March 30, 2015

5 Questions to ask yourself when you want to start a blog


My blogging journey began end of 2012, beginning of 2013, so not even that long ago. I had stumbled upon several beautiful food blogs in search of certain recipes. Before that I had heard of the term 'blog' but never really submerged myself into the subject. When I came across these food blogs however I began to realize how nice it would be to have such a place of my own. To connect to people, to share my stories and to express myself through the layout so that it reflected my inner self.

The first blog I ever started back then was indeed a food blog. I was really into healthy eating the vegetarian way, so I started a blog to share my vegetarian kitchen creations. It was so much fun, but also so much work ;-) I had to learn how to make food photographs that were at least appealing enough to draw readers to my site (recipe blogs often flourish or fail because of the quality of the pictures). I had to learn how to manage all the parts of my blog (the food blog was a self hosted one on Wordpress). I learned about how important it is to share your content and to connect to your readers and other bloggers. I even found out I could earn a little money through having a blog, but most important, I found out that the most important reason for having a blog is that it has to be something that makes you happy.

A while ago I read a post somewhere that claimed that blogging had reached it's top and the near future would give us different and even better ways to express ourselves. I'm sure we will continue to find ways to express ourselves on the internet, but I have doubts whether blogging is losing popularity. I still get more than enough clients that are starting a new blog. So the blogging community isn't dead yet ;-) And if you're one of those new bloggers you might want to ask yourself the following 5 questions first before claiming your own little space in blogosphere.

#1 - WHAT WILL MY BLOG BE ABOUT?
When I started my food blog this was pretty easy to figure out of course. I would use the blog to share my recipes and cooking tips. But what if you want to write a personal blog, or a so called lifestyle blog? How do you determine what your blog will be about and how to express this to your readers? Personally I think it's totally possible to have a blog that covers a lot of different subjects. It might be a good idea to communicate this to your readers somewhere on the front page or the about page. A tagline under your blog title can have some keywords to describe what the blog is about and a welcome text in the sidebar or a story on the about page can hold an explanation on the topics you write about.

Right now I have two blogs. This one, where I share information and stories on digital design, blogging and having a small business is clearly more business oriented. While on my other blog The Daphne Files I share my personal stories. That blog was set up for the purpose of being a personal and inspirational blog only. And I made the choice to separate my personal stories from my business oriented stories. But there are blogs that successfully combine these two. So there are no rigid rules about how many topics you can cover in one blog. But it might be a good idea to think it over before you start a blog. After all, you might want your blog layout to fit the topics you are going to cover.

#2 - WILL MY BLOG BE A FOR-PROFIT BLOG OR NOT?
It is possible to make money with your blog and become a so called 'for-profit blog'. Some ways to do this are:

- placing advertisements on your blog and get paid per view or for a monthly fee
- placing blog advertisements of other blogs in your sidebar for a monthly fee
- joining affiliate programs (this means that you link to the site of a company you're affiliated with, and when a reader clicks through and they buy something from the company you will get a percentage of the sale)
- doing sponsored posts where you highlight or review a product or service of a company and you get paid for it in cash or with products

Before you can generate income from your blog you need of course a steady stream of readers. This blog for example has an average of about a 100 pageviews a day, but these kind of numbers won't bring in the big bucks. So before you can start earning money you need to focus on getting a large readership.

With my food blog I joined an advertisement program. I had about 7.000-9.000 views per month which resulted in a monthly income of around $1! Yep, you read that correct. One dollar. I know there are bloggers that make a full income out of their blogs, so don't get disappointed yet, but it shows that if you are really planning on making serious money with your blog, you should put in a ton of work first.

With this blog and my personal blog I decided not to aim for making money with it. I just do it for fun. I like to share tips and freebies with my readers on here and the stories on my personal blog are hopefully an inspiration for my readers over there. My income nowadays comes from the graphic design business and I'm satisfied with that. The benefits are that I don't have to worry about how many pageviews I have or how many new readers have subscribed this week. I don't have to post a certain times a week to keep the advertisers happy and I don't have to be on social media constantly to promote my content. Some people are really good at this and even like it, but I found out I don't. So try to figure out if a for-profit blog and all the pressure that comes with it would make you happy. 


