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January 23 2014


6 Common Freelancing Problems That Using a Contract May Solve

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Tired student or businessman working with laptop in the office

Frequently when I hear or read of a freelance web designer having problems with a client, there is no contract in place. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Contracts are very important for the freelancer. If you can’t get a formal contract with a client, at least get your agreement in writing. An email recapping a telephone conversation you had can work.

Why is getting your freelancing agreement in writing so important? Simply put, a written agreement or contract can solve a lot of common freelancing problems.

Without a written agreement, the terms of your project can easily deteriorate into a debate about who said what. Trust me, you do not want that to happen. When it does, it isn’t pretty.

With a contract in place, you both have something to refer to during the course of the project. And, in a worst case scenario, you can use your written agreement to support your case in court.

In this post, I’ll identify six common problems that freelancers face and explain how having a written work agreement can help with each problem. If you liked this post, you’ll probably also like 7 Keys to a Successful Design Project.

Problem #1. The Never-Ending Project

If you’ve been freelancing for any length of time, you’ve probably already encountered the never-ending web design project.

The never-ending project occurs when the client refuses to close the project, instead keeping it open by making revision request after revision request. The project just seems to go on and on and on…

This common problem is even worse if you’re waiting to close the project so that you can get paid for your work.

Fortunately, a good contract or written agreement can help. Simply include a clause that states that your agreement includes x number of revisions and that the client will be billed for any revisions beyond that amount.

Problem #2. Getting Paid on Time

Payout Day on a background with a diagram, a pen and a calculator

At one time or another nearly every freelancer has had problems getting paid.

I can remember finishing a project as a subcontractor and billing the client who had hired me, only to wait and wait for payment. When I emailed my client to ask for my payment, they stated that they were waiting to be paid for the work by their client. Apparently, they wouldn’t be able to pay me until they got paid–something I hadn’t realized when I took the job. Two months later, I finally received payment.

The whole payment problem should be dealt with up front. I highly recommend requiring most clients to make a partial payment before you begin work. In addition, your work agreement should spell out exactly when and how you will be paid.

With a written agreement or contract, both you and the client know what to expect when it comes to payment. And you have something to fall back on if you don’t get paid when you expected to get paid. It pays to include payment details in your contract–literally.

Problem #3. Creeping Scope

Did you ever seriously underestimate the amount of work that a web design project would take?

If you have, the culprit may have been scope creep. The scope of a project defines what work is included in the project (and sometimes it also specifies what is not included). The more scope details you consider when you create a project estimate, the more accurate that estimate will be.

Every written agreement or contract should include a detailed description of the scope of the project. If the client has not provided you with enough details to create an accurate project estimate, then you need to continue asking questions until you fully understand the project.

Taking a project with a poorly defined scope may cause you to wind up spending far more time on the project that you intended to.

Problem #4. Ownership Debates

Who owns the finished web design when you have completed the project?

Can you base other web designs of off the web design you just finished? Can you market variations of the web design to other clients? What about your client? Can they market the finished web design to other businesses? Can they use it to develop other web designs?

Without specifying who owns the intellectual rights to your finished work, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

When negotiating your work agreement with your client, be sure to bring up the issue of intellectual property. Include any intellectual property agreements that you and the client arrive at in your contract. This way, if there are any questions about who owns what later on, you have it in writing.

Problem #5. Mismatched Expectations

You expected the client to be available to answer all of your questions about the project in a timely fashion. However, the client expected that they wouldn’t be bothered by you until you turned in the finished design.

If this has ever happened to you, you understand how mismatched expectations can really sabotage a freelancing project.

It’s best to get these differences in expectations ironed out before the project starts. Again, it’s a matter of communication. Tell the client what you expect from them and ask how they expect the project to go. Don’t automatically assume that you are in agreement unless you have talked about it.

Once you have discussed expectations, you are ready to include a clause including your assumptions in the work agreement.

Problem #6. Too Many Meetings & Phone Calls


This is a tricky problem. You certainly don’t want to discourage your client from communicating with you. On the other hand, you don’t want to sit through boring weekly status meetings that are several hours long and have little to do with your part of the project.

Different clients have different expectations when it comes to phone calls and meetings. Some clients are happy to meet with you only once to define the terms of the project. Other clients expect regular meetings and updates from you–even when you have nothing new to report.

Unfortunately, meetings and phone calls can take a lot of your time if you let them. It’s important to ask the client what their expectations are about meetings before you come to an agreement. If the client indicates that you will be participating in regular status meetings, include the cost of that time in your estimate.

In your contract or working agreement, you can specify how many hours of meeting time are included in the project. State that meeting time that exceeds the specified number of hours will be billed for at your hourly rate. This type of clause makes a client think twice about requiring you to attend unnecessary meetings or calling you up just to talk.

Your Turn

While some problem clients are destined to be problems no matter what, a surprising number of problems can be solved by having a strong and detailed written agreement in place before you start work.

Do you include any other problem-solving clauses in your contracts or agreements? What are those clauses? Share your answers in the comments below.

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January 15 2014


eCommerce Basics for New Online Store Owners

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When you first set up an online store, you may be happy just to have all of the work to get the store up and running done. Maybe you think the work on your site is finished, and now it’s time to shift to fulfilling orders and taking care of customer issues. It’s not that simple. When your store is brand new, it’s not time to stop working on your site. In a way, you’re just getting started.

Analytics are Important

Once your store is up and running, you can start figuring out how your site really needs to be set up. Until people actually start interacting with your site, there’s no way to tell how all of the pieces are working or what can be improved. You can use good eCommerce principles to get started, and that will certainly give you better results than having no idea what a good eCommerce site needs to look like or how it needs to work. But what you really need in order to make your site as profitable as it can be are eCommerce analytics.
Online analytics are simply data about what people do on your site. You can track where visitors come in to your site from, what pages they visit, what links they click on, and more. Studying this data will show you what people are actually doing when they visit your brand-new store site, and it can reveal where you are losing potential sales.

Key Analytics to Track

When you first set up eCommerce analytics, you may not be sure what you are looking for. There are many different kinds of data and analyses you can learn about to help tune your site for best performance. To start with, look at how many new visitors you are bringing in to your site every day. Gaining new customers is vital to your growth. Advertise your site on social media networks and by using online ads, and then track where visitors come from. This will help you see which ads are the most effective so you can focus your advertising efforts there.
Another important set of metrics are those which have to do with site engagement. You need to know how long people are staying on your site and what they do when they visit. The more people browse your site, the bigger the chance they will buy something and make larger orders. HYPERLINK “″ The important metrics to look at here are average visit duration, pages viewed per visit, and bounce rate.
Also use your eCommerce analytics to discover the primary landing and exit pages in your site. You want to know the pages that people are looking at first, because you can tweak these pages to encourage visitors to explore more deeply. You can also figure out what people are searching for online when they find your site, which is beneficial for advertising efforts. On the other side, you need to know what pages people leave your site from, especially if they are pages in your checkout process. You want to keep people on your site the whole way through the checkout process in order to make sales. If customers are leaving early or if they are never even making it to your shopping cart, you need to figure out how to entice them to make sales and direct them to the checkout process.
When you start getting real data on how visitors interact with your site, the really interesting part of site-building begins. Until you have real visitor data, you can’t be sure what changes will be the most helpful in your site. When you start changing in response to real data, you will see the results in improved sales and better profits.

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January 13 2014


The Five Stages of a Web Design Business

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We’re always looking for ways to bring new information to you. This week we’re hosting a free live online training class and we wanted to give you all the details. If you like this class we can host more of them for you and you can even pick the next topic!

The class is titled The Five Stages of a Web Design Business, and it will cover a lot of information that can help you in your web design business.

Here’s the outline for the class:

  • The five stages of a web design business
  • How to determine which stage your business is in, and how you can quickly progress to the next stage and increase your income
  • Common challenges web design businesses face in each stage
  • Which technical and business skills you need to run a successful web design business
  • How to increase the value of each of your clients
  • How to earn a full-time income working part-time
  • Why 20% of your clients will generate 80% of your income, and how to stop wasting your time with the unprofitable 80%.

This class will be presented on Thursday, January 16, at 12:00 pm CST. After the information is presented, there will be a live Q&A session.

I encourage you all to take advantage of this opportunity. It’s free, and I think it could really help you move forward in your business.

Click here to register for this unique business opportunity.

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December 09 2013


12 Goals That Freelance Web Designers and Other Freelancers Should Consider for 2014

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It’s that time of the year again. At the end of every year and at the beginning of the new year, freelancers and others start setting goals for the coming year.

While I’m not necessarily a big advocate of personal New Year’s Resolutions (simply because I think many are unrealistic and most get broken within a month anyway), I do believe in business planning, especially for freelancers. And planning involves goals.

Coming up with goals that make sense can be hard. Especially if you’re not used to setting business goals.

That’s why in this post I’ve done a lot of the hard work for you. I’ve listed twelve goals that will make sense for most freelancers. Also, since there are twelve of them, you may wish to tackle one goal a month to make the list more manageable.

If you liked this post, you may also like 10 Principles of Successful Freelancers.

12 Goals for the New Year

Are you ready for another year of freelancing? Here are some goals you may wish to consider for the coming year:

  1. Lean something new. Adding to your skillset or updating an existing skill is a great way to bolster your freelance web design business. Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities to learn. You can choose an online course (many are free) or sign up at a local community college. When you are done, be sure to update your website and LinkedIn to include your new skill.
  2. Do a better job of networking. Most of us fail to network with new people we meet, whether we meet them online or offline. Make a point to mention your freelancing business to new acquaintances and carry your business cards at all times. You never know when someone who you know knows someone who is a prospect for you.
  3. Sign up at least x new clients. I left the “x” in this goal because I don’t know how busy your particular freelance business is. You’ll have to assign your own number. However, even busy freelancers can use at least one new client. Improving your networking efforts (see previous goal) will help you to attract more clients.
  4. Spruce up your professional website. When did you last update your freelance website? If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your website, it’s probably time. Remember that your freelance website may be the first impression of your freelancing business for many prospective clients. You need to make sure it leaves a good impression.
  5. Update your freelancing portfolio. It’s easy to let your portfolio slide when you are busy. After all, you are focusing on paying work. Who has time to add new projects? Before you know it, you have an outdated portfolio that doesn’t highlight your best work. Having an outdated portfolio can actually cost you clients.
  6. Start a side project. Side projects can be a great way to earn extra money or pursue a passion. The best side projects allow you start and stop working on them, as time allows. There are plenty of side projects to get involved in too–anything from writing an eBook to selling a premium WordPress theme. Just pick a project that interests you and get started.
  7. goals

  8. Improve existing relationships. Your personal relationships are an important part of your balanced life. And let’s face it, if you’re not getting along with your friends and family, it can be pretty hard to really focus on your work. Yet many of us neglect this important part of our lives. Make it a point this year to strengthen your relationships.
  9. Invest in your work tools. How old is your computer? When was the last time that you upgraded your software? Is there a software package you really do need, but don’t have? Start saving money at the first of the year so you can bring the tools you use to work up to date. Also, keep your eyes open for specials and deals during the year on the tools you need.
  10. Clean up your office. Organization can save you time and make you more productive. Plus, working in an organized office can be a mood lifter. Unfortunately, clients rarely see our home offices. So the temptation is to let it get messy. Make the time to straighten up your office. Throw away junk and file those papers you need to keep for tax or accounting purposes.
  11. Do a better job of managing your time. Did you ever wonder where all your time went? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, if you live in the U.S., you can read the results of the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you think you wasted a lot of time in 2013, decide now to make better use of your time in 2014.
  12. Give yourself a break. While you don’t want to waste time, it’s important not to overwork. Many freelancers don’t realize that we slow down when we overwork and actually become less efficient. That’s why getting enough sleep and taking the occasional vacation is important. If you save money ahead of time and work it into your schedule, you can manage a vacation–so plan on taking one.
  13. Delegate work when it makes sense to do so. Do you still do every single thing that involves your freelancing business yourself? If you’re busy, doing everything may not make sense. Especially if you are trying to do things that are really beyond your expertise (like filling out your tax forms).

Now that you’ve looked over the list of goals I’ve come up with, you can choose several or all of these goals for the new year. Don’t forget that you can also add your own goals for the coming year.

