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Now displaying: May, 2016
May 27, 2016
When Graphic Designers Feel Overwhelmed - RD035

How do you manage when you feel overwhelmed?

Face it, we've all been there. Not knowing what to do next because there's just so much to do. Wanting to pull your hair out over the stress you feel. Feeling overwhelmed isn't fun but it is part of of the job. The trick is figuring out how to plough through it and move on.

I go into greater detail in the podcast. (click the orange button above and have a listen). But if you don't have time to listen, here's the gist of what I said.

The feeling of being overwhelmed can be caused by so many things. Maybe you have too much work on your plate, or too many deadlines approaching. Or maybe you don't have enough work coming in but you're overwhelmed with bills to pay. Perhaps you're feeling overwhelmed by all that is involved with growing a successful graphic design business. All of this doesn't take into account your life outside of being a graphic designer.

Everything just keeps piling up until the weight of it all overwhelms you.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?

Baby steps

The best way to get over the feeling is with baby steps. Like so many things in life you just need to clear your head and take it one thing at a time. So pick one task and complete it before moving on to the next.

If you start off in the morning with a dozen things on your to-do list and work a little bit on each one throughout the day, you will be making progress but at the end of your day you will still have 12 things that are not finished.

However, if you pick one item on your list and work on it until it's finished before moving on to the next, at the end of your day you may only have 7 or 8 things that still need finishing. You'll feel much better about your accomplishments that day and wont feel as overwhelmed with the work that wasn't done. Those remaining items can simply go to the top of your list for tomorrow.

How to prevent feeling overwhelmed.

Organization is key

It's simple, make lists. Your mind already has enough to worry about. Don't add keeping track of everything to the burden. Write a list of what you need to accomplish each day and you will have a better understanding of how to divide your time.

I like to make my lists on paper. That way I can scratch items off when I finish them, which I find much more satisfying than simply pressing a checkbox in an app. Now if paper is not your thing, there are may great apps for managing your to-do lists. ClearDaylight and Evernote come immediately to mind. But I personally don't like it when the items I check off disappear from my list. I know it's to help you focus on what still needs to be done, but I like to see all the scratches on my paper showing me what I've accomplished already. It makes me feel good.

My strategy is every evening before gong to bed I come to my office and write a new to-do list for the following day. I take everything that wasn't scratched off today's list and put it at the top of the new list. I like doing this the night before because I can think about it while I'm in bed and plan my day. In the morning I can get straight to work because I already know what needs to be done.

Longer deadlines

If at all possible, assign longer deadlines for your projects. Instead of telling your clients that you will have something to show them tomorrow, tell them it will be in two days, or by the end of the week. If you get it to them sooner great, they'll be impressed, but if you don't manage it they wont be disappointed in you.

Get help

If you have repetitive or menial tasks that need doing, find someone to take on the task. Why should you spend hours copying and pasting hundreds of names and contact info onto that new business card you just designed for that big corporation? Hire someone (students are great for this) to do this for you. It will free up your time for other things and you wont feel so overwhelmed.

Do something for yourself

Sometimes it isn't your workload or the job at all. Sometimes it's you. Do yourself a favour and get some exercise. Do something creative that isn't for work. Go visit a museum, or simply go for a walk. 

Sometimes all it takes is stepping away for some "me time" in order to refocus yourself to overcome that feeling of being overwhelmed.

You're not alone

We all feel overwhelmed at times. It's human nature and it's part of being a graphic designer. Just know that you will get through it and it will make you a better person and designer when you do. And getting through it will help you the next time you feel overwhelmed.

What do you think?

What do you do when you take some time off from your graphic design business? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Haya,

I've been designing for a while for the company I work at. I took some classes in the beggining but I'm mostly self taught, I find that I am missing some basic rules in design what makes my work kind of amateurish. I really would like to take design to the next level, but the tutorials and content that I find on the internet are more how to use photoshop, or any program and less about concept and design.
I cannot go back to school of design so I would love to hear your input on where can I learn more on my free time.?

