Here’s a quick interview about the best habits for designers to follow.
Favorite quote: “If you have a drive to be self-employed, it is totally worth it. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And I think because it’s not easy, that’s what makes it really rewarding.”
What are your best habits? Do you have some bad ones you need to drop?
You can also access the video here: Megan Clark: Best Habits to Follow, Graphic Designer One to One: 3 of 4 videos from Better Wear A Hat Digital on Vimeo. See other videos from The Business of Graphic Design series by Ed Flynn on YouTube.
If I were to get a tattoo, it might be of the above statement.
When I was co-directing a program for entrepreneurs last summer with my mentor (Lisa Johnson, one of my favorite folk), she kept saying over and over that it was all just an experiment. By tagging the program as an experiment, we couldn’t fail. Fear is stripped from the equation when it’s all just an experiment. There’s nothing to loose because growth and learning is all you’re out to gain.
I loved the thought behind that and decided to apply the mentality to my work and life.
Here are a few things I’ve done under the “life is just a big fat experiment” banner:
- Moved my office out of the house
- Said “No” for four months
- Let my studio site remain defunct for a very extended period of time
- Hired a bookkeeper (Best. Decision. Ever.)
- Hired someone to do my billing (Second best decision ever.)
- Spoke at my alma mater
- Splurged on amazing business cards
- Pitched new business
- Started paying off debt like crazy
- Played hooky from work to fly
- Launched TEC
Have I learned from all of those things? Yep!
Would I do some of them differently? Yep!
Do I regret any of it? Nope!
It’s all a big fat experiment!
I’m not one to “should” on others, but you really should embrace this experiment thing with me. It makes life and work so much more fun. (And no, you don’t have to use the scientific method even if you do remember it from 7th grade, thank goodness.)
Last year I conducted a four-month-long experiment. The reason for conducting the experiment was me. I was completely worn down, burnt out and fed up. The smallest things had become overwhelming to me and I felt like no matter how awesome the clients or the work, I wasn’t interested any more. I had bitten off more than I could chew (something I’d usually promote!). It was all seriously depressing and scary. I love what I do and have always known I was meant for it. The dismal feelings I was having last fall didn’t reach all the way to that core belief, but they got close. Way too close.
Hence, The Saying No Experiment. Here’s an outline:
- Megan has major meltdown.
- Husband tells her to say “no” to all new work.
- Megan immediately feels better and clings to the new rule.
- Megan cancels several new business meetings.
- Megan says “no” once. It hurts.
- Megan says “no” again. It hurts less.
- Megan says “no” a third time. It barely hurts.
- Megan says “no” 29 more times. It starts to feel good.
- Megan decides she has recovered and starts saying “yes” again.
During the experiment I did keep any promises I had made prior; any work I had already committed to was added to my docket and workload within the four months. I didn’t back out of anything already in-process (including a few on-going accounts) and want to make that clear.
I’m a goal-oriented do-er, so this new tactic rooted in not doing was tricky. To stay focused on my new decree, I keep a list of everyone I said “no” to. By keeping a list I was able to pat myself on the back each time I stuck to my guns and followed the new rule. It was surprisingly rewarding.
There were other parts of it that surprised me too:
- People understood. I let the potential clients who called know I was saying no to everything and I garnered a lot of respect from them for my boldness in prioritizing my well-being.
- Many of my self-employed colleagues didn’t get it. I was surprised at first. But then I realized something: we’re trained to say yes left and right because we don’t know when the next client will pop up or how in the world we’re supposed to make enough to save for retirement, car repairs, emergencies…I was busy in a season of supposed scarcity and I was saying “no”. It sounded blasphemous. I was aware of that and decided part way through not to advertise my experiment until I knew how it all panned out.
- It’s like dating. The more unavailable you are, the more you’re wanted.
- It was totally EMPOWERING. Day by day I got back in control of my work and my life.
- My new work mode affected my personal life, too. I had more time for friends and family, but I was more discerning about what I really wanted to make time for. “Yes” as a default answer is not healthy!
- I was still busy. There was never a lull through it all. This is still sort of a mystery to me; I’d like to think it’s evidence of the groundwork I’ve laid over the last few years, working to build on-going relationships, but I also think it brings to light how many projects were in the works when the meltdown hit.
At this point I’d like to make the disclaimer: “Don’t try this at home”, but if there are some of you out there suffering the same symptoms I was plagued with, it might be the best thing you could do for your sanity and your career. (The two go hand-in-hand, by the way.)
A few tips for you courageous ones:
- Have a buffer in the bank. Just in case. Duh.
- Be purposeful with your time. Don’t whittle away your days on Facebook. When you’re working, work. When you’re not, get away from your desk, the office and all computers and play. Spend your time doing things that will make you a better, more inspired person.
- Practice communicating why you are saying “no” to potential clients. Although “no” is a complete sentence, it’s good to give the reason behind it so they don’t take it personally. Some may even save the work for you for later.
- When you start saying “yes” again, you’ll likely find this is automatic, but be discerning. It’s like you’ve cleaned out a large junk drawer and all of a sudden you can start putting things back in it. Don’t fill it with old, empty wrappers and chewed up pens. Pick the sharp scissors, the shiny paperclips and the brand new pencils (i.e. the “good” clients).