“My Time Isn’t Worth Anything.” Is Yours? Why Valuing The Time You Spend on Your Creative Business Is Essential

“My Time Isn’t Worth Anything.” Is Yours? Why Valuing The Time You Spend on Your Creative Business Is Essential

 

Today I want to talk to you about time and how we value it.

 

The other day, me and a friend of mine were discussing getting some repairs done on his car, and whether he could do it himself.

When we talked, I said “It really depends on whether you feel you have the time to do it and learn how to do it.”

He said, “Well, my time isn’t worth anything.”

The conversation continued but a part of me retreated into my mind in shock.

 

I run my whole creative business based on specific hourly and daily rates that I’ve calculated based on my experience and the market as a whole. I have to value my time as ‘worth something’ to run my business.

That translates into valuing my time as an individual in my leisure hours, and wanting to spend it in fruitful ways.

The conversation started me thinking. We know time equals money, but do we really believe it – particularly when we’re talking about our own time? And when we think about time equalling money in our business, what does that actually mean?

 


Time and money

First, I should mention that, for me, time does not equal money. Time is far more precious.

During your lifetime, you can attempt to accumulate as much wealth as you possibly can. Given the right resources and privileges, there will be no limit to the wealth you can accumulate.

But you cannot accumulate more time.

 

You can be healthier to try and live longer. You can stay awake for more hours. You can multi-task or mono-task or batch your tasks and a thousand other things to maximise your time.

But, ultimately, you have a given amount of time on the planet, and that’s all you’re going to get.

 

Many yoga practices talk about the concept of limited breath; that we only get a set number of breaths in our life, and therefore it’s important to use them wisely through deep and restorative breathing.

These ideas of a limited amount of time and breath were one of the driving forces behind starting my own creative business.

It wasn’t so I could make more money. Although I am paid more on an hourly rate than I did when I was on a salary, my annual ‘salary’ now is slightly less than it would be if I was working in a full time job at the same level.

 

For some people, that’s a bit shocking. They see running your own business as a way to make lots of money.

For me, it’s a way to try and make lots of time. Or more accurately, to consciously absorb the limited time I do have. To ‘make’ it feel more by being more conscious of it.

Getting back time for the things that were important for me was the main reason I began my creative business, and I’m in a position of privilege to be able to do that.

 


Money and things

Second, I see obtaining money as about what you can do with it, not as a symbol of success (even when it’s not being used). Money ‘works’ because it’s a universal commodity; something which can be exchanged for any other product or service we want. When it’s not being used in that way – what is it? What’s it for?

 

One of the exercises I do with my students when I talk to them about employment is to talk about two ways of approaching salary. The first is having a specific number in your head, and wanting to have that number go into your bank account each year. The second is working out how much you need to live the life you want, and aiming for that.

I tell them most people start their working life by having a specific number in their head. They haven’t thought carefully about the life they want and how much this costs. They just want that number.

 

This is what a lot of the business coaches and other ‘six figure folk’ will talk to you about. We want six figures because, culturally, six figures seems like you’ve made it. And as Layla Saad says in this brilliant article, people who push this on us as a sales tactic are failing us.

But if you only need five figures or four figures, then why are you spending all your time trying to get six figures? You are using up a limited resource (your time) trying to accumulate a potentially-infinite resource (money) because you ‘six figures’ is a symbol of something.

 

There will always be more money to be made and no limit to the wealth you could accumulate. There will not always be more time. There will always be a limit.

 


Valuing yourself and your time

With these two things in mind, I want you to know your time is worth something, because it’s precious. You do not have much of it and you must value it because of that. It’s not about your skills or education or any other factor; you must value your time simply because one day it will run out.

 

I value my time more highly than any amount of money I could earn. That doesn’t mean I have so much money I don’t need to work – it means I think carefully when I choose what projects to work on and how I wish to set my hourly and daily rate.

Not everyone has this privilege, and I’m acutely aware of my own privileges in saying I have choice in my work. I believe (and fight for) a society in which people are paid a true living wage, or receive a universal income, which I see as helping us all to move away from valuing humans only through the lens of money and productivity. We are valuable because we live, not because we live with a certain set of skills, talents or knowledge.

