GSD // Megan of The Fresh Exchange

Megan Gilger
Owner and Creative Vision behind Hitch Design Studio
Blogger at The Fresh Exchange

What does a typical day look like for you?
I never set an alarm. I am a late to bed and wake up sometime around 9 or 10 er. It is my natural rhythm. When I get up we like to get our coffee and take the dogs for a walk and try to ease in to the morning as much as possible. We make eggs after the walk and get to work. The morning is spent making to do lists and checking emails that came in during the night. Since my husband and I work together on many projects we talk about what will be happening during the day that needs to be accomplished, whether it is a photo shoot for the blog, a proposal for a new client, or prepping wireframes for a new web design. About half way through the day we try to get a work out in of some kind and eat lunch. Then we continue work till usually 6 or 7. This is when we make dinner, drink a glass of wine and try to relax. We usually end up back in the office again till 1 or 2AM. They are long days but right now this is the time in our lives where we need our nose to the grindstone in order to get to a place where we have more freedom. We are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel to being where we have dreamed for the past few years. 

What parts of your job do you love?  
Beginning as a designer I thought I loved design more than anything. To me it was about geeking out about the brand and logo design. Now after a few years of running my business and beginning a blog my love has shifted. I still love the brand building, but it is not where my heart and passions lie. Lately I am seeing a shift of myself falling in love with my blog and where it is going. I love the daily challenge it presents to me and I find it relaxing to know I can visually see an accomplishment. I also have discovered that my new strengths lie in consulting with clients about how to get the word out about their brand and helping them develop a story that is engaging and exciting to people. I see these 2 things becoming my focus in the next year. It is funny to see how your company changes the deeper you get in to it.

What parts of your job do you dislike? 
I hate the billing and finance part of it all. It drives me up a wall after a while. I can never keep up. My goal this next year is to get it under control in a big way. I want to make it more part of my routine. I think this is a dislike of every creative but I feel like at some point I have to suck it up or else my company will never feel comfortable to me as this part will never feel under control.

What things do you have to do that you didn't realize going into your job?
I never expected the piles of emails. Don't ask me why this never crossed my mind but I never expected to have to figure out how to manage emails. I love the emails and I love the questions and inquiries but I am not good at staying on top all the time. I get behind and I am learning there are just some things I cannot always answer. This has been the biggest learning curve for me this last year.

What type of calendar do you keep?
I use Google Calendar. It is a life saver as I am always on the go lately traveling and also partnering with various people. So we can easily share a calendar to one another. Also with working with my husband we use this a lot for various projects and deadlines so we are both on the same page every day.

How do you plan out your calendar?
The calendar has been a thing I had to learn and figure out quick as my business and blog grew. I am not overly organized so when I came across the color-coding this made it more fun to me. Every time we take a new client they receive their own color. Some are projects I share with my husband and others are run just by me so I am able to share that client or not. Then side projects and personal life all have their own as well.

How do you organize your to-do list?
This is an art I am still mastering. When I first began I tried to keep it in my head or in my notes on my phone...not such a smart idea as I learned after forgetting a deadline. Now I use a combo of my Google Calendar and TeuxDeux as well as sometimes a notebook to keep everything in line. Every day has a list and I do it every morning or else NOTHING will get done as I have learned the hard way. The busier a week the more important this list.

How do tackle your to-do list?
I work one by one. I have found that the biggest breaker of this list is my email. I look at it once in the morning and once at night. If I look at it through out the day I am in a downward spiral. So I try to stick to what I need to get done. The sooner I get those things the sooner I can look at my email and move on to the next list of to-dos. Email can be a time-suck to me if I am not careful and keep me from being successful in a day.

How do you attack your never-ending email? Do you have a certain strategy you use?
Like I said above I read it in the morning and then in the evening. This is usually my later session in the office in the evening. I use lots of folders to keep things organized. Every client, collaboration, and anything in between has its own folder. I am working to get contacts tagged in my address book better so I can more easily search for emails as things tend to get lost at times. The one thing I have learned is to be careful of when you respond. I have learned to respond to emails later in the day so I can make sure they have my answer for them in the morning. This is not always full-proof but I find it better for me personally. I am not perfect AT ALL with email though. This is my biggest weakness other than finances lately. Feeling I have a lot of growing to do here.

How do you plan out your projects for Hitch, Fresh Exchange and Blog Brunch?
HAHA awesome question. My life can get insane. I have a tendency to disappear for weeks on end sometimes. This week is one of those weeks. I buy groceries knowing I will not leave my home for the next 7 days most likely. Currently I am trying to find this balance with everything. I am learning to do less and say no more right now as I am over loaded and trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel as I am making changes to make my days more doable and flexible to create more and manage less.

Hitch is managed between my husband and I. He currently is now handling proposals. We are transitioning our business with the mindset that at some point we want a family. As we are making these transitions we are learning who does what and when. When it was just me it was different than it is now. I am most in charge of connections, consulting, and then him and I both split up design. Our aesthetics are similar. Since each client is a little different the planning process is always slightly different, but it usually goes like this. We write the proposal, we have a skype session, then write up contract, receive deposit, execute job and revisions, send project to developer or printer, and then send final invoice. Pretty simple.

For The Fresh Exchange I am just jumping in to the concept of an editorial calendar as the business is transitioning and allowing me to focus more. I am planning posts, getting ahead on content, and planning more shoots. I try to work 2-3 weeks out so there is plenty of time for editing and so on from photographers or videographers (this is usually me or my husband but sometimes friends).

