Finding Community Outside of Facebook Groups

Recently, there have been Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members closing, and it’s causing quite a stir!

At this point in time, social media, and in particular Facebook groups, are the way many people connect with others, find clients, promote their services, share their content, and more. So what to do when that line of connection to thousands of business owners just goes away?

You find other connection points.

In this post, I’m not going to tell you about different online options besides Facebook groups to meet people. I’m actually going to encourage to go meet people.

Yep, that's right. Face to face, in the truest sense of community.

Just because you run an online business doesn’t mean your friendships, biz besties, clients, and mastermind groups have to be done through a screen (even though online connections are awesome, too!). If you're ready to step out of your comfort zone, here are 5 ways to find and connect with community the old-fashioned way.

 
How to Find Community Offline and Outside of Facebook Groups - post by Gillian Tracey Design
 

 

Finding Community Offline

I know some of you may be reading this, and thinking, “but I live in a small town! There’s no one else who lives where I do that I can connect with.” Don’t worry, I’ve got some ideas for you, too.

Or maybe you’re an introvert like me who’s getting sweaty palms just thinking about having to make small talk with a stranger. The great thing about building community in-person is that it goes so much deeper than small talk, and that’s the kind of thing introverts and extroverts alike thrive off of.

So, whatever reason you have for wanting to keep yourself safe and comfortable building relationships through a screen, I promise that the connections and encouragement you find in face-to-face interactions will be totally and completely worth it, no matter how uncomfortable and hard it may seem. (But since you started your own business, I’m more than confident that you have enough courage to put yourself out there and build community.)

 

5 Ways to Connect

1 | Rising Tide Society chapter

I know the Rising Tide Society has a HUGE online community, but the thing that makes RTS amazing is the local chapters you can join. There are chapters of creatives meeting all around the world through this group! While I enjoy the broader connections the Facebook group allows, I’m most thankful and most fulfilled by the community I’ve found amongst small business owners in my area. 

While many cities have big groups that meet each month, I’m fortunate enough to be in group that’s quite small (for now!) and tight-knit. Because there’s about 10 of us who regularly make it to the meetings each month, it’s allowed for some really great conversations. I know each person, their business, their brand, and their goals. We help troubleshoot each other’s problem areas, bounce ideas around to brainstorm, and celebrate triumphs.

Beyond the community aspect, the group has been really helpful for my business! Since many of the members are in my target market, I can ask their opinion and perspective about different services and courses I may want to offer. That is SO valuable, and you know what? It's so easy to make progress and round out ideas because the person I'm asking is right across the table from me.

If you’ve never heard of the Rising Tide Society or if you’ve been meaning to join a chapter, you can search the groups here to see if there’s one close to you. Don't see a group in your area? Go ahead and apply to start a chapter in your area!

 

2 | Savvy Community meet-up

Like the Rising Tide Society, this is a group that also has a strong, thriving Facebook group called Savvy Business Owners. However, earlier this year the founder, Heather Crabtree, started a new paid membership that sprung from the Facebook group. The membership is a nice hybrid between online and in-person community since there are lots of ways to connect in the online group through weekly prompts, forums, and educational components. Plus, there are in-person meet-ups available in different cities. Even if there’s not a Savvy group in your city, you have video chats with people in your virtual group, which is separated by time zone. It's the next best thing to meeting up in person!

Want to learn more about the Savvy Community membership? Click here.

 

3 | Local co-working spaces + business events

Depending on where you live, you may have the opportunity to snag a spot at a local co-working space. Where I currently live, there’s a business incubator that offers free business guidance, paid classes, and other weekly events, as well as another co-working space that caters to women and working-moms. Between these two spaces and the events they hold, it’s the ideal place to meet other likeminded locals who understand the ins and outs of running a business, and it’s been an easy point of connection.

If you’re wanting some connection or maybe feeling lonely working from home alone, I’d encourage you to find a local co-working space! Not only will you have the chance to meet other business owners and get connected to your local community, you’ll probably be way more productive as a bonus!

 

4 | Mastermind meet-ups

I know there are a lot of options for paid mastermind groups that meet online, but this point is actually inspired by a group of three designers who’ve seemed to master the mastermind. 

Jamie from Spruce Rd., Phyllis Sa, and Kelsey from Paper & Oats are all online business owners who live in different places all around the U.S. If you follow along with any of these talented ladies, you may have seen that they meet up once a year or so for an in-person mastermind/business retreat. So, while their regular meetings and brainstorm sessions are held virtually, they’ve found a way to strengthen their group’s sense of community by going on a trip together. Sounds so fun!

So, if you’re someone who lives in a small town or in a place where a thriving small business community is lacking, consider trying what these designers do. Having a virtual mastermind group that allows you the opportunity to cultivate community online, plus the bonus of an annual in-person retreat could be the perfect fit!

If you want to learn more about their mastermind group, you can read Jamie’s perspective and tips for creating your own group here.

