9 Tactics to save you time when designing graphics

9 Tactics to save you time when designing graphics

Have you ever started designing a flyer or a social media post then forty-five minutes later decide that you don’t like it and end up deleting it?

Do you ever say to yourself, ‘’This project will take me fifteen minutes to complete and instead end up spending two hours on it? Some may say that it’s part and parcel of the creative process and that they have binned many projects.

Are you one of those designers who find themselves in a time-wasting trap leaving you feeling annoyed and overwhelmed especially when you have a list of other tasks that still need to be completed?

It is important to learn how to manage your time, so here are a few techniques that may help you:

 

Always keep a lookout for inspiration and new ideas

Your best source of inspiration may come from looking at similar or competing designs of others. Ask yourself what inspires you about their work? What do you like or dislike? Is it the colours, the idea or style? How can you change and re-invent the design by bringing in your own fresh ideas? Save your new ideas in folders. The next time you have a project; you can quickly go to your folder and put a creative design together.

 

Ensure you have a good pc and even better internet

If the tools you use are inefficient, you will be as well. You will need a computer that can handle heavy graphics and large files without crawling, losing information or crashing. You cannot wait for two or more minutes each time you need to upload images from the internet or download your project. You will eventually become de-motivated to do graphic design work.

 

Organise your files and folders as early as possible

Think of a way that you can consistently save repetitive client projects into one folder which will include their branding guidelines, logo, colour scheme, design style and projects. Give the folder an appropriate name that can be easily found. It is quite difficult to locate a file name called IMG0213397 especially as your portfolio grows rapidly. Well organised folders will save you heaps of time and hassle in the future from having to locate a folder.

 

Find out what your client needs

How many times have you found yourself working to what you believed to be your client’s objective, only to find way later that you have missed the mark? If you want to get things done and done correctly, you need to communicate with your client. Here are a few questions to ask. Why are you creating what you are creating? Who is their target audience, what are the goals they wish to accomplish with the project? What is their budget for the project? What are the must have elements in their design. Ensure that you ask questions before you begin and don’t spend two weeks trying to acquire information you need to complete work that only lasts two hours.

 

Plan your project in detail before you create it

Have a clear vision in your mind before you start with your creation. Sketch and draft designs for about 5-10 minutes as you may need to test layouts, colour schemes and experiment with the different graphics. Ensure that you know exactly what you want to do before you start.

 

Use Templates

You name it, they’ve got it!   Canva has so many templates for flyers, resumes, brochures, business cards and social media banners that you can choose from. You will save great amounts of time if the outline of the project is already there. Design should never repeat itself, however you don’t need to re-create the wheel with every project. Only use the elements, images or fonts which could help you put together your own project.  Jump starting workflows by reusing and recycling parts of a wasted project that didn’t look so great can save you time.

 

Get rid of the distractions

Forget about multi-tasking. Turn off your notifications, put your computer on airplane mode, and don’t feel like you need to respond to every email that pops into your inbox straight away. According to Gloria Mark a Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, it takes roughly 23 minutes to get back on track again once you have been disrupted. Ignore all interrupters such as Facebook and WhatsApp for as long as you can.

 

Keep track of your time

When you first offer Graphic Design as a service, your time estimates will probably be inaccurate because you won’t have the experience or measurable data to see how long you worked on a specific task. Use time tracking software such as Toggl to make you more aware of the time you need to set aside to complete each project which is the key to get better at managing your time. Challenge yourself by allotting a time less time than it would usually take and always try to deliver your project a day or two before the deadline.

 

Stop before you think you are done

The perfectionists may not agree! Noodling over every last detail will rob you of most of your time. That one little tiny fragment that keeps annoying you because it wouldn’t move into place will probably go unnoticed. Show someone your design and ask them to give you feedback. They may think that it’s absolutely perfect and you may not have to do anything more. Remember that you are not your client so you shouldn’t judge the brochure or flyer that you are designing only according to your own standard and opinion-your client may love your design.

 

Any one of these time management techniques can easily save you time and boost your productivity. And finally, always give yourself a reward for completing a complicated design or project before the deadline-whether it be a café latte or a treat to the mall for a new item of clothing. Remember that enjoying what you do increases your productivity and brings out the best in you.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Driving Value – is it time to hire a Sales VA?

