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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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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