Clear The Way Anniversary Giveaway!

Clear the Way-Giveaway

I’m so excited to join Kate to celebrate her blog’s four year anniversary with this awesome giveaway! You guys are in for a treat as I join my favorite bloggers to give you a free year subscription to some of my favorite services! Good luck!

Clear the Way is turning four this month and I’ve teamed up with a bunch of bloggers to celebrate by giving away a one year subscription to Adobe Photography Plan (which includes both Photoshop and Lightroom) as well as a year subscription to CoSchedule editorial calendar. You have from now until midnight of December 3rd to enter this giveaway using the Rafflecopter widget provided. There are no mandatory entries. The contest is open internationally and one winner will be chosen at the end of the two weeks. Make sure you check out all the bloggers co-hosting this giveaway and good luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Lively Blend | Clear the Way | Ex Vitae | Holly Marie Designs
Honestly, B. | Kyla is Inspired | The Lolly Project | MontgomeryFest
My Life as a Teacup | Of Trees and Hues | Rio the Dreamcatcher
Safaris and Sunsets | Sincerely, Sara | Studio 404
Tara Victoria | Thou Swell | writes like a girl

Let’s Talk Business: Scheduling & Prioritization

Let's Talk Business: Scheduling & Prioritization - Studio 404

Earlier this year, I talked about knowing your limits which really has helped me with getting my butt in gear. I’m eight months pregnant. Unfortunately, I can’t go around working eighteen hour days like I did when I started working from home full-time. If you’re like me, third quarter means there’s plenty to do! My clients have end-of-the-year events and I’m constantly adding things to my to-do list. I wanted to share some ways that I’m organizing my business and schedule to help accommodate my shrinking schedule.

Calendar Days vs Reality

One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn, especially about the last two months of the year, is that although the calendar says there are fifty days left, there are really like twenty or  so working days left for me. I’ll be taking travelling to Atlanta, taking Thanksgiving week off to get my house baby-ready, attending WordCamp Orlando, and only time can tell when my little one will decide to make an appearance. I don’t really have that many working hours left.

Taking time to block off your holidays and events makes the calendar appear for what it actually is. This helps you figure out what projects can actually take on. It’s tempting to say you’re able to take on plenty, especially with the end-of-year influx, but keeping your working days in mind is important. It’s also good to schedule a couple of days off in December during the holidays. Regardless of if you work from home or not, you’ll want to hang out with friends and family. Promising to launch a website by January 1st is usually always a bad idea.

Prioritize Your Limited Time

Once you have an idea of how much time you actually have left, it’s important to prioritize that time. You are in control of the work you do. You have the power to pick and choose what you want to work on. I took on my last new client project last month so that I can focus on working with retainer clients. My end-of-year retainer projects are usually more involved and require a lot more focus. There’s a lot of creative direction and collaboration involved so I like to be available for those projects.

While I’d love to work on some new sites and branding projects for new clients, it’s just not feasible with my limited time. You may work best with short deadlines and new clients, so this is prime time for you to focus on acquiring new business. You have to put labels on what’s important and also vocalize your availability to your clients. If your clients aren’t educated on a project’s schedule or your schedule, they will assume you have much more time than you actually have.

One thing we do in all of our new client projects is submit a very detailed deadline. This deadline usually includes an idea of  when deliverables and feedback is due. (See example below!) This helps keep down confusion and offers accountability to both parties on meeting deadlines. Clients are notorious for become less communicative at the end of the year, and not purposefully so. It’s the holiday season, it’s flu season, and everyone has demanding schedules. Just be sure you’re clear about when action items are due.

  • Date – Logo Mockups Due
  • Date – Client Feedback Due
  • Date – Revised Logos Due
  • Date – Final Client Feedback/Approval Due
  • Date – Social Media Branding Due
  • Date – Brand Launch

Prepare Adequately

Things can happen! As I said, it’s holiday season and flu season. You can unexpectedly get sick, have last minute holiday plans thrown at you, or unexpectedly deliver a baby. You never know what can happen. This traditionally applies to every day of the year but especially now in the last few days of the year. Be sure to allow for flexibility in your schedule. My weekends are usually my busiest days socially. I’m usually out and about all Friday afternoon through my Mondays, which are usually filled with meetings. I know I’m usually exhausted so on Tuesdays, I take it easy and work on small things. I usually spend that time blogging or working on the shop.

