New Year, New Goals, New Strategies.

The start of a new year almost always brings new goals and ambitions, and the inevitable promises that come with the changing calendar. We all make solemn vows to be more productive, spend less time browsing Facebook, and to eat more kale. Well, ok. Maybe not more kale.

For small business owners, the new year often brings new business goals, such as making better use of the Internet tools and resources that make up the backbone of a business’s online presence.

Successful business owners know that the Internet can bring customers to their doorstep if they can harness the power of digital tools such as SEO and social media strategies. But, these are not always easy concepts to learn, especially for people who already have a heavy workload.

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Having a Bad Experience with Freelance Designers? Consider This.

It is completely reasonable to write off a bad experience as a bad experience — and often it really was just a fluke. But if you keep having bad experiences, or find it hard to get a Designer to work on your projects, there may be more to the story. Here are three possibilities to consider.

Reconsider Your Budget

One issue I see repeated throughout the freelance world is clients don’t realize how much our services are worth. For example, a good branding package could easily cost $10k. The problem seems to be that, for an ‘intangible’ service, clients don’t appreciate the cost of time and expertise. I’ve seen this undervaluing happen with Website Designers and App Developers, too.

Our services cost what they do because of years of study, honing our craft, and expertise. If you had a bad experience, it may be that you were only able to afford someone still in school or new to the game (or, dare I say, someone who didn’t know what they were doing). Consider re-evaluating your budgetary priorities — especially when it comes to brand design because that’s the first thing your customers experience and it leaves a lasting impression.

You Blundered

Freelancers hold all of the responsibility of lead acquisition and networking for their business, which means they are often out and about, bumping shoulders with other freelancers in their field. For Graphic Designers, that includes events put on by the AIGATuesdays TogetherCreative Mornings, and local design-oriented organizations (like the D-Schools and Universities). I see the same people over and over again — which means we talk.

What is the first thing you ask someone you haven’t seen in a while? You ask how things are going. And when the one thing you know you have in common with the person in front of you is your freelance work, the gut response is typically to do with business. If there is a client that’s being a pain the ass, it’s on my mind and will come up first in conversation.

I know what you’re thinking — it’s unprofessional to name names. And I definitely agree. But references are made and sometimes names are named, usually not to slander but to protect each other and share advice for future experience. I would never post to Social Media or my Design Blog about a bad client, and I don’t think any of my peers would either. But the fact remains that sometimes, one just needs to vent to another who understands.

You’ve Been Blacklisted

When a potential client requests my time and proceeds to be rude, talks down to me or my employees, alters my contract, or asks me to sit in for a few hours as their secretary, that’s an automatic ‘no’ for working with them.

These offenses, however, are so great that declining to work with that client isn’t enough. You see, I don’t want any of my peers to waste their valuable time or be treated that way, either. In this case, I may actually go out of my way to name names. This means your business has been blacklisted in the Design community to some extent, leaving you with few quality options.

So be courteous — just because we’re freelancers doesn’t mean we’re not running a business with margins and standards, just like you.

Google Plus

Google Plus: Great for SEO, Bad Blog Host

I’m sure you’re double checking the title of this post to make sure you read it right.  After many of you have heard me praise Google +, it’s not surprising.  No worries – there are nuts and bolts to this that are simple and clear.

As I’ve said, Google + is a powerful social media and business platform.  When used correctly, it can drive customers to your site, keep them connected to your activity, allow for easy event hosting, and more.  For local Grand Rapids businesses, it does wonders for SEO, since it plugs your information directly into Google.  Connecting your blog’s RSS feed to Google + also helps drive readership and, again, SEO.

So what’s with the title? Read more

Want to be Taken Seriously? Become a Better Writer.

Good Writing is as Essential as your Degree

Technology has played a pivotal role in business, education, and personal connections.  One can now easily connect with international clients, find papers from academic sources in Taiwan, and maintain friendships with folks not seen for years.  While these advances are fantastic, technology has wreaked havoc on our language skills.  Unfortunately for those who are accustomed to ‘brb’ and ‘imho’ as standard and accepted methods of communication, poor use of language will equal lost career opportunities.

Having been in a management role for over three years, I can personally attest to language playing a role in hiring. Read more

Business Start Up

Business Start-Up Resource

Business Start UpIf you’re starting a new business and aren’t sure how to begin, the Citizen Media Law Project is a great resource.  They explain, step by step, how to file your papers and what language to use in order to ensure your greatest success.  Read more