The News: IE to use Webkit & Staying creative

Well here is an interesting development. In a recent developers conference in Sydney Steve Ballmer said that “Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that.” This is very interesting as the rendering in IE sucks currently and Webkit is awesome. I know that for all web designers it would be a wonderful thing to have the problems from IE just disappear.

Second up today is actually an article that i wrote for Design Fix on Staying Creative. It’s a quick list of how to stay creative long term as a designer.

Next is a post on 10 Key items for a perfect website. A very good check list of things to consider when building any new website. I already have a check list of things to consider when building a website but will add one or two from this list.

I am an advocate of having steady work while freelancing. Whether that is a client that has maintenance tasks or an actual steady job to make up some money. Freelance Switch has a good post on things to remember while working this steady gig. Like don’t stop marketing yourself cause it may not always be steady, and keep taking on some good projects. Just things to keep thinking about even through that amazing gig that pays the bills.

The News: Firefox is alive, seo, and some marketing advice

Today is a great day for web designer’s. It seems that Firefox is finally over 20% of the market share in browsers. Firefox is awesome, and it is wonderful to see it reach this milestone. Hopefully this really pushes IE to be standards compliant instead of the PITA that all web designers are familiar with.

How about some marketing advice now. Mike Smith (just guessing cause of the URL) has a cool post on 17 things you are probably not doing with your marketing. Ranging from the old school but essential business cards to writing for Hubpages. I actually used to do the latter and may have to pick it up from time to time with a new article. I’m not so sure about the directory submissions though. Some reading I have done leads me to believe that one day google will clamp down on those who are listed in directories that aren’t specific to thier market.

Tieing in with the last article nicely is an article on good SEO practices. All the basics are covered here. I do believe that meta tags have some relevance to search engine results but definitely not as much as they used to have. I would advise that you have good meta tags but really concentrate on producing quality content. As the article states your title tag is very important for good rankings.

Finally today is a post on How to spot a dud client. If you’ve been freelancing for more that 2 weeks you’ve had a call from a client that just doesn’t quite sound right. Often you end up taking at least one of these dud projects on without realizing what happened. Well here are some things to watch out for. If you see them in your clients get out now.

The Daily News: Google custom search and getting more clients

How many of us have used the built in search for a site and found it to be horrid? I know that a site I am currently working on has what I feel is an unusable search function. In fact the results are so bad I think it’s better if they aren’t even there. So I’ve been thinking about using a google custom search but really wanted to have an auto complete feature. Well today I woke up to a tutorial fron NETTUTS that details just that, how to add auto complete to Google custom search.

The next two articles look at making your site/online presence better. First is 15 elements of a good site design. Looks at having a good about page to being able to track your site stats. The second article is is the second part in a series of articles about making your portfolio better to get more clients. This article doesn’t focus as much on your online presence as your overall marketing of yourself. Check out the list and start getting more clients in your door.

Today we’ll finish with a very cool wordpress link. I make lots of themes for clients and am starting to make some for sale. I have looked at custom options pages but never actually done one but that will change. I found an article dealing exactly how to build a custom options page for a wordpress themes. You can add a bunch of nice funcationality for people who use your themes.

The Daily News: Keeping clients, javascript and an interview

Keeping Clients Around

Once you do the hard work of landing a client you always want to keep them. Repeat work for good clients is always a bit easier. If you want some tips on those little things that keep clients around check out this article on Freelance Switch. It lists 3 easy ways to provide that little bit of extra service that will keep clients coming back for more.

curvyCorners

If you’ve been developing websites for a while you probably know a few ways to achieve rounded corners. For non-crucial effects I often use -moz-border-radius (along with the webkit version) and leave IE out in the cold. In fact, the corners on my blog are achieved in that way. curvyCorners uses javascript to perform on the fly rounded corners for all major browsers. While I’m not a fan of relying on javascript, if it is a non-crucial application you can include IE in the party. It seems that there is also a jquery plugin in the works.

Tutorials Galore

Now how about a round up of links in my round up (a bit ironic isn’t it). Over at NETTUTS there is a great list of things to know for web designers and developers. Everything from photoshop designing to jquery is covered in this list. I’ve done most of them over the months and highly recommend you at least skim through each one and expand your mind.

Getting Inspired

I love reading about other designers. Learning how and why they do what they do is simply just fun. Over at Just Creative Design there is a great interview with Doug Cloud. Doug does beautiful work and has a cool story.

That’s all I have for today. Hope you enjoyed.

