Content Creator

Promoting a Podcast

It’s been two weeks since we’ve launched the Bring Your Own Movie podcast, and we’ve gotten a great response. There have been a lot of positive reviews and comments for the show and a decent number of downloads.

With our successful launch complete, there was no time to slow down, as we needed to quickly pivot and go into major promotion mode. For our initial push, we’re focusing on free tactics, dedicating the majority of our efforts on social media marketing, since we have complete controls over those channels.

Here are a few early learnings and tips:

Start with your goals

Any marketer will tell you that before you put together your promotion plan, you need to identify what you are trying to accomplish.

For us, our top priority is, of course, getting as many downloads and listens of the podcasts as possible.

Our secondary goals include:

  • Getting people to connect with your social media pages
  • Encouraging people to engage with our social media posts
  • Getting iTunes reviews

These goals will help guide the content of our marketing, as well as outline the metrics we should be measuring.

Identify your target audience

Of course, we hope everyone enjoys our podcast! But we think that the show will particularly resonate with people who like to have fun discussions about movies. And for our social media channels, we’re also targeting people who are likely to weigh in with their own opinions.

Knowing who we’re speaking to will not only influence the topics we post about, but also the tone of our posts. Which is a great segue to …

Find your brand’s voice

We also needed to think about what we wanted the tone of our social media posts and other written promotional materials to be. In general, we want the Bring Your Own Movie voice to be humorous and irreverent. We want to avoid sounding too serious or high-brow. We want to feel like the type of easy-going, funny people that you’d love hanging out with at a party or a bar, grabbing a few drinks with, and having a lively, but light-hearted, discussion about films with.

See things from your audience’s perspective

When it came to brainstorming the type of social media posts we wanted to make, I thought about the types of posts I tend to engage with.

I tend to comment on posts that ask me to weigh in with my own opinions. I will often ‘like’ posts that include some interesting fact, a funny meme or cool art. And I tend to share posts that feature big news that I think other people need to know about.

I also think about podcast-specific posts that I engage with or that I see get a lot of engagement. Those are things like episode discussion threads and fan art/merchandise posts.

From there we were able to brainstorm some post ideas for Bring Your Own Movie, such as:

  • Special guest bios
  • Movie trivia
  • Episode discussion threads and/or polls

Create your calendar

Now, it’s time to get everything in place and figure out a good cadence for your marketing plan. For us, since we’re releasing new episodes every two weeks, it made sense also to have a two-week marketing cycle.

In the week leading up to each episode’s release, we’ll have posts introducing that episode’s special guest, as well as teasing the movie that will be discussed, asking people to comment with their guesses on this episode’s film. After the episode goes live, we have a week of posts promoting downloads & listens, as well as encouraging engagement with our posts through discussion threads, polls, and fun, shareable content.

Find the right tools

In order to execute a marketing plan smoothly and efficiently, it’s important to have good tools at hand. We, of course, are using a ton of tools, but here are a couple that I want to highlight:

Calendar

When planning out a social media plan, it’s helpful to create a marketing calendar with information on when you’ll post, what channel(s) you’ll be using, and what will be contained in each post. Any spreadsheet tool will do the trick (Excel, Google Sheets), but we find that Airtable gives us some extra capabilities that are particularly useful.

With Airtable, it was easy for us to organize and separate out posts by social media channel. We were able to customize our column, like one can with any spreadsheet, so we could include information of the topic, the date, and the copy for each post. We were also able to include a column where we can drag in the images we’ll be using.

Scheduler

Anyone who’s run a robust social media plan will tell you that having a scheduling tool can save a lot of time. Instead of manually posting every day, you can queue up your posts in a scheduling tool ahead of time and then the tool will publish your posts at the scheduled date and time. This means, for example, that instead of having to take time out of your day every day, you could dedicate, say, one day a week to setting up all your posts for that week.

There are many scheduling tools out there, and a lot of people are familiar with Hootsuite. We ended up going with Buffer, partly because they have a free account option, while Hootsuite does not.

Measure your results

Next, it’s time to see what worked and what didn’t. Even though our main goal is episode downloads and listens, it’s actually difficult to attribute those metrics to our social media posts. While we’ve included links to our website and the episode page on our site in some of our posts, people will typically download, subscribe and listen to podcasts in their app of choice. We, of course, can try to correlate this. Do we see a spike in downloads on a certain day? We can look at what posts were made that day.

We also look at our secondary goals, particularly engagement. Unsurprisingly, our big podcast launch post has received the most engagement. After that, big winners were our guest announcement post, our posts about our iTunes reviews, and a post that featured a funny Rotten Tomatoes review. I think it’ll take a few months to see if there are any strong patterns in the types of posts that get the most engagement.

What’s next?

We’ll continue with our social media plan and track engagement. We’ll fine-tune along the way, as patterns start to surface as to what’s working best.

We’d also like to explore other free marketing avenues, such as co-promotions with other podcasts and getting featured in related email newsletters.

Have any ideas yourself? Feel free to leave a comment!

Interior Designer

San Francisco Design Center

Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the San Francisco Design Center, which houses about 100 showrooms, workrooms and other design-related businesses. It was fascinating to discover all the touchpoints an interior designer might have when working on a single project.

It was also an illuminating, behind-the-scenes look at the interior design realm as a whole, and how the professionals in this field work together to protect the integrity of the work. For example, while the showrooms are technically open to the public, they will only sell to “people in the trade”. In fact, as an interior designer, you would need to prove your credentials before a showroom will deal with you (e.g. business license, business website, portfolio, etc.).