A Few More Words about Goals

Here are a few tips to help you set and meet your goals:

  1. The best goals are obtainable and measurable. If you set goals you can’t possibly accomplish, you will become discouraged. Decide also how you will know whether you have met a goal.
  2. Write your goals down so that you can look at the list throughout the year. You may think that you can remember your goals, but if you don’t write them down I guarantee you will have forgotten a few of them by April.
  3. Revisit your list of goals regularly. Your circumstances may change and your goals should be flexible to accommodate any changes in your business or life.

Your Turn

Have you already set goals for your web design business for 2014? What are they?

Share your goals in the comments.

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November 18 2013


Why You May Need a Social Media Specialist

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Businessman drawing a social media diagram on a whiteboard

Do web designers and web developers need the services of a social media specialist?

The answer is…it depends. Here are some key questions to help you find out if you need the services of a social media specialist:

  • Do you want to grow your business?
  • Do you have a product to sell?
  • Do you operate a blog for profit?
  • Is the traffic to your website or blog lethargic or dropping?
  • Do you seem to get the wrong kind of reader?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then your web design or web development business could probably benefit from the services of a social media specialist. (If you answered “no” to all of these questions, you are probably staying busy and don’t need any more clients or customers. Why fix it if it’s not broke?)

I’ve been creating web content for multiple sites for several years. One thing I’ve noticed is that the websites that are the most successful also have the strongest social media presence. That’s not an accident. If you want a strong social media presence, you probably need help.

In this post, I’ll examine what a social media specialist is. I’ll also describe some common social media myths and mistakes. Finally, I’ll discuss how to hire a good social media specialist.

What Is a Social Media Specialist?

Social media is an extremely new profession, and as such is commonly misunderstood.

Many people think that because anyone can create a social media account, anyone can be a social media specialist. This is similar to thinking that because anyone can pick up a paint brush anyone can be an artist. Or thinking that because most people can put a sentence together, most anyone could be a writer.

There’s actually a vast difference between creating a Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr account for fun and knowing how to leverage social technologies to promote a business. Many people who have logged hours on social sites playing games and posting personal photos don’t have a clue about how to effectively promote a business.

One problem is that the role of a social media professional is so new that there’s no real defined qualifications for this type of position yet. Some social sites are just now starting to come out with social media qualifications. Here are a few examples:

  • HubSpot Academy has started to offer certifications for some social media related specialties including Inbound Certification.
  • HootSuite University also offers an opportunity for certification. They offer video-based courses and list certified professionals in their directory.
  • Mediabistro offers not one, but two separate social media certifications. One is a master certificate in Social Media Marketing, the other is simply a Social Media certificate.

Individuals who have completed one or more certificate programs typically have more invested in their career and may be more knowledgeable about the business aspects of social media than those whose main qualification is that they spent hours playing on social platforms.

Shell Robshaw-Bryan has posted an excellent description of what a social media specialist does in her article on Social Media Today titled Social Media Management and the Myth that “Anyone Can Do It”. Her post makes the point that there’s a lot more to social media than you might think.

So, as you can tell, social media specialists have a lot more to offer than most people realize. The myth that anyone can do it is not the only myth surrounding social media, either.

The Myth of Viral Spontaneity


Another common myth surrounding social media is that all excellent content will spontaneously become viral.

As a content creator, I’ve encountered this myth fairly often. Everyone loves to think that fantastic content or a terrific product will automatically draw an audience without any effort whatsoever to promote it. This idea is simply not true.

Even in those rare occasions when it is true, it isn’t always desirable. For example, once in a while a post or video about a “train wreck” may go viral. But your failure and mistakes probably aren’t what you want your web design business to be known for.

Content, no matter how fantastic it is, won’t get shared unless someone sees it. And in today’s crowded Internet, where everyone is trying to draw attention to their own materials, it can take a concentrated effort on the part of a professional to get your materials in front of the right eyes–those of your prospective clients.

Of course, you could try to do social media on your own. But the odds are great that you’ll make a mistake, and in today’s economy you may not be able to afford a mistake.

3 Common Social Media Mistakes

Social media is an area that many businesses get wrong, including web design businesses. Here are some of the most common mistakes that I see:

  1. Becoming a broadcaster. This is probably the biggest mistake that I see. Sometimes even large brands make this mistake. Companies and organizations share their own content repeatedly. There is never any interaction with others and the user never responds to anyone. However, successful use of social media requires interaction.
  2. Posting tons of crappy content. Another mistake that website owners often make is to equate quantity with quality. Instead hiring a professional writer to create high quality content and a social media specialist to promote the content, they create tons of low budget and low quality content in the hopes that they will attract enough attention by frequent posting.
  3. Giving up. The final mistake that many make is to simply give up. I see this happen with a lot of freelance web designers and developers. They create social media accounts, but they simply do not have the time to keep them active and run their business at the same time.

The best way to avoid making these or other mistakes is to get some professional help.

How to Hire a Good Social Media Specialist


If you’ve decided to hire a social media specialist, it’s important to get a good one. Your wife’s nephew who has spent hours on Facebook playing Candy Crush probably isn’t qualified to be your social media specialist.

Instead, examine each potential specialist’s background carefully. Here are some things to look for:

  1. Training. Is the potential social media specialist self-taught or do they have formal training? While being self-taught isn’t always bad, a self-taught specialist should have strong experience and be able to point you to current clients. As far as formal training goes, look at the programs that the specialist has taken. If they have a certification, what does that certification include? How well does their training match with what you actually want them to do?
  2. Experience. How long has the social media specialist been working in social media? If they have little to no experience, it may be difficult to determine their ability. And of course, their experience should not precede a social media platform itself. For example, no one should claim knowledge of Facebook before 2004, although some specialists may have worked on predecessors such as forums or chat rooms.
  3. Current Clients. A good social media specialist should have a list of clients and references. You should be able to determine what type of social presence their clients have. They may also be able to provide statistics such as number of social shares and point to an increase (over time) in web traffic. Pay particular attention to what types of platforms the specialist is familiar with. As a minimum, most social media specialists should be familiar with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Your Turn

Have you hired a social media specialist for your your web design or web development business? What tips would you add?

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November 14 2013


6 Factors to Consider When You Physically Move Your Freelancing Business

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After you’ve been freelancing for a while, you may decide to move. And of course, wherever you go, that’s where your freelancing business is.

While local moves probably won’t affect your freelancing business much, there are definitely some factors to consider when you move to a new city or even a new state.

In this post, I list six factors that may affect your freelancing business when you move to a new area. If you like this post, you may also like How I Kept My Freelance Business Intact During Relocation.

Factor 1: Your Clients

If none of your clients are local, they probably aren’t used to meeting you face-to-face. It probably doesn’t matter to them where you are located as long as you continue to meet your deadlines and turn in high quality work.

In fact, some successful freelancers are completely location independent, meaning that they travel regularly and still maintain a freelance business.

Of course, if you have any clients who physically mail you a check or send you a 1099 through snail mail, you need to tell them your new address.

However, if you do have some local clients who you meet with face-to-face on a regular basis, you have some convincing to do. Here are some concerns you may need to address with your local clients:

  • Reassure them you will be just as responsive to their needs in your new location. You may even want to provide an alternate, inexpensive way for them to contact you such as a toll-free number.
  • Address their quality concerns. Assure them that the high quality of your work will continue and that you will continue to meet their deadlines on time.
  • Let them know how much you value them as a client. We often don’t tell our clients how much we appreciate them, but it’s a good way to strengthen the relationship.
  • Consider traveling. If they are a large client and you do a significant volume of work for them, you may be able to offer to travel to their location once or twice a year.

Whatever you do, don’t just change addresses on your local clients without letting them know. Communication is important.

Factor 2: Legal Concerns

If you are moving to a new area, it’s important to learn the local laws concerning small businesses. Depending on your location, you may be required to get a General Business License to do business in your city. You may also need to get a Home Occupancy Permit. Check the local laws for doing business where you are going.

Many local governments keep a list of business names (a DBA, or “Doing Business As” list), so you may need to register your business name in your new location.

Finally, your taxes may change if you move from a state or city where you do not have to pay local income taxes to a state or city where you do. Don’t wait until taxes are due before finding out how your new location will affect your taxes.

If you are unclear about anything, or can’t find the information you need in your new area, contact a local attorney or income tax professional for assistance.

Factor 3: Safeguard Your Equipment

Black laptop in opening mail package box

If you’re like many freelancers, you probably have a small investment in office equipment for your freelancing business. You probably have at least one desktop or laptop computer, possibly a tablet, printer, phone system, and maybe some specialized software or hardware.

All in all, your investment is probably worth several thousand dollars. You want to make sure everything makes it to your new home in good working condition. After the expense of a move, the last you thing you want is to have to purchase new equipment. You also want to be able to get back to work as quickly as possible after the move. These tips can help:

  • Pack your freelance equipment separately. Don’t mix your household items with your freelance items. Trust me, you won’t remember that you packed your mouse inside that box of socks.
  • Label each box clearly. Make sure that the boxes containing your freelance equipment are marked clearly. Write “Home Office” or “Freelance” on each box.
  • Consider moving expensive or delicate items yourself. If you are using a moving service, do you really trust them with your high cost equipment?
  • Unpack your office quickly. The longer your office equipment sits around in boxes, the more likely it is that it will be damaged.

Factor 4: A Business-Friendly Home

Most freelancers work from home. If this is true for you, you’ll want to choose a business-friendly home.

Ideally, a business-friendly home provides an environment that allows you to do your freelancing work free from distractions. Here are some things to look for when you select your new home:

  • Quiet neighborhood. If you spend a lot of time working from home, you’ll want a relatively quiet place to work. This is especially true if noises bother you. You can probably rule out a home next to the football stadium or beside a busy railroad track.
  • Separate work area. While many freelancers start their freelancing business on their kitchen table or in the corner of the family room, it’s always helpful if you have a space you can dedicate to your freelancing business. An extra room with a door on it is a bonus.
  • Connectivity issues. Most modern residential neighborhoods do have Internet access. However, if you are moving to a rural area, Internet connectivity could still be an issue. Make sure that there is a local Internet provider nearby before you move.
  • Electrical Plugs. This may seem to be a minor detail, but older houses often do not have enough electrical plugs to accommodate all of the modern technology that we count on. Sure, you can use extension cords, but make sure the house’s wiring can handle the extra load.

Factor 5: Change Your Address


In the U.S., first class mail will be forwarded from your old address to your new address for about a year. Do you really want to risk that something important that was sent to your old freelancing business address will be lost?

The best thing to do is to make sure that all correspondence and subscriptions associated with your business are transferred directly to your new address. The best way to do this is to contact the sender directly and request a change of address. Here is a list of places to contact with your new address:

  • Clients who send cash or tax information.
  • Professional publications.
  • Software companies that mail updates.
  • Professional organizations.

If you’ve set your business up on Google places, you need to make sure the listing reflects your new address.

Also, don’t forget to change your business address on your website, stationary, and business card.

Factor 6: Take Time Off

Last, but not least. Make sure to schedule enough time for your move. Make sure that your clients understand that you will be unavailable for a few days. Don’t try to move and somehow work at the same time–that’s a recipe for disaster.

Schedule enough downtime to cover packing up your current home, traveling to your new home, getting your new home set up (including turning on the utilities), and unpacking.

If you’re not sure how much time you will need, it’s better to allow yourself an extra day or two.

Your Turn

Have you moved since you started freelancing? How did the move affect your freelancing business? What tips do you have for other freelancers?

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November 13 2013


How To Become A Successful Web Designer

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As a reader of this blog, you’ve probably seen some of my posts about the guys over at, and their Successful Web Designer program. I’m sure you’ve probably thought about starting your own web design business, and in fact, you may have already started one. If you’ve been hesitant to start, or if you’re not getting the results you’d like, you’re not alone. Many people are afraid that it will take a long time to start making money. Others fear that they will encounter roadblocks, and not know where to turn for help.

But what if there were a way to avoid these problems, and get right to building a successful business and making money? What if you could learn how to keep your costs low, begin earning income in a month or less, and have expert one-on-one help whenever you need it?

Well, I have good news. has a program that will help you achieve just that. And this company is one of the largest players in the web design training industry, having trained more than 30,000 students to build successful businesses over the past 10 years.

By taking advantage of their Successful Web Designer QuickStart program, in just four weeks you can:

Get your first client (willing to pay real money)
Build an awesome website for them (even including e-commerce if you want)
Charge $1,000 (or more).

Everything is included: How to find high paying clients, how to build websites quickly and efficiently, how to generate leads, and much more.

