Don’t Forget The Small Stuff This Year

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Whether a designer, developer, blogger, or freelancer, you surely have a to-do list on which certain items slowly inch their way down. These forgotten items add up fast! Think of all the items that you’ve discarded from your to-do list to save time. Even more frightening, what items might you have overlooked to meet a deadline? What have you left on the proverbial cutting-room floor yet again?

What better time than the new year, or new decade for that matter, to tackle your neglected checklist? In this article, we’ll look at some commonly overlooked items on a typical checklist (in no particular order). Some are new, some are commonsense and some are not so minor and ought never to be forgotten. So, let’s get started in this young year by striking off some items from your to-do list!

Update The Copyright Date

2009 2010

That’s right, it’s time to update the copyright year on your websites from <old date> – 2009 to <old date> – 2010. If you come across websites that show copyright dates as far back as 2003, the first word that pops to mind is “outdated.” Perhaps these websites have been kept up to date and only the copyright year has been neglected? Or perhaps the website really hasn’t been updated since 2003. Uh oh. This is not the first impression you want to give potential clients. After all, clients want to hire people who notice these things. What message does your footer send from below?

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Here are just a few of the places you might need to change the copyright date:

  • Website (all pages);
  • Watermark (if you use the year);
  • Footer (such as on your blog);
  • Templates (blog, wireframing, frameworks, email templates, etc.);
  • Readme files.

Résumé Refresh

Double-Check Everything

If you haven’t looked at your résumé (or curriculum vitae) in a while, now might be the time to do so. Even if you’ve been working steadily, you never know when you’ll need to submit your CV for that dream job that comes along.

This is a good time to make sure your listing of work experience is current. What new projects and clients have you taken on in the last year? Make sure your contact information is up to date, too. Has your area code changed? Have you switched cell phone numbers or moved? Double-check your zip code because some zip codes change occasionally.

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Double-check every detail on your resume or CV. Employers frown on inaccurate contact info. Also, check the references that you’ve provided. Are the emails and contact info still valid? Would current employers be willing to act as references? Now is the time to make those changes so that you stay prepared in the market.

Double-check the following items on your résumé or CV:

  • Home address,
  • Zip code,
  • Telephone number,
  • Area code,
  • Degrees earned,
  • Certificates,
  • Awards,
  • Recent jobs,
  • Recent projects,
  • New contracts,
  • Contact info for references.

Further Reading

Spell-Check

Spelling Kounts Counts

Sometimes you’re in such a rush that spell-checking is the last thing on your mind. Then again, most word-processing programs, email applications and website editors have automatic spell-checkers built right in. Most everyone relies on these programs to catch spelling mistakes. However, occasional slip-ups occur. You’ll often find “there” when “their” is correct, or “weather” when “whether” is intended.

Programs don’t pick up on such discrepancies. But people do. What kind of people? Potential clients and your peers. First impressions count, and poor spelling irks many people. You don’t want to irk someone because you left an “l” out of the word “professionally” on the front page of your website. (Guess who did that?)

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A good way to manually spell check a website is to read the content in reverse and out loud to yourself. Start from the footer. Then spell check the actual website code. Don’t skip a sub-page that you think is irrelevant. Every little mistake you find is one less mistake that someone else will.

Further Reading

Spell-Check Your Website

Outstanding Invoices

Get Paid

If you haven’t already done so, look at your invoices. Have you not yet sent some invoices? You deserve to be paid for your services. You’re not being pushy, just professional. So, don’t put off sending an invoice.

If you’re lucky, your client will remind you to send one. But this is the exception, and you’d be wise to hold on dearly to such clients. Most clients won’t bend over backwards to pay you in a timely fashion. Take the initiative. Be assertive. Often the client simply forgot about the invoice once the project was completed and would be more than happy to pay in full right away.

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What if you’ve already sent an invoice but haven’t been paid? Perhaps you forgot about an outstanding invoice from last year. No problem. Resend the invoice now. The client would most likely be happy to clear their books. Either way, you’ll hear an update on the situation.

Monitor Social Networks

Pay Attention to What You Type

Social networking is all the rage, and you’ve jumped in head first. You’ve signed up with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, to name a few. However, have you really examined your online presence? Take a moment to review your last 10 comments or posts on each social networking website that you are active on:

Do you see any comments that a potential client might find offensive? Clients aren’t likely to peruse your history of Twitter comments, but what if they did? The Delete key is your friend. However, deleting doesn’t erase the search engine cache of your updates. What seems funny and off-hand could turn clients away.

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For instance, were you ever unhappy with a client and decided in the wee hours that 140 nasty profanity-laden characters were in store? Have you ever trash-talked a current or past client? Now, imagine a potential client reading that and how they would feel about working with you. Sure, being judged by your online comments isn’t always fair, but it happens.

Freedom of speech is great, but if your social networking accounts are linked to your business website, take heed. The comments you make on websites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace could come back to haunt your and your business’ reputation. Just as social networks are a great way to stay connected and to network, they are also an easy way to gather personal and professional information about you. Stay informed and be aware that even an off-hand Facebook Wall comment can have a big impact.

Avatars and Photos

Take a moment to review your avatar or Gravatar on social networking websites. Perhaps it’s time to update your photo to reflect your current hairstyle or image. If you want to project a professional image, a wacky avatar might not be the right choice. Then again, you would get noticed, in which case your comments would stand out even more to potential clients.

Social Profiles and Bios

Your bio on social networks might need updating, too. Check for any changes in your job title, interests or availability are reflected. Keep your profiles and bios current to reflect your business activity. That little extra detail makes you shine.

Don’t Forget to Talk to People

Don’t rely solely on Twitter and your blog. Monitor the original social networking tool: the telephone. Have you kept in contact with past clients? Now would be a good time to reach out and speak with them. Maintaining your social contacts is essential to keeping the door open to future projects.

Further Reading

Back Up Your Work

Stop, Drop and Back Up Now!

Stop. Drop what you’re doing. Back up your work right now. Data loss can happen at any moment. Did you put 40 hours into a website last week and didn’t back up any of that hard work? Perhaps you have thousands of photographs stored on your computer? Those raw images, along with potential profits, are toast if anything goes wrong.

When was the last time you backed up your hard drive? Last week? Last month? Can’t remember? Uh oh. Time to back up now. Use a pen drive, CDs, DVDs, external hard drive or online storage website—just back up regularly. Your work changes daily: you send and receive email, add bookmarks, upload photographs and scan images. You have a lot to lose.

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Backing up is only part of it. You also need to be able to restore your computer in the event of complete data loss. Look into bootable backups for peace of mind, and avoid devastation by backing up your work. Make it a top priority and not an afterthought.

Also, check your surge protector. Silly as it sounds, many people forget about their surge protectors. Like smoke detectors, this is a safety concern. The time of year when we turn our clocks back for daylight savings in the US also serves as a reminder to replace our smoke detector batteries. Perhaps the new year should be a reminder to check our surge protectors.

Have you checked your surge protector? Or better yet, do you own one? A surge protector protects your computer from voltage spikes in the electrical system. Not all power strips are surge protectors, so make sure yours will protect your electronics. Make sure the components are in good working order and functioning properly. If your drive is fried in a storm, what good is the data backed up on the external drive?

Further Reading

Update Your Portfolio

You probably have a portfolio of your work online. But is it up to date? Have you added current projects to the queue? The new year is a great time to add recent samples of your work to your portfolio. If you haven’t done any recent work or can’t show certain projects because of a non-disclosure agreement, then just showcase some of your personal projects to show off your current skills. Your online presence is defined partly by the work you present.

Visit your portfolio in the mindset of a prospective client. Are your images large, high quality and clear? Do the images reflect your current set of skills? Would you hire yourself based on what you see? If you haven’t done so already, check the spelling of project titles, client names and companies.

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Be honest: are you one of those people who go a little overboard with their portfolio? Do clients have to click through 15 pages to see the scope of your work? Do visitors have to wait for 100 images to load to view your graphic design portfolio? Now might be the time to trim your portfolio. Sometimes having a few high-quality examples is better than having many of inferior quality. Let the portfolio shine without the clutter.

Further Reading

Test Your Contact Form

Can Visitors Reach You Online?

When was the last time you checked the contact form on your website? Once the contact form is implemented, it is often neglected. Perhaps you have been losing potential clients because they have been unable to get in touch with you. Take action now by double-checking how visitors can reach you online.

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First of all, is it easy to find your contact form? Could a visitor find the contact form from the “About us,” “Services” and even “Contact us” pages. Surprisingly, many people forget to include a working link or contact form on their own contact page. Try sending yourself a message. Did it work? If not, the problem could be the email address, the code, the CAPTCHA code or the “Send” button itself.

Further Reading

Catch Up On Email

Open, Read and Reply. Repeat.

Don’t let those unread emails pile up again this year. Attack your emails in a timely fashion, and develop a habit that pay dividends over the course of the year. Clients will see that you’re on top of things and that projects are running more smoothly, and you’ll be happier knowing you don’t have over 60 emails waiting to be addressed. Procrastinating doesn’t help. Open, read and reply to your emails.

Update Your Signature

This is also the perfect time to update your email signature. Check the address, phone number and links listed in your signature. Are they current? Make sure the links are active, working and relevant. Perhaps freshen up your signature with a new quote or proverb.

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Check the Spam Filter and Junk Mail Folder

As time passes, we can easily forget to check the settings in our email program. See whether the reason you’ve been receiving a ton of spam is because your spam filter has been turned off. Also, sometimes email is dumped into the junk mail folder by accident. Check to see if any important emails have ended up there.

Clean-Up Time

What Dirty Little Secrets Is Your Keyboard Hiding?

Like to drink coffee? You could very well have spilled some on your keyboard, and because it was miniscule, you just forgot about it after a quick swipe with a cloth. A drop or two doesn’t hurt, right? What about that morning bagel? Or those pesky granola crumbs? Yes, you may not see the mess, but the grunge is there, hiding in the nooks of your keyboard. Sure, a few crumbs won’t hurt, but the build-up will. But a silicone cover catches everything, you say? Wrong. Lift the cover off the keyboard and witness the fluff that has crawled in there.

How long ago did you clean your keyboard? That’s the question. It’s never too soon to clean it. If it’s sticky, it’s been way too long. Not only can grime build up, but so can germs. Bacteria. Cross-contamination can occur. Just a few minutes cleaning those keys could prevent a common cold or worse. While you’re at it, you might want to give that mouse a good cleaning, too.

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What’s Cluttering Your Desktop?

Do you have too many files on your desktop? This visual clutter might be distracting you, causing you frustration and, in the long run, costing you time and money. The time it takes to find a file on your hard drive or your desk is time taken away from a project.

Here are a few ideas to de-clutter your virtual and real spaces:

  • Organize your desktop files;
  • Put away the files on your actual desk (no loose papers);
  • Change your desktop wallpaper;
  • Remove accessories from your desk (keep it minimal);
  • Hide or bundle electrical cords;
  • Add keywords to files and photos;
  • Label files and folders;
  • Fix those broken items to make them usable (or throw them out).

Accomplishing just a few of these things will make your workspace more inviting and save you time later on.

Further Reading

Save

Be Safe: Save

Finally, learn to save as you go. Whether writing, blogging, coding or designing, saving as you go is always safer. You never think of it until it’s too late. You don’t want to find yourself scouring forums looking for a thread titled “Is there any way to recover six hours spent on my Adobe Photoshop file.”

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The answer is to save as you go. Make saving a habit. Learn the “Save” shortcut for the programs you use. In Adobe Illustrator, Command + S saves a file. Do this after every layer, paragraph and so on and you’ll save yourself time and heartache.

Resolutions

Have you got new year’s resolutions? Perhaps you want to start keeping your desk uncluttered or backing up your work every other day. Now is the time to integrate these tasks into your routine. By doing so, you’ll cultivate good habits over the year. Start slowly, one little goal at a time. Tackling too many resolutions will overwhelm you. Accomplishing one little resolution over the course of the year is wiser. As they say, the little things add up!

In Conclusion

There you go. We surely could have added more things to this list. Did an item here jog your memory? What little things do you put on the back-burner and then forget about? Feel free to share some of your to-do’s to help the rest of us out. This way, by next year, everyone’s list will be a lot shorter!

Further Reading

(al)

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Melissa Scroggins is a freelance graphic designer and co-founder of PeachPoPs. She loves designing icons, creating vector illustrations, and playing survival horror video games. Follow her design adventures on Twitter and feel free to send a tweet.

  1. 1

    This is really nice post… Thanks.

    Regards,
    ~Kishor

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  2. 2

    Some great reminders here. I’ve got to keep my email in check this year and my desktop is full of (visual clutter) projects that should be collected and placed in their own folder. Thanks for the tips!

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  3. 3

    great list of things to check surely going to check all

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  4. 4

    Of course, you can always dynamically update the date on your copyright ;-)

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    • 5

      Smashing Editorial

      January 23, 2010 6:52 am

      Yes, but then it would be an unnecessary PHP request ;-)

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    • 8

      A function call every time a page is requested is overkill for something that gets updated once a year. Of course most sites will have caching of static pages, but still, is that date function call necessary for something that’s updated once per year? Set a reoccurring calendar reminder at the end of each year to update your copyright year as a reminder.

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      • 9

        This wouldn’t matter much if you’re using PHP for the whole page anyway. Till now, I’ve never ever seen any load increase to the server or a site thanks to an


        <p class="copyright-note>(C) 1998 - <?php echo date('Y'); ?> by ...</p>

        *shakes head*

        Of course, just using full-blown PHP instead of static pages for the ONLY reason to embed a call of the date-function would be ridiculous. But you still could use SSI instead:


        <!--#config timefmt="%A %B %d, %Y" -->
        Today is <!--#echo var="DATE_LOCAL" -->

        cu, w0lf.

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      • 10

        I’m far from a PHP expert, but I would like to see some statistics or other data that indicate that using the date function is going to cause any server issues or other problems. I’ve always used that function for copyright dates and none of the PHP programmers I’ve ever worked with have even suggested that this would be an issue.

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      • 11

        I’d say updating manually is the best thing to do – using PHP or anything else for that matter is just something else that has to load, whether it be small or minuscule doesn’t make any difference – it’s just not required!

        I updated my copyright code to 2009-2010 on New Years Day and it took no longer than about 20 seconds (at the most) to locate it and change it; it’s hardly a lot of work considering there are just under 31,556,926 seconds in a year!

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    • 12

      I would recommed using a Javascript code to replace the year (p.e. “2010″) dinamically.

      I am not allowed to post javascript codes here, so just do a Google search.

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  5. 13

    Great Post! Well, I have a problem with the outstanding payment. Kept on sending those reminders and invoices, but my client doesn’t even bother about it. I hope my client can be more conscious like your case :(

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    • 14

      Melissa Scroggins

      January 24, 2010 1:44 pm

      Ardhian,

      You might try sending the reminder with a different e-mail address as your current one may be headed for “junk mail” by accident.

      Hope this helps. :-)

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  6. 15

    Excellent! A reminder applicable to all of us. Why did Melissa forgot to write about this? lol

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  7. 16

    Excellent !!!
    Everybody should consider doing this from time to time….

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  8. 17

    Good Read that. cheers :)

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  9. 18

    Loved the post – ran off dutifully to backup all my stuff (Dropbox, its a wonderful system), and really should get round to updating my portfolio…

    Thanks for the reminders!

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  10. 19

    Lovely list, I will make sure I have all these in check

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  11. 20

    great post :)

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  12. 21

    Great article,

    In today’s hectic world you sometimes forget the small things, but those small things can lead to disaster if you neglect them. So its good to have a ‘plan’.

    Must-read material !

    regards
    Dennis

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  13. 22

    Excellent stuff!

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  14. 23

    Good post with some helpful tips!

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  15. 24

    I’m a student at school and I don’t have time to even make my portfolio yet. I surehave to make one if i’d like to get a job next year when I’m done.

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  16. 25

    I follow Smashing Mag for insider advice from industry experts, and this kind of no-brainer advice isn’t exactly insightful or notable to me. Sorry guys.

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  17. 26

    I re-read your post. Man, what a great job you’ve done here.
    Thanks for all the tips. All of them very usefull.

    That part about “image management” (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is very important, that’s why I use nicknames to say some things on the web, ‘cos everything ends up in Google. EVERYTHING.

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  18. 27

    Great tips, I’ve just updated my whole portfolio, including the design, and I cleaned my keyboards, monitors and mice up around the beginning of the year…sadly I only changed the copyright info about a week ago ;)

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  19. 28

    Great post blah blah?

    No, sorry. More like a Web-two-oh suicide scenario described here.

    And the “Update the copyright date” is something totally wrong. Since when do amateur designers and developers and PMs tell how it should be?

    The Copyright date originally was intended to show the year of publication.

    So if you wrote an article in 2001 — the copyright should state 2001, and should not be changed. Ever.

    This means that if you started blogging in 2005 — the copyright notice in your footer should say (c) 2005. But for any newer post there should be a different copyright notice with the appropriate publication year.

    This only means there should not be a generic copyright notice for frequently updated lists of documents.

    Only the final published documents should have a copyright publication notice.

    So, please, stop doing the (c) — it’s pathetic.

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    • 29

      You say it.

      I think this stupid post should be replaced by your comment.

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    • 30

      Thank you for posting this, Martin.

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    • 31

      Melissa Scroggins

      January 24, 2010 1:58 pm

      In the article, I didn’t say you had to change the copyright date. I said one “might” need to change the copyright date. I didn’t say you needed to change the copyright date on articles, artwork, etc.. The date of creation is the date of copyright for those works. Obviously, a blog post written in 2007 should not have the copyright date changed.

      The whole point is that some visitors to some websites perceive the copyright date to reflect the current content. If there is no hyphen ( e.g. 1998-2010), a visitor might think the content has not been updated.

      For instance, some icon designers creating readme files for icon sets have a template. They might need to remember to change the copyright date in the file to reflect the new content they will be creating this year.

      If someone has a template which they work with, the copyright date for new content would not be 2009 anymore. That is what the reminder is referring to as a whole.

      I hope this clarifies the change of copyright date more clearly. :-)

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    • 32

      Martin,

      How would someone change the copyright date on a wordpress blog for each post? It’s virtually impossible to do what you’re saying. The author was not suggesting that you change the publication date of a blog post or other article. She’s referring to the generic copyright year that appears in the footer or other repeating part of a website.

      And, if you started blogging in 2005, it should actually be hyphenated across a range of years, to be more accurate. But obviously it would not say “(c) 2005″ if you are still blogging in 2010, because even that would be inaccurate.

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    • 33

      You’re post makes no sense, Martin. From what I can tell I don’t think you even understood what this article was even talking about.

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  20. 34

    Brilliant Post, think I should start by tidying my desk…

    As for copyrights, if you’ve updated the site at all in the past year the (c) needs updating, it isn’t strictly necessary under copyright law in the UK (don’t live/work in the US) but serves simply as a reminder.

    Both new & updated content should be copyrighted to the current year or a range of years i.e. 1999 – 2010 using the dash to denote the in between dates, as otherwise would imply a lack of copyright for content created since original (c) date.

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  21. 35

    always taste less time if it had left its mark on this website
    :D

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  22. 36

    Thanks for the Gravatar reminder!

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  23. 37

    thank for remind us…

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  24. 39

    Nice tips,
    copyright update, hooooosh… thanks for reminding
    :)

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  25. 40

    Hey, good advice.

    Would be great if you could remind people to check their own rss feed with some populare readers. For Example, RSSOwl is unable to guess the absolute image paths – might help to have absolute paths in feeds at least.

    Just a hint ;)

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  26. 41

    loved this article.. totally reminded me to think over some stuff ive been putting off for sometime now..

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  27. 42

    loved this article… totally reminded me to think over some stuff ive been putting off for sometime now..

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  28. 43

    awesome post!!! thanks alot

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  29. 44

    Wow – this is a 5-star post! It’s incredibly useful and the best part is that it’s so unique – not the same kind of stuff you see on every other blog. I also love the fact that Melissa provided so many excellent further reading links.

    Good job, I’m looking forward to seeing more like this!

