Design goes on…

Since the trauma of Adobe announcing the end of life of Muse and Business Catalyst (yes, very much first world problems, but I’m not apologising for that), it’s good to know that there is life after Adobe and it’s not a total rip-off!

Around September last year I came across Affinity Designer (AD) and Photo (AP), just by chance, not because I was necessarily searching for an alternative for Illustrator  (AI) and Photoshop (PS). However, it’s proven to be somewhat of an offering from the Universe (it sometimes knows more about what we want and need than we do). I was interested in the fact that there were people out there who were actually doing something that challenged the big guys and doing a damn good job of it. I kept them in the forefront of my mind as an option to trial between first discovering them and when the Adobe announcement was announced. I’m now an Affinity user and am loving it.

AffinityDesignerAffinityPhotoI can’t pretend it’s not a challenge to learn a new version of something that you’re very familiar with, but to be honest, it’s a pleasure to dip one’s toes into a new pond and discover that it’s not so dark, deep and scary below the surface as you first thought.

On announcement of the Muse and BC death, and the way that it was done, I decided that the £73/month spent on my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription was better spent on software that I could buy outright, still get support for but not feel totally ripped off. I started the search of replacing all my Adobe software as much as I possibly could, so that I could continue to work in my chosen profession, still ensuring a quality product.

The first to go was InDesign – heading back to my roots as a designer, I humbly returned to Quark. After investigating the costs, purchasing options, upgrades going forward etc, I rang them and actually had a converstation with a lovely human being who offered me a very good deal as a past customer (after 10 years they still had evidence of me being a past Quark user and acknowledged my humbleness in returning to the platform that got me started). Quark

Enter Affinity – what a delight! I downloaded the Affinity Photo for iPad app to start with and loved it, it was a natural step to go the whole way and purchase the desktop apps. At £48.99 for each app, it was a no brainer – it’s superb software and does so much more, in a more intuitve way, than AI and PS every did. Yes folks there is software that competes with Adobe.

I could wax lyrical about how amazing the guys at Affinity are, but the only way to prove this is to use it (no, I’m not being paid to say this). I bought both Designer and Photo outright at the same time I went back to Quark – my dock now looks like it’s in conflict, but it’s a lovely, satisfying little takeover. MBP-DockMy Creative Cloud subsctiption runs out in October 2018, so from now until then I’ll be converting as much of the work I’ve done for the past 10 years to AD and AP files so that I can continue to work seamlessly and explore the possibilities of my new software. Although AP & AD both import AI & PS files no problem so there’s no major panic to convert everything.

My last dilemma is replacing Muse. Quite a big one and a rather annoying one. There is simply no other software on the market that did what Muse did. Why oh why is this not up for sale for another company to take over and develop further? Adobe’s arrogance and lack of allegiance to their vast customer base is quite bewildering – the least they could do is offer up this software for someone else to continue to develop. But no, that won’t happen as they would rather see it die than someone else make a success of it.

I’m moving on with what my business is now offering, I won’t be making websites like I used to as I quite simply can’t without bowing down to the techie world of coding. None of the other options out there assume you know nothing about html or css (I know the most miniscule amount of both, it’s hardly worth acknowledging). However, after discovering the wonders of Shopify, I’m now moving in that direction and loving it. Full on e-commerce for businesses big and small.

The upside of Adobe being a total arse is that they have opened an enormous, castle size door for me and my business. There’s nothing quite like embracing change, opening one’s mind to a challenge and grabbing it by the horns. Yes there is life after Adobe – get out there and enjoy it (and if you do, you’ll find you have a lot more money in your bank account every month to throw at the important stuff). Good luck wih your journey into the unknown – it’s not as scary as it first appears.

Bye Bye Adobe!

 

On Monday the 26th March,  Adobe announced they are dropping the very popular Muse software that us designers use to build websites. Along with that they are ditching Business Catalyst – the website hosting side of the business.

Maybe this seems a bit melodramatic and an insignificant issue to many people, but for the hundreds of thousands of us who have invested time and money in learning, using and buying add-ons for Muse, we are devastated.

The first thing I did was contact my clients who I’ve built websites for using Muse. The doom and gloom of all of this shutting down for good is a couple of years off, but without the support of Adobe and further development of the product, there is little point considering that Muse can be a viable option for much longer.

I was left in quite a quandary – it’s a case of all those sites having to be re-built on another platform, but as a designer and not a coder, there really is no other platform that does what Muse allows me to do. There’s not another piece of software out there that I can simply switch over too. Yes there are options, but none that ticked all the boxes that us designers loved about Muse.

