Know what you’re doing (for the sake of productivity)

Know what you’re doing (for the sake of productivity)

Know what you're doing

It’s been more than a year now since I built this website. And it’s been about eight months that I’ve been doing full time freelance, doing design. But I actually, really, want to go into illustration. So, why don’t I just do it?

I realized something this week about productivity. These past seven months, up to now, I’ve been wandering around almost aimlessly, not really knowing what I want to do, or even what I AM doing. This got us by financially, but mostly more because my husband has a good-paying full-time job as a (really good) PHP programmer. It amazes me that he has so much patience with me – he still believes in me and encourages me after I’ve lost all hope in myself and my dreams. I look at other freelancers and dream of being as successful they are, wondering what they’re doing differently. But this week, it hit me right in the face – I don’t really know what I’m doing, and that’s what I’ve been doing wrong this whole time.

 

It’s important to know what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.

You may have a “feel” for what you’re doing, or a special touch, and can be successful because of that. But I think the “knowing”, and not just “feeling” part, is what makes the difference. Let me explain quickly. This week, I posted a little drawing I did for a 30-day drawing challenge (more like a list of 30 things to draw every day), and a follower commented, saying: “As simple as your work can appear, I am always impressed by the attention to proportion you have. I think with cartoons it’s less about being “correct” and more about consistency. Bugs Bunny is not correct but it feels right because of the consistency in design. You got that. :)”. I realized that I’ve been doing something (being consistent in style and proportion), without knowing. I was just drawing the way I always do, without concentrating too much on the how and why. Then it hit me – I’ve been doing the same with my job. I’ve been going with the flow, doing work as it came to me, not really thinking about what I’m doing and where I’m going. I’ve been posting on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as naturally as it came to me, just hoping that it might bring me more followers and thus more clients.

 

Consider your current and future positions

So, what I mean with “knowing what you’re doing” is that you need to consider what you are doing, and how it impacts what you will be doing (or want to do) in the future. Ask yourself: What am I doing right now? Is it what I want to do in the future? Am I being honest with myself, or have I just been doing what I’m doing just to do “something”? And thus: What am I advertising? Is what I am advertising on social media the service I want people to buy from me?

 

Advertise/do now what you want to do in the future

I haven’t been honest with myself. I haven’t been promoting what I really want to do, or at least I haven’t been advertising it in the right way. And after a week of consideration, thinking about what my follower said, carefully considering my current position and where I really want to be, I am changing course! It’s scarier than I thought it would be, and it definitely feels like a bigger step than going into freelance. It leaves me with so many questions, and I am frightened. But I am willing, and I really want to illustrate full-time. I want to sit at my desk, drawing!

Building your own website (the negative side)

Building your own website (the negative side)

Building Your Own Website

Sometimes designers hire someone else to build their website for them, while other designers -like yours truly- try have this brilliant plan to build their own website, from scratch, just because they can.

For me, that was a big mistake. I’ll get to the “why” in just a moment.

There are some ups to building your own website, with “Having All The Control” probably being at the very most tippity top of my reasons why designers should build their own website. I think if I actually made a list, that list would be much shorter than this one… I might write about that in a future post 🙂

 

And for every up, there is a down.

 

So, without further ado, here are MY reasons why designers should leave the website building to …someone else (even if they’ve got the know-how), and how to scratch those reasons off this list if you do decide to DIY anyway.

 

1. I wanted it to be perfect… too perfect.

We all want to put our best foot forward, especially where first impressions matter most. You (probably) wouldn’t set that embarrassing photo from last weekend as your Facebook profile photo or use it on your resume. You wouldn’t put that first-ever design you’ve made for your cousin years ago in the portfolio you’re going to send to that big design school (because face it, it looks horrible).

The same goes for your portfolio website. You want it to be the best, look the best, contain the best samples of your best work. Because that is what will leave the first impression, and that is what brings you your clients. For this reason, it took me forever to get to a stage where I was satisfied (like, two years).

2. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I really didn’t.

It’s not like staring at a blank canvas, but it feels like it. If you’re an artist or designer, you know that feeling. Have you ever started a new painting, design or sketch, but didn’t know where to start, so you’d just stare at the canvas or screen or paper, waiting for it to just “come to you”? That happened to me. And no, it didn’t just “come to me” like an epiphany. I planned and executed and failed, planned and executed and failed…

I don’t remember how many times I restarted the whole thing, just because I couldn’t decide on a theme. I also didn’t know which program to use to build the thing in. I was definitely not going to program it all – that would take forever (especially because I have minimal knowledge of only HTML and CSS). So I ended up building three different sites in Muse, one in WordPress, one in My Portfolio by Behance, and again, one in WordPress (which I ended up using). Talk about testing out the water first…

 

3. I couldn’t decide which projects to feature

It’s really, really difficult to sieve through your best work and choose the best of the best, because you either like everything, or you hate everything. Especially if you don’t have much to choose from, which is usually the case when you’re just starting out.

One of the biggest roadblocks that caused my two-year delay, and also my biggest struggle, was choosing projects to showcase; mainly because I didn’t feel like my work was good enough. It’s like there was just something missing, and it still feels that way. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just wait a little while. Wait for the right projects to come your way so you have something to showcase, or create something you think is good enough. That does propose another problem, though – the right project might not come soon enough, or you just don’t know what to make that would be good enough to put on your website.

 

4. My customers were waiting and I fell behind working on my website

One of the many reasons it took me so long to complete my website was because I had too much work to do and couldn’t make my website a priority. I had a full-time job as a designer and had clients (and a boss) to keep happy. I was too tired to work on my website in the evenings and had other things to do over the weekends (even though they were not as important and I was mostly just procrastinating).

Now that I’m a full-time freelancer, I’ve realised that it’s just as important to do something for yourself as it is to work on your clients’ projects. I put my clients first, always. I sometimes work until four in the morning, skip lunch, have a sandwich or a pack of potato chips for dinner, and so on. But on the bright side, while I worked so hard on projects for clients, I built my portfolio content without even realizing it.

 

5. It takes forever

This is probably my top-most reason why building your own website is a bad idea. I first started building my website (or a version of it, at least) in 2014. It’s the middle of 2016, and it’s finally done.

Building your own website really takes up a lot of your time (and perhaps your clients’ time) and needs sacrifices. Now that I’m a freelance designer, I felt the urgency to complete my website. I had to put some projects aside, work in the evenings (even though I now have a strict rule against that), and spend my lunch hours in front of my laptop.

 

The above reasons might contribute to the time it takes to complete your website, but there is a way around it.

 

If you do decide to build your own website, here are my suggestions:

• PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! Decide on the theme, pages and content before you actually start working. You might think it would be a good idea to YOLO, but it’s not. If you’re like me (and most other creatives) you’ll end up staring at the screen. For hours.

• Use a simple website builder, like WordPress, Muse (if you have the Adobe CC package), or any other easy-to-use builder you know of. Behance has this AMAZING website portfolio builder called My Portfolio – try it, it’s awesome. But you do, once again, need the Adobe CC package. It’s so much faster than coding from scratch, and so much easier if you’re not familiar with any of the coding languages.

• Ask for help, especially when deciding on what you’re going to add to your portfolio. I made a list of what I thought were my best projects, showed it to my husband and he helped me choose the top 20. You can then decide which you want on the website, and which not. I added 6 projects to start with and built it up from there.

• Give yourself a due date, and stick to it, no matter what. Think of yourself as a client. Make time to work on your website for at least two hours each day.

• Set goals, like checkpoints, and reward yourself after each checkpoint. I reward myself by playing a game, drawing, or sitting in the sun for a little while.

• Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be too picky. It’s good to want it to be perfect, but sometimes perfection is just a matter of perception.

 

If you do need any further advice, send me an email. I’d be happy to help, one designer to another.