Laurel Sprigg

Our tour began at Laurel Sprigg, a sewing workroom dedicated to soft furnishings, such as curtains, pillows, and bedding. This was where it first became clear that even a seemingly small interior design project might require coordination with many parties.

Let’s take curtains, for example. Say, you’d like to add some custom-made curtains to your client’s room and have a certain design in mind. Before you even start dealing with a sewing workroom like Laurel Sprigg, you need to pick out your fabric and hardware. Oh, and while you’re selecting the hardware and fabric for the curtains, you better make sure the window was framed in a way that it can support the weight of these new curtains.

So, you might be dealing with an architect to make sure the framing can support the weight of the curtains; a showroom to purchase the hardware (e.g. rods, rings, etc.); another showroom to purchase the fabric; the curtain installers to make sure you have the measurements and are ordering the correct amount of fabrics; and the sewing workroom to fabricate the curtains.

That’s a lot of people just to install some new curtains!

Osborne & Little

Osborne & Little is a fabric and wallpaper showroom. So, looking at our example from before, this could be a place where you’d buy the fabric for those curtains.

It was interesting to see how much consideration needs to go into the selection of a fabric. How will the fabric be used? If it’s going to upholster a highly-used chair, for example, you’ll want to select a fabric with a high rub count. Will the fabric be exposed to the sun often? Better stay away from silks, as these fabric disintegrate quickly in sunlight.

I also had two realizations in this shop:

First, I really enjoy dealing with textiles. Maybe it’s my art history background, but I loved looking at all the patterns and colors. It really got my creative juices flowing!

Second, I was drawn to many of the bold and even funky designs, so I may want to explore commercial restaurant or hospitality design, where I would likely have more freedom to use these types of textiles.

Purcell Murray

Our next stop was Purcell Murray, a kitchen and bath showroom specializing in high-end brands, which is actually just up the street from the Design Center.

Insider secret: kitchen showrooms are where you can often get fed! In order to show off the appliances, these showrooms often have working ranges and ovens. For our tour, they had prepared our lunch.

We had a look at the various appliances in the kitchen, with some good insights and things to consider when working with your client to select new appliances. While interesting, I didn’t feel particularly passionate about it.

Maybe kitchen design is not my path, which is a shame because it’s probably a speciality where you can get the most work.

Kravet

Kravet was another fabric showroom, that also sells their own line of furniture (apparently, a growing part of their business!). The rep from the store gave a lot of good advice on how to work with a showroom as an interior designer.

First, when you walk into a new showroom for the first time, it’s helpful to greet the staff and let them know what you’re looking for. The staff can advise you on how the store is organized and certain sections you may want to focus on. They can also let you know what information from the tag you should write down in order to request samples (or what’s known in the industry as memos).

We also got really good information on additional considerations for selecting fabrics, particularly upholstery fabric. Selecting a print to reupholster a chair? You’ll want to check in with the upholsterer on their recommendations for how much yardage to buy, which will depend on the print itself and where it will be cut in order to be best displayed on the piece of furniture. Along those same lines, you’ll need to indicate to the upholsterer which part of the pattern should be the focal point on the furniture.

HEWN

Our last stop was HEWN, a high-end showroom selling a variety of interior design products, such as home furnishings, fabrics, wall coverings, lighting, rugs and furniture. They pride themselves on carrying hand-made, customizable products from smaller businesses and craftspeople.

I found myself really drawn to the furniture — the various styles, the techniques used to make them, the materials. This reinforced my interest in furniture design, and I want to prioritize exploring that area a bit more soon.

Takeaways

There was definitely a lot of information thrown at us during the tour, but here are my big takeaways from the experience:

  1. Building relationships — not just with clients but with showrooms and other professionals in the field — is vital for an interior designer. You want to be confident in the showrooms and workrooms you deal with, making sure they fit with your aesthetic and preferred work style and provide good, reliable service.
  2. I’m drawn to eccentric fabrics, wallpapers and other furnishings that you can often find in hip restaurants or hotels. I want to research more about design firms in the Bay Area that specialize in these types of projects.
  3. I appreciate the art and beauty in handcrafted furniture. I’ve talked to my husband in the past about attempting to build our own furniture and seeing what starting a business would look like. I’m going try to do some of that exploration soon.

It was fantastic to get this opportunity to tour the San Francisco Design Center and get so much insider knowledge about the field. I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the showrooms.

Content Creator

Launching a Podcast

Well, I’m just going to cut to the chase — today, we officially launched the Bring Your Own Movie podcast!

I know it’s a cliché, but this was a true labor of love. From being brought on as a producer and putting together a full project plan to working with the team to record our first official episode, it’s been an interesting journey with a lot of learnings.

One big learning — just because you’ve recorded your podcast doesn’t mean you’re anywhere close to launching.

Here’s a little glimpse of what is takes to get your podcast from audio file to public launch, along with some of our stumbles and learnings along the way.

Choosing a media host

Much like you would choose a service such as WordPress or Squarespace to host a website, when it comes to having a podcast, it’s recommended that you select a media host where you’ll store all of your audio files. Why is that? Well, audio files are big, and if you upload through your regular website hosting service, you might slow down your entire site.

Also similar to website hosting, there are a lot of media hosting services, many of which are specifically geared toward podcasts. There are an overwhelming number of choices, in fact. I read countless articles comparing the options. I joined the Podcasters Support Group on Facebook and searched for past posts about the hosting services.

To find order in all of the chaos of possibilities, I had sit down and identify our top needs. For us, the biggest priority was having enough file storage at a reasonable price point, having a service that was reliable, and choosing a host that would make it easy to upload and submit to podcast directories.

We narrowed it down to Libsyn, Blubrry, Podbean or Buzzsprout. I read through the capabilities and pored over reviews, noting the top features and competitive edges for each service. Buzzsprout seems to have the most intuitive interface, while Podbean has unlimited storage. Blubrry has one of the easiest integrations with WordPress, and Libsyn is probably the most established and widely used service.

In the end, we went with Libsyn. Being one of, if not the most used media hosting service for podcasts, we knew it would be reliable, and it accommodated our file storage needs.

Developing the artwork

Yes, this is the fun, artistic and creative part of launching a podcast, but it’s also an absolutely vital step. First of all, you must include show artwork in order to submit your podcast to iTunes and other podcast directories. And there are strict specs you have to follow.

Secondly, this is a way to brand your podcast and help you stand out from the competition!

Show artwork must be square, and when submitting to iTunes, the file must be a minimum of 1400×1400. However, while the original file size is large, you also have to consider how it will look as a small thumbnail image.

One of the co-hosts, Sam, is an amazing artist. He and I worked closely together to develop the artwork. We knew we wanted to feature our abbreviation — BYOM — because it would be easy to read when sized down small. We also wanted to hint at the two main elements of our podcast — movies (of course) and alcohol (did I mention the hosts and guest are all drinking throughout the episode?).

It took a lot of iterations. We made sure to send it to people unfamiliar with the podcast to get their impressions. And in the end here’s the final artwork:

I love how we were able to hint at the drinking element of our podcast through the martini glass that serves as the “Y”. And we referred to the movie part of our podcast with the popcorn olive and the film reel “O”. I also like how much the orange pops against the blue.

Setting up our online presence

Very early on, we secured a Facebook page, Instagram profile and Twitter handle. We also purchased a number of website domains that will all redirect to our main site.

Once we had the artwork secured, it was time to get all these pages set up. For Facebook and Twitter, you want both a profile pic and and cover/header image. For Instagram, you need the profile image. For all three platforms, there are also areas to list a description of your podcast (with various word count restrictions, of course).

For the website, we decided to just start with the free website (or Podcast Page, as they call it) that Libsyn provides as part of our media hosting subscription. It’s a simple template with limited customization capabilities, but it serves our needs for now. We figure that eventually most people will just find our podcast in their podcast app or directory of choice and not necessarily come to our website. While the Podcast Page has a Libsyn-branded URL, we were able to set up redirects for the domains we purchased, so that we can use those shorter URLs on our promotional materials.

Uploading the episode and submitting to directories

This is one of the last steps to getting a podcast live. It’s also the part of the process that was difficult for a newbie like me to fully comprehend until I actually started digging into the system.

First, I had to go into my show settings in Libsyn and set up our profile. The most important things here are confirming the public-facing name of the podcast, including a show description (which will be used by directories like iTunes), uploading the show artwork, and connecting our related online properties like our website URL and social media profiles.

Then, I had to set up our RSS feed. This RSS feed URL is what you use to submit your podcast to most directories. During this step, I had to select our categories (TV & Film for our primary category, Comedy for our secondary category) and designate our rating (our podcast is Explicit).

Next, I needed to upload our episode. You need at least one episode uploaded in order to submit your podcast to the various directories. Here you bring in your audio file and enter your episode title and description.

After this last step, the episode was officially live and available for listening through our website. But that’s not how people typically listen to podcasts. They don’t go to each individual website of the podcasts they follow to listen to the episodes there. They download and listen to podcasts through their podcast app of choice. And these apps pull in from the various podcast directories (a good number of them pulling in from iTunes).

So the last important step is submitting your podcast (using your RSS feed URL) to the various directories. iTunes is the most important one, followed by Stitcher, Spotify and Google Play Music. There are specific instructions for each directory. Luckily, Libsyn has a lot of support materials and integrations to make this submission process easy.

However, this is where I underestimated the amount of time to allow. Once you submit, it can take a few days to be approved. And then once approved by a directory, you still need to be indexed. Essentially, being indexed is what allows your podcast to be discoverable via search.

If I launch another podcast in the future, this is where I will give myself a little more time. We just got approved by iTunes today, the day of our launch, but it still might take a couple of days for us to be indexed. That means, today it might be hard for people to find us by searching, so they will either need to listen to our episode through our website or add our RSS feed URL manually to their podcast app.

Promoting the podcast

Even though our first episode was technically available to listen to a few days ago, when I initially uploaded the file, today was our big promotional push day.

We drafted posts for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, along with a fun image. We also put together an email to share with friends or family who are not active on social media. We prepped the guest, Carla, who is featured on our first episode and let her know our launch plans so that she can share with her network.

In the next few weeks, we’ll do a lot more to promote.

The co-hosts, Sam and Tonya, will be hosting entertainment at an Oscars viewing party on behalf of our podcast. We will ask friends and other influencers to share with their networks. We’ll ask movie-themed groups to send to their email list. We’ll ask other podcasts about co-promotion, shouting each other out on our respective podcast episodes. And we’ll try to do a big push (maybe with some give-aways) to get iTunes reviews, which can help us get featured.

