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work big to small

A month and a half ago I challenged myself to write a course in 30 days.  I was not successful.  I’ve learned a ton the the process, worked out a lot of the tech of releasing a course, and the course is on track to launch in January, but I didn’t manage my process well and I couldn’t get it done on that timeline. Looking back, I realize that got so focused on details that I forgot my big picture.  Now I’m in the process of reworking my plan backward from a year for my business, and backward from a broad overview for my course.

It’s amazing how often you can know a truth in one part of your life, but then turn around and have to relearn the exact same truth in a different part of your life.

“Work from big to small.”

I have to remind my drawing students of this constantly.

While drawing, new students often get focused on and fascinated by details.  They stop drawing a human and start drawing fingers.  They don’t draw a face, they meticulously draw eyelashes.

But the thing is, if you focus too closely on any one part, you forget the rest.  You get that hand perfect but the arm is too long and the body is out of proportion.  Those eyelashes are stunning but the rest of the drawing remains only half finished.

In my experience, the way to draw well is to fight your instincts- start big and work your way backward to the details.  You start with gestures, shapes, and general proportions and slowly build in the specifics.

From the outside it can seem like masters of their craft skip the ‘overview’ work, but that’s only an illusion.  When you watch a highly skilled craftsman, they can have impressive work done in record time.  What you’re seeing is years of experiential knowledge speed them through the steps that would take the beginner much longer.

The key, no matter how advanced you are, is to never lose sight of your big picture.  Your dedication and process should always work from big to small, both in concept and action.

I’m relearning this lesson in the business space.  When you get too focused on any one detail without having laid the foundation evenly across your business, you end up standing on unbalanced ground, feeling overwhelmed, and not making progress.  Zoom out to the big picture and it’s easy to see what needs to be worked on for progress to be made.

Zoom out and think about your next year.  Thinking at a high level, what are the 3 biggest things that need to be improved? Now, write a list of 5 actions that you can take in the next month to start addressing these challenges.  Let me know what your thoughts in the comments, I love watching your progress.



This morning I was sitting across from my husband as we both aggressively drank our coffee and lazily worked on our respective projects. It’s interesting when you’ve known someone for large swaths of your life, they get to watch you go through your evolution in a way that no one else does.  In our case we’ve been together since I was 19, almost a decade now, so he’s truly been able to see me grow up.  He looked up at me with his lovely brown eyes, sipped his coffee, and commented that it’s been interesting to watch me learn (read: struggle) to own a company.

Get ready: This is a moment when I’m going to pull back the curtain and get a little vulnerable.  Owning a company challenges me personally with things I’ve struggled with my whole life: time management, follow through, focus, seeing and remembering details, etc.  There’s a reason I went to art school straight out of high school- I wanted to be immersed in what I was good at, not remind myself constantly about my problems with school and life.

Running this company, I can’t get away from my challenges and fears.  They’re waves that break over me all the time. As a bootstrapping entrepreneur, I’m always having to keep track of so many things and, hands down, the biggest thing that impedes my company’s growth is myself. I’ve learned that I have to manage my motivation, headspace, and emotional landscape quite carefully to move forward in the way I want to and sometimes it feels as if I work day and night just to keep my head above water.

What does all this feel like? It’s fear.  I feel afraid.  Afraid that I’m not good enough, smart enough. Afraid that I’m going to let people down. Afraid that I”m an impostor who can’t keep this afloat.

Every now and then, usually in moments of late night desperation, I day dream about the alternative- a cushy office job.  I salivate over the security, being able to count on my next paycheck, and coming home to spend time with my family without that nagging feeling that I should be working.

But then my vision clears and I realized that I love what I do, even though it is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I remember that the grass isn’t greener on the other side (and most corporations would frown on the blue hair).

So, what was the one thing that has turned me from a frivolous millennial to a grown (bad)ass woman?  The experience of sensing my fear, and instead of running away from it, recalibrating my life to walk squarely toward it.  Walking toward my fear and my perceived weaknesses was what made me start this company and it’s the thing that keeps me here even in my hardest moments.

We’re all terrified. The first step to moving forward is accepting that as a constant and not letting it stop you from doing what you need to become your best self.

Know an entrepreneur who’s stuck? Forward this article to them.  They’re not alone.


