How to Stay Organised Part 1


[standfirst]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.[/standfirst]

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.


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!


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.


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?

Create brand loyalty from kick-ass customer service


[standfirst]Last Friday, on Valentine’s Day, we’d just enjoyed an awesome Marks and Spencer’s dine in meal-deal-thingy. It was awesome. Scallops, beef wellington, chocolate soufflé, red wine – all the things my foodie brain dreams of. And all from the comfort of my sofa. Ah. Glorious.[/standfirst]

This particular deal came with a box of heart shaped chocolates. Cutely packaged, the perfect 9.30pm end to a gluttonous evening.

Only… ours tasted weird. They had some strange chemical taste to them, sort of like when you get deodorant in your mouth (I don’t do this often… well, it’s one of the main reasons I switched to roll on).

I tweeted about it, as you do. It hadn’t ruined our evening or meal, nothing like that, but it was a bit disappointing.

10 minutes later I was tweeted back by Marks and Spencer. At 9.40pm on a Friday they had someone manning their social media, replying to disgruntled tweeters and holding up their customer service excellence. They arranged to call me the next day and investigate further (which they did).

The very fact that they actually responded to my (not even directly accusatory) tweet has kicked my brand loyalty up a notch. We’re so used to being actively ignored by big corporations, we’ve all seen the social media horror stories of the past. This was refreshing, and such a simple act – and a fair few people on my twitter timeline noticed it & complimented M&S on their response.

So what are the take aways?

  • Open up the lines of communication – never leave a customer hanging. If they have an issue, respond.
  • And respond politely. I’m not saying I buy into that old adage of the customer always being right (let’s face it, they’re not), but damn, everyone deserves good manners. As an aside, since running my own businesses I always treat customer service staff with respect and try my hardest not to get frustrated. I understand just how far a smile and a “thank you” will go in their day, and how much more willing they’ll be to help resolve the situation.
  • Be timely. Don’t wait days to resolve the situation, resolve it as quickly as possible. I know that most people running smaller businesses can’t afford to have a customer service rep on-call 24/7, but make it your first priority when you get in the office.
  • Be honest. Did something go wrong? Explain this to the customer, and explain what you’re doing to resolve it & make sure it doesn’t happen again. People appreciate honesty*.
  • Be genuine. Don’t be automated. No one likes a robot, they want to feel that someone genuinely cares about their issue. And if you have any respect for your customers and your business, then you should genuinely care.

Now that we’re well and truly in the realms of social media driven customer service, staying on top of your customer’s issues is a top priority. A few tweets and Facebook shares could make or break your business, which way would you rather go?

What are your top tips for customer service? Have you seen any amazing examples of customer service? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below and share your experiences!

*Well, most people. You’ll still get the odd screamer – don’t let them ruin your day.

On being multipassionate

I’m a web designer/web developer/jewellery designer/whatever designer/content creator.

When I was growing up I had my heart set on being a veterinarian. The 7 year university course didn’t bother me too much, I was thinking of going to Edinburgh  it was going to be such an adventure! I did my work experience weeks at a vet surgery, got good enough grades in my sciences   heck, I even did a latin GCSE to help with pronunciation!

Things changed, though. I was always an anomaly in that I loved science and art. I could quite easily spend one evening poring over my science text books, then the next evening splashing paint and lettraset on a canvas. Eventually I made the decision to spend a year doing an art foundation course, rather than pursue science (at least for the time being). That turned into an art degree (which, without mincing words, was shit), during which I spent the majority of the time teaching myself to build websites and faffing around importing stuff from the USA to sell on ebay.

For the past few years I’ve been building websites, making jewellery, learning code, printing stuff, waxing lyrical about PHP, and even blogging passionately about business.

There’s a new label flying around for folks like me, we’re being called ‘Multipassionate solopreneurs’.

Sounds pretty douchey, doesn’t it?


It works. And it’s true. It describes me perfectly, and has settled so much of my internal anguish.

