Happy New YearWe’ve all been there.  Ball drops in Time Square, and a few hours later we’re promising to change certain parts of our lives.  Well as a designer, we have new years ambitions too. I’ve comprised a short list of some key ones we should all take a bit more seriously for 2011 and plan to accomplish as the weeks and months start.

1) Utilize a contract with all customers. This should be a no brainer, but I can personally tell you times where I’ve skipped it because I had “good vibes” about a prospective client turned nightmare. Not only does a contract protect you as a designer, but also your clients.  Everyone understand their rights and ownership to data and content. Among all else, it should prevent any legal activity should a situation escalate those heights.

2) Hit the books. You know you’ve reached your comfort zone when you can’t remember the last time you read a book about your trade or a known trade leader.  New techniques, programs, and such are coming out just about every week.  If you’re not “in the know” you could be missing out on ways to make your life easier, more prosperous, and save some headaches.

3) Socialize. If you’re still a one man show, and haven’t met anyone else outside of your neighbor and cousins to bounce ideas off of, you’re missing out.  Most other designers I’ve met happen to be the best support group I could ever ask for.  In terms of knowledge, experience, and collective though processes all at your disposal and for FREE.  All that’s required is that you pitch in and help whenever they need it.  Great friendships can be birthed out of socializing too.  Not just online, but offline too.

4) Marketing your best assets. If you’re  a web designer and your the best in your area at Joomla or WordPress, you need to get the word out around your community that you’re the authority on these.  Graphic design logo’s are your thing and no one else holds a candle in your local market? Well it means nothing if people can’t find you.  And even worse if those that do can’t refer people to your website when you don’t have one.  Get out there to networking events, trades hows, and even your local media outlets. You’d be surprised if you showed up and proved yourself.

5) Update your portfolio. Sure this sounds redundant, but I bet you slap your head when you think of the last time you really made some sensible changes to your dossier.  It’s mainly because we get busy.  Going from one project to the next, or juggling multiple projects along with life, we tend to place our own work on the shelf for “a later time.”  That time never comes unless you make time for it. So schedule in a weekend to update your website, media kit, business card, email signature, brochure, whatever. What good is it to new prospect clients to hear you talk about your excellent work and you can’t show your newest work.

6) Get feedback. Your doomed to repeat past mistakes if you never learn from them.  And who better to tell you, than your current clients. Poll them, email them,  or survey them.  Get them to tell you how they feel/felt about your services.  Take what they say and look at it from an outsider perspective.  Maybe get a colleague to weigh in. Also look back a year from now at some of your work and gauge that against what you are doing now. There should be notable differences and sizable improvements.  Time, technicality, price, value, etc.

7) Execute. You’ve got plan, you’ve got goals, you’ve got great ideas all floating around in your head. Put them on paper, put a time stamp and date them on when they should be completed.  Sometimes we’re our own biggest enemies when it comes to our advancements.  No more procrastinating on those good ideas, even if they don’t all lead to the heights as a Facebook.  You’ll never know if you don’t execute those ideas.

Have some other resolutions you’ve come up with? I’d love to hear them and discuss further. Comment back and lets here some of those ideas. Happy New Year everyone!