Intentions vs Resolutions

It is both the road to heaven and the road to hell that are paved with good intentions. Look at them as small, incremental ways in which we either grow or digress. From a small business perspective my two main intentions for 2019 is better communication with my clients and timely invoicing.

I’ve got more on my list, but we’ll start there.
Forward!
~e

Lessons Learned: 2018 in Review

It’s that time of year when we naturally turn to both personal and professional self-reflection. As we draw 2018 to a close, I sit here at my newly created office and am doing exactly that. Here are the things I’ve learned from my small business in 2018.

  1. I am filled with good ideas and they are worthy. Whether it be noticing trends or paying attention to subtleties, this year has taught me that the ideas I see have merit. For me, part of the key to this year’s success has been paying attention to them and carrying them out for both my clients and myself.
  2. My work is serious and I treat it like the business it is. Though I tend to weave humor into my work, I do respect it and treat it as the vital, critically important business that it is. My family would not survive if Robinson Studio did not do well. I am grateful for the opportunities 2018 has provided to reach higher and treat Robinson Studio with dignity.
  3. It’s all about relationships. Whether client, partner or mentor, my business is all about relationships and nuturing those. This year, I had two very painful lessons with new clients refusing to pay for work rendered. To learn from this experience, I have to firmly understand my part in this misadventure so that I do not repeat it. For me, in both instances (which happened within a month of each other) were the result of several similarities including no clearly written expectations (i.e. a contract in place) and also no regular (weekly, bi-weekly) contact with these new clients to make certain that I was meeting my part of the obligations. Finally, in both these situations I did not send out a regular invoice and so when my cumulative invoice came it was a big chunk for a fellow small business owner and thence it was rejected…and I had no leg to stand on, legally or otherwise. I’ve learned from these painful lessons and can guarantee you that I won’t repeat those same mistakes.
  4. Budgets have limits. There’s nothing like having a budget, using it up and having to work for free to complete a project. It again was another painful lesson, this one primarily in time and money management. I left the days of minimum wage long ago. Minding my budget (and my client’s) and the time division is critical for not only my business’ success but my mental well being.
  5. Limit pro-bono to one project or activity a year. While some business’ may need to do giveaways or donations as a way of building an audience or exposure, 2018 for me reaffirmed that I need to stay focused and not scatter my efforts in too many directions. My time is limited and needs to be shared with family and other work obligations, if I overcommit, no matter how good my intentions, I will end up hurting the ones I love, including myself. Boundaries matter. Be generous. Above all, be wise.

Whether you are reading this on NYE or at some later date, consider taking some time to reflect on the past 12 months and the lessons learned. Write them down. See if there is a pattern or an overarching theme. And above all: keep at it!

 

A Working Environment

This week, my office got an upgrade and the positive energy from my renewed space fills my heart with both joy and purpose. This goodness was prompted by a friend and mentor who gently nudged me to make my working space a priority in both my mind and my physical world. What you do not see, behind the curtain, is a serene view of water across a small field of green. I am enthralled and so excited about the good things to come from this intentional act of confident dedication to my craft as a professional.

But I don’t want to work today

Be wary of “mental health days”.

Every once in a blue moon, you may well and truly need one. I have found; however, that what I really need is an order to my days and the ability to “turn off” work on regularly scheduled days (maybe it is Saturday or Sunday), but right now, it is rarely both.

Having one day a week that you can count on as “I don’t have to think about work day” really does help you recharge.

Otherwise, you find yourself escaping into “mental health days” far too often on days you should actually be working.
Forward!
~e

Rinse & Repeat

Do the first right thing. The easiest one on your list to accomplish. There! Well done! Now, pick the next right thing to do. Spend a day like this. Then the next. You’ll be shocked at how much gets done.

Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed, I set a timer for 15 minutes. Ok, I do that a lot. It turns the chore into a game and makes it easier to do the task at hand. Try it. You may just have discovered the hidden key to your success.
Forward!
~e

Now is the time

Posted on my personal page today. It applies to all of us, in every aspect of our lives. 

“Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.”
— Epictetus.

Give Yourself 15 Minutes to Plan Your Day

Frazzled? When you are running a small business or a new business venture, it can feel like you are running from one crisis to the next. As in, “What is the absolute most important thing that I must get done today?” (or “RIGHT NOW!”)

Ironically, this approach can leave us worn out, weary, and disconnected from feeling like we are actually making any real progress. This is how I spent my summer and it had some rather negative results, some of which I am still working through. With the just past Labor Day weekend, I took some serious time to evaluate what *I* needed to do to change and improve my business. As a result, I’ve put some steps in place to ensure this last quarter of the year has my very best efforts applied to it. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share those steps with you, in case you care to add a few into your routine as well.

