Why running a marathon is like running a business

When I picked up running a few years ago as an exercise routine and stress reducer, I had no idea I would find so many parallels to running a business. Since starting my running career, I've participated in one 5k, two 10k and one half-marathon. After finishing my half-marathon, I couldn't believe all the similarities to running a business. 

Why running a marathon is like running a business

Here's why running a marathon is like running a business

Slow and steady progress is best.

You don’t want to be an overnight success regardless of what everyone preaches at you. Imagine what the growing pains of that are when you’re a solo business? By training slow, and therefore making slow progress, you’re able to build endurance and last longer than someone who is sprinting their way through. Same with running, you don't train for a half-marathon in a week, you build up over months at a time. You also don't start your race full-on sprinting, that would burn you out in no-time. You start at a nice steady pace, because you've got a long way to go. 

Lesson: slow and steady progress will get you to your goals faster than a sprint. 

It’s more than just the running. 

Training involves every part of you. Your mind, nutrition, exercise level and time. It’s not just about showing up on race day and doing the thing. It’s about prepping for it. To be a good athlete (even if you’re just an amateur one like me) you have to take the whole body into consideration. You can’t train for a half marathon and not adjust what kind of food you’re putting into your body. You have to assess and adjust your diet as needed if you want to train properly.

In business, you can’t run your service without taking into account your family, nutrition, self-care time (or recovery), hobbies and sleep. By neglecting these things, you’re just setting yourself up for burning out, and you’ll never be able to reach the finish line. Or you will, but not without a lot of pain and heartache.

Lesson: being a business owner means you wear all the hats. Before making decisions, you have to consider other parts of your life too.

Rest and recovery are just as important as the actual training.

Someone told me something about training that I won’t ever forget. Recovery is just as important as actually doing the work. As runners, you are always using your legs (you literally walk with them every day). Even during your recovery days, you’re likely walking and therefore still using those muscles, which can be hard on your body.

When i’m passionate about something, I go full steam ahead while the creativity and motivation are flowing. Maybe you’re like me, and just can’t help yourself when something really exciting happens. But if you’ve ever started a new exercise routine and gone 7 days straight, only to burn out the next week because you’re so exhausted and never pick it back up again. Yeah, I’ve been there too, guilty as charged. 

Same thing in your business. By going hard and fast for too long, you’re going to eventually need a break. And to prevent complete burnout and giving it all up, you have to utilize recovery days to make sure you’re on track. The way I do this in my business is taking weekends off, and scheduling in personal time that’s non-negotiable. For me this was running every Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday where I have scheduled run times with a local running group. I take that time for myself to re-charge, get some exercise and recover from my business. 

Lesson: recovery is an important part of the process, schedule in your recovery days to avoide burnout.

Goals and success

In my business, I am constantly setting goals for myself and creating plans for how i’m going to reach those. In running, I do the same thing. I choose a goal for myself (5k, 10k or half marathon) and then come up with the training program for it (or sign up for a training program that will walk me through it). 

I recently ran a 10k that I didn’t feel ready for. Training for that race didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I had missed a few runs, my nutrition wasn’t where I wanted it to be and frankly, my motivation was super low which made it very hard. I went into the race with somewhat of a goal in mind, but no expectation that I would actually make that goal. Guess what, I came through and pulled it off. Instead of giving up completely and not even showing up for race day, I did the thing and ended up achieving the goal.

Imagine the same thing in your business. Maybe a launch didn’t work out the way you wanted, or you’ve missed a deadline. That doesn’t mean giving up. It just means lowering expectations, still working on the thing, and allowing it to work itself out in the end.

Lesson: Set goals for yourself so you have a destination to reach. Frequently review and adjust those goals.

Aid stations

Throughout a race course there are aid stations that serve water, gatorade and sometimes energy gels. I know that I can’t get through any run over 5k without some kind of aid (water). And I'm not afraid to utilize the support on the course.

Your business also has aid stations in the form of asking for help and external support. Whether that’s hired help in the form of a VA, copywriter, business strategist or social media manager.  Or even something as simple as having a friend who understands and can provide mental support.

Lesson: Successful runners and business owners know when they need to ask for help. They understand when it’s important to pull back, take a break or change direction or methods. 