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  30. 45

    A very comprehensive post. Thx for some key reminders!

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  31. 46

    Melissa Scroggins

    January 24, 2010 2:01 pm

    Thank-you for all the great feedback. Writing this helped me remember quite a few things too.

    The RSS “to-do” is also a great idea, Thanks!

    Anyone have another “to-do” to add? :-)

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  32. 47

    Nice post. There’s another source for those of you updating your resume. http://www.resify.com has a lot of tips and templates for resumes.

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  33. 48

    awesome post!

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  34. 49

    I rarely say it but these are all fairly good suggestions. Fairly I say, some of these are personal preference.

    Keeping your desk clean can be nice but not everyone is a clean freak and some of us enjoy the clutter of a multitude of sticky notes laying about our desktop. As for cleaning my keyboard… yeah, no. The dirt is like my blood.

    Save? You just started out. Always save. I’m still in awe that programs like Photoshop do not provide the auto-save option. I do it every 10 minutes or so but I’ll admit, It’s not uncommon for me to forget on a project that seems minuscule but become rather problematic when I forget.

    Social networks? Know your privacy. If you are looking for a new job… SHUT DOWN EVERYTHING! Disable lurkers from seeing what you have to say. There’s no reason to stop being who you are online, just make sure a potential job can’t see it.

    Jobs are well within their right to check me out but to think I am an exact carbon copy online as I am in real life is foolish. Block those fools.

    Contact forms, spell checking, dates… the bane of our existence. Amiright?

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  35. 50

    This is a great post! Love the part about the social networks. I know I haven’t been too careful myself, with posts on Twitter.

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  36. 51

    Very useful information in Official as well as Personal Life to keep updated. Thanks a lot for the posting.

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  37. 52

    Ha! Where did you get the picture of my keyboard from?? Hmm, actually it is much more dirty :-) Thanks for this article.

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  38. 53

    Updating the portfolio always seems like the toughest thing to do. I’m definitely my worst paying client.

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  39. 54

    its diffrent……….any way thanx.

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  40. 55

    Loved the article :)
    It’s all those very important meta-things which surrounds our actual work.

    Thanks

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  41. 56

    Great post! how refreshing..

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  42. 57

    hmmm…always give the inspiration with the great info

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  43. 58

    Thanks, Melissa. It’s a very useful article. I appreciate your effort.

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  44. 59

    Great,

    you have to autopost this every new year :D

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  45. 60

    mo. from Phlow-Magazine

    January 31, 2010 5:36 am

    Since some time I have a wish: I wish that you could provide us an index to each post. Like those neat indexes on wikipedia. A short list of the maintopics of an article would be great. It helps us readers to jump to the interesting parts and keep an overview of your large, comprehensive and informing articles.

    Sometimes I come back because I want to check one point of an article again, that I bookmarked and have to search through the whole article.

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  46. 61

    Absoloutely excellent

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  47. 62

    Awesome list! Here’s one more that I do every year: Update a one-page PTO tracking calendar with planned days off for the entire year. People are always asking for a blank copy of their own.

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  48. 63

    A typical photography website is regarded as a compilation of work under US law (and probably others) and the proper copyright notice should be: © first-date-of-publication – last-date-of-publication Name-of-copyright-holder.

    More info here: http://www.digitaltechparis.com/2010/10/the-correct-copyright-notice-on-a-photographers-website/

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  49. 64

    Great article .. very useful
    when I read the title I didn’t expect that I will read it to the end and get all of these benefits.

    Happy new year ..

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  50. 65

    ‘Outstanding Invoices’

    If you’re not in the habit of making sure your invoices get paid then sign-up to Freshbooks. We use use within our studio and you can set to send out automated reminds of unpaid invoices at a particular interval say 14 days. I saw that a couple of reminders went out yesterday, New Years Day – business never stops!

    Great article and invaluable set of reminders, not just for the New Year but for all the way through the year.

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  51. 66

    Great recommendations~

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  52. 67

    Duncan Michael-MacGregor

    January 10, 2014 4:15 pm

    Great tips!

    It’s such a good time to go through everything and review, especially looking at how you want to be perceived online for 2014.

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