First off, what the heck is Admin Day? I mentioned it in my planner blog post, but didn’t go that much into detail about it. When you work from home, especially in a creative field, there are a lot of administrative tasks that you may forget to find time to do. Or else they just aren’t fun so you keep pushing them back and back until it’s too late. These are things you maybe should do as you go, but let’s face it, life is messy and you can’t always be that organized. You can hire a VA for a lot of those tasks, but some of them really need your eyes as the head of your business. Admin Day is one day every month where you don’t do anything else but complete those tasks.
Let’s take a look at some of those tasks and why they are important for you to perform once a month.
Organize Your Files to Improve Workflow
I save a lot of files to my computer…. contracts, proposals, images for social media, screenshots, or design inspirations. When I’m in a rush or in the zone, I usually just save to my Desktop or Documents Folder and move on. I don’t take the time to send them into the very specific and labeled folder they should go in. And I almost never name them properly. It’s a really bad habit and super hard to kick.
On Admin Day, I go in and organize the heck out of my files. I create nested folders and name all my files so they are much easier for find later. I also take this time to empty my trash can and uninstall any programs I installed and never used. This cleans up space on my hard drive and helps the performance of my machine.
Maintain Your Inbox to Stay Organized
No matter how hard I try, I constantly end up with spam in my inbox and cannot find the emails I need. On Admin Day, I go in and unsubscribe from things I don’t want. (I get a lot of emails from marketers after opting in to download a checklist or workbook) I also get lots of marketing emails from whatever programs or tools I signed up for that month. While I try really hard to sort my important emails into folders, I take this time to make sure no one fell through the cracks. Having a clean inbox makes your day to day life so much easier. Plus, important emails don’t get accidentally deleted or never responded to, which can mean the difference between making a sale and losing one.
Budgeting and Track Your Money to Grow
I used to use Admin Day for going through my bank account transactions and making note of everything in my big Budget Google Sheet. But now, I’ve been using Wave which tracks all my transactions for me. However, it doesn’t know if that $20 I spent at Walmart was for personal or business purposes. On Admin Day, I go through my transactions and categorize everything. Then I pull a report to see how I’ve been spending my money. This helps me see where I should cut back or spend more and prioritize for the next month. If I’m not on track for one of my savings goals, I can tweak things then and there.
Create Reports to Constantly Improve
We trudge ahead every day and rarely find time to look back. I learned early in my career that compiling reports on the successes and failures of your efforts is important for growth. So once a month on Admin Day, I create the reports for my social media, advertising, website SEO, and email marketing. This helps me to see what is working and what I need to improve upon in the upcoming month. My Admin Day is the 1st day of every month. So I make sure to schedule my social media, blog posts and email campaigns in that next week. I refer to my reports to see things like what day of the week is best for posting on Facebook vs. Instagram and which of my A/B email tests did best.
Physically Clean Your Computer to Protect Your Investment
I have a fairly old laptop and won’t be able to afford a new one for a while. It’s important to me that this laptop stays functional and healthy. So on Admin Day, I literally clean the entire thing. I turn it off and wipe it down with a soft cloth and rubbing alcohol. I get a cotton swab and clean in between the keys and inside the ports. I do the same thing for my cell phone, too. I used to never do this and my laptop and phone were SO gross.
Read Pinterest Articles to Learn New Things
Whenever I’m on Pinterest, I tend to pin interesting looking things and then never actually revisit them. On Admin Day, I read all the articles I pinned and make notes from the ones I can actually use. For instance, this past month I started a Giveaway. Last Admin Day, I read some articles about how to and how not to run a Giveaway. The info I got from those pins really helped make my Giveaway better. No matter how long you’ve been in business, you never stop learning. Keep teaching yourself new things!
