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May 05 2012

02:02

Reshaping Our Perception of Success

Over the course of these last two weeks, I had the pleasure of attending an Envato meetup/conference in Malaysia. As you might expect, Envato is composed of ridiculously smart and talented folks…folks so smart that it quickly becomes intimidating!

But I’m not here to talk about the conference specifically; instead, I’d prefer to ramble a bit on one of my largest takeaways from the event.


The Old-Fashioned “Path”

The Path

One day during the conference, I had a chat with Envato’s current (temporary) lead development manager, Pete, about the traditional concept of advancement in a company. In many ways, we’re designed/brainwashed from an early age to follow a very specific path:

  • Begin at the bottom.
  • Slowly work your way up to your target position (meaning the job in which you are most content and fullfilled).
  • Finally, despite your instincts advising you otherwise, you disregard your current contentment, and instead continue once again up the stairs… to management.

That’s a good thing, right? Well, in our industry, specifically, maybe not.

Management can be a bit of a scary word. It indicates Excel, not code. It indicates… management, not development.

Our life-long training tells us that this is what’s supposed to happen.

But, nonetheless, it’s still a higher level (hopefully higher paying) job. Our life-long training tells us that this is what’s supposed to happen, if we desire to be successful. You’ve worked hard; now you get to manage others (and maybe drink scotch). This is the path.

For creatives, though, does this sort of role make us happy?

  • Is this what kept us up late at night learning how to code?
  • Are we selling our souls (to be dramatic) for slightly more money?
  • Are we addicted to some silly notion of control or power or respect?

Sure, we may have a bit more input into the direction of the business, but does it make us happier? For the last year or so, I’ve struggled with this very thing. I adore my current job: I’m able to help shape the future of education in the creative fields (more on that later this year), and spend all of my spare/free time learning how to be a more efficient developer. What could be better than that?

Still, though, that lingering feeling always rested in the back of my mind: I’m only “advancing” in the world if my job title/rank increases sporadically. I had (and have) no desire to change my current involvement/role in the company (Envato), but, nevertheless, felt that I should reach for these more traditional managerial roles.

This old-fashioned notion of advancement is a silly metric for success.

The Lesson

Pete taught me that this old-fashioned notion of advancement is a silly metric for success. Instead, we have to reshape our perception of what both success and fulfillment are. Remember when I noted that Pete was the development manager at Envato? Well, technically, at his own choosing, he’s the temporary manager, while we search for a new development manager. Despite the fact that he’s certainly qualified for the job, he doesn’t want it – which I find incredibly admirable. Instead, his skills/desires rest firmly in things like software architecture. In his own words, that is where he is able to contribute most effectively to the company. So, a bit oddly, perhaps, he is currently in the position of finding and hiring his future manager.


Closing Thoughts

It’s interesting how the older I get, the more and more I come back to this one word: “contentment.” It’s not about job titles, or vanity, or even money (to some extent); it’s simply about contentment. Do what you love, and forget those old-fashioned job titles and notions of success. Or…

Figure out where you’re most effective in your company, and do…that. Period.


March 17 2012

10:00

16 Android Applications to Help You Manage Your Day Better

Freelancers are always working. There is usually something that needs to be done, be it an email that needs sending or research for a project that you should be working on. If you are a freelancer with an Android phone, you can easily manage your day and some of your work flow while you are away from your desk.

Below are a bunch of free or low-cost Android applications to better help you manage your daily to-dos. While these applications are a few of hundreds of thousands available, the applications in this list have been chosen for their ease of use and/or integration with programs and web services you may already be using.

Calendar apps

1. Business Calendar

Business Calendar is my Android calendar of choice. Some of the features that won me over are the easily adjustable calendar views. To get from month view to week view, just swipe your finger over that week.

Want to expand or shrink the number of days in week view, use the slider at the bottom of the screen. Also at the bottom of the screen, you can see all of the calendars synced to your phone. The calendars can be hidden by touching the calendar name.

The free version offers 75% of the functionality of the paid app. The paid app offers different widget options and (the reason I bought it) drag and drop appointment changes.

2. Calengoo

Calengoo is a very popular calendar among business folks. While there is no free or lite version, you get many super cool features. Drag and drop appointment management, widgets, icons to better differentiate events. Calengoo lets you send an event or a whole calendar as an ICS file so others can easily import events to their calendar application.
Syncing your Google Tasks is unique to most calendar applications. In most cases you will need a separate task application like the task apps listed next.

Managing Tasks

3. Tasks n Todos

Tasks n Todos is a very easy to use to-do list application for Android. You can drag and drop to rearrange lists. There is a backup function so you can save your tasks to your SD card. There is voice input for the tasks easily accessible from the bottom of the tasks screen. There is a handy option to add pictures or even maps to a task.

4. Astrid Free

Astrid is a wildly popular task management application for Android devices and also iPhones. Astrid is a little different because you can access Astrid from the web as well as through your mobile app. A cool feature is being able to forward emails from your synced Gmail address and turn them into a task.
For a fee, you can get add-ons for Local and what they call the Astrid Power Pack. The power pack gives you different widget choices and adds voice input.

Storage

5. Box

Box is an application that is growing on me. I have to admit I only downloaded it initially because they are giving Android users 50gb free. I am liking the way it fits my basic mobile backup and sharing.

6. Dropbox

Dropbox is the go-to cloud storage for many people, myself included. There are a ton of add-on applications when you use the Windows desktop program. Aside from the potential additions, Dropbox just added instant upload of camera pictures and videos.

Social networking

7. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is used by a lot of companies and individuals alike. The main feature that separates Hootsuite for Android over most of the others is scheduling updates. You can set an update to Tweet and post to Facebook and other networks hours, days or months down the road. You can also set up what would be columns in the web version to track a hashtag while on your phone.

8. Tweetcaster

If you just want to use an app for Twitter, Tweetcaster is great. Accessing multiple Twitter accounts, the strong search function and having access to manipulate your Twitter lists are all advantages over many other Twitter only apps. The paid version lets you access Facebook features too.

On the phone

9. Google Voice

Google Voice is basically a Gmail inbox for your phone. You can SMS and receive your voicemail from a separate Google Voice number right on your Android phone. Having a separate “office”number is handy to have. Then you aren’t giving your mobile out to all of your clients.
Google voice will transcribe your voicemails and also offers a send to SPAM feature for those people who just wont stop calling.

10. Call Reminder Notes

Call Reminder Notes is an app for the forgetful. If you have ever called someone and forgot why you called them, this Android application is for you. Set reminders to call someone in your contact list at a specific time or set a reminder note to pop up on the screen next time you talk to them. Either way, your phone usage will be more productive.

SMS Add-ons

11. Txt Msg Away Message

Many people are so accustomed to sending a quick text message if they need a quick simple response. When you have a few people texting you every hour, it is a big distraction. Txt Msg Away Message will auto reply to the sender with a canned response letting them know you are working. You can have several canned replies, all for different occasions.

12. SMS Backup +

SMS Backup + is a great way to back up your text messages. In the settings, you can choose to have all of your messages back up automatically as often as every 30 minutes and incoming messages as quickly as 1 minute after they arrive.

The coolest part is, the messages and call log back up to your Gmail account. They are added to a label for easy access later. All of the times and attachments will show up, so will the duration of the calls.

Note taking

13. Evernote

Evernote is a fantastic note taking application with a ton of options. It is more like an information catch-all. You can upload files and images and be able to access them later. One of the coolest features, in my opinion, is the ability to search for text within an image. This means, you can take a picture of a business card and use Evernote to search for any bit of information on that card.

14. ColorNote Notepad

Starting to use ColorNote is a smooth transition for people who are Post it note addicts. The application works pretty much how you would use a paper sticky note. There are widgets you can paste you your screen. The widgets let you add a note fast.

Changing the color of the notes makes it easier to separate the notes by topics or information on the note.

Financial

15. Expensify

Expensify lets you handle items that would normally be a pain in the neck to manage… your expense report and receipts. When you buy something, instead of carrying that receipt trying to remember to log it in your financials for 3 days before you lose it, you can snap a picture of it. Uploading the receipt image and associating the receipt with a particular project.

Another good feature is the mileage tracker. Tracking your travel mileage is one place where most people fail to keep good records. There are 3 options, the easiest is to let the GPS track your route.

16. Square

Square is one of the most popular payment taking applications out there. Plug in a card reader into the headphone jack of your Android phone and swipe their credit card. The funds will take a couple of days to land in your bank account. If you do on-site work for clients, accepting payment on the spot is a must have.