I’m sure we’ll try a lot of different things. This is the part where we’ll experiment, test, and learn.

So, how can you listen?

You can first try to search for “Bring Your Own Movie” in the podcast app you usually use. If we don’t pop up in your search results, you can head straight to our website to listen: byomcast.com.

You can also manually add our show to your podcast app of choice Just find the option to add a new podcast via URL and paste in our RSS feed: https://bringyourownmovie.libsyn.com/rss

I hope you enjoy!


Content Creator

My Relationship with Writing

A few months ago, I submitted my first blog post The Start to Play on Words, an organization described as “a collaborative literary performance series in San Jose that pairs performers with up-and-coming and already established writers, resulting in a live performance.” The piece got accepted into their upcoming show “New Terrains” and will be performed this Sunday.

This has gotten me thinking about my long relationship with writing.

Read before you write

My mom taught me to read and write well before going into kindergarten. As an elementary school student, my reading list mostly consisted of things like The Babysitter’s Club or Goosebumps but also included classics like Island of the Blue Dolphins and Julie of the Wolves. But outside of reading (I would never have called myself a big reader), it was my penchant for playing dress-up and make-believe that really spurred my interest in storytelling.

And then one day — I want to say I was in junior high — I found a box of my dad’s old college books, including some from a literature class. Among that dusty pile of forgotten pages was a copy Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I devoured the witty dialogue and suddenly my eyes were open to the amazing power of words.

Writing for school

I saw some success with writing in junior high. I wrote an essay that secured me a spot on a coveted trip to the state capitol. And I was a finalist in a speech competition. But it was really in high school that I was forced to develop my writing. It was also at this point that my love/hate relationship with writing began.

My high school was notorious for having a very strong but tough English program. We read a lot and were assigned essays for each book, among other writing assignments. And these essays were sliced and diced and put through a meat grinder. For a perfectionist, straight-A student like myself, I was appalled in sophomore year when I was suddenly getting B’s on my paper. What was I doing wrong?

I was actually so disenchanted with writing after that year that instead of continuing on into AP English junior and senior year, I went down into college prep, where we were still pushed to be good writers, but suddenly, I had my A’s back.

Looking back, of course, I know where I was struggling. Yes, I made good points in my essays and my grammar was correct, but I lacked sentence variety and other elements that take a paper from a dry read to a pleasurable one.

I left high school feeling like a solid writer but by no means extraordinary. And I definitely did not identify writing as something I enjoyed. Yet, in college, I was drawn to humanities classes which, of course, involved a lot of writing! I was nervous that once again, my writing would not be up to snuff. But much to my surprise (and still to this day, slight horror), one of my first college professors was blown away by the fact that I actually knew how to use a semicolon correctly.

Oh ok. I guess I do have a talent for this writing thing.

As a double major in Art History and Communication, I wrote countless papers and essays. I researched, analyzed, laid out my points and made arguments. It was also during this time that the idea of being a writer — particularly a newspaper or magazine writer — piqued my interest. Maybe I watched too many episodes of Sex and the City, but I fell in love with the idea of setting my own schedule and not being stuck in an office. I looked into volunteering for the school paper but I never followed through on it.

What I realize now is that it wasn’t the writing part that interested me. It was the lifestyle. Cafes would be my office. I could meet friends for lunch. I would explore the city at my leisure and set my own hours. Maybe that’s why I never truly followed through on exploring this path. It wasn’t the core of the job that interested me. At least, not yet.

Writing for work

My career path — for lack of a better word — has been quite a winding one, but most of my jobs have included some type of writing.

There was the online fundraising agency, where we managed email campaigns for national and global non-profits. I wrote countless fundraising emails and website copy.

There was the digital advertising agency, where I wrote long client emails explaining our capabilities and answering questions.

In my most recent position, I wrote long web articles about Facebook’s advertising products and how small businesses could best use them.

For all of these assignments, I was satisfied with the final product, but I found the writing process arduous and draining. I took me forever to get start and I obsessed over the perfect wording. It just went to solidify my previous assumption that while I had a talent for writing, it wasn’t something I found fulfilling.

Writing for me

However, during this same time, there were also a few instances where I wrote for personal reasons.

For one, there were my wedding vows, which to this day is probably the piece of writing I’m most proud of. It took a while to get them started. But I began by just jotting down notes and phrases that came to mind on Post-it notes. Suddenly, it all came together. I knew exactly the structure I was going for and the words just came forward.

There was also the speech I wrote for my sister’s graduation. I had major writer’s block. But once again, I started by just writing down unedited thoughts of what I might say. And in that drive between her graduation and the celebration dinner, I had the speech put together in no time.

There are the scripts I’ve written recently, where I can’t seem to type fast enough to keep up with the ideas swirling around. There are even the fictional backstories I craft for the roles I’ve originated on-stage or the characters I’ve created for Dungeons & Dragons (that’s right, I play D&D!).

And then there’s been this blog. I find that for a lot of my posts, particularly the reflections pieces, the words just spill out. I don’t worry too much about the wording or structure. I just let these thoughts make their way onto the page.

In short, I get into what’s known as flow.

According to Wikipedia, flow is defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

It’s been surprising, illuminating, and exciting to find this new love for writing.

Writing in the Future

I’m at this point where I want to continue to explore my interest in writing. What formats do I like? What’s my ideal process? How do I get inspiration?