It’s hard, when you’re in the middle of running a business, to remember to focus on growth and believe that investing in yourself is worth it.

That’s what I found myself repeatedly thinking today as I was sitting in the creativeLIVE studios for the first day of Melanie Duncan’s Unlock the Power of Pinterest workshop.

Last week I was out with a friend and was gushing about traveling out of San Francisco (my favorite place in the world!) to be a guinea pig for two back to back creativeLIVE events this week. Suddenly, he looked at me and said, “So… What do you think you’ll get out of that? Why is that worth it?” I was taken aback.  The question came on the heels of me enthusiastically running my mouth for several minutes about the things I’m looking forward to learning.  The conversation quickly recovered and moved on, but I was left with that question.  Even with all the things I’m learning here, why is it worth it to take a full week ‘off’ to come out and do this?

Ultimately, it’s worth it because I’m prioritizing development.  I’m remembering and acting out the importance of growth.  I don’t always do that.  In the busy haze of running a company I can get lost in the mundane minutia of working with clients and generally keeping things afloat.  However, when progress is your goal you have to make the investment of time, our most precious and limited resource.

So here’s to investment of time, money, and energy in oneself.  Cheers.


creative liveHey! We’re going to be on the internet-tv!

Catch Rachel on Unlocking the Power of Pintrest with Melanie Duncan

and Make Your Website Work for You with Kevin Duncan

From 9am – 4pm, Sept 4th – 9th

These classes are FREE to take while they’re live, so tune in!



“My dear, Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover. ~ Falsely yours” ― Charles Bukowski


Imagine: You hear about a company that sparks your interest, so naturally, you google them.  What if they don’t come up in the search results? What do you think about them? What if what you find that they have a website, but it’s an unimpressive ghost town obviously old, unorganized, and never updated.  Would you trust them with your credit card? Your email address? How does it effect your relationship to them and your likelihood to spend money with them?

If you said that a shitty online presence would be a valid reason not to trust a company then you’re not alone.  Based on this study from Search Engine Land’s Local Consumer Review Survey most people surveyed were just as likely to turn to the internet, as they were to ask for personal recommendations about local businesses.  According to an TRUSTe survey 88% of consumers will avoid doing business with companies that they don’t believe will protect their online privacy.

This paints a compelling picture.  Consumers are well educated in their options, have amazing resources to make educated decisions, and are consistently turning to the internet to help them make those decisions.  Consumers need to not only be able to find you, but know based on your online presence that they can trust you with their purchases and information.

If you have an inconsistent, infrequently updated, patchy online reputation then you’re a ghost.  Consumers value trust and you show up as translucent: they can see right through you.  If you’re not showing up in the marketplace as a solid modern business, how can you persuade customers that you’re their best option?

Who are you when people find you on the internet? Here are some quick tips for maintaining your online reputation:

  • BE CONSISTENT! Seriously.  Post regularly: whether that’s once a month or once a day.
  • Remember that your social media presence builds your brand’s reputation first and speaks to your products second.
  • Consciously and actively build a positive reputation by providing great customer experiences.
  • Build a recommendation system that fosters brand advocates, collects recommendations and media mentions, and lets you to harness the love, so to speak.
  • Remember that your social media mentions will effect your search results.
  • In the land of viral blog posts and social media, individual consumers have power. Don’t be quick to ignore anyone.


I present to you a manifesto of done.

This was written in collaboration between Bre Pettis and Kio Stark in 20 minutes because they only had 20 minutes to get it done.

The Cult of Done Manifesto

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.

James Provost made the awesome poster above.

And Joshua Rothaas made this poster.


There is also now a facebook group for the Cult of Done


How do you know if you’re paying too much? or if you’re getting a deal?

For a comprehensive branding package that includes a visual identity, web presence, and leadership through the intricacies of laying out you brand philosophies, then the price tag is going to start at around $10,000 and can go up into the six figures.  The smallest branding package we have here at RR/D is $9,999.  We charge that much because that is what we need to provide our clients with awesome results.  We’re not interested in half measures or results that our clients aren’t totally excited about.

