On Monday my first Get Your Sh*t Together email subscription goes out. I'm ecstatic. I feel like I'm prepping for a cozy coffee break with a whole bunch of pretty, creative ladies (and some dudes). Six weeks of coffee breaks when we'll be diving deep into some crazy awesome get-shit-doneness.
When I started planning this series, I thought about doing six separate topics for life and biz. Then, as the content was forming and the ideas were flowing I decided to give it more of a flow. The content morphed into much more of a structure for a creative day, from morning routine to organizing for productivity and how to let it all go and enjoy life.
If you haven't signed up yet, there's still time. The first email goes out on Monday, and one will go out each Monday for 6 consecutive weeks, giving you a look inside my own creative life and biz, with tasks, to-dos, printables, and chit chat to make you productive. Well, to help you get your shit together.
If you haven't yet, enroll now in the subscription and get on the list. For $39 you get awesome exclusive content that I'll never share anyone else for 6 straight weeks. It's like the get-shit-done fairy has brought Christmas a little early. Subscribe now >>
I wrote a blog post once about some investments I've made in my business, and how important it is to put money into your biz. It's a post that I bring up all the time when talking to creative friends and clients, and it's a subject I find myself constantly wanting to revisit and clarify. So, here we go.
Making investments in my business is something that I make very important. It's right up there with paying myself, and maybe sometimes a bit more important, depending on the situation. For example, I plan to take a small pay cut next month to invest in a new bomb-diggity iMac. This doesn't bother me, as I know that investing in that new (larger, faster, and shinier) iMac will make me more productive, which equals maybe a pay raise in the near future.
So, investing money back into my biz is crazy-important to me. And for lots of reasons.
buying important things = more productivity = more money
Like that iMac, putting my money and research time into purchasing things for my biz that will make me more productive = Emily for the win.
For another example, I recently dished out $600 for some project management software (and will soon be adding $300 more). Since hiring on David as project manager, my Five Star notebook note-taking system just wasn't quite cutting it anymore. Shooting paper planes across the studio isn't the most efficient way of getting shit done (but sure sounds way fun).
For my clients, this almost always comes up when they fret about the expense of a new website. May I site Evy and Jessica and Bob as proof that putting in the dough brings in the dough (if you do your part, too, of course)? 'Nough said.
paying employees = good economic karma
I believe in economic karma. If you help boost the economy of someone, then you'll get a boost too, in some way. So woo woo, but I believe it. I like to practice this in two main ways: supporting small businesses and paying employees.
Sure, I could work my ass off 24/7 and do all my work all on my own, but 1) I would hate my life and work and 2) being a tight-wad doesn't help anyone. I would rather hire some help, pay them well (what I pay David and Corey is pretty damn good), and allow us to all live happier lives working a job we love that doesn't leave us feeling undervalued. And that equals good economic karma.
setting intentions = dominating goals = whoa growth
I try to always set intentions when I make a time or money investment in my biz. If I put the time and money into the new studio to make it awesome, what do I want in return? What I want is to become a local role model of what a creative can accomplish, and position myself to bring in $100,000 / year.
What about that new iMac? I want it to allow me to design and develop more efficiently, and allow me to comfortably take in more projects. It will also allow me to retire my current iMac to Corey, who works on a PC (I know, don't judge the poor guy), allowing him to be more streamlined with my process, allowing us to both work more efficiently together.
Each investment has an intention. No meaningless spending going on here.
putting things in motion = making room for growth
I totally get woo woo when this comes up, and envision a big give-and-take in the universe. I call this making room for growth. I do the same when I buy clothes for Cute Kid a size too big. I plan on her growing into them. And – sure enough – within a few short months she's in the quite nicely. I don't buy them ridiculously big, but just enough thinking ahead so that I'm not squeezing her into shoes a size too small, and potentially stunting the growth of her foofies. So, take that analogy, and make it fit your biz. Make room for growth.
Every time I commit to investing in my business, whether it's investing time to plan a cool blog series (which equated to gaining almost 100 Facebook followers and almost 300 newsletter subscribers), hiring Corey and David (which gives me time to do what I love, and be more proactive about bringing in the dough), or paying out for some project management software (hello, seamless productivity!), there's always a positive effect. I always book the clients to recoup the investment. I always see extended growth.
I'm always moving forward.
And for my clients, when they hire me on to design their website, manage their eCourses, or hussle their email marketing, (given they're being clear about their own intentions and effectively putting them into motion) there's marked growth. Sometimes more than we'd ever have imagined.
I see this all the time. The month that I committed to hiring David and investing in the project management software ended up being my biggest financial month. The month that I commit to moving the studio, I was hired by three local creatives. Making room for growth = you make magic happen.
If you're looking to make room for some growth of your own, and think a website is how you'd like to do it, check out my offerings and get in touch. I'm currently booking projects for November and December.
