Gearing up for 2013, LCWS-style

Song for the new year. #sentiment

Happy new year, everyone!

I hope your holidays were filled with lots of coziness & eating way too much junk food.

My December was filled with resting, hooping, designing, coding, and spending time with my family. December is usually very, very busy for me — but this year, I’d finished nearly all of my projects for the year early in the month, and I spent the last few weeks just gearing up for an incredible 2013.

This meant, of course, a rebrand.

I’ve been telling people that this new look is to demonstrate my brand having “grown up”.

In 2013, I’ll be focusing on quality vs. quantity.

I’ll be doing only 24 custom websites this year — and I’m calling them (re)Brand Experiences now, because they are about so much more than design and code. (You can learn more about them here.)

Starter sites as a 2-week process no longer exist. I’m now only offering them as a single day intensive. This is better for me, and it’s better for you, EVEN if the idea of spending the entire day focused on getting this thing done is kind of scary. (It’s fun. I promise.) I’ll have a few openings a month for Starter Site Intensives, either on Wednesdays or (less often) on Saturdays.

I’ve made it even easier to work together.

I designed my new services page to give you a clearer idea of what the process of working with me is like. I know it can be nerve-wracking to spend a significant chunk of change on what can feel like a hope and a prayer. I want to make that process less scary. If you’re still in the trenches of making a decision, you can get on my list to receive a free copy of my 2013 How to Hire a Designer Guide.

Working with me specifically means: We’ll be talking a lot about strategy — content strategy, social media strategy, smoothie-making strategy, if you want. (I love a good smoothie. Disclaimer: I can’t teach you how to make money off your smoothies. Sorry.) We’ll communicate about our project mostly via Basecamp (my project management system of choice — I recently made the switch to the *new* Basecamp, in fact, and I love it even more). When necessary (or whenever we feel like it), we’ll jam via phone, Skype, or Google Hangout, but only by appointment. (I require appointments because I hate breaking out of “the zone” to answer my phone, and nobody wants an “uh huh” zombie who isn’t giving them their full attention.) We have to be able to have fun.

I’m launching a sister company.

Last year, it became very obvious that one of the toughest things to keep up with was website maintenance. Obviously, the more successful launches my business has, the more maintenance clients I’ll have. My partner-in-all-things, R.T., has been helping with website maintenance for nine months or so, but we recently realized that we need more availability for our own clients and that there’s a great need for skilled people willing to provide general WordPress maintenance to the world at large. We’ve teamed up with one of my very best friends (a gal named Jessica) and we’ll be launching the Website Refinery soon. So soon. Hopefully next week. The Website Refinery will handle all of your site maintenance, backups, WordPress installations, plugin integration, etc., R.T. is the Shop Foreman, so you’ll correspond with him more often than anyone else, but as Operator the Most, I’ll be handling the high-level stuff, so you can trust that you’re in good hands.

I hope this is the year we work together.

I’m making an effort to book those 24 custom sites — er, (re)Brand experiences — sooner than later, so please get in touch if one of those spots should have your name on it (especially if wait lists aren’t really your jam).

I also have strategy sessions available if you just need to chat about things & get a little clarity.

What do you think of my rebrand?

I’d love to know what you think of my new look, either in the comments or via e-mail (leah@leahcreates.com).

Have you forgotten the old one already? Here’s a screenshot to compare.

lc_redesign_2k11

A Christmas Relaunch!

relaunch

Things look a little different around here today! This rebrand & new website are my Christmas gifts to myself, my little business, and all of you.

As you might gather from looking around, I have some great stuff up my sleeve for 2013! I’ll be back on January 2nd with more details.

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying a warm and love-filled holiday season and that your new year gets off to a great start.

Here’s to 2013!

Showing up gratefully

Frozen. #morningwalk

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since I was a little girl. There’s no pressure (for those of us who don’t cook) – you just show up, be thankful, and eat a lot of food. That works for me.

