Archive: May 2013

  1. How to Obtain Work as a Freelance Designer

    Leave a Comment 5 min read

    A lot of people think of freelancing as an escape from the usual confines of the traditional 9 – 5 job and while this might be true, there’s absolutely no doubt that being a freelancer is hard work. Sure, it might offer a lot of freedom; you can work when/how you like and you can also choose the work that you do (to some extent at least), but one of the most difficult aspects of being a freelancer is actually finding a constant stream of high quality work.

    It’s because of this that a lot of freelancers struggle, especially in their first couple of years of business. A lot of people quit their jobs armed with a fantastic skill set but still, fail to get work. This is because there are so many freelancers out there these days that there is a lot of competition, so you need to think smart if you want to get the best work for yourself.

    I’ve been freelancing for a few years now and at first, I also struggled but now, things are much better and I earn a good amount of money. It’s not a fortune, but it’s enough to live on and live the life I want to lead. So, In this post, I’m going to give a few pointers that will help all freelance designers to find work.

    1. Build A Portfolio


    The most important thing to have as a freelancer is a good portfolio of work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a freelance designer, writer or coder, you’ll need to be able to prove your worth before clients will trust you with their project.

    Obviously, this is a kind of catch 22 situation; you can’t build a portfolio if no-one is willing to give you work in the first place. One of the ways to combat this is to initially work for free or for a reduced fee in order to attract clients.

    Personally, I recommend working for free when you’re just starting out. The reason for this is that it will give you a lot more freedom over the project. If the client is paying you, even if it is a reduced fee, they still consider theirselves to be heavily in charge of the project and often, will keep interrupting your plans with their own, not so great ideas. If you do the project for free, you’re doing the client a favour and therefore, you can play by your own rules to some extent.

    It gives you an opportunity to create something that you will be proud to feature in your portfolio and that you know will attract new clients.

    2. Don’t Accept Low Paid Work

    2-pay-packet
    As tempting as it might be for new freelancers, you need to force yourself not to accept extremely low paid work. You’ll probably get a lot of offers for work that really, is way below what you should be being paid considering your skill set and it’ll be extremely tempting to take it but personally, I think this is a mistake.

    I used to accept low paid work and I found that it didn’t have the desired effect that I was hoping for. Instead of leading to new opportunities from higher quality, better paying clients, it simply led to even more low paid work that honestly, I didn’t feel passionate about or want to be involved in.

    By setting your price high, you’ll attract a higher quality client base and thus, obtain work that you’re more passionate about. For example, if someone is only willing to pay £10 for you to design a poster for them, they clearly aren’t that worried about whether the poster is high quality or not. Even so, they’ll still feel great about telling you exactly how to do your job rather than trust you with your creativity.

    3. Use Freelancing Sites


    Freelancing sites are getting more and more common these days and some freelancers actually obtain all of their work from these sites. I’m sure you know the type of sites that I’m talking about; PeoplePerHour, Elance, Freelancer.co.uk etc, they all give you the opportunity to bid for jobs and carry out work for clients.

    All you need to do is look for jobs within the specific category that you freelance in (as demonstrated by the image above for the Graphic Design category of Freelancer.co.uk). There are jobs posted here daily on most sites and therefore, you can obtain a constant stream of work if you provide a competitive proposal and have a good portfolio to show potential clients.

    The more you can build up your profile on these sites, the more work you’ll obtain as clients will trust you more and more.

    4. Networking (this is the key!)


    A lot of freelancers tend to be quite reserved people in my experience. They like being given the opportunity to unleash their creativity and design something exceptional, but they don’t really like networking, having meetings and all that business stuff.

    Obviously, you may be different as you might enjoy it and if you do, that’s great. Networking can often lead to a huge amount of opportunities and the good news is that there are a lot of different ways to do it.

    For example, you can head over to a networking event in your local town if you’re a “people person” and feel particularly confident about selling yourself. This can be a great way to introduce yourself to potential clients that will be willing to pay good money for the right freelancer.

    However, you can also network in other ways too. For example, you can get involved in online discussions on freelancing or design websites. This is a great way to get the message about your services out there and hopefully, obtain new customers. LinkedIn is a great place to start with this as it’s full of key decision makers.

    Whichever you choose, networking is a key part of the client acquisition process so gaining those people skills will be a key factor in your success.

    Conclusion

    The important point to take away from this post is that not every freelancer will obtain clients in the same way. Some might choose to network and obtain clients that way while others might use freelancing websites such as PeoplePerHour.com.