#3 - ON WHAT PLATFORM SHOULD I HOST MY BLOG?
You've probably come across blog posts that tell you to either go with Wordpress or Blogger and which one will be better for attracting readers and growing your blog. And it's a good thing to read about the pros and cons of blogging platforms. Next to Wordpress and Blogger there are other platforms as well. Squarespace, Joomla and Weebly are a few examples.

I have had blogs on both self hosted Wordpress (which means you buy a .com address and a contract to use server space - which is not the cheapest option) and Blogger (which is totally free - although I paid some money to buy a .com address for this blog). Both platforms have great things, and both have some issues. Do your homework, read about all the different platforms, what they offer, how much they cost, how well you will able to manage your blog and its layout etc. And then choose the one that gives you the best feeling.

In case you are thinking of making money with your blog I slightly lean towards self hosted Wordpress. I love Blogger, otherwise I wouldn't be on it myself, but advertisers might require you to have a self hosted site before they want to work with you. So definitely check all these things out before you make your choice.


#4 - WHAT WILL MY BLOG LAYOUT LOOK LIKE?
Whether you are techy enough to create your own blog layout or you hire a designer to do it for you, or you decide to buy a premade design, one thing should be clear: the layout should feel like coming home to you! This is your personal little corner of the world wide web, the stories on it are an expression of who you are, so should your layout be!

While you should chose the layout according to your own wishes, you might want to keep your readers in mind as well. A good looking blog is more attractive to readers than a dull or messy one. But good looks don't only come from the layout design, they also come from how you decide to fill that layout. I personally like it when a blog is not too messy and all over the place. I don't like sidebars for instance that have a ton of junk in them. Or blog posts that have teeny, tiny pictures scattered all over them.

The story on the blog can be brilliant, but if the layout is too distracting for me a as reader I'm out of there. This also goes for advertisement on blogs. While advertisements bring in money, they can kill your blog as well. Ever came across one of those blog where you have to search for the content between a ton of advertisements? Right, that's what I'm talking about. These layouts drive you nuts and I get out of there as soon as possible.

Of course layout is a personal thing, and one person might like a clean and sterile look, while another wants more decoration and illustration. But even with more decoration in the styling you can make your blog look clean and professional.

I, for example, learned how to display my photos and text over the full width of the blog post so that it has a clean look. And I use my sidebar to share the information I think my readers can benefit from and no more than that.

#5 - HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO WRITE A POST?
The best thing about having no strings attached to both my blogs (advertisers etc.) is that I can post whenever I want and as often as I want. So if I'm suffering from temporary writer's block I don't have to worry about sponsors expecting me to come up with at least 4 posts a week. 

To attract a lot of readers though you will have to put in the work and write on a consistent basis. It definitely helps if you manage to promote all your content regularly as well on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram an many more. But this kind of blogging has to suit you. It didn't suit me. I'm not really into Facebook and Twitter and just did't feel comfortable being in everyone's face all day long with my shout outs and posts. One more reason for me to keep this blog and the personal one simple and just for fun.

Even when you aim for a for-profit blog when you start a blog, it's probably best to just experience the whole blogging community first. Find out if you have ideas enough to post 3 to 5 times a week. See if you like to be present on social media, sharing everything you do. Do you like to communicate with your readers and other bloggers a lot? Once you've tried out blogging and all that comes with it for a couple of months you can decide to step up your game if you want to go pro, or just keep blogging for fun and see where it leads you.

Because the most important question you need to ask yourself is: am I getting fun and satisfaction out of my blog? Whenever you start to feel your blog gives you more pressure than satisfaction, it might be time to review the goals and visions you had for your blog. 

Whatever choice you decide to make with your blog, whether it is going the for-profit route or the non-profit route, I wish you HAPPY BLOGGING!

