Posts By: KimLawler

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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How to Stay Organised Part 2: On the Go

how-to-stay-organised

I hope you enjoyed my post last week where I talked about How to Stay Organised. I mentioned several desktop based apps that I use to keep on top of my life and business. A few of the ones I mentioned also come with mobile applications & cloud syncing, which is what I’m gonna talk about today!

I’m an iPhone and iPad user so everything I talk about here will be in relation to that set-up. However, I’ll be talking about various tips that should cross over to other mobile devices, too. 

Teux Deux, Evernote, Google Drive

I mentioned these three wonders last time, and they’re three of my most used ‘On the Go’ organisation tools.  I won’t go into much on these as I talked more about them last time, but here’s a brief outline of how I use them when I’m out and about.

Teux Deux lets me simply add or remove to dos from the lists, and syncs straight back. This means I can keep errand lists on Teux Deux for when I’m running around town going to the post office, bank and opticians. Much handier than a piece of paper!

Evernote lets me take notes on the fly, meaning I can quickly jot down ideas without losing them in one of my many paper notebooks. Another great feature of Evernote on the iPhone is the ability to add photos, voice memos, tags and geolocations to notes.

Google Drive has come on leaps and bounds with its iPhone and iPad app in the past few months, it means I can actually use it quite efficiently on my iPad now. On my iPhone I mainly use it for reference only, it’s a bit too small to do anything efficient on there.

Your camera is your best friend

I can’t even begin to tell you how liberating it was to figure out that I can use my iPhone camera as a quick reference tool. I use it to take photos of lightbulbs (so I pick up the right one when I’m out), things in shops (granted this is usually for ‘look at this weird sexy ginger man packaging‘ reasons), menus, packaging ideas, magazine articles – you name it! If I was even more organised I’d add them to Evernote and tag ‘em, but I usually just leave them in my photostream for easy reference at a later date.

The Gmail App

I’m going to dedicate a whole post on how I organise my inbox, but I really love to Gmail iOS app. Another one that’s come on loads over the past year, I can now do most things that I do on my desktop from this app. I ditched the mail app because it didn’t support how I use multiple email addresses in gmail, and there didn’t seem to be a good way of syncing labels. I tried Mailbox but just got a bit freaked out. The Gmail app is perfect for me!

Scanner Pro

This new-to-me app has soon become one of my favourites. I currently use it to scan all of my business receipts and sync them back to dropbox. It’s MUCH faster than using my actual scanner, and the quality is just fine for how I use it. I can zip through the scanning of ~30 receipts in little under 15 minutes now!

Google Cal

Pretty obviously I use this to sync back to my Google Cal, handy for at a glance checks when I’m at the dentist and booking a new appointment. I don’t think there’s a specific app for Google Cal yet, apart from third party ones (someone correct me if I’m wrong here, and suggest a good third party one!), so I’ve just created a home screen bookmark for their mobile version.

Screen Grabs

This harkens back to my comment about photos above. To take a screen grab on your iPhone and iPad, you just need to hold down the power/hold and home button together. The screen will flash, and your screen grab will be saved to your photos. Here’s how I’ve been screen grabbing…

  • I subscribe to magazines on my iPad, lots of them have recipes in them that I’d love to use in the future but, without a doubt, I’ll forget which issue they’re in. I’ve taken to screen grabbing the recipe and adding it to a note in Evernote!
  • ^^ Same goes for adverts/articles, and anything else I might want to reference later on.
  • I make websites for a living so I’m always looking at innovative ways people make responsive sites. And I’ll screen grab ‘em. And add them to my inspiration notebook in Evernote.

Phew! Don’tcha just love technology?!

There are a few other ‘on the go’ things that I should probably start using, like a news/article ‘read later’ aggregator (flipboard or instapaper), and perhaps a money tracking app for personal finance. Right now, though, I’m pretty happy with things. Until something better comes along, that is. 

What’re your favourite On the Go organisation tips? Anything that doesn’t rely on a mobile device? I’d love to here ‘em!

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Growth is Optional

I’ve been trying hard to figure out the best way of articulating this topic without coming across as a douche bag, telling you what should be oh-so-obvious already. But… I think it needs to be said, if only for my own cathartic therapy.

These past few weeks I’ve been working. Just working. 