I’m feeling especially grateful this year, being a newlywed and having the luxury of having my mom and my siblings nearby. It’s been many years since I had a Thanksgiving with my own family and I’m so looking forward to it.

So, I thought I would take a minute to make a list of all that I am thankful for and share it with all of you.

I am thankful for…

The big stuff

My amazing husband, Randall Tyler, and our incredible life together
Our crazy dog, the world’s sweetest chinchilla, two lovable-asshole cats, two crazy rats, and one gangster gerbil
LCWS and all of our fantastic clients – the people who show up and do astounding, world-changing things and give me the honor of helping them share their work with the world (and paying me to do it!) – I love you guys so much.
My mom, my sisters Kristina and Micayla, and my little brother Mathew. Spending this year in geographic proximity to them and getting to be a part of their actual lives has healed my soul in a big, big way
The remarkable people I am lucky enough to call friends – in Michigan, New Hampshire, and throughout the rest of the country and the world. I am so fortunate. Thank you.
Dad’s deployment nearing it’s end – he is healthy and safe and coming home soon.

Life’s little delights (a random list of stuff that’s brought me joy this year)

Long walks My Filofax Trek mountain bikes World domination summit Evernote Slacker Radio red wine my iPhone5 Fossil and Epiphanie bags Jen Saunders & Amanda Farough and their endless guidance + support Wild by Cheryl Strayed photography e-courses by Darrah and Vivienne knitting yoga Modcloth this etsy seller (who made both my engagement ring & wedding band) Instagram & Flickr Parenthood Brené Brown colored tights Intimacy bra stylists Zoloft (this one is only a little tongue-in-cheek) The Weepies & The Weakerthans Charity:Water gluten-free crepes President Obama’s re-election green smoothies MyFitnessPal TOMS peppermint soy lattes & dirty chai the coasts of Oregon and Maine Makeup Forever’s HD Foundation Sephora in general Whole Foods! Stratejoy (Molly! The guest bloggers! The rebrand launching SO SOON!) and, finally, ME – the love I feel for my goofy, dorky, imperfect self. (Self love is a total game-changer.)

Mmmm! That was so much fun. I could go on for hours, but instead I have to tackle the day’s work so I can spend tomorrow blissed out in a pecan pie coma. (I live for pecan pie.)

where i am lately

AM walk with my little fam.

I’ve been in a quiet place mentally for the last few weeks. I keep wanting to show up and share things with you – our wedding and honeymoon trip in Vermont, married life, preparing for our next move, all of these big transformations that are happening in my life and within me specifically.

But I just feel quiet.

The season change is hitting me particularly badly this year. Maybe it’s just because I’m in the midwest after being on the east coast for all of my adult life. It gets light much later here at the edge of the time zone, and this has been a tough adjustment for me as an early riser. I feel like I’m just not waking up at all.

Whatever it is, I’m in a very ebb phase of the ebb and flow.

It’s okay. It’s where I am. I’m showing up from that place. I hope you’ll join me here.

Pending nuptials & autumn in New England

Waiting. #weddingdress

By the time most of you read this, I’ll be in the passenger seat of a Honda Civic headed east to New Hampshire. We’ll stay there for a few days, then head to Vermont for our sweet little honeymoon vacation.

When I come back, I’ll be Mrs. Randall Tyler Tompkins! I’m planning to still go by Leah, though. You know. (HEY-O! Pretend that was funny.)

I’ve been a bit strung out on stress for the last ten days or so. I had a dress crisis the weekend before last. It’s all worked out now, but things were pretty tough for awhile. In the end, all I needed was my mama.

My mom working on my dress alterations. #love

Corset back conversion - half done.

Isn’t that always the way?

Fun Leah fact: I’m a size 10, except “up top”. I have a lot going on in the chest region. I’m a size 16 there. Last week I genuinely pondered whether or not it was really that big a deal if my dress didn’t zip all the way up. I bought an expensive strapless longline. I bought REALLY expensive Spanx. In the end, my mom took out the zipper & converted the back into a corset-style lace-up. It’s really, really beautiful. There will be photos of the finished product eventually. (Melissa is taking our photos!)