If you run your own creative business, however, you are also in a position to think carefully, choose your work, and set your own value.

 


Calculating value

I’ve been clear it’s essential you value your time. But how do you go about calculating that value in a way which translates into something meaningful for your creative business?

How you calculate your worth – that hourly or daily rate, or even the eventual price of your products or services – is up to you. It’s up to how you value your time and how valuable you think your work is to other people.

 

Wealth coaches and other six figure folk tell you if you don’t put a high price on your hourly or daily work, or on your products or services, you have mental blocks to accumulating wealth. That might be true for some – but we also live in cultures with other people. We live with economics.

Economic thought and structures affect us all, in negative and positive ways. Pretending you don’t have to look at competitors, customers, or your industry to put a price on your hourly or daily work, or your products or services, is complete rubbish.

 

Creative business people I’ve met often value their time and set their wage based on social norms, like the minimum wage. This makes sense in many ways; it’s a simple, easy choice, and we assume these wages are able to support someone in living a healthy and fruitful lifestyle.

But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t put a value on your time according to other factors.

A senior designer will get paid more than a junior designer because of experience and skill; are you valuing your time based on experience?

Someone who has a unique gift or a skill that’s very hard to master may get paid more because they are a rarity; are you valuing your time based on uniqueness?

People in London get paid a specific amount more than people outside the capital, because of the cost of living; are you valuing your time based on location?

 

As a personal example, I recently increased my copywriting rates. This was to reflect my experience in the industry and to better fit in with the market average shared by a trusted copywriting group.

Of course, when I did this I was nervous and immediately thought no-one would want to pay for me because I was more expensive. Of course, it didn’t change anything. People still wanted to hire me.

I had increased my costs because of legitimate and understandable reasons, and that made sense to people who wanted to hire me. What are the reasons behind how you value your time and set your rates?

 


What’s next?

Commit to valuing your time. Believe your time is of value (and not just because you might be skilled or clever or talented). Write it down, put it into your journal, make it your phone background. Start to let yourself value your time.

Then spend some time thinking of and documenting the reasons behind why you currently calculate the value of the time the way you do. Is it based on market averages, competition, the minimum wage, or something else? What else might you want to consider when calculating the value of the time you spend on your creative business?

Money is a very difficult thing to talk about and, as a creative business owner, it becomes even more complicated when the wages we’re earning are wrapped up in our own self belief and self esteem. Eli Trier’s email series and ebook called Naked Money is a great way to understand how different creative people relate to money, and their personal challenges. There’s also a Facebook group to join and learn from other creatives.

If you take just one thing away from this article, it’s that I want you to know your time is worth something. To your family and friends, your time is irreplaceable. To your creative business and your customers, your time is invaluable. There’s always more money to accumulate, but we only have so much time in the world. How you spend it, value it, and how you wish others to value it, is in your hands.

 


 

Crystal Clear Brand - A Workbook for Creative Business Owners launching September 28th

 

Your brand is invaluable

On September 28th I’m launching a do-it-yourself product to help creative business owners like make their brand crystal clear.

Your brand is one of the most valuable elements of your creative business. When done right, it’ll help you make decisions more easily and make the most of your time and energy.

The do-it-yourself product is a workbook guiding you through creating a crystal clear brand, done in an interactive, engaging and friendly way.

If you’re interested in learning more about the product and getting updates about the launch, sign up below.

To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.


 

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Do you value the time you spend running your creative business? How do you value it? Do you believe your time is worth anything? Acknowledging this is essential to the health of you and your business, so why don't we do it properly?

Four Ways a Crystal Clear Brand Can Help You Build Your Creative Business

Four Ways a Crystal Clear Brand Can Help You Build Your Creative Business | Eleanor Snare Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

On 28th September 2017 I’m launching a new do-it-yourself product for creative business owners to help them create a crystal clear brand.

It’s a downloadable workbook that takes you through all the essential, heart-and-soul elements of a brand, from your purpose and vision to your personality and core messages.


A brand sounds great – but it also sounds like a lot of work.

Why is having a crystal clear brand useful for creative business owners? Here are four simple ways it’ll help you build your creative business and reduce the stress and struggle you might be experiencing.