Coming into my office in the morning, and setting about the day’s work. I haven’t learnt anything new. I haven’t experienced ‘awesome personal/business growth’. I’ve just worked. Nose to the grind stone, bringing home the bacon (or earning the cash to buy the bacon… and coffee), working.

And then I started feeling guilty. For working hard. What the fuck is up with that?!

There seems to be a worrying trend right now that if you’re not growing or learning, or expanding your blahblahblah mind desires dreams, then you’re not doing good stuff.

There is nothing wrong with just working hard. In fact, it’s really fucking admirable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate of pushing your boundaries, learning new stuff, and generally being curious. But damn, not doing those things all the live long day should not be a cause of guilt.

I feel like we’re constantly being bombarded with new ways of learning, new information to take in, and a sick marketing ploy of ‘If you don’t do this you will suck forever & fail at life’. Nope. Nope nope nope. 

Growth is optional. Coasting is fine. Learning is a bonus. 

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How to Stay Organised Part 1

how-to-stay-organised

I’ve been meaning to do an organisation post for a while now, but the truth is that my methods of keeping organised change month-by-month. I might discover a new app, or change how I do something, so it’s a pretty fluid process. ‘How to Stay Organised’ is probably going to be an ongoing thing, and I’ll keep you updated on when I discover a new way of keeping my shit together.

I function so much better when things are in order. That goes for home life as well as work life. I get a sick satisfaction from having all my dry goods organised in Kilner jars with Martha Stewart labels, I could while away the hours cataloguing all our paperbacks, and the sound of a dymo printer is like music to my ears. I’m type A and proud!

I wasn’t always this way, I used to revel living in ‘artistic chaos’, and parts of my life still resemble that (don’t look in my desk drawer…jesus). This year, though, I decided it was time to take charge! I’m overhauling, decluttering and organising every aspect of my life. And boy, it feels good.

Today I’m going to focus on how I stay organised with work tasks, and let you know some ways I use several free (or low cost) services to keep things flowin’ smoothly. I’ll be following some of these up with more in-depth posts, but for now I just want to give an overview.

Evernote

I use Evernote every day for note keeping and idea dumping. Until recently I also used it to keep track of client projects. The beauty of Evernote is that you can use it across various devices and have them sync up. I can take notes when I’m out and about on my iPhone, and they’ll sync right back up to my Macbook when I get home.

  • I have several notebooks pertaining to different areas of my life, ie. ‘Finest Imaginary’ where I can keep notes on that side of my business and ‘Kim Lawler Creative’ where I can keep notes on that.
  • If I’m taking an online course, I’ll set up a notebook dedicated solely to it, where I can keep course notes and links.
  • When I was using it for client projects, I’d have three notebooks – Active, Complete, Upcoming – and a note for each project. It’d be a great place for dumping sections of emails, keeping information that I needed to reference quickly, and keeping an eye on what projects I was actually working on at the time.

There’s probably so much more I could also be doing with Evernote, but for now it serves as a great place for me to dump ideas and make on the fly lists.

Teux Deux

Me and lists are like that (I’m doing that crossing my fingers like we’re best pals thing). I couldn’t work without a daily to do list, how can anyone?!

“Let’s make a list!” is my go-to first action whenever anything comes up. “Wanna go to Ikea?”, “SURE! Let’s make a list!”.

Teux Deux is my digital list saviour. I’ve used a variety of list making apps: wunderlist, remember the milk, astrid, but Teux Deux has been the one I’ve stuck with. The beauty is in its simplicity.

  • It syncs across devices, so I can keep my Ikea shopping list on there!
  • I’ve created several repeating to dos to keep me on track. Each day I need to print invoices, package items, and print postage – those are repeated automatically without me having to re-add them. Every Monday I need to remember to install updates, restart my Macbook (without it being on my to do list it probably wouldn’t get done until it freaked out and crashed), and do my book keeping.
  • I add to dos as they happen. I might have told a client that I’ll have their contract over to them on Friday, so I add it as a to do for the upcoming Friday. When it rolls around, it’s already there on my to do list. It makes it so much easier to keep track!
  • Along with daily to dos, I have a few other random to do lists on there. These include ‘Stuff to do some day’ and ‘Stuff we need for the house’. I can drag entries from any list into any other, so if I decide I’m going to do one of the ‘Some day’ items this week, I can drag it onto a day. Neato!

