This time of year it can be hard to stay focused on what you need to accomplish, especially if you work from home. Now that spring is here, staying productive gets hard when the sun is shining and the warmer weather is calling your name.
Today I’m going to share tips on how to stay productive and get your tasks done. Then use the productivity worksheet to help you organize your lists and goals.
Making a list of everything you need to accomplish can get pretty overwhelming. Instead of focusing on the entire list, pick just 3 to 5 tasks that you must accomplish today. Then focus on completing just those things. If you’ve got time or are feeling ambitious to get more done, then work on more tasks but make sure you have your ‘must accomplish’ things done first.
Have a big project that you keep avoiding? Break it down into smaller, more doable pieces. Once you have it broken down, schedule the smaller pieces on your calendar and little by little, you’ll get the project done.
Figure out what time of the day or week you are most productive and reserve those hours to get your work done. Maybe you’re trying to work around your kids’ schedules or you might like to take afternoons off. Decide what time you do your best thinking and best work and work during those hours.
Lots of times we focus on what we have to do and not what we’ve already done. Each week, make a list of all of the things you’ve accomplished and you’ll (hopefully!) realize that you’ve done more than you thought. It will make your to do list seem a little more accomplishable.
Ever stay up at night thinking about all of the things you need to accomplish in life? It happens to the best of us. One way to de-clutter your mind is to make a list of everything you need to do – from picking up groceries to writing that book you’ve been dreaming about. Take some time to clear out everything you’ve been thinking you need to do then categorize it into 5 different sections – 1) to get done this week, 2) to get done this month, 3) to get done in the next 6 months, 4) to get done in the next year and 5) to get done in the next 5 years. When you know what’s priority, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to get accomplished right away and what you have some time to work on.
Most of all, doing work that makes you happy helps you stay productive because it doesn’t feel like work. Try to incorporate your hobbies into your work and it’ll be much more fun. For example, if you hate doing the bookkeeping for your business but you love blasting your music throughout the house, only allow yourself to do that while you’re working on your bookkeeping. This will make the task more fun, and you’ll look forward to that time instead of dreading it.
Download the How to Stay Productive Worksheet to help you organize your lists and goals!
What are your tips for staying productive? Share in the comments!
If your new business needs a logo or your existing company is ready for a re-brand this is your chance to jump in and book your session! April is already booked so you have the chance to book May or June with the discount!
1. Go here to learn more about the packages. If you are not familiar with my work, feel free to check out my portfolio!
2. Send me an email with the month and package that you want.
3. Fill out this branding questionnaire.
4. If I feel we are a good fit, I’ll send a contract and the first invoice (50% non-refundable deposit) to hold your spot on the calendar!
Remember there are only two months available at this discounted rate and this will be first-come, first-serve. The first two people to email me and let me know that they are interested will get the first-chance at the discount. Even if you have a question, feel free to email me. This opportunity is open until April 2, 2013 then back to normal rates, so don’t miss out!
And if you don’t need a logo, but do need some other design work done, let’s chat!
Have you been dangling on the fence about whether to leave your full-time design job to go freelance? Perhaps you find yourself staring out your window at work (or more likely your tiny, claustrophobic cubicle) and daydreaming of one day being your own boss. Or maybe you calculated what you are bringing home hourly at your current job and feel gypped. Leaving your full-time job (and regular paycheck) is a big decision; you are right to consider it carefully.
I’m going to break the decision down for you into three simple categories: experience, finances and personality.
Don’t underestimate the value of prior experience. In my opinion, you need to log some tough hours in the real world before starting your own business. Use your time wisely while you are working for someone else. Learn from your mistakes (cause you will make ‘em!) Take notes from your superiors. Enjoy the collaborative design process while you have the luxury of working in an environment with other creatives. Don’t jump ship before you have learned the ropes of the biz.
You may think that freelance will be more lucrative. And it can be. But most likely it won’t start out that way. It will take hard work to build up your clientele and earn a steady income. Before turning in your resignation, I implore you to SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. It is a good idea to have approximately 6 months worth of living expenses saved before making the official leap.