1. More effective decision making

With the right brand, the biggest impact you’ll see on your business is your ability to make more effective decisions. A brand is like a guiding light; it helps us decide what’s worth spending our time and energy on, and which things we should let go.

This applies to operational decisions – like the sort of products you should make and how you should make them – as much as it does to marketing tactics.

2. Less stress and struggle.

With more effective decisions comes less stress and less struggle. Creative business owners already have a hundred different plates to spin, from graphic design to accounting to email marketing.

Having a crystal clear brand makes spinning those plates much easier and smoother, making the whole experience of running your business more enjoyable.

3. Easier and enjoyable marketing

A consciously-created, crystal clear brand also makes it easier and enjoyable to focus your marketing in the right direction.

Rather than thinking about all of the things you should be doing, because someone on the Internet told you it was important, you can use your brand to guide you on focusing on what’s essential and relevant to you and your customer.

4. A consistent, clear message

For me, one of the most exciting things about developing a crystal clear brand is that it means your creative business will have a consistent and clear message for your customers.

Instead of not knowing what to say to your customers online, in print or in person – or worse, not really knowing why you’re saying it – your brand will guide you. You’ll have consciously created a message that’s clear and consistent; one of the key ways in which businesses achieve success.


In this article I talked about how brand is created whether you’re doing it consciously or not. With a brand that’s crystal clear, you realise you can be in charge of that conversation.

You can give your customers the message you want them to have, not rely on the one they make up about you when you’re not in the room.


Follow me on Instagram for more updates on the Crystal Clear Brand workbook

For Your Creative Business, Brand Should Be More Than How You Look

For Your Creative Business, Brand Is More Than How You Look

Today I want to talk about how your brand is more than just how you look.

 

We live in an age of the image. Since the development of television, and even since the invention of photography, cultural commentators have been saying some of our societies have increasingly been dominated by images.

But right now it’s hard to escape the feeling of being surrounded by imagery, particularly online.

 

A few years ago, I went to a great lecture about visual representation throughout time. During the talk, one speaker mentioned we see more images in a day than a medieval person would have seen in their lifetime.

The number of pictures, photographs, icons, videos and more we consume is phenomenal. We have more visual culture than ever before, and in some ways of a better quality than before due to technological developments.

We have social media platforms dedicated to the image, which have developed in recent years. Instagram and Pinterest are the two big players, and we’re drawn to them because of the way in which pictures quickly and vividly tell us a story. They’re easy to absorb and feel ‘easier’ to create than a lengthy written article.

 


 

The result for creative business owners is there’s a big focus on how we, and our business, are represented visually.

A lot of information and education online about creating a ‘killer brand’ ends up focusing on images, colour palettes, typography, and all of the visual elements that going into making a brand.

If you run a creative business, this can be very appealing. It’s likely you understand and enjoy communicating in visual language, perhaps more than in written or spoken language, when talking about your business.

But brand is so much more than how you look.

 


 

Here’s a simple analogy. The clothes we wear are important, but they’re an expression of who we are inside. Our clothes can’t necessarily change who we are; they are ultimately just one way of explaining your personality to the outside world in a simple, easily absorbed way.

Yet if someone only paid attention to your clothes, and ignored the person within them, you’d be annoyed. You might think they were superficial, or perhaps weren’t getting the message you were trying to send out.

 


 

So why concentrate on the ‘clothes’ of a business – our visual representation – when we should be thinking about what’s inside those clothes?

I wholeheartedly believe the visual representation of you and your creative business is important to get right. But trying to make it look good without basing this beauty on anything solid is a sure-fire way to attract superficial interest.

Brand is so much more than typography and colour palettes. It includes:

  • The very heart of your business; what you stand for when you do your creative work
  • The purpose of your business and why you exist
  • The future of your business; the vision you have for what you’re going to achieve
  • Your personality traits and vibe that you give off that attracts customers to you
  • Your ‘soul’; who you truly are in life and in your creative work

The visuals you use for your brand are an expression of all this; they are not it. They’re just one way for you to communicate these things to potential customers.

 


 

Let me give you an example from my own creative business.

