Entries Tagged as 'workspace wednesday'

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!

workspace wednesday | how I organize my files.

Posted on: Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How I Organize My Files | Ann-Marie Loves

A few weeks ago when I posted about three tips for faster blogging, I received a lot of comments and e-mails asking me how exactly I keep my files organized. So today, I am sharing a brief overview of my system and why it works so well for me.

How I Organize My Files | Ann-Marie Loves

To begin with, I only keep one item on my desktop: a folder that says ALL. Within that folder are all of my files, broken down into smaller folders. Much like having too many tabs open in my browser window, I can’t stand desktop clutter. Whenever things start getting out of hand, I take a few moments to put files in their proper places and trash anything that I don’t need. The cleaner my digital workspace can be, the happier and more productive I am!

How I Organize My Files | Ann-Marie Loves

For the most part, I keep my personal photos and my blog photos separate, so within the 2013 and 2014 folders, I store all of my personal photos from each month of the respective year. Each month then gets broken down into events that I will remember by the name I assign it (i.e. Balboa Park).

How I Organize My Files | Ann-Marie Loves

Since I edit nearly all of my photos (at least, the ones that I plan on using), I always make two folders when importing files from my camera to Finder (by way of Image Capture): EDITS + ORIGINALS. Everything starts out in the ORIGINALS folder, but once it’s been edited, it gets moved the EDITS folder. Pretty self-explanatory, right? This makes the process of finding my favorite photos so much easier since I don’t have to dig through every single file in search of “that one image.” Once I’m done going through all the originals, I chuck the files that I know I will never use and back up the rest on my external hard drive every month or so.

The secret to having a system that works is to make it as fool-proof as possible. The more you can narrow down your folders (i.e. 2013 > 01 | January 2013 > Rose Bowl Flea > ORIGINALS > EDITS), the quicker you will be able to pull up any given photo at a moment’s notice. I will admit that I have not always been so organized, but now that I have this system in place, I can’t imagine ever going back!

workspace wednesday | three tips for faster blogging.

Posted on: Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Three Tips for Faster Blogging | Ann-Marie Loves

1. Keep a running list of blog post ideas. Anytime a potential post idea strikes me (or better yet, when the post is basically writing itself in my head!), I scribble it down in an e-mail to myself or in my journal / planner. While I don’t schedule my posts too far in advance, I generally have a rough idea of what topics I want to cover on a monthly basis and then plug them in where I see fit.

2. Maintain a collection of your own stock photos. There are many aspects of my life that could use an organizational overhaul, but when it comes to my digital photos, I have systematized it down to a science. Because of this, I can pull up any photo at a moment’s notice when I need a picture for a blog post. I have a particular folder (aptly titled “BLOG”) in which I save images that I know would work especially well for my brand of posts, including stylized shots of my desk, landscape photos with substantial white space, etc.

3. Stick to a small selection of favorite fonts. If you’re anything like me, you have a million and one fonts in your collection that have the potential to be used in countless ways. By narrowing your list down to just a handful of favorites, you can expedite the process of incorporating text on photos or graphics considerably. (Here’s a list of my go-to typefaces!)

What are your tricks for cranking out blog posts?  I would love to hear them!

P.S. If you’re looking for more blogging and freelancing advice, you can check out my posts on generating content ideas, getting motivated, and many others under my Workspace Wednesday category!

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 | favorite podcast episodes.

Posted on: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Favorite Podcast Episodes | Ann-Marie Loves

It’s no secret that I enjoy a good podcast.

As much as I love listening to music, sometimes I just want to drop in on a hilarious / insightful / inspiring conversation (without having to do any of the work, of course). My best podcast listening is done while cleaning house, taking a walk, or sitting in rush hour traffic. I have a long list of favorite shows that I frequent and am always on the hunt for new podcasts to add to my ever-growing playlist. Today I thought it would be fun to share some of favorite episodes from some of my favorite shows:

The Lively Show: Blogging, Biz, and Motherhood with Erin Loechner – Anytime I can listen to a major blogger speak, I’m all ears. I am such a fan of Erin Loechner and I find her soft-spoken voice and humble outlook on her online success to be incredibly refreshing.

After the Jump: Live the Life You Want to Live – Let me just say that Grace Bonney knows how to put together an inspiring podcast. I love when a new episode pops up in my feed, especially when it has anything to do with work / life balance, such as this one.

The JV Club: Casey Wilson – Oh, Casey Wilson. How I adore her (RIP Happy Endings!). The JV Club is always a must-listen for me and this particular episode is so funny and touching, I could play it over and over.

With Purpose: Kathleen Shannon - Kathleen of Braid Creative is constantly churning out solid blogging and business advice that helps me to rethink the way I conduct my own brand and online presence, so I was thrilled to hear her speak on these matters.

Our Style Stories: A Conversation with Bri + Trey Denton - Random Instagram discoveries are my favorite form of social media kismet. It was a happy accident when I stumbled upon Hilary Walker because I adore her podcast; especially this interview!

What are your favorite podcasts? I love finding new gems!

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 | creating an office space.

Posted on: Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ann-Marie Loves | Workspace Wednesday

Our office at night. Candles are a must!

I’ve missed having an office. I’ve missed having a designated spot to sit down and answer e-mails, type out blog posts, work on craft projects, and drink my coffee while I catch up on the interwebs in the morning. The couch in the living room has been an adequate workspace in the interim, but now I am so happy to have a real live office again!

Yesterday I spent the better part of the afternoon and evening rearranging, reorganizing, and redecorating. Well, to be honest, there wasn’t much decorating that had previously occurred, so my primary job was to make each portion of the room functional + well-organized. Of course, once we get the baby furniture set up, the whole process will start over again. But for the time being? I am loving every minute of this fresh space. I’m inspired to sit down and create and it feels GOOD. Why didn’t I do this sooner?

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