Personally, going freelance was less of a strategic career move and more of a quality-of-life decision. I had a goal of being able to quit my full-time job so that I could stay home to raise my kids. My freelance business has afforded me the ability to do just that. That being said, my husband and I started preparing financially a few years in advance. We were very purposeful in committing to a mortgage payment that we could pay with ONE income, not two. We watched our spending habits – we did not let ourselves become accustomed to living on two full incomes. Because of this preparation, it didn’t seem quite as difficult to give up that regular paycheck.
Not everyone is cut out to run their own business. Just because you are a strong designer does not mean that you will be an effective freelancer. Successful business owners share key personality traits; they tend to be organized, self-motivated, driven, goal-oriented, confident, passionate, budget-minded and self-reliant. Keep in mind that you will spend less time designing and more time running the business. This includes networking, pursuing new work, selling your services, meetings with clients, phone calls, invoicing, accounting, etc.
This advice is not meant to scare you or discourage you from pursuing a freelance career. If anything I want to adequately prepare you! Going freelance was one of the best decisions I ever made. I can’t tell you how great it is to finally call my own shots, make my own schedule and choose to take on projects that I am passionate about. I especially appreciate the relationships I have built with my clients.
If you are currently considering going freelance, do you have any specific questions? Or, if you are already working on a freelance basis, do you have any additional tips to share? Love to hear from you!
I’ll admit, I was pretty nervous to attend Alt. I’m shy and I was not going to know anyone! Sure, I had a few online buddies, but I didn’t have any real life friends that would be there. I was not sure what to expect, but I knew I had to break out of my comfort zone and go for it! The first night Kristiina (Salt Lake City local) was nice enough to pick me up for our dinner with Honest. This was a huge relief since I hadn’t figured out the SLC Trax system quite yet (and cabs were near impossible to come by). The girls from Honest and everyone at the dinner were SO nice, I was already feeling more comfortable on the West coast! Since I got my ticket pretty late, Mariah invited me to stay in her room. It was really great to have a buddy to walk in with on the first day because the Grand America is pretty intimidating. It is the nicest place I have ever stepped foot into. After finding my way around and talking to a few people during the first session, I was again, amazed at how nice and welcoming everyone was! Whether they were a speaker, a blogger with a huge following, had been attending Alt since the beginning or this was their first year, everyone was nice! I met a ton of awesome people, I learned a lot from the panels and design camps, the sponsor lounges and parties were magical, Stefan Sagmeister‘s keynote, wow! It was overwhelming, exhausting and amazing all at the same time and I’m still not sure I can find the words to do this experience justice!
I also want to take a minute to give a HUGE thanks to everyone who helped to make my first trip to Alt Summit possible! Bing, Passionfruit Ads, Ashley Duffy, Barbara Dallen, Bridgette Rutz, Chelsea Commander, Gabrielle Cyr, Jason Graham, Kara DeMichele, Karl Holzenthal, Katie Pendergrass, Linda Kocher, Mary Ann Cardinale, Megan Pendergrass, Mindy, Rachael Dauro and Robyn. Also, my boyfriend who had to deal with me being a total stress ball for the month before, my sister for dealing with me asking her one million times “what should I wear” and my parents for helping me with my business cards the morning of my flight (the ones I ordered never arrived)! And thanks to everyone at Alt for being so nice!
Since one of my favorite parts of Alt was meeting new people, and they had photobooths galore, I’m going to share some fun photos with new friends! I can call Stefan Sagmeister a friend now, right?!
Photos: The Great Gatsby Lawn Party sponsored by Hayneedle, Clue Party photo by Brooke Dennis sponsored by Joss & Main, Mariah and I in The Land of Nod lounge, Blurb Class Reunion photo by by McKenzie Thompson, Stefan Sagmeister and I talking, Melissa and I, Caytlyn and I in the Method Home, The Girls With Glasses party Smilebooth
If you are anything like me, you struggle with saying no. Walking away from a freelance project feels counter-intuitive and just wrong. How can you turn away from a new client and some extra cash in your pocket? But when building your business, the projects you say no to can be just as important as the projects you say yes to.