STEP ONE: 15 minutes
For me, one of the best habits I can easily put back in place is a timed 15 minutes of planning my day and my businesses needs.
If I can do that daily, not only is there a feeling of accomplishment in just that small action, but I am able to track goals and see results. For me, one of the primary purposes of this is to better my communication skills with my clients by not neglecting or dropping any of their projects or deadlines. It also gives me the opportunity to circle back and remind them about short-term goals that may have slipped off their plates as well. I take a very literal approach to 15 minutes and actually set a timer, shut my door, and do not answer the phone, or email or address any interruptions. I have a physical planner. Yes, a digital calendar as well, but my physical planner allows me to write notes and doodle things in a way my tech does not. Plus, the action of writing helps me organize and retain what “the plan” is.

So, here’s your challenge: give yourself 15 minutes, every day. It sounds easy, but it is actually a lot harder than you think it is to be consistent on a daily basis.

Race the clock, if you need to, but get started… ready, set, GO!

 

 

Lesson #2: Communication

Learn the lesson or you will repeat it.

Today, I got thoroughly schooled in the mistake of not communicating regularly with a client.

Friends, it was an expensive class.

What hurts most is that my client decided not only to not pay for my work, but to literally trash my work. As an artist that hurts like a sucker punch. As a hard worker that just is appalling. That someone would treat my work with such disrespect must mean they are suffering from a level of anger that is manifesting itself in a deep, self-destructive way.

A lot of what I do involves ghostwriting for small businesses social media pages. There is a lot of thought and effort and actual out-of-my-pocket cash that goes into making a social media page vibrant and successful.

This I had done for this client like all the others, but I had failed to communicate. More importantly, I had failed to communicate regularly. So all the rest of the good I did, or the good I intended, doesn’t really matter.

Their solution to the problem (paying their invoice) was to simply delete the work without a conversation. So, again, we face the problem of more lack of communication. Perhaps, they think that solves their need to pay. Possibly they think that I did not record screenshots of my work. Based on their actions, we might be able to assume that they do not realize that I have dated invoices from my vendors, along with stats, to prove that I did indeed not only perform the services we agreed upon, but got proof-positive results as well.

This situation could devolve into the Real Ugly PDQ.  What purpose would that gain? Would this person still wish to work with me? We both know that answer. For the first time in my knowledge, I’ve lost a client through my own negligence and that is a very painful, could-have-been-avoided lesson. So instead of “get even” or “get what’s due me,” and create more stink on an already soured situation, I’ll let the Universe teach him his lesson, and I’ll learn mine. My hope is by sharing this with you there will be “bonus points” added and you’ll learn from my mistake as well without having to actually go through this patch of Hell yourself. That way, the bottom line cost for my mistake goes down significantly. It’s like you paying for a $35/mo car wash service only use it once over a six-month stretch. Well, Sweetheart, that is one expensive car wash! However, if you get your car washed four times in one month and 24 times over the course of six months: Hey! Bonus Points! So, please learn from me, Friends. Like I said, this was an expensive class. By reading this abridged notes version, you can skip the class entirely. Win-win!

So what is the lesson?
Communicate!
Over communicate.
Get it in writing.
Or you will get schooled.
It won’t be pretty.

In the meantime, I’ll use my former “it didn’t happen, ’cause it doesn’t exist” client’s business card as a bookmark, to remind me of the costly mistake I made. My other clients, both current and future, will gain the benefits of my hard-earned knowledge. Ultimately, so will I.

Hopefully, you will as well.

 

(note: this article took more than six seconds to read… if you got to here, you officially are not a goldfish!)

 

How do you protect your work?

Once again, I seem to have not learned the lesson of strong communication… and now that I’ve sent an invoice, the client does not want to pay, wants to keep my work, and now somehow wants to get more work from me.

So, again, I get to learn a lesson here. The fact that it is coming right on top of an earlier lesson, makes it stand out sharply with all its rough and jagged edges. I’m not used to working with such people. Not used to this caliber of person calling themselves a professional.

But I will learn this lesson. If I don’t, I’m going to be out of business very soon, for who can afford to work and not get paid? Volunteers are wonderful folks and we need them in our society… and I do plenty of volunteer work, but this is my livelihood. Using my work without my permission and without payment is not an acceptable arrangement. Not to me. Not to my family.

Learn from me, Folks. Avoid this costly and painful mistake.