Tag Archives: work

Print is dead! Long live the print!

Recently I’ve found myself doing more and more print work. This is scary as I’ve never had any formal training in all things print  related (or not print related for that matter) so I’m always slightly nervous. Especially so when the adverts are half page adverts.

Sunday Business Post Blacknight Office 365 pub

Still I think that they’ve been coming out rather nicely even if I am biased.

The above is currently running in the Sunday Business Post and it’s for Office 365 through Blacknight.

The below was running in one of the supplements recently

Thanks to Gianni for the photos ( You just can’t seem to pick up copies of the Irish papers here :P )

Blacknight Sunday Business Post Open For Business Pub

They seem to be turning out quite well so far. Let me know what you think in the comments below! ( oooh I went there )

Blacknight Open for Business Advert

Internship – Slavery 2.0

Internship / Slavery 2.0

Looking at the picture of the man and the woman you could be forgiven for thinking the post was maybe going to be about Valentines and kinky bondage of some sorts. Read the poem however and hopefully it will become a bit clearer.

When I started out in webdesign “professionally” (I’ll use that term loosely as I started without any qualifications in webdesign) around 10+ years ago I was young and very much naive. I … I … I did things for money I’m not proud of … yes I did websites for 20quid and a 6pack of red bull ( a reference to my post on what to charge for webdesign ). I was young I wanted to make a name for myself I wanted to build a portfolio and I really didn’t understand how the world worked. You’re told things by people and because they have so much more experience you think they must be true.

  • I’ll tell all my friends you did my website (WOW you mean I get to do more cheap websites for your friends)
  • It’ll look great on your portfolio ( A couple of hundred in my wallet wouldn’t hurt either you know )
  • If this works out there’s the potential for a lot more work

I think the last one here is key. What exactly do they mean by that. More work at a crap rate is generally what it means. We just need this next bit of work done and we’ll get the money onto you. Can you sort us out with this it’s hurting our business.

I’ve personally learned this just doesn’t work out. People generally don’t respect you and you end up getting screwed over. I’d love for it to be different it’s generally not. While the sites you end up doing here may end up looking good on your portfolio so would potentially doing some websites for charity or something similar and probably pay just as well. ( See http://24theweb.com/ as an example of what I’m on about but it doesn’t have to be a competition and you could approach a charity yourself … sometimes they’ll have money / grants available who knows. )

Flash forward to the present day. The Irish / World economy is … well … not in a happy place to put it nicely. What do I see … I see all these people who in the past have been huge advocates of the advice you never do work for free seeking out interns. So what’s the pay like? Well as far as I can tell it’s pretty **** and it’s not really pay. It’s a stipend 400 or 500 quid a month which lets face it if you’ve got rent to pay isn’t a hell of a lot. Now if they were looking for a student I might be thinking ok it’s placement it’s not always guaranteed to be well paid and if it’s part of their course they have placement then so be it suck it up get graded for the work/project and so be it (in my year a lot of our class ended up in fairly decent summer jobs with companies). These companies however are looking to recruit fresh graduates out of college for the offer of a life time. 6 Months work … 3 grand over the course of this time WOW … and we might just hire you at the end? erm hang on this really seems two faced.

It reminds me a bit like all these business people I’ve seen lauding the advantages of outsourcing their website development to elance and so on as yes it can be much more cost effective and then expecting people to buy their Irish product cus it’s an Irish product and supporting their Irish job? erm… a bit hypocritical.

Anyways just a rant I needed to get out of my system … while I know times are tough they are tough for everyone not just your business so if looking into taking on an intern please think about paying them something to make it at least worth their while. You’ll no doubt tell me of the great advantage having the job on their CV will be for them and how much time and effort you’ll have to put into training them up but half the time it just seems to me you’re out to make a quick buck from your free worker.

I would however love to hear from any Interns and actual positive experiences they’ve had.