So, anyway – I’m off to get married & then for some fun and relaxation! There are still a few days to donate to our charity:water campaign if you feel so inclined.

Calling bullshit: Sometimes you really ARE "too busy"

studiophoto

You know how it’s becoming really trendy to spout shit about how saying, “I’m too busy”, is actually saying “it’s not a priority”?

I want to punch all of those people.

That’s a really unfair thing to say to our friends, and an especially unfair thing to say to ourselves. It’s icky and guilt-trippy and we don’t need more of that.

You can’t manufacture time. There are only so many hours in the day.

There’s another saying that isn’t getting enough airtime lately:

If everything’s a priority, nothing is.

On any given day, I want to make it a priority to:

– answer all of my emails
– have a green smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and the healthiest healthy health wrap you can dream up for dinner
– exercise for at least an hour
– call my mom back
– finally get together with a dear friend who lives 15 minutes away but whom I haven’t seen since July
– write to my dad (he’s stationed in the middle east right now and I miss him)
– create a blog post or three or five so that I have a queue
– work on internal bizdev stuff
– meet all of my milestones & deadlines
– answer all of my emails, again, because I can’t leave my inbox unattended for fifteen minutes

If I could just do all of this by 5pm, my evening would be free to:

– check out that new yoga studio
– work on a new painting
– take the dog for a super long walk
– spend a couple of hours mountain biking with my fiancé
– finish that book that I started two months ago
– get 8 solid hours of sleep (because I keep reading that I’m not nurturing my sacred body temple well enough if I’m only getting six… whatever.)

If I could just get all of THAT stuff done on a regular basis, surely I could make it a priority to travel, go back to school, maybe start a second business…?

All of this and I don’t even have kids! Furthermore, I have a fiancé who acts as my personal assistant and does most of the cooking and the housework. What about the mothers amongst us? What about the single gals who also have to do the laundry and the grocery shopping and the vacuuming…?

I’m calling bullshit. Seriously.

It’s okay to be too busy. There’s no possible way to get everything done, regardless of whether or not you call it a priority. Even if it turns out that “I’m too busy” is actually short for, “I’m too busy to make that a priority and still have time left over to make these other things a priority, too,” we can all do each other the common courtesy of letting “I’m too busy” be reason enough to not go through life battling unreasonable expectations.

Don’t let someone else’s pseudo-epiphany/pop-philosophy tell you that you’re not good enough, that you’re not sacrificing enough, that you’re not prioritizing enough.

Here’s the thing: you do enough. You are enough.

Trust that you know what has to be a priority and when you can let yourself off the hook. And when that stuff is done, shut down in the evening and take a fucking bath or sip a glass of wine on the porch or whatever it is that makes you feel nourished. And screw anyone who makes you feel bad about it.

Liquid Love Affair – Why we're giving up our wedding

I’m getting married next month. Oh. You’ve heard?

Instead of a wedding, we’re using the celebration of our legal union as an opportunity to raise money for clean water.

Let me tell you a story…

Meet Scott Harrison. He spoke at He spoke at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in July. His speech was a lot like this video, but longer and even more powerful. (More like this, but on a huge stage in front of a thousand people).

At the end, Scott asked everyone to donate their birthdays to raise money for water.

What a great idea! But I want to do more than that. I want to change the world, and I’m going to start with the day I change my name.

R.T. and I are donating our wedding to water.

There are a dozen good reasons to donate money to charity instead of putting that money toward a big celebration. (Our friends and family are split halfway across the country, my dad is in the middle east, we already live together so we don’t really need to do the registry thing, etc.) But the main reason is wanting to use our privilege (as middle class heterosexual Americans) to make a difference in some way. We wanted our decision to marry to be something other than purely self-indulgent.

At the end of Scott’s speech, he told the story of Helen.

Please read that link. Here, I’ll give it to you again. It’s really powerful.

“Now I am beautiful.”

That story really struck something in me.