And their support is second to none. You’ll work with a Member Ambassador, who will customize the program to match your specific goals. You will have one-on-one help whenever you need it. Whether you have a question about how to work with clients, how to write effective copy, how to code your website, or how to drive traffic, you’ll get an answer from an expert in that field. No more endless hours searching the Internet for answers.

But this is a limited time offer, and they’re closing the doors this Thursday at midnight. To secure your spot, go here and become a member. Don’t miss out on this chance to build a business that will allow you to achieve your goals and live your dreams.

Don’t put off your opportunity to build the web design business you’ve always envisioned. Whether you’d like to build a full-time business, or just earn some extra money on the side; whether you haven’t started your business yet, or already have a business that’s not getting the results you want, you can get the one-on-one assistance you need right here.

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November 01 2013


35 Thoughts on When and How to Raise Your Freelancing Web Design Rates

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Freelancing rates are one of the most emotionally charged issues that we freelancers discuss online. People have all kinds of opinions when it comes to rates. But it’s a topic that often comes up during this time of the year. Many freelancers naturally want to increase their rates when a new year rolls around.

If you plan to raise your rates in January, now is the time to start planning for your rate increase.

Most new freelance web designers struggle to figure out what to charge for their services. As a result, they often end up charging too little. Of course, there are some basic pricing principles you can follow to determine how much you should be earning.

But what if you started out wrong? What if you’re already earning far less than you should be earning? What do you do then?

In this post, I provide 35 thoughts on when and how to raise your freelancing web design rates. I’ll provide clear signs that it’s time to raise your rate. I’ll also list some strategies to help you earn more money.

Clear Signs It’s Time for a Raise

How can you tell when it’s time to increase your rates? Here are some signs that you should be asking for more money:

  1. You’re very busy. If you have more clients than you can handle, it’s time to charge more. A rate increase won’t scare off your best clients.
  2. Your rates are substandard. When you rates are less than rates charged by other freelancers, it’s a sign you can charge more. Compare your rates to published rates for your field. If yours are significantly less, it’s time for a raise.
  3. Your client offers you more. When your clients tell you that they would be willing to pay you more money, it’s a good sign that you should raise your rates.
  4. You focus on volume. If your main focus is on volume of work (such as how many websites you can set up) instead of on quality, it’s definitely time to raise your rates and shift your focus.
  5. It’s been a while. If many years have gone by since you started freelancing and your rates are still the same, you are overdue for a raise. Your goal should be to earn more each year.
  6. You have measurable success. If you’ve made a quantifiable difference for a client, it’s a good time to ask for a higher rate. An example of this might be designing a landing page with a high conversion rate.
  7. Too much overtime. If you’re constantly working overtime and on the weekends just to make ends meet, it’s time to charge more. Working extra hours should be the exception, and not the rule.
  8. You’re struggling. It’s time to raise your rates if your own costs and expenses have gone up. You have to make ends meet, just like everyone else.

Strategies to Help You Earn More

Are you ready to start earning more? Here are some strategies to help you raise your prices:

  1. Make an announcement. Announce on your website that you will not accept projects below a certain dollar amount. Then stick to that limit.
  2. Specialize your services. Specialists can generally command a higher rate than generalists can.
  3. List your achievements. If you’ve gotten an award, make that part of your marketing and explain how it adds value to your services. For example, include wording like “…over 200 clients have used our award-winning design services, and you can too…
  4. Ease into new prices. Decide which clients will receive the new pricing. Some freelancers only charge their new rates to new clients and continue charging their old rates to existing clients. This is not a good strategy if there is a large difference between your old and new rate.
  5. Set a date. Implement a deadline when old pricing will no longer be valid and stick to it.
  6. Only increase some prices. You can also decide to raise your rates for certain services only. Some services are more time intensive than others. These services should cost more.
  7. Add high-end services. You can add new premium services to what you offer to your clients. A premium service might include such extras a social media promotion or adding special features to a website.
  8. Upsell. Another way to raise your income is to think of add-ons to package with your services.
  9. Use testimonials. Prospects are more likely to accept a higher quote when they can read about the experiences of satisfied clients.
  10. raise-rate2

  11. Offer a prepayment discount. Raise your rates, but offer a discount to clients who pay your entire fee in advance. At least this way you don’t have to worry about reminding the client to pay you and there’s no risk that you won’t get the money.
  12. Use the client’s budget. Find out what the client’s budget for the project is and price your services accordingly. Usually, the client is willing to pay more than you realize. The best way to get this information is to ask for it.
  13. Charge extra for rush work. Rush work is an inconvenience for you, but a convenience for the client. They should have to pay for that convenience.
  14. Charge a late payment fee. If it’s allowed where you live, charge a late fee for clients who don’t pay promptly. This has two effects. It encourages the client to pay on time and it gives you a small amount of extra money when they don’t.
  15. Stop letting the client set your rate. Don’t ask “what are you willing to pay?” Instead, get the details about what they want done and quote a price to them.
  16. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to lowball offers of work. It may seem like that’s the only work out there, but the truth is that if you work at marketing, you will find higher paying gigs.
  17. Be confident when you present your prices. You are good at what you do, that’s why you freelance. There’s no reason for you to accept substandard rates.
  18. Explain the details of what you will do. Most clients underestimate the amount of work that goes into a project. Providing details helps.
  19. Target different clients. If you are consistently earning far less than you should be earning, you may be targeting the wrong clients.
  20. Improve your skills. Having some specialized skills can be worth extra money. Learn what types of skills are worth more money in your field and take a class to master them.
  21. Weed out any low paying projects. Are you already spending a lot of your time on low paying projects? If you are, start replacing these projects with higher paying gigs.
  22. Make sure your contact pool is large. But don’t just build up a large number of contacts. Stay active. Communicate with your contacts on a regular basis. A mailing list can be a great way to do this.
  23. Put an expiration date on proposals. You don’t want a client coming back years later and asking you to work for an old rate, do you? My quotes usually expire after about 60 days.
  24. Re-evaluate your high maintenance clients. Even a seemingly high paying client can be high maintenance. Keep track of how much time you actually spend working for these clients and calculate what your hourly rate on these projects actually is. If the actual number is too low, it’s time to let the high maintenance client go.
  25. Learn to manage your time. If you can cut back on the amount of time you waste, you will be more productive. Higher productivity means you can take on more clients and earn more.
  26. raise-rate-3

  27. Consider a percentage increase. This works well if you work for clients at various rates and the jump to your new rate would be too high for some of your clients. Try increasing your rate on future quotes by 10% for each client who pays below your hourly goal until you are earning your goal for all clients.
  28. Just do it. Don’t make a big deal. The next time you quote a project, base it on your new rates. Don’t apologize. You don’t even have to announce it if you don’t want to.
  29. Take on a side project. Consider a side project such as selling premium WordPress themes or affiliate sales to increase your income.

Your Turn

Do you plan to raise your web design rates any time soon?

What strategy will you use to raise your rates? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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October 29 2013


Create Business Websites for your Clients With Webydo

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The whole purpose of being a designer is rooted in being able to translate one’s creative ideas into awesome-looking websites for clients. However, we all know that it’s not as simple as that. No website has ever been built without coding, so whenever you need to get one up and running, the help of a web developer must be enlisted.

Furthermore, all subsequent changes and updates to your client’s website require continuous developer meddling. What if you could build and maintain those websites fast, free of charge, and with no coding skills required? Webydo understands how much designers abhor the fact that their relationship with customers is complicated by the cumbersome presence of programming services, and offers the perfect alternative to the code-writing nuisance: to build websites independently in just a few easy steps. Webydo is also offering a 67% off the Yearly Premium plan with this coupon code – DesignMag65.


Well over 85,000 cross-device responsive websites have been crafted with the aid of this platform. The process is easy and hassle-free, and Webydo has in-depth video tutorials and articles which will get you up to speed about all features in no time at all. For starters, you need to create a free account and begin to devise a website from a blank canvas, an established layout, or starting from an inspiring already-made-and-tried design.











In the second instance, the user may employ an existing layout and then edit any and all areas pertaining to it: designers may thus use any of the freely available fonts which Webydo places at their users’ service, as well as drag-and-drop videos, shapes, texts, and widgets for online stores. The design options from Webydo’s dashboard mimic Indesign and Adobe Photoshop in terms of functionality, therefore designers will feel right at home. On publishing the website, it activates in the blink of an eye as a Webydo sub-domain.

The Content Management System enables website owners to edit content of their own accord, insomuch as designers can designate particular editable and non-editable areas of the website, which means that updates won’t affect the overall design. This is big, because it saves you the trouble of managing content every time your customers fancy a change. In addition, designers can send invoices from the dashboard, and use their own brand identity instead of Webydo’s – on their dashboards, as well as on their clients’ login screen and CMS.

Should you choose to use this state-of-the-art website creator, there are a few more aspects you need to take into account. For instance, it’s good to know that Webydo partnered up with Akamai and provides all websites with quality cloud hosting on safe servers. A Premium annual subscription of $9.90/month allows web designers to publish the fruits of their work as part of their own domain, employ unlimited bandwidth and pages, and use up to 2 GB of storage. Needless to say, the enlisted plan can be cancelled or changed for another, anytime. Finally, a discount code is currently available for all readers – DesignMag65 – just insert it at the checkout and get 67% off the Yearly Premium plan.


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October 23 2013


Top Tips for Growing your Business with Shopify

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Claire Gatenby is Creative Director at Squashed Pixel, a Yorkshire UK based web design agency. She is responsible for leading all Squashed Pixel’s Shopify projects, from the design phase through to the build stage.

Some designers might be discouraged by the thought of designing an online store. Just thinking about the work involved to make the shop experience run smoothly might be enough to put you off. Throw in the potential support you’ll need to offer the client afterwards and you might start seeking alternative projects.

But don’t despair – designing and building an online store might be the best move you could make for your business, and you won’t even break a sweat.

Squashed Pixel are a high quality website design and online marketing agency based in the UK Squashed Pixel are a high quality website design and online marketing agency based in the UK.

When you think of e-commerce, you might think of complicated to use platforms that don’t allow you the freedom of design that you really want or need.

Squashed Pixel are just one such agency who could easily relate to this. Prior to using Shopify, Claire was using Magento along with a variety of custom CMS platforms for her e-commerce projects.

Say Goodbye to Complexity

Whilst these platforms were incredibly powerful, the user interfaces were complex, which meant making simple changes and updates a complicated and frustrating process, especially for her clients.

“We believe in empowering clients so that they can take control of their own websites and businesses,” explains Claire, “without feeling beholden to a design company for updates.”

Claire went in search for a platform that would fit the bill, and she became aware of Shopify. “It was refreshing to see a platform that had been designed with the people actually managing the sites in mind.”

Since discovering Shopify – a hosted ecommerce platform used by over 70,000 stores, Claire and her colleagues at Squashed Pixel haven’t looked back, and it’s easy to see why – the statistics speak for themselves:

  • Roughly 60-70% of their work is Shopify-based and growing rapidly
  • About 30-40% of their work is generated via the Shopify Experts programme alone
Collect London by Squashed Pixel

Squashed Pixel worked on the theme build, custom functionality, content development, and product import for Collect London, all using the Shopify platform.

Make Shopify Work for You

There are a number of ways that Squashed Pixel make Shopify work for them, as Claire explains:

“Client satisfaction is first and foremost the most important element of a successful business. By providing clients with a platform that enables them to take control over their own site, the need to keep going back to the design agency for small changes and updates is eliminated.”

The benefits of this are twofold: the clients kept their costs down by being able to make changes themselves; and Claire found that as a business, Squashed Pixel was able to spend their time more wisely, finding new projects to work on and keeping the business healthy.

As well as ease of use, Shopify allows designs to be flexible, meaning clients really are able to get a site that very specifically suits their needs.

“We design the websites that we believe the client needs, and then make the platform fit the site, rather than designing a site to fit the platform. With Shopify we’re able to do this.” The result is that every site can be truly unique and tailored to each individual client.

“Become a trusted sounding board for your clients as well as being their site designers.” Claire advises, “We have a very laid back, friendly approach to working with our clients, and take the time to get to know them and their businesses.”

