Icky Cringeworthy Business Requests

cringeEvery now and then people (friends, acquaintances) have requests—however well intended—that makes you cringe inside. This is an easier undertaking when posed via email than in-person, especially if you’re not quick on your feet.

It usually goes something like this, “Oh you’re a graphic designer?!?!” “Can you (fill in the blank) for me?” And I’m not talking about people who want to hire you. That’s different and always welcomed of course. What I’m talking about is the undertone of asking with the intention of little or no pay, as a volunteer, a favor for a friend, etc.

What to do when someone asks you to do something that feels icky.

  1. Think on it. I’m not quick on my feet. My brain needs time to marinate so I can bring those icky feelings into clarity and figure out how I want to respond. If this happens in person I find it best, at least for me, to provide a vague answer and let them know I’ll be in touch as to not commit to anything I’m not comfortable with in the moment because I feel put on the spot.
  2. Talk with trusted mentor(s). Other freelancers who have likely gone through the same thing can be of valuable support and offer helpful advice. Believe me, if you ask any freelancer in any field they’ve gone through this.
  3. Write a draft of what you’ll say. And then hone it until it’s exactly as you intend. It’s helpful to write it out, sit on it, rewrite.
  4. Keep it professional (of course) and curt if curt is deserved. Sometimes you’re so turned off by the request I think it helps to be curt as to let the recipient know it’s not a welcome request. And always, you should say what you mean.
  5. Explain as succinctly as possible but keep it brief. No need to go into some 4-paragraph rant about how much this request has upset you. It’s usually best to start out by saying you appreciate the person thinking of you for such a request and follow that by saying you’re happy to meet to discuss their request further and that you charge $XYZ per hour so that they know you’re not doing it for free. If you really don’t want to work with this person from the initial vibe you felt, then price yourself much higher. Hey, if they’re willing to pay $300/hr go for it!

What’s the outcome?

Sometimes it’s as you’d expect, as soon as you throw up dollar signs they forget about it. And at least you can feel proud of yourself for sticking up for YOU.

And every so often it opens people’s eyes a bit and your language shows them you’re all business, in a good way. You command a price for your professional service because it’s how you make a living. And they’re willing to pay for it.

Bottom line

Art fields are seen as less valuable because we live in such a “free” society now where people don’t expect to pay for much. But I’m here to say the old adage is quite true, you get what you pay for.

No one likes to feel like they’re being taken advantage of. The hard part, I think, is figuring out the right way to respond. I hope this helps you and I’d love to know any situations you’ve encountered that made you feel icky, how you responded, and what the outcome was?

Thanks for reading, Corey

Over ten+ years, Corey’s design adventure has taken her through an ad agency, daily newspaper, city magazine, and non-profit. She founded Green Vegan Media in 2011 and specializes in web/digital design, WordPress implementation & customization, print design, advertising, and brand identity. She donates 5% of proceeds to an animal sanctuary or veg-friendly charity. When she’s not designing or blogging she’s playing hide-n-seek with Archie, the kitty who adopted HER. 


Unsubscribing from Digital Clutter, Subscribing to Intention


To get hyper focused on business goals and life goals, I’m in de-clutter mode. This mode is impacted greatly because I also work from home. A kitchen with dirty dishes and a floor lined with dirty clothes hangs over my head. Sometimes it’s easy to sit in my modest 40 sq ft office space (in my living room) and just FOCUS. But more times than not it’s incredibly hard when you know this needs to be done and that needs to be done.

As a side note, aside from “getting out” every so often, it’s invaluable to work with “mastermind partners” so you can hold each other accountable to your designated task. I have a mastermind blog-writing partner and a mastermind business-minded partner.

Why I unsubscribed from every email list except those directly aligned with my business goals

I think the biggest culprit to digital clutter is email. To UNclutter I just UNsubscribed from about 30 emails—five of which I hated to do but know I need to in order to allow my eyes time to read the most important emails that will be the most influential and guide me on a path of learning to support my business goals. Today another two popped in that I unsubscribed from.

