When business ideas aren’t enough

When business ideas aren’t enough

This is a continuation of the last blog post – BUSINESS ON MY MIND – where I talk about how my current business fits into my life and how I want things to change.  Now I want to figure out what is next for me.  Documenting this thought process and the actions I take is a way for me to be more objective about my decisions and have a record what I do.

I am tired of my current business and want to try something new.
My first idea might not be my best idea.
Oh wait… there’s a self-discovery journey now?? When did that happen?

My First Idea

That title is a bit comical to me. This first thing I’m going to talk about is more than an idea. It’s a fully developed business model plan and the initial groundwork for the idea is already laid. I’ve already written two of the books on this “idea” plan and have taken steps to begin it. But let’s still call it an idea for now.

In a nutshell, this first idea has me taking a giant step away from being a graphic designer but still doing design work when a project comes to me that I really, really like. Instead of design, this business model would help me use my skill in building small businesses and teaching …. and help others do the same.  The general idea has five focus areas and streams of revenue:

  1. Writing books and workbooks for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs that help them develop or grow a business on the foundation of their strengths and passion so they can build a business they love. (Yes, this is the part where I’ve already written two of the workbooks on the list of ideas.)
  2. Developing online and in-person courses that are based on the workbooks I write.
  3. Coaching is something I already do in my current business as I help small businesses use brand management to grow successful businesses. In the new business model, I’d formalize that into actual coaching services.
  4. Consulting would involve brand reviews, one-time strategy or brainstorming sessions.
  5. Graphic design and brand management is something I’d offer on a very limited and highly vetted basis to clients who go through the above areas of the business.

So as you can see, this is a bit more than a mere idea. So what’s the deal? Why not just jump into that and plow a new path? It’s a good plan. It’s solid. It will definitely work. So why all the doubt?

So Much Doubt

About 3 or 4 weeks ago I put the brakes on this new plan. At the time I claimed it was because I needed to stop splitting my focus between this new business venture and my current business obligations. That’s is sorta true. I mean… it’s definitely true. It’s just not really what the core of that decision was about.

I didn’t know it at the time and have only just begun to realize that the decision to halt has deep roots in self-doubt.

I’m a very confident person. I am decisive. I am known for doing lots of research, looking at all the options, then picking a direction and moving forward. I make up my mind quickly and I take action.

Which means this whole self-doubt, false-start, indecision thing is foreign to me.

It’s Not All Self-Doubt Though

I trust my gut. It tells me stuff that I might not understand immediately. But if my gut says stop, I stop. If my gut says go, I go. I don’t trust blindly though. I need to know the why behind a directive… even if that directive is coming from my own gut.  I’m a rule-breaker and rebel by nature. I don’t like to be told what to do unless I first understand why I’m being told to do it.

So as I’ve been in this holding pattern I’ve been turning the decision over in my head a lot. I believe that the decision to put this idea on hold is based on a few other things:

  • The above business model relies on building an online audience and create an influencer-type reputation in the business development space. As an INSF personality type – this is not something I’m particularly enthused about doing. In fact, the very idea of it turns me off. I’m capable of doing it, but it certainly wouldn’t be comfortable or fun.
  • This idea would require a whole new business for me. Basically starting from zero and spending the next 2-3 years building an audience, creating content and creating authority. That’s a lot of energy to expend … I’m not convinced that I have enough passion for this business model for that much energy.

Self-Awareness is Key to New Ideas

My good friend, Nikki, once told me that I’m the most self-aware person she knows. It’s true that I’ve got a pretty high level of self-awareness. It truly bugs me when I can’t figure out what’s in my own head so I pick it apart until I understand.

I am thankful for the level of self-awareness I have even if sometimes it gets in the way of acting… like now. But I’m going to embrace this and see how I can leverage my self-awareness to help me develop a business based on my strengths and passion to grow a thriving business that I love.

That last part – “business that I love” – that’s the key for me. It’s easy to build a thriving business that makes money. But if I don’t LOVE it, why am I giving it my passion? So it’s time to focus on that part of the equation and see where it takes me.

Self-Discovery Journey

In the coming weeks, I will use my own sly techniques of discovering my strengths, expertise, and passion in an attempt to generate business ideas that are a good fit for my personality and lifestyle goals.

What the heck is a self-discovery journey?  Ha! I have no idea! In fact, when I started writing this blog post I had no idea it was going to end up here. I guess it’s time to figure that out, huh?