Final thoughts

In the end, a tool is only useful if you use it. While you may have an Android phone for other reasons, you can sure make your life easier by adding a few applications to better manage your activities during the day.
What applications do you have on your Android to better manage your busy day?

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20:51

March 05 2012

10:00

December 16 2011

10:00

Manage All Your WordPress Sites From One Place: Meet ManageWP

For a kickoff we’ve prepared a review of a really neat and useful service some of you guys will be keen on. Those of you who manage more than one WordPress blog will be more or less familiar with the management problems multiple blogs can create. Installing new plugins, updating platforms, keeping an eye on the posts – it’s getting pretty inconvenient if you’ve got couple of active blogs.

Yes, some of you might have already figured out what kind of service we’re writing about here. ManageWP is a service that allows you to manage all your WordPress websites from one single dashboard. What does it mean?

Lets quickly run over the main features:

  • Firstly, that means that you no longer have to remember all logins and passwords for your sites or keep them in long spreadsheets. With ManageWP dashboard you can access all your websites with one click.
  • Performing an upgrade of WordPress, plugins and themes across all of your sites is easy as clicking one ‘Upgrade all’ button. You can also install plugins and themes to multiple sites at once, from a variety of sources (your favorites list, WordPress.org, your computer or any URL).
  • You can backup all your sites from ManageWP dashboard at any time or restore a previous backup. ManageWP can backup both your entire website or just the database. You can also set automatic scheduled backups.
  • ManageWP allows you to set up a new, fully loaded, WordPress site in minutes. Or use ManageWP’s clone tool to clone any of your existing sites from one domain, subdomain or folder to another.
  • With all sites under one roof, doing bulk operations becomes easy. Whether you want to post an article to multiple sites, manage your blogroll links or add users, ManageWP allows you to do it effortlessly across any number of sites at once.

How does it work? Do you have to provide them with all your passwords? The answer is no. Access to your site is governed by the ManageWP Worker plugin that you install directly onto your blog. That means that the only password ManageWP stores is the one needed for their central dashboard. So lets get started and take a deeper look into this service.

Features

Dashboard

Managewp-dashboard-fresh-successful-startups-review

Once you’ve installed the plugin and linked your website with ManageWP you can access all the features it offers. The dashboard is clean and easy to use. Plus it looks just like your casual WordPress dashboard so you don’t have to worry about adapting to a new and unfamiliar platform.

In the main view you can see which plugins or themes have an update available, below there are post revisions aka post autosaves and spam comments. You can also view the recent comments and posts. In the top right there is a pageview statistics graph and scheduled backups below it.

Manage Plugins & Themes

Managewp-plugins-fresh-successful-startups-review

ManageWP dashboard allows you to instantly and simultaneously install themes or plugins for all of your websites. You can also opt to Activate plugins after upload. Looking through all the plugins is also made easy. In my opinion, the only drawback is the plugin horizontal layout so you have to scroll the window quite far if you’ve got a lot of plugins installed.

Backup

Managewp-backup-fresh-successful-startups-review

With ManageWP, you can set up scheduled backups to Amazon S3, Dropbox, your own server, any external FTP or an email address for all of your blogs with just a few clicks. You can choose between daily, weekly or monthly backups. Note – this feature is only available for the professional and business pricing plan.

Migrating/cloning sites.

Managewp-clone-fresh-successful-startups-review

This feature comes in handy if you need to setup a new network of identically modified websites. The theme and all plugins are installed automatically so you don’t have to spend time setting up every blog manually.

Bulk Actions

ManageWP allows you to bulk add/export websites, create new pages, posts and links for all of your websites.

Managewp-bulk-post-fresh-successful-startups-review

It’s pretty clear with the pages and posts – although I don’t see a good reason why one would like to publish the same post on several blogs, the function does it’s job. Again you’re given the default WordPress text editor so there’s nothing unfamiliar to master.

Managewp-bulk-user-fresh-successful-startups-review

The Bulk add users feature is bloody useful if you’re willing to add a writer for a set of blogs. You can find this feature under the Users section.

Note – all the bulk features are only available for professional and business pricing plan.

Self-hosted version

ManageWP also offers self-hosted version which allows you to run the service on your own dashboard. Self hosted allows you to have an unlimited number of blogs, host everything on your server and add your own features. It’s created for companies and organizations managing hundreds or even thousands of websites and is currently available only as Enterprise license.

Pricing

ManageWP will be offering three pricing plans where the price then depends on the number of websites you’ll manage (you can choose from a range between 10 and 500). The pre-order is launching on December 6th. All users that sign up now will receive a 30% life-time discount on any hosted service plan that they pre-order for as long as they maintain their service.

  • 30 day free trial so you can test the service before paying for it.
  • Free plan which allows you to use the Standard features for up to three (five, if you refer some friends) websites.
  • Annual plans, and you will get two months free when you sign up for these.

Below you can see the pricing plans for 10, 100 and 500 websites.

10 websites

  • Standard: $7/month
  • Professional: $21/month
  • Business: $42/month

100 websites

  • Standard: $40/month
  • Professional: $120/month
  • Business: $240/month

500 websites

  • Standard: $70/month
  • Professional: $210/month
  • Business: $420/month

Interview

Since this series focuses on the startups we wanted to ask a couple of questions to the founder of ManageWP Vladimir Prelovac.Vladimir Prelovac is the the CEO of Prelovac Media, an internet company located in Belgrade, Serbia. Besides ManageWP he’s also written a book on WordPress plugin development and created other stunning services and plugins.

1. There aren’t many alternatives who can compete with ManageWP. How did you come up with the idea of ManageWP?

As with most good ideas, it was a stroke of luck and a hint of opportunity. A friend of mine was rambling about how he had trouble managing his blogs, and I suddenly realized there is nothing like that available for WordPress, which is, after all, the world’s biggest internet publishing platform. The world needed something like ManageWP, so I decided it was time to make it.

2. As far as I understand ManageWP began in 2010. Why did it take so long to finish beta testing and establish a fully functional service?

ManageWP is an extremely complex piece of software. What makes it unique is that we really tried to make it run smoothly on literally thousands of different server configurations that WordPress would run on. That was our biggest challenge. Scalability was also an important focus for us — some of our users are managing thousands of blogs. But knowing that ManageWP can load data from 1800 websites in less than two minutes… it makes it all worth it.

There is also a list of spectacular features that we are pushing to integrate into ManageWP. Some startups, for example, are satisfied with only offering backup solutions for WordPress. But that functionality is only a tiny piece of the overall picture. Backup features are critical — and something we pride ourselves in offering — but it is only one piece of the 23 major features currently offered by ManageWP, with many more on the way. And with all the great ideas coming in from our beta users, we know that the value we can provide will continue to grow.

Another thing is that we had to ensure that ManageWP would work with services that WordPress users already deeply value. That’s why ManageWP now integrates with Google Analytics and AdSense. And that’s why we already have plans in place to integrate with SEO and uptime monitoring tools in the near future.

And then there is the fact that WordPress is constantly evolving. Adjusting to all the changes is a challenge unless you are willing to work hard to adjust to those changes. Thankfully, our team put in the effort to adapt. So that’s why it all took almost a year and a half to arrive at this point. (And the ride is not over yet!)

Ultimately, our goal is to create a dashboard so useful, so powerful that people will no longer need to log into their WordPress websites or other services. They will be able to log into ManageWP, and everything that the user needs to effectively manage their WordPress sites will be all right there at the user’s fingertips.

Managewp-2010-fresh-successful-startups-review

Above you can see a screenshot from Wayback Machine with the ManageWP website in 2010.

3. You’ve established a flexible and nice scheme where instead of following a strict milestone schedule the users themselves suggest the ideas you then consider. How did you come up with this method and has it brought the desired results?

Yes! I believe this is one of our strengths at ManageWP. Many of our features were suggested by our users, and that makes it a much more personalized experience for them and for us. After all, nobody could ever have a perfect vision of a product (except maybe Steve Jobs), so it was very important that we listened to our users early on in the development process. We already have around six or seven different ways for users to send us feedback, and I read all of it. The best ideas are sent off to the team for development.

Managewp-ideas-fresh-successful-startups-review

Above you can see a screenshot from ManageWP Google group where users can suggest ideas which then are sent for consideration.

4. Since our series is about successful and fresh startups could you comment on ManageWP from this perspective? How has it grown as a project?

There are different ways to measure the success of a startup. At ManageWP, and from the feedback we have received, it would seem that we created a truly useful service that solves a problem that many people share. Some of our users were excited to learn when we intended to charge for ManageWP, but for the past 12 months, all we wanted to do was focus on creating a genuinely useful product.

And I think that is the most important thing — in order to keep the team passionate and the users interested, you need to have a great product.

