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Freedom Fridays, vol. 4: why you should learn to stop taking things personally

Michelle Welch is no stranger to entrepreneurship, growing up in an entrepreneurial household where she learned the importance of strong work ethic and unending determination. At 25 years old, Michelle founded Queen Cleaning Concepts (QCC) and co-founded Golden Spoon For The Culture. QCC,  a commercial and residential cleaning company, quickly gained success due to her stellar marketing efforts. Golden Spoon, a catering and meal prep service, incorporates a cultural spin. Michelle is also a certified life and business coach with Amplify Concepts Coaching, where she can take your confidence and business to the next level. She also serves as a key note speaker.
Her passion spreads widely into the community. She is the founder of non-profit “The Momtrepreneur Network”. This platform is an interactive hub for entrepreneurial women and mothers looking to start or build their own business, create connections, and find inspiration and support. She is a strong, single mother for her two boys, Landon and Trevor, who keep her pushing toward success everyday! 

What does freedom look like for you?

“In my perspective freedom is doing whatever it is I want to do in any given moment, without a single thought of what others may think: the ability to structure my life on my terms in every aspect. I’m on nobody’s time but my own. “

Don’t give anyone the power to make decisions they won’t have to deal with.

Michelle Welch

When did you realize freedom was important to you?

“When I had my second son, I knew I had to drastically change my entire life because I refused to fall into the circumstances I once did with my first son. “

What one piece of advice would you give to people that are in pursuit of their own freedom?

“Do what works for you! Don’t ask people their opinion on what you need to do to make you happy or live the life you feel you deserve. Don’t give anyone the power to make decisions they won’t have to deal with. Find your definition of freedom and run with it. Our time here is limited; make every moment count!”

As leaders in their space, they are always learning – what have you changed your mind/perspective on?

“My perspective is turn everything into a solution. If you have a problem that has a solution, you have no problem! If you have a problem with no solution, that’s your solution – push forward and start again with a new approach. Perspective is what I literally base my life off of. Time is fleeting and we don’t have enough to dwell on the things that just won’t matter in 5-10 minutes! Also FOCUS on the support and love you get versus what you don’t. Love always wins when the focus is right. Lastly, learn how to stop taking things personally.”

Most influential book?

Unfu*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop and The Four Agreements!” 

Freedom Fridays, vol. 3: why you should refuse the “normal” part of life

From a very early age, Justin Nault has been on a relentless pursuit of one thing… passion. His love for creating has guided his life, for better or for worse. Music, entrepreneurship, writing, entertaining, inventing, you name it – any way in which he could express himself and share his thoughts, feelings, and values with the world! 
Justin went on to graduate from Berklee College of Music, become a full-time Entertainer in Nashville, TN, release an album of original music, “It’s Just Me,” launch a successful YouTube Channel, land a Network TV show (ABC’s “The Big Time”), launch “Rock & Roll Pianos,” become a Certified Nutritional Therapist, Specialist in Sports Nutrition, and the Founder of the Clovis
He invented the popular product line, “The Perfect Paleo Powder” and has found success as a Podcaster, YouTube personality, writer and CEO. 

What does freedom look like for you?

“To me, freedom is really the absence of negative stress and feedback loops. Specifically, the things people tend to get “stuck” on… working too many hours, not enough money in the bank, bills piling up, no hobbies or vacation time, poor health… that sort of thing. All of these problems have somehow become widely accepted as a “normal” part of life. I refuse to accept that. Freedom means designing my lifestyle in a way that allows me to avoid the most common pitfalls of what I call, “Standard American Life.” I want to be 100% in charge of my time, I want optimal health & wellness, I want my careers to be my passions, and I don’t want to feel stressed when the bill comes at my favorite restaurant!”

The factory-worker model of education in America sets us up to be slaves to our jobs. To live lives in which our time is not our own. It is the antithesis of personal freedom.

Justin Nault

When did you realize freedom was important to you?

“When I was a Senior in High School. I remember it clear as day… I had performed at a local talent show. I played piano and sang, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel. Shortly after, I was offered my first paying gig as a musician. At the time, I was working at a shoe store for minimum wage. The bar owner offered me $150 to perform for 3 hours. $50 per hour at 17 years old?! I was absolutely blown away. That was when the “wage work” illusion started to dissolve for me. I quickly realized that money alone was not freedom. Being rich is not attractive to me at all if it means working 40+ hours per week. To be truly free, you need both money and TIME. That set me on the path of rejecting “wage work” and maximizing my per-hour earnings. I focused less on working more hours and focused more on increasing the amount of money earned per hour. My time has been almost completely my own since that day with the exception of unavoidable life obligations.”

