Swish Design https://swishdesign.com.au Web Design, Graphic Design, Logo Design Perth Wed, 12 Dec 2018 01:38:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://swishdesign.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/cropped-SwishIcon-32x32.png Swish Design https://swishdesign.com.au 32 32 139348591 How I won my battle with entrepreneurial stress in 2018 https://swishdesign.com.au/battle-entrepreneurial-stress-2018/ https://swishdesign.com.au/battle-entrepreneurial-stress-2018/#comments Thu, 06 Dec 2018 02:44:41 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6949 How I won my battle with entrepreneurial stress in 2018 Read More »

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As I’ve reflected on previously in my book, 20 Simple Shortcuts to Small Business Success, running a business never really gets easy, and it’s pretty much always stressful.

  • As fast as one challenge is surmounted, another presents itself.
  • Situations you thought were resolved unresolve themselves.
  • Longtime staff move on.
  • Economies change.
  • Industries are disrupted.

And for the majority of my business life, I haven’t dealt with stress very well. Without fail, once a certain stress threshold was crossed, anxiety would be triggered, and from there, a slide into depression wouldn’t be too far away. For a long time, I avoided this cycle by outsourcing all our business stress to my husband. But all that did was make him horribly stressed out … and eventually, it burnt him out.

Mmm. Not ideal.

I had to figure out some techniques for managing stress better so that every period of prolonged stress didn’t drop me in a hole of anxiety and depression. And I’m happy to report to you from the end of 2018 that I think I’ve found a winning combination of mindsets.

Despite 2018 being a crazily stressful year in which we stopped paying office rent, ungrew our business, (which takes as much time and effort as growing a business) and I worked on no less than 12 books in some shape or form (coaching, editing, writing or design) …

I got tired.

I got overwhelmed.

And yes, I even got a bit burnt out.

But I never ended up in the ‘let’s sell everything we own and move to a shack in the bush’ place I always go to when depressed and wondering what the point of it all is.

And it was all thanks to finally fully buying into the following mindsets:

1. Only the controllable can be controlled

In the early years of my business I got into the habit of thinking if I was really organised and could anticipate what people needed before they needed it, and what people thought before they thought it, I could effectively control stressful situations out of my life.

Ha! All this line of thinking achieved was me getting angry at myself whenever a stressful situation arose because I had failed to mind-read the person involved and prevent it before it happened.

Yes, I know. Even I can see how ridiculous it sounds now that I’ve written it down.

These days I know that no matter how organised we are, challenges will continue to present themselves. But the good thing about life is …

2. We can always deal with the ‘now’

A while ago someone told me I had to read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now because it would be life-changing. And they were right.

Whenever I find myself wanting to go lie down in the corner in the foetal position, I return to a single line from that book:

You can always cope with the now.”

Tolle is right. My strike rate for dealing with the ‘now’ is 100%. And so is yours. We don’t have to like dealing with the ‘now’. We just need to know that we can and will.

3. Stress is only as bad as you think it is

A few years ago I saw a TED Talk from Kelly McGonigal titled How to make stress your friend. In that talk, she shared the results of a study that tracked 30,000 adults in the US:

… they started by asking people, “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?” They also asked, “Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?” And then they used public death records to find out who died.

People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health.

People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.”

This was a big revelation for me because (ignoring my personal stress => anxiety => depression equation for a moment) I always believed stress was physiologically bad for humans, which justified my avoidance of it.

Listening to McGonigal’s talk completely flipped that thinking for me and has totally changed how I respond to stress situations today.

4. Running a business is a privilege

Comparisons can be odious. But sometimes they can also be a nice reality check. These days, if I’m feeling stressed about something, I remind myself how privileged I am to live in a country where a woman has the freedom and tools to start her own business. I’m also privileged to:

  • Live in a country where the barriers to starting and running your own business are negligible
  • Own a business that’s 12 years old (given how many businesses fail in their first year)
  • Own a business that’s surmounted many challenges and been able to evolve in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.

But most of all I’m privileged because, when challenges present themselves, I have the support and resources to take them on. Not everyone has that.

5. Surmounting challenges equals growth

Every challenge I’ve faced since I first started my business has led to learning and growth that I’ve been able to put to good use.

These days I:

  • Make better decisions.
  • Have learned to spot the difference between an ‘opportunity’ and a giant time suck.
  • Have become a better problem solver and communicator.

In short, all those challenges have made me a better person—personally and professionally.

I just had to stop fighting them and accept them as part of the process instead.

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3 things we learned from our website redesign https://swishdesign.com.au/website-redesign/ https://swishdesign.com.au/website-redesign/#respond Thu, 29 Nov 2018 03:11:02 +0000 http://swishdesign.com.au/?p=7743 3 things we learned from our website redesign Read More »

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Website Redesign Main

How often should you re-design your website? (Or at the very least, revisit the content?)

We tell our clients it should be done every two years.

And not for self-serving reasons either. It’s because, in this day and age, a LOT can change in two years. Our businesses, along with our personal and professional goals are constantly evolving which means it’s easy for a gap to open up between:

  • Who your website says you are … and who you are today
  • What your website says you do … and what you actually do today

All of which to say, it had been three years since our last website re-design and we were well overdue. Here are the three things we learned from the process:

1. Redesigning your website is like therapy

Why? Because it forces you to get clear on:

  • Where you are now
  • Where you want to be in the future
  • Who you want to serve
  • What their problems are
  • How you’re uniquely placed to solve at least some of those problems

It forces you to revisit your value proposition along with all your product and service offerings. If something wants a place on your sparkling new site, it really has to earn the right to be there!

Like therapy, this process can be painful. But it’s also very cleansing and clarifying, and sets you up with useful tools and strategies for the future.

2. Content should come before design

This seems so obvious when I write it, but it’s just not how things tend to be done in the industry. When wireframing and designing websites, so much of what we’re usually working with is ‘in theory’.

  • In theory, there’ll be three great header images to cycle through at the top here
  • In theory, the pages we’ll have on this site are Home, About, Services, Contact
  • In theory, we want three focus buttons on the home page under the hero image plus a testimonials and portfolio section.

For our re-design, we decided to work with reality. I first re-wrote all the site content (based on what I learned from the ‘therapy’ session above). Then we re-designed the site to that exact content. Then, once the site was built, I didn’t then have to try and create the content for it, it was already there.

This worked so well, we’ve built this into our new website design process for the client sites we build.