5. Your blog says that the number of websites managed by ManageWP has hit 50 000. How do you feel about these results and what are predictions for the future?

Well, looking at numbers like these is always exciting. We hit 50,000 websites near the end of September, but we now manage over 80,000 WordPress blogs. So, when you put it into that perspective, you get really excited as you can see that your product is making a small but measurable change in how the internet works.

Somebody once said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

By having a clear vision of where we want to go and by keeping our customers happy, inventing the future is exactly what we are doing. It also helps when we are working with a strong and thriving publishing platform in WordPress. So, all things considered, I am very positive about our future.

Managewp-50k-fresh-successful-startups-review

Above you can see a screenshot with the exciting announcement.

6. Could you share some of your tips/business principles for others out there willing to make a successful startup?

There are couple of principles that I believe will make any startup’s journey easier:

First is that you need to have a cool product, one that you strongly believe in and you will want to use on your own. This also makes it so much easier to justify putting most, if not all, of your own time, money, and heart into it. You have to realize that there will be many hurdles along the way, as with all things in life, so you better have an idea of what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Second is to launch the beta as soon as possible. This allows you to start listening to your users and getting feedback. They will give great ideas on how to improve your product… for free!

Third is to not create a startup that relies on external funding to succeed. We are completely bootstrapped, which most likely forced us to create a significantly better product than we might have if we were basking in investment money. It motivates you to perform.

Fourth is the speed — making efforts to optimize your application and interface like crazy. Users have never been as impatient as they are today. Also, intuitiveness: the less the users needs to think, the better. You really need to watch other people use your product. You will be surprised by what you will discover.

Do the above things, and people will be drawn to your efforts and will help you to succeed.

7. Additional information

We are launching the pre-order on December the 6th. All users that sign up now will receive a 30% life-time discount on any hosted service plan that they pre-order for as long as they maintain their service, so come check us out! Finally, ManageWP is set to launch in early January.

Conclusion

ManageWP indeed is an amazing and one of the most useful services for WordPress. It’s also a great example of a fresh startup success story. You should definitely check out the free trial if you are running multiple WordPress websites. We’d be glad to hear your feedback and personal experiences. Stay tuned and wait for the next hot startup story.

Little explanation, what we’re doing here

This is something new we are trying out here at 1WD. We are searching for new startups, services we really enjoy and want to share with our readership! The idea is to give better visibility to some outstanding startups and give you a good understanding of what they do and why we think they deserve your attention. Also – we don’t earn anything from these reviews, we just find what we love and review it honestly in detail. When we can, we will always interview the people behind the startup, so you can learn from them, and they can share their passion and story.

I think this new idea and a little shift in focus here at 1WD will be really beneficial for You and feel free to critique what you didn’t enjoy in this article, what you want us to review next and tell us what we did right and if you want more articles like this!

We are very open and if you know about a cool service we could review – just write us in our contact form!

Dainis Graveris

February 28 2011

10:00

What You Need to Know About Freelance Invoicing and Accounting

I could probably sum this up very quickly with the few words “keep it simple.” But because I want to provide you with enough information as to why you need to do that, I’ll elaborate a bit. This is not a list of great programs or apps to use but rather just explaining why it’s important to use something. However, I have my favorites I use so they will be mentioned throughout the article for reference. Alright, let’s get started!

Why Use A Bookkeeping and Invoicing Program?

Well…if you don’t think it’s vital to have something for your records and for your taxes, maybe you’re not freelancer material. You don’t have to spend much time on this each week, but it’s important to keep records and be able to invoice professionally if you want to be treated as a professional. There’s nothing wrong with going simple though, in fact, that’s exactly my next point is, so read on.

Keep it Simple

by Jared Latigo

Simplify with Freshbooks

Ok so it took me quite awhile to migrate over to Freshbooks, but it was the best decision ever. I started off with Quickbooks because I had been around businesses my whole life and they all used it. But what I didn’t realize was that those businesses had lots of billing, payroll, expenses, etc to keep up with whereas I just had me, pretty much. I do have expenses and invoicing to do, but simple is better and that’s exactly what systems like Freshbooks provide. They are made for people like us who only bill out a few times a month, have minimal expenses, and need things to just work. The big struggle I had with Quickbooks was that it was highly difficult and I just didn’t have the time to learn it. To me, a program should not be that complicated, or ugly for that matter. Here’s some things Freshbooks allows me to do.

  • Send invoices online immediately
  • Link to PayPal or other merchant so I can get paid immediately
  • Integrates with my proposal software
  • Makes bookkeeping very simple
  • Limited options keep me sane
  • Easy branding and color scheming

And here’s a few things that you should look for in any system.

  • Simple
  • Reasonable cost
  • Ability to easily send clients invoices online
  • Ability to create invoices in just a few minutes
  • Can easily track payments
  • Recurring invoices
  • Branding and personalizing
  • Easily accessible
  • Small learning curve

And lastly, below are some downfalls to using Quickbooks in particular

  • High up front cost
  • Very large learning curve
  • Not user-friendly
  • Extra fees for things like sending invoices online
  • Only accessible on one computer (unless you pay extra, again)
  • UI is terrible (as a designer, had to throw this one in)

I realize that Quickbooks has a lot of the same features as Freshbook and many more, but they aren’t setup out of the box and many require extra fees to use them. The best-selling point for me on Freshbooks was the fact that it’s easy. There’s really no room for error and it doesn’t overload me with options. There’s plenty of other invoicing systems out there, just be sure to check this one out but most importantly, get something that works on a professional level.

Make it Professional

We briefly touched on this in the last section but I wanted to give it its own section so you realize how important it is. First off, make sure you’re using something that’s simple as we discussed. Then you need to customize it a bit by changing your colors and/or adding your logo. The latter is really important. It’s amazing how many people will take notice that you’re serious about your business if you just add your logo. Also, be sure that everything is correct and on time when invoicing. It says a lot about you.

Do Your Taxes

by Mat Honan

Be Sure to Take Out Taxes

When freelancing you have to remember that you’re taxed on everything you make. True, you have write-offs, but you will still owe money on what you’re bringing in. There’s no way for me to go into detail on how much for you to take out since every state and country is different. Be sure to check the laws on self-employment taxes and maybe meet with an accountant that can help you understand a good amount to take out. Personally, I take some out of every check so that it accumulates over the year and I have the money to pay them when tax time comes. I believe this is the best way so you’re not caught with a huge bill and no money to pay it. Many people pay their taxes quarterly as well, but as long as you’re taking money out of each payment you get, you won’t have to worry about whether it’s paid quarterly or in full.

In closing this section, I really can’t stress how important it is for you to do this. Being stuck with a several thousand dollar bill owed to the government is not a fun thing. Make it a priority, it’s in your best interest.

HourGlass

by graymalkn

Be on Time

This last section really goes for any part of your freelance career. If you want people to take you seriously, be on time with everything. Even be early, but never be late. Being late shows you don’t care enough about their project to make it a priority and get it finished on time. This goes back to the “hot potato” method we talked about in the previous post. Get it done. Get it back to the client. And keep that ball in their court.

Aside from the above, being on time also adds credibility to your brand and will help you down the road when you’re getting referrals. If you’re a trustworthy, reliable person, you’ll always get more business.

Well that’s all for today. Hope this helps you in your daily freelance life and is a good reminder for those of you who are just starting out or thinking about it. Feel free to leave comments below and add to the article if you see fit!

February 16 2011

10:00

How to Manage Your Time Effectively

Freelancing is one of the best jobs in the world. You can manage your own time, work at your own pace, and there’s no boss badgering you to do this or that. However, free time can be both a gift and a curse. On one hand, you can do what you want with your time–but most of the time, you might end up wasting time due to the many distractions in a freelancer’s workspace. You might end up rushing to meet the deadline at the last minute. Wasted time means wasted resources and money.

Time is a freelancer’s biggest asset. If you want to maximize your time and reap the rewards, you must know how to properly manage your time.

Discipline Yourself to Avoid Procrastination

Photo by Marco Michelini

Proper time management does not require a skill set, nor does it require innate talent. Time management merely requires self-discipline. We are our own bosses after all. I admit that I used to be very distracted when i was supposed to be working. I used to spend hours on Facebook and Twitter without even realizing the precious time wasted doing nothing. I wasn’t very productive, and had very little output, which meant I wasn’t making the money I wanted to be. I realized that I need to step up my game. Self-realization is the first step to achieving your goal.

Create a work schedule.