My website use a few limited colours to communicate the brand of my creative business. I use green because of its association to nature, one of my core values. I use a taupe colour because it’s warm and friendly – like me – but also sophisticated, expressing the high quality of my work. Finally, I use black and white because they are easy to read and classic.

This is a very simple use of colour to express something deeper about my creative business’ brand. On Instagram, it’s slightly more complex.

I include greenery or nature wherever possible in my photograph; again, because it’s one of my core values. But I also show the other values of my brand – love, play, helping and learning – through the colourful, fun and sometimes quirky images I share.

These images are expressions of me, my personal brand and the brand of my creative business. They’re not an empty shell. They’re chosen as expressions of strong foundations: my values, my purpose and my personality.

 


 

It’s difficult sometimes to step away from the reliance on visuals we have in contemporary culture. It’s very easy to be swayed by gorgeous, pretty, cool or fashionable images – because they are nice to look at, and who doesn’t want nice-looking stuff in their lives?

But the best visuals, and the ones you should use for your business, are those which represent something more meaningful. Your creative business’ brand is greater than the pictures or the fonts you use.

 


 

What’s next?

Here are some tips on considering whether the images you use are based on some strong foundations:

  • Do you know what the brand of your creative business is? Do you describe in colours and typography, or as something deeper?
  • Are you selecting images based on their ‘coolness’ or ‘prettiness’? Or are you selecting them because they communicate something about who you are?
  • Do you feel you’re creating images to fit in with some unspoken style of the platform you’re using? How about trying to fit in with current trends, even if they’re not very ‘you’?
  • Where are you getting your images from? Are you creating them, buying them, replicating them from other people or curating them? And how do you feel about what you’re doing?

How we look in a saturated visual culture is important, to help your creative business stand out. But the way your brand looks is an expression of something much deeper – something you might have to spend some time really thinking about to get results you’re proud of.


Crystal Clear Brand Workbook | Eleanor Snare

This year I launched a do-it-yourself product to help creative business owners like you form a brand that’s more than just pretty pictures.

It’s a workbook guiding you through creating a crystal clear brand in an interactive, friendly and engaging way.

A deep, conscious, clear brand is a huge help in visually representing your business. By understanding what the foundations of your business are, you can select and create images which really express what you’re about. And that is what attracts customers and keeps you enjoying what you’re doing.

Read more and buy the workbook here.


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A beautiful Instagram feed is great - but is it all you've got? Your creative business deserves a brand that's about more than how you look.

I Found Ikigai and I Decided to Use It To Help My Students

I Discovered Ikigai and I Decided to Use It To Help My Students | Eleanor Snare - Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

Back at the end of 2015 I learned about a concept called ‘ikigai’. You might’ve heard about it, because it’s going to  be the new hygge.

Once I’d found out about it, and worked on exploring and finding my own ikigai, I wanted to use it to help others.

(After all, my ikigai is to help fulfil potential).

I decided to create an employment programme for my final year students based on the idea of ikigai. It seems that lots of people come to their ikigai at an mid point in their life; how could I bring my students closer to this concept earlier on?

How could I introduce it to them so they would start to make employment decisions based on that, not on external pressures?

This is the story of how and why I came to develop that programme.


In 2015 (my first year as a lecturer) I wanted to write an employment programme for final year creative students which was based on a more holistic view of ‘work’ and ‘career’. I wanted it to anticipate the blocks they may face in pursuing a creative life while giving them specific knowledge about how to develop a career in which they are confident and satisfied.

Rather than approach this through providing an outline for the sort of person they need to be or career they need to have in the creative industries, I was interested in helping them work out what was important to them first – then designing a career around that.

I hoped this approach would help students realise they have some level of autonomy in choosing their work. I also wanted to move away from working on CVs and LinkedIn profiles, and towards exploring basic yet deeply rooted elements which are essential to happy work and life.


Ikigai and self-actualisation

My starting point was ikigai, which you’ll have heard of by now. It’s a Japanese term originating in the Okinawa area (although that has been contested).

Loosely translated it means “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”. It is not necessarily about work, but about anything in one’s life which is this “reason”.

This concept has been identified as key to the long and fruitful lives of people in the Okinawa region, including in a seven-year longitudinal study of around 50,000 Japanese people which found that those who had not discovered their ikigai had a significantly increased risk of mortality (in a 2008 study by Sone, et al.).

