My 5 greatest business a-ha moments.

I vividly remember when we moved into our first ‘real’ studio. We upgraded from our quasi-illegal, deeply humbling alleyway warehouse we shared with a family of mice and an abundance of quirky neighbours and moved into a light-filled office above an art gallery in Woollahra. It was beautiful, clean and very on-brand. To our sheer delight, it even had OH&S approved stairs, windows and walls! 

And what’s more, we no longer had a studio that backed onto a lane smelling like a million garbage trucks just had an orgy! (sorry Mum)


I felt like Julia Roberts in the latter half of Pretty Woman.

For me, starting a business at 22 could have been described as a case of insanity. I was a college drop out after four failed attempts, with zero savings and zero experience. It took the next three years of working 70 hour weeks to get Smack Bang off the ground. I said goodbye to weekends, holidays, friends’ birthdays, my own birthday, good health and devastatingly a loaf of Iggy’s sourdough bread on a Sunday morning (if you know, you know).

To outsiders, we’ve always looked primped and polished, but let me tell you, what may look like a well-oiled machine now has certainly had a few burnouts along the way.

This eight-year narrative contains far more ups, downs, and inside outs than I have time to write. We’ve outgrown 4 office spaces over that time, and with that went our Kikki K diaries and our USB sticks. We’ve lost clients, staff members, sleep and unashamedly our dignity (cue Xmas party 2016).

The intensity and the hurdles of the last eight years have truly built me into a bigger and better businesswoman, and woman for that matter. I feel as though I am able to handle more every day and turn each problem into an opportunity that works in my favour.

Fast forward and here we are now with 15 incredibly hard-working and capable employees, over 100 clients under our belt all the while thriving from our very own two-story light-filled studio in Woollahra. It’s been wild, it’s been chaotic, but mostly it’s been incredibly rewarding.

I’m still not entirely sure where I’m heading, and there are still many dark corners of the business. But I do feel that as a business and a collective of individuals, we are proud of the work we’ve done.

I’m still figuring out my definition of success. If you Google “success” you get a lot of trite quotes and corny cliches that feel similar to the positive affirmations hurled at me during that spin class I went to once, (in 1999….)

But when I stop and take a break from the merciless to-do’s, I can see that it’s all worth it. When my staff tell me that they’re happy and when our clients tell me they’ve had a 30% increase in sales, it’s all worth it. The moments when I’m standing in our pokey little staff kitchen making a cuppa and I can hear the team in a mix of hardcore taking-over-the-world brainstorm ideas and intense belly laughs, it’s all worth it. And when I get home to a lifestyle that I love and that I have worked my bloody ass off for, it’s all worth it.

Like most other entrepreneurs, I learned how to build a business whilst building my business. It’s been an on-the-fly, trial-by-fire kinda lesson.

  1. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step up
    Going on maternity leave forced me to take a step back and consequently, a step up. In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter, my General Manager and I were meticulous in planning and implementing systems that meant I could actually have time off.Stepping back allowed me to see the business and its working objectively. I could see the flaws and the parts that needed attention because I wasn’t in it. It also allowed me the freedom to decide how, upon returning, I wanted to step back into it – where I would be of the greatest value and what I wanted to prioritise.
  1. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
    Everybody knows about the 10,000-hour theory of expertise. What most people forget is that it’s 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” — applying yourself and staying woke — not 10,000 hours of sleepwalking through your job.If I could give you any single piece of advice, this would be it, 10,000%. Continually ask yourself, is this the best way of doing it? Am I the right person to be doing this? Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Learn the power of delegating, and it will allow you to have far greater impact.
  1. Diversification isn’t always the answer
    Creative genius is literally the ability to give birth to new ideas or solutions. As an entrepreneur, it can be so exciting to have the freedom to explore a million and one fun ideas – but just because you have a million ideas doesn’t mean you should pursue them all. Think about your end goal, and ensure these creative ideas are in complete alignment with your values as a person, and as a business.
  1. Pleasing two of the three P’s to stay in alignment
    At Smack Bang, we work with clients who fit a specific criteria. They must tick two of three boxes; Passion, Profile and/or Profit. Obviously, the trifecta is the goal. It took me years to be able to conceptualise and articulate this criteria. For a long time, I consulted my crystal ball and made decisions about which projects to take on with my gut. And then I heard from a friend of a friend, who was describing his methodology for choosing which projects to work on – Profit, Passion, Profile –  Wham bam, thank you, Ma’am, finally, we had a clear framework to base our clients off.
  1. Word of mouth is the O.G of marketing.
    Gone are the days where simply having a presence and a nice looking website were enough. Building trust with your audience is imperative if you want to remain relevant and memorable. Your brand is your reputation. Prioritise offline over online. You need to connect with your market, and not just collect them.Growing your online presence needs to be organic, and from this will come genuine and real relationships beyond the mere double-tap, and the sense of instant, false reassurance that comes with it. Be kind to everyone, simply because that’s the right thing to do, but also because of who you are and how you treat people is what leads to work and building a good reputation.
  1. You gotta do the work.
    I know I said I’d give you 5 tips, but like my local Indian takeaway joint, I like to under-promise and over-deliver. Consider this last point me throwing in some delicious (and free) samosas with your curry order.I hate to break it to you, but reading a book on how to kick a ball doesn’t qualify you for the World Cup. You need to do the work. Put in the time and build up the practice. You need to show up, with your sleeves roll up and consistently give it your all.

Image credit: Nat Turnbull

A brand name that resonates.

I went to school with a guy named Jackson Jackson. No joke. It’s funny, but it’s no joke.

At the time I thought it was weird, I guessed his parents were either stoners, super lazy, or thought it was funny to make a mockery of their very own spawn. Thinking about it now, in retrospect, however, I actually think they ticked all the boxes… If perhaps their child was a business. Either way, they succeeded with a name that was thought-provoking, memorable, easy to spell, fun to say, and would actually look great as a logo.

Choosing a great name – whether it’s for your baby or your business – is no easy feat, but it sure is important. A brand name is how a company introduces itself, the very first impression.

And how does one go about choosing a business name, you ask?

You could try your luck on a random generator like the following. Or you can dive deep, strategise and end up creating a brand name that not only resonates with your customers but delivers a memorable, meaningful experience that sticks with your company throughout time.

Your name is with you through every step of your business journey. This means coming up with the right name is probably the single most important branding concern for a business.

You’ll first need to figure out what you want your name to communicate. They tend to fall into one of a few categories; based on a founders name, descriptive, experiential names, made-up words and then those that are just downright random. Each of these categories tend to evoke their own unique set of feelings. When you see companies named after their founders – think the likes of Oglivy and Johnson & Johnson – it correlates to a feeling of trust, stability and confidence, right? Compare that to names that you would consider experiential – like Lush and Girlboss – and you are presented with an entirely different set of values.

Your name should reinforce the key elements of your business and reflect the foundational tone you’d like to establish with your customers.

Once a name is out in the world, the meaning of the word itself and the connotations attached to it will evolve based on how people experience the brand. The way you choose to express the visual identity, the brand story and the way you marketing affects how people engage with it. Look at Apple. If you told someone today that you were considering naming your brand after a fruit or create a completely new word as Aesop has done, they’d look at you like poor Jackson Jackson’s mother – complete disbelief in the ludicrously of it all. There will always be exceptions to the rules as all brand names, as most things in life, are subjective.

A brilliant name is the basic core differentiator of your brand. And with 300,000 brand names being registered every year, it’s imperative that your business name makes you the talk of the town, or at least enagaes someone beyond you, your mum and your massage therapist.

Here’s our checklist of 8 characteristics to consider before embarking on the naming process.

  1. Is it thought-provoking?
    Your name should set the tone for your business, think about your brand positioning – will it be disruptive, intellectual, or timid? The company name should be culturally on cue and appropriate for your values and positioning. We don’t want any repeats of Kim Kardashian’s bad taste in brand names. Try avoiding trends and cute puns that only you understand – my money is that most people won’t find them as funny as you.
  2. Is it memorable?
    Like the perfect al-dente pasta, your name should stick. Successful names have the sticky-factor enabling people to quickly bring your brand to mind when talking with friends. Names that are straight forward but also create curiosity encourages your customer to seek out further information. Great names are often short and sweet. Studies have shown that brevity lends itself to memorability.
  3. Is it unique enough?
    Before you start brainstorming or putting pen to paper, the first step is to map out the competitive landscape for your brand. When brainstorming your business name, think outside the box – customers appreciate brave, risk-taking brands that forfeit the safe option to stand out from the competition.
  4. Is it easy to spell?
    Potential customers need to be able to find you easily in a quick Google search. Not everyone was the record-holding spelling bee champion, so choosing a business name such as “Syforollayam” might not be the way to go. You want your customers to be able to find you during their quick search online, so coming up with something unique is great, but difficult spellings can often be a roadblock.
  5. Have you kept it simple?
    Don’t pick a name that is long-winded or confusing. If you need to justify your business name, you’ve failed to make an impact. Take Amazon, for example, they’ve used this name to create a metaphor marrying their business to the largest rainforest in the world. Many people think you need to go descriptive with their titles which often leads to using multiple words like Bob’s Big Bicycle Bananza. You want a short and sweet name that doesn’t leave you tongue-tied.
  6. Is it fun to say?
    Will people enjoy pronouncing it? Names that have a good “mouth-feel” like Google, Oreo, Yahoo, Ketchup and Kleenex, have a headstart on those that don’t. Invented or abstract names come with no preconceived ideas and are therefore a great blank canvas upon which you are able to paint a unique brand image.
  7. Does it sound like it Is?
    Research shows that words hold acoustic representations of their meaning by making our mouths feel a particular way. Brand names often take into consideration what is known as the “Bouba- Kiki Effect” – the non-arbitrary mapping between speech sounds and visual shape. From these studies we can see there is a direct correlation between sound, shape and meaning was obviously apparent.
  8. Does it look good?
    As a branding expert, of course I have to include the aesthetics! The letters that comprise your brand name must look distinctive. Some characters are round and full; others are narrow and slim. When thinking about the name in the context of a logo, it’s important that you marry the appropriate looking letters with your brand image and positioning.

If the cat’s got your tongue or just downright stuck on where to start, we have a team of creatives who are ready and raring. The result? A damn fine name that sets your heart and brand racing. Your brand name sticks to you like glue and will last longer than almost any other investment you make in your business, so choose wisely. No pressure.

Image credit: Ina Jang

The pleasures and perils of scaling a business.

Before I had my daughter, I assumed my life would seamlessly and swiftly fall ‘back’ into place after my baby was born. She would enter the world effortlessly and gracefully in a similar motion to a dollop of ice cream leaving a scalding hot spoon. We’d fall instantly love and then I’d return to my busy schedule and growing business after 4 months of maternity leave. She’d be my trusty and obliging sidekick – happily tagging along to work with me and championing my every move. We’d have a nanny on hand, ‘sort out’ the daycare situation when the time came and I’d be able to return to my normal levels of busy with a beautifully balanced side of baby. 

…I’ll just wait here while all the parents on my list have a good old belly laugh.

Fast forward 10 months and I can tell you that I’m about as close to the above reality as I am to joining NASA and flying to the moon in a zebra spacesuit by 4pm Friday.

The integration of baby and business has been about as smooth as a flying mallet through a pane of glass. It has been crazy, yes, but beyond beautiful and utterly humbling – I speak more about my journey so far on the One Wild Ride Podcast.

But I’m not here to give you the blow by blow, nappy by nappy account of how incredible this journey into motherhood has been. I’m here to talk about how scaling my business early on allowed me the time, space and freedom to become a mother.

Retrospect is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?! When I was 22 I sacrificed travelling, partying and a wardrobe full of Zimmermann frills to get this business off the ground. At the time, it was a lonely journey and most days I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. But looking back today I am utterly and eternally grateful to my younger self. The beauty of starting a business at 22 meant that I got a few runs on the board, built this baby up to a team of 15 very capable staff and put plenty of systems in place before I even started thinking about having a family.

It wasn’t easy. There have been moments of demoralising and debilitating doubt, complete and utter exhaustion and, on multiple occasions, wanting to fake my own death, move to the Bermuda Triangle and never look back.

