Entries Tagged as 'goals'

creating routines + getting things done.

Posted on: Monday, April 14, 2014

Thoughts on Creating Routines and Getting Things Done | Ann-Marie Loves | Quote by Pearl S. Buck

I go through phases where I spend my last few minutes every evening either scrolling through Instagram + Pinterest or by reading a book on my Kindle. Lately I’ve been turning the former way more often than the latter, but last Thursday, I decided to revisit my Kindle and ended up purchasing Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei. Turns out, it was exactly what I needed to read! (What’s that saying about when you’re ready, the teacher will appear?) I quickly burned through half the book in a single evening and felt so inspired by the quote above, that I decided to create a new tradition: Friday morning coffee dates with my laptop and my to-do list. I am 100% guilty of waiting until my mood is “just right” or when inspiration strikes or when a deadline is dangerously close before I actually begin, so you better believe this quote was the kick in the pants that I desperately needed ;)

P.S. Normally I save work / life balance posts for my Workspace Wednesday series, but this quote just felt like the right note for kicking off of a killer Monday!

planting new seeds.

Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ann-Marie Loves

This past week has been a bit of a doozy, to say the least. There have been many moments where I am overcome with feelings of “what am I doing?!”, except with more expletives and maybe a tearful outburst or two. But despite this week’s rocky start, I’m now feeling renewed and ready to jump back into the fold. I recently read my 2014 horoscope and whether or not it has any shred of truth to it, I choose to believe it wholeheartedly. I like imagining positivity whenever possible and this year is apparently full of it for Scorpios like myself!

Yesterday I left the house for a bit to run some errands and I have to say, being out and about in this beautiful city was like a breath of fresh air. Sometimes I spend so much time at home, I forget that I get to live in Pasadena (a longtime dream of mine!). I remember writing in my journal about wanting to move here a few years ago and at the time, it seemed like a long shot (this was back in my Utah days). But it’s amazing how a tiny seed of an idea can get planted in your subconscious and before you know it, you’re walking down Colorado Boulevard on a Wednesday afternoon because this is your neighborhood, gosh darn it! Life is a funny thing.

So what I mean to say is, I’m planting new seeds. I’m thinking about what’s next for me and I’m hoping for the best. First up: a brand new e-course in which I share all of my favorite tips + tricks for styling, shooting, and editing photos for blog posts! (Look for it to launch by the end of the month!)

P.S. The photo above? Old. Pre-wedding. Pre-baby. But totally fitting of my mood ;)

my freelancing story.

Posted on: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Freelance Story | Ann-Marie Espinoza

I should start off by saying, I never intended to be a freelancer.

While it’s the lifestyle I’ve always dreamt about, it’s not something I imagined I would ever really have the guts to dive into headfirst. But life has a funny way of throwing you into situations you never expected and showing you that you are capable of so much more than you know.

A little about my background: I graduated from San Diego State in 2009 with a degree in Multimedia Design. At the time, I had no clear direction as to where I was going to go with my career. Using the economy as a blanket excuse for any and all problems is a tired justification, but if I can be real for a moment, graduating smack dab in the middle of the recession was terrible. TERRIBLE. I had zero job prospects when I was handed my diploma. Not a one. I moved back home with my parents and took on odd gigs here and there (medical billing, anyone?). I remember interviewing for temporary work at the mall that following November and going up against people who were far more qualified and far more educated than the job would ever require. And the result of those interviews? Futile. I couldn’t even get part-time, minimum wage, seasonal work! Needless to say, it wasn’t a high point in my 27 years.

But then in 2010, I applied for an In-House Scrapbooker / Product Designer position as American Crafts. I was absolutely positive that I would never get the job (I lived in Southern California, the position was based in Utah), but within three weeks, John and I were living in Orem, Utah. Life is weird, you guys.

Working at my (then) dream job was an amazing, invaluable, unforgettable experience that taught me so much about design, marketing, and finding things to do on a Sunday in the Mormon bible belt. But almost two years into the job, I was unexpectedly laid off. I was crushed. I was shocked. I was panicked. There was no way in hell that John and I were going to stay in Utah a single minute longer, but how in the world were we going to pay for all of our moving expenses and still have money left over once we got to California?

Out of desperation, I posted a few rubber stamp designs (that I had previously made for myself) in my online shop, not expecting anyone to buy them. Within an hour after posting, I had a handful of sales. I couldn’t believe it! People really wanted to buy my designs? This was incredible! And that’s where the ball got rolling. The sales continued to grow and grow and for the first time ever, I truly believed I could support myself without the steady financial backing of a company. I had cash flow and confidence. Things were looking up.

By the time I returned home to California (peace out, Utah), I begin working part time with Amy Tan, taking on various freelance design projects, and selling more and more stamp designs in my shop. I was lucky enough to receive some press from big names including Swiss Miss, Oh Hello Friend, Fab.com, Cup of Jo, Uncovet, and a handful of others, which helped launched my business even further than I ever imagined. Each day was a new adventure and I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to live life on my own terms!

Over the past two years, I’ve grown my business in different ways. I’ve expanded my shop to include new products. I’ve put my graphic design background to work on various freelance projects. I’ve tried my hand at producing e-courses. I’ve creatively collaborated with various individuals and companies. I’ve blogged professionally. I’ve delved deeper into photography and styling. And as always, I’ve continued to craft and make things with my hands. I’m nowhere near where I want to be professionally, but I have full faith that I will get there in due time.

Now, living in Pasadena with my husband and a baby on the way, I’m still freelancing and enjoying the adventure that it is. I will admit that life is getting more and more expensive all the time (private health insurance, car repairs, and baby expenses are a few of the big culprits) and there are many occasions when money can be tight. I’m fortunate that my husband works a steady 8-5 job as a graphic designer, so the consistency of his paycheck helps to balance out the unpredictability of my income greatly. But the truth is, we are a team. I feel just as responsible for our financial future as John does, so we both do our part to make sure we are creating a solid fiscal foundation month after month.

Even though everyday is a different experience and I often ask myself “WHAT AM I DOING?!,” it’s an amazingly gratifying life and I’m so happy to be along for the ride.

workspace wednesday | freelancing.

Posted on: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Things I've Learned About Freelancing | Ann-Marie Loves

It’s always around this time of year that I start to question why the heck I ever became a freelancer.

As everyone else (or so it seems) is turning in their W-2′s and talking about how they will spend their tax refunds, I’m gathering together a mountain of receipts, tallying up miles driven, calculating my expenses against my income, and kicking myself for not being more organized the year before. Ah yes, tax season.

With that said, freelancing is a wonderful thing. Sure, maybe I hate myself for a few days out of the year, but for the other 360? I love my life. It’s unpredictable, it’s stressful, it’s a straight-up breeding ground for self-doubt, but gosh darn it, I have no one to answer to but MYSELF. I set my own schedule. I go to sleep and wake up whenever my body wants. If I need to take a day off, I take that day off. I am constantly pushed to try new things and grow creatively to keep income flowing (for better or worse). And most importantly, once my daughter arrives this summer, I’ll be able to stay at home with her for as long as I need to (although paid maternity leave sure would be nice!).

Here are some things I’ve learned about being a freelancer over the past two years:

Taxes are expensive.  I pay taxes on a quarterly basis and while I dread writing a meaty check to the IRS every three months, it’s a small price to pay to be able to live life on my own terms.

Time is finite. Time is precious and the time to make things happen is now. In the past I tended to drag my feet when it came to taking charge of my goals and making things happen, but recently I’ve been able to break out of that mindset more often and it’s paid off tenfold. After all, if I don’t go after my dreams, who will?

Charge what you are worth. Oh gosh, I hate dealing with pricing. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I hate sending off e-mails with my price sheet and wondering if I charged too much or too little for the task and the client at hand. I hate asking for raises. But even more than that, I hate working for free. Sure, it’s okay to do pro-bono work every once in awhile (especially for a person or a cause I truly love!), but when projects get dragged out longer than expected or additional assignments get tacked on without any extra compensation, it leads to resentment and discontent. And really, that hurts both parties. This is why it’s paramount to charge what you are worth from the very beginning. (Remind me of this the next time I tense up over a pricing inquiry!)

Money is a renewable resource. This is probably the biggest lesson I keep learning and re-learning over and over again. When the jobs are rolling in and the money is flowing, I feel powerful and confident and hopeful. But when the gigs are less frequent and my bank account is starting to dwindle? Not a good feeling. Money often feels elusive, like it will never return again, but somehow, some way, it always comes back. Recently I’ve learned that the best way to break out of money ruts is to get creative! Being forced to come up with new sources of income is a great way to push my creative boundaries and try new things that I may not have otherwise had the confidence to pull off. Many of the ideas that I put into action out of a need to pay the bills (i.e. rubber stamps and e-courses, to name a few) have turned out to be my most profitable revenue streams yet! BE BOLD, BE BOLD, BE BOLD.

