customers are just like them when, in reality, their customer is much different. You are not your customer, and even though you may both like your work, they may be drawn to it for different reasons.

When you’re building a refreshed brand, it’s important to find the balance between your own values, and what will appeal to your customer. You don’t need to pretend to be something you’re not (please, don’t do that!), but you DO need to make choices that appeal to your ideal customer.

“How Do I Start To Identify My Ideal Customer?”

This can be a question with a lot of layers, depending on where you are in your business. If you’re an established business looking at a refresh, you can learn a few things from your past customers and experience. If you’re a newer business, however, you’ll need to operate more on research and instinct.

As a starting point, here are a few questions that businesses at any level can start with:

  • What are my ideal client’s demographics? Think about age, gender, family size, income, education, and so forth.
  • What are their habits? How does their typical day go? How do they spend their free time?
  • How does what my business offers fit into their life? What problem will it solve for them?
  • What do they value most? What is important to them? Style? Practicality? Uniqueness? Being socially conscious? Choosing high-quality work? Etc.

Understanding your ideal customer’s mindset is huge for building a strong brand that helps you grow and succeed! Try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing how they think. Walk yourself through what their experience with your business might be like. You could learn a lot from it!

Need more help understanding your brand?

Our Finding Your Brand Center workbook is free, and here to help you build your brand foundation. >>

Get Instant Access »

workbook_finding-your-brand-center


Jan 12 2017

Mistakes to Avoid When Building an Authentic Brand

SLG_5999-EditBuilding and nurturing a strong brand is a process. It take time and focus, and the process isn’t always clear. It’s easy to put your focus in the wrong places when you create a new business brand, or rebrand an existing business.

Here are a couple of mistakes to watch out for during the process, so you can make sure your precious time is spent on making your brand, and your business, as strong as it can be:

Focusing too much on the competition

A lot of business dreams start with a big goal. Maybe you dream of creating a product that’s as coveted as a Coach bag, or as innovative as Apple tech. You might be so focused on that big-dream success that you meticulously study your competition’s strategy. You’re starting in a different place than either of those companies, though, and your business journey will definitely be different than theirs. So, what works for your competition may not give you the same results.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s smart to occasionally check in on your competition. You can learn from their successes and failures, and use that knowledge to refine your own brand strategy. But, a big part of what makes a brand memorable is uniqueness. If you’re focusing too much on the competition, you can lose sight of who your business is, and lose your unique voice.

Instead, use your competition to help you highlight your own strengths. Ask yourself:

  • What’s special about your product versus your competitor’s?
  • What do you do better than your competition?
  • Is there anything your competition does well that you aren’t interested in doing?
  • What’s your secret sauce?

Finding that uniqueness is a great way to strengthen your brand.

Not knowing enough about your values

A big part of building your brand is being in touch with your values. Why did you start your business? What do you want it to do? What does success in your work look like to you? It’s important to know the answers to questions like these, so you can build a brand that supports your successful end goal.

What happens when you build a brand that doesn’t align with your values? You might miss out on customers who’d love your work, or attract customers who don’t see the value of what you offer. It could also create confusion about what your business does, leading to unhappy customers. Or, it could even build an audience for a product or service that you aren’t even interested in providing!

Running your own business isn’t easy, so at the very least, it should make you feel fulfilled! So instead, take time to think about your business values:

  • What do you love to do?
  • What projects inspire you?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How do you want to help or serve your audience?

Finding the answers to questions like these will help you make sure that your brand is a tool to help you, not hinder you.

Need more help understanding your brand?

Our Finding Your Brand Center workbook is free, and here to help you build your brand foundation. >>

Get Instant Access »

workbook_finding-your-brand-center

Oct 26 2016

Party With Us and Celebrate 5 Years!

2016_5year-partyUpswept Creative is turning FIVE years old, and we want you to party with us! Join us for a sweet soiree to celebrate five years of creating strong, smart, beautiful business brands.

