"Busy" is not a word in my vocabulary

Have you ever heard someone say "Oh I'm sorry I have completely ignored you all week, I've just been so busy!" Or, if you're like me, you listened to a client say "I've been too busy to email you the 10 things I owe you, but I'd still love my site to launch tomorrow."

The word "busy" is extremely high on my pet-peeve/gross things list (Right up there with open-mouth chewing, pigs, monkeys, and not using a turn signal or understanding a traffic zipper.)

The reasons: you should be in charge of your priority list, and own up to the real reason you're "busy."

If a client ignores me for a week, doesn't send content, check in, or ignores my emails - then their site/logo must not be that high on their priority list. It's not that they're "busy" - it's that their list includes 10 other items that took all their attention, which isn't fair to either party. Why should that client be #1 on my list if their own site isn't?

What I REALLY hear when someone says they're busy:

"I forgot I hired someone to do my site, and I'm blaming being busy on forgetting to get you this content."

"I took on too much work this week and couldn't handle it all."

"Pokemon Go released an update and honestly I've been trying to level up all week."

When I'm hired to create a logo/site for someone, immediately that client shoots up on my priority list and I make sure I respond/update them every 48 hours. I have strict work/life boundaries that I honor, but during my working hours, my clients are my #1.

If I'm able to buy a planner that works for me (this one!), wake up every day and jot down a list of people I need to talk to, and actually accomplish that - then you should, too. Being "busy" does not excuse you from being inattentive!

Here's what I also hear when someone says they're busy:

"My daughter had a big school week - I had to be there for her."

"I spent so much time working on content for you, but I couldn't grasp it completely, and need more time."

"My mental health was slipping this week and I needed time to decompress and catch back up with myself."

What is so wrong with those reasons? Nothing! The second half of my original statement is that "busy" is a terrible catch-all word. It casts blame instead of being brave. If you put your children first or need time to work on your mental health, but you're too afraid to actually say those things for fear of being fired or judged: that's on society, not you. I'm here for you.

If your reason for being busy is due to your integrity and work/life balance as a person, then I honor you and would love to hear all about it and how I can support you with a better schedule that makes you feel more comfortable. If your reason for being busy is that you are Type A and need to take everything on but don't actually have time for the things you sign up for, then we need to talk about Work/Life balance and how to delegate. 

"Busy" is a word like "just" or "very." It has no meaning any more. Also: We're ALL busy. I didn't mention that concept in this article much because it should be obvious. I'm a freelancer and I constantly juggle anywhere from 5-10 clients. You want busy? I also work with a few moms who have three children, their own company, and another part-time job. 

It's time to start digging deep into balance and not leaning on "busy" as an excuse for anything - especially when it comes to working with others. A successful work/life balance and successful delegation will always result in "busy" leaving your vocabulary. 

 

 

Emails vs Phone Calls: Please email me

"What is this?? What are those weird keys?" - said no millennial ever

"What is this?? What are those weird keys?" - said no millennial ever

Before I even begin, let's address the low-hanging fruit: "Haha! The millennial doesn't like talking! Back in my day, all we had was the phone...." Yes, yes, I know that I've grown dependent on texting and emails for several things, but I don't think my aversion to client phone calls has anything to do with my age. Well, my age has MUCH to do with my feeling more comfortable behind the keys, but my nervousness has more more to do with professionalism and courtesy.

Some phone calls are fine: if it's the first time I've met you, or if you are confused on something, or need some quick clarity. What's not fine is a client calling me to turn something blue to green and it takes 30 minutes for them to explain why, when it could have taken me 5 minutes. 

 I firmly believe there are FIVE main reasons I'd prefer to stick to emails.

1. Phone calls take 3x as long as emails.

I understand you, clients, and I know you well - because you are me and I am you. If need to reach my post office, customer service for AT&T, or a retailer - I absolutely want to reach them in person. I'm a client sometimes too! I do believe, however, that there's a line to observe, since I deliver digital goods and I charge by the hour. Your phone calls are not free.

What you're not seeing is how fast I can type and how fast I can read. If you have a quick question for me or a few edits to a logo, I 100% guarantee that an email will take me 5 mins to read and then 10 mins to implement. Calling me with every single change you're seeking will take 45 mins that neither of us has.

2. Scheduling is a nightmare.

"I'm free Tuesday past 2:00. How about you? No? Okay, how about Wednesday after 10:00? No? You're only free 7pm to 9pm on Mondays? Well...." Sheesh. It seems to take several emails back and forth to even schedule a call - and in that time, we could have communicated via email or Basecamp.

I'm not a morning person, never have been. That might change someday when I have children or more of a routine, but for now, if you try to reach me before 9am, you're getting Zombie Sarah. I also put a firm stop on calls after 5:00pm because I believe strongly in work/life balance. That means that yes, you do have to call me in normal working hours - and not on my lunch break either. 