Just be sure you have flex time for the just in case. I work very intensely when I’m at home (whoops) and I forget to take breaks or step away, so just make time for that. Make time for coffee with your creative friends. Being prepared for some unregulated time off is a lot better than finding yourself in an intense deadline when you need to step away. I’m so lucky to have clients that understand my schedule and make me informed of theirs. Here are some takeaway tips that really help me get myself in order:

  • Write it down: Before agreeing to anything, be sure to write it down or save it in your calendar. I cannot tell you how awful it is to have something due and not remember agreeing to do it because it was said in passing or at the end of a meeting. Please be sure to know what you’re promising at all times!
  • Be honest: Not painfully honest but honest enough! The past few weeks have really drained me and I’m sick in a gross way so I make sure everyone knows that my time is limited after a certain time. I generally don’t work after 4 unless I absolutely feel inspired to do so. I wake up super early so I’m sure to make enough time to get things done.
  • Stay ahead: If you feel a deadline coming along too quickly, try to let your clients know that you may need an extra day to get it done. This is important, especially when working with print projects. I  do a lot of last-minute print work (sorry printers!) for my clients that need quick turnaround times. Luckily I have great vendors and clients who understand tight deadlines mean paying a bit more for services. However, if something goes wrong on my end, it’s up to me to make sure my client is aware of a delay. We’re only human and things happen. Just keep being honest and it usually works out in the end.
  • Saying no:  When you’re writing your own paychecks, you’re definitely aware of how much income is coming in. It’s often so tempting to say yes to everything that comes in, especially if you’re coming back from a dry spell. Learn to say no! You will quickly become overwhelmed and unprepared. Unless you’re willing to hire extra help to keep all of the balls rolling, it’s ok to turn down project requests. It’s also a great opportunity to send work to a friend in your industry!
  • Relax: You’ve got this! Be sure to stay motivated!

What are you doing to stay on track right now?

 
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Getting Into Podcasts Part 3

5 Awesome Podcasts - Studio 404

I haven’t shared any of my favorite podcasts since March. Since we’re moving into the weekend, I figured now would be a great time to get into some great new/old podcasts that get me through my work day. Again, most of these are design or business oriented but there is one podcast that I am obsessed with, as is most of America right now. Let’s get into it!

Serial

You guys, I cannot say enough about Serial. This has absolutely nothing to do with design or business; however, it’s a very new podcast presented by the creators of the ever-popular, This American Life. I’m actually not a *huge* fan of TAL so getting into Serial was very surprising to me. Every week, a different story is explored in the case of the murder of Hae Min Lee. The story focuses on the case of the convicted, Hae’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. We go from being introduced to the case to being offered new details as to why Adnan is guilty or not-guilty. Think of this like a real-life exploration of Law & Order, only better.

Recommended Episode: Start at episode one and be prepared to be addicted.

Revision Path

I’ve actually been listening to Revision Path for months after learning about it. Revision Path is a podcast which features interviews with black graphic designers, web designers, and web developers. Host Maurice Cherry does a great job interviewing each host and talking about their backgrounds, current positions, and thoughts on diversity in the industry. Listening to the podcast, I’ve learned quite a bit about how corporate America has integrated design and development in-house as well as seeing how diversity and inclusion is presented and utilized in the industry.

Recommended Episode: #25: David Yarde (For obvious reasons)

Pencil Vs. Pixel

In terms of new design podcasts, Pencil vs. Pixel has to be a favorite. Host Cesar Contreras covers broad topics with some industry favorites which helps us get an idea of how other designers think. I’ve been introduced to some great talent through this podcast as well as some processes that other designers utilize. It’s a really fun podcast and it’s great to have a design podcast that stays on-topic.

Recommended Episode: #51: Justin Mezzell

Sean Wes Podcast

This bi-weekly podcast is full of information for design and business. You may have seen Sean McCabe’s lettering all over the Internet. Sean has taken his lettering business and created an empire, including a podcast and an amazing lettering course. What’s great about this podcast is that everything is put on the table. A lot of design/business podcasts sort of skirt around certain issues but this podcast gets real about everything. You had better come prepared to learn something!

Recommended Episode: #122: 10 Mistakes You’re Making with Clients that Cost You

Design Matters with Debbie Millman

Design Matters with Debbie Millman is sort of an OG design podcast. I’m pretty sure mostly everyone has heard of it and I just forgot to add it onto some of my old lists. It’s a great podcast in which Debbie Millman interviews various creatives and discusses their history in the design industry. I really enjoy the way Debbie interviews each guest. She seems to be very caught up on their career histories and saves a lot of time by just getting into how they got to where they are. There are many many episodes of this podcast so if you’ve never taken a listen, you have plenty to catch up on.

Recommended Episode: Jessica Walsh

Which podcasts are your favorites right now? List them below!

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