Design Strategy for Nerds.

This week was my second one-on-one mentorship meeting with Marie Poulin as I go into my second month of Digital Strategy School. This month is all about Positioning, a subject my business is struggling with. The copy on my site as of today is not cutting it, it is vague and does not truly convey the service that I offer.

So that’s the question — what DO I offer? What sets me apart from all the talented designers out there? What makes CMD+Shift Design special and why would a business or organization choose to work with me? While talking with Marie today, I think I may have hit on something that will help me answer these questions.

I told Marie that I enjoy working with people who are passionately excited about growing their businesses. Sure, all entrepreneurs want to be successful — but I’m looking for something different than that. Beyond the excitement for success what about those of us who are crazy excited about our work beyond what might be considered “normal”? What about those of us… who are …nerds? geeks? The one’s who when asked about the new things going on in your industry can go off on a tangent for hours with enthusiasm. The one’s who are excited to learn more. You’re my people!

With this new discovery, I am tasked with reworking my website copy – which is a daunting task, so if anyone with actual writing skills wants to offer up some help, you know where to find me. How do I speak to my future clients out there who are geeks within their industries? How do I convey that the key service offering when working with CMD+Shift Design is having a Design Geek (that would be me) in your corner? How do I write copy that is going to both sound professional, yet is also basically saying “OMG FOLKS! LETS GEEK OUT TOGETHER ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS!!!”?

Let’s talk about how much I suck at business lately….

A couple weeks ago, I saw a tweet come through my Twitter timeline from my buddy Tim Smith, a designer and podcaster saying, “2014 was my worst year in freelance. My business revenue declined by ~10k.” I immediately related, but hesitated to reply.

Who wants to talk about their failures? Business being slow is actually pretty embarrassing to me and the idea of broadcasting it out to the world sounded terrifying. I sat at my keyboard for a few minutes looking at Tim’s tweet — my hands poised over the keys. I wanted to reach out!

It was extremely brave of Tim to be so honest! I saw someone I admire standing out on a limb and I knew he didn’t need to be out there alone, so I typed out the words, “the last 2 years have been crap for me! Trying to turn things around this year!” and hit return. Of course Tim, came back with a compassionate and encouraging response. It was a good feeling to connect and reach out to someone about something I haven’t shared with many people.


Then he proposed something that I did not expect “want to talk about it next week on The East Wing?”


The tiny step of sending a single tweet out that would only be seen by those who follow both me and Tim on Twitter had my knees shaking, how could I possibly handle talking about my business failures live on a podcast and then having the recording of that live forever online?! There is just NO WAY!

Then Aaron Irizarry had to speak up, “But it can also be liberating, and encouraging to others who might be feeling the same way” Great, he hit right at my heart with that one. If Tim’s initial confession about his struggles hit me so hard and made me feel a little less alone, how could I turn down the opportunity to reach out to other freelancers and small-business owners in the same way? I took a deep breath… and then agreed to do it.


On Tuesday Tim and I recorded The East Wing Episode #7: If I Don’t Produce, I Don’t Eat together. It was both fun and terrifying, like karaoke… but with less whisky. Tim lead the discussion through talking about the things we’ve done right in business and then where we have fell short. We fielded a few listener questions and more than a couple times Tim said “you don’t have to answer this question, but…” I pushed myself to be honest and was inspired throughout the show to continue doing so because of Tim’s frankness. I took away from it, that being open and honest about my struggle is always the way to go. There are people out there who will be able to relate to you and who will have compassion, not judgement.


If you want to hear our full discussion, head over to and follow Tim on Twitter to stay on top of all the awesome podcasts he is involved with!

My First Business Mentorship Meeting

Computer didn't give a hoot what I was doing today until I opened Skype and began my conference call with Marie.
Computer didn’t give a hoot what I was doing today until I opened Skype and began my conference call with Marie.

Today was my very first one-on-one business mentorship meeting with Marie Poulin at Digital Strategy School.

This was the first of what will be monthly 1 Hour sessions with Marie during the 6-month Digital Strategy School course and I can already tell these next 6 months are going to be a whirlwind!

The course officially began this past Friday, January 16th. We are starting out doing a Business Audit, which includes taking a hardcore look at your business’ strengths and weaknesses in order to help you set goals for the future. At first it felt a little uncomfortable. I was reminded of the first time I went to talk therapy and felt like being that honest with myself was almost more than I could handle. Once I got over that initial hurdle, I began making some connections and having a lot of feels and thoughts about why business wasn’t going well and how I could change that.

In the next 30 days some of my goals to help grow this new business venture is to wireframe a website and do an illustration for an online marketing campaign in February.  That’s all I am sharing for now… but stay tuned here or follow me on Twitter to hear more!