But the one thing I’ve been continually surprised by is how satisfying it is to grow and scale a business. This feeling of satisfaction, reward and gratification became especially apparent last year when I took maternity leave and Smack Bang continued to grow and thrive without me.

Let it be known, there are still many rough edges at Smack Bang. And dark corners of the business that still scare the pants off me. There are still, and always will be, plenty of mess and mistakes. It’s not glamorous, it’s not easy and most of the time I’m just Googling the answer to simple business equations like how to balance my income with my expenses.

Buckle in folks, this one is a biggy.

Let’s start with the perils.

The perils.

  1. You’re like a hamster on a ferris wheel
    The other day I was watching an episode of the late great Anthony Bourdain (rip my man, can’t wait to eat pasta with you in heaven), and he was in the Philippines watching a makeshift ferris wheel. It was as rickety as an old rotting bridge and dangerous as a red rag to a bull. Forget automation, there were a dozen or so, barefooted guys making this 30ft thing spin. To me, it was not dissimilar to running a growing business. As a founder, you’re both the person on the ride (holding on for dear life, hoping that this precarious thing has at least 10 more minutes of life span in it). But you’re also the guy running, jumping and pulling – you’re exhausted, running on adrenaline, your feet are burnt by the ground beneath you and you’re getting paid VERY little for the output you’re exerting.
  1. There’s a bit (read: a lot) of unpaid overtime
    When I first started Smack Bang we were incredibly lucky, we were Busy, with a capital B. Our workflow felt akin to drinking from a firehose. I would design for seemingly 90 hours straight. Then write for the next 90 hours. And then hustle new clients for 90 hours. Then when I was done that, I’d move onto the next thing for 90hours. Things got messy. When you’re moving at the speed of light, you’re also out-growing your systems just as they’re getting implemented – it’s chaotic, stress-inducing and you feel like your life is one giant game of hot potato.
  1. Growth is a truly scary thing
    The more clients, the more hires. The more hires, the more demand for work and therefore, more clients. It’s easy to start feeling like a G.I Joe being pulled every-which-way with no end in sight. Managing people is no easy feat (which is why I count my lucky stars for my General Manager each and every day) . Let me tell you, there is no worse feeling than letting people down. Whether that’s a member of your staff or one of your clients. You’ll make some crappy decisions along the way that could possibly end in a pile of your salty tears on the floor. You’ll have moments in business of absolute self-doubt and overwhelming anxiety. Moments that will downright make you want to quit.
  1. More money = more problems
    There’s no denying that running a business comes with a fair dose of fear. Particular when it comes to cash flow – every small business owner’s pile of steaming hot mess. In the words of Notorious B.I.G, more money = more problems. More money typically means more clients. More clients mean more staff. More staff means more cash flow issues. And on top of all that, as your business grows, taxes just get more and more complicated. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that Rolex might have to wait a couple more years.
  1. Time is scarce
    Business is hard enough as is, and somehow in between skimming your eyes over important emails, checking your P&L, processing payroll, woofing down another meal at your desk, frantically meeting deadlines all whilst planning the most instagrammable Christmas party for your staff, you’re meant to find room for life. Lack of time is no joke.
  1. You’ll sometimes forget to breathe
    There will be moments of serve burnout where self care feels like it is simply not an option. But when you’re suffering from stress, overwhelm, anxiety it will 100% be reflected in your work. I’m telling you loud and clear that as a business owner, your business depends on your health, happiness and productivity. If you’re tired, there’s a reason. Honour it and address the fatigue.

To this day, I’m still learning on the fly and despite the pitfalls that sometimes come with running a business, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So now, to end on a much lighter note – the pleasures of scaling a business.

The pleasures.

  1. You’re in the driver’s seat
    The liberation that comes with doing what you want, when you want to do it. I’ve always loved the thrill that comes with being in the driver’s seat – the risk and responsibility is all yours, but you get to drive as fast as you like, take the bends how you want and create your own destination. I’m super grateful to get to do that every day.
  1. You can stop doing for the sake of doing
    I believe the worst epidemic that our modern world faces is the disease of being constantly ‘busy’. So, my one piece of advice for you, If it doesn’t exactly spark joy (thanks Marie Kondo) you outsource it. Cut out the stuff you don’t want to do and focus on doing what you’re best at. I love this quote by Beyonce and can 100% relate – “I don’t like too much structure. I like to be free. I’m not alive unless I am creating something. I’m not happy if I’m not creating, if I’m not dreaming, if I’m not creating a dream and making it into something real. I’m not happy if I’m not improving, evolving, moving forward, inspiring, teaching, and learning.” Focus on the tasks that inspire and promote growth and your business will thank you in tenfold.
  1. Play to your strengths and delegate the rest
    Creating an uplifting and thriving culture is 1 part science, 2 parts art. When you get it right though, boy does it feel good. We have a great leadership team in place that inspires everyone (including me) to do beautiful, smart and thoughtful work. I feel constantly inspired because of my team, each member having their own unique skill set. So rather than wasting my time on things I don’t love or tasks I know someone else can do better, I champion our staff to operate in their genius zone. Once you’ve figured this out, you can start delegating and begin narrowing in on the shit you love doing.
  1. You get to keep your curiosity alive
    I am a big believer in being a forever student, and let me tell you, owning and running a business involves SO. MUCH. Learning. You’ll be faced with new challenges on the reg, but each one is an opportunity to learn and grow. Going all the way to the fiery pits of hells and coming back allows you to enforce some serious boundaries in your daily work life. And if I can let you in on a little secret; scaling your business is all about working smarter not harder.
  1. You get to watch your Sea-Monkeys grow
    Watching your team grow is an incredibly rewarding experience. From one kid who loved watching Sea-Monkeys grow to another, you know how satisfying that was. I love knowing each member of my team personally. I love knowing what drives them and what excites them. I love hearing about what they had for breakfast and what their Mum’s cousin’s next-door neighbours favourite song is. Truly, I do. Managing a small army has made me a better person, truly. I’m more compassionate. More empathetic. More resilient. More engaged. More accountable.
  1. Getting to work when it best suits you
    Leave your 9-5 mindset at the door because you get to determine your own hours of work now, and ain’t nobody gonna make you feel guilty about it. Discover when you’re most productive and form your days around a schedule that not only works for your lifestyle but promotes an effective working cycle, meaning you are on the clock when you are at your sharpest.
  1. It’s an empowering challenge
    Launching and running a business is a wild adventure. It’s like the heart monitor you hear in the ER. A blearing signal that lets you know your soul is not just rotting away in some grey cubicle with a hoard of other lifeless robots. The thrill of entrepreneurship is your daily dose of adrenaline. Self expansion and seeing what you’re capable of and unlocking your true limits is one seriously empowering adventure.
  1. You might just change the world
    Call it an ambitious target, but you can create some serious change by harnessing your platforms for the greater good. Your business doesn’t have to be the next Facebook or Patagonia to be an agent of powerful change. It can be as simple as opening the doors to a bigger conversation within your community in order to inspire and provoke change. And this alone is a good enough reason for me.

Image credit: Maria Esme del Rio

How to promote yourself without promoting yourself.

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

When I cast my mind back seven big-fat-exhausting years to starting this thing called Smack Bang, I’m instantly awash with nerves, apprehension and the urge to inject a good lashing of valium into my eyeballs. I was 22-years-old and had no idea what I was doing. I should have been scared out of my mind.

The funny thing is though, back then I wasn’t. Not even an incy-wincy-little-bit. I guess I didn’t know what I was in for. I was ballsy, brash and bright with optimism. I was young, dumb and I hadn’t yet worked out what a scary place this world is. I was crazy confident and gave zero F’s about what other people thought of me. The idea of putting myself out there to get new clients came to me just easily as eating 17 Caramello Koalas in one hit. I was capable of blasting my work out into the public, the same way my dog blasts out a wee in the middle of the street – with no shame and a strong dose of #sorrynotsorry.

And let me tell you, it’s a good thing I didn’t care back then. It meant that we got busy, fast. I was building an Instagram audience, writing blogs, perfecting my portfolio, meeting and greeting, and kissing babies. Before I knew it, we were fully booked. It was exciting, and on behalf of my naive, green, younger self, I am forever grateful.

Still, I know as well as every entrepreneur that the ‘Marketing Hat’ isn’t always the comfiest one us business owners have to wear. If the thought of writing an ‘about page’ makes you want to punch yourself in the face, or the thought of getting headshots makes you want to fake your own death and run away to Mexico, then this blog is for you. Putting yourself out there can be terrifying – we all know that visibility triggers vulnerability. Promoting yourself and your work can set off a string of self-doubt, followed by procrastination or paralysis, and a perpetual internal soundtrack of ‘this is lame’, ‘I am lame’, ‘what if people think my work is ugly?’, ‘what if people think that I am ugly?’, ‘who am I to do this?’. The miserable shame spiral continues.

I get it, PROMOTING YOUR WORK TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS DAUNTING (caps required). It brings up the most deep-seeded feelings from within your glass-case of emotions. This is particularly apparent in today’s context, as we now communicate on a global scale. We no longer bang up a sign on the front door only visible to those within our postcode, we upload an image that is instantly visible to 7.5 billion people. If that doesn’t fill you with all the dread of bumping into Pennywise the clown in the middle of the night, I don’t know what will. I am going to tell you to pull up your adult pants, take a spoonful of concrete and wrap your laughing gear around it, because if you want to do the work you were set upon this earth to do, and make the impact you were born to make, at some point you’re gonna have to face the music and put yourself out there. You don’t like the word ‘marketing’? Cool, it’s still crucially important. Call it, ‘Sassy reach-out mode’, whatever you will, but if you take anything away from this chapter, let it be this: Marketing is simply reminding people to hire you.

If you’re serious about attracting more dream clients into your life (and I know you are), then cast your weary eyes over these quick hacks to get you in the mood for a little bit of Promotion with a capital P. I’m not going to pretend I have this whole marketing thing figured out, but I’ve certainly come a long way since uploading an exceptionally fluorescent, lime green logo to my website.

  1. Get out of your own way.
    Sometimes we become the biggest roadblock to our greatest vision. When it comes to promoting work, usually, it’s ego and self-doubt that get in the way of kicking major goals. Feel this creeping into your world? Try taking a step back and look at the bigger picture. Often, the vision is far bigger than you are and your purpose far greater than you, so feel free to stop honing in on the granular reasons why people won’t hire you (that mole on your left shoulder, the slightly peculiar sense of humour), and zoom out to see what it is that you’re actually creating! What value are you adding to the world? Focus on that and forget your own stuff. Just do good work.
  1. Stop waiting for perfection.
    Waiting for perfection is like waiting for your children to put two of the correct shoes on in the morning (or so I’ve heard). I used to be a prisoner to perfection and would lose myself in the perfecting of each pixel and every goddamn micro-detail imaginable. But then I slowly began to see that things didn’t need to be perfect to generate epic results. Striving for excellence is all well and good, but striving for perfection is a bit crazy. Obsessive perfectionism is the arch-nemesis of productivity, second only to laying on the couch doing diddly-squat all day. Of course, aim for genuine, brilliant and extremely high value at all times, but don’t aim for perfection. Do what you can, with what you’ve got and put it out there and test the result yourself. If you stress too much-overdoing everything exactly right, you’ll never hit publish on your website, you’ll never send out that blog post, and you’ll certainly never send that ebook you’ve been working on for months on end to market. Fretting and being a perfectionist about everything you do merely keeps those sparkly dreams just out of reach.
  1. Make it about your message, not about you.
    If the bright shiny ‘me’ spotlight feels uncomfortable, feel free to pivot it slightly. Shine the light on your work, your purpose, your process, your brand, your surrounding assets. The key is to get purposeful and focused on promoting your message rather than you as an individual. I’ve found using this approach makes the art of promotion feel eleventy-billion times easier. When I feel like digging a hole and hiding out, I shine the spotlight on my team, our studio, our portfolio, our clients and our ethos. It’s great, because it keeps the momentum, without making you feel like you’ve sold your soul.
  1. Don’t be desperate.
    As a freelancer or small business owner, it’s easy to get panicky when the phone begins to stop ringing. It’s easy to scream to your boyfriend over the phone “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!”. But for the love of all things good and holy, don’t panic. Slice up some cucumbers, pat those babies onto your eyes and take a chill pill. Transcending into an emergency state of panic fuels your sense of desperation… and I hate to break it you, but clients can smell desperation a mile away. Even when you’re drowning in desperation and self-pity, you need to slap on a smile, and pretend like you’ve got everything under control, and your rent isn’t in fact twenty days overdue.
  1. Chew on abundance.
    Without getting too Tony Robbins on yo’ ass, I do believe the idea of manifestation has some merit. If you have a good scroll through Instagram, you’re bound to find at least 17 million inspirational quotes. Ignore the “live, laugh, love” ones and find one that says something along the lines of “what you focus on expands”. This is the shiz. If you focus on constantly having “zero clients, zero money, and zero ways to feed yourself or pay your rent” chances are things aren’t going to improve anytime soon. However, if you shift your perspective to focus on the bright spots, you’ll begin to attract more of that into your life. Even when our bank account begins to dwindle here and there, I always believe that I am 100% abundant. Whether it’s just a simple reminder I tell myself, or within my morning meditation, I focus my drive and my vision on abundance. And abundance is what I get. If you tell yourself for long enough, you’ll eventually convince yourself… and your bank account. Chew on that.

At Smack Bang, we’ve been lucky enough to have a somewhat steady flow of customers for the most part of our existence. But I guess that’s not just luck; we work tirelessly and endlessly to do great work, give our clients a first-class experience and market ourselves silly. Of course, just like any business, there are slower seasons, when we’re racking our brains to come up with new tactics and ideas to get more clients through our doors.

I know the stress of stumbling around trying to come up with new and improved ways of generating new leads all the while losing sleep at night wondering if I might eventually have to jazz up my resume and go get a real job. Whilst it often feels that our amount of leads coming in is out of our control, I can tell you right now, it’s not. That’s just one of the B.S. myths we tell ourselves that keeps us playing small. Generating red-hot leads isn’t rocket science or the exclusive rights of other more established businesses around. Instead, I believe that with a little skill, practice, creativity and persistence with our marketing, we can learn to attract a steady flow of dream clients through our doors quick smart.

Image credit: Gabriel Isak

Why a strong tone of voice is the ultimate Tinder turn on for your brand.

Correct grammar AND a witty tone of voice – The biggest turn on, ever. 

Spare me the six pack, body oil and Al Green tunes, my Tinder profile would be all about Merriam Webster approved lingo and dates who know their shit, as opposed to not knowing they’re shit. If you can spin the keyboard decks like Pandora Sykes or Zoe Foster Blake I’ll happily don a white dress, or should I say, take off a white dress. 

Before I get too Fifty Shades of Grey on you, let me relate this back to branding and business.

The thing is, like me, your customers too, want to read prose as smooth as honey and tasty as treacle. As you know, over the last decade ‘branding’ and all that it encompasses has really come into the spotlight. At first, companies started focusing on the idea of branding by simply jazzing up their logos – cue the millions of makeovers from traditional block serif to sexy sans serif, and a complete exodus of intricate illustrations and literal icons. Then, fast forward a few more years and we see this movement morph as companies start taking all visual aspects of their business up a notch – no longer was it okay to have mis-matched fonts, crappy stock imagery and neon gyrating gifs. And now, in 2019?! It’s all about that clever copy and distinct tone of voice. Straight shooting, heartfelt, emotionally engaging, creative, concise, charming, trust-inducing, share-worthy, SEO-genius copy that converts. Right now, I’d say your copy is the difference between a booming business or a business booing.

But, like, no pressure, or anything.

Since the inception of Smack Bang in 2011, I’ve been writing this here ol’ little blog every two weeks, (that was at least until my daughter came into the world and robbed me of my sleep). It’s been an absolute labour of love, super satisfying and at times hard to keep up with (FYI – sleep deprivation and creativity are a match made in hell). But the one thing that I have loved most about this writing commitment is the practice it has granted me in refining my writing skills.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something. I’ve written almost 220 blogs, and at approximately 4 hours each, that makes me not quite yet a master (juuuuust missed my quota by a mere 9,120 hours). However, I do feel the beauty of writing consistently is that over time you begin to distil your process and whilst the blank paper in front of you never gets any less daunting, the practice of storytelling and articulation becomes all the more easier. In my 880 hours, I’ve had a truck load of practice at refining the Smack Bang tone of voice. So much so, I can no longer discern between it and my own personal tone of voice – which, I believe it just as it should be as a founder.

But why is clever copywriting and nailing your tone of voice so important to your business’ bottom line?

Because simply put, copy converts.

The right copy aligned with the right brand builds trust with the right target market. And we all know that trust means loyalty, and that loyalty is the bedrock of a thriving business.

If you use the right copy to help market your business, it can skyrocket your exposure, clarify your offering, catapult your conversion rate and put you on the fast train to the business hall of fame.

The thought of writing something that strangers, and god-forbid, potential customers might read used to make my spleen shiver in fear. But over time and with a hell of a lot of practice, it has now become second nature to me. I’ve written about how to craft the perfect tone of voice before, and even shared with you a book that I think every copy writing marketer needs to read. But today I want to talk about WHY copywriting is so darn important for your brand.

‘Tis true, design captures your audience’s attention, but it’s your tone of voice that keeps them engaged, communicates your viewpoint and forms a lasting connection. At Smack Bang, we like to say ‘Design turns heads and copy turns minds’. After all, design is the heart of your brand, and your writing is the lungs, you need both to keep your brand alive and thriving.

Having a strategic, strong and clear copy guide in place will keep your brand voice from straying into no-man’s land.

Crafting a unique tone of voice means you’ll be talking to the right people – people who work with you, for you and who champion your every move from the sidelines.

Here’s what I know for sure:

  1. Bad copy is bad for business.

    We have all read copy that makes us cringe. It may be hard to put a finger on exactly what it is that makes the copy so bad but nonetheless, a lack of appeal definitely does not go unnoticed. You might have the most resplendent design to have ever graced the Earth, but if you can’t get your words in order, or if your grammar makes your text read like pig latin, then you’ll reap what you sow. A lack of care in the way you are presenting yourself and your business just shows pure unprofessionalism – just ask Trump.

  1. Good copy gets you noticed.

    Good salesmen (and women) are not verbose. They don’t use unnecessary, fancy, extravagant words for the sake of it. They speak like your loving older sister. Clear, kind and confident. You should be able to communicate your copy without the over-the-top embellishment of sale language that’s about as smooth as a bulldog chewing a wasp. Remember, consumers buy products from brands that they connect with on an emotional level and steer clear from brands that they don’t so make sure your copy conveys empathy rather than hard sells.

  1. Clear copy clarifies what you stand for.

    Words bring your brand to life. Building familiarity and trust is crucial to building a successful brand. To keep your loyal supporters loyal and your hard workers working hard, you’ve got to not only gain their trust but keep it. Therefore, you’ve got to practice what you preach. If you’re always banging on about being an eco-conscious sustainable brand, don’t go wrapping your products in layers of plastic while sipping on your Starbucks-mocha-latte just do your best to uphold your values.

  1. Copy gives your brand a human heart.

    People won’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they will always remember how you made them feel. That’s why it’s so important to give your brand a personality that your ideal customer can not only recognise but can relate to on a human level. People love hearing about people – we are one seriously narcissistic species. We want to know they aren’t alone in our struggles, that someone has suffered the same challenges we have and can tell us how they overcame them.

  1. Meaningful copy makes you memorable.

    In a sea of bland and boring content, a distinctive, grabbing voice can make you easily stand out from your competition. Therefore, you’ve got to make it considered and impactful. To quote the father of advertising, David Ogilvy, himself, “Tell the truth but make truth fascinating. You know, you can’t bore people into buying your project. You can only interest them in buying it”. Think about the way you use your words and the impression it makes on everyone who comes in contact with them – meaningful copy will influence and persuade.

  1. To state the obvious, words sell.

    Words hold the power to tell a story and captivate the hearts of many. Once you understand your audiences’ needs, your copy will then convince them that your solution can alleviate their pain most efficiently. At the end of the day, we are not just using language to list our features, or strategically serve up words to encourage your audience to take further action, we want to use copy to help our customers find reasons to fall in love with us. Because after all, all the best stories have a happily ever after.

Image credit: Jessica Walsh

The creative characteristics that will stand the test of time.

The 2000s were a magical time. And by magical, I mean delightfully cringe-worthy. In hindsight, we probably should have realised that our butterfly clips and Ed Hardy shirts should have been filed along with cargo pants, flip phones and our MySpace profiles.

These statement-making culture trends might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but if we’ve learnt anything from the early 2000s it’s that not much can – actually – stand the test of time. This blog goes out in honour of all those cringy, repulsive and downright offensive trends from our formative years and is to be used as a guide for how you can (hopefully) avoid these trends when it comes to your branding.

When we are creating a visual identity, sure we want your brand to be the cool, new kid on the block but we also want that branding to last. As we see trends come and go, fonts that become extremely dated, buttons that have rounded edges, and rebrand attempts that are forever trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Sure everything does date with time and there’s a huge misconception that good design equals “trendy” design. Design, at its core, is simply pulling various elements together to beautifully execute a concept and add meaning to your brand. Whereas, characteristics of good design are typically inspired and influenced by trends. But as we’ve seen time and time again, these aren’t future-proof.

Here, at Smack Bang, we avoid giving in to short-lived fads like it’s the plague. Our style is current but not trend-specific – adding touches of flair through accompanying elements, not to the core design. Your branding is one of the biggest investments you’ll make when starting a business. So please, for the love of all good things, do not forget that. Too often we have people come to us after being burnt from the likes of 99designs or unaccredited freelancers. If you want to ensure your brand will be looking just as good in 10 years as it does today, you need to ensure there are strategy and purpose behind the aesthetics.

But who am I, a mere marketing simpleton, to be schooling you lot of the scope of design?

Fear not. I thought who better to ask than the ladies living in this crazy designer world day-in and day-out. Read on as our talented design team explain the power of executing timeless design.

  1. A little goes a long way

“Less is more, and we believe ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ as Leonardo da Vinci wisely put it, and along with simplicity, longevity is always at the forefront of our minds as we design. We aim to create clean and simple logos, with a slight quirk adding personality, that will stand the test of time. A unique presence for the brand is created in the form of additional design elements that complement the logo. These generate the feel for the brand and can be a little more ‘out there’, touching on trends (maybe in the form of colour) and creating that initial attraction to the brand. As time goes on and brands evolve, these elements are the first to be considered for an update. The logo sits at the core of the brand and remains timeless due to its considered design and simplicity, allowing the brand’s identity to remain strong and untouched as time passes.” – Katie Shepherd, Art Director

  1. Gotta risk it for the biscuit

“I love the saying, ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’ Yes, it pays to know your design principles and systems, and subsequently, why we design a certain way. That way you have a solid foundation to get creative and push the boundaries. Graphic design is coming up to 100 years old and over the decade we’ve worked out what appeals to people from a foundational level, whether it’s the rule of thirds, that ‘golden ratio’ or typographic characteristics, so if you learn where the boundaries are, you can be more strategic with how you push those boundaries.” – Kendall Hubbard, Designer and In-House Photographer.

  1. Provoke a connection

“Create with an adventurous spirit and a desire for authentic connection. Digging deep into the why of a brand is how we begin our branding process, ensuring the bare bones of the branding are thoughtful and authentic. Keeping this initial design stage minimal and well thought out ensures a certain level of timelessness, whilst simultaneously providing an exciting canvas ready for building a beautiful, bold brand.” – Maddie Lumley, Designer.

“A brand that connects to the core of a human need or desire tends to stand the test of time, because as humans, while our surroundings are constantly changing, our core needs and desires for connection, support, and understanding tend to stay pretty consistent. A brand that addresses these needs in relation to the product or business at hand transcends trends and prioritises authenticity instead, which in turn creates something that people want to buy into, at a level that feels deeper than the surface”, Kendall adds.