I will endeavour to offer my clients a solution to this problem, once I’ve done the research and found a platform that suits me as a designer and doesn’t require having to learn code – too old for that and really not an option for me. (If one more person suggests this to me I may be heard screaming, rather loudly and using lots of rude words!) This may in due course, mean that I lose some business. I can’t expect all those clients who I built websites for to pay up for me to build another site for them but I’m hoping they will.  I will then work out a way to do this at a discount for them, it’s not their choice to have to have a new site. This was thrust upon us by Adobe – thanks for that!

Trying to stay positive about my own situation, I’m in a fortunate position in that I don’t have a huge portfolio of websites, it’s not the main area of my business. Some people bought into Muse as a way of starting a whole new business. This news will have totally ruined them and their business. Adobe lead us to believe this software was to become a main feature of their Creative Suite. What Adobe have done, without warning, without reason and without a viable alternative, is highly unethical and downright arrogant.

I’ve decided that a company that no longer has their customers as their core reason for existing, but instead favours their share-holders, doesn’t deserve my business. I’m out!

The next few months are going to be on a huge learning curve as I attempt to move all my Adobe software to other companies. I’ve already re-bought Quark to replace InDesign and am trialling Affinity Photo and Designer to replace Photoshop and Illustrator. Finding alternatives to Bridge and Acrobat might prove to be tricky and I will miss all these familiar software applications, but on principal, and sheer determination, I’m not going to support a business that no longer supports me. My monthly subscription for Adobe just keeps going up and up and I’m getting less and less for it.

Bye Bye Adobe – I’m not even going to wish you good luck. It’s not luck you need, it’s a conscience. Find your human side – in the end, money doesn’t make you happy.young beautiful business woman suffering stress working at office asking for help feeling tired

Before the handshake.

Agreement

When you first launch yourself into a career as a freelancer, no matter what industry, you are more than likely full of motivation, enthusiasm and energy. A great way to begin your new career. However, the mission to find great clients isn’t always as easy as you might [naively] think. One thing I’ve learnt (and believe me, it’s been the hard way), is that saying YES to every job is definitely the wrong thing to do.

We have a thing called ‘a gut instinct’, we have this for a reason. It’s something that might get our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism fuelled and ready to kick off – listen to that, try to understand why you have that feeling and don’t ignore it.

This is the one thing that may save you from a lot of stress and financial angst. I know this sounds all very doom and gloom, but believe me, there are clients out there who really don’t have a clue about the number of hours it can take to produce a good design and therefore will question your credibility all the way through a project. Usually because they have Word or Publisher and they could do it so much quicker – that being the case why did they come to you in the first place.

The best way to avoid this difficult and stressful scenario is to be confident in your abilities, be honest about your rates and don’t compromise what you expect from your client. Have a process, a checklist and a routine.Show every potential client the same respect from the start and also ensure that they know you expect the same respect in return. Be professional, they are not your friend, they are your means of making a living. By all means be friendly and maybe even have a laugh to put everyone at ease, but make sure your potential new client sees that you know your stuff and appreciates your expertise. Throw a bit of jargon in there, it may not mean anything to them or it may impress them – either way you are putting yourself in a position of authority on your subject – which is hopefully why they came to you in the first place.

Before you commit to any job from any client here’s a few tips that might help you clinch that all important deal or at the very least ensure you make the right decision:

  1. When a new client contacts you, arrange a first meeting. Make sure you are very clear that there is no charge for this and that there is no obligation on either party to agree to anything going forward at this stage. This is where you both allow your gut instinct to do it’s magic. Don’t on any account, ignore this!
  2. Keep your meeting to an hour and be strict about that. From then on, if you take on this client, every hour spent with them should be billed for. (Put it this way, you wouldn’t expect a solicitor to offer a freebie every time you have a meeting with them – your client can’t expect that of you either.)
  3. During this initial discussion, make sure you have as much information about the job as possible. Set yourself a guideline of questioning that you are comfortable with and allows you to go away with confidence at the end of the meeting, knowing that you are armed with all the information you require to write a comprehensive brief.
  4. Let them see that you are making a checklist and don’t avoid the issue of budget. Without the knowledge of how much they can spend, you have no idea how much of the job you can achieve.

    Write a checklist
    The all important checklist.
  5. Equally, be confident about how much you charge per hour or per day, so that the potential client knows right from the beginning what to expect in terms of costs. I can’t tell you enough how important that information can be for a good working relationship with any client. (If the client is open and honest about how much money they have to spend, you’re hopefully on the right track and you are able to be realistic about what you can achieve for them.)
  6. With all the information you’ve gathered about the project, go back to your workspace and prepare a design brief for your new client. Include everything in this brief, and I mean everything that you gained from your meeting.The tiny details are the ones that can come back and bite you on the bum if you ignore them. What you think is a minor issue, may actually be very important to your client. Be-An-Active-ListenerThe art of listening is an essential skill you need to hone – make sure you consciously remind yourself of this every time you are with a client, whether it be the first time or half way through a project.
  7. When you prepare a brief, itemise everything. Make it very clear that you understand all the elements of the project that your client requires you to complete. Demonstrate your understanding of the design process by setting out the brief in a logical and organised fashion. This shows your commitment and professionalism. You want your client to read the brief and be amazed by the amount of information you were able to extract from them. If you show them at this stage that you are capable of listening and understanding what they need, then you are starting the relationship in a very positive way.
  8. The flip side of this initial brief could be that you got something wrong, maybe misinterpreted elements of their needs or missed something entirely. Make sure that you are totally transparent this, that you only human and mistakes can happen. Include a statement to this effect in the brief – 
  9. We are only human, we all make mistakes, don’t be afraid of admitting you got something wrong and stand corrected. Your client will respect you so much more for admitting a misunderstanding. This is what the brief is for, to ensure you are both on the same wavelength. Make sure your client lets you know if you’ve completely missed something. They may have an afterthought or forgot to mention something in your first meeting – remember your client is human too.
  10. When you send the brief to your client, also send your *Terms and Conditions document. This is so important. You need to ensure you have yourself covered for any difficulties that might arise along the way. If you are upfront and honest about what is required by your client as much as what they require of you, you are both in a position to make the decision that allows you both to move forward with this project, or maybe reconsider. With all your T’s an C’s on the table for them to clearly see and understand, there should be no repercussions down the line.Terms-and-Conditions-document
  11. Once your brief and T’s and C’s have been sent to your client, you wait. Allow them time to digest it, question it and hopefully, in the end, be happy with it. Give them a week, don’t be too impatient or look too needy of their business. If after a week you haven’t heard anything, a polite email or phone call to check they received it is not out of the question. After all, this is your livelihood, you need to ensure you have the work lined up in order for you to set your own budgets, organise your schedule and sustain a healthy cash flow.
  12. If there are any issues with the brief or they have any questions about your T’s & C’s, address these straight away so you can hopefully move forward quickly. If they are happy with the brief as it is, ensure you get your part-payment (**not deposit – it’s all about semantics), before you start the project. All going well, once that payment hits your account, it’s all systems go. Pat yourself on the back for getting through this first and sometimes most difficult part of the project and enjoy the creative journey ahead.

Another bit of advice I would like to offer, treat every client the same. Don’t get sucked into ‘mates rates’ or charities that have no money. Charities do have money otherwise they couldn’t exist and a true mate wouldn’t expect you to go hungry for their benefit.
By all means offer a discount if you think it’s appropriate, but never do anything for nothing.

You have skills that other people don’t have, that’s why they come to you in the first place. You worked hard to gain the knowledge you have, don’t ever underestimate that or allow yourself to feel belittled by any client. It’s up to you to make sure you are totally clear about what it is you can do for them and don’t be afraid to admit if there are skills you don’t have – we all have to use other contractors ocasionally. Insist they don’t keep any worries or issues, questions or dilemmas to themselves – if they know they can be totally honest with you, then your working relationship should be a breeze. You may aslo have to be very thick skinned when it comes to criticism. If they don’t like something, accept it and go back to the drawing board. You won’t get it right first time in most instances – relish those rare moments that you do.
Every mistake is an opportunity!
(Not sure if I just made that up or someone else did, good advice though.)

There will always be the client who thinks they know everything about what your work, if that was the case they wouldn’t need you in the first place. There will also be the ones that tell you that ‘so-and-so’ down the road said he’d do a website/logo/poster for them for £50. That’s fine, let them. If that’s the quality they are looking for, you can’t compete with that and don’t beat yourself up for not trying to. You know what expertise you have and what you can offer your client, and if they’ve seen examples of your work then it’s up to them to decide which direction they want to go. Sometimes losing a client to the bloke down the road is the best thing that can happen – the stress of dealing with such a client is never worth the financial gain (which can sometimes be very little anyway). Don’t just be driven by how much you are going to gain financially, determine what you can also gain professionally and emotionally. Creative projects should be enjoyable and rewarding. If your client understands that too, you’re potentially on a good thing.