To find out what I told Haya you’ll have to listen to the podcast. But I'll give you a hint. I mention Linda.comCreativelive.com and Udemy.com

Resource of the week is Google Alerts

Google Alerts, found at alerts.google.com, is the way I use to keep me up to speed on all sorts of topics. It's extremely easy to set up alerts. Simply enter the search terms on the page and Google will email you the results daily, weekly or as they come out. It's just like doing a search engine search but the results are delivered to your email inbox. You can filter the search by language, region, sources.

Google Alerts are an easy and free way to stay on top of things.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on 
Android

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 21, 2016

Dealing with deadlines, what type of designer are you?

Before I get into dealing with deadlines let me first define what a deadline is. According to Webster Dictionary a deadline is a date or time when something must be finished : the last day, hour, or minute that something will be accepted.

I know I didn’t really need to give you the definition of a deadline. You’re a graphic designer, you know all too well what a deadline is. But what I really wanted to touch on is not what a deadline is, but instead, how a deadline comes to be.

What I’m getting at is, who decided that the project you are working on needs to be done at a specific time?

Did your client tell you? Or, did you tell the client?

One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered, especially amongst newer or inexperienced graphic designers is their mistaking a client’s enthusiasm as a desire to have the job done quickly and then self impose a deadline.

When I worked in the design department at a commercial printer our Production Coordinator did this all the time. I would be discussing a new project with a client, getting all the specs and details, and at the end of the conversation the client would ask something like “how soon before I see a proof?”. My Production Coordinator automatically interpreted this as “the client needs this in a rush” and would tell him a proof would be ready within a day or two, forcing the design department to rush on the project. What was maddening is oftentimes the client would respond to this by saying something like “wow, I wasn’t expecting it that fast. I thought it would take at least two weeks but 2 days is great!” As I said maddening.

What’s even more maddening is that I’ve seen this happen over and over again. Just because a client asks when, or how soon they can see a proof doesn’t mean they are in a rush to get it. Let the client dictate the actual deadline if there is one instead of assigning one yourself.

Setting interim deadlines.

Once you have a true deadline assigned to the project. You’ll need to do some backtracking to figure out what YOUR actual deadline is. Let’s say you’re designing a brochure that your client needs for a trade show at the end of the month. There are several factors to keep in mind;

  • Where is the trade show? Will the client need time to ship the brochures?
  • How long will it take to print? Contact the printer as soon as you get the job. They'll give you a deadline to submit your files by in order to print, trim, fold, bind and package the brochures on time.
  • How long will revisions take after the client reviews the initial proof?
  • How long will the client require after receiving the proof before sending those revisions?
  • Finally, add in some padding for anything unforeseen that may delay the project.

By calculating all of these things you’ll be able to determine your own deadline for submitting a proof to the client.

Now what?

Now that you have your deadline, how will you go about working on the project?

Dealing with deadlines is all about balance. If you can't learn that balance you will forever struggle between doing the job well and getting it done on time.

Imagine you're sitting down for a holiday feast surrounded by friends and family. A very large plate of delicious looking food is placed in front of you. Maybe there's turkey, and ham, mashed potatoes, some stuffing, steamed vegetables, cranberry sauce, pasta salad, coleslaw and maybe even some home made meatballs, the ones that only grandma can make. Everything looks so good and you can't wait to dig in. But there's so much on your plate and you're not sure you can eat all of it.

So what do you do? Do you make your way around your plate sampling everything until you're full? Do you pick a little of this and a little of that, leaving your favourite part for last so you can eat it all and savour the taste? Or, do you immediately dive into your favourite just in case you run out of room? After all, you wouldn't want to leave that delicious morsel on the plate because you're too full.

How you decide to eat your meal all depends on what type of person you are.

The analogy may be a little slim, but dealing with deadlines isn't much different.

When it comes to dealing with deadlines there are really only three kinds of graphic designers.