Have you ever noticed similarities between running a business and other tasks? Do you agree that running a business is like a marathon? Tell me below!

How to give feed back to your designer

Giving feedback to a designer can be a hard for those who have never worked with a designer, or don't know how to articulate using designer words (which is 100% of my clients, you're not alone and don't need to know how to use designer terms anyway). 

This is something my clients have struggled with, they don't know how to say something is working really well or not working at all because they're not equipt with the jargon my industry uses every day.

But that's okay! You don't have to learn a whole new industry to work with a designer. This post is to help you provide actionable, resourceful, and clear feedback for any designer you're working with. 

How to give feedback to your designer

What to Do

Do view everything in the eyes of your ideal client

This has to be the root of every decision you make, especially about your brand. What does your ideal client think of it? What would they change? Or add?

Do tell us what you DO like

This is just as important as what you don’t like. Or rather, what your ideal client likes. This can help us understand the parts, elements or pieces to infuse into the parts you’re not so fond of.

Do define or figure out what you want BEFORE hand. 

Most of the onboarding process and initial questionnaire is surrounding the research and brand foundation part. We ask a lot of questions and get to the root of your business so we can develop it into a visual piece.

What we can’t do, is define your ideal audience, determine your business goals, or the vision you have, or come up with your service packages. The more you are able to develop this on your own, the better your brand will be. The more focused you are when we start, the longer your brand will last. 

Do answer the why

Why don’t you like this piece. Why do you like this one? Why do you want to change the color to this? They why is so important in figuring out what changes should be made and what shouldn’t be. To make this even more effective, frame everything in the mind of your ideal client. Saying things like: "The blue in this isn't something my ideal client would resonate with" vs. "I don't like that blue" is much more effective. 

What not to do

Don’t over control

Written and verbal feedback is awesome. Drawn out sketches or illustrator mock-ups? Not cool. It’s the designer's job to answer questions and pull out the answer to the issues you’re having. You don’t need to know the exact term, or what to do to fix the design.

You just have to know what isn’t working for it. For example: it feels to cluttered. The designer would then know to simplify it, add more space and take out some elements.

Don’t forget, we’re on your team and want this project to be beautiful too!

We are always on your team, cheering your business on from the sidelines. We want this project to be just as perfect and beautiful as you do. So don’t hesitate to speak up, voice your concerns, or even yell from the rooftops how much you love it!  

Don't forget your ideal client is #1

They are the bread and butter of your business. Keeping them out of your decisions, or not framing your decisions around them will likely cause a re-design for you in the upcoming year. Or result in a brand new design that doesn't resonate with the people you are trying to reach. Your ideal client is your #1, make sure you keep them front and centre through the design phase. 


Get the all-in-one rebranding checklist

Your all-in-one Rebranding Checklist

Your All-in-One Post Website Launch Checklist

So you’ve redesigned your website and now you’re ready for the rest of the world to see it. But imagine hitting publish and then hearing crickets. No one knows, you’re not getting any traffic, and all those hours and money you’ve invested isn’t being utilized. 

Planning your website launch can be easy as pie, it just takes a few days of planning on your end. Here are my tried and true ways to plan your website launch, and make sure it doesn’t flop. There’s even a sample schedule below to keep you on track. 

Your All in one post website launch checlist

Your All-in-One Post Website Launch Checklist

Get all your ducks in a row

It goes without saying, but make sure the following are taken care of:

  • Social links are linked correctly
  • All your newsletter forms work, you've tested them and you get your opt ins. 
  • Menu, footer and inside page links work. This one is tedious but oh so important! Try enlisting the help of a friend for this one, because after seeing your website so much, you may be missing some links you totally forgot about. 

Timing

Set up your launch about 7-days away from making your website live. This gives you enough time to get all your plans in order, give a heads up to your followers, and isn't too far out that people forget or loose interest. 

I don't recommend posting about this every single day for the next seven days, as it can get tiring for your followers/readers. UNLESS you are also giving some really solid, actionable content at the same time. You could plan a 7-days to better sales page copy, or 7 tips for getting the most out of your engagement photos, or 5 tips and tricks for re-styling your living room etc. That way they are engaged and able to participate in some amazing content, while also hearing about the launch.