E-mails are a necessary evil. I’m going to be honest: I don’t love dealing with e-mail. While I would choose it ANYDAY over talking on the phone, it still has a way of taunting me. Lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to stay on top of my inbox every single day, but admittedly, I still fall short.

Be honest. Even when you are your own boss, you’re still going to deal with unpleasant circumstances. When an unhappy customer e-mails me about an issue, I listen to their concerns and offer solutions to the problem (even if it means my feelings are hurt or I have to eat the cost of an item). When I make a mistake on shipping, I own up to it and fix the problem on my own dime ASAP. When I find out a client and I have a miscommunication, I take a step back and apologize where need be. But most importantly, I have to be honest with myself. If something doesn’t feel right or I’m not 100% in love with the product I am about to launch into existence, I have to own up to it and make the necessary changes (even if I hate every minute of it!)

I am never stuck. Knowing that I have a college degree and real-world experience in my back pocket provides me with a mental safety net. I feel confident that if someday freelancing is no longer a viable option for myself and my family, I can always go back to a more traditional career path. (However, after having a taste of self-employment, I am more motivated than ever to stick with it as long as I possibly can!)

The beauty of freelancing is that it really is freedom; just so long as you are doing things that make you FEEL free.

workspace wednesday | generating blog posts ideas.

Posted on: Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Generating Blog Post Ideas | Ann-Marie Loves

One of the biggest hang-ups that I hear about blogging on a regular basis is the issue of trying to come up with enough content to generate post after post, day after day. I know I struggled with that mental block for years! But ever since I made the decision to write five posts per week, the momentum of the commitment has carried me through and given me more ideas than I ever thought possible! Here’s how I do it:

Generating Blog Post Ideas | Ann-Marie Loves

Brainstorm. To begin with, I always break out my notebook and start brainstorming ideas about posts I’d love to write / create / photograph in the near future. At this stage in the game, I don’t judge my ideas; I simply write them down as they come and move on to the next.

Think about the time involved. Once I have a solid list built up, I think about the logistics of each post and approximate how long it would take me to pull it all together. For instance, a DIY post can take a solid chunk of time, so I plan for it to go live further down the road. But posts about how I’m styling my house or what I’m loving at the moment? I can put those together with minimal planning involved.

Pinpoint recurring posts. Being able to count on recurring posts to fill in gaps is a great way to bulk up my editorial calendar. For example, I like to write Workspace Wednesday posts once a week and provide updates on my baby album at least twice a month.

Let life be your guide. I have to say…getting married and having a baby has done WONDERS for my blog post ideas. I mean, it’s almost like free material! Using the current events in my life as a compass for sharing my story while still contributing relevant ideas to the interwebs (i.e. designing wedding decor, planning a big event on a budget, decorating a nursery, etc) has made scheduling posts a million times easier.

Go with the flow. Even if I have a rough outline about the topics I want to cover in a week, I like to leave a bit of wiggle room for spontaneous post ideas. Lately I’ve been composing the majority of my blog posts in e-mails to myself late at night as I’m getting ready for bed. That’s when all of my clearest thought patterns arise, so I grab my phone and furiously take notes! In the morning, I copy / paste my words into blog posts and then take photos to correspond with each topic.

Prioritize. Let’s say I have a photo-heavy post planned for tomorrow, but the sun is going down and I have run out of time to take decent pictures. That’s when I put that idea on the backburner and use another day’s post in the interim. While I value photos and words pretty evenly, the quality of my images takes the cake as the most important aspect of my blog. All of my pictures must pass my own self-imposed test of “Would I pin this?” If the answer is yes, I happily add it to the post. If the answer is no, well, it’s back to the drawing board. Figuring out what matters most to you is key to lasting success.

Take 30% off ALL rubber stamps using the code "FLASH5" until 3/6/14 at midnight! | Ann-Marie Loves Paper on Big Cartel

P.S. I’m having a flash sale on ALL rubber stamps in my shop! Use the code “FLASH5″ from now until Thursday night (3/6/14) at midnight to stock up and save!

workspace wednesday | career goals.

