I consider myself a creative person, but I have literally no design experience or training whatsoever. No one has ever said, “you should be a designer!” to me, but neither have people laughed at my creative endeavors (that I know of!).
Every year I grow in what I know and what my design and aesthetic style is and this has translated into our small business.
Everything I know I’ve taught myself, so sometimes it takes me a while to catch up.
Starting out our business with no loans and minimal cash flow, meant we had to figure out how to keep up in this age of beautiful visuals and creative marketing in order to build an online business. I’ve slowly trudged my way through and along the way I have learned a couple tricks and found a couple creative design tools worth sharing.
Here are five creative design tools I’ve used to grow our business without design (or HTML) experience.
When we realized we’d be setting up our own website with no professional help, I knew I had to find something simple to use. I’ve heard a lot about Squarespace, so I decided to try it out. Squarespace is insanely simple. That doesn’t mean I haven’t spend hours upon hours (upon hours!) working on our website, it just means it is easy to use and you can make a professional looking website and host an online store all in one place without knowing web design or coding. You’ll need to purchase a domain so you don’t have to keep the .squarespace in your link, but once you do that it’s easy to connect it all together. There is a hosting fee for Squarespace, but it is minimal for what you get. Their customer service is excellent and while I can’t do everything I want with my online shop, I can do 98% of it and for right now, that’s enough. Bonus- it’s free to try with no credit card info taken at sign up.
As far as creative design tools (for dummies) go, Canva is one of the best! It is a site I just discovered a few months ago and I have no idea how I found it. I’d been looking at Creative Market for fonts and other design-y stuff, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to use what I downloaded. I’ve got enough Photoshop experience that if I spent an hour with someone I could use the Creative Market site, but I couldn’t find someone to help me and I ended up stumbling on Canva. The blog header above is created using Canva. Seriously…it is so ridiculously easy. I used it to create graphic images with text with my own photos, but there are free photos, layouts and texts you can use. You can also buy photos and layouts for very inexpensive, but I have only resorted to that once or twice.
Unsplash is a site my friend Maggie Turner just showed me. Here you have royalty free images for everyone to use. You can upload images to Unsplash or just borrow some of theirs. The alpaca photo in the blog header is from Unsplash. So for my blog header, I borrowed someone’s photo (with their permission!), and used a free site to create a simple graphic. All in about 10-15 minutes.
Later is my Instagram tool of choice. I could never figure out how to get photos from my computer to Insta and while I’m sure there are lots of ways, Later is what works for me. Later allows me to upload all of my photos to their site and either schedule them for Instagram or save them as a media file for, well, later. If I schedule them, I get a notice on my phone that it’s time to post and I have to manually post, but if I’ve already done my captioning and #hashtagging on my computer, it only takes a minute. It also allows you to create a schedule for posting, which can be helpful when as an entrepreneur you have 10 million things happening and creating an Instagram schedule isn’t quite on the list. I currently use the free service which gives me 30 posts a month, but for a small fee you can upgrade your service level.
The best advise I have been given in the last six months about my business is that I needed to dust off my DSLR camera and be taking high quality photos of our products. The results of this one change speak for themselves in our sales. I used to photograph families, kids and weddings so I came into this with a little bit of photography experience, but again, I am totally self-taught, so I don’t know much more than someone without that experience. Our photos have improved greatly and between hiring a model to truly show off our clothing and accessories and occasionally using a light box tool, I am on the right track.
These are the five tools I have found to be helpful as we grow our business in this digital age. What are creative design tools that have helped your business grow without learning a new trade?