Start a countdown a few days out

Email your list and post it on social media. You could even add a countdown timer to your cover page while you wait for the day to come!

Plan a giveaway

What better way to launch with a bang, AND increase those newsletter subscribers or social media followers than with a giveaway! You could even team up with other business owners in your market to do a joint giveaway. Bottom line: make sure the giveaway is something your audience actually wants and is related to your services in some way. 

Pro tip: make sure this is helping your marketing goals. Hook up the giveaway to your email list to get the most out of it. 

Tell your people! 

Share it on your social media accounts. Include an instagram post or two, a story, link on twitter, or custom graphic on pinterest to add to the hype. 

Email your list. They are your biggest, most engaged fans afterall! You could even send them a sneek peek the night before, so they get an advance look! 

Send a personal email to your online business friends. Give them an exclusive sneak peek! And ask for their support and help to spread the word on launch day. They will act as a second set of eyes, they have your back if there’s a broken link, misspelled word or photo out of place

Try sending a unique gift package to your business friends, or influencers in your market. (Check out this rad post from Paper + Oats) 

Celebrate!

Pop the bubbly (champagne or apple cider or LaCroix) and do a little happy dance. Because even if website launches, tweaks and never-ending changes are the reality, you made it this far, and that's worth celebrating!

Sample schedule:

Two Weeks Before

  • Let your audience know the re-design is coming.

  • Finalize Giveaway details 

  • Introduce the giveaway to build some hype.

  • Create graphics for giveaway or site launch

One Week Before

  • Finalize any last details with your designer
  • Test all forms- make sure they’re sending to the right email, or are attached to the right opt-in form
  • Test all links (get help from a friend, you've been staring at the site too long)
  • Go through each page and comb through the copy, and photos (get help from a friend, you've been staring at the site too long)
  • Schedule a newsletter to send 

Day of

  • Publish site
  • Announce on all your social sites
  • Push giveaway

The ultimate guide to planning your website

Importance of Visual Branding

Branding is a buzzword, It seems to be thrown around a lot, but not really understood by everyone. It can be one of those jargon words that designers use, but not something you, as a small business owner, fully understands. 

Branding encompasses a wide range of things and is the essence of your business. Even if you don’t have a visual style or identity in place, you still have a brand. You begin building that brand the second you start marketing yourself, working with clients, developing your services and packages, or creating and selling your products. 

Importance of Visual Branding

Why is branding important?

What do you want potential customers or clients to say about you and your business? What kind of impression do you want to leave? 

Your brand includes a wide array of things, including your content, copy, services, products, how you talk about yourself, how others talk about you, and so on. While all of those touchpoint are important, you can’t ignore the stat below. Your brain processes visual information faster than text.   

        The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. -3M Corporation, 200            

If your brain processes this visual information 60,000 faster than text, then your visual brand holds a lot of weight against all these other components of your brand. Your logo, images and graphics are the first thing a new customer is processing, even before your content on the website, interacting with you for the first time, or viewing your services and products. 

The human brain can process an images seen for just 13 milliseconds. Breaking the previous record of 100 milliseconds. - Live Science, Tanya Lewis, 2014.

What this means for your visual brand.

Your visual style or brand is one of the most important aspects of your business. Because we are processing visual information so quickly, it is your first touchpoint with a potential client or customer. It is the first thing people see, and the first thing people use to establish trust in you. 

The most common reason people don’t buy from a business is because of the lack of trust. If they don’t connect with your visuals (and the rest of your brand), you are loosing their trust and making it more difficult for them to hit that purchase button. 

The visual aspect of your brand needs to be consistent with who you want to serve and the type of work you want to do. If you’re visuals aren’t aligned with your target market, then you are loosing their interest and trust. 


The all-in-one Re-branding Checklist

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What makes up your visual brand

The biggest pieces of your visual brand include your logo. But this is not the only piece, and should not hold all the weight. Your visual brand also includes the following:

 
  • Type
  • Colours
  • Patterns
  • Business cards
  • Product images
  • Product packaging
  • Welcome package or any PDF design
  • Website images
  • Website design
  • Instagram feed
  • Any other visual component
 
Stephanie_Branding_Logo.png

Effective visual branding

Effective visual branding can be hard to master if you haven’t worked with a professional designer on your brand. When starting any kind of branding process, there are foundational pieces that should be researched before any of the design even begins. 