Posted on: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Happy Here E-Course | Ann-Marie Loves

At any given moment, I can rattle off several items from my laundry list of dreams (buy a new car, turn my blog into a viable source of revenue, save X amount of dollars each month, etc), but it wasn’t until recently that I really pushed myself over the edge and started turning goals into reality. This past December felt like a bit of a throwaway month for me (that brutal first trimester…), but it was also the perfect time for me to take a step back and reevaluate exactly what I wanted to achieve in 2014. I spent a lot of time writing in my journal, setting hard deadlines in my planner, and really envisioning the future I wanted to create for myself and my growing family. Although I have no idea what the future holds or how my plans will change once the baby arrives, I am pretty pumped about these four goals that I currently have in motion:

- One new e-course every month. I have so much fun brainstorming ideas for topics, coming up with a game plan, and bringing it all together, so I set a fairly lofty goal for myself. E-courses are great because even though they are a ton of work up front, it’s all passive income every time the class sells. The best part of all is there’s no ordering, packaging, or shipping involved; I simply send over the link and move on with my day! Plus, one of my pie-in-the-sky dreams is to eventually pen my own book, so I figure this is the perfect training ground until I reach that goal. (P.S. the photo above is a little teaser for my next e-course launching early next week!)

- Five blog posts per week. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for such a long time, but 2014 is the year I pushed myself to really make it happen. And you know what? It’s actually pretty easy! I have a huge list of blog topics that I want to cover, so I make a rough outline each month and fill in the blanks as I best see fit. The more I blog, the more content I come up with, and the more momentum I gain to keep it going day after day!

- Regularly promote my work on social media. Each morning as I settle in with my coffee and laptop, I link up my latest blog post to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (and occasionally Instagram, but only if it’s something I REALLY want to share). For so long, I resisted any sort of self-promotion because it felt a bit shameless, but after watching many inspiring people do it in an organic, conversational way, I decided to give it a shot. I’ve found that it’s been an excellent traffic driver (especially Pinterest!) and a great way for me to gauge which posts perform better than others.

- Clean the kitchen everyday. Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly career-related, but waking up to a squeaky clean sink is one of the best ways to start my day. Sadly, our apartment doesn’t have a dishwasher and washing dishes is the BANE of my existence (right next to unmade beds and towels hung haphazardly on the rack). Regardless, it’s a job that has to be done, so I put on a good podcast, crank it out, and then revel in the amazing sense of satisfaction I feel once the task is complete!

How are you achieving your goals this year? Do tell!

workspace wednesday | today printable.

Posted on: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today List | Free Printable | Ann-Marie Loves

Lately I’ve been on a major goal-setting kick. I start everyday with my pen + notebook and jot down everything I want to achieve in the hours that lie before me. Whether it’s a work assignment, an exercise, or a new recipe, it gets written out and (hopefully) crossed off. So after filling up an entire notebook with lists, I decided to create my own set of printables that will help keep me accountable and on track, day after day.

Today List | Free Printable | Ann-Marie Loves

You can download your own list HERE! Happy goal setting!

P.S. I also created free To-Do List and Editorial Calendar printables!

workspace wednesday | motivation.

Posted on: Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ten Tips for Getting Motivated | Ann-Marie Loves

Motivation is one of those topics I’m not really sure I’m qualified to speak on. Like most people, I struggle with this nearly every. single. day. Some days I wake up feeling super super pumped and can crank out work like nobody’s business. But most days? It takes a little convincing to get me going. Here are some of my tried-and-true tricks for getting motivated:


1. Lists. Making lists (especially on pretty notepads!) always helps me to streamline my priorities and gives me visual incentive to get things done. Checking things off looks and feels good.

2. Clean house. If my environment is in disarray, my mind is in disarray. It really is as clear cut as that. So if I know that washing dishes or straightening up my desk will make me feel better about my space, I will take the extra fifteen minutes to knock out those chores before trying to force myself to work.

3. Beautiful things around me. Much like the last tip, I am my most productive self when I am surrounded by beauty. Nothing is more inspiring than a well-styled bookshelf, or a colorful coffee mug filled with my favorite brew, or freshly painted red fingernails typing at the keyboard. I’m absolutely driven by aesthetics.

