Many Hands Make Light Work: Accepting a Little External Input When Crafting Your Website

As a small business owner, it can be extremely easy to become territorial over all aspects of your company. After all, that’s one of the reasons you became self-employed in the first place, right? You want freedom to pursue what you want, craft your own ideas, and develop your own brand. However, every now and then it’s a good idea to let others lend a helping hand. As the old saying goes, many hands make light work.

This rings true in particular when it comes to setting up a webpage. A well crafted website can help you to launch your business into the ever-expanding world of E-commerce, exposing you to customers on a potentially worldwide level, opening your store up to access at all times of the day and night, and giving you space on the smartphones that so many of us tend to have our heads buried in most of the time.

So you want it to be the best that it can possibly be. Here are a few areas that others can help you out with to give you the most admirable results.

Image Credit: Pexels

Web Design

If you want to succeed in ecommerce, you’re going to need an eye-catching website. This is your base. The place that customers will come into contact with your brand, its aesthetic, and the products and services that you have available. Make their experience memorable.

Rather than using the same old same old web page layout, collaborate with a web designer who will be able to create a site that is easy to navigate, has easily accessible links to important brand information such as returns, sizing, shipping, and terms and conditions; and options such as mailing list signup and contact forms.

Graphic Design

Sure, you can use stock images. They’re free, simple to source, and will do the job. But since when did you ever settle for average? Whether you’re looking at something major like a new logo, or more small-scale like an illustration for a blog post, a reliable graphic designer will be able to hook you up with whatever it is that you may need.

Not only will they be able to put your ideas directly onto paper (or screen), but they will also be able to offer sage advice regarding what works and what doesn’t. They’ll have seen many businesses come and go in their time and can give you a little insight as to what styles will best suit your brand aesthetic and what types of images to avoid.

Content

You want your content to stand out. So many sales sites have such similar product descriptions, blog posts, and images. Try to do something a little different. Employing the help of a photographer and copywriter will ensure that your web page content pops! Not only will it be more memorable (encouraging customers to revisit pages), but it will also encourage sales.

Remember that you can’t do absolutely everything! That’s where self-employed freelancers can come in to help out with one-off jobs. Make the most of their creativity and expertise where you can!

Think Outside the Box to Design Your Perfect Business Card

How many times a week do you get handed the same generic, laminated and tiny rectangular business cards? Once, twice or more? The chances are that these business cards are placed into your wallet and never see the light of day again unless you fumble around looking for your credit card only to take out a business card instead.

Business cards are vital tools that allow us to network with our fellow industry colleagues and make worthwhile contacts. However, the standard format of the business card is uninspiring, instantly forgettable and results in no further contact between you and the person who gave you the card in the first place.

To break this cycle, you need to take a look at a new breed of business card. Its purpose is still the same: making meaningful business links and driving your company forward. Take a look at these ideas that will inspire you to design a new business card of your own.

Anyone for a Spot of Kirigami?

The art of paper folding could see you create a new generation of 3D business cards. If you work in a creative industry or architecture, these wacky but interesting business cards could fit the bill. Complete with contact details, company logo and name, they remain simple in their content, yet sophisticated in their sleek design. This is a business card that will enable you to stand out from the crowd.

Make It Functional

This incredible metal business card is also a USB stick. By adding a useful function to your business card, you are limiting the chances of it being thrown in a drawer and forgotten about for eternity. Every time a contact of yours utilises their USB, your business name and logo will be visible to them as well as any other colleagues that may be around their desk at the time. Adding an innovative use to your card could be the difference between making a worthwhile lead and not.

Experiment with Materials

You don’t have to choose the most eco-friendly matte finish card to show off an air of sophistication in your business cards. Why not consider a different material altogether? You could look into bamboo, metal or soft woods to create a wholly new style of business card. Wood lends itself to be burned into or branded allowing you to be creative with your design. By thinking outside the box, you are making your company instantly more memorable than your more generic competitor.