 

5 | Conferences

This list certainly wouldn’t be complete without conferences, which seems like the ultimate way to meet with fellow creatives and business owners face-to-face. (Introverts, I bet your palms are realllllly sweaty now.)

With so many conferences held each year, you can definitely find one that fits exactly what you’re looking for. There’s conferences with workshops, ones geared toward a specific industry (like wedding planners, bloggers, photographers, etc.), ones that are a smaller size to make connections and conversations easier, etc.

If you’re embracing the idea of in-person connection, then I’d definitely recommend attending a conference! You’re guaranteed to go home with more friends than when you left home. Plus, if you really connect with someone, the conference then opens the door to a wonderful friendship and maybe even someone to start a mastermind group with!


Even though connection is made readily available on social media, I hope this post makes you reconsider the importance of in-person community and encourages you step outside your comfort zone to build your tribe.

What are your favorite ways to build community the old-fashioned way? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!


Dos and Don'ts of Designing a Winning Homepage + free worksheet!

In today’s post, I’m talking about the VIP – Very Important Page – of your website. It’s your homepage!

The biggest mistake I see many small business owners make with their website is neglecting the page that can have a huge impact on how quickly visitors become acquainted with a brand and how long visitors will stick around.

The homepage is like the front door to your website. You have the opportunity to create a space that is welcoming, friendly, and informative—it’s like someone knocks on your door and you answer with a warm smile and “mi casa es su casa” vibe. Having a great homepage makes your visitors feel comfortable, gives a winning first impression, and encourages them to go on a tour of your home and learn more about you. 

So, with that visual in mind, put yourself in your visitors’ shoes. What do you want to know when you land on a business’s site for the first time? What makes the user experience a positive and memorable one? What are things that pique your curiosity and make you want to explore and learn more?

With those ideas firmly in your mind, let’s dive into tips for designing a winning homepage! And don’t miss the opt-in at the end of the post.

 

 
Homepage Design Tips + free worksheet to help you get started from Gillian Tracey Design
 

 

TIPS for DESIGNING A WINNING HOMEPAGE

DESIGN DON’Ts

Before we talk about what makes a great homepage, let’s quickly run over the common mistakes I see, and the things you don’t want to do when designing your homepage.


1 | The MIA Homepage

The most obvious no-no in the case of creating a homepage is dismissing it entirely. You’re missing the opportunity to help guide visitors and give them a place to return to after exploring different parts of your site. If you don’t have a dedicated homepage for first-time visitors, then first step for you is to go create one.


2 | Ambiguous information

The second biggest no-no besides is having a homepage but only giving your visitors obscure clues as to what your business is. You don’t want people clicking around your site just because they’re trying to figure out who the heck you are and what the heck you do. The mystery element isn’t going to give a good first impression or convert first-time visitors into faithful fans and clients.


3 | Unclear Directions

When you land on many homepages, it’ll often just have photos or a brief description of the business. This isn’t leveraging the potential a homepage offers to give directions and options for different clearcut paths visitors can take. Don’t make the mistake of forcing your visitor to figure it out on their own or making it difficult to find what they’re looking for. A dead-end on a page is a missed opportunity to share cool content, get someone signed up for your email list, and more.

 

Ultimately, you want to make the experience as easy and memorable (in a good way!) for your visitors. You don’t want to make them work too hard to figure out who you are and if you’re the right person for the job. If you make things too difficult or frustrating to find, people will leave your site and you’ll lose the opportunity to show someone how awesome your business is.

 

DESIGN DOs

Now that you know what to avoid when crafting your homepage, let’s talk about what you should include to keep the attention of visitors and cause them to take action.

1 | Say it loud, say it proud

Your homepage is often the first contact someone has with your site, so be sure to clearly state what your business is about, who you serve, and how you serve them. By including concise and to-the-point copy (that of course is written in a way that injects the personality of your brand) you’re letting someone know they’re in the right place.


2 | Call to Action

Since the homepage is the place you can provide a total overview of your business, it’s the perfect place for call to actions (also referred to as CTAs). So, what do you want your visitor to do when they land on your site? Perhaps you want them to read your latest blog post, or you want them to learn more about your services, or you want them to receive a really awesome opt-in by signing up for your newsletter. Whatever response or action you want them to take be sure to make it clear with easy-to-understand copy and make it visible with buttons that encourage clicking.


3 | Brand Consistency

As with any page on your website you need to keep your homepage on-brand. Your branding is much more than design elements (but those are important too!)—it’s your style and tone of writing, it’s the style of photographs you use. By keeping your branding consistent in the design (logo, colors, fonts, icons/illustrations), that gives a great first impression and will resonate with your target audience/ideal client. Letting that trickle down into the copy creates a cohesive and seamless experience that someone won’t forget anytime soon.

 

Taking into consideration the points from above, also keep in mind that the information you’re including on your homepage should be displayed in a logical order. For example, don’t tell people to “Click to Learn More” about your services if they don’t even know what your business is about and who your services were created for.

