Friday, December 16

Looking after your Mac



I really do love my Mac, if anyone ever criticises it, I honestly get in a mood. I find myself personally offended is people don't use Mac, and when I have to use a PC I go out of my way to make it as big-a-deal as possible. But this isn't an Apple brand message, this is about looking after your Mac.

My set up is relatively simple, I've got a Time Machine back up running constantly to an external hard drive, and an Archive Drive that I backup to each month. At the end of every month I'll copy all my completed work across to my Archive and delete them from my laptop hard drive. This means I've got 2 copies of everything from the let 6 months across both drives.

If you want to make this process even more robust then it's possible to to use BackUp to run an automated process to back your files up to a remote server, if you set this up to mirror your Archive or TimeMachine you'd have a safety net if your house burnt down, and assuming you didn't die, and were ready to work the next day, then you'd be OK. It's always been my personal policy that if I die I'm taking the week off.

Once that process is done I'll run Disk Utility and Verify Permissions on the drive and make sure everything is running properly, then I'll use Mac Keeper to remove any unwanted files that have crept onto the drive, and check all my applications for updates. This little routine keeps everything neat, and tidy and up to date, ready for the next month.


I'm taking some time off for Christmas and will be back in the New Year.



Or call 07738 175 614

Wednesday, December 14

Project of the year...


It's been a busy year for me, I've worked on loads of different things for a whole host of different clients, but one project stood out for me, and that was the relaunching of the Torygraph.

I've already written about this in a previous post, but in the interests of wrapping things up as the year ends, it's worth another mention. The site is brilliant, running since 2009 and has an archive you would not believe, actually take a minute here and check it out.....


See what I mean? Amazing, and this was all hidden away on a Tumblr site, getting about 30 hits a day, when we saw it and the potential we instantly knew what needed to be done. We relocated the site to a Wordpress site, and set up a suite of social media channels to exploit the content and reach a whole new audience.

The results were amazing, using Twitter we managed to crash the site in the first week as Telegraph journalists started to pass the link around. Once we'd upgraded the server and launched the Facebook advertising we started to see a steady flow of traffic and the realisation of the strategy had started to pay off.

The two hooded manics behind the site were great to work with, giving us a free reign over the planning and development and continuously keeping the site up to date with new content, which is a daily job.

The project bought with it a steep learning curve, and an opportunity to put into practice a lot of the theories that a everywhere in this Social Market age, it's meant we can now confidentially go to clients and offer this as a service. It's a great project to be involved in and has help Citizen to grow this year.



Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, December 12

Looking for more App-eal


If I could find the statistic I'd tell you that loads of people buy Apps because they have really nice icons. I know that I do, so from my surveyed group of 1, that's 100%, wait a minute, I'm with my friend Colin, I'll ask him. Yup still 100% if not 200%.

The thing is Smartphones are normally really pretty, and you don't want a home screen full of shitty looking apps, so why spend all that time and money developing an app, get it to market and then do nothing on the design and branding side, it makes no sense, there's 6 Million out there, how are you going to make yours stand out?

An App's icon needs to be as eye catching as the idea itself, it's your album cover, you need to make sure it's selling the idea off the page. Great icons will take a sense or idea from the functionality of the app and showcase this in a bold and beautiful way.

And yes, I designed all of the above icon.

Here’s some simple tips to creating your App icon

1 Keep it simple, avoid wording or being too descriptive
2 Keep it consistant with the look and feel of your App UI
3 It has to work internationally, use a clear visual language

So give us a call and speak to Citizen about

• App icon Design
• Branding for your App
• App Microsites
• App feature panels and web banners
• App Social Media Strategies



Get in touch ben@citizenstudios.co.uk
Visit www.citizenstudios.co.uk
Or call 07738 175 614

Friday, December 9

Citizen at One: 3 Things I've learnt this year. Pt. 3


When the clock hits 5.30, or 5 on a Friday you have to immediately get drunk. It's the only way to clear your mind ready for the challenge of the next day.

OK, that's a joke, but you have to find ways of doing it. Working from home really means you're always in the office, so you need to compartmentalise your working and home life and make sure bits of each don't slip into either side.

If you spend all of your days working, then your evenings thinking about working you will eventually turn into a boring zombie, I've seen it happen, in the end I had to kill him with a snooker cue, it wasn't nice.

Sure, one of the big benefits of this big step you've taken is the freedom, nobody can tell you what to do now, but the reality is different. It's an old saying, but instead of having 1 boss now, you have 20, they're all your clients and they expect a certain level of service from you. Yes, this means you can never totally switch off, but you are still entitled to a family life.