Many people are intimidating by freelance work because of the lack of structure. When you work for a company or in an office, you have work hours, an office or desk, a lunch hour, etc. Most of all, you have other people nearby to hold you accountable. You can’t spend all day watching Netflix because, well, people will notice! Being a freelance web designer is challenging because you have to be responsible for your own time. You have to be disciplined. You have to hold yourself accountable.
The great thing about freelancing is that you can work when and how you are most productive. If you work better in the evening, work in the evening! If you work better in PJs, sitting cross-legged on the floor, go for it! No commute or dressing up for work if you don’t want to. All this freedom can be tempting. The best way I’ve found to make freelancing easier is to create your own structure. Here’s how I structure my days to make the most of my time and my freedom.
My favorite part about freelancing is that I can get up whenever I want to. I don’t even have to set an alarm! I usually wake up naturally sometime between 7 and 9am. If I’m not feeling well or just in one of those moods, I’ll sleep in as late as noon! (I haven’t been doing this recently, but I used to! I don’t recommend it.)
I’d like to say I’m one of those people who get’s up early, eats a hearty breakfast, works out, reads the newspaper, and then starts working. In reality, I check my email and social media from bed and reply if I can. I spend some time playing with my cat before showering and making some coffee. Despite my lazy tendencies, I don’t work in my PJs. It makes it too easy to want to slip back into bed later on in the day when I get drowsy. Minus the shoes, I always dress as though I’m going to go out. If I need an extra boost I’ll even put on makeup, just to get myself in the mindset that I really am “going to work”. I often eat some toast or fruit with my coffee at my desk while I get started working.
Thankfully, I now have a designated room in my house that I use as my office. I used to work in my bedroom or living room. Now, I have a clean, fairly minimally designed room that I can use to focus. (Although there’s a cat bed in the corner for when my kitty wants to visit.) I answer the emails and social media messages I couldn’t answer in bed. I pull out my planner and get down to it.
I try to tackle the things I don’t want to do first. Getting them out of the way means I have something to look forward to later and I don’t lose momentum. If I don’t do this, I still get that 2pm slump after lunch and it becomes really hard to not check out early.
- Set an alarm and wake up early EVERY DAY to get your body used to early mornings.
- Have something to eat or drink in the morning.
- Get dressed if it helps you feel more productive and energized.
- Don’t work in bed.
I usually work until about 4 or 5pm. (This is when my boyfriend comes home from work and I end up getting distracted.) I often keep music playing while I work or even sometimes have a TV show I’ve seen a million times (like FRIENDS) on in the background. I’m the kind of person who focuses better if there’s extra noise in the room. I have a hard time thinking in complete silence. Everyone works differently. One of the best parts of being a freelance web designer is that you can work in the environment you’re most comfortable in.
I try to avoid social media, but it’s tough. Part of my job involves being active on social media, interacting with people, doing research, and participating in Facebook groups. It’s a struggle sometimes to ignore the cat videos and focus on work. If you get easily sucked into social media platforms, I recommend finding a blocker that will prevent you from accessing those sites during designated hours.
Before I stop working, I take a look at my planner and make sure I’ve crossed off what I’ve accomplished. I check the next day to make sure I am prepared for what’s coming up. For instance, if I have an early meeting, I make sure to set an alarm to make sure I don’t oversleep and do some prep so that I have less to do in the morning.
- Have a time in the afternoon or evening when you make yourself stop working. Schedule your work life and personal life as separate parts of your day.
- Minimize distraction as much as possible.
- Always prepare for the next day.
My evenings are my extra times to work some more or not work. Sometimes I need some time away from a project or problem in order to tackle it. If I’m struggling with something during the day, I’ll often drop it. Later on that day I often get another rush of energy around 7pm or 8pm. I’ll often hunker down for another 2 hours or so and get some more things off my list between those times. I don’t go out a lot, so I’m usually still home anyway and it’s easy to pick up my laptop again.