Also remember that the homepage is an overview. Include the high points of your site that are important for visitors to learn about and take action on. Since the information you’re providing is meant to be an overview and encourage exploration, keep it short and to the point. If they’re interested in learning more, they’ll go to the page with more info. Pique their interest and then tell them where to go next (Bonus Tip: do this on every page of your site, not just your homepage).


Well, there you have it: my tips for designing a winning homepage for your website. I hope you’ll head over to your site to do a quick audit of your homepage and make some adjustments to encourage your visitors to stick around and hang out in your online home. If you need some more help with building your homepage, then download the worksheet below!

HOMEPAGE BUILDER Graphic-2-web.jpg

Design Retainer: A Good Fit for Your Business?

If you’re a business owner, you’re probably really busy, probably DIYing several aspects of your business, and probably getting tired of being really busy and DIYing everything. Amiright?

The solution? Figuring out which aspects of your business you can outsource. 

If you’re currently:

  1. DIYing the design work and marketing pieces your business needs (and you’re not a designer, nor do you feel comfortable using the programs or confident in the designs you’re creating), or 
  2. you have the know-how but design isn’t something you love and it’s eating up a bunch of your time, or
  3. you’re realizing you have a bunch of design pieces that need designed regularly or for a big project (like an ecourse) coming up and you don’t have the time to learn the fancy design programs.

Well, you’re in luck because this post is going to talk about outsourcing design work so you can take some of those DIY tasks off your plate and instead focus more on what you’re passionate about. Today we’re talking about design retainers!

 
What is a Design Retainer - Blog Post from Gillian Tracey Design
 

 

So, what is a design retainer exactly?

According to the New American Oxford Dictionary, a retainer is, “a fee paid in advance to someone in order to secure or keep their services when required.” So, when put in terms of a design retainer, you’re paying a designer each month to be able to use their sweet, professional skills and services when you’re business needs it.

Here are a couple examples of what a design retainer would look like for a couple different businesses:

Service-based

Let’s say your business is serviced, like a business coach. You could hire a designer on a retainer basis to create blog post and social media graphics, layout content upgrades and ebooks, design a newsletter template, create a pricing PDF for your coaching packages/services, design a welcome packet or workbook for new coaching clients, etc. 

 

Product-based

A retainer for product-based businesses could include creating print collateral for packaging, like stickers or labels, designing graphics for products in an Etsy shop, or creating other on-brand marketing materials, like a postcard, product hangtags, info cards to be mailed with the product, thank you cards, business cards, etc.

 

Online Entrepreneur/Course Creator

A design retainer would definitely come in handy for you if you’re planning on launching an e-course or some other kind of online education component to your business. While you’re focusing on recording videos, writing content, planning webinars, and strategizing your marketing plan, a designer could be creating any visual components of your course. A retainer would cover the creation of opt-in leading up to the launch of your course to snag email leads, PDFs of workbooks/worksheets for the actual course content, webinar slides, video graphics, social media promos, and more. 

 

Why go with a design retainer?

Having a designer on your team frees up your time to work more on building your business, working with clients, creating more products, or producing more content—basically, all the things you do best and are the whole reason you decided to start a business in the first place.

Hiring a designer, particularly one who understands your brand and how to keep all the collateral consistent, will

  1. ensure all your collateral looks professional, polished, and on-brand
  2. guarantees you a set number of hours each month to work one-on-one with a designer
  3. saves you time so you can get to work on what you’re most passionate about.

But you also want to make sure you’re hiring a designer who will be a good fit for your business and your brand’s aesthetic. Here’s how to find the right designer for your business:

 

CHECK SERVICE OFFERINGS

First of all, you need to find designers who offer these kinds of services. Hiring a virtual assistant would also be an option, but make sure they have the design chops to create the kind of high-quality collateral you’re looking for. Branding designers are a great option for a retainer since they eat, sleep, and breathe branding design and consistency. 

 

PROGRAM PROFICIENCY

Whoever you hire, make sure they’re proficient in InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. This is important, especially depending on the type of brand collateral pieces you need created. If you need an e-book designed, you’ll want to hire someone who’s proficient in InDesign since that’s the program that is best suited for layout-type work. So, if the person you’re hiring doesn’t know how to use InDesign that could be a sign that you need someone with a broader skill set. 

 

PAST CLIENTS

Take a look at their website to see examples of brand collateral they’ve created for other clients, and also see if there are any testimonials that speak to the quality of work, timeliness of turnaround, etc. If they don’t have examples on their site, go ahead and ask to see past work that show how they’ve created various pieces of on-brand collateral that work seamlessly together. As I mentioned earlier, you want to make sure that a designer can not only deliver high quality work, but also work that will compliment your brand’s visuals and aesthetic.


So, is a design retainer right for your business? I’d love to help answer any more questions you may have about this particular service, so be sure to leave them in the comments below! And if you want to talk one-on-one with a designer to see if this is a good fit for your business, my digital door is always open! Feel free to shoot me an email at hello@gilliantracey.com, or fill out the contact form here.