I saw ikigai as similar, in some ways, to the ‘final destination’ of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: self-actualisation and the transcendent needs (helping others to self-actualise).

(If you’ve not heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs before, read this).

One way they’re similar is because ikigai and self-actualisation can take any form; they don’t have to be high-brow. For example, the love of family might be your ikigai, which would be classified as a ‘lower’ need in Maslow’s hierarchy – but can also be a way of you self-actualising.

Another similarity is that ikigai and self-actualisation are dependent on the individual and their social context. I love this quote from Maslow about how the self-actualisation desire is different in different people:

“The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person…the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically…in painting pictures or in inventions”

For me, one of the most important similarities – and actually one of the most important things about ikigai as a whole – was that they are a continuous practice. It is the reason for waking up every morning, not just one single morning.

And from Maslow:

“[self-actualisation] might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming”

You don’t just ‘get’ your ikigai and stop. It is the complete opposite of our pervasive #goals culture; it’s something you find, embrace and just keep doing because every time you do it you become more you.

I believed ikigai and self-actualisation were key to talking about creative careers in a supportive and student-centric way. I saw that they placed the holistic development of the whole person at the heart of any activity.

They were the ‘colour’ of the colouring in, rather than the prescriptive outline.


 Discovering ikigai and self-actualisation

The next step I took was to understand the process by which someone could achieve ikigai and self-actualisation, the behaviours needed to do so, and then develop this into a programme.

In his work as a coach and entrepreneur, Marc Winn created a visualisation of how a person could achieve their ikigai. This diagram has been shared a lot so all credit to Marc; it’s a brilliant representation.

ikigai diagram by marc winn

This diagram has similarities to the one designed by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, showing the key characteristics of companies which significantly improved their operations.

Collins’ diagram consists of three overlapping circles: ‘passion’, ‘best at’ and ‘driving resource’. These translate in turn as ‘what lights your fire’, ‘what could you be the best in the world at’ and ‘what makes you money’.

The corresponding values in Winn’s diagram would be ‘passion’, ‘profession’ and ‘vocation’. But by adding ‘mission’, Winn saw the link between internal fulfilment and external, social need – which can be central to ikigai and self-actualisation.

When I saw the links between Winn’s ‘path to achievement’ diagram and the characteristics Collins discovered of significantly improved businesses, it suggested the principles in Winn’s diagram could be successfully applied to individual career development.

I felt confident that an employment programme based on ikigai would work.


Mr Arden steps in

From there, I looked more closely at some of the behaviours Maslow identified of people who he believed had achieved self-actualisation, which he shared in his 1970 book Motivation and Personality. These included absorption, experimentation and honesty – and a few more too!

One of my favourite books ever is Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To BeI saw links between his chapter subjects and the behaviour he encouraged in creative business people, and the behaviours Maslow identified.

For example, Arden has a chapter called “It’s all my fault”. One of Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours is responsibility.

Arden has another called “When it can’t be done, do it. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t exist”. Maslow lists experimentation as another self-actualising behaviour.

I saw that Arden was articulating – maybe unconsciously – Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours, and matching them to success in a creative career. I realised that adding this into the ikigai mix could make for a great employment programme.


The results

With ikigai at the very heart of the programme, I added an understanding of Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours.

I was inspired by Winn, Collins and Arden that this combination of ideas could work when teaching students about getting a creative career they were fulfilled by.

So I designed and ran an 11 week programme with around 15 students.

And it wasn’t half bad.

Read more about the results of the programme right here.

When I Taught My Students About Ikigai, Here’s What Happened

When I Taught My Students About Ikigai, Here's What Happened | Eleanor Snare - Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

In this article I shared how I came to devise an employment programme for my final year students that had ikigai at its heart.

Here, I want to explain some details of the programme and some of the results I gained.


What was the programme?

The programme was run over 11 weeks with my final year Fashion Marketing students, with seven in-person sessions and four self-directed sessions over the Easter break.

I sent a weekly email newsletter to the students for 10 weeks, which had a session recap and homework as downloadable PDFs. I included creative activities, video and images (no-one likes a boring email).