3. Imagery is EVERYTHING

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors? If you’re in a well-established industry (like say, web and graphic design), the truth is, anyone who is good at what they do will be able to say the same things about themselves: reliable, value for money, great communicators etc.

In short, everyone’s pretty much going to be using the same words. In those situations, what’s the fastest way to differentiate yourself? With great imagery.

It took forever to find this image we’re using as the hero image on our new home page, but it was worth because everyone who’s seen the new site has commented on it.

Should you be thinking about a website redesign?

As mentioned above, we recommend doing a redesign, or revisiting your website copy at least every two years. We were definitely a year overdue by the time we finished ours.

Here are three quick questions that will help you decide whether your current website is helping or hampering your business’s efforts to be profitable:

  • What are the words I want people to use when recommending me to others? Does my website support what they’re saying? (i.e. If you want people to say you’re edgy and innovative … does your website reflect this?)
  • If someone comes to my website looking for a particular service I provide, is it clear that I provide that service?
  • If a prospective new client wants to contact me, is it easy for them to do so?

If your website doesn’t tick all these boxes, it might be time for a content update at the very least.

 

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We ungrew our business and it was the best thing ever https://swishdesign.com.au/we-ungrew-our-business/ https://swishdesign.com.au/we-ungrew-our-business/#comments Thu, 22 Nov 2018 02:23:49 +0000 http://swishdesign.com.au/?p=7648 We ungrew our business and it was the best thing ever Read More »

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Ungrow Your Business

Back at the start of it all, (October 2006), Swish Design was just me – Kelly.

Let’s call that iteration of the business Swish 1.0.

I’d set myself up in a little 3m x 3m space at my previous employer and revelled in the fact that everything was on me. I set my hours. I chose which clients I worked with and what services I provided. I charged what I wanted to charge. And, because I did a good job for people, my business grew quickly off the back of word of mouth.

In fairly short time there was too much work for one person. (Especially when that one person was also doing all the daily admin, accounting and marketing in addition to all the billable work). So, I took on a part-timer and the business evolved into Swish 1.1.

Within two years I had two staff in addition to myself (Swish 1.2!) and had very much outgrown that little 3m x 3m space. It was time to cut the apron strings and go find a place of our own. We moved to West Perth, and because I was pregnant (Swish 1.2.1?!) I needed to get another designer into the system before I went off to have my baby.

Before long we were Swish 1.3.1

Me having a baby did not slow down the business’ growth at all. Probably because I took zero days off. (Much to the horror of my clients, I was sending invoices and doing bits of work from the hospital.) Crazy? Maybe. But when you’re the owner of a rapidly growing business, you kind of do what you have to do.

Unsurprisingly, after 18 months of combining the running of a high-growth business with being a new mum, I fell apart. At that point in time, I wanted Swish 1.3.1 to become Swish 0. Yep, I was ready to shut everything down because it had all become too hard. I didn’t want to be running a business anymore. I just wanted to be a graphic designer.

At this point, my husband Anthony (who was on long service from his teaching job), suggested he take over the running of the business. Initially, I laughed. He wasn’t a designer! How could he run a design business?

As it turns out, he could run it very well.

Anthony never ended up going back to teaching and the business evolved again.

Swish 2.0

Our clients were telling us they wanted us to take care of everything for them. (i.e. not just design, but printing, consulting, SEO, marketing, copywriting, strategy.) So we did what any other business would do in that position. We worked really hard to grow our in-house capabilities to match the demand.

Swish 2.5.

Somewhere between 2013 and 2015, we transitioned from being a boutique design business into a full-service agency.

Swish 2.8.

As our operating costs (staff, contractors, software, hardware, rent) spiralled upwards, so too did the amount we needed to charge for our services to stay viable. The more we charged, the more our clients expected (and rightly so). The more our clients expected, the more people we had to hire to deliver on those expectations.

Swish 2.11.3

By the end of 2017, we were seriously burnt out from how hard we were having to push ourselves to stay in the black. This wasn’t an unusual situation – we’d found ourselves burnt out many times over the prior 11 years. For various reasons, at those previous points in time, we didn’t have the option to do anything other than push on.

This time, however, we did have options. Our office lease was coming up for renewal and for the first time ever, we considered the fact that we weren’t obliged to renew it.

An office, something that had always been the status symbol of a ‘real business’, was becoming less and less relevant in 2018. More than half our clients weren’t in Perth so had never been to our office anyway, and the ones who were in Perth had only visited once or twice. More than half our team weren’t in Perth and already worked remotely from home. With two kids at school, I’d also been working from home 2-3 days a week for the past year.

As we considered running the business with a fully remote setup, we also saw an opportunity to simplify our service offering. Our core strength has always been that we’re really great designers – as great at website design as we are at print design (most people are one or the other because they’re such different forms of design).

Could we return to operating in our very specific zone of genius?

We could only try.

Swish 3.0

2018 saw us make some big changes

We didn’t renew our lease.

We made the tough decision to let some staff members go.

We stopped taking on jobs outside our zone of genius.

After 11 years of relentless growth, we didn’t just put the brakes on. We intentionally ungrew the business. And while it would have been nice to snap our fingers and see our latest evolution take hold, the truth is, it’s taken all year to get to where we are now: Swish 3.0.

As it turns out, we still have an office – we have rooms at 1060 Hay St in West Perth – because we still need to meet with each other and our Perth-based clients. While we can work from there, we seldom do because working from home saves us at least an hour in the car each day and allows Anthony, in particular, to do things he’d never been able to do before, like drop off or pick up the kids from school and help coach our son’s sport teams.

Ungrowing the business has also released Anthony and me from the day-to-day business operations and freed us up to pursue our own professional evolutions: Anthony with his business efficiency consulting, and me with my writing, ghostwriting and editorial work.

But, perhaps most importantly, ungrowing our business has allowed us to really delight our clients at the level we aspire to again because we’re doing only what we’re really, really great at. Which, of course, has made the business less stressful and more profitable.

Steps to ungrowing your business

If you’re in the same position we found ourselves in a year ago, with a business that’s a bit unwieldy, stressful to run and where you’re operating outside your zone of genius more often than not, here are our tips for ungrowing.

1. First ask, should we ungrow?

Or should we push on and try to make the business in its current iteration more profitable and easier to run via better staffing, systems and processes?

For us, we felt we already had solid staffing, systems and processes in place – but the business just wasn’t delivering us the lifestyle we desired. Plus, we had other ventures we both wanted to pursue professionally.

For you, the answer might be different depending on your professional and lifestyle goals.

