12 May 2015

An Almost-Quarterly Project Management Update

After meeting with a couple of my fellow SCA seamstresses recently to discuss projects, project management, and goals, I thought I'd come here and share some thoughts on my personal process and how its revision has been going.

Last September I wrote my first "mission statement" post, mostly stemming from the feeling that costuming was sucking the life out of me and knowing that it was because I was pretty thoroughly sucking at managing my time and work effectively.  In December I posted an update, after a self-review surprised me by revealing that I was achieving my goals fairly well.  (You can see both of those posts here, or by clicking the "mission statement" tag on this post or the sidebar).

In the most recent five months, I've made progress, and I've also fallen off the wagon a little bit.  Most of the latter has happened since Gulf Wars - because I had a spectacularly awful war because I was ill the entire time I was there, and then cut short my trip because one of my pets was dying, the emotional fallout has sidelined me for a good two months.  But I'm back on track now and being truly productive again, and I've been re-thinking my process, refining some of my ideas, and discussing it with friends who have given me some excellent insights and new information to consider.

Goals From 2014 That I've Met and Good Habits Established: 

  1. Become better familiar with the number and scope of commissioned projects I can take on at a time so that I can make my work and delivery more reliable, without overloading myself or biting off more than I can chew. 
  2. Become better at establishing with new clients project parameters and delivery expectations
  3. Learn to "divide and conquer" my project loads to ensure that no one thing falls by the wayside and so that every project receives an equal amount of attention to quality
  4. Develop better workspace management habits (keep my room clean so I can work in it effectively)
  5. Develop and grow my skills and knowledge, and the quality of my output
  6. Learning to take the same care and put the same attention and quality into work for myself that I do into work for my clients.  

Goals I've Not Yet Met: 

  1. Blog-related project delivery.  I've done better this year than last year, but I'm still awful at things like: posting finished project pictures of ALL of my projects, and posting pictures of finished costumes ON my clients
  2. Participation in A&S: my A&S goals are stretched out over the course of this year, so it's not that I haven't done a good job, it's just that I'm only barely past the first marker.  I'm completely satisfied with my performance at Candlemas (the red Habsburg gown); I had fun, got over some fears, and learned a lot from the process that I think will help me in the future.  My next A&S checkpoint will be at Laurel's Prize Tourney in September of this year - I've got plenty of time to develop my project for that event and to develop my documentation skills, presentation, and confidence.  And trust me, I WILL be letting you know how all of that turns out. :) 

What's Next? 

I've been talking with friends recently about the more business-oriented aspects of being a seamstress.  I have no plans at present to develop my hobby sewing into anything like an actual business, but the more I learn about business and project management in the professional sense, the more I realize that much of it applies to casual, "sure, I'll make that for you" projects, and is VERY useful for learning to manage my productivity and quality in a more effective way.  

With the attention and development my commission projects and my personal wardrobe have been receiving, I'm noticing that more and more people are coming to me for advice, help with costuming, and actual commissions than ever before.  My work is improving consistently, and I feel I'm beginning to look the part of a person who actually knows what she's doing (in the past, I've focused 99% of my attention on commissions and then half-assed my own wardrobe in a mad dash the day before an event, which meant that while my "work" was well-received, *I* was still walking around events looking like a dump truck).  I'm beginning to receive more commission requests from outside of my circle of close friends, recently, as well. 

While I'm in no way resolving to stop doing the things that are working well for me (i.e. more effective project management, attention to detail, improving my "customer service", development of skill and quality), I have some new goals to add to my growing list of self-improvement strategies: 

  • I'd like to develop a more comprehensive set of project parameters to establish with clients, especially clients who I don't know well to begin with.  It's one thing to sew for a buddy with whom you already have a relationship and see all the time, where mutual understanding and communication aren't at issue; but it's another animal entirely working with someone you don't know.
  • While I've always known that I undervalue my work (and what maker or artist doesn't, really?), I've recently done some research into my past work and discovered that the extent to which I'm selling myself short, in MANY areas, is just staggering in proportion.  I'm not just talking about pricing, either - I fall short in areas of confidence, pride in my work, and in fear of judgment resulting in a dysfunctional sense of false humility. 
  • Because I anticipate one day doing a lot more work on a semi-professional level, I'd like to spend some time really tracking my costs, time, and labor on various projects, so that in the future I can have a better idea of what it is that I'm doing, so that I can more accurately predict for clients how long a project will take, what it involves, and what to expect overall.  
  • On the organizational front, I'd like to create a couple of notebooks to keep around:  a portfolio of my work, both for A&S purposes and to show to clients during design consultations; a working notebook in which to keep client information, measurements, and history, for my own use; and an SCA "resume" type of document or book, in which to keep track of both my project history and achievements. 
  • I'd like to develop my own wardrobe even further.  In my first few years in the SCA, I was excited by every new thing I discovered, and had a "one of everything" wardrobe, but because I jumped around so often, not one of my outfits was ever fully developed where things like jewelry and accessories were concerned.  I've been sticking with a time period/culture for longer periods of time in the past two years - I now have a [more or less] fully-developed 15th century Florentine wardrobe, my 14th-15th century English wardrobe is doing fairly well, and my Viking wardrobe is well on its way.  However, I still feel that each of those collections could use a little more depth.  The devil is in the details, as they say.  I met a man at Queen's Champion last week who was a paragon of periodicity.  I've seen people with very nice kits before, even epic kits, but this guy blew them all out of the water.  There was a level of detail and effort in his presentation that went far beyond having done a good job - you looked at this man, and it was like seeing someone from the 1100s actually, physically come to life before your eyes.  I want my own look to be working on THAT level! 

I'm a couple of weeks overdue on posting some finished stuff, so I'll get to that in the next few days (I just have to go through my camera and get pics ready for the blog), and in the next few days I'll also be talking about the next round of commissions and personal projects that I have lined up.  

See you soon! 


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