I also want to look into the various ways to make money with writing … but the type of writing I actually enjoy. Do I submit to magazines? Do I try to monetize my blogging? Do I self-publish?

In my head I have lofty goals of writing a novel or a feature-length film script.

But more than anything, I just want to give myself more time and mental space to write.

Interior Designer

Finding Familiarity in the Design Process

Last week, I discussed how pleased I’ve been with my interior design course and the amount of depth we’re going into on the actual process of working with a client. In fact, for our final project — which we will work on throughout the entire semester — we are tasked with choosing someone in our life to be a fake client and then working with them on redesigning the room of their choice.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Rory and Melanie, have agreed to be my fake clients. They moved into a new apartment a couple of months ago, and it’s still very much a blank slate. When working with an interior design client, one of the first steps is meeting with them and asking a lot of questions to understand more about their lifestyle, how the room will be used, design styles and preferences, etc.

This past weekend, I met with Rory and Melanie in their apartment to find out more about what they’re looking for in their redesigned room. I had prepared a number of questions, but I also knew that other questions would naturally come up throughout the conversation.

The discussion came easy and was really enjoyable. It was fun getting to know them and their style a bit more. And it was satisfying when I brought up points they hadn’t even thought of.

Floor plan sketch and notes
It all starts with identifying needs

I’m sure a lot of the ease I felt during this first meeting stemmed from my familiarity with this stage of the process. Before I worked in marketing at Facebook, I was in business development at an advertising agency. In that role, I performed what’s often termed ‘consultative sales’ — I worked with clients to understand their specific needs and then put together a custom advertising plan for them. So, as you can see, very similar to the interior design process!

My meeting with Rory and Melanie brought back memories of this former role and how much I loved that part of the job. It was the phase where I got to build rapport with my client; I got to ask the right questions and listen; and, like a puzzle or code, I got to interpret and surface the needs. I got particular satisfaction from working with clients who weren’t very good at articulating what exactly they were looking for, which forced me to really work hard asking the right questions and sometimes reading between the lines in order to uncover the heart of their problem or need.

During this phase of the process, there is often a spirit of collaboration, inspiration, and creativity. No matter what career path I end up choosing, I can see myself craving this type of needs interpretation & analysis and the creative problem-solving that follows.

As I continue with this class project, it will be interesting to see how much of the design process mirrors my past client management experiences. It’s nice to realize that although I may be new to the interior design field, I’m already ahead of the curve when it comes to the skills exercised when working with clients.

Interior Designer

The Business of Interior Design

I’m three weeks into my Introduction to Interior Design class and have been pleasantly surprised with how much we’re focusing on the actual business side of the profession. From first meeting with a client and discussing their needs to figuring out your fee schedule and how you’ll bill, the course has provided great insights into the day-to-day of a interior designer.

This has brought up an interesting question — if I decide to pursue a career in interior design, will I want to work for a design firm or run my own business?

For years, I’ve dabbled with the idea of being an entrepreneur. There’s something alluring about being able to set your own schedule and choose your own work. Of course, I’m sure part of that is more romantic fantasy rather than brutal reality. I know that running your own business can mean working longer hours and constantly trying to drum up new work. But there’s also such a feeling of accomplishment I see from business owners.

Independent Designer vs. Design Firm

Woman holding up floor plan
To own or not to own?

Looking at the entire design process, there are a number of differences between running your own interior design business and working in a design firm.

First, there is finding the client. Working in a firm, I imagine that clients are typically assigned to you. Yes, you may have the opportunity to bring in your own clients, but I’m not sure if there is the responsibility to do so. Related to that, I imagine large firms have an entire marketing team dedicated to promoting the business. As a business owner, marketing and sales would all fall to me, and especially in the beginning, I imagine this would take up a big part of my time. I think as an independent interior designer, you ideally get to the point where referrals alone fill up your schedule, and you can spend much more of your time on actual design work.

Second is meeting with the client and understanding their needs. This is a stage where I’m sure the process is pretty much the same. Whether you’re working as an independent designer or part of a design firm, this is the step where you will be asking the client questions about their lifestyle, their needs for the room(s) they’re looking to design, their style preferences, etc. This is also the meeting where you would typically start by presenting and reviewing the Letter of Agreement/contract, which outlines the services that will be provided and how the project will be billed. While a designer in a firm probably has a legal department to prepare at least the template for this document, an independent business owner will need to put together this document on their own, including setting their own fees.

The rest of the design process is probably similar between the two work environments. The designer needs to make initial sketches, research furniture and furnishing solutions, have renderings prepared, and present their design proposal to the client. Some of the work during this phase — such as furniture floor plans or 3D renderings — may often be completed by a specialist. Working in a firm that specialist is likely just a different department within the firm, while an independent interior designer would need to outsource that work or do it themselves. However, one big thing in common between the two designers is the importance of tracking their hours. Whether you hire a design firm or an independent designer, it’s likely that most of the work will be billed hourly, so detailed time-tracking is imperative for a designer.

Execution of the design follows the approval of the proposed solution. Implementation of a interior design (e.g. painting, light installation, furniture placement, or even wall removal) will always be done by a contractor. As an independent interior designer, you will make it clear in your Letter of Agreement that the contractor needs to be hired directly by the client. A designer can give recommendations, but it is ultimately up to the client to select and hire the contractor. The interior designer will not oversee the contractor but will sporadically pop by to make sure the design is being executed according to plan. If something is amiss, the designer will report that to the client, not the contractor, since it is the client that has the business relationship with the contractor. Some large firms will have a team in charge of execution of the design, so I imagine that there could be a freer flow of communication between the designer and contractor.

