No Resolutions This Year!

Do you love the feeling of the New Year, with its fresh start?

I usually romanticize about my “dream life” and then make all kinds of work-related and personal resolutions. I always feel like I have the energy of the ages behind me — that nothing can stand in my way! That is, until reality sets in and I realize I have more resolutions than time.

This year, no resolutions for me. I recently had the realization that resolutions are akin to laying out dreams without an agenda and specifics, without which nothing changes. This year, I set my attention, my intention, and through this, my goals.

SETTING MY ATTENTION

I did an end-of-year review of my business. I took a hard look at the numbers: at which actionable items brought in the most revenue and which ones just ate up the most time without a significant financial return. I was shocked to find that my core offering, web design, is actually a great big loser when comparing time spent with revenue and cash flow.

I knew I had my biggest year yet in terms of web design, but the amount of time it takes for me to create a website versus cash flow is not working. I had to make a big change if Saxon Design was going to remain solvent and I was going to maintain my sanity. This has been my monster in the closet for years… it’s time to figure out a solution and get on with living a successful and happy life. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?

SETTING MY INTENTION

Once my attention was on the “problem,” I could set an intention. At first, my intention was simply to solve my cash flow problem by invoicing monthly rather than at certain project breakpoints, but I knew that was not targeting the real issue. My real issue is time.

I have two children, and even though they are getting older, I just do not have a steady 8-hour day or 40-hour workweek. My personality is such that I do not work well with interruptions (I get crabby and then cannot think or create well). I prefer introversion to extroversion, and I need solace, so I end up taking some “solace time” during my work day when the kids are at school. It’s a necessity!

I also need more time for personal things, like finding a hobby (what’s that?), learning about raw foods (a personal interest), yoga and working out, and relaxation.

Upon taking a more holistic view, I fully understood that web design alone does not either fulfill me or bring in enough money to sustain my family. I took a good look at where I get most into my “zone” and what feels good, what takes the least amount of time for me, and the answer was clear: I LOVE TO WRITE.

At this point, I knew I could easily work writing into my core services by offering SEO and Content Development, and within one day of making that decision (I had not even announced it), three different people called, asking about these very services. We are now discussing retainer options. A beautiful thing.

SETTING MY GOALS

There is now a lot of work to do in rearranging my core services. Ongoing SEO and content development will now be the main thrust of my business and how I get people through the door. Web design will be supplementary. My goals include:

1. Education. I have a lot to do here, but once I started diving in, I realized I already know much more than I had originally thought. I have chosen an SEO University, and will begin going through their curriculum at the start of the year. This is a self-paced curriculum, so I am able to schedule this into my day, week and month as I see fit, and it is extremely affordable. Beautiful.

2. Website Update. Now that I am much more clear about what I am doing and how I can make money doing it, the look, feel and language of my website needs to change. Quickly.

3. Marketing. I am using Marketing Mentor’s 2013 Marketing Plan + Calendar for Creative Professionals to keep me on track in this way, and rather than waiting until my website is finished, I have decided to do outreach on an ongoing basis and use my personal connections with people to explain the exciting changes I am making.

I feel that because of these changes:

  • I will be able to move work in and out at a much faster pace, keep cash flow going, and have more personal time.
  • I will have the cash flow to outsource the parts of web design that are so slow for me, and I will enjoy the process much, much more.
  • I will build and strengthen my client relations through ongoing work for them, and they will be able to accurately measure the value of what I accomplish for them.
  • Not only that, but I will have the first glimpse of how my services are helping them grow and make more money, and that is a wonderful feeling.

How about you? What kinds of changes will you be making in your business this year? Do you have a plan?

8 thoughts on “No Resolutions This Year!

  1. Tiffany Estes

    I’ve heard of at least one other creative freelancer who was in the same/similar boat. Web design was not as profitable as his print work. No matter what the particulars, this kind of analysis and introspection is a really important part of “righting the ship.” And it takes courage to acknowledge that the “holy grail” of modern design may not be the best money producer for your business. Refreshing! Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you with your newfound focus.

  2. Pamela Saxon

    Tiffany, thanks so much for the vote of confidence. It is, indeed, somewhat scary, but also very exciting. It’s amazing how a change of focus and priorities can open one up to creative ideas that otherwise might have remained allusive, which is what is happening for me now. I appreciate your comment!

