June 25th, 2008
I want to let you in on a little secret that I’ve been working with now for 2 years…it’s called Sharebuilder. I found out about this investment tool awhile back when I was first getting interested in the stock market. Now believe me, I’m no expert on picking stocks, but at least I now have a foot in the door and am able to put what little bit I can into building assets, rather than spending it on Starbuck’s Frappuccinos. Sharebuilder lets you set up an automatic investing program on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. There is no minimum requirement to start or maintain an account or to make investments, so you can put $10 a week if you want and purchase partial shares of whatever companies you like. I personally am a big fan of Apple, so I’ve been stock-piling away small amounts of Apple shares for the past year. I’ve been very pleased with the results my small investment has made so far. By purchasing in small doses, you also are doing ‘dollar cost averaging’ - or buying at different price points so over the long term, you’re able to profit more despite the fluctuation of the market. Visit www.sharebuilder.com today and get started investing for your future. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how investing a little each month can add up over time.
I also recommend looking into one of the Motley Fool stock advising newsletters. If you don’t know anything about stocks or picking stocks, their website offers tutorials as well as subscription newsletters with their recommendations on what to buy, sell, and hold. I subscribe to the Stock Advisor newsletter and the Million Dollar Portfolio newsletter. Both have been extremely worth the money. Visit www.fool.com and click on the ‘premium services’ tab to check out their newsletters.
June 25th, 2008
I am the proud owner of a brand new Nikon D200 SLR camera. I have been a photographer since I was in high school, and have enjoyed using all of my Nikon cameras (the N2000 - my first ‘real camera’ and more recently the N80). But, I have to tell you that my latest purchase has been soooooo worth the investment…(and believe me it was an investment!) The Nikon D200 is truly a solid camera. It has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a top of the line 10 megapixel digital SLR camera - loads of variations on camera settings, built in flash, long battery life, excellent image quality, etc. I will say that since I have it coupled with a Nikon AF 2.8 28-70mm zoom lens, it is pretty heavy to tote around. But the quality of the photographs I’ve been getting out of it far ‘outweighs’ the heftiness of the camera. Another thing I love about it is that there is absolutely no lag time between when you press the shutter and when the picture is taken. I had previously used the Nikon Coolpix 800 - a very early digital model - and that was a great frustration of mine…constantly missing ‘the moment’ due to the camera’s lag time.
For anyone serious about getting in to digital photography, I highly recommend the Nikon D200. Take the time to read over the lengthy guide book and take out your camera and experiment with all of the different settings. I also suggest you work with it in ‘Manual Mode’ so you can get a better feel for all of the different aperture, shutter, ISO, white balance settings it offers. You can do double-exposures and interval timed shots, too - which not all digital SLRs are capable of.
This is a great camera!
June 19th, 2008
Have you seen the movie “The Secret” yet? If not, I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. It literally has the power to change your life and the way you think about everything. There is certainly a lot of buzz about this DVD. I was pretty sceptical myself upon first hearing of it, but after watching it work first hand, I am a believer. “The Secret” will open your thoughts to infinite possibilities for your business, your relationships, your finances, etc. Basically the DVD states that your thinking governs your experience….so you have to ‘attract’ what you want to have happen in your life by thinking about it. My mother always told me that ‘Nothing ever comes into your experience, until you begin thinking about it.’ So start thinking about all of the good that you want to have in your life….and expect it to happen…and BE GRATEFUL for it (even before you see it)….that’s really key…and you will have it. What a great idea to share with the world!
June 19th, 2008
August in Vancouver…Who could ask for anything more beautiful? The long evenings, the perfect temperature, lush gorgeous scenery, and every outdoor activity known to man. Everywhere you look there are photographs waiting to be taken.
If you have the opportunity, you should plan a trip to Vancouver. Everything is so close by. Here are several things you shouldn’t miss:
1. Take a couple of hours and go for a serene kayaking trip in English Bay. (I saw three seals on mine!)
2. Tour around the farmer’s market and several artist boutiques at Granville Island. The market there is amazing - very European…you can find most anything there from home made fudge to interesting sausages, to fresh bluberries picked locally.
