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Articles by ‘Laura Spencer’

The Real Truth About Design Contests, What You Need to Know

And you just won…nothing.

That, right there, is the first truth that you need to know about design contests. Not everyone who enters a design contest will win.

Yet, it seems like contests are everywhere.

It’s easy to be enticed to enter contests with the shiny offers of exciting prizes and in some cases, cash. But if you do enter a design contest, don’t count on winning. Most entrants never place high enough to win a prize. And some contests are outright scams.

Is it worth it to enter a design contest? It depends. If you’re thinking about entering a contest, you should consider all the risks before you put serious effort into a contest entry…

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Editing Mistakes: How to Keep Them from Ruining Your Design

Oh no!

How did you miss it? The client’s name is misspelled on the design you turned in. How embarrassing.

You spend a lot of time your designs. As a result, your designs look great. And your clients love them.

There’s something they won’t love, though. That’s an editing goof. Yet, probably because they’re not focused on words, many designers overlook the importance of editing the copy that goes with their design…

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Building a Strong Social Media Presence in 40 Minutes a Day

How do you get more clients? Build a strong online presence, of course.

If clients and prospects see you online, they are more likely to contact you about web design projects. An easy and cost-effective way to build a strong online presence is through social media.

The only problem with building an online presence through social media is that most freelancers tend to slack off when they are busy. It’s easy to participate in social media activities when your schedule is slow. It’s not so easy to participate when you are rushing to meet deadlines.

Unfortunately, when it comes to your online presence the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” often holds true. If your potential clients don’t see your name mentioned for a while, they are likely to forget about you and hire someone else.

You need a plan…

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Web Design Business Mindset: 10 Signs You’re Doing it Right

You have the web design skills. You have the knowledge. You have the experience. Yet, you could still be missing a critical element that is crucial to your success in running a freelance web design business.

Having a web design business mindset means that you treat your freelance business like, well, a business.

Freelancers who don’t take care of the business end of things often face obstacles and struggles as result. Sadly, some freelancers who lack a business mindset wind up paying for it in the long term when their web design business runs into trouble…

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How to Evaluate Prospective Clients and Choose the Best Ones

You want good clients and not bad clients, but how can you tell the difference?

If you’ve been a freelance web designer for a while (and especially if you have a strong online presence), this has probably happened to you. Out of the blue, you get an email asking about your web design services from someone you have never heard of working for a company you have never heard of.

Yay! You might think it’s time for a celebration. But as an experienced freelancer, you know to be careful. You know that it’s important to evaluate prospective clients. You shouldn’t agree to work for every single prospect who contacts you.

First of all, you want to make sure that their inquiry is legitimate. And you should also consider whether they are the right client for you.

In this post, I’ll list a few steps to help you evaluate a prospective client. At the end of the post, share your tips about how you evaluate clients…

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What You Need to Know Before You Expose That Bad Client

If you’ve had a bad experience with a client, you may have thought about using your blog or social media to shame them.

The practice of client shaming seems to be growing. Just in the past month, I’ve seen at least four blog posts and social media complaints about companies who did everything from not paying the freelancer to using the freelancer’s work without permission. And let’s face it, it some cases making a client’s transgressions public can feel pretty good to a frustrated freelance web designer.

Of course, there’s the popular Clients from Hell website that could also be fueling the trend. While the clients are not identified on Clients from Hell and the stories are posted anonymously, I always wonder if clients ever read it and recognize themselves.


While the decision to publicly expose a bad freelance client is a personal one, you should be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of doing so before you decide to do it yourself.

In this post, I share three reasons why some freelancers choose to expose a bad client publicly and three reasons why you might not want to do it yourself. I also list five alternative to going public with your client problems.

If you liked this post, you may like How to Evaluate Prospective Clients and Choose the Best Ones.

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How to Prepare Your Freelance Web Design Business for Change

Are you comfortable with your freelance web design business the way it is right now?

Good. Now shake yourself out of that complacency.

No matter how comfortable you are at present, change is inevitable. If you’re not ready for it, your business will suffer. You’ll lose business to the freelancers who were ready for the changes.


Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. Change doesn’t have to be painful. The fix is to be ready for it.

Prepare your freelance business for change. Become the freelancer who others turn to because you’re up to date.

Even though no one can completely know what’s going to happen in the future, you can prepare yourself for some types of change. In this post, I’ll give you some pointers to help you prepare for the three most common types of change–starting with professional change.

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How to Rock Your Business Phone Calls

As a web designer, how do you feel about business phone calls?

Your answer probably depends on your personality. Some people love to talk on the phone. Others dread phone calls.

If you’re busy, an unexpected phone call can disrupt your day. If you’re a bit on the shy side, talking to a client on the phone may make you nervous.

Love them or hate them–business phone calls are an important part of running your web design business. That’s not going to change any time soon.


Fortunately, regardless of whether you love business phone calls or hate them, there are some steps you can take to make your business phone calls go more smoothly. In this post, I share five of those steps. If you liked this post, you’ll probably also like 5 Communication Tips for Freelancers and Designers.

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Should You Use a Job Board to Find Your Next Web Design Gig, Yes or No?

Nearly every freelance web designer knows that the best jobs are those you find yourself through networking and marketing your web design business. The best jobs are never advertised.

However, networking and marketing can take a lot of time. It can take months, or even years, before your efforts pay off and results in new business. What’s a web designer to do in the meantime?

The truth is that most freelance web designers, like many other freelancers, start out looking for freelance work on the job boards. A job board is an online site dedicated to listing freelance and sometimes full-time openings.

Job boards aren’t always the best place to find work, but they are an obvious place to start looking for work and a search there can sometimes yield quick results. Some freelancers enjoy quite a bit of success in finding work through a job board. Others prefer not to use them at all.


In this post, I’ll list some positives of jobs boards and some things you should watch out for. I’ll also provide some tips for getting the most from your freelance job hunt on the job boards.

If you liked this post, you may be interested in our list of 23 Design and Development Job Boards.

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How to Deal Effectively with Drastic Deadlines

Do you have a deadline problem? No matter how much time you have to do a project, do you always feel rushed? Do you frequently deal with deadlines that seem too drastic?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone in your deadline struggles. Most freelancers have trouble with deadlines at some point in their freelancing career. Web designers and developers are no different. In fact, most of them deal with tight deadlines all the time.


Dealing with deadlines can create a lot of stress. Nobody likes to miss a deadline.

Fortunately, there are some tactics you can use to effectively deal with most deadlines–even drastic ones. In this post, I take a look at 19 of those tactics–focusing on what you can do before, during, and after your project.

If you like this post, you may also like 7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively.

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Should I Charge for That? Don’t Forget About These 7 Crucial Project Tasks

The client snarled, “there’s no way I’m paying extra for that.” He was referring to the time I would need to research his rather complicated project.

Have you ever been challenged by a client for including certain tasks on your invoice?


Pricing services is one of the most difficult tasks most freelance web designers face. Not only are there many different schools of thought on how to price web design services, clients sometimes fuss about work we bill them for.

Most freelancer web designers realize that they shouldn’t work for free or on spec. But many have questions about what activities they should bill to clients.

In this post, I list seven common project-related tasks that clients often question. For each task, I discuss whether a freelancer should bill the client.

If you liked this post, you may also like 12 Realities of Pricing Design Services or 5 Tips for Handling Pricing Objections.

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13 New Social Tools for Your Web Design Business

Is bigger always better?

Nearly every web designer knows about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. And it’s not a bad idea to have a presence on those sites.
woman in office pointing at plasma panel with social media

When it comes to social networks, the newest players are smaller and more exclusive. Some are invitation only. Others are niched–available only to members of a specified group. Most of them are mobile-friendly. They may even leverage other social media platforms.

Today’s new social media sites may become the giants of tomorrow. Witness the rise of Pinterest. For that reason alone, it’s worth checking these new tools out. But I think that you’ll agree with me that your web design business will benefit right now from the use of some of these tools.