The most important part of this foundation is defining who your ideal client, target market or audience persona is. Having a solid audience persona will not only make most of your business decisions easy, it will also define your visual style. 

Once you lay out every part of this audience including things like, who they are, what they struggle with, where they hang out, what they value, what kind of home they live in, etc. It will make creating that visual style easier, last longer, and avoid making decisions based on trends. 

Effective visual branding will do the following:

  • Give you a cohesive look making you look polished, professional and trustworthy.
  • Attract the right clients (the ones you’re excited to work with).
  • Gives you credibility, making people believe in what you’re doing and saying.
  • Makes you dig deeper into your ideal client allowing you to find better ways to serve them.
  • Gives your audience a taste of what you’re all about. 
  • Branding promotes recognition and sets you apart from the competition.

How it all works together 

We’ve gone over what your visual branding is, why it’s important and how to create effective branding, but how does it all work with the rest of your brand and business?

This is how your brand works as a system:

  1. Your brand encompasses your entire business. Every piece works together like a puzzle to create a larger picture. It works as a system. 
  2. Your visuals represent your business through graphics, colours and images. It catches the attention of your audience while building trust and recognition.
  3. Your content or copy explains what you do and how you can help. It allows you to build a connection with your audience, and tell people exactly why they should work with you.
  4. Your services, packages and process are what you offer your audience. This continues to build rapport, trust and credibility. Your services and process also shape how people are going to talk about you when the project is done. If you’ve done a good job of delivering and building trust, then your clients will shout that from the rooftop when you’re done, referring even more people to work with you.
  5. Now we’ve come full circle, this new audience will see your visuals, read your copy and book your services, going through the same steps I’ve outlined above.

Your visual brand is the first touchpoint with customers and clients, and it is the first piece of information people are processing. It not only gives you a cohesive, professional and polished look, but also establishes credibility, builds trust and connection with your clients and customers. 

Your visual brand is a puzzle pieces that works with the rest of your brand in a system to create an experience for your clients and customers. When all of these pieces work well together, you start to build a loyal audience, and establish trust, which will lead to more customers and clients for your business. 

The all-in-one rebranding checklist

Branding & Website Design for Allison Schmidt

 
Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
 

Allison schmidt photography branding + squarespace website design

Allison Schmidt specalizes in pet and show dog photography that captures your pet’s true personality and unique edge.  Our objective for the brand was to create an eye-catching brand that establishes Allison’s expertise, positions Allison as an expert in her field, and be known for her one-of-a-kind imagery and work. 

Allison’s strength lies in capturing the unique personality and beauty of every dog. Her experience with show dogs gives her an edge and allows her clients to feel comfortable with how their dog is placed in the photographs. Allisons background in architecture also helps establish her artisitc edge. 


 
Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
 

LOGO & COLOURS

Modern, clean and simple design was mentioned throughout the branding questionnaire, and mood board images. This was especially present in the mood board portion of the process. This branding concept is simple, modern and sleek to its core.

There are modern colours introduced throughout the brand, most notably the dark greenish blue, with pops of green and teal throughout. There are a number of neutrals also included to help balance out the colourful other options.


 
Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative

Type, Patterns & Design Materials

The type is a both simple and modern. The roundedness of the corners allows it to have more of a fun and playful feel, which was noted as important when going through the brand foundation process. Because Allison's business is focused on pets, it was also important to bring that relaxed, fun and playful feel without sacrificing the integrity of the brand.

Two patterns are included in the brand, and you can see them come into play in the branding materials. The first one is a more playful, fun pattern related directly to the clients you serve with the paw prints, ribbons and trophies. The second one incorporates that geometric look and feel from the brand board. This can be used in custom tape for your packaging.

For Allison we chose to design social media graphic templates, custom packaging (packing tape, notecards and tags) and business cards as her marketing materials. 

Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
 

 

Squarespace Website Design

I loved being able to play with the brand we created and infuse it into the new site. We ended up using the geometric pattern a lot here, whereas most of the printed marketing materials used a lot of the other pattern, which is a great balance and will compliment each other nicely. 

