Does anyone else get another burst of motivation towards the end of the year? I like to think of it as my last-minute gene kicking in. It often happens when I spot the bus I need to catch and start channeling my inner Usain Bolt.
Last year I shared a few emotional changes and 2017 has been about fine tuning the practical side. It’s a weird one, I love coming up with a system or process (look at me and my multiple Google Drive documents) but they don’t always stick. Every so often I abandon my bullet journal for good old iPhone notes before switching back with a vengeance. I’ve tried to accept that this is the way I am, a mixture of organised and chaotic in one person.
When you’re freelance, most systems tend to be a work in progress that you can perfect and learn from over time. Here’s a few I use instinctively that have changed things for the better.
I keep a blogging diary
One of my ongoing regrets is not really having a diary. Sure, I have lots of perfectly posed images to look at but a pretty vague idea of what was going on behind the scenes. When exactly did I realise that you can’t take friendship for granted?
The next best thing I have is a log of business related thoughts. I shared my Monthly Meetings process earlier this year and what’s really been useful is keeping a record of how I’m feeling. It’s sometimes a stream of consciousness but I note down everything, things I’m annoyed about (such as the Photobucket fee fiasco), things I’m curious about as well as any successes.
It’s particularly useful as I often have to give talks or write posts that require me to reflect a little (I’m planning a big ‘un for my 10th blogging anniversary next year). I like being able to pinpoint the moments where I’ve introduced certain elements to my work and you never know when you might need the information.
I’ve identified the issues that crop up during projects
Another thing I’ve developed is a standard list of questions to ask whenever I receive a collaboration enquiry. This came about after the 47th time I got to the end of a campaign and realised there was a series of complicated supplier forms in order for me to get paid properly. It’s so much easier if you’re able to tackle this at the early stages and get it out of the way.
The list can be personal to the kinds of projects you do, but I tend to ask about payment terms, exclusivity, if posts need approval and whether the contact will be out of office at any point. There’s nothing worse than finishing off a post, sending the preview over and getting an automated reply straight away. This list just gets everything out in the open and allows you to plan your time accordingly.
Gmail is my BFF
Does anyone else worry about sounding pleasant enough over email? Don’t even get me started on trying to curb excessive exclamation marks. Although I can’t solve these gripes, I have been using a few Gmail hacks that streamline all things communication.
Canned responses has to be a favourite, it allows you to write standard replies to RSVPs, event invites and those neverending guest post requests. Just head to settings, then Labs and search for Canned Responses (you can also do this via Streak by using Snippets). Each draft you write can be added as a canned response, just make sure you remove things like ‘Hi xxx’ before you hit send.
Prone to messing up your recipients names? Then you need to use Undo Send. You can enable this gem in the general settings section and choose a specific cancellation period. Boomerang is also worth activating if you like to write emails at 1am, as you can schedule them to send at specific times (and even pause your inbox if checking constantly is your vice).
One to manage carefully is email tracking in Streak, you can see whether emails have been opened and even pinpoint the device and location. The nosey parker in me has had to deactivate, but it may be useful if you’re chasing an unpaid invoice.
I turn the things I don’t like into projects
Writing and scheduling social media copy is something I always used to dread. I’d go a bit blank once I’d finished writing a post and struggle to think of ways I could promote it. My tip for anything you get stuck on, is to research the people doing it well. Look at the bloggers and brands whose tweets are making you click and see if there’s anything you can extract from that formula.
I now have a few failsafe options and now I’ve taken the pressure off, I tend to get ideas at random moments (such as whilst doing the washing up). I pop them into Buffer when I’m done and I’ve been using Hiplay to create a schedule that mixes up the tweets I need to send. It’s not ideal to have a feed filled with automated tweets, I know, but it has helped when I feel a little overwhelmed and need to have my necessary Twitter breaks.
I try to understand the year as a whole
I’m writing this bit on World Kindness Day, which I’ve only just realised by checking the Twitter trending topics. Ooops. Although I’ve always had a content calendar, I’ve not been the kind of person who can think about the year in a broader sense.
Traditional publications tend to feature swimwear in April and gift guides in November, but the best thing about blogging is that we have the freedom to add in topics that are personal to us. Florals for Spring are a given, but I also know that I’ll probably be really motivated in January and have a slump in the Summer, so I try and plan content around that. My current spreadsheet looks a bit chaotic, but I try to have a mixture of stating the obvious, things that might work for brands and personal ideas. Nothing has to be set in stone, but it’s flexible and a great prompt if I need some ideas.
If you’re late to the planning party, then it’s worth popping a note into your calendar so you’re prepped for next year (plus you can always check Days Of The Year to see if anything catches your eye). I’m sure World Kindness Day 2018 will be here before we know it.
Have you made any practical changes this year? No doubt I’ll still keep creating charts and systems and only 20% will stick (plus my 261 iPhone notes don’t seem to be going down)…