  • The Racers: Designers who tackle the project right away and try to get it done as quick as possible with lots of time to spare, and then move on to the next one.
  • The Coasters: Designers who work on the project slowly but diligently, in little chunks from the time it's assigned until the deadline arrives.
  • The Slackers: Designers who wait until the deadline is almost upon them before finally starting. In this case, slacker doesn't mean lazy. More like someone who is often viewed as a procrastinator.

Now, there are many arguments as to which method is best, but what it really comes down to is you, the designer, and how you handle the pressure of dealing with deadlines.

Now I want to give you my own personal opinion on these three types of people. I know My opinion can be wrong, but this is the way I see it. The Racers, those who tackle the project as soon as they get it are doing themselves a disservice. First off, they are not spending enough time thinking about the project before starting their design. Because of this, I feel they are not putting out their best possible work. The design they come up with may be spectacular, but think of how much better they could have made it if they had spent more time on it. Now obviously with more time left before the deadline they could go back and revisit and expand on their design. But chances are they've already moved onto the next project and have put this one out mind.

The Coasters, those who deals with deadlines by working on the design steadily but in chunks. These designers are also doing themselves a disservice. Sure this method allows them to work diligently on the project and not feel the pressure of the deadline looming over them. But by breaking up their time this way they are constantly disconnecting themselves from the project, splitting their focus between different design projects which could hurt their overall vision and design.

By now I'm sure you've managed to guess what type of designer I am. I truely believe that The Slacker, the designer who waits until the deadline is almost upon them before starting is the one producing the best work.

Let me tell you why...

You're a creative person. Obviously, you wouldn't be in the graphic design profession if you weren't. That creativity means you are able to visualize things in your mind. Play with layouts, fonts, colours and everything else, all within the confines of your head long before putting those visions to paper or pixels.

You know what I mean. Just think of those phone calls you get from clients describing a project to you. If you're like me, you start visualizing in your head how the project will look even before the client finishes describing it. It may not be what the final design turns out to be, but there's definitely something brewing in your head. By the time you hang up the phone you already have a good idea of where you're going to start.

Of course all three types of designers start out this way which is to be expected. It's what they do afterwards that separates them.

The Racer starts right away developing that idea and doesn't alway explore other possibilities.

The Coaster starts developing their idea and then comes back to it later. They may have some revalations along the way, but they're mostly tackling the problem knowing they've already taken some steps along a certain path and their more inclined to remain upon it.

Finally the Slacker, the one who hasn't put anything to paper or pixels yet. His ideas have been brewing in his mind since he first received the project. Changing, evolving, ideas come and are dismissed, others are picked apart and rearranged into something different, better. New directions are explored, some working out and others not so much. All of this is happening in his head as the deadline is approaching.

When the time finally arrives to actually produce the design the Slacker has a very clear picture of what he wants to do and is able to spend a much smaller amount of time implementing it than the first two designer types spent on theirs. And chances are his design will be a much better thought out concept than theirs were.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said;

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe"

That concept hold true in graphic design, especially when dealing with deadlines. The longer you spend thinking about your design before starting, the faster you'll be able to design it and the better the design will be.

I know it's not always easy to do. I've found myself hanging up the phone with a client and being so exited about their project that I've dropped everything to get started on it. I also know those are the projects that I've wasted the most time changing and revising before being satisfied enough to show it to the client. If I would have taken the time to reflect on my ideas I probably could have saved myself a lot of time and come up with the same design or maybe even something better.

So what I'm saying is give yourself time to think about your design before diving in. If you don't deal well with the pressure of deadlines then don't wait until the last minute. Give yourself enough time to get the job done but also give yourself enough time to know you're doing the job right, and to the best of your ability.

Dealing with deadlines is all about balance. Learn to master that and you're on your way to becoming a better and more proficient graphic designer.

 

What do you think?

What do you do when you take some time off from your graphic design business? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Amie,

Hi Mark!
My name is Amie. I am from Pensacola, Florida. I am opening a graphic design studio and I am so grateful to have found your podcast. Thank you for all of your invaluable content!!!
I was wondering if you could share a little about profit margin. What is the typical profit margin for a small boutique graphic design studio? We won't be offering any web services at first, just traditional print design/branding stuff.
Any insights you could share?
Thanks so much!

