Nov 21 2018

Shopping Locally and Responsibly

Black Friday is almost upon us, and your inbox is probably full of big-box sale announcements and “doorbuster” deals! But, you don’t have to suffer through long lines or sidewalk campouts.  We talk often about shopping locally, but here’s a reminder that you have a choice: do your holiday shopping locally, and you’ll support small businesses, help your community, and have a better time doing it.

Take an Active Role In Building Your Community

You may have already heard the statistic that 68% of dollars spent at local businesses stay in the community, compared to 43% when you shop at a national chain. But, what exactly does that mean?

Money that stays in the community is used to support new jobs. When small businesses are growing, they need to create new jobs. That means hiring people in your community to do those jobs.

Image Content: pet store employee and customer and checkout.
Supporting small businesses also supports the communities those businesses live in.

When you spend locally, you support causes in your community. Local businesses have been shown to donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of big-box stores. So, shopping locally could also be help your favorite non-profit, too.

Shopping small creates more resources for your community. Taxes may not be our favorite thing to think about, but shopping locally also helps make sure that any sales taxes you pay get reinvested where you live. And, your local government will also be able to spend less on infrastructure and maintenance, and more on projects that improve your neighborhood.

Supporting small business creates opportunity for other small businesses. When you support small businesses in your neighborhood, that lets those businesses spend more locally, too. That means creating opportunities for new businesses to emerge and grow, and for people like you to pursue work and ideas that inspire you.

What if I Just Can’t Find What I Need Locally?

Small businesses choose what they carry based on what people in their communities are purchasing–so, if you’re new to the area, they may not be carrying your favorite thing just yet. If you can’t find what you need now, you can still work towards conscious shopping choices.

Get to know your local businesses–and ask for what you want! One of the great things about small business is that you can get to know the people who run them. And, when you know who you’re shopping with, you can often suggest new products that you’re interested in, or request something specific.

If you have to go big-box, look for ways to benefit your community. If you have to shop at a large retailer, look for chains that are donating to causes you care about. A lot of chain shops offer opportunities to give an extra $1 or $5 (or more) at checkout.

Or, if you’re shopping online, find out if a local non-profit can benefit from your purchases. For example: you can select a non-profit of your choice to receive donations through the Amazon Smile program, so even if you’re not buying locally, a charity in your community will receive a percentage of what you spend.

Some credit cards also allow you to spend your rewards points on donations to non-profits–take a look at your membership website and see what options you might have.

 

On any day of the year, shopping at small businesses is about making and strengthening connections in your community and investing where you live. We believe in investing in local business and local talent, and we know how much that can benefit the incredible people in our network of small businesses here in Portland. We hope you can start making community-minded choices when you shop this year, and carry that forward into the new year!


Oct 26 2018

A Call to Small Businesses: Hire Trans People

It’s not often that I get political in this space, but after Wednesday’s directive from the Justice Department that businesses can discriminate against workers based on their gender identity, what I’m about to write feels both right and necessary.

Upswept Creative is now in its 7th year, and for the first few years, it was just me, working alone at a desk. Eventually, I was able to hire people to work with me, and start building what is now a 3-person team. I’ve always been happy to be able to offer jobs to people from underrepresented groups, but I don’t think I fully internalized how radical an act that was until Wednesday night.

We See You - We Support You - We Are Proud To Do Work Alongside You
We want to create safe and welcoming workplaces. We hope you’ll do the same.

In the time since my first employee hire, 1/3rd of the people I’ve hired have been trans or non-binary. Granted, a third of my very-small sample may not seem like much from a numbers perspective, but in terms of the effect it can have, it goes far beyond a small handful of people.

A job can change a life. It can mean having food in your mouth and a roof over your head, of course. But it can also mean opportunities to learn and grow, to hone expertise. It can be a chance to build a career that feeds your soul, and brings intrinsic rewards beyond just paying bills or buying a nice car. It can be a step towards becoming your best and most fully-realized self. It’s a chance that people of all gender identities deserve to have.