Not only do Americans spend over $100 billion dollars on weddings each year, we also spend over $66 billion on weight loss. I don’t even want to look up how much we spend on plastic surgery, or designer jeans, or any of the things that we sell out on in an effort to be able to sign off on feeling beautiful.

I think it can be really difficult to take the conceptual leap from our place of privilege to the idea of helping to cure disease — there’s such an inconceivable amount of work to be done in that area. (We’ve gotta start somewhere, but it can feel like our tiny contributions won’t even make a dent.)

On the other hand, making one person feel beautiful doesn’t seem so daunting, right?

Think about that for a second. $20 can bring a person clean water, which LITERALLY changes their entire life. Your $20 is giving someone the gifts of health, time, and self-confidence JUST TO START. That’s a big deal.

So here’s what I need:

$5000 would fund one water project. That would be amazing. To get there, I need 250 people to donate $20.

Even if only a fraction of my Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and my e-mail list donated, I’d be there in no time at all.

And, uh, it’s tax deductible, if that’s what it’s going to take to get you to do it. (If it is, though, make sure you tell your accountant about Charity:Water, too. Spread the word!)

Twenty bucks. Click the button. Bam.

PS. Thank you. I love you.

How to Create a Badge for your site (without Photoshop!)

This post was written for Flying Lessons: The e-Course and Flying Lessons: The e-Book Series by Kelly Rae Roberts. The e-Course is about to run for the last time EVER, so skip on over there and sign up! Note: these are not affiliate links. I just think KRR is brilliant.

I’m asked fairly regularly how to create a badge for the sidebar of your website. You can use these for calls to action (e.g, to promote a service or product), or offer them up as an easy way to let others link to you.

Photoshop is still my preferred application for creating graphics, but it’s expensive software and not everyone can justify the cost. As an alternative, I’m loving PicMonkey.com.

Here’s how we do it.

1.) Figure out the size you want your badge to be. Make sure it’s about the same width as your sidebar. I’m going to go with 200 by 200.

2.) Decide on a photo for the background. (You can use a solid color, too, if you’d like – I’ll show you that in a bit.) If you don’t have a personal photo you like, you can purchase a stock photo through istockphoto.com or one of many other stock photo sites – just google ‘stock photos’ or ‘free stock photos’. Sometimes you can even use a photo from Flickr if you get permission.

3.) Go to PicMonkey.com and select “edit a photo” (little blue box on the right hand corner)

4.) Under ‘Basic Edits’, select ‘Crop’. Then type in your image proportions – in my case, 200 x 200. If your image is a rectangle and you need it to be a square, you’ll be cropping it, so keep that in mind. The visual editor will show you what part of the image you’ll be losing. Make sure you check “scale photo” so that your image is resized.

5.) Now that your image has been cropped and resized, we can add some text! Click the fancy “P” icon in the editor. On the next screen, you’ll be able to select from a (surprisingly decent!) array of fonts. I pick Stampete.

6.) Then, click on your image and type. You can move the text box around as needed, as well as change font color and size.

7.) You might be done! You can play around with various other effects if you’d like, but this is the gist of how to create a basic photo badge for your site.

BUT WAIT, you ask! What if I want my badge to just be a solid color instead of a photo? GREAT QUESTION, I say! (Why are we speaking in all caps? Moving on…)

Skip over to the ‘effects’ tab. It’s the one with the little beaker. Close (or scroll past) the categories until you get to “artsy”, where you’ll find the “draw” option.

Under ‘Draw’, you can pick a color and a brush size. We’ll just be covering up the photo, so you can make your brush big.

Then, scribble out the photo so you have a solid background.

8.) From here, you’ll click ‘Save’ and download it to your computer. You can decide on quality and file size – the middle option, Ewan, is probably a fairly safe bet.

Now the image is on your computer, and you’ll just upload it to your site the way you’d upload any other image. (e.g, directly through WordPress, or by hosting it on Flickr.)

Voila!

That’s how you do it, kiddos. Any questions?