I'm sure you've heard the term "playing by the rules," right? Well, I make it my personal mission to not play by the rules as much as possible (see Austin and New Orleans). But, as the super-structured Type-A that I am, I certainly do live and – especially – work by several rules. Rules that I'm ok with not ever breaking.
And really, I don't like to think of them as rules. This Type-A has serious authority issues; rules have never been my friends. I like to think of them as solid priorities. These are the things that are important to me in terms of how my clients view me (as an ever-honest professional badass) and how I run my biz (like a well-tuned automobile).
Always with the Honesty
I once had a client unknowingly pay for the same few hours of maintenance twice. I got two checks in the mail, one on one day and one the next. When it came time to wrap up the maintenance, which went over a bit due to extra requests, he asked how much he owed me and I said nothing, as I'd just tacked the extra payment down as extra hours (I do a LOT of maintenance for this client on a regular basis) so he was covered, with a few to spare.
He emailed me back grateful for my honesty, as he hadn't realized that accounting had issued the check twice. It's a big company, and looking back, I probably could've pocketed it and it would have gone unnoticed.
But getting that unexpected gratitude (and that extra bit of trust from a client) was a gazillion times more worth having a few extra hundred bucks in the bank.
It always pays to be honest.
Never the Cell Phone Number
In my almost four years of taking on clients, I think I've only ever given my cell phone number to a single client. It was because we were moving into The Space and I had a meeting scheduled and nothing was hooked up yet. I did my Client Intro call on my celly. A few days later she texted me. I almost flipped.
I'm well aware that this is my total Type-A-ness, but this is a division in my life/work balance that I won't cross. I don't want to be sitting at my dinner table and have a client request come through via text. (Nor do I want to deal with the planning nightmare that comes from remembering that I had a client request come through via text.) When I leave the studio, I leave work. Sure, I keep my email on my phone, so I can check it when I want to, but impromptu client texts and phone calls are not something I want peppered throughout my life.
Never Email After Hours or on the Weekend
Like the cell phone number, I do not like having client requests clogging up my nights and weekends. As soon as 5pm clicks by, or one of those sacred weekend days begin, I won't respond to an email for anything.
However, I will admit that sometimes I come in on the weekends to work. Sometimes I just need to, and sometimes I just want to. I love my job, and I'm busy, so sometimes I'm here even when I'm "not here." And this time is when I get my most work done.
I get the most work done during those times because I'm not being haunted by email. I've stuck to this rule long enough that I don't even feel the pull of email after hours. It's like it's not even there. I can work unimpeded on whatever I wish without feeling the necessity to empty out my inbox.
Never Email From My Phone
I'm a stickler for grammar and punctuation. Even in emails. There is nothing less professional to me than getting a business proposal email from someone when it is wrought with spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Drives me mad.
So, for this reason, and because I don't want to ever feel the need to answer emails on the fly, I never send business emails from my phone.
I will confess that I'll occasionally confirm meetings via phone email if they're time sensitive, but only for local clients and only if I know I won't be at a computer before the time-sensitiveness is up.
Always a Contract
For every project that I book I have a contract. This is not something I am ever willing to fudge on. Ever.
Always do the Celebrating
I make it a serious point to celebrate every little success. I literally still do a crazy happy dance every time I book a new project, even after almost four years. It's important to never get so used to success that you forget to appreciate it, and the hard work you did to get there.
Even now, I just wrapped up my biggest month of all time, and totally treated myself to some new duds this week (duds = clothes, in case that's a totally weird thing to say). Because, doggone it, I deserve it.
Whatever it is, I will celebrate. Just to remember to appreciate all the little and big successes.
Do you work by any rules? Any facets of your biz that you just won't budge on?
In my role as a web designer, I get two kinds of clients: those who have planned and are rip-rarin' to go, and those who have no idea what they want, they just know they want a website.
And, here's how these design projects will pan out:
PLANNED CLIENT: We'll start the project, going over the plan, and hit the road running. The design process goes quickly (because the client knows just what they want, and I know just how to make it look to do what it's gotta do), getting into development quickly. These clients usually are on the up-and-up when getting me their content, which get's loaded quickly into the right places. We test the site, and launch, almost always ahead of schedule.
UNSURE CLIENT: These projects start with a little more digging and are slower to begin. I walk the client through a planning process, where these clients tend to be a little more unsure about what they actually want. Once we get to design, these projects almost always require more edits, and therefore time, before final decisions are made and development begins. Content is entered, and again almost always needs to be rearranged (or, dare I say, proofread and edited, because it's almost always in rough-draft form). Testing the site is usually more of a drawn-out process, because the client is still unsure about how the workflows should go, and sites are launched right on time, if not a couple of days late.
