Author: Melanie McCartney

My name is Melanie McCartney and I’m a small business owner. I began writing about politics in 2013. I tackle the hard stuff in an attempt to share that information with you in laymen terms, taking away the jargon, and making it easy to understand. I’ve come a long way in four-years with my writing. When I wrote: ‘The standard that you walk past’, something clicked inside of me and I feel as though I finally get it. I will be editing and formatting all of my other articles in the coming months, and re-publishing them, now that I’ve finally found my voice. I’m well-read, and research my articles at length. I really enjoy the journey, you never know where you will you end up, or what you might discover. I was born in Western Australia and have lived at length in Queensland, New South Wales. I have also lived in various countries overseas, including Malaysia, Singapore, rural Thailand, Ireland, England, Philippines and Fiji. I may throw my hat into the political arena, or something similar, in the not too distant future. In my down time I love reading, cooking and singing.

Graphic Design & Common Issues

A great infographic that highlights issues in an industry that many don’t really understand. Also a handy tool to help you set up your own guidelines for your clients. Explain the design process, educate them if needs be and most of all set up a time frame for each project and save yourself a lot of grief.

How to Annoy a Graphic Designer - An Infographic from Blog

Embedded from Blog

Infographic credit:


Why China’s First-to-File trademark system could affect your business

The first-to-file trademark system (FtF) was first adopted in 1982 and it requires no evidence of prior use or ownership. Trade mark squatting is a common practice in China and hundreds of marks can be stockpiled inexpensively while they wait for the owner of the mark to come and claim it from them for a price.

A few months ago I was in my local area in Randwick, Sydney doing some shopping when a familiar logo caught my eye. Looking to my left was the tree logo of 169 Cafe of a client of mine but when I looked to the right the former Chinese massage business signage was now sporting the same tree logo! I immediately text some photos over to Callan the owner, who was understandably shocked and angry. Myself, well I was just bewildered to be honest as I couldn’t understand the blatant behaviour particularly as the businesses are on the same road and only a few addresses apart.

Last weekend while reading the news, I read about Australian dairy and wine brands being targeted by trade mark squatters in China. A dairy start-up business had its trademark stolen in China before they could even produce any products. They were lucky to discover this within the three month opposition stage and are in the process of challenging the trademark lodgement. An Australian winemaker almost lost one of his wine labels to the same company but he luckily got a tip off the day before they tried to lodge the claim.

Many small businesses are eyeing the Chinese export markets (as well as being encouraged by the federal government) since the Chinese-Australian Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was signed. I see trademark issues becoming even more of a problem not only in the Chinese market but locally here in Australia. China is still a developing country that has a heaving middle class with many opportunities but it would be a real shame if small business or start-ups end up getting penalised or even potentially lose their livelihood for having a go.

I am at least no longer bewildered as to why a local business did this to another as the Chinese mindset in regards to trademarks is clearly very different from Western business mindsets. Upon closer inspection of the light box signage what they have done is print out the logo from 169 Cafe’s Facebook page, traced out the logo and represented it with cheap vinyl on top of the old light box. If you look closely at the logo image you will see that the tree leaves are not all the same colour as the original logo and that the trunk has no shading or definition.

I think the extra tax payers money allocated for advertising the ChAFTA and its benefits should also educate small business as to the perils that they could potentially face. Big business can get an army of lawyers together if needs be whereas small business and start-ups are handicapped yet they are extremely vital for our country and its economy.

Insight into the design process

We have just recently completed designing and printing new business cards, flyers, with compliment slips and stickers for a direct marketing campaign for our business directed at real estates. Whilst we find it relatively easy to design for our customers it took us some time for ourselves, being in print and design we had to make sure that it was spot on and we remembered the importance of proofs. I designed the campaign with the assistance of our wonderful designer Chi Chi who is fantastic at bringing ideas to life and it was a bit of journey but the end results made it all worth it.