Because these were my marketing students, I used marketing concepts to help them approach ikigai. In marketing you have your objective (the goal), strategy (overall way of getting there) and your tactics (ways of implementing the strategy). So:

  • Ikigai was the ‘core objective
  • Strategies were for achieving ikigai
  • Tactics were for implementing the strategies

Many careers programmes focus purely on tactics (such as writing a CV) without considering the ‘core objective’ – the ultimate purpose of the activity. Keeping the objective in mind meant the strategies and tactics we discussed were meaningful and relevant for the students – they were writing their CV for a purpose they believed in.

The sessions I facilitated were a combination of explanation, discussion, and independent and group activities, and were very relaxed. We covered everything from ikigai to salary to skills and vision boards. I also got to dream up ikigai-achievement strategies with the students, in a mentor/coach capacity.

My favourite aspect of the sessions was the way the group bonded with each other; they went from 15 or so strangers to 15 friends who understood and cared about each other’s passions.

That, for me, was worth all the work.


The results

I managed to wrangle feedback from the students before they left to get into the big, wide world, and the results made me do a happy dance.

They’d approached the course expecting it to be tactical – as one said, “more about cvs and cover letters”. Ikigai was a brand new concept, and they found applying it to a range of ‘normal’ employment ideas was quite challenging.

This was some of their feedback on that:

“It let me know that it is important to know myself in order to know what I can do and should do.”

“…it was more about actual purpose which I really liked”

“[Elly’s] approach to careers was on a larger, more thought provoking scale. The programme’s focus on Ikigai made us look at our whole lives rather than just a job.”

Although my sample size was small, I was really pleased to see that they’d started looking at their work differently; rather than succumbing to external pressures, they’d started to turn inwards to make decisions. Importantly, one of them said they no longer expected there to be “one exact right way” to continue their career.

For a generation plagued by social media comparisons and FOMO, this was massive.


But my favourite bit had to be when I asked them what one thing they would take from the course into the future. Here’s what some of them said.

“…knowing that we’re all in the same boat and it’s okay to not know exactly what you’re doing”

“That there is no one path to achieve your goal”

“To look for personal fulfilment in a job.

 

I just want to share that last one again.

 

One student would remember and hold with them: “to look for personal fulfilment in a job“.

That’s what they learnt from the course. That means before, it wasn’t seen as important.

Perhaps what we’ve been telling our young people – actually, all our people – has been wrong. We’ve focused too much, accidentally, on external pressures for work, rather than what fulfils us.

That, to me, is the essence of a creative career; moving towards what fulfils you. Living your ikigai.


So, did they find it?

Did my students find their ikigai?

I didn’t ask them.

Why didn’t I ask them?

Because it’s a hell of a lot of pressure to ask a graduating student “Did you discover the reason why you get up in the morning?” while they launch themselves into adulthood.

Do I think they did find it?

It’s hard to answer.

I believe it’s only by attempting, failing, getting burnt and getting back up that we find out who we truly are, and what we truly want to achieve in our lives.

I spent 27 years not knowing why I was here, and doing lots of things for lots of reasons that didn’t make me happy. And I think I was lucky I discovered my ikigai when I did.

My students (now graduates) have a lot of attempting, failing, getting burnt and getting back up to do yet. That’s the way life is.

But they have an advantage; they know there is something out there that will fulfil them. Their ikigai is out there.

By planting the seed of ikigai in their mind, I have brought them one step closer to finding it.


“Even though I do not yet know what my ikigai is, and was reassured by Elly that this takes time to find, being aware of the concept has adjusted how I think about my future career. Having one purpose that drives forward every decision is a powerful thing.

For me, I was always concerned with having that one particular calling; a job title that I could aim for throughout my education. However, I never knew and do not know at this time what this should be.

Finding an Ikigai makes the prospect of choosing a career less daunting as everything becomes broader; with personal fulfilment as the criteria, a lot of avenues appear to open.


One final note: a big thank you to all the students who took part in this programme; you were brave and it was an honour to help you.