    However, you should still take on board the other points I made in this post. Set your price at a reasonable price point and get an impressive portfolio together. Every freelancer needs this.

    Photo Credit to Dave Makes

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  2. The Challenges Facing a Small Graphic Design Company

    4 Comments 4 min read

    Small graphic design companies, consisting of one designer or a few people working together, face significant goals and challenges. They can respond to clients in a very personal manner, executing work individually tailored to each client’s needs, but in order to flourish they need the skills and experience to meet certain basic challenges.

    You have to be a jack-of-all-trades

    Whether a designer works alone or with a small team, he or she has to be a talented juggler, good at keeping several balls in the air all at once. Marketing ability doesn’t always come easily to artist types, but developing a web-design project or a printed graphic package requires full use of business skills as well as artistry. Furthermore, of course, the web designer has to be expert at basic HTML and CSS as well as various other tools needed for site-building, image-editing and video, sound or animation.

    You need great people skills

    While most customers are delightful to work with, if you’re in the business for long enough you’ll inevitably run into the ones who aren’t so delightful. As a small company, it’s sometimes tempting to simply make oral agreements and let the billing slide, assuming that payments will naturally materialize once the client has the work in hand.

    Unfortunately, every independent graphic designer comes to the realization, sooner or later, that clear contracts are needed. Even with the best of intentions, clients can overlook payment, or decide halfway through a project that they don’t really want to go through with it after all. In the course of developing a job with clients, it’s crucial that the designer ask for a down payment of at least half the fee, and (with complex, multi-part projects) set specific mileposts so that the client understands the steps clearly. Revisions that are welcome early on can create havoc if parts of the design have already been incorporated into a larger piece.

    You have to decide between local and online vendors

    When Blue Barn Graphics, a small website design company in New York, offers printed products (such as business cards, catalogs, brochures, etc.) they realize they need to find a printing vendor to work with. Generally an established design firm will have numerous contacts for each type of job, it just takes a while to build these up. There are numerous online sources of printing, usually for lower prices than local printshops. Each of the two options has advantages and drawbacks, and the designer has to weigh these individually for each job.

    In the case of a client who’s looking for the lowest price, and whose order doesn’t involve large-format or high-quality images, online printers are often the most cost-effective choice. For design clients who have a high-end or large-format project, where attention to quality details is more important than saving a few dollars, it’s a pleasure for the designer to be able to consult in person with a trusted local printer. But the online vs. local question doesn’t stop with the printer.

    Small design companies that create websites as well as logos and printed products may well have artists whom they contract with for some of the logo design or image sourcing. Many excellent logo artists offer their services through online crowd-sourced platforms, and the advantage of using these platforms is that the client may be given the opportunity to choose between a dozen or more logos in order to find the one they like best.

    On the other hand, if the web designer has a relationship with a local graphic artist or photographer, it may be possible to discuss jobs ahead of time in such a personalized way that the two or three possibilities that the artist produces will all be very high-quality and appropriate for the client’s needs.

    You have to produce social content for SEO

    The success of a small website design company depended on how well they get their name out in the online marketplace. With the increasing shift from traditional advertising to social media marketing, it’s necessary for someone in the company to spend a good amount of time keeping the company’s blog and Facebook Page updated. This is still another situation in which a local employee can be hired, or a remote vendor can be contracted with.

    In the course of developing a successful business, the small designer will end up as an accomplished juggler, capable of deftly sliding between the artistic, social, technical and business worlds.

    Photo Credit to Jeremy Levine Design

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  3. Strip Search Interview – Alex Hobbs

    1 Comment 7 min read

    Recently Penny Arcade launched their new TV series Strip Search in which a myriad of talented web cartoonists battle it out week on week to beat out the competition and win themselves a spot in the Penny Arcade offices and $15,000 cash to help catapult them into their career as a purveyor of premier web comics. Every week, two contestants must face off against each other in an elimination, each producing a comic strip from a pre determined theme. The comics are then critiqued by the creators of Penny Arcade; Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins who decide which artist will remain in the competition and which will be sent home after having their comic burnt/shredded/eaten.

    The first contestant to leave the Strip Search house was Alex Hobbs – a web cartoonist from Temple Arizona (you can watch the elimination episode here). Alex runs the awesome semi-autobiographical web comic Wanderlust Kid and was kind enough to tell The Design Range a little about his time in the competition.


    So about how long did it take you to decide to apply for Strip Search? Was there any deliberation as to whether you should or not?