I'm lucky my wife loves to hear me moan about my work, she put up with it for years at my old job. Many an evening we'd sit around the fire and she'd press me for stories about how someone at work had asked for 47 data sheets designing, only to realise at the end of the day they only needed 3. I think deep down she misses those long, angst ridden stories, and perhaps wants me to be unhappy so I can entertain her with them again.

I've learnt that doing something like playing football (which I'm shit at), playing in a band (which I'm shit at), or even playing Call of Duty (which I'm shit at), even though you might be shit at those things (and I am), can really help you concentrate on something else and dispel the stresses of the day.

So Don't be frightened to switch off is the message, or I will come around your house and stick a snooker cue through your unbleeding heart.


Or call 07738 175 614

Wednesday, December 7

Citizen at One: 3 Things I've learnt this year. Pt. 2


Clients are amazing. All of them all the time.

OK, that might not be true, but that's how it has to look. I've been lucky, I've had nearly all good people to work with, a couple of non and late payers, but on the whole they've been very cool.

It hasn't been all amazing though, I've learnt that you have to adapt yourself to who you're dealing with, some people want to work with an artist, others, a professional designer, some people want 'The Funny' and others think you're weird.

The most valuable client lesson I learnt this year was working a potential new client. They rang me to talk about some new branding, we discussed their current site, and how we could improve on this. We got on well, it was a Friday so a few funnies were flying around, it all felt like it was going well. A week later I hadn't heard anything, so I dropped them a line to catch up, and got a nice reply, everything looking good.

A week later the project was still stalling, I figured  that this probably wasn't going to happen. So I replied back with an email along the lines of;

"So I guess this isn't going to happen, I'm pretty sad about it, you should see my face".

OK, looking back, it was a but unprofessional, and the client hit me back with;

"I'm not sure how to take that email".

And from here, I was a bit embarrassed, clearly I'd over stepped the mark, assumed we were on the same wavelength, become too friendly too quickly and ultimately made myself look like a bell end.

It's the kind of thing Alan Partridge might have done, and it taught me a valuable lesson, you can make a client your friend though hard work and getting to know them over a series of projects, but life isn't Facebook, you don't pick up the phone to someone and they're instantly your friend.

Just remember, however lonely you get in the office and whatever mood you're in, always be professional.


Or call 07738 17

Monday, December 5

Citizen at One: 3 Things I've learnt this year. Pt. 1


PANIC, DON'T PANIC, then PANIC!

There are going to be times when work seems to have dried up, I've been lucky I've only really had this twice in the first year, but on those two occasions I may or may not have acted like a bit of a baby. My wife will testify to this, she's always the one that tells me something's going to turn up, and so far it always has, but in those moments of downtime you need to be the one that makes the next thing happen.

Crying (I didn't actually cry) is not going to help, there's always something you can do, and really you need these moments to fertilise your company, (don't actually take a shit on your company, that would be bad). Here's some of the things I do to bulk out those free periods;

• Write Blog posts, I write 2-3 at a time and schedule them to drop throughout the week.
• Linked In Fishing, see my  LinkedIn post from last month
PPH prospecting, always worth bidding on anything, you never know where it might lead
• Contact hitting up, don't be annoying, but don't let them forget
• Favours, do a record sleeve for someone for free, get the juices flowing
• Web updates, keep your site fresh, get some new work on there

The thing is, if you have the right frame of mind, it's going to work for you. Managing your time and energy is really important, and when you're given some downtime you have to look on it as a opportunity to get some of the internal stuff done that you've been putting off and not spend the day watching Cash in the Attic, and then going into your attic and putting your foot through the roof, for example.

So I've learnt this, don't panic, and don't annoy your wife by saying you've got nothing to do one day, and then 2 days later crying (I didn't cry) to her because you're too busy. It's all about not being a baby at the end of the day, something that I'm getting better at. I'm only 35 after all.


Or call 07738 175 614

Friday, December 2

Simple Social Strategy: Linked In


I've read several explanations of Linked In, they always go;

If Facebook is you at a crazy party, and Twitter is you running around in the street in your pants shouting through a Megaphone, then LinkedIn is you, at your day job, behind a desk, with a tie and sock braces on... Personally I like to think that if Facebook is you at a crazy party, and Twitter is you running around in the street in your pants shouting through a Megaphone, then LinkedIn is you, at your day job, behind a desk, with a tie and sock braces on.

LinkedIn For Professionals

LinkedIn I suppose is a professional network, what really started as an online CV and resumé has now become a professional networking group, linking you with people you've worked with, for and arranging potential contacts through shared industries and colleagues.

With a potential pool of 100Million contacts, LinkedIn is like being at the world's worst, or best Morning Coffee Networking group, depending on how you like those thing. Personally I've never gone to one as the idea of a room full of strangers dressed in suits scares me, I'd rather die than stand in a room with 100 Million of them. So that's the great thing about LinkedIn, from the comfort of your desk, you can reach out, and discover new like minded professional for a chat or second opinion, or hit up new contacts and point them to your LinkedIn Company page.