  1. Design with purpose

“Ultimately, a design that is clever can hold a story and significant meaning behind them. Purposeful design never goes out of style and creating something simple and uncomplicated not gimmicky is important when considering design longevity. It’s when people get too caught up on the aesthetic and trying to make a design purely on the basis that it is ‘cool or current’, that dates and fails with trends as trends have a built-in expiry date. But if the creative holds meaning and purpose while telling a story, your brand is bound to be timeless.” – Sophie McNay, Designer.

  1. Create your own lane

And above all else, in a world where imposter syndrome is riding on every creatives’ back, Sophie raises a point we can not fault, “a level of uniqueness needs to be considered with each and every design. If something is truly unique and individual, more often than not it means it’s not moving with a trend and won’t date. If it holds its own and is individual in its own right it also shouldn’t date too much, as long as it’s still clean, legible and not overcomplicated.”

Now, we only got to skim the surface here, so, we are calling on all you creatives out there. Drop us your go-to tip for timeless design in the comment section below.

Image credit: Jacob Reischel

What makes for a successful brand collaboration?

The art of a successful brand collaboration is like a really comprehensive game of match-making.

Sorry to break it to you (especially if you’ve just swiped right for the last time) but if you’re in the business of well, business, then there’s no escaping the constant search for the ideal partner.

We’re big advocates of two heads being better than one and any (decent) offer of collaboration makes us weak at the knees. There’s real magic to what can be produced with an open mind, a little fairy dust, and a good ol’ fashioned creative collab.

The word collaboration, often used as a buzzword, alongside a pretty loose and cringeworthy definition, but ultimately, it’s a mutually beneficial agreement where both brands bring their audiences together and take advantage of the each other’s success. It’s an effective tool to build the business, boost awareness, and break into new markets as well as introducing something new to your own audience. Here at Smack Bang, we believe it’s people who make a house feel like a home, and who make a workplace not feel like work. So for us, partnerships are an instrument to build our community in order for it to grow and thrive.

In the ultra-competitive world of advertising, brands are always looking for an edge that allows their product or service to stand out amongst the noise – that’s where your friendly neighbourhood collab comes into play.

Now, we could dive into the psychology behind the sneaky marketing ploy that is brand collaboration, but we’d be here all day. So, let’s break this down into a delicious bite-sized snack; On Instagram for example, you follow individuals (and brands) because you enjoy their content, right? Over time this turns into trust, which then turns into brand loyalty and authority. You begin to subconsciously value what they are selling – when they offer you their opinion on another brand or product,  you listen and respect that sentiment. Then, within minutes, you’re stuck in an Instagram hole, aimlessly scrolling through an awesome new feed you’ve ‘stumbled’ across because of this funny little thing called collaboration.

But how does one do this, you ask? Well, read on.

  1. Combine complementary services to enhance your customer experience
    Good partnerships, first and foremost, aim to serve society. So ask yourself; how can this collaboration improve the lives of our audience and enable a more personalised and unique experience? If we throwback to 2014, two innovative brands famously did just that – Uber passengers were given the ability to control the music during their commute via their very own Spotify app. Creating one of the most revolutionary, yet at the crux of it, very straightforward collaborations of our decade.
  2. Create a product that is exclusive to the collaboration
    It’s essential to align with other brands who share the same values and therefore similar customers, this will ensure your connection feels genuine and organic. If there’s one piece of advice you take away from all this, let it be the following; you don’t need to reach a massive amount of people—you just need to reach the right people. Take the clever team at Zulu Zephyr, who as part of their strategy, collaborate with a new brand every year. One that fits the ZZ lifestyle and in turn, create a product that is mutually exclusive to both their audiences. Take their collaboration with Lack of Colour, broadening both their audience and product offering to create a range of bespoke headwear.
  3. Reach a new audience
    What better way to reach a new audience than by harnessing the reputation of another brand? Take a leaf out of GoPro and RedBull’s book. Here we have two world-renowned companies that need not an introduction. Both have established themselves as lifestyle brands – a lifestyle that’s action-packed, adventurous, fearless, and typically pretty extreme. Their shared values make them a perfect match for co-branding campaigns, meaning these two brands are constantly pairing up in order to unite their community and audiences – especially those surrounding action sports.
  4. Combine two current trends together
    Here’s another hot tip for you; the consumer owns this world and holds the ultimate power, and reacting and moving at their speed is a fundamental pillar to success. Trends come and go in what seem like fleeting moments, so knowing when to capitalise on them is one mighty hard task. For example, combining the magic and whimsicality of Tess Guinery’s poetic and visual brand with linen brand Dazed but Amazed is genius. Through this collaboration, they were able to create the ultimate bedding experience for their audiences.
  5. Create of a revolutionary idea
    Here, we’re talking about a product or service that can only come to fruition through the means of collaboration. We’ve got a golden example lined up for you. Hint: it’s something you’re using on a daily basis and smaller than a phone, rectangular in shape and most likely sitting in your pocket as we speak. Any takers? No one? Did I see a hand up in the back? Well, folks, we’re talking about ApplePay. A once unimaginable collaboration between Apple and MasterCard that birthed a concept that the majority of us would be lost without – okay that’s a tad hyperbolic, but you get what we’re getting out.
  6. Create work on a different medium that showcases your work and values
    We’re now about to land in a brand paradox – brace yourselves. We’re a creative agency who has a strong focus on digital design. But it’s safe to say we are still print enthusiasts at heart. Typically all our work is displayed and engaged with online with consumers viewing it all via a little black box. Until, last year, we decided to create a print magazine. For us, Baskk is just an extension of the SBD brand, a tangible way in which the team can pour our lifestyle principles of living consciously, creatively and in connection with those around us.
  7. Create a new and memorable experience
    Ahh, Glossier, the beauty brand who can honestly do no wrong. Earlier in the year, the cult brand opened a pop-up within a San Fransisco fried-chicken shop (bear with us here)… Although this doesn’t sound very on brand, this place oozed all things Glossier. From pastel pink walls to old school diner bar stools. If you are looking to capture the famously short attention spans of millennials, take a page from Glossier’s book. Consumers are constantly making the switch to experiences over objects. Why? The best way to trigger your brand in your audience’s minds is to allow them to experience it all first-hand. Plus, who doesn’t love a good ‘gram opp?

Image Credit: Bruna Kazinoti

In conversation with Vert Design.

If you’re anything like us, when you first heard the term industrial design you were a little stumped. And even after some heavy Googling, with the current rate of growth and change within the industry it’s near impossible to get clarity on the definition.

So we thought, who better to answer all your burning questions than Andrew Simpson, the founder and director of Sydney based studio, Vert Designs. Andrew’s approach to design is open and honest. With a heavy emphasis on experimental design, Vert is constantly evolving in their practice, running various self-initiated projects alongside their client work which has resulted in several sustainable materials innovations made from waste.

From a young age, Andrew had a keen eye for design and creation. Throughout school he would spend his spare time creating just about anything; from making boats, surfboards, skateboards, constructing chairs and building various boxes. Nearly 15 years and hundreds of projects later, we sat down to chat to Andrew about the importance of striking a balance between beauty, functionality, sustainability and commerciality in order to create thoughtful designs with intention and purpose.

How do you define industrial design?

There are some many definitions of industrial design and it is probably getting harder to define as the scope of what industrial designers do grows and changes. It used to be that industrial design was designing products for industry hence the name. For a time the best definition of industrial design might have been the intersection of art and engineering. I would say for many industrial designers today that industrial design is a process more than an outcome, I have been hearing the term post artefact to describe the transition of industrial designers into services and design thinking. I describe what we do by saying we design things that are not buildings so I guess in am not yet post artefact.

Can you talk us through your career trajectory – when did you discover there could be a job such as yours, and that you wanted it / were well suited to it?

If I look back I can see that I was a natural industrial designer at  high school, I excelled at woodwork, design and technology and Engineering science but more importantly, I had a love of making, I would (and still do) spend my time after school making boats, surfboards, skateboards and at lunchtime I would get the teachers to let me use the woodwork studios to make boxes and chairs. I was lucky that my parents had been university teachers early in their own career and had ended up touting a group of industrial designers at what in now UTS if it was not for this chance experience I would never have known that Industrial design was a possibility or that it would be such a good fit for me. I started studying at the University of Newcastle and transferred to UTS after a year. I ended up doing a 5-year degree. While I was in first year I got a part-time job at a glass studio first as a cold worker then as a hotshop assistant and finally as a glass designer. Working in the glass studio was one of the best things I ever did it gave me a solid foundation in understanding form and manufacturing processes. Glass is both transparent and reflective and it is often the distortion of the light that lets us read the form, making it a great teacher for a young designer.

Is there one common intention behind all your creations?

I would be dishonest to say there is one common intention behind our design approach but I definitely have a strong philosophy that underpins all my work. One way to view design is as simply the solving of problems. In this view, it is the problems that we choose to solve that become important. The problems that I think are worth solving really form the bases of my design philosophy. In its simplest form, this would be: is it honest, is it sustainable, is it meaningful to people?

How important is it to strike a balance between beauty, functionality, sustainability and commerciality? Are they all equal considerations for Vert?

This is a great question, beauty, function, commercial viability and sustainability are equally important. We are designers, not artists and we operate very much in the commercial world, designs that can not be made or are unaffordable to there audience are just as bad as ugly things that don’t work.

Goods design provides 3 benefits to a user, it has a

  • Functional benefit (allow or perform some action)
  • Emotional benefit (allow for the focus or change in the way we feel)
  • Cognitive benefit (is understandable and explainable)

Is your work just as much about psychology as technology?

Our design process is the is literally the movement between human needs (cultural relevance, ergonomics, product semantics, needs) and industrial requirements (material, engineering, manufacturing systems and processes). We use the two requirements to inform each other.

Do you have a set of criteria to determine whether you do or don’t take something on for a client?

We really only take on projects where we are going to add value. Sometimes industrial design does not bring value or help people with their goals. We also don’t work on single-use plastic products.

What different experts and professionals do you work with to bring a product to life?

We work a lot with makers both at a craft scale and at an industrial scale. We work with glass blowers, woodturners, plaster, injection moulders, toolmakers, carbon fibre experts, universities, photographers, jewellers, cardboard engineers, welders, fitters, turners, boilermakers, boat builders, architects, CNC operators, extruders, physiologists, doctors, surgeons, dentists, polymer chemists, vets, farmers, agronomists, neuroscientists, 3d printers, mechatronic engineers, fluid dynamics engineers , rocket scientists…… it is the most fun part of our job, we get to work with everyone.

Vert work on a 70/30 model of external vs. internal projects. What inspires what you choose to work on for yourselves at any given time?

We really just follow what interests us, lately, we have been working in waste fabrics but also in carbon fibre. When you are interested in something it does not feel like work and you are more open to the opportunities.

It seems most of Vert‘s personal projects are environmentally conscious at their heart. What role do you see industrial design playing in shaping our future?

Most of our internal projects are material based explorations, we use the outcomes from these experiments to derisk client projects. Sustainability nearly always means change and change adds risk to projects. By experimenting we can help reduce the risks and allow for more sustainable outcomes.

Do you feel designers have a special responsibility in what they put out into the world?

This was a leading question and yes, product designers have a huge responsibility. In its simplest form, we have a responsibility to make sure the designs we produce are worth the resources they consume and are better than what preceded them. We claim progress, not perfection and use ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ as a filter to our sustainable practice.

Do you have a favourite medium to work with at the moment?

I am enjoying glass again, Vert Design started in glass but we had been doing less and less glass design and production over the years. In April I completed a 5-week Churchill fellowship researching glass design and production and it has rekindled my love.

Give us your most challenging and best brief to cross your desk as well as one you’re especially proud of.

The hardest brief we ever get goes something along the lines of “we have a new machine/material, what should we make with it”  these briefs are the hardest because they don’t give us a point of empathy. We can produce meaningful outcomes out of these briefs but they take a lot more work for us to get to the good stuff.

The best briefs we get start for a user observation or flesh out more of the why of the product. I guess it is a little overplayed now but Simon Sinek’s ‘Why, How, What’ is a great rule of thumb for a product design brief.

It would have to be the Huskee cups, they represent our practice so well, simple, good design that reduces waste in its use and consumes waist in its production.

What is the key ingredient in creating an object that breaks the mould?