2. Be willing to make hard decisions

We had to let staff go as part of the ungrowing process and this was incredibly difficult because we were keenly aware of the effect our decision would have on those people’s day-to-day lives. In the end, however, we had to be selfish and make the best decision for ourselves. We felt ok doing this as we’d been making decisions in favour of our staff for many years.

3. Understand ungrowing a business takes as much work as growing one

The first six months of this year were quite insane for us both. In letting staff go, we had to absorb their workloads and sort through a few things before we could redistribute those workloads internally. Moving out of an office that had previously accommodated six staff and a boardroom also took a huge amount of physical and emotional energy.

4. There has to be a market for your zone of genius

It was one thing to decide, ‘Hey we’re going to refocus our efforts on print design, web design and web development only’. It was another for the market to say, ‘Yes, we need those things from you.’

We took a big risk in discontinuing ancillary services we had previously provided (like digital marketing, SEO, marketing consulting etc) and telling clients, ‘No, we only do these specific things now.’ Could we generate enough of an income off just the things we were good at? I’m not sure we can answer that with 100% certainty yet, but so far, so good.

5. Have a backup plan

Ungrowing your business is a risk that involves stress and potential financial instability. Your personal tolerance for those two things will determine just how much of a backup plan you need.

Anthony and my tolerance for stress and financial instability is low (given we have a young family to support). Something that enabled us to take that risk was the fact that we had other ventures that could be ramped up if our Swish 3.0 experiment failed.   

Wrapping up

When you’re a business owner, it’s so easy to get caught up thinking that business growth should only ever occur in one direction. The prevailing message out there is ‘scale or die’. But if you’ve been at this business thing for a while and your business isn’t delivering the lifestyle you hoped it would, maybe it’s time to consider going the other way.

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I write one post a week around the intersection between business and life. To get those thoughts delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

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Got questions about how we ungrew our business? Ask them in the comments.

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10 things business owners can do to get better sleep https://swishdesign.com.au/business-owner-better-sleep/ https://swishdesign.com.au/business-owner-better-sleep/#comments Wed, 03 Oct 2018 16:05:18 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=5209 10 things business owners can do to get better sleep Read More »

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Sleep-Post

Sleep. It’s the first thing that gets sacrificed when life gets busy. And there’s no busier life than that of the average business owner.

We’re never on top of our workloads, and we never reach the end of our to-do lists. So we start staying up a little later, getting up a little earlier, and kidding ourselves that we can function perfectly well on four or five hours sleep a night.

And technically, we can. But there’s a big difference between functioning and thriving. And thriving is where we need to be. If you start every day feeling tired, it won’t be long before your business starts looking pretty tired as well.

So what can we do to:

  1. Get better quality sleep?
  2. Get more sleep than we’re currently getting?

I have ten tips to offer:

1. Your last job each day should be to schedule out the next day

When you know exactly what the next day holds you won’t waste vital mental energy trying to remember what you need to do tomorrow, or spend time wondering what’s in store for the next day. This helps reduce anxiety (which can be a big sleep smasher).

2. No coffee after 3pm, and no alcohol less than two hours before bedtime

Caffeine and alcohol affect our ability to both fall asleep and sleep deeply. Following these recommendations means you can enjoy both types of beverages while still getting a good night’s sleep.

3. While you’re there, watch when you’re eating too

Big meals too close to bedtime are also a bad idea. If your stomach feels full and uncomfortable, it will greatly impair your ability to fall asleep. Try to finish eating for the night at least two hours before going to bed.

4. No screens in the last hour before bedtime

I’ll admit this is a hard one to implement. But chances are it will lead to the biggest improvement in the quality of your sleep. Set up your evening routine so the last hour before bedtime is screen-free. Use that time to read (a real book), journal, make your lunch and set out your clothes for the next day. It’s also the perfect time for pottering.

5. No screens in the bedroom

Studies conclusively show that having your phone on the bedside table affects your sleep. So get rid of it. If it’s there because you use it as an alarm clock, get a real alarm clock instead. If it’s there so you can answer urgent calls during the night, put it just outside your bedroom door. You’ll still hear it out there.

6. Get the temperature right

If you’re too hot or too cold at night, you’ll find it difficult to get good quality sleep. An ambient temperature of 22-23 degrees Celsius is usually ideal. (You may need to raise or lower it a bit if the air is especially dry or humid.)

7. Exercise every day

Studies have shown that a single bout of moderately intense aerobic exercise both reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the length of sleep. You should be exercising for your mental and cardiovascular health every day anyway, but the fact it also helps you sleep better is a nice bonus.

8. Introduce white noise

If you’re a very light sleeper who gets woken by the faintest of noises, consider sleeping with a fan on or using a white noise generator.

9. Quieten your mind

If your anxious, racing mind won’t let you fall asleep, and you’ve tried all the non-pharmaceutical methods to combat it (meditation, mindfulness, journaling, etc.), then consider asking your doctor for some medication to help you sleep.

Anxiety is fuelled by a lack of sleep, and if you don’t break the cycle the problem will begin feeding on itself. Of course you don’t want to be relying on sleeping tablets or anxiety medication to fall asleep every night. But if a tablet can get you through those particularly rough nights where it’s 1am and you’re in full panic mode because you’re still not asleep, that’s pretty helpful.

10. Have a solid bedtime routine

If you can, go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning—even on weekends. Our bodies like rhythm. If you keep chopping and changing your sleep routine your body won’t know whether it’s coming or going, and will struggle to get the rest it needs to truly regenerate.

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8 great nutrition tips for a maximum energy work day https://swishdesign.com.au/tips-for-a-maximum-energy-work-day/ https://swishdesign.com.au/tips-for-a-maximum-energy-work-day/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 16:02:56 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6947 8 great nutrition tips for a maximum energy work day Read More »

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We can’t change the number of hours we have in a day. But we can change the energy we bring to those hours. That’s why I do my best to get a good dose of quality sleep (more on that to come) and make sure I exercise every day.

But I’ve noticed there are days when I can tick both the sleep and exercise boxes and still be struggling to find the energy to concentrate and be productive—especially in the afternoon.

When this happens, it’s usually because I’ve missed another crucial piece of the puzzle—good nutrition.

Of course, thanks to the media and the internet it’s hard to even know what ‘good nutrition’ is these days. Is it eating Paleo? Ditching gluten? Fasting two days a week?