Photo by Gamookie

Most freelancers work erratic hours, working only when they feel like it. This can be detrimental for your health and your work ethic. Sometimes, it’s tempting to continue to work through the night in order to finish things–and yet other times, we waste too much time procrastinating. Since this is not a 9 to 5 job, and no boss imposes a work schedule for you, it’s your assignment to create your own weekly schedule. Schedule everything–not only your work schedule, but also time for yourself, your friends and your family.

Specify your goals or objectives.

Goal setting will help you keep your focus when working on a task or project. Without specified goals, you tend to work slower, with less accomplishment and with less determination. Write your goals for each day, week or month and specify a deadline. Even if your clients do not demand strict deadlines, take the initiative of creating your own target dates. This will allow you to avoid cramming and improve the quality of work.

Categorize and prioritize.

One of the most challenging parts of freelancing? You are a one man team. You are now forced to do all the things on your own: marketing, PR, providing quotes, recording financial statements, promotions, customer service, networking, designing and writing. With all the different tasks to do in the course of a week, it will help to categorize and prioritize your tasks. Group similar tasks, set aside a scheduled time. For example, rather than responding to e-mails the moment you receive them, why not set aside a time each day and reply to all your e-mails at once? This will save you great time. Prioritize the more challenging and more important tasks first before going to the minor ones.

Organize your desktop.

Photo by George Brett

Freelancers’ work generally revolves around the use of computers. Get rid of the clutter near your computer! An organized workspace is very helpful to maximizing your time and efficiency.  A clean desktop will ensure that you won’t be wasting any time looking for your things. All your tools should be ready, visible and within reach.

Take quick breaks.

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re in the zone. You can find yourself working for hours straight, especially if you’re enjoying what you’re doing. If you’re not careful, this can lead to burnout and a lower efficiency rate. It will lead to taking breaks longer than you should, or worse, sleeping at your job. Take quick, three-minute breaks to stretch your back. Have a quick snack. Go out and take a breather. It may not seem like much, but it will make a huge difference in your work quality.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Photo by Nikki

Don’t overwork yourself! Don’t cramp up too many projects into your schedule in the hopes of making more money. If you force yourself into doing more work than you should, the quality of your work will be compromised. Overworking can cause stress, pressure, and resentment with your job. Take it easy, and find a time to relax. Find time to do things you love and spend time with loved ones–there should really be a work-life balance. Just like any work, freelancing can be stressful. Find time to do activities for you to unwind. Separate yourself from work 1-2 times a week to take part in fun activities outside your line of work.

Time Management Tools to Help You

Thankfully for us, the internet and technology has provided us with many tools that will help us maximize our time. Here are a few tools that I recommend you to use for your future projects:

Time Tracking and Management Tool: Rescue Time

Rescue Time is a productivity and time management tool that can maximize your time to the fullest. What does it do? Basically it is a time tracking tool. It records the time you spent working and the time you spent on other non work-related matters. Do you know that your quick visits to your Facebook page eats up almost 30% of your day’s work? Rescue Time is a powerful tool to determine how efficient you are in a day.

What are the benefits of Rescue Time? It increases your productivity. You will know if you are overworked and overloaded, or the opposite. Rescue Time provides you a comprehensive analysis of a day’s work. Information on how many hours you spent on social networking sites, entertainment, editing, writing, and business related matters. You can select the ‘Get Focused’ option to voluntarily block the web sites that are big distractions to your projects

Similar online programs include Toggl and Bill4Time. If you want a downloadable time tracker tool for your desktop, you can try yaTimer.

To do list: Remember the Milk

There are several online ‘to do list’ tools and programs, but Remember the Milk is one of the best out there. It’s fun and easy to use. You can plan your daily, weekly and monthly tasks. You can categorize tasks according to priority or difficulty. Get reminded about your tasks and assignments everywhere — via e-mail, SMS, Yahoo or Skype. That way, you won’t have ANY excuse to forget anything.

Similar programs include Toodledo and Ta-da Lists.

Calendar: 30 Boxes

A calendar tool will come in handy for all Freelancers. It’s the best way to keep track of deadlines and to schedule your time and priorities wisely. It’s a great tool to organize stuff, track RSVPs, get stuff on time and remember important birthdays and events. Another similar program is Google Calendar.

Task Management Tool: Backpack It

Multitasking is an integral skill all freelancers should have. Freelancers may need to manage multiple tasks and projects at the same time. There will be different tasks that you need to finish. Backpack It is an online tool that can help you manage multiple rojects without forgetting everything. Make to do lists for each project, set up pages and keep and share important documents, all in one place.

Mind Mapping Tool: Mind 42


Mind 42 is a mind mapping tool that organizes your ideas, thoughts and concepts into a tree diagram. It is the solution to organizing and tracking ideas that you can share with your clients, colleagues and co-workers online. You can add images,notes and URL links to get your point across if words alone won’t accomplish it. You can create mind maps individually, or brainstorm as a group since it works in real-time. It’s perfect for managing multiple freelance projects simultaneously.
Contact Management Tool: Plaxo

Freelancers both big and small will need to handle their contact pool well. Thus, you need a good management tool like Plaxo to record contact information of your clients, colleagues, employees, employers and more. Plaxo is a user-friendly web-based tool that organizes contacts with a dash of social media. It can sync through other programs including Address Book and Microsoft Outlook. High Rise is a similar web-based contact management tool you can also try.

December 01 2010

21:00

Sorting Out and Dealing with Different Types of Clients

Psychological approach is also an effective strategy being used in business. Learning how to read the clients’ personality can give you advantage. This way, you will know how and in what way to approach them with your marketing strategies. You will be able to handle and build a good professional relationship with your clients.

In this era, the great battle is faced in the world wide web. Online offices for freelancers limits their capabilities to interact personally. Though it’s difficult to get to know a client online in a slightly personal level, it’s still an important step to make.

In this field of business, you will encounter different types of people. The ability to label or sort out the type of client is a very big leap to amplify communication with your clients and allows you to keep a good relationship.

Here are the type of personality traits that you are most likely to encounter in clients. It my push you to the edge, but remember, NEVER lose your cool.

1. The Passive-Agressive

This type of client may start out with a few words being passive, keeping the clear image of what they exactly want to themselves. And surprises you with a lot of detailed demands both minor and major changes, getting agressive only after you submit a project.

Identifying Characteristics

  • Uncooperative and keeps a one-sided communication.

Makes statements such as:

  • “I’m not quite sure what we’re looking for.”
  • “Just do something that would appeal to us generally.”
  • “You totally missed the point of what we wanted.”

How to Deal:

- Being extra patient is the way to go. Always expect for last-minute touch-ups and revisions, may help to defuse any aggressive behavior blow up. Keep your original layered design intact so that you can easily refine and modify it later (not that you wouldn’t, but it does happen).  It also helps to make sure a contract specifies a limited number of revisions.

2. The Family Friend

This is the type of client whom you have known for several years either through family interaction or personal, and this connection has landed you the job. The relationship will be tested and perhaps marred forever by what could very well be a nightmare of a project. This type of client may demand a “special price” and take advantage of your bond. Sometimes, they may even not take your services seriously.

Identifying Characteristics

  • These clients are easy to identify because… well, you know them.
  • Makes such statements as:
    • “Could you just throw something together for me?”
    • “I don’t want you to think that just because I know you I want you to cut me a deal.”
    • “You’re going to charge me what?! But we go way back!”

How to Deal

Dealing with such clients depend on how well you know them and how much you value your relationship with them. But always remember, that anyone who would take advantage of such a relationship is not truly a friend, so respond accordingly. A truthful approach could end up saving the relationship. But start off with a professional and not a personal, tone, and they may follow your lead. Of course, if you truly value the relationship, you may want to pass on the job altogether.

3. The Down-player


Like the family friend described above, this client will downplay your creative presentations. The difference: you don’t personally know this person. There is no explaination for their behavior. They feel they should get a “friend’s” pricing rate not because they want to be friends with you, but because they do not see your work as being worth that much… even if they couldn’t do it themselves. Not coming from a creative background or even having had exposure to the arts can mar someone’s appreciation of the work that you do. After years in our field, we make it look easy, and that is what the down-player sees.

Identifying Characteristics

  • Does not respond to questions in a timely fashion.
  • Makes such statements as:
    • “It’s not like it takes much effort on your part.”
    • “Couldn’t you just throw something together for me?”
    • “How hard can this really be?”

How to Deal

Play it with confidence. You know what your work demands and how well you do your job. The down-player will recognize this confidence. Don’t hold back or concede a point to the client when discussing your role in the project. Standing firm will establish the professional and respectful tone you deserve. If the client does not respond in kind, cut your losses and decline their project.

