How and Why to Use a Swipe File

Woman working online on a laptop computer at homeIf imitation is a form a flattery then there are plenty of people I’ve flattered since I started blogging more than five years ago. Like most people, I created my first website and launched a blog with no real training or experience. I was already a professional writer so I figured I’d learn the rest on the job. And part of the learning process for me is studying what works well for others. That’s where my swipe files comes in handy.

A swipe file is a tool I learned about in my early career in public relations and marketing communications. I collected articles, headlines, direct mail postcards, advertisements, proposals and other materials for inspiration. It was kinda like Pinterest for writers. Only when I first started using a swipe file it was a paper accordion style folder with actual printed samples torn from newspapers and magazines.

I’d save anything I found interesting or compelling – even if it had nothing to do with my industry or current projects. Then, when it came time to work on a new piece, I’d flip through my swipe files for ideas. I’d find formulas for great headlines, templates for sales letters and even some clever photo captions that would trigger an idea.

I eventually went digital with my swipe file and now I use it to kick start my creativity on all sorts of new projects. Even if you’re not a writer, chances are you do a fair amount of writing for your business or ministry. So why not make your job a little bit easier and start a swipe file of your own? Collect anything you find interesting or effective so you can refer to it later. Start with a simple file folder on your desktop or try using Evernote to store your swipe file items. Evernote lets you bookmark webpages, add images or screenshots and tag your notes for easy sorting and retrieval. You can even share your swipe file with someone on Evernote.

Not sure what to collect? Here are a few ideas to get you started!

Seven Things to Add to Your Swipe File

1. Sales pages. Have you ever made a spontaneous online purchase? You may have stumbled across a compelling sales page and found yourself hitting the “buy now” button without even thinking about it. When that happens, take a screenshot of the sales page and file it for future reference. There is probably some language in there that will come in handy!

2. Facebook ads. If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably clicked on an ad in your newsfeed at some point. There are definitely tricks and tips to Facebook advertising, so capture screen shots of your favorite ads and study them to see what works well for others. When it comes time to do your own Facebook advertising, you’ll have a head start.

3. Bios. I always get a kick out of short, clever bios I read online. Not the ones that are stuffed full of credentials and accomplishments. But the ones that reveal addictions to Sharpie markers or a lifelong struggle to successfully grow a tomato plant. I’ve been swiping memorable bios for years and vowing to make my own humdrum narrative a little more intriguing. One. Of. These. Days. [Read more…]

Meet Featured Member Steph Calvert

steph-calvert-by-natalie-moser-photography-2-square-350One of the things I love most about TypeA Parent conferences is the warm and welcoming attitude of the organizers, speakers and other attendees. Steph Calvert is no exception. She was the friendly face I sat down next to during a hands-on workshop about creating a media kit. Lucky for me, Steph’s a talented graphic designer! Instead of taking notes, she was writing and designing her kit during the workshop as the speaker covered each step. It was fascinating to watch her work and see what she could accomplish in a two-hour session that left me with nothing but a notebook full of tasks that it took me months to decipher and execute after returning home. 

Meet Featured Member Steph Calvert 

Business Name: Hearts and Laserbeams

Business Description: We work with small businesses looking to take their web design, graphic design, and illustration projects to the next level.

Steph’s Story:  Hearts and Laserbeams has been around since late 2006. It started as an indie crafting venture on Etsy, a side project outside my full-time graphic design work where I could create funny, light-hearted one of a kind art pieces. My husband and I sold my crafts at a variety of shows across southern California, from Felt Club and Bazaar Bizarre to Unique LA and Patchwork.

Design for my own clients has always been a part of the business, but in the beginning it took a back burner. I saw Hearts and Laserbeams as a creative outlet outside of work.

In 2010, everything changed. My husband and I found out we were expecting our son, Phil. I was working full time as a t-shirt graphic designer & illustrator in downtown Los Angeles. As someone who had a vast amount of design experience, I was able to negotiate a 100% telecommuting setup to eliminate the long train commute from Long Beach to downtown LA. The setup began months before I went on maternity leave. My art director loved my work; my designs were getting the company sales at stores like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. Life was good. No. Life was *great*.

I went on maternity leave and came back to a position that was vastly different from the one I left behind. I returned to a new art director who hated my telecommuting status, no matter how well it worked. She made it extremely clear how much she disliked me because of it from the second I started working for her.  Working for this new unprofessional art director was a horrible fit. The stress it put on me and my family… with a newborn… I couldn’t stay there and I knew it. Something had to change immediately. [Read more…]

The Artist Within: A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit [Video Book Review]

Disclaimer: I am totally not qualified to review a book for artists. The first thing you should know about me is that I would never consider myself an artist. At least not in the visual arts. But reading Whitney Freya’s book, The Artist Within, helped me shift that mindset and learn to appreciate the artist inside me – no matter how talented she is! This is one of the most practical and inspirational books I’ve ever read on how to boost creativity and let go of perfectionism.

Take a look at the video book review to learn more about The Artist Within: A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit, by Whitney Freya.  I pray it blesses you with a renewed creative spirit!

 

Then let me know how you like to exercise your creative muscle? What’s your favorite creative outlet?