I know the title of this post is pretty vague and you’re out of guesses as to what it’s about. I’m nothing if not mysterious, but I’ll go ahead and clarify . . . this is a 30-day creative business cleanse in which you (cue suspenseful music: “dun dun dunnnnnn”) cleanse your creative business for 30 days.
You heard right friends; we are going to complete some decluttering and liberating tasks to cleanse your freelance business, coaching business, or blog. I’m doing these with you, starting June 1, but please feel free to do them any time. Shoooot, even create a Google+ community and do it with others if you want.
Who is this for?
Umm you. If you feel at all overwhelmed, disorganized, digitally cramped, or if you’ve simply never done a business cleanse, then it’s time for your semi-yearly #CreativeCleanse.
And . . . I got tools on tools on tools for you:
//1. Wallpaper for your computer, so you hopefully won’t forget to cleanse each day. //2. Printable (PDF) checklist. //3. An email reminder/support group. Once every three days (from the day after you sign up or starting June 1 if you sign up before then), I’ll email you your next steps, some encouragement, and outdated pop culture references. That’s 10 emails in 30 days; we’ll know each other well my friends. And you can always respond with questions/rants.
Day 1: Assess your sitch + make goals.
If a client order comes through right now, do you have a set system in place to process their project? How structured are the files on your computer? Do you have albums/galleries/folders for different types of images and notes in your phone? Do you have a way to categorize your emails? Set some goals for the next 30 days based on this 30-day list and what you know you want to accomplish. Then, add things to your calendar and find a partner. After just five days of working on separate goals with an accountability partner, I feel like my life is on track–seriously, try it.
Note: You may be wondering why someone as old as I am ever watched Kim Possible, and thus began abbreviating “situation” as “sitch” . . . I have no excuse for that. I’m obsessed with spy shows and it caught my attention one day. Please, please still think I’m cool.
Day 2: Clean your computer desktop.
In the same way most people find it hard to work from a physical desktop or work table that’s a hot mess, your computer’s cluttered desktop can mess with your creativity and efficiency. Clean it up and leave only the “in-process project” folders, along with anything you use frequently. An organized example desktop for you, dear creative business owner, might contain:
- Your brand folder. With subfolders for your blog, social media, brand identity, business docs, and more.
- Current project folders of high priority.
- A folder for templates or blanks you use frequently (Pinterest layouts, images for Twitter, etc.)
- Screenshots or other inspiration.
But, even this list contains folders that could easily go inside other folders. Use it only as a guide. If you have 15 folders and way too many loose items on your desktop, then assess:
- Delete the screenshots you don’t need any more and make a folder for the rest. (If you’re like me, you take 73 screenshots each day and dump them on your desktop for later use.)
- All those images you’re keeping for inspiration? Pin them on Pinterest, file them in their correct folder on your computer, delete them, or combine them into a collage of just one image.
- If you haven’t used it in three months and don’t need to use it for another three months, file it away in the appropriate folder.
Day 3: Delete unnecessary files from your computer folders.
And/or back them up on an external hard drive, and, this is a big one: sign up for a cloud backup service (Carbonite, Backblaze, etc.) so that you never have to worry about your files in the event you lose or damage your computer.
Day 3 is a beast if you really do it, but think of the benefits >> It clears up space on your system, makes you feel like a magical genius because you only leave what’s necessary, forces you to delete some of the creative/emotional (pics and whatnot) baggage you carry on your computer, helps train your mind on what’s necessary and what’s not, and reminds you of any past ideas/projects/work you’ve done that can be incorporated into your current work.
P.S. Don’t cheat. If you use Google Docs, Dropbox, or some similar service, clean that up too.
Go through each folder and file and ask:
- Am I keeping this as a business record? Is it in the appropriate place?
- Does this have personal significance to me? Can it go on a hard drive or in Dropbox instead?
- Do I even know what this is or remember why I have it?
- Will I ever use this? Seriously [insert your full name here], do you need this?
- Can any of these files/documents be combined into one?
- Is this file/folder in the most logical place? Does it belong inside of another folder?
Day 4: Delete unused media from your website and blog folders.