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How to Handle Your Unhappy Client in 5 Easy Steps

Most freelance web designers dread the unhappy client. Yet, eventually most of us will have to face one. Maybe that’s why there are so many posts out there about bad clients.

After all of your hard work and attempts to meet your client’s demands, the last thing you want to hear is that the client isn’t happy with the fruit of your hard work. You may even fear that the client won’t pay you.


Is there anything you can do about an unhappy client?

Yes, as a matter of fact, there are some steps you should take when your client is unhappy. In this post, I share five steps that you can go through to find out whether you can “fix” your relationship with an unhappy client.

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Basic Accounting Tips for Freelance Web Designers

How do you feel about accounting? How much do you even know about what kind of accounting records you need to keep?

If you’re like most web designers, Bookkeeping isn’t your favorite part of freelancing. But keeping accurate records is an important part of running a business.

It’s so important, in fact, that keeping good accounting records sometimes means the difference between freelancing success and freelancing failure.

A large amount of bills spread all over the place

Taxes are another reason why you need to keep good accounting records. If your records are sloppy, tax time will be a nightmare. (And you could wind up owing a lot of money.)

In this post, I share basic tips that freelance web designers and other freelancers should know about accounting. I also list five accounting packages to help web designers organize their bookkeeping tasks.

(Note: This post should not be considered specific accounting advice. The post is based on common United States accounting practices. If you have a specific accounting question about your own freelancing business, be sure to contact an accounting professional.)

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10 Ways to Say “No” to Bad Clients (How to Refuse Bad Projects)

We freelancers are well aware that there are bad clients out there. There have been plenty of posts describing how to identify a bad web design client or a bad web design project. We’ve even mentioned bad projects on this blog in this post for new freelancers. There are also plenty of posts encouraging freelancers to say “no” to bad clients.

However, there aren’t too many posts that explain how to turn bad work offers down. And turning work down is harder than you might think (as any freelancer who has ever accepted a bad project will tell you).


For one thing, we’re not used to turning work down. Everything about our business is geared towards finding clients and bringing them on board. Also, if you are accustomed to working in a traditional corporate environment, you’re probably not used to having the freedom to say “no” to a client or a project.

In this post, I provide ten ready (and truthful) responses you can give when you’re asked to do a project that’s not right for you. (Because, after all, you don’t want to spend too much time on projects you aren’t going to work on.)

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5 Options to DIY

Are you independent? A self-starter? Do you love to be in complete control of your projects?

If you just read that and you thought “yes…yes…yes,” then you have a lot in common with many other freelance web designers.

We freelancers are known for our independent ways. We tend to be self-starters. And one of the big pulls for many of us is the chance to exercise more control over our work.

That’s why a lot of us tend to do almost everything ourselves.

Do-it-yourself can be a good way to run a freelancing business…for a while. But eventually, there will come a time when you can’t handle everything you have to do. This post will help you deal with that time.

In this post, I’ll explain when you need to look into getting some help. I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of five alternatives to doing everything yourself.

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13 Side Projects for Fun and Profit

As web designer, you already work hard. You may feel that you’re doing all that you can possibly do. And that’s perfectly all right.

But many freelancers are taking on side projects–sometimes for fun, and sometimes for money.


Besides the obvious opportunity to earn extra money, there are several reasons why you might want to start a side project:

  • Gives you something other than your work to think about
  • Helps you meet people with similar interests
  • Keeps you busy during the slow periods
  • Provides the opportunity to learn new things

We’ve discussed side projects here on Vandelay Web Design blog before. We’ve talked about how to make them successful and explained why they might not succeed.

In this post, we’ll describe thirteen side projects you might want consider starting. These are all projects you can work on at your own pace. Put as little or as much effort into them as you wish.

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15+ Step-By-Step Public Speaking Tips for Web Designers and Freelancers

You may think that as a freelance web designer you don’t need to worry about public speaking. What you don’t know is that there are plenty of speaking opportunities for web designers. Here are just a few of them:

  • Meetups
  • Professional organizations
  • Client presentations

With all of these opportunities, public speaking is great addition to your marketing arsenal. It’s also a good way to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Beautiful business woman is speaking on conference.