Squashed Pixel worked on the set up, and mass data and products import (consisting of over 4000 products) from a custom CMS

Squashed Pixel worked on the set up, and mass data and products import (consisting of over 4000 products) from a custom CMS

Useful Resources

  1. The Shopify Theme Store – With over 100 themes available it is a great resource not to be overlooked. “This is a fantastic starting point for clients with smaller budgets,” explains Claire, “allowing them to get a site online and generating money before having to worry about affording a bespoke design.”
  2. SublimeText 2 – “We’re massive fans! Combined with the Shopify desktop theme editor, it has made life so much simpler!”
  3. Shopify Experts – “The majority of our clients still come to us directly through social media and word of mouth, but the number of contacts coming through the Shopify Experts programme is growing month on month. At the moment between 30 – 40% of out work comes from this programme.”
  4. Ask for Help – If you get stuck anywhere along the design and build process, don’t be afraid to ask for help! “Make use of the support team and the forums, which are jam-packed with useful information and friendly experts offering advice. On the rare occasion the forums can’t answer your questions, the support team have always been quick and easy to get hold of and really helpful.”

Claire’s Top Shopify Tip

The app that Claire has been the most impressed with has been Yotpo social reviews:

“I can see how almost any site would benefit from this app, with the way in which it integrates with your site right through to the automated emails. It’s seamless and very professional – it allows users to rate and post reviews on your products and site, share them socially on their timelines and yours, and also sends automatic review requests and reminders via email to people who have already made a purchase through your site.”

Become an Expert

If you’re already using Shopify and have a few theme builds under your belt you’ll most certainly be eligible for joining the Experts programme. If you’re keen to get going you can apply to be an expert here.

If you haven’t tried Shopify and would like to learn more about how it can help you grow your business yet you can learn more by visiting, a page dedicated to designer focused resources including 25+ short screencasts focused on building themes.

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October 22 2013


How To Create More Profitable Websites

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A lot of web designers are mainly concerned with creating beautiful
websites for their clients. They want the websites they create to be
picture-perfect, impressive, and works of art. They don’t put much
thought into a website after they hand it over to the client.

If this is your mindset, you’re leaving money on the table. I’ve learned
that results (not design) make the biggest difference between the web
designers who earn a lot and those who don’t.

In other words, you should be making websites that make your clients
more money. By thinking like a business owner, you’ll be able to charge
a much higher hourly rate. This mindset starts by viewing your
websites as more than just a pretty face.

Business owners care more about the statistics of their website. How
many visitors did they get this month? Is that more than last month?
How many people purchased something? How many people left without
buying? Why?

To a business owner, traffic is very valuable. They work hard to get
people to visit their site, so they want them to stay a while and buy

If you understand this and can help your clients make more sales,
you’ll be seen as a complete expert. Your relationship with your clients
will change from client/vendor to a strategic partnership. You’ll have
more referrals than you know what to do with, and you’ll be able to
increase your rates.

The first step in getting a website visitor to remain on a website is
creating a website that passes the 5-second test.

The 5-Second Test

Most visitors will come to a website, give it a quick glance and, if
nothing captures their attention, they’ll hit the “back” button and
disappear forever. Sadly, they don’t read every word, and most of them
ignore 95% of the stuff you worked so hard to create.

You can try this test now with your portfolio website or a client’s website…

  1. Go to the site you want to test. Spend just 5 seconds looking
    at it. Then, come back to this page.
  2. Then, answer this question: Did the website grab my attention? Was
    there anything that made me want to find out more?

If you find it difficult to answer this question about your own
website, ask a handful of people to do the same thing you just did to
your site. You might be surprised to learn that your visitors aren’t
looking at what you expect.

Here are three steps to make sure the websites you create pass the 5-second test:

1. Create a compelling headline.

The headline should be the first thing a visitor sees, and it should
practically force them to read more. Don’t make the mistake of
assuming your visitors will read all the text on the page. Studies
show 80% of visitors read the headline, only 20% read the rest. Can
you see why the headline is so important?

So what makes a good headline?

  1. Good headlines are specific. Make sure the headline you write
    could only be at the top of the website you’re creating. If it could
    work on a competitor’s site, it’s not specific enough. Dig deep to
    find out how your client is different from everyone else, and use those
    details. For your portfolio site, make sure your headline provides you
    with a unique position in the marketplace. This is the first step to
    increasing your leads and closing more deals, for both your clients’
    sites and yours.
  2. Good headlines use powerful words that grab attention and inspire
    action. Some examples are Shocking, Limited Offer, Effective,
    Rewarding, Irresistible, Discover, Critical, Fascinating, Masterpiece,
    Tempting… (Tip: Look through your client’s customer testimonials to
    see what words they use.)

2. Ask the visitor to do something.

This is the second step you’ll need to take in order to increase leads
and sales. Without a specific call to action, your visitors may drift
aimlessly around your client’s site. They may like his site, and what he
has to offer. A few of them may even take action on their own.

But by asking them to do something specific, you’re making it easy for
them to take the first step, and you’ll find a much larger percentage
will do just that.

Your call to action should be featured prominently on your client’s site.
Your goal with this step is to make it as easy as possible for your client’s
visitors to take the desired action. The header, sidebar, and within your
main content are all good locations for the call to action.

But the call to action, by itself, is typically not enough to get visitors
to take action. They’ll usually need an incentive to take this step.

3. Give the visitor something in return.

This is the third step, and it’s often overlooked. Many websites ask the
visitor to do something, but they don’t give anything in return. If you want
visitors to take action, you need to reward them. It’s the classic win-win

Let’s say your client wants to get the name and email address of
everyone who visits his site so he can follow up with them. He should
offer something – like a free report, a trial, a consultation, or maybe
a sample product – in exchange for their name and email address.

This is known as an irresistible offer. It just means the visitors are
going to get something for giving something. It’s based on a promise
from both parties: If you give me your name and number, I’ll give you
this widget worth $27. To get more people taking you up on the offer,
it should be something they can’t walk away from.

Without a great – and obvious – offer, visitors will come to your
site, glance around and leave. With an irresistible offer, you can
turn visitors into loyal fans who return and buy.

Each paragraph of the rest of the copy should support this goal
(visitors exchanging their info for the offer). Remember to be
specific and explain what the visitors will get out of the deal. Focus
on benefits, not features – explain to them how your offer will help
them, or what they will be losing if they don’t take advantage of it.

Remove any distractions that get in the way of the message. Get rid of
extra info, any links that take them away from the main message or
away from the site, and images that aren’t relevant.

At this point, you might be wondering why your client would want the
visitor’s information…

The answer is so they can follow up (by email or newsletter) with
these visitors, gain trust, build a relationship, get repeat visitors,
and increase their chances of getting a sale. Studies show that a typical
prospective buyer needs to see a message at least 7 times before they
make a purchase.

Web Designers Beware

I often see websites where web designers let their ideas and design
get in the way of the message. Beautiful sites are great, but design
alone won’t make money. People buy because of the message. Work with
your clients to create compelling copy, a call to action, and an
irresistible offer. You’ll be unstoppable.

To learn more about creating websites that get results, join our next
WordPress Bootcamp here.

Seats are going fast so grab yours today!

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October 21 2013


10 Principles of Successful Freelancers

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How do you know when you are successful? If you’ve ever questioned your freelancing success, you’ll want to learn the principles of successful freelancers.

Running an effective freelance business is a learning process. Even experienced designers still have plenty to learn about the business aspect of freelancing. In this post we’ll look at 10 principles that I have learned from my own experience, and have observed to be true of other freelancers as well.

1. Happy Clients Lead to More Clients

One of the leading sources of business for most successful freelancers is referrals and word-of-mouth advertising. Whether it is from your past clients or friends and family, potential clients who have been referred to you often have more trust for you and more respect for your work than the average potential client that you find through other methods, such as someone who finds your portfolio through a search.

Based on my experience, referrals are often the most pleasant clients to work with, and they also typically have the highest conversion rate from lead to client. If you hope to build a successful freelance business primarily through referrals, producing a high level of quality in your work is essential to encourage your clients to refer others. However, quality of work certainly isn’t the only factor. Clients usually will only recommend someone who they feel has treated them well and given them a positive overall experience. Customer service and communication are key for this reason.

To learn more about customer service here are 6 Very Effective Principles to Improve Your Customer Service & Make Your Clients Happy.

2. Competing on Price is not a Good Strategy

As a freelance designer there is always plenty of competition. Potential clients could spend a little bit of time and find a number of other designers who could do essentially the same job. Because of this, freelancers need to have something about themselves and their work that separates them from the competition and encourages clients to choose them. It’s not unusual for freelancers to take the approach of competing with others by offering lower prices. However, in my opinion, competing based on price is not an effective long-term strategy.

While lower prices may help you to get a few jobs now, competing based on price has several negative long-term effects.

  • Clients and potential clients will view your work as inferior to other designers who are charging more.
  • After under charging for a while you may subconsciously start to see your own abilities and services as being less valuable.
  • You’ll need to work a lot more to make the money you need to get by.
  • Having extremely low prices puts you in a bad situation if/when you want to raise prices down the road.
  • Without realizing it, you may start to resent your clients for paying you so little.

If your competitive advantage is based on having low prices, and suddenly you raise your prices or others come in and undercut your prices, your price advantage is blown. If you think it won’t happen, think again. There is always someone willing to charge less.

What’s more effective in the long run is branding yourself to be an expert in a particular area, or establishing yourself as someone that people want to do business with because your work is different from other designers in some way (see Effective Differentiation for Freelancers at Freelance Switch). Of course, this approach takes time and is not as easy as just lowering your prices, but it’s the stronger long-term option. Once you’ve differentiated yourself from other designers in some way, clients will be less sensitive to price if you’re the one they want to do the job.

3. Open Communication is Critical

Hands of two partners communicating during coffee break
Effective communication is one of the most important skills that a freelance designer should develop. Although creativity and technical skills are clearly important, those abilities without effective communication skills will not be able to accomplish very much. The success of a client project depends on your ability to understand their needs and wants, and to communicate your approach to them. Clients always know their business much better then you will, and you will know more about the technical aspects of the project. Ideally the two sides will work together to achieve the best results, which requires plenty of communication.

Communication goes both ways. Freelance designers need to be able to effectively state their own points and word things in a way that clients will understand, but they also need to be able to listen to clients and pick up on the things that they may not be explicitly stated.

Freelancers often face significant challenges in communication because of location and dealing with clients in other parts of the country or the world. Rather than meeting face-to-face, email and phone may be the only methods of communication possible. In some situations, communication over the phone may be difficult due to time zone differences. This makes the freelancer’s need for communication skills even more critical.

Always keep time differences in mind when communicating with a client–especially if you are communicating by phone, Skype, or Google Hangouts. If your client is located halfway across the world remember that typical working hours for you might occur during the middle of the night for them.

4. Time Invested at the Start of Projects Saves Future Headaches

Have you ever jumped right in to a project only to realize later that you didn’t fully understand what the client wanted, and now the work has to be re-done?

Here are some steps you should take with a client before the project starts:

  • Discuss their needs.
  • Talk about what they want from their website.
  • Ask questions about any part of the project you are unsure about.
  • Generally get a good feel for the requirements of the project.

If you do these things, you will build a solid foundation for the project that will help you to prevent wasted time and to live up to the expectations of the client.

Not putting in the necessary time up front often leads to less-than-spectacular results, and it may wind up costing you more time in the long run if you have to go back and re-do some or all of your work. Depending on the client, you may have a difficult time getting them to understand the need for effective planning, but this is where your communication skills need to come into practice in order to convey to them how important these steps are.

5. Spend Money to Improve Your Productivity or Quality of Work

The natural reaction to expenses from most new freelancers involves resistance to just about anything that costs money. As a freelancer, your profitability is obviously the result of your income minus your expenses, but expenses aren’t always a hindrance to increased profitability.

To maximize the amount of money that you make, first maximize your productivity and efficiency. There are plenty of tools, resources, and services that freelancers can invest in that will save them time on a daily or weekly basis, leaving more time for income generating work.

Most freelancers don’t enjoy dealing with the financial aspect of running a business. As a result, managing finances can take much more time and effort than necessary. This is a good example of where many freelancers could help their bottom line by being willing to spend a little bit of money that will save them some significant time (see 15 Online Financial Tools for Freelance Designers at Webdesigner Depot for a description of some options).

Another way spending money can save you time is the delegation of routine tasks to someone else (such as a virtual assistant). Think of it this way. If you spend a lot of time on unbillable tasks that anyone could do, that’s time that you aren’t earning any income.

6. Long-Term Clients are Extremely Valuable

Most freelancers have to invest some effort into finding new clients. Whether your approach involves bidding at sites like Elance, searching design job boards, writing blog posts, updating your social networking profiles, or anything else you can do to increase your chances of being seen, you’re devoting valuable time to simply finding the work before you can even do it.