Starting with the business cards, for the background I always love a bit of texture. The last cards background was from a close up photo that I took of brown paper with chocolate brown text. This time around I wanted to try a background from a photo of a crumpled metallic black/silver envelope. We went ahead with it, slightly updating the logo by tilting the logo and giving the business name a more corporate lay out with white text. I changed the back of the card by using a cascading logo with Spot UV applied to it to make it pop. We also promoted our Instagram gallery to invite potential clients to take a look at our creativity easily.

The DL sized flyer proved more vexing, the idea being to promote a new cello glaze that we offer called velvet cello as well as the business and what we offer. I knew I wanted images featured so people could get an idea of what we are about without having to look us up online if they chose. We had the same background as the business card for uniformity, including white text and 6 images on the front in circle frames for something different. For the back I mimicked the business card with the cascading logo. We did a proof to be sure and it’s just as well that we did. The font size for the text was too big and I wasn’t sure about the clearness of the white text. The back of the flyer looked pretty empty with the logos too big and not to scale. When providing digital proofs online, what you see on the screen is not necessarily how it will print. We always recommend printing it on your home or work printer, not for colour but for the size of text and margins etc. We also offer hard copy digital proofs and these give you more of an idea colour wise of how it will work out when we go to print.

When we compared the business card and the flyer proof, I realised we had to ditch the background idea as it just didn’t work with the flyer. The back of the business card we decided just wasn’t good enough, with the cascading logos too big. If we were going to re-print the cards we may as well do it right. We know our target audience is predominately male so I wanted something grunge and dark to make the logo stand out. I recommend iStock or Shutterstock for excellent images to purchase and I settled on an industrial background of grey concrete. The second proof came out much better with the different background but it still needed some final tweaking by reducing the size of the logo on the back so that it wasn’t as in your face and adjusting some text including out lining the text and it’s layout. We were now ready to print them with the lovely velvet cello glaze and a design we were proud to promote and the finished product looking and feeling great.

Now that we were happy with the flyer, the new business card needed to be tweaked to marry with the flyer. The text was outlined and the background changed, logo rescaled and an image and tag line Measure twice cut once added. Spot UV was also applied to the image and text as well as the logo for extra zing. Next up was the with compliment slip, which was pretty easy as it just needed to match what we had done. We didn’t want it to be like every other one out there and used good quality paper with a little texture to keep in theme with the other marketing items. And lastly was the sticker that we wanted to use for complimentary sweets and to seal the luxury envelopes as an extra special touch. I personally addressed and wrote every single with comp slip and the envelopes were personalised with gold pen. Put it this way, I’m not used to writing with typing all day long so there were quite a few mistakes made and a very sore hand but got it done. Once they were all put together they looked fantastic!

Getting to know me and why I believe customer service is so important

In the world of print we are a service industry as much as a manufacturing industry, yet sometimes I think we forget this.

Customer service is the one constant in these ever-changing, fast-moving times, not only in our industry but all industries.

Our industry is unforgiving in that we can quote and quote and quote and still not win the job. We are allowed to get a little frustrated when we realise we have been doing dummy quotes for a competitor or an arts student, but we can’t let it jade us.

We are all madly looking for added value to add to our businesses such as online stores and what not, but are we forgetting about good old-fashioned service?

While many customers love ordering online, there are many customers that don’t like it; they want a human voice and the chance to ask questions.

Some may refrain from asking necessary questions because they are put off by some of our jargon, resulting in a job that isn’t what they were after. Rather than come back, they just go elsewhere, where it will probably happen again, leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth.

If we take the time to explain such things as the difference between digital and offset printing we actually make it easier to deal with them the next time.

One customer in particular comes to mind when I think of customer service. She came to me in 2011 wanting a logo and a card designed. The design process dragged on forever and there were times I wanted to tell her to go elsewhere. But I persisted and I came to realise that the problem wasn’t with the client it was me.

I had started out in print that year as an absolute novice; I did not even know what CMYK was! I’m a quick learner, but printing involves so many different elements, as does design, which was also new to me.

I made it my mission to learn as much as possible about every aspect of our craft, for example foiling. The lovely boys at Goldcraft Embossing were very generous with their time, answering questions about everything I was unsure of.

I then moved onto stocks, machinery and everything to do with printing and design. I have been lucky to learn the old-school way of doing things and the new-school way. Personally, I think a mix is good.

I get very disappointed when talking to sales people in our trade who don’t actually know what they are selling. Yes, they know the names of the products, but they may not the stock or the difference between Pantone colours and CMYK – and we all know how horribly wrong that can go.

Once I’d mastered the technical aspects of the trade, my next challenge was learning how to explain these things to customers in layman’s terms.

If we flash forward to 2013, that customer I mentioned earlier has just ordered another business card with a completely different design.

Do you know what reminds me of why I do this? During a meeting to discuss her budget and finishing options, she took the opportunity to show off her knowledge by saying that she definitely wanted matt celloglaze. I was tickled pink as I listened to her tell me that she had had to explain the samples to her web developer.

I know time is a precious commodity these days, but if we make a little time and go that extra mile, word gets around. And isn’t that the best form of advertising?

The design process doesn’t have to be so tedious if we really listen and educate a little from the beginning. Of course, there will always be those who, ahem, test us. Every customer demands our best service, whether it’s their very first business card or the juicy ones that make us a lot of money.

You just never know with the little ones. They may become big one day. If they do, they won’t forget that little bit of time you gave them when they were starting out.

The infographic that you need to keep for social media image sizes

Another fantastic infographic courtesy of Tent Social.

There is nothing worse then going to visit a social media page and the images are low res & pixelated. It is totally understandable as a SME (small to medium enterprise) owner we are busy enough keeping up with not only our day-to-day business but evermore time consuming social media. 

I will go through a Facebook example as a courtesy to get you going but please feel free to comment with any questions that you may have.

Your Facebook profile image needs to be set at 851 X 315 pixels.

Firstly to see what size your image is drop your image into Photoshop, go to Image & in the drop down bar click on Image size.

Change the width & height to 851 x 315 px – please make sure that your image is bigger or around the same size, if it is smaller you will still get a low res effect.

Click on File & click on Save as ‘insert your file name’ and then click on Ok and presto!

Another tip that I can offer is to put FB in front of your file name & create a folder called Facebook images to store your edited images in.


Please feel free to share and repost this infographic.

How to get your message out in a world overloaded with information?

I have a great infographic courtesy of LookBook HQ that looks at –

How darn busy we are in a major information age!

* 79% scan the web over reading every word (I know I fall into that category).

* We consume on average 100,500 digital words everyday!

* 51% spend their time managing information instead of acting on it.

* 90 % admit to sometimes throwing out important information without even reading it!

Now more then ever we need to employ KISS – (Keep It Simple Stupid) & really get to the crux of the point with our digital & print media.

It could be as visual as a before & after picture of your product or service on your flyer or Facebook page.

But as daunting as multimedia marketing can be we have to admit to ourselves that a short Youtube video, Instagram or an infographic is going to get our message out more effectively then a heap of text.

We now need to tell a story about our brand that will evoke our audience’s interest. Perhaps think of it as grown up ‘Show & Tell’, as human beings we never tire of a good story.

How you want to do this is up to you but try to be mindful and have all of your media channels such as Youtube etc easy for your audience to access.


Please feel free to share and repost this infographic.

Free SEO tips for SME’s

Starting a new business in this day and age can be tough! What with the SEO, the Facebook, the Twitter thingy majiigy, LinkedIn etc There are many businesses out there that offer help with SEO, but what if your cash flow just doesn’t allow you to purchase these? I found with a little research – (got to love Google!) you can do a lot of it yourself and it’s not even too painful. If you are on a shoestring budget, like I was 3 years ago, or you need your dollars for other things in your business, I have tips right here for you! 