Way back in 2011, Upswept began as a one-woman show with a different name, but now we have a small-but-fierce team to help you make your business flourish online, and we have YOU to thank for it.

Come party with us in November for our 5-Year celebration! We’ll have drinks and edibles, and show some newer work along with some classics from our past.

Whether you worked with us in the early days, or are a current client, you’re a part of our journey, and we’d love to celebrate you!

RSVP ON FACEBOOK »

Upswept’s 5-Year Anniversary Party!
Thursday, November 10th
6:00pm – 8:00pm

811 E. Burnside St. #224
Portland, Oregon


Sep 26 2016

Building a Nest for a Happy Brand

When we first met with Emily of Happy Nest, she had a busy day-to-day of running her professional organizing business and caring for her young children. She had the start of an online presence, but her brand didn’t feel like a good fit. “It’s just… not awesome,” she told us. So, we made a plan to turn her disappointment into excitement, and rebuilt her brand from the ground up.

Photography: a view into a brand

Professional Headshots Portland
Professional headshot of Owner, Emily (hair/makeup: Jessica Belknap)

Our photography session was a great opportunity to get to know her work and what drives her. When I moved through the spaces she’d organized, I could quickly see how her organizing work could make an entire lifestyle more orderly. And, as a mother of three (including twins!), she clearly had to be smart and creative with her solutions to keep her own life running smoothly.

Emily’s work is about creating balance and ease, rather than rigid rules. So, “helping you create a more calm and peaceful nest,” was a great way to capture that ease and show that her solutions are designed to fit your life.

Logo Design: making a nest modern

Finding the right look for Happy Nest’s logo was no small feat. The first logo had a flat, illustrated look to it, but we soon learned that Emily craved a cleaner look that wasn’t quite so literal. After a few rounds of design, we arrived at a logo that felt like just the right fit for Happy Nest.

Website Design: simplicity and structure

The Happy Nest web site didn’t have complicated needs, but, “simple,” doesn’t mean, “boring.” We wanted to create a clean look that echoes the structure that Happy Nest can bring to your life, and we’d learned a lot about Emily’s personal style and aesthetic during the project. We saw pleasing colors and clean geometric patterns in her own decor. So, we let photos from our photography session set the tone on her homepage, and framed it with patterns and colors that spoke to her.

Then, we did rounds of testing to ensure that the site worked well on mobile devices, because her clients are often busy, on-the-go people. The end result is a site that communicates her brand more strongly, and makes details about her services easy to find. (and really, if there’s anyone should have a well-organized, easy-to-use web site, it’s a professional organizer! 😉 )

Desktop web site
Desktop web site

Mobile site
Mobile site


Aug 17 2016

A Warrior-Inspired Portland Fashion Photo Shoot

Fashion photography means drawing inspiration from a lot of places, including some pretty unexpected ones. This “Modern Warrior” photoshoot got its first spark after I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole of ’80s music videos, which led to a forgotten favorite: The Warrior by Scandal (and frontwoman Patty Smyth). The bold makeup and messages of empowerment, breaking down walls, and love conquering all were the jumping off point for an awesome collaboration featuring amazing artists and creators all around Portland.

I began pulling the team together for the shoot, and they each brought their unique perspectives to the idea. The concept evolved, and our multitalented photo shoot stylist Katie Guinn summed it up wonderfully in her project statement. A passage from her words:

We presented pieces from all females since the concept is strongly feminist based. The female warrior empowers herself and others to surmount inequalities, fights back against those who want to break her down piece by piece. She is a pillar of strength, creative, self-motivated to be a righteous human, but not self-righteous, she is beautiful inside and out no matter her flaws, and she will never refuse the empowerment of other females, she will stand beside her fellow feminists and link by link will help to encircle the power that is the woman. And of course will do so in solid style.

Each person has a story that stands behind their design aesthetic and specific collections. This project coalesced many amazing stories.

Thank you for your stories.