We use moulds in our products so “break the mould” is not an analogy that we often use. To make would class work we need to have an empathetic insight into a real problem that is describable. If we can get this right our process allows the rest to fall into place. Another way of saying the same thing is that innovation comes from asking new questions and the type of questions we ask form the nature of the problems we solve. Having the right vantage point lets us ask the right questions. We are after elegance and simplicity, not novelty

Where will we see Vert’s work out in the world this year?

We have just finished the street furniture for the new Sydney Metro that is rolling out. I am quite proud of the bubblers and the station benches. We also have some experimental glass work that is showing as part of AGM down in Melbourne.

Staying inspired.

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

Sometimes, I want to fake my own death and move to The Bahamas. I feel sluggish, lethargic and about as uninspired as a kid in a mortgage broker’s office.

Creativity is a fickle thing. And we often feel the furthest from it at approximately 3:14pm when all our energy has been sucked dry from a lunchtime meeting and a morning spent preparing for it. If your never-ending to-do list is putting the fire out on your creative spirit, you need to have a set of jump-start leads at the ready to ignite your creative process again.

When you work for yourself, there comes a point where you have, in fact, created a job of your own making. You’ve settled down into your routines, settled into the pattern of busy times and not-so-busy times, and you aren’t as freaked that you’ll never get another client again (but sure are grateful when you do!) You’ve systemised things so that you’re ahead of the curve and feeling the flow.

And not only are your responsible for balancing the books, rallying the troops, paying the people and keeping the plants alive (literally), but you’re also responsible for your own wellbeing and ensuring that your mental health is solid enough to keep carrying you forward.

When you’ve got the head-full-of-cotton feeling, it’s always good to find some inspiration to fill you back up again. It’s time to get re-inspired. Get off social media and into something worthwhile. Find a podcast that makes you laugh, pick up an old faithful book that you know does the trick, head to your local newsagent to score a good mag, or wander through the streets to soak up the creative energy floating about.

If you are committed to sticking with your dream through thick and thin, then I have some good news for you: it’s entirely possible to get the fire back.

Here’s my list of top tips to set fire to your biz in the best way possible.

  1. Set some fresh goals, stat.
    Goals are a force to be reckoned with, when we list them out, we start to have a burning vision to see them come to pass. Every few weeks, I take time to sit down and devour inspiration from a number of sources. I read books, I listen to podcasts, I cyber-stalk my idols, I churn through magazines, and I walk along the beach just taking it all in. Taking time to brainstorm and refocus your energy can be incredibly satisfying and inspiring, as well as produce an instant spark. Write them down, say them out loud, meditate on them, and begin to self-actualise all the exciting new goals you’ve set for yourself.If you need to get other people in the room, hold a brainstorming session over lunch with your team. Refresh their dreams, the company goals and point back towards the overarching vision. All while eating donuts.
  2. Create!
    Get off those emails and turn back to your first love: creating! Conduct a photoshoot, listen to a podcast, write something that’s on your mind, paint, draw, douse yourself in glitter. Create a workspace that’s worthy of your best work. Keep it tidy, keep it pretty, make it green, and make sure there’s always epic tunes playing. While you’re at it, have some fun freshening up your copy and your images. Reflect on whether your current website accurately depicts the current you, and evolve accordingly.As you take a creative detour, let your people know that you’re still alive, but are merely taking a form of sabbatical to get those juices flowing again.
  3. Invest in you.
    Check out an event, take a course, see a musical, watch a film, attend a conference, meet with your mentor. Take time out for yourself to immerse yourself in things that will inspire and refresh you!If it’s a holiday you need, then flipping book one! Make sure you’re positioning yourself in the exact right place you need to be in order to bounce back like those tiny bouncy balls that used to drive your mum crazy when you were a child.
  4. Rework your spending.
    Feeling flat? Chuck a Regina George and take the gang shopping. Retail therapy is a wondrous thing, but we’re talking rebranding. Put your money where your mouth is when it comes to your brand, and attract all those magical people you’ve been so passionately chasing.Meanwhile, critically analyse your current spending. Where is all that money going? Pointless subscriptions? Overheads you could eliminate? Where are the holes where your money is bleeding from? Cutting the fat from your spending means more money for exciting things like millennial pink walls and delicious g trees. Make it rain inspiring, beautiful, attractive branding!

To continue reading and get access to another 4 hot tips to get your creative juices flowing, download our ebook and head to chapter 3.

P.s. To encourage some positive new financial year resolutions, for a limited time only, we’re bundling together the ultimate entrepreneurial bundle to offer you a healthy balance of inspiration and practical application. Saving over $50, you’re not going to want to miss out on this!

Image credit: Joost Termeer

The anatomy of great content.

Pop quiz. What is the goal of any content? To get it seen, read, loved and shared. Duh.

Now let’s agree on another thing from the get go, creating engaging content takes time, perseverance and loads of gusto. It’s a long, hard road, and to be honest, one that has no final destination. In order to reap the benefits of great content, you need to be creative, consistent and committed to the cause.

But why does content matter? How do I go about creating it? Will my business die a painful death if I don’t? And will I win a Nobel Prize if I nail it?

Well, no, we can’t all win Nobel Prizes every day, but what I can promise you is this.

Creating killer content will propel your brand forward, win you some serious street-cred amongst your following and give you a gold star as a bonafide expert in your field. In a nutshell, you’ll hit that sweet spot like Julia Stiles does in the paintball scene of 10 Things I Hate About You, where life is great, her smile is a 10, and she hasn’t yet found out that Heath has been lying to her this whole time.

With the expanse of this thing we call the internet and the many many new businesses popping up, there are mountains upon mountains of mediocre content landfill out there, unless your content is creative, relevant and unique, it’s just added pollution.

The good news is, in this crazy clicking-tweeting-poking world of ours, relevant and engaging content travels faster than my mother to an episode of Grand Designs. Hence why smart companies the world over, are tapping into this epidemic and spoon-feeding their audience killer content to heighten awareness, foster brand loyalty and drive their bottom line. If you simply know and practice the things that create quality content every time, you can’t help but please your audience and win new friends left, right and centre.

I read the other day that between 60-70% of consumers feel better about a company that delivers original content and are more likely to buy from that company than others. So, if you were still questioning whether or not to create your own stuff, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

I’ve seen first-hand how creating original content can transform both a business and its bottom line. Ever since focusing my energy on content creation and curation for Smack Bang many moons ago, I’ve noticed the impact it has had on our brand awareness, customer loyalty, and even our bottom line. It still surprises me that each time we put out a new piece of content, whether it’s a blog, a newsletter, an Instagram post, or a jet plane message in the sky (we’ve never done that, but we will), we see a spike in our interaction and more often than not, our new business enquiries. It’s this ability to weave our brand culture into every single facet of our business that gives our audience, (and potential customers), a look into our world, a spark of connection and a genuine reason to get in touch with us.

A quick disclaimer; I don’t just write and publish content for this reason. I do it because I hand-on-heart genuinely love it. I love writing, I love sharing and I love using it as a platform to connect with loads of like-minded people. And connect I do.

Creating content has become one of my main focuses of my role. I pour countless hours and drink countless coffees to produce everything you see the Smack Bang Gang deliver. I write, I post, I publish and I track our stats like a kid counting their eggs from an Easter hunt.

So, how do you go about creating your own killer content? Well, let’s first begin with what actually makes a piece of content. You my friend, are about to get schooled in the bizniz of telling stories. And quick tip up front: whatever story you’re writing, make it original and compelling, the cross section of this is where the magic is made.

    The precise moment between drinking the strongest coffee you can find and putting fingers to keyboard, have a think about the purpose of this piece of content you’re creating. Is it to provide a new perspective? Solve a customer’s problem? Show off a certain aspect of your business? Or are you just blasting out an improvised cat meme hoping that if your Aunt Sue reposts it, it will go Bieber viral?
    Pinning down your purpose means jumping in your customer’s shoes for a second – listening to their problems and responding with timely, targeted and relevant content.
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record (not that any of us know what that sounds like anymore), people don’t like to do business with brands, they like to do business with people. Killer content harnesses your humanity. Each piece of content you create should have a fair whack of you injected into it. Don’t just skim the surface of a topic and regurgitate info that Wikipedia could have said better. Dig deep and provide a personal perspective, written from your heart. By doing this, you’ll lift your reader out of their ordinary world and invite them in to see yours.
    With every man and his MacBook Pro jumping on the content bandwagon, it’s important, now more than ever, to spin a good yarn. We are living in an age where customers crave more than just flashy features, a jazzed-up catchphrase and will no longer respond to a toothy grinned salesman in a suit. Being ‘sold to’ is so 1990. Today’s customer wants to buy into a lifestyle, a perception, and a philosophy. Sell them the story, and in return, they will want the thing.
    When I first started creating content I would sit down, consult my magical crystal ball and tap out a compilation of words that I thought sounded ‘chic-nerd’, hit publish and call it a blog post. Here I was thinking I was a ‘blogger’ but in actual fact, I was just a hot mess with a thesaurus and a WordPress login. I was adding absolutely no value to anyone’s life. Not even my Mum’s, and that’s saying something. Take the time to think about how your content will add value to your customer’s lives in a meaningful way. The end goal is for them to walk away with newfound knowledge, a thirst for more and an appreciation for you and your brand.
    Consistently produced content is the difference between a one night stand and a long-term relationship. It is the great divider and the ultimate checkmate of killer content. Consistency breeds connection and inspires loyalty. Avoid being the Eiffel65 one-hit wonder (Blue Da Ba De, much?), and instead become the reliable friend and familiar voice, the one they grow to love and trust. Believe me, this ongoing recognition is a powerful thing.
    And last but certainly not least, write your own g-damn story. Being authentic means writing from the heart and telling your own story, not a story that you found, loved and ripped from a web page. A few years ago, I came across an article online that was a word for word rip off of one of my recent posts. At first, I was gobsmacked, not only because of the next-level plagiarism but also at how freaking unlucky this girl was for me to find it? I mean, in the huge labyrinth of online content and the miles of blogs I could have stumbled across, I came across hers! Unlucky for her, but fury-inducing for me. She had quite literally ripped my entire blog post that was littered with personal references about my journey as a business owner – even the one about selling belly button dusters at the age of 5! C’mon girlfriend, you, me and the rest of the world know only one kid was weird enough to do that.

Image credit: Felix Schöppner

Nailing your branding

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

We all have that one friend populating our Insta-feed with seriously perfect, immaculate and downright envy-inducing imagery. Whether it’s an Amalfi throwback, a play-by-play of outfit inspo or some snap-happy moments from a sunshine-filled Saturday, you can always count on them to curate a perfectly cohesive and aesthetically-delectable feed.

She’s the gal with the perfect home, the knack for landing the perfect outfit and the always bouncy, always shiny hair. Her entire feed is like a perfectly glazed donut, beautiful both to look at and to ravenously consume. Meanwhile, you watch from your stained couch, hair in a topknot, surrounded by yesterday’s toast crumbs. She somehow manages to pull off the perfect life with not only a smile on her dial, but the most well-dressed toddler in tow. She is a picture of perfection. Her entire look, a carefully crafted brand.

There is no doubt that we’re living in an age of aesthetic, where our success and worthiness is measured on our presentation, both online and IRL. We live in a world where people are moved by looks first and function second. Even people who have no business, or interest in business are building themselves a brand. The very act of sharing our lives, our stories and our selfies is building a personal brand, whether we like it or not.

To say ‘branding’ is the buzzword of the century is a gross understatement. It’s almost as prominent as the phrase ‘fake news’ on Trump’s daily Twitter meltdown.

And there’s good reason for this. Businesses are popping up left right and centre. Nowadays, it’s never been easier to catch yourself an ABN and set up the most basic of business ideas on the internet.

Back when the store only carried one type of flour, brand wasn’t so important. But now, with the utter dominance of the internet in every facet of our lives, we as consumers are exposed to endless choice. The supermarket is an overwhelming place, why? Because we walk in and are instantly hurled with multiple iterations of the exact same product all screaming for our attention. It’s like walking into a room full of cute puppies, only the supermarket products aren’t cute, furry and we don’t even want to take them home.