Key Features All Business Cards Should Share

No matter what shape, material or form that your business card takes, it should contain your business name, contact details, social media links and your logo. By looking at the range of unique logo fonts provided by DIY Logo, you’ll be inspired to find a special font to match your specially designed business card. If you have a one of a kind business card, you don’t want to ruin its feel by plastering it with a boring Times New Roman or Courier Font. Carry the uniqueness through into every aspect of your design.

Business cards can seem like a tiny aspect of your networking strategy but get it right, and you could have a unique talking point that generates many meaningful business contacts.

How to Get Your Design Studio Up and Running

Setting up your own design studio is one of the most exciting and exhilarating things you can do as a designer. It can also be a little overwhelming and confusing too however, so we are here today to create a tick sheet on how to set up your design studio so that you are up and running in no time at all.

Business Capital

Firstly, you’re going to need to look into a good, reputable business lending company that can help get your business off the ground financially and set you up with the funds that you need to get your business started and financed into the initial few months. With some business loan companies offering small business loans with business funding as low as 9.9% make sure you put in the research to find the best packages that fulfill the needs of your company.

Your Creative Team

Assuming that you are setting up your design studio with a background in design you are already bringing with you heaps of design experience and contacts within the world of design. You then will obviously want to create a team of fantastic designers. Creative individuals who add a diverse range of creative talents, style, and conceptual vision.

However as your background is most likely in design you will also want to ensure that you are creating a team that offers solid diversity for your business. So combining designers with more commercial staff who will be able to build your business and marketers who will be able to promote your business will ensure that you have a well rounded team that ticks all the right boxes for your business. Having a team of individuals with different backgrounds will also mean that you can bounce ideas around a team with multiple areas of expertise.

Those All-important Clients

The decision for you to bite the bullet and go it alone probably means that you are confident that you already have a few clients that you can take with you into your new company. A handful of clients is obviously a great start, but they are not going to pay the bills long term. Therefore the primary focus for your design studio is canvassing for new clients.

Begin by understanding what it is about your company that makes it special and makes it standout from the competition. Carve out a niche for yourself and then compile a list of potential clients that you feel your approach, values, and style will suit and serve well.

Build strong relationships by being transparent with your creative process so that there are no hiccups or no unmet expectations and disappointments along the way. Being clear about what you offer and what you can deliver is important in creating clear goals and aims for any projects you take on for new clients. Happy clients mean great word of mouth publicity, so being clear from the start will ensure your clients are satisfied with you and your new team and your company will subsequently grow.

Collaborators

So you now have your full time team in place, however you are still going to want to build up a network of outsourcers, collaborators, and specialists around you. Making sure you have people you can outsource work to means that no matter how much work you have coming through your studio you can always deliver and never have to risk clients going else where if your schedule is full.

Forming relationships with specialists in areas such as video animation or TV production advertising means that if you have a specific project that comes in that needs specialist knowledge in certain areas, you already have a trusted and reliable extended team that you can call upon.

Keep Updated

Now that you are setting up shop on your own there may be a few differences, to working for an employer, that you don’t immediately notice straight away. One of the biggest differences that can sneak up on you, can be the training and industry knowledge and research that is gathered and presented and offered to you on a regular basis when you work for a larger agency.

So as a business owner you now need to make research and training a priority for yourself and for your staff. Staying on top of market trends and business development in your industry means you stay on top of the game and are able to offer your clients a service that is fresh modern and forward thinking.

Similarly, investing in training for yourself and your staff will mean that your team are constantly evolving and are able to offer the most up-to-date and sought after software and design programmes and tools.

6 Tips for Newbie Graphic Designers Who Want to Increase Their Rates/Prices in 2017

In graphic design, it is important to avoid being a “commodity”. The founder and CEO of brand strategy design consultancy Blind, Chris Do, agrees that one of the things you’ll learn over time is that you’ll need to “make room for better clients”.