What one piece of advice would you give to people that are in pursuit of their own freedom?

“Don’t listen to anything the mainstream tells you about finance or career paths. It sounds snarky, I know, but the deeper I dive into these topics the more I believe that statement. Not only do I think public schools and colleges are far less valuable than society tells us they are, but I also believe that virtually everything we learn within those institutions makes us less equipped to ever experience true freedom, fulfillment, and happiness. The factory-worker model of education in America sets us up to be slaves to our jobs. To live lives in which our time is not our own. It is the antithesis of personal freedom.”

As leaders in their space, they are always learning – what have you changed your mind/perspective on?

“That “experts” are no different than you and I. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years as a self-employed entrepreneur, it’s that “experts” are just normal people who have devoted more time to learning about particular subjects than you have. Like most entrepreneurs, I used to suffer tremendously from “imposter syndrome.” No matter how much I learned, I always felt like others were light years ahead of me. I don’t think those feelings ever truly go away. They still sneak up on me from time to time but my beliefs around the entire idea of “experts” have changed significantly. Don’t get me wrong, there are world-class experts and we’re wise to learn from them! But they aren’t some kind of untouchable superhuman that we could never hope to be… that’s the big realization I had to have. We can all be experts in fields of our choosing, it’s simply a matter of how much time we’re willing to dedicate to the goal of becoming an expert. We can’t sit around and wish we were like the experts, we must execute… Wisdom through experience!”

Most influential book?

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. I know that’s a cliche answer but it’s honestly been the single most influential book in my life. Most of the topics in it are more “mainstream” in 2019, but remember, when it was released in 2007, it was cutting edge stuff! I read that book and for the first time in my life I stopped feeling like I was alone in the world. I had always felt “weird” because I didn’t see things the same way most of society appeared to. The idea of getting a 9-5 with a 401k a mortgage and a white picket fence sounded worse than a death sentence to me. I constantly felt like I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The 4-Hour Workweek open my eyes to the fact that there were actually other people in this world who were just like me! Who desperately wanted something more than the “status quo.” That book single-handedly kicked off my journey of personal development and entrepreneurship!” 

Freedom Fridays, vol. 2: Why you should act on your unhappiness

Juliana No is an expert in online communications and marketing, personal branding, and business growth with international outreach. She is the founder and CEO of Stand Out Consulting in Orlando, FL.
Juliana’s career path includes working with Fortune 500 companies as well as small enterprises in different countries – leading digital marketing, social media and business strategy teams and initiatives, helping those companies and individuals establish their corporate and personal brands. She is also a content writer for a monthly subscription of elEconomista.es, leader of @LakeNonaMoms with Lake Nona Social, Communications Chair at the National Diversity Council, Ex Board of Directors Member at HAPBWA, and active member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and Lake Nona.

Some people [get freedom] through their corporate jobs, others need to act on their unhappiness by starting their own thing.

Juliana No

Juliana No is a Central Florida force to be reckoned with. An expert in online communications and marketing, personal branding, and business growth with international outreach, she initially started her company as a side hustle to support her household and assist local and international businesses with marketing and business consulting. Now, serving companies in the US and Europe with partners all over the world, she has made it her life and looks forward to giving other moms and women the opportunity to work on their own time for her clients. Her true passion is helping others achieve their dreams and a better life, which is why she mentors other women in her spare time for which she was awarded “Woman of the Year 2018” by the Momtrepreneur Network and Millennial Women’s Solution Network.

What does freedom look like for you?

“Freedom is the capacity to choose how you want to act on something. When it comes to work, for some freedom is being able to manage your time or do something you love, for others it is about choosing how they use their spare time and having a paycheck that allows them to do their hobbies. And, although I believe some people do get it through their corporate jobs, others need to act on their unhappiness by starting their own thing. In my case, it’s being able to pick up my son earlier on a Friday and take him out for ice cream, knowing that I don’t have to ask for PTO to take him to the doctor and being able to do work at night if I want to spend the morning helping a friend or going to a workshop that interests me. “

When did you realize freedom was important to you?