March 26, 2015

Setting boundaries in my business - Part II


A couple of weeks ago I wrote part I of this blog post in which I shared what I have learned so far from having my own little business and how to balance it with my private life and my own goals and wishes. I knew that I was going to write a second post on this subject soon because at the time I wrote it I felt like I was on a cross road with my business and I needed to make some decisions. Which is what I did and I thought it would be a good idea to share what I did with you all.

I had been struggling with the juggle between spending time on my business and some much needed family time. It is awesome to see my little business grow, no doubt about it. But with more and more custom orders which resulted in a full client schedule I felt the pressure mount as well. It felt like I had to be available 24/7 to deal with every incoming order. Of course that was just my own perception of things. No one demanded from me that I would be available 24/7. And when my mum politely told me that my mind was absent during normal conversations I knew it was time to change things around.

Whenever I get caught up in something that demands my attention I tend to overdo it which results in this absent mind. Even when I'm spending time with my family my mind is easily drawn to work related thoughts. How to tackle a design problem, how to best serve a particular client, which new products I want to work on.... bla, bla, bla. And while my clients might benefit from that, my family does not. And in the end I won't benefit from it myself.

I decided it was time for a few big changes, and this is what I came up with:


# WEEKENDS ARE FOR FAMILY TIME

Up until a couple of weeks ago I worked during weekends as well. Not full days, but still plenty of hours during Saturdays and Sundays. If I really wanted to free my mind from work thoughts I knew I needed the weekend to spend time with my family and do other things. Get work off my mind for two days straight and focus on other things. 

I put the auto-reply on my email on Friday afternoon so my clients will know that I will definitely see and answer their messages. But it can wait till Monday.

I wrote a message on my Etsy shops and in the product listings on Etsy that I'm only available during week days and if someone contacts me during the weekend or purchases a custom made item I will contact them on Monday.

What a relief that was! I so enjoyed my first couple of weeks off from work! I worked in the garden, helped my autistic son with his cooking therapy while being fully present and had time for some much needed walks in nature with my husband.


# I DECIDED TO SPECIALIZE IN THE WORK THAT MAKES MY HEART SING

If you've visited my shops you might have noticed that up until recently I did all kinds of graphic design. From blog layouts, to business card designs, logo designs and branding packages for small businesses. But it got a bit too overwhelming. I got so many requests for all kinds of custom work in all of these fields, it was just more than I could handle.

I gave it a good thought over the last few weeks and have decided to let some services go. My heart really lies with blog design. And while I love creating logos and branding packages, I don't love it as much as creating blog related stuff. So from now on I will only offer the services that make my heart sing. And for the people that are in desperate need of a logo or branding package design, well, there are plenty of other designers on Etsy that offer beautiful stuff as well.

Of course making this decision also meant letting go of the fear that the incoming orders and money would all of a sudden decrease dramatically. So far in my life I've always noticed that if I closed one door behind me a new one in front of me opened. So I let go with trust.


# I SCHEDULE TIME FOR YOGA

I'm not the most athletic person to be honest. I like a good hike in nature or a nice bike ride, but you won't find me in the gym. However, that doesn't mean that my body doesn't need some much needed movement. So what I like to do is do about 20 minutes of yoga three to four times a week. 

I like to do it after the kids have gone to school and my husband has gone to work. Start the day with some stretching before I fold myself in my chair to be behind the laptop for work. But in my craziness over getting all the work done I skipped these 20 minutes a little too often.

In the last few weeks I've picked up my routine again and now start work half an hour later. Well, what's that half hour on a day really? It makes me happy and everyone benefits from that!


If you read this post and have a business or busy blog yourself, what is it that you do to keep your sanity? I would love to know!

March 20, 2015

Freebie Fridays #47 - The First Free Blogger Template


In my last post on Wednesday I wrote about starting a new project called 'Share The Blog Love' in which I share free downloadable Blogger templates from time to time. The purpose of this project is to make nice Blogger layouts available for everyone, especially the people that maybe not have the budget to buy a premade design. The free designs will first be shared on an episode of Freebie Fridays (like today) and then will be added to a page where you can find and download all free designs.