There are only so many hours in a day and each distraction keeps you from fulfilling your current task, ultimately delaying achieving your goals. I decided to tackle email first. I unsubscribed from any and every email that I don’t love or doesn’t fit in direct alignment with what I want to achieve.  I categorized the remaining emails by professional interest/goals: design, branding, training, web development, business, professional services I use, and clients.

I’ll continue subscribing to

Interestingly what question this raises, as a marketing person, is how do you become a business that people won’t unsubscribe from? From the example I’m working with, I think it’s being very niche so that you speak directly to your core audience and they love you. This means of course, that you won’t appeal to the masses and you should be okay with that so that you can focus on what you do superbly and grow your hardcore fan base knowing you’re providing insanely valuable content.

Archiving Files

I currently have one external hard drive that does an entire backup of my computer via Time Machine, Apple’s backup software. You have to use it cautiously though because eventually it will delete the oldest file to make room for the newest. I’m planning to purchase another external hard drive to synchronize with my client folders on a frequent schedule and handy software to keep this streamlined is Qdea’s Synchronize! Pro X recommended by my boyfriend. You could also partition one external hard drive to serve both purposes but I decided I’ll easily go through one, even at 1 TB.

Social Media & Photos

Facebook and other social media are more “cloud” clutter than digital clutter but nonetheless suck you in and prevent you from focusing. You know what I mean—you go to one of these sites with a specific goal—read the FB email, locate a phone number, etc. and then before you get to that, someone’s post piques your interest and 30 minutes later you forgot why you went there in the first place.

The best way is to avoid the “suck in” is to designate x-minutes a day so you can freely peruse, eavesdrop, or “engage” and when you need to drop in to locate a name or email you can stay focused and get out of there quickly.

Photos should be cataloged into folders that make sense to you. You can start with year > month, and then keyword subfolder so you know what’s inside. Relying solely on Dropbox or other cloud storage is risky and should not be your only copy of photos (if you hope to have them forever).

Digital Clutter that Binds Us

The only solution to keeping clutter at bay is to be disciplined to maintain whatever “system” works for you before it has a chance to collect digital dust. This is easy to conceptualize and hard to maintain. Aiming to stick to a monthly or bi-monthly schedule is ideal. Good luck!

How to Forward an Email and Create a Digital Signature in Gmail

Two requests in the last week on how to add a signature to email and one on how to forward and I thought this would make for a helpful blog post. This post goes into specific detail to help guide even the first-time doer.

If you aren’t interested in the steps to Forward an Email go directly to Creating a Digital Signature.

What you’ll need to get this job done:

  • Your hosting log-in info
  • Your log-in info for Gmail
  • Photo editing software such as Photoshop

Steps to Forward an Email using GoDaddy:

1. Using GoDaddy as an example you’ll need to log-in to your account and click to expand Email, then select forward email

Screen Shot Email Forward

Screenshot 1

*Please note that if you already have an email setup you’ll have to delete it and redo it as a forward. You’ll know if you do because it will tell you that you do. For example, I already have corey (at) greenveganmedia in use. So you’ll see below it’s telling me it’s already in use. (I’m not spelling out email so I can avoid spam.)

Forward Can't Be Setup

Screenshot 2

2. If this is the case (and it likely will be) just delete it. It might take a couple of minutes for the system to process the change.


Screenshot 3

3. Then click Forward Email and follow the steps to create a forwarding address


Screenshot 4

4. Once the steps are complete on hover you’ll see text that says it forwards to your designated email. All done in GoDaddy.

Forward Complete

Screenshot 5


5. Go to the Gmail account that you want to forward to or are already forwarding to and click on Settings as the red arrow points to, click on Accounts and Import, then Add another email address you own—both highlighted in yellow below. Set to default and I recommend clicking Reply from the same address the message was sent to

Settings Gmail

Screenshot 6

6. When you click on Add another email address you own you’ll see a pop-up. Be mindful that Name is what the user sees in email so use your first name or business name rather than something like Contact, which won’t stand out in the array of emails in in-boxes.


Screenshot 7

7. Following the prompts I recommend you send through Gmail


Screenshot 8

8. Then verify


Screenshot 9

9. Check your Gmail account for a confirmation code, copy the code, and paste in the pop-up window.


Screenshot 10


Screenshot 11

10. Go back to Settings in Gmail under the General tab and scroll down the page to Signature and you should be able to select your new email. Example: corey (at) greenveganmedia.com rather than greenveganmedia (at) gmail.com


Screenshot 12

Steps to Create a Digital Signature:

1. Save your logo as a .png to preserve the crispness and resolution and use an appropriate size roughly 300px wide if it’s a horizontal logo and upload to your website. If you don’t have Photoshop try using Gimp—I haven’t used it but have heard good things about it. Then upload to your website. Copy the URL of your logo. If you’re using WordPress it will be something like i.e. http://www.website.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/your-logo.png

2. Go to Settings in your Gmail account and scroll down to Signature (scroll up to Step 5 above to see the screenshot if you’re not sure how to get to Settings). Click the Insert Image icon and paste your image url. Add your contact info and be sure to add hyperlinks to your website, social media, etc.


3. Test! Send an email to another email you own and reply back so you can make sure it’s working. Also test from your Contact web form on your website.

Was this helpful?! Do you need help? Let me know in the Comments.

Thanks for reading, Corey

Over the span of ten years, Corey’s design adventure has taken her through an ad agency, daily newspaper, city magazine, and non-profit. Green Vegan Media specializes in web/digital design, WordPress implementation & customization, print design, advertising, and brand identity. She donates 5% of proceeds to an animal sanctuary or veg-friendly charity. When she’s not designing or blogging she’s playing hide-n-seek with Archie, the kitty who adopted HER. 

The work we’re proud of from 2012

I rarely post work I’m doing on FB or other social media because, well—I’m working. And I also feel a bit uncomfortable doing so. Most of the time the work is being finalized and the client may not wish it to be public and I feel to braggy about it. But the social media Gods, it seems, insists you must tell people so they know what you’re up to.

With that said, I figured I’d write a blog post of the gigs that made me giggle in glee last year (in no particular order other than alphabetical):

ALT Roots Marketing

Website Design

Working with Amanda of ALT Roots Marketing on her account with Vegan Proteins to redesign their website was an awesome collaboration. I created a custom design to a theme template and Quinn (Fresh Pond Media) developed the site. It’s a rare chance to work with like-minded friends and the results when doing so are remarkable. http://altrootsmarketing.com


Alva DoRight


The words Pansy Maiden are sketched on a tiny piece of orange paper that hangs above my desk along with other “dream gigs.” I was able to cross this one off. Laura, founder of Pansy Maiden asked me to help her create an identity for Alva DoRight, the men’s line of her fabulous brand Pansy Maiden. In a recent interview with the Vegan Business Connection, Laura confessed that any business should be sure about a name so as to make it easier on yourself… The bear logo was sketched, designed, and tweaked and I was super thrilled to see it up on her new site. http://alvadoright.com


Fauna Foundation


Fauna is a terrific animal sanctuary that I learned about while working at NEAVS. They were the first sanctuary to accept chimpanzees with HIV from research. Gloria Grow, the founder is a genuinely kind soul and the perfect person to care for animals. Last year marked their 15th Anniversary and I was asked to create a 24-page newsletter celebrating the milestone in English and French. The beautiful animal photos by Fauna volunteers made the layout/design come to life. Looking into the eyes of the animals just makes you melt. Multi-page layouts are so fun to do. http://www.faunafoundation.org


New Alliance East

Website design/development

Franny contacted a college professor and he suggested she look on LinkedIn. Franny saw me on there and didn’t realize I did what she was looking for—website design. The rest is history. This project was very cool as it involved an audio mastering studio. Just über cool working with Franny, Rob, and Nick. http://newallianceeast.com


Planned Parenthood

Outdoor advertising

Former co-worker and friend, Purnima, asked me to help her out by doing an ad campaign for the non-profit she was Marketing Manager at, Planned Parenthood. Of course I jumped on the opportunity because I support all that the organization does and creating ad campaigns are my most favorite thing to do and the opportunity doesn’t happen as often as I wish. I leveraged Planned Parenthood’s existing branding guidelines to create the campaign displayed in Boston subway cars, in subway ramps, and on buses in Worcester. Purnima said their statistics increased 20% for website traffic. http://www.plannedparenthood.org

Planned Parenthood

Salem Food Tours

Brand Identity, Website design/development, Flyer

Another former co-worker and current friend and client, Karen Scalia started Salem Food Tours last year. She is a visionary and marketer and so it was a fantastic collaboration when “the look” for Salem Food Tours, in Salem, Massachusetts was born. We started with the identity. Over a few phone conversations I remember Karen saying she didn’t want to do anything cliché like broom sticks. Meanwhile one logo I was fond of included such a cliché and so when it came time to send her the first round of logo options I hid the logo on the very last page. I think Karen called me later that day and said she had a favorite and it was at the end. (I forgot to tell you, dear reader, that I struggled over whether not to include the said logo at all and my boyfriend made the practical statement that, “it was already done, so I might as well include it” and so I did.) You’re probably already guessing that indeed, the logo that went a little cliché was the chosen logo. Karen offers a vegan tour periodically throughout the year. http://www.salemfoodtours.com

Once the identity was complete we began working on the website. I started using premium WordPress themes for a few reasons, you can read more here and I customized it to fit the look Karen wanted. She mentioned a table-cloth idea early on and a maritime feel. Voila, the website was born. In addition, we created a flyer that leveraged the identity so that the logo, website, and flyer all have a cohesive branded look. http://www.salemfoodtours.com

Salem Food Tours

Will Travel For Vegan Food

Website re-design

Watching a friend fulfill a dream is nothing short of tear-jerking. Seriously. It’s awe-inspiring and at the same time a reality check that anyone can fulfill their dreams too—you just have to take the first step and build on that. I was flattered beyond belief when Kristin asked me to redesign her website. She was already using a theme and was familiar with WordPress. Like all things technology, it needed a facelift to incorporate newer design elements such as responsive design, which just means when you’re on your phone, or your iPad the website responds to the size. We nailed down all of the needs and wants for her new vision and found a theme. Design elements throughout the site such as graphics to represent regions she’s traveled to created small but impactful details. http://wtfveganfood.com


Vegan Business Connection

Identity, Website implementation

The is a project started with Amanda (ALT Roots Marketing) and Quinn (Fresh Pond Media). We are so excited to work on connecting vegan businesses together and the more we talk to people the more we hear they too have thought of a similar idea so it seems this project is very tangible to people and we’re filling a need that vegan businesses have—which is often wanting and needing to feel connected to others with similar ethos. http://www.veganbusinessconnection.com

Vegan Business Connection

Vegan Mainstream

Array of design pieces including co-web design of Engine2Diet; Vegan MashUp direct mail, flyer, and poster; Vegan Here App; identity and labels for Evelyn’s To Go; and New Year, New You Health Fest

You’ve probably heard of Vegan Mainstream by now. Stephanie Redcross, owner and founder works tirelessly to build her company. I can personally attest to this as many a phone call or email knowing she must’ve only slept 4 hours (if that!). She’s amazingly-crazy! Can I say that?! A true mentor, whether she knows it or not and very inspiring to see her brand truly go mainstream in only a few years. Hard work. That’s key. http://www.veganmainstream.com/

Vegan Mainstream

Tofu Breakfast Sandwich

It’s quick and yuuuuuumy.

