Posts By: KimLawler

Why “If you’re not happy, change it” is the worst piece of advice… ever.

if-youre-not-happy-change-it-worst-advice

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it before. “If you’re not happy, just change it!”. In fact, I’ve probably told people that in the past, too. It’s a massively knee jerk, all assumptive statement, isn’t it?

I mean, think about it. You might not be happy with something in your life right now (your job, your home, your relationship, your health), and you’ve probably racked your brains trying to come up with a solution. So when you start confiding in someone about it, and they just come back with a throw away “If you’re not happy, change it!”, then you’re gonna be pretty damn pissed.

It just isn’t that easy.

There are dependents, bills, family, and a whole host of other grown-up shit to think about when you’re wanting to make a huge (or even minor!) change.

Things need sorting out, pigeon holing, lists needs writing, gears need setting in motion. It’s downright ridiculous to just assume that you can “change something” on a whim and that everything will then turn into peaches & cream. Stupid!

Here’s a better piece of advice. 

If you’re not happy…

  • Ask yourself why you’re not happy (or, ask your friend). It’s usually not just “I hate my entire life”, or “My job sucks”. It’s specifics. “I have no direction, I feel like I’m letting everyone down” … “I have no free time, my job takes up so much of my evenings and weekends”.
  • What can you do right now to make it just a little bit easier? Take a look at evening classes? Spend an hour on a recruitment website? Organise a meeting with your boss? This is the start of the change. I wasn’t fulfilled in my last 9-5 job, the first thing I did? Cancel magazine subscriptions so I could start saving up for my self-employment buffer. Somehow, by doing that, it made it all feel real.
  • What’s your end goal? Do you want a new job? A new skill? Do you want to travel? What do you think would make you happy. I say think because happiness is really subjective, the grass is greener and all that. Sometimes just small shifts in your current situation can make the world of difference.
  • Plan it out. You have an end goal, you’ve thought about how that would make you feel, now it’s time to make small steps towards it. These steps should be measurable, succinct, and easy. Things like “Have 1 meal a week sat at the table with my family, phones off”, “get to the gym twice a week”, “make a list of city breaks I could take this year”. Working backwards form your end goal sometimes helps.
  • Here’s the most important piece of advice. Count your god damn blessings.  Don’t dwell on how you would be happy when _____, think about what makes you happy right now. Appreciate everything that you have in this instance, wouldn’t it be better to head towards your end goal with a happy heart and joyous everyday? Just like that douchey text-over-photo quote that goes around Pinterest and Facebook…

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
- Vivian Greene

Extra Credits // @afeitar recommended this book, Mindfulness at Work: Flourishing in the workplace, after reading this blog post!

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10 Questions to ask yourself before a website redesign

10-questions-before-website-redesign

I often get emails from people who know they want a website redesign (or to start a brand new one), sort-of have an idea in their mind, but really don’t know where to start. Well, here’s a list of 10 questions you should ask yourself while you’re in the early planning stages.

The outcome? Clarity, y’all! You’ll be able to approach the early stages of your website redesign with a good understanding of what you actually want.

#1 What’s the aim of your website? Who are you serving? What should your website do?

Are you selling something? Who’s your customer? Are you a blogger? Who’s reading your blog? Do you want to promote something? Use your website as a portfolio? Get clear on this.

#2 What’s not working about your website at the moment?

What makes you audibly groan whenever you hit your home page?

#3 In an ideal world, with no monetary constraints, what super awesome features would your website have?

Do you love how pinterest works? Would you fall down at the knees of any developer who said they could “totally build you one of those kick-ass content sliders that your favourite website has!”? Go on, go crazy. I’m not saying all these things could be done within your time and budget constraints, but don’t put a line through anything without asking first!

#4 How much money can you invest in this project?

Websites are costly. Either in monetary terms if you’re bringing in the big girls, or in time if you’re DIYing. What can you currently invest in this project? What’s your current maximum budget?