4. The Critic


This client is never fully satisfied with the work you do and will constantly pick on minor details here and there that they dislike and want changed. Do not be surprised if they ask you to change these same details over and over ad nauseam. It is not a sign of disrespect (as it is with the other clients), but simply the nature of the person. They may have been burned in some other project and are now unsatisfied with everything in their path, including your work.

Identifying Characteristics

  • Complains almost consistently about unrelated things.
  • Personal outlook comes with a scathing bite.
  • Makes such statements as:
    • “How hard is it to [fill in the blank with any rant]?”
    • “I’m really not sure about this element here. It just doesn’t pop!”
    • “I don’t think you are really getting it.”

How to Deal

Once again, patience is important (especially if you have some sadistic reason for taking on nit-picking clients). Try to detach yourself from the project as much as possible, so that the constant nit-pickery does not affect you personally. It is easy to feel hurt or get defensive when your work is repeatedly questioned, and you may begin to doubt your skill. But understand that this is not about you or your talent; it is simply a personality trait of the person you are dealing with. And once again, protect yourself in the contract.

5. The Penny-pincher


This client has similarities to the critic and under-player but is actually impressed with your work and skill set. The criticize you merely to undermine your confidence in an attempt to lower your pricing rate. Unlike some other client types, the penny-pincher understands creative people and their processes. But they are cheap and manipulative, and their scheme may have worked in their favor once or twice in the past. So, they continue to subtly abuse the people they hire in the hope of saving every last penny.

Identifying Characteristics

  • Compliments always come with a less-than-flattering qualifier.
  • Takes time to respond to questions, sometimes making you ask more than once.
  • Makes such statements as:
    • “I really like what you’ve done overall, but I’m unsure about one or two things.”
    • “You may not have gotten exactly what we’re looking for, but you’re close.”

How to Deal

Once again, it is all about confidence. Having a solid understanding of your field and being confident in your knowledge and abilities will keep this client’s manipulation in check. Standing your ground and even calling the client on some of their tactics could shift the balance of power over to you. Be prepared to walk away from the project if the disrespect and manipulation continues. There will be other projects and other clients.

6. The “I-Could-Do-This-Myself”-er


Where to begin… When this type of client offers a project out to you, they make clear to you that they know how to do what they’re hiring you to do but just too preoccupied to do it. They may be working at a firm or an entrepreneur; either way, you are there to pick up their excess load. If they’re at a firm, you could be in for an interesting situation; they were likely hired for their particular style and proposals, and now you will have to please two sets of people: the person who hired you and the people who hired him.

Identifying Characteristics

  • Will generally be (or look) hectic and rushed.
  • Communication from them often takes the form of short bursts of information.
  • Makes such statements as:
    • “I could easily handle this if my schedule weren’t so full.”
    • “Really? Not sure that’s the direction I would’ve gone in, but whatever.”
    • “Remember, you are filling my shoes, and they’re pretty big.”

How to Deal

The “I-Could-Do-This-Myself”-er will likely have recognized your talent and skill right away, which is why they hired you. They merely want you to know that this project (and thus you) is not above their ability. And though these reminders will grate on you periodically, they will let you run with your ideas, perhaps offering suggestions or feedback on the final design.

7. The Control Freak


This client desperately needs to micro-manage every little detail of the project, no matter their qualifications. No decision may be made without their explicit input and approval. This tiresome client forces himself into your workflow, heedless of either invitation or protest, and will demand access to you at whim. The concepts of boundaries and strict work processes are easily lost on the control freak, who constantly disrupts the flow. They may also believe you lack dedication or preparedness, further reinforcing their need to interfere.

Identifying Characteristics

  • Initial contact is long, detailed and one-sided, with little input sought from you.
  • Your input remains unsought as the project pushes forward.
  • Makes such statements as:
    • “This way we can keep in contact 24/7 in case you have any questions, or I do.”
    • “I really know best what is right for the project and what is not.”
    • “What do you mean, I’m distracting you? I am the only thing keeping this project on track!”

How to Deal

If you absolutely must take on this client, for whatever reason, resign yourself to the fact that you will not be steering at any point. You will have to detach yourself from the work because you will have no control at all. You will merely be constructing, not designing, so just let go and let it happen. You may want to exclude this project from your portfolio.

8. The Perfect Client


This client, widely dismissed as a myth, does in fact exist and understands the full scope and artistry of your work. They value your role and creative contributions and want you in the driver’s seat as soon as the project gets underway. They are timely with responses and payments… payments that they did not “negotiate” but rather accepted for what they are. They reflect on your suggestions and have confidence in your capabilities.

Identifying Characteristics

  • Is enthusiastic about the project and your involvement in it.
  • Communication shows awareness of and respect for your role.
  • Makes such statements as:
    • “Here’s the brief we prepared. The rest is pretty much up to you.”
    • “We like what we’ve seen and trust you’ll do great things for us.”

How to Deal

Don’t brag! Confusing confidence with recklessness will get you in trouble. It’s best to just enjoy the ride and hold on to them for as long as you possibly can!

*To Wrap it Up

Being able to identify the type of client you are dealing with will help you anticipate for the job ahead. It will also help you decide whether to accept the job in the first place. Your contract will emulate the power dynamics of the project, so the more you know about the client, the better able you will be to adjust the contract as necessary.

March 29 2010

21:00

Client Tactics: Maintaining Existing Clients

As designers and developers our clients are our business, so a key part of being successful is cultivating a healthy relationship with them. We are usually so caught up with the “project-in-project-out” mentality, we forget that one of our greatest assets as freelancers is a reoccurring client. In this 3rd article of Client Tactics series, we will discuss the reasons for managing existing clients. We will also see how to manage them effectively.

Reasons for maintaining clients.

Statistically it is seven times easier to maintain an existing client than is to go out and get a new client. On a common sense level, it just makes a good business strategy to try to maintain as many existing clients as you can. This will allow you to plan ahead and budget more for the future. The following are a few more reasons for maintaining existing clients.

1. Rapport is Already Established.

The hard work of getting to know your client has been done. You know their corporate strategies, their ways of thinking, and ways of doing business. Heck, you even know how many olives they enjoy in their martinis. Having worked together before, everyone involved is more comfortable during the new project. Already having rapport with the client means that they trust your judgment and input, they know that their project is in capable hands. With the proverbial ice being broken, you can skip the first step of client-freelancer-posturing and get down to the matter at hand: making a great project.

2. Lower Cost of Retention vs Marketing.

It costs less to keep an existing client content, over marketing your services to a new client. This is true in almost every other business model known to man, and it especially holds true for freelancing. If an existing client has a concern with their e-commerce site that be solved with a quick email, what did that email cost you? Five minutes away from watching ‘Lost’? Your five-minute email just saved your client five hours of headache and worry. That five-minute email is worth its file size in gold to the client. It keeps your existing client content and didn’t cost you anything. The next time you pay for advertising, think of how many new clients you attract for $100 and how many existing clients you keep content for free. The little things you do for existing clientage can really add up.

3. It Keeps Your Name in Their Mouths.

By keeping in touch with existing clients, it keeps your name in their mouths, of course I am talking referrals! A happy customer is the best marketing that anyone can have. Michael LaBoeuf said it best, “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”. Think back to our five-minute email scenario, the existing customer knows you saved him time and worry. He will tell anyone who is willing to listen about his awesome customer service experience with his web designer. That kind of candid testimonial reaches farther than any advertising dollar you have to spend.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open.

In this day and age, there are almost limitless ways to keep in touch with your existing clients. From old school mailers and newsletters to a quick twitter direct message, reaching out to a client should be quick, thought out, and never perceived as a tedious task.

Newsletters

Since moving into the 21st century, the amount of snail mail a business receives is on the decline. One way to set yourself apart from the pack is to design a mailer. It could be an actual newsletter or perhaps even a postcard with a promo code. Another good idea would be sending a holiday card or birthday card to your client.

Email Campaigns

Since everyone (including my grandmother) has an email address now, an email campaign to contact is easier and more effective than ever. Most e-mail newsletter software is affordable, if not free, and will allow for mass communication to clients.

Phone Calls

While this part of the game may make you feel like a telemarketer, calling your existing clients during their major milestones will lessen the “I’ve got something to sell you” speech and seem more genuine. Even if you get the voice mail of your client, leave a quick message congratulating them on their recent success.

Commenting on Blogs

If some of your clients have blogs, subscribe to their RSS feeds and categorize them under ‘Clients’. Check it every few weeks, read an article or two, then leave simple constructive feedback in a comment. Try to refrain from the typical “Nice Post!”, “Interesting read.” or “First!”. Remember everyone needs a little comment love every now and again.