Basecamp

I’ve only just started using Basecamp again, I’ve been looking for a project management software for the past year or so that fulfils all my objectives. I’d used it in the past but thought the price was a little high, however, after failing to find something that worked as well I decided to go back to old faithful Basecamp.

Everything else was either too complicated (Podio), came with hidden costs (Siasto), or was just not quite there with client access (Wunderlist).

  • Each project I’m working on has its own project space in Basecamp.
  • My clients can be added to the project (at no extra cost), and I can hide things from them that I want to keep just for my own information (they don’t need to see a bunch of development to dos).
  • We can share files, documents and comments on there. It’s removed the need for a lot of emails!
  • I can see instantly which projects are active, and can archive projects that are either complete or on the back burner.

It’s not cheap, at $20 a month for the basic package, but it’s not gonna break the bank either. I’ve been using the free trial for the past few months and it’s working out well! This is one I’ll keep you updated on, though.

Dropbox

Not much to be said about Dropbox that hasn’t already been said. It makes sharing larger files a breeze. It lets my accountant keep me in the loop with all the HMRC stuff that we have to look over. And it means I can store a bunch of stuff that I’d like to access via the app on my iPhone/iPad.

  • I use dropbox to create a sharing folder for me and my clients. It’s a great place for them to share image assets with me.
  • I store all my book keeping receipt scans on there.
  • I back-up all my iPhone photos on there.

Again, I’m sure there’s more I could be doing with Dropbox (what do you use it for?), but it’s already helped hugely with file sharing between me and my clients.

Google Calendar/Drive

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about Google Calendar or Drive, but they play a huge part in my organisation. Here’re just some of the ways I use them both:

  • Google Drive can sync with Basecamp, so clients can share documents with me from their Drive on there. It’s making the cross-program (I’m on a Mac, lots of my clients are on PCs) issues of the past quickly become irrelevant.
  • I’ve been drafting a few of my upcoming worksheets in Google Drive, it means I can access them easily from where ever I am – and even work on them via my iPad.
  • Adam and I share Google Calendars so we know when either of us has something booked. We’ve also got a calendar with our monthly home related bill schedule.
  • I share spreadsheets with my accountant via Google Drive, so he can make amendments easily and I can see where he’s changed something.

I think that’s enough for Part 1, and I hope it’s given you some ideas on organisation. I’ve still got lots of talk about, and I’m sure I’ll be going into more depth on some of the things I’ve mentioned above!

Now, over to you, what applications, website or other methods (old school pen and paper?) do you use to keep organised?

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Are you staying curious?

curious

Back when I was at University, I decided to spend some time making websites. I was interested in how people could create those awesome, updateable websites without just copying and pasting a html file. I figured there must have been an easier way. And that spark of curiosity is what lead me to what I do today.

Curiosity, especially outside your comfort zone, will ignite ideas and passions that you didn’t even know existed. And don’t forget how awesome it is to just learn new stuff. It’s been proven that continuing to learn throughout your entire life has a profound effect on how your brain will degenerate when you’re older.

How to stay curious…

Curiosity has many guises. It could be spending some time figuring out a solution to an everyday problem in your work, taking the left turn instead of the right turn just to see where you end up, or reading up on a subject that you’ve always been sort of interested in. It can be falling down a wikipedia rabbit hole, discovering that grilled banana and peanut butter really is one of the best desserts, or even just opening up wp-config.php and taking a look around. Here are some ideas for staying curious this week…

  • Pick up a non-fiction book and read it cover to cover. I just finished listening to Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America 1927 on audiobook, which I wholeheartedly recommend.
  • Draw a map of your favourite city – from memory (if you dare)! This is more of a brain exercise than anything, but it gets you thinking about somewhere you love to visit, and will spring ideas of where you’d like to go next.
  • Read an article each day about new technology, either in your own market (ie. web/jewellery design for me), or something completely different. National geographic is always a good resource for a curious mind.
  • Make plans to visit a museum this month.
  • Explore part of your town that you’ve never visited before.
  • Check out a Skillshare class in something you’d love to learn – my particular favourites are the lettering classes by Mary Kate McDevitt & Map Making class by Anne Ditmeyer.
  • Eat something you’ve never eaten before. We have a couple of sections in our local Sainsbury’s dedicated to foods from India, Jamaica and Poland, there’re so many interesting foods there that I’ve been meaning to try.

How do you stay curious? Any tips you’d like to share?

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