The template files of each of these designs can be downloaded for free with the download link and a demo version of each of these templates can be viewed through a link as well (see below). The only thing you have to do yourself is install the template file on your Blogger account. It's not as difficult as it might sound and you can view a tutorial on how to do this over here. If you are new to Blogger it might be a good idea to check out my Blogger Tutorial Page. I hope you will understand that while I share these free templates, I don't have time enough in my days to answer each and every question you might have about how a Blogger template works. So if you want to find out how you can add your own pages to the menubar of the template, or how you can add more gadgets to the sidebar etc., please be so kind to check out the tutorial page. This will get you started.

If you really can't figure out how to install the template file with the directions in the tutorial, you can contact me to do the installation for you. I hope you understand that while I am sharing the templates for free I cannot do a free installation for everyone. So if you want me to install the free layout for you I ask a $10 add-on fee for that, which can be purchased in my Etsy shop.


SOME INFO ON FREE BLOGGER TEMPLATES:

* upon installation the template will take on your own blog title & tagline in the style as shown
* upon installation the following gadgets will be in your sidebar:
   - image gadget (you will still have to upload your own welcome image in this gadget)
   - text gadget (you can write your own welcome text here)
   - email subscription box (your readers can subscribe to your blog here)
   - search box (readers can type in a keyword and they will be directed to all posts containing this word)
   - blog archive (all your posts will be accessible through this monthly archive)
* every new page that you upload to the menubar will automatically be displayed in the font style of the menubar
* every new gadget that you upload to the sidebar and give a title will automatically display that title in the font style of the template
* all your posts will have an automatically appearing 'sharing icon' in the footer that allows your readers to share the post on over 250 social sites
* in the 'Blogger Advance' option you will be able to alter the following yourself:
  - the color of all fonts except the color of the blog archive list (post text, titles, footer font, links, menubar tabs etc. are changeable)
  - the font style & size of the post text
  - the font style & size of the sidebar text
* please be aware that you won't be able to change the following yourself:
  - the font style & size of the blog title
  - the font style & size of the tagline
  - the font style & size of the menubar tabs
  - the font style & size of the post titles
  - the font style & size of the date header
  - the font style & size of the post footer
  - the font style & size of the sidebar titles
  - colors used in backgrounds, bars & borders
  - illustrations used in backgrounds, bars & borders
* social icons are not included, but if you decide to buy a $10 add-on for installation I will install a social icons set of choice from my Etsy shops for you in the sidebar (is included in the fee).


TODAY'S FREE BLOGGER TEMPLATE


DESIGN #1
Post text area width: 700px
Sidebar area width: 240px
Fonts used: Lobster Two & Raleway
Images on demo template are only for demonstration purposes and are not included in template file




I hope I can make some people happy with this first free design!



March 18, 2015

Excited to announce this new project! - Share The Blog Love


Hi everyone! I skipped my usual post on Monday due to lack of time, but I'm back today with a message that will probably make up for that skipped post ;-)

For a long time I've been thinking about starting some kind of project to help out people who want to start a blog, but don't have the funds for a designer layout. Of course Blogger offers free templates as well when you start a blog, so if you have a computer and an internet connection, you can have a blog for free on the Blogger platform. That's awesome if you ask me.

I'm very fortunate to live in The Netherlands, a country where all citizens are allowed to speak their minds and to agree or disagree with one another. We have freedom of speech and thought, and with that comes the freedom to express those thoughts in multiple ways. Blogging being one of them. 

As a blogger myself, I know how much a blog can act as a journal, where you vent your thoughts and feelings, and how that can make you grow as a person. And how someone else's blog can be an inspiration or make us think about a subject.

The content of a blog is an expression of the blogger and so should the layout be. And that's why the Blogger layouts don't always match with the visions we have for our blogs, even though they are free.

For the people that have a little (or a lot) of money to spend, Etsy is packed with designers that sell their Blogger designs. I'm one of those sellers and really appreciate the clients that buy the designs I make with love. But I also know that not everyone is in the position to pay $29 for one of my designs. A blog is not life's first necessity, so if you're on a tight budget you'd better spend that budget on healthy foods for the family than on a blog layout. And if you're a teenager with the dream of becoming the next big fashion blogger, but your monthly allowance doesn't cover a $29 blog design, what do you do?

