DAY 1: ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS.
You need to get rid of the things that are distracting you from what you really need to pay attention to. This takes control.
How much television do you watch?
If it's more than an hour a day, that may be too much. I know that sounds hard because there are so many good shows. Still, you need to find some control here. If you are to watch television, combine it with another activity like exercise, get on the treadmill and watch some tv. Or if you're stuck on a car trip and you're not the driver and watch some TV then or an airplane flight, take your television time for when there's nothing else you can really be doing.
If you're finding yourself going out to bars or nightclubs a lot, cut back. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't socialize, but these types of environments are going to pull you away and really take your time.
Email is one that people just get sucked into. I actually don't have it set to auto-download. I need to click on the email button for it to download. That way, I can work uninterrupted, and after a while, when I feel like I should check, I'll go ahead and pull down email.
That doesn't mean that I don't have a Slack channel open for the office to reach out to me from time to time so that I can be reached quickly. But that's really limited to people that I have a relationship with. And if you don't have coworkers, you don't need that.
Sure, you do need to check the email from time to time to get back to clients, but you don't need to have a constant stream because it's just a distraction, and social media is even worse.
There's nothing wrong with Facebook, I use it all the time, but you will find yourself watching content that you don't need. Looking through an Instagram feed for inspiration. And two hours later you've done nothing. Instead, try to limit yourself, set a timer when you do this, go ahead and trigger a 10-minute timer on your smartphone, and then when the alarm goes off, force yourself to switch back.
DAY 2: FOCUS YOUR SPECIALTIES
Identify the skills and opportunities that you have, then focus on those. This comes down to is really what I refer to as targeting.
You need to identify the skills that you have that are unique. It doesn't mean that no one else has them, but determine what you are best at. While there are lots of things I can do, I choose to do the things that are most unique because it allows me to work less and get paid more.
Those general skills you have are undoubtedly useful. You can draw upon them as needed for projects but market and focus on the skills that you're best at as well as pay attention to in-demand skills. Look for new opportunities, develop the skills that you have, and develop new skills so that there are new market opportunities as things become more and more saturated.
Portfolio of work samples
Make sure you build out a portfolio of work samples that illustrate these skills. There are lots of different technology sites out there for building portfolios. You can use Adobe Portfolio, a website that allows you to build photography portfolios. Or sites like Vimeo to build out portfolios for videos, but definitely have samples of your work ready to show what you're capable of.
You have to put materials out so people can find you. Not just a website, but actively market yourself. Go to industry events, go to business networking events, find new clients, and talk to them.
DAY 3: CAPTURE PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE
There's a lot of great ideas you have, and you need to save them for those days when you're feeling a little bit stifled. Or if you just want to build upon that knowledge and not have to keep going back to starting at the beginning.
Standards & Procedures
Reuse and recycle for your business standards and procedures. Write down things that are good ideas. Write down the way that you want something done so as your business grows in new people come on board, you can share with them the operating procedures.
Make presets design your own. This isn't about buying a bunch of other people's presets. Start to save your own great presets, and if you're going to work with color a lot, look up tables are absolutely amazing.
LUTs for color grading
LUTs allow you to encapsulate all of your color grading for color and tone into a lot. That LUT can be used in photography and video software. Almost universally, it really comes down to this. The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.
Don't know where to begin? Here's a place to start for free
DAY 4: BUILD MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS
Now let's switch back to the personal side. You need to build meaningful connections. It's the quality of your network, not the number of people in it. This is all about being real and having real connections.
Face to face events
Attend face to face events, go to networking events, go to industry events, user groups, et cetera. These events are where business deals are made, and referrals come from.
Pick up the phone
Pick up the phone and call people. It's not about sending emails or Facebook messages, it's actually about talking. If you could reach them all the better.
Prune Facebook below 600
My rule is to prune the connections below 600. This way, I can actually keep up on things. Now you'll have to decide what number works for you. But remember, if this isn't a person you've talked to in a while (someone that you actually care about or have connected with), remove them from your network. Or at least take a break from them without unfriending them. This way, you cut down on the clutter, and I can't emphasize this one enough.