Concept & Photography: Sarah Giffrow / Upswept Creative
Model: Kathleen Evans
Styling: Katie Guinn
Makeup: Marissa Freeman
Hair: Cassandra Carter of Oranj Studio

portland-warrior-fashion-photoshoot_01

Above and Below Left:
Top: Michelle Lesniak
Skirt: Rogue: Minx
Earrings & bracelet: Betsy & Iya
Necklace: Demimonde Studio

Below Right:
Blouse & Vest: Michelle Lesniak
Skirt: Katie Guinn

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Below Left and Right:
Dress: Michelle Lesniak
Fabric Shield Necklace: The Ghost Dancer
Tusk Bracelet & Necklace: Demimonde Studio

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Below Left & Right:
Top: Katie Guinn
Pants: Michelle Lesniak
Necklace: Demimonde Studio

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Below:
Top: Katie Guinn
Necklace: Demimonde Studio

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Aug 02 2016

Two Photo Apps for Your Phone That Pro Photographers Swear By

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Make your smartphone camera smarter.

An important part of the Product Photos Made Simple mission is sharing techniques that can help you get better photos, even if you don’t own a real camera! And, that means using your smartphone in a way that’s, well, smarter. So, I’m going to share two smartphone apps that even pro photographers like myself swear by:

cameraplusCamera+

When your phone camera gives you ho-hum results, Camera+ can help you fix it. Camera+ gives you control over how your phone camera behaves with features like selecting your focus point, exposure control, image stabilization, even a macro mode for those close-up details! (if you don’t know what these things mean, don’t worry! We’ll cover it in Product Photos Made Simple!)

The app purchase is $2.99, which is honestly completely worth it compared to the value of how much more control you’ll get over your photos. You’re bound to save endless amounts of time and headache with this one, tiny purchase.

Camera+ is available for iPhone and iPad. Looking for an Android equivalent? Camera Zoom FX has a similar set of features for Android users, and for the same price as Camera+.

snapseedSnapseed

When a phone camera photo doesn’t turn out quite the way you’d like, you don’t have to learn Photoshop to fix it–Snapseed is a sweet app that will let you make edits to your photos right on your smartphone.

Snapseed lets you make adjustments to brightness, contrast, color temperature, and more, with just a swipe of your finger. You can also crop and straighten your images, *and* it also includes a variety of Instagram-like filters and effects that you can adjust! (a personal favorite of mine, because default Instagram filters are too heavy for my taste!)

The best part? Snapseed is now completely FREE, and is available for both iPhone andAndroid devices. So, it’s definitely worth trying out!

Want in-depth tips on how to use these apps? There’s only THREE DAYS LEFT to get it!

Some of you are already supporting Product Photos Made Simple on IndieGogo, but for those who haven’t, time is running out! Back the campaign to get the guide at a one-time price, or get a boost for your business with one of our HUGE discounts on fashion and product shoots, especially for our backers!

If someone you know needs a professional photoshoot, share this with them–we can even shoot product that’s shipped to us!

Ready to DIY smarter? Click the button below to start taking better photos:

Learn how to take better product photos, even if you don’t own a real camera!

Get Product Photos Made Simple! »

Got an extra Second? Share this with your people.

Your help getting the word out is valuable beyond words! So, share our e-mail tips with others who might benefit, encourage folks you know to check out the IndieGogo campaign, and share it on social media. The more who jump on board, the faster you’ll get this guide delivered straight to you!

Jul 13 2016

The Hard-To-Spot Problem in Your Photos That Could Cost You–and How To Fix It

Being an online seller is already a lot of work, even when your customers are happy. Your day-to-day hustle can turn into a huge headache when your customers get a product that isn’t what they expected–or worse yet, if they aren’t buying at all!

What’s the one hard-to-see thing that can save you from that headache? White Balance.

white-balance-example
These four images are all of the same product! They just have different white balance. Which one do you think is the best?

What is White Balance? It’s the balance of hues in your photo that makes the object look the most natural to your eye. Digital photos have different levels of tints and tones, and it can make a real impact on the final photo. It’s not the easiest thing to see, when you look through your photos one-at-a-time.