LinkedIn is a little more complicated than Facebook and Twitter but it's relatively easy to set up a profile and get your experience and company details on there. The basic account is free and this will give you more than enough usability to start with, upgrading gives you access to directly contacting contacts, but really it's something you don't need when you first set up.

Like Facebook and Twitter, it's not going to work for you if you just use it as a noticeboard, you need to make everything engaging, from your profile to your status updates, you need to supply your profile with real and meaningful content, join groups based on your profession, and contribute insightful and helpful information to these. It's the same old story, be interesting, clever and helpful and you'll build a nice group of valuable contacts. Be a boring arsehole, and you'll probably end up with a contact list of boring arseholes.

Unlike Facebook, you can see the people who have been looking at your profile, which is interesting, for example I can see that you've looked at my profile everyday for the last 6 weeks, no wait that's a just a bit weird.



QUICK TIP: This might not work forever, so get in there quickly, but if you download the app for iPhone, go to the 'People You May Know' tab, and you can quickly invite anyone in that list to become a Contact. This seems to negate the need to have some connection with them you need to link on the main site.



Please get in touch to talk through your Social Media Strategy ask any questions and see what Citizen can do for you.



Or call 07738 175 614

Wednesday, November 30

Simple Social Strategy: Twitter


If Facebook is an Oil Tanker, then Twitter is a speedboat (Sorry to mix my analogies, after this), this is Microblogging in the extreme, it's limited character count and instantaneous swirling, continuious stream of messages mean it's perfectly suited to customer service, consumer insight, real-time communication and utter bullshit/bollox.


Tweet, Tweet

Twitter was born in 2006, and quickly swept up 200 million addicted tweeters, loads of celebrities, loads of fake celebrities, but more importantly loads and loads of real people, and real customers.

Twitter is the second pillar of your Social Media Strategy, and you have to be prepared to integrate it into your life, Twitter isn't something you assign 30 minutes at the end of your working day to, Twitter is for your mini-down-times, so when a document is PDFing, you're on the train, the toilet or just waiting around in cafe, it's something that you have to bring into your life, and make second nature to your communications.

The starting point for any user is to populate their account, and then find a few people to follow, generally the more people you follow, the more followers you'll scoop back up, but, you can end up with a pretty naff and spammy feed if you just chase the numbers like this. You want a follower base of genuinely interesting and connected people, because if someone likes your message and retweets it, you potentially have a huge audience.

The slow and correct way to build your followers is to make yourself valuable, to be interesting, ask questions and engage people. So instead of saying 'We've just posted a new blog about Chips', say 'I freaking love Chips, doesn't anybody here not love Chips?', Chips are pretty amazing, I can't recommend blogging about Chips highly enough.

Be aware that it will take time, I've been on the site for 2 years now, and posted over 2000 comments (ALL HILARIOUS), and I'm close to 600 followers, so don't expect over night success, unless you're really funny, or you keep pointing nude pictures of yourself (and you're hot).

There's 3 types of messages, General Updates, which are you comments, Retweets, which is where people take your comment and post it to their followers, and Direct  Messages, which are private email messages and all of these are restricted to 140 characters, Twitter will Auto Shorten links saving you valuable character space.

A good practice to get into is to look for your product or company name by using TwitterSearch find what people are saying about you and respond, follow and retweet the ones you like, this kind of direct contact with your customers is what Twitter is all about, a good example of this was demonstrated in my recent VistaPrint debacle.

It's said that it takes about 2 weeks to get to grips with Twitter, it's really important that you download it for your smartphone and use this access to widen your social standing, every positive message you get out into the world about your company is going to raise your profile, no matter haw many followers you have. Twitter gives you a megaphone to tell everyone how great you are, just make sure you point it in the right direction, if you haven't already, get online now and give it a try.




QUICK TIP: If you put #in at the end of your Tweets, they'll post onto LinkedIn as well, can't hurt right?


Please get in touch to talk through your Social Media Strategy ask any questions and see what Citizen can do for you.



Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, November 28

Simple Social Strategy: Facebook


If you have an idea in your head, it's not really worth anything unless someone else hears it, the challenge you have is, to get this message into the minds of as many people as possible, today there are a thousand ways to do this, but where do you start? Teletext, Post-It-notes, PENS! What about branded pens? No, they're all stupid ideas.

I always advise clients to set up 3 basic things to ensure they've got a good Social Strategy foundation, this week I'll take you through some very basic ideas around the 3 main Social Media sites Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, I'm going to start with Facebook, and point out some very basic reasons why you need to be represented.