Be clear, be honest and be patient – there is no such thing as the perfect job or the perfect client – you just have to remember to listen to your gut, let your head make the right decisions and your heart will enjoy the outcomes.

Good luck! Feel free to pick my brains about anything in this article. Only happy to share my experiences with other freelancers and sole traders.
(Keep an eye out for my new look website lauching soon.)

Download an example of my initial design brief here and feel free to amend it for your own persoanl use.  Design-Brief-Example-2017


* Feel free to amend my Terms and Conditions document to use for your own business. Another very kind designer shared this with me (who I embarrassingly can’t remember who he was) Design-Brief-Example-2017, for which I am very grateful – Sharing is caring!

** A part-payment is not refundable, however, as I recently learned from another self employed creative, a deposit is. Using the correct terminology can save you a lot of grief.

Take Stock – or maybe not!

There’s a new Stock library revolution on the horizon. We’re all fed up with cheesy, staged photographs used in the corporate marketing world. The real, grassroots businesses – the local ones – are revolting! No, not in the disgusting sense, they’re merely turning their backs on happy family pics and sterotypes, they’re embracing real life imagery. That’s got to be a good thing.

When it comes to getting your business out there, why not have pictures of you doing your stuff. It makes sense right? Who is going to have faith in the carpenters who don’t have any photos of themselves with a hammer in their hand? Who’s going to hire the designer who can’t demonstrate their own design skills throught tangible examples of them in situ, at their computer using design software, in a client’s sitting room sorting out their interiors… you get the idea.

(Little bit of self indulgence! Photo taken by my daughter, she’s not a photographer, but I am a designer – you get the idea.)

Be done with the expensive stock library options that don’t represent your business, find yourself a good photographer. If they’re any good you’ll know because they’ll have a portfolio of happy clients with examples of their work. Make your job and your business appeal to a wider audience, show them that you and the work you do is real. 

Don’t get me wrong, stock libraries have their place, I use them myself and actually contribute to one of them (Adobe Stock). But when it comes to actually showing what you do, who better to be in the photos than you!

50 Must See TED Talks about Creativity and Design

There’s so much inspiration from so many clever, creative people in our world. Watch a few of these Ted Talk lectures – you never know, your next moment of creative genius may be fuelled by what you see and hear.

Enjoy and smile!

(I haven’t watched all 50, so can’t comment on the content entirely – but it’s nice to know that design is out there being discussed and not just hidden away in studios and offices, then transitioned to the public domain once a brief is complete. The process of how it gets to the final point is so important and sometimes overlooked as just the boring bit in the middle, necessary to get to the end. It’s a whole lot more and is what makes a piece of design something to smile about or not.)

Source: 50 Must See TED Talks about Creativity and Design – StumbleUpon

50 Resume Designs That Help You Get Dream Job – Design and all about it!

When you’re a creative and you spend hours every day working for other people, coming up with ideas to help them represent their business in the best way possible, you sometimes forget about your own business. You may find the creative juices are all used up and there’s nothing left for yourself.

Here’s a few really cool ideas for your own CV to help you get out there and be found. It’s always great to see what others are doing and be inspired by their designs. Nothing is ever original – we all take inspiration from our surroundings, there’s no shame in being inspired!

Enjoy and let me know which is your favourite. Mine has to be Sara’s – love the idea of the tree imagery – very clever.

 

The following samples will help you think out of the box in creating your next resume designs for dream job. Each of the sample is a creative resume designs

Source: 50 Resume Designs That Help You Get Dream JobDzineblog360 – Design and all about it!

45 Creative Social Media Marketing Tips You Don’t Hear Every Day

You can never have too many ‘tips’ when it comes to getting the best out of your social media platforms. Sometimes you have to filter through the numerous words of advice to find the gems of knowledge, but those gems might just help you make the change that has a huge impact on your business – increasing awareness and profit.

Here’s a few to kick start your day…

It’s never too late to stay something new!

Social media’s potential impact for small businesses cannot be understated. But if you’ve been using social media for awhile, then you probably already know a lot of the standard tips.

Source: 45 Creative Social Media Marketing Tips You Don’t Hear Every Day

10 Powerful Tweaks for a First Class Website | JUST™ Creative

Wise advise – not just for designers but for those looking to get their site designed by a web developer. Arm yourself with knowledge and you and your designer will be on the same wavelength from the start.

Follow these 10 practical pieces of web design advice and make your good website, great! Ensure you give your visitors the best experience while on your site.

Source: 10 Powerful Tweaks for a First Class Website | JUST™ Creative