And, by choosing to not discriminate, we also have an opportunity to lead by example. Do we want to live in a world where everyone feels safe and welcome at work? Where women feel valued for their skills, where trans people feel at home and free to be themselves, where people of color feel respected? In our current political climate, it’s hard to know how we can begin to make this a reality.

But, as small business owners, we can begin to create that world. You and I may be doing that with, say, a small staff of 5, rather than a corporation of 500, but we have the opportunity to build safe spaces from the ground up. We can show other businesses how they can create better work environments. We can demonstrate through our hiring decisions and our treatment of our team that it is possible to build businesses on a foundation of empathy and equity.

As a small business owner whose work supports small businesses, I want to challenge you to take that step. Look at who you hire, consider why you’ve made those choices. Start making the changes in your business that will create safe work spaces for marginalized people. Are you interviewing a trans or non-binary person who’d be great at their job? Hire them.

And, to any trans, non-binary, and genderqueer folks who may be seeing this, please know: I see you, and I support you. I will hire you for your skills and your talent, and I will show respect for your expertise and your value as a human being. And everyone at Team Upswept will be proud to work alongside you.


Oct 02 2018

Be Our Next Social Media Maven!

UPDATE: this position is now closed as of Oct 26th, 2018! Thank you for your interest!

We’re seeking someone who’s interested in social media management for small-to-medium-sized businesses. It’s currently a part-time, ongoing 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 creating engaging content that helps independent businesses grow and prosper
  • you understand the importance of brand voice and feel comfortable bringing it into social media
  • you’re comfy with analytics data and hashtag research, and use data to make smart choices for your clients’ social media feeds
  • you know how to advise, communicate with, and collaborate with entrepreneurs who want to take an active role in their social media presence
  • 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 graphic design or video production, that can help us open doors for you to put these skills to work for our clients!

a taste of the things you’d be doing:

  • Collaborating with clients to design and implement social media strategy that fits their business goals
  • Create, edit, publish and share engaging content (e.g. original text, photos, videos and news)
  • Setting clear expectations and goals, and reporting on analytics data to show progress
  • Make sure social media accounts’ design looks top-notch (e.g. Facebook timeline cover, profile pictures and blog layout)</>
  • Recommending and implementing new features to boost brand awareness, such as promotions, boosted posts, etc.
  • Staying in-the-know with technologies and trends in social media, design tools and applications
  • Contributing to our blog 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 20 hours per week to the position to start–hours may vary depending on client needs. 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 small-but-fierce company, and we have a lot of experience producing solid work, but our process is always evolving and improving. You’ll have the support of our Creative Director and Project Manager for whatever you need–talking through ideas, scheduling meetings, onboarding clients, and so forth. But, we recognize that you’re the expert in social, and we welcome any wisdom and ideas that you can bring to the table.

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.

This position is now closed as of Oct 26th, 2018! Thank you for your interest!


Sep 27 2018

Website Case Study: Portland vocational school

We recently worked with a known leader in vocational training here in Portland, Oregon, and you’ll find many of their graduates building thriving careers here in town and beyond. In 2017, however, they decided to revamp their online experience, to better connect their audience with the details they don’t already know about their diverse programs.

We partnered with them and brought our skills in website design, custom web development for WordPress, and content strategy to create a website that entices new students, and connects current students and alumni with the information they need.

The Goal: Give Control Back to The User

When our client first contacted us, their previous website was failing them in a number of ways:

  • Prospective students couldn’t find what they needed–the information was often there, but buried beneath a confusing website structure. This led to frequent phone calls about basic questions, wasting both new students’ and and their staffers’ precious time.
  • The visual design was inconsistent with their established brand standards and print materials. There were bright, distracting colors and “quirky” icons that just didn’t make sense with their grounded, calm, and welcoming culture.
  • They felt a lack of control over their content. Their previous website was so difficult to update that they didn’t feel empowered to do so. This led to inconsistent updates, and information that was misleading or outdated.

Our goal was clear: dig down into the complex muck, zero in on the most important needs of both the school and its audience, and refine it into a design that more honestly communicates what it’s like to attend or receive their services.