Facebook Vs The World


With 600 Million users and growing, the worldwide take-over of Facebook is kind of half way over, if you're not represented as a business then you really need to drag your sorry arse into 2011. Facebook isn't a fad, it's not just used by children and it's not just somewhere to waste time (although it's really good to look at people you don't really know from the offices' photos). It's fastest growing demographic is those twenty-five years and over and it's said that in 2011 over one-quarter of all internet page views were on Facebook.com. It's a face as massive as Lovejoy's, so why should you get on it?

Let's start with The Like button, this button essentially 'Likes' your site from another profile. Currently Facebook is registering over a BILLION Likes a day. If you don't know, then this is why the Like button is so powerful;

Once a user 'Likes' your page, the status 'Ben Brown Likes Peartree Productions' appears on BB's profile, now the average user has 140 Friends, so this message is potentially exposed to 140 people, if it catches the eye of say, Karen Brown (his nosey wife), she checks it's not pornography, and finds she likes it too, then you can see this message is exposed to another group of potential customers. Very basically, you can see how the exposure of a message is exponentially growing with each contact, and the potential is endless.

Another example I like is how I've used Facebook to find a good local mechanic to service my car. Previously when looking for a garage I've searched Google, obviously it's great for finding a list of thousands of mechanics, and with a little tweaking I can localise this search, and find one close to me. That's really helpful, but what I don't know, is which of these are any good. A fact proven to me when last time I took my car to a backstreet garage. When I returned the 'child' on reception hadn't booked the car in, so I  waited an hour for the work to be done, and finally drove it away only to find it had a nail hammered into the tyre. Obviously I was too scared to take it back.

What Facebook offers by categorising it's Business Pages is a similar but much more effective version of Google and other listing services. Now I can search for a garage directly on Facebook, these results will be localised to me, and most importantly I can see which of these my friends have 'Liked' so I'll know straight away which ones are good. This directory searching of Facebook is becoming more and more commonplace as people are looking for personal recommendations and more reliable companies in these difficult economical times.

These very basic ideas give you a little insight into why presence on Facebook is pretty much essential, and something that's as important to building your Corporate web page, indeed it may be more important, and some companies are actually moving away from corporate sites and focussing their online strategy entirely towards their Facebook page.

Now excuse me someone I went to school with has just painted their front room and posted some pictures, and I really want to see if I can make out what DVD's they've got in the background.


QUICK TIP: Make sure you change your Facebook Profile URL, so you can have a nice neat address like Facebook.com/citizenstudios




Please get in touch to talk through your Social Media Strategy ask any questions and see what Citizen can do for you.




Or call 07738 175 614

Wednesday, November 23

Head On: Dealing With Your Problems Publicly.


Earlier last week I ordered some temporary business cards as my mobile number changed to 07738 175 614, this of course meant I had to order some new cards, I decided to get some temporary cards, and looked for the cheapest option. Vista Print were offering 250 for £4, sounds like a good deal right?

...and I like any letter or email that contains this next phrase...

So imagine my surprise, when I added the cheap option of Reverse Printing, and the total came to £42. Well dear reader, I was appalled, and being Lion Hearted immediately tweeted my disgust, non-directly on Twitter, being careful not to hash-tag them in, and hurt anyone's feelings.

An hour later, the bastards got me, and guess what, they offered to rectify my complaint. As things stand I'm too embarrassed to take them up on their offer, but this is a monumentally magnificent example of using Social Media in your customer service.

Instead of burying their head and hoping I go away, they're publicly showing themselves to care about my issues, and by seeking me out through a 'Google Alert' they look like they care about what people are saying about them and they want to fix issues. Also this strategy runs the risk of giving my complaint more exposure, but worth that risk as it demonstrates their concerns.

This is a very modern approach to customer service, it's the only way to do things when everyone is so vocal these days, and, yes something we can help you with at Citizen. Give us a call to talk about setting up alerts, and Twitter Searches, and building that into part of your Social Media Strategy for 2012.

I have to admit, I'm a little bit worried about what they're going to think of this post when their alerts pick it up, maybe they'll retweet it, but for the record I'm sorry, I know some of it was VAT and postage, I may have overreacted.

--

Addition.

So the cards turned up and I wasn't happy with them, in fact I binned them immediately. I think there's a problem with these automated systems, there's nobody on the press quality checking them, they were a weird size, the artwork was aligned to the right, and the print was really washy. Some of those things might have been my fault, but I was still furious.

So again, like the big man, I took my rage to Twitter, and within 20 minutes Vista Print had responded, and issued me a full refund! You have to say that's amazing. It doesn't help the fact I've got a meeting tomorrow with no business cards though does it?


Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, November 21

The Genius of Ignorance


In the documentary Upside Down: The Creation Records Story, producer Andrew Weatherall, talks about his process for mixing and producing Screamdelica by declaring that he didn't know what he was doing, and the process was inspired the 'Genius of Ignorance'. The album is undeniably a work of genius and Weatherall's production is astonishing, but the quote resonated with me and I think about it a lot.

It's always been my opinion that the people that know too much are the people that do boring work, of course I respect multi-musician polymaths that can play to the highest standard, but they'll never be more interesting  that Sid Vicious who really couldn't play a note, and that's how I feel about designers. Some of the least inspired and most insipid designers in the industry are over-educated and mundanely text-book in their approach, and obsessed with every detail to painstaking degrees, and their work suffers for it.

I did not study Graphic Design at university, and I've always felt this to my advantage. Early in my career when in briefing sessions I was never trying to mimic the 'Lemon', or make subtle references to industry standards, I was always able to approach a brief from a consumer point of view, always able to see an idea, not for how it looked in a portfolio, or to other designers, because I really didn't understand that, no I always felt I could make a better, more informed approach, that had a more honest and relevant appeal to it.

For me Genius of Ignorance is about doing incredible original work that's not rooted in anything, is inspired, but doesn't copy directly and happens in the moments when the work takes over and you create in a bubble inspired by itself. It's the only way to create outstanding work, and happens rarely, but when it does, what it produces is never over-thought, laboured or boring, but a true step into what you're trying to achieve.

Obviously I'm not a genus, and I'm clearly ignorant, but this quote reminded me that sometimes you need to throw away everything you know, and think much simpler, and that's how great work is created.


Or call 07738 175 614

Friday, November 18

Cabin Fever - 15 Ideas for Freelancers



Here's a guide to home working, I'm a complete expert at it, I've been doing it for a WHOLE YEAR!  OK, maybe I'm not, but these are my thoughts from year one. 

(This is a collection from the previous weeks posts).

1. Get Dressed

Seriously DO NOT work in your pyjamas, don't even work in your tracksuit bottoms, no you have to dress like you're going to work to feel like you're working, this means no bare feet, no nude under the desk, no nipples at monitor level. If you're going to take this seriously then 'Never Nude' is a good policy.

2. Work at Least Proper Hours

You might be more inspired in the evening, I tend to feel purple around 6pm and like to push through, but always make sure you're available the hours your clients work. Unfortunately for me, my voice always sounds like I've woken up, so even though I'm working from about 8.30, clients always ask me if I'm in bed, of course, I'm not, I'm ready for action, and my clients like this kind of reliability.

3. Get an Accountant

I've got an accountant, I call him Uncle Neil, I'm pretty sure he hates me, I ask him all sorts of stupid questions, all the time. When we have a meeting I make him explain everything about 12 times until I properly understand it, but that's what I'm paying for right? Getting a proper accountant to handle your Tax Return and other boring stuff is essential, it's really complicated and you don't want to waste your precious time on these kind of things. Everyone needs an Uncle Neil. (He doesn't know I call him 'Uncle', and he's not really my uncle).

4. Back-up Properly

However you do it, make sure you back up properly. I back up to TimeMachine throughout the day, then at the end of each month I have a separate drive that I transfer all of my completed project for the month onto. I also do automatic duplicated saves locally from Quark on even save. You can go a step further and back up these backup drives remotely, Amazon servers are excellent for this kind of security.

5. Manage Your Moods

Had a rough night's sleep? Feeling a bit fragile, then maybe don't send that email to your client questioning the need to make this particular amend. If you're in a bad mood, remember there's no account managers here to buffer your brooding apathy, if you annoy a client, it's very easy for them to find another designer. Take a minute, take a breath and come back it when when you feel a bit more like a pretty, pretty princess.

6. Plan Your Week on a Friday

Every Friday I'll plan the following week on my chalkboard (above), I'll make a list of jobs that I have on (bottom right), above that I'll list the tasks that need doing, and then break each day into AM and PM and divide these tasks through the week. Who needs Basecamp right? Chalkboard planning like this will help keep the motivation going over the weekend, and always mean you know exactly what needs doing when.

7. Take Walks, Play Sports

Cabin Fever is a killer when you work for yourself, whole days not talking to anyone can leave you a little strange of mind. Not long ago, I went nearly 2 weeks without leaving the office, and when I eventually did go out I felt very anxious. I've started to get out more, play some sports and make sure I'm seeing people regularly, these kinds of relationships are invaluable and they help to maintain sanity. Get some tight shorts a headband, and play some badders (badminton).

8. Be Cautious with Amends

When you're part of an agency you have that second line of defence in your Account Manager, they'll manage amends, and then check and sign them off. Every designer I ever met thought they could handle their own amends, and everyone of them couldn't. Be cautious, print the email out, tick off the ones you've done, then double check these and cross through the ticks. It's the only way to ensure you're not wasting everyone's time.

9. Get a System to Manage Work

When you're busy the last thing you want to do it to get a load more work drop on your desk, but you have to learn to manage your workflow. It's really important that you keep the momentum going through the properious times to minimise the lean times. I have a system that keeps me in check, I have a 'special' chart, and everyday I have to get a tick in at last 2 of the boxes. The Columns are 'Pitched'. 'Quoted' and 'invoice'. Then at the end of the week I add up my scores, each week has a max of 15, and if I'm under 10 I thrash myself with my mouse cable. Only joking of course, I use a Wireless Mouse.

10. Make Something Positive Happen Every Day

I know this sounds really annoying, and you probably hate me now, but it really works for me. I have a goal that I have to make something positive for Citizen happen every day, this can be anything from a good response to a blog, or quoting a new piece of work. A good business will move forward on positivity (I'm so sorry, I hate things like this as well), but you're on the only one that can make that happen (god, I can only apologise). Nobody put this on a motivational poster and we'll be alright.


11. Be Scallable

All freelancers rate themselves very highly, that's why they're freelance, they've got their targets and they're going to stick to them, it would be a total insult for them to go under their perceived hourly rate, and to a point I do agree. Often our skill are totally undervalued, but never lose a job because you couldn't bring yourself to adjust a quote to a client's budget (within something like 20%). At the end of the year add up the quotes for all the work you didn't get and halve it and tell me you don't want that kind of money sitting in your account. Work harder, be flexible and remember we're in a recession.

12. Have Resources for Backup

You need a team of reliable people to manage your overspill. Remember if you turn down a piece of work, your client is going to get it done somewhere else, the chances are that next designer is going to look at your work and say it sux, they all do it, you've done it! When that happens your client will be swept off their feet into their arms. Have a good back-up team in place, and don't worry about making money on a job to keep service levels consistent, just keep your clients happy.

13. Invite Feedback

You need to know where you're going wrong, nobody is flawless and the only people who can judge you are your clients, your wife, husband and parent don't count. Set up a feedback form on something like SurveyMonkey and send it to clients when their jobs close, ask questions about delivery, pricing and time scales and look for patterns in responses. Also don't just send it to the clients you know you've done a good job for, you have to be grown up about this in the history of the world there has never been a successful Business-Baby.

14. Charge for Account Management

As a designer you probably don't feel like you can charge for Account Management, but managing the job is always going to eat into your time, trips to meeting, expenses and phone calls are all going to cost you money, make sure you have an hourly rate, that's lower than your Creative rate and put some Account Management on every job, clients will expect to see it on there, and you have a right to charge it. Please note, this doesn't not make you an Account Manager, so don't start ruining your own ideas and going for really long lunches (only joking, KB, ST, HL, PB, CH, EP, JW, CH, TR, SS, and any others I might have worked with or known).

15. Commit to doing a lower number, and when it comes to it, do more, or say you'll do it on Tuesday and do it Monday... (OK!... Under Promise and Over Deliver.)

Yup, you made me say it! This is pure business talk, and you probably hate it, but it's a really good piece of advice, and one that's so easy to implement and makes you look great. Under promise on your delivery, so tell a client the work will be ready Wednesday and aim for Tuesday, tell them they'll see 3 concepts and get 5 ready, these kinds of things will create a positive aural around your company and make your client relations fluid and rewarding. Don't tell them you'll be at a meeting at 9am, and turn up at 7am, though that's just stupid.


What do you think? Have you got any good tips for Home Workers? Do Share them.




Or call 07738 175 614

Cabin Fever - 15 Ideas for Freelancers. Pt. 10-15



Here's the third in a 3 part series in a guide to home working, I'm a complete expert at it, I've been doing it for a WHOLE YEAR!  OK, maybe I'm not, but these are my thoughts from year one.



11. Be Scallable

All freelancers rate themselves very highly, that's why they're freelance, they've got their targets and they're going to stick to them, it would be a total insult for them to go under their perceived hourly rate, and to a point I do agree. Often our skill are totally undervalued, but never lose a job because you couldn't bring yourself to adjust a quote to a client's budget (within something like 20%). At the end of the year add up the quotes for all the work you didn't get and halve it and tell me you don't want that kind of money sitting in your account. Work harder, be flexible and remember we're in a recession.


12. Have Resources for Backup

You need a team of reliable people to manage your overspill. Remember if you turn down a piece of work, your client is going to get it done somewhere else, the chances are that next designer is going to look at your work and say it sux, they all do it, you've done it! When that happens your client will be swept off their feet into their arms. Have a good back-up team in place, and don't worry about making money on a job to keep service levels consistent, just keep your clients happy.