Bit of a Dog’s Breakfast: News Round up

Today the news seemed to range all over the place, a bit of a dog’s breakfast follows.

All of us freelancers (at least I would hope) do some sort of follow up with our clients at the end of a project. For me it is usually just a ‘thanks keep me in mind’ email but if you could improve your customer service by asking some tough questions I bet you’d be willing to do it. Sitepoint has an article today on just that, asking you customers the hard quesitons. They suggest offering an online survey that asks what customers liked and didn’t like (among other things) so that you stop making the same mistakes with more clients.

Next up (and there seems to be a lot of this lately) is an article on XHTML vs. HTML over at CSS-Tricks. I’ll admit that I currently site where Chris did a year ago. I code XHTML transitional pages and honestly don’t truly know the difference between that and HTML 4.01. Ultimately in my mind if the page works in all of the major browsers I think the code is good. Read this to get a better grasp on the differences and uses of each. I know that now I am going to evaluate my reasons for XHTML.

Now lets flip into some quick marketing. Jacob Cass at Just Creative Design just posted and asked us designers for our twitter names. If you are a design professional (or hoping to be one) add your name to the list and follow someone new to make some more contacts.

Well finish today off with some inspiration. Niki has some connections that let her see cool installation art. Check out this post to see everyday objects used in cool new ways and get some ideas for future design projects.

Market and they will come: News Round Up

Starting off today is a great article listing lots of helpful hints on writing an XHTML Strict web page. Whether you like XHTML Strict or not it’s here so here are some hints on how to write it if you choose to write your next website in the Strict Doctype.

Are you a student or full time designer looking to get out an freelance or build your portfolio? If so this article is for you. Written more specifically to student’s it covers how to fill out your portfolio and gain some reputable work experience. There are definitely some great suggestions for those of us that are looking to break into the freelance market as well.

On the same theme want to bring in more local business then check out this post on how to get free local advertising on Google. An amazing post that requires very little work and can yield some amazing results. Read through the post and get some free advertising.

Finishing off our marketing theme is a post from Small Fuel on learning marketing from McDonald’s. Have you thought about selling packaged services? I bet you will after reading this brief post.

Get Jobs just by Responding

Many of you know that I work fulltime as well as freelance somewhere near fulltime. Currently at my fulltime job we are looking for a company to partner with us specifically for Information Architecture work.

As the in house guy it is my job to find evaluate and solicit quotes from web companies that provide the services we need. So I have sent out 25 emails and followed up with about 15 calls to various local and not local web companies to help us and do you know how many return emails or call I got? 2. Yes that is it only 2. Some companies I called 2 or 3 times and they all promised that they would return my call or email me but none of them did.

We are also looking for freelance PHP guys for some ongoing work and the results were almost exactly the same. Out of all the emails I sent I only heard back from 3 people and only one really followed up as we discussed my needs.

24 Hour Turn Around

I make it a habit to get back to clients within 24 hours max (even on weekends). Often I get back to clients in under 8 hours (I do have to sleep). This level of service (unfortunately) seems to be rare in the web industry in my area. I wonder if it is also rare in many other parts of the world? If it is simply responding to clients in a timely fashion can bring in tonnes of work.

Personal Contact

How about not just emailing back to ask some further questions of a client but actually making a personal call. Email is not always the most efficeint way to get a question answered so don’t always rely on it. Many times a 5 minute conversation can get all of the questions answered. This personal call also lets your client know that they are important enough to deal with directly.

If you can take the time to provide a great customer service experience you can gain many long term clients who will return even when rates go up just because your service is so great. They want to use you because they feel like to treat them as important no matter what the situation.

Generating Links to your Site

One of the big things that you need to do to improve you search engine rankings is to generate links back to your blog. That’s easy to say but much harder to do so lets look at some ways to generate links back to your website.

Have Something Worth Linking to

Before you start working to generate links evaluate your content. Do you have appropriate landing pages for customers? Are you hard or soft selling on the site? Is there even any good content there for customers?

I am a web designer. I do web design for small and medium business. I write about web design for small and medium business. I hope that you find good content here for your business but I’ll admit I have a  motive too. I want you to read this and hire me. Is there good free information here for you so you won’t have to hire me? Sure, but I specialize in what I do. While people may be able to take a step forward in their web management there is a ceiling that a business will hit and they will have to decide whether to hire a freelancer or an in house person.

If they picked up a bunch of their hints from me then they are more likely to come back to me for some paid work as well. So do I have content worth linking to? Yes I do. If you don’t have content on your site that others need why would they link to you?

