Tag archive for business - page 2

How to Give Your Blog Readers Exactly What They Need

How to Give Your Readers Exactly What They Need Worksheet

We’re all looking for better ways to connect with our readers in hopes that they come back and read your blog on a regular basis or buy something from you at some point, right? Lucky for us, there’s a trick to giving them exactly what they’re looking for. Here’s the two-step process:

1. What Problems Do Your Readers Have?

Knowing what your readers are struggling with is the key in figuring out exactly what they want. You have to figure out the types of problems they are having in your field of expertise so you can help solve those problems.

If you’re a web designer and blog about your work and inspiration, it’s possible that your readers are other designers or business owners who are starting their own website or are inspired by your work. They may be dealing with a variety of problems – from where their email sign-up forms should be on their website to what fonts are easiest to read on the web. Some may not know the questions to ask web designers when they start working with one, and others may not know all of the important information they’ll need to give their designer to get started. These are all things you can help them with (and problems you can solve) on your blog.

On the worksheet provided, make a list of all the different problems your readers might have that you could solve with your knowledge in your field. Think back to the basics – maybe some of the topics in classes you learned back in school or some lessons you’ve learned in the past. Remember – no problem is too big or small to write down.

 

2. How Can You Solve Their Problems?

Now comes the getting more followers/better customers part! Once you know the problems your readers have, you can instantly turn those problems around into solutions.

Starting on page 2 of the worksheet, write down each problem, and underneath it list out all the different ways you could solve this problem for your reader. You may be able to think of multiple ways to fix each problem – write every idea you have down.

Some of the problems you’ve written down may be perfect for new blog posts or series, and some of them would be great new offerings you can add to your list of services. Next to each solution, check mark which you think it’d be better for and start brainstorming ways to put each into action!

When you’re able to solve a problem for someone, they feel like you’ve given them insider tips & tricks and in turn form a stronger bond with you and your brand which makes them more likely to come back for more and buy from you.

 

The Worksheet

Download the What Readers Want Worksheet to help you organize your lists and goals!

 

How-to-Give-Your-Readers-Exactly-What-They-Need-Question

What are some ways you solve problems for your readers? Share in the comments!

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How to Work from Home & Keep Your Sanity

Last July I quit my full-time corporate designer job to venture out on my own, and I had so many ideas about how wonderful working from home was going to be. I learned very quickly that working for yourself can be a difficult job – you must have a lot of self-control and focus. Here are some tricks I’ve used to keep myself on track while being my own boss.

How to Work from Home and Keep Your Sanity

1. Set Work Hours

One of the reasons I quit my full-time job was that my husband was tired of me coming home after an 8 hour day and spending 4 more hours working on side projects. And to be honest, I was tired of it too. So when I started working from home, I set a rule that I wouldn’t work nights or weekends anymore.

For the first few months, this was really hard to control. I was enjoying my freedom during the day by going on walks and getting housework done, but I was putting off design work for the evening – which made me quitting my job pointless.

When you work from home, you need to find a happy medium – one of the best things about working for yourself is the freedom you have to come and go as you please, but you need to have the self-control to get your work done during the day.

That’s why setting work hours is a good practice. If you feel more motivated and can concentrate better in the morning, then set you work hours from 9 to 1 and run your errands in the afternoon. Or maybe work a normal 8 hour work day and allow yourself an hour lunch break like a normal job would.

Of course, you’ll have to adjust these hours depending on your workload or when your clients can meet with you, but whatever hours you choose make sure you stick to them so you’re not working when you don’t want to be.

2. Create an Inspiring Workspace

Having a creative space set aside for you to work is another important aspect of working from home. Being able to go to your ‘office’ each morning and being inspired by your surroundings will help keep you focused on your work and away from distractions. Having your own workspace helps keep your work organized, and it will make it easier for you to distinguish work life from home life.

Even if you spend part of your day working from other areas of your house (like your bed!), it’s nice to have a space dedicated just to work. Plus, it’s fun to have a place just for you to keep your pretty design & craft supplies, right?

3. Get Motivated

When you work from home, there are going to be days you don’t feel like getting out of bed. Taking the day off one or two days a month isn’t the end of the world, but taking 3 days off in a row when you have projects due isn’t going to make you a successful entrepreneur.

For those days you just can’t seem to find any motivation, create a playlist of all the songs that pump you up or inspire you. I have a Spotify playlist called Biz Inspiration and anytime I need a pick me up, I listen to those songs and am instantly inspired to get stuff done.

Another way to beat being unmotivated is to get out of the house. I’ve found that if I go to my favorite coffee shop, grab a coffee and put my headphones in, I can get so much done in an afternoon. Being away from the distractions of home helps me focus on my client’s needs instead of my own, and gets me motivated to get more work done.

As hard as it can be at times, owning your own business is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life, and all the struggle is worth it in the end!

 How-to-Work-From-Home-Keep-Your-Sanity-Question

What tips do you have for working at home? Share them in the comments!

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4 Ways to Stand Out from the Rest

Make Your Business  Stand Out from the Rest

These days, it seems like everyone is starting their own business or blog, which crowds the market and makes it hard for anyone at all to stand out – unless you make yourself different, memorable and remarkable.

Today I’m sharing a few ways to make your business stand out from the rest.