The fact is that giving a talk in public is good for business. Yet many web designers have no idea how to make a presentation.

In this post, I’ll take you through the public speaking process and give you tips to get you through each step–a total of 16 tips in all.

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16 Crowdfunding Sites that Web Designers and Freelancers Need to Know About

Do you have a dream of selling an app you designed? Maybe you want to publish a book about web design? Maybe you’d like to turn your freelancing design business into a full-fledged agency?

What’s the biggest obstacle to your taking the next big step towards your dreams?

Often the obstacle to following your career dreams is money. It can take money to really develop a good business idea and make it a reality. Sometimes it takes a lot of money.

Finding money for a startup or a new venture used to be hard. Either you had to convince a bank to loan you money, you had to find an investor, or you had to finance your idea yourself.

Keyboard with Crowd Funding Button.

Fortunately, there’s another way to obtain funding for your dream.

While it’s still a lot of work, many entrepreneurs are making use of crowdfunding sites. Crowdfunding sites allow a large number of people to contribute small amounts towards a project.

In this post, I list sixteen crowdfunding sites for web designers and other freelancers with a dream.

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Why Your Design Work Is Making You Sick and What You Can Do to Feel Better

Could your profession as a web designer be making you sick?

You may not realize it, but your work habits can make a big difference in how you feel. If you don’t believe me, think about how much time you spend at work.

If you work full time, you probably spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week on your web design projects. Add it up and that’s a significant chunk of time.


Bad work habits can lead to poor health. Poor health can hurt your profitability. If you’re not working and you freelance, you’re not earning money. So, the best thing to do is make sure that you don’t have unhealthy habits.

In this post, I’ll identify seven common health problems many web designers and other freelancers face and explain how you can safeguard your health (and your business) against each one.

Note: I am not a doctor. This post should not be considered medical advice. If you experience pain or health problems that will not go away, you should see a physician.

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Why Pinterest Is Important to Designers and What You Need to Know

It’s been only two and a half years and Pinterest has risen quickly to become one of the most popular social networks. In fact, according to a recent article from Anthony Myers on CMSWiRE, Pinterest is now the fifth most popular social network.

According to a July 2013 study from research firm, Semiocast, Pinterest now has 70 million users… That means that Pinterest is a significant player in social media. Web designers can’t afford to ignore it.

For designers, though, there’s more to Pinterest than just networking. The design of Pinterest itself has influenced web design. Pinterest is a source of inspiration for many, and some use Pinterest as a sales tool. Pinterest can even drive search engine traffic.

Pinterest can be a powerful tool for web designers, yet many designers overlook the many of the advantages of having a presence on Pinterest.

In this post, we’ll talk about the various aspects of Pinterest that web designers need to understand. At the end of the post, you’re encouraged to share your favorite Pinterest boards.

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6 Basic Sales Tips Every Freelance Web Designer Really Needs to Know

Like it or not if you are a freelancer, sales is part of your job.

Selling your web design services, however, is a lot different than selling a product. For one thing, there’s only one you and there is a practical limitation on how much work you can accomplish during any given time period.


But there’s more to than that. As a freelance web designer, you deal with clients on a personal level. Often you work with your clients one-on-one. This is lot different from a consumer who purchases a software package and never contacts the software company.

Because selling freelance web design services requires different strategies and skills than selling a product, I’ve devoted this post to sales tips for freelance web designers. I’ll also share three contact relationship management (CRM) tools. At the end of the post, please share your own sales tips.

If you liked this post, you may also like 7 Tips for Closing the Sale.

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A Web Designer’s Guide to Choosing Product and Business Names

Whether you’re starting a new web design business from scratch, creating a product to sell, or starting a side gig–you need to come up with a name.

Naming your business or product might seem simple, but there are some precautions you should take. Choosing the wrong name could create problems for you and your business. If someone else already owns the name that you choose, you could even find yourself in legal trouble.

