A couple of questions that I am asked often is how do I find the time to still do my own creative projects and where do I find the budget to get them produced.
Towards the end of 2013, after attending several trade shows and seminars, I noticed that the promotional items being put out by other companies were for lack of a better way to say it, the same items you’ll find in a landfill further down the line. I got tired of getting sports bottles, bottle openers, and pens with a company logo on it. Honestly, how many of these items does one person need? I’ve been guilty of producing the same items, so I’m not blameless in this regard. But I made up my mind that my company will only produce items that could either really be used by our audience (and not require our logo stamped on the front) or be paid forward in a meaningful way.
Suddenly, I had a real desire to create unique items that truly embodied our brand. Who wants a brochure that lists all the great things we do? Me, and maybe my mom. But everyone else will chuck them after they go through their event goody bags at the end of the day.
But what if I could create an item that made you want to hold onto it? That made you look twice and treasure it? That’s what I set out to do. Working from the road has allowed me to operate from a genuine space of creation, and that has been reflected in every piece we produce this year. So, what did I do?
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My purpose for JWatson Creative is to save the world, one design at a time. I enjoy connecting with business owners, and coming up with creative solutions to solve client problems. But, my purpose in life is to be a force to be reckoned with in terms of encouraging others to step up to the plate and follow their dreams against whatever impossible odds may arise. And to also keep it real. Is there a way to marry the two? My business purpose and my life purpose? How do I share what I really think matters.
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I preach, and I have my team preach, that consistency in branding is important. It builds awareness and integrity. I want people to see a piece and know instantly from the style “that came from JWatson Creative, and damn it looks good!” And then they should want to have it. We worked hard to develop strong brand colors and elements this year, to serve as a foundation and cornerstone that we’ll be building on in the years to come.
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The other thing that annoyed me about my promo item purchases in the past is that you have to order at minimum 250 for a lot of these items (if not more!). Good grief, what do I need with 250 key chains?!? Let me tell you, even if the event you’re setting up for has 1,000 attendees, the chances of everyone coming by your table to snag all your keychains are slim! Why is this? Because there are several vendor tables with several promotional items that are similar to yours. And not everyone needs a keychain. I got tired of being stuck with boxes of items and no audience to give them to.
I decided to work with a local print shop to do smaller runs of meaningful items for my company. I created a set of postcards, a pocket journal, buttons, and post-it notes. Each with a unique, and encouraging, twist. The icing on the cake is the brochure we just produced, entitled 7 Stories From the Road. It details lessons learned from traveling the highways and backroads of this country while on our year long adventure of working remotely in different cities. These items go out to our current and prospective clients, and have thus far been a huge hit with a 100% response rate of AWESOME.
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I hear all the time that small businesses don’t have the money to invest in what it takes to have a strong brand and the right components to move my business forward. I used to be one of these people. But now, I tend to be, possibly harsh, on this excuse. Hey folks, I started my business in the same down economy as others. I have worked really long days in the beginning to get things where they needed to be. I have felt the sting of bad clients, of folks who didn’t pay on time, of not budgeting effectively, and of expecting something to be there that didn’t come.
This year, I made it a priority to have a small budget for personal projects and tied them into marketing my business. I honestly felt that if I could show a current or prospect client that we at JWatson Creative feel it’s damn important to invest in quality items that represent our brand, that they would love it and also be incredibly curious as to what we could do for them. And so far, it’s been unfolding just like that.
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This year, possibly because of the experiences gained with travel, I’ve had more confidence in my expertise as a consultant and a leader in the creative profession. The benefit of all we’ve done this year is evident everywhere I turn. It’s getting a call directly from a CEO on his cell phone because he loved the quirkiness of the email I sent him. It’s receiving an email saying that one of our items was passed along to a daughter or kept in a purse. It’s having someone say “This is AMAZING. How can we work together?”
The items became so popular, we opened up the Facing Forward shop to encourage the ripple effect continue further.
Maybe this should be a lesson, to myself and anyone else who reads this, that sometimes we get in the way of our own greatness, by being humanly doubtful of outcomes, or by feeling that we aren’t good enough. You are good enough! If you have to start small so be it. Everyone starts somewhere. Now move forward, and go confidently in the direction of your dreams.