The Process: Getting To Know You

Our new website design gives prospective students a closer look at what student life is like the school.

Our Content Audit and Content Map make a great starting point for websites like this one–this client had an embarrassment of riches in terms of written content! So, we started by digging in to establish goals and identify sought-after content, and reorganizing it all in a way that flows more naturally.

While content review was happening, our Grayscreen Prototype gave their team a visual frame of reference for the site structure–our grayscreen is like an interactive wireframe, so they could get a better understanding of how elements fit together, what goes where, and how they can keep their content up-to-date. We also got to present them with our ideas for customizations, such as custom Content Types and Templates to make it even easier to manage their own pages and blog posts beautifully.

Design Mockups were where we brought their visual brand back into the picture, but also where we put their content-driven goals into action. We moved away from the bright “clown car”  colors, introduced organic textures, and brought in new photos that showcase their Student Life experience. We also built in eye-catching and clear calls-to-action, so viewers can more easily find what they’re looking for and what the school wants them to see.

Finally, while we were putting the site through rigorous pre-launch testing, we also hooked up our client’s staff with Training and Documentation, to help them feel like empowered managers of their new website. We walked them through the Dashboard functions they’d need most often, answered their questions, and equipped them with a handy custom-written user guide to refer back to and share with new staff.

The Results: More Engagement, Less Headache

No longer struggling with an off-brand website that they can’t update themselves, this client now has more time and energy to expand and grow their marketing. We’re not only driving traffic to their website — we’re also authentically reflecting the student life experience they offer, and encouraging visitors to take the next step towards admission.

Is your outdated website holding back your growth? Upswept Creative can free you, too, from the struggles of intimidating Dashboards and confused branding. It all starts with a conversation.

Get in touch to begin! »


Aug 20 2018

Secure Your Website with SSL

The web is a go-to place for your audience to learn about–and buy from!–your business. As the online market grows, security is becoming more important, both for you and your customers. A secure site means that the people who visit you online feel safer, and are more likely to stick around.

Website security matters even more when your customers browse through mobile.

That’s why, beginning this summer, Google Chrome and other major web browsers has started labeling all websites without SSL (secure socket layer) encryption (that is, http sites) as “not secure.” You may even have heard from your web host about enhancing your security to avoid losing website visitors–but what does it mean?

SSL Keeps Your Information Private

You’ll often see an HTTPS when you shop online. Seeing an HTTPS in that address bar lets you know that the website you’re using has an SSL certificate, and that your information is protected.

SSL is the standard in website security: it creates an encrypted link between your website and your customer’s web browser. That encryption ensures that any sensitive information that’s passed between their browser and your website stays private.

But Why Does My Website Need SSL?

Activities like e-commerce and online banking always use SSL, but there are also reasons why an HTTPS website with SSL-security is a good idea for the rest of us:

  1. Keeping sensitive information safe. SSL encrypts any information you send through the Internet, so the only people who can read it are the ones you want to see it.

  2. Protecting you (and your customers!) from info theft. Hackers look for weaknesses in your web presence, and encrypting details that are sent through your website (like credit card numbers!) will keep both you and your customers safe.

  3. Building trust with new customers. New people who come to your website will see that your website is secured with SSL. That helps them feel safer when contacting or buying from you, and gives your business an added boost of credibility.

If you’d like to enable SSL security for your domain, we’re here to help! In most cases, it only takes an hour or two to enable SSL and replace internal HTTP links on your site to HTTPS.

If you’d like to help protect your customers and add SSL encryption to your website–or even if you just have questions about it–drop us a line and we’ll fill you in on what’s needed.

Contact Us »


Apr 26 2018

Letting Go: 3 Things Holding You Back From an Awesome Brand Redesign

Do you get an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look at your logo? Do you feel sheepish when you hand out your business card? You may be thinking about a brand redesign, or even know deep down that you need to refresh your brand… and yet, it feels like an awful lot of work that you don’t feel prepared for.

I’m not going to tell you that rebranding isn’t a lot of work, because it does take time and energy! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, however. In fact, if you’re overwhelmed in your work, a rebrand may be exactly what you need.