Driving Value – is it time to hire a Sales VA?

There is an old saying that 80% of your sales revenue come from 20% of your clients.  Also, another, not so great statistic, is that 80% of the work in your business is done by 20% of your staff.

These statistics bring to light two of the main complaints of any business looking to add to their team—the cost and investment it takes to bring on a new permanent employee.  When you factor in the hidden costs like training and employee benefits, it’s a hard pill to swallow, KNOWING that, give or take, 80% of your staff is not there giving their all, all the time.  This rings true especially when you are busting your behind getting your life-long-dream, still in that crazy roller-coaster ride called the start-up phase, off the ground.  Anyone who has ever started a business knows that you as the entrepreneur, is BUSY.  You are most probably dividing your time between operations, marketing, financial management & HR – heck you may just as well be the tea lady!

The dilemma which presents itself is that you need sales to grow the business.  Entrepreneurs are not necessarily great at selling.  Or perhaps you are a hot shot salesperson, but don’t have the time or desire to nurture and grow the relationships with your newly landed clients.  The great news is that a Virtual Assistant hire is a straightforward, simple way to add to your sales team, without having to worry about hidden costs.  Virtual Assistants are paid for the hours they work, whether it is 3 hours or 8 hours per day.  They will happily take over all the tasks that you don’t want to manage yourself.

A Sales VA can, to name a few, run with customer relationship management, customer support, prospecting, managing your sales funnel, managing leads through social media, and much more. The question you need to ask yourself is, what do I need my Virtual Sales Assistant to do to bring VALUE to my business? Once you have figured out this, you are ready to interview your selection of candidates and choose a Virtual Assistant with the exact required experience.

 

What Can You Outsource to a Virtual Sales Assistant?

At this stage you must be pondering the question – What exactly can I outsource to someone in this line of work? Surprisingly, there is a whole lot of work which you can hand over to a Sales VA. Think of a Virtual Sales Assistant as roughly a Marketing Assistant; they’re not only good at taking on tasks that you would rather not do, but they can add to yours as well as your existing sales team’s capacity in virtually (excuse the pun) anything that has to do with marketing and sales.

Let’s get a little more specific:

  • Telemarketing: This is not something you may always enjoy doing, but it’s often a necessary part of doing business. You can easily hire a remote worker who not only really loves calling people all day but is also highly skilled at this!  A virtual sales assistant can make outgoing calls to businesses on your behalf, as well as manage inbound calls.  Calling software such as Dialpad, has made this easy.  Gone are the days of having to onboard someone in a full-time capacity to sit in your office and make calls.  This way, qualified leads can be passed on to yourself or your top salespeople to do what they do best – close new deals!
  • CRM skills: The management of customer relationship software is usually key to adding to your sales funnel and creating a profitable and successful pipeline. This is something that you can outsource to an expert Virtual Sales Assistant. Give them the responsibility of making sure that every customer’s data entry is continuously updated with the latest information. You can also put your Sales VA in charge of following up with clients you haven’t heard from in a while or run email campaigns using your CRM software.
  • Outsourcing marketing strategy: Has your marketing strategy been stuck in a rut & aimless? Business owners can not only outsource basic marketing tasks but also outsource strategic thought when it comes to running the sales team and streamlining the sales processes. The fresh mind of an ‘outsider’ may just well be what your marketing strategy requires to give it a creative boost.
  • Sales assistant services: If your sales & marketing team needs an assistant who can grasp the basics of your most common sales & marketing tasks, a Virtual Sales Assistant can leverage their skills and experience to join your team nearly seamlessly.  The VA can even serve in an executive assistant role for the Sales or Marketing Manager.
  • Social Media Management:  Your Sales VA can be put in charge of managing all your social media platforms.  Think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Now, more than ever, business owners have to think creatively when it comes to running a successful, profitable business.  Making use of a qualified Virtual Assistant will unquestionably add great VALUE to your business sans the risk and hidden costs of permanent employees.

What do I need to explain to new clients?

What do I need to explain to new clients?

Until recently many entrepreneurs and businesses in general have viewed using the services of a Virtual Assistant as a luxury more than a necessity.  However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed the way people view working from home and thrust the Virtual Assistant role into the limelight.