Long-term clients are extremely valuable because they allow you to do work that earns an income without dedicating time to constantly finding new work. These on-going gigs may be very involved, or they may only require periodic updates and changes, but either way having a long-term client can save you some time. Even if you have a steady flow of leads coming through your online portfolio or some other source, it’s still going to take time to follow up with these people and find the ones who will ultimately become paying clients. With repeat clients all of this is avoided.

However, don’t rely so heavily on your long-term clients that you stop marketing your freelance design business. Remember that circumstances change. Today’s long-term repeat client could be tomorrow’s former client.

7. Focus on Being Very Good at Something Specific

You can’t be good at everything. There are so many aspects to web design and development that it is impossible for anyone to be an expert at everything.

Instead of trying to be good at everything, it’s more effective to differentiate yourself by aiming to be as good as possible at something specific. Maybe you want to position yourself as an expert at WordPress theme development, e-commerce design, logo design, or just about anything else.  By establishing yourself as an expert in a particular area, you’ll be one of the first people who comes to mind when potential clients look for someone to do that type of work.

8. Treat Your Freelancing Like a Real Business

Freelancing is a legitimate business. You should treat it with respect.

Although many freelancers start out on a part-time basis, at some point they decide to approach freelancing as a business and begin to take it seriously. Freelancers who see their work as a hobby are unlikely to ever get the results that will justify full-time work from freelancing.

Regardless of whether you are a full-time or part-time freelancer, here’s how to treat your work like a business:

  • Make your freelancing work a priority.
  • Block off a specific time to work.
  • Have a budget for necessary expenses.
  • Develop a plan for business sustainability and growth.
  • Use a contract with your clients.
  • Keep up with bookkeeping and taxes.

9. Build a Strong Network

hands holding four pieces of a puzzle with copy space, gray background

As a freelancer, networking is critical for building referrals, establishing your name and reputation, branding yourself, growing your business through outsourcing, and for getting help and assistance when needed. Ideally, a freelance designer’s network will consist of individuals with a variety of skills and experiences.

Since designers spend so much time online, the internet is a natural medium for networking with other professionals. Whether you’re using social networking sites like LinkedIn and Google+ or spending your time blogging and interacting with other bloggers, using Twitter, or participating in forums, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with talented and influential people.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of ignoring the social networks.

10. Effective Time Management Skills are a Must

Earlier we looked at the need for communication skills, but time management should also not be overlooked. Freelancers need to be able to manage their time well, because no one else is going to do it for them. As a freelancer, your productivity and profitability rests in your own hands. By being able to manage your time you will maximize what you can get out of your working hours. If you’re looking to make more money or work fewer hours, evaluate your time management skills to see if there is room for improvement.

For more on business and freelancing, please see:

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October 16 2013


75+ Articles to Help Freelance Designers Find More Work

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Where do you find work?

For freelance designers and developers, finding work on a consistent basis is one of the biggest challenges. Especially in the current economy, this is one aspect of freelancing that prevents some from achieving everything they want as a freelancer. Fortunately, there are plenty of great articles available online that can help you to improve in certain areas that will help you to have a steady workload.

In this post we’ll feature more than 75 articles on various topics that can help freelancers to find more work and achieve a more stable and significant income.


  1. Freelance Portfolio Tips to Ace Job Contracts
  2. Five tips for a fantastic portfolio site
  3. 5 Awesome Portfolio Tips to Maximize Sales for Freelancers
  4. Top 10 Portfolio Tips for Freelance Designers
  5. Why You Should Treat Your Freelance Portfolio Like a Stock Portfolio
  6. How To Put Together a Solid Freelance Portfolio
  7. Redesigning Your Portfolio Site: 4 Tips to Make it Better and Get More Business
  8. How to Make Your Portfolio Site More Effective by Adding a Blog
  9. 5 Tips for a Better Online Portfolio
  10. 200 Portfolio Sites for Web Design Inspiration
  11. How to Make Your Portfolio Better and Get More Clients – Part 1 (and Part 2)


  1. Make selling your freelance services easier by using long term contracts
  2. Create an About Page for Your Blog that’s a Secret Freelance Sales Weapon
  3. 7 Pain Free Sales Tips for Creatives
  4. Ten Sales Tips for Freelancers
  5. Sales Tips for Shy People
  6. 6 Basic Sales Tips Every Freelance Web Designer Really Needs to Know
  7. How to Win Clients with Time Tested Sales Techniques
  8. The Lost Art of Selling – 10 (Almost Effortless) Ways to Increase Sales
  9. 10 Essential Steps to Making the Perfect Pitch
  10. The Dos and Don’ts of Selling to Clients
  11. The Violent Truth of Freelance Sales
  12. Selling Website Design: How to Overcome the 3 Most Ignorant Objections

Economic Trends:

  1. The Lateral Freelancer: How to Make A Living in the Share Economy
  2. Working your way in the freelance economy
  3. Features of the Freelance Economy
  4. 5 Economic Trends that Affect Freelancers
  5. 6 Ways to Help Your Business Weather the Economic Storm
  6. 8 Ways Freelancers Can Survive in a Troubled Economy
  7. 17 Tips for Getting Through a Business Downturn

Getting Work:

  1. Finding Freelance Projects
  2. The real truth about finding more freelance design work
  3. How Should Freelancers Find Work?
  4. Side Hustle: 5 Ways to Score Freelance Gigs
  5. 5 Ways to Find Work as a New Freelancer
  6. Land of the freelancers, home of the brave: How to find your next freelance gig online
  7. 17 Great Websites to Find Freelance Jobs
  8. How to Create a Great Web Design CV and Resume
  9. How to Respond to Job Postings Faster than the Competition (Without Canned Responses)
  10. The Secret to Landing Clients Nearly 100% of the Time
  11. You vs. the Design Firms: How to Win Every Time
  12. How to Win Jobs on Freelance Bidding Sites
  13. 27 Places to Find Web Design Jobs
  14. A Simple Way to Stop Clients from Rejecting Your Proposals
  15. How to Stop Scrambling for Clients and Get a Steady Stream of Paying Gigs
  16. Three Sure-Fire Ways to Receive a Killer Referral from Your Clients
  17. 7 Tips on Quoting Freelance Projects
  18. Tips for Attracting Local Clients
  19. The Lone Web Designer: Strategies for Competing Against the Big Agencies

Finding Work Through Social Networks:

  1. Finding Work on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  2. How to Really Use Twitter to Find More Freelance Work
  3. Being Social Online Can Help You Find Freelance Gigs
  4. A Social Network “Unstrategy” for Finding Freelance Gigs
  5. Creative Ways to Land Freelance Work from Social Media
  6. Embracing Social Media as Freelance Job Search Tool
  7. 15 Ways New Freelancers Can Use Social Media to Boost Business
  8. 8 Things You Can Do to Get Work Through LinkedIn
  9. How to Use Social Networks to Find Gigs
  10. 5 Ways You Can Use Twitter to Build Your Online Profile, Network and Get More Clients
  11. Gigantic Tips Guide for Finding Jobs with LinkedIn

Other Income:

  1. Web Designers Making Thousands of Dollars in Passive Income
  2. 5 Ways to Make Passive Income For Freelance Designers
  3. My secret to making steady money as a freelance designer
  4. Why Every Freelancer Should Have a Personal Project
  5. Passive Income Strategies For Web Designers
  6. 9 Tips for Creating and Maximizing a Steady Income by Selling Stock
  7. 11 Steps for a More Stable Freelance Income


  1. How to market your design, the integrated approach
  2. This is Only a Test… Or Is It? How To Test Your Marketing Efforts as a Freelancer
  3. A Complete Guide of Self-Marketing As A Freelancer
  4. The Importance of Content Marketing for Freelance Web Designers and Studios
  5. Effective Differentiation for Freelancers
  6. 5 Brand-Building Actions Every Freelancer Should Take Now
  7. 11 Ways to Gain Exposure as a Web Designer
  8. 5 Low-Cost Ways to Market Your Freelance Business
  9. How to Stick Out and Get Clients to Remember You
  10. 6 Simple Ways to Promote Your Online Business Offline
  11. 3 Steps to Creating a Freelance Brand that Sells
  12. How to Get More Freelance Gigs Using Viral Marketing

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October 08 2013


Gaining Confidence as an Inexperienced Freelance Designer

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What does it take to get started as a freelance web designer? If you’re brand new to both web design and freelancing, what are your first steps?

If you want to get started as a freelance designer, this post is for you.

One of the reasons that freelancing attracts so many people is the ease of entry. With a computer and a few basic programs anyone can learn enough to put together websites and start working as a freelancer. It can be be debated (and it has been) whether this is good or bad for the industry as a whole, but the fact is that there are a lot of freelancers out there, part-time and full-time, who don’t have loads of experience as a designer.

However, just because it’s easy to enter the market as a freelancer doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find and retain clients, build quality websites, and make a living from your work. Many freelancers start out with high hopes, only to be discouraged by the reality that they find in their work. With so many other freelancers and design studios out there, one of the most important things that an inexperienced freelancer needs to develop is confidence in themselves and their work.

Why Is Confidence Important for Freelancers?

For starters, clients and potential clients want to work with confident freelancers. They’ll notice when someone doesn’t have that confidence. Most clients aren’t very familiar with the design and development process and that’s why they want to work with someone whom they can trust to get the job done. If you’re talking with a potential client, showing a lack of confidence encourages them to consider other designers.

Aside from the impact on clients, having confidence in your work and your abilities is important for your own purposes. Having doubts about your abilities almost always leads to poor work, but feeling like you can get the job done effectively usually leads to you doing the best work you’re capable of.

It’s natural for new designers and new freelancers to have some doubts about their abilities and experience, but there are some key things you can do to minimize the negative impacts and to start building that confidence.

Tips for Gaining Confidence in Your Work:

1. Always work on developing your skills

No matter how talented and experienced you become, there will always be plenty of room for improvement. In fact, development is necessary to stay on top and to keep doing an effective job for your clients. As a new designer, there should even be an extra focus on development. As long as you’re constantly improving your skills and what you have to offer to clients, it’s likely that you’ll be able to maintain some confidence in your work, even if you’re not as experienced as some other designers.

A freelancer’s schedule is always busy, whether you’re freelancing part-time of full-time. In order to prioritize development you’ll need to set aside some time in your schedule for working on new things and building your skill sets. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources, both online and off, for learning on your own. Find some good books and tutorial sites and you’ll always have an abundance of things you could be working on with your own time.

Here are just three of the many training sites that can help:

2. Take the right kinds of jobs

Because there is such a wide variety of clients out there, there will always be an equally wide variety of freelancers needed. Large companies with big budgets may not be a good source of work for a brand new freelancer, but small companies that need something within your abilities may be a much better fit. Clients on smaller budgets should expect to work with someone who is less experienced, and higher-priced designers won’t take their projects, so there is a need for designers of all types.

Web design is like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. So clients on tight budgets provide learning opportunities for freelancers who are interested in taking the job for a learning experience as much as for the money. Unfortunately, for some reason many clients don’t completely understand the difference between a large budget website and a small budget site, so be sure that you and the client are on the same page as far as their expectations go.

Another good place to find your first job is through former employers or friends and family members. Make sure that everyone you know is aware that you are a freelancer. Ask them if they know of anyone who could use your design skills.

3. Find your niche

As I said earlier, there is room in the web design industry for a wide variety of people and skill sets. One of the best things an inexperienced freelancer can do is to develop a niche or a specialty that makes them different than every other new freelancer. Maybe you want to develop WordPress themes or customize e-commerce templates.

There are plenty of different specialties you could choose, but having one means that in your early days of freelancing you’ll be able to focus your growth in specific areas rather than trying to learn a little bit about all different types of projects. After a few jobs of the same type you’ll probably be more experienced in that specific role than many freelancers who have been designing for several years. At this point you’ll know your area of specialty very well and confidence should no longer be an issue. Once you’ve made it this far you can decide whether you’d like to branch out or remain focused.

Another great benefit to focusing on a specific niche is that you will eventually become an expert in that area. As an expert, you will be able to charge more for your services.

4. Allow plenty of time for each project

One of my biggest regrets about some of the first projects that I took as a freelancer was the amount of time that I devoted to the projects. In some cases I had to rush because I had other work lined up, or in many cases I rushed because I wasn’t being paid very much and didn’t want to devote more time than the project was worth. The problem with this approach is that you’ll never get the most out of the experience if you rush.

In the situations that I mentioned, I’m sure I could have done a better job if I had devoted more time to the specific projects, but instead the clients got less than my best work. The clients may have been happy, but in the end my confidence didn’t grow very much because I wasn’t improving my skills.

