5 New Habits that Helped me hit a 5-figure January
It’s no secret that ya girl’s got goals, and big ones at that. At the end of 2018, I sat down and for the first time ever, actually wrote out my goals. Some of those were business goals in general, productivity goals, and of course income goals. (I used the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting worksheets from Phase 1 of the Small Biz Start Up Guide, but also the ones on Right Hand Business Coach website will do the job, too).
With the new year quickly approaching, I turned my new goals into habits and started cranking away at the first month of 2019, and let’s just say I think they’re working.
Here’s a recap of 5 new habits I introduced to my workflow that helped me hit a 5-figure January 2019.
*Disclaimer: There is a lot of hullabaloo on social media about 5-figure months. For me, my definition of 5-figure month is that I was paid more than $9,999.00 this month. That does not count my expenses, or even mean that I completed 5-fig’s of work. Regardless, this is still a hefty goal to accomplish as a solopreneur in a service based business. When you’re your own boss, you don’t have performance reviews, raises/promotion opportunities, or higher-ups to challenge you. I’ve found that setting those challenges for myself is not only motivating, but it keeps me hungry for new opportunities to refine my skills, perfect my process, and keep doing what I love!
We all know the drill when it comes to trying to coordinate times for a meeting, phone call or video conference, and it probably goes a little like this:
Client: I can do Tuesday before noon, or after 3, does that work for you?
Me: Shoot, booked Tues, can you do Wednesday between 2 and 4.
Client: No, I have xyz commitment during that time.
Sound familiar? That whole exchange makes me want to pull my hair out. I think that as a culture, instead of telling people when we are available, we love to tell people how busy we are, because somewhere along the road, we were convinced that busy=successful. (*Mental note to make that a much longer blog post in the future.) I hated going back and forth on times for calls, meetings, etc. so my first 2019 goal was to make that whole process smoother.
On top of that, add traveling halfway around the world to the mix. I am notoriously HORRIBLE at calculating (and understanding) time zones. It does not click with me whatsoever until I am actually in the place and can do basic addition and subtraction… but start throwing PST vs. PDT at me and I am so lost.
This January, I decided to buck up, and pay for Calendly. Calendly is an online scheduling software that allows you to set days and times you ARE available as well as set time limits for said meetings. The best part? It auto-calculates the time zones for me and adds the events to my Google Calendar. GAME CHANGER! Seriously though, I completely underestimated what a time saver this was.
Wanna see mine? Consider dropping in my Office Hours! Book a free 15 min google hangouts call with me here, just for funsies: https://calendly.com/mkwgraphics/15min/
WHY I THINK IT’S WORKING
Besides the obvious, here’s why I think automating my scheduling process is working in my favor…
it sets up my day - I love knowing who I am talking to, at what time, and moving my day around those calls.
it avoids fire drills - when a client wants to talk ASAP, it is great to lean on the Calendly link and have them schedule a time instead of breaking from what I am doing or have planned to take their call. Making sure we are both prepped and ready to talk about their projects makes calls more efficient
it keeps meetings on topic - Guilty as charged, but I can sometimes get caught up in the small talk, brainstorming, or side tracking of conversations. Setting the time constraints at the beginning by ONLY allowing 15, 30 or 60 min meetings keeps my clients and I on track and efficient
One of my big goals and new habits for 2019 was to incorporate more video into all parts of my process to really help illustrate all that goes into brand design & development. I’ve done this over the month of January
1 - TIMELAPSES
The first step in working in more video was to record more timelapses. I started using Quicktime to record my screen while I am working on the first draft of a logo, or on someone’s moodboard, and then have been speeding them up in Adobe After Effects. From there, I can post these timelapses to social media. For example, Pinterest just recently launched video pins (Read More: How to Pin Video to Pinterest) and they are ALREADY some of my most repinned content.
2 - VIDEO CHATS
Instead of just doing calls with potential clients, in 2019, I am opting for video chats. Google Hangouts is free to use, easy to navigate, and allows me to do something really helpful when it comes to brand design - screenshare. I have started incorporating Google Hangouts right from the get-go with potential new clients, treating it as a way to recap what they’ve added to my contact form, but also to read their energy, their body language, and get an idea of their tech-savvy. They may feel like the are interviewing to hire me, but really I am looking for cues on if I will work well with them. There is so much more that can be communicated over video than over the phone. And both of these are SO MUCH BETTER than constantly corresponding over email.
I also use Google Hangouts throughout the design process: after the brand questionnaire, after the moodboard and Pinterest board, after each draft of the logo designs, as well as at the end to show how to get around the brand guides and file storage softwares (I like Google Drive and Dropbox).
What I realized in just one short month of making this part of my process is that there is so much design knowledge that I forget is not common knowledge. When I can show my client why I made certain design decisions like line weight, orientation, font characteristics, etc., they get so much more value out of the experience, and we end up doing less back and forth, which makes the design process so much more enjoyable for the both of us. I truly believe that every service professional is also part-educator in that you really need to drive home your decision process, and get feedback from your client constantly. Doing this over video has totally helped.
3 - desIGn LIVE
As you likely know, I have been going live for an hour once a week, every week on my instagram for my little instagram live show that I like to call desIGn Live. Being on video for my audience on a regular basis shows them my working process and allows me to explain why or how I do things. I also get to interview clients, friends, and plenty of interesting people in a no-post-production-or-hosting Podcast-y kind of way.