4. Change of venue. Lately I’ve been killing three birds with one stone by walking to a coffee shop that’s 1.5 – 2 miles away from my house to get work done. Not only do I get exercise and coffee (okay, and a muffin) out of the deal, but I also get to work in a new environment that inspires me to get down to business. I like to set mini goals for my coffee shop work sessions, such as “I will write three blog posts before I leave.” Which brings me to my next point…

5. Mini goals. In addition to making a daily to-do list, I also like to set mini goals for myself. These can be simple, like “cross off six items before John gets home from work” or more involved, like “launch e-course by Tuesday January 28th.” The secret to mini goals is that they’re small and easily attainable. Most of them can be achieved in less than a week, sometimes less than a day! Of course I have long term goals that I always keep in the back of my mind (“buy a house in five years”), but the big picture dreams are not nearly as motivating to me as my daily intentions.

6. Workout. I know, I know. This is the last thing many people want to hear, but man, working out works. Even if I don’t work out in the morning but I know I will be exercising later in the day, I’m much more motivated to get things done. It’s almost like I have to physically wear myself out before my brain will turn off all the background “noise” and allow me to focus on what needs to be done.

7. Get dressed. For anyone in the regular 8-5 world, this is obviously a no-brainer. But for those of us who work from home? Mmm…not so much. I’ve learned that if I make myself get dressed within an hour of waking up, my day feels infinitely more productive. I like knowing that I can run a quick errand or grab a coffee or heck, even answer the door, at a moment’s notice. Plus there’s something about regular clothes (vs. pajamas) that makes me feel like a real live working adult! (ha!)

8. Blogs / Instagram / Pinterest. While these three things may seem like a great way to put off your to-do list for several hours at a time, they’re also a powerful tool for productivity. I love anything Elise writes on goal-setting. I adore Tara Whitney’s take on Southern California living via her Instagram feed. And a quick scroll through my pins is a surefire way to get my creative juices flowing.

9. Podcasts. I’ve talked about my love for podcasts once, twice, or ten times before, but they bear mentioning yet again. If I’m performing a (relatively) mindless task, such as editing photos or designing new buttons for my blog, I love having a great podcast to keep me company. Recently I’ve been returning to old faves, such as The JV Club, The Art of Simple, and always, Joy the Baker.

10. Nap. When all else fails, I take a nap. Sleep is truly a wonderful thing in that I always wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world!


What are your favorite ways to spark a little motivation?

workspace wednesday: planner mode.

Posted on: Wednesday, March 6, 2013

planners | ann-marie loves paper

I sort of abandoned my planner for a few months last year (September / October…who are you?) in favor of the Teux Deux app on my phone. And as much as I loved the convenience of having my agenda everywhere I went, I missed the way it felt to SEE a week at a glance and to physically WRITE out my schedule with different colored pens. There’s nothing quite like the tactile satisfaction that comes from crossing things off and getting it done! This is also the reason I could never be 100% graphic design…I need to use my hands!

That said, recommitting to writing in my planner everyday has been a huge source of joy for me (seriously!). I break down my tasks over the whole week. I write down which days I worked out. I make goals for each week, whether it’s to go to bed by a certain time or try to figure out how to use my camera remote. I keep track of deadlines and hours worked. I make sure to note which days were really awesome. I put check marks next to things I accomplished. I write lists on notepads and then paperclip them into my book. I keep track of my life and it feels so good.

Do you love planners? How do you stay organized?


get organized.

Posted on: Thursday, February 28, 2013

get organized | ann-marie loves paper

I’ve been struggling with finding the perfect word for this year. There are so many excellent options that would all move me in some way, but not really one in particular that stood out as my WORD, you know? That is, until a week ago.

As I looked around my messy desk, started stressing about putting together all my tax papers, and wondering where the HECK my other shoe was, I realized that I need to dedicate 2013 to GETTING ORGANIZED.

I don’t know why I let things slide. I don’t know why I put things off until the last possible moment. I don’t know why I let giant messes pile up until I absolutely have to confront them. But I do. Not only is this bad habit visually distressing, but it’s mentally, physically and emotionally draining too. And who needs that? It’s time to stop being a self-saboteur. While getting organized and planning out my life might take a little bit more time and energy upfront, it always pays off tenfold in the end.

So yesterday morning when I got back from the gym (always a great way to stay on top of my day), I took out all the clothes in my dresser drawers and closet and reorganized them. I then cleaned off my desk, filed away anything that absolutely did not need to be there, threw away the little scraps of paper I knew I wouldn’t be using, and put all of my February receipts in their designated place. I then answered a bunch of e-mails that I had been putting off and reached out to a few people I had been meaning to contact. Finally, I got down to work. I chipped away at my to-do list and began to feel better and better about myself. Already, this mantra is making a difference!

What are your goals for this year?


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