So very excited to start my Independent Creative series. As promised, this series will give a little insight into my journey towards becoming an independent studio owner. Of course, I would love to start off with the super-fun parts of running your own business, but I’m thinking we should start with the more serious topics first.
I’d say one of the hardest parts of learning to work for myself was time management, or lack of time management skills. Beyond that, it was about finding ways to make my time feel like fun rather than just work. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
It’s okay to spoil yourself! You are creating your own destiny … so why would you deny yourself the fun you deserve?
Little Rewards: Want to make your days feel more fun … and maybe a little shorter? Set little goals, then reward yourself. Maybe it’s keeping 5% from each commission in a little savings account, then treating yourself to a spa day once a month. Maybe it’s just deciding if you get a certain number of tasks done by 2:00, you’ll take 30 minutes to get outside & enjoy some well-deserved sunshine.
Music & Entertainment: I’m not sure what I would do without music & podcasts to get me through the week. I’m a die-hard Pandora fan, and I am absolutely obsessed with a few podcasts. My favorite Podcasts are: Uhh Yeah Dude (a comedy podcast hosted by two of the funniest people I’ve ever heard), How Did This Get Made (they review terrible movies … most are on Netflix, so it’s easy to watch and understand why they make fun), then theres Radiolab & This American Life (two podcasts so full of awesome information & stories).
Respect Your Time: Remember, you are in charge! If you setup a proper work schedule that really respects the other parts of your life, you’ll be happier. I know some creatives who work a full-time job AND run their own businesses … Watching them manage their time is amazing. It’s all about setting boundaries. No matter how much or how little time you have to do your work, it’s about not letting it take over the other parts of your life. Want to see how you’re spending your time? Software like FreshBooks or Harvest allows you to track your time and puts it into visual data for you to view. Once you see how you’re spending your time, it’s easier to modify your workflow to be more efficient.
Respect Your Relationships: There are people in your life who are rooting for you … sometimes it’s easy to forget that. I know I took my evenings at home for granted all too often. While my hubby sat on the couch, I’d stretch my work time just a BIT longer until it was hours later, and we were both pretty unhappy. Your friends want to spend time with you, and your partners need your time. Just as you reward yourself, set small goals & rewards for those who are supporting you. When they see your work paying off (in the form of you doing what you love, making a living, then really ENJOYING that success), they’ll root even harder for you.
No matter the tasks you have at hand, be sure you’re keeping track of them!
Lists: I am a list making freak. My husband makes fun of me … I make lists about my lists, and then other lists about those lists. I’m not even kidding. I’ve found the best way to manage my time and my work days is by writing out everything I need to do that day. Plus, I get so much satisfaction every time I cross something off of my list! For me, I use a daily planner (yes, I WRITE everything down) with my daily tasks all mapped out. It gives me perspective for my week & I love it! I’ve used online task management tools before too! I liked Teux Deux & Wunderlist, but REALLY prefer hand-writing everything.
Perfect Your Workflow: It took me awhile to find my groove when it came to project management. Now, when a contract comes in, it follows the exact workflow as my other projects:
- I add the client to my online account management software & send them an invoice which reflects the paid deposit.
- After the digital side of things, I fill out my project form (hand-written) which consists of the project tasks, timeline, and client info. I put it with the contract, pop it in a binder, and add the project start date to my calendar. I love being able to flip to the project form throughout the project to be certain I’m staying on task & respecting the timeline. I’m going to share much more on this topic in a future post.
Create Realistic Timelines: There’s so much focus on FAST & NOW! … Well, I think there’s something to giving yourself enough time to really be creative. There’s nothing wrong with allowing a client to wait a few weeks to see their photo session, or maybe a couple weeks before sending them a proof for a printed piece. Whatever your timeline, be certain it gives you plenty of room be breathe … you’ll deliver a better product. AND, as long as you manage their expectations, you won’t have problem!
This is the most important thing I’ve learned over the last year: It’s important to get outside.
Breathing Room: There have been days I just can’t get over a creative block. Jim (my husband) literally has to pull me from my desk & convince me to take a walk. Other days, I wake up, and know I need to take a drive to the coast … no matter the distance, sometimes I just need a little room to LIVE … then the creativity bug comes back. Everyone needs a little space. If you’re swamped, take a 15 minute walk around the block, or a little nap on the couch. Anything that refreshes your brain is totally worth it!
Turn It Off: It’s no surprise that the social media outlets that bring us so much business and networking opportunities can also keep us getting so much done. If you know you’re more productive in the morning, turn off your internet until after noon. Then, take an hour to check on Facebook & Twitter. You’ll work more efficiently when you know you can’t just check it whenever.
What advice do you have to give about time management & making sure you have fun while you’re getting things done? Anything you thought would work that didn’t, or anything you wish you would have done from the beginning? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.