1. Take the rules and throw them out the window

There are just some things that certain niches don’t do, simply because no one has done it before. One way to become memorable is push the envelope and think outside the normal box that everyone else in your industry lives in. It can take lots of brainstorming and work, but creating a service or a product that is different from everyone else’s will pay off. Think of Virgin America Airlines – what other airline has mood lighting and screens in every headrest that allow you to watch tv and surf the internet without a laptop? They thought outside of what other airlines were doing and are hugely successful because of it.

2. Use practices of your favorite brands and infuse them into your own

You love your favorite brands for a reason – maybe they offer little extras with each purchase or they have the best customer service on the planet. Write down all of the reasons you love your favorite brands, and try to figure out ways to infuse some of those things into your own brand. This will help you build a brand you love while standing out  because you’re a little bit different from the rest of them.

3. Offer something unique

Just because other designers offer branding, web and illustrating services doesn’t mean you have to too. Know what you’re good at and stick with that. If you have restaurant experience and love the fast paced world of hospitality, think about focusing your design services just toward hospitality companies. That way you’re working only with clients who are in an area of work you’re an expert in, and you’ll become known for just working with those certain types of clients. This helps you create a unique brand among others who are offering all sorts of services to all sorts of people.

4. Don’t wait for permission

If you want something – go for it! Don’t wait for people to reach out to you, if there’s a project you’re dying to work on or a collaboration you want to do, be the person that reaches out. You don’t have to wait around for someone to give you permission to make your dreams happen. Be the connector and people will see you as a person who knows what they want and knows what types of projects they want to work on. You’ll set yourself apart from those waiting around for success to fall into their lap.

 Make-Your-Brand-Stand-Out-Question

What ways have you tried to set yourself apart from the crowd? Share them in the comments!

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Freelance Advice: Timelines and Project Management

Timelines and Project Management

 

Q: What tips do you have for developing a project production schedule?

A: Ideally, your client will allocate ample time for project development, allowing you the luxury of setting your own production schedule. But don’t abuse the situation by keeping the deadline open-ended. Set a detailed schedule and communicate it clearly with your client. Here is a sample production schedule I might send a client after I receive a signed agreement:
 
Initial Design and Development Delivered by: Wednesday, March 13th
Revision 1: 2-3 business days from when I receive feedback
Revision 2: 2-3 business days from when I receive feedback
Final Delivery of Files: 1-2 business days from when I receive approval
 
Sending a specific and detailed schedule like the one above sets realistic client expectations and prevents clients from calling you daily for project updates. It also is a tactful way of warning the client of the repercussions of delayed feedback. Nothing is worse than waiting weeks for a client to get back to you with feedback and then them expecting the original delivery date.
 
More often than not, a client will set a specific deadline. For example, a client needs a sales sheet completed and printed for an upcoming trade show. In this situation, you will still need to send a detailed schedule. Just work backwards from the deadline to set your schedule, taking into consideration printing and/or or shipping timelines. 
 

Q: What do you do when a client needs a project done yesterday?  

A: Consider WHY the project is so pushed for time. Do you get the feeling that it is because the client is disorganized and waited until the last minute, or was it more outside the client’s control? If you know the deadline would require pulling all-nighters and working weekends, you may consider charging a rush fee to complete the project in the required time frame. If the client is not willing to pay the rush fee, then my advice is to walk away. These types of clients do not appreciate your time or talent. If you take on the project and do not charge a rush fee, the client will continue to manage future projects in the same manner – rushed and last-minute. In a sense, you would be inadvertently “training” your client for repeat offenses. 
 

Q: How do you handle multiple deadlines/overlapping projects?

A: As a freelance designer, time management is a skill that needs to be constantly honed. We would all like a steady and consistent stream of projects, but the reality is that there are typically dry spells when you are wishing for more work and then BAM – multiple projects hit and you end up running around like a crazy person. When you are balancing multiple deadlines, I suggest taking out your calendar and prioritizing. Break up the work into chunks and set “mini” internal deadlines for yourself. If you have a 24-page newsletter you are designing, set a goal of completing 6 pages by a specific date. The next day you can change gears and work on another client’s logo. It’s ok to bounce back and forth between projects – just make sure you are still working efficiently and that you don’t sacrifice quality on one particular project because you spent ALL your working hours on another project. 
 
What has been your biggest challenge in handling timelines and project management
 
What about you? What has been your biggest challenge in handling timelines and project management? 
 

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How to Stay Productive

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.

tips on how to stay productive and get your tasks done

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.

Focus on Five

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.

Break Down Bigger Projects

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.

Find Your Ideal Work Time

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.

List What You’ve Accomplished

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.

De-Clutter Your Mind

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.

Do What You Love

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.

The Worksheet

Download the How to Stay Productive Worksheet to help you organize your lists and goals!

 

What are your tips for staying productive?

What are your tips for staying productive? Share in the comments!

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How to Decide When to Go Freelance

Hey guys, Lauren is here today with her monthly dose of freelance advice! If you have any specific freelancing question, send us an email and we will answer in a future post!

How to Decide When to Go Freelance Drawing

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.

Experience

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. 

Finances

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. 

Personality

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. 

How-to-Decide-When-to-Go-Freelance-Question

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!

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