Once the design is complete, there is the post-occupancy evaluation. Whether you are an independent interior designer or work in a design firm, you will typically visit the client a few weeks after the execution of the design is complete in order to check in on how the new space is working. This is also a good time to ask the client permission to photograph the room for inclusion in a portfolio or as part of promotional materials. While a design firm would have a marketing department to take care of this photoshoot, an independent designer would need to hire the photographer themselves.

Throughout this entire process, there is also billing. A design firm probably has a billing department who can handle reminding clients of their next payment, while an independent designer would need to manage that themselves.

So, what’ll it be?

It’s clear that running my own interior design business could offer maximum flexibility with the type of projects I want to take on and how much I want to work. But it would also mean a lot more of my time might be dedicated to administrative tasks vs. designing.

There’s also the start-up costs of running a business — getting a business license, creating business cards, setting up a website, etc. One option is working for a firm to get experience, make connections and build a portfolio and then branching off to start my own business.

I’m going to keep both options open and try to interview different people working in the field to get more understanding of their experiences.

Content Creator

Further Thoughts on Content Creation

Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of content projects, from the writing to podcasts to video. I’ve worked both independently and as part of a team.

There have been some interesting learnings surrounding the process of creating content, as well as a number of revelations with regards to the types and parts of content creation that I’ve found most energizing and fulfilling.

Medium

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when I first added ‘Content Creator’ to my list of careers to explore, I was mostly inspired by my favorite YouTube channels; thus, I had the medium of video in mind. It’s the type of content that I consume most often, so when I put myself in the creator’s shoes, it only seemed natural that I’d gravitate toward video. However, I’ve also worked on other content formats.

Video

I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the crew for a number of short films, and I always find those days invigorating and great learning experience. I’ve even tried my hand at producing a couple of videos myself. However, I got stalled during the editing phase and haven’t found myself compelled to finish.

This has me a little surprised. Am I not passionate about video creation? Am I hitting a mental roadblock because it’s so new to me? I want to see my independent video projects through to the end and assess once I look at the final product. But I also need to prepare myself for the fact that video may just not be my preferred medium.

I’ve worked on the crew of larger film projects as well as worked independently on my on videos.

Podcasts

Podcasting was not a content format I expected to explore. While I listen to podcasts, I’ve never seriously pursued making one myself. It was really by chance that I got involved with my friends’ podcast.

And it’s been so fun to work on! I think it’s a really interesting medium — a great way to reach a wide audience and a compelling storytelling and entertainment mechanism. I’m not in a hurry to create and host my own podcast, but I really enjoy working as a larger team to produce one.

Working as a producer for the podcast involves a lot of planning and organizing, and it’s so fun seeing it all come together.

Writing

What has been so unexpected during this sabbatical is how energizing and fulfilling writing has been.

Those who know me well might be surprised by that statement. “But Laura, you’ve always been such a good writer!” Yes, I agree that I have a talent for writing. In fact, a lot of my former jobs involved a lot of writing.

But I always felt like writing was such a drawn out and laborious process for me. It took me a long time to even get started on each writing assignment. I obsessed over the right wording. I second guessed whether the final product was good enough.

However, throughout this sabbatical, I’ve had the opportunity to do true creative writing. I get to own the topic. I get to choose the style. Essentially, my writing during this time has reflected my true self. And the words have just flowed.

I never expected to get into script-writing but it’s a form of creative writing and storytelling that I really enjoy.

Independent vs. Team

My initial vision of the career Content Creator was a very solitary, independent role. I imagined conceiving, planning, filming and editing original videos all on my own. It’s not that I prefer to work alone; quite the opposite — in my past jobs, I always relished team projects. But I assumed I would gravitate toward solo content projects for the complete creative control it offers.

In practice, however, I’ve had a lot of revelations when it comes to the team dynamic with content creation. First, media like video and podcasts are almost impossible to do 100% alone. For my videos, for example, while I planned, scripted, organized and even edited on my own, when it came to filming, I needed to enlist Ryan as my cameraman. Of course, there are certain styles of videos I could do alone, but more sophisticated videos require some sort of crew.

But more than what can or cannot be done alone, there’s also the question of how I enjoy working. And in general, I feel like I’ve had a lot more fun working on content projects as part of a team. The podcast has been an absolute thrill to work on. We all have our separate specialties but aren’t so strict with the duties, and we all come together to get the work done.

I think one exception to this dynamic is writing. Maybe because there are a lot less moving pieces, but for the writing projects I’ve done, I find it easier to work alone.

Parts of the Process

Content projects like videos and podcasts have a lot of steps in the process, and I’ve had exposure to all of those phases. So, it’s been interesting to reflect on the aspects I’ve found most fulfilling to work on.

And I almost begrudgingly admit that I actually really enjoy … the planning process!

It’s probably the least sexy, driest part of content creation, so I assumed this would be stage I enjoyed the least. But I get such satisfaction out of finding order in the many things that need to get done. I’ve always been good at organizing and putting together plan, and it’s been interesting to realize how energizing I find it.

Moving Forward

Given my fulfillment from planning and the energy I get from working with a team, I think I will seek out more opportunities to work as a producer on creative projects.

Additionally, whether or not it ends up being a career, I want to continue to explore writing. Maybe a feature-length script is in my future. Or even a book!