I do have a technique where I help people identify their skills and strengths to help them build a stronger business. Read it here: How to Identify Your Business Strengths. So I guess I’ll start there and see where this journey takes me. I did that exercise about 4 or 5 years ago so it’s probably time to do it again. I’ve learned a lot of new stuff in the past 5 years. I’m way more brilliant now!

So I guess that’s what’s next. Come back soon!




Business on my Mind

Business on my Mind

When you visit the homepage of this website you’ll see some fancy words about exploring and being present and letting this space be my little slice of the internet where I am free to be myself and ramble on about whatever interests me. As the title implies, lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my business ventures. I think it’s time that I write about it. My site traffic stats confirm that nobody* reads this blog anyway, so why not ramble when I’m the only one listening.  (*In reality, there are a few dozen of you out there, no offense intended, of course.)

I work a day job, have a long commute, and run a thriving design business on the side.
But I’m tired and I don’t know what to do next.

First the back story.

I work a day job as the lead graphic designer for a large organization. Most days I spent my time acting as a brand manager, intern herder, marketing strategist, and art director… sometimes I actually get to do real design work too. The job is good and I enjoy it. The commute is not good and I don’t enjoy that (more than an hour each way). On a normal day, I leave my house around 7:15 a.m. and get home around 6:45 p.m.

Almost as soon as I walk in the door, I grab a quick dinner and cozy up to my new, beautiful, powerful and fast design computer where I start right in on client projects.  If you click above on the “Creative Services” link, you’ll see what my business is all about. But in a nutshell, I do graphic and web design for small businesses and solo side hustlers. There’s also a bit of marketing strategy, brand management and business development thrown in there too. I have a few retainer-based clients and a few open contracts for one-off projects.  I like to put in 2-3 hours a night in the evenings and then another 8-10 hours over the weekend.

It’s a solid “part time” business and I’m pleased with my success and the growth I’ve seen in the past few years. I love my clients. I love the work they do. I love seeing them succeed and know that my design work had some small part in that success.

What I don’t love about my business is the fact that I’m trading my time for money. If I don’t perform the work, I don’t get paid. If I take a vacation or sick day or just decide I need to be on the beach on a sunny Saturday… I don’t get paid. I hate that about my business. I’m also really, really tired. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life with this kind of schedule.

I’m also really, really tired. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life with this kind of schedule.

Present day situation.

I’ve actually made a few decisions already and it’s taking longer to implement them than I thought it would. So I’m on the edge of frustration. I’m powering through and doing what I can to keep a good attitude about it all. But that part above about being tired. Yeah. There’s that.  But let’s talk about those decisions first…

  • I’ve decided to step back from any new client contracts. In the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve actively been saying no. A lot. I’ve created a list of other freelance designers, web/tech experts, and marketing gurus who have been getting a number of referrals from me. What’s fascinating to me is that as soon as I verbalized my intention to stop taking on new clients… suddenly new clients were showing up on my doorstep wanting help. I’ve taken on a couple small projects, but for the most part, everyone has been turned away.
  • I am doing everything I can to wrap up the current contracts I have as quickly as possible. I have three main projects that have an “end date” attached to them. Although that end date isn’t’ an actual date, there is a time in the future when the project will be done and the contract complete.
  • I have a few ongoing, monthly retainer clients that I plan to keep. Anyone who has a long-term relationship with me like this is someone I enjoy working with and want to continue helping them grow their businesses.

So now what?

That’s the big question. What now?  I’ve got some ideas. In fact, I’ve even fleshed out a solid business model overview for a new venture. I’ve talked to people I trust in my Mastermind Group and my inner circle. But I’ve been feeling overwhelmed about all these plans and ideas. So I’ve had to take a step back, set it all aside and try to focus on what’s essential for the moment. The existing client lineup is what’s important right now. I have time to worry about what the future of my business will become.

A trusted friend suggested I document this journey. Keep track of what I’m thinking, what plans I’m making and how all the jumbled pieces of the puzzle eventually fall into place as I work through the steps. I tend to be a methodical thinker. I see the end project in its completed form… and then have the skill to break down the individual tasks it will take to achieve that end goal. Somehow that skill is a bit clouded when it comes to my own projects – or at least this one, in particular. I think my friend is right. Documenting this process could help me find clarity, or at least be a comical way of keeping track of all the crazy mistakes I make along the way.

Stay tuned for more updates. I’ve got lots to tell you!