Social Networks

Right after my grandmother got an email account, she signed up for Facebook. I wish I was joking. Social networks are the hot, “in” thing now, some people even communicate through social networking channels more than standard email. Social networking is changing the way people communicate online. So it only stands to reason that one should contact your clients via their social network of choice. While social networks are often less formal than email or other means of contact, one should still exhibit a professional customer driven persona.

Direct Contact

While all the means of contact above work. The most direct way of contact is physical face-to-face contact. This could be a planned “I was in the neighborhood” visit or could even be a chance encounter while shopping with your family. Now with some clients this is impossible; say the ones in different time zones but, if they are local to your area this method of contact is a valuable tool.

Client Stalking is Bad.

During your initial project with a client, ask if it’s alright to contact them in the future after the scope of the project has been completed. I have never had a client tell me no. Most clients will like the upfront nature of this comment, it shows you value their time and respect their privacy by only contacting them if they wish. If the client does give you permission to contact them, that doesn’t mean contact them every time they issue a press release or stop by their shop every Thursday. Limit your interaction to big events, such as:

  • A new store location.
  • Your contact at the client’s office getting a promotion.
  • If local and announced to the public, the client recently had a new child.
  • Major holidays (keep the card generic, “Happy Holidays” not “Merry Christmas”).
  • Contact or client’s birthday.

In Closing.

Maintaining existing clients is a reward experience for any freelancer. The key to keeping any client happy albeit, a full service web design client or a ‘mom-and-pop’ start-up needing help with social networking for the first time, is customer service. So keep your customer service kung fu strong until next when talk about essential contract basics for freelancers.

March 28 2010

10:00

10 Awesome Tools to Boost Your Productivity

In today’s busy world, everyone strives to save time. It’s interesting to see how some simple tools can help you a lot in increasing your productivity. Today I’m going to show you some tools I use everyday to increase my productivity. Some are Mac apps, but some are online ones, so if you’re not part of the Mac cult, its okay!

Good Old Fashioned Paper and Pencils

To start, Paper and Pencil. Yes, old school, but it does me good!

Features:

  • Can be used as a planner for both school, work and everyday life.
  • It’s a hard copy, something that guarantees won’ be destroyed by hard drive failure.
  • Paper can be everywhere you are. Can you say the same for your computer?

I like it because: I like to use a combination of my Moleskine notebook and index cards, because everything gets easier to organize. I use my Moleskine as both a school/day planner and a hub for all my to-do lists and important things to remember. (Sometimes even recording Vocabulary words or Polyatomic Ions to memorize)

The Hit List

Next, I use a commercial Mac app called, “The Hit List“; it’s a to-do list maker! It lets me make as many lists, or to-do’s as I need, and I can organize them with tags.

Features

  • Manage and create lists for all aspects of your life
  • Simple and Sophisticated
  • Flexible, and great for any GTD flow.
  • Easy to manage with schedules and syncs to iCal

I like it because: It’s great for me, because of its elegant yet usable design, and there is a nice calendar function to mark due dates of specific events. So, basically I can create lists for every aspect of my life in one handy application.

Note: This app came bundled as part of MacHeist 3. A lighter, and free app that does similar things is called, Anxiety. It’s what I used before this.

GMail and Google Docs

These next two web apps, GMail and Google Docs help take my data and files with me anywhere, without the need for a USB.

Features

  • GMail is customizable, and comes with tons of space that really comes in handy!
  • Easy to make files flexible – accessible anywhere on any computer
  • Google Docs makes it easy to edit documents without a word processor.
  • Great for rough drafts
  • Ability to create spreadsheets, presentations and documents – great for school or work

I like it because: GMail and Google Docs work seamlessly together to bring the best of both worlds.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome, a web browser created by Google, is amazing!

Features

  • Available for many platforms
  • Fast, Clean and Simple; Less clutter, more efficiency.
  • Extensions for just about anything!
  • Built in security, translation, and themes
  • Easily arrange tabs, private browsing, navigation + search box

I like it because: When developing websites, it has nifty little features that make everything a whole lot easier. For instance, I can use the “Inspect Element” to inspect various elements on a website, including CSS and JavaScript! Sources are color-coded too! There are also a bunch of extensions available that boosts the design and development process as well. (Not to mention the pretty themes that are available!)

NetVibes

Netvibes, a web app, is a personalized start page that basically houses little modules of the weather, email, twitter, Facebook, Craigslist, etc; all in one homepage!

Features

  • A personalized Web experience
  • Easy to manage and update social media accounts
  • Private and Personal Pages
  • Accessible from computers or mobile devices
  • More than 180, 000 widgets for a truly unique experience!

I like it because: It really saves me time by seeing important things all at once. What’s also great is that you can have more than one page, a “tab”. The handy google search that’s never far really ties everything together!

DaisyDisk

DaisyDisk is another hesitated mac app, but is worth the money.

Features

  • Helps free up disk space
  • Smooth, Easy to use and navigate
  • Gives you a new perspective on your files
  • Shows you which files and folders are taking up the most space, in nifty, color-coded visualizations
  • Built in File Previews

I like it because: I get colorful views on exactly where my space went!

GeekTool

This next mac PrefPane, Geektool takes over your desktop and makes it totally unique. It basically adds text layers, with any kind of information you want, and makes amazing desktop customizations.

Features

  • Available for many platforms
  • Can show weather, emails, CPU usage, etc.
  • Displays in “File, Shell, and Image”
  • Powerful and easy to export and share

I like it because: It allowed me to get really creative with the way I wanted to display my information. Here’s a sample of mine.

Note: for Mac only, and I would only recommend to people comfortable with code.

GrooveShark

I like iTunes, but I love Grooveshark even more. Grooveshark is a web app for online music streaming, and totally free!

Features

  • Browser based – no need to download anything
  • Easy to discover new music
  • Pretty, easy to use interface with themes
  • Can organize music in a library with playlists

I like it because: This totally saves me time dealing with my iPod and iTunes. I also really enjoy this app because its super simple for on the go, and works great in school. The super simple functions are amazing, and very easy to fall in love with.

BrowserShots

As Web Designers, we need to accommodate all browsers; pain right? I like to use a free web app called, BrowserShots.

Features

  • Uploads screenshots of your websites on different browsers and computers
  • Fast, Clean and Simple; Less clutter, more efficiency.
  • Lots of options and settings
  • Multi platform and browser

I like it because: There are tons of options to choose from, which saves me the trouble of having to run windows on my Mac, or downloading tons of other browsers.

Flow

In a recently purchased nanobundle from mac heist, I got my hands on a Mac app called, Flow. It’s FTP that is as easy as using the finder!
Features

  • Can connect to “FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3, WebDAV, and MobileMe iDisk servers”
  • Clean design, easy to use
  • Uses QuickLook and syncs with desktop or a remote folder
  • Edit directly on server with In-app code editor

I like it because: I enjoy it, because it’s easy to edit files within and outside the program. Otherwise, it’s a great yet simple FTP program. You can even upload files, without having the app open!

I hope you enjoyed this post! Does anybody have their own apps to share?

February 23 2010

20:02

Client Tactics: Making an Impression on a Client

As designers we have our skills honed; a gorgeous portfolio, well designed business cards, and a vicious social media presence.

So what’s missing? Here we will be discussing the preparation for impressing a client. Impressing a client is crucial not only for initial business, but also for repeat business. Impressed clients will brag about their new projects and recommend you to their like minded colleagues.  One happily impressed client could easily spread your talents around to ten or more people.

In the words of American advertising executive William Bernbach, “Word of mouth is the best medium of all.”. So by the client recommending you, they are putting their stamp of approval on your work. That’s something your portfolio or business card just can’t do.

Everyone has a Portfolio, You Must Be Remarkable.

Awesome-Lemonade-Stand-Client-Tactics-Impressing-Clients

Every designer who is serious has a portfolio and business card. What makes you different than “Joe Designer” down the block? In our business, two things set you apart: being remarkable at design and being remarkable at marketing yourself. To understand if you are remarkable simply ask the question, “Am I memorable?” . Being remarkable is what gives you the ability to stand out in a crowd of your peers.

There is a good chance that you are not the only one submitting a bid on this project, especially if this is a job listing on one of the many job forums out there. So standing out is a must! The simplest things can make you stand out. It’s all about the small things, they add up in big ways with the client. It could be the extra creativity in your business card, portfolio, or even being the only guy to show up in a tie.

Define Your Goals.

Writing-Down-Your-Goals-Client-Tactics-Impressing-Clients

What do you want out of this project? Do you just need the money? Are you looking to increase your exposure? Looking to get into a new market? Ask yourself these questions and write them down.  So what does writing down goals have to do with impressing a client? Organization. When one is organized it shows in all aspects of one’s work. This will allow you to put your priorities in order and unclutter your mind; allowing you to be calm, collected, and in control. You will present an image of streamlined efficiency and confidence. Also, if your intentions are written down you are more likely to follow them.

