Tired of your marketing getting little results?
Get the 5 steps to get more subscribers, engagement, and SALES this week! (And make it EASY!)

  1. Home
  2.  | 
  3. Productivity
  4.  | Ep. 71 Never Start From Zero – Be More Productive + Creative – Steal like an Artist
be more productive

Never Start From Zero – Be More Productive + Creative – Steal like an Artist

Whether it’s designing a website or email, creating a sales process or social media strategy starting with a blank page is a huge waste of time. Never start at zero.

Torie Mathis and her cohost Sean show you how to skip the blank page and start full of ideas and inspiration. Learn this invaluable process for every aspect of your business or creative project.

If you learn how to be more productive, save time, be more creative and learn how to steal like an artist (ethically) you’ll love this episode.

Mentioned in this episode:
Steal Like An Artist:
Kartra for email:
https://toriemathis.com/kartra (14-day trial) 

Recommended Tools:
-> My Honest Kartra Review​
Constant Contact

Listen or watch the full episode below:



listen on amazon music    Listen + Watch on YouTube  Listen on Spotify       listen on castbox         Listen on google podcast   Listen on SOUNDCLOUD

Never Start From Zero – Be More Productive + Creative – Steal like an Artist


Sean: [00:00:00] And coming from a non-designer it’s I can do all kinds of things now because I don’t have to start from scratch.

Torie: [00:00:14] Welcome to Smart AF I am your host, Torie Mathis. We’ve got a great show for you today. So let’s get started. Hey guys, what’s up? It’s your host, Torie Mathis. I’m here with the one and only Sean Mathis, founder of Miles Through Time Automotive Museum.

Sean: [00:00:31] That’s me. How’s it going? 

Torie: [00:00:33] I’ve been designing for a really long time. Like even before I was doing it professionally, I was doing it on a volunteer basis, just trying to get like anything I could to design. Even when I was back in the Army, I was trying to design just whatever I could. And I think one of the biggest problems I had. When I first started is I would always start with a blank page.

I started with nothing because I thought that was how you were supposed to design. I thought if you’re being creative and you wanted to create something that you had to start. with a blank page, with a blank slide, with a blank canvas, whatever it would be because the ideas had to come from your head only in order for it to be creative or it to be any good.

Do you have anything like that? Like even just being creative at all? 

Sean: [00:01:29] I almost could never start from a blank page.

Torie: [00:01:32] It’s hard.

Sean: [00:01:33] Even if I can see something in my head, I can’t. I can’t see it out on the screen or on paper or anything like that. I got to have some sort of base to start with and go from there.

Even like when you design stuff for me, I can, then I can, then a lot of times alter it and make adjustments to make it the correct date or additional information or something like that. But ultimately that I can’t usually do it on my own without starting from something. And then if I  make it so that I don’t bother you with needing something designed.

I’m probably starting with some sort of base from like Shutterstock or something like that and get it going from there. Canva or something. It’s just I’m probably 99% sure that I don’t start from a blank slate. 

Torie: [00:02:17] I think starting from a blank slate for anything is probably the worst thing.

That you could do, whether you are a writer or a designer or a painter or a business owner, 

Sean: [00:02:29] Unless You’re a time-waster

Torie: [00:02:30] There is no reason ever why time-waster

Sean: [00:02:33] because then you would start from a blank slate. There’s no, 

Torie: [00:02:39] go on. Tell me more about you’re wasting time. 

Sean: [00:02:45] Starting from a blank slate is a waste of time.

So if you’re a time-waster start from a blank slate.

Torie: [00:02:56] I thought that it was important that you had to start with like your own thing. I do. Somebody mentioned this book, not that long ago. And I know you said you didn’t even know, you didn’t know I had this one, so it’s a really good one. It is Still Like An Artist and it really talks about these ways that you can.

Not start with a blank slate for anything that you do. And though it is for creatives, I think that there are some really good ideas in there that everybody could use for their business, because it’s not just being creative, that you can be inspired and start with something. But I think in your business, you can do the exact same thing.

And we give you an example. Anytime, like I have to design, let’s say like a flyer or a brochure. I never go straight to designing. I don’t even go straight to like sketching. The first thing I do is I go try to get inspired. I go to try to find ideas. So I’ll do some Google searches and I usually won’t do them in the industry that I’m designing for that way.

Nothing is too, matchy for that type of thing, but going outside of the industry that I’d be designing for just to go get some ideas and usually, I’ll pull in some different designs that I like things that are cool, maybe colors that I haven’t used before. Just at least to get me going that way that I’m not.

Standing there staring at a blank, design board to design. And, you mentioned going to Canva or to Shutterstock. Those are other places that are really great that you can get started. And this is for designers or if you’re designing something for your business and you’re going to have somebody else do it for you, collecting your ideas and getting some inspiration to see which direction you want to go is a great way to get your designer started.