Overall, the main goal of the site was to showcase the beautiful photography, and guide the reader through the website in a natural way. There are calls to action on each and every page of the website, always giving them the next step to take. 

Allison Schmidt Branding and Squarespace design on Little Dot Creative
 

SUMMARY & WRAP-UP

Keeping their ideal client in mind, we developed brand strategy, a new look that resonates well with their ideal client, and a fully-functional Squarespace website.

SERVICES PROVIDED

Branding, print materials, social media templates, business cards, welcome guide, and Squarespace website


5 ways to use a summary block in Squarespace

Organization of information is one of the hardest components to a site. Information should be chunked or grouped into categories, and organized in a way that not only makes sense, but also makes your life easier as the site owner, and your readers life easier because you are anticipating their needs, and making it easy to navigate. 

Squarespace's ability to organize, group and categorize information is like no other. They have created these blocks to help build your website, but also help organize and display information in a way that makes it easy for the designer and owner. 

This is important for your site because it helps with the sites usability. And in plain english, that means allowing your readers and potential clients to easily navigate your site to find the information they are looking for.

The easier you make it for them to find this information, the faster they can find what they're looking for, and either hit that contact, buy or sign up button. 

The summary block has quickly become one of my favourite ways to organize information within squarespace. Especially for unique businesses or bloggers that have a ton of content, and needs to be displayed in an easy to digest way. 

5 ways to use a summary block on Squarespace

Here are 5 ways to use the summary block on your squarespace website:

Blog posts

This is one of the most common ways to use a summary block. You can feature posts by specific category, tag or feature posts as marked in Squarespace. People commonly add these to the end of blog posts as a "suggested read" with other similar posts to read next. 

You can also use it to categorize your blog into the different sections or themes you write about. Or use it to feature your most popular posts at the very top of your blog page. 

A recent client had a food blog where she wanted to categorize her recipes by ages, and meal types. We easily did this using a summary block and filtered by tags and categories. We also added her blog posts to the home page of her website to feature each of her articles. 

Example:

 

Products

Selling products and setting up an e-commerce site can get very complicated. Especially if you have different product lines, types. An easy way to organize this quickly, is by using a summary block either in the intro portion of your page or on a brand new page within Squarespace.

Categorize and tag your products, and insert summary blocks to organize and group them for easy selection as we did for a recent client project. You don't have to be limited by the product page automatically set up in Squarespace for you. Divide your products by like items to make it easy for your audience to purchase, and stack multiple summary blocks on a new page. 

Example here:

 

Mini gallery

One of my pet peeves with the gallery block is the ability to do a masonry style grid (like pinterest), without cropping all the photos to the same ratio, and without having weird white space between all the portrait and landscape images. 

The summary block is a great fix to that problem! They have that exact function, which makes showcasing the photos easier and better to look at. The only downfall of the summary block is the limit of 30 items. So it is a great solution for smaller portfolio showcases, or galleries, but not for delivering entire session galleries to clients. 

Summary-block-example-gallery.png

Reviews

Post and update reviews once and never touch them again. People can scroll through them themselves. Sprinkling reviews throughout your site is a great way to build report, and establish trust with potential clients.

Instead of simply using the quote block to do this, and updating each page when you want to change one, you can use a gallery mixed with a summary block to make your life easier. Add your reviews to a new gallery in your site, and then use the summary block in the footer, or on any page you want to post the reviews, to display the information. 

Example:

Categorize large amounts of information:

A past client of mine had pages of resources and information that she wanted to include on the site. But formatting it into one page would make it to overwhelming to look at and read, but also breaking it into separate blog posts didn't allow us to properly utilize the information as it might get buried as she continues to use content.

Instead we created them as blog posts, and then featured them on a separate page in the navigation, and used a summary block to categorize the posts into groups. We were able to categorize the info, group like items, and display them in a visually appealing, and easy to digest way. 

Example

With so many ways to use the summary block in squarespace, there are endless possibilities for displaying your content. Use this block to improve how you display information on your website, and improve your user experience! 


The ultimate guide to planning your website workbook

How do you use summary blocks? Tell me below!