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

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

Take Your Video Editing Skills to The Next Level with These 8 Simple Steps

Take Your Video Editing Skills to The Next Level with These 8 Simple Steps

Picture this … you click on a link that leads you to a video and … SILENCE for the first 10 minutes, even though you can see stuff is happening, or even worse … sound, but it is accompanied by a BIG BLANK SCREEN. That is what happens when video editing is not your forte.

So, how to remedy this and stop this scenario from ever happening to you and your videos?

In this article I explore some of the steps you can take to make sure your video editing is smooth and seamless and does not create any anxiety while doing it.

 

Why do I even need videos?

Before we get into how to edit videos like a pro, let me touch on why videos are so beneficial to a business and why, once you can edit videos for your clients (and yourself) you may find a whole lot more engagement and traffic taking place on social media platforms and even on websites.

People love to watch movies. They love to watch things and hear things, a lot more than just reading a whole lot of words. Videos bring a new dimension to things. Sometimes they give a more personal touch and then there are people in the world that learn better when they watch things getting done and can follow the instructions step for step.

Now let us take a look at how you can take your video editing skills to the next level.

 

Next level video editing tools

 

  1. Choose the right software – you want to make sure you get the right software installed on your device according to what you want to do with your video, the type of effects that are needed and also your overall ability to use editing software (but let’s face it, anything you do not know you can find on YouTube). Here are a list of some of the top ones used by professionals:

You can read more about each software by following the link. They all generally do the same thing, but some have added benefits and some software applications, such as iMovie, can be used on Windows and Mac computers, as well as iPads and iPhones.

  1. Speed is key – This does not pertain to your speed personally but more to the speed of your device. A fast, well equipped PC is key in making your video editing smooth and seamless. The reason for this is because the software you will be using can use up a lot of the computers resources and if you have a sluggish PC with outdated parts, operating system and drivers, you are probably going to run into some difficulty. Take a look here to find out some specs that may serve you well when getting your PC in order to start with video editing.
  2. Organisation Skills – To make sure your video editing goes to plan and you get the end result which is a professional looking video, you need to have some level of organization. You need to work systematically because otherwise things will not sync well and you will end up losing audio or video or have video cuts in places that they are not meant to be. So, before you start, set up a system that works for you … and stick to it.
  3. Use keyboard shortcuts – Keep in mind that most editing programs allow you to use keyboard shortcuts to perform a range of in-app editing functions which can cut down time spent considerably.
  4. True Colours – Colour correcting your video clips can make a huge impact. Colours, highlighting, low lighting, fading, those sorts of things can evoke certain emotions. You may want to show something that was happy in the video becoming a little more dark and sad – a good way to depict this and create an effect is to change the colour tone of the video. Most video editing software applications have this already built in for you to use.
  5. Music to your ears – Another tip to take into consideration is the music used, make it relevant to the actual content. It does not make sense to have a happy upbeat song playing but what is happening in the video is sad and morbid.
  6. Use Some Words – Text is also something to look into because sometimes people do not want to listen to a video (perhaps they are in a place where they cannot use the sound) and they can then follow what is happening in the video by reading captions. Large flashes of text on the screen can also evoke emotions and make someone want to watch further. Another idea is to use text to start the video, almost giving people an introduction to what they are about to watch and give an idea of what the video is going to be about.
  7. Last but not least – Make sure that your video can be used on various platforms and various devices – or at least can be converted and edited for such purposes.

 

Conclusion

So now you are in the know of how you can take your video editing skills to the next level. Once you are ready to get started, play around with the software you decide on. Make videos of anything and everything and … drum roll please … watch lots of YouTube tutorials!  To get you started here are some links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaO0D66xeYY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5jwVM0vX7c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJPwXJYvvys

 

Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels

5 good reasons why a Virtual Assistant is exactly what your business needs

5 good reasons why a Virtual Assistant is exactly what your business needs

Virtual assistants are fast becoming the new norm in many industries.  A virtual assistant is a location independent service provider who can provide a myriad of different services to your company from a remote location.  Virtual assistant work has grown to include many different positions that can be utilized to ensure that your company runs like a well-oiled machine and saves your company costs at the same time.

 

The top 5 reasons to hire a Virtual Assistant:

 

1.     Reducing running costs

 Many companies that hire full-time employees have found that the employees are not being as productive during the working day as what they could be.  By hiring a virtual assistant you only have to pay for work that has been done.

Cost savings also include overheads like office space, internet connection, refreshments, electricity, training. Your company would be able to pay a virtual assistant that is proficient in the tasks that you require and you would not need to spend any additional costs on their training.  Virtual assistants are continuously upskilling themselves to stay on top of ever-changing market trends.

