Want to get the year started off on the right foot?
You’ve probably made some resolutions already, but eating less chocolate isn’t going to help your work life. To improve your business, spark creativity and lower your blood pressure, try adding the suggestions below to your plans for 2015.
Update your portfolio/website/self-promotional material
I’ve been trotting out the old “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” phrase whenever someone asks about my own branding and website. For eight years.
I’ve even learned some variations on it—like, “the plumber’s house always has a dripping tap” and “a blacksmith’s home has wooden spoons.” (Mostly because I was tired of explaining that the word cobbler can mean something other than dessert). I had a problem.
It’s a good problem to have—being so busy working on client projects all the time that you end up neglecting your own. Of course, being incredibly self-critical, creatives are usually their own most difficult clients; always wanting to “just tweak a little bit more” before launching something self-representative onto the web, or etching it into permanency via printing press.
Taking the time to update your self-promo material works to showcase your skills and talent and promotes your business to those that are interested in you, allowing you to be more selective with the work you choose to take on. While you may be busy, imagine the work you are NOT GETTING because a potential employer was turned off by your dated or non-existent portfolio, and think about how different their impression would have been had they seen all the amazing things you’ve worked on recently.
Review your resource organization
(or lack thereof)
We’ve all seen—and many of us have been—that designer whose desktop is littered with file and folder icons, most of which aren’t sorted
or organized and all of which desperately need to be backed-up to avoid potential disaster in case of a hardware failure. The new year is a great time to get the beast of file organization under control and implement a consistent hierarchy and backup process that works for you.
Once you have a system that lets you easily reference and locate files, you’ll save an incredible amount of time doing simple things like pulling up last year’s version for updating or referencing assets and linked files. It may not be the sexiest item on this list, but it can make a world of difference to your day to day workflow.
Find a new “go-to” font
That font you use when you’re just not sure what to use. The one you select just to see how things look, and are always happy with the results. The one that has become an unofficial signature of your work, unifying projects across various clients.
Whether it’s Helvetica, Gotham or Roboto, give yourself a break and work hard at not using it when you have the option. Explore what else is out there—you’ll be shocked how fresh your designs will look with such a straightforward adjustment.
Get some exercise
Long hours, lots of coffee and stressful deadlines often add up to poor eating habits and health—especially if you are an independent designer working out of a home office. Make time to get active, find a sport or activity that you have a passion for to stay motivated, and stick to it! Even a short walk after lunch every day will reenergize you and get your creative juices flowing. After a few weeks you’ll find you have more energy for work and personal life.
You know the one I’m talking about. The one that drives you mad on every project. The one that consumes 10 times the amount of your day than they should, and then questions every item on every invoice you send them. The one whose very name showing up in your inbox gives you that little twinge of stress.
I know they pay (eventually). They’re still not worth it. You don’t have to be mean about firing them—but fire them. Quickly. And move on with your business.
Take all of that time and energy and focus on the clients you love to work with, and redeem a little piece of yourself in the process. (And since you’ve committed to Resolution No. 1 by now, your self-promotion will soon bring shiny new clients to take their place!)
Work on a project with new collaborators
You’d be amazed what you can learn by taking on a project with a new partner or team. While conferences and webinars are great for hearing about other people’s creative process, actually working on a project with new partners gets you right into the nitty-gritty of someone else’s workflow, in addition to taking you out of your comfort zone.
Find someone experienced with things that you aren’t and learn what you can from them to improve your weak areas. The more distinctive their work is from yours, the more opportunity you both have to learn about each other’s approach to everything from basic design process to client management to administrative functions and billing. At worst, you learn what not to do—and at best you find a wonderful new partnership that takes both parties to the next level!
Use Comic Sans in a paid project
Seriously, do it. Figure out how to make it work. Then send us pictures. 😉 •
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Designedge Canada magazine.