Fear is a Sign Post

Fear is a Sign Post

This morning I listened to a podcast where Shawn Blanc was being interviewed about focus and using deep work to experience success in business. Someone in the podcast audience asked him the question:

How do you get over being afraid so you can birth a new idea?

Shawn’s response? You never really get over being afraid. Instead, you need to learn how to persist despite the fear, uncertainty, and doubt. You need to start thinking about fear as a sign post on your path. When you come to the sign on the road that proclaims fear, take this as the signal that you’re on the right road to achieving something important.

I like this philosophy. It sounds great on paper. It’s not so easy in reality, but I suspect the more often you persist through the fear the easier it gets. I think it has a lot to do with being self-aware and being comfortable with feeling your emotions and not letting those emotions and fears dictate your actions.

I’m definitely no expert in persisting through fear. But hearing Shawn’s words today has given me the inspiration to practice and do better.

I Want to Blog Again

I Want to Blog Again

For the past few months (probably longer but I ignored it before then) I have wanted to start blogging again. Not blogging for the business or blogging for a specific purpose or niche… but blogging for me. Like the kind of blogging that got this whole blogging thing started. A web-log. A journal. A place where I can talk about whatever the heck I want to talk about and nobody is going to care if it’s on-topic or curated properly or packed with value. A place where I can write for myself and if other people want to peek into my world, that’s fine too.

So here I am. Blogging.

It’s not my first time in the blogosphere, of course. I kept a journal of my weight loss for nearly 7 years and those blog entries are all still live at Journey to a Healthier Me. Those entries will eventually make their way over here and be archived with the rest of what’s here, but not today. And probably not tomorrow either. I also started (and stopped) a blog called {Create} that was all about making artsy craftsy things and showing you how to do it too. Those blog entries are already here – just scroll back to older entries and you’ll find them.

Then there was my latest venture called Dreams with a Deadline. This one is still dear to my heart and I’m proud of what I did there. It’s still live for now – but those blog entries will come over here too and be merged with the rest. Don’t worry, I have big plans for making sure everything is categories and easy to find. Or maybe I’ll just leave it all in a big pile of beautiful chaos and just let you have fun digging through the archives of my mind.

So anyway, Dreams… that website is all about dreaming BIGGER and setting bigger goals and taking big action to reaching those goals. The deadline part is about achieving all these big goals by the time I’m 50 years old. Time marches on. I’m 47 now and time is a tickin’! I’m definitely further down the road now than I was when I started that blog, but I’ve gotten  a long ways to go before I hit those big goals. Once those articles are here I’ll start writing about that part of my life a bit more and add to that journal.

So you’ve stumbled across this blog post. Welcome! I’m glad you’re here. For now it’s a secret. I’m not advertising that I’m doing this yet – there’s a lot of construction to do first. So if you’re here in real time, just keep it under your hat for me. It can be like we’re part of a super secret club or something.

What’s the plan here anyway? Is it just going to be about Pam yammering on about life and goals and nonsense? That sounds pretty boring. I know. I lead a pretty normal, ordinary, non-exciting life. So I’ll try to keep it as non-boring as possible. But here’s the plan:

  • Revive Dreams with a Deadline – I really do want to achieve those big goals I’ve set. I really do want to finish writing that book I started. I really do want to teach you how to achieve your own big goals and see if we can do this big thing together. Cheer each other on. Celebrate the success of those in a Dreams with a Deadline community.
  • Creativity is important to me – I’m a graphic artist at my day job as well as in my business (Tremble Creative Services). Both of those things drain my creative juices regularly. I need art in my life to refuel and recharge. Not just digital art either… I need to get my hands dirty, get splinters, splatter paint on my face, use my brain to solve problems and come out the other end with something tangible I can touch and feel and experience.
  • I love to travel, want to come along? I try to take at least one big trip every year and a few smaller weekend trips closer to home. I even love day trips to festivals or just go out for a drive to take in the scenes. I think I have a unique perspective because I’m a solo female traveler and I don’t let that hold me back. I’ve always loved reading travel journals of other vacationers and have wanted one of my own. So I guess this is my chance, huh? I keep an art journal while I’m on my trips, but I’d love a longer narrative place that I could go into more details about my plans, experiences, tips and adventures.
  • I learn, you learn. One of the great things I loved about keeping the blog during my weight loss journey was that it became a place for me to “dump” information and be able to refer back to it later. I could do an in-depth research project on any random topic related to my weight loss, then dump all that research, my opinions, my findings into a blog post and it became a valued library for me. As it turns out, that’s what most of my readers loved about my site too. I have a lot of stuff in my head that I’d like to write about and just get it down on paper so I don’t have to store it inside my head anymore. I’ve done a lot of learning in the past few years about business, marketing, branding, graphic design, and traveling.
  • A place to show my work. I’m a graphic designer. I’ve made a lot of really cool things. Clients hire me to do more cool things for them. They trust me because someone else told them to trust me. That’s a great way to keep busy. But it’s not a great way to operate my business. Yes, I need a portfolio on my biz site and I’ll get to that too. But here, on this site, I want to show off the stuff I’m most proud of. The stuff that doesn’t fit into the box I need to keep the business stuff confined to. I have won design awards. I’ve done work for some amazing publications and projects and my work has been seen all over the world. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’d like to have a place for all that stuff to live and this is the place for that. It’s going to take a bunch of time for me to build that. But it’s on the list. I’ve written it down here and I’m committed to building it. Soon.
  • My hammock on the web. As I say on the homepage of this website – this is just my small slice of the web where all my various interests come together into a tidy little pile of chaos. I’ve owned this domain name forever but never really did much with it other than host some documents to use elsewhere. But I’d really like to move in here, unpack my stuff and make it a home. I don’t know what it’ll become or where it’s going. But they say that everyone should have a “personal brand” and I guess this is as good as it’s going to get. My plan:  don’t over-think it. This blog post, for instance, is being written right in the editor on the backend of this site. It’s not being drafted in a document, edited, revised, keyworded and retooled until it’s exactly on-brand and sounds perfect. Sure, Grammarly is helping to keep my spelling errors in check, but mostly I’m just writing whatever comes to mind next. That’s my hope for most of the writing that happens here. We’ll see how it goes.

If you don’t know me already, you’ll find that I’m long winded. I type fast (because being a secretary for 15 years sort of makes you a fast typer), so it doesn’t feel like I’m writing a lot of words until I look back and realize how long stuff is. So this is your fair warning. I type a lot. Read it if you want. Skim it if you want. Or just look at the pretty pictures. I understand.

Welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Give me a shout and let me know you’re here. Best place to find me these days is on Instagram @pamtremble


About Me

About Me

Before I jump in and get started, I want to introduce myself.  Warning – this is going to be a VERY long post, so grab a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the ride (or just skip my ramblings and go straight to the photos!).

Some of you already know me from my other blogging adventures or message boards or somewhere out in cyberspace or real life.  But do you know how crafty I am?  LOL!

My name is Pam and in 2010 I’m going to be 40 years old!  Holy cow – when did that happen?   I live in mid-Michigan with a cat that I don’t like very much in a house that perpetually needs to be cleaned up. Since childhood I’ve been an artsy fartsy type of gal.  In fact, as a child my parents started this tradition at Christmas time that we’d all MAKE each other a gift that we’d open on Christmas Eve.  Imagine the creations a 7 year old kid could come up with for her family members.  In my 20’s I worked with my mom doing craft shows and bazaars — in fact, if I counted up all the years I’ve done craft shows it’d be about 15 or so.  Then for the past 5 years I’ve stopped making my own crafts to sell and just helped my parents with their craft show booths – they are so successful it takes 4 people to run their space.  So crafting and creating is part of who I am, it’s in my blood and essential to my character.

First, a bit about why I’m starting the {Create} blog.

Like everyone else, my life is very busy.  I work full time as an executive assistant (aka: kindergarten teacher some days) and I have a horrendous commute of about 15 hours a week.  I’m also going back to school to get my degree in graphic design and I’m taking a full load of classes.  And I lead a local support group for other people who are on a path to weight loss too.  So yeah… busy, busy, busy.

The problem lies in the fact that I’m right-brained. Work, commuting, school – it’s a lot of left-brain stuff and if I let those things rule my life for too long I start to go a little bit insane.  I need a creative outlet in my life in order to keep a healthy balance for my spirit.  But who has the time for a silly little thing like arts and crafts?  Right – and that brings me to my point.  I want to TAKE the time for creative pursuits and make it a part of my daily life.  And by starting this blog, it’ll help me stay focused on this goal that is so important to me.

Silly Arts and Crafts?