    I’ve been all about Strip Search since I heard it was a thing that could actually exist. When it turned up as one of Penny-Arcade’s Kickstarter stretch goals, I just lost it. The application was sent i-fucking-mmediately. It was the opposite of hesitation. Haste? I just checked some antonyms for ‘hesitation’ and haste wasn’t in there. Whatever, I didn’t waste any time waiting to signing up.

    Once you heard back that you’d been accepted for the show, what were your first thoughts?

    It was around two o’clock in the morning when I received that e-mail. I had just finished the comic for my next update and was tired as shit, with school or work in a handful of hours, I can’t remember which. But instead of just, you know, going to bed I went on the internet and was sincerely rewarded for doing so. The feeling was… I don’t know. I had not been so excited for something in a long time. You get stuck in these everyday patterns to keep up with your life and it takes a thing like this to break you out. It was this incredible sense of validation, and of just being alive. I went surfing once when I was really young, and I remember how terrifying and exhilarating it was all at once. That’s a good way to put it. So yeah, there weren’t as many thoughts as there were primal evocations. Then I promptly passed out to sleep a deep sleep.

    Obviously the format of Strip Search shares similarities with shows like The Apprentice where the contestants are all real dicks. How was it finding that all the other artists were really nice?

    Dude, this is Penny-Arcade. I knew this wasn’t going to be some mongoose pit. Robert Khoo’s application process is legendary, so I went in expecting the Penny-Arcade caliber of talent and human decency. I was not disappointed. The only thing I did not expect, but rather hoped, was to become friends with all these people.

    Do you think Amy made the right decision choosing you? (Your design was my personal favourite, so I was pretty pissed for you!)

    Seriously? Mine was your favorite? That means a lot, considering how well everybody else did. I’ve had a few people say the same and I think it’s because you guys, the beautiful bastards that you are, could see what I was trying to do and not so much what I did. I don’t find a lot to admire in my amalgam of teal, purple, and orange, but the idea of a crest is definitely solid. I’ll probably have something like that associated with my work after I painstakingly reassure myself it is of quality.

    As far as Amy’s decision, myeh, it did not catch me by surprise. The fact that I was not called out as the worst was relieving, but I expect my design took the position right above Abby’s on the judges’ scale. And it’s weird to say, but when Amy joined us after deliberating I could see the decision on her. Agreeing with it or not is a pointless stance to take. It happened, and it’s more important to deal with what is and not what could have been.

    More importantly, do you think Mike and Jerry made the right decision in eliminating you?

    Yep, Katie’s comic was much better.

    Do you think having a style influenced by Mike Krahulik worked for or against you?

    Nah, I think my shirt design and stupid elimination comic worked against me. I figure the only time my style would have caused problems was during the application process. Obviously Khoo found some merits in my work despite the stigma that comes with a Krahulik style.

    Watching some of the newer episodes, are there any challenges that you wished you’d had a chance to participate in?

    Oh yeah. I would have kicked so much ass at the go-karts. I’m not some secret pro at driving, I would have just gone nuts and went for it. The Wizards of the Coast challenge was pretty cool too, but I would not have done very well with that media or time frame. Oh man, and the ping pong! I can’t narrow it down to a single thing. Every new episode is an opportunity that I sorely missed.

    Do you know who the winner is yet, and if not who do you think will be the winner?

    I’ll just point this question in the direction of Mike Krahulik’s public statements on the subject and rake a hand through my hair nonchalantly.

    How are Mike and Jerry in real life (and the rest of the Penny Arcade team for that matter)? Did you get a chance to meet any of them off camera?

    I didn’t see much more of Mike and Jerry than you guys did, but they really are the same people you see in their PATV stuff. They are always on; cracking wise, shifting from shit-giving to doling praise and wisdom with no moment of separation. The elimination round could have been a grueling thing, but those two somehow made the knowledge that one of us would be leaving not seem so bad.

    The rest of the crew, PA and Loading-Ready-Run, were also just incredible. I only spent a little time off camera with them, but it doesn’t take very long to know when a person is good. You may have heard that Robert Khoo grants the night’s Defeated a dinner of their choosing. This is true. Some people chose to talk business, something I probably should have done, but we ended up discussing our favorite Final Fantasy and the like. I wholly disapprove of his choice, which I will not mention here, but the man has an incredibly persuasive and thorough dissection of the ending to FFVIII.