For those people (and of course everyone else interested) I'm starting my new project this upcoming Friday: the Share The Blog Love Project in which I will share free downloadable Blogger designs. The designs will be a little more simple than the ones I sell in my Etsy store, but they will definitely cover all the beautiful basics to make it special. All designs will cover the following:

* a header & tagline that will adjust itself automatically to your title and tagline after installation
* a custom made menubar to which you can easily add the pages of your choice
* custom made sidebar titles - any new gadget that is uploaded in the sidebar and given a title will be displayed in the same style
* custom made sidebar with the following gadgets: custom made subscription box, custom made search box & archive list
* custom made footer under each post with a share icon that allows your readers to share your blog posts on over 250 different social pages


The designs will have to be installed by yourself, but instructions for this will be given, and of course I have a page on this website full of Blogger tutorials that will get you on your way with the Blogger platform.

So make sure you don't miss this Friday's post in which I will share the first free Blogger design!

March 13, 2015

Freebie Fridays #46 - Patterned Labels


This week I've been talking about using labels in Blogger blogs and what they do, so I thought it would be a fun idea to close off this week with a set of 3 digital labels for this episode of Freebie Fridays. Of course these labels are completely different from the ones used in Blogger ;-)

This set of 3 labels are .PNG files with a transparent background and the images are 1500 pixels wide each. You can use them for digital scrapbooking, card making or other crafty projects.

Have some creative fun with the labels and have a nice weekend!





March 11, 2015

Blogger's Label & Category Gadget


In my previous post I talked about how you can create a page on your menu bar that links to all the posts of a certain label. If you are struggling with the definition of pages and labels, I suggest you read that post first before diving into this one.

As I already wrote in that last post, the option to create a page for one particular label in the menu bar is a great idea when you want to highlight a few very important labels to your readers, or when you only use a couple of labels throughout your entire blog. But most bloggers that use the label option have far more labels than that. And your menu bar will probably look awful when you try to put all those labels up as pages on there. So for the label-holics amongst us Blogger has a really nice and easy gadget to give our readers the opportunity to view all posts per label.

It's the Label gadget and you can find it in the list of gadgets for your sidebar that Blogger offers. So let's take a look at it. You have a blog, you have labels connected to your posts and now you want to show those labels somewhere where your readers can easily click on them and see all of them. This is how you do it:

* Go to the Blogger Dashboard
* Select option 'Layout' 
* Now you are in the layout screen, you look for your sidebar, which is probably the column of small blocks.
* Click on the 'Add gadget' option and a screen full of options pops up


* In the list of Basic gadgets you select the Label gadget


* A new screen will pop up that gives you certain options on the layout of this gadget
* You can choose here if you want to add all the labels your use, in alphabetical or random order and if you want them displayed in a list layout or a cloud layout. Make your choices and save the gadget.


* Your labels are now visible in the sidebar and in the image below you can see the difference between the list style and the cloud style. The could style might be a good option if you have a ton of labels to show, otherwise your sidebar will go on forever ;-)


Whenever a reader clicks on one of the labels in the gadget they will be directed to a page that shows all the posts with that label. It's a great way of giving your blog some structure and providing your readers with a little service!


March 9, 2015

How to create pages and link them to labels in Blogger


It might be no surprise that I really like Blogger as my blogging platform since both this business blog and my personal blog run on it. But for a Blogger newbie some of the gadgets that Blogger offers can be really confusing. One thing that keeps showing up in my contact with clients is the difference between pages and labels. What are they and how do you use them? And a question that is asked even more: how can I make a page that links directly to all the posts with a particular label? Well, time to shed some light on this!


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PAGES AND LABELS

There is definitely a difference between these two. Regular pages in Blogger are made in a similar way as your posts. You create a blank page, fill it with content (that can be text, images and links to other sites and pages) and attach it to the menu bar. A while back I wrote a tutorial on how to do this over here, so if you're not familiar with how to create a simple blank page in Blogger I suggest you check out that tutorial first before continuing this one.