Consider asking yourself the following questions before taking on a new project:
This may seem obvious, but do not take on jobs that are outside your area of expertise. If you are strictly a print designer, be up front with your client and don’t promise a complete web design overhaul. Don’t claim to be a “social media strategist” when your only experience to date has been creating your personal facebook page.
It is far better to form strategic alliances with other freelancers who have complementary skills. Are you a designer who struggles with html? Bring in a coding expert to help on your next job. You can pass along the cost to your client, and in turn, the coding expert just might bring you some design work from his/her clients. Do what you do best; strategically farm out the rest.
In an ideal world, your dream clients would come running to you with an ample budget and projects galore.
More often than not, the “dream client” doesn’t have the cash. For example, say an up-and-coming jewelry designer needs a brochure designed for her new collection. As soon as you hear of the project, your mind starts reeling with innovative ideas to showcase the jewelry; but the client can’t afford to pay your full hourly rate. Do you take the project? Time allowing, you may consider taking on the project to build your portfolio and attract new clients.
Conversely, if a client comes to you with a project that you would most likely NOT show in your portfolio, don’t turn it down right away. Consider if the compensation would make it worthwhile. Could the profit you earn be used to pay for a continuing education seminar or allow you to attend an upcoming conference?
In your freelance career, you will be approached by a client whose business model makes your insides crawl. Maybe it is a cigarette company and your grandmother just recently passed away from smoking-induced emphysema. Or perhaps a specialty gun store approaches you for help with their marketing, but you are anti-guns. I recommend walking away from these kinds of projects.
As much as you try to separate yourself from the product or service, you will have difficulty giving the client your best work when you oppose their fundamental business principles.
Don’t worry. Another project will come along with a cause you are passionate about.
Have you recently walked away from a freelance opportunity? What factors did you consider before turning it down? Love to hear your feedback!
We’ve all been there. You’ve promised your client concepts for their logo design. And you are stuck looking at a blank white screen. You are in a state of creative paralysis.
With a little preparation and a proper game plan, you can avoid what I call white-screen-itus.
Before you ever start designing a logo, you must do some fact-finding. I suggest having your client complete a concise creative brief. This can be done in a face-to-face meeting or submitted as an online form. You may consider including the following questions:
Who is your target audience?
Who are your closest competitors?
What type of product or service do you offer?
What is your unique selling proposition?
What is the exact wording to be used in the logo?
What is your company’s slogan or tagline?
Are there any specific images or icons you’d like to incorporate into the logo?
Are there any specific colors you may want to use?
Are there any colors or imagery you would like to avoid?
How do you want your target audience to respond to your corporate identity?
Research may sound boring, but this can actually be my favorite part. This is where I take some time to gather design inspiration. I also examine the branding of my client’s competitors (to make sure I properly differentiate my client from competing business) and study the logo examples that the client liked. Here are some of my favorite resources for identity inspiration:
I also make a point to notice things around me. I may be inspired by the typography on a Panera bag or the imagery and color palette in an Anthropologie catalog. Some designers find it helpful to compile their inspiration into a mood board.
I have a bad habit of racing to the computer before I am adequately prepared. I have found that I am much more successful and efficient if I first pull out my sketchbook and manually explore typographic layouts and symbols. I can quickly determine from a basic sketch whether a design is worth developing.
After sketching out LOTS of ideas, I can then pair down which designs I should bring to the computer to execute. It is a good idea to work on your designs in black and white initially, adding color later. I find that if I include color too early in the process, I can be attracted to a logo because of the color alone, not necessarily because it is the strongest design solution.
This part is important. I prefer to work on a logo in small chunks of time – an hour here, a few hours there. I find that if I walk away from the computer, even for a few hours, I am able to return with fresh eyes and work with more efficiency.
Now it’s time to look at your work with a more critical eye. Throw out the weaker logo designs. Take some time to refine your strongest concepts. Look closely at kearning, positioning, etc. Are there small variations or changes that may strengthen the design? Look back at your creative brief. Do your logo concepts communicate your client’s brand effectively?
