Category: Productivity Pointers

Blog, Design Ideas, Productivity Pointers

How Social Media Can Get You Work

Time spent on Social Media isn’t always wasted time

(unless you’re watching cat videos)

Around ten years ago social networks were for insecure teenagers and jocks organising frat parties than business people.

But, things have definitely changed since then.

‘Social Networks’ have morphed into ‘Social Media’ and now entire industries have risen out of the ground in response to the new giants of advertising. If you’re not making use of Social Media as a Creative or Graphic Designer, then I’m not quite sure how you’re still making a living.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick rundown on how to best use the major platforms of Social Media to your advantage, so that you can start increasing your streams of revenue:

Instagram

Although it might have started out as a way for image conscious men and women to affirm their ‘cool’ status, Instagram is now so much more than that. This is a perfect platform for us designers. Within minutes of setting up your account, you can start following all your favourite designers and quickly make yourself known to your existing network on Facebook, so you can quickly amass a small following with minimum fuss.

 

A post shared by Seb Lester (@seblester) on

From then on, it’s all about keeping a constant rhythm of posting and making sure that the style of content you post is consistent. By all means, include personal pictures, just as long as they’re on brand with your business (ie. No hot-dog leg snaps from your holidays).

Facebook

This is a must-have for any company hoping to make inroads into online advertising. As much as Google have made huge progress with their AdWords scheme, Facebook have made it even easier for businesses to produce targeted advertisements to their huge database of around 1.86 billion active users.

For many people, Facebook is their go-to App on their mobile device. and their homepage on their browsers. Using Facebook’s Ad Tools, you can set a budget, demographic, location and schedule a time, so that the right people see your advert at the right time.

If you’re not comfortable with setting up your own advertising, you can pay a marketing company to do it for you, or just settle for a bog-standard page. Either way, it’s imperative that you have a presence on the biggest social platform in the world.

LinkedIn

It’s the dull cousin of the Social Media family but, unfortunately, a necessity if you want to make yourself known in your industry. Its dry, uninteresting to look at and completely packed with industry jargon and buzz words, however it could be the platform that makes your career. LinkedIn is, at the very least, quick and painless to set up. Throw in your details, as well as your Facebook logins, and you can quickly reach out to your entire network and email address book, making hundreds of possible connections in an instant.

Once you’re up and running, you can use the native Advertising tools to put your name in company’s faces, or you can reach out to past employers to write you a quick endorsement that will make your profile irresistible to a potential client.

Twitter/Fiverr/Pinterest

In every litter you’re bound to find at least one runt.

Twitter might have made a big splash when it first released but it’s lost it’s way over the years, with significantly less people joining it each year. That being said, it still has it’s uses. By using an app like Hoostsuite, you can synchronise and schedule your posts, so that your Twitter followers get a heads up when you’re posting to other networks.

Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration for designers or anyone in creative industries. It’s pretty much a giant pin board where users upload ideas, pictures and designs. You can find some neat ideas on here, but it won’t further your career in any significant way.

Finally, Fiverr is not a social network in any way. Its more of an online marketplace, where freelancers can advertise their services to pretty much anyone who’ll pay for them. The company itself has had some bad rep this year, with a bizarre advertising campaign, as well as YouTuber PewDiePie making use of the platform in a morally dubious fashion. It’s worth a punt if you’re looking for some quick work though.

These are just the basic platforms that most small-time businesses should already be making use of. For each major industry, there is a particular network that will be suited to your business, it’s just about finding the right one and getting involved!

Blog, Development Diary, Productivity Pointers

Taxes Can Take A Hike

There’s nothing worse than doing your own taxes.

Any self-employed person will tell you that crunching your own numbers is simply one of the most galling processes in being a freelancer.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a plasterer, a programmer or a part-time baker (yes, I couldn’t think of any more jobs beginning with ‘p’) if you are your own boss then you need to account for every single expense, cost and incoming for the entire tax year. Of course, sensible business owners keep track of their financials as the days, weeks and months go by. Graphic Designers in their twenties, however, are not all that sensible.

The months leading up to April are always busy ones for me. Thanks to a tonne of advertising, I’ve managed to rake in a few one-off jobs, as well as some more regular work, so I’ve got plenty to keep myself busy with. Socially though, I find myself drifting into a slightly disconcerting dead zone, leaving me with very little to do to distract myself from my taxes. My fellow designers and freelancers are a curious bunch. Mostly living in the neighbouring towns of my village, they’re not far away, but during the winter months they can be hard to rouse from their cave-like homes.