Ok, so what will you see here?  Is it really about “silly arts and crafts?”  Gee, I hope not.  LOL!  Well, it’ll be about art and craft and creating and inspiration and projects and expression…. but hopefully it won’t be too silly.  Want to know what things I can do and hope to share here with you?

About 3 years ago I bought a digital SLR (Nikon D40) and I’ve been hooked every since!  Last year I joined a photography club that meets once a month and each month we have photography assignments to help develop our techniques.  In the past year my photography has improved SO much and my passion has continued to grow.  You can view my latest shots on my Flickr account anytime (add me as a friend and you’ll be alerted when I upload new stuff!).  Here’s a photo I took at the Dow Gardens (Midland, Michigan) Butterfly Exhibit this past spring.


One of my “New Year’s Goals” for 2008 was to learn how to knit.  And I did it!  Thanks to YouTube and some online knitting tutorial sites I was able to master the knit and purl.  Unfortunately I haven’t progressed much beyond the novice stage, but I want to learn more!  I immediately got hooked on knitting tote bags and purses using 100% wool and then felting them in the washing machine.  Did I say hooked?  I meant … full-out addiction!  Seriously, how much yarn can one person own and actually expect to use?  Ha!  In fact, I’ve got about 6 totes knitted that need to be felted — so with this creativity challenge, those bags go on the list of things to finish.  I don’t have a good picture of my knitting right now, but I’ll add one later.

I have been a scrapbooker for many years – maybe 15 years or so – and I even spent about 3 years of my life as a business owner making scrapbooks for other people.  But that business venture quickly burned me out and I had to give up the business and my love of scrapbooking.  I still have the supplies and I have an amazing scrapbook studio in the spare bedroom of my house (see below), but I rarely scrapbook anymore. BUT, there’s a whole other world besides just scrapbooking, right?  Papercrafting can include any number of things like making mini photo albums and bookbinding; card making; creating 3D shadowbox frames; altering mundane items into works of art and any number of creative ventures.  I have a gallery of my projects on Scrapjazz if you want to take a peek.

These pictures are:

  • An altered recipe tin I made for my Grandmother to hold her Christmas baking recipes.
  • An altered notebook that became an address book
  • A couple pictures of my scrapbook studio – these were taken right after I remodeled the room and before it got too messy.  It definitely do not look this neat and organized right now!
  • A couple scrapbook page layouts.  One of my nephew and brother playing XBox and the other of my Beautiful Grandma.

Scrapbook Studio & Papercrafting

I’ve always wanted to be an outstanding artist, but the drawings in my brain don’t match the drawings that land on the paper when I attempt to create them. This past semester at college I had to take a drawing class and learned some basic techniques that helped me get moving in the right direction.  I’ve also recently acquired my first Moleskine sketchbook and I’m determined to fill it – with much inspiration coming from online Moleskine communities and art galleries as well as how-to tutorials on new techniques (Mandalas and Zentangles are two recent discoveries).  Below are a few cartoon drawings from my class last semester.

Some Cartoon Drawings

This one is old and new for me.  As part of my job (and past jobs) I’ve often found myself as the resident graphic designer.  For the past 12-15 years I’ve used Microsoft Publisher to make posters, postcards, newsletters, advertisements, annual reports and any other thing that needed to be made. And now I’m in the process of learning the Adobe Creative Suite programs – Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.  I love the process of creating something out of nothing with a few clicks of the mouse.  And now that I’m going back to college to get a real degree in graphic design, I know my skill level will increase over the next several months. And aren’t you lucky that you get to see some of that progress?  Hopefully at this time next year I’ll either be done with my degree, or very nearly done – so this coming year is going to be a whirlwind of learning and creating.  I’m excited about it.

I’ve also dabbled in Digital Scrapbooking and have collected a TON (maybe 2 or 3 tons?) of digital scrapbook elements from various online designers.  As I learn more about how to use Photoshop, I’m sure this love of digital scrapbooking will also grow.  In the meantime, here are a couple layouts I’ve done in the past – these were my first ever created, I hope to improve my skills in the next year!

Digital Scrapbooking

This post is getting pretty long, so I’ll put a bunch of things in this category.  Other stuff I’ve done includes: woodworking, toile painting, jewelry making/beading, cooking (yes, it’s art!), sewing and general crafting. As we go along with this new blog venture, I’m sure you’ll see a few bits and pieces of lots of different things – consider yourself warned!

If you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed!  Thanks for checking out my {Create} blog.  Let’s create something together!