Choose Your Words Carefully, They Will Define You.

No matter how good your portfolio is, if you have the personality of freshly baked bread; you will not land the client. When meeting your client for the first time, quickly assess your surroundings. Finding common ground is the best way to start the conversation. In some cases the client may be half way around the world. In situations such as these, email and phone conversations are the only form of contact. Tone is everything when relying on a means of communication other than face-to-face. Watch spelling, grammar, and punctuation in emails as they can make or break you.

Do Your Homework.

Before starting any new project, I google the potential client. I cannot count how many times this has prepared me for a crazy client. By checking on google and the various social networks, you’ll be able to grasp the gist of the client. Do they have several stores? Do they pay their vendors on time? Are there odd pictures of their last Christmas party on Facebook? The answers await on the internet.

Be Weary of What You Wear.

Don-Draper-AMC-Promo-Client-Tactics-Impressing-Clients

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Does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man? Never mind that now! When meeting a client for the first time it’s very important to dress accordingly. If you’re meeting at a bowling alley, a suit may not be a good choice. On the other hand don’t wear board shorts and a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt to a meeting. Well maybe if it’s a skate board company. I usually dress in dark colored business casual. It holds up nice and if I need to be a bit edgy, I loosen my tie a bit. Oh and when in doubt, wear a tie.

I have tattoos. I have been in situations on both sides of the fence. I have lost potential clients because of them and I have gained client because of them. It’s a fifty-fifty chance with tattoos. As a rule now, I keep them covered up unless they come up in conversation. I have tattoos in my illustration portfolio so the subject usually comes up.

Be yourself.

Be-Yourself-Old-School-Photo-Client-Tactics-Impressing-ClientsIn the end, it all comes down to common sense. Do you wear a suit or not? Do you relate that funny story about your design background? Use your judgment and your design spidey-sense to navigate the clients waters. Relax, you’ll do fine. Be yourself. They’ll love you, unless you have the personality of fresh baked bread. I want to leave you with another William Bernbach quote, “Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.”

In the next Client Tactics, we will look at sure-fire ways to spot a deadbeat client. Until then, want more ideas on being remarkable?

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February 03 2010

14:45

27 Best Looking Free Drupal 6 Themes

Title-drupal-6-theme-web-designThere are hundreds of Drupal themes which you can find on the Internet but not all of them are good looking. So, this time I have collected the best looking free Drupal 6 themes I have found.

I have no idea how much of you guys use Drupal, but I’m a big fan of Drupal and this time I take a big risk and hope you’ll at least check out this selection and compare it with your CMS. Drupal is definitely worth trying out, it has a lot more customization options and chances to add different features, which even mighty Wordpress cannot handle.

1. BlogBuzz

Stunning Drupal theme! Everything is so clean, very well made. Could be a great theme for your portfolio web site or a blog.

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2. Magazeen

Great looking theme! Just clean and shiny.

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3. Gardening

Beautiful cartoon-style Drupal theme. Great piece of art!

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4. Acquia Prosper

Clean, good looking theme for an e-commerce website.

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5. ColorPaper

Great piece of work! The best implementation of this theme could be for a blog or just a personal website.

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6. Beach

Good looking Drupal theme. It has a nice underwater feeling.

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7. Notechoas

Interesting piece of art. Background has a big role in this theme.

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8. RootCandy

This is very cool and great looking theme for Drupal’s administration section. Everything looks clean and shiny and those icons look awesome.

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9. Scruffy

Great Drupal theme for a blog.

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10. Grassland

This theme looks nice. There’s a positive atmosphere inside this theme.

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11. Coolweb

Great theme for a corporate website!

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12. Cleanfolio

Beautiful theme for a small and simple website.

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13. Abstract

Beautiful theme for a blog or portfolio website!

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14. Fusion Theme

Clean and simple theme which looks great!

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15. A3 Atlantis

Very interesting theme. Could be good for a corporate website.

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16. Orange

Very well made and great looking theme for a social networking site!

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17. Arclite Theme

Clean and simple theme which could be great for a blog.

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18. Fields 2009 template

Good looking theme for a corporate website.

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19. NonZeroRed DTB

Just a simple and good looking theme. Could be implemented for many types of websites.

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20. Elements Theme

Interesting Drupal theme. Could look good for a portfolio website.

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21. A Cold Day

Nice looking theme which has three color versions available.

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22. Ebizon RedFire

If you want just a clean and simple website then this theme is a theme you are looking for.

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23. Acquia Marina

Cool theme for many types of websites.

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24. Alek 2.0

Simple Drupal theme for a simple website.

drupal-alek-2-0-drupal-6-theme-web-design

25. Twittish

If you would like that your website would look like Twitter then you have found the best solution for you!

webpp-office-on-the-twittish-drupal-6-theme-web-design

26. AD Redoable

Simple theme which would look great for a portfolio website.

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27. Austin Zen Sub Theme

If you want just a simple website without any flashy, shiny elements then this simple theme is for you.

drupal-austin-zen-sub-theme-drupal-6-theme-web-design

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December 25 2009

13:42

Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac


By Matthew C. Gallagher

So you have sold your idea, your client has committed to the project, the next step is – How do I manage this most effectively to successfully complete this job?

There are generally 3 accepted rules of project management: time (delivery to client or launch of product), budget (cost to deliver project) and scope (definition of contracted project).

Some folks substitute quality for scope, but focusing on time, budget and the scope of any project inevitably affects the quality delivered to the client. For the sake of this article, we will stick with time, budget and scope as the guiding principles for project management.

Furthermore, we will only address the time issue in our approach and how best to manage the project on your computer. So you have a new project and are looking to complete it in the most efficient and effective manner to maximize its success, your client’s happiness and your bank account. Let’s get started.

Mail 01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Creative Projects

The creative process is different for everyone but mainly follows 3 simple steps: brainstorming, concepting, finished work.

All of these can be solitary pursuits or group-based efforts and usually involve a team working towards a common end goal.

Brainstorming is the advent of the idea. It is the first in a series of steps in solving your client’s business problem. Sometimes you may be involved in the original brainstorm with the client, but many times you may be brought in to create what the client has already determined they require.

The concepting phase is where the solution is detailed and prototypes built. Much of the creative development occurs during this phase. The general roadmap is established and the creative finish is determined that will guide whatever production is to follow towards completion.

Finally, the finished work is completed. This can be an illustration or a complete website. The process for them both is the same; a series of time-frames with milestones in the development for review and revisions to ultimately meet the client’s original requirements.

Some of the best applications available revolve around creative development. A truly great applications is one that combines the experience of pen and paper design with the ease of production of allowed via the computer.

There are numerous developers, both small and large, creating applications for brainstorming, wire-framing, flowcharting, etc. Ultimately, it is not nearly as important who the developer is, as does their solution fit your needs and work-flow.

Omnigraffe-07 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Omnigraffle Pro is a diagramming program that provides the necessary tools to develop much of the documentation required for today’s interactive projects. Some of the basic templates provided are in the key areas required for your creative production: brainstorming, organizational charts and drawing.

Omnigraffe-08 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Once you begin using it however, there is really no limit to what you can create with the application. The work area is clean and clear, allowing the use of multiple layers and the toolset provided rivals many of the traditional graphic programs costing much more.

Regardless, any application that provides tools that complement your natural workflow and aid the organizational process will help any project succeed.

Getting Things Done

There is a commonly used action management method, created by David Allen, that revolves around the principle of moving recording tasks externally in order to focus attention on completing them; getting things done (GTD). There are 5 phases to its workflow model: collect, process, organize, revew, do.

GTD-pipeline-2 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

The GTD method has become very popular across the business spectrum and there are a few applications that allow you to implement this strategy for your business.

Culturedcode-things-02 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Developers like Cultured Code and Omni both offer GTD based applications that can easily integrate into your workflow. Cultured Code’s offers Things (their mobile application received one of this year’s Apple Design Awards at the 2009 WWDC) while Omni offers OmniFocus.

Culturedcode-things-01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

These types of GTD applications allow you to set up your projects, establish the related tasks required and manage the workflow in a straightforward application. The ease of using such a simple application insures that you will use it.

While so much of business today is done away from your office having mobile applications is fast becoming a norm for today’s professionals. One of the other key features of the more effective applications is their option of providing a corresponding iPhone app.

An iPhone application that integrates seamlessly with the desktop application allows you to focus on the tasks necessary to succeed while letting the applications do some of the heavy lifting.

