Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Trademark Process

Trademarking is a long process but if you want to legally protect your name/logo this is the way to do it. There are a lot of rules on what can become a Trademark and I highly recommend reading up on this before paying the £200 fee as this is non-refundable, more information can be found on the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) website.

Other companies or a solicitor can help with the application process but this can be extremely expensive and unnecessary. I went through the whole process myself directly with the IPO and if you receive anything from anyone claiming that you need to pay extra (I did), this is a con and should be reported to the IPO.

To use an ® after anything that hasn't been registered is illegal and you can be fined, however you can use ™ without a penalty.

Anyway, after a 6 month wait I finally received a letter to say that Urban Mind is now a registered Trademark!! Brilliant : )

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

SEO and what you should know

Search engine optimisation is the method of achieving a higher rating or ranking on the Internet. We are all aiming for that 1st page position but with the millions of sites that are now on the web SEO is becoming more and more involved. However, here are the elements which I found to be most important for that better rating on the Internet:

  • Content is key!!
    Search engines will crawl around your pages regularly to establish what your website is about. Make sure that your content contains specific keywords but reads well with correct spelling and grammar.

  • Page titles
    Make sure that your page title is short but reflects what the content is about, all pages should have relevant and different titles from one another.

  • Meta tags
    The 'description meta-tag' is very important for SEO and again should be short but describe the page. This section of content will appear on search engine results under the page title, so this shouldn't be a long list of keywords.
    'Meta Keywords' are also important but don't use too many as this can have a negative effect on your websites rating. These again should reflect on what your website is about and for maximum effect use different keywords on each page.

  • URL
    When choosing a URL, try and create one that is descriptive and contain your important keywords. For example, if your a photographer in Hereford would be great for SEO.

  • Links
    Make sure that your pages link together with no breaks. Linking also means other sites linking to your site however, these links need to be of good quality.

  • Older is wiser
    Search engines like older websites, with time your site will become trusted and gain a higher rating as long as it is a good one to start with! However this doesn't mean that content shouldn't be updated regularly though.

    If you are thinking about setting up a website in the future it may be beneficial to set up a simple page to gain some exposure on the web.

These points are just a start to the complicated field of SEO, there are many other factors that can come into play that I haven't mentioned. Overall, Good positions within search engines take time and effort so keep going and keep tweaking!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Award for Urban Mind

Urban Mind has won 'Most Professional Business Award 2009' with the University of Worcester. I hope this is first of many....

Friday, 7 August 2009

"A logo should be an asset not an overhead"

This question has popped up a number of times over the last month or so, "A friend of a friend is thinking about designing her own logo, what do you think..?"

My answer stays the same, of course you can! If you feel inspired and know what you want draw it on something quickly before you forget.

If your going to use images from the Internet please make sure you have the right to do so or you could end up with a copyright issue before you've started. There are some websites that provide free stock images, but be aware that not all free images are good quality ones. When scouting for an image, a simple and clean design with few colours is best to brand all types of marketing methods and will be more economical for future printing costs.

If you want to draw the image yourself you may have problems with the software that is available to you, most day to day office programs will have no drawing tools and won't give you a file format that is suitable to print in high quality. Industry standard drawing programs are very expensive and can be complicated to use for a beginner, the tools are vast but important for a professional finish.

If your unsure because of the cost, remember your graphic designer will, well should have a degree in the area of design, knowledge in marketing, the skills to research into your business sector and target market, industry standard software to develop your logo with a good understanding of typography, colour and style.

A good logo takes time and a lot of research, it's going to cost more that £50 but it's a one off payment that will last the duration of your business. If you have an idea and want to be invloved with the logo process have a chat with your designer, it's great to get a client that knows what they like!

"A logo should be an asset not an overhead", Sara x

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Special offer from the Chamber of Commerce

I've now had a phone call from the man himself (Alistair Druett! The coordinator of the Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce networking events), informing me that they now have a special offer of £15 for all of those people wanting to try out a breakfast networking event on a bargain!  

For that you'll get: 

* A Full English breakfast at a professional venue (If your veggie like me or have dietary requirements, just inform them when you book)
* A seat amongst potential clients with time to pitch to all of them
* As much tea, coffee and orange juice you can drink in 2 hours!