Forget all those things. Good nutrition for a maximum energy day is much easier to achieve than you might think. Here are my eight best tips:

1. Start your day with two big glasses of water

This might seem pretty random but it was part of a health challenge I once did, and it made such a difference to my life it’s now a habit.

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is head to the kitchen and have two really large glasses of water. Rather than trying to knock them back in one minute, I spend 10-15 minutes scrolling through Instagram or Facebook while I drink. It’s a chilled way to start the day, and those fluids seem to get my whole system going (in a good way).

And even if I forget to drink any more water for the rest of the day (which can happen), those two big glasses really seem to go the distance.

2. Have a green smoothie for breakfast

If there’s one great thing you can do for both your health and your energy levels right now, it’s to stop having cereal for breakfast. Every breakfast cereal on the market (other than rolled oats and Weet-Bix) is loaded with sugar. And chances are you add sugar to rolled oats and Weet-Bix for taste anyway.

The other problem with cereal is it’s not designed to get you through to lunch. By 10:30am you’re running out of energy, and need a snack/morning tea to keep you going. So much so, we all  think needing a snack around 10:30am is ‘normal’.

Enter the green smoothie. The beauty of these (when they’re made well) is that they tick so many boxes. Even the most basic recipes provide plenty of fluids and 1-2 serves of vegetables. If you add good-quality protein powder and some healthy fats, you have a more ‘complete’ meal that can get you all the way to lunch. (Well, once you break the habit of heading to the biscuit jar at 10:30am every day.)

What do you put in a green smoothie?

Head to swishdesign.com.au/green for a helpful guide and free download.

3. Always take a lunch break

By this I mean ‘get away from your desk at lunchtime’. While we all tend to eat lunch, too many of us eat it at our desks—one hand holding a sandwich while the other taps away on the keyboard.

That’s not great for our energy levels later in the day.

It’s really important to move away from your desk and try to eat your lunch in a mindful fashion. All you need is ten minutes to give your brain a rest and ensure it picks up on the fact you’ve actually eaten. Believe me, you’ll get those ten minutes back many times over in the afternoon.

4. Don’t buy your lunch from the lunch bar

I’m not saying there aren’t any healthy options at that lunch bar. There probably are. But when you’re faced with the choice between delicious hot chips and a healthy salad, the hot chips will generally win out. Then you’ll spend so much time berating yourself for your lack of willpower over those chips that you’ll struggle to get all your work done in the afternoon.

5. Understand that it’s okay to feel hungry

The ready availability of food in the modern world means it’s very easy for us to ‘graze’ our way through the day. Which means that if you’re anything like me you’ll head for the pantry or fridge at the first grumble of your stomach.

The problem is that the more food choices we have to make over the course of a day, the harder it is to make them all good ones. And another thing: if our stomachs spend all day processing food then guess what? We’re going to feel sluggish and slow all day.

So learn to understand the difference between being peckish and being hungry. If you’re eating three truly nourishing meals a day (more on that in a second), any tummy rumblings outside your regular meal times are most likely peckishness—something that can be quickly banished with a big glass of water.

6. Stop eating from packets

If you’re eating something from a packet, there’s a good chance it contains added sugar, preservatives and half a dozen ingredients you can’t even pronounce.

None of these are good for your health. They adversely affect the way your body functions, and anything that does that will affect your energy levels too. So try and eat food you’ve made from scratch as much as possible.

And for those times when it isn’t possible, stick to packet foods that:

  • Have less than 5% sugar
  • Don’t contain preservatives
  • Have a minimal number of ingredients
  • Don’t contain ingredients with numbers, or names you can’t pronounce.

7. Embrace good fats

Ah, fat. The mortal enemy for as long as I’ve been alive. Thankfully, most of us have now caught on to the fact that it’s not fat that’s making us fat. It’s our penchant for packaged and processed foods that are high in sugar and other weird things (such as those ingredients with numbers and names we can’t pronounce).

So, why should you embrace good fats? Well, one of their many benefits is they make you feel fuller for longer and stop you running to the pantry every five minutes.

How do you get more good fats into your diet? Eat full-fat dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter) rather than the low-fat alternatives. Add half an avocado and/or a handful of nuts to your salads. Make your own salad dressings from olive, macadamia or avocado oil rather than using commercial dressings. And add a tablespoon of coconut oil to your green smoothie.

8. Time your caffeine hits for maximum effect

If you’ve been a coffee drinker for any length of time, it probably has very little impact on your energy levels and mental alertness (unless you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine). But with the right timing, even the most habitual coffee drinkers can get a caffeine boost.

How do you time your caffeine hit right? By having it when your cortisol levels are at their lowest. So, rather than having a coffee first thing in the morning when your cortisol levels are naturally high, time it for mid-morning and mid-afternoon when they’ve taken a dip.

But limit yourself to just coffee or tea. Having a sugar-filled biscuit as well will cancel out the energy boosting effect of your well-timed coffee break.

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Are there really shortcuts to business success? https://swishdesign.com.au/shortcuts-business-success/ https://swishdesign.com.au/shortcuts-business-success/#comments Wed, 18 Apr 2018 22:02:51 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6941 Are there really shortcuts to business success? Read More »

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Business success.

For many people today, those two words tend to conjure up an image of someone lying in a hammock on a tropical island, cocktail in hand, with their phone and laptop casually arranged on a side table next to them.

I’m pretty sure we can all blame Tim Ferris for that.

Thankfully, when I first started Swish Design 12 years ago, I hadn’t come across The 4-Hour Workweek yet.

At that point in time, I defined ‘business success’ as being able to make as much from my business as I’d been making in the day job I’d just left. And, thanks to the network of contacts I’d built up before going out on my own, I quickly achieved that level of business success.

So my definition then shifted. It became being able to take a holiday without experiencing a massive downturn in income while I was away. That too was achieved fairly quickly, this time by bringing on a staff member.

Then I got pregnant, and my definition of business success changed yet again. Now the business needed to be able to operate without me in the office for an extended period. This was achieved—but only barely. I’d set the business up to survive without me in it, but not thrive.

Eighteen months later, when I had a complete breakdown from the combined stresses of running a rapidly growing business while also managing a household and being the mother of a newborn, business success was the last thing on my mind.

I didn’t even want to have a business anymore. It all just seemed too hard.

Fortunately for me, my husband was available to step in and take on the role of General Manager in what was now ‘our’ business.

(That one action showed me that business success for creative people can mean handing over the minutiae of running a business so you can get back to doing what you love: being creative.)

