Well, I spent most of 2017 on maternity leave. 9 months minus 2 weeks in fact. Although my baby was born in 2016, he was born on Boxing Day, with less than a week left in the year. So it’s quite obvious what my biggest accomplishment of 2017 is! He makes my heart burst with pride. He’s an absolute cutie, an explorer, and a friend to everyone he meets.
Nine months of maternity leave gave me plenty of time to think about my business. Often during feeds and at unearthly hours in the middle of the night! I was apprehensive about getting back to it. But at the same time I was excited to be able to start implementing all the ideas I’d had during the break.
In the three months of 2017 that I’ve been back, I’ve done a mixture of client work, and spending time working on my business and laying a firm foundation for the year ahead. My accomplishments for 2017 are the things that I’m pleased that I invested my time in. Here’s my list:
1. I renamed my business
When I set my business up nearly four years ago, I named it after myself. This was the obvious thing to do, and was very helpful at the time. Naming your business after yourself has many advantages, but I felt that was becoming hard to distinguish myself from my business.
With social media accounts being both my personal account and used for business, I was a bit conflicted on what to write. Should I be writing for myself or for potential clients?
When I work with other creatives such as photographers and other designers and developers, it sounded weird to refer to ‘our’ work when the business was named after me.
And as an introvert I needed a bit of distance between myself and my business. To put that mental space between myself and my work. Although it’s not the right thing for everyone, I felt it was the right decision for me to rebrand under the name LD Web Studio.
2. I clarified my aims and designed my branding guidelines
With the new name also came new aims. Having time away gave me perspective and helped me to think about the clients I wanted to work with the most. I knew that I needed branding that would appeal these kinds of businesses. I needed to change my logo to reflect the new name, but I went even deeper, creating an all new set of brand guidelines that I could use throughout every part of my business. My guidelines reflect my values better, and will hopefully appeal to my ideal clients more.
The whole rebranding process was so exciting. It was like starting again from the beginning they way I’d liked to if I hadn’t desperately needed to get in clients when I’d started my business. And I was able to use all the skills and things I’d learned about my clients and my business over the last four years.
3. I launched my new website
Once my new logo and branding was in place, I needed a new website that would reflect all the changes I’d been making. As a web designer, my website is my most important bit of marketing. It gives clients an idea of my signature style, and the kinds of websites I like to design. I worked hard at crafting suitable body copy for my website, making sure I had the right information on there. I put my design process, services, FAQs and pricing on there for the first time, as I wanted to make sure that people who get in touch via my website are a good fit for my business and that I’m a good fit for their business.
4. I took new photos for my website
In my very first website mock-ups, I used some photos from a stock photography website. They looked wonderful, but I realised early on that to get photos that really reflected my branding it would be easier to take them myself. Although I am a designer, I’m certainly not a photography expert, but with a bit of reading I was able to take some photos that I’m pleased with. And it means when I need new photos for blog posts and social media, I can take more in the same style.
5. I started blogging regularly
I had a gap of nine months in my business where I didn’t take on any clients. Plus, there was a couple of months before I finished where I was trying to tie up all the loose ends on every client project before I had my baby. When I returned, I needed a new strategy for attracting clients. I am convinced of the benefits of business blogging but hadn’t ever taken the time to blog consistently before my maternity leave.
The biggest task was creating an editorial calendar. I knew that once I’d set this up, I’d be able to stick to it. I’ve made a mahoosive spreadsheet with lots of different tabs. I’ve include my ideas for titles, prompts for new ones, a calendar of the year, and what blog posts I’m going to publish on which days. I’ve been able to post of a consistent schedule, and begun to get ahead so that when I get really busy, I’ll still have posts to publish.
6. I set up three social media accounts (and a couple of spares)
When I was choosing my new business name, I checked that a matching domain name and social media account names were available too. I set up new accounts for the three social media accounts that I’ve chosen to focus on: Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. I’ve also set up another couple of social accounts that I don’t want to use now but might want to use in the future and set them to private.
I’ve added profile pics and bios, and branded my Pinterest boards so they match my website and branding guidelines. There’s still a bit of work to do, but I’ve certainly broken the back of it.
7. I set out my goals for 2018
Setting out my mission, vision, values and manifesto in my brand guidelines was a super start to getting some clarity about my business and the direction I’m heading in. While I was looking for the perfect 2018 planner to use in my business, I came across the Dailygreatness Business Planner. The tagline ‘is an actionable plan for expanding your mind and exploding your business’ so I thought I’d give it a go.
The first section of the Dailygreatness Business Planner is about clarifying your goals. It’s been really insightful to go through the questions and really teased out what I want to achieve in 2018, and how to action it. In the planner, I’ve set out goals in eight business areas, and what steps I’ll need to take in order to achieve them. There’s also five social goals, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be setting up my actions for the next quarter. I’m looking forward to getting started properly.
8. I started my ‘little wins’ book again.
I once met a woman for coffee and she told me how she had a notebook that she writes her ‘little wins’ in. Not huge achievements but small things like following up with some clients that haven’t replied, or scheduling your social media posts for the month. On the way home, I bought a new notebook and started my own ‘little wins book’. That was almost two years ago, and now I have a 15 or so pages of encouragement if ever I’m feeling disheartened or down about my business.
I used to reward myself on a Friday afternoon by going to a coffee shop and writing my ‘little wins’ for the week, but now I work part-time I don’t have the time. However, I’ve found doing it on a Monday morning sets me up for the week. Sometimes, I don’t think I’ll be able to write anything for the previous week but once I sit down and think about it I can think of three or four little things I achieved and it instantly lifts me up and helps me get off to a positive start.