Get Personal with .me … the USB key

Get Personal With .Me TODAY on when lego men attack

So I’ve been pretty quiet over the last while on the blog. Well I’ve been busy … love / life / lust and the eternal search for the perfect donut as always. Well one of the projects I’ve been working on with Blacknight recently is Get Personal With .Me. It has been a fun project to work on why not head over and see if your name is available? :)

It is about you it is about .me :) Enter your firstname / lastname and hey presto it’ll check if your .Me name is available. I always love working on new projects and this one is obviously my new baby :). I especially love working on this as I think the .Me extension is one that has a genuine chance in the new “TLD”s cus hell it’s about ME!!!. I’ve got forbairt.me where I keep my lifestream obviously not my name I’ve also got jameslarkin.me which I’ll probably use for something though might just stick with my username for now.

Of course one of the cool things I’ve also gotten to work on as a result was getting some USB keys made up. Blacknight asked on their twitter account and on facebook what people thought was a good minimum storage capacity for USB keys .. mixed responses mainly however from 2GBs up. And what arrived today my Get Personal With .ME 4GB USB key :) it’s very cool if I do say so myself. Of course I’m biased but to be honest I generally don’t get to see too much print work (I don’t really work with print that often and could probably count on a few hands the amount of jobs I’ve had professionally printed).

Anyways the USB key arrived today and I passed it over to IT support to get it up and running and this is the result.

Unpacking Get Personal With .ME

Up close and getting personal

Opening up the Get Personal Keyring

Connecting the keyrings

Plugging in the USB keyring

Reading the USB drive

Newsletter headaches…

I’ve been working on some newsletters over the last few months and in general they have gone fairly smoothly. We’re using mailchimp to send and its a great tool but at times it really does my head in.

I’ve come up against a few cases where things have disappeared and other issues within their UI … its also at times a bit of a nightmare navigating through things in there or maybe its just me. It also at times feels incredibly slow navigating through it. Will this stop me using it ? Hell no .. their pricing model is very good not to mention the reporting on your campaigns I find out of this world. I just however felt the need to voice my ARGH with the system.

Yesterday I’ve been coming up against a few cross “browser” / Email Client issues which were doing my head in.

First up is the gmail image spacing issue. You may notice sometimes on emails that your images have extra spacing around them this won’t matter unless of course your design is calling heavily upon a graphical design.

Solution: Put display:block; in the style for all the images you’re using. This will remove the extra padding / margin / space that seems to creep in .. and then style away as normal

Second issue was in the use of background URL images a number of “browsers” / Email Clients will display your lovely background in all its glory. However gmail and the likes won’t. Solution .. well I went ahead and used the background image anyways BUT .. I also added in bgcolor=”#333333″ or whatever relevant colour in there. The style background colour wasn’t being picked up upon in the various clients. Annoying or what. Some are going to display things great others not so great and its all about as much consistency as possible across the various clients.

Thirdly MailChimp also seems to pull the text for the plain text emails out and what it generates is a steaming pile of … “interesting content” I’d strongly recommend going and formatting this nicely in a text editor or something. If it looks good as plain text hopefully it’ll look good for those end users with html off for their emails. I unfortunately made this mistake in the first few newsletters and the plain text came out a bit funny to say the least

Ah well you live and learn and they hopefully will get better and better you can see the past newsletters here

Social Media For Dummies I

Social Media For Dummies

My name is James and I made the Greatest SEO Marketing Guru website ever I also made the theme for the site Social Media Expert

Like most people using “social media” I’m constantly amazed by the amount people seeking advice / how to’s and so on. I’m also heavily amazed by the amount of people offering their services to them. While I realise there is always a need to have some advice with new technology / ways of doing things the social media guru stud guy coaching type thing is a bit extreme no ?

So really what you’re wanting to ask is WTF is social media marketing ?