In the years since ‘my business’ became ‘our business,’ our definition of business success has continued to evolve from:

  • Me being able to stay away from the business for three months when our second child was born (achieved), to
  • Me being able to greatly reduce my role in our business once our first child started school (achieved), to
  • The business being able to survive a major, major business disaster (achieved), to
  • The business being able to survive a major, major downturn in the economy (achieved).

However, there’s one definition of business success we’ve not yet been able to achieve—my long-held dream of running a business that never faces any challenges. It’s only taken 12 years, but I’ve finally realised that dream is a bit silly.

In the same way that growth in life comes from surmounting challenges, so too does growth in business.

Take away the challenges, and you take away the potential for growth.

Which is why I have a new definition for business success these days.

It’s one where both a business and its owners have the resilience needed to surmount all the challenges thrown their way.

Challenges like:

  • Losing a major client
  • Entry of a well-financed competitor into the market
  • A product that was a major money maker suddenly becoming irrelevant
  • Depressed economies
  • Illness.

How does a business (and its owners) develop this resilience?

Experience gained the hard way over the past ten years has taught me these five things are key:

1. Prioritising health

When things get busy or hard in business, the first thing we tend to do is sacrifice sleep and exercise and fall into poor nutrition habits. This is the very definition of ‘false economy.’ Good health should be a focus and priority at all times, but it becomes even more important when we’re under the pump in our businesses and need the energy to do good work, make good decisions, and be across everything we need to be across.

2. Knowing the numbers

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Once you start paying attention to things like sales figures, profit margins and email subscribers, something magical happens—it becomes very clear where money and time is being wasted. This allows you to tighten up systems and processes and get rid of services (and even clients) that are trashing your bottom line. Suddenly you have a business that is more profitable, has better cash flow and causes you a lot less stress!

3. Increasing productivity

It feels like we all have so much to do and such little time to do it. And it’s very easy to get caught up doing stuff that feels like it’s setting us up for business success, but is really just ‘busy-work’. So the first rule of productivity is getting your priorities right—ensuring the tasks you are working on are actually taking you closer to your business and life goals. The second is ensuring you have the energy to tackle those tasks with vigour. The third involves managing your time properly to ensure the truly important stuff gets done.

4. Ongoing marketing

If there is one mistake I see consistently across all small business owners it’s this: they only start marketing their business when work suddenly and unexpectedly dries up. The problem with this is, the best form of marketing is the kind that builds genuine relationships. And that form of marketing needs to be ongoing over years, not weeks. If you only ever market your business from a place of scarcity, everything becomes tinged with desperation. I don’t think I need to tell you how off-putting this is to the people on the receiving end of it!

5. Developing a resilient mindset

Running a business is hard, there’s just no getting around that fact. As I’ve already pointed out, however, it’s good that it’s hard. It’s good that it throws challenges our way, because great personal and professional growth comes out of those challenges. The key to taking on those challenges is having a mindset that is willing to tackle them head-on rather than fall into victim mode and wonder ‘Why do these things keep happening to me?’. When you’re growing a business, a strong mind is unquestionably your biggest asset.

Shortcuts to business success

“There’s no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs.”

We’ve all heard that, right?

Well, I respectfully disagree. Over the past 12 years I’ve done everything the hard way and I can see many occasions where I could have fast-tracked my development by taking one simple shortcut: learning from other people’s mistakes instead of having to make them all myself.

You know those five elements I mentioned above that are key to developing business resilience: health, numbers, productivity, marketing and mindset? In 2016 I wrote a book that shared 20 of the most useful things I’ve learned in those categories.

My goal, as always, was to:

  • Keep things as simple as possible
  • Share only the things I know work (because they worked for me)
  • Share things that anyone can action, right now.

Over the next 20 weeks I’m going to share all those learnings here on the blog. If you want to ensure you don’t miss any of the posts, simple drop your details into the form below 🙂

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That feeling when … you pay your last ever office rent bill https://swishdesign.com.au/last-office-rent-bill/ https://swishdesign.com.au/last-office-rent-bill/#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2018 09:19:23 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6844 That feeling when … you pay your last ever office rent bill Read More »

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Last office rent

Swish Design has always had an office.

Right from the very beginning 11 years ago when the business was just ‘me’, I sub-let a little 3m x 3m room in the building of my former employer. It worked well for them to still have me around so they could access the IP in my head. It worked well for me to have an office to go to each day. I liked the separation between home and work, and I liked having a proper office for clients to come see me at.

That office was cheap and only 10 minutes from home. I spent two happy years there and, in that time, Swish Design grew from being ‘just me’ to me plus two employees. With no room for us to expand further, and with a baby in my belly, it was time to take a (very) deep breath and enter the world of commercial leases.

Our move to West Perth resulted in an eye-watering increase in monthly rent, but that was fine, the business was going well enough to cover it. Not long into that lease we became a team of four and it was awesome having a space big enough for us all to fit comfortably. When it came time to renew, however, we’d worked our way up to a level of clientele who weren’t all that keen to meet at a small round table in the middle of a large room while phones rang, and three people worked around them!

That’s when we upped sticks and moved to Leederville.

That was a great office. On a quiet street close to Sayers (mmm breakfast) and Duende (mmm tapas), the new office had more space, a separate room for introvert me to hide out in, plus a boardroom and its own toilet and kitchen. It was quite a step up!

As our team continued to grow, however, so too did our desire for a slightly bigger space (again!). We weren’t all that desperate to move (we really loved our three years in Leederville), so we set our agent an impossible task.

‘Find us something slightly bigger, just as nice, in this area, but for the same price. And you have two weeks to do it.’

He did it. He found us our current digs in Mt Hawthorn. Lots of room, surprisingly quiet despite being on Oxford St, easy parking, nice landlord, just down the road from Yelo.

Sweet.

A seed gets planted

In 2015 Anthony and I were at a conference. (At this point we’d just moved into the Mt Hawthorn office.) During a mastermind session at that conference one of the experts grilled us about how we were going about things in our business.

‘You have an office? Why do you need an office?’ he asked.

We stared at him blankly.

And then replied, ‘Um, well, we just do. We service clients who need to see where we work and be impressed.’

‘Really? How many clients do you have?’

‘Around 100-150 active clients at any one time.’

‘How many of those active clients are in Perth and have been to your office in this past year?’

Hmm. He was right. Of our active client list, more than half weren’t even Perth-based. And, of the one who were Perth-based, no one ever had a reason to come to our office other than the initial meeting for a website, and the training meeting we conducted when a website was finished.