WHY I THINK IT’S WORKING
People love to see behind the scenes - It is so satisfying to see exactly how something works in a way that lends much more intrigue into the finished project
Video is everywhere - One that didn’t even make the list here is Instagram stories (because I have been using them incessantly since they came out)… but, as consumers, we not only know how to interact with video, we crave it.
Now, stick with me here. Your first reaction to me saying I use scripts in my business is probably, ‘yuck’ and I don’t blame you. Your knee-jerk reaction is probably due to being on the receiving end of some pretty cringe-y mass emails, or call center phone calls. To be totally honest, I put off using any kind of script for a long time, but early on in 2018, I experimented with my first ‘script’ which I affectionately call my Explainer Email (Download it for free here). This is the email I send after a potential new client has filled out my lengthy contact form, and after we have had our Google Hangouts video chat to talk about their project. In this Explainer Email, I break down everything they need to know about my working process, as well as external links to relevant worksheets, downloads, case studies or blogs. In the email, I will also begin to outline the project cost, payment plan. timeline, onboarding (Read More: All Aboard: My Client Onboarding Process).
Now, in 2019, I’ve been working on some alternate scripts like: What is desIGn Live?, Client Rejection Email, Collaboration or Partnership Requests
WHY I THINK IT’S WORKING
Huge Timesaver - What most people don’t realize is how much repeating yourself over and over again is a world wide waste of time. To be able to quickly copy/paste from my google docs helps me get the general information across, and sub out whatever is specific to that client’s project
I don’t forget details - Having a pre-written, pre-formatted email script helps me make sure I am covering all the aspects of what I do, what I offer, and how I work so my clients know exactly what to expect from me.
Strict Time Limits
As an entrepreneur and all around creative, I know a lot of you know what it feels like to be in a work rabbit hole, or total rut. The best way I can verbalize creativity is that it comes in waves… sometimes you’re on it, along for the ride, and sometimes the tide goes out and you don’t quite know what to do with yourself, which makes creativity such a tricky business model. A big theme for me in 2019 is to work SMARTER not LONGER. Back to the same issue of being busy, sometimes I find I make more work for myself simply because I am not being efficient. In order to combat this, I set two pretty major time restraints for 2019.
1 - Two Hour Maximum Continuous Effort
I love using Harvest as my time tacking software to measure my exertion on my projects. (Try it for a Free Month on me by clicking here.) But, it didn’t stop me from hunkering down, getting buttlock, and sitting stagnant for hours and hours on end. By the time I am looking at the same logo design for more than two hours, my eyes are sore, and my brain has probably turned to mush. The more time I spend staring at the screen is actually the worse my work becomes. So, instead, I decided that each time I open Illustrator for a project, I set a 2 hour timer on my phone. Once the timer goes off, I have to move on to something else, take a walk, get some water or do SOMETHING different and, if the project is not done, some back to it later.
2 - No Client Work on Fridays
Just because I am not working on client projects on Friday’s doesn’t mean I am not working. 2019 is my 5th year in business, and is also going to be the year that I start to really develop my personal brand. I want to be known for two pillars: Branding and Entrepreneurship, and to do all the things I want to do this year, I had to schedule time to work on MY STUFF. Knowing I have all day on Fridays to work on my social media, blog, communicate with my interns, research, doodle or just plain relax, gives me the space and motivation to push through Monday - Thursday. And as I have found already, I get a little rush out of ‘not working’ kind of like playing hooky from school.
WHY I THINK IT’S WORKING
I’ve game-ified my work - Now, I work like I’ve got to beat the buzzer, or diffuse the bomb. The two hour mark is just enough time to get into a project without being sucked into a black hole
I get to work on my passion projects - Providing content for you (like this here blog) doesn’t happen overnight, but I LOVE doing it. However, I don’t want to do it at the expense of my clients’ projects.
I was never a big journal-er, and didn’t think I had to be given that I share so much of my day to day life on social media. However, getting into a routine of journaling once a day, everyday for just 15 minutes gives me a space I didn’t know I needed to hash out ideas, emotions, frustrations, brainstorms or passing thoughts that actually don’t have to come to fruition. Doing this has been so refreshing, because i know that I can write things out in my journal that only I need to (or have to) see.
I also love journaling because it gives me a chance to get my mind right. Writing out what I am thankful for, what I have learned about myself, or what I want to manifest (yep, woo-woo warning) has been HUGELY helpful over the last month and I think is a big part of the reason why I was able to crush my first goal of the year.
WHY I THINK IT’S WORKING
Mindset Matters - Giving myself the opportunity to write out anything that comes to mind helps to clear out some of the day to day clutter that rolls around in my noggin, and refocus on my goals
Something to look back at - I am most exciting to keep this journal and revisit my entries in the future to see just how much I have changed and grown :)
To wrap this whole thing up, I just want to take the time to appreciate (selfishly) what I can accomplish, and celebrate (in service to you, my reader) how much our actions, plans, goals, and dreams have a possibility of coming to fruition when we make the conscious effort to seek out change. I am so looking forward to this year of growth, opportunity, and ADVENTURE (writing this from Day 2 of my 3 month solo trip through South East Asia).
That’s all I got for now, folks! Toodles!