Creating and building brands is my obsession-slash-divine calling and, joyously, also my daily 9-5. Over the last 6 years of running Smack Bang I have had the honour of building quite literally hundreds of brands. I am so entrenched in the world of branding, I swear to god sometimes I catch myself wondering how to leverage my dog’s name into the world, and all the clever and fun ways I’d go about doing it. Oh, if I had the time.

When you are building a business, no matter if you’re setting out to be the next Amazon or a solo one-man-band, one of the most critical areas of focus is creating a brand identity – that is, who your company is and what it stands for. And I’m not just saying this because I’m biased and currently sitting in a branding studio with 15 other total brand geeks. Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that branding is the single most important thing you can do, outside of figuring out what your business model is. In fact, figuring out your brand DNA should arguably be your first order of business – before any products stock the shelves or Insta stories are shared to the masses. It will bring value to your backend and your bottom line.

Your brand identity is a necessary component to helping your business grow because your business identity encapsulates what your business stands for. It’s the purpose, the mission, the look, the feel, the tone and the voice of your company. It’s the determinant of how the audience will perceive you. So many people make decisions about the name, the logo and the colours they use so casually. They are forgetting that each of these decisions should come from the brand identity. There is a science and an art to it. And without it, you will have a difficult time really building your business.

So, building a brand hey… sounds simple enough, right? But it’s layered with complexities. Your brand is your business, and your business is your brand. It’s an all-encompassing entity and a complete manifestation of your business’s values, goals and mission. It’s the catalyst that sparks the emotions you want your customers to experience. It is your true compass – guiding every decision you make, from what design aesthetics you use to the tone of your Instagram feed to the employees that you bring on to be part of your team.

It’s a gigantic, inconceivably tricky ball of tangled jewellery to unravel. But from my perspective, branding can be boiled down to a simple notion:

Branding is the story you tell and the story you sell.

Your brand is the narrative you weave to show people who you are, what you stand for and how you can improve your customers’ lives. It’s the way you position yourself in the market, the way your customers perceive you and the reputation you create for yourself. Your brand is your way of communicating to the world, and to your customers, who you are and just as importantly, who you are not.

A successful brand knows what it is, knows why it’s different and knows why people want it.

But what does a brand do for a small business like yours? And how is building a brand going to change your bottom line?

Well here’s the thing, a brand story isn’t just a valuable marketing asset, it’s also a brand’s guiding principles and impacts every facet of the organisation. In other words, it’s not just a marketing message, it’s also your sales pitch, your guiding compass and a roadmap for your A Team. Branding provides a platform for connection — both with your customers and your suppliers/employees. It allows them to see you for who you really are and therefore allows you to attract the right people into your biz.

So where do you start? What are the guidelines to this process? How do you know you are doing it effectively?

Building a brand is not something that should be rushed. It takes time, a lot of thought, and a lot of soul searching (hemp pants not compulsory). You need to dig deep to get to know yourself, know your audience, the reason why your brand exists and to think long and hard about your future.

When a client waltzes into our Smack Bang studio ready and raring to brand themselves a new Richard Branson-esque empire, we start with the million dollar question, “Who are you?” This question can be either simple or complex, depending how philosophical you want to get and how in touch you are with your existential side.

So how do you figure out who you are, and blend that with the business you want to be known for, even if you’re the type of quirky human who really enjoys plucking the feathers out of your cushions and planting them in the yard? We put together a few thoughts to get your wheels in motion…

To continue reading and get access to another 12 of our favourite tools of the trade that will save your life, download our ebook and head to chapter 3.

Image credit: Panos Moesis

20 things nobody told me about running a business

The only place busier than a business owner’s calendar is Heathrow airport. And even then I have my doubts.

On any given day, there are meetings to attend, HR issues to deal with, never-ending emails to reply to, taxes to pay, supplies to order, unpaid invoices to follow up and insurances to update. Sorry, I was so bored typing that I just fell asleep.

It’s no secret that running a business is bloody hard work. My partner always tells me that ‘At the rate I’m going, by 30 I’ll either be retired or dead.’ Let’s hope he’s right about the former and not the latter…

Despite the shelves of self-help books, online tutorials, countless Saturdays at the studio, and teaching myself everything I possibly could about HTML, there were just some things that weren’t covered in the 2011 edition of Business for Dummies.

I had to fall flat on my face to procure a ‘PHD in biz survival’.

Being your own boss comes with steep learning curves, and most young, growing businesses don’t offer you the luxury of time to figure it all out. I’d love to tell you that there’s a magical secret to running your own show with ease and grace without you ever needing to lift a finger. How great would it be, to just press a button (so technically you’d have to lift one finger), then just sit back and watch your sole purpose in life come to fruition in front of you. But alas, I don’t have that secret, or the button.

Before you start to slowly back out of the room and into a dark corner armed with Netflix and vino, here’s the deal: I’m just scratching the surface with this whole business ‘thang’, and I don’t claim to know everything. But, in the interest of your sanity, here’s some of what I do know now and what I wished I knew earlier. Experience is the best teacher out there, so my retrospective glance will hopefully deliver some insight for some of you.

    It is far too easy to find yourself doing the hampsterdance on a treadmill, unable to get off. Spend too long on the treadmill and you’ll risk looking 10 years your senior, landing yourself a stomach ulcer and/or quite possibly losing your mind. One lesson I’ve learned the hard way – if you’re tired, there’s a reason. Honour it and address the fatigue.
    Your inbox will explode. Not in a good way. You’ll most likely spend 20% of the time doing what you love and 80% of the time with your head buried inside your inbox replying to emails. I respond to most of my emails in a timely manner, but to be honest, I leave certain non-urgent emails sitting in my inbox for days, even weeks before I send a personal response. Why? Because my time is better spent creating and doing the things I love. Simple really.
    You will have moments of self doubt and overwhelming anxiety. Moments of “What the hell was I thinking?” and “Why didn’t I settle for my cushy job brewing coffee on a weekend?” There’s been times when I’ve wanted to quit, escape to a solitary farm somewhere in the middle of no-where and self-medicate with pot brownies, because hey, that seems way easier than running my own show. But that’s exactly when you need to pull yourself together, mix yourself a stiff drink and remember the bigger picture of why you do what you do.
    I’m actually serious about this point. Skimming your eyes through important emails, checking your Instagram analytics, answering a bazillion questions, woofing down yet another meal at your desk, frantically meeting a deadline whilst planning your best friend’s bloody baby shower… and before you know it you’re blue in the face and your heart is working over time. Just stop. And breathe. You’re allowed to breathe.
    I have a Type A personality and I’m pretty darn organised so for me, writing to-do lists is as easy as colour coordinating my wardrobe or filing the files on my desktop. I consider time management to be up there on my list of defining traits. But for the love of all things good and holy, I cannot and will not ever manage to fit everything I would like to do in a 24 hour day. Full-stop. My main coping mechanism is to accept this fact, break each day down into digestible, bite-sized goals, and celebrate the little wins each and every day.
    It’ll hit you when you least expect it. You go to bed wired, and you wake up tired. Your eyes are glazed over, your shoulders sag under the weight of the world and your brain fogs up like your windshield on a misty morning. No amount of caffeine can bring you out of this harrowing pit of cumbersome lethargy. Sometimes, you’re so tired, even your tired is tired. And coffee just won’t cut it. You need a goddamn holiday. Call the travel agent stat.
    Running your own show is like riding a roller coaster that doesn’t stop. The Devil’s fire pit burns below and pink unicorn clouds float above you. I’ve had some of the highest highs and the happiest moments I can remember whilst running Smack Bang. You eventually learn to ride the ebbs and flows with grace and Zen.
    Back when I was just setting out on this dream, I believed with every fiber of my naive, go-gettin’ heart that my work ethic, talent, skills and unwavering determination would allow me to blast through a couple of years of hard work and come out the other end sipping on Sangria and changing my name to Rancho Relaxo. But the thing about running your own show, or in some people’s case, shows, is that there is always more to do. Nope, you’ll never reach the finish line, but you can employ some tactics to help keep you going on the marathon.
    What?! That statement in itself is enough to make you voyage to Coles on autodrive and pick up a litre of vanilla Connoisseur to wallow in the sadness. But your job is simple: create solutions, and know who you’re creating them for. As Kermie the Frog once said, “Maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you, you know? Maybe you just need one person.” Trying to convert the peeps who aren’t your peeps is a losing battle. Find your clan of peeps and love ‘em sick. Then watch ‘em love ya right back.
    Um, excuse me? It’s a hard pill to swallow, but an important one: you will make crappy decisions. Ones that will end with you in a pile of salty tears on the ground swearing at your loved ones. The best things about epic mistakes? The learning curve they afford you. This constant refinement and sharpening of your skills as you ‘live and learn’ serves to better your processes, your services and your product. Yes, you will fail, but you’ll also get up the next day, you’ll face your staff with a smile, write your next post, create your next offering, and answer your inbox with yet another lesson learned under your belt.
    I know you just want to spend all your days making hipster burnt-sage-scented hair wax, or crocheted baby bloomers for Etsy, or sewing your entire collection of Star Wars costumes for kids parties, or writing your choose your own ending vegan recipe book. Who doesn’t! However, if you don’t spend some serious time marketing yourself, you will not be able to pay your rent. Massive bummer. Become educated in the nuances of marketing; how to promote your brand and sell your product. Take a course, read a book (or ten), talk to everyone, become a student. Your product or service won’t sell itself, no matter how snazzy your design or slogan.
    Your business will require you to grow – to grow up, to grow out, to grow tall. You might find that you outgrow some of the people in your life, and that’s okay. Not everyone is meant to take this journey with you and not everyone will want to. You’ll make new friendships and they’ll be just as amazing for this period of your life.
    People you know will assume you are rich because you run your own show. People will also think that because you run your own show, you have no boss, which is completely wrong – you have many. Your bills are your boss, and your clients are your priority. Their needs are your driving force. That black Range Rover Evoque might have to wait a couple more years.
    Almost every lunch will be gobbled up while sitting in front of your screen, or in the back of an Uber. You’ll sometimes scoff down an entire meal and not even take a moment to consider what it tastes like. Mindful eating has been on my New Year’s resolution list since I started the business in 2011, and I have a slight suspicion it will be making an appearance on 2017s list too. What is life? And what is food? So many questions.
    Next time you pass a mirror, take a moment to stop and tell your reflection that you’re a dead set legend. Sometimes that’s the only affirmation you’ll feel like you’re receiving, and often you won’t even believe the words coming out of your own mouth. Time and time again you’ll run into fears, insecurities, limitations, excuses and inefficiency, and it’s too flipping easy to grovel in a deep well of self-loathing if you don’t snap out of it and get a bloody grip. Channel your mum and become your own biggest fan.
    There’s no such thing as a 4-Hour Work Week. As much as I love the concepts outlined in Tim’s book, if I were to work a 4-hour working week I would have to become a hell of a lot more accustomed to Mi Goreng noodles and tinned spaghetti. Tim, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
    Yes, even that entrepreneurial dude you know that seems to run such a tight ship – he needs a stiff drink every time he has to lodge his BAS as well, don’t you worry. Please know that you are certainly not the only one muddling through it all and positively sweating bricks on the inside. Find people on the same path as you who are just as simultaneously talented and clueless, and share a laugh over both the struggles and the victories.
    Working from sunup to sundown is sometimes what it takes to get it done. Working 70 hour weeks for two and a half years it what it took to get Smack Bang going. Whilst I don’t condone those kind of work hours forever, I do acknowledge that business requires sheer dedication and a real hunger for action. If you’re young and full of fire, channel it into hard work. If you’ve got a family or other important responsibilities, you will need to juggle accordingly. We all have different capacities at different times in life!
    Notorious B.I.G was right, more money = more problems. As your business grows and you become more profitable, taxes get more complicated and more extreme. And ouchie-mumma it hurts to pay it! The ATO have their hands in your pockets and will eat you alive from the inside out. My one piece of advice here is to hire an accountant who is as boss with money, as Bieber is with bowl cuts.
    Technology is a real bitch sometimes. It will fail on you when you need it most and leave you for dead when all you need to do is send the goddamn file. When Wifi says that it’s connected, it doesn’t always mean that it is (why lie, Wi-fi??). I still swear at my screen daily and I’m cool with that, it just means I care about being productive. People all over the world are hurling insults at their screens, and I figure it’s better to take out my frustrations on inanimate objects rather than living, breathing humans!