Labels are something completely different. Other words for them could be 'keywords' or 'categories', although to keep things simple I will use the name that Blogger gives them (labels). When you write a post in Blogger you have the option to give it one or multiple labels. In the screenshot below you will see that the option to add labels to your post is on the right sight of the screen when you're in the blog post writing screen.


Say you write a post on a beautiful trip you just made, you can label it 'travel', 'sight-seeing', 'trips' etc. The most efficient way to use labels is to think of them as categories and then decide into which categories you want to divide your blog posts. Having about 30 to 40 of these labels or categories throughout your blog is more than enough, otherwise you readers will go completely bonkers. Imagine you have to choose from a list of over 200 categories on a website, not so pleasant right? So keep the number of different labels low. Less than 30 will probably even be better.

Keep labels simple and to the point. If you're a fashion blogger for example you might use a label like 'dress' instead of 'pink dress', 'polkadot dress' or 'sophisticated dress'. What the coding in Blogger does is connect all the posts with the same label. So this way all posts with the label 'dress' will be connected.

Giving your posts labels is just the first step. The next one is to make it easy for your readers to find all the posts with the same label in just one mouse click. And one way to do this it to turn a label into a page.


HOW TO TURN A LABEL INTO A PAGE

When you want to link a page in your menu bar to a certain label you should not create an empty page like you normally do. Instead you attach a link to the menu bar that directs your readers to all the posts with that particular label. This is how you do it:

1 - Get the link that belongs to the label

Whenever you give a post a label, this labels shows up in the post footer after you've published the post. But have you ever clicked on a label in the footer of the post? If you did, you might have noticed that you get directed to a page that shows all the posts with that same label. So if you want to create page in the menu bar for a certain label, this is the first step to take. You click on the label in the post footer for which you want to create the page. Blogger directs you to the page where you can see all the posts with that label and all you have to do is copy the link that appears in the internet search bar on top of the screen. Now you've got the link.



2 - Attach the link to the menu bar

* Go to your Blogger dashboard and select 'Layout'
* In the layout screen press the 'edit' button of the menu bar/pages area.


* Now you're in your menu bar. Look for the text that says '+ Add external link'.


* When you click on that you can paste the link there and give it a page title (obviously you can use the label name as a page title for this). Blogger will add this new page at the end of the menu bar. If you want it on another position, just drag the block of the link to another position and save it.



That's it! Whenever your readers click on that particular page in the menu bar they will see a page that shows all the post with that particular label.

The option to create a menu bar page for a particular label is great when you want to highlight some very important labels or when you only use a couple of different labels throughout your blog. In case you use about 30 to 40 different labels you might want to use another option to guide your readers to these label pages. And for that, Blogger has a very nice gadget! Next Wednesday's post will be all about that, so don't miss it!

March 6, 2015

Freebie Fridays #45 - Media Sheets for Blogs


Since I had quite a busy week I decided to go for the easy route again on this episode of Freebie Fridays and use a design that I already made a while back. Up until recently I offered so called Media Kits for blogs and websites in my Etsy shop. A media kit is basically a resume of your website's/blog's statistics with some other interesting info added to give potential sponsors an idea of what to expect when they sponsor you or start a collaboration with you.

Last Monday I wrote a post on setting boundaries in business, and one of the boundaries I'm setting right now for myself is to take a good look at which items are hot and which are not in the shops. I decided to start removing the services and items that are not so popular. And media kits were not as wanted as custom logos and blogger designs, so the choice was easily made.

But it would be a waste of work and time if I just threw the designs away, so today I'm sharing this teal colored premade media kit with you.

After downloading the kit below you will be able to add text to the kit. So you can add your blog/website statistics, a little about yourself, just whatever you want your potential sponsors to know. I also added a PDF sheet with instructions on adding text to it and on using the font I used for the demo sheet. So you're all set to go.

After filling in the media kit sheet and saving it, you can upload it as an image to the sponsor/advertising page on your blog and make that professional impression! Happy weekend!