If you’re using WordPress, you’ll head to your dashboard and then visit the “Media Library.” See Day 3 above for the questions you should ask yourself and mindset you should have as you clean.
Day 5: Refresh your about page.
I can’t wait for Day 5, because my About page needs le refresh, badly. If yours does too, I highly recommend the Use Your Voice Worksheet (in this post) if you’re looking for a way to drop in your personality.
Day 6: Clean and organize your email.
Figure out 5 – 10 main folders/categories you can file emails into (I use Gmail + Google Apps and love how easy it is to do this). Delete as much as you can, archive/sort the rest. Keep your inbox as only the most immediate items that need your attention. Bonus: keep your inbox at one page of emails (usually about 25 – 50 depending on your settings). I’ve done it for 1.5 months and it makes me feel in control of my life.
Day 7: Declutter your physical workspace.
Self-explanatory, yes, but I’ll explain. Get rid of stuff you don’t need. Give it away or throw it away. If you feel you need it, file it away or figure out an attractive way (bins, baskets, and the like) to keep it around.
Day 8: Organize your client/project process.
For each main service you provide (graphic design, sales of ad space, life coaching) write out the process. Then, make a checklist of all the tasks associated with that process. Now when John & Jane Smith contact you to shoot their wedding, you can check off each task as it’s completed (send initial survey, receive answers and provide feedback, send invoice, etc.) to make sure you stay on track. You should literally write out every step from first contact to the delivery of the product/service (and perhaps a 1-month follow up you do afterward).
Day 9: Analyze each pending project for the time + emotional commitment vs. the value it adds.
You may have some pending projects in your queue that aren’t healthy for you or a good use of your time as you grow your business into something you love. Weigh the potential value gain (for you or for society or someone you love) vs. how stressful the client will be to work with, how much time the project will take, how aligned with your vision the project is, etc.
Day 10: Excuse yourself gracefully from any pending projects/commitments that are going to drain you.
If you haven’t signed a contract or received dolla bills yet, apologize and inform your potential client that your business is headed in a new, exciting direction and that you want to actually refer them to (insert the names of some good providers in your niche) because SoAndSo will likely make a great fit for them. If you’re in a contract, and you know it’s truly draining you or limiting your growth potential, buy yourself out, or return any money to your client that is due them based on the cancellation clause in your contract–you have one of those right?.
Day 11: Create organized folders for each client/project.
Now that you’re down to your key clients and you’ve established a set process for each type of project, create a physical and/or digital folder for each client. This folder should contain your checklist (so you always know where you’re at in the process), contract, questionnaires, invoices, and any other docs related to that client.
Day 12: Clear out your blog of stuff that doesn’t really fit your brand anymore.
You are coaching business clients now, so perhaps you can unpublish that rant post about immaturity in relationships, or those 22 posts about dog grooming. I’m not saying to delete them, maybe just move them to another blog.
Also, and this is a tough one, unpublish or revamp posts that don’t reflect your current level of quality or concern for your clients/readers. You have to be brutally honest with yourself or get a trusted mentor/friend to be honest with you. Keep in mind that due to the nature of the Interwebs and social media, any post on your website is potentially the first post someone sees. Comb through your archives with that in mind.
Day 13: Audit your current services and products.
Eliminate any services that you hate completing (unless you absolutely need the money to stay afloat). These types of offerings can drain you creatively, stress you out, and make you less awesome at the services you actually enjoy providing. Analyze recent emails, comments, and the social media activity of your followers to figure out if there’s a recurring theme to the things people ask you or want more of. Maybe you need to add a new product or package.
Also, if there are any digital or physical goods that you deliver but that you dislike doing maintenance for (answering questions, providing support, fixing kinks), then stop offering the product or take the chance and sell it at a lower price “as is,” without a bunch of time-consuming maintenance. Another option would be to create a page on your website with help files and help videos and let people know that this support page is the only support the item comes with.
Day 14: Analyze your brand image for anything that needs to be refreshed/replaced.
Put a plan in motion to revamp your brand if necessary. I just hired someone awesome to do this for me (can’t wait to show y’all what he’s coming up with). You will feel more confident and you will be more likely to share your brand if you feel 100% about the way it looks.