The Planned Client is my dream client, the Unsure Client is not so much. And, no matter how hard I try to educate the Unsure Client throughout the design and development process, there's always a huge element of wishy-washy, because they just can't wrap their head around it.
In the end, the Planned Client projects are faster, happier, and results in more productive launches. The Unsure Client's project is tiring, frustrating, and costs more, because proofreading and extra edits aren't free. These are also usually the businesses that won't last much past the first year.
The lesson here: being prepared for a website design project from the beginning makes all the difference in the world.
Solving the Problem
Having clients unprepared for a website project is a problem I saw years ago when I first launched Indie Shopography eCourse (currently being reorganized and rewritten). The course was a HUGE help, and sent creatives out into the world to find a designer with a plan in place. I felt I was doing the design world a little favor.
For my own clients, and for those who required it, I wanted to be a little more hands-on, and soon started adding website planning consulting to projects for clients who just weren't quite ready for the design phase yet.
This helped immensely, turning wishy-washy clients into dream clients, launching online businesses that rocked it.
And it was just a matter of some intensive planning to take them from Unsure to a Planned superstar.
How You Can Be a Planned Client
Launching an online business is a big endeavor, and all big endeavors should be entered into with a plan in place. This goes for your website, too. Taking some time to really think about what you'd like in a website will make this process all the more easy.
To begin planning, first look at functionality and purpose. Here's a little piece of what I do with my consulting and/or design clients:
1. Outline Functionality
Ask yourself: what do I want my website to do? There are lots of options here, so be sure to think hard and lay them all out. Here's a few to get you started:
- sell my products
- capture email addresses for email marketing
- sell my products to wholesalers
- showcase my portfolio
- build community
- provide member-only content
- share content
- sell services
- give business location
- grow social media
2. Discover Your Purpose
Once you have all your functionality outlined, put them in order from most-important to least-important. Usually, you're top-priority is the purpose, but, just to be sure, ask yourself, "If my website could do just one thing, what would it be?" That's your purpose.
From here, everything your site does should revolve around that purpose, from creating your sitemap, to creating SEO-friendly content. Everything ties in with your site's purpose.
Having A Website Plan
Contacting a designer once you have your Website Plan in place is like contacting them with a special-wrapped present in your hand, just for them.
For my design clients, once the Planning Session is over (that's what I call it), I have a plan in place that goes right into design and development. For my consulting clients, they're able to take this Website Plan into the world to find the designer that's a perfect fit for them and their project.
It's entrepreneur/designer magic.
And so, it's with great pleasure that I am able to announce that my Planning Session consulting is now available as a stand-alone service by yours truly, which comes complete with a take-away-with-you Website Plan.
It's a perfect solution for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to build the online business of their dreams but have no clue where to get started.
Or, if you're a designer who wants to design your own site, but aren't sure where to begin, then the Planning Session is a great place to have the input of a designer but with the freedom to design what you want.
Whatever the case, Planning Session makes you into a Planned Client, giving you the edge on launching your online biz.
Here's the Spill:
Launching a website involves so much more than just hiring a designer and finalizing design concepts. It takes planning, most of which needs to be done before you ever even contact a designer. When a business owner has a clear website plan in place, your website design and implementation goes a million times more easily (and usually a bit cheaper, too!).
The Planning Session is catered to do just that: take a creative business owner's needs and expectations of a new website, and turn them into an actionable plan for determining purpose, gathering their content, and blueprinting functionality. This Website Plan can then use to design your own website or take to another the designer of your choice.
WHAT YOU GET:
- Planning Session Workbook
- 1-Hour Phone or Skype Chat
- Comprehensive Website Plan
- Website Purpose
- Required Functionality
- Hosting/Platform Suggestions, based on your needs
- Content To-Do List
- Content Strategy, including some starter SEO tips and suggestions
- Launch Plan
- 1-Hour Follow-Up Phone or Skype Chat, to discuss Website Plan
In honor of launching this new service (along with the new Indie Tactics Full Session and the Indie Tactics Mini-Session – both for helping your plan and get your online biz heading in the right direction) I'm offering up 3 consulting spots for each offering at a discount until end-of-day Thursday, October 3.
Indie Tactics Full Session – Reg. $1750 NOW $1500 (3 available)
Indie Tactics Mini-Session – Reg. $400 NOW $300 (3 available)
Planning Session – Reg. $1750 NOW $1500 (3 available)
Or, if you're looking for a custom design as well, shoot over a request form and I'll honor these discounts in your consulting/design package as well, as long as the project is booked by end-of-day Thursday, October 3.
We're three-quarters into 2013, and this year is shaping up to be mind-blowing. Over the past couple of weeks David and I have been talking a lot about what our growth plans are going forward, with the fates of both Indie Spaces and Indie Shopography in the balance.
