As a creatively driven person, admin and repetition are natural killers to the spark that ignites us, and as a solopreneur/freelancer these mundane (and very critical tasks) can be the ‘one more thing’ that steals the joy from doing what we love. Life also has a tendency to get in the way with real issues like stress, illness, burnout, our health, the health of loved ones, death, divorce, new babies or sometimes it’s just plain creative block.
Harvard studies have shown that the creative brain processes information differently due to low levels of ‘latent inhibition’. Creative people struggle to screen out excess information. The brain of a creative person is constantly taking information in, that’s why we come up with ideas that no one else does. We have our own subconscious brainstorm session constantly running! It is also incidentally the reason why some creative people are not very stable mentally. A creatively wired brain takes all that information and weaves it into a solid idea (you can read more about it here).
When the chips are down and you need to suck that awesome concept out of the ether and your creative brain has hit overload, you can always try and pick another creative’s person’s brain… online that is. Here is a list of some tools that can help ignite your creative genius again. It could just be the kick start you need to get the project going.
A quick visual to explain what different optimization settings do for an image. One of the challenges that web designers face is achieving the ultimate balance between a comforable sized image (kb) and a well optimized image. Some of the optimization options such as png aren't covered in the above visual, since the visual is to give a basic comparison between low-res and hi-res image optimization. Although some of the parts of the image appear crisp when optimized as a Gif (see green fur in first square in the upper right, compared to the pink fur), other parts of the image loose a lot of detail. What I haven't listed in the above image is the size of each segment in kb. The items that are the smallest in kb (on the left hand side) are also the items with the least image data. The pixelation of the first jpg is very obvious and the ideal would be to use either a Gif with 256 colors or a jpg at 80% as an optimization option.
My first blog I had was blogger - I switched to OnSugar as it was way easier to use and customize. I recently set up a blogger account and found that it was a bit tricky to add posts the navigation tabs - so here's my hack to get your blogger posts to link to your navigation tabs.
I'm a great believer in the benefits of cloud apps and don't see why one should reinvent the wheel. I recently needed an event managment app for a client site. I know there are many online apps that do event management and I thought I had an easy job before me.
BUT I needed an event management app that could accept payment in ZAR from clients making bookings. Well, It proved a mammoth task. PayPal is still not the payment of choice for most South Africans. It takes too long to load money into your account and too long to receive money (let alone some of the regulations governing how your PayPal money can be used). We live in an instant world where some people consider a page load of 250 milliseconds too long. To wait 6 working days for your money, is maybe too long.
This made the R&D phase all the more challenging. My first idea of using Constant Contact fell flat when I realized that accepting payment in ZAR was not an option. Many sign ups, logins and demo days of other apps followed... I can give personal testimony to some of the great customer service I sampled.
For future reference I've compiled a quick link list of some of the online apps I tried. Not all the apps offered a comprehensive service so I listed some that would help with at least one aspect of event management. My list contains apps/services that maybe only handled the email marketing side, or just the form creation aspect, or maybe they just offered some form of analytics that I believed could be helpful to an event management site.
So here is my round up for event management. Most of the sites below offer you a free trail period to enable you to take their product for a test drive so you can TBYB (try before you buy). Most of the options below also have PayPal as their standard form of payment.
Constant Contact Great product but not as many custom options as I wanted (more template customization control). This can easily be your one stop event management solution if your country has a PayPal mentality. A little bit slow to use at times (with South African DSL speed).
Eventbrite Easy to use, can be linked to your mail Chimp account.
Formstack For custom form creation. You can create your own landing page linked to the form, fast and easy to use. No prebuilt templates (like Wufoo). For the right project they would be great.
Cvent Great customer service. They offer very comprehensive tailormade solutions (that's why there are no prices on their site - they're what bespoke is to the template industry). A very comprehensive package that goes beyond just manageing your event and your attendees, they even have biz apps that help you to analyze the finacial profitability of each event. One great aspect is (if you have a merchant gateway), all your money goes straigth to you when an attendee pays/books. They do not hold the funds until after the event or until you withdraw the funds. They have embraced the fact that the world is flat and have a definate global appeal.
Launchrock Got a major event on the way? Still trying to sort out what you need, but want a web presence straight away? Setting up a launching/coming soon page easy with Lauchrock is super easy. A lovey full page graphic and a simple one field form helps you get exposure and email addresses - so you get to build your database ASAP.
Event Elephant - One of the few sites that include ZAR as a payment option.
Wufoo - One of the easiest to use online form builders.
One of the great failings of some of the event management apps is the fact that they hold your money till AFTER the event - this means that if you have people booking for an event for the end of the year, they get to keep your money in their account until after the event. Most of the apps include PayPal as a payment option. This is a dealbreaker for local events since the tickets always have to be charged in a foreign currency.
There are usualy only two options for ticket sales - a paid event or a free event. Most of the apps also allow you to use their services for free if the event is free. Pricing also varies as each app has their own pricing plans. Some charge a monthly fee only (you are responsible for any merchant/card processing fees). Some charge a monthly fee and a processing fee per ticket (especially if you make use of their merchant/payment gateways). Some charge a flat rate per ticket while some have a sliding scale, based on how many tickets and how many events.
There are some great sites where you can sell your excess creative work. From photographs, vectors, illustrations, layered PSD files, tutorials and ebooks - there are sale opportunities for your digital content without you having to worry about applying for 'merchant' status. Each site has a different buyer profile and different royalty structures. Getting started can be a bit intimidating as most sites require an approval process before you can start selling online.
This is not a recipe for overnight success, but rather an income opportunity that you should commit to over a long period. It can start off as a source of passive income and eventually become your full time income IF you manage to create a winning recipe.
Oh, and be prepared to get rejections, I've had one library reject an image that become my best seller on another site. Each site has it's own culture and they each attract a certain buyer. Find your niche and you could find your sweet spot at the same time.
Here's a short list to get you started:
Graphic River - Vectors and layered PSD (illustrator and indesign templates)
Theme Forest - Web templates/Themes. From your PSD files to fully functional sites (HTML/Wordpress ect.)
Veer - Editable vectors, photographs and JPG illies
Dreamstime - Editable vectors, photographs and JPG illies
Fotolia - Editable vectors, photographs and JPG illies
You also have the option on most sites of going exclusive (selling your digital content only on their site) or being non-exclusive. Choosing either is a bit like making an investment choice - higher risk of success or failure with one portfolio of shares, or a lower risk with multiple portfolios of medium performing shares. The royalties are always higher with exclusivity and some sites allow you to upload your content as either exclusive or non-exclusive. Other sites allow exclusivity (or non exclusivity) based on the author/username, so ALL your files need to be either exclusive or non exclusive.
One of the trickiest aspects is correcly keywording your file, a well keyworded file means that your image will appear more often in the right buyer searches and will result in more sales.
Click here for an awesome keywording tool from one of the top Microstock photographers.
Here's the beginning of a series of quick designer tips:
Ever received an image from a client and it's too small for print and there's no time or no option to source a replacement image? One of my design cheats is to take a screenshot of the image. It only works on some images as a lot depends on the source file.
This works quite well if the source image is an Acrobat file.
Step one - Open the file and Preview, Acrobat or whichever program you have, that allows you to view the image
Step two - Hit 'command' (or apple) and '+' to enlarge the image until it fills your screen
Step three - Take a screenshot of the desired image (using 'command' and 'shift' and '4')
Step four - Open your screenshot in photoshop, convert it to a CMYK jpg or tiff and edit away (the screenshot usually comes as a rgb png - depending on how you took it so it needs to be made print ready)
I'm a visual learner so I find it easier to mind map my thought processes. I created this basic outline for a web design brief to detail some of the aspects of web design that a designer should consider before embarking on a project. Just as any creative communication is not only about the visual appeal, there's a technical, practical and creative aspects to consider.
I've just started using MindNode to help with my conceptualizing, since I've always got a gazzilion pieces of information scattererd across several journals. I've done a basic overview of web design from a designer perspective. I've missed a couple of items so I'd apprerciate any feedback.
Here is my base image, I'm just going to prepare the word 'Emboss' for embossing, so the final product will have the word printed and embossed. (Click image for a larger view)
When you emboss - the printer needs the embossed portion to be a solid color, so it can be 100% Cyan or 100% Yellow - the 100% Magenta is usually a good rule to follow as you'll notice straight away what portions are being embossed (unless you've used a lot of plain magenta in the design)
I've duplicated the word I want Embossed (see the layers pallette) and I've made it 100% of an obvious color. (Click image for a larger view)
The embossed plate for the printer also needs to be made up of ONE color - so make sure that your embossed portion is changed to a 'Spot' color (it must not be a process color - unless the card is one/spot color).
- You could even make your embossed area from a spot Pantone that shows up as as a 10% yellow, but it would still be 100% of that spot Pantone... and renamed 'Emboss' - it must be a SPOT color.
The type to be embossed has been changed to a spot color. (Click image for a larger view)
The emboss needs to have sharp/crisp edges (it is traditionally made from a solid block of metal -like old fashioned letterpress) hence the requirement for it to be a vector (you can do vectors in photoshop). So choose a font that will lend itself to sharp crisp edges, or make sure your graphic element has sharp crisp edges.
You need to manually set the color to overprint - so that depends on what app you're using, if you're using Illustrator you can do this in the 'Attributes' pop up (from the 'Window' menu). Select the item to be embossed and check the 'overprint' option here.
Type has been set to overprint (see attributes) and the 'Overprint Preview' has been selected. (Click image for a larger view)
To check your overprint
If you check the 'Overprint Preview' it should show the embossed portion as a darker color. Let me try clarify what I mean: When the preview is off you should see the embossed portion as say 100%M. When you click 'Separation Preview' on, the 100% Magenta should look like 100% transparent Magenta (it looks similar to what happens when you use 'multiply' in photoshop')
The 'Emboss' plate displaying as a spot color in Adobe Acrobat. (Click image for a larger view)
If you can view your file in Acrobat Professional check your colors when you switch on the 'Separation Preview' (from the Advanced' menu) The embossed portion should display as a spot color (preferably named 'Emboss') and it should not knock out any of the colors behind it (if you switch the 'Emboss' off, you should still see all the design elements on your card behind it.
The 'Emboss' plate clicked off to show items underneath in Adobe Acrobat. (Click image for a larger view)
If you don't have Acrobat Pro, then print color separations and make sure the embossed portion prints on it's own plate and does not knock out any of the elements behind it.
Convert your text to outlines/paths if you're not going to make a PDF for print.
There are quite a few variables that need to be taken into consideration when prepping a file for special printing techniques. I've just covered some of them in this tutorial.