I check my email and social media consistently, even when I’m not working. Most of my clients know that if they email me at 10pm, they can get an answer pretty quickly. This isn’t always good. I get anxiety very easily and not being able to sleep because emails keep lighting up my phone isn’t good. If you want to have your work and private time separate, make it clear to your clients that you do have office hours and will not answer messages outside of those times.
- Working outside of your personally set “work hours” is fine, but don’t over do it. Life happens between answering emails!
Freelance Web Designer Tools
Here’s a list of tools, websites, and resources I use daily to keep me going.
My Planner – I couldn’t operate without my planner. Since I’ve started using it, my business has begun to grow and things have been falling into place. I use it for the big and the little stuff to keep myself from getting overwhelmed. Check out this post on how my planner changed my workflow entirely. If you’re getting geared up for 2017 and want a luxurious planner of your very own, enter here to win one! (Giveaway ends December 18th, 2016)
Waves App – My friend Kristy told me about this site and it’s a life saver. It links up with your bank accounts and tracks all your income and expenses. You can categorize and label everything, then create amazing reports for yourself or for tax season! You can also create invoices and do a ton of other amazing stuff. The site is very user-friendly and not too techy.
Hopper – I recently discovered this site and it’s one of the only Instagram scheduling tools that actually posts for you. (Instagram has lots of lame API rules about not posting) I highly recommend it if you want to automate your Instagram profile.
Facebook – It may seem like a fun place to keep up with friends and watch videos, but Facebook has been one of my most powerful tools. Aside from having my business Page and ocassionally running ads, it’s helped me connect with tons of other business owners. They have helped me learn and some have even hired me for my services. Check out this post I wrote on how Facebook helps me drive traffic to my site.
Hubspot CRM – This thing is like magic. It does what all good CRMs do: helps you keep track of your sales funnels, reminds you when to contact leads, keeps track of contacts, lets you schedule phone calls and meetings, etc. However, it has some other amazing features too. My favorites: allowing you to sync up with your gmail account to schedule emails to send later AND lets you know when people have opened your emails! Amazing.
Google Drive – No brainer. It was probably the first tool in my kit when I started my business. I create everything here. Sheets are particularly useful for me, from keeping track of client info to sharing information to calculating my budgets to making social media posts schedules.
SignNow – It’s a bit pricey, but lately I’ve found myself really needed a strong and professional way to get contracts to my clients and having them sign. SignNow is incredibly helpful and every client I’ve worked with has had no problem using it.
Simple Bank – If you have a bank account already, I recommend Simple for a business account. It’s free to set up and their whole thing is simplicity! No fees, to extras, no lines of credit, no frills. Literally just a bank account. And my favorite part is that you can sort your money into different goals. For example, I have goals for my bills, business expenses, savings, taxes, and personal. Every time I get paid, I split the money up and put some into each goal!
PayPal – Last but not least. PayPal is how I process all my payments. I recently started using it for invoicing which is a million times easier than using a third party site. I’ve linked it to my bank accounts so I can organize my money the way I want.
Are you a freelancer? What do your days look like?
When I first started out as a web designer (not very long ago, mind you) one of the things I was most frustrated with was not being able to do anything. I took online courses that taught me about coding and about color theory and whether you should include sandwich icons in your responsible nav menu, but I didn’t know what a web design process for a project really looked like. I had no idea where to start or what marked completion.
I ended up getting an entry-level job at an agency and I learned a ton about how to and how not to run a web design project and what a bad web design process looked like. The most important thing is to keep your web design process fluid and flexible for each client. Everyone is different and each project flows in its own way. However, you need to figure out some critical checkpoints in your system to cover all your bases and keep your system intact.
For everyone out there who is just starting out, or maybe you’re building a quick Squarespace website and you don’t know where to begin, take a look at my web design process.
This is the beginning. The first thing you’d want to do is submit a proposal in writing of the project. This gives the client an idea of what they will be getting for the amount of money you’re asking. You can spend this time tweaking expectations, services, and pricing as you both see fit. Once you agree on the proposal, get your contract signed, send your invoice, and receive your deposit. You should never start working until you get your deposit!