13. Invite Feedback

You need to know where you're going wrong, nobody is flawless and the only people who can judge you are your clients, your wife, husband and parent don't count. Set up a feedback form on something like SurveyMonkey and send it to clients when their jobs close, ask questions about delivery, pricing and time scales and look for patterns in responses. Also don't just send it to the clients you know you've done a good job for, you have to be grown up about this in the history of the world there has never been a successful Business-Baby.


14. Charge for Account Management

As a designer you probably don't feel like you can charge for Account Management, but managing the job is always going to eat into your time, trips to meeting, expenses and phone calls are all going to cost you money, make sure you have an hourly rate, that's lower than your Creative rate and put some Account Management on every job, clients will expect to see it on there, and you have a right to charge it. Please note, this doesn't not make you an Account Manager, so don't start ruining your own ideas and going for really long lunches (only joking, KB, ST, HL, PB, CH, EP, JW, CH, TR, SS, and any others I might have worked with or known).




15. Commit to doing a lower number, and when it comes to it, do more, or say you'll do it on Tuesday and do it Monday... (OK!... Under Promise and Over Deliver.)

Yup, you made me say it! This is pure business talk, and you probably hate it, but it's a really good piece of advice, and one that's so easy to implement and makes you look great. Under promise on your delivery, so tell a client the work will be ready Wednesday and aim for Tuesday, tell them they'll see 3 concepts and get 5 ready, these kinds of things will create a positive aural around your company and make your client relations fluid and rewarding. Don't tell them you'll be at a meeting at 9am, and turn up at 7am, though that's just stupid.


What do you think? Have you got any good tips for Home Workers? Do Share them.




Or call 07738 175 614

Wednesday, November 16

Cabin Fever - 15 Ideas for Freelancers. Pt. 5-10


Here's the second in a 3 part series in a guide to home working, I'm a complete expert at it, I've been doing it for a WHOLE YEAR!  OK, maybe I'm not, but these are my thoughts from year one.

6. Plan Your Week on a Friday

Every Friday I'll plan the following week on my chalkboard (above), I'll make a list of jobs that I have on (bottom right), above that I'll list the tasks that need doing, and then break each day into AM and PM and divide these tasks through the week. Who needs Basecamp right? Chalkboard planning like this will help keep the motivation going over the weekend, and always mean you know exactly what needs doing when.

7. Take Walks, Play Sports

Cabin Fever is a killer when you work for yourself, whole days not talking to anyone can leave you a little strange of mind. Not long ago, I went nearly 2 weeks without leaving the office, and when I eventually did go out I felt very anxious. I've started to get out more, play some sports and make sure I'm seeing people regularly, these kinds of relationships are invaluable and they help to maintain sanity. Get some tight shorts a headband, and play some badders (badminton).

8. Be Cautious with Amends

When you're part of an agency you have that second line of defence in your Account Manager, they'll manage amends, and then check and sign them off. Every designer I ever met thought they could handle their own amends, and everyone of them couldn't. Be cautious, print the email out, tick off the ones you've done, then double check these and cross through the ticks. It's the only way to ensure you're not wasting everyone's time.

9. Get a System to Manage Work

When you're busy the last thing you want to do it to get a load more work drop on your desk, but you have to learn to manage your workflow. It's really important that you keep the momentum going through the properious times to minimise the lean times. I have a system that keeps me in check, I have a 'special' chart, and everyday I have to get a tick in at last 2 of the boxes. The Columns are 'Pitched'. 'Quoted' and 'invoice'. Then at the end of the week I add up my scores, each week has a max of 15, and if I'm under 10 I thrash myself with my mouse cable. Only joking of course, I use a Wireless Mouse.

10. Make Something Positive Happen Every Day

I know this sounds really annoying, and you probably hate me now, but it really works for me. I have a goal that I have to make something positive for Citizen happen every day, this can be anything from a good response to a blog, or quoting a new piece of work. A good business will move forward on positivity (I'm so sorry, I hate things like this as well), but you're on the only one that can make that happen (god, I can only apologise). Nobody put this on a motivational poster and we'll be alright.

What do you think? Have you got any good tips for Home Workers? Do Share them.


Part 3 on Friday 18th November


Or call 07738 175 614

Monday, November 14

Cabin Fever - 15 Ideas for Freelancers. Pt. 1-5


Here's the first in a 3 part series in a guide to home working, I'm a complete expert at it, I've been doing it for a WHOLE YEAR!  OK, maybe I'm not, but these are my thoughts from year one.

1. Get Dressed

Seriously DO NOT work in your pyjamas, don't even work in your tracksuit bottoms, no you have to dress like you're going to work to feel like you're working, this means no bare feet, no nude under the desk, no nipples at monitor level. If you're going to take this seriously then 'Never Nude' is a good policy.