Many designers are happy to let you pay in installments, but it’s always a good idea to start saving up for a new design well in advance. If you can’t afford the quote for the work you want, ask the designer what they could do within your budget without completely throwing out your brief, and if it’s possible to ‘bolt on’ other aspects further down the line.

#5 How flexible are you?

When do you want the work to start and end? Can you work in phases? Or do you definitely need it by a certain date?

#6 Should you DIY or bring in some professional help?

I’ve made websites since I was 13, I learnt on the job because I had to. I know DIY is perfectly fine for some folk, hell, my first websites were geocities monstrosities. They still did their job. Maybe you’re at a stage where a simple wordpress theme would be totally satisfactory (check out Themeforest), or maybe you’re ready to supercharge your online presence with a professional’s help. Either way, figure it out.

#7 Future proofing

Do you have grand plans for the future of your website? Maybe you want to start selling products in a year or so? Or create an iPhone app based on the content? Get all those things you have in the back of your head written down NOW, because there could be some things that your developer could put in place during this phase to make everything go smoothly down the line.

#8 Which websites do you love? Which do you hate?

Figuring out what you love and hate about websites is a huge consideration when you’re thinking of re-doing your own. It’ll help you and your designer/developer get to grips with what you want.

#9 Is it really just a website that you need, or are you looking for a full brand redesign?

If I had a quid for every one that comes to me looking for a web design when actually they’re looking for a full on brand redesign, I’d have at least an extra tenner in the bank. Uh. Seriously, though, do you need a new logo? A new logo isn’t a new ‘web banner’, it’s a logo. Do you have colours for your brand? Fonts? Anything visual? Do you need business cards? Letterheads? The whole kit and caboodle?

#10 Are you ready?

“I want a new website, and I want it today!” shouldn’t be a Eureka moment. It needs consideration, planning and organisation. Don’t rush the process, think it through, and do it right the first time.

There are so many other considerations you can take in to account during the early planning stages of your website, and I’ll shortly be working on a comprehensive worksheet for you to get crystal clear on what you want from your website. Interested? Get signed up for my newsletter to be the first to hear about it!

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A Very Blogtacular Weekend

Blogtacular 2014 Official Photos by Will Ireland. Thanks Mollie Makes (6)

A couple of weekends ago I hopped on the train down to London to attend the Blogtacular conference. In just its first ever event, the conference pulled in power house speakers such as Joy Cho (from Oh Joy!), Anne Ditmeyer (of Prêt à Voyager), and Tilly Walnes (from Tilly and the Buttons).

Blogtacular 2014 Official Photos by Will Ireland. Thanks Mollie Makes (83)

The event kicked off on the Friday evening with a keynote talk from Joy. Her talk brought us through her blogging and creative journey, and was both inspiring & career-affirming. A true testament to just what can be achieved if you set your mind to it. And hey, lucky you! You’re gonna be able to catch Joy’s talk for free over on the Blogtacular website (and, you can even purchase a virtual conference ticket to catch ALL the action from the conference http://blogtacular.com/virtual-conference/).

After a great start on Friday night, meeting new people and chatting with people I’ve known online for ages, it was back to the hotel to rest up for the full day on Saturday. By rest up I mean… not get any sleep at all.

Blogtacular 2014 Official Photos by Will Ireland. Thanks Mollie Makes (126) Blogtacular 2014 Official Photos by Will Ireland. Thanks Mollie Makes (170)

Saturday featured a full set of talks and workshops. Here’s what I attended:

  • Anne Ditmeyer: Anne discussed valuing your work, charging what you’re worth, and generally just not working for free. A subject I’m incredibly passionate about, did you catch my post about raising your rates inline with your worth? I’ve long been a follower of Anne’s, and have taken her Skillshare map class which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend.
  • Tilly Walnes and Vicky Orchard: Blog to Book. A brilliant insight into landing a book deal, an area I’ve never delved into before but have always wondered how it worked. Totally want to write a book now!
  • Blog Business Panel with Annabel Beeforth, Allison Sadler, Courtney Adamo and Joy Cho. A panel of influential, intelligent and inspiring ladies. Who could ask for more? All answering questions posed by the audience, and giving us a brief introduction to their careers.
  • Hands-on Styling with Ellie Tennant: Absolutely loved this one. Ellie works as a stylist and gave some amazing hints and tips on to getting the best out of the styling for your photos. Really interesting to hear insider secrets!
  • Mini Moderns’ Mark Hampshire and Keith Stephenson: Branding. As a designer it’s always refreshing to see how other people work, this was one of those times. I gained some valuable hints and tips from the mid-century inspired duo.
  • Secrets of the Editors Panel with Lara Watson, Caroline Rowland, Kate Carter and Heather Young interviewed by Kat Molesworth. Brilliant insight into a journalistic view on blogging, want to get published in print? These are the gals to listen to!
  • And finally, Natalie Lue’s Closing Keynote. An excellent way to round off the day. Natalie spoke from the heart and left everyone feeling full of blogging joy!

A bunch of us finished up with a meal near Carnaby street, and I fell into my bed exhausted and, overall, inspired. I totally urge you to get hold of a virtual conference ticket, you won’t regret it!

Blogtacular 2014 Official Photos by Will Ireland. Thanks Mollie Makes (398)

See you next year, Blogtacular!

Photos are all thanks to Mollie Makes, taken by Will Ireland.

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How to set client boundaries – and keep them set!

client-boundaries

Today I’m going to talk about a very important aspect of keeping yourself sane & happy in your work life. Client Boundaries. We all need ‘em, and we all need to enforce ‘em.

During my first year as a freelancer I was very lax with client boundaries. I’d be the one firing off emails after 6pm, letting my clients push me into burning the midnight oil because of their new deadlines, and lulling myself into the false idea that this was “just how it is when you work for yourself”.

One particular client of mine who was in the USA at the time (and was well aware of the time differences), pressured me into working well into the night. I felt deflated, unproductive, and down right pushed around. My work suffered, my home life suffered, and I got sick. Yeha.. that client relationship didn’t last very long.

It shouldn’t be like this, and here is where client boundaries come into play.

Setting your client boundaries

When you start working with a new client it’s important to communicate your boundaries, or at least have them set in your own mind so you can act upon them during the course of the project. You might even want to add your boundaries into your contract.

Here’re my current client boundaries:

  • No communication or enforced work after 6pm and before 8.30am.
  • No communication or enforced work on weekends.
  • No Facebook communication regarding projects.
  • If a client comes to me with a tight deadline, I’ll tell them my schedule and when I could realistically (within work hours of 8.30am-6pm) have the project completed.

Client boundaries do not mean that you can’t occasionally play catch up on weekends and evenings, but keep that to yourself else it’ll become expected.

Enforcing your client boundaries

So, you’ve got your boundaries set-up, how do you enforce them? Here are some lines, and responses, you can expect to get from clients in order to get you to flaunt your boundaries.

  • “This is an exceptional circumstance” “I appreciate that, but please see it from my point of view – if I pushed myself with each of my clients’ exceptional circumstances, I wouldn’t have any personal time!” I’d then go on to organise an acceptable schedule for the work.
  • “Just this one time…” “Sorry, I have family and personal commitments that just won’t accommodate working out of hours… let’s get this scheduled within my working hours.”
  • “This is an important deadline for me” (if this was a deadline you knew about then unfortunately you’re gonna have to pull out all the stops to get the work delivered on time, otherwise…) “I totally understand! However, had I/we known about it in advance we could have scheduled the work to meet the deadline. Right now all we can do is get this delivered ASAP without compromising on quality.”

Without setting and enforcing your boundaries, you’ll become a slave to your clients and your work will suffer. Don’t let that happen. You need to live a happy, stress-free life in order to create awesome work. Be consistent, be brave, and be honest.

client-boundaries-pin2

Extra Resources:

Boomerang is an effective tool for Gmail that lets you send email hour after you’ve actually hit send.