“When my son got sick in the hospital and I was stressing about days off and paying those bills I realized I had an option to make my side hustle into a full time business. That would give me the freedom I needed when it comes to the time I wanted to dedicate to him. “

What one piece of advice would you give to people that are in pursuit of their own freedom?

“It’s not as easy as it seems. There will be down times. The first year is usually hard financially and emotionally. You will probably end up working more hours than before at first but you arrange those hours. And as you grow, you’ll be able to outsource that work to others gaining back some of the time you probably craved for when you decided to take this path. Just don’t give up. Give yourself that first year and make sure you have backup funds if you are going in full time. “

As leaders in their space, they are always learning – what have you changed your mind/perspective on?

“Being a business owner is not as relaxing as people think. Everyone depends on you: your family, your workers, your vendors, partners… The responsibility is bigger. But it also comes with special powers. The power to create and reinvent yourself and what you do anytime you want. “

Most influential book?

I like classics that will help with business and life:

The Prince by Machiavelli

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler

Freedom Fridays, vol. 1: Why it’s important to follow your own voice

Brian Robben runs the fast-growing digital ad agency, Robben Media, and he also founded BrianRobben.com–a top website on starting and scaling an online business. Prior to running two businesses, Brian wrote 3 Amazon bestselling books and his work has been featured on The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, AOL, and other major publications.

“[Freedom is] having the power and self-sufficiency to go on your own when your voice is silenced.”

Brian Robben

For our first edition of Freedom Friday, we got to pick the brain of Brian Robben, who is no stranger to building a life on his own terms. From the age of 8, Brian knew he wanted to do things differently and displayed his talents as a disruptive entrepreneur, re-selling Mountain Dew cans to his 3rd-grade classmates at lunch. His quest for freedom led him from running a successful, high-entry fee Fantasy Football League as a 12-year old to eventually developing a blog and best-selling books around the idea of gaming college success and automating income for young adults to become rich.

Driven to succeed, he taught himself marketing to grow his Instagram following and promote his books to best-selling status, which eventually led him to share his expertise with companies. In 2018, he founded Robben Media, the fast-growing digital ad agency. We asked him to tell us his thoughts on Freedom.

What does freedom look like for you?

“Freedom means the ability to do, talk, think as you please. It’s being able to work because you want to, not because you have to. It’s talking with freedom of speech—and having the power and self-sufficiency to go on your own when your voice is silenced. It’s being able to think independently and shun groupthink because you’re the master of your thoughts. Freedom is the greatest blessing next to life itself.”

When did you realize freedom was important to you?

“At age 18 when I didn’t get into the colleges I wanted to. And then again at age 19 when I tried to transfer to Harvard using my perfect freshman year grades, but my SAT scores back in high school caught up to me for the second time. Before then, I had the mentality that I could and should be able to do whatever I pleased. Then I learned the real-world doesn’t operate that way. I couldn’t finesse and talk my way into colleges and scholarships—I either had the scores they were looking for or I didn’t. That lesson sucked. But it taught me to never be in a situation where my freedom is limited, in this case my freedom of where I was going to spend the next four years was limited, by outworking everyone else. That’s been my mindset since.”

What one piece of advice would you give to people that are in pursuit of their own freedom?

“My first advice is to get your money right. Too often I see people who want to become an entrepreneur immediately quit their 9-5 job. Now not only do they have the pressure of starting a business, on top of that their food and shelter depends on it. It’s better to make progress on your business in the mornings before work, during lunch, and nights and weekends until it’s producing enough income for you to fully quit your job. I’d wait until you have 3-6 months of living expenses saved and you have secured at least three paying customers for proof your business is solving people’s problems, before going full-time.”

As leaders in their space, they are always learning – what have you changed your mind/perspective on?

“I used to believe that saving is how people reached financial freedom. While that’s partially true, I’ve made 95% of my net worth not my saving but by investing money. Investing money into my self, business courses, books, stocks, Bitcoin, real estate, you name it, you’ll reach freedom quicker when you’re cool spending money to make more money. Being cheap doesn’t produce a big payday. Spending money has always pushed me to become more skilled and knowledgeable than I was before I invested.”