2. Work at Least Proper Hours



You might be more inspired in the evening, I tend to feel purple around 6pm and like to push through, but always make sure you're available the hours your clients work. Unfortunately for me, my voice always sounds like I've woken up, so even though I'm working from about 8.30, clients always ask me if I'm in bed, of course, I'm not, I'm ready for action, and my clients like this kind of reliability.


3. Get an Accountant



I've got an accountant, I call him Uncle Neil, I'm pretty sure he hates me, I ask him all sorts of stupid questions, all the time. When we have a meeting I make him explain everything about 12 times until I properly understand it, but that's what I'm paying for right? Getting a proper accountant to handle your Tax Return and other boring stuff is essential, it's really complicated and you don't want to waste your precious time on these kind of things. Everyone needs an Uncle Neil. (He doesn't know I call him 'Uncle', and he's not really my uncle).

4. Back-up Properly



However you do it, make sure you back up properly. I back up to TimeMachine throughout the day, then at the end of each month I have a separate drive that I transfer all of my completed project for the month onto. I also do automatic duplicated saves locally from Quark on even save. You can go a step further and back up these backup drives remotely, Amazon servers are excellent for this kind of security.

5. Manage Your Moods


Had a rough night's sleep? Feeling a bit fragile, then maybe don't send that email to your client questioning the need to make this particular amend. If you're in a bad mood, remember there's no account managers here to buffer your brooding apathy, if you annoy a client, it's very easy for them to find another designer. Take a minute, take a breath and come back it when when you feel a bit more like a pretty, pretty princess.

What do you think? Have you got any good tips for Home Workers? Do Share them.


Part 2 on Wednesday 16th November






Or call 07738 175 614

Friday, November 11

A Social Media Model for Imperial Recruitment




I found the above in my head whilst I had a headache. For a while I've been trying to create a diagram to show how a simple Social Media model might work, but it was as dry as a nat's chuff. Then for some reason when I broke it down into the Imperial arsenal it seemed to be quite a neat fit.

I think we need to start at the Death Star. This is the hub of your company, it needs to hold all of your services, case studies... you know what a Corporate Site is all about, I'm not going to waste your time here.

So how do you get people to the site? 
You need to create dynamic, interesting and diverse content, and house this somewhere that's a bit more mobile than the Death Star, somewhere like an Imperial Cruiser. This is the power house of your attack, this is where your original content will promote you as a thought leader, and drive these brainwashed Rebels into the clutches of the Death Star.

How do we get this message out the people? 
I've created amazing content, I need a nano targeted mobile attack force. Well this is delivered through your Social Media, these microblogging sites need to scoop up followers, advertise your original content to them and pull them into the blog for conversion or death.

Your Social Media arsenal should include the 3 basic's, Twitter, Linked In and Facebook, once you have these covered you'll have a solid platform to promote your content, and if this content is good, and regular enough your power will start to grow.

So, that's how the Dark Side do it, how do you work your Social Media strategy?

Feel free to download and use by the way. 




Or call 07738 175 614

Wednesday, November 9

Dadvertising - Mum's Not Dead Honest. Pt. 2


For the second part of my Dadvertising piece I bring you the brilliant Lego advert, Build Together (watch below). This is a masterpiece in Dadvertising, brilliant script, great tagline and what really blew me away about this is it's placement. It's not on in-between The MilkShake Girls, no, it's on when Dad's watching the TV on his own and it's reigniting his passion for Lego by appealing to his selfish nature, and, sorry, but it works. I want to build this house with my son.

The strapline is brilliant as well, so simple and totally inspiring. Build Together (nice typography as well while we're at it), is positioning Lego as a social activity, rather than a toy, it's an easy way to spend time with your family and everyone have fun at the same time. I mean has anyone ever played Elefun? It's hard to feel challenged as an adult catching butterflies out of a 3 foot long Elephant trunk. This Advert sells the idea that products works across all ages.

If an advert is only as good as it's product, then the advert is great because Lego has always been great. That's another thing I like about this, it's back to basics for the product. Lego has lost it's way over the last 10 years, there's too many movie tie-ins and too many specialist parts, and that's taken the imagination out of the bricks. But this advert goes a long way to building it back in, it's a triumph for Lego, for Dadvertising and for imagination.

What makes this the pinnacle of Dadvertising is Mum doesn't poke her nosey little face in at the end to prove she's not dead, no she's probably out doing the Christmas Shopping, buying this little chap a big rubbish plastic oven.


Let us know what you think? Are Dadverts going to take over TV, is the word 'Dadvert' annoying you?



Or call 07738 175 614