Take a look at the four images to the right. Those are all the exact same photo, of the exact same product! The only difference between them is that they each have a different white balance. (bonus: can you tell which is the best-balanced one?)

From there, you can see one problem right away: someone could easily buy this product online expecting one color, only to receive it in a different color. And that means an unhappy customer.

And, if your photos are inconsistent, that can make YOU look inconsistent. You only have a second to build trust online, and if your photos are all over the map, online shoppers won’t feel as comfortable trusting in your product.

“I See The Problem! But How Do I Fix It?”

Product Photos Made Simple will include some specific apps and techniques you can use to adjust your photos for better results, but a couple of things you can do right away:

  • Make sure to compare your photos. Look at other photos from this batch of products, and look at older product photos, and see if they’re consistent with each other.
  • Ban fluorescent lighting from your shoots! Fluorescent lights–particularly those long, tube-style lights you’ll see in stores and offices–very often make people and products look sickly and green. Look for a different lighting source to shoot your products–you’ll likely be much happier.

Want more, better, in-depth help for your product photos? Support our IndieGogo campaign, and you’ll get Product Photos Made Simple, a How-To Guide specifically for people who DIY and don’t have time to waste!

Learn how to take better product photos, even if you don’t own a real camera!

Get Product Photos Made Simple! »

Got an extra Second? Share this with your people.

Your help getting the word out is valuable beyond words! So, share our e-mail tips with others who might benefit, encourage folks you know to check out the IndieGogo campaign, and share it on social media. The more who jump on board, the faster you’ll get this guide delivered straight to you!

Jul 06 2016

Take Better Product Photos and Make More Sales

Can Better Product Photos Help You Make The Sale?

IMG_1354You have a killer product, and you know how much time and sweat you put into making it just right. But, making your product amazing is only part of the battle. Showing off your products with beautiful, high-quality photos can also make the difference between getting that sale or losing it.

When you’re selling your goods online, perceived value helps you make that sale. When your product photos are of good quality, you build trust in your customer. And, if you’re selling on marketplace sites like Etsy or Amazon, or selling via Pinterest, you need to stand out. A good product photo makes online shoppers want to choose you over all the others.

Take Better Photos and Make More Sales with Product Photos Made Simple.

Team Upswept is working on Product Photos Made Simple, a whole collection of simple, do-it-yourself tips that anyone can use to create better product photos, more consistently, and in less time. Even if the only camera you have is a smartphone, you can get photos that make your products more crave-able, so you make more sales!

Take Better Photos and Make More Sales!

Get Product Photos Made Simple! »

This guide is designed for you–not for pro photographers.

This guide is NOT for professional photographers! Product Photos Made Simple is a How-To for busy small business owners and creatives who want better-quality photos with minimum fuss.

We’re working on Product Photos Made Simple because we know how it can be when you’re just starting out. We’re thinking of Etsy sellers, startups, small businesses, emerging fashion designers, creatives who do custom commissions… the list goes on. A lot of you out there may not be ready to buy fancy photo gear or hire a professional photographer yet, but we want to help you get there, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.

That’s why Product Photos Made Simple is designed to give you the knowledge and techniques to get cleaner, more consistent product photos in less time. Even if all you have is a smartphone, you’ll get tips you can use to make better photos easily.

Here’s a sneak preview of just some of what you’ll get:

  • Lighting basics to help you get great shots without equipment
  • Do’s and Don’ts for getting consistent results
  • Ways to control or even build lighting without stressing your budget
  • The best photo apps for your phone, and how to use them to get the best possible results
  • Tips on how to do product styling when you don’t know where to begin
  • Knowing when it might be time for you to hire a professional, and where to start

Support the Product Photos Made Simple IndieGogo campaign, and you’ll be among the first to get this super-helpful guide! Click the button below to get the details and reserve your copy, or pick up one of our extra-special campaign rewards!

Get product photo tips that help your business grow, all in one place!

Pre-Order Product Photos Made Simple! »