Why does it cost that much? There’s a lot of work that goes into building your brand.  Once you’ve worked through the initial steps of consciously branding yourself, you’ll get more high quality clients that are willing to pay you more and will be more excited to work with you.  Here’s a short list of what you should be getting when you dive in:

  • Research – What does your market really look like? Who are you ideal clients and what do they want? Who are you competitors and how are you different?  When you’re working with a great branding company they should answer all of these questions and more.
  • Coaching – A great company should lead you and your team through the process of creating the philosophy of your brand.
  • Design – Your visual identity (logo, color scheme, etc), your web presence (website, social media assets, etc), print (stationary, business cards, etc), and advertising.
  • Writing – How you speak and write deeply effects how you’re remembered.  You need to have consistency across your web copy, social media posts, blogs, videos, advertising, and so on.
  • Strategy – How can you protect your brand and use it to direct your marketing so that you can consistently get clients you love?

How do I choose the right company? First of all, do you due diligence: research companies, review portfolios, have conversations.  Make sure that who you’re working with has a good reputation by asking for recommendations and samples of work.  Beyond that, look for a great connection.  The company you hire is going to be working to translate some really abstract concepts (your intentions, your market, your goals) into words and pictures.  You need a company that speaks the same language that you do.  Make sure you really like and communicate well with the people you’re working with.

I’m on a budget. Can I find someone who will do it for less than that? Yes, of course. On the one hand, if you want to have a brand that sings to your ideal clients, shines with your uniqueness, and really fits you like a glove, then you should stick to the pricing structures above.

On the other hand, if all you need is a basic visual identity, then you can get it for well under $1000.  Perfection is the enemy of progress, take imperfect action where you have to.  Know that if you go down this road you’re going to have to be clear on your brand strategy and your needs in advance.  There will be no hand holding and you may be dissatisfied with the work.  If you just want a logo, or a banner, or a Facebook cover graphic, etc, or if you’re on a super tight DIY budget, then you should go hire someone to do the thing you need and only that.  I’ve found success on Fiverr and ODesk for problems I’ve needed a ‘cheap, quick, and dirty’ answer to.

You get what you pay for.  The less you pay the less you get.  A branding package might cost less when it’s with a less experienced company or student, with a company that would run you through a tight cookie cutter style system, or for a component of a total brand, for example a package that’s only a visual identity.  Whenever you engage in any service, you’re paying for the number of hours it takes highly trained professionals to create a great outcome.  The fact of the matter: If you pay less you’re either going to work with people who are not as skilled or you’re going to get fewer hours of personal attention, if not a combination of the two.


Branding is a serious and strategic process that should a foundational part of building your company and should be right up there with solid accounting and product development.  Take it seriously and you’ll be well on your way to developing a strong business you can count on.

I admit it, I’m a Seth Godin fangirl. I think entrepreneurs, myself included, have to deal with anxiety a lot. I hadn’t thought of it the way Seth explains below, but I love it.  Check this post The opposite of anxiety from Seth Godin’s Blog:

I define non-clinical anxiety as, “experiencing failure in advance.” If you’re busy enacting a future that hasn’t happened yet, and amplifying the worst possible outcomes, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to ship that work.

With disappointment, I note that our culture doesn’t have an easily found word for the opposite. For experiencing success in advance. For visualizing the best possible outcomes before they happen.

Will your book get a great testimonial? Write it out. Will your talk move someone in the audience to change and to let you know about it? What did they say? Will this new product gain shelf space at the local market? Take a picture.

Writing yourself fan mail in advance and picturing the change you’ve announced you’re trying to make is an effective way to push yourself to build something that actually generates that action.

One reason this is difficult is that we’ve got a false humility that pushes us to avoid it. The other is that when we’re confronted with this possible success, we have to confront the fact that our current plan just isn’t that good (yet), that this site or that menu item really isn’t as good as we need it to be.

If you expect rejection, it’s a lot easier to ship lousy stuff. Said that way, it’s clear that this is a ridiculous strategy. Better to make it great now rather than mourn failure later.

Go ahead, write yourself some fan mail, in advance.


“Stillness is our most intense mode of action.. It is in our moments of deep quiet that is born every idea, emotion, and drive which we eventually honor with the name of action. We reach highest in meditation, and farthest in prayer. In stillness every human being is great.”  — Leonard Bernstein, composer of “West Side Story”