When you’re planning your work and scheduling projects, try to leave enough time to do your best work and finish the job with confidence, rather than finishing so you can move on and make money on another project. It’s natural for things to take longer for newer designers, and that’s ok (assuming the client isn’t on a tight deadline).

Your major priority with your first jobs should be learning new things and making yourself more valuable for the future. Making a little bit less money than you could earn if you rushed through these first jobs will benefit you in the long run because you’ll learn more and you’ll gain more confidence. Plus, you’ll build a better portfolio. If you rush through a job, you probably won’t want to add that to your portfolio.

5. Be upfront with clients

Most of us would like our potential clients to think that we’re the greatest designer out there. But regardless of what stage you’re at in your career, pretending to be something you’re not with a client can be a bad experience. If you’re upfront about your level of experience and what you can and can’t do at this point, clients will appreciate your straightforward approach. If the client’s needs fit into something that you’re comfortable taking on, great, but if not it’s better to discuss it up front than to get into a job and find out down the road that you can’t do the work.

If you’re inexperienced, don’t be afraid that there is no work available for you. High paying jobs may not be an option right away, but there are plenty of clients who are willing to work with new designers if the situation is a good fit.

6. Accept Constructive Criticism

Part of the learning process is accepting the feedback and constructive criticism of others. This includes clients, visitors of their sites, and other designers. Criticism isn’t always easy to take, but being able to learn and grow from it is one of the keys to success as a designer.

It’s always a good practice to keep the lines of communication open with clients throughout the process, that way you don’t finish a job and find out that they’re not happy with the work. Make an effort to learn how your clients think and what they expect, and be able to communicate your thoughts and opinions with them, and explain the reasons behind them.

As far as criticism from other designers, if want to learn from the opinions of others, forums are a great place to hang out when you start freelancing. Most design forums have a place where you can share your work with others to get their feedback. Remember, no two people will ever agree on what they like and dislike. Try to use the feedback that you get from others in a way that will make you a better designer.

A final point about criticism is not to take it personally. In most cases, it is a statement about your work and not about you as a person.

7. Charge what your work is worth

Setting prices is easily one of the most difficult aspects of freelancing. Even designers with years of experience struggle to price their services, so don’t be discouraged if pricing is an issue for you. It’s very common for new designers to undervalue their services and feel clients are doing them a favor by letting them design a site. These issues mean the freelancer usually charges less than their time is worth.

Occasionally, freelancers feel the need to make as much money as possible by charging more than they’re worth. This isn’t a good decision either. As a new freelancer it’s important to make an effort to find what price your services should be worth. Under charge and your clients won’t take you seriously (plus you won’t make enough money), over charge and you’ll have more pressure than you need while you should be focused on gaining experience.

If you are unsure of what other web designers charge, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps some helpful information in their Occupational Outlook Handbook that you can use as a guide.

8. Have other sources of income if possible

Hand handing over money to another hand
Since your focus during the early stages of freelancing should be on developing your skills and gaining confidence in your work, it’s best if you have some of source of income to live on, such as a full-time job. Not every new freelancer has a full-time job and it’s not a necessity, but I found it much less stressful as a new freelancer to have a full-time income in addition to the income from my freelancing. Your stress will be much lower and you’ll have the freedom to take lower paying jobs if you need to. Plus, you’ll be able to dedicate more time to each job. At some point you’ll reach a place in your career where it’s safer to make the jump to full-time freelancing. but ideally full-time freelancing is not right away for most people when they start out.

9. Develop a strong network

As a freelance designer, having a network is valuable for many different reasons. It’s helpful for:

  • Finding new clients
  • Getting advice and constructive criticism from other professionals
  • Getting involved in the community and the industry
  • When you’re stuck and you need some help from a friend

One of the downsides of freelancing is that you’re on your own. There’s no one to turn to when you need help. If you have a strong network there will always be others who are willing to give you some guidance or assistance when you need it most. You don’t have to build connections with the most well-known designers in the world, but find some others in the industry who you connect with who are willing to get to know you.

For more on networking, see the four part series:

10. Equip yourself with the necessary tools

Because it’s so easy to enter the industry as a freelancer, there’s a temptation to cut costs and only spend money when it’s absolutely necessary. One of the best things you can do for your productivity and for the quality of your work is to invest in the right tools that will make your work easier. Fortunately, there are some good free tools out there, but others will require some financial investment. Depending on specifically what type of work you’re doing and where your abilities lie, your requirements may be different than another freelancer’s, but there are plenty of tools and resources for everyone. Personally, I couldn’t image working without the Adobe products, and trying to save some money here would cost me in the long run.

11. Treat your business professionally

One of the habits of new freelancers is to approach it more like a hobby than a profession. If you hope to earn a living freelancing and to develop confidence in the quality of your work, approach your work professionally and it can make a world of a difference. In addition to the impact it will have on you, your clients will perceive you in whatever way that you present yourself. If in their dealings with you they get the idea that you’re just messing around with design as a hobby, that’s how they will see your work.

12. Take jobs that you enjoy

Whenever possible, choose to work on projects that you’re passionate about. It’s natural for all of us to do our best work when it’s related to a project that we really enjoy. Doing your best work and enjoying it will certainly lead to more confidence than just collecting a paycheck for jobs that you don’t enjoy.

13. Have personal projects for other things that you want to learn

With client work you’re limited to learning only what others want you to do for them. If there are other skills that you would like to develop, one of the best options is to start a project of your own that will allow you to incorporate the techniques that you want to develop. From my experience, personal projects have played a key role in my ongoing development, and they’re a major part of my plan for future development.

Some personal projects become profitable. Who knows? Your personal project could become a real moneymaker.

I strongly encourage new freelancers to find some time to pursue the things that they want to pursue, and to see it as a learning experience.

What’s Your Advice?

What advice would you give to other based on your experience? What has helped you to gain confidence in your work?

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October 07 2013


5 Effective Ways for Freelance Web Designers to Manage Information Overload

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frustrated businessman around by multiple office tools
Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed lately?

It’s no wonder. There are literally over a hundred million active websites. To be more precise, according the October 2013 Netcraft Web Server Survey (which is designed to count websites) there are 767,234,152 websites.

That’s a lot of information. Odds are that you’ve only personally encountered a fraction of those websites. And even that fraction can seem like too much.

If you add in all of the sharing that happens on social media sites, the thousands of blogs and news channels that are updated nearly every single day, and all of the images that are uploaded–the amount of information we are constantly bombarded with is staggering.

The web has become a noisy, noisy place. There’s no way any one freelancer can absorb it all. And they shouldn’t have to.

In this post, I describe five effective techniques that freelance web designers and others can use to manage information overload. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like How to Find and Use the Information You Really Need.

Technique #1. Specialize

You may have heard that specialization is good for your freelancing web design business because it enables you to charge higher rates. While that is true, specialization is also a good way to manage information overload.

As a freelance web design generalist, what you must keep up with is a lot broader. You’ll find yourself doing a lot more reading. You may feel like you need to know a little bit about everything–and truthfully, it’s getting harder and harder to stay knowledgeable on a wide range of topics.

As a freelance web design specialist, however, you can narrow down what you need to keep up with. While you’ll want to be aware of general web design trends, you can safely focus most of your energy on staying up to date in your specialty. Suddenly, your reading list is a lot shorter and more manageable.

Do you see how specialization helps you manage information?

Technique #2. Know Where the Information Is, Not What It Is

Another information management technique involves familiarizing yourself with good resources. You don’t have to read and know everything, you just need to know where to find good information when you need it.

If you maintain a well-organized list of good resources, then you can easily find what you need to know when you need to know it. Apps can help you with this. Here’s a short list of some tools to help you organize your reading:

  • Diigo. This social media bookmarking site allows you to bookmark, tag and list web pages. It has the added advantage of being a social sharing site. There’s a free version and a premium version.
  • Evernote Web Clipper. Evernote is well-known as a list-making app. Not everyone realizes that they also make a plug-in for most browsers to help save online information.
  • Pocket. This app allows you to save articles and web pages so that you can read them later. It’s especially useful because information saved on Pocket can be viewed offline on a number of devices.
  • Readability. Readability lets you save articles, posts, and online information so that you can read it later. The free app has the added benefit of providing a clutter-free view.

Plus, remember that many browsers (such as Firefox) include a bookmarks feature. Learn how to use your web browser’s bookmark feature and then use it.

Organizing information so that you can access it when you need it is a logical and timesaving approach to having too much information.

Technique #3. Prioritize and Limit Your Time


To get the most of the information available to you, you should set goals. As with anything else, if you don’t set goals, you won’t meet them.

To set an information goal ask yourself–what information do I really need or really want to know?

Then, prioritize your reading time around your goals. Minimize the amount of time you spend studying blog posts, articles, and information about other topics.

This technique works well when you also limit your daily reading time. Limiting your reading time keeps you focused on your reading goals. It also ensures that you will have time left to devote to your other tasks.

Without a limit, it’s easy to spend an entire morning or even an entire day browsing the Internet. As a freelancer, you should probably devote no more than an hour each day to studying new information.

Setting priorities and limits works well to combat information overload, but it’s not the only way.

Technique #4. Trust Your Network

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t just follow/friend/circle everyone I run across on social media. Instead, I focus on connecting with those individuals who add something to my network. I avoid those who seem willing to waste my time.

One result of being picky about my connections is that I don’t have thousands and thousands of connections. However, the other result is that I am connected with a mostly excellent group of prospects, clients, and colleagues who consistently share high quality information.

If you’ve been careful about your social media connections, you can trust your network to guide you to some pretty high quality content.

Since I have high quality information shared with me regularly, I am able to turn around and share high quality information with others. My connections are one reason why I frequently receive compliments on the high quality of my social media shares.

Don’t waste your time on useless social media shares.

Technique #5. Schedule an Internet-Free Day

Portrait of happy family on bicycles in the park

Relax. You actually don’t have to keep up with as much as you think you do.

Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to deal with information overload is to ignore it on a regular basis.

Many freelancers and others make it a practice to spend one day a week (usually a weekend day) away from the Internet, television, and other information sources.

Taking a day off gives you a break from all that information that is threatening to overwhelm you. It is also a great, life-enriching practice that gives you time to devote to relationships, hobbies, and other interests.

In the end, spending an Internet-free day won’t have as much impact on your business as you might expect. The Internet, with all of its thousands of blog posts and articles, will still be there when you get back.

Your Turn

How do you handle information overload? Share your best tips in the comments below.

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October 01 2013


Media Temple Coupon Code

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I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that I host my sites on Media Temple. I’ve also written some content about my experience with them. The first was called Why We Choose Media Temple. I also documented a real life experience in the post titled Move Website Hosting: The Story of My Recent Move to Media Temple. Finally, we covered MT in a piece we published last week Where to Host Your Website: The Top 10 Companies. I do not have a new post about their incredible service today but as a reminder I do have a discount code.

Media Temple has generously offered 20% off to all DesignMag readers. That is 20% off EVERY month. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Simply go to Media Temple and when you get to checkout enter the code MTLOVESDESIGN for 20% off your bill for the life of the service.


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September 24 2013


Where To Host Your Website: The Top 10 Companies

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Web hosting is one of the most important aspect of an online business whether it is a small personal blog or a huge social media website. It doesn’t matter if you have a gorgeous web page if your server keeps crashing. For a visitor there is nothing worse than trying to access a website that is offline. In the end, your newest song, article, movie clip or anything else you hope will make your website popular doesn’t matter if you cannot show it to your visitors. Therefore, you should be really careful when you choose who will host your site. In this article we will give you the top 10 best web hosting solutions for 2013.


1. knownhost

The reliable services from KnownHost are unrivaled. And when I say “reliable”, I mean that an ’army’ of 250 servers render a Network Uptime Guarantee of 99.9%. Well, if only God is perfect, they’re not far behind. As a matter of fact, KnownHost are so confident in their uptime, that they grant their customers a Service Level Agreement credit if that value of 99.9% drops infinitismally. A decrease of more that 99.0% is simply inconceivable. The user would have 5 days since downtime to submit a ticket to KnownHost’s helpdesk, and the credit  awarded increases according to the magnitude of that error.

You can forget about shared hosting with KnownHost. The company provides excellent Managed SSD VPS hosting, which is a much more resourceful, flexible, and empowering service. And it’s not at all costly. Besides, migrations and backups are automatically included, at no expense whatsoever. In addition, there’s a pleasant surprise awaiting you at checkout: the following code – KH15LIFE – ensures an upscalable lifetime discount of 15% for VPS-2 or larger.

