Posts Categorised: Working for Yourself

So that was 2014…

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Well, that went quickly!

I thought I’d do a bit of a ‘year in review’, from both a business and personal perspective, and a look forward to what the next year might hold.

When I look back, this year was all about increasing my strength.

I got stronger physically with the help of weights and exercise, and my business grew stronger both financially and in experience. I think this is the year my little business grew up.

Personal Strength

This year I stopped caring so much about the weight on the scales, and realised that it was the weight on the bar that really mattered to me. I stopped worrying as much about how my body looks when I realised how freaking strong it is. Thanks, body!

I’ve grown to love my thunder thighs. Did you hear that, bullies? My thighs are STRONG. They help me squat the highest weights in class. They help me take huge steps on hikes that I would’ve panicked about previously. Yeah, we’re on good terms now, my thighs and I.

I’m turning 30 in January and I’m feeling better about my body than I ever have before. That’s a pretty decent achievement, I reckon.

Business Strength

I’ll start this by admitting that I didn’t make any huge or drastic business changes this year. My laurels were well and truly rested. In its second year as a limited company, Finest Imaginary Ltd (including the Kim Lawler Creative branch) chugged along at a nice speed.

I started the year by taking an expensive (a-hem) business development class that was basically a bunch of pleasantly packaged shite, rehashed from various free resources. I formed a few friendships with fellow bitter classmates, and made a few connections & new clients, so not all was lost.

I invested in new equipment (hello my beautiful new laser cutter!), I increased my overall profits by around 30% (!), and I brought in lots of new business practices that I’m excited to develop in 2015.

I worked with around 25 clients on their websites this year, and some of them were the best people ever & I really hope to work with them again. I’m not going to lie to you, I also had my share of not-so-great projects. Swings and roundabouts!

I started working more with Shopify, too, and ditched that hefty beast Magento. And I still love WordPress, that’s a given.

I feel like my business secured its roots this year, that I have a really solid base for growth, and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.

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And for 2015?

I’m not really one for resolutions, I know they work for some people, but I like my goals to be on-going and flexible.

In 2015 I want to continue on my fitness journey, where ever that might take me.

I want to travel more, that’s for sure. And I want to take more time away from the computer. Life’s too short, you know?

I want to see more personal projects come to light, and mix them up in my business a little more.

I want to continue to push myself with my work, learn new skills, and offer new services.

And I definitely don’t want to rest on my laurels as much as I think I did in 2014! Yeesh!

This blog’s going to be changing a bit, too. I miss blogging about my life so I’ll be mixing some more of that back in. I don’t want to say I’ll be blogging more, but here’s hoping, eh?

Happy 2015 everyone!

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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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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.

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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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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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