In a nutshell … its spamming the **** out of your friends initially in the hopes things will take off and you’ll get more people following you. This in turn will lead to every “tweet” / Post / Message you make getting read by an ever increasing number of people.

Wow you make it sound so great where do I sign up?
Well like most things I’d first advise you have a website to redriect your “fans” (people that follow / stalk you) to

This will help and who knows a few might even end up book marking your actual site instead of just seeing the off message from you. I’d also recommend you get and RSS feed onto your site. A what now ? .. ( an RSS feed is simply put … a list of the recent posts / activity on your site) People will see updates from you in an RSS reader of their choice if they use one. I actually being quite computer il… er … literate don’t use one. Why … again its down to time and how much time you have at the end of the day. There are so many posts to read things to check and so on it can be a bit overwhelming.

So you’ve got your site .. you’ve got something that you can drag people back onto your site with (RSS feed) .. what do I do next.

Well you pretty much start telling people about what you do. Its social media … can you be social ? .. can you be social online ( its potentially a lot easier to be social online than in real life) and away you go. Follow people you find interesting .. interact with people … let people know whats happening … open up your “company” to the world and interact. O…. K … you say … erm really thats what its all about.

  1. Interact with people
  2. People may follow you back if you’ve something interesting to say
  3. You’ll follow them back
  4. Connections will be made .. you’ll say hey to them they’ll say hey back
  5. You’ll update info … people will see it .. some might like it and let their friends know
  6. Interact Interact Interact ….

So … erm … that sounds simple enough doesn’t it? This is what social media is about … you’ll have people telling you its all about the number of followers you’ve got following you. NO … this is pure BS for example … I could have 10 people following me who are my customers and who might like to see I’m available for work … or I’m interested in doing XYZ … and there’ll be some interaction … or I could have 10000 people trying to sell their services to me .. following me … me following back … cluttering up my stream ( twitter stream … updates from people ) … which is more useful … well to be honest the 10 people you’ll interact with. Of course if you’re huge and can hire a marketing department and get loads of people involved in your twitter account then go for it. If its just you .. then … erm forget about it … follow people have them follow back or not … and let things happen naturally so to speak.

All this said there are a few things you can do to speed up the interest in you / your product or service …

Special offers … ooooh wow 20% off and save now today only .. <-- you like the look of that no ? well why not make a few discounts available for people. What will it cost ... hopefully much .. you've probably got margins worked out on what earn >Things not to do:

  1. Don’t spam … don’t spam your product .. don’t spam messages …
  2. Don’t direct message people about your products
  3. Don’t auto message people saying thanks for following
  4. Forget about the .. you can earn $50,000 a day with my social media tool!!! click here to find out more … type offers. They are BS
  5. Don’t read posts online and think they are the number one way of doing things … Trial and error should be heavily involved in your process ( We all make mistakes .. I’ve made them others have made them .. we try and move on )

Do realise that all the social media interaction is free BUT its damn expensive …
1 Tweet – 20 – 30 seconds of your time … (thats nothing you say)
.. reading the tweets of others … add on another bit of time …

We’ve 5 minutes gone just there like that … what have we done .. posted one message read a few others tweets.

Lets speed up things … how? … erm … social media is about building up a following .. interaction … respect (respect is import .. if people like you or your product they’ll help you promote it .. if they don’t .. you’ll have pointless twitter accounts RT’ing (Re Tweeting .. sending one your message to people who follow them) .. all your messages .. end result you’ll pick up useless followers

You will come across the odd thing which takes on the Viral nature … you say something clever .. you write something clever and suddenly lots of people are linking to you RT’ing your message ad so on … GREAT … WOO HOO and I’m happy for you .. but generally you can’t force this to happen it just does and if it does congrats and well done

So this ends part I of maybe a one part article .. maybe I’ll write a bit more ( For most people reading its hopefully DUH! material .. for others hopefully its something of an eye opener to the magic that is Social Media) Let me know what you think

James

(PS: Please note I’ve been really using twitter as my social media tool of example here … similar would apply to facebook and so on)

What should I be charging for webdesign?