A go-to meal I eat a lot of is what I call the Tofu Breakfast Sandwich. It’s perfect for summer or winter, breakfast or dinner, and whether you’re vegan or not! I can’t quite remember when or how I came up with this but I think it was out of desperation for something yummy, warm, and quick.  I have a cooking criteria that I try to stick to—less than 10 ingredients, less than 20 minutes, and totally delicious.

Yum-O Ingredients for One Sandwich

  • 2 slices of your favorite bread
  • 1/4 block of Tofu
  • 1/4 Avocado
  • 1/4 *Organic Tomato
  • 1 Cup of  *Organic Spinach
  • Vegan Butter
  • 1/4 Onion
  • A grumbling belly!

Steps to Create

  1. Thinly slice the onion (think onion ring style) and 3 – 4 tofu strips (eyeball 1/4” wide) and cook in veggie oil in your skillet until both ingredients begin to brown. Then toss in the spinach until it’s lightly wilted.
  2. Toast your bread. Add vegan butter to both slices.
  3. Slice your tomato and avocado and compile the ingredients and bite into a breakfast fave!

*Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 when purchasing: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

(I’ve made this before without one of the ingredients and they are all key but would love to hear your creative variations!)

Thanks for reading, Corey

Over the span of ten years, Corey’s design adventure has taken her through an ad agency, daily newspaper, city magazine, and non-profit. Green Vegan Media specializes in web/digital design, WordPress implementation & customization, print design, advertising, and brand identity. She donates 5% of proceeds to an animal sanctuary or veg-friendly charity. When she’s not designing or blogging she’s playing hide-n-seek with Archie, the kitty who adopted HER. 

Working for Yourself and Staying on Top of Everything

It’s taken a while to hone what works for me. There were binders, folders, one folder per client, bins, baskets, etc. Nothing was sticking. Each idea made sense when thinking of practical organization tools but they just didn’t work.


The folders, binders, etc. that theoretically made sense but just not what works for me

In my digital file organization I have a pretty good method, for me. But I realize when I have projects that I’m working on, upcoming projects, and new business I need something concrete instead of digital. I need to touch it and physically write it down.

The Physical Tools

Chalkboard Paint

This is what I use and I’m pretty happy with it, for now. It’s a back-of-the-door chalkboard for Today’s project to-do’s. You can pick up chalkboard paint from your local store and paint away. If you need something fancier, you could find a huge picture frame at a thrift store and use the chalkboard paint for the “photo.”


My handy dandy chalkboard door, luuuuv it!

Dry Erase Crayon Board

I purchased a dry erase crayon board (yes, crayons! it’s so fun) that lists projects Out For Proof and projects that I need to Follow Up with clients and those that are Upcoming/New Business.

Desktop Calendar

Eventually I realized I needed a quick overview of the current month and upcoming months and I found this handy desktop calendar at an office supply store. It fits well underneath my computer and it helps to write down upcoming meetings and such.


This is the super fun crayon erase board and my desktop calendar beneath

Recycled Notebook and Smart Phone

For meetings, brainstorming, sketching, phone notes, etc. I use an old-fashioned paper notebook albeit recycled and a newfangled smart phone, which is handy to have so your Google calendar syncs up as well as a great blue tooth capability so you have hands-free mobility while talking to clients and making changes on your computer.


The tools that go everywhere with me

The Digital Tools

Google (Gmail, Drive (for doc sharing), Calendar)

I get paranoid about letting a client project fall through the cracks—God forbid an unreturned email, or an email accidentally saved as a draft when you thought you hit send. For email, the method that I find works best, which I started doing as a quick “remember to” method is what I still use because it’s super quick—it’s simply to reply and save as a draft. That way each day I periodically check my draft folder (in each Gmail account) and know who I need to email back right away, and who I can email in a day or two.