Your company or product name is likely to be with you for a long time. Potentially, it could be with you for as long as you run your business. Your name will also become part of your business brand. So, it’s important to choose a name carefully.


In this post, I’ll examine four questions you need to consider when naming your product or business. Please note that I am not an attorney and this post does not constitute legal advice.

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22+ Bad Habits That May Wreak Havoc with Your Design Business (and How to Break Them)

Many of the struggles that web designers and other freelancers face are of their own making. I’m convinced that many designers and freelancers know the right things to do (at least intellectually we do), but our bad habits get in the way of us doing them.

It’s easy to get caught up in a bad habit. When you do, you end up making the same mistake over and over–sometimes without even realizing it.

Changing word Unhealthy into Healthy by crossing off  letters UN.

Bad habits can cost you money. They can take up your time. They can cause you to lose a client. They can even make you sick.

Before you can break a bad habit, you have to know what it is. In this post, I provide a checklist of over 22 bad habits. I also share proven tips to help you break your bad habits.

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24+ Reasons Why Blogging Is Good for Freelance Web Designers and Other Freelancers

Should freelancers blog?

In my opinion, this shouldn’t even be a question. There are so many business benefits to blogging that it only makes sense for most web designers and other freelancers to take part. The benefits of blogging far outweigh the disadvantages.

Yet, it seems like every so often someone influential makes the statement that they think blogging is dead. They claim blogging is no longer a good idea for small business. It’s a waste of time, they say. Social media is all the exposure you need, they go on to say.


Never mind that such well-known blogging experts like Demian Farnworth explain clearly that social media will never replace blogging, as he does in this post on Copyblogger, 8 Reasons You Should Never Quit Your Blog for Google+. There are still those who will proclaim blogging to be a waste of time for freelancers.

In this post, I’ll explore why blogging has fallen out of favor with some freelancing. I’ll also list over 24 ways that your design business can still benefit from blogging.

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6 Very Effective Principles to Improve Your Customer Service & Make Your Clients Happy

People love good customer service, but really hate to get bad customer service.

Most people know the difference between good customer service and bad customer service. Your web design clients are no different. Treat them right, and they’re more likely to come back (and bring repeat business with them). Treat them wrong, and they’ll go away.

One aspect of customer service is common courtesy. Sadly, common courtesy seems to be going away. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics about courtesy.

We live in a rude society. We’re even rude when we work. According to statistics gathered by the Harvard Business Review, 98% of workers polled were treated rudely. (See The Price of Incivility by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson .)

In addition to courtesy, there are five other principles of customer service:


Customer service is important for any business, but it’s especially important for freelancers. What many businesses don’t realize is that most customers vote on the quality of your service with their dollars. Many of them won’t tell you that they’re unhappy. They’ll just stop doing business with you.

In this post, I’ll list the six customer service principles that every web designers should know. At the end, you’re encouraged to share your own customer service tips.

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Are You Failing at Social Media?

You may be on social media and still see no benefits for your web design business. How could this be true, you might wonder.

To answer the question, let me share a childhood memory from my school days. Many of my teachers started each class period by taking roll, calling out the names of the students who were registered for the class. If you were there, you simply answered “present” or raised your hand when your name was called. Of course, nobody answered for the students who were absent that day.


Being marked “present” was important because it meant you would receive credit for the day’s activities in class. If you were simply enrolled in the class, but never showed up, your chances of passing were slim.

When it comes to social media, some web designers are like those students who were enrolled, but never showed up. They may have a social media profile out there, but when it comes to social media participation they’re failing. To make effective use of social media for your web design business, you have to take part.

In this post, we’ll take a look at five steps to help you use social media to build your web design business.

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Tips and Tools to Help You Protect Your Online Reputation

Your clients talk. They talk about all kinds of things. They talk about their business. They talk about their likes and dislikes. And sometimes, they talk about you and the work you did for them.

Word-of-mouth can be a powerful marketing force if it’s positive. Unfortunately, sometimes word-of-mouth is less than helpful. Sometimes information about your design business that is incorrect or misleading gets spread around.