When I deliver my logo concepts, I like to review them with the client. Sometimes this is done in-person. Other times on the phone. What is important is that you have an opportunity to discuss the variations in the logos, your thought process and ultimately how the different logo designs communicate your client’s brand. Pull out points from the original creative brief and explain how your logo designs achieve their objective. From here, you and your client can collaborate and decide what logo best represents the company’s brand. I have found that if I follow these 7 steps, I can minimize revisions. Happy Designer. Happy Client. It’s a win-win.
Hey guys, Ciera here. Thanks for an amazing post Lauren! This is the same process that I use for logo design but just wanted to chime in with one additional tip: When you deliver the first round of concepts, don’t include too many options. This tends to overwhelm and confuse the client. I think that three strong concepts is a good starting point. And don’t include a design that you are not happy with, this will always, without a doubt, be the version the client decides to choose, and that is always a bummer.
Blogging is an amazing way to grow your brand and get your business out there, but in the beginning it can be very difficult to get people to start following your blog. Today I’m sharing two ways to get your business out there when you’re just starting out and how to get readership when you’ve got no fans or followers.
When it comes to guest posting, you can either guest post on other blogs or have others contribute to your own blog.
Guest Posting on Other Blogs:
Posting on other blogs has some great benefits. It puts more links to your blog out on the web, which makes it easier for people to find your site in search engines like Google or Bing.
Another way guest posting helps grow your following is by positioning you as an expert in your field. Once you post on another blog, you can add a link to the article and a short description of what you wrote in the Publications section on your LinkedIn profile. You can also add a logo from that blog or link your article to a Press or As Seen On page on your site.
When looking for blogs to guest post on, look for blogs outside your niche that might need help on the topic you’re an expert in. For example: If you’re a graphic designer, try posting on a blog for crafters on the topic of the importance of good logo design.
Having Contributors on Your Own Blog:
Having other people guest post on your own blog can also help publicize your site. When someone posts on your blog, they will most likely share links to the post on their social networks, so your blog is being publicized to their following in addition to yours. Any extra eyes on your site can help grow the number of followers you have.
Collaborating with other bloggers, both larger and smaller, on a project is a fun way to grow everyone’s following. Brainstorm some ideas for a project you’d like to work on and make a list of bloggers who might be able to help the project.
Once you have all of the details ironed out, reach out to the bloggers on your list to see if they would be interesting in the collaboration. If they say yes, make sure you take care of all of the details for them to ensure that it is as easy for them as possible. If they say no, thank them for their response and move on to the next person on your list.
For example, you could coordinate a blog series on blogger’s favorite DIY projects. Each blogger you collaborate with would be assigned a week, and you would both promote the post through your social media pages. Then when the blog series is over, you could combine each of the DIY posts into an ebook and give it to each of the contributors to give to their following.
This helps each person in the collaboration because their content is being shared with new audiences as each person helps promote their post.
When you focus on these steps to grow your following, you’ll also notice relationships and friendships being formed with the people in your collaborations, which can lead to bigger opportunities down the road.
Guest posting and collaborations will help you go from zero fans and followers to a growing fan base and a growing presence in the online world.
Download the worksheet to help you get started with guest posting and collaborating: Get More Followers - Guest Posting and Collaborations (The Worksheet)
It’s no secret that it is far easier to obtain additional business from current clients than to acquire new clients. To increase revenue, business strategists encourage the practice of upselling or cross-selling. I hate those terms because they allude to selling your client something they don’t need. For example, I never want to “sell” my client on a fancy, cost-prohibitive, printed brochure when their business may reap more rewards from investing in a website redesign.
Instead of “selling” your client additional products or projects, how about focusing on selling yourself as an asset to their team?
Take the time to truly listen to your clients. Ask the right questions. You may find that what they think they need is very different from what they actually need. Show them that you are looking out for their dollar, and they will value you and your work for years to come.
