If you follow me on Twitter, or if you’ve had a look at my Personal Projects portfolio, then you would have noticed I’ve been working on a selection of alternative movie posters. I started because I have recently gained a room to call my studio and needed some artwork on the walls, I couldn’t find anything I really wanted to buy - so I made my own. The first one was for (500) Days of Summer - it’s a film I’ve loved since I first saw it at the cinema, I’ve since watched it again and again and pretty much love everything about it.
So the poster was created and printed and looks great on my wall. You can now buy one from Society6.com and you can also have one for your desktop;
320 x 480 (iPhone), 640 x 960 (iPhone 4, 4S), 1024 x 1024 (iPad), 2048 x 2048 (iPad 3), 1024 x 768, 1280 x 800, 1280 x 1024, 1366 x 768, 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200, 2560 x 1440
Right-click and Save target as… to download.
The Inflatable House started life as a micro blog on Tumblr, hosting YouTube videos of music I’d come across and wanted to share. Then along came This Is My Jam, which pretty much did the exact same thing - only a little more socially.
I didn’t just want to abandon my Tumblr blog, so set about integrating my own This Is My Jam updates in amongst the YouTube videos I was still adding to the blog. I needed a way of getting my This Is My Jam updates into my Tumblr automagically â€” if I had to do it myself it would quickly becomeÂ hassle, duplicating the same updates in two different places â€” so I used IFTTT (If This Then That), creating a task that detects the auto tweet from This Is My Jam (it as a hashtag #thisismyjam) from my timeline to create a new Tumblr link post. IFTTT is quite clever, it first detects the tweet using the hashtag, then use the first link within that tweet acts as the link on the post, then the description (or copy) for the blog post is the tweet minus the hashtag. So I end up getting this;
So then I wondered what else I could add to the blog - to fill it out a little more. LastFM and SoundCloud are two music services I use for discovery, and they both have channels on IFTTT, and they both have ways ofÂ likingÂ / bookmarking tracks. So I set up a couple more tasks on IFTTT to automatically create Tumblr posts as and when I did anything on LastFM and SoundCloud.
A LastFM track gets a â¤’d, IFTTT detects this and creates a new Tumblr post with the song title, artist name and link to the track. I could also add in the album artwork as well, but I tried it and the first track I loved on LastFM didn’t have any artwork, so it placed a blank holding image into the post instead - not great - so here are the results of my task;
Meanwhile, over on SoundCloud I find a new track and add it to my favourites, IFTTT detects this and sends the link to the track, the name of the SoundCloud user who uploaded it and the track name, and creates a new post. And here’s the result of this one;
Now, you may notice the different logos to the side of each post, I’ve had to use different post types within Tumblr to create a home for each of the different services and style those post types accordingly / uniquely; YouTube gets a video post (obviously), LastFM gets a text post, This Is My Jam gets a link post and SoundCloud gets a quote post â€” at this point I was running out of different post types, only photo and chat post left - and audio post, but as you can’t ‘grab’ the source of the audio file for any of the services I’m using, which is a shameÂ I would also love to be able to grab the embed code for SoundCloud for the file I’m linking to so it is playable within my blog, instead of having to send the user off to SoundCloud by way of a bit.ly link, it would also be great to extract the YouTube video from the This Is My Jam post and have that displayed on the page, but these are either a little way off or just not possible using the methods that I’m using here.
The only other music service that I use is Spotify, and as soon as IFTTT get it integrated into their channels, I’ll be adding a task to post my favourites from that service to my little Inflatable House too!
If you’re a freelancer who’s taking on too much work, then I highly recommend you read this book; “So Few Of Me” by Peter H. Reynolds.
OK, so it’s a children’s book. I just read it to Finley at bedtime and it really struct a chord with me. I think Finley enjoyed it too, but for different reasons. It’s about a boy called Leo who has far too much to do and not enough time in the day to complete his list of jobs, so he creates another Leo, and another, and another, until there are 10 of him beavering away. Every time Leo created another one of himself, the new Leo would find more jobs to do - so Leo’s list was never getting completed, it was just being added to with every new, extra pair of hands. Finally Leo gives up on the cloning — or just wakes up from his dream world — makes all his duplicates disappear and realises he needs a fresh approach to his work load.
The last line in the book reads “What if I do less, but do my best.”