Interior Designer

Interior Design Careers

I’m one week into my interior design courses, and my eyes have already been opened to a much bigger world than I expected. When people think about interior designers, they might just picture professionals picking out pretty furniture and accessories for the home. And yes, residential design is an avenue one can go down. But the field includes a plethora of positions, including many interesting specialties.

Here are a just a few of the many careers one can pursue after studying interior design:

Kitchen & Bath Specialist

kitchen
Kitchen and bath design requires special technical knowledge.

With plumbing, ventilation, and gas needs, kitchen and baths are rooms that require special technical knowledge when it comes to design. That is why you will have find interiors designers who specialize in kitchens and/or baths.

In fact, there is a separate professional organization dedicated to this speciality, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). This organization administers their own exam, which paired with professional experience, distinguishes someone as a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD), Certified Bath Design (CBD) or both (CKBD). Cañada College offers a special Kitchen and Bath Design Certificate.

Kitchens are probably one of, if not the most renovated room in a home, so I can see the advantage of specializing in that area of design.

Home Stager

Staged home
Home staging often gives real estate a competitive advantage.

Home stagers furnish properties that are on the market so that potential buyers can better picture themselves in the home. Because it needs to appeal to a wide variety of people, these designs are often less personal than traditional residential design.

With real estate so hot in the Bay Area market, the home staging business is booming. My professor informed us that she has a lot of home staging companies reaching out looking for new hires.

Cañada College offers a special Home Staging Certificate.

Color Consultant

Color can have a huge impact in a room.

For those with a really good eye for color, there is an opportunity to specialize in color design. Some interior designers enlist the services of a separate color consultant to find just the right hues for their project.

Color consultants can also work directly with clients looking to, say, repaint their home but who are having a hard time deciding on the right color. Color consultants might also work on the home decor or furniture supplier side, specializing in textiles.

Lighting Designer

lighting
Lighting is an important element in the home.

Requiring both aesthetic instinct and electrical knowledge, it’s no surprise that lighting design is a separate specialty. Lighting designers can keep up with the latest trends and technologies, bringing expert knowledge to this essential element in the home.

Aesthetically and viscerally, lighting design can help distinguish spaces, highlight areas of focus, and set the mood for a space. On the more practical side, lighting design which employs the most up-to-date technologies can also help curb energy costs for a homeowner.

Space Planner

floorplan of office
Offices and other commercial spaces require thoughtful space planning for optimal utility.

A space planner is responsible for diagramming how an interior space should be organized to create an optimal balance of space and utility. Their services are particularly sought out for office and retail spaces, rather than residential spaces.

Sometimes a space planner’s job is done after the drafting is complete, and they do not need to oversee the actual execution of the plan.

Commercial Designer

restaurant interior
From restaurants to medical facilities, commercial design is a booming field.

This is an umbrella term for interior design for businesses (so essentially, non-residential design). Professionals in this area will almost always work for a design firm. And often, these design firms will specialize in an area within commercial design, such as:

  • Hospitality design – hotels, cruise ships, restaurants
  • Medical facilities – hospitals, clinics, other care facilities
  • Retail – boutiques, department stores, shopping malls
  • Office design

Because these spaces are used by a wide variety of people, designs are often less personal, which some designers may find creatively stifling. It also requires a lot more knowledge of codes, particularly for things like accessibility.

And unlike residential design, this area of interior design almost always requires working with a large number of stakeholders, which can be a little frustrating.

However, there is huge opportunity in this arena and it can be an area of interior design that is quite lucrative.

Keeping my options open

As I continue with my courses this semester, I want to continue to explore these various paths within the interior design field. Luckily, if I decide to continue with Cañada College’s Interior Design certificate program, there are a number of classes which provide a deep dive into many of these specialities.

If I do decide to pursue interior design, it will be interesting to see if there is an area that I find particularly fulfilling and want to specialize in, or if I would prefer being more of a generalist. Only time will tell!

Interior Designer

Back to School

My textbooks are packed, my outfit picked out. That’s right — it’s the first day of school!

textbooks
Textbooks are just as expensive as ever.

This winter and spring, I am taking a couple of introductory interior design courses to learn more about the career. I hope to not only get an overview of the ins and outs of being an interior designer, but also get some insights into the various ways to make a living in this field.

I have been interested in interior design for years. I grew up on home improvement and design shows. As an art history major, I learned to appreciate the beauty and thoughtfulness in space design. More than anything, I love that interior design is not just about picking out pretty things; it’s about creating an environmental experience.

Find the right learning resource

A few years ago, my interest in interior design had grown enough that I started researching certificate programs. As with any design field, experience and a portfolio is key, and I figured that a structured program would provide not only the education, but an opportunity to build up a portfolio through sample projects.

A quick online search of “interior design certificate programs bay area” quickly netted me this San Francisco Chronicle article titled “So you want to be an interior designer”. The article gives an overview of a number of academic institutions throughout the Bay area that offer interior design education. That’s how I found Cañada College’s interior design program.

At a fraction of the cost of, say, UC Berkeley Extension’s interior design certificate, completion of Cañada’s program fulfills the educational requirement for the IDEX exam to become a Certified Interior Designer (CID) in California. And according to the article, a typical student as Cañada College is “older, often with a degree in another field, and often with an already established career.” Indeed, that is reflected in their class schedule — most classes are just one day a week for three hours, with many courses having an evening option.

