Posts By: KimLawler

Notes to my younger self

Something a bit different today. My lovely friend Sarah (you know, that sassy Minnesotan sage with a taste for travel & cats in costumes? yeah?) has launched her kick-ass eBook, The Post College Survival Kit, and has asked some of her pals to share a little wisdom…

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Notes To My Younger Self is helping spread the word about The Post College Survival Kit. We learned the hard way so you don’t have to! You don’t have to wait till your thirties for a better job, a cuter apartment, financial stability, better relationships + friendships.

I think I did pretty well for myself “Post College” and even though I’m not one for regrets (a pointless emotion until time machines are invented) there are definitely a few things I’d do differently in hindsight. There are a fair few things I’d do exactly the same, too. What advice would I give my 23 year old self now that I’m nearing 30?

Don’t get hung up on university grades

I didn’t graduate with the grade I wanted.  I was gutted, even though I pretty much hated my degree course (oh, younger self, that time you considered changing course? probably should’ve done it!) and put in the least amount of effort I could get away with.

I graduated back in 2007 with a pretty pointless degree in something a bit like Fine Art. Luckily, I’d forged my own skill set by learning how to make websites in my spare time (yay for extra-curricular learning!), and managed to brag a job within 6 months of University ending.

And now? that grade doesn’t mean anything.

Try not to spend too much on credit cards

Between university, travelling, and other fun stuff, I managed a rack up quite a bit of credit card debt. Nothing that I wasn’t able to manage, but something that in the years after university I would’ve preferred not to have hanging around. That said, would I trade my trip to Australia for that lack of card debt? No way, I’d do it all again.

Travel as much as possible

Between leaving university and turning 25, I’d travelled across the USA on a train, popped into Canada, taken a trip to Australia & hiked in the Blue Mountains, and visited a friend in Hong Kong. There’s still SO MUCH more that I’d love to see in the world, but my life just isn’t as flexible to fit lots of travel in anymore. I’m sure I’ll get around to it all one day, but I kinda wish I’d done a little more back then!

It’s totally fine to be interested in several different career paths

My career has always been weird and conflicted. Growing up, I always wanted to be a vet. Then I kinda went down the art & design route, but also applied for a Zoology degree. Then I applied for a Fine Art-ish degree, and also a Biomedical & Forensics degree. I did the Fine Art-ish one (see above). Then I started learning to code, and became a web developer. But… I also started my own jewellery line. Still with me?

I always felt pulled in two directions, constantly told that I needed to choose one path. Now? I’ve made my own perfect career! I happily make jewellery, websites, and write helpful things for people. I’ve forged my own path, and I wish my younger self knew that that’s what was gonna happen.

Staying home with your cat is, and always will be, okay

I think I hit 18 and turned into a grandma. Given the choice between staying in and going to a club? I’ve already got my slippers on & a book picked out. I’m not sure if I’m totally introverted, I love to meet new people & travel, but I have issues with wasting money on ‘going out’ when there’s a comfy sofa with my name on it! Younger self – this is fine, you’ll find others just like you in a few years time, kick back with that puzzle & get an early night.

 

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

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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

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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!

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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.

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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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