Blog brunch we all work off of a calendar together. We have bi-monthly meetings to catch up make goals and begin prepping for the next month of brunch and other new concepts we have. Katie, Amy, I all split these responsibilities in different ways.

How do you get your blog posts organized and published?
This was one of things I was not aware took so much time when I begin blogging. Creating original content is a lot of work and I value people's posts so much more now after this year of working to create content that was unique to me. Like I said I have an editorial calendar (as in a color-cordinated calendar on Google Calendar) I set out ahead when a shoot will happen and try to shoot it 1-2 weeks before. But I begin my planning period about 3 weeks out. I am planning one now where I am gathering items and ideas currently but do not plan to begin it till almost the end of the month. I act as Art Director for every shoot so I have to be prepared to share my vision clearly with my photographer and stylists who may be apart of the shoot. The more preparation ahead of time the better. Once I have the photos it tends to be between 2-3 hours of work to get the post together.

When you are stuck on a project, how do you get out of the rut?
I do the exact opposite. I work out, take a walk, cook, call a friend, take a nap, drink wine, take a shower, or even watch TV. Anything that is away from the computer that engages my mind in a new way. I try not to look at inspiration as I find that it will get stuck in my head as the solution and it will end up as too close of a copy and I am right back to where I started and I am even more frustrated. The best ideas come to me while I am sleeping though. Many times I have planned a whole shoot, designed a logo, or layed out a website in my sleep. I wake up and know the solution. These are also some of my favorite designs or shoots.

How do you GSD at home?
Cleaning and life takes a second right now in comparison to work. Everything right now revolves around GSD. I do set aside time to cook three meals a day for us as I believe eating well is a major contribution to creating well. But cleaning and laundry happen once a week and that is it. At times I have thought about hiring someone to come clean two times a month as the cost of someone verses my time away from work makes more sense than me cleaning myself. I am just too cheap though.

Nuggets of advice you've been given that have stuck?
I struggled for a long time with the idea of success and what it means. I felt I was never going to meet expectation but when I read this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson I felt so much relief. To this day it has become like gospel to me. My whole perception of business, blogging, and life has come down to this quote and I re-read this almost every day. I think so many of us have lost site of how we define success and it leaves us feeling empty and losing the passion for what we do that we began with. This keeps my head on straight even on the worst days.
"What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; that is to have succeeded." 
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Any other information about how you GSD, please share?
I wake up and grab my coffee and say "today I will make something beautiful."

Lemon for receipts
VSCO for photo editing
Instagram for posting photos
Around Me to find coffee or whatever I may need when traveling
Freshbooks for Billing
TeuxDeux for To Do lists
Super 8 for making videos quick

Pinterest for inspiration and idea gathering
Gimme Bar for idea gathering
Google Reader for my blog reading (when I had time)
Facebook for social interactions on my Fresh Exchange page
Google + for talking with clients

Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign)
Twitter App for Desktop
Imovie for editing quick videos
Skype for connecting with people all day
Freshbooks for finances and invoicing

Mackbook Pro 13 inch


Alison Dulaney said...

I love this series!I love hearing how people do it all and actually get it done:)


Anna @ IHOD said...

Really love this series Meg!
Its fun to see other's creative process as well as learn some fun new programs and tools.
And Megan, you have an awesome perspective.
Fun reading this!
P.S. Glad to know I am not the only one behind on emails all the time:)

ame said...

love this series!!! And I love this particular profile because I love their company and I love the relevance to what I do (the same thing!), and how hard it is to juggle it all plus throwing in that I also still work full time on top of it. It's not easy! I am glad to know that she and I have the same "method", G-Cal. TeuxDeux. Lists. I am good about email though. I cannot leave a little red unread on my iPhone. I can't do it. I MUST REPLY.

ame said...

I LOVE this series!!! I love this profile in particular because I do a VERY similar line of work, and still work full time on top of it, so I can definitely relate, and I feel a twinge of envy that she works at home all day iwth her husband and has that freedom!

I love that she also uses and relies upon Google Cal, TeuxDuex and listmaking. But I am on my email like flies on roadkill bec the little red unread tag that shows makes me insane!

Rita TOMORROWtoday said...

such a great quote, thank you for sharing! also love your morning mantra!

MLawrence said...

I love this interview! It gave me great inspiration for my own planning!

Megan Gilger said...

Thank you so much Meg for featuring me! It came together perfectly!!!


Cindy Garza said...

Just found your blog via Megan of The Fresh Exchange and I love it! And I loved the post on Megan, isn't she great?! I really love designed posts that go into the lives of creative and inspiring people. :)

Cindy @ My Bella Vida

Cindy Garza said...

Just found your blog via Megan of The Fresh Exchange and I love it! And I loved the post on Megan, isn't she great?! I really love designed posts that go into the lives of creative and inspiring people. :)

Cindy @ My Bella Vida

Wendy said...

I attended my first blog brunch this past Saturday and I loved it. There was a sense of energy from the tweeters and great tips sharing. I'll be publishing a post about my experience later this week.

Lauren | Seventeenth & Irving said...

I love Megan's blog and her work, it's awesome to see her featured here. I especially like the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote she provided, we should all take that to heart.

Eva Black said...

What a great series!!

Loved this.

Megan you're amazing!

Samantha Green said...

megan is one of my favourite bloggers and this is such a great series! as life gets increasingly busy, reading how other people GSD is really helpful and inspiring :) xx

Jen of MadeByGirl said...

She's so cute! love the rug too...! :)


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