Because a lot of times people don’t know what they want until they see what they don’t want. 

Sean: [00:04:44] Yeah. That’s definitely true. Go ahead and design me a logo. What do you want to look like? I don’t know, just create a five or six things. And then, so you do it. And then they’re like, ah, I like this. I don’t like this.

I like this. And it pretty much makes us, you got to create six more things until you finally hone it down. Some people can’t visualize very well, so I mean that there’s no way around it really well. 

Torie: [00:05:08] And I think for people that do have a hard time visualizing getting inspiration from other places is a great place to start.

Sean: [00:05:15] That’s totally easier to see something and be like, I either like it, or I don’t like it and pinpoint things out of it that, appeal to you or not. And even if you’re having somebody professionally designed something for you, that’s going to help and speed up the entire process. If you can, if you can give them materials, if something, Hey, I like the vibe of this thing, can you make something look like that?

That’ll make, your designer. Streamline the process a whole lot more and being in the same page as you cause a lot of times, you don’t really know how to express how you want something to look. And this is something, like tattoo artists have major issues with it. I want some cool tattoos.

What do you want? I don’t know. I want a donkey with a hat, and they’re like and they draw it and they’re like, that’s not what I want at all. You wanted something completely different, but you didn’t really know how to express it. But if you could go in there and say, I like all this stuff, make something similar, the chances are you’re going to get something drawn for you.

That’s exactly what you want. 

Torie: [00:06:12] I think when trying to. Like you said, put these things into words and whether it’s a tattoo artist and its style, because that’s a huge part of it. Or if you’re trying to decide to describe colors, like it’s really hard for you to say, make me this and make it blue.

Blue is, from here to there, the range of it is very different than if you could actually pull things that were blue. That were a better choice, especially since everybody’s eyes see things a little bit differently pulling your colors and pulling ideas is a really great way to.

To give people to give designers like a heads up on what you actually mean

Sean: [00:06:49] Style wise too, is a good point. Don’t go to somebody just because, they’re your nephew or something and you look at their portfolio and you don’t like any of their stuff, it’s not your style. Why would you ask them to do something that’s completely outside their element?

A lot of these designers, they have a particular style. And that is what you got. 

Torie: [00:07:08] That’s a good point to look at what people have already done to see if their style fits what you’re doing. Cause I know somebody went to me and they wanted something pastels and frilly and very decorative and that’s really not the style that, I probably could.

But if you look through my things, that’s not what I do. I think my things are more modular. It’s very bold colors. It’s got lots of structure to it. 

Sean: [00:07:32] One of the main things is it’s that illustrator part, people don’t realize the amount of. Work in specific skill set that you need to like straight up illustrate some sort of character or something like that.

That’s what you want. You need to go find somebody that does that specialty. 

Torie: [00:07:49] Absolutely. 

Sean: [00:07:50] Cause it’s not that you couldn’t do it, but like you spend a long time doing it and then it’s not what you normally do. So chances are the first round of. Design is not going to be what they’re actually looking for, because they’re already struggling with how to express, what it is that they want.

So it’s not, conducive to, to go down that road.

Torie: [00:08:08] So if you’re starting a design project, whether it’s something for yourself or it’s a design project that you’re doing for somebody else, a really great way to get started is a Google search. So if you just start searching things and start just finding things that you like and save the pictures.

Not to use to copy, but to use, to get some ideas and start to make a catalog of what the things that you like make a folder. If you’re going to redesign your website, go search for websites, see what different websites look like and not just ones in your industry, like I said, but outside of your industry so that you can get all these different ideas.

Because there’s so many people out there doing so many creative things that’s a really good way for you to start to get some ideas on things that are fresh, things that are new. And that way you can distinguish yourself, even from other people that are in your industry. If all the people in your industry are doing the exact same thing, then how can you bring in some other ideas outside of your industry?

Google searching and finding images or taking screenshots of websites logos, brochures, anything like that is a really good place to start. Another thing you could do is go to Pinterest. I know I’ve done that for a couple of websites that were very specific on the style that they wanted. Like we did one that had a Marine type of theme and I went on Pinterest and so I made my own private Pinterest board and just tried to find different things that were nautical because that wasn’t something that I had done before.

And so trying to find all these different elements and different nautical references and things that would make it a little bit different than some of the other. Design projects that I saw out there could be a little bit different. 

Sean: [00:09:37] Pinterest is the one thing I was thinking of. It’s a whole basis of what Pinterest is to find things that you like pin them.