And here’s the best part yet: you’ve got 30 days to change your mind in case you’ve activated a hosting package that doesn’t quite meet your needs, and receive full refund. This is true of all plans, except for enterprise-specific Dedicated Servers.

Finally, I must impress upon you how great KnownHost’s email and ticket support is.  Some of their team’s routine activities include management of the operating system, hardware and network maintenance, initial account migration and its security, and free installation then optimization of the control panel.


2. WebFaction


WebFaction ranks second-best in my book. Their focus is on presenting shared hosting services which are particularly crafted for web developers. In essence, WebFaction’s shared hosting has characteristics borrowed from VPS or dedicated servers. And if your scope is medium or small-sized websites, hosting with them would be ideal. Once you start, there’s more than enough time for changes of heart: at any time during the first 60 days, you can ask for your money back.

However, you don’t even have to start for real at all in order to get a clear idea about WebFaction. Their homepage beckons you to tap into a 48-hour trial before making any serious commitments. Nevertheless, developers will feel right at home in the company of their services: full SSH availability, and pre-installed developer tools like PHP, Python, or Django, are only a brief glimpse of what WebFaction actually sets on the table. What is more, 50 lightning-fast applications are ready for 1-Click installation, speed being the operative word here.

WebFaction’s system administrators do a great job configuring, monitoring, and backing up servers, applying security patches, and updating existing tools. Administration aside,  WebFaction provides top-class 24/7 support to their users in distress. In conclusion, their pricings range from $8.50 to $9.50, depending on the kind of subscription you take: either you take the plunge for a whole year, or you tread lightly from month to month and an extra dollar. Anyhow, WebFaction is both affordable and proficient enough to match any developer’s expectations.

(mt) Media Temple

3. Media Temple


(mt) Media Temple is a titan among web hosting providers, and this statement stands true for two reasons: their renowned effectiveness and their solid experience. The web hosting company is celebrating their 15-year anniversary this year. Here’s a short list of how far they’ve gone since 1998: the numbers say that, presently, there are 125.000 faithful customers who went to them to host up to 1.5 million websites, in around 100 countries. That looks impressive.

Not only is (mt) Media Temple an awesome place for web developers/designers, but medium and small-sized businesses are more than welcome, too. And, in fact, the company now also hosts such celebrity brands as Adidas, Obey, Sony, or Red Bull. Apart from their diversified clientele, it’s high time to praise (mt) Media Temple’s award-winning, cross-platform customer support, for its promptitude, friendliness and shrewd-minded solutions.

They say it takes one to know one. (mt) Media Temple’s motto shouts out that they host great ideas. Well, indeed they do, and who would know better when to recognize a great idea than a company who is awesome in itself? The bright people from (mt) Media Temple come up with upgrades which refine their services again and again. The latest of these endeavors focused on the company’s flagship hosting plan, the GRID, which has recently been upgraded, thus making websites up to 6x faster. Apart from the GRID, (mt) Media Temple’s Shared Hosting, Managed VPS, and Developer VPS plans hold great promise as well.


4. Flywheel


Meet Flywheel, a champion hosting company intent on being a dream-come-true to all designers, freelancers, and creative agencies. They take full charge of launching and managing websites, so that designers may focus on their work without wasting any more time with other trifles. Particularly optimized for WordPress, Flywheel keeps the websites safe and speedy, updated and backed up. Furthermore, Flywheel paves the way for its customers to manage their clients’ sites, and interact with fellow designers and developers without the necessity for usernames and passwords. Not to mention, working with Flywheel for reselling purposes will probably be the best decision you’ve ever made.  And when you need assistance, trust their support team to make your problems disappear. A free demo site experience is available for anyone who is interested in testing how Flywheel feels.



5. DreamHost


DreamHost is a necessary addition to my top 10 selection. With over 16 years of experience, this company provides all types of web hosting. Perfect for bloggers and web designers, the shared hosting plan is only $8.95 per month. Moving forward on DreamHost’s palette of services, I need to emphasize their VPS hosting, which has unlimited bandwidth and storage, and can be equipped for instance with 600 MB of RAM for $30-a-month. I have 3 more memorable numbers coming from DreamHost for you, and that’s it: 30, 97, and 100%. There are 30 days of free trial with a shared hosting plan, 97 days to ask for your money back after you’ve proceeded with any hosting option and somehow decided to call it quits, and 100% uptime guarantee backed up by a free extra day (of the next prepaid expenses) for each missing hour.


6. HostGator


HostGator relies on 12.000 servers, on a daily basis, to keep their Shared, Reseller, VPS, and Dedicated services fail-proof. Beginners and seasoned developers alike are going to rejoice their choice to have signed with HostGator for hosting. Shared hosting from this company has everything it needs to make anyone happy, specifically positive things which cast Hostgator in a good light – such as 99.9% uptime and 45-day money-back guarantees. Besides, right now the three Shared hosting options are correlated with an offer of 20% off the first invoice. If all these aren’t attractive features, I don’t know what attractive is.


7. WebHostingBuzz


WebHostingBuzz has a ring to it, but what makes the company stand out is their discounts. For instance, their Dedicated service now comes with 50% discount, and for a Reseller account, one need only insert the code „resellerdeal” and pay just $1 the first month of hosting. Several other benefits of signing with WebHostingBuzz include an awesome customer support, and great prices. Allow me to elaborate: a monthly quota of only $4.95 is attached to Shared hosting, then $9.95 to Reseller hosting, and finally $14.95 to powerful VPS servers. Long story short, WebHostingBuzz would make for a rewarding web hosting company.




Pixeno is an extremely noteworthy web host, especially for other designers and developers. Their Personal, Reseller, Cloud Sites and Cloud Servers work like a charm. All of these come with unlimited subdomains, email addresses, and MySQL databases. Pixeno leases space out of the fastest datacenter in the UK, and the third fastest in the world. But what I happen to love best about this hi-tech provider, is the fact that Pixeno enacts 4 scheduled backups each and every day, and that information is retained for 2 weeks. Meaning there are up-to 56 possible website restore points at any one time. Take Pixeno for a ride by engaging the one-month free trial.


9. HostNine


HostNine is another hosting company that I just can’t allow myself to overlook. Its shared, reseller, cloud VPS and dedicated servers are altogether guaranteed 99.9% uptime. The compensation strategy is rather strict: for each hour of downtime, a whole new day is given away for free.  Apart from this, should the first 45 days of using HostNine reveal certain shortcomings to the user, she/he need only ask and thus have all their money returned. Interestingly, HostNine’sw homepage screams great deals for clients who upgrade their services during this period: 50% off the first ever invoice with code H9LUV13 for Cloud, Reseller, and Shared plans, and with code DEDILUV13 for HostNine’s Dedicated service.


10. Bluehost

Bluehost allows for the first 30 days of usage to be fully refundable for all hosting options, and pays back the remainder of the prepaid plan afterwards, for good measure. They have the experience to be great hosting providers and expert assistants in times of trouble. Concerning prices, almost all of their services are presently subject to discounts. Bluehost’s VPS Standard, Enhanced, Premium, and Ultimate variations have substantial one-time discounts, while the Professional Web Hosting option cuts down to $4.95 for the first signed month. Experience the live demo and you’ll get the clear idea that Bluehost is a fine choice.


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September 23 2013


Beyond Freelance Web Design: What to Know Before You Grow

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Your web design business is doing well. So well, in fact, that you’ve regularly been hiring subcontractors to help you with your work.

You’re thinking of moving beyond freelancing. You’re seriously considering becoming a full-fledged web design agency. Should you do it?

At first glance, starting your own agency may sound wonderful. If you do it, you can be proud that you’ve built something from the ground up and that you are able to give others a start in the industry. Owning an agency may also provide you with a chance to earn more money.

Naturally, there are quite a few differences between running an agency and freelancing. In this post, I’ll outline some of them. If you’ve made the transition from freelancing to running a web design agency, or are thinking of doing so, you’re invited to share your thoughts and comments at the end of this post.

Choosing Between Running an Agency and Freelancing

The first thing to understand is that freelancing and running an agency are different. Here is a list of six of the differences:

  1. Control. As a freelancer, you pretty much have complete control over your business. You control which clients you accept. You control the quality of your projects. And so on. As an agency, you will lose some of that control. You will no longer be completing every project personally. You may have partners or investors who will want a say in business decisions.
  2. Responsibilities. Your responsibilities also change. As a freelancer, you did some marketing and bookkeeping, but you were mostly responsible for getting the projects completed on time. As an agency owner or manager, expect to spend a lot more time on marketing and bookkeeping tasks. You will also have to deal with managing contractors or employees.
  3. Personnel. When you run a web design agency, you naturally spend a great deal of time managing your staff. Not only will you need to answer questions about the project work, you will juggle other issues like personnel conflicts between your workers. You will also be responsible for finding and retaining talent. (It’s not an easy thing to do. Ask any HR professional.)
  4. Taxes and Accounting. If you thought your taxes and bookkeeping tasks were complicated as a freelancer, know that they will become even more complicated when you become an agency. Not only will you have the normal freelance bookkeeping concerns, you now also have to deal with payroll for your contractors and employees. I highly recommend you engage an accounting professional.
  5. Marketing. Freelancers need to market their business, but so do agencies. While a freelancer may be able to get by on one or two clients during lean months, your web design agency constantly needs new projects to keep everyone busy and pay for all of the increased overhead costs. In fact, some agency heads spend most of their time on marketing tasks.
  6. Higher Overhead. As you scan this list, you will notice that many of the items listed are not directly billable to your client. Instead, the time you spend on these tasks will become part of your overhead costs. Expect to increase your rates to cover the cost of your higher overhead. (This is why agencies usually charge more than freelancers do.)

So before making the leap from freelancing to becoming an agency, examine your motivations carefully. Ask yourself why you became a freelancer in the first place. Then ask yourself why you’re considering becoming an agency.

Transitioning to an agency can be a wonderful move for some freelancers. For others, it’s just not the right choice.

Let’s take a look at what business form your agency might take.

Business Form

As a freelance web designer, your business is most likely a sole proprietorship, meaning it’s just you doing business (although some U.S.-based freelancers operate as Limited Liability Companies).

When you transition to an agency, it is likely that your business form will change. In the U.S., here is a very brief overview of some business forms your new agency could take:

  • Sole Proprietorship. A sole proprietorship is owned by one individual, even when employees are hired. You assume both tax and legal responsibility for the business.
  • Partnership. A partnership is an agreement between two or more individuals to have ownership in a business.
  • LLC. LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. Regulations vary by state, but basically an LLC allows you to combine liability features of a corporation with the flexibility of a partnership.
  • Supchapter S Corporation. This a corporation that elects to pass income, losses, deductions, and tax credits to the shareholders.
  • Corporation. Corporations are owned by shareholders who each own a small piece of the business. A corporation exists as its own tax and legal entity, so shareholder liability is limited.

A legal professional can help you determine which business form is right for your situation and help you to reorganize your business.

Now, let’s look at some of the management issues you are likely to face.

Management Issues


As the founder of a web design agency, you’re likely to be very busy with management issues. In large corporations these functions usually each have their own dedicated staff member (and in some cases a dedicated department with the company), but when you are starting out you will probably be responsible for many of these functions yourself.

I’ve already touched on some of these issues, but here’s a more detailed look:

  • Client relations. You’ve done some of this as a freelancer, of course. As the founder of an agency, you need to make sure that every single client is satisfied.
  • Hiring. As an agency, you’ll need to recruit and retain the most talented individuals and keep up with hiring laws and regulations.
  • Financial Reporting. Since your business now involves investors or a partner, you need to produce regular financial reports.
  • Payroll. There’s more to payroll than just paying those who work for you. You will also need track vacation and sick time and withhold taxes for employees.
  • Sales. To survive, your small agency needs a constant influx of new clients. Someone will need to sell potential clients on using your agency’s web design services.

Of course, there are electronic tools that can help make these tasks easier. But even so, it’s a lot of work.

Maintaining Quality

Hand drawing Quality flow chart with blue marker on transparent wipe board.

Another major factor is maintaining a high level of quality for all work that your agency does. In fact, your online reputation depends on it.

Even with talented and trustworthy workers, this is harder than it sounds. For one thing, it’s easy for a member of your team to misunderstand an instruction. Or, perhaps your process is slightly different than what your team member is used to.