Running your own show is hard work. And to be honest, after eight years it hasn’t gotten all that much easier… I’ve just gotten better at dealing with it. And you know what’s funny? I choose to do it all over again, every single day. Here I am eight years into the Smack Bang dream, with a few business babies under my belt and a brand new real life baby in my arms this year. I’m on the precipice of more work than ever, and I’m purely focussing on the bright spots. The wins. The hell yeah’s. The this-is-worth-it’s. Because it’s not all bad right? Out of the bajillion things in the business world that you cannot control, you can control how you perceive things.

Onwards and upwards.

In the words of Kahlil Gibran, “Your work is your love made visible.”
“To students considering joining or creating a startup for the glory, I’d tell them that there are easier ways to make money,” he continues. “If you want to reach new levels of freedom, do it. If you want to truly find out where your breaking point is, do it. If you want to remove the ceiling on your potential, do it. If you want to help change what it means to be a working human being in the 21st century, do it.”

Image credit: María Esme del Río

The single biggest reason why brands flop

When I was in year 6, we were allocated Kindergarten buddies to look after. Before their school year started, we were asked to write them a letter welcoming them. Now, most of my peers typed something up, set it in comic sans, and maybe, if they were feeling creative, added one of those cool palm-tree borders off Microsoft word. Me? I spent a whole Saturday hand-painting envelopes in rainbow watercolours. It took me about 10 goes and hours of work, because the colours kept running into each other, but I would do it over and over again until it was perfect.

My family also used to be puzzle people. We’d do landscapes, animals, you name it. Once, we did an Olympic Games one, that featured 20 of the most popular Olympic posters of all time. When we were finished, it got framed and hung in our lounge room. As a 10-year-old, I would often go down and just look at it, cause I LOVED IT.

It’s things like this that I look back on and think, yeah, I was probably always meant to be a designer. I mean, what 10-year-old likes looking at 70s typography? I don’t think I’d be as successful or as happy if I wasn’t working in a career that stemmed from weird 10-year-old hobbies.

The single biggest reason brands flop? Because their founders don’t start the brand from their heart.

Nike? Started by a track athlete and his coach.

Facebook? A kinda anti-social guy who wanted some friends.

Weight Watchers? “An overweight housewife with a self-confessed obsession for eating cookies,” (Google’s words, not mine).

Seeing a theme? Passion = Success. Apathy = flop.

So, if you want to be the brand that is the un-flop, the un-bomb, the un-fizzleout maybe it’s time to #justdoyouboo

Know who you are, or who you want to be

You’re never gonna be happy if you’re trying to build something that someone else has. Your brand has got to come from you (or in the weight watches ladies case, what you want to be).

“It’s just a job” has got to go

Entrepreneurship is a 24/7 (more like 25/8) job. If you start your brand thinking you’re going to be able to clock off at 5 pm and not think about it until 9 am the next day, you’re kidding yourself. But, if you have passion and heart for what you’re doing this won’t be a burden, it’ll be motivating.

Put some gasoline on the fire

I would put millions of dollars (if I had it) on the fact that no-one wakes up every. Single. Day 100% pumped on life, work and their business. Life happens, and passion waynes. But fires can be re-built, they’ve just gotta be looked after. If you wish you had that just-started-out glint in your eye and unshakeable faith maybe you need some good old inspiration. If Tony Robbins isn’t quite your cup of tea, look to industry events, podcasts, what makes you come alive and get that passion stirred again.

It’s doing things from the heart that means even on the day’s that aren’t great – you still don’t want to quit it all and move to Europe because deep down, at the core of it all, you love what you do and the brand you’ve built. For me, even when clients are being a punish or I wish I just worked at Maccas, I remind myself that I kinda paint rainbow envelopes for a living, and that’s pretty cool.

Image Credit: Brian Khek

11 Ways to ‘Work Smarter Not Harder’

There are a few idioms that have only ever made about 5-10% sense in my head since day dot of hearing them, but I’ve never really thought long or hard enough about what they actually mean.

For example:

No use crying over spilt milk.

Feeling under the weather.

Wouldn’t be caught dead.

And that ever-so-puzzling adage,

Work smarter not harder.

I’ve spent the last 29 years of my life, not only nodding my head graciously when people use these phrases and pretending like I know what they mean, but heck, sometimes these words have even escaped my own mouth with no freaking clue what the hell I’m talking about.

In particular, I struggle with the last one, ‘Work smarter not harder’. Okay sure, sounds great in theory but how exactly do I work smarter, not harder? It has had me baffled for years. I get the theory behind it and absolutely do my best to put it into practice, but today I’m on a mission to break it down once and for all.

What I’ve come to learn is the phrase ‘work smarter’ means something different for everyone depending on their definition of success and progress – but, one thing we all agree on is that working smarter means getting more value out of the hours that you put in. Kinda like going to an all you can eat buffet. You pay the same price regardless of how much you eat, so you may as well stuff your face ‘til you’re moderately to excruciatingly uncomfortable in your own clothes.

This means leveraging our own time, effort and money, prioritising our own needs, outsourcing help, cutting our losses, and building upon strengths in an intentional manner to advance ourselves in the direction we choose. In other words, working smart essentially means figuring out how to reach your goals in the quickest and most economical way possible. Think a combination of Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss and your mum’s house cleaning abilities on a Saturday morning.

Here are some ways I’ve recently been applying this well-worn motto to my life and business, and getting back some sanity and extra hours in my days.


  1. Patch up the holes in your bucket, dear Liza.

So, you’ve got a great business, but you’re leaking money faster than a drunk teen on the pokies? You’ve got too many holes in your bucket, dear Liza. Working smarter not harder, means conducting regular audits of the business to look for holes or gaps where you might be leaking time, energy or money. My general manager and I have a massive spreadsheet that lists literally every aspect our business on it – yes, it’s bigger than Ben Hur (another idiom I have no idea about). I make it my mission to look at one or two of those aspects every few weeks and critically analyse how we are currently approaching it from an operational perspective. Could we be more efficient at how we tackle it? If so, how? It’s generally a matter of looking at the process objectively and asking if the right people are on the job, if software could handle it for us, if we’ve been hitting roadblocks at certain points or if there is a solution we can implement to ensure a faster, smoother process. It requires strategic thought, an objective point of view and asking many, many, often stupid questions of ourselves.


  1. I always have a ‘Tess to stop doing list’.

Delegation is a powerful force. Particularly when it’s done well. I have a post-it note sitting on my computer that reads “Is this for me?” No, it’s not the beginnings of an existential crisis, it’s a reminder to critically analyse every task, email or request that comes my way. I do my best to ask myself at each situation, am I the best person to be answering this question or performing this task, or am I better to delegate it? To be more effective, you’ve got to ask for help and enlist people who are better at certain tasks and functions than you are to free you up to do the tasks more suited to you.

But remember, this is only effective if you have the right people in the right positions who know exactly what their job descriptions are.


  1. Batching is the bee’s knees.

As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, it’s important we become more be intentional with the hours in our day and strive for velocity over volume. This means increased focus with decreased distractions, aka no multitasking. As far as I can tell, we’re the only species that goes a little Cray Cray for multi-tasking. I mean, I’ve never seen my dog try to eat, drink, bark and defecate simultaneously. Oh, actually, only that one time after she ate a rotting deer leg at the beach and got incredibly sick.

Anyways, I have an obsession with batching tasks. Each week I list out the days ahead of me and batch tasks under each of those days according to similarities and focus required. The days I’m in the studio, I start at 6am (which means a 4:30am wake up call – yikes), and from the get-go it’s ON – I tackle all the small tasks like emails and 10 minute tasks. The days I’m at home are more bigger picture , strategy days. Which leads me to my next point….


  1. Have ‘untouchable’ days.

I recently wrote about why I’m having ‘Untouchable Thursdays’, you can read more about that here, but essentially, I have one day a week where I’m uncontactable. I spend the day at home working on big, fat juicy tasks that will actually propel the business forward. Without any meetings, emails or G-chats from my team I’m able to truly focus and zone in for the entire day. It’s blissfully productive and the business is so much better off for it.


  1. Strap in for the long game.

Have a gazillion and one items on your to-do list and double the amount of emails in your inbox? That’s perfectly okay. Stop thinking you need to finish all of them right this second – instead focus on the things that are crucial to your business’ bottom line and your personal gratification. My advice is to slow down and focus on the things that are actually going to propel you towards your goals – those that bring the greatest long-term impact. Often these tasks require greater psychological bandwidth and deeper focus, but trust me, they are so worth scratching your head over when you see the results they bring you.


  1. Play to your strengths

I’m sure you’ve heard about the 80/20 rule? It’s a principle often applied to business that argues that if you have a list of 10 items to accomplish, 2 of those items will turn out to be worth more than the other 8 items put together. It sounds unrealistic, but once you put it into practice, it’s veracity becomes undeniably apparent.

When we are busy, stressed and overwhelmed, we tend to procrastinate on the 20% of tasks that are the most valuable to our business, and instead gravitate towards the less important 80% of our tasks that are easy wins, or time-fillers.

In order to have impact and velocity in our days, we should instead, focus on the 20% vital tasks that will bring us most success and satisfaction. The way that I do this is write down a list of 10 goals for the day, and then circle the 2 that will bring most impact to the business – the key here is to think about the long term benefits these tasks will bring you. Then, I get cracking on those tasks first. Once I complete those top 2 tasks, I know that I’ve skewed my day to ensure the 80/20 rule works in my favour. The remaining 8 tasks on the list are simply cherries on the icing.


  1. Put some things on auto-pilot.

I’m not suggesting you do as Zuckerberg does and wear the same thing every day for the sake of productivity, but I do agree that reducing the amount of decisions we need to make each day allows us to focus on the more important things. Think about the everyday tasks that you do that you could perhaps automate. By eliminating things like going to the store to buy toilet paper every two weeks (Hello Who Gives a Crap!), you can focus that time and energy on more important tasks instead.


  1. Break up with your inbox.

Stop checking your email every two seconds. It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and when we start to spiral into exhaustion or burnout, our reservoir gets depleted and we are less inclined to stick to the things we know are good for us. I know for myself, that when I’m feeling tired it’s far easier to spend the day eating Mars Bars over salad, and dawdling my day inside my inbox doing menial tasks, than it is to work on the bigger ticket items that will actually have long last effects on my business.


  1. ‘Sleep when you’re dead’ is for suckers.

In the past when I was feeling behind, I’d stay up late trying to catch up. This works if you do it very occasionally, but I did it all the time. That made me tired, meaning more mistakes, less foresight, and less energy focused on the work. Now when I’m feeling behind and tired, I take the day off and come back in the next day refreshed and raring to go. As tempting as it is to handcuff yourself to your desk and force your tired self to smash out all of that work, it’s really just setting you up for burnout in the long run.


  1. Research how the big doggies do it.

There’s no denying I’m a sucker for a self-help book. My house is drowning in them and I buy them faster than I can read them. Why? Because I want to know successful people’s’ secrets. I think, surely if they’ve figured out how to maximise their time and reap the rewards, I can learn from them? This is why I devour book, podcasts, blogs and eavesdrop at every chance I can. Tools of Titans is a great starting place for anyone looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.


  1. Look back to look forward.

It might seem counterintuitive, but sitting still is actually one of my favourite methods to move forward. I find that when I’m still, be it in meditation or simply enjoying a day at the beach, by creating a sense of spaciousness and looking back, I’m able to look forward.

Reflection allows your brain to better access new strategies and ways of working with greater clarity and focus. To give you an example, the other day I was reflecting on the key things that have allowed me to build SBD to what it is today. Without a doubt, the big glaring thing that sprung to my mind on a flashing neon sign was ‘People’. The people who’ve been on my team over the years, the clients, the friends, the mentors, the ‘network’. So, looking forward I’m placing more focus on relationships and genuine interaction.

Image credit: Joost Termeer

Crafting a rock-solid tagline.

Ainslie Murray is just one of the many clever (and super busy) cookies that took the time to contribute to our Calling the shots ebook so take note as she shares her tips on writing a killer tagline, as told in her own words.