The Internet has transformed word-of-mouth into a major force that can reach around the globe. Clients from halfway around the world can post comments and share information that influences clients right in your own town.


What are your clients and prospects saying about your design business? It could be important to know. Online reputation management is one way to manage and monitor what is said about your design business brand. In this post, I’ll share seven tips for monitoring your online reputation. I’ll also share seven tools to help you monitor your online reputation.

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How to Keep Your Design Project Estimates from Being Guesses

Estimating design projects is a time-consuming process. But a good estimate can mean the difference between a profitable design project and a costly project failure.

Creating an accurate estimate can be a lot of work, especially if you’ve never worked for that particular client before.

Photo of a sign for estimates.

Sadly, for many designers project estimates are little more than guesstimates. This is a real shame because it takes a lot of time to create even a bad estimate.

In this post, I’ll share three techniques for creating more accurate project estimates. I’ll also share some tips and resources to make your estimates more effective.

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6 Branding Basics that Web Designers Can’t Ignore

Does your web design business have a brand?

Even if you haven’t put much thought into branding your web design business, your clients probably already have an opinion about your business. You may even already have a reputation for doing a certain type of work. That reputation is one of the branding basics that you should manage.

Branding is important for web designers. Not only must you develop a recognizable brand for your own web business to stay competitive, but often clients expect branding help from their designer. If you can’t help your clients with branding, they’ll find someone else who can.

That’s why it’s important for web designers to understand a few basic principles about branding. In this post, we’ll describe six basic branding principles and explain how they relate to web design.


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How to Evaluate a Business Idea and What to Do Next

Many web designers are also entrepreneurs. They often have money-making side projects. Some even go on to found start-ups and even wind up incorporating themselves.

Unfortunately, other designers go on to start new business ventures–only to have them fail after a few months.

What’s the difference? Could your great idea be a successful business?


There are some crucial steps to starting a new business that every would-be designer/entrepreneur needs to understand.

In this post, I’ll explain how to evaluate a business idea and explain what the first steps to starting a business are. I’ll also identify some sources for funding a new business start-up.

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4 New Free and Low Cost Ways to Measure Social Media Results

Do you use social media to market your design business? Are your social media efforts working? How can you find out?

Six or seven years ago, these were very difficult questions to answer.

After all, back then social media was a relatively new phenomenon. Facebook wasn’t available until 2004. LinkedIn was founded in 2003. Twitter was just getting started and Google+ didn’t yet exist.

Back then, an accurate method for measuring the effectiveness of social media participation was hard to find. If you were able to find a tool that worked, you could expect to pay a lot for such information.

Fortunately, things have changed. Social media has matured. And along with that maturity comes the ability to measure your social media results. While you can still pay good money for high quality social media analytics, there are now a lot of tools available to measure results at very little cost to you.

In this post, I profile four new tools designed to help you measure your social media results. If you like this post, you may also like 6 Ways to Use Social Media Successfully as a Designer.

Image Source: Skakerman

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Web Design Challenges: Hitting the Panic Button too Soon

Over the years, I’ve seen freelancers who I never thought would make it, succeed. I’ve watched other freelancers, who seemed extremely gifted to me, fail.

What was the difference? Why did some freelancers succeed while other, more talented freelancers failed?

Was my judgment of talent that bad? I don’t think so.

I’m convinced the real reason that some freelancers succeed while others fail is because many failed freelancers panic and give up on their freelancing business too soon. In other words, they panic…

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How to Stop Putting Off That Rate Increase and Double Your Income


You know that popular story? The one about the brilliant creative genius who lives in a run-down one room apartment because he or she can’t afford anything more. That artist is starving, but never fear, the story always has a happy ending right? Once the artist dies, their work will be appreciated and they will become a household name and live forever in the art history books!

But wait a minute. There’s something very wrong with this scenario.

First of all, it’s not a happy ending if the artist has to die to succeed. Secondly, I don’t want to live like that. Do you? The story makes a good plot for a novel or a movie, but it’s not something any of us want to live. And we shouldn’t have to. Don’t live this stereotype!

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