The events are held early morning so you can get them in before work and they often organise a short presentation by a local business that can be helpful with a number of issues i.e. ways of saving money with government legislation and hints to cutting down on computer time and errors...

I can't stress enough that this has been the most cost effective and successful way of generating new clients.  Grab it while you can, it's a great opportunity to meet people and most of all make money!  

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Cheeky Business

It's official! During a presentation on branding to some business start ups, I found out that a gentleman had managed to get a free breakfast networking event with the Chamber of Commerce. So be cheeky and ask for a try before you buy!!

However, before you go make sure you have your 6o or sometimes 45 second commercial sorted. This may also be called an Elevator Pitch (based on the circumstance that you are in an elevator with another business person and only have a short space of time to sell your product or service before he/she gets out, phew!) or Advert. It's pretty simple but this is your time to sell yourself to the other 40 somethings in the room. Keep it short and snappy but you must include:

* Your name and your company name (obviously)
* What your products/services are
* Why your different
* I close with how they can get in touch and squeeze in my URL address (as long as it's not long)

You will be standing when you talk so if you don't know what to do with yours hands, which I'm terrible with, find something to hold like a napkin, leaflet or business card. I've done my pitch a few times now so I've pretty much got it down cold but if you are very nervous, practise in the car before you get there so it's fresh in your mind. One last thing to remember is to speak up and you'll be fine, good luck!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Monday, 13 July 2009

Free listing heaven

Even if you haven't got a website you can still list your business on most online directories. You know what it's like when your doing a presentation, all of the information that you've stored in your brain disappears as soon as you open your mouth, so here they are:

Google Maps
Yahoo Local (City Vistor too, but you'll need to be persistant)
Access Place
Free Index (this one is great you can add a profile with images)
Touch Worcester
Business Magnet

Here are a few to get started with but there are many and some are better for particular trades. The trick is to type your industry (Florist, cleaner..) and area into different search engines (Google, MSN, Yahoo - the most popular), and look for the directories that pop up on the first and second page. Now make sure that your details are on them and if there are sections to write about your products/services fill those in too, as you may find that you could get a higher listing position if you do this well.

If you haven't got a website it may be a good idea to at least have a page with your details on so you do have some online presence. This will also help for future search engine positioning when you decided to go ahead with your website. Sara x

Friday, 10 July 2009

Is the recession coming to an end?

Work is coming! I've had lots of enquiries over the past two weeks and I've got quite a bit of work to do..! Maybe this is the light at the end of the tunnel for all of my fellow designers and entrepreneurs. Has the recession finally stopped frightening so many people off???
I'm not sure, but this does show that people are becoming interested in spending money on business again, and even if the enquiries don't turn into work there is work out there to be done. My most recent project has been a logo for Knowing Hand and it's services in virtual business parks.

Brand exposure and a church!

Save Our Church

I have talked about my love for networking before and I am still a huge believer in getting out there and talking to people about your products/services. Face to face communication is the perfect way to show potential clients how motivated you are and what you can do for them. Networking leaves a lasting impression and can lead to other opportunities that can benefit your business. For example, my latest project has been for a local church, branding for a roof appeal of course! This is a freebie but in return Urban Mind will get public exposure when the website goes live, a mention in the local newspapers and the company brand will to be placed on the large poster that will be placed on the scaffolding to display the new website appeal address. I'm also hoping that this will secure me a place in heaven...x

Raising your company profile

Raising the my company profile been a constant challenge, coming up with different ways to catch peoples attention is a full time job in itself! At the start I decided that advertising in the Yellow pages would be a great way to get my name around... It cost an absolute fortune and after being in for what seems like an eternity, NO ONE has contacted me because they found me in the book. That's not to say that it doesn't work for all sectors, tradesmen excluded, just not for Graphic and Web design, so please check this out before spending a fortune on this type of advertising!! However, you can get a free line in all of the books (Yellow pages, BT phone book and Thomson local) which is definitely worth doing.

After learning quite a harsh and expensive lesson I went on-line, and while having a web presence is quite important you can still add your business details to search engines and directories for free without a website. Google Maps are extremely useful for users searching for businesses in particular areas and are often located on the first page of a Google search. Urban Mind appears in the Google Maps section at the top of the first page when searching for Graphic Design Worcester and Worcestershire. Yahoo Local also offers a free listing but after submitting the online form you will get a phone call to 'check your details', then they'll try and sell you a listing that sits at the top. After you say no, you are told that it will take 6 weeks for the free listing to go live. I filled the form in 3 times before my listing was finally published, so be persistant!!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Network, network and breakfast!