I’ve already started planning the type of work I’ll be doing — or at least trying to do — in 2012, and that quote pretty much sums it all up. More on that in about 5 weeks time.
I’ve been busy this weekend compiling a website launch list, a set of tasks that I can append to all of my website builds and work through once the site is finished and signed off by the client. The contents of the list has been sourced from a few examples I’ve found and bookmarked, such as this one and this one and this one, as well as a few ideas of my own.
So without further adue..
- Create 404 page
- Create favicon
- Logo should link to home page
- Check typography, text styling (headers, paragraph, lists)
- Spelling and grammar
- Consistency of copy - tense and style
- Recurring text (click here for this, etc)
- Variations in copy (websites vs web sites / wireframe wire-frame)
- Check phone numbers, emails and addresses
- Make sure no test or temporary content remains on site
- Alt tags on images / title tags on links
- HTML & CSS validation check
- Check page titles
- Metadata and keywords for each page
- Set up Google Analytics
- Set up XML Sitemaps
- Check internal links (make sure they’re not to test domain pages)
- Check external links
- Submit comment and email forms - test validation
- Test search functionality
- Check on browsers / Platforms (IE7, 8 & 9, Safari, Opera, Chrome and FireFox / OS X & Windows)
- Check screen resolutions and devices (large & small screen, iPad & iPhone)
- Configure backup solution
- Check loading times (Google page speed)
- Image optimisation via ImageOptim
- Check social links (Twitter etc)
- Set up webmasters on Google, Bing and Yahoo!
and as I often work in WordPress, I’ve added a few tasks specific to my favourite CMS.
- Make sure plugins are up to date
- Install WP Dropbox Backup (or an alternative backup solution)
- Set up caching plugin (if needed)
- Set up and distribute user accounts
- Remove unused themes
Finally, here’s a handy PDF of the list above - minus the WordPress tasks, so it’s a little more generic.
David Airey recently posted a response to an application he received for a piece of speculative work from DJ Rusko. The opportunity is dressed up as a competition with a prize of $1,000, all you need to do is design a logo.
Over the last few months the web / graphic design community has taken a stand against spec work, including posts by Paul Boag of BoagWorld / Headscape and a template style letter from Paul Annett. I completely agree with their points and the reasons we should turn away speculative jobs â€”Â I’ve turned away speculative work myself in the past, but after reading David Airey’s response I realised that I had a different perspective to call on, I’m a DJ that has played for free many of times in the past, and would do again in the future.
I’ve DJ’ed for promoters who are friends to help them out, and I’ve played at bars and clubs as a speculative demo to hopefully get regular gigs in the future. It’s something I love doing so why wouldn’t I want to do it for free? I’ve only ever DJ’ed as a hobby and because of this I’ve never needed to earn money from it â€”Â it’s never been my job. The designers that are refusing spec work want and need to get paid for their work, as their work is their income.
But there are designers out there that are in a similar position to me and my DJ â€” for lack of better words â€” career. So is it ever acceptable to take on spec work? I believe so.
- You’re just starting out and you want to gain experience, spec work can give you experience in working to a brief and to deadlines, as well as creating something tangible for your portfolio.
- You’re not relying on the income from this work. But remember â€” if you’re working on this job for free, you’re not spending time working on work that you could be getting paid for.
- Spare time, maybe you have a couple of hours - or even days, to spare, or maybe the specific project takes your fancy. It could be an opportunity to try out some new techniques, or practice a skill you’ve not used for a while.
Let’s go back to the original project that started the ball rolling. A relatively well known DJ / Producer has sent out a brief asking for a logo to be designed, the selected designer will be paid and their work used on an international stage. What if you’re a recently graduated student and a DJ Rusko fan, you want to improve your portfolio and skills - and there’s a chance of winning some money and exposure at the end.
Depending on your own circumstances and what you’re being asked to do, I don’t think speculative work can be written off 100% of the time.