From tiny children it’s built into us that we should follow a path, choose a career and niche down to a pre-described speciality. We should go to school, college, university, get a graduate job, get a better job, get promoted, get promoted again, settle, retire.

When I decided to leave my day job as an agency web developer, it was always my aim to combine both Finest Imaginary making with Kim Lawler Creative web design. I wanted to keep a comfortable equilibrium between the two, together but separate. There were times when I considered ditching one or the other to ‘niche down’ and become specialised.

Then it hit me.

am niched down. I am specialised.

Who else combines a boutique brand like Finest Imaginary alongside creative services and web design? Who better to work with a web design client looking for their own online presence, than someone who’s struggled through it with their own brand?


Passionate about baking and social media? Write me your ‘recipe’ for facebook success. Bake me a twitter inspired cake. (Shit, sorry, that first one was so corny… forget I said that.)

Love cats as much as you love being a manicurist and making youtube tutorial videos? Hellooo! Crazy cat lady manicurist showing us cat-inspired nail turtorials on youtube, you just got branded!

Okay… so maybe I was clutching at straws with that last one, but you get my point.

How do I combine my passions? I don’t exactly make website inspired jewellery, do I?

No. I’m a multipassionate creator, and I love being part of a community of creative people. Many of my web design clients know me through my jewellery first and foremost, and the markets for all sides of my business cross over. It’s a venn diagram of awesome that makes my business thrive. I’m constantly looking at new ways to bring the things I love into my business. I’m even working on bringing some of my blog style musings into the web design side. It keeps me engaged and interested!

Ignore the precedent for specialisation, and create your own niche from the things that get you pumped!

Friday Thoughts: Creative Confidence

If there’s one thing that can be said about me it’s that I’m a creator. I make stuff. I write stuff. And most of that stuff gets put out into the wild, ready to be viewed with a critical eye.

Occasionally, when I’m creating, I’ll have a momentary pause. The butterflies will start to flutter, and I’ll sit there thinking “What the fuck am I doing? No one’s going to get anything out of this!”. Sometimes I’ll feel like a conceited douchebag (seriously, I’m 28 and telling people how to run a business? What’s best for their websites? I’m wet behind the ears compared to some!), other times I’ll feel like I’m drawing with crayons. Those, my dear friends, are my confidence crashes.

Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than watching people react to your creation.

So, what am I going to do? Stop in my tracks? Never make anything again? Just because someone might not like it? Psh! No! Where’s the fun in that?

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”
– Vincent Van Gogh

Watching someones reaction to something I’ve created has become one of the highlights of the whole damn thing. For every person that doesn’t like what I’ve made, there’ll be another that adores it! they think it’s the best thing ever!

“Creativity takes courage”
– Henri Matisse

Everyone’s allowed an opinion, the world would be a sorry state if everyone liked the same stuff, right? It’d also be super sad if you didn’t make something because a couple of people might not dig it.

You need to have confidence in everything you create. You must speak with authority. You must create for your lovers and ignore your haters. You must enjoy what you do, and remember why you do it. You must create with energy, purpose and unrelenting passion. Go forth, create, set it free and don’t give a fuck.

Now… should I post this?


How to raise your rates without feeling like a greedy b$%*h


[standfirst]Thinking that you need to raise your rates? Over my past few years of freelancing, I’ve steadily risen my rates inline with demand & worth, and haven’t seen a drop in my client roster – quite the opposite. When I first started out I tended to keep my rates pretty low. I was new to the freelance world, hadn’t developed any sort of renown, and hell… I needed the cash.[/standfirst]

When I did decide to start raising my rates, part of me felt a little uncomfortable. Would I still get work now that I was charging more? Was I legitimate in charging more for what I did? What would I tell my current clients?!

Here are the statements I work through when I get the “Er, should I be charging this much?” feelings.