But I think a whole lot of people don’t realize like that is something you can do for your business. It’s not just, kitchen remodels and. Food items that you like. It’s specific things about your business, that if you’ve got, a certain style that you want to try to portray to your customers look for examples, you don’t have to think of anything straight from nothing.

Torie: [00:10:05] Don’t start from a blank page.

Sean: [00:10:07] Like it’s, especially if you find something that you really like, what’s, you know what they’re doing, and it’s not even in the same industry, let along the same area as you. And let me take it as your own. Why not?

Torie: [00:10:20] Absolutely. I know I have. So another place that I get ideas, if I get a really cool email, whether it’s content wise or whether it’s the design, I actually have a folder in my Gmail that I file them away as email ideas.

So once I’m going to start a new project, I can go in there and, or I’m feeling like I just don’t have a lot of ideas or whatever. I can just start to go in there and look at some different ideas and get some things to have a jumping off point for. 

Sean: [00:10:44] I do it for Miles Through Time  all the time. I see something on some sort of on Facebook or something and say, I’m done.

I’m like, ah, that’s, a cool thing to increase engagement. Like it’s definitely an engagement post. 

Torie: [00:10:58] I do those things for you too. I always see that on and it’ll be something totally different completely. You could do this for Miles Through Time .You just put your own spin on it, make it automotive, do something

Sean: [00:11:06] That has nothing to do with Miles Through Time.

As the museum itself and getting people to visit or anything like that. But it, what it does is get people to engage with the post, which has its own set of benefits that, are definitely something that any business would want on their social media profile. 

Torie: [00:11:23] One of the funniest ones was like wrong answers.

Like what is this part? Wrong answers only. And those types of things, we got that idea from somewhere else. It wasn’t automotive, but you got crazy engagement on some of those posts you did didnt you?

Sean: [00:11:36] Oh yeah. Every year when a new year goes by and it’s the cars, new set of year of classic vintage cars.

I’ll do one of those that, wasn’t my idea originally. And yet it’s something I do create from scratch every year now. So that it’s, Miles Through Time’s post, there’s a, what was your first car? There’s a ton of those out there. I just redo them and share them as my own. 

Torie: [00:11:58] So do you actually just share what somebody has already done or do you go and try to recreate it to make it what’s your process when you find it?

Sean: [00:12:06] I will usually try to recreate it that way I can brand it as my own. 

Torie: [00:12:10] Okay. You are not a designer. So how do you do that? 

Sean: [00:12:13] I just put it in Canva.

Torie: [00:12:17] How do you, it put what in Canva?

Sean: [00:12:20] I just I take whatever. If it’s, a picture of some sort of car part, and it was a wrong answers, only type thing.

I just go, I went, I think the last one I went to Shutterstock found some random car picture and put it into, uploaded it in Canva. And then added the text. What is this wrong answers only, and then downloaded it and uploaded it to social media. That was it. I did that just because I knew other people are going to then reshare it as their own because.

People. It’s fun. And especially the wrong answer ones. Cause then it’s no, there’s nothing serious about it whatsoever. And you can just get all kinds of clever with it.

Torie: [00:13:00] Canva is a really good tool. It’s a free design tool. If you’re not familiar with it it’s all online based, no software that you have to buy.

They have a completely free version and they have lots of templates. And I think the best thing about it is that everything like. Is already sized. So like maybe you don’t know what, what size things are supposed to be to upload to Facebook or to Instagram or whatever, to Pinterest. It actually sizes everything for you.

They have a bunch of photos and different things that you can use. And it makes it like if you’re a non-designer and you want to, get something that looks pretty great. It’s pretty easy. And I will say that. I used to do all of my design and Adobe design programs that we spend a buttload of money on so that we have professional design and where I think there’s a really great time and place for that.

I use Canva for a lot of things because it’s super easy to use. It’s super easy to make copies of things that you’ve already done and use it as a template. So thumbnails for videos on YouTube. I do all those in Canva and I duplicate old ones and I make new ones, Bella has her own YouTube channel and she’s on Canva as well.

And so she’s able to, make everything in the right sides and upload her photos and then use ones that she liked as a template to make new ones,

Sean: [00:14:10] That’s a nine-year-old that’s super creative on Canva. She’s creating all kinds of stuff, so I’m pretty, anyone can do it. And that there’s a lot of like straight up templates where, you don’t have to design anything.

You can pick, an Instagram post, you can pick an entire template that’s completely designed and you just change the text to make it yours. Change colors if you want, and then download it. That’s and you’re done.

Torie: [00:14:38] It’s really easy. And again, it makes it so much easier than thinking that you have to start from nothing.

Like you can design anything. You can  be creative with your business and you can do all these different things. And it’s so much easier if you don’t start from nothing, but get a little bit of inspiration. So whether it’s designing things or writing an email or a different strategy, cause even strategies, you can, do that whole steal like an artist.

