This year has been a monumental one for me and my business. I started off just as I always had — going with the flow and trying to keep up as my schedule allowed. Around the middle of the year I started to get serious about implementing systems that would help me live a life I wanted outside of work, build a strong and successful design studio, and make big strides at my full-time job. Seems impossible, right? I thought so too! For the longest time I was hunkering down and just making it happen, day by day, moment by moment. When I stopped to look back, I realized what implementing these systems did for my life and business: this past year I was able to take most of my weekends off, take a few trips, grow my design studio, get promoted at my full-time job, start and keep up with a workout routine, and the most surprising thing… I was able to pull in six figures in revenue between my branding clients, freelance hand-lettering work, and my full-time job’s salary. I’m a little nervous about sharing that last fact, but I hope that it serves as an example on how implementing small changes and having a plan for your business and life can pay off — literally — big time. The crazy thing is, I didn’t do anything too special! I just make small tweaks, and did so consistently over time. That’s the slight edge in full-effect right there! It wasn’t until this week when I sat down to crunch the numbers and experiences and realized this all was possible. I’m want to share a few of the ways in which I was able to keep up with it all this past year so that you can start living your own version of having it all. Ready? Let’s dive in!
You’ll need them when you finally sit down to work on your business and your brain just isn’t in the mood to come up with those ideas. I did a lot of research on intuition for my thesis, and part of the way we creatively work is when we’re given an overarching ‘problem’ to solve. We are problem solvers and pattern-finders naturally as humans. This thing is, these connections don’t happen when they are forced. They happen naturally as we go about our daily lives. Have you been thinking about how to build more community on your blog? Maybe something someone says during a business meeting at work mixes with this problem you’ve been trying to solve, and now you see how to go about solving it in a whole new way. This is how intuition and inspiration works — it’s a meeting of separate thoughts to create a new idea that solves a problem you’ve been thinking about. Keeping something around you to take notes on these ideas is so important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on long walks and had ‘the best’ ideas that I can’t remember when I get home. So frustrating. Now, my favorite ways to keep notes are through the notes app on my iPhone, and through Evernote. In college, I kept a sketchbook with me at all times — one book that kept all my notes, my drawings, and my journaling. It helped me get everything out of my head and somewhere concrete where I could look back and be inspired all over again.
I wrote a post recently about how I schedule my time to make sure that I am getting my work done, staying healthy, and having a social life. Since implementing this schedule last spring, it has been a GAME CHANGER for me. When you go through your days without a plan, what you really want to do rarely gets done. Having that on top of your mind serves as a constant reminder of what you’re not getting done, and it leads you in a downward spiral of not feeling good enough, and feeling like you can’t accomplish anything. Friends, you totally can! Take a look at this post to get started creating your own schedule for making it all happen! Having dedicated times for freelance work has also helped me feel more like a professional. Instead of not knowing when I will be able to get work done for clients, I now have a very clear understanding of where I have time, what projects are getting done in that time, and when I can have deliverables to clients. They know my office hours and understand why I don’t answer emails during the day or have changes made in a few hours. It’s a win-win, and everyone has a clear understanding of what to expect!
This was my year of systems. If I can recommend anything, it would be getting used to working with different programs to help you automate and organize the processes you’re working through on a regular basis.
Like I said above, I use Evernote to capture my thoughts and notes for just about everything. I write my blog posts here, I keep my health log here, and I keep notes for when I skype with my clients. Evernote is my place for capturing anything that I want to use in the future. Oh, and it’s pretty! As a designer, I have a hard time working with systems that aren’t 1: intuitive, or 2: aesthetically pleasing.
I worked on basecamp with a couple projects this past year and there was just something about it that I couldn’t get in to. I’ve been using asana this past year and have fallen in love! It’s so easy to use, beautiful, and keeps all my clients and collaborators working in one place to get projects complete and on-time. This has been another game-changer for my business this year. After working with it for a couple months, I suggested that my team at work use it as well. We’ve been using it for a couple weeks now, and it’s been a HUGE step towards getting organized and getting all those little things that seem to slide in projects done. I can’t say enough good things about this program.