In order to gain more opportunities in the future, you’ll have to make the tough decision of leaving your comfort zone of existing clients.

As one self-taught graphic designer (Ben Burns) who moved from $400 to $30,000 logo designs said to me once, “It’d be hard for Tarzan to swing through the jungle if he never let go of a vine.” So sometimes grasping a new opportunity will take one hand as opposed to two.

Here are my six tips for budding graphic designers looking to make more money:

How Not to Work for Cheap

Every design project you complete takes you closer to being a better graphic designer.

It will be important for you to remain mindful that your value is increasing. With increased value and expertise comes the need to revise your rates. Do not fall into the trap of pricing your work at a lower rate than market rates just to land the next project.

Know your worth. One obvious indicator that you can raise your rates is being in demand.

Don’t Be Afraid to Raise Your Rates

Are you afraid to raise your rates? There’s absolutely no reason to feel this way.

Whether you studied graphic design in school or you’re self-taught, you should have confidence in your skill sets to know that you work is better than the competition’s.

When you think about every other professional out there (dentists, lawyers, doctors, architects, fashion designers, artists, etc.), they all charge what they know they’re worth.

For instance, let’s say you land a logo and identity project for a startup or established company; you want to come out the winner, so ensure you consider how much your client stands to make over the lifetime of the logo and identity.

All They Can Say Is No

Your ideas and time are valuable. If you feel your next logo design should cost $1,000 USD then charge that amount even if your previous rate was $100 (or significantly lower).

The worse thing that can happen is that you lose a prospective after you submit your quotation. It’s not the end of the world.

The people who understand the value your work will bring will pay what you’re asking. After all, creativity takes tremendous mental capacity, especially if you’re constantly doing custom work versus production work (templates).

Examine Your Present and Past Clientele

Some of you have been in busy for at least three years and you’ve just been getting by on minuscule earnings, even with a steady stream of design projects.

Perhaps it’s time you take a very bold step and being firing those nickel-and-dime clients. You know the one’s I’m referring to; they’re always asking for a discount and complaining about how “expensive” your quotations are.

But take my advice, this is a step in the right direction; this was the way I was able to charge more.

Look At the Prices of the Competition

It is important that you always try to recognise your value as your skills and work improve. As you grow, you’ll need to reassess your value as a graphic designer.

One way to tell what you ought to be charging is to take some time and examine the competition locally and internationally.

If you work is comparable or better than others in your industry, it’s one indicator that you should be offering your design and creative services for around the same price or significantly more — particularly if you bring more value to a design project.

You Are Not an Impostor

My final bit of advice to you, especially if you are self-taught, is to move beyond the “impostor syndrome”.

Just because you weren’t formally or classically trained in graphic design with a degree behind your name doesn’t make you any less of a graphic designer. Let your work speak for itself.

Go one step further and take some time to have clients write you a testimonial (three to five sentences) immediately after a design project completion. People like hearing from other people and not from the business/entrepreneur.

This will help boost your confidence to increase revenue. Once you’re able to embrace your abilities and authenticity, you’ll feel more justified in raising your prices.

 

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Blame 'Best Picture' Fail at the Academy Awards 2017 on Bad Graphic Design

Last night’s Academy Awards (aka The Oscars) fail wasn’t just an error because of a duplicated envelope, personally I think it was the fault of poor design. No different from the infamous “Steve Harvey moment”.

As we all watched Warren Beatty’s hesitation to announce the winner of ‘Best Picture’ at the 89th Academy Awards, you knew something was definitely off. Faye Dunaway seemed to have been completely oblivious, no fault of her own since part of the problem was being handed the wrong envelope. However, the real problem was ‘bad design’.

Good design would’ve eliminated that colossal fiasco that was the presentation for ‘Best Picture’. All it needed was a better layout and simple adjustments in specific font size for the award category (Best Picture/Best Actress) and film title (Moonlight/La La Land).

