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
Dec 08 2016

Stealing Photos is Bad

Photography usage in the digital age has, unfortunately, been a big problem. Stealing content is not ok – ever! Knowing the rules and etiquette surrounding using work that is not your own is an important part of being an ethical and responsible business owner or creative professional. I’ve written this post as a quick guide to help you avoid making hurtful and costly mistakes with photo usage.

CREATOR RULES

Photo generously provided by Mac Reid. Check out their work at www.macreid.com.
Photo generously provided by Mac Reid. Check out their work at www.macreid.com.

The photographer who produced the original image likely owns it, and is therefore entitled to decide how it’s used. When contacting the original creator, it’s polite to describe how you plan to use the photo in question, so they have a better idea of whether or not it’s something for which they’d like to give permission.

The owner might ask you to pay them for your usage. They might also request that you give credit to them. Giving credit is not only courteous, but it’s often simple. If you aren’t sure, you can always ask the original creator how they would prefer to be credited.

STOCK SOLUTIONS

Stock photos can be a quick and easy photo solution. There are many online stock photo databases out there, and each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Photos you’ve paid for you can usually use however you’d like – just be sure to check the usage terms on the site you bought it from.

DIY

If the perfect photo isn’t out there, why not make it yourself? Photographs you produce you’re allowed to use however you’d like. This might not seem like the most convenient route, but it is one way to get exactly what you want out of your photos. Lucky for you, we’ve written some posts on how to take professional quality photos, and you can always subscribe to our newsletter for more in-depth tips. Feel the power!

BOOK A PROFESSIONAL PHOTO SHOOT

If stock photos don’t feel right, and the Do-It-Yourself method isn’t working out, there’s another way to guarantee you can use your photos freely: Hire a professional photographer to take the photos you want! You’ll be able to share your unique brand vision with your photographer, you’ll get high-quality photos, and you’ll often get a more authentic look than a stock photo can provide. Upswept has some options for photo shoot sessions, if you need help in that area.

Different photographers have different standards for how their clients use their photos, so you may want to check with them to find out what’s okay and what isn’t. But, as a general rule, you should have a lot of freedom to use this type of photo in your branding and marketing.

Nov 18 2016

Feel Good About Your Website

Creativity can be a boon in difficult times. Self-expression is an essential part of being human. Finding an outlet is especially important when the world around us seems intent to silence individuality. The image of the Artist mining their pain for the page or canvas is a popular one, but it’s important to remember that painting and poetry aren’t the only avenues for creativity. Many of us make inspired decisions in the course of day to day life, especially if you run your own business. Here at Upswept Creative, we help people express their true selves through their business ventures with innovative branding solutions, especially in website design.

Your website isn’t just a digital storefront, it is a visceral experience you impart to every visitor. Your web site is often the deciding factor if they become a paying customer or not. Taking a fresh look at your website design and incorporating new elements can feel liberating.

If you don’t have a website yet, planning is essential. Assembling a good plan and following through feels powerful and gives you momentum that can carry over into other aspects of your business.

Make Your Website Awesome

Not sure where to begin? Start by asking yourself these questions to nail down some basic elements of design for an awesome web experience:

Look at how the image size, top menu, and logo design all work in conjunction here. Does it make you want to order pie right away?

What is the goal of your website?

Is it to make sales? Have visitors sign up to your newsletter? Ask questions about your products or services? Try to be as specific as possible. Your goals shape the whole experience of visiting your website, and what a visitor sees first. Is it a mind-blowing splash graphic that sets the mood for viewing your art? Or would a horizontal-scrolling bar showing off featured store items be more appropriate for your goal?

How did visitors come to your site in the first place?

The answer to this might require combing through your analytics, but it can still be an important step in the planning process in the meantime. If you use your social media to promote click throughs to your website, you’ll want to have the relevant content front and center.

What kind of image content do you need?

Product photos, team member profiles, or the perfect website background are all major elements in a cohesive web design plan. Make a list of all the types of images you think you’ll need to show off the best of your business to the world.