    Have you found any differences in your life, or with Wanderlust Kid since appearing on the show?

    Change number one; people actually read my shit now. Arguably the best change. I also know famous comic people who I’ve always looked up to! That’s really cool. I’ve had one person recognize me I the real world, too! My life now truly centers around my comic; all this time I spend drawing is legitimized somewhat. I also have found a group of friends who understand the demands of this life and keep me from being entirely ostracized from human interaction. When people ask what I do, I can say that I am an aspiring web cartoonist with more confidence than ever. I’m still working on that part, though. Maybe I’ll be more comfortable when I start earning a living off it. All in good time. Oh! And I started a twitter. That’s kind of significant.

    What are you plans for the future?

    My plan is to go and make something of myself. To prove to myself and to everyone that this was not some fluke, just an idle stroke of luck that fell to me. I have so many story ideas and an endless drive to improve my art… this really is just the beginning.

    You can keep up with Alex’s exploits over at Wanderlust Kid and make sure to watch some more of the Strip Search episodes!


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  4. How to Make a Clients Website Mobile Friendly?

    3 Comments 4 min read

    With the recent explosion of mobile users on iPhone, Android, and other devices, website owners have been scrambling to make their sites more mobile friendly and draw more viewers to their site. This can lead to a lot of clients, old and new knocking on your door pleading with you to make their website “look like an app” on their iPhone. If you are looking for options for your WordPress site, check out the following recommendations.

    Creating a Separate Mobile Site

    Have you visited some sites like CNN or Facebook on your mobile browser and notice a m. or .mobi extension? If so, you have visited a website that is hosting a separate website for their mobile users. Mobile websites were all the rage in the early days of mobile web development but now are beginning to fall by the wayside with recent advances in mobile web design.

    The key advantages of creating a separate mobile site is that you can customize the site for your mobile users and even offer dedicated content that’s exclusive for them. With that said, that will mean that you will have to regularly update both websites. Also, make note that if your mobile website is not hosted on the same web server as your main site, Google may penalize your site.

    Install WPtouch

    Many web developers use plugins to help make their site mobile friendly. There are many choices out there, but the most popular and most intuitive is WPtouch. The WPtouch plug essentially takes your website and renders it for your user automatically. Developers Brave New Code have pre-programmed the plugin to pull the best content from your website and display it in a mobile friendly format.

    Many web developers use plugins to help make their site mobile friendly.

    Some customization is possible with the WPtouch plugin under the advanced options. A series of check boxes can allow you to change how certain items are displayed and even add menu items that were not originally rendered. You can also do some very minor tweaking to the layout in regards to colors and font size.

    Mobile Stylesheets

    Much in the same way that web developers create different CSS stylesheets for users on different browsers, mobile web developers can do the same thing to render websites for different mobile devices. This option is geared more for those with more technical knowledge or those with developers handling their site creations, but it does have a key advantage over plugins.

    With stylesheets you can customize your content for each individual device. Have you ever visited a site that displays some content on Android but no on the iPad or iPhone? This is done via the use of stylesheets.

    Responsive Design

    If you are looking for more of a “one size fits most” approach to making your site mobile friendly, you should explore responsive web design for your site. Simply stated, a responsive web design will allow your website to automatically readjust itself depending on what type of mobile device you site is being viewed from.

    Unlike plugins, stylesheets, and other mobile solutions, your content remains the same for each device and that content is re-sized and even rearranged automatically depending on device. This is via the use of fluid, proportion-based grid, CSS3 media queries, and flexible images. If that sounds highly technical to you, that would be correct.

    Responsive web design at its core is a much more technically advanced design concept over other solutions.

    Responsive web design at its core is a much more technically advanced design concept over other solutions. Fortunately, you can still take advantage of this without having to shell out hundreds to a web developer. There are numerous responsive design templates available online pre-programmed for you to use. This video on creating a mobile friendly site will show you how a responsive template works and how to find them.

    If you are not sold on responsive design, make note that Google now recommends responsive web design for mobile sites. Mashable.com has even called 2013 the Year of the Responsive Web Design.

    What Best Suits Your Site

    While several options have been presented to you for mobile web design, you need to take the time and evaluate which option will best suit you site. If your site is more post driven, then WPtouch could be your answer. Those of you wanting to give different experiences based on device are better suited for stylesheets. Webmasters wanting to have a solution that covers multiple platforms will want to consider responsive design. Evaluate your needs and then choose a solution that is best suited for your site.

    Photo Credit to Sean MacEntee

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