So, I had an idea and I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m not sure I have the time to learn how to make an iPhone app, let alone build it and the market it properly when it’s finished. So I thought I’d turn my idea into a blog post, and if anyone reading this thinks it’s a good idea - then maybe you can take up the project. So, the idea is that you take photos of clouds, ones you think look like an animal or piece of fruit, you know the ones - then you’ll be able to draw around the cloud with a pen (your finger) to outline the cloud - making it more obvious to people what the cloud is supposed to look like. You would then be able to save your finished sketched photo to your iPhone’s camera roll or share it on your Facebook, Flickr or on Twitter. Quite a simple idea involving the iPhone’s camera, there are other applications that allow you to draw on a photo you’ve taken, goSnapFree being one - so this would have to be marketed as something extra. This brings in the website, you could run a monthly competition to find the best / most realistic cloud photo and give away a prize, similar to what Hipstamatic does, and hopefully making a community of cloud snappers who are always looking up at the clouds to find a cloud that looks like a rabbit. It’s not a groundbreaking application - but something fun, and something I think people would download and use.
…while working with people you know.
We’ve all designed and built websites for people we know, mate’s rates don’t just apply to the building trade, and they shouldn’t. Helping a friend get their business online with a website can be very rewarding - they might have recommended you before, but now they have experience of working with you along with the results from their new website to back up their recommendation. You should also get to hear about how well the website is doing more often too - friends will often call to chat about their website, whereas some clients will only get in touch when they need something.
I have just recently finished a website redesign for a local driving instructor, he actually taught me to drive 6 years ago and lives opposite my parents - so I’ve known him quite a while.
For the purpose of this article, let’s call him Mr X. Original I know.
Mr X has contacted me a couple of times in the past asking how he can get his website on to the first page Google, and to get more traffic on to his site; advise that I have been happy to share. The website he originally had wasn’t very good, and could of been improved in a number of areas. Finally Mr X came to me asking if I would work on his website, I discussed with him and stated that the best thing to do would be for me to redesign the website and start from scratch. The price was agreed, and I started work.
Here was the first problem. We verbally agreed the brief and the price - nothing was written down. At the time I didn’t think I had anything to worry about, we were both happy with what was being done and the price I was going to charge. I also didn’t invoice for the usual 20% at the start of the project either - it was a very quick and relatively small project, it’s not like Mr X could disappear, I knew where he lived.
The project was finished quickly, and sign off was achieved after Mr X visited and looked through the website. I emailed over my invoice and expected a quick turnaround on payment. What I did get was a phone call and a confused Mr X wondering why my invoice wasn’t what was agreed. The discussion went around in circles, I was adamant that the invoice was correct, that it already included a “mates rate” style discount. I also apologised for not putting the quote in writing. I finally agreed to trim the invoice down by 10%. I was also asked to provide username and password details so they could manage and update the website content themselves - this wasn’t actually part of the original brief, but as the site was built in Wordpress, there was no problem with setting this up.
A few days later, the goal posts moved again. I received an email asked for the domains to be transferred, the website to be exported so it could be moved to a new hosting company (I was currently hosting it) and for me to explain the theme I designed and how to modify it in the future. I was a little annoyed at this new request so late in the project, but agreed to do so after the invoice was paid. And that was the problem. Mr X only wanted to pay my invoice after I transferred the website, I explained this wasn’t how I worked and that I was treating him like any other client. I also had suspicions of more delaying tactics were on the cards even after I made the transfer, in which case I had no way of taking down the website if payment wasn’t received. Mr X insisted that he would pay as soon as the website was transferred, but I refused. If he hadn’t of made an issue over the invoice initially, then maybe I could of trusted him to pay.
It’s a shame that the project has been taken down, I was looking forward to checking the analytics and seeing the website improve over time, as well as working on the site again in the future. It’s also a shame that our relationship has also been taken down by this project - a project that Mr X said he no longer cared about and wished he never asked me to do.
This project, like all others, has taught me a few things.
- Discounts are fine, but be realistic in pricing. Don’t give the project away, if your friend doesn’t like your quote - then walk away.
- Ask for a deposit at the start. State it’s needed for initial costs - purchase of domain names, hosting etc, rather than saying it’s just incase we have a falling out and I don’t want to lose out completely.
- Make sure the brief is in writing - even if it’s just an email listing what’s required and expected. As long as it can be referred back to later.
- Stick to your terms of business as closely as possible, even when asking for payment.
- Try not to do anything that will ruin your friendship.
The advise works both ways too. If you are employing a friend to work on your website (or any other project), then understand it’s not necessarily a favour and your friend is running a business, so try to treat it as business arrangement; with the added bonus of liking the person you’re working with.