Most influential book?

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder

3 Reasons to Outsource Graphic Design

Hand holding a compass in a forrest

Chances are, graphic design is not one of your company’s core competencies.  However, you need it to get your branding and messaging across (for more on how design drives ROI, keep reading here).  Maybe you have an in-house graphic designer already, or maybe you’ve been working with freelancers.  No matter the case, outsourcing graphic design is a great way to conserve resources, benefit from expertise, and scale your business faster.

Here are our top 3 reasons for why you should outsource your graphic design needs.

1. Opportunity Cost

There’s an opportunity cost associated with every choice you make.  When you say yes to something, it means saying no to something else.  In the field of economics, this is known as the opportunity cost – what opportunity are you foregoing when you say yes to something?

If you choose to use your resources on an in-house designer, you’re spending time (that would be spent managing that employee) and money (more on this later) that you could potentially be reinvesting in your business.  When you choose to outsource and leverage the strengths of someone else, the sum of the parts can be greater when you combine your efforts. All the sudden, your time and money are freed up to go towards something else that may have a bigger impact to your bottom line, like marketing efforts or product R&D.  

Even if you already have an in-house designer, outsourcing can allow you to make the most of that employee’s strengths, and minimize their weaknesses.  It will allow you to double your employee’s output without actually having to hire another employee. If he’s already bogged down with 4 projects, outsourcing the next one would allow you to increase your production, and get better quality out of your in-house designer as they are able to spend more time on the current projects they have.  

2. Save Money and Time

Simply put, the numbers speak volumes.  If you were going to hire an in-house designer, the average graphic designer salary is about $50,000 a year (plus benefits).  Don’t forget, all of their sick days and personal days are included in this as well – so your $50,000 does not truly give you a year’s worth of production.  

Hiring a freelancer instead at say, $40 an hour, will run you $1600 for a full 40 hour work-week, versus $1,041 for your in-house designer.  However, you’ll have flexibility to bring them on only when you need them, so you may not be billing out for a full 40 hours every week. You also don’t have to worry about paying benefits.  But you will have to spend a significant amount of time to find your freelancer, vet their skills, and then manage them. They can also be difficult when it comes to meeting deadlines, or producing a certain quality of work.  

Better yet, an unlimited monthly design service, like the one we offer at Upperhand Creative, will cost you less than $5,000 a year and give you access to multiple designers.  You can get all the designs you need for a flat monthly rate, without having the hassle of managing designers or providing office space. All designers are vetted already and you just have to upload a brief description of what you need.  No benefits, no salaries, and no wasted time, allowing you to save a pile of cash that you can throw back into your business.

Now you just have to figure out what you’re going to do with all that money!  

3. Do What you Do Best

Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, both authors and renowned business management experts, told business owners to “do what you do best, and outsource the rest”.  Let someone else take on the tasks and projects that don’t fall under your company’s core competencies.  

The quality of work you’ll get from leveraging the expert will far surpass anything you could have put together internally, at a lesser cost to you.  You’ll also save time yet again, as the expert will be able to produce better quality in a shorter amount of time.

As a business owner, you should focus on the things you do best that you can’t outsource or delegate, and let someone else take on everything else.  Your time is limited, and you have to allocate it as efficiently as possible.  After all, “effective executives do first things first… and they do ONE thing at a time”, says Drucker. So spending your time trying to figure out how to use Photoshop is probably not your best use.

If you’re ready to start outsourcing your graphic design needs, have a look at our unlimited, month-to-month plans and try us out with a 14 day money-back guarantee.

Why Stellar Design Will Continue to Drive ROI in 2020

Man sitting on couch with laptop

Unless you’re Apple, you may not think about design as a major component to your business’ success.  Typically, lead generation, ROI, market share, supply chain logistics, and email blasts take up the brain bandwidth of the modern day CEO or entrepreneur.  But the truth is, in a world dominated by social media and human DNA that’s hardwired to judge a book by its cover, design is more important than ever.

Too many brands and small businesses resort to self-made graphics on their Instagram feed, or worse yet, Microsoft Word presentations of their next event (gasp!).  We get that great design often comes at a cost and takes time, but making a poor first impression or building a reputation that you’re sloppy or cheap comes at an even greater cost.