  • You’re the only person that can do what you do, how you do it. I work mainly with lady creatives & entrepreneurs. I have quite a niche in the web design/development market in that I am my client. I give my clients help with their website marketing, tips for how to engage with their clients through their online brand, and advice/contacts for other aspects of their business. 
  • If you had a 9-5 job, you’d have had a pay rise by now. Most 9-5s offer yearly pay rises inline with the cost of living increases, promotions and your relative worth to the company.
  • Realise you’re in demand. It’s not boastful to say you’re in demand, it means you’re doing something really right! Look, the harsh truth is, if you took on every project that came to your door then you’d quickly burn out. I decided that I needed to increase my rates in order to cherry pick projects that would help my business grow + keep me engaged with my work.
  • Working my ass off wasn’t what I started freelancing for! Charging more means I can have more time to produce quality work without burning the midnight oil. It means that both my client and I benefit from an unstressed relationship, comfortable deadlines, and room for ‘nice extras’.
  • My experience has increased since I last set my prices. Experience is worth its weight in gold, literally! You’ve picked up a lot of knowledge since you last increased your price, and that needs to show in your rates. Think of the pricing tiers in hair salons, you pay more for the experienced stylists!
  • If you charge it, they will come. Does that make sense? Basically, your perfect clients usually expect to pay a certain amount. It’s a perception of worth, and by charging too little you could actually be putting them off – they’ll wonder what the deal is!

Letting current clients know about my rate increases isn’t too difficult. Sure, I’ve lost a few along the way (which is understandable), but in all honesty our work had grown apart anyway. Here’s how I go about communicating rate changes with my current clients:

  • I let them know well in advance if we have current or on-going work. 
  • I usually offer them a discount on my new rates for the first couple of months, something like 5%. Rewarding their loyalty is the least I can do!
  • I lay out why I’m increasing my rates: my skill set has grown (I explain what my new skills can bring to our projects), general inflation, an increase in demand.
  • I explain my worth, letting them know that even though my prices are increasing, it’s still a great deal for their business. Sometimes, I’ll offer examples of projects that we could take on, including a quote and expected gains (be they monetary, conversions, or sign-ups).

Don’t be afraid of charging what you’re worth, raise your rates!!

10 Two Minute Tasks to Save the World!

Well, maybe not the world, but they could definitely help out your business!

Time is your most valuable asset when you run your own business or work as a freelancer, and there never seems to be enough of it! Here’s my list of 10 things that you can do that only take around 2 minutes, each of which will help you & your business without taking much time out of your day.

  1. Take a break. Sometimes this is one of the best things you can do, especially if you’re feeling in a rut or stressed out with a project. Giving yourself a couple of minutes to clear your head and think of other things will make all the difference.
  2. Change up your twitter theming. A new background, a new avatar, tweak your bio. I’m betting that around 80% of twitter users haven’t changed their backgrounds or bios since they started their twitter accounts, are you sure it projects the best of your business?
  3. Read an article. There’s a wealth of blogs out there relating to your fields, you probably already subscribe to a few. Taking the time to read and keep up with current trends will stop you and your business going stale.
  4. Change your signatures. Whether it’s for your email, forum accounts or flickr, make sure that your signatures have your latest details available – you could be missing out on valuable traffic!
  5. Post an update on your facebook page. Or, if you don’t have one yet, get one! Finest Imaginary’s facebook page currently has over 800 likers, that’s 800 potential customers. I’m super guilty of neglecting it, and it’s one of my goals to post an update on there at least once every other day!
  6. Reply to that email. You know the one, it’s been hanging around in your inbox for over 7 days, and you keep saying you’ll reply to it at some point – do it now!!!
  7. Clear up! Is your workspace looking a bit jumbled? Give it a quick two minute tidy, you’ll be surprised how rewarding it is!
  8. Write a list. Simply write a list that you’ve been meaning to write, blog posts ideas, potential clients, improvements to your websites etc.etc.
  9. Think ahead.  I sometimes get so involved with what I’m doing Right Now that I forget to plan ahead. For Finest Imaginary I’m starting to think of Christmas things already, and trying to get a head start this year. Is there something you need to think ahead for?
  10. Check your stats. Keeping on top of your web stats is important, have you recently had a spike in traffic? Do you know? Find out!
Do you have any other 2 minute tasks that you’d like to share?