 

2.     Increased efficiency

 A large number of a business’s employees day can be used up doing many repetitive tasks during the working day.  Many of these tasks such as e-mails, customer queries, research, meeting scheduling, data entry etc. These tasks can sometimes take up so much time in your day that you are taken away from the more important work that is suited best to your skillset and qualifications.  You could be paying an engineer 5 times more than a virtual assistant to be doing these tasks when their time could be spent on work that creates a larger income and faster output for your company.

 

3.     Broader working hours

 Because virtual assistants are spread across the world and work remotely, you can hire a VA to manage your business with clients outside of your time zone, without actually having to be available yourself.

 

4.     Easier recruitment

 If your company often has projects that come up suddenly and require a certain skill set that is not required regularly in your company, instead of going through the time-consuming process of hiring a full-time employee to do the work for you.  For example, you might want to start advertising your business online but there is nobody in your employee who has that skill set.  This is where a virtual assistant can be hired for only the time it takes each day that the project requires at a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to hire a full-time employee.  You would also be able to make sure that the VA has referrals and experience in this line of work. For several reasons, a virtual assistant costs a lot less than a full-time employee.

 

5.     No more micromanaging

 When full-time staff is employed it is always a task to ensure that everyone is doing what they are paid for in the time frame required of them.  Many hours are spent by full-time staff being non-productive.  Sometimes you might even have to hire a manager to manage the staff for you.  By hiring a VA this eliminates that need.  You only pay for the work that is done and the time spent.

There are many tools and apps available in the virtual world to do that for you.  And any VA worth their salt is focused and self-disciplined enough to ensure that the work is done in a professional and timeous manner.  Messaging tools such as Slack and Microsoft teams enable you and your virtual assistants to run even more productively than you would in an office environment. There are also several time and project management tools such as Toggl, Trello, and Asana to ensure that all projects are communicated and done within the time frame required.  Gone are the days of a lengthy project meeting.  Everything can be done virtually.

The tools and information given above is only the tip of the iceberg of the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant. You will not regret it and find yourself with a more cost-efficient and streamlined company as a result.

Travel: What will be the new normal?

Travel: What will be the new normal?

With the pandemic that has turned 2020 upside down, will everything return to normal in a few months or a years’ time? Or will we have to adapt to a different kind of normal? There is no doubt that the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit with hotels and airlines having to shut down temporarily, and in some cases, staff being retrenched or companies closing. As restrictions start to ease, will travel industry require a complete makeover to survive and once again thrive?

 

Business Travel

Business travel hasn’t been possible over the last few months with many airlines halting operations, as well as hotels closing their doors. Business has therefore had to be done either via email or Zoom/Skype calls. Have companies realised that this is an easier way of doing business? Is human interaction always necessary? Companies will certainly cut back on the business travel if it isn’t necessary, thus the market for this form of travel may decline.

Remote work is, at very least, likely to form a key part of our new normal. While start-ups and youthful companies have been taking advantages of its cost saving and efficiency for a few years, mainstream business has now, through necessity, also seen that it can work and offers distinct advantages.

 

Group Travel

Travel in large groups is likely to be severely affected due to the risk of transmitting the virus to other travellers. This is likely to have a sustained effect, as the world collectively tries to stem cross border carrying of Covid.

With smaller groups comes more administration per person. Meaning a wider team of support staff that are wearing many hats on a day-to-day basis will be required for smooth running of group operations that typically rely on larger, one size fits all packages and operations in order to work efficiently and offer value for money.

 

Hotels, Airlines and Tour Operators

Hotels, airlines and tour operators have almost all had to shut their doors over the last few months. Many employees have lost their jobs with companies not having any form of income. Not knowing when the light will appear at the end of the tunnel, many companies are trying to find new ways to attract clients and even outsource their work force. Hotel and airline call centre staff could potentially work from home given that they don’t have to be face to face with the consumer. Small tour operators are looking at employing virtual assistants to do their back office/admin, or even take calls from new/potential clients.

Employing or growing a full-time workforce will be a huge risk for many a business right now, meaning outsourced, dynamic and contract-based teams will become the standard.

 

Virtual Travel Experiences

So, what will the new normal be?

Will there be a virtual assistant sitting in a small village in South Africa, taking calls on behalf of her client in Florida for bookings on a boat charter? That is already happening.

Will luxury lodges be offering virtual safaris to armchair explorers from the comfort of their own homes? Yep, this too is already happening.

Or will we still crave the immersive, cultural and human interactions that force us to get out there and explore again? This too will definitely happen – it is human nature. But when it does, businesses will need to rethink how they run and grow their businesses.

Agility, a scalable workforce, and being able to roll with the punches will be key. At VA Connect we are able to help you do just that by offering a wide array of skills, expertise and experience through our dynamic team of virtual assistants.