If you’re designing on your own, write yourself a proposal that includes everything you’ll need to include on the site and how much you’ll need to spend. (Remember to include the price of domain names, hosting, email automation, etc.)
Send a welcome email to your client and anyone else on the team. Explain what the expectations are, the best ways to contact you and when, and any other information you need to share. This is a good opportunity to share any forms of questionnaires you need them to fill out to help you start designing. Also in the welcome email, you can schedule a kick-off meeting to go over the questionnaire and answer any questions on either side. You also need to collect e-commerce information and SEO requirements here.
On your end, you should take this time to schedule any payment reminders and checkpoints for the project. Once you get your questionnaire back and have your questions answered, you’re ready to go!
Pre-Build Design Phase
The next phase is, in my opinion, the most fun. This is where you take the information your client gave you and translate it into something real.
The first thing I do is build a sitemap of each page on the site, which pages are nested inside other pages, etc. From that, create a black and white wireframe of each of the site pages. You’ll want to get this approved before moving on. You can use the wireframe to request content. With a specific idea of how much content you need and where, you can provide your client with a list on what type of page copy you need on each page, how many photos you need, etc.
I like to provide my clients with a document or link to an article on how to write good page copy and SEO best practices for content. I don’t always send the same one; do some research and find some resources you like, especially if you’re writing the content yourself.
Now I come up with a color palette that matches the client’s needs and wants. I’ll build a mockup of the website from the wireframe and include the colors from the palette. I’ll get this approved by the client before moving on to the next phase.
I will purchase hosting and the domain name and set up my environment. I use WordPress and host on GoDaddy, so this is the time where I create a development database, install WordPress and install my theme. Tip: If you are using WordPress, make sure you discourage search engines from indexing the site!
This is most people’s favorite part. Build each page according to how you had them mapped out in the mockup. Upload and insert your content, proofread everything, add your logos and favicon, and design your blog layout. This is probably the most straightforward phase but can take the longest amount of time depending on the size of the site.
Since I use WordPress, I use Woocommerce integrated with PayPal for my e-commerce sites. I highly recommend it as it flows in seamlessly with the rest of the site and is easy to teach clients to use.
SEO Integration Phase
You should be thinking about SEO the entire way. But if you’re just getting used to using SEO, you can go back near the end and double check that you’ve got everything down. Instead of going into full detail here about on-page SEO best practices, check out my blog post on improving your on-page SEO in an afternoon.
Post-Design Steps and Testing
Make sure that before you move on to this phase, you get the overal design appoved by the client. Let them know that you’ve not done any testing yet. It doesn’t make sense to test and perfect everything if the client will want you to make big changes anyway.
Spend this time to add all the final touches. Add social media integrations and feeds. Test all your forms, test all the links (yes, manually go in and click on everything), and test the site on every machine and browser that you can. Fix any discrepancies or broken elements. Get friends and family to test for you to make sure the user experience on the site is flawles. You can use a site like Heap to analyze how testers use and interact with the site – and it’s free!
You’re almost done!
The site is live! Traffic is flowing in! Your web design workflow was a success, but it’s not over! Schedule a training session where you can teach your client how to use their new website. Link them to any other services you provide that they might be able to use. Then, schedule a 1 month follow up call and a 6 month follow up call. There’s no better feeling than hearing your client say “I’m so glad you called! I love the site but I want to add something… can you do that?”
I advise you to test a third time after training before sending an invoice. You never want a client to reply to an invoice by saying “the site isn’t even working right!” Once you’re paid and everything is roses, add their site to your portfolio and your social media. Brag about all the hard work you’ve done and how great it turned out![/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider][vc_column_text]
Build Your Own Web Design Workflow
No one process is THE BEST. But you can look at this web design workflow and make tweaks to fit your needs, your own clients, and your own preferences.