  3. Damien Golden

    Kudos on the realizations Pamela! Sometimes it isn’t easy being honest with yourself. I’m glad you set goals and not resolutions. We outsource lower mark-up pieces of our projects too. You’ll soon find how rewarding it is when you fill your time with only the best fit jobs and details for you. The rest truly can be delegated.

  4. Pamela Saxon

    Damien, like a lot of business owners, I find it a little difficult to give up “control” and delegate to others when the buck stops here. But, when I weigh that against what I have been giving up to hold onto the control (i.e. sleep, exercise, and just having fun in my life in general), it’s clearly not been worthwhile OR profitable. To continue on that hamster’s wheel now that I can so clearly see the truth would be nothing less than insane. Yes, I am looking forward to that reward, and thank you for your support!

  5. Lynda Stewart

    Pamela, this is very timely and inspiring to me. I am feeling the same way about web design. It has gotten so complex, and clients want sites to do so much that I am spending more and more time on them. I tried to raise my web rates to compensate but then I started losing projects because prospects felt the price was too high, opting for DIY sites instead. Add in the constant need to learn new skills because the web changes at break-neck pace and now it feels more like WORK than the career I used to enjoy.

    My print work is so much more rewarding and WAY more profitable, I would LOVE to do that and only that. But that seems so contrary to what’s happening now in the industry. Digital and mobile are all the rage, and I feel like as if I stop offering web design that I won’t have enough work at all. Not to mention that since I have been doing web for almost 17 years I kind of almost feel like I’d be wasting all that experience. Just not sure what to do at this point.

  6. Pamela Saxon

    Lynda, thanks for sharing. I know exactly what you are talking about. I’ve tried raising my rates too in order to compensate, but the push-back is extreme. There are so many beautiful themes available for $39, and clients don’t understand why it would cost so much more to have a site uniquely designed for them. They also do not understand how these beautiful themes are many times also bloated with code, causing them to rank lower in search (among other issues).

    It’s extremely frustrating. I know one key lies in educating my clients, but I just don’t have that much time (or energy). Yes, once I start blogging on my own site I will write about it, but most of them will still need the hand-holding, regardless.

    I’m hoping that by leading with SEO, content strategy and development, and social media management that I will be able to make up for lost money when the website needs to be developed. And if there’s no accompanying website, that’s fine too!

    In regards to wasting 17 years of experience… I do not believe any of that would be wasted if you decided to go in a different direction. You always take yourself (and your experience) with you. I have made a career out of changing careers, and every time I do it I become more and more secure with who I am and what I have to bring to the table, precisely BECAUSE I have gone off in so many directions.

  7. Karen Kessler

    Pam,
    Kudos for following your instincts. My husband and I have been a print design and illustration studio for 30+ years. Needless to say, we have reinvented ourselves many times. Illustration used to be at least half of our business, now it is a fraction of that. We are currently updating our website, facebook, linkedin, etc. as our roles change.

    While we do design sites, we are currently working on price bundles for social media services. We have had several social media “experts” ask us to price design for timeline images, cross-platform design, etc. I have done tons of research, and am concluding that while the social media experts seem to be able to charge as much as they like for their services, they don’t want to pay beans for custom design of their sites. The same thing that is happening with regards to custom website design vs DIY sites.

    It is definitely a struggle to adapt to this dumbing down of creative work, and where we fit in. It is encouraging to hear how others in our field are handling it.

    Karen Kessler

  8. Pamela Saxon

    Karen, one thing I am finding is that people just cannot argue with numbers. And SEO Analysis offers this! If a client is mystified as to how to get visitors to their site, and the numbers from competitors’ sites are better, that’s an easy sell, not only from a technical standpoint, but from a design aspect as well.

    While affordable software has definitely made it easier for the masses to create their own websites, and “anyone” can write copy (LOL), you just can’t argue with numbers. So, when a prospect comes to me and says “I designed my own site and wrote my own copy, but my traffic isn’t where I want it to be,” then I lead with, “Let me do a site audit for you, and we can go from there.”

    It definitely is a struggle to adapt to the dumbing down, you are so right! Which is why I have decided to stop swimming upstream, and find a way to go with the flow. By no means am I saying this is the answer, but I do know that repeating what doesn’t work is not only unproductive; it’s also insane!

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