Piggy is broke

How long is a piece of string?

One of the most common questions I see on IWF and on boards.ie web design and web development forums is the age old question of what should I be charging?. In the land of the freelancer there seems to be three ways of doing things.

  1. Fixed rate to do a site
  2. Hourly Rate
  3. Make up a Quote on the project

If you’re offering a fixed rate well you should probably have a look at the hourly rate tables. Factor in the amount of work involved and see if you’re in or around your ideal wages.

As to what you should be charging in your hourly rate well you’ve a few things to consider

  1. How many weeks do I want to work a year? (52 weeks).
    I Generally go in and say 44. I have my reasoning on this.

    1. One assumes you want 20 days holidays a year correct?
      (Thats 4 weeks assuming working week is 5 days)
    2. There are 9 Public holidays in Ireland.
      Lets round it to an even 10 and that makes 2 weeks.

      • New Year’s Day (1 January)
      • St. Patrick’s Day (17 March)
      • Easter Monday
      • First Monday in May, June, August
      • Last Monday in October
      • Christmas Day (25 December)
      • St. Stephen’s Day (26 December)
  2. And you’re saying 4 and 2 is 6 … 52 – 6 = 46 working week
    Well I like to factor in sick days / and the unknown. So I throw in 2 weeks extra.
    I was knocked flat for a full week with the flu in August

And there you have it we’ve got our 44 weeks in the year. So now we know how many weeks we’ll be working in the year lets do some numbers.

I’m going to assume 5 different figures here. 20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 100k.
I’m also going to assume a different number of billable hours and see how that affects things.

What should I charge? Facts / Figures
Ideal Salary 20,000 30,000 40,000 50,000 100,000
Weekly Requirement 455 682 909 1136 2273
Hourly rates
20 Billable Hours 22.75 34.10 45.45 56.8 113.65
30 Billable Hours 15.17 22.73 30.30 37.87 75.77
40 Billable Hours 11.37 17.05 22.73 28.40 56.83
* Figures may be rounded here

Now of course the above table has been kept rather simplistic but its a good basis for things. For example if I know I’m going to have a 2 week project to work on then this equates to 2 full 40 hour weeks work. Looking at the table I decide which is appropriate and I can bill accordingly. That might sound a bit simplistic but doing 1 hour work here and 1 hour work there for a customer means I’m either interrupting my main project or I’ve to get setup with theirs and up to speed again on what I’m doing for them. As such you get charged at the higher hourly rate as its also not guaranteed work (unless of course there is a support agreement in place)

Sample Wages in the web Industry in Ireland
Position Low End* High End*
Junior Graphic Designer €20,000 €25000
Middleweight Graphic Designer €25,000 €32,000
Senior Graphic Designer €32,500 €65,000
Creative Director €50,000 €82,000
Junior Web Designer €22,000 €30,000
Web Designer €30,000 €40,000
Senior Web Designer €40,000 €50,000
Web Developer €25,000 €55,000
* Please note these figures are rough guides only and no doubt things have taken a hit in recent times.

Back on track to what we should be charging as freelancers. We’ve failed to include various things in these salaries / hourly rates.

  1. Software Costs
    • Adobe CS4 Premium Web edition – €1,592.42
      (Dreamweaver / Photoshop / Flash / Illustrator / Fireworks)
      Of course you won’t need to buy this every year BUT it does get upgraded (upgrade costs €785.29)
    • You’ll probably need a new machine every 2 or 3 years.
      Macs are pricey but I don’t think I could use a Windows machine now.
      A Mac Book Pro will set you back €1,149 for the base model – €2,299 for the top model.
      You may want a desktop machine as well. Again the base model iMac is €1099 – €1799

      You’ll also want a backup solution / Harddrives die all the time other wear and tear on your machines