Here’s a closeup of the design layout used versus my interpretations of how the cards should’ve been done.

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The actual design used at the Academy Awards showing the real winner, Moonlight

Good design should facilitate clear communication. The reader should be emboldened to read without second-guessing what’s presented before them.

For your consideration, my design alternative that uses the same information with just slight tweaks in the layout and font size, where applicable.

the-oscars_good-design
Notice the order in which the information is displayed from top to bottom

Increase the font sizes for the most important information and change around the layout.

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This should’ve been how the result cards looked

Here’s the result! Done! Oscars…you’re welcome.

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Good design applied to the Oscar moment looks completely different

 

8 Tips for Making the Perfect Wedding Program

You’ve recently landed a design project to create a wedding program for an excited couple’s upcoming special day. Fantastic! My design process below offers some creative direction and inspiration to get the results that will satisfy your clients’ expectations.

There’s nothing more exhilarating than getting ready for the BIG wedding day. I should know since I got married back in 2014. You want all the details to be brilliant and exactly the way you dreamed them up in your head.

With all this in mind, when working for a bride-to-be, especially the ones who have an eye for detail, you’re going to need to be at your very best as you interpret what she says into what she wants. No pressure! You’ve got this! Besides, I’m here to help.

Here are my eight (8) phresh tips to make the perfect wedding program for your clients:

1. Meet with the happy couple and get a really good grasp on what their visions are for their wedding day – colours, mood, style, decor, etc. It’s important to ask all the right questions (examples below) in the first meeting, so you’ll have all the necessary information you need to get started.
What size wedding program do you have in mind?
What are the colours of the wedding?
What’s your personal taste/style?
Do you have some design ideas in mind?
What’s your deadline? [Always log your design times in a timesheet]

2. Afterwards, put together a simple or detailed creative/design brief based on the answers you received coupled with your creativity for what could be. It could be anywhere from a few sentences to a page or two. You just need to communicate the intended visual experience in not just words, but with images.

3. It’s time to choose a colour palette that captures and complements the colours and intended atmosphere/feel of the wedding. Remember that as their designer, part of your job also includes educating them on certain things like why one colour works over another and why some colours should never be combined.

purples-and-meanings

4. Find inspiration in what the couple likes…better yet, loves. Ask them to show you some examples of designs they fancy. It’s a lot easier to build on that and gives you the clear proverbial roadmap you’ll need to conjure up some ideas. [Don’t try to read minds]

5. Experiment with the creative direction using a combination of things:

Rough sketches offer tremendous flexibility to figure out concepts, so grab your pencil/pen and paper and get started;
• Design the bare minimum first (experimenting with fonts and layouts only), using the software you typically work in. Adobe InDesign (tutorials to get your started) is always my go-to software for work in print;
• Work fast and see if you’re on the right track by comparing work in progress to first creative/design brief.

philblog_small
My design process, where quickly put everything down on paper

6. Start adding requested colours, accents, and backgrounds (images or colours). Now comes the fun part, where you get to really personalise the design to reflect the wedding colour scheme by pulling inspiration from – bridal party outfits (dresses and suits) and accessories (like bouquets and ties, pocket squares, and lapel pins from Ocean Boulevard), plate settings, decorations, and so on.

wedding-image-pexels
Find inspiration for the colour palette in the planned decor | Image Credit: Pexels

7. Present two to three great options to your clients. Honestly, that’s typically the best approach to take. Flooding your clients with four or more options can get really confusing and overwhelming, so create as many designs as possible and then shortlist your top three.

8. Fine-tune final choice and make changes with a combination of client feedback and your own ideas. Make sure to give your clients the correct file format for print. May I suggest a high-quality PDF file (300 dpi).

So after all that, here’s the custom wedding program that I created for a very HAPPY couple!