Towards the end of March 2009 I launched a little pet project, a T-Shirt store designed to give me a little extra income each month. Over the next month I’m going to post a handful of blog articles describing what I’ve learnt while running Worm Sign T-Shirts, including working with Wordpress and it’s various plugins, use of copy and content, and using social networking to help promote the store.
A Little Introduction
Worm Sign combines two of my passions, music and T-Shirts. This has been one of the most important factors, having enthusiasm for the product and the community in which Worm Sign sits has enabled me to enjoy working on the project when the pay-off hasn’t always been equal to the work I put in.
The website was launched with a small collection of T-Shirts, fairly simple designs at first - but as time has gone on, the designs have improved - and so have sales. I’ve changed the layout on the website twice, and continuously tweaked and adjusted it. A product search was added late in 2009, as well as a chunky footer showing off all our blog posts, social sites and friends. We even changed the supplier of our T-Shirts halfway through last year too.
The website has evolved, and it’s been great to know that I can play with the website to my heart’s content. Something I would never get the chance to do on a client website.
Over the last few months I’ve tried to be scammed on a number of occasions, all I’ve done to invite them is to have a website promoting my freelance website design services, use ebay to auction an ipod touch and place an advert on autotrader to sell a car. Apart from my own website, the other two events are very regular actions undertaken by thousands of people every day.
Fake Cheques To A Freelancer
I was contacted by email via the form on my website from a guy saying he had a client - a car sales company - that wanted a simple, static website - a brochure style website consisting of about 5 / 6 pages. Nothing too technical or time consuming. So I emailed back my quote and a brief outline of how I work and what I needed from his client. The quote was accepted, along with the promise of the content being sorted out very soon. We exchanged contact and address details, and I agreed to start work once I have the initial content through.
What I got through next was a cheque, for £2,000. This was about 5 times the amount that I quoted for the job - also, the cheque came from a company called Blue Square who are a recruitment company based in Bedfordshire. Initially I did not connect the cheque with the car sales job - I contacted Blue Square to find out why I had been sent this cheque as I had had no previous dealings with them. Blue Square asked me to send it to their head office, a few days later I received a letter from them confirming the cheque was fake and thanking me for sending it to them.
In the meantime I received an email, asking if I had received the cheque yet - I replied no, curious as to what would happen. I also mentioned that I do not invoice for the full amount at the beginning of the project. A few days later I got another cheque in the post, this time from the Bank of Ireland and again for £2,000. This time I took it to the police, who confirmed it was a fake - but were unwilling to take it any further as no fraud had taken place because I hadn’t done any work so there was nothing to be charged for.
Next, I got a phone call asking whether I had received the check from his client - it was from a mobile phone and the line wasn’t very good. I said that I had received the cheque, but it was fake. I asked if he knew his client was sending fake cheques - he hung up.
What they wanted was for me to try and deposit the cheque and send them back the balance from my own account in cleared funds - the cheque they had sent would of bounced and I would of lost about £1,500. The whole affair was very suspicious, the cheques for too much money, being posted from South London and the South of France, no compliment slip or letter included with the cheques and the poor grammar used in the emails. I’ve since spoken to an artist client who had a similar scam - but in her case the buyer wanted an original piece of artwork posted, after sending a fake cheque for 3 / 4 times the quoted amount.
A few months ago a wrote about having a passive income and choosing to design and hopefully sell some T-Shirts online. Well, the website is finished, and in the collection we have 12 T-Shirts with more hopefully added over the coming weeks and months; www.wormsigntshirts.co.uk.
The website was built in Wordpress, I used the eShop plugin for the ecommerce part of the site - I originally looked at using WP-ecommerce plugin, but it was over complicated for what we actually needed on the site. eShop gives you the option to add a ‘add to basket’ for a product on a page or post - very simple.
The T-Shirts are aimed towards DJ’s and music fans, and will continue along this path for the future. We’ve got a twitter account [twitter.com/wormsigntshirts] so you can follow us for updates, and news, and details of new design releases.
Oh, and how did we get the name Worm Sign? Well, it was after a conversation with a friend who received a strange / maybe alcohol infused text message from a boy stating that ‘we should all look out for the worm signs’. Indeed we should!