There are many tools available today to manage your project’s schedule and enhance your time management. One of the things I have found over the years, however, is these applications need to integrate well into your established workflow, rather than vice-versa. If the applications require us to learn a whole new set of dynamics, that lessena the likelihood of successfully using them.

Client Expectations

One key to a successful project is open communications; between team members and most importantly with the client. Engaging everyone involved in the project will enable their ownership and active participation during its life-cycle to ensure its successful completion.

This communication can be managed through Mail, just as easily as any other means. Apple’s Mail is a great application that is also quite powerful in its management of data and integration into other applications.

Mail 01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Mail can become your central hub for this activity for now Mail can provide a place for your Notes and tasks with their new To Dos. In addition to this, Mail is also a great RSS reader as well. If you have several feeds you monitor for your projects all of this can be easily integrated within a single application.

Mail 02 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Mail is also an integral part of your iPhone. So even though you may be away from your desk you are never away from your data and the ability to successfully manage those client relationships.

There are a few things that Mail does not do as well or not without a bit of 3rd party application integration; that is customer relationship management (CRM). Where Mail might exhibit gaps, other effective applications step in to cover those gap.

Daylite 01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

I like to be able to manage my communications through an enhanced CRM application that connect my tasks, emails and daily activity and tie it back to projects and opportunities for my business. MarketCircle’s Daylite is a handy application that allows these activities as well as provides a framework for planning the entire life cycle of your project. From opportunities to documentation you can track most every task required for keeping yourself and your clients in the loop since it can easily be integrated with Apple’s Mail.

Regardless of the tool, some of the most effectives steps I take with my own projects is a daily ledger of activities, a weekly progress report and finally monthly updates (if the project warrants) for my clients.

Any application that can integrate with my workflow, provide detailed reports which can easily be shared with colleagues and clients will ease the production schedule of most any project. An application that allows me to establish roles, responsibilities, tasks, etc. will more easily integrate into my workday and let me offload some of my tasks to intelligently designed software.

Daylite divides your data into calendar, contacts, organization, projects, opportunities, groups, tasks, appointments and notes. It is efficiently designed and it integrates with Mail, through the Daylite Mail Integration module, so keeping everyone on the team informed is a breeze.

Good software can be of great service to any business looking to lessen the time managing the work and maximize the time doing the work. Some of these applications can be extended to work with other integral applications in your business through the use of Application Programming Interfaces (API). An open API means that other developers can take a valuable piece of software and write a plugin to extend one application’s functionality and extend it into another application.

Daylite-plugins in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Daylite also has such an API that allows it to integrate with the likes of; MYOB, Filemaker, Lightspeed, MoneyWorks and more. This integration with other applications allows you to customize a software solution to fit almost any businesses need.

Again, the more robust applications feature mobile versions to keep you up-to-date and informed on the go. Many of the applications on the market offers a similarly feature-rich version for the iPhone while providing an option for you to examine through their 30-day trial versions.

The applications are not nearly as important, however, as the tasks they allow you to manage. Keeping an open dialogue during production is a key to its eventual success. As long as everyone is aware of the progress of the project surprises and the inevitable issues that arise during production can be successfully mitigated. Having great software that helps keep you on top of communication can help mitigate any bumps along the road.

Managing the Production Schedule

So what tools can assist your production schedule? There are a wealth of tools in the marketplace designed to assist time management and I have used quite a few over the years. As I have stated above, the ones that are most successful are the easiest ones to use.

Having stated that, a project management application needs to have a few key features. First it needs the ability to track time. Second, the ability to track resources; both people and equipment. Finally, the application needs to track revenue. If a job isn’t profitable, you need to know why and where its profitability fell off the projection so you can learn from the past to profit in the future.

There are numerous providers of applications designed to track production. The above-mentioned Daylite can serve in this capacity, but lacks some of the traditional features usually incorporated into a dedicated project manager (i.e. Gannt charts, resource allocation, etc.). If you want a more dedicated application for project management there are a few that I have used and would recommend.

Omniplan 01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

The first application recommended for your review would be OmniGroup’s OmniPlan. One of the strengths of OmniPlan is its ease of use while offering easy integration with other application from their software library.

Merlin 02 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Another developer of dedicated project management applications are the Project Wizards, out of Germany. Their app, keeping with the Wizards theme, called Merlin, is a simple-to-use project manager that offers serious depth which will serve any project manager well.

Finally, the last desktop application for recommended review is FastTrack Scheduler. I used this application a bit back in my days at Disney and it is the foundation that a lot of the newer developers have built upon when designing their applications.

Fasttrack-01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

FastTrack’s design is not as elegant as Omni Group or Project Wizards. As such it can be intimidating to some, especially those new to project management software. The application, however, is quite robust is a fine option for anyone to review when looking for a project management application to choose for their organization.

In addition to the desktop applications available for project management, there are quite a few web apps available. The first is one that created quite a stir when they launched – 37signals’ Basecamp.

Basecamp-01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

Basecamp is a combination CRM, like Daylite, and Project Manager. It is entirely web-based and offers different pricing per month based upon your usage. It is an exceptional alternative to the traditional desktop solutions we are all so familiar with but there is the monthly fee to consider.

Some companies also, do not want their data hosted anywhere but within their own server environments. ActivCollab has much of the same functionality as Basecamp, but it can be hosted in your own server environment.

Activcollab-01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

ActivCollab actually started as an open-source application but migrated, to the great ire of many, to a commercial product. The fork, or branch, where they moved from the open-source world has a continuing development of the open-source version called Project Pier. Project Pier retains much of the core features of ActivCollab, keeping it open source and a viable option for any organization looking for a web-based project management app.

Project-pier-01 in Tools And Techniques To Manage Creative Projects On Your Mac

All of these applications offer a great wealth of resources necessary to manage any project you may be working on currently. There strengths lie in their user interface and ease of integration with other applications you may use on a daily basis in your company.

A great feature of any of these apps is the ability to share the data with other team members to keep them informed of the progress. Insuring the reports functions are easy to customize and share with your team will allow everyone to keep their eyes on their tasks in the production.

One of the biggest hurdles I have personally faced with the web-apps like Basecamp or ActivCollab is the ability to get the clients to participate in the process. Early on in Basecamp’s existence we tried to use it as the home for all of our projects. The internal team members all participated with the scheduling and comments systems, but not one client would even log into the system.

Despite wanting to be informed, much of these applications are perceived too overwhelming for many folks and therefore will remain unused. That is why it is imperative to find a solution that works for you and your clients.

We ultimately went with a system that used the Basecamp for our internal developments and utilized the account services team for client management. As stated above, if the system is not used, it is not a good system so you will have to dedicate enough time to research applications that fit into your company’s dynamic processes.

Conclusion

So we have covered some basic rules of project management and offered a few tools and techniques to help manage those projects on your computer. The key to this process is to incorporate a workflow that is comfortable to you and integrates nicely with your current work style. Otherwise you will not utilize the tools and techniques necessary to work more efficiently and effectively.

All of these applications rely on active participation to effectively monitor the projects. You must update the data to keep the schedule fresh and accurate as well as communicate frequently with your partners during the production to insure the plan is accurate.

Keeping on task and on time will insure you deliver your projects to your clients within their budgets. After all, if you can work more effectively you will have more time to enjoy the fruits of your labor

Further Resources

Software mentioned in this article (in order of appearance):

OmniGroup’s OmniGraffle Pro

Cultured Code’s Things Desktop Application

Cultured Code’s Things Desktop Application

Apple’s Mail

Marketcircle’s Daylite

Marketcircle’s Daylite Touch

OmniGroup’s OmniPlan

Project Wizard’s Merlin

AEC Software’s FastTrack Schedule

37signals’ Basecamp

activeCollab

Project Pier

Related articles and other relevant resources for further reading (alphabetical by subject title).

A List Apart
The site, for people who make websites, has some great articles on project management and workflow by a wide variety of authors.

Communication Arts
A great article on managing your studio.

Gannt
Wikipedia’s entry on Gannt Charts.

GTD
Wikipedia’s entry on Getting Things Done.

Project Management Institute
Leading membership association for project management professionals.

Prototyping with XHTML
Great article on importance of integrating the right systems in your workflow for a better result in the end.

SlickMap CSS
Stylesheet for displaying a sitemap directly from a simple unordered list.

Jeffrey Zeldman
Simple thoughts on project management from a complex mind.

About the author

Matthew Gallagher has spent his career working in all forms of creative development for companies ranging from The Walt Disney Co to Hallmark. He currently runs the boutique design studio designoMatt, building branded websites for destination design, based in Windermere, FL.

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