Stripping Back & Simplifying

stripping back & simplifying

Posted on


Setting up shop again after a hiatus is a helluva wake-up call. Having all my workflows in cloud services is wonderful. Until you need to stop using them for a while and realise how many services had your templates & work history locked away.

Time to declutter my workflow and simplify my subscription list.

Think of this as a workflow changelog.

Things I’ve stopped using:

  1. Zoho business
  2. Invision
  3. Abstract
  4. Basecamp
  5. Sketch
  6. Pep.cards
  7. Proposify
  8. coschedule (admittedly, I didn’t use it often)
  9. LastPass. For obvious reasons

One thing that really annoyed me? Sketch going pay-monthly and holding my design files – ones I designed under license– hostage.

Sure, I know they were forced to by Figma for undercutting them. But they didn’t have to make it so my old files wouldn’t open. 70% of why I preferred sketch over Figma was the idea of having my designs on my machine/own cloud storage. They made that a moot point.

I don’t know exactly what changes they made to sketch to make this happen, but my old files won’t open in abstract anymore. Meaning the local version control I prized over Figma’s “30 day version history” is no longer an advantage. This sucks, because abstract has always been so awesome as a product. I really hope they adapt to working with other tools. Also, when you throw sketch out, you knock out InVision too.

Things I’m using instead:

  1. Canva: 80% of my graphics for social or blog posts or anything non-client-based is done here. But also documents & proposal templates.
  2. Notion – from being a
    • client portal
    • onboarding and offboarding tool,
    • project management tool
    • blog post & social media planner,
    • product discovery tool,
    • sales pipeline management & CRM
    • and for storing blocks of text for my proposals. I’ve seen people use it to send proposals, but I would rather use Canva’s integration with PandaDoc.
  3. Figma – design, reviews, design libraries, and handover in one place. I still resent it for cannibalizing Sketch, but it is what it is. There are bigger problems in the world right now.
  4. For my day-to-day to-do lists and things that aren’t collab based, I’m using todoist. It handles recurring tasks very well with natural language recognition. If I need a combination of recurrent task reminders & notes & templates, I can link it to a notion template. This system isn’t as elegant as pep.cards, but it’s also not €30 a month either.
  5. Bitwarden. Open source and very slick.

Things I’m switching up:

  1. I used to keep my work diary in Notion, now I use P2. It’s more robust and designed for finding past entries. I’m using a separate P2 to store all my mood boards, design clips, product testing screenshots, design research, and looms videos for reference later. Everything can be tagged to make finding it later super easy. I’ve exported my InVision boards into P2.
  2. I’m switching from Mailchimp to ConvertKit. Since Mailchimp is slashing its free plan’s features after being acquired by intuit, ConvertKit is looking better for me in terms of price & features.
  3. I’m switching Balsamiq mockups desktop for Balsamiq cloud. It’s just easier to have it in the cloud and working with my online tools (P2, Notion). Plus, you don’t pay for months when your workspace is empty, so it’s nice if you’re not sure how often you’ll use it a year. I know you can wireframe in Figma, but once you’re in there it’s tempting to go straight to high-def design and that kills the point of low-res mockups. Also, the sheer speed of Balsamiq compared to anything else is hard to beat. It’s the only thing almost as fast as a pencil, but neater.
  4. Workflow switching up: I used to accept to work in client project management workspaces or email from their company email accounts, and now I’ve seen that once that project is over you lose access to how and why decisions were made. That’s not good for me long term as it means I don’t have anything to back me up if I need it.
  5. Also with my workflow: my client onboarding was lacking. It consisted of a nice proposal and contract with a timeline and a section on how I like to work, but really didn’t go into enough detail about how we would communicate, a dated schedule of when our feedback points would be, and all the nitty-gritty of managing expectations and setting clear boundaries that make for smooth sailing. I also wasn’t asking for 25%-50% upfront as is standard (I was “payment on handover”), and that made life harder for me if the scope of projects changed mid-project. It’s these small things that can sour a working relationship. So it’s all about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s now.

Long term, I hope to be using penpot.app for client design as it matures instead of Figma. It has a tool to import Figma designs and is open-source and is by the team that makes taiga.io.

So that’s my workflow decluttering. It’s a much cleaner and simpler flow.

I would 1000% urge anyone using Notion for “everything” to make sure it’s not the only source of their data. Same for confluence, or any other tool. Do a monthly backup and export and you’ll be “grand”, as they say.

How about you?

Is there anything you’ve been switching up in your freelance, startup, or business this year that’s making life simpler and lighter?


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay in touch

Get more informal notes, summaries, and screenshots, on the business of making digital products and running a calm creative business by signing up to my newsletter