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You probably shouldn’t quit your day job…

shouldnt-quit-day-job

What? Here I am, self professed “quit your day job, do what you love!” advocate, telling your not to quit your day job? Well, yeah.

The thing is, it’s not easy to quit your day job.

It’s really not easy.

And most of the time it’s not sensible, either. Quitting my day job with very few freelance clients, a mortgage, grown-up bills, and an already steady income was probably the most cavalier thing I’ve ever done (but your early-mid 20s are totally made for stuff like that). I was lucky, everything worked out.

But.. everyone’s on a different path & has a different set of circumstances, I’ve seen a lot of people touting the ‘quit your day job! live your dream! make loads of money!’ lifestyle and guys, it’s not always possible. You need to get to a sweet spot that’ll let you ditch your steady income. If I was going to do it again this is what I’d do…

Get your ducks in a row

If you’re dead set on quitting your day job then you really need to get your shit together. I mean really. 

  • Savings, you need them. Aim for around 6 months living expenses to start with (I had 3 months, I wish I’d had more). Think about your incidentals, your dependants, and any emergency funds you might need.
  • Clients, line ‘em up. Start being serious about this freelance/new business game well before you actually hand in your notice. Start making connections, putting out feelers, and getting some work lined up.
  • A website, collateral, business cards, it all needs to be ready before you quit. On the first day of your new ‘working for yourself’ position you need to be working on some actual cash making stuff, not faffing around with how your business looks.
  • Support, start telling your friends and family about your plans. Most of them will say something about you having to get a job within three months, take it onboard and prove them wrong. I did.
  • Basic kit, got your laptop? camera? Get them before you quit (and remember they’re a business expense for your new venture, so keep all the invoices).
  • Tax shiz, it’s a good idea to talk to an accountant before you quit and get set-up as a sole trader, or a limited company. I was already set-up as a sole trader as I ran my jewellery business, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to do all that in the first week! As I’ve mentioned MANY times before, an accountant was one of the best investments I’ve made for my business.
  • Financial implications, if you’re looking to purchase a house or go on expensive holidays within the first couple of years of your self employment then you probably shouldn’t quit your day job. Most mortgages require 3 years worth of books to prove your income. And holidays? You’re gonna be working WAY too hard for that ;)
  • Start changing your lifestyle, sure, we all love meals out & trips to the cinema, but it’s a good idea to start thinking of how your lifestyle would change if you quit your day job and didn’t get the big-ticket clients you were hoping for. Having a steady income is incredibly comfortable, something that doesn’t always exist in your first few months/years of working for yourself.

Day One of working for yourself should not be about getting your business ready, it should be about diving in head first with your new projects.

What’s your back up plan?

What would happen if you made no money within the first month? first 3 months? Would you starve? Have to move in with your parents?

  • I gave myself 6 months to turn a decent salary, I can’t remember the exact figure I aimed at but it was my plan to look for part time work if I hadn’t met the aim. There is nothing wrong with supporting yourself financially with a bunch of jobs on the side. It’s not failure, it’s being downright sensible and setting a good foundation for your business and life. Your new venture would absolutely fail if you didn’t have the means to support yourself.
  •  Stay on good terms with your previous place of employment, chances are they’d snap you right back up again if needs be!
  • Remember, it’s really difficult for small businesses to make any decent money within the first year or two, so don’t feel deflated if you’re not making much money to start, just keep swimmin’.
  • Think about multiple income streams – man, I love them so much! How else could you make money? Having multiple income streams means that you’re not completely tied to one branch of your business, so if work dries up a little, you’re still making money from other things. I do this by being both a web designer AND jewellery designer (and, soon, other things).
  • Always have a back-up plan, and keep changing that back-up plan as your business grows.

Now you can think about it…

Now that you’ve been thoroughly scared shitless about quitting your day job… you can start thinking about quitting your day job. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and you need to be really sensible about it if you want to succeed.

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