 

I am not a ghost

I find that when you start working with a new client there are always a few teething problems, given that you are asking two or more people to work together who in all probability are sitting in different areas of the country or even the world and there are different personalities that need to gel.  It is a tad difficult as you cannot have a chat in the kitchen while you make your first cup of coffee for the day.  A VA is to all intent and purposes a “ghost” employee, and it is important to remember that although I do not physically sit in the office, I am a person.  So many times, I have heard other remote assistants say “My client has no idea who I am.”

It sometimes takes a while for clients to get their head around the fact that you as a VA are an individual who works remotely on tasks and projects that you have been assigned by the client.  Very rarely is there that personal connection.

 

My working hours

Utilising the services of a VA is the best way to move forward.  I find that one of the first issues to address is working times.  Clients sometimes need to be reminded that you are a “free-lance worker” and as such you will normally have more than one client, your priorities will be slightly different to an office-based employee.

 

I need it in writing

Communication is key to a long term, successful working relationship.  I always remind my clients I am not physically in their office and therefore unable to raise concerns face to face.  It is always good to give written instructions. This way I can revert to this document should I need clarity on what you expect from me.  It helps to provide me with a timeline.  It is a way of holding everyone accountable for their actions.  With working from home becoming the new norm, there are plenty of online management tools and apps that one can use to assist with managing both client and VA expectations.  It is a matter of time and trial and error to see which one works best for you.

 

How am I doing?

I have found in the past, that the more detail I am provided with the better my performance will be.  Certain clients that I have worked with have provided specific feedback along the way and this has always been a good way of getting to know one another and addressing areas that might need to be changed.

My theory is simple, I will work hard for my clients, if we keep the lines of communication open and we regularly check in with each other, we will become an awesome team.  I will be able to assist you in the day to day management leaving you free to grow your company and move from strength to strength.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

Hygge and why we all need it

Hygge and why we all need it

We are living in a very stressful time in the world while trying to protect our health as well as continue our day to day living and continue with business as usual.  As business owners and employees, we are often too busy to take time out for our own wellbeing and more often than not we tend to put our mental and emotional needs aside.

It is so important for us to ensure that we too feel safe and comforted as we are unable to perform optimally while feeling stressed and suffering from burnout and exhaustion.

I recently came across the Danish phenomenon of Hygge.  Although at first one might feel skeptical and dismiss such a “whimsical and artsy” idea.  Just try it and you will discover the change it can create in your life.

 

Recharge

One needs to only take a few minutes per day to recharge and remove ourselves from our lives in order to gain perspective.  All you need I a space to reconnect and be present.  In this way you will be able to recognize and enjoy the moment you are in and gain clarity on what is important.

Hygge is not something that you can buy, its existence is in the complete absence of stress and feeds off feelings of happiness and relaxation. There are many ways to practice Hygge from creating a space in your home where you can unwind without disturbance, where you feel comfortable and have things surrounding you that bring you comfort and joy.

Set aside a brief moment of time in your day where you know that you will not be disturbed and clear your mind thinking back on all the good that you have in your life and all you have achieved.  Remove the negative and do not think of what could or has gone wrong.  Just live in that moment of contentment. You can light a candle and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in your favourite china cup.

Take the time to create a tasty, nutritious and aesthetically pleasing meal.  Use your good plates and candles, create a calming atmosphere and play your favourite music.  Don’t sit in front of the television or in front of your computer, don’t eat your hastily prepared meal in the kitchen before running off.  Go sit outside and eat your meal and enjoy nature.  Eat mindfully.

Clean out your home and office from clutter and only keep what is necessary.  By clearing out your living and working space you are clearing your mind to only what is important.

 

Be present

Take time to be present with those that are important in your life.  Remove all distractions such as phones and televisions.  You will be surprised at how your relationships evolve and what you can learn about each other.  Take time to listen to what they have to say instead of thinking of the next thing is you need to say.  Just listen and be.  Sometimes just being with another human and interacting mindfully can be more therapeutic and relaxing than any form of therapy.

Hygge should ultimately become a natural extension of your daily life and you will find that your 15 to 30 minutes per day in one corner of your living space can ultimately extend to your whole life so that you are living each day mindfully and being present in the now.

How to get the most out of hosting online meetings

How to get the most out of hosting online meetings

You might think that online business meetings cannot possibly be as effective as in-person meetings.

Think again!