3. Take a day trip up to Grouse Mountain. This is a local ski mountain, but in the summer time they have several activities for the family including a fun lumberjack show, a chair lift ride that goes down the other side of the mountain and provides some breathtaking views of the city, a falcon show, and if you’re lucky there just might be some paragliders taking off from the top of the mountain. The ride up and back in the gondola is worth the entire trip!
4. Spend a day or two at Stanley Park. This is no small park - it’s about 1,000 acres of beautiful scenery everywhere you look! It is a wonderful place that has everything from a marvelous aquarium, a petting zoo, a miniature railroad that young children really enjoy, and a 6 mile bike or walking path that meanders all along the sea wall.
5. Visit Queen Elizabeth Park for some wonderful views of the city (it’s the highest point in Vancouver!) as well as walk the beautiful grounds. It used to be a quarry, but has been transformed into a lovely display garden with many exotic plants and flowers. This is a favorite spot for weddings.
5. For a little local flavor, head down to Kits Pool (Kitsilano) - the local public swimming place. For a small admission fee, you can spend the day basking in the sun and swimming in this 135 meter long pool. It is by far the largest pool I have ever seen! There are lap lanes for those interested in long distance swimming, slides, and a wonderful shallow end for the little guys. There are no steps into the pool, but rather a gradual slope down into the water making it easy for people of all ages to access the pool. You have an incredible view of the city, too as the backdrop for your swim!
One thing that I didn’t get to do while in Vancouver was to take a walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge. I will definitely do this the next time I’m there. The pictures I saw of the 230 ft high/ 450 ft long bridge were thrilling…I’ll let you know what it’s like when I try it.
The photos above are of 1) the Vancouver skyline, 2) a dragon figurehead along the seawall at Stanley Park, 3) a sailboat heading out into English Bay, and 4) totem poles from Stanley Park.
June 19th, 2008
If you haven’t had the pleasure of viewing first-hand, 500 liters of water per second flying straight up 140 meters into the sky, you should consider taking a trip to Geneva, Switzerland in either the late spring or summer. (The Jet D’eau only operates on non-windy days between March and September).
The Jet D’eau is an amazing icon situated in Lac Lemon (or Lake Geneva as we Americans call it). I had the pleasure of seeing it and actually walking right up to it and feeling the spray douce my face as I leaned my head back and looked up as high as I could see. The sound lets you know just how powerful the force of it is! At night, they light it up, and it is truly spectacular. It was definitely worth the 11 hour flight from California to see.
June 19th, 2008
Ok, so you want to start a business….but what do you call it?
Start by listing as many words or phrases that come to mind when you think about the type of service or product you are going to sell. Don’t throw any ideas out yet. Just brainstorm….include cliches, catch phrases, synonyms, antonymns…anything you can think of that is somehow associated with your new business. You might enlist the help of a thesaurus and dictionary to get you going.
As you start to get a good long list of words going, have your friends and family members look them over and see if they can add to the list or if any words on the list stand out to them as strong candidates. Then just live with these words for a little while. Try different combinations - even taking a part of one word and combining it with a part of another word to form a totally new word.
Now it’s time to start weeding through you ideas. Take your top 3-5 choices and list them on a new piece of paper. With this shorter list, again list synonymns, antonymns, homonymns etc. that you can associate with your choices. Next, start trying to picture different symbols or logos that could be made for these choices. Remember to keep it simple, catchy, easy to remember. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Is it memorable?
2. Will my customers understand what I’m selling?
3. Is it unique?
I hope these ideas help spark some inspiration to help you out!
June 19th, 2008
Feeling in a slump and looking to get those creative juices going again? Try any or all of these simple things to inspire the artist within to awaken:
1. Take a Yoga or Pilates class to get the blood flowing and the mind to relax.
2. Browse the latest issue of Print Magazine or better yet, buy a book about vintage posters, patterns, or photography to give you something visually stimulating to look at while you search for a new idea (or borrow from an old one).
3. Crank up the i-tunes, close the blinds, and dance to your favorite music….go ahead, you know you want to…nobody’s lookin’.
4. Take your digital camera out to the main business street and give yourself the assignment of photographing the entire alphabet using individual letters from different signs. (For more of a challenge - limit yourself to san serif or only serif fonts). Save these in a folder to use on some appropriate - or even inappropriate - graphic project.