March 2, 2015

Setting boundaries in your business - Part I


I think the most difficult thing I get faced with now that I have my own little business is setting boundaries. Boundaries to the time I spent weekly on my business, boundaries to the services I'm offering and boundaries to clients that tend to demand way too much from me. I've never been good at telling people 'no', but it gets better with aging and I really found out I had to work on this skill in order to have some spare time and family time left now that I have my own business.

I still have a ton of stuff to learn concerning this subject, but I thought it would be nice to share the things I've learned so far with you. After all, I got some pretty awesome information through other business bloggers myself along the way that really helped me focus on the parts of business I struggle with and how to make those easier for myself. So before I'm wasting a ton of your time, let's get to the point and share the things I've learned so far!

1 - BE DETAILED AND INCREDIBLY CLEAR WITH THE INFO YOU GIVE
I sell most of my designs through Etsy and I get most demands for custom ordered designs through Etsy. Etsy gives you the opportunity to write down all the information you want to share on a product in the product details. Although I tried to be as specific as possible from the start, I keep learning here. 
People have a tendency not to read everything and start shooting questions your way that could have been answered easily when they would have taken the time to read the full product description. So I'm busy adding a first paragraph to all my info texts that says to read the full info before contacting me. Hopefully that will save me some time. 
Also, be specific about product details, what exactly does the client get from you for that price and what do you need from your client in order to fulfill their order.
And let your clients know how long an order takes on average and if you offer revision rounds with a custom order, be specific about how many rounds of revisions a client will have. I was not clear on this with a lot of my products, resulting in clients that kept wanting changes over and over again. Well, that's not their fault, right? It was me that needed to give a clearer picture on what bang they could expect for their buck.

2 - DON'T TRY TO MASTER EVERYTHING IN YOUR NICHE
With that I mean that I learned that it was better to focus on one or a couple of products and services that I can deliver well, than trying to please the whole market by offering every service you can think of. For example, I started out as a blogger on the Google Blogger platform myself. So when I started designing blog templates, I made Blogger templates and along the way I learned more and more specifics on how to do this. I know there are millions of people with a Wordpress blog, so if I learned to master those coding skills I would have an even bigger potential clientele. But you have to ask yourself: do you really want to? And is it really necessary? Right now my working schedule is already completely filled with the designs I offer now and I'm satisfied with the money I'm making, so I don't see the need at this point in time to spend tons of hours on learning Wordpress coding. I often get asked by people if I could design their blogs on Wordpress, Weebly, Tumblr etc. but in order to keep my sanity I'll stick to Blogger, so unfortunately I have to tell them no.

3 - YOU DON'T HAVE TO SELL EVERY PRODUCT OR SERVICE UNDER THE SUN
During the time I have been open for business now I've learned that it's not in my best interest and the client's interest to say yes to every possible order. Sometimes a client wants a design in a style that just isn't mine, or wants a custom made product that I know will take me a ton of time but is not the kind of product I can sell for a price that will cover those hours of work. In the beginning I didn't know any better and just took on the job. And I've regretted that decision a couple of times.
One example is a client that was in need of a logo ASAP. When a client starts using the words 'as soon as possible' in the first contact they have with you, please be aware. This particular client had actually asked another designer to do a logo but got no response back from the designer in the couple of days that followed. So the client turned to me and asked if I could do a very minimalistic logo ASAP because the products they were selling were already at the manufacturer and they had no logo for their business yet. That's totally nasty, I get that, but I shouldn't have made that my problem. The client probably started thinking about a logo a little too late in the whole process. But I agreed to do the logo anyway. And it just didn't feel right all along. The design wasn't a design I normally do, it was absolutely not my style, and after I had already delivered the final product to them (which they approved), they wanted all kinds of alterations to it. I should have paid attention to my intuition when I read that first message. Lesson learned, that's for sure ;-)


The big conclusion so far:  

THE FACT THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO DO IT, DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO DO IT


I'm sure that along the way I will learn a lot more about setting boundaries in my business, so I'm pretty sure this will not be the last post I'm writing about it. That's why I felt comfortable enough to name it Part I. Take from my advice what resonates with you and if you've got any further tips on setting boundaries in business, please let us know in the comments below!


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