During this pandemic we have no choice but to meet online.   While a virtual meeting cannot replace personal contact, there are many ways to manage virtual meetings to get better outcomes than you would by sitting around a table.

Have shorter meetings

If your virtual meetings aren’t shorter, they should be.

‘Zoom fatigue’ has entered the lexicon – online meetings are more tiring than in-person.   The most obvious reason is that staring at your mirror image makes one self-conscious.   It takes real strength of mind not to worry about your appearance.   You also cannot shift on your chair without wobbling on video. Extroverts feel that they do not get a chance to interact with their colleagues and introverts don’t enjoy being on camera.

These are a few in-depth articles you could read for more information:

Zoom fatigue is real — here’s why video calls are so draining

‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here’s why that happens.

Here’s Why You’re Feeling Zoom Fatigue

 

Get great participation

Let’s face it, getting participation during a any meeting can be a challenge – but technology we have at our disposal makes it possible to energize and involve people.  It does mean that the host needs to do more preparation than walking into a room and starting a meeting with an icebreaker, but this can be a good thing to give structure to your meeting.

Here are some of the do’s:

  • Enabling the waiting room and be online five minutes before the meeting starts to allow some socializing among colleagues.
  • Plan an activity to energize participants, particularly during those unavoidable long meetings. Here’s an article which will give your thinking a kickstart:

https://www.sessionlab.com/blog/online-energizers/

  • I nclude opportunities for interaction on the agenda.
  • Collect input with polls and surveys.
  • Your Q & A sessions are livelier and more productive with live chat enabled – more people ask more questions. You have a written record to help you collate topics and give comprehensive answers.   This also means that you can address any unanswered questions later.

 

Take control

You can control participation and eliminate most disruption by setting your preferences for each meeting.

  • If you want everyone’s full attention – disable private chats.
  • To encourage discussion – enable chats.
  • Use opinion polls and surveys to dynamically involve your audience.
  • Control who attends with unique passwords.
  • Prevent disruption in your meeting preferences – you control whether participants can mute their microphone and/or video.
  • And you can avoid those potentially embarrassing moments which go viral on social media too! Simply take what precautions you can to avoid disruption at home and remember that you are on video.

 

Bring in the experts

Do you need a consultant to give a quick insight?  No problem – give them a time slot and they can join online for as long as their time allows.   You will find that it’s much easier and cheaper to have outside experts speak at your events when they don’t need to travel at all.

 

Find the right service for you

The tech giants and the newbies are racing to bring more and better features to market.    Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom Meetings are the biggest names in the news at the moment, but more and more options are available almost every day.

If you are shopping for the best platform for your business, visit technology comparison sites such as G2CrowdPCMag Business Software Index or Capterra  to compare features, benefits and pricing.

These are some features to consider:

  • Which face to face view do you prefer?
  • Do the analytics provide all the information you need?
  • How secure is the software?
  • Does it integrate with all the collaboration tools and software you are already using, or offer new aspects you will benefit from?

Use collaboration tools

You might be content with the collaboration tools built into your software but need additional features.  No problem – you will find technology which integrates with systems you are already using.   Some of the features which I find most useful are:

  • Screen sharing.
  • Whiteboards and parking lots.
  • Live chat (group or private). Chat is your opportunity to increase collaboration and keep everyone on the same page.  Some of the actions you can take are:
    • Link your agenda in chat.
    • Link shared documents.
    • Answer questions as you go, or park them on a whiteboard.
    • Solicit and expand on ideas.

 

Record keeping made simple

Record your meeting with a mouse click and save it to the cloud where you can access it later.    Depending on the software you use, you can even get a transcription within minutes.

 

Analyse and monitor your progress

Use the analytics provided by your software for ongoing improvement.  Find out which topics are popular, view and save poll results and create infographics.

 

Make the paradigm shift

In conclusion, although we have no choice other than meeting online during a pandemic, we can choose to make the most of the options we do have. Whether you are new to video conferencing or an old hand, technology changes provide ongoing opportunities for improvement.

Embrace the benefits, be more effective, and enjoy your meetings!

 

Image by Lynette Coulston from Pixabay

Make a budget to follow your dream

Make a budget to follow your dream

 

You might not think so, but budgeting is one of the most creative things that you can do. Closing your eyes and making a wish is the way we humans dream.  Having a thought, making a plan and working the plan, makes our dreams or thoughts come true!   Budgeting is putting that thought on paper and if you are sticking to that plan, your dreams will come true.

