Helpful Tips For A Creative
I admit it, blogging is not on my list of priorities when it comes to running a web based business. I always tell my clients to set aside some time every single week to write up a new blog, but you’ve heard the saying – do as I say, not as I do. I should really practice what I preach when it comes to web-related things.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of hearing my blog sermon… it’s important to blog regularly because it tells Google and all it’s bots that your website is active. An active website means the bots index it regularly and that helps it appear higher up on the list of websites Google deems relevant for whatever search terms you’ve plugged into your website’s SEO backend.
Again. Do as I say, and not as I do.
In my blogging absence, I’ve been working like the devil is chasing me. Working and learning and building a name for myself; all good things when it comes to growing a business. In the past few months, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about juggling clients that I’d like to share.
For the sake of full disclosure, I’d like to admit that I’m the queen of procrastination. I love deadlines because they make fun noises as they zoom over my head and I’ve always worked better under pressure. But as I’ve come to realize in the recent months, procrastination leads to many sleepless nights when a project changes at the last moment or an emergency comes up that requires your immediate and undivided attention. Have you ever heard the saying, “An oversight on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”? It doesn’t apply to service type businesses like a web designer… but it is an excellent opportunity for an up and coming designer to really build a reputation.
Write that down.
But also write down that last minute emergencies on your client’s part are a fantastic way to pad your bank account. In the last little while, I’ve become intimately acquainted with rush fees and how absolutely wonderful they can be. Keep that in mind.
When it comes down to juggling clients, it’s all about organization. I have a wire bound notepad that is basically my bible during the week. It’s not a planner because I don’t like being constrained to dates and times and limited space… but it helps my day make sense and stay on track. It doesn’t hurt that I love checking tasks off and muttering to myself how productive I am.
I block time out for each client or else I have a tendency to go a little crazy. Last minute changes stress me out and being able to relegate them to happy little blocks of time helps me not rip my hair out. For example, I have clients who pay me for about 4 hours of time each month. I schedule their work for an hour one day per week. That way, I know I’ll be working on their account during that time and I can’t schedule other clients during that time. Now, I know things can (and do) change, but it’s always helpful to have that block to plan for because you can move it around if the situation calls for it.
On the same note, don’t be so rigid that you only answer them during that one block of time. Emails don’t (or shouldn’t) count as working with clients during normal business hours. It’s okay to answer emails during a certain part of each day, but don’t ignore your clients. They keep you in the lifestyle you’re accustomed to, as is the running joke in my household.
Another very important tip I’ve learned, and implemented into my personal life, is the handy “Do Not Disturb” function on my iPhone. Without it, my phone has this tendency to buzz at annoying times… like at 3am after I’ve finally managed to drift off to sleep. With that Do Not Disturb function, I’m able to have a little quiet time and establish certain boundaries in my business. Boundaries are very important when you’re running a home based, digital business. Without them, you could find yourself working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and cringing whenever your phone dings or chirps or vibrates. It leads to burn out, anxiety and in some cases, incoherent rambling and creative new cuss words.
For the record, lovely clients of mine who may be reading this (love you)… my phone goes into quiet time at around 7pm until about 8am. I may not sleep that much, but sometimes I like to troll Facebook in peace. Of course, there’s a better than average chance I’ll be working on something and I could reply to you… but treat it as an exception to the rule. 🙂
Managing multiple clients isn’t just about phone calls and emails, but also face to face meetings. It’s important to train your clients to respect your time and it’s your job to keep the meetings on track and on schedule. I’m really bad at that, but I’m trying to be better. Your time is valuable and if you’re finding yourself in “quick” meetings that always run over.. something needs to change. When it comes to meeting new clients for a project consult, I schedule 30 minutes. That’s generally long enough to discuss the project while keeping the client mindful of the fact your time IS valuable and it’s probably not prudent to discuss the weather or veer too far off the project track. That said, you can most definitely extend the meeting if you feel it’s necessary to really get a full idea of the project… but remember, always keep things on track and relevant to the project at hand. Trust me on this; since implementing this 30 minute consult, my meetings have been way, way more productive. I’ll tell you a quick story about a client I had before I implemented this rule.
I used to work with a client who wanted to meet with me every Sunday for a “meeting of the minds”. He was one of my first clients and I was really hesitant to rock the boat and risk making him mad, so I agreed to meet every Sunday. It didn’t take me long to become very upset that I was giving up my weekend time, but then I started realizing these meetings weren’t meant as check ins… but a way to have me work in front of him, while he looked over my shoulder and critiqued everything. I found myself trapped in the office for three, four, sometimes five hours every Sunday. As you may assume, working in that manner is highly stressful and extremely counter-productive. Eventually, I fired that client and have continued to decline every project he’s brought me since.
I should probably end this blog before you start to think I’m too cynical. I’m really not, but I can tell you first hand that the creative industry has an abnormally high rate of burn out. It’s important to set boundaries and learn little tricks to help you “cheat” a bit to stay ahead. Please don’t take that to mean you should recycle previous work for new clients, but it’s helpful to streamline your processes to become as efficient as possible. If you’re not careful, you’ll start to dread your job and you’ll find yourself scowling instead of smiling when you receive a new client inquiry. Without boundaries and proper processes and a way to differentiate between work time and play time… you’re bound to run out of steam sooner rather than later. Trust me on this one.
Until next time!