Image credit: hitthatswitch, used under Creative Commons license. Edited by RMLalchan

Back in the late noughties I was part of a church that purchased its own building after many years spent running its services from a variety of venues.

Going from a situation where each element had to be set up every week for a 300 plus congregation, to one where you could leave the chairs out -to give one example, led to a huge shift in mentality.

Everything that had been done before was revisited. Some activities had no choice but to change. For example a whole new audio visual system was put in to specifically cater for the new environment. New rotas had to be set up including providing training to help members familiarise themselves with new equipment and surroundings.

So much was new, yet even though the essence remained the same, everything required a greater level of attention to detail. More concentration. More focus. It was time to ‘raise the game’.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately partly due to it being the end of the year and assessing where I want to be in 2014. It feels like with many things at Creatives Hub we have established who we are and what we’re doing. We have good structures and processes in place that means every new event, every podcast episode, every mini-hub meeting, every newsletter we send, we have a good base to build from. We’re not starting from scratch each time.

That doesn’t mean we’ve ‘made it’, or even that we won’t strive for more. Believe me we have our plans for 2014 and beyond. It will take a long while before Creatives Hub is a self-sustaining business as we don’t make any significant money out of it thus far. But that will come in time.

No. It just means it’s time to step up a level. To get a bit more serious. Just like finding a permanent home and making the necessary adjustments till it becomes livable and then an asset to others. It’s time to ‘Raise our game’. So how do you go about stepping it up this year?

Here’s four ways you can raise your game in 2014

1. Choose to improve

Let’s start with what ‘Raise your game’ actually means. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as:

‘to make an effort to improve the way that you do something’

That’s involves a choice. You have to want to improve your processes, your workflow. No one can make you do it. Are you too comfortable? –and you can be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. You’re used to it. Coasting. This will only take you so far. You have to choose to improve.

2. Keep on doing the stuff

Dan Benjamin on his ever popular Quit! podcast often encourages people getting into the podcast business with one statement. ‘You have to keep showing up’. That is, you do it day-in, day-out. Week-in, week-out. You become a fixture in other peoples lives. You may not receive much contact back from your community immediately, but they will know and feel it when you’re not there.

It takes real commitment to keep on doing the stuff especially when you’re starting out. To keep putting out chairs for your event not knowing how many people will show. To keep recording a weekly podcast having no idea if anyone will listen. To keep posting those daily blogs despite zero comments on the last twenty.

It can sometimes be demoralising and you can feel like you’re making little impact on the very people with whom you know your message will help.

Raising your game means getting over that. Don’t get me wrong. You need to tweak where necessary. Insanity is repeating the same process again and again whilst expecting different results. No. You need to act, learn, change, repeat. But still do.

3. Know what you look like

Often when we start projects, the branding or look and feel can take a secondary step. You’re too busy developing your product or service to worry about how to communicate it. As someone who has worked in web design and communications for fifteen odd years, I know this is a mistake. But I do understand why people don’t focus on it initially. If you don’t have the skills yourself, it can cost a fair amount to get it done properly.

However, raising your game means no longer accepting an amateur approach to the way your product or service looks and feels or the way you deal with clients and customers. It’s about realising you may need to outsource certain aspects to professionals. You’re now getting serious.

4. Work smarter not harder

Having come from a technology background and generally having an inquisitive mind, I’m always investigating new tools and techniques to improve my workflow. It’s one topic that I get asked about more than any other. When you start your business or get a side-project going, its easy to fall into ways of working that are extremely inefficient.

For example, I know people, self-employed for several years who send out their invoices created in Microsoft Word, then record it in a spreadsheet. Unless they keep checking back at the spreadsheet, there’s no way of knowing when the invoice is due without using another tool to set up reminders. Additionally there is often no process for chasing money. Its not too surprising that these people tend to be owed significant amounts of money as chasing invoices is sporadic to say the least.

I’m sorry if this is you, but this is antiquated. In 2014 (or even 2013) there is no reason why this needs to be the case. Raising the game means using tools like Freeagent (and there are many others out there) to send out invoices that are fully tracked, have links for customers to pay online, have regular automated email reminders and make you look more professional. I wrote a review of it a while back. This process saves me tens of hours per month which I can devote to other aspects of the business.

It’s just one example. I could have mentioned shared documents, efficient note taking apps, tools for creating websites and more, some of which you can see from our resources page.

Raising your game, is not about putting in more hours. Its about working more efficiently so you can eventually work less.

That church I mentioned did all of the above. They improved their visual image both through the quality of the building furnishings, the publicity material, the website and audio visuals. They soon employed more staff to help run things efficiently. It’s no surprise they started to increase their attendance.

Is it time for you to step up in 2014? Is it time to get serious –and I DO NOT mean lose the fun?  Maybe it’s time to build on what you’ve done in the past. To act, learn, change and repeat. It’s time to raise your game.

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If you want to raise your game but don’t know where to start, join us at Creatives Hub Live! on Tuesday January 28th 6.45pm in London. We’d love to encourage you to kickstart your creative life in 2014.

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Over to you

You will see us tweet over the next month using the hashtag #2014RaiseYourGame. Please join in and let us know what you are doing in 2014 to take things that little bit further.

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Richard Lalchan

Richard Lalchan is founder of Creatives Hub whose mission is to help as many creatives as possible get rid of the shackles of procrastination, break out of fear, grow in confidence and get stuff done. He also works with individuals and businesses to build their web presence, runs a podcast network and is currently writing his first sci-fi novella.

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