If you see. An email campaign, or if you see a like Sean was saying, like with posts on Facebook that you see, there’s a lot of engagement. How can you switch that around? How can you change it just a little bit to make it work for your business? 

Sean: [00:15:19] And then to save time, like email specifically? I’ve I wrote the first email that I send out for Miles Through Time.

I have never written another email from scratch after that first one, we use Canva and I will duplicate the last email I sent.

Torie: [00:15:35] We use Kartra for emails. 

Sean: [00:15:36] Oh, Kartra Holy shit. We use Kartra so I use Kartra goddammit. Kartra. I duplicate the email and Kartra okay.

Torie: [00:15:47] So I do the exact same thing. I’ve mentioned that I have a client that we send an email out every single day and I don’t go and make the brand new email every single time. I just duplicate the last one. And then I go over the parts. That change. I do that for everybody that I do emails for the monthly newsletters that I do for everybody, because I’ve already built out that structure.

I already have my process. There’s no reason for me to start from zero, but you’ll, if you looked at one to the next, it doesn’t look like a carbon copy, but it’s enough the same that there’s a consistency that makes it, that they go together. Because your emails also, they don’t look the exact same. You change out the photos and you change out the text, but then the parts that are important, it’s not like you have to go and put your links back in there every time.

Sean: [00:16:32] Yeah. I pretty much do it so that I can get it done as quickly as possible.

Torie: [00:16:36] That’s a great way to do everything. We, I had the episode that I did by myself with a clone yourself. And one of the things that I talked about was processes, and this is one of those ways that you can develop yourself a process and then you just.

Repeat that same process every time. Dont, start from scratch every time with any of this stuff. 

Sean: [00:16:57] I think of all the business cards that we do for all these different clients and we do them in Adobe. And we’ve got some of them where there’s 40, 50, 60 different art boards on there of individual business cards.

We don’t start the business card over from scratch. We’ve got another one. Let’s build it all out from nothing. It’s duplicating the last one and changing the name and it’s done. It’s things that you would think are common sense, but sometimes you got to think about,  What’s the easiest, quickest way I can do some of these things.

And a lot of times it’s use  what’s there already and just make some tweaks. 

Torie: [00:17:33] And websites have even gotten easier. So for all of these blog posts that we do for ourselves, for our clients, same thing, we have a template that we’ve already built for that specific client inside of their website.

So when we’re doing a brand new blog posts, We just go and load either the last one that we did or we load the template that we’ve built. So I’m the one that actually does all of the actual design work. It’s really easy for me, whether it’s a new client or an old client, or doing stuff for myself or doing things for Miles Through Time.

I’m the one that goes through there and builds out the template. Then once I have the structure and the process all there, then I’m able to give it over to Sean or give it over to our assistant or give it to the clients. And then all they have to do is change out the parts that are new each time, but use that as a jumping off point, not start from scratch.

So if you’re starting anything from scratch in your business then you are doing it wrong, there are all of these ways that you can steal like an artist. There’s all these ways that you can build these processes for yourself so that you can do things better and do things quicker. 

Sean: [00:18:40] And coming from a non-designer. I can do all kinds of things now because I don’t have to start from scratch.

Torie: [00:18:47] So if you liked this episode, we would love it. If you would leave us a review, and if you want some really great tools to grow your business and not waste time and money, you can head over to Toriemathis.com  and we have all kinds of great resources and free tools for you to use.

And we will see you on the next one. Thanks.

You want to get smart tools to build your business? Go to besmartaf.com.

About Digital Marketing Expert Torie Mathis

Torie Mathis helps entrepreneurs, like you, use digital marketing to grow your business without wasting time, money, or your sanity.  She is a best-selling author, Army veteran, speaker + trainer, and your digital marketing coach. You don't need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. In fact, you don't even need a lot of time. What you need is to be SMART.

Torie hosts SMART AF, a show for non-techy entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, with her husband Sean and is the creator of SMART AF Magazine. Learn from Torie at the Smart Arsenal and on her channel.

What do you think? Let's talk! Leave a comment.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

hi im torie
I help entrepreneurs  learn digital marketing.
And I make it easy! 

You don’t need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. You don’t even need a lot of time.

What you need is to be SMART.

Is YOUR marketing SMART?

Find out here.


Hi! I'm Torie!

Torie Mathis HeadshotI help entrepreneurs (like you) use digital marketing to get more clients + to make more money. And I make it easy! 

You don’t need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. You don’t even need a lot of time.

What you need is to be SMART.


from your Digital Marketing Coach Torie Mathis!

Let's get SMART!

Let's Connect!

Veteran Owned Business