Nike said ‘just do it’, Apple told you to ‘think different’ and when someone asks you where the happiest place on earth is, you better be thinking Disneyland.

A good tagline can quite literally make or break a brand. It’s that simple.

So, no pressure or anything.

Taglines, straplines, slogans – call them what you will – are often too complex and resoundingly underwhelming. But, when you nail a good tagline, great in fact, actual magic happens. A stellar tagline will capture the essence of your entire brand and shine a light on the value you offer consumers in one cleverly concise sentence.

There are three things that are the difference between a mediocre and a memorable tagline: clarity of message (clear and concise all the way), creativity (obvs) and familiarity with the brand. Taglines that are more brand appropriate will always be deemed more likeable.

Crafting a winning tagline is a struggle that many entrepreneurs armed with big vision and high hopes are faced with. It certainly ain’t easy. Often taglines fall short and it’s usually when people spend too much time focusing on what their product or service is as opposed to what it actually offers. The best taglines are those that are simple and memorable, but they are also functional.

Here are eight trusty tips to help you create a tagline worth its weight in gold. All you’ll need is a blank sheet of paper and a pen, or your lappy. To be honest, I think the old-fashioned note making technique of the dark ages is best when first nutting out a tagline. If you give a tagline the attention it so rightly deserves, it can be completely transformative. Better yet, it can establish a rock-solid foundation for a new brand or campaign and play a major role in influencing first impressions and perceptions in your favour.

Like I said, no pressure.

    To begin with, be clear, not clever. Start building a tagline with the purpose of your brand in mind. Decide what you have to offer. Are you creating a new product? Are you selling a service? Do you run an e-comms store? Pinpoint your brand focus and work from there as a starting point.
    Every word you can think of and anything that comes to mind about your brand – pen it! Create a list of words that float your boat and consult a thesaurus but be mindful not to get bogged down in complex alternate terms for common words. The best taglines don’t read like a poetic prose, they’re simple words combined in a succinct way that makes you sit up and pay attention.
    What’s your brand story? What gets you feeling the warm and fuzzies when you describe or think about what it is you do? Whatever it is, that’s your positioning. Your logo and tagline should communicate precisely that feeling. Communicating a feeling as a written word can sometimes be challenging but keep penning your thoughts, there is no wrong answer in this process. Your creative juices should be breaking banks by this stage.
    Make sure your tagline provides a clear picture of your brand. Branding is all about concise clarity. Most people try and be far too cute. Ick. Be clear, say what it is you have to offer, what it is you actually mean. Don’t beat around the bush, say it well and with inspiring confidence.
    Your product is a killer. Your service beats the rest. You want everyone to know that, right? Yes. Think about what it is you can say about the benefits and strengths of your product or brand? Is it quicker, bigger, more reliable or cost-effective? Will it shave ten years off? Save you time? Or make you happy? Explore the descriptive benefits and obvious strengths, and keep writing them down.
    You should have a solid list of words by this stage (and some major RSI in that wrist from the manic jotting). Start teaming your words together in phrases. Your goal here is quick communication rather than trying to be clever. Clever sentences and puns are great for advertising tactics, but a tagline needs to be direct. There is nothing clever about ‘just do it’, but it has power. Don’t get into wordplay and idioms – keep it powerful and truthful.
    By this stage, you should have a tonne of worthy options in front of you. Too many to know what to do with. Start testing each option out. Does it have legs? Will it translate cross-platform? Does it need to be explained, or will people just get it? Keep culling until you have a handful of this-could-be-the-one options.
    There will most certainly be some stand-outs and crowd faves when you run them past your friend gang, but only fools rush in. Let them sit and brew overnight. Rush it and you will ruin it. One will stand out above the others; likely the one you had never really considered.

Once you pick your winner, it should start opening up ideas on where you can take your advertising and marketing campaigns and well folks, as they say, the rest is history.

First, tagline. Next, world domination.
Go you good thing.

You can find Ainslie here and here.





What separates good from great is everything

What separates good from great is everything.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to call your internet provider for technical support. Now raise your other hand if you:
• Had to wait on hold for hours listening to some heinous rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On.
• Got passed from technician to technician with nobody actually listening to your problem.
• Wanted to throw your modem and/or phone against the wall.
• Had to repeat your situation so many times that you wanted to punch yourself in the face.
• Considered drinking a litre of drain cleaner to take the pain away.

I’m raising both hands right now, even though one arm is half-dead from holding the phone to my ear.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending 3 hours on the phone to Telstra trying to get my internet fixed. My call was passed around the world and back (literally) with no practical solutions or even a drop of empathy offered at any stage. It was the second most frustrating experience of my life – second to the time I had to deal with TPG technicians sorting out my last dose of, “You must be in a dead spot.”.

The best part about this whole process was that after my call, I ended up with an email in my inbox to ask for customer feedback (which was a fun activity with a glass of wine in hand!), and then somehow I must have ended up on someone else’s mobile account as I got sent a phone bill addressed to an ‘Alexander Allen’. This then spiralled into them demanding that I pay this $300 phone bill for which I rigorously pressed wasn’t even mine. It was truly confounding.

In short, it’s safe to say that the whole Telstra debacle will stick in my mind like a 3rd-degree burn of shitty customer service. If there are any customer representatives from Telstra reading this, please send a few cases of beer to the Smack Bang studio – I’m deserving, I swear.

A long and painful lesson to learn, for sure, but what this has taught me is that in business, every little detail counts. And I mean ev-err-ryyy detail. The way the customer support person picked up the phone, the way they did (or didn’t) listen to my problems, the way they walked (or didn’t walk) me through the technical process, the follow up (or shall we call it the F-up), the empathy (or lack thereof) and the way I felt as I walked away from the entire business transaction.

Granted, it’s Telstra, and my expectations weren’t exactly high from the get-go, but that’s not to say they couldn’t and shouldn’t have done better.

As business owners, it’s so important that we consider how every little detail on our customer’s journey matters. I believe that the difference between good and great is all the little details along the way.

So today, I’m taking lessons from good ol’ Telstra and applying them to my business. I’m considering all the little ways Smack Bang shows up to the world and how we can craft the perfect experience along the way.

For me, it all boils down to consistency. If you position your biz as a fun, happy-go-lucky one, then you better make sure that whoever answers the customer’s call doesn’t sound like they’ve just come straight from a funeral and overdosed on gin and Xanax on the way to the office. If you’re not making the effort to be consistent at every touchpoint of your brand, people aren’t going to trust, remember, or buy from you. Why? Because people do business with brands they respect, that are consistent with their values and make good on their promises. Consistency connotes professionalism, purpose, and stability. Simply put, consistency makes you look like you know what you’re doing and you care about what you’re doing.

So let’s get detailed. Here are the non-negotiables that I stand by at all costs, with the goal of making Smack Bang the sort of ‘great’ that I hope to see in the world.

    When it comes to branding, people often forget about in-person experiences. The way people interact with your business offline is often even more memorable than their online experiences with you. At Smack Bang, we try to engage all the senses of anyone who experiences our brand: what are they seeing, smelling, tasting and hearing? When people come for a meeting at the Smack Bang studio, I hope that they smell the scent of our signature candle, the hum of some sweet tunes (and most likely the chitter chatter of my designers), see our on-brand and carefully styled interiors, and experience the taste of our delicious Mayde Tea goodies. We also pay a great deal of attention to things like signage, and how easy it is to find our office. In the same way that it pays for you to consider the same, once people arrive, how does your style and decor emulate your brand story? If you follow our hashtag #smackbangstudio, you’ll know that I’m a bit (read: a lot) particular when it comes to keeping our studio looking spiffy. And there’s a good reason. The way you present yourself to your customers is branding. Even your personal style and how you and your staff dress, is branding. It is all a reflection of the company you’re building.
    Your imagery, your logo, your font palette, the way your filters are all so damn clean and consistent – all of these elements serve to make or break your aesthetic. We live in a world where people are moved by looks first and function second, and as much as we hate to admit it, aesthetic is everything. Don’t let your brand become the outdated salmon pink slacks your Grandma dons each day. If your brand makes you cringe when you look at it, that’s probably enough of a warning sign to shift gears. Of course, over time, your businesses will mould, move and adapt to new circumstances and future times. You may find yourself needing to revamp and reinvent, and this is okay. The best brands are those that are constantly updating to remain fresh and relevant. Successful rebrands manage to rejuvenate and inject new life, whilst still celebrating the history and heritage of the business. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, okay? But we’re visual creatures, us mere mortals, and we move towards pretty things like moths to a lightbulb. A little bit of style goes a long, long way, and personality and aesthetics tend to go hand-in-hand when we’re talking branding and business. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or are familiar with the SBD ethos, you would have heard us bang on a good few times about the importance of consistency. The visual personality of your brand teamed with its values and its message all work together to create bucketloads of personality and are a sure-fire way to bring to life those vision boards you’ve had propped up next to your bed for years and years.
    How do you make people feel when they read about your brand/products/services? Does your tone of voice align with your brand story, brand vision and brand aesthetics? Branding is clearly articulating what you want people to know, do and feel, with every blog post you write, the Instagram photo you caption, every tweet you post, and every product description you write. It doesn’t stop, and it should always be consistent with the vibe you’re trying to tell (and sell). And when people write you emails? You need to write back with your ‘brand’ top of mind. Spelling and grammar should be practically perfect. The very odd slip-up in communications is reasonable, but consistently sending out comms to people that make you look like you’re onto glass #4 of chardy doesn’t really scream, “We know what we’re doing!”. Similarly, consider the way you answer the phone and the voicemail you use. Is it friendly and inviting? Does it match the fun vibes of your office interior? These touch points, no matter how small, are deserving of brand consideration.
    From your website to your newsletter template to your email signature and even your actual email address— no little detail should go unturned when it comes to how your brand appears online. Is your website up-to-date and putting your very best foot forward? How about your social media presence? Do they link nicely and reflect one another the way you actually want to be reflected? Are they easy to use, and importantly, do they easily result in leads or conversions? And is your email signature doing your brand justice? Do you even have an email signature? So many questions! Yet your digital presence is crucial to how people will relate to and recall your brand, so you’re going to want to really invest in and protect your look and feel across as many platforms and touch points as you have.
    There’s no doubt that people have high expectations. My expectations are on a whole ‘nother level. Yesterday I purchased a bunch of ceramics for my best friend’s birthday and the tax invoice I received nearly made me dry retch. It was so ugly. Fugly, in fact. The ceramics – beautiful. The photography – beautiful. The website – fairly nice. The tax invoice – fugly.Now, I understand that it’s not that important. But I’m also here to tell you that it is. Your tax invoice is ‘branding’. At every possible customer touchpoint — tax invoice, shipping confirmation, delivery package, bumper stickers (lol hello 1992) — put your best foot forward. Wear your Sunday best, only every day! Yep, that’s the sort of commitment it takes to build and build and build a brand with legs. These are often things that aren’t defined in your brand platform, but they are considerations that can make or break an experience for your customer.
    Well, here it is. The real clinker. Your actual product and/or service needs to be absolutely breathtaking to your audience, and the product that shows care, attention, detail, and true quality are harder and harder to find. Boutique, tailored approaches to customers have given way to stock-standard, sub-par wannabes because the market is saturated. But consider this: although everything seems expendable these days, people still love brands they can rely upon, that won’t break on them, that will offer excellent customer service, and that improve their experience every time they make contact. So, you might feel like you’re bobbing around in a huge sea of people offering similar services to you, but now your challenge becomes to be the swimmer at the front. Quite simply, you need to be the fastest and the best at freestyle. And if you aren’t in the water each day training to be the best, well, you probably won’t be *shrugs*.
    Caring about customers doesn’t mean just fixing their problems and checking them off your list. It means listening intently, then digging deeper. Your attitude towards your customers is extremely telling; it basically denotes (or at least is the perception) how you are going to care for them in the long-term. Customers are shopping around for a brand they can rely on, and your attitude towards their needs can make or break a relationship. So, be the company you want to talk to at a party. Be friendly, accessible and genuine. Be transparent, fun, and engaging – committed to real talk over fluff. And, when paired with an excellent product offering, you’ll find yourself top of the class.

Image credit: Chase Middleton