Send thank-you notes.
There are so many times that this has saved me by sending personal thank you notes and have everyone in the office or in the team sign it. People remember that they're working with people. People appreciate this. It's the thought that counts, and sending a thank you note shows that you appreciated the work. It reminds them that you're a real person, and in the future, when they're thinking about who to work with, they're going to remember you.
If you make a mistake, well again, they remember that you're people or a person who worked on the project make that personal connection. We get hundreds of emails a day, but only a few pieces of real mail, and most of those are ads are junk. A thank you note really stands out.
DAY 5: GET AN ACCOUNTANT
There's absolutely nothing wrong with getting paid relatively or being profitable, and an accountant can help on this front. Money is the fuel for creativity. You don't have to be rich, but you need to be paid fairly.
Most creative people suck at finances
Most creative people aren't very good at personal finances, but an accountant can help. Swallow your pride, stop trying to "save money."
Make decisions and adjustments monthly
You need to know how you're doing. Do you need to save money? Do you need to prepare for taxes? Do you need to be setting aside more? Do you need to be cutting back? Is it time to spend money and grow? The accountant can help you here.
Learn to use accounting software, but still have a person
I do recommend you learn the basics of using the accounting software yourself so you can do some of your data entry and look at the data and information whenever you need to. Still, an accountant is going to be able to help you walk through and understand where you're at and what's happening.
DAY 6: LEARN YOUR COMPUTER
Learn how your computer works, and I mean truly understand what you own. I talk to so many people who work creatively who don't understand their hardware. It's great to have power, but you need to have balanced systems.
How to fix common problems
You need to know how to fix common issues, repairing permissions, restoring a corrupted piece of software, running updates on your computer.
What can you upgrade?
Is there anything you can upgrade adding in memory or an external GPU to boost performance?
Where are the weak links?
I see people complaining all the time about software, and they don't understand that the bottleneck is their hard drive. Or they skimped on their computer and got an i3 or an i5 processor, but are trying to do professional-level work.
You need to buy the best equipment you can afford and make sure that that equipment is accessible. This means either having good credit (if you do not have the money on hand but need to buy more) or saving up until you can afford what you really need.
DAY 7: DON'T OVERBUY GEAR
When you add power, that's great, but don't overbuy gear. Acquisition syndrome is a real thing.
Stop gear churn
We used to have a person in our office who had a box arrive almost daily from Amazon or B&H. They were continually buying equipment and then as soon as they decided it didn't work or they didn't like it, they were reselling it, but at a loss, you don't need to overbuy. You need to maximize what you have.
Stop buying gear just to decide that you don't like it, and then you're going to sell it off. It's not a good idea. Instead, if you're unsure about something, rent the gear, try it out, make sure it works for you. There's a lot of great rental companies like LensRentals.com, for example, that make it easy to find the right equipment or to try things out in your workflow.
Recycle within the office or workflow
Instead of selling gear off, consider recycling within the office or moving it further down the food chain. Now that doesn't mean that I never sell equipment, but I make sure that there are backups and spare pieces, and a lot of old stuff often comes in handy.
Think of the entire pipeline
Think of your entire pipeline as well. Make sure that if you're upgrading things you've thought it through. For example, buying a new camera that shoots 4K or 6K means that you may need to buy faster hard drives or an improved computer. Don't top out your computer with a bunch of RAM if it doesn't have the processing power to go with it with the CPU or GPU. Think these things through and really balance it out.
As a digital video expert and trained business professional, Rich Harrington understands both the creative and management sides of the visual communications industry. He is the founder of the visual communications agency RHED Pixel
in Washington, DC. He is a certified instructor for Adobe and Apple and a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals Instructor Dream Team.
Rich is a popular speaker on the digital video circuit and has served as program manager for conferences hosted by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). He has also written several books for the video industry, including An Editorâs Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro, From Still to Motion, and Photoshop for Video. To connect with Rich visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardharrington/