“I just want to have a nice, clean and professional website so I can have better leverage with gaining clients. I want them to see that I take my work seriously and that they are making a great decision if they hire me for their design project. I have a huge portfolio of amazing design work – but the website that I do have is nowhere near where I want it to be to really showcase those projects. How do I go about creating a website that really stands out and works for my needs?”
This was me four years ago.
I was fresh out of the design program and I had a portfolio full of student projects and a website that was greatly lacking in edibility, and overall user experience. While it was “okay” for a school project (as my peers and I all learned how to build our sites the same way) – it was nowhere near “okay” for presenting to the world.
As a designer myself, I knew that there had to be an easier and better way to create websites that didn’t take months or even years to learn how to build through code. I was self-employed after all – I needed to focus my energies on my business! I was just starting my freelancing career as a designer and needed my website to be a reflection of the quality of design work that I provide. If I show potential clients a website that takes a long time to load, or is just plain amateur looking – then how could I get ahead in my career as a freelancer? I needed something I could easily edit and change around how I liked and the website I did have just wasn’t cutting it!
Perhaps you are in a similar situation and can relate. If you get overwhelmed when thinking about how to even begin creating, much less launching your own professional looking website, then I want to let you in on a little secret that I have found and have ultimately used to design my own website without having to write a single line of code.
So what is my little secret?
The answer is simple: Adobe Muse CC
Adobe Muse CC is a powerful program that is simple, fun, and easy to learn and can give you complete creative freedom on what you’d like your website to look like without having to learn how to code. I have found that using this program is the easiest way to make your own website for showcasing your work as a designer and establishing that level of professionalism that you need in order to “WOW” your future boss, or get the signatures on new work contracts with your very own clients! You can even take the software one step farther and use it to create service based business websites for your clients or even sell your very own digital products.
Learning Adobe Muse is a valuable skill to learn and is one of the most enjoyable programs I have worked with to date as a designer myself. If code boggles your mind or makes you cringe as much as it does for me, then this is the program of choice because you can just focus in what you do best and leave it to Muse to do the rest.
I have been in love with Adobe Muse ever since I started using it in early 2013. For the past couple of years, I have soaked in everything I could possibly learn about this design program and it just keeps getting better! It is a fairly new program, but is an invaluable tool to designers as it equips and empowers anyone who is not code-savvy to be able to create and launch their own fully-functional websites with gorgeous user experiences without needing to write one single line of code. Pretty amazing isn’t it?
If you have been following my work, then you may know that I am in the process of writing a book on how to design websites in Adobe Muse CC. However, before the book comes out – I am excited to announce that I will be opening enrollment to my very first online course exclusively to my followers for the first VIP launch of the course with three weeks worth of training videos that go through web design step-by-step from planning to design, to launch!
So, if you would like to learn all that you can about this wonderful program to propel yourself into that next level as a graphic and web designer by having a home on the web to showcase your work and make a living by helping others through the services or products that you provide – then I would love to see you join us in the first VIP launch of my online training course where you will learn how to design a website in just 3 weeks. I will also be providing you with the very Adobe Muse CC template that I create within the course for you to use as you please.
I am dedicated to making this a life-changing experience for you as you learn how to create a website that will take you and your career to the next level.
Enrollment opens later this month! Stay updated by signing up for the waiting list by clicking on the link or signing up in the form below.
What’s in a good logo design brief? And why do designers need “so much” information before designing a logo?
Today the topic is all about the questions you should ask your clients before you even start on their logo design for their visual brand. Why is this step of asking specific questions so critically important? I’ll tell you why! The logo design you’ll be designing is the foundation of your client’s visual brand. If you don’t have the facts upfront – about their company’s needs, their target audience, and even what they like – how will you be able to capture everything they need in one solid mark that will represent their entire company? The logo design you create will most often be the first impression they make to their consumers.
As graphic designers, our main job is to be excellent visual communicators. With that in mind, if the right questions aren’t asked ahead of time – then how can you best serve your client, if you don’t know what their company is fully about or who they need to communicate to?
This is where our lovely little friend… the design brief comes in.
Let me walk you through each of the 11 questions I ask every single one of my brand new logo design clients to fill out. You may use these same questions for your own design brief, or modify however you’d like! I want you to be well equipped so you can reach the highest success in your own creative business or graphic design freelancing career.
Full name of your company as you would like it to appear on your logo:
This question is an obvious one, yet can oftentimes be overlooked! A time could come where you may assume your client’s company name is spelled one way, and then once you get the design brief back, you see that it was actually spelled quite differently than you imagined during your consultation with them. Asking this question will surely save you an episode of embarrassment and unprofessionalism somewhere down the line – I know it has for me!
Do you have a tagline/slogan that you would like to include under the company name within the logo? If yes, please list.
This question is good to know, as some companies require a tagline and others don’t. By asking this question, it eliminates you having to incorporate another new typographical element into your design, after you have already done the work of carefully planning and executing your design mockup one way – and then later having to introduce a whole new line of text into the design that you didn’t plan for. It’s good to have all elements upfront, so you know what you’re working with to best plan out the design composition from the beginning.
Do you have a website? If so, please list:
This question is very helpful. If they do have a website, you will be able to go to the website and possibly find out even more in-depth information about their company. If they do not have a website, perhaps that is another service you will be able to offer them down the road to expand their visual brand across the web and put their new logo into action! See what we did there?
Please provide a one – two paragraph clear description of your company:
This is a great question to ask your client, as it will give you an even clearer view of their company than you may have gotten from them during your design consultation, or through prior email conversations. It will also help to have this specific paragraph to read while brainstorming ideas to communicate what the company is about.
Vision and/or Mission Statement of your company in one sentence:
This question is insightful and important for your client to really hone in on. Since your job as a designer is to help your client propel their business into the next level with their new visual branding, it is helpful to know where your client sees their company going in the future for growth. As a designer, you want to help your client bridge that gap through the clean, modern logo you create. Knowing what their company vision and mission is, will help you so you can best serve and support your client’s future goals through your final logo design solution.
Please list at least one (or more) competitor(s) that are along the same field of work as your company and list their website(s) for reference:
It’s good to see what competition is out there from already established brands. As a designer, having the specific web addresses of your client’s immediate competitors will give you a good sense of how strong their competition is, what’s working already in their industry and will help you dig deeper so that you can find the best leverage point to bring your client to the next level in their business and give them an edge-up on the competition.
Who is Your target audience?:
This series of questions is quite possibly one of the most important questions you can ask, as this audience is who you are designing the logo for in order to best serve your client. Knowing the ideal “person” you are designing for will set the tone for the logo. It’s good to get as specific and well defined as possible for the best setup for success. Do you need a playful logo to fit the audience? Or a more serious, mature logo? Are your consumers younger or are they of the older generation? Knowing these things will help you to define the feel, and then design the best solution for your client.
Do you have specific colors that you would like to see within the logo/branding (please indicate if the colors you list are a guideline or if they are a set choice that must be worked with):
Perhaps you are involved in a re-branding project, and the brand already has specific colors they are working with. This is good to know so you can stay consistent with the brand. Colors are one of the most essential elements for immediate communication. If your client has a specific color in mind for their brand, and it aligns with their company’s message, then it would probably be most beneficial to work in those colors. However, if you feel that a particular color is an even better solution for the company, then keep in mind that you are the professional, and it would be to your client’s advantage for you to provide them with the option they would like to see as well as your color choice as an alternate. Also, explain your reason why you chose the colors that you did so that your client can see your vision and decide between the two with some thought.
3-10+ keywords of the first impression you would like to make to a new viewer when viewing your logo/branding -what emotions or reactions do you want your logo to evoke? (ex.: bright, professional, friendly)
The keyword list is excellent to have and is actually a quite new addition to my own design brief. I have found it incredibly useful the past few months as the keywords my clients have given me have ignited sparks which led to many great and new design ideas. This all happened just by visualizing the meaning and emotion behind a single word or two. Once I have that spark or feeling from a particular keyword or combination of keywords they listed – I work to integrate it with the logo design I am creating for them. This exercise brings me back to my time in the design program, when my classmates and I immediately had to paint the first thing that comes to our mind after our professor said a specific word. Coming up with an illustration of what the essence of that word was visually is one of the most fun and creative tasks to work on.
Please list two logos/brands (and their websites) that you admire for inspiration for your logo design and indicate the specific reason why you like them.
It great to ask this question so that you can see what your client’s specific tastes are and to see why it is they like certain aspects of the designs they have chosen to share with you. It is also good to go out and gather more inspiration on your own as well so that you can look to other design treatments which oftentimes leads you to explore another whole realm of ideas that may not have come to your mind otherwise.
Anything else that you believe may be helpful for me to know before moving forward:
This is a highly important question to ask, as most often there is always something that your client will still want to express to you about their logo design, that they may not feel is appropriate to tell you at any other time. Giving them that open ended question will allow them that free opportunity to tell you whatever they would like to share with you before you begin work.
So, what did you think? Did that help you out? Are you going to create your own design brief today and implement some or all of these questions? If so, tell me about it by leaving a comment in the comments section below!
The last few months have brought me immense sadness, lasting joy, and an even greater focus and clarity on living a life of value and purpose in the here and now. I have cried, prayed, and made decisions that I certainly wouldn’t have made had I not had to say goodbye, so soon, to one of the greatest and most influential men of my life – my father, Paul Brown.
Exactly three months ago, to this very day, my family stood around his hospital bed in the living room of my parents house and my daddy left this earth we live on. It was at this time that I realized my life was no longer the same and that that point forward marked a completely new chapter in my life – if moving forward was even possible.
At the time, moving forward in my life just didn’t seem right, my father was gone, and no longer in my day to day life. I needed time to mourn what I have lost that was so precious to me. After the commotion of his memorial service died down and a month of reflection and sadness went by, I began to realize that even though he is no longer here physically, he is still very much a part of my day to day life, as he will always be a part of me.
It is my belief that every person you meet has something they can teach you. My father was no exception as I have learned so many things from him throughout my life. The past few months have taught me a lot as I have taken time to reflect, time to assess, and time to create an even clearer vision of where I want to go and what I want my life to stand for. I have learned three very big life lessons from my father that I would like to share.
Lesson #1: You Have the Power to Make Your Own Future
This first lesson that I learned from my daddy, I learned at an early age. My father was adopted and when I was just 3 years old, I remember the day my little brother and I met my grandmother, Carol Moore. All of his life, my father wondered who it was he came from, and why he had been given up for adoption. His adopted family wasn’t as nurturing as they could have been, and my father struggled with feelings of abandonment and lack of love for all his young life. He later married my mother, and then was encouraged to begin the astronomical task of finding his mom. After years of searching, he finally found her and then did the hard work of trudging through emotional pain and inviting her to be a part of our family. Because he faced his pains head-on to make a change in his life – he was rewarded with the mother he never knew, my mother was rewarded with a happier husband, and my four brothers and I were rewarded with a loving grandmother who greatly enriched our lives as we grew. He changed the future by taking the necessary and difficult steps he needed to.
Lesson #2: Your Skills and Experiences Can Help Others
The second lesson I learned from my daddy, was one that had been modeled for me from as far as I can remember. Once my father found his birth mother, he went on to get a private detective’s license, founded his own company in the budding era of the Internet, and MiracleSearch.com was born. Over the course of the next 20+ years, he consulted hundreds of adoptees who were looking for their birth parents and birth parents who were looking for their children. It was because of him that many happy reunions happened in the lives of people who before only had discouragement. My father had a gift, and he boldly used it as his personal life’s ministry to God.
Lesson #3: Enjoy Every Day of Your Life
This third lesson was one that I have been reflecting on often since my father has passed. Every single day of life is a precious gift from God, to be used in whatever way that we want. We can choose our life’s experience. For me, I have learned that anger, regret, and complaints is a waste of the short time that we have on this earth, and that love, acceptance and grace towards the people around you, as well as perseverance to the goals and good things you want in your life is what should occupy the time that we have. Going after your dreams should start today, and each day thereafter that you build upon it – you will feel fulfilled and happy inside that you are doing something of value to you and to others.
There is a beautiful quote that goes: Don’t let your music die inside of you.
My father certainly didn’t and he will forever be remembered through the families he reunited and the bonds that were formed through his life’s work. My father was an amazing person and is loved and missed so much. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about him, or feel him as I excitedly push forward with my business dreams. He was my number one supporter, and I will always hold on to one of the last things he said to me… “I’m so proud”.
I designed a simple one page landing page in Adobe Muse of which I want to share with you today so that you can make your own too! I recorded the whole process from start to finish as a video tutorial. I hope you enjoy it!
Check out the finished landing page by clicking here!
To download a free 30 trial of Adobe Muse, simply click here.
To check out many more subtle patterns, like the one I used in my tutorial, visit their website by clicking here.
There is great potential for success as an independent contractor on oDesk. That is, when you know what to do to become successful. For the oDesk newbie, it can be hard at first to get started gaining clients and to obtain a good grasp on how things should be approached and executed for the best chance for success.
I know quite a lot about oDesk, let me tell you! From obtaining my very first client as a freelancer while I was still in design school almost four years ago, then building my repeat client base to maintain a good financial standing to now beginning to move forward and actually hire a team of hand-picked, brilliant freelancers on the site to push me forward as I take my graphic design studio to the next level while overseeing and being the creative director of it all.
What is oDesk?
oDesk.com is an online website where clients and contractors meet. Essentially, clients post jobs that they need help with and contractors apply to these jobs and are then interviewed for the position. There are many categories of jobs available on oDesk including: Web Development, Software Development, Networking & Information Systems, Writing & Translation, Administrative Support, Design & Multimedia, Customer Service, Sales & Marketing, Business Services. In this post, I will be focusing on what works for the category that I engage with on a daily basis which is subcategories under both Web Development and Design & Multimedia. Many of the tips I give transcends across the different categories, however I know them to be especially effective for the category I target.
When you want the flexibility of working online and still maintain the ability to choose specific jobs that are of interest to you, then oDesk is a great choice to explore. There are literally thousands of new job postings across the site daily from businesses eagerly looking to find that perfect freelancer for the job they have at hand. Read this great interview with the CEO of oDesk to learn more about the company!
How to Get Started:
I have been working as a contractor on oDesk for close to four years now. Over that time period, I have gleaned through trial and error what works and what doesn’t work so well when it comes to actually getting your potential client to see your application and hire you for the position. Let me walk you through the three-fold process of what you need to do to get started on oDesk to increase your chances of success as an independent contractor.
Part 1: Set up your oDesk Profile
Choose a professional and friendly image for your oDesk profile pic
It’s important to select a clean, clear, professional and friendly image for your chosen profile picture. This image is the first visual association your potential clients see so make sure your image is making a good first impression. Your clients don’t get to call you in for an in-person interview, so this photo is the closest first impact you’re going to make on your client. Select a high quality image, upload and oDesk will give you the option to crop the image as you see fit.
Select an hourly rate in proportion to your level of expertise
Choosing your own hourly rate can be either liberating or send shivers down your spine. How do you know how much you should charge for your service? This is a good question and should be based directly on your level of expertise. It’s all too easy to sell yourself short to compete with others who will do work for $3.33/hr. Don’t worry about these contractors, as I can assure you that as long as your portfolio is strong, you will get work at a higher rate! I would recommend to start at no less than $25/hr and go up from there as you gain more and more experience. You’ll be surprised that the higher your hourly rate – the more you are perceived as an expert in your field (as long as your portfolio can back this up!) and high quality clients will be excited to work with you!
Write a catchy, related headline to describe what you do best
This headline should describe in an instant what it is you do. It should be focused and to the point. Example: Professional Designer | Top Quality Branding for Print & Web
Write an effective paragraph outlining exactly what you do and your value
This paragraph should be well thought out and written so that it is both clear and concise. Example: In this suffering economy, I believe that it is now more important than ever to have a strong image for your company. I pride myself in helping individuals, non-profits, small business’s and larger corporations reach a higher level of success. Visual branding is my specialty, having the most up-to-date design tools, creativity, and branding know-how to successfully and professionally execute the perfect logo identity for your company.
Take as many related oDesk skills tests as you can
oDesk has many skills tests that you can take to test your knowledge on your specific area of expertise. If you are a designer, like myself, you would for example take their tests that cover the Adobe creative cloud programs. Once the test is done, your score can then be shown on your profile by the click of a button for your potential clients to see. Many clients look for proof of experience and trust these skills tests. I recommend having at least four tests displayed on your profile in addition to the basic oDesk readiness test. If you don’t get a score within the top percentile the first time, then keep retaking the test over time until you do!
Showcase your BEST work samples in your portfolio
Perhaps the most important thing you can have on your oDesk profile is the PORTFOLIO. When in the creative field, it is absolutely critical to have a portfolio loaded with your highest quality work examples for your potential clients to see. The work you showcase should speak for you and encourage the client to WANT YOU for the job at hand. Tailor your portfolio to focus on the area of work that you want to focus on for the highest success rate. If you want to design logos for your clients and apply for these jobs, then don’t showcase a writing sample. Keep your portfolio simple and strong! I recommend including at least 4-6 portfolio samples of your highest quality work. This alone can be the determining factor for getting the interview!
Part 2: Create Your Outside Web Presence
I have found that having a web presence outside of my oDesk portfolio has been extremely helpful during the interview process to give the potential client the “trust” factor that I am a professional in the field and take my work seriously. You may give the potential client a link to your website during the interview process, but you must continue working within oDesk for every client you find on the site and is interested in hiring you.
Purchase your domain name and hosting for your outside web presence
I use godaddy.com for my domain and hosting and haven’t ever had a problem! Choose a professional domain that is informative, yet simple. I highly recommend purchasing a “.com” vs. “.net”, “.com”, etc. Get a free 35% off your GoDaddy order by using this coupon promo code at checkout WOWLUTZ35.
Set up your email address with your website
Once you purchase both your domain and hosting, I recommend setting up your email address with your website for a professional image when conversing with your clients.
Design your simple 1 page to 5 page website and launch
Whether you decide you want a 5 page, 3 page, or even 1 page website, the most important thing to do is make sure your website looks clean and professional. If web design is not in your area of expertise, you may want to outsource somebody for this project. If interested, my company, LUTZstudio can certainly help you out! We design beautiful, professional websites on a daily basis. If you mention this blog article when requesting a quote, we will give you a $200 off discount towards your 1 page – 5 page informational website!
Set up & Design your social media pages – Facebook, Twitter, Google+
Another good idea is to create and design social media pages for your freelancing service. This can include: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, BeHance, Dribbble, etc. Don’t forget to customize each page professionally (LUTZstudio can help with this too!) and to post regularly to engage with your fans.
Set up your Skype account and select an easy to remember ID
Having a Skype account is extremely important as many clients will want to use this free tool during the interview process. Set up your Skype account with an ID that is both easy to remember and professional in nature.
Link all of your social media pages to your oDesk profile
Once you have all of your social media pages set up, you should link them to your oDesk profile so that your clients will have the opportunity to connect with you and your work outside of oDesk to enhance the business relationship.
Part 3: Apply for Jobs and Get Hired!
Write an awesome workable cover letter template that you will tailor to each job
It is helpful to write a cover letter that captures the attention of your potential client in one glance. This starts with the opening line. Write something that will stand out in a sea of other applicants. This could be “I AM YOUR DESIGNER” or “I WILL MAKE YOUR LOGO SHINE”. Think about how to solve the client’s challenge and speak directly to that problem in the first line. The next paragraph should outline everything you will do for them (this part is customized to each job posting). The following paragraph should be a brief description of your design process and your work ethic. Close the cover letter with “I look forward to your interview, Your Name and then Your Title”.
Begin applying for jobs! Start by applying to 3 jobs that interest you each day
Every contractor is allowed to apply to 25 job postings a week. In the beginning when you are just starting out, you will want to take advantage of the full amount of postings. Not everyone wants to hire an oDesk newbie without any previous oDesk work experience, so just hang in there and keep applying and you will eventually get your foot in the door!
When applying, tailor each cover letter to specifically address the needs of the job
It is important to customize your cover letter to directly address the needs of your potential client’s job posting and clearly outline what you will do for them to provide them the value they are looking for. Make sure to read the client’s posting all the way through and clearly address each point they make. (lists are good!) If the client includes their name in their job posting – always use their name as the first word in your cover letter. On a couple of occasions this has been the REASON why I got hired for the job. You want to stand out so that they look at your application. Then surprise them by being refreshingly confident and to the point throughout the letter.
If applying for an hourly rate job, submit your cover letter at your hourly rate
Hourly rate jobs are guaranteed payment for the time you login to your oDesk work diary.
If applying for a fixed-price job, submit your cover letter for at least 50% upfront
The one downside to oDesk currently is that they do not offer guaranteed payment for fixed price job contracts. This means that a client could hire you, then you could do the work and send it to them, and then the client could just go ahead and cancel the job leaving you with no payment for a job well done. This can be extremely frustrating as there are those clients out there…
A good rule of thumb that I like to follow is to make sure that whatever amount you request upfront on fixed price jobs is an amount that you can live with if for some reason the client never gets around to closing out the contract and paying you the remanding balance owed. Always ask for a percentage upfront and start it out 50% (at least) for all NEW clients. After you’ve worked with a client once and have a good business relationship with them, then this rule no longer applies. However, if you are going to work for a new client for the first time, make sure you ask for a percentage (between 50%-100%) upfront or you may wish you did later.
Be available and respond immediately and professionally to all interviewers
After you begin gaining clients, receiving excellent feedback, and growing your portfolio, you will begin to find that clients start coming to you! Whether you apply for the job, or the client comes to you – make sure you respond within 24 hours time to every job interview or interview request you receive. oDesk tracks how quickly you respond to interview requests and it’s shown on your profile to all potential clients who may be interested in hiring you for your services. Keep up a good profile and you will do well!
Be ready to talk to your potential client via Skype
It is a good idea to be ready to communicate via Skype if the client or yourself should want to. Not every client needs a personal Skype call, but some clients like to have that option. Be personable and professional, just like you would be in any other job interview.
Once hired, begin work and keep all of your promises.
Once the client hires you (and only after the client hires you) begin work and keep all of the promises you made for deliverables, progress reports, etc. Work to exceed their expectations if at all possible and your client will surely refer or use you again for their next project task.
Want to Learn More?
I am currently in the process of putting together an online class and writing a book for individuals who would like to step out into working on oDesk for themselves as an independent contractor. Sign up to stay updated throughout the year on news regarding this class and book and you’ll receive a special discount! You will also receive a FREE printable checklist when you sign up!
I came across this powerful little video today and thought it was just too good not to share!
Expressed through kinetic typography, Ira Glass talks about the “creative gap” and the importance of not giving up on your creative work. He urges individuals in the creative field to keep moving forward. This “creative gap” is this special something that your writing, or in our case as designers – your design projects lack. You know this, and you know that you fall short. This is normal and is good, because it makes you want to get better! Now, you may think you’ll never fill this gap and achieve that special something that your work is missing. However, if design is something you are passionate about – then the best thing to do is to KEEP PUSHING THROUGH.
Keep sitting yourself down at your computer with your design programs open. Keep the drawing pad and pen handy. Keep on creating. Keep on studying. Keep on learning. Keep on applying. Keep on playing. Keep on sharing. Eventually, your work will have that special thing that you longed for and the time it took to get there will have been well worth it!
As Ross Perot puts it: Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success…
Without further ado:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass
Kinetic typography by David Shiyang Liu