Fast forward to January 2018. It’s time to exercise the option on our lease.

What had always been a no-brainer decision, (either renew or find another office that better meets our needs) now gave us pause.

Did we need to have an office?

  • Most of our team already worked from home.
  • I, personally, love how effective I am on the days I work from home.
  • All of us in the office have kids. (If you’re someone who has to get your kids off to school and then rush to get to an office by 9/9.30am, and then rush off at 2.30pm to pick them up … you know how old that gets, and fast. Not to mention the bartering you do with your partner as to who’s busier when you get the call to come pick a sick kid up from school.)
  • And when it came to client meetings, our clients’ preference has always been for us to go to them.

Then there’s our business model

For most of our 11-year existence we’ve enjoyed the ability to occupy the Goldilocks (just right) space in the graphic/web design and development market between:

  • Freelancers (who don’t have the resources to do huge and complicated jobs) and
  • Massive agencies (whose big overheads dictate the need to charge big for those huge and complicated jobs).

Unfortunately, as expenses rose in recent years (the joys of operating a business in Perth), this forced us to operate more towards the agency end of the continuum to run the business profitably.

This isn’t really where we want to be.

We’re great designers who create beautiful brands and build websites that don’t just look amazing, but also help the business owner achieve their stated goals. When you get pulled towards the big agency end of things, you have to start providing ancillary services that are not in your zone of genius and things can become unwieldy.

Our office lease coming up for renewal presented us with an opportunity to:

  • Simplify and get back to what we are best at
  • Be more agile with how we run the business

We took the opportunity.

We decided not to renew our lease

As soon as we made the decision, we knew it was the right one. We felt an excitement about the business we hadn’t felt in years.

We then had to consider logistics.

  • Where would all our files be stored if not on the office server?
  • Our job tracking system was also on that server – where would that system live?
  • How would we communicate if we’re not in an office together?
  • What if a client wanted to ring us?

Happily, we already had good systems in place for internal communications (thank you Slack).

Anthony moved mountains to get all our files into the cloud and set up a new system for job tracking. (One that talks directly to Xero! So good!) He then set up our phone system so that we could both receive calls to our normal number, and also transfer calls between all our respective home offices.

So, that was that!

A new model for work and life

While this seems like an extreme change to make, it’s not really.

  • One of my writing clients (also a design agency) got rid of his fancy Melbourne office a while ago and he said it’s the best thing he ever did (from both a financial, flexibility and lifestyle point of view).
  • Most of our clients have never seen our office and couldn’t care less if we have one. All they care about is their work being done at the standard they’ve come to expect.
  • Removing the office commute from our days frees up at least an hour a day for each of us. Time we’ll now get to spend with our kids ????

So, as you can imagine, we’re really looking forward to it. Next week we’ll be in transition and after Easter we’ll be fully remote.

We look forward to seeing you on the other side as we embark on this next chapter of both our business and life.

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4 simple ways to eliminate rush points in your day https://swishdesign.com.au/eliminate-rush-points/ https://swishdesign.com.au/eliminate-rush-points/#respond Sun, 25 Feb 2018 21:33:38 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6826 4 simple ways to eliminate rush points in your day Read More »

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Stop rushing

I don’t know about everyone else, but I personally like to be busy. I get bored very easily so tend to ensure I have a lot on my plate to keep boredom at bay.

What I don’t like however is to be rushed. Being rushed means always doing five things at once, feeling out of control and like time is never on your side.

I can remember a period in my life where my days were scheduled right down the minute to deal with this feeling of time never being on my side.

Rushing was a permanent fixture of that period because life generally did not work to my schedule. Little contingencies popped up each day ranging from the toddler I had at the time needing a nappy change one millisecond after I finished wrangling him into his car seat, to spending an unexpected hour mollifying an unhappy stakeholder.

When my days were heavily scheduled I did not have time to deal with these things and consequently when they happened (which was often) they ruined my day and often saw me playing catch up in the evenings. Playing catch up in the evening also meant I missed out on downtime with my family. Not cool. Especially when it was the rule rather than the exception.

So how did I reduce the rush factor in my days?

1. Reduced commitments

This sounds like such a no-brainer but when you’re that person who says yes to everything it’s really hard to keep a lid on commitments. But the simple truth is that if every second of your every day is heavily scheduled, then you are overcommitted, and you need to start saying ‘No’.

Do you find it hard to say ‘No’? Then commit to this: never say ‘Yes’ in the moment of being asked to do something. Instead, say, ‘Let me get back to you’.

This will allow you to at least remove the ‘knee-jerk yes’ from your life. You can go away from the moment, ask honestly whether you have time to do the thing being asked … and then let the asker know your answer via email. Saying ‘No’ via email is infinitely easier than saying it to someone’s face!

2. Created realistic to-do lists

I totally live and die by my to-do lists. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what I am supposed to achieve on any given day without them. What I used to do a lot though was create these ‘perfect world’ to-do lists that simply didn’t allow for anything unexpected to crop up during the day. This meant I never ever achieved everything on my to-do list which again meant I was either spending my evenings catching up, or I was simply adding everything that didn’t get done on to the next day’s list.

So I got real with my to-do lists. I made sure I allowed for 1-2 hours each day to deal with all the unexpected stuff – having to compose a long email, or go pick my son up early, or have coffee with a client who dropped by unexpectedly. On the days where the unexpected didn’t crop up – well they were the best. I had enough time to do everything properly in a single-tasking kind of way rather than trying to juggling five tasks at once and not doing any of them well.

3. Got real with the promises I made

You know how people say under-promise and over deliver? Well I used to over-promise and over-deliver. Clearly this is not a sustainable way to do things so I started doubling my original estimate for getting any given job done and the pressure this relieved on me was immense.

4. Got our mornings under control

If I was going for a run the next morning, my running clothes were laid out ready to put on. Work clothes were also laid out and mine and my kid’s school bags were packed. I also made sure the living area and kitchen were both tidy so that, in the morning, I could just do the minimum amount of stuff required to get us out the door. I also set up morning routines that everyone in the house was across.

And then I resisted the urge to fill the space created in our mornings. I ruthlessly maintained the gentle pace.

The difference was staggering. If your mornings are always rushed, then your whole day will also tend to be rushed – it’s very hard to pull things back. But if you can leave your house each morning with an air of calm, that calm tends to permeate the day and even when things are stressful, the overall effect doesn’t seem as pronounced.