To find out what I told Amie you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week is Pretty Link Pro

Pretty Link enables you to shorten links using your own domain name (as opposed to using tinyurl.com, bit.ly, or any other link shrinking service)! In addition to creating clean links, Pretty Link tracks each hit on your URL and provides a full, detailed report of where the hit came from, the browser, os and host. Pretty Link is a killer plugin for people who want to clean up their affiliate links, track clicks from emails, their links on Twitter to come from their own domain, or generally increase the reach of their website by spreading these links on forums or comments on other blogs.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on 
Android

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 6, 2016
Be So Good... A Graphic Designer's Guide to Success - RD033

Be So Good... That Nothing Else Matters!

Running a graphic design business isn't an easy task. There's a lot more than just being a good graphic designer involved. You need to build relationships with your clients, find the best suppliers for your business, seek out help for the tasks you can't handle. Not to mention the day to day tasks that go into running any business. Invoicing, bookkeeping, banking, paying bills etc.

So how is a single graphic designer, running his or her own business expected to compete with every other graphic design company out there? Simple, be so good that nothing else matters.

This week's podcast is a little different than my past episodes. It's more on the motivational side than the norman educational pieces I've put out. Leave me a comment letting me know what you think of this one.

Be So Good...

With everything required of you and your business, it's hard to be the best person out there for clients to choose from. But maybe being the best is aiming too high. I'm not saying you shouldn't strive to be the best. What I'm saying is whoever the "best" is can be subjective. How do you even determine who the best is? You can't really, and neither can your clients. So instead you should strive to be so good that it doesn't matter who is best.

In the eyes of your clients

Be so good... that they know you care about them and their business.
Be so good... that they think of you as a friend and confidant.
Be so good... that they trust your opinion and follow your lead.
Be so good... that they measure other designers by you.
Be so good... that they treasure your work, your experience and your expertise.
Be so good... that they feel fortunate to have met you.
Be so good... that they don't question your prices.
Be so good... that they're willing to pay more, pay extra and in advance for your services.
Be so good... that they're willing to wait for you when your busy.
Be so good... that they seek your opinion in non graphic design matters.
Be so good... that you are the first person they think of when needing business advice.
Be so good... that they bring up your name in conversations with their collegues.
Be so good... that they refer you, even when nobody asked them for a referral.
Be so good... that they know you're there for them when they need you.
Be so good... that they can't imagine running their business without you.

In the eyes of your Competitors

Be so good... that they try to copy or even steal what you do.
Be so good... that they come to you seeking advice.
Be so good... that they refer their clients to you when they can can't service them.
Be so good... that they want to partner with you.

In the eyes of your Critics

Be so good... they criticize your work because they can't compete with it.
Be so good... that your critics just strengthen your resolve and your drive to do even better.
Be so good... that their criticism doesn't bother you.
Be so good... that others come to your defence and stand up for you.

In conclusion

Be so good... that your customers revere you for making their lives so great, your competitors become your collaborators and your critics, well, who cares about the critics. You're so good that you don't need to worry about them.

What do you think?

I would love to know what you thought of this episode? Let me know by leaving me a comment.

Questions of the Week

If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Norman,

How do you handle working with clients from out of town or city? How often would you go to meet these clients in person, before or after the project has started?

To find out what I told Norman you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week is CushyCMS

CushyCMS is a truly simple content management system that allows your clients to safely edit their own website, and allows you to pick and choose what parts of the website that have access to. CushyCMS is extremely easy to use. There's no software to install and only takes a few minutes to setup. Simply add a special class tag to the sections of the website you want your clients to be able to edit and give them access. It's that easy. Your client makes their desired changes and CushyCMS updates the website. And it's all standards compliant and search engine friendly.

CushyCMS is free to use for up to 5 websites. You could also pay a monthly fee for additional sites and options, and for the ability to use your own branding on the site.

If you build websites and want to allow your clients to edit only certain areas of the site, CushyCMS is for you.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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