When we began to seriously consider opening Indie Spaces a year ago, we were thrilled to offer our local community a workspace for creatives. What we quickly found out after we opened in February is that most creatives around these parts are clinging onto their 9-to-5 jobs for dear life. I'm not saying that this is bad, goodness knows the security and benefits of a 9-to-5 job are damn nice, and leaving them isn't for everyone.
But, our community isn't the creative free-for-all that we felt in the beginning. We quickly found ourselves as role models, bringing in a good group of both Indies slowly making the jump (to whom we've been able to act as mentors, and have enjoyed watching them flourish) and a group of creatives that would never make the jump.
What that meant for Indie Spaces is that the bulk of our dream customers were only available and/or willing to come in during the late evenings, or wanted us to be open all night. David and I did not open Indie Spaces so that we could become chained to a 24/7 endeavor, so we pulled back, putting our focus into the handful of people who have grown here in the space.
It's been gratifying beyond belief, but we're wondering what could happen if we were to put our efforts into something else...
... Because what has also happened in the past year is massive growth in Indie Shopography. I'm coming up on closing out my biggest financial quarter to date, the biggest month to date, making the biggest year to date (by far), and am recording growth at every corner. Not to mention, I haven't had a single nightmare client in over a year (meaning I'm attracting the right kind of people), I have new offerings to launch, and am working more than ever.
Indie Shopography is growing by leaps and bounds.
Admittedly, this is the biggest reason we're second-guessing ourselves about Indie Spaces. It's a lot easier for us to give up a one-year endeavor for the undivided attention of my almost-4-year old baby, than to split the attention and chance one dwindling for the rise of the other.
And here's another confession and proof of growth I can't control by myself: last week I hired David as my business and project manager.
David: business and project manager
The amount of which I discuss my business with David has been a bit foreshadowing. In a way, David's been in the shadows as a wisp of a business manager for years. Or, at least a bit of a consultant. Ok, fine – more of an ear that listens constantly to my nonsense talks about my biz. But, the fab guy listens well and gives support and advice where it's due.
A few weeks ago, during one of my biz chats where I was moaning about how I'd spent a whole day invoicing, bookkeeping, and otherwise managing, instead of doing what I really needed to do, which was working to meet some project deadlines, David voiced his desire to help. You know, in a "I wish you didn't work so hard and I could help make it easier" kind of way.
I then, in a plea of help, asked if he would. Really. Like, as a business manager. So that he could take care of all that, and I could just work.
After a lot discussion, we decided that was exactly what needed to happen.
I could have went in search of a "legitimate" business manager. Or an in-house accountant. Or a project manager. But, here's the thing: Indie Shopography is my baby. I couldn't just get somebody. I had to trust this person. With anything.
Since I trust David with my other real baby (Cute Kid), I figured he qualifies under the can-I-trust-you filter of the job application
Also, the idea of teaching someone my biz from the ground up made me want to throw up. Hard. David already knows so much about what makes Indie Shopography tick that he's practically just being grandfathered in.
Not to mention he's completely capable. He's been the business manager for Indie Spaces, and has plenty of accounting, finance, and management schooling under his belt. Much more than I do (I have none, so yea) and I've been running this baby for years. He'll be great.
What He'll Be Doing
To begin, David will be catching up on my bookkeeping, and will be immediately taking over invoicing (and getting with people to pay invoices). Soon, he'll take over most of my client intake process and making sure projects run smoothly between Corey and I. And he'll be taking care of payroll, payin' da bills, and all other money-related stuff. He's gonna make it all work.
I have a lot of work ahead of me as I'm defining my processes so he can implement them. It's a big job for both of us.
growth and goals
So, with this, we're focusing on how to grow in a smart way.
BTW, another reason we're almost completely decided upon the fate of Indie Spaces, is we're afraid our landlord is going to make signing a new lease not a pleasant experience. We've had some serious issues and she's been sweet enough to completely ignore them for months now. Not to mention the fact that our store front is officially the least-updated on 3+ blocks of downtown Court St, with no plans for updating. And she's hinted previously that she has the right to raise the rent. Oooooo, I get heated.
Which brings us to something that's important to me: security.
The moment it came to mind that our awesome downtown studio space may be made less desirable, the insecurity of where we'd be in mere months had me floundering. We've since been looking at potential new spaces, just in case.
Our current growth goals include downsizing to grow. The current Indie Spaces space is 2200 sq ft. If we cut out the Indie usage, Indie Shopography certainly doesn't need 2200 sq ft, nor do I want to foot all those expenses.
I'm also playing with the idea of getting a design intern next semester. Just to throw a bit more out there.
So, here we are [again] in a crossroads. We're working through the details, setting goals, and want to make sure we're growing as smartly as I can, but it's hard finding the balance between growing too fast and not overworking yourself. We'll just have to wait and see, plan for the worst, and hope for the best.