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!
Further Reading on SmashingMag:
- The Art Of Staying Up To Date
- Design Something Every Day!
- The Ultimate Digital Clean-Up Checklist: Are You Prepared For The New Year?
Update The Copyright Date
That’s right, it’s time to update the copyright year on your websites from <old date> – 2016 to <old date> – 2017. If you come across websites that show copyright dates as far back as 2003, the first word that pops to mind is “outdated.”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 2007. 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?
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.
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.
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,
- Recent jobs,
- Recent projects,
- New contracts,
- Contact info for references.
- How to Create a Great Web Design CV and Résumé?
- 6 Words That Make Your Resume Suck
- Give Your Resume a Facelift
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?)
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.
Spell-Check Your Website
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.
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.
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.
- Twitter Gets You Fired in 140 Characters or Less
- Twitter Can Be a Legal Minefield: Watch What You Say
- Warning: Social Networking Can Be Hazardous to Your Job Search
- Social Media Minute: Twitter Opens Up, Watch What You Say on Facebook
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.
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?
- DR. MAC: Make a Resolution to Protect Your Data
- Review: 4 Online Back-Up Services to Protect Your Data
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.
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.
- 10 Steps to the Perfect Portfolio Website
- 7 Tips for Improving Graphic Design Portfolios
- 10 Expert Tips for Designing a One-Page Portfolio
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Dirty Little Secrets of the Keyboard Revealed
- The Best Way to Clean Your Keyboard
- Cleaning Apple Aluminum Keyboard… Or Any Other Soft-Touch Keyboard
- Step-By-Step: Keep a Clean Keyboard
- Cures for a Crusty Keyboard
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.”
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.
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!
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!
- A Designer’s List of New Year’s Resolutions
- 10 Things You Can Do Right Now for Your Photography Business
- 45 Incredibly Useful Web Design Checklists and Questionnaires