It’s a brand new year – a brand new decade even! It’s the perfect time for new opportunities, fresh starts and big changes. What are you doing to make 2020 your year to shine? Have you got plans to finally go freelance? Or was that last year’s resolution and now is the year for business growth?
Check out our 20 New Year’s resolutions for designers and pick out a few that you think you could commit to; from the very small, through to the monumental.
1. Tidy up your downloads folder
Even if you only do this once this year, it’ll be worth it. Ideally you should commit to a good clear out even more regularly but we all know how hard that is to remember. Just think about all those images, typefaces, textures and more you downloaded but never used. Give your memory drive a New Year treat with a good clear out.
2. Update your software
We all do it. We all click that little “Remind Me Later” button so that we don’t have to interrupt what we’re working on and wait for that update to happen. It’s certainly very annoying to have to pause your work like that, especially when you’re just getting into a creative flow, but maybe 2020 is the time to just accept it.
3. Carry a business card at all times
Make 2020 the year where you never miss out on a potential opportunity because you didn’t have a business card to hand. Going out for dinner? Have a business card with you. Picking your child up from school? Have a business card with you. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? Have a business card with you.
4. Name your layers
This is possibly the best habit you could get into this year. How many times do you have to cycle through all your Smart Vector Images to find the specific one you need before you learn? Name your layers. Group your layers and name the groups. Live stress free.
5. Follow up and ask for reviews
Third-party recommendations are so important for subjective work like design. People need to see that you don’t just know how to work Photoshop, you know how to meet their needs, solve their problems, and make them happy. Following up with a client after a project is the best way to get those valuable reviews, and you could learn something too about how to improve.
6. Establish a solid work routine
One of the great things about being your own boss is that you’re responsible for your own time management. One of the worst things about being your own boss is that you’re responsible for your own time management. When you have no-one to hold you accountable, it’s easy to slip into bad habits like sleeping in late, taking long breaks, and then having to stay up into the early hours to get a project done. Set yourself a schedule and train yourself to stick to it.
7. Stop doing things for free
Your time, knowledge and art is worth a lot more than nothing. Prospective work can be tempting, especially if you’re starting out, but businesses should be paying you from the start. Our only caveat is if you want to do something for charity, however even that should only be if you feel able to donate your time that way.
8. Sketch your initial concepts more
At a time where technology has never been so advanced, it’s easy to take a new brief straight to a computer to work on. But digital tools can actually restrict you a little because there are rules to follow. Sketching is only limited by your ability to transfer your ideas onto paper and your ideas are limitless.
9. Get better at receiving negative feedback
We actually wrote a whole blog about this if you want some starting points on how you can achieve this resolution. At the core though, it’s important that you remember criticism is simply an opportunity to improve. Turn a negative into a positive and don’t let it ruin the relationship you have with your client.
10. Finally learn how to use that program
Versatility is a huge strength in a designer. If you’re competent in multiple design programs, you’ll be able to choose the best one for the task at hand. Ultimately, you’ll then be able to offer your clients better quality work. So, if there’s a program you’ve been avoiding or just aren’t 100% comfortable using, make it your 2020 goal to change that fact.
11. Finally learn how to do that technique
On a similar note, there might be a specific skill that you could be working on. If you’ve seen something really cool from another designer, learn about it and see if you can incorporate it into your own work. Your clients will love the range you can offer them and it might stop them looking elsewhere for their more complicated design work.
12. Improve your social media presence
The build-it-and-they-will-come approach to business is all well and good but what if they’ve never heard of you? You need to get your name out there and social media is a great resource. A strong following of happy customers means that your work can be shared and recommended more easily. Plus, prospective customers might research your socials to see how legitimate you are. Find more tips on how designers can make the most out of social media on our blog.
13. Get better at saying ‘no’
One of the tips in our eBook, How to Improve Agency-Client Relationships, is to set out exactly what you can achieve from the off. Don’t make promises you can’t keep because you’ll just end up stressing yourself out and disappointing a client. Whether the timeframe is unreasonable or the requirements don’t fit into your remit, it’s okay to say no sometimes.
14. Work on your own branding
Make sure you put some time aside for yourself this year. The best way to convince people that they can trust you with their brand image is if you have a great brand image yourself. A sharp website and portfolio is really impressive to clients looking for a new design partner. Back it up with consistent, equally sharp business stationery and you’re golden.
15. Keep up to date with the wider design community
Things may be going well for you right now but the industry is always changing and you don’t want to be left behind. Do you regularly check in with industry news? Do you hear about all the latest innovations as and when they’re happening? If not, why not try to keep more in the loop in 2020. Who knows, maybe the next innovation to shake the industry will come from you.
16. Review your costing model
It’s a simple change in theory but could take a bit of time to actually carry out. The time you take to think things through is time taken away from your client work which is why so many people put it off. If you schedule in dedicated time though and commit to it, you could get yourself some nice little bonuses by the end of the year. Don’t forget to check out our tips.
17. Create a welcome pack
This is actually a tip given to us in our 50 Design Tips for Designers from Designers. Philippa Smart, from BeSmart Design, points out that you’ll likely go through a similar process to whenever you bring on a new client; setting out expectations, letting them know what’s expected of them and how you work etc. Why not wow them with a really professional presentation so that they walk away confident that you know what you’re doing?
18. Start using brief sheets
If you’re looking to introduce some structure into your client relationships, brief sheets are essential. The conversation you have with a client can be as formal or as informal as you like but, afterwards, put all that you’ve learnt into clear format. Then you can send it back to them to confirm that you’ve understood and you’ll have a document that you can always refer back to. Find a template and tips for filling one out in our Freelancer’s Survival Kit.
19. Put money aside each month
If this sounds obvious to you, that’s fantastic! You’d be surprised to learn how many freelancers make this classic money mistake. This year, don’t get carried away when you have a particularly flush month. Commit to outing a set amount away each month so you have a buffer to draw on when you hit a rainy day. It also stops you from being blind-sided by taxes at the end of the year.
20. Go Freelance!
Finally, for those of you on the edge, 2020 could be the year you make that leap. Follow our tips on going from employed to self-employed to make the transition as smooth as possible. As a bonus tip; finding a solid print partner you can rely on will give you one less thing to worry about – we can certainly help you on that front!
Have you found a couple of things you could see yourself achieving this year? For more great habits designers should be getting into, download your free copy of What Makes a Successful Designer? and hear from designers who’ve already made it.