 

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What’s the difference between a cheap logo and a professional logo design? https://swishdesign.com.au/cheap-logo-design/ https://swishdesign.com.au/cheap-logo-design/#comments Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:53:05 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6812 What’s the difference between a cheap logo and a professional logo design? Read More »

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Quality Logo Design

Given there are websites/services out there that can design you a logo for $100, the question has to be asked:

Why would you ever pay upwards of $1000 to get a logo designed?

The answer?

Because you want your graphic designer/logo designer to put some actual thought into what they’re doing.

When you’re getting a logo on Fiverr or using design competition websites, you submit a brief, and the designer executes on the brief. That’s it.

What this means is:

  • The logo you get will be a literal execution of the brief you give. (If you say you want a hammer symbol next to the words ‘Handy Andy’, you will get a clipart hammer plonked next to the words ‘Handy Andy’ in a selection of fonts and colours.)
  • The logo will look cheap (people can spot a design competition logo a mile away).
  • The logo will not be an accurate representation of how you want people to feel about your business. (Unless the feel you are looking for is ‘cheap and generic’.)

When a professional graphic designer creates a logo for you, there’s a significant discovery and consultation process involved. Before they even start designing they will spend a couple of hours:

  • Going through your brief.
  • Identifying where there are holes or confusion in the brief.
  • Asking the appropriate questions to fill those holes.
  • Getting a deep understanding of both your target market and the way you want those people to feel about you when they see your logo.
  • Getting an understanding of who your competitors are and how they’ve positioned themselves.

Once they start designing, you’re getting more than someone who simply executes instructions, you’re getting someone who thinks:

  • Hmm, the d and y in Handy and Andy need to be a bit closer otherwise this logo is lacking cohesion.
  • The size of the symbol vs the text is a bit off, I need to fix that.
  • This font treatment just isn’t right. I need to explore more options.
  • This logo is going on the side of a van and on some fridge magnets. I need to make sure it looks great at both sizes.

An experienced graphic designer never stops thinking during the design process. They’re constantly asking themselves questions and bringing everything they’ve learned over their years as a designer to the logo design they’re doing for you. When they present you with their logo concepts, and you ask them, ‘Why did you use this font?’ or ‘Why did you put that line there?’ they’ll be able to give you a reason beyond ‘I thought it looked good’.

What if you don’t have $1000+ to spend on a logo right now? Should you start with a $100 logo?

No. Your business name written in an appropriate font will do a better job than a crappy, generic $100 logo. Not convinced?

Consider the below and ask yourself, who are you more likely to hire?

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9 steps to mastering your email inbox https://swishdesign.com.au/9-steps-to-mastering-your-email-inbox/ https://swishdesign.com.au/9-steps-to-mastering-your-email-inbox/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 09:28:06 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6805 9 steps to mastering your email inbox Read More »

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Master your inbox

Are you one of those people with 3500 unread emails in their inbox? Does ‘Inbox Zero’ feel like a distant dream? Then this post is for you.

These are the nine very simple hacks I use every single day to ensure I seldom have more than a few emails in any of my three inboxes at any given time.

1. Create folders

I don’t really get that thing where people have just one folder in their email program (that being their inbox). Every email program allows you to create folders so it’s time to make use of this important feature!

For work stuff, you should have a folder for every client.

For yourself you should have a folder called ‘Personal’ and there should be sub-folders within that for things like Bills, Correspondence, Tax etc.

Once you have these folders, start filing stuff. It’s not necessary to ever delete an email (unless they’re spam or promotional emails) – all emails should be filed. I know a lot of people who happily rely on the search function in their email program to find things later, but this doesn’t help the fact that your inbox has 10,000 emails in it. Your inbox should not have 10,000 items in it!

2. Answer emails straight away if you can

I know all the productivity people are going to howl loudly here but this works whether you answer emails as they drop into your inbox (me) or whether you set aside blocks in your day to do so.

If an email can be answered in one minute or less, then answer it right away.

Then file that sucker.

3. Be brutal with your answers

Just because someone has sent you an essay doesn’t mean you need to answer with an essay yourself.

I’m sure people sometimes think my email replies are a little brusque but … too bad! If the email is long and I am pressed for time, I skim it and then answer each question with a one liner. This means that pretty much ALL emails can be answered in five lines or less … and thus can be answered immediately.

And then filed!

4. Access your emails on the go

I have my email synced with my iPad and my iPhone. That means I don’t have to fire up my laptop to access my email. I seem to get a lot of spammy/unsolicited-type emails overnight so one of the first things I do every morning is open my emails on my iPad and quickly delete all the crap. I then scan the rest of the emails and answer anything that can be answered in a few words.

That way, when I do get to my desk ready to start the work day, I know what’s waiting for me in my inbox and am ready to quickly dispatch the things that I can.

And then I file them (are you seeing a pattern here?!).

Being able to access your emails on the go means that when you’re on the bus or standing in line at the post office, you can kill time in a useful fashion.

5. Have a separate email address for newsletter signups

I went through a period a while back where I signed up for every free resource, every blog I liked and every email newsletter. And I’ve been trying to unsubscribe from most of those things ever since.

The thing is, once you’re on a list of any description, it’s really hard to get off it. Having a separate email for signups means all those emails are going to another inbox – one that you can be very ruthless with when it comes to doing mass deletes.

Also if you have email notifications set up on social media, unsubscribe from them now. You don’t need to be emailed every time someone mentions you on Twitter or tags you in a photo on Facebook, as both those platforms tell you who has mentioned or messaged you whenever you login to them. Which I am guessing is several times a day.

6. Have standard replies saved somewhere

Are you answering the same questions over and over again? Then have a standard replies saved somewhere that you can easily copy, paste, personalise and send. Both Outlook and Gmail have the capacity for ‘canned replies’ to be saved for easy access.

7. Combine several emails into one

Has a client sent you 10 emails all related to one action or job? Attach all 10 emails to a single email and send it to yourself. This combines the 10 emails into one. Then you can delete those 10 emails that are sitting in your inbox.

8. Get your to-do list out of your inbox

You’ve probably heard this before: your inbox is great for storing important conversations until you have the chance to respond to them, but it’s a terrible place for keeping track of to-dos. Especially since some ‘to-do’ items can hang around for months.

So how do you get your to-do list out of your inbox? Well there are many programs on the market (and I’d love to hear your favourite in the comments below) but the one I personally love the most is Kanban Flow. Terrible name but easy to use, it allows you to create ‘streams’ of to-dos (as opposed to one giant, long to-do list). It also allows you to store important job details related to that particular to-do so once the to-do is in Kanban Flow, the email related to it can easily be filed away because you no longer need to reference the information contained in it.