Email messages “saved as draft” for a quick reminder of who needs a reply soon

Digital Organization

For digital organization itself I create a client folder and sub folders that make sense to me and I learned to do at the first ad agency I worked for, thank you Bob. So the file organization looks like this: client-projectNumber-year-project in this case mc-02-13-Anderson-Spring with sub-folders: images (all photos and illustrations), PDFssupplied (contains all files supplied by the client), and working (layout files such as InDesign). This method helps when it comes time for invoicing because you’ve already created project numbers and when you’ve worked on tons of projects you can find what you’re looking for quickly (usually).

Screen shot 2013-02-22 at 2.21.46 PM

Digital organization of clients’ art files

Now onto…

I’m working on figuring out what time tracking software works best for me. I currently use Excel and it’s a quick method until it comes time for invoicing. Then I have to triple-check figures, copy/paste project details into my InDesign template. It takes a lot of time. This makes a self-confessed procrastinator prime for further procrastination. It’s why invoicing is just no fun. And until I find one that I’m happiest with I end up spending more time by doing both methods so I confess I’ve already lapsed on the software. I truly do want to get it figured out though so I can make invoicing speedier and be able to see reports on various aspects of the business. A couple I’m looking into include FreshBooks and Harvest.

What organization methods work for you? Let me know in the Comments or on Facebook.

Give Yourself the Gift of Confidence


It’s the one key attribute I’ve realized is necessary for success in anything. I struggled with this one for quite sometime, my whole life practically, and still do but the difference is now I know what the main ingredient is that was missing all these years.

I think everyone has a certain amount of confidence but also lacks enough. Then there are those people who seem to have too much. This post is not for them or about them. It’s for you and me, and most people.

Take the First Step and Build on That

I work frequently with people who need help building their businesses, mostly related to design of some sort and the one commonality with all of them is getting focused and following through with their intentions and fulfilling their dreams. This is the time for confidence building. I let them know that their ideas are terrific and they just need to take the first step and build on that. That’s really all there is to it.

I always thought one must have every T crossed before starting a business but an opportunity to work with a new business owner several years ago and still today, gave me key insight into her methods and she did not have everything figured out then or now. That was truly eye-opening and also key to being open to opportunities and nimble for quick change.

Just say, “no” to Negative Internal Dialogue

We all have life experience that shakes our confidence for one reason or another and it’s difficult to think you can succeed when you have deep-seated internal dialogue that says you’ll fail. Some people persevere despite this and some chase their tail for years, never quite getting to where they want in life or achieving what they hope to.

For me it was starting my own business. The biggest piece of negative internal dialogue was “…there are so many designers already and some vegan designers too. How will you ever make it!?” And a friend saying,”because it’s you it will be different,” that is to say we all have inherent differences that make us unique. That made enough sense to perk me up. It made me get past the hump of ambivalence. I took baby steps from there. I still had my day job and steadily reduced my hours over a span of one year until I was going into the office one day a week.

Do the Work

I started picking up projects from friends who became clients and friends of clients who became clients. Working as much as possible and saying yes to everyone who needed design help. If people are paying you, you’re doing something right. With each new client I gain, and each new project successfully completed, my confidence increases.

I don’t consider myself a fully confident person. I feel like it could all go away by the end of the current projects (and in reality that’s true—it really could go away) and this fact continues to make me grateful for the present but also hustling for the future.

And days like today, when I’m just not feeling it the only thing to do is work. suppress negative thoughts and just do the work.

Tomorrow will be better.

Photo credit: Son of Groucho via photopin cc. Hand-drawn gift box by yours truly.
Thanks for reading, Corey

Over the span of ten years, Corey’s design adventure has taken her through an ad agency, daily newspaper, city magazine, and non-profit. Green Vegan Media specializes in web/digital design, WordPress implementation & customization, print design, advertising, and brand identity. She donates 5% of proceeds to an animal sanctuary or veg-friendly charity. When she’s not designing or blogging she’s playing hide-n-seek with Archie, the kitty who adopted HER. 

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