I have also been using FreshBooks and oh man…crazy how much this changed my view on bookkeeping. Before I was using FreshBooks, I was designing individual invoices for each of my client’s projects. It was insane. I thought that was the easiest way to make sure that I was putting a pretty foot forward and showing my clients that I meant business. I was so, so wrong. Enter FreshBooks, and I’ve been able to send my clients invoices in minutes, not days, and they get the added bonus of being able to pay online automatically after I send them their invoices. No more writing and mailing checks, or flipping back and forth to pay pal to make sure you’re sending the right amount. FreshBooks is also integrated through pay pal, and you can pay that all automatically with one click. Easy peasy! I also love that when you log in there is this little bar chart that shows you how much you’ve made compared to your expenses, and there is a white area on the top of the income bar that shows how much you have out in unpaid invoices. On top of that, I can also chart how much time I’m spending on my retainer client’s projects each month, and then send out an invoice for that time. You can also track you expenses, and screenshot receipts and add them in for tax purposes. I’m honestly just obsessed with how easy this program made my life this year. I also think there is something to organizing your money that makes you feel more in control of what’s happening…and that leads to more planning and organization on the business side, which leads to more profit! Win-win.
Lastly, I’ve been using both google docs and dropbox to save files and share content with clients. I use dropbox for my personal files, and I use google docs to send out client homework. A few of my clients use Google drive to drop content to me, so these two programs are usually very interchangeable. Best thing? Asana has a little button on each task where you can upload from BOTH dropbox and google drive! I love when programs I love are easy to use together.
I love taking notes in Evernote about blog topics. I quickly jot down the topic and then write a brief outline of the post. Later, when I have a couple posts ready to go I can sit down and type them out all at once. Same goes for scheduling the posts. Same also goes for things like meal prepping, laundry day, days when I have a BUNCH of production at work. Tasks you can do over and over go MUCH more quickly than going through the process of doing something all the way through once. Whatever you might have to do several of, batching it in steps and doing multiples helps save time and keeps you less stressed as you juggle working full-time and freelancing.
Hire help! This was huge for me this past year. I was finally able to relax and take a break when I needed it and I wasn’t drowning in to-do’s. I hired two designers who work with me part-time to bring client’s brands to life. They have been instrumental in my business growth this past year, and helped me give my clients their work more quickly and with more focus on the details. Delegation looks different for everyone. Whatever tasks you can delegate, test it out. It’s hard giving up that control, but I have a saying that I always repeat to myself when thinking about this: If you can find someone to do the job 80% as well as you can, delegate it! Beyond delegating for your freelancing business, it might also be helpful to delegate things at home. Are you spending several hours cleaning the house on the weekends? Hiring help with that might be a better alternative. If you are making more per hour than you’re paying someone else, that’s a couple more hours you can dedicate to your business. Delegating is the one true way to business growth — you can only get so far doing it by yourself! Start small, and work your way up!
This is one of my favorite tricks. I LOVE finding a couple minutes here and there to fit in things I’m passionate about. This year, getting healthy was a big priority for me. I also wanted to grow my business the best I could while working full-time. So, I multi-tasked during my lunches and walked around the indoor track at work while listening to business podcasts. If I had notes or ideas, I’d type them up in evernote on my phone. I’d also spend my car rides listening to podcasts, and taking voice memos for business ideas. When I’m prepping dinner, I take some time to fill the coffee pot for the next day so it’s ready to go. I wake up at 4:45 most days so that I can get a good workout in, or write my newsletter. Here’s a weird one, but I wash my hair once a week! That saves SO MUCH valuable time in the morning, and dry shampoo is my best friend ever. I shower daily, but my hair is something that can look OK with a little dry shampoo. You can totally judge! Hah. If there is anything that you can cut out of your schedule, or if you can add in something that is related to your goals, do it! Last year I was always complaining that life was getting in the way of really growing my business. Finding ways to work towards my goals in these fringe hours has helped free up time to keep most of my weekends free, and gives me time to wholeheartedly devote to my business at night. You have more time than you think if you’re really strategic and look in to what patterns you’re making. Small tweaks here and there really add up!
Ready to get your business and life in tip-top shape for the new year? Below you can download your FREE checklist going through these steps with suggestions to grow a thriving business and life that you’re thrilled with.