This is key. Allow me to give you an example. After receiving a signed quote for a logo design, I sent my client a specific production schedule outlining when to expect the first draft, revisions, etc. I allowed 14 days to develop my first round of concepts. It may take me far less than 14 days to design the logo, but this way I build in some cushion for the what-ifs (my child gets sick, a family emergency comes up, etc.). Luckily for me, no “what-ifs” erupted so I was able to deliver the logo concepts 2 days earlier than promised. Result: A pleasantly surprised client. Don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t reach deadlines or are delivering sub-par work. If you set realistic expectations and communicate clear deadlines, your clients will be willing to wait for quality work.
And no, I’m not talking about the app. You can accomplish a lot over phone and email these days, but nothing develops a business relationship as effectively as in-person communication. Schedule a coffee date to introduce yourself and brainstorm. Your client will not only be invested in the project. He/she will be invested in you.
Don’t be a fair weather friend. Check in with your client a few weeks/months after project completion and ask how things are going. Ask if there is anything you could have done to make the project more successful. Show you care about more than a paid invoice.
You knew this one was coming. Regular blogging will not only do wonders for your website’s SEO, it will enhance your client relationships. I am amazed at how my “mommy blog,” Letters From LaLa has increased my freelance design business. Your clients want to know you as a person, not just a designer.
A few months ago, I wrote Design Tips for Facebook Pages, stating that customizing app icons are a must! This tip lead to some confusion since many people had trouble finding and installing an app in the first place… not good. So today, I’m going to show you how to find and install some of the same apps that I use on Ciera Design’s Facebook page! Finding and installing apps on Facebook is not as easy as it sounds. The Facebook search feature is not very good and since apps are developed by third parties, steps to install them vary.
I use NetworkedBlogs for my blog tab. This app can also publish new blog posts to your page automatically.
- Register your blog here.
- After you register, you will need to get confirmed as the author in order to claim your blog (steps provided by NetworkedBlogs).
- Once you verify that you own the website, click Add Tab to Facebook Page which appears in the left sidebar under the Blog Management section.
- Select your page from the pop up and click Add Page Tab.
- Click Added to 1 page(s). Click to edit. which now appears in the sidebar.
- Click Choose Blogs at the top, check your blog, then click Save.
- Now Blog will be one of your app tabs when you visit your page!
- Click on Click here to Install.
- Choose your page and click Add RSS for Pages.
- Click Allow.
- Enter your feed url and click Add. This will usually be http://yoururl.com/feed OR your Feedburner url if you use Feedburner.
- Set your other options to your preference and click Save changes. Done!
I use Etsy Showcase for my Shop tab. This app can also show your shops about information, policies and feedback.
- Find the app here.
- Click the Add To My Page (FREE) button.
- Select your page and click Add Etsy Showcase.
- Click the app now on your Facebook page and add your Shop Name or ID and click Update.
- Now your Etsy Showcase will be one of your app tabs when you visit your page!
I use Tweets to Pages for my Twitter tab. This app can also publish tweets to your page automatically.
- Install the app here.
- Click the Click here to Install button.
- Select your page and click Add Tweets to Pages.
- Allow insights permission and accept the Terms of Service.
- Click the Authenticate with Twitter link, fill in your preferences and Save Changes.
- Now Twitter will be one of your app tabs when you visit your page!
I use Pinterest Page App for my Pinterest tab. This app can show pins from selected pin boards.
- Find the app here.
- Select your page and click Add Page Tab.
- Fill in your setting and hit Save Settings.
- Now Pinterest will be one of your app tabs when you visit your page!
I use Instagram Feed for my Instagram tab.
- Find the app here.
- Select the page on which your Instagram feed will be added and click Add Instagram feed Tab.
- Sign in to your Instagram account.
- Now Instagram Feed will be one of your app tabs when you visit your page!
To add other apps not listed here, use the Facebook search bar and select an option that shows up under the APPS header. That will bring you to the apps profile page. Remember, that besides the stock Facebook apps (Photos, Videos, Links, Events and Notes) any other app you install will be a third-party app, which means that it is not necessarily reputable or may not work at all. Each app works differently, so it can be a bit confusing. Now that you have your apps installed, highlight what’s important and customize your app icons!
Note: This was published October 19, 2012 and updated on February 2, 2013. Facebook tends to update things frequently so if you see that anything is out of date, or you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll update this post!