      Extended warranties on your gear (at 300 – 500 quid it adds up)

    • Subscriptions while these aren’t necessary you’ll find they creep in and can be extremely useful
      ( Basecamp / Dropbox / Freshbooks … at 10 / 20 / 30 quid a month these start to add up rather quickly)
  2. Office rent / space. You need to factor it in in some way.
    See my post on the home office setup for my reasonings.
  3. Other overheads … electricity / heat / coffee and biscuits (essentials to the proper running of any office :D ) / Travel
  4. Server / Hosting / Domains
  5. Training (we all need to allot time to it or we become stale. Whether you pay for it and do a course / take time out you’ve to think about it. Whether a subscription to Lynda or a day course on SEO / Online Marketing you have to factor it into your career development

Our simple hourly figures aren’t so simple anymore.

Of course you can just ignore these extras but if you plan on making a living out of this it all needs to be factored in at some stage.

One can think … well I’ve already got a machine and I can use Gimp for graphics and so on.
Thats fine and I’ve no doubt it works for lots of people. I couldn’t live without the above mentioned.
(I have done it in the past but my working life has gotten so much better since I invested in things)

At the end of the day only you can decide what you want to earn ultimately not to mention what the market can bear and what people are willing to spend on your work. If your work is poor and you’re still learning you should probably be hitting the lower scale and inform your clients you’re starting out. If you’re more advanced well then are you making enough or more from freelancing than you would be in a full time job. If not then are you happy would be the ultimate question ?

I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts.

I am not a student. I can’t make you a website for 50 quid and a 6 pack.
I need to earn a living or else this all just isn’t worth my while.
I am what I would like to think a highly skilled individual as such don’t belittle what I do.

The minimum wage in Ireland is €8.65
A 40 hour week at that will make that €346.
I will not give you a custom built website / Logo / CMS / Theme / Training / SEO work / Link building for that.

So do you agree with my thoughts / has this been useful at all ?
Let me know what you think

(I also know there are various calculators out there that can calculate your idea hourly rate .. thats not exactly where I was going with this post however Freelance Switch would be the prime candidate for this type of calculator)

How can I make a favicon with photoshop

Favicons quick tip banner

One thing I hate is when a website goes to all the trouble of making up a nice design (or even just grabbing a template and putting it up) and then they don’t go ahead and create a Favicon or worse still in my mind they use the default one that came with the CMS they are using. ARGH!

So what can you do … well really you’ve no excuse there are a multitude of free online favicon generators out there. I however prefer being able to do things from within my trusty version of Photoshop. I’m running Photoshop CS3 and thankfully there is a nice little plugin for it from the lovely people over at Telegraphics. They have versions of the plugin for both windows and Mac (I’m a Mac) and they also have versions or CS3 and CS4.

So install the plugin .. create your 32×32 pixel image and away you go Click the Save As button from the Format Dropdown choose ICO (Windows Icon) and I normally select Standard format.

Of course you can just go ahead and use PNG graphics for your icons I do believe however you’ll end up no doubt having issues with compatability and this method described here has just worked for me.

All this sounding like too much hastle to you ? well there are loads of free online generators out there

Take this one over at Dynamicdrive Favicon Generator or HTML Kit Favicon Generator

Lastly I might add in order for this favicon to appear on the tab / URL area you’ll need to let browsers know it exists. I recommend uploading it to the root webfolder / on your website calling it favicon.ico for consistancy not to mention some browsers automagically pick up the name and search for it, and you’ll want to add in a small snippet of code to all your webpages

<link rel="shortcut icon" type="image/x-icon" href="/favicon.ico" />

And finally some Favicons I’ve created (not to mention the one you’re hopefully seeing above)

Examples of Favicons I've created

So once again we’ve saved the world .. well no … its not made that much difference on the greater scale of things but its a nice little finishing touch to your sites and something you or your customers can kinda go oooh thats cool about