How To Improve You and Your Freelance Business
This is an update of a post I wrote 2 years ago called, “One percent in 2018”.
So 2020 is here, and like every new year, everyone has committed to some form of resolution to improve in this new year.
This is a good thing, for we all realize that there is something or many somethings in our life we want to improve on. For many of us, we start off with full enthusiasm, but as the months come along, you find that your progress has stopped and discouragement sets in.
Could it be that we need to take smaller step increments and not try to overcome that something in one huge step?
Since this is a web design and development blog, I just want to encourage you on how you can become an awesome designer or developer in this new year. This advice is based on the Kaizen technique of improvement in business.
“The Japanese word kaizen simply means “change for better……
The word refers to any improvement, one-time or continuous, large or small, in the same sense as the English word “improvement” [1. Wikipedia]
“Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.” [2. Art of Manliness ]
Get Better Every Day the Kaizen Way To Self Improvement
So how do I find time?
Here are a few suggestions, all you need a few minutes each day to give that 1%. Find that niche that best suits you.
- During lunch
- Before bedtime
- Get up a few minutes earlier
- Your morning break
- Turn off the TV
- Spend less time on Social Media
- Spend less time surfing the Web
- Pay bills online, become paperless
Suggestions for getting better in 2020:
Learn another programming language:
I understand that we all have busy lives, who has the time to learn another language. Time is something we need to carefully use because we can never get back wasted time.
Using the 1% rule in learning Programming languages (PHP, JS, Ruby, Python, etc.):
They say that to really master a programming language, one must code daily. Now, this can only be 10 minutes if that is all you have. Even 10 minutes a day adds up after a few months.
Now there is some flexibility here, we all have things that come up so yes, there may be a day or two that you can’t squeeze in 10 minutes. That’s OK as long as you continue the next day.
Technically this is not the 1% daily gain, but still, you are building muscle memory, storing the code characteristics in your brain, and completing the basics of repetition, the way to learn to code.
There may be other days when you have extra time to spare, so use that extra 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour to focus on coding. Consider it a blessing to have that spare time here and there.
Now some of you may be thinking, this will take me forever to become a skillful coder. That is true, much longer than going to a coding boot camp as an example. But if you do nothing, you get nothing. So instead of learning something in a few months, it may take you a year, or even more. But that’s OK, because, at the end of the year, you will have accomplished something by being persistent and not regret saying “I should have.”
Learn a Framework
- Development time becomes quicker, easier and efficient.
- If you are looking for a job, many agencies use frameworks.
- Code security, like most frameworks, have been tested and bugs are fixed immediately.
Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, use those few minutes a day to slowly learn a web framework, something that you can add to your list of skills.
Learn the Architecture
This is the reverse of learning a web framework, you may be a whiz of building things with a framework, but you may not know the language. Frameworks can come and go, but the basic language will always be there. So scroll back up to Learn another Programming language suggestions.
Learn Another Stack
Say your skills are in Front End Development, how about learning something in the Back End Stack?
Look into PHP, NodeJS, Ruby, Python, etc.
How about the MySql database management system.
If you are a Back End Developer, how are your CSS skills? How about Java Script?
In the end, you become a more well-rounded developer.
Do you post videos on websites? How about learning how to edit 4K videos.
How well do you know your video editor (Premier, Final Cut, Davinci Resolve, etc.)?
Spend a few minutes each day trying different techniques in your editor.
If you shoot your own videos, do you know all the features of your camera?
Watch other professionals on Youtube to see their video techniques.
Get Better at What You Already Know
Maybe I should retitle this as Improving Your Strengths.
As a personal example. I have been analyzing, compiling, and editing CSS for years. I started off with CSS2 and have moved to CSS3. But the one area I never toyed with was CSS3 Animations. So I actually took time to build things using keyframes and animation properties till I finally understood how it all works.
How about you, maybe you’re a whiz at Java Script, do you understand both object-oriented and functional programming?
