2016 … Final Thoughts. The usual ups and downs but a great year.
It’s been another great year. There’s been ups and downs – there always is running your own business. This is what I think of 2016, without mentioning David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy, the drummer from the Inspiral Carpets or Greg Lake.
1. Conquering website design
I've only been designing websites properly since around 2009 – fairly late to the party. I’d always worked full time in agencies specialising in print and brand identity. This year I’ve designed websites for at least three clients and enjoyed it more than before. A greater understanding of the possibilities, as well as working with some great developers has led to this renewed love of the pixel.
2. Upping my social media game
I've always been OK on the social media front (because I enjoy doing it). This year I started using Buffer to schedule posts. I’ve still kept posts relevant to my industry and target audience and injected my personality into them. Buffer has helped schedule posts for the week ahead, leaving me more time to focus on the design work. I do still engage on social media during the day, with followers and their comments, but if I’m too busy … I know that I will still have a presence. I’ve also focused on the ones I get the most engagement out of – Twitter and Instagram.
Structured, expensive, time-consuming, face-to-face networking
Before I start, I’ll caveat this by saying that I know networking works for many people in business and I know many people enjoy it and get new business from their connections. I spent a lot of time last year on traditional networking events, gaining no new business and wasting a lot of money. This year, I ditched it and have been busier than ever. I still attend a couple of more casual networking events. They are aimed more towards my target audience and always involve a talk or panel discussion relevant to marketing, design, content or social media.
Keeping the work flowing this year
Despite shifting the focus away from networking, I've been busier than ever this year. There were no scary empty gaps without any work (unlike 2015) and I've built some great relationships with new clients as well as maintaining those with existing clients. Word of mouth recommendations, and new clients finding me online has led to a year of almost uninterrupted work. I’ve also gained new business purely through Twitter and had enquiries through Instagram.
- Which ways of winning new business works best for you?
1. Designing and building a new website for Creative Cadence
After designing some lovely websites for clients, I'll admit, it's made me jealous – I want a new one myself! My website is over three years old now and needs a revamp, so hopefully I'll be revealing it this time next year (or hopefully before!) Now I’ve stated this to the world online, it means I have to do it!
2. Asking for more help
Currently I still do most things myself, apart from web build, the VAT return and my end of year accounts. In 2016 I’m going to use more outside help, the talents of other freelancers, to help do some of the things I currently do, that take me away from my core specialism of design. These could be artworking for print, or building templates in Word and Powerpoint – something that, once I’ve done the design, I should be delegating forwards. I'll still have final sign-off before they go to the clients.
- How did you first broach external resource in your business?
3. More collaboration, less isolation
2016 has seen more collaboration with web developers and copywriting / content agencies, and I’ve really enjoyed working with them. As well as the actual work, it’s great to catch up with other human beings, share ideas and compare notes on working for yourself.
4. Project management wizardry
In doing more website projects this year, one thing I’ve realised I’m not the best at, is the project management side of large jobs. I manage smaller jobs with clients and suppliers on a daily basis. Larger projects such as websites, involving a larger team, need good project management to keep them on track. This is a skill I need to learn or employ the talents of a freelance specialist.
- Have you any tips on how to handle project management yourself?
5. A clearer pathway
As part of my work with Watertight Marketing this year (and as part of the new website) I’m going to look at a clearer path to purchase for new customers. This will involve a product ladder, with gateway products and more clarity on what I specialise in, making it easier for new prospects, as well as existing customers, to buy from me.
6. Try something new that doesn’t involve work
Sorry to clients that are reading this (you do matter!) but I’ve learnt more this year that the creative brain needs a break and new challenges to keep it sharp. I’ve done this in the past with cycling and singing in a pop choir. Next year I’ve decided to let my inner Jimi Hendrix loose by taking guitar lessons (already booked in fact!) So, the challenge is on. If I can’t strum along to The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues by this time next year, I've failed!
Finally the thank-you’s.
I won’t name names as it’ll take far too long and you all have mince pies to eat.
Virtual fist-bumps go to all my clients – existing ones that have continued to work with me, and new ones that have found interest in what Creative Cadence does.
Thank you to all our suppliers – printers, web developers, copywriting and content friends.
Thank you to other creatives, social media chums, marketing buddies and those we’ve been lucky enough to share thoughts with this year. If you’re reading this, then that probably means you.
Have a lovely Christmas folks and catch up in 2017. Finally a word from the great man himself (OK, just one mention):