Day 15: Set up an accounting system that works for you.
Record all expenses and income for the month. Set a reminder and find an accountability buddy to make sure you do this at least once per month. Save your receipts in and email folder, or on your phone, or use an app, or record them in a spreadsheet, etc. Just do something consistently. I use + love Wave for free.
Day 16: Clean up, analyze, and finalize your vision + mission statement.
Use the applicable sections of this blog business plan to guide you.
Day 17: Delete apps on your phone that you don’t use.
Day 18: Donate clothes and accessories that don’t fit your creative/professional image or that you don’t use.
Getting rid of all types of clutter will help you.
Day 19: Donate or recycle any old tech/tablets/phones/supplies/tools that you do not see yourself using.
Maybe it will help someone else build their dream business.
Day 20: Make a list of the business goals you want to accomplish by this time next year.
Day 21: Audit the people you follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, etc.
Unfollow anyone that is clearly spammy or that hasn’t updated their account in 230 days. My guess is they no longer use that account and are therefore unlikely to post cool things you should check out or pose questions you can help out with. In other words, it’s very unlikely that either of you will add value to the other if they’re inactive or spammy. Also consider unfollowing anyone who is saying offensive, immature, or questionable things constantly. You’d never want your “liking” them to be misconstrued as support of their outlandish views.
Day 22: Unsubscribe from email lists that you haven’t read in months and that never seem to say anything valuable/relevant to you.
Even if it’s mine. Don’t waste time viewing email notifications from brands/people you don’t want to interact with or support.
Day 23: Update the descriptions of all your social media profiles.
Check them for grammar, current accuracy, etc. Do they include old descriptions/vision?
Day 24: Audit your static website pages.
Read through each page carefully and make sure all wording is relevant to your current brand, uses proper grammar, etc. Click all links to make sure they work.
Day 25: Audit your boards on Pinterest.
Make sure all boards on your Pinterest account are useful, attractive, and in most cases relevant to your persona or brand. Make them private if they don’t have at least five pins yet. Then go find some quality pins. If you don’t use Pinterest, use this day to browse through your photos on Twitter or any of your other social media accounts.
Day 26: Audit your recent/prevalent social media links.
Make sure your pins all lead to the correct website and give credit where it’s due. Ditto Facebook, Google+, etc. Bonus: choose better cover photos for your Pinterest boards. Power tip: Don’t pin, tweet, or retweet anything that you haven’t personally checked out. Make sure the links go where they should. Make sure the content is actually valuable.
Day 27: Audit your Facebook and Google+ page.
Delete/hide “off-brand” posts with low engagement from the last 6 months or more. Update your cover photos to reflect your current brand. Update your profile photo if applicable.
Day 28: Clean out your work bags or briefcases.
Consolidate notebooks when applicable (I currently have three of them in my bag), throw out receipts after you scan/photograph ones you need for business. Get rid of those stale Mentos you bought before that one meeting seven months ago . . . wait. That one was for me actually.
Day 29: Develop a custom version of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks checklists for your business.
P.S. I love you if you totes magotes caught that reference without clicking that link, and, I love you if you clicked that link –> such a funny movie.
Day 30: Discover/develop a calendar system that you will actually use.
You’d need all your fingers and toes to count the number of abandoned planners I’ve “used” in my life . . . but I finally got down my perfect system . . . color coded dots, a monthly planner, and a pen. Who woulda thought? Actually, if you went to college with me and saw my 10-color highlighter set and my specific highlighting process, you might have guessed.
Whether you go digital or physical, find what works for you. Build a system that gives you a clear picture of what’s pending and what’s necessary to grow your business.
SO, READY FOR OUR #CREATIVECLEANSE? HASHTAG IT AND @ ME ON TWITTER + INSTAGRAM AS YOU COMPLETE EACH DAY (NO MATTER WHEN YOU’RE STARTING) SO I CAN KEEP UP, OR MAKE CHEESY JOKES, OR LEARN FROM YOUR EPICNESS.
Photo: © Corbis