There are great apps for this, like Calendly, but the calls I do get are often impromptu. Clients seek a 'quick chat' and don't want to go through a formal process. I want clients to use Basecamp - because I bet once we come up with a time to talk, I could have already had their business cards printed and delivered.

3. I've gotten blind-sided too many times.

True story: I once got a call around 4:00pm from a client of a client. (Remember I said my work/life balance was very important to me.) A very charming and kind gentleman was on the phone, but he was also desperate. "I'm hoping you can do something for me quickly. I need a flier designed and sent to a printer in an hour. Client X told me you were awesome. Can you please do this for me? Please? You're my only hope. I have no one left."

Whoa. WHOA.

Well, that's what I get for answering an unfamiliar number.

This put me in a terrible spot. If I said no, he framed it in such a light that I would be letting him AND my client down. If I said yes, I'm compromising my integrity - I'm not a same-day print shop, I'm an experienced and professional designer. My head was screaming "NO!" but my Virgo heart was saying very much out loud "Oh...sure..." and when he asked for my hourly rate, I told him too low, and didn't add a rush fee.

Yes, I stuttered and stammered and didn't hold my ground. Had it been an email, I don't think I would have compromised myself and I would have explained that if the flier didn't get printed, no one would die. That's the cool thing about what we do. No lives are on the line. I made myself look like someone who has nothing to do but create last-minute fliers, and I grew from that experience.

4. A phone call essentially says "I don't feel like typing, so you do it."

Some of you aren't going to like that, but I said it anyway. Before you go nuts, I'd like to preface that there are several great cases for phone calls:

  1. Have we already sent 5 emails and are still not understanding each other? CALL AWAY!
  2. Are you in a vehicle and should never type and drive, and this is urgent? MAYBE IT CAN WAIT BUT I'D RATHER YOU CALL THAN TEXT!
  3. Is it SO quick that a call is honest-to-goodness faster than an email? Are you 100% sure? SAVE US TIME! CALL ME!
  4. Do you also know me personally and want to ask me any questions about my cats? THEY ARE GREAT! CALL ME!

If you're thinking to yourself "Wow, this is going to be a lot to type, I'll just call instead" what you are basically saying is "I don't feel like typing, I'll make Sarah take notes and type instead." That's completely fine - but that's why I charge for phone calls. You're telling me to take your notes so you can stream-of-consciousness into my ear without truly sitting down and thinking about what you want to say and how you want to appear.

5. Phone calls do not inspire action.

If you're a Type A like me, you know the power of marking off a checkbox or crossing off that to-do. It's powerful, and it's such a great feeling. 

Lists inspire action. Words do not. If you take the time to type something out, it creates more command and inspiration. This is why I love Basecamp - it has a great to-do feature and I can always go back and re-read what was typed. 

I have a client that calls me once a week for an hour to hash out projects. Here's the thing: none of these projects manifest. We will talk about them and dream of the day I am given content and direction, but without pen to paper (or keys to keyboard), nothing gets done. The call is an illusion of getting something accomplished, when that hour would be better used to give me content so that I can actually begin a project instead of talking about it.

 

To sum up a long post (that would have taken forever to read out, I might add - isn't reading fun?), phone calls are truly fine if you're a client and it makes you feel more comfortable and hate typing. Simply know that I charge for phone calls because they're harder on me, and I will end up typing a recap or email anyway to make sure we solidify whatever it was we talked through. I think a phone call is a great alternative to a meeting if you're not in Atlanta, and for something quick it's fine. It's not fine when you want to go through every aspect of your logo/site step by step instead of taking the time to truly sit down and think it through. 

Your business takes time, and so does mine - let's use each other's as efficiently as possible!

Why I Don't Work Weekends

Why I Don't Work Weekends

Everyone works their best on a different schedule, and that's what I love about being a freelancer. I know a morning designer that works from 7am - 3pm. I'm a night owl, so I tend to work 10:00am to 7:00pm and get all my household chores done in the morning (along with eating breakfast - the most important meal of the day!) before I start to work. Whether morning birds or night owls work 30 or 60 hours - there is one thing we have in common: what the 50th hour looks like. It's not pretty.

Where Do I Get My Clients?

Where Do I Get My Clients?

Tonight when I opened my site to write a blog post, I wanted to start with my story - how I came to be a designer, what influenced me, how many years, projects, and struggles it took to get here. But most of you aren't interested in that. The #1 question I have been asked in the past year of 100% full-time freelance is this:

WHERE DO I GET MY CLIENTS?

Gaining a client base wasn't easy, and that's the honest truth. 

Squarespace SEO and You

Squarespace SEO and You

I get asked constantly from my Squarespace clients what they can do to boost their SEO. There's so much good material out there - but it can be overwhelming to swim through! Below you'll find the top 5 things you can do to boost your SEO on Squarespace and get your site listed higher on google. Much of this content comes from Squarespace itself, but hopefully this is condensed down to a more manageable bite!