With the dreaded threat of unfinished tax returns looming over all our heads, you’d think that this would be a perfect time for us all to start seeing a lot more of each other – but you would be wrong.

The modern self-employed person has an endless amount of distractions to draw them away from their purpose. Perhaps there’s a new Netflix series that simply everyone is talking about – there goes 13 hours of your life. Maybe you’ve just remembered that there was that book you were given by your Aunt for Christmas that’s still sitting on the dining room table, you could struggle through that for another 30 hours. Then, of course, there’s always video games. Lovely video games. Time sucking video games that steal your evenings, weekends and your sleep. Whatever you choose to do, when attempting to erase the thought of doing any kind of Tax-based work, you must ensure that you never leave the house.

The house, to the self-employed person is both the work-house and the holiday lodge. As long as you’re inside the house, there’s always the possibility of you doing some kind of work. You may just stay in reading comics, but there’s still a chance of some work getting done. As soon as you step outside the front door that possibility dive bombs to an absolute zero. The game of Procrastination is a delicate one, it involves walking a fine mental tight rope that could snap at any moment, leaving you hanging by one hand staring down at the bottomless pit of despair that you have been pretending does exist for the past 10 weeks.

Come April things will be different though. Our tax returns will be handed in, we’ll know where we stand financially and the sun will have returned to England, banishing the grey rain clouds of Winter.

Then, and only then, will we freelancers think of leaving the house and rejoining society once more.

Blog, Design Ideas, Productivity Pointers

What To Do When You Can’t Find Any Design Work

Every now and again we all hit a dry patch…

There’s no shame in admitting it.

All businesses, small and large, go through fallow seasons. It’s part of the the ebb and flow of running a company – the most important thing is that you’re prepared for it when it finally arrives.

So you’ve just finished the last project on your slate. You’ve sent off the files and invoiced your client, then a sickening feel drops in your stomach. You look to your email inbox: empty. You search your feeds for any social messages that  might have fallen through the cracks: nothing. Finally, you resort to the unlikeliest of eventualities – maybe someone’s dropped a message on your answer machine and you’ve somehow missed it? Nope.

The most important to do in this situation? Don’t panic.

If you’re a freelance designer, like me, you’re bound to run into this issue at one point or another. We try to keep a constant stream of work coming our way, but sometimes fate works against us. As soon as you’ve calmed yourself down with a stiff caffeinated drink – take a sit down and run through these ideas of what to do, when there’s no work to do:

Spam Your Email List HARD

Your email contacts, collected through your website and previous jobs, are the absolute best chance you have of picking up more work in the future. As long as you’ve done solid work for these people, they should remember you fondly and want to give you the work.

It might well be the case that they have no jobs for you, but the creative world is one that is always talking to each other and if you contact enough people, your name will get passed into the right hands.

Re-Evaluate Your Portfolio

Whilst you’ve got some spare time on your hands, it never hurts to have an honest, disparaging look at the work in your portfolio. Both online and off, this is the document that best represents your work as a designer.

Are there some designs in there that look a little outdated? Does some of this work put you in a bad light? Be honest with yourself and make edits where needed.

Touch Base With Old Clients

Sometimes an email just doesn’t cut it. Have a flick through your contacts, preferably ones you’ve dealt with in the past year and call up for a chat. Create some kind of pretext – it could be an upcoming conference or even an article in a magazine you want to recommend – then pull the conversation over to your work.

There’s nothing wrong with acting a little shadily. Your business should come first – so swallow your pride and get on the phone.

Work On New Ideas

Don’t spend 10 hours a day pulling your hair out over finding new jobs. Its ironic that having all this free time is causing you so much stress, but there are some upsides to this. Take a few hours each day for personal development. Do some research, look for companies that are in need of a re-brand and take it upon yourself to prepare a theoretical tender.

By keeping your designing skills sharp, you’ll be best prepared for when you’re back working again. The work that you end up with might even be good for later projects.

Don’t Get Lazy

This perhaps the most important tip of all. You might feel like you can survive for the next few weeks on the modest invoices that are coming your way, but you need to stay proactive to make sure that you don’t end up in the breadline

Set your alarm clock every day, as if you had a whole day of work ahead of you. Stay off the hooch mid-week and stay focused.

If in doubt – just think what Shia would do.