Try finding as many online Business Directories as you can. Most will offer a free listing; it might just be a line of text and a contact number, but this helps tremendously. And you would be surprised to find ones out there now that almost give you a free mini website within their directory. is a great example. You can enter your –

  •  Details and location (if you’re a home based business you can opt out of this with a P.O box etc., but a street listing does boost your Google rating. I personally didn’t put my unit number and you can just put the street name if you like)
  •  A description of your business
  •  Your opening hours and web site
  •  Payment options and images 
  •  And related keywords (keywords are extremely important for SEO, including the keywords you use to save your images under). It all helps. 

Hotfrog now also offers – 

  • A longer 500 + character description of your business 
  • Your business type and products and services 
  • Discount coupons and business news and updates 
  • And your best work which also allows inclusion of an image 

Another good one is They have offerings similar to Hotfrog – 

  • Your details including a link directly to your email, web site and ABN (giving you more credibility) 
  • Your Twitter and Facebook handles and payment methods 
  • Directions to your place of business 
  • Description of your business and categories for your business

In a similar vein is that offers – 

  • Details and your description 
  • Email and web site link 
  • Trading hours and keywords and a map of your location

Then you have your listing that comes with your – 

  • Details, web site and keywords 

And why not list with the Just add your –

  • Details and category 
  • And you have the option of your details being sent to your potential customers’ mobile phone 

Of course you aren’t limited to these and if you explore you might find ones relating specifically to your business as well.

Moving onto obtaining a FB vanity URL also helps with SEO. 

Mine is still in its infancy and by teaching myself via Google I’ve managed to set up my URL and create a vanity page for my business (please note that you may need a hand from friends with the first 25 likes to get your vanity URL) but I couldn’t quite understand all the coding required for the Welcome landing page! 

Getting LIKES on your page is great for SEO and of course there is the advantage of being able to connect with your consumers and post up Specials etc 

Please note that if you set up your vanity page URL yourself, please choose wisely because once it’s locked in you can’t change it. is another great tool for SEO. You can add your –

  • Education and schooling 
  • Web site, business description and title 
  • A photo of yourself (for personalisation) 
  • And your Twitter handle 

But beware that if you link your tweets back, everything will stream live on LinkedIn. And it’s up to you how much personal information you’d like to share on LinkedIn, such as hobbies and whatnot. 

And of course there is – another great SEO tool. There is still a bit of conjecture on what it can do for certain businesses and it can be a bit daunting when you first start out, but try it anyway. My main words of advice here are don’t SPAM people or the Twitter stream selling your business. You will not get followers this way. 

It’s an individual and personal choice as to what you want to share, but I have found a slow, steady approach works – 

  • Share links on business tips 
  • Follow people in the same genre as you 
  • Retweet things that you like and want to share 
  • Promote your business thoughtfully
  • It’s also best to put a picture of yourself or your business logo, as  using the Twitter egg as your profile picture will not garner trust.

These tend to be used most by spammers and are to be avoided if they follow you. When somebody follows you, thank them and perhaps offer a free gift such as a discount for your business or free eBook etc. Something else to remember here is that once you have your Facebook page you can link this to your Twitter stream, so your Twitter followers can see what ever you share with your Facebook fans. 

You can also set up a blog about your business for great SEO results. It can be scarey! The first blog post that I did last July, I knew was in the ethers of the internet for 7 months before somebody read it and it gave me such a surprise! But it’s good to practise and if you link it to your web site and tweet it as a link you should get better results than my first meagre attempt. You can use as a free blogging tool also.  

There are also Forums to consider where you can have conversations about your industry or what ever you like. The handy thing here is your email signature that can link back to your web site, blog, etc. dependent on individual forums.  

P.S Don’t forget to include your social media handles in your email signature.