I want to give some tips from my personal experience and years being part of many companies and their budgets.

There is still today a lot of businesses and people that don’t understand the reason why they have to have a budget.   I think it is because the definition for a budget, ”an estimate of income and expenditure for a specific period”, sounds so vague and uncertain.

But implementing a budget can change your whole cash flow issue and can be very rewarding, IF you are doing it correct and IF you are disciplined to stay focused on what you have decided.

 

Estimate your income

The first section of your budget is the income estimate.

Surely you must have something to work on, you can’t decide that I am going to do a budget with an income of R500 000.00 per month and you trust it will be there, no, you need to have previous sales history and projections to back a budget like that.

Whether you are working with actual stock or giving a service it is very important to make sure that what you using as a figure for your budget you can also verify.

A car salesman can’t have a budget of R500 000.00 income, if he has only stock of 20 vehicles and he knows his profit per sales is +/- R20 000.00 which will only give him a R400 000.00 income, IF he sells all of the vehicles.

A service person that is working per hour, can’t use an income of R200 000.00 and his rate per hours is R250.00 p hour. Even if he works 30 days in the month for 24hours a day he is not going to get to R200 000.00 income for the month.  Your budget must have a reason why you say you will be able to get that income.

For example, you work 10 hours a day at a rate of R250.00 p/hour and you know that with all the work you have, you will only be able to rest for 4 days in this month.

  • Days worked 26 days
  • Hours worked 260 hours
  • Total income for hours R65 000.00.

Your budget can’t be more than R65 0000.00 for the month except if you are going to get in another person to help and you can add more hours.

Rather make your income a little bit less, than committing yourself to expenses that is not going to happen at all.  Then you tell your bookkeeper “I told you a budget won’t work”

If your budget income is projected on actuals like stock, hours, capacity, and history of sales and not a thumb suck or wish list, I can assure you, the budget will work.

 

Plan your expenses

The second part of your budget is your expenses and I am sure I don’t need to tell you that if you have in your budget an income of R200 000.00 you can’t have expenses of R300 000.00!

There are different expenses on our budgets.

Monthly expenses:

Items like  telephone bills, internet service, rent, salaries and wages, fuel, printing and stationery, insurance and this can differ from person to person.

 These expenses are usually easy to budget for, because we have history and actual figures on which we can work our budgets.  Keep in mind situations where those expenses might increase for example, now we use more data for Zoom calls than Fuel for driving due to Covid 19.  Just take some time and think through your planning for the month and you will be able to see where there might be changes.

Yearly expenses:

Yearly expenses are expenses like your Licences on vehicles and also programs that we are using.

Instead of going into a panic because you have to have R10 000.00 one month for an accounting license renewal, budget it over 12 months and putting aside R833.33 per month and you don’t need to worry one month!

 

Saving

Now I have touched a very important part of budgeting, and that is the saving part and discipline part.   If you budget for a big expense or taxes or even a yearly fee, you need to keep that money in your bank every month as per budget.  The budget won’t help you, if you have that amount of money budgeted every month, but you are using all the money every month because it is available in your bank and when you need to pay your yearly bill…. the budget did not work.

Budget and saving work hand to hand.  If you are lucky to be in government you budget and they give you that amount of money that you budgeted for, for that month, but if you are in the private sector, you have to make sure that, the money you have budgeted for a certain expense on a certain time, will be available.

I find the best way to make sure you keep to your budget is open a separate savings or money market account.  Do transfers for the amounts that you know, is not this month’s expense, to that separate account, you can also earn some interest on that amount, if you choose the right account and then you know the money is not lying in the current account that you use for daily expenses.

 

Your wish list

The last part of your budget is your wish list.  I always keep a wish list apart from my budget to make sure that when good times are here and I made more profit than expected, that I spend it on the wish list items.  These are items that you know you need to better your work or service but there is no money available now.  For example, I have a printer, but would like to have one of those big printers that can scan and email lots of pages with a touch of a button.

Instead of wasting money on unnecessary stuff, keep to your wish list, and then you will eventually have everything you wished for.

 

As Abraham Lincoln said –   “The best way to predict your future, is to create it”