Even if you think you have to stay the course, here are some thoughts that shouldn’t hold you back from a brand redesign:

“I don’t want to lose the brand recognition I already have. ”

Businesses both big and small can stay strong, even through multiple rebrands. (IBM logo evolution via Hongkiat)

You’ve worked hard to build your customer base, so it’s totally normal to feel hesitation about turning people away. However, we’ve seen a variety of businesses update their visual identity, and still keep going strong–the trust they’ve already built keeps their loyal fans coming back, while updated branding attracts new eyes.

As long as you make the right adjustments to your branding, you can keep your audience and keep evolving your business. Your creative team will often guide you through how to debut and start using your new brand assets, so your customers know what’s happening. It will take your audience a little while to adjust, but new branding will help you make sure the customers you love will stick around.

“My current logo is already on all of my tags, t-shirts, signage, etc.”

It may seem like a lot of trouble to incorporate a new logo and brand messaging. And yet, isn’t it a bigger problem to have a brand you aren’t proud of stamped all over your marketing?

Sticking with your current branding means everyone who engages with you will see an ill-fitting brand that makes the wrong impression. And, that outdated brand will continue to draw in all the same people–including the “wrong fit” clients that you don’t want to keep attracting.

It’s true that printing new business cards, having new signs made, or replacing other brand assets will take some time and resources. But, investing that time and effort now will help you connect with more of the people who are right for you, and that will make your life much easier in the long-term.

“I don’t have time to deal with that right now.”

Time is precious in any business! But, if you don’t have time right now, when will you? Free time rarely appears on its own–you ultimately have to make the time for things that are important to the growth of your business.

And, consider this: how much time could you save if your marketing was refined for who your business is now? If you can attract more of the right customers, and fewer customers that don’t fit, you could save a lot of time in your day-to-day. You could deal with fewer questions or less back-and-forth on pricing, you could focus on your best and most beloved products, rather than maintaining a huge product line. The possibilities are plentiful!

 

Rebranding is daunting–I get it! It’s a big task full of tough decisions. But, thinking critically about your brand is how you not only survive, but thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape. Facing your fears, acknowledging where your brand can do better, and making those tough choices will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated about your business.

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone! Upswept Creative offers all the resources you need to have a successful brand evolution: web design, logo and graphic design, and social media management to get the (new) word out. Contact us right now to start feeling good about your brand again.


Mar 02 2018

Brand Experience: Get in Touch With Your Feelings

Let’s talk about feelings for a minute.

Don’t worry, it’s not a heart-to-heart about your innermost dreams and desires. We’re talking about the feelings your branding creates.

How do you convince your customers to dig you? Connect with how your work makes them feel.

It’s often said that your brand design and messaging should create a feeling, but there isn’t as much said about what the heck that means. How do you create that brand feeling, or even decide what feeling it should be? In the end, it all comes down to what your customer needs, and how you handle that need through the experience you provide.

How Do Your Customers Feel?

Hopefully, you have at least some idea of who your customer is (if you don’t, we have a branding course that can help you!). Now, it’s time to put yourself in their shoes: how do your customers feel when they first come to you? And how do you want them to feel once you’ve helped them?

Perhaps they came to you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but you want them to leave feeling calm and in control of the aspect of their lives you helped them with. Or, maybe they had a case of the “blahs,” but your product lifted their spirits! When your brand speaks to people on a level that addresses their feelings, it helps you connect with your ideal clients, and helps them remember you.

What Experience Does Your Business Give Them?

Every business provides a unique experience, from the moment you connect with a customer, all the way through to you closing the deal, and the client going home happy. That unique experience is part of what makes you different from your competition. There may be a few other businesses (or a lot!) who offer what you do, but your approach is almost certainly different from theirs!

Maybe you offer an experience that’s fast and efficient, so they get what they want right away. Or, perhaps your brand experience is one where you spend more time, but tend to their every need so they feel well cared for. You might design a product that appeals to many people, or individually tailor each thing you make to each new client.