My classes

I decided to start with two introductory classes as part of Cañada’s interior design certificate program. I thought this would allow me to get a good overview of the field while not committing too much time or money. And if I do decide this is a career I want to pursue, I can go on to complete the certificate program through Cañada College and already have two classes under my belt.

Introduction to Interior Design

Examination of the interior built environment with emphasis on residential design. The elements and principles of design along with historical and cultural influences are examined as they relate to the functional and aesthetic aspects of interior spaces. Students develop skills in critical analysis of interiors and create individual solutions through design projects.

Interior Architectural Drafting

Introduction to the tools and techniques for drafting interior spaces. Emphasis is on creating a set of architectural drawings using hand drafting standards and techniques as related to producing interior architectural drawings.

New for the sabbatical

In addition to moving on to a new career as part of this exploration process, I am also trying a new approach to my research. It will be interesting to see if I get more out of this very structured learning, as I delve into a new field. I’ll report back within the next few weeks with my first impressions on the classes.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Making a Video, Part 4: The Trials and Tribulations of Editing

We’re back with another update on the saga of producing my own video!

After planning out my script and shots and then shooting all of the footage, my video project was stalled while I waited for my computer to be upgraded with enough memory to download the editing program and handle all of the video files. In the meantime, I did take the opportunity to film a second video, using a lot of learnings from my initial shoot.

Well, my computer finally got upgraded and I was able to dive into editing.

Syncing video and audio

After waiting so long to get started on post-production, once my computer was upgraded, I was raring to go … and immediately hit a snag.

Because my camera doesn’t have an audio input (it only has the option to use the built-in microphone) but I wanted to use a better microphone, we ended up recording audio on a separate device as the video. That meant, in post-production, one of the first steps was sync up those video and audio files.

I am using Adobe Premiere to edit the video. When I inserted a video file and audio file into the editing bay to line them up, I ran into issues with getting a true sync on some clips because when I would drag, say, the audio file to try to match the video, it would snap to a grid and not be completely lined up.

You can drag your audio and video lines separately, but it’s hard to make a small movement because it snaps to the grid up top.

My husband ended up synching all of the video and audio files on his computer using Logic and then transferred the new clips to my machine. Some of the original clips I left as-is because there is no accompanying audio, but rather, I will be adding voiceover or music in those sections.

Adjusting file formats

With the video and audio synced, I was ready to jump back into editing … and once again stumbled.

When I added the freshly synced clips to the video project in Premiere, the video would not play back, and instead all I saw was a green screen. The clips that were not altered played back just fine. All clips were .mov files, so it was a little perplexing why I would have the issue with the synced clips but not the unsynced clips.

A friend suggested that working with mp4 files was probably better. I converted one of the synced clips into an mp4 file, and that solved the video playback issue. Then I had to go through the slow process of converting all of the files to the new format.

I used VLC to convert my files from MOV to mp4.

It’s like the starting pistol had gone off only to discover my running shoes were stuck in tar.

Dealing with playback lag

Audio and video synced … check.

Formats displaying properly in the editor … check.

With my shoes unstuck from the tar, I was ready to sprint to the editing finish line … only to trip over the first hurdle.

Using Adobe Premiere is pretty easy and relatively user-friendly. You start by adding your media (clips) to your project.

Add your media files from your computer or directly from your camera.

Your uploaded clips are now in your project assets, and then it’s as simple as dragging and dropping the clip you want to work with into the editing bay.

Drag clips from the Project Assets folder into your desired location in the video timeline.

Once placed in the timeline, you can play your clip and decide where you want to cut it. Making cuts is as easy as dragging from either ends of the clip.

Drag from either end of the video clip to trim to your desired length.

But this is where I’ve run into some issues. Once I edit a clip, suddenly the playback is very choppy, with lags in the video. This makes it close to impossible to see if I actually like the way I’ve edited the clip.

I’m still trying to troubleshoot this issue, but in the meantime, I’m powering through. However, it’ll probably be a long process.

Good learnings despite technology issues

Sometimes shorter is better

Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a 1-2 second video clip can go a long way. When we shot our original footage, particularly the B-roll that will be used under voiceover, we did these long shots. Once I got into editing, I realized that I only needed a few seconds of each clip to create my visual narrative.

Plan your edits like you plan your shots

One thing the playback lag has forced me to do is be a little more thoughtful in my editing plan. Because I can’t easily just trim and test, I’ve had to view my original clips in a separate video player and then make notes of sections I might want to include, and what I would want to cut away to in between those sections. It’s been a good exercise in trying to visualize ahead of time the final product I’m looking for.

The magic of storytelling is editing

Creative editing and combinations of clips has opened up what I can do with my visual narrative. For example, for the food video, we set up the camera and just let it run while I ate the meal and gave natural commentary. There are some good bits, but taken as a whole, there are lot of awkward silences throughout the video. However, by taking the clips that work and splicing in cuts from other footage, suddenly I have a snappy storyline.

I cut different sections of the “Laura Eats” clip and combined it with cuts from other clips.

Next Steps

I’m going to trying editing in a different program, like iMovie, to see if I have better luck with the preview playback. If I still run into issues, I’ll have to go through the long arduous process of troubleshooting.

It’s been a little frustrating that technology has been such a barrier to this phase of the filmmaking process. I feel like I have the artistic vision in mind, but I’m handcuffed by technical issues.

I hope to be back with more updates once the technical issues are resolved!