5. Use a xerox machine to scan/photocopy different objects you have around the office or house to create interesting forms or letterforms.
6. Get out your drawing pad and sketch your foot or shoe using your favorite black pen.
7. While you’re drawing, sketch the perfect tattoo you would like to have if you were to get one (or add another one).
8. In Illustrator choose your favorite font….select your favorite letters in that font. Make it about 30 pts big and outline the font. Select the Rotate tool and click on any part of the letter (the top or bottom tends to work nicely, but any part will do). For Mac, hold down the option key while you move the cursor. Release to make a 2nd copy of the letter. Now click command D (Mac) to repeat as many times as necessary to complete the circular pattern you are creating. Try it with different letters or different starting points to create unlimited unique and interesting patterns. This ought to keep you busy for hours. Hopefully it will inspire you for whatever project you were stalled on….
Please feel free to add any of your own suggestions to this posting…
June 19th, 2008
As I sit here at the office…it’s about 90 degrees inside and 100 degrees outside, my thoughts wander to Sedona. I’m including a little shot I took with my Nikon N80 (prior to the D200 purchase) using Fuji slide film. It almost does justice to the incredible colors that I saw while I was there last fall. The day I took this shot, I was on a ‘Pink Jeep’ tour - (one of the most fun touristy things I think I’ve ever done….It makes the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland look like a kiddy ride.) The bluest sky I’ve ever seen…and the red rocks were jetting out to touch those amazing puffy clouds. October is the time to go there, when it’s not too hot and not too crowded. Find a little bed and breakfast place off the main drag. It’s well worth the time to check out one of nature’s most beautiful little hideaways.
June 19th, 2008
One of the first things you need to do when thinking about starting a business, is to decide what type of entity you want your business to be. Most people who are in the arts, tend to do freelance work first and then naturally fall into the ’sole proprietor’ business structure. I was one of these people. I spent the first three years in business for myself thinking that a sole proprietor was really the only appropriate business structure for a small business such as mine. Every year around tax time, I’d get hit with a HUGE tax bill that would nearly wipe me out. The self-employment tax alone was killing me! Then added on top of that were the social security tax and income tax on all of my business earnings….Yikes!!!
I eventually did some more research. I found some interesting answers when I dug a little deeper. I found a great little book in the Robert Kiyosaki line (written by one of his tax experts - Diane Kennedy, CPA) called Loopholes of the Rich: How the Rich Legally Make More Money & Pay Less Tax. Here, I learned about corporations - and which corporate structure suited my small business. I formed a Sub-Chapter S corporation. I have saved myself and my business literally thousands of dollars in taxes.
If you are a sole proprietor, I highly recommend you look into incorporating your business. There are several key things that will help you. The following 2 points are well worth making the change all by themselves:
1. Protection from Personal Liability:
You will be protected from personal liability when you form a corporation. If anything happens (you get sued by a client, you can’t pay your bills, etc.) creditors may seek payment out of the assets in your corporation, but they can’t seek it out of your pocket as one of the shareholders. This prevents your home or personal property from being taken away….this is not true of sole proprietors where what’s yours is completely liable.
2. Self-Employment Tax Savings
Whatever your corporation makes in terms of profits are not subject to Social Security, Medicare, Workers Compensation and other taxes - which when combined total approximately 15.3% in taxes. As a sole proprietor, you have to pay all of these taxes (ie: self-employment taxes) on all of the income earned by your business. With a corporation, only the salaries of employees are subject to these taxes. So let’s say as a sole proprietor, you earn $60,000 from your business. You pay 15.3% tax on that $60,000 ($9,180 to Uncle Sam). If, however, you are the owner of a corporation and you pay yourself a $40,000/year salary, and make $20,000 as corporate profits, the 15.3% tax would only be paid on your salary ($40,000 - only $6,120). This would save you over $3,000 per year! [Keep in mind that you do have to pay yourself a reasonable salary, or the IRS can assign up to all of the corporate profits as salary].
Of course individual situations differ, so be sure to consult your accountant or lawyer to discuss the specific circumstances for your business and to maximize your tax benefits. But, by all means do the research and save yourself money by incorporating your business!