Networking has been my most success way of generating money full stop! I'm not just talking about telling the local shop owners and your current hairdresser about your services or products, although you must do this too. The SPEED programme introduced me to the Chamber of Commerce who organise Breakfast Network Meetings for it's members on a regular basis in locations around your area. These events put you in front of professional business people that may need your services and also connect you to people providing those other essentials i.e. accountants...

The events start nice and early so that you can get them in before you go to work and refreshments are included. Although, I must admit the breakfasts aren't great if you don't like a Full English, so if your on a diet you may struggle. The veggie option isn't too bad although it really depends on where you go, but be sure to let them know of any requirements before you book your place!
However, the breakfast is a great way to sit down and chat to people. It's at this point that I have generated a lot of my current clients. Seriously, I rate this type of advertising more highly than on paper or the web especially within the graphic and web design sector. If your unsure of whether this would work for you, I'd recommend phoning your local Chamber of Commerce and cheekily asking if you could have a free trial, well it's worth a try! If you do get a freebie please let us know. For other networking opportunities contact Business Link as they hold many free events that include training and time to connect with other businesses.

Are you judged by the type of car that you have?

I'm not sure, but a lecture on branding during my SPEED placement opened my eyes to the possibility. Personal branding effects all areas of presentation, from the type of clothes that you wear to the cup that you serve your coffee in. I love my car and I haven't had it long, but I'm starting to wondering whether the effect of the Subaru Impreza Turbo has an negative impact on what people think of me as a business women. What do clients envision about my capabilities when the Bailey dump valve goes off, and does the large Prodrive spoiler and pink furry dice scream 'Girl Racer'!?
So, here's the question. Do I sell my car and buy something quiet and more sophisticated for the sake of personal branding, or will people see my car as a choice from a confident and flamboyant designer??

Designing your business cards

One of the most useful tools I have used during my company brand awareness campaign is my business cards. Lucky it was one of the first things that I had designed, it has been something that everyone has asked for. Having business cards helped to highlight the professionalism of my company, it also clarified that I have my own brand/logo.

Even if your not a graphic designer, I can't stress enough about the huge impact that you can make with well designed cards. Just small details like the materials that you use and the way that you position the details can say a lot about who you are. Using a simple layout on a clear plastic material emphasises my branding which is based on a modern, clean and fresh feel to design. I always get a really good response to these cards and the concept helps the clients to remember me which is great! You the Designer is one of my favorite web resources that can help inspire your design when creating or letting your graphic designer know what you want. If you want me to help you with any of your branding needs contact me at Urban Mind or leave a post, have fun!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Naming your baby

It sounds really silly but choosing a name for your business is just as important as naming your baby, in that it's going to effect you for a long time (hopefully!) and for this reason it took me months to come up with one. I decided that I wanted something different, a name that didn't include design, or any graphic or web references so that people would be naturally curious when I came out with this name. As a result, I get a lot of questions about the word Urban Mind, and found that this actually helps to encourage communication with new clients which in turn, creates a more memorable brand for my company.

However, there are a few things that you need to do before you can use a specific name... Firstly check with the Companies House index to make sure that your name hasn't already been used. Secondly use the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) website finder, to make sure that the word/s aren't similar to another registered trade mark so that you don't end up with copyright problems later. Lastly, research the web and use a domain provider to make sure that the name is available in both .uk and .com. Owning both of these domains will limit others from using your brand in the future and benefiting from all your hard work.

Protect your designs!

It's your first brief and you've created some amazing concepts that you have poured your heart and soul into. However, the most important task is to send your designs so that they are protected until your precious time had been paid for (this is a business you are running after all!)

The way that I do this is to make sure that any concepts, whether graphic or web, are sent with copyright Urban Mind 2009 clearly typed just underneath the design. If sending electronically, a low resolution PDF is enough to be previewed but less likely to be used. Once payment has been made, full resolution formats can be sent or prints can be collected.

This system works for me, however communication is really important and all of your terms and conditions should be discussed with your client before you start a project. Most importantly enjoy!