Of course, if you hire a relatively inexperienced team member (which can be cheaper for you), you should plan on some rework and mistakes on their part until they come up to speed.

The bottom line is this–your agency needs to be good to compete.

Your Turn

Owning an agency can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding.

Have you made the transition from freelancer to agency owner? If you have, or if you’re thinking about making this transition, leave us a comment and share your experiences.

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September 17 2013


An Updated Guide to Buying Stock Images –Top 10 Agencies

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Settling for the best source of royalty free images and media files may prove to be tricky if you’re not aware of all the available options. So if you’re a web designer, a blogger, or a writer for an online magazine, here’s a fresh list of the best stock agencies to help you make an informed decision.





Fotolia is number one in our preferences, and their 4 million+ users share our declared sympathy. Their vaults have gathered over 24 million stock images since Fotolia first launched in 2004. Here’s what we know about them.

Browsing the site is free of charge. That means you instantly have access to peruse their content without buying. They even offer free downloadable images from time to time, and comps for planning projects to try in your designs.

Users can then create a free account to start buying. Users can purchase image files through Subscription or On-Demand Credits that cost as low as $0.74. Subscriptions are available with either a monthly, or a daily download quota. A daily subscriber can, over the course of one day, download 25 to 250 files for the convenient price of $0.19 each.

With Monthly Subscriptions, there is no daily download limit, but rather the download quota can be used throughout the month. Monthly downloads range anywhere from 5 to 5000, with a low cost of $0.84 for one file. Apart from that, all unused downloads (Rollover downloads) at the end of one month are added to the next month if the Subscription remains active. For your convenience, Fotolia will automatically renew your Subscription, however you are free to cancel it at anytime. You download the largest size (XXL) but can get a medium (M) sized for half a download if that’s all you need.

Fotolia’s On-Demand Credit system is also a good way to go, if it’s flexibility you need. Credits are required for all premium files from Fotolia’s Infinite Collection, and any Extended Royalty-Free License. If savings are your interest Fotolia has a new Low Cost Collection of over 12 million images that offers images of all sizes, S – XXL from 1 – 6 credits, respectively.




iStock is a leading figure as far as stock image providers are concerned. The veteran agency has an exclusive collection comprised of 6 million photos, videos, vector illustrations, audio tracks and Flash media. Their great reputation is understandable, considering that iStock was launched 13 years ago as the first marketplace of royalty-free stock files.

If you pay them a visit right now, you’ll catch a good offer: iStock offers half of their images at half the price, and don’t forget that they have many exclusive files that you won’t find anywhere else. A few things that are definitely worth checking out are the files in Editor’s Picks, and also those in the Lightbox because free images are added each week. If you want to narrow down a search to something more specific, iStock provides with any imaginable filter, so you’re sure find what exactly you need.

As far as payment options are concerned, a client can opt for customizable subscriptions, credits, or just cash. The iStock credit system is a fine way to go, with 15 to 30.000 credits available for purchase, and the user can save up to 25%. Regarding the available subscription plans, it is possible to create the parameters of your own subscription by toying with three main variables: period (3, 6, or 12 months), number of credits per day (from 20 to 240), and the plan price applied to these settings. And I have a tip: on adding the code ISTOCK14 at checkout, the user gets a 14% discount on credits. Just click on the ‘iStock’ link from above.




123RF is one of our favorite microstock providers. With 35,000 stock photos, vectors, video and audio files being validated and uploaded daily to their collection, this company holds a massive collection of more than 22 million and counting, royalty-free stock content. You can also expect to come across some high-quality files submitted by contributors via their smart-phones through the 123RF On-The-Go mobile application.

Oh, and you’re going to love this fact: 123RF welcomes everyone to download anything from their 30,000 images, audio files, graphics and digital arts collection without the need for a credit card. Regardless of whether one chooses a subscription plan over credits or vice versa, one thing’s for sure – you’ll get total peace of mind as any purchase made on 123RF comes with a 72 hour 100% Money-Back Guarantee. Furthermore, 123RF is also the only provider that gives you 24 hours 7 days a week support.

Here are some equally attractive details about 123RF’s package and plans. There are three packages to choose from: Basic, Premium, and On Demand. The first two are  subscription plans that come with a daily download quota of 5 or 26 High Resolution XXL images and is suitable if you have a fixed daily need to use images. Contrastingly, the On Demand plan is based solely on credits and ensures the flexibility of unlimited downloads in a day as long as you have credits available in your account. Finally, is pretty generous with discounts – the more you buy, the cheaper it gets.




Thinkstock is associated with Getty Images, and has a lot to offer through a comprehensive collection of illustrations, vectors and photos, available via 40 partners, including ringing names like iStock, or Jupiterimages. Every file acquired from Thinkstock is rich, crisp, and it automatically comes with a license. Interestingly, the price of every download never changes according to the chosen image size. Last, but not least, and this is important: Thinkstock now offers sizable discounts for all new clients, who can save 20% off a pro annual subscription by using the code R4HPC46N, or 60% off a monthly subscription with the code GTDPC46N.




Depositphotos is another great idea. The agency takes pride in a solid database of photos, videos and vector images, which altogether amounts to 17 million files. A definite must see is their comprehensive collection of vector illustrations, which is 4600-strong, and every week one of those vectors is given for free. Another positive aspect of Depositphotos is their Discounted Lightboxes, as you can find 20% discounts for a set of seasonal photos and vectors. On a final note, apart from the Pay-As-You-Go credit option, there is a subscription calculator which permits the user to establish his own limits on a daily or monthly basis, starting with a download rate from 5 to 200 (for a daily subscription), or 5 to 5000 (for a monthly subscription).




Cutcaster has good deals too, and is worth including in our list. The agency possesses many collections comprised of top-quality photos, illustrations and vectors, and categorized according to topic. Out of these, the Crescendo Collection stands out with its 920 rich files, and so do their picture collections, which I think you really need to see. As far as payment options are concerned, Cutcaster allows for their users to pay as they go (no membership required), or take up any of the four available credit packages: bronze, silver, gold, or customizable starting with a minimum of 100 credits. It’s good to know that you can receive a discount of up to 49%.





Stockfresh yields a cumulated collection of over 300.000 vectors, and much more other photos and graphics, concentrated in a collection of over 2.600.000 files. The user interface must be the easiest one I’ve ever come across, and their search box delivers the files that you need in no-time. The thing that I like best about Stockfresh is how easy it is to navigate, and how fast you can find whatever type of image you’re looking for. Payment occurs via a prepaid credit system, anywhere from 5 ($4.99) to 500 credits in one instance, and subscription plans can scale from 1 month ($99) to 12.




Bigstock is part of Shutterstock, and what it has to offer is nothing short of 14 million files put together in a sizable collection of vectors, photographs and illustrations. Moreover, it’s great that there is a 7-Day Free Trial which comes with 5 downloads per day, so you get 35 images for free in the first week, and re-download at no cost. Naturally, it can be cancelled whenever the user wishes. In terms of payment options, presently, Bigstock users can save 27% on acquiring a prepaid credit pack, with $35 for 10 credits. Finally, subscribers can pay as little as $0.35 per image if taking up an annual plan with 5 downloads-a-day.




Dreamstime are a safe bet, with their 18 million stock photos, illustrations and images, which they’ve been harnessing since year 2000. More and more new files strengthen the ranks of Dreamstime collections each day. You really need to know that, after sign up, Dreamstime grants its designer users access to the free download of more than several thousand stock files. Other than that, their payment systems are split into monthly subscriptions and prepaid credits: a credit package can be assigned starting from 11 credits to any value, and the smallest monthly subscription value is that of 750 downloads. Oh, and you’ll notice that their website automatically converts the value of their pricings into your local currency.




PhotoSpin is certainly worth mentioning in our precious little top 10 stock photo agencies. Their 3 million images are accessible via one of two major collection options. What we have is the Premier Collection and the Expanded Collection. The former comes with either one of two annual subscription options, namely Plus and Super Plus, which stand for the size of the files that are to be downloaded. Yet, the Expanded Collection is where the most part of PhotoSpin’s files reside, and it can be accessed in 4 categories, 4 options (1, 3, 6 months, or one year) and 16 subscription plans.


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September 09 2013


8 Things Web Designers Need to Know Before Using Guest Posting to Promote Their Side Business

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Blog target
Like many web designers, you may have a side business designed to earn extra income. You may sell WordPress themes, you may have an app for sale, or your side project may be something else.

Whatever your side project is, you need to develop a marketing strategy interested in your product or service. We’ve already discussed the pros and cons of giving away freebies as a marketing strategy. But giveaways aren’t the only marketing strategy you should consider.

Submitting guest posts to multiple blogs is another popular marketing strategy that many web designers use to promote their side projects. However, as with promotional giveaways, the playing field for guest posting has changed in recent years.

In this post, I’ll discuss some of the changes you need to be aware of if you’re thinking of using guest posting as a marketing strategy.

How Guest Posting Changed

A few years ago, guest posting was a fairly effective marketing strategy. Most guest posters provided well-written, high quality posts to top-notch blogs. They understood the basic marketing principle that you must provide something of value to attract true customers.

However, somewhere along the way, things changed. A whole sub-economy sprung up around guest posting. Suddenly, many guest posters weren’t offering high quality posts anymore–instead they started pushing poorly written, recycled material filled with spammy links to their sponsoring company’s site. The main purpose of such posts was not to provide value to potential customers, but to build links and ultimately increase page rank.

As an example, I was researching a topic yesterday and wanted to find some current blog posts. A quick search revealed eight recently published posts and articles on the topic. However, as I dug deeper, I saw that four of the eight posts were written by the same author. While he hadn’t reused the same articles (each article was worded differently), he had certainly recycled his information to create very similar articles, published in a very short period of time.

Spammy guest posting practices annoy blog owners and have caught the attention of a major search engine. Many blogs have even stopped accepting guest posts. Suddenly, everyone, including the high-quality guest posters, needs to play by new rules. You can read Google’s latest stance on link building in Webmaster Tools.

8 Factors to Consider Before Writing a Guest Post

Blog concept in word tag cloud isolated on white background

Guest posting can still be a legitimate way to market your product. However, you should ask yourself the following questions before you email a guest post to a blog owner:

  1. Does the post add value for my intended audience? Your main purpose in guest blogging should be to inform your audience and build your credibility as an expert in your field. Do your homework before you write a guest post. Know who your audience is and make an effort to understand their needs. Make sure that your article or post is informative and well-researched. Whatever you do, don’t just submit your marketing material and call it a guest post.
  2. Are you submitting the post to a high quality blog in your field? It’s better to have a few high-quality guest posts and articles published on high quality sites that your prospective clients frequent, than to publish dozens of low-quality posts to less authoritative sites. Quality is better than quantity. Remember, your purpose is to build credibility with your prospective customers.
  3. Did I really study the site I’m submitting the post to? One sure way to annoy a blog owner is to submit a guest post that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of their blog. Instead, spend some time reading the blog. Also, be polite. Don’t assume that you are doing the blog owner a favor simply by providing content.
  4. Am I reusing the same tired material? Each guest post that you write should contain a thoughtful and informed discussion of your topic. Don’t take a single post and try to rearrange it (manually or automatically) into multiple posts or articles. One unique well-written post is better than dozens of published posts that are nearly the same.
  5. Is the post professionally written? I may be biased since I am a writer, but I can always tell a professionally written post. If you have problems constructing sentences or if you make lots of spelling errors, you may need to get help. While hiring a professional writer or editor is no guarantee that your post will be published, a professional can help you iron out potential problems in your writing.
  6. Does the post contain unnatural links? The search engines don’t like unnatural linking and they will look odd to your readers. Also, the latest Google Webmaster Tools advice recommends that you not use optimized anchor text.
  7. Do I plan to share this post through social media? Writing a guest post and getting it published is usually not enough. You need to help your intended audience find your post by sharing it on multiple social media sites. Also, be available to respond to comments and other reactions from your readers.
  8. Is this post really nothing more than an advertisement? Don’t disguise an advertisement as a guest post. If the only value of the post is to promote your product, consider it advertising. Blog owners should disclose any posts that they were paid to publish. Paid advertisements and sponsored posts should have no follow links.

As you can see, guest blogging can still be an effective marketing strategy to draw attention to your side project. However, it’s important to be careful when you create your guest post.

Learn More

Flag push pin on paper at blog word

Are you still thinking about guest blogging as a marketing strategy? Here are three posts that will help you to learn more:

Your Turn

Do you use guest blog posts to promote your side projects? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.

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