“Making the internet a pretty place.“ With a strap-line like that, my attention was well and truly grabbed, with both hands!
Earlier this year I stumbled upon Elembee, the creation of the very talented Lisa Butler, and immediately knew that this was my website’s fairy godmother-to-be (I’m saving hard to make it happen this year!). Lisa, who is a former magazine editor and print shop designer, is a whizz at marrying beautiful designs with the techie bit, coding, to make online spaces that are just dreamy! I can’t wait to work with her myself and wanted to share her talents with you too (and you can get a more frequent fix by reading her blog). Today, Lisa is giving us a peek behind the scenes of her business
What is your title/position?
Owner, web designer/blogger
Tell me a bit about your business.
I create web designs that are pretty and functional, for the business-minded blogger and creative entrepreneur. As a creative entrepreneur who was able to launch my own business through blogging, I love working with people like me who see the value in blogging and want to use it as part of their business strategy.
Describe your typical day/week schedule.
I’m not a morning person at all, so I typically ease into the work day. I try to wake up around 8, lay in bed a little while longer making sure my latest blog post went up and checking emails and Twitter, then I make breakfast and schedule my social media for the day. Lately, I’ve also started walking in the morning to help me wake up.
I usually spend most of the morning working on my own business tasks — blogging, social media, emails, and then any client tasks I can handle quickly, like revisions or support issues. I’ll usually dedicate my afternoons to one or two projects, whether that’s spending a few hours putting together initial design thoughts for one project, or the entire afternoon finishing up the coding for another. I try to end my day around dinner time, but sometimes I can’t resist finishing one last thing.
I try to stick to a Monday through Friday working schedule and take the weekends off — Mondays are always less enjoyable when I work on the weekends, no matter how much I love what I do. I’ve learned that time to rest and recharge is just as important to the health of my business as getting things done.
How do you plan and organize your time? What are your biggest challenges with this? What tips can you offer?
I am a huge fan of the Pomodoro Technique — it was a total game changer for me when I started using it. The idea is to work in 25 minute increments with 5 minute breaks, though I have friends who prefer to work for 45 minutes with a 15 minute break. I use the Focus Booster app to keep time. What I love about it is that it makes it easier to do those tasks you don’t want to do — for me, that’s dealing with emails. Knowing that I just have to do it for 25 minutes and can take a break makes it easier to get started.
As far as planning my day, I have to add tasks to my to-do list as soon as they come up, or I will never remember to do them. I like to dump tasks on the Monday of the week I want to accomplish them, then each Monday I figure out what day I want or need to do each task. I’d say my biggest challenge is that I often overestimate what I can do in a week, but I’ve learned to accept that my to-do list will never be done. It’s all about prioritizing. And again, the Pomodoro technique helps — maybe I don’t have 3 hours to move a project for my own business forward, but I can spend 25 minutes on it, which is better than nothing at all.
What are your essential office tools?
My computer is essential to my work, so I have to have one that runs well. I recently replaced my MacBook Pro with an iMac. Honestly, my MacBook Pro probably would have been fine with a new hard drive, but with as much as I use my computer, I recognized that it would have just been a band-aid, and I would have been in the same situation a few months later. I knew it would be better to invest in a new computer and use my MacBook Pro for travel only, rather than running it into the ground. You have to invest in your most important tools!
Are there any websites or apps that you’d recommend to other entrepreneurial women?
Todoist keeps me sane — it’s where I keep up with my to-do list. I’ve created separate, color-coded projects for the different stages of my work (design, development, revisions, other), as well as projects for my own business and blog. For each design project, I add that person’s name as a task under the stage the project is in, so I can quickly see how many projects I have in each stage at a time. Todoist makes it super easy to set due dates and drag things around.
I’m a huge fan of Google Apps for Business, particularly Google Drive. I store all of my business documents and notes there, so I have access to them anywhere, and I also share project questionnaires and other information with clients through it.
I know everyone loves Gmail, but I personally use MacMail, even though my email addresses are through Gmail. I think MacMail makes it easier to organize your emails into folders, and I love having offline access to my emails.
Describe your workspace and how it integrates with your working style. How does it motivate/focus your work?
I had been eyeing the West Elm white lacquer parsons desk for ages, and I finally purchased it this spring. Before then, I was using a cheap, crappy desk I bought right after college. It’s amazing the difference a desk can make — my whole workspace feels brighter and cleaner, which keeps me inspired. I keep it mostly clean, with a few decorations, a notebook, and a candle — candles are always good for lifting your spirits. I also have a cute owl speaker for my music — I love that it has good form and function.
What book has most inspired you?
I don’t typically read a lot of business books, or any books that require heavy thinking — I read at the end of the day as an escape, so I prefer fiction. However, Design is a Job had a huge impact on how I see my business — it basically showed me that any issues I run into with clients are just points of miscommunication, where I’ve failed to teach them how my process works. You can use issues as a way to troubleshoot and course-correct, to explain any potential points of confusion up front and avoid future issues.
What’s your typical working lunch?
I really try to take a break during lunch. I usually grab leftovers or make a sandwich, then I catch up on my DVR, find a show on Netflix, or read. I’ve found that I need that midday break from the computer. I don’t perform as well when I’m trying to multitask, so I might as well enjoy my lunch and stop thinking about working until I’m actually back at my computer doing it.
And how do you switch off once the working day is done?
I literally have to switch off the computer — otherwise, it’s too tempting to find “just one more thing” that needs to be done. I don’t have a separate office, but my workspace is definitely a designated area in my living room, and I don’t enter that space unless I intend to work. If I want to get on the internet when I’m not working, I use my laptop or iPad on the couch.
What makes your life sparkle?
Doing what I love for a living! I love knowing that when I complete a project, I’ve truly made a difference for the business owner behind the website, and given them a space that represents them well. I also still can’t believe that I get to wake up each morning and set my own rules, and I don’t have anyone to answer to if I want to travel somewhere — I can just take my work with me.