Will your website be viewed by people on-the-go? Be sure and consider your design for mobile platforms as well.
Will your website be viewed by people on-the-go? Be sure to think about your design for mobile platforms as well.

Don’t you feel better after newly considering those aspects of your website? Now is the time to follow through. Upswept Creative offers free consultations to folks just like you – people who have put serious thought into their business and are ready to take the next step in accomplishing their overall branding goals.

We want you to know that no matter what message you’re getting from society at large, the team here at Upswept Creative knows that your individuality matters, and so does your right to creatively express yourself. Let’s hit your creative goals together!


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

Oct 13 2016

Are You Our Next Project Manager Extraordinaire?

NOTE: Applications for this position are now CLOSED! Thank you for your interest!

Professional organizing photos

We’re hiring! We’re seeking someone who’s interested in project management for the creative industry, particularly in the area of branding and web design. It’s currently a part-time role, but it’s growing into a larger time commitment–the more you bring to the role, the better it is for both of us!

We’d be a great fit for each other if…

  • you’re interested in helping create purpose-driven design that helps independent businesses grow and prosper
  • you know how to communicate high-level design and tech concepts in a way that’s easy for regular people to understand
  • you’re inquisitive and ready to connect with clients and learn about what drives them, and what makes their work special
  • you’re laid-back and maybe even a little geeky, but always on top of important details
  • Bonus: if you have skills and experience in design or web development, we’d love to give you opportunities to get involved with design/production for our clients!
  • Also a plus: you have interest in helping us develop workbooks and online courses centered around branding and web design

A taste of the things you’d be doing:

  • Communicating with clients and keeping them informed and happy — strong written and verbal communication skills are a must, as is experience working with Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and/or Microsoft Office.
  • Gathering and sharing info and assets between clients and our team
  • Setting clear expectations and keeping clients on track
  • Task management — experience with Freedcamp, Basecamp, or similar is a plus!
  • Helping to facilitate client consultations and face-to-face meetings
  • Writing, editing and creating proposals for new clients
  • Building the right team for our clients, by choosing and managing the right talent for our larger design and development projects
  • Helping our clients get comfy with the WordPress Dashboard and facilitating in-person trainings when needed.
  • Scheduling, photoshoot coordination, and other administrative tasks; keeping calendars up to date, invoicing and receiving payments — Quickbooks experience is a plus!
  • Contributing to our blog and/or social media presence — if you have opinions about design, marketing, and creative, we’d love to have you share them!

We’d like you to be able to commit approximately 1 hour Monday-Friday mornings to the position. Your work hours may vary a bit from week to week, but you can generally expect to work at least eight to ten hours in a typical week. You’ll need to come to the studio for client meetings, so if you have a flexible schedule, that would be ideal! Outside of face-to-face meetings, this position is flexible, and much of the work can be done from your home or your favorite coffee shop, if you like. A fast internet connection is a must, however!

We believe strongly in working with local talent, and we want to grow and create opportunities in our own super-gifted Portland-y garden. With that in mind, we are only interested in candidates based in the Portland Metro area.

We’re a young company, and we have a lot of experience producing solid work, but our process is always evolving and improving. We welcome any wisdom/ideas that you can bring to the table.

So, if you’re a good listener and communicator, and this sounds like something you could grow into, let’s talk about it! Or, if you can think of a trusted human who’d be a good fit, we’d love to hear from them, too.

Rate is $18-25/hr, depending on experience.

How to apply:

  • E-mail us at ask (at) upsweptcreative (dot) com and tell us why you’re awesome!
  • Include your resume and any professional references you may have.
  • Use the subject line: “I’m a Project Management Bad-Ass!” when you e-mail us.

Please be sure to apply by Friday, October 28th. Thank you!

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

portland-warrior-fashion-photoshoot_02

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

portland-warrior-fashion-photoshoot_03

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

portland-warrior-fashion-photoshoot_04

Below:
Top: Katie Guinn
Necklace: Demimonde Studio

portland-warrior-fashion-photoshoot_05

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! »