9. Get conversations with colleagues out of your inbox

Have you heard of Slack? All the cool kids are using it including my business and our team at Flying Solo. Instead of having conversations via email (especially those ‘keeping you in the loop’ conversations where 100 people are bcced in) our conversations with each other (individually and as a team) are now done via Slack. I reckon just this one thing has been responsible for halving the number of emails I need to process in any given day.

So there you go. Hopefully if your inbox is currently a disaster area you now feel inspired to dive right in and both get it under control … and keep it under control going forward. And promise me I’ll never hear you utter the words ‘3500 unread emails’ ever again.

A version of this article first appeared on Flying Solo and is republished here with full permission.

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5 sure signs it’s time for a website re-design https://swishdesign.com.au/time-for-a-website-re-design/ https://swishdesign.com.au/time-for-a-website-re-design/#comments Wed, 17 Jan 2018 08:05:05 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6789 5 sure signs it’s time for a website re-design Read More »

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Time for a new website design

Given we’re website designers, it would be disingenuous if we didn’t acknowledge this fact: getting a new website is a significant investment no matter what kind of business you have.

But we also feel it’s worth pointing out that if your website isn’t up to scratch, it’s probably losing you clients – in a very active way.

Gone are the days of people finding providers for anything in the Yellow Pages. The first stop is always Google so it’s worth asking yourself – when you compare your website to the first few that come up in Google for your industry search terms … how does it stack up?

If it’s ticking any of the following boxes, chances are it’s not stacking up very well at all:

1. It’s over three years old

Three years is a looooong long time in the world of the web design. Websites designed three or more years ago were highly constrained width-wise and optimised for one main screen size. Flash was used for animation and big images were used sparingly because people’s internet speeds varied so much.

Websites designed today use big images, SVG animation and look good on all screens whether we’re talking your giant desktop monitor or your 12” Macbook. Savvy web browsers can spot an outdated website miles away and if your site design is old, it will be easy for them to be one of the 94% of people who reject or mistrust a website because of its design.

2. It doesn’t work well or look good on mobile

As the above point suggests, it’s really important your website looks great on a desktop monitor – in most industries, desktop visits to websites haven’t overtaken mobile yet. That said, more than 60% of online searches are occurring on mobile today. Chances are – the first exposure a potential customer is having to your business is on mobile. If your mobile site looks bad and/or is hard to navigate … they might very well head to the next result in the search.

3. It’s slow

Site speed is a huge factor when it comes to two things these days:

  • Google’s willingness to show your site in their search engine results
  • A user’s willingness to wait for your site to load

If your site is slow, Google will penalise it in their rankings and users will penalise it by clicking away. Today’s technology doesn’t just allow website designers to do cooler looking things with your website’s design … it allows us to build faster sites too.

4. You’re not sending anyone to it

If your website looks awesome, works well and contains up-to-date information about the services you provide, it should be the first place you send people to find out more about you.

If you’re not sending people to your site because the information is out of date or you’re embarrassed by the design … it’s clearly time for a re-design!

5. It doesn’t generate leads

Your website should be the hardest working staff member on your team – after all, it’s available 24/7/365. If it’s not generating leads and enquiries (via an enquiry form, phone calls or newsletter signups) – then your website’s design is letting you down.

But … how do you justify the cost of a new website?

In short, we generally ask people to figure out the lifetime value of just one client. (This post goes into more detail about how to do that.) If one client is worth $5000 to you over their lifetime, not only is that what you should budget for a new website design … you should be able to find it very easy to justify too. Especially if your website is currently so outdated it’s actively losing clients for you.

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5 steps to taking a real holiday this Christmas https://swishdesign.com.au/5-steps-to-taking-a-real-holiday-this-christmas/ https://swishdesign.com.au/5-steps-to-taking-a-real-holiday-this-christmas/#comments Wed, 13 Dec 2017 23:55:56 +0000 https://swishdesign.com.au/?p=6712 5 steps to taking a real holiday this Christmas Read More »

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Real Christmas Holiday

When you’re a business owner (who’s not in retail or a restaurateur), it’s tempting to use the quiet weeks over Christmas and New Year to ‘catch up’ or ‘get ahead’ or ‘do ALL the things I wanted to do during the year but never got the chance’.

I know this because I’ve done it. Many times!

And the result has always been the same. A feeling of burn out and disenchantment in January.

Not a great way to start a new year, I can tell you.

After making this same mistake for many years in a row, I finally took some proper time off. And, of course, both my business and I benefited from me being able to enter the new working year with enthusiasm and energy.

So, how do you ensure you’re able to do the same in coming weeks? Just follow these five steps:

1. Set, then send out your Christmas shutdown schedule

I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the world, but, unless you’re in retail, entertainment or food, most Australian businesses and suppliers shut down over Christmas. Which means it’s no big deal if you do too.

So, your first job is very simple: decide when you’re going to shut, (most people this year are shutting on Friday 22 December) and when you’re going to re-open in January, then email your clients with your Christmas shut down hours.

2. Set firm boundaries with clients

This is a time of year where people tend to want things done ‘before Christmas’. The reality, however, is that pretty much all those things can be done ‘in January’. Resist the temptation to make promises that mean you’ll have to work over the Christmas/New Year break.

Clients will always ask, but you can always say ‘No’. And when you do, you’ll be amazed by how quickly they’ll adjust their expectations.

3. Buy some good books

Have you got a list of books you’ve been meaning to get to for ages? Go out and buy them or head to the library and borrow them. These will eliminate any chance of you feeling bored over the break. Boredom is a big trigger for, ‘Oh, I’ll just jump on the laptop and do this one thing …’

If you’re looking for a book that will change how you approach business in 2018 for the better, I highly recommend this one.

4. Make a to-don’t list

Since you know yourself better than anyone else, you know what kind of work you’ll be tempted to do over your holiday break if given a chance. So, make a list of all those things, put a big ‘TO DON’T’ at the top … then put that list next to wherever your laptop lives at home.

5. Rest and recharge

Being a business owner is like being a university student – there’s always something you could or should be working on. This makes it hard to truly relax because there’s always a nagging thought in the back of your mind. An easy way to get around this is to remember that resting and recharging is doing ‘something’.

So put away the laptop, put down your phone and head to the beach happy with the knowledge that doing all these things will make you a better business owner in 2018.

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