Be Physically Active
Designing, developing or building websites can put your butt in a chair for long hours each day. Not good for your body. If you are not one that enjoys working out, start off slowly (1% rule).
- Take a short 10-minute walk in the morning Or,
- Take a short 10-minute walk at lunch Or,
- Take a short 10-minute walk in the evening Or,
- Do 2 or all three in one day.
- After 2 weeks, increase the time to a 15-minute walk
- In no time you’ll be walking 30 minutes.
Just something simple to get started, where you end up at the end of the year is up to you. You may be surprised how physical activity and fresh air can clear your mind.
I am sure we all have learned from various resources, both paid and free. Why not give back to others, share what you have learned, encourage others, teach something.
Who has the time?
Use the 1% rule, and start simple.
How about answering someone’s question on a forum. There are many web related forums, join one and get involved.
For those who are adventurous, create a simple video tutorial and post it on Youtube. Maybe you can develop a series and add more videos.
I find when teaching a subject, you actually are learning yourself due to the research, investigation, and testing that is involved.
Ever thought about blogging, sharing your ideas and experience with others. See if you can create a post, some examples:
- Something from your journal
- A technical tip or trick
- A tutorial
How I do it:
Writing is not my strength, far from it, that’s why I cannot spit out a post in one sitting. I spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour several times a week, just to release one blog post per week. Doing a little each session until it is completed and published.
It may take you 2 weeks to complete a blog post, just giving the 1% each time until published.
Update or Rebuild Your Own Website
Customer projects and work priorities usually keep you very busy.
Sometimes this may cause you to neglect your own website. Information could be outdated, your portfolio is not current, or maybe you need to refresh your website for a new look in the new year. You ask when?
Do simple things first, update your About page, your skills page, change your header image as examples. Basic things that only take a few minutes. How about:
- Do one update this week, another next week.
- Add one or two completed projects to your portfolio
- If you need a website refresh, build the new site on a local host, spending 15 minutes a week.
Technically, this idea may not have anything to do with sharpening your design or developer skills. But it has everything to do with you becoming an exceptional husband to your wife, Dad to your kids, or just being a better person. A happy family life = a happy developer.
Turn off that computer, take some extra time off during the week and spend time with your family. If you are single, spend time with your friends, go to a movie, play basketball, go work out in the gym.
You will feel recharged, your clients will see this enthusiasm and want to hire you. There are 168 hours in a week, taking 2 hours out of that week is just 1.79% of your time.
168 hours per week
56 hours spend sleeping (8 hrs)
112 hours awake
2 hours family time
2 is 1.79% of 112
4 hours family time
4 is 3.6% of 112
I am sure you can afford at least 2 hours a week, 4 hours is better, more is even more awesome.
There are a lot more suggestions, but I will end this post now.
For this can go on and on, and besides, you already have things you already realize that need improvement in this new year.
Mix and Match
Just remember, if you just do 1% of something each day to improve, it all adds up in the end. You don’t have to be stuck in a strict routine that focuses on one point.
Each Monday you work on learning a new programming language.
But on a certain Monday, you feel like doing something different.
You discovered a great idea for creating your first blog post.
Go ahead and start that blog.
Then say on Wednesday it’s the day you review a Web Designers forum, answering questions.
But you still have that burning desire to finish that blog post, do what you are inspired to do, so use this time to finish that blog post.
There are no fixed rules etched in stone. The goal is to improve something, so if that is what excites you, go for it.
How about taking the whole family out for a hiking adventure. You are now killing two birds with one stone. You get your exercise and spend time with family all at the same time.
As a designer or developer, you already have a creative mind. I am sure you can come up with ways to improve areas that need improvement that fit that 1% rule.
Somedays you will fail, but hey, that is only -1% step back. Just continue your 1% improvement the next day, or if you have the time, do a 2% or even a 3% extra if you have the time.
All this will add up and you will prevail at the end of the year.
Happy New Year!