Three More Tools I Use to Maximise My Energy and Time + Choosing the Right Tools as A Creative Business Owner

Screenshot of Trello board with lists on desktop

I recently shared an article on the Five Tools I Use to Maximise My Energy and Time as a Creative Business Owner. There, I mentioned that:

“Having the right tools to help you do the jobs you need to do can make a huge difference to your enjoyment and fulfillment in your creative business.”

Here are three more tools that I rely on heavily in my daily work to bring me enjoyment and fulfilment, plus some helpful tips on choosing the right tools for you and your creative business.


Voice to text apps

One tool I use a lot is the voice to text function, particularly in my email and Google Drive. I’ve even started using it in Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

I’ve started using this because I discovered my work, and my comprehension of the work I’m doing, is often most effective when I explain it out loud. Ideally, I like to explain it to other people, but that’s not always possible – so explaining it to myself is the next best option.

It also saves me having to type out my thoughts; surprisingly this does take quite a long time, even for someone who’s spent five years doing big copywriting projects.

I’m prone to arm and shoulder pain if I use my phone too much (damn you Instagram!) so using voice to text in messaging also saves me that discomfort.

One benefit of the voice to text function is you can often be more natural in your writing and, at the same time, more concise. Both of these are great for clear communication.

This one tool has saved me a huge amount of time; I recommend you try it if you end up having to write lots of emails.

Screenshot of the voice to text function in Google Docs
Screenshot of the voice to text function in Google Docs

 


Journal and diary

I use a couple of non-digital tools as well as these online ones. These tools are important to me both professionally and on a more personal level.

On Instagram, I share pictures of my journal; I use this to have an overview of my week in one place. I try to make this overview as appealing to look at as possible, so I actually want to check in on my calendar. It also means I’d encouraged to look back on it, to see what I did, achieved and was grateful for.

As well as this journal I have a small diary which I use almost like a future planner – my journal is for the week ahead while the diary is for the whole year. It helps me to see, very quickly, whether I’m busy or not, what days I’m working and when I have availability to work with clients.

I do include some information about what I’m doing on the day in the diary, but really it’s an overview.

I find it a lot easier to check this overview on paper, and if someone wants to set a meeting or book me in for some work, I find I remember it more when I write it down.

This process of doing something on paper and then translating it into a digital form (like my Google Calendar) might seem like it’s not the best use of my time or energy; for me, it works well.

By writing it down, it means I’ve acknowledged and will remember I’ve committed to something. The digital version is then a helpful reminder for me and other people.

 


Trello

The final tool I use every day – and probably check something like every hour – is Trello. I’d originally tried to use Trello for some of my work with my students and a couple of client projects, but I never really got the hang of it.

However, this year I’ve got much more interested in it because of the way I’m planning my time. I use a particular system which I learnt in a program run by Jo Martin from One of Many. In this system, you allocate tasks and batch them together according to the type of energy they require.

For example, if you are at a time in your creative business where you need to have lots of meetings where you’ll be making decisions, you would match those meetings together; not because they’re meetings but because you are in a specific type of decision-making energy.

I’ve found Trello to be useful in helping me quickly code and allocate activities to different days depending on the energy they require.

If you haven’t used Trello before, it has a very similar feel to Pinterest. There are different boards which have different cards on them; a bit like Pinterest boards with different pins on them. Each card is a task and each board is a project. There’s another layer to Trello called lists, which are what the the cards fit into.

 

Screenshot of Trello board with lists on desktop
Screenshot of Trello board with lists on desktop, showing different days and tasks as ‘cards’

 

An example would be exhibiting at an upcoming craft fair. You might create a board for this craft fair (called ‘Craft Fair’) where all of the things you need to think about and the tasks you need to undertake would go.

You might have a list titled ‘Display inspiration’, and another called ‘Marketing’ (for thing you would do before and after the event. You may have another list called ‘Stock check’ and another called ‘Promotional materials’.

On each of these lists you would have a number of cards, each of which was a task you needed to do. So on the ‘Stock check’ list you might have cards saying:

  • Look through current catalogue
  • Count how many different products I have
  • Decide which new products I need to make

In your ‘Promotional materials’ list, you might have:

  • Take photographs for flyers
  • Write copy for flyers
  • Design flyers
  • Get flyers printed and delivered

 

Screenshot of a single list in the Trello mobile app
Screenshot of a single list in the Trello mobile app

 

Trello was originally developed as a tool to facilitate work between different people, but I’ve found using it independently to be really successful.

You can set deadlines for your tasks and tick them off as complete. You can also colour code them according to different activities; for example, you might have three different craft fairs you’re going to do in the next two months, so you could assign a different colour to each of those and to the different tasks.

 

Screenshot of single Trello card showing image attachments on desktop
Screenshot of single Trello card showing image attachments on desktop

 

The tasks themselves are also very rich in detail; you can add photographs, links, documents and comments – which is great for when you’re keeping an update of what you’re doing (essentially, talking to yourself!).

Most creative business owners have a huge number of things going on at one time. I’ve found Trello to be really useful in helping me plan my day, my week and even my months effectively by having a list of tasks to look at every day, so even when there’s lots going on I feel like I know what’s coming up next.

In particular, Trello’s flexibility is very appealing; if something doesn’t get done, I can quite literally move it to the next day.

 

Screenshot of single Trello card showing checklist attachment on desktop
Screenshot of single Trello card showing checklist attachment on desktop

 

I can also keep all of the little bits of information I need for a task in one place; for example, I recently visited a client and on the card for this task I included a link to their office on Google Maps, a screenshot of the walk I would need to do from the train station, and a screenshot of the train times – all in one tiny card! This saved me a lot of time because I wasn’t constantly opening apps or searching for the right information.

Although it can be tricky to get started with Trello, it’s one of my most-used tools, and one I’d highly recommend if you’re a creative business owner who likes things to be visual.

You can download and see Trello here: Android / iPhone / Web


Choosing your tools

Having a good set of tools to help you run your creative business can make things more enjoyable, maximise your energy and maximise your time. Everyone is different, so the tools that’ll work for you and your business may be very different to mine.

However, for a creative business owner, here are some of the things to look out for when you’re choosing the right tool to use.

The ability to set deadlines or time frames
This is helpful to keep you on track and make sure the things you want to get done do get done. Some tools have better deadline-setting options than others.

Colour coding or another type of categorisation
I find colour coding the most effective way to see categories quickly, and all of the tools I’ve mentioned have this functionality. If you’re a ‘visual’ person, this can make a huge difference in your use of a tool and how well it maximises your time.

Look for tools where colour coding is a normal and comprehensive function.

Flexibility
A tool should be flexible – which means you should be able to use it easily, change things easily, and not feel like it’s taking you more time to use than it is to do the things you want to do.

One of the problems I have with Outlook Calendar is it sometimes feels like it’s more time-consuming to use it with my colleagues at the university than simply emailing them to arrange a meeting time.

Flexibility is key, otherwise that tool will not be doing what it needs to do which is maximising your energy and time.

Content-rich
Most online tools now will allow you to add images, links, and more. If the tool has this functionality, use it; it helps you keep all the bits you need in one place, which ultimately saves you the energy of having to look for everything.

One of the most important things to remember when you start to use tools in your business to maximise your energy and time is to spend time setting them up properly.

If you use a tool incorrectly, it’ll end up costing you more in time and energy than it’s saving you.


What’s next?

The old adage is ‘the right tool for the right job’. That applies whether you’re trying to put a table together, or organise the next year of your creative business. Finding the right tool takes time, setting it up can take even more time, but this is time well spent.

Once they’re up and running, the right tools should help you, not hinder you. They should allow you to put your energy and your time in the place which is going to make the most impact for your creative business.

The tools I’ve mentioned all help me do this; what will you use?


Crystal Clear Brand - A Workbook for Creative Business Owners horizontal
The best tool for your creative business

In a few weeks I’m launching a do-it-yourself product on the best tool of all for maximising your time and energy in your creative business.

It’s a workbook guiding you through creating a crystal clear brand in an interactive, friendly and engaging way.

Your brand is the best tool for your business, because it helps you make decisions about everything from the products you make to the pictures you share on Pinterest, saving you time and energy.

If you’re interested in updates about the launch, sign up below.

To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.


 

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If you feel like you're always trying to spin a hundred plates as a creative business owner, take a look at these three essential tools I use everyday - plus some advice on choosing the right tools for you to use.