Start with the Easy

Once you have some content on your site that is worth reading, start by knocking off the easy avenues for link generation. If you participate in any forums put a link to your site in your signature it they let you or at least on your profile page. I don’t find that this will drive a lot of traffic to your site but it is a simple starting point. Every time I start a new site that I plan to do some advertising for I add it to the signatures in any forums I participate in. I generally try not to put to many in but two or three are alright so evaluate what needs to be in there for each forum. I have different sites on my signatures depending on the nature of the forum.

What About a Contest

A great way to get other blogs or sites linking to you is to run a contest. Many times companies will contact bloggers or site admins and offer them a give away. They do for the publicity and the blogger is happy to write the content also because of the publicity. This type of link generation is called linkbaiting and is a great way to get people talking about your site and your content.

Let the contest run over a month and really advertise it. Use Twitter, forums, facebook… to get people talking. Lots of blogs will link to you because they want to share your contest with their readers. You may be surprised sometimes how popular a blog is that links to your little contest.

Share the Love

This post is about link love and how to get it. So why would I now suggest that you give it to others? If people are always giving you links and never getting anything back then the love could start tailing off. Now I am not suggesting that you link to your direct competition but what about a business that would offer complimentary services? What about a contest run on another site? Offer up the love to others will make it more likely that they will be sending links your way in the future as well.

Remember a good SEO plan takes time it doesn’t happen over night so you need to be patient and keep up the hard work. The day will come when you have more clients than you know what to do with and that will pay for all of the time spent up front.

Using Social Media to Market your Business

Most people out there now have profiles in a number of social media networks. From Facebook to Twitter most of us are familiar with social media and how it can help us connect with people. It is also possible to use the power of social media to find new clients, but how.

It’s in the details

First make sure that your contact details are up to date. I recently came across a wonderful photo on Flickr that I would have happily purchased from the photographer. Unfortunately I could find no way to get in touch with them, even though their profile listed that they were a professional photographer for hire. They lost a potential return customer (I produce newsletters ever month that theirs style would have fit) all for lack of contact data.

Along with the contact details goes the profile information. A potential client should be able to find out who you are and what you do at a quick glance. They will not dig around trying to find out what you do, unless you’re well known, they will just look for someone who lists what they do in an easy to find manner. We have all heard that the competition is only a click away and to a certain extent this is true. The potential client wants you to be the person to help them but if they get frustrated figuring out what you do or how to contact you off they go to the competition.

Network, network, network

Most people would rather work with people they feel they have some relationship with. I recently had some PHP coding work to do that was beyond me. I first went to Twitter and asked if anyone was interested. Unfortunately I didn’t find anyone that could do what I needed so I posted the job on a job board and looked at other avenues for getting someone to do the work. I ended up remembering a friend who might be able to do it and he at least had a name of someone who could do get the work done. Honestly I would have much rather had someone on twitter do the work, though I’m not displeased with the arrangement, just because it would have been easy for me. I have had some interaction with many of the people that I follow on Twitter so I feel like I know them, they’re kinda like pen pals. Helping out a friends is always a nice and you feel safe working with someone that you trust.

I have another friend who participates in forums and Twitter and writes a blog. Niki recently got asked to contribute to a new project by Envato. She is a great designer but already had contacts with the company as they run the one of the forums she participates in. I’m not sure what other contacts she had but I don’t think they were face to face (she lives in the USA they in Australia). This will give her tonnes more exposure in the design industry and move her career forward. I have also been asked to contribute to other blogs via twitter.

Actually Participate

Make sure that you don’t just favourite your own stuff. People don’t mind you tooting your own horn but if that’s all you do they will quickly become irritated and you will be hurting your name/brand. Adding some self promotion now and again is generally fine but participate in the community as well.

I am an avid Stumbleupon user, I love to find new inspiring art and I admit I use it to “like” my blog posts. I see a few hundred visitors a day from Stumbleupon. I have a number of people that are my friends because they love the things I find. Ultimately more traffic to my blog (or your site) translates into a greater chance that a potential customer will come along.

Participation also gives you opportunity to build your brand. I do everything with just my name. All forum usernames, profiles are my name. I am using it as my brand. Yeah very few people are looking for me know but hopefully that will change. I have actually noticed that there are more and more searches for my name (and I asked my mom it’s not her). Eventually this will translate into customers.

Check out my profiles: Twitter | Linkedin | Facebook | Flickr