We’ve always centered around the idea that design is your competitive advantage in an increasingly cut-throat landscape.  Often times, design is what separates similar products and grabs a larger market share. Still not convinced? Sink your teeth into the undeniable truths below as we make the case for why design is essential in business.

We’re humans, and we’re judgmental AF

Bette Davis is judging you.

No matter how enlightened and sophisticated we may claim to be, we are all slaves to our DNA rooted in ancient, primal needs.  “Half of the human brain is devoted directly or indirectly to vision”, according to Mriganka Sur, a professor at MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.  It’s in our nature to judge on first impressions, which is often the first thing we see since we are such visual creatures.

We are also wired to make split-second conclusions based on our belief system.  We fill in the gaps based on social normalities we’ve picked up throughout the years.  This helps explain why we typically associate more attractive people with success (look at our TV shows if you’re wondering where this belief comes from).  People that present themselves well with poise and confidence gain an instant likability.

The same holds true for your business.  When your first impression is a rigid, cotton-pressed, thoughtfully designed business card or an exemplary sales deck, the receiver automatically decides that you know what you’re doing and are worthy of their business.  On the other hand, when they go to your social media pages and find clipart and blurry photos of your dog, they have no reason to trust you. It takes about 50 milliseconds for a user to form an impression of your company based on your website, so good design is crucial.

Numbers don’t lie

Design-driven companies have outperformed the S&P 500 Index by 219% over the last 10 years (source: Design Management Institute).

The world of business is shifting, and new tools are emerging that give brands an unprecedented advantage.  The new landscape includes things like design and social media, typically things that appear to have an abstract or not readily-identifiable ROI.  While they may not be as black and white as old-school thinkers would like, their true ROI is evident in the coat-tails of these companies embracing the new mediums.  

Make or break the user experience

Often, the perception of design and what it entails is superficial – it’s not just how it looks, but also how it functions.  Going back to the aforementioned focus of Apple, design is the pillar on which they’ve built massive success.  They put the needs of the customer first, always asking how they can create a seamless experience for the user.  This thought process, for example, led to the decision that all products come fully-charged and ready to use right out of the box.  

UX/UI (user experience/user interface design) is a buzz-word these days and for good reason.  According to Adobe, “59% of consumers globally would rather engage with content that’s beautifully designed as opposed to simply designed, even when short on time.”  In addition, 38% of users will leave your website if it’s poorly designed. Couple all of this with the fact that we form first impressions based on visual aesthetics within milliseconds, and the case for design becomes even more relevant.

Good design also drives conversions.  When properly laid out, call to action buttons shine and the user is visually drawn to the most important information on your site.  Studies have shown that a site with superior user experience can increase conversion rates up to 400% (Source: Forrester).

Design is your competitive advantage

Today more than ever the consumer is faced with an overwhelming amount of product and service choices for any given category.  Often times, these choices are in the same price range and there isn’t much of a difference when it comes to function. The paradox of choice is alive and well, and the more choices a customer has, the harder it is to choose, and the less happy they will be.  Unless, of course, your product is so exquisitely designed that it stands out, and there really is no other choice.

Picture yourself standing in the shampoo aisle and scanning the numerous bottle designs.  One brand jumps out amongst all the other boring bottles – it’s matte sheen, stark color contrast, and simple text, screams sophistication.  And you pride yourself on your sophistication. You immediately grab it, and take it to the cash register. It’s design created an emotional connection with you, and made it an easy choice amongst the other hundreds of brands.

“Human beings have an attractiveness bias; we perceive beautiful things as being better, regardless of whether they actually are better.”  Therefore, design can be the determining factor for whether you gain a customer over your competition.  

It’s the same for social media platforms.  As users scroll through their news feeds, something has to compel them to stop – something that grabs their attention and stands out from the hundreds of other posts.  Careful design choices are what get a brand noticed.

Emotional connections are established from strong visuals.  Think about an inspiring piece of art or a moving photograph – you instantly feel something.  Moreover, people buy on emotional triggers. So when you can create an emotional bond with good design and valuable content, you’ve got a winning combination.  People will be drawn to you and will continue engaging with your content, which eventually leads to a conversion.

Design is truly the last frontier in a highly competitive world.  It can make or break your brand, and determine just how memorable you are in your audience’s mind.  For more tips, keep reading here to see why outsourcing your design needs is your next great idea.