Specifications:

  • Rustic Elegance
  • 3.5 inches x 7.5 inches
  • Double-sided
  • Purples and golds
  • Full colour
  • Card stock paper

 

presentation-of-program
The finished product features gold accents against a gradient backdrop of purple and mauve

To the designers, I hope you found my tips useful and I wish you good luck with your own creative projects for your clients’ wedding. I know you’ll do a stellar job.

If you’re getting married soon and you stumbled on this blog post and you’re interested in having Phresh Ideas and Designs craft your ideal wedding program or wedding stationery (invitations, save-the-date card(s), wedding program, directions/map card, table number cards, menu, etc.), drop me a line. And feel free to look around and see what other services I offer.

5 Big Problems With Your Creative Business Website

I spend a reasonable amount of time looking at creative business websites for all manner of reasons. For example, I do a lot of competitor research. I also get a lot of inspiration from other graphic designers – from every sector of the creative design industry.

It’s fair to say that I also see a lot of the same old problems cropping up. It’s clear that many creative people are unable of getting the business side of things right. And, it’s often incredibly apparent when looking at their websites. With this in mind, I thought I would go through some of the biggest issues I see on design business websites – and how to fix them.

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Image Credit: Pexels
A website that looks like a CV

OK, let’s start with the biggest crime of all. Far too many creative businesses forget who they are selling to – customers. Sure, their websites look awesome, but the idea of a business is not to impress your peers, it’s to delight your customers. You aren’t making a CV, or trying to get a job at your local design firm. You need clients – and your focus should be on appealing to them. Flash, fancy graphics are okay – but only if they work regarding context. If your website is a technological marvel, but customers find it hard to use, they won’t buy from you – it’s as simple as that. Usability is key – design is just a lick of paint.

No nuts and bolts

You might design pretty pictures, lovely clothes, or first-class graphics. But what impact does it have on your customers? That’s what people want to know – the nuts and bolts of your successes. Let’s say you are a graphic designer – how have you helped your clients make money? Can you share some definitive results, rather than just lots of nice-looking images? Reveal the positive outcomes for your past clients, and you should see your sales rise rapidly.

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Image Credit: Pexels
Targeting the wrong market

Let’s say you are a clothing designer. You might have ideas of wowing the crowds at London Fashion Week and joining your luminaries as one of the world’s best. But the chances are that you will have a much more thriving business seeking out a particular market. For example, let’s say you can create hard-wearing and high-quality clothing. A little investment in work wear ERP software will give you entry to the B2B market. Sure, it’s not as thrilling or as high-end as you might like. But the simple fact is that you will have a more robust foundation for the future of your business.

Failure to sell

Creative people have a tendency to forget what’s important – making sales. Time and again, I see websites that are hard to navigate and almost impossible to buy something. It is critical that your online store has a simple user experience that allows people to buy what they want, and quickly.

Lack of portfolio

It can be tough to create a strong design portfolio when you are just starting out. But as a designer, you won’t get customers without one. The answer is simple, however. You should consider working on your design concepts – perhaps for an already-successful business. Share it with your friends and contacts, and who knows who might see it?

Hope this has helped – let me know your thoughts!

What Are Some of the Biggest Fears Every New Graphic Designer Encounters?

Two graphic designers sit down to discuss the initial struggles of pricing logo design in this interview via The Futur (link to YouTube Channel).

Half-way through the interview and everything already resonated with me. I’ve done this for the majority of my entire freelance graphic design career.

The hardest part is usually figuring out what to charge and for whatever reason there’s usually a fear that you’ll turn prospective clients away.

But, as I’ve come to learn for myself (first-hand experiences are invaluable), to get the kinds of clients you want, your prices have to be at a price point that demonstrates the value you’ll bring to each project.

At the end of the day, it’s all about believing in yourself (your creative ideas and abilities).

Enjoy the interview. It’s filled with insight and personal experiences that I’m certain you’ll find clearly relatable.