i am spilling the beans on 7 of my dirty little biz secrets


if you have been a follower for a while you know that i love visual marketing. i use it, i teach it, i advocate for it.

but what you might not know about is how it all began. i am going to share my deepest secrets with you…

my journey starts back when i became a mom.  i did not consider myself artistic, and certainly was no designer, but i was pretty crafty.  i had my first digital camera and i wanted to scrapbook baby photos, but it seemed like too much work to print the photos and then buy all sorts of papers and embellishments and make scrapbook pages. i thought;  “can’t i just do this on my computer and print the whole page?”

so i opened up my computer and got started.

in word.

yep. microsoft word is the fancy ass program i used to do digital scrapbook design. the horror! (deep secret number one.)

at the time it didn’t even occur to me to purchase photoshop or any other software. i knew word well (as a teacher i used it to make nice looking worksheets etc.) so i just popped my photos in there and started creating designs.

eventually i wanted to learn more about design so i started studying magazines and home décor and looking at colour and style and placement. i learned by copying what others were doing it (and making it my own, of course) but got to learn what worked & what didn’t.

(deep secret number two) i am a completely self-taught designer.

eventually i got more interested in photography and started experimenting with that too. photographs, to me, were a tool of design, a way to tell a story along with quotes and text and other embellishments.  i had fun creating designs and my kid was a willing subject.

and then someone asked me: “how much do you charge to do photos? i want something like that!”

it was the first time i thought i could start my own home business, and even though i didn’t have a clue how to do that, it really excited me. i must have had a strong gut instinct to go for it, because now i look back though and think i was maybe a bit crazy.

i didn’t have a clue how to take professional photos! (deep secret number three)

i was using word to create my images and printing them out on my home printer! and i was using a little point and shoot camera that i kept on P!! how the heck was i going to charge for that?

i invested in a dSLR camera and a local class to learn how to use the damn thing. and then i devoured everything i could learn online about photography. and editing too! that is a whole other monster! i invested in and learned photoshop. and i figured out how to get pro prints done.

so i am a completely self-taught photographer too. (deep secret number four. crap, i didn’t actually realize how many secrets i had until i started spilling them!)

then in order to start a business i had to study that too. branding. marketing. websites. social media. pricing. packaging. customer service. business models. not to mention all of the mindset stuff around value & worthiness.

so yep,  i am a self-taught business owner too. no previous business training. no MBA. no local classes. just me and the internet & the library. (deep secret number five)

because i enjoy the visual stuff i decided to do my own branding and website design. that took a bit of trial and error – i actually ended up completely restarting at one point with a brand new website and new logo and branding. fresh start, fresh brand – because as i learned more i realized i needed to do better. (and trust me, my first go was complete crap!)

so my business branding & my website design was all done by me. it still is. (deep secret number six – i do all of my own website design even though i am afraid of techy stuff.)

so eventually i got my shit figured out and my photography business was quite successful. i had ecstatic customers, i was earning money, and i won awards. of course my photographs, designs, logos and websites all got better the more i practiced.

yes, when i look back at that old stuff i totally cringe. but at the time i was happy. it was effective and i loved having the freedom, flexibility, and control to market my business wherever and however i wanted or needed to.

(i am sure i will look back in a few years at the visual content i am creating now and cringe. i kind of like that i am always striving to do better.)

anyhow, by this time i had started the build a little biz blog and started sharing what i was learning with other women in biz.  

eventually, i decided to move my visual & creative design interests over to businesses and i shut down the photography site.

i also decided to take everything i knew about visual marketing (photographers are natural visual marketers!) and start talking about it as a strategy that all biz owners could use.

(oooh i just thought of something else! deep secret number seven!)

when i first tested this idea, one of my online business coach peers told me that it was a crazy idea. no one was going to get what i was talking about with visual marketing, and it wouldn’t fly!

(so glad i followed my gut instead of that advice!)

so even though i am a self-taught designer & photographer... even though i used to use word as my tool of choice to create my designs... even though a respected peer told me my ideas were crazy... i am now a visual marketer!

as i am writing this post i am wondering why i am admitting all of this to you! 

(what if people think i am a complete fraud and no one ever hires me again to make gorgeous branded visual content for them???  gah!!)

and this is why.

to add visual marketing to your biz..

  • you do not have to be a designer. you don’t have to be creative. you don’t have to be an artist. you don’t have to be a photographer.
  • you can use word. or paint. or power point. or a piece of paper & a paintbrush. or a smart phone & some free apps.
  • you can do the stuff that other people think are kind of crazy.
  • you can be self-taught. you can learn as you go. you can experiment!

this week i opened up visual marketing school as a place to help you learn. my dream is for it to be full of stand-alone classes, longer workshops, DIY style guides and workbooks… anything that will help you add visual to your business, even if you aren’t creative.

the online world is visual. your customers are visual. i want to help you get visual. if i can do it, so can you!

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