These are just a few different approaches to business, but they all offer very different experiences. Think about what your process looks like, and how it helps you create the feeling that you want your customers to have when you’ve wrapped up doing business with them.

Focus on the Journey

Finding out which feelings fit into your branding doesn’t have to be complicated: just focusing on how your customer feels, from start to finish, can help you get at the heart of the good work you’re doing every day. By looking more closely at that journey, you can choose the right words, colors, and design aesthetics for your brand, appeal to those ideal customers, and guide them from feeling stressed to being happy.

Need help getting your brand in order? We’re developing (Honestly) Bona Fide Branding, an online course that guides you through the core pieces of your brand, so you can draw in the right customers for you. That means you’ll make more money and love your job more. Sound awesome? Apply by March 18th to be included in our first run of the course!

Sign Up Now >>


Jan 19 2018

How Much Will Your Website Really Cost?

When we talk website design with potential clients, one thing we hear pretty regularly is, “I have no idea what this kind of thing costs.” It’s not just about shopping around between different providers, either–there are a lot of factors that can affect your total investment.

If you want to get a better sense of what you can expect to spend, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

Good, Fast, Cheap: what are your real priorities?

image courtesy Berkonomics

There’s a saying in the creative world that Good, Fast, and Cheap doesn’t exist: you can only pick two.

What does that mean? Well, if you need your new website “ASAP,” and you want it to be both beautiful and effective, then it’s not going to come Cheap.

Conversely, if you’re looking to save money, you’ll end up “paying” for the project in other ways–you’ll either be waiting a long time to finally get your new Good website, or you’ll get a website that was created Fast, but is low-quality.

If you want to pursue a new website, make sure you know your priorities. I suspect you won’t want to sacrifice Good on your web project, so be prepared to either pay more, or wait longer for its completion.

What resources do you have?

Once you know what your priorities are, it’s time to look at where you’re starting from. There are a lot of moving parts to a website. A good website professional will be there to take on the design, coding, and strategy for you, but there are other important pieces to building a website that works well:

  • Your brand voice. Do you know who your business is? Do you know who you’re trying to reach? Your website team needs to know those things to create a website strategy that works for you.
  • Written content. Do you have descriptions of your services or products? Do you know what to put on your homepage? Your website pro can guide you, but someone needs to create the words that help your website sell.
  • Photography. Do you have professional-quality photos that represent what you do? Do you have a clear photo of yourself for your About page? Good design can get you part of the way there, but photos are what will put a face on your brand, and help tell your brand story.

These are just a few major project pieces that your web design professional will need to make your website work well for your business. If you’re missing any of these pieces, you’ll need to either need to create them yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you.

How much time do you have available?

Now that you’ve figured out what pieces you have, and what pieces you’re missing, take a look at your work week How much time do you have available? Realistically?

It’s easy to get excited about the idea of a new website, and say “yes, of course I can get you that content,” but creating good content takes time. Even if you have the best intentions, if you’re already too busy to answer your emails or post on your Instagram, then you probably won’t have time to create a customer persona or craft a brand statement.

If you do have some time to spare, there may be ways you can use your own knowledge and skills to help the process along. Just remember: nobody gets good at something new overnight, and it could take you hours upon hours of work to get it right. And, even if you *can* handle content yourself, there may just be better ways for you to use your precious time to keep your business running!

A professional creative has years of expertise that helps them get the job done faster and better than the average person. If your time is valuable to you, then keep it for yourself, and pay for a professional assist.

What are you willing to do? What do you NOT want to do?

You’ve gotten this far. You know what you need, you have the time to make it happen. Now it’s time to be honest with yourself: what are you actually willing to do to keep that website working well?

If you love blogging and want to regularly update a blog on your website, then hey, that’s great! If you used to work as a copywriter and want to craft your own website copy, then that could be helpful.

But, if the idea of writing your own bio makes you break out in hives, then maybe you should ask your website team for a copywriting quote. If HTML terrifies you, then ask your website professional about a maintenance package, so you don’t have to update the site yourself.

Whatever you choose, be honest with yourself about what you can do, what you should do, and what is better left to the experts.


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!