Office Space

No, not the movie, the meme. In response to “Nathan’s”: request to show him mine (he offered to show his first, just for the record), I present the official world headquarters of The Blog Studio/Flashlight Design:

_Update: I’ve put a couple of annotated flickr shots up for those of you with very little to do. You can view them by clicking “here”: or on the image above_

12 months on: what a ride.

One year ago today I was lying on my back recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disc. I’d spent the past couple of days trying to get a blog setup, and had finally managed to post my first article. I had just moved 3000 miles across the country. I was unemployed (unemployable, actually – I hadn’t been able to sit in a chair for more than a couple of hours for about 3 months). I’d never done any commercial web design. In fact, this blog was my first real website.

Today I’m in a slightly different position.

Before I go any further, I want to be very clear that *anyone* can achieve what I’ve done. There is no special skill that I possess. This post is not about bragging, it’s about thanking everyone who’s helped, and encouraging others to go for it.

So what is it that I’ve achieved this past year?

* I’ve started a successful and growing design business
* I’ve hired my first employee (who’s working out really well)
* I’ve made some incredible friends
* I’ve developed an amazing network of brilliant, talented, and _connected_ people
* I’ve taught a course on a subject I knew nothing about 12 months ago
* I’ve written a couple of hundred posts
* I’ve been invited to work on some *amazing* projects
* I’ve started to earn a decent living, only 1 year out of school
* I’ve worked with some wonderful clients and built the foundations of some valuable long term relationships
* I’m doing *exactly* what I’m supposed to be doing (do you have any idea how good that feels?)

I can’t overstate the change these 12 months have wrought. In fact, I can barely appreciate it. I’m too close. No doubt after some time has elapsed I’ll be able to see the past year more clearly. As it is, I spend a good part of my day in awe at the luck life has tossed my way.

So how did I go from unemployed to busier than I could ever dream? I trusted my heart. For the first time in my (then) 34 years, I listened to what my instincts told me. And they said “grab onto this blog thing and get ready to run with it”. See, it all comes back to the 97th monkey thing. I was in the right place at the right time to do something that was uniquely right for me.

I’ve had the fortune to lose a lot of money in a previous business venture. That sounds contradictory, but it really isn’t. Losing _everything_ was the best thing to ever happen to me. For one, it allowed me to go back to school at 32 to follow my dream – there was nothing left to lose, after all. Also, going through that awful, awful process forced me to really look at myself and figure out what I wanted and what I was good at. So I knew deep down when my “thing” came along.

When I discovered blogging, it was as though I was struck by lightening. I love to read. I love to write. I love to rant and rave and bicker and occasionally say shit just for shit’s sake. I also love business and marketing, and I immediately saw how blogs could help small and medium sized businesses connect with their customers on a far deeper level than traditional methods allowed. So I jumped on it. I listened to my instincts and trusted them, despite being brutally afraid of not knowing what the future held.

My success over these past 12 months comes down to a couple of simple, repeatable steps. They are:

* find a subject you care passionately about (really, wildly passionate)
* learn everything you can about it
* find a way to apply your passion to a narrow field. For example, rather than saying “I’m a web designer”, I said “I’m a blog designer”. While in theory this shrinks the pool of potential clients by a huge margin, the reality is that my market is global. There may be only a tiny percentage of people looking for blog design, but it’s a tiny percentage of a HUGE number. Make it your business to become the default go to person in your field. (here’s a secret that they don’t usually tell you: you can be an expert in more than one field)
* network, network, network. Use email, IM and skype to connect with people. I’ve met the most amazing people this year. Most of whom I’ve never “met”.
* above all, be honest and forthright
* treat your clients, suppliers, and everyone you meet as well as you can
* work your ass off. I work a stupid number of hours per week. But I’m doing something I love. So most of the time it doesn’t actually feel like work.

That’s it. I’d like to write more, but it’s 1 am, and I’ve got miles to go before I sleep. Thank you *so* much to everyone who’s ever read this site. I owe you the world.

One year later: rebranding ME

I’m coming up to the one year anniversary of this site. It’s simultaneous hard to believe it’s *already* been a year, and that it’s *only* been a year. My life has changed to an enormous degree because of my adventures in blogging. In the coming days, I’ll recount what’s happened and summarize what I’ve learned.

Today though is about looking forward not looking back.

I’ve been thinking for some time about unifying my two businesses, “Flashlight Design”: and “The Blog Studio”: The reasons for doing so are pretty plain: shared traffic, better exposure to the complete portfolio of work, greater display of capabilities, etc. The challenge has been to find the time and mental energy to tackle redesigning both sites, developing a new branding system, writing a bunch of new content, and putting the whole thing in place.

We’ve been very fortunate in the past couple of weeks to have landed a couple of very high profile jobs. The first (“b5media”: has launched, and the others will launch before the end of the year. The increase exposure these projects will bring to our sites really means the time to implement the redesign is now.

Like many of our projects, this one started with the logo. Flashlight Design has a logo that I just love. You can see it on my business cards below:

Flashlight Design Logo

I didn’t want to abandon that shape, but I needed to figure out a way to extend it’s use to The Blog Studio, this site, and another upcoming project. The answer was actually quite obvious.

new logos

These are early prototypes, but they should give a fairly clear indication of the direction I’m going. Each site in my quiver represents a section of my whole business. Each is whole unto itself, yet also a part of a larger vision. The logo symbolizes the uniqueness of each section and the unity of the whole. It symbolizes our hope for our customers and our hope for our industry. It’s a target, a sight, and a lantern. And it’s extremely flexible.

All three sites are also being redesigned. Flashlight Design and The Blog Studio will be sharing a similar look and feel, while Almost Cool will push the boundaries a bit further. The design for TBS is essentially done. We’re hoping to roll out the site and some great new features early this week. Here’s a sneak peek of the new look:

the blog studio site design

It’s very interesting days here in Peter-land. We’re doing amazing work for amazing people, and we’re only just getting started. We’re working our asses off and are loving it. All due to this silly little blogging thing.

I'm watching a wild elephant

Really. I’m watching an elephant bathe at a watering hole in Botswana. In real time. The quality is amazing. The sound is fantastic. And my productivity just took a major nose dive.

The setup is courtesy of National Geographic. The details and link to the real video feed can be found “here”:

Courtesy “Boing Boing”: