2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,300 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

Create the perfect design portfolio: 30 pro tips

Whether physical or online, your portfolio is your career calling card. Here’s how to get it right and win that dream job.

How much time do you spend improving your portfolio? Be honest – does it showcase your best stuff? Whether your design portfolio is physical or digital, read on to discover how to create the perfect portfolio today!

There’s nothing more important to your career than presenting your best work in an attractive, professional and accessible way. So for this article we’ve spoken to leading designers, illustrators and creatives and pulled together a selection of great tips and advice for dusting off a tired design portfolio and making it the very best it can be for that design job.

We’ve divided the tips into physical and online portfolios – let’s start with the physical…

Physical portfolios

There’s no rule to say you can’t have different design portfolios for different jobs

Physical design portfolios are one-off paper creations, so they can be tailored to the job you are applying for. Other than time constraints, there’s no reason you can’t create multiple design portfolios tailored to different jobs or different types of company.

01. Include a breadth of work

How many examples should a design portfolio include? It’s a tricky question, but you should aim to fill at least 20 pages of a physical folio, and at least 30 examples for an online space. You need to be able to show a healthy breadth of work together with a range of applications, so even if you select several examples from a single project you should make sure you treat image individually.

02. Include appropriate examples

Only include design portfolio examples for a full-time position that are appropriate to the role. A creative director position, for instance, won’t entail much artworking – if any at all – so work that demonstrates tracking and kerning ability isn’t relevant.

03. Provide context to your work

Illustrators and designers aren’t just employed for their style but also for the clarity with which they interpret a creative brief. So if you include examples of your artwork without providing context, it’s impossible to judge. Make sure you use annotations and notes to talk about how and why the work was created. Make it clear what the brief asked for in each design portfolio example you include, and then demonstrate how you successfully accomplished it.

04. Non-client work is acceptable

That doesn’t mean, of course, that your design portfolio must only include client work. Self-initiated projects are certainly acceptable in full-time applications, and recommended for freelance work – especially for illustrators.

05. Give it a regular spring clean

Resist the temptation to bulk out your design portfolio with old or irrelevant examples of your work by having a thorough and ruthless clear out. And don’t leave this until it’s unavoidable. Design portfolios need constant attention – you never know when you might be called on to present to Saatchi’s creative directors…

06. Include case studies

Don’t think of your design portfolio simply as a collection of your art and design work. Recommendations and real-life case studies go a long way in showing how professionally capable you are. Ask a previous client or employer for a recommendation, and write up a short case study to accompany a project.

07. Take a step back

Take a step back and try to look at your design portfolio through another’s eyes. Experienced employers, project managers and agents know how to match up a CV to a design portfolio and gauge your character strengths and weaknesses, warts and all. So think critically about what your design portfolio says about you. Is it too serious? Too flippant? Strike a balance that you believe shows off your qualities.

08. Demonstrate all-round experience

Are you only good at illustration or editorial layout? Of course you’re not: you’re also a solid communicator who understands budgets and deadlines, as well as the importance of meetings and updates. These are all professional skills. Make sure your design portfolio clearly showcases that you posses these, even if you just simply list them in your accompanying notes.

09. Sell yourself

Think about what other creative talents you might have as well. For instance, if you’re a handy photographer or accomplished with coding, why not include examples of your shots or web designs? They’re all more strings to your creative bow.

10. Index your design portfolio

What do you do when you find a particularly interesting website, magazine spread or book chapter? You bookmark it, dog ear it or jot down the page number somewhere. Those viewing your design portfolio – by whatever medium – will do the same, so make it easy by including page numbers and clear project titles for each portfolio example.

Online porfolios

These days if you’re looking for work as a designer, whether a full-time job or a freelance gig, you’re probably going to need an online design portfolio as well as a physical one.

It doesn’t matter how many glowing references you have or how impressive your work history, no one’s going to be interested unless they can see what you can do. And a design portfolio website is the easiest and quickest way to showcase your work; these days, in fact, it’s expected. But while many designers have their own design portfolio website, not all of them are fit for purpose. Even where the work featured is superlative, the site itself is attracting a mere trickle of traffic and generating few, if any, enquiries.

An online design portfolio is your creative shop window. It’s always on – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – and it’s always working to showcase who you are and what you can do.

But is this silent sales machine working hard enough? Have you set it up correctly? Are you showing off your BEST stuff? If you think that your design portfolio website is underperforming, don’t wait around. Now is the time to tackle it…

11. Choose your platform

Squarespace is a good platform for creating a bespoke design portfolio site

How do you physically set up an online design portfolio? The good news is that you have a number of options.

If you’re technically-minded, get yourself a personalised domain name, invest in some hosting and set up a WordPress website. WordPress is easy to use, extraordinarily flexible and enjoys massive community support. In fact, we’d recommend you give it a try, even if you don’t think of yourself as ‘technical’.

If you really don’t have time, though, you can always pay somebody to do all of the above. Alternatively, consider using a done-for-you web platform. You could set up a hosted blog at WordPress.com in a few minutes, for example. Or create something a little more advanced using the drag-and-drop loveliness of Squarespace.

Design portfolio Big Black Bag
Big Black Bag is a dedicated platform for creating bespoke design portfolios

Finally, you could instead use a dedicated design portfolio platform like Behance, Carbonmade, Portfoliobox or Big Black Bag. In other words, there are no shortage of options, so you have no excuse for building yourself an online design portfolio!

12. Consider your aims

Before you rush in to build your design portfolio site, think about why you’re doing this. Many designers think having an online design design portfolio is an end in itself – but if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve with your design portfolio, you won’t know whether it’s succeeding.

“Think about the goal of your design portfolio,” advises Seattle-based illustrator Jared Nickerson. “In the beginning I just wanted constructive feedback, so would only post one image of the core work. Nowadays I try to showcase different usages of a design or placement on products, and give some insights into the process.”

13. Be selective

Jeff Knowles’ design portfolio shows only one piece at a time – giving each the ability to shine

As with a physical design portfolio, don’t make the mistake of trying to show off too much of your work. Potential clients don’t need to see EVERYTHING. Instead, be more selective. Focus on your best stuff and the work you’ve done for high-profile clients.

When showing off your work, consider the sort of briefs that you’d like to tackle in the future. Show the sort of work that you want to do more of and that illustrates the full set of your skills and abilities.

“The work that you choose to showcase should be the type of work that you want to be hired to produce,” reasons New York-based designer and type artist Sasha Prood. “Be selective, and only show the projects that you can really stand behind. A great way to develop your design portfolio further is through self-initiated projects.”

14. Curate work carefully

The diverse work of Tim Lahan is curated perfect on www.trademark-trademark.com

There’s another aspect to the artwork you choose to put up – how well it works together. “Curate the work you put up carefully,” adds London-based illustrator Malika Favre. “Online folios need the same rhythm as printed ones: you need to tell a story, and order your projects so that they feel fluid and complement each other. If it means that an old project has to be removed to fit the new story, so be it.”

15. Show, don’t just tell

The website you build can say a lot about you in the first few seconds if you design it properly. In other words, you show people what you can do before you even get around to telling them.

So if you’re a web designer, for example, have a beautiful, quick-to-load online design portfolio that showcases your coding and design talents. If you’re an illustrator, make your artwork part of the design. If you’re a graphic designer, impress the hell out of your visitors with great typography, a custom logo and easy-on-the-eye layouts.

These subtle cues can often make or break any connection with your web visitors. We recently found a marketing agency who built mobile-optimised websites, yet their own site wasn’t optimised for mobile…

16. Keep adding new work

Laura Barnard adds new projects to her online design portfolio regularly, keeping it fresh

“By far the most important thing for me is making it easy to put new work up there,” reflects illustrator Laura Barnard, who uses the Squarespace platform. “You could have the fanciest site in the world, but if it was last updated five years ago it looks a bit lazy.”

Mexico-based designer and illustrator Christopher Mooij agrees that regular updates are crucial – and not just those showing finished work: “Let people know what you’re working on, or what you’ve done over the past few weeks,” he says. “Obviously those posts shouldn’t be filled with your personal diary: make it smart.”

17. Streamline updates

The advice in the previous point is easy to give, not so easy to carry out in practice. Speak to some of the world’s leading designers and you’ll hear them bemoan the fact that their online portfolio needs work but they’re too busy.

“Completed projects can start ganging up, and it ends up being a project in itself to get your portfolio sorted,” says Jeff Knowles. His solution is to make a versatile template, and a concise system for naming and describing your projects: “At the end of each one, simply select your best images and populate the templates.”

18. Photograph printed work

The online portfolio of Sasha Prood makes great use of photography to showcase printed work

“One of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to display printed material on screen,” points out New York-based designer Derek Chan. “While digital versions of your work will help, photography is definitely the best way to show these off. It’s all about the context, and showing your designs as they were intended to be seen.”

“If you do photograph your work, invest time and resources into making the images as good as possible,” adds Emmi Salonen, creative director at Studio EMMI. “Just as spelling mistakes do, images with no contrast, bad focus and so on take attention away from your work, and make the viewer focus on how the presentation could be improved.”

19. Label your portfolio examples

It’s often a good idea to clearly label the work in your online portfolio. This will allow clients to reference individual designs or artwork when they speak to you.

20. Give an insight into HOW you worked

Olly Gibbs’ portfolio site at www.ollygibbs.com gives clear explanations of his work

Rather than just showing the finished design, artwork, logo or illustration, give an insight into how you did it. Give a short description of the brief and how you interpreted it to fulfil the wishes of the client.

21. Avoid long intros

You’ve only got a few seconds to make an impression when somebody visits your portfolio website. Don’t waste it with a slow-to-load flash intro or a home page that doesn’t immediately showcase your work and why it’s different to all the other designers/artists out there.

If you work in Flash or animation, create something that showcases what you can do and make it part of your portfolio. If you don’t then why would you need a long intro in the first place?

22. Consider making it a PDF

Jonathan Edwards’ portfolio is available as a downloadable PDF

To give potential clients a different way to browse through your work, consider offering your work as a downloadable PDF. Computer Arts has a great tutorial on how to do this here.

23. Encourage action

The best websites are structured in such a way that they funnel visitors to certain pages and invite them to take some sort of action. This might be to fill in a contact form or send you an email. It might be to buy some of your work. Think about whether your current portfolio answers the main questions that your clients will be asking. Questions such as:

  • Who is this person?
  • Where are they?
  • What have they done before?
  • Are there examples of their work that I can view?
  • Who else have they worked for?
  • How do I get in contact with them?
  • What do they charge?

Make sure that your online portfolio is easy to navigate and that there are clear goals for each page.

24. Make it simple to navigate

No one could fail to find what they’re looking for on Malik Favre’s portfolio site

People’s attention spans are short. Your online portfolio needs to be quick and easy to browse. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. You need to:

  • Keep the design simple, accessible, convenient and classy.
  • Use an eye-catching logo or motif to make your site stand out
  • Try adding a tagline that succinctly explains what you do
  • Display prominent contact details so visitors are in no doubt as to how they can email you, follow you on Twitter or connect on Facebook.
  • Make it clear you want people to hire you (don’t assume they can read your mind. Sometimes you can’t beat a good ‘Hire me’ button.

25. Publish testimonials

If shopping on Amazon has taught us anything it’s that people love to know what other people think. Getting testimonials from satisfied clients is a great way to show some ‘proof’ that you can deliver on what your portfolio promises.

26. Cater to diverse tastes

“One of my best-selling prints is quite frankly one of my least favourite pictures,” admits Stan Chow, who sells his work online through Big Cartel. “Potential clients and buyers look for different things, and sometimes you have to put up images you don’t like so much, because the chances are that somebody else will.”

27. Promote your portfolio

There’s no point in having a great portfolio site if no one is visiting. Be active on Facebook, Twitter and Google+; deploy portfolio pieces to Behance, Flickr, Dribbble (see below) and deviantART. Film yourself working and put the video on YouTube. Aggregate artwork into a slideshow and share it on Slideshare. Put together a PDF brochure and upload it to Scribd. The more places you share your content, the more you’ll drive people towards you and your portfolio website.

28. Add a blog

For Jonathan Edwards, a regularly updated blog keeps people coming back: “Set yourself a task, like updating your blog every day for 100 days,” he suggests. “It may seem a pain to have to find something new to post every day, but in the long run you’ll thank yourself. You’ll have 100 new drawings, for a start.”

29. Update your blog

Google loves a well-structured, regularly updated website that’s stuffed with great content – and the easiest way to provide fresh content is to keep your blog updated. You can write about the projects you’ve worked on, share your thoughts about art and design trends and reveal your favourite tools.

In general, the things that make visitors happy are the things that make Google happy. However, striking a balance is always important – in other words…

30. Don’t get hung up on SEO

It’s easy to get obsessed by Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the art/science of trying to get your site high in the Google rankings. In fact, you can spend too much time worrying about keywords when you should be concentrating on website content.

Online portfolio sites typically feature fewer words so traditional SEO is often ineffective. You will probably get better results by promoting yourself (and your website) through other web channels – see point 17.

For more tips, visit http://www.creativebloq.com

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

25 Ways to Make Money on the Internet in 2015

  1. Start a website or a blog and earn revenue through advertising networks like Google AdSense and BuySellAds. You can even sell your own ads directly through Google DFP.
  2. Launch a curated email newsletter using MailChimp and find sponsors or use a subscription model where people pay a fee to receive your newsletter.  HackerNewletter, Now I Know and Launch.co are good examples.
  3. Create your own YouTube channel and become a YouTube partner to monetize your videos. You may use Oneload to distribute the same video to multiple video sites.
  4. Make something creative – like handbags, jewelry, paintings, craft items – and sell them on Etsy, ArtFire or eBay.
  5. Build your own online store with Shopify or SquareSpace and sell both physical goods and digital downloads. Sell everything from furniture to clothes to food.
  6. Create t-shirt designs and put them on Threadless, Zazzle and CafePress.
  7. Write a book and publish it on the Kindle store, Google Play and iBooks. You can also sell your ebook to other retailers through services like Smashwoods and BookBaby.
  8. Become an instructor at Udemy and SkillShare and get paid for teaching your favorite subjects – from guitar to literature to yoga to foreign languages – to a worldwide audience.
  9. Learn how to code and you can then hunt for software development projects at Guru, eLance or Rent-a-Coder (now Freelancer.com).
  10. Become a virtual office assistant and offer administrative or technical assistance to clients remotely from your home office. Head over to eLance, TaskRabbit and oDesk for finding work.
  11. Offer one-on-one help to anyone worldwide over live video using Google Helpouts. You can do live cooking classes, teach maths or even offer fitness and nutrition tips.
  12. Write scripts, browser extensions, plugins or mobile apps for iOS and Android and sell the source code of your software on CodeCanyon, Chupa or BinPress.
  13. People are outsourcing petty computer jobs – like data entry work, transcribing text from business cards or performing web research – and you find these jobs at Mechanical Turk, an Amazon service.
  14. Creative professionals can scan marketplaces like CrowdSpring, 99Designs and DesignCrowd for projects involving logo design, web design, brochures and other marketing material.
  15. Do you have a good voice? Sign-up as an audio narrator at Umano or become a voice over artist at VoiceBunny and Voice123.
  16. Record your own music and sell it on music stores like Amazon MP3, iTunes, Pandora or Spotify through DistroKid, Tunecore, loudr.fm and CDBaby. You can also sell your audio files directly on marketplaces like AudioJungle, Pond5 and Bandcamp.
  17. Become an affiliate for Amazon and various online stores and earn a commission on sales. You can use programs like VigilinkShareASale, CJ or LinkShare to know about the various vendors that offer affiliate programs.
  18. Educators and teachers can help students with homework or offer on-demand teaching class over the Internet. Apply to become an online tutor at Tutor.com, InstaEdu and TutorVista.
  19. Got an empty room in your apartment? You can list the property on Airbnb, host people and make some money. The other alternative is Couchsurfing but the service forbids from charging guests.
  20. Sell photographs that you have taken on Creative Market, PhotoDune, iStockPhoto or ImgEmbed. The latter lets you easily license photos you have uploaded on Facebook, Flickr or Instagram for online use.
  21. Sell the stuff you no longer use – like old books, children’s toys, gadgets, DVDs, furniture, etc. – on sites like eBay, Craigslist or, if you are in India, OLX.
  22. Apply to become a website tester at UserTesting and get paid to review and test websites from the usability perspective.
  23. If friend’s look at you for tech support, there’s no reason why you can’t offer similar services on the Internet. Get Skype (for calling) and Chrome Remote Desktop (for screen sharing) and you are all set to offer remote tech help from anywhere.
  24. Create an account at Fiverr and PeoplePerHour and offer a wide range of services from translation to graphic design to writing to SEO.
  25. You can make money by flipping websites. Flippa, GoDaddy Auctions and Sedo are popular marketplaces for buying and selling registered domains while LeanDomainSearch is a good tool for finding available domain names.

For more tips, visit http://www.labnol.org

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

The Best Places to Find Free, High-Res Images for your Website

Good, high-quality images add visual interest to your website. Another reason why photos have become so important is because web pages that include good photos get better engagement when shared on social sites like Twitter and Facebook.

high quality photo

Download High Quality Images for Free

The web offers billions of photos that are just a Google search away. The images that are in public domain, or licensed under the Creative Commons license, can be used without any copyright issues.

The only problem is that Google may not always surface the best content that is free. Their algorithms, at least for image search, prefer pages from premium stock photography websites and the free listings thus lose out. If Google isn’t helping in your quest for images, here are some of the best websites where you may find high-quality photos for free.

1. unsplash.com (Unsplash) – This is my favorite website for downloading high-resolution photographs. Subscribe to the email newsletter and you’ll get 10 photos in your inbox every 10 days. All images are under the CC0 license meaning they are in public domain and you are free to use them in any way you like.

2. google.com (LIFE) – The Google images website hosts millions of historical photographs from the LIFE library. You can add source:life to any query in Google image search to find these images and they are free for personal, non-commercial use.

3. flickr.com (The British Library) – The national library of the UK has uploaded over a million vintage photographs and scanned images to Flickr that are now in pubic domain and they encourage re-use.

4. picjubmo.com (Picjumbo) – Here you’ll find exceptionally high-quality photos for your personal and commercial use. The pictures have been shot by the site owner himself and all he requests for in return is proper attribution.

5. pixabay.com (Pixabay) – All the images on Pixabay are available under the CC0 license and thus can be used anywhere. Like Flickr, there’s an option to browse photographs by camera model as well.

6. publicdomainarchive.com (Public Domain Archive) – This is an impressive online repository of public domain images that are neatly organized in categories. It contains only high quality photos though the collection is limited at this time.

7. commons.wikimedia.org (Wikimedia Commons) – The site hosts 21+ million images under some kind of free license or in the public domain. The images are arranged in categories or you can find images through search keywords.

8. superfamous.com (Super Famous) – Another great resource for finding high-res images for your websites and other design projects. The images are licensed under Creative Commons and require attribution.

old historical photos

9. nos.twnsnd.co (New Old Stock) – Here you will find a curated collection of vintage photographs from public archives that are free of any copyright restrictions. If you are trying to create a twitter feed like @HistoricalPics, this might be a good source for images.

10. freeimages.com (Stock Exchange) – This is one of the biggest repositories of free images and graphics that you can use for almost any purpose. You do however need to sign-in to download the images. The site, previously hosted on the schx.hu domain, is now part of Getty Images.

11. raumrot.com (Raumrot) – The site features beautiful, hi-res 300DPI stock photographs available for both personal and commercial use. The pictures are sorted by subject and available under Creative Commons.

Related: Protect your photos from Casual Copying

12. gettyimages.com (Getty Images) – If you are looking for professional images for your website but without the expensive license fee, Getty has something in store for you. You can embed pictures from Getty Images for free on your website though in future, the embeds may carry ads.

13. pdpics.com (Public Domain Photos) – The website contains thousands of royalty free images that can be used in both personal and commercial projects but with attribution. Unlike other sites that merely curate content, the images found here have been clicked by their in-house photographers.

14. imcreator.com (IM Free) – A curated collection of outstanding high-quality photos on all subjects that are also free for commercial use. The images have mostly been sourced from Flickr and require attribution.

15. photopin.com (Photo Pin) – Flickr is among the biggest repository of photographs on the web and Photo Pin helps you easily find photos on Flickr that are available under the Creative Commons license. You get the embed code as well so you don’t have to host the images on your own server.

16. kaboompics.com (Kaboom Pics) – Karolina Grabowska, a web designer from Poland, has uploaded 550+ high-resolution photos (240-300dpi ) that you can use for all kind of projects included commercial ones. The photos are arranged in categories and tags or you can use the search box to quickly find images on various subjects.

17. morguefile.com (Morgue File) – The site hosts 300,000+ free images and you are free to use them in both personal and commercial projects even without attribution. The image gallery has a built-in cropping tool and you can even hotlink the images from your website.

18. magdeleine.co (Magdeleine) – Hand-picked and free stock photos that you can search by subject, mood or even the dominant color. Some of the images are copyright free and you can do whatever you like with those photos.

For more tips, visit: http://www.labnol.org


5 Top Social Media Dashboard Tools to Manage Your Social Accounts Written by Pooja Lohana

5 Top Social Media Dashboard Tools to Manage Your Social Accounts

Let’s face it. Social media marketing is hard work. Sometimes you feel like a one legged man in a kickboxing competition.

Over the last few years it has become an integral part of your business and marketing.

You use social media to source leads, keep in touch with your old clients and even serve your current customers.

The only problem?

The Internet never sleeps.

But you can’t be online 24/7.

On top of it, there are multiple social media platforms fighting for your attention at any give time.  (I can think of at least ten from the top off my head!)

If you’re a blogger or a small business, you cannot imagine hiring dedicated staff for social media management. Even if you can afford it, you may still not want to.

Where 40% of small business owners are most likely to outsource TV/radio ads and 35% are likely to do the same with SEO only a measly 5% want to outsource social media marketing and email newsletters.

So how on earth are  you supposed to manage staying on top of things; interact and engage with your followers while scheduling all those posts on each of these accounts?

Before you decide to go on a digital sabbatical, here’s some good news.

Enter social media dashboards.

If you’re an avid social media marketer, you’ve probably heard of a social media dashboard before. These online tools help you combat the time-sucking vortex that social media can sometimes be.

What is a social media dashboard?

Simply put, a social media dashboard makes social media management super-easy. It syncs all your social media accounts in one convenient place.

In its truest sense, a dashboard also allows you to see all your social media analytics at one place, thus eliminating the need to manually go into each account and check what happened in the past week.

A robust dashboard will let you connect with all major social media platforms out there. At the bareminimum, most good tools will sync Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn.

5 benefits of using a social media dashboard

1. Productivity

Let’s be honest. How many times have you logged in on Facebook to schedule posts on your business page only to find yourself lost in the sea of posts after 30 minutes? And suddenly, you realise you haven’t retweeted something you were meaning to. You rush to Twitter and the same story repeats. A dashboard will save you ton of time. Because on its own, each social media platform can be a time-suck. With a dashboard, you are keeping things in perspective.

2. Tracking

You want to keep a tab on what your competitors are upto. Who’s talking about them? Who’s following them? How’s their engagement? All tracking-related questions that you can answer with simple search inside the tool.

3. Scheduling

Only a few social networks allow you to schedule your content. It’s a headache to go inside each account and schedule every post manually. Granted, networks like Twitter operate in “real-time” but you can’t be online all day long. Plus, no one likes being bombarded with string of posts within a given span of time, so scheduling is a smarter way to be present without really being there. A dashboard comes to rescue!

4. Analytics

You’ve probably wondered: What type of posts are a “hit” with my audience? Which ones get the most shares and engagement? How do I get more leads through social channels? Thankfully, with a dashboard, you can stop the guesswork. By seeing what your audience clicked on, you can fine-tune into what your followers enjoy. Dashboards make it easy to analyze everything at once.

5. Collaboration

Most dashboard tools will allow you and your team members to collaborate. You can also divide roles and duties and allocate social media tasks to each member so you know who’s accountable. Works like a charm especially when you’re remotely-based.

With that, let’s look at the pros and cons of five popular social media dashboard tools.

5 social media dashboard tools

Here are 5 top dashboard tools that can help you manage your social media marketing.

1. Cyfe

Cyfe is a full-blown business analytics tool that connects all your online activities, not just social media.

Signing up with their Forever Free plan is easy. Just enter your name, email and password and you’re all set.

The tool has a myriad of widgets for different purposes, such as:

  • Advertising
  • Blogging
  • Email
  • Monitoring
  • Sales and Finance
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Web analytics

Each widget supports many different services that you can sync. For example, the Sales and Finance widget lets you add Freshbooks, Paypal, Xero, Salesforce etc.

The Social Media widget allows you to add different profiles as shown below:

5 Social Media Dashboard Tools

You can also add a Competitor Dashboard in Cyfe where you can monitor their SEO and social media growth using widgets.

Cyfe is not just limited to social media – think of it as an integrated dashboard.

For example, if you use multiple Gmail inboxes – one for personal emails, another for client work and still another for guest blogging – keeping a tab on each one could be a pain. In Cyfe, you can easily create a Gmail dashboard for ease of management and boost your productivity.

Of course, not everyone needs all these features, so you can only use what applies to you. When compared to other tools out there, you’ll notice Cyfe comes in free and premium plans that aren’t all that expensive.

Pricing: Forever free plan.

$19/mo for unlimited everything (includes unlimited team members, dashboards and widgets) or $14/mo if paid annually.

2. Hootsuite

Hoosuite is one of the more popular tools out there that has grown to over 6 million users. The dashboard is available in 13 languages.

You can create a new account for free or sign in using your Facebook, Twitter or Google account.

5 Social Media Dashboard Tools to Help You Manage Your Social Accounts Better

Once you sync your networks within Hootsuite, you can add “streams” in the form of columns.

Streams can be Sent tweets, Retweets, Mentions, Home, Wall Posts etc. A stream is nothing but your activity on a social network.

You can also add tabs to group streams under relevant columns so you can keep streams from different social media separate.

So your tabs can be for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with each containing streams from the respective platform.

Hootsuite also makes scheduling super simple.

There is also an app directory, a library of third-party free and premium apps that you can use.

At this time, Hootsuite allows the following social networks to be added (for more, you’ll have to try their third-party apps):

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Foursquare
  • WordPress
  • Mixi

Pricing: Free for up to three social profiles with no collaboration.

From $9.99/mo for 50 profiles and +1 team members. Larger plans also available.

3. Sendible

Sendible can schedule future social network posts and bring all your social media interaction under one roof along with emails and SMS marketing integration (CRM).

They also include brand monitoring for Yelp which could be useful for local businesses.

5 Social Media Dashboard Tools to Help You Manage Your Social Accounts Better

Inside though, it looks more like using an email client than a dashboard.

You can compose and publish blog posts to WordPress, Tumblr and Blogspot also.

You can do a 30-day free trial because Sendible doesn’t provide you with any free accounts after the period lapses. So you have to provide your credit card details although you can cancel, upgrade or downgrade anytime.

Pricing: $39.99/mo for their Start up plan that includes up to 40 services, two team members and two branded reports. Larger plans also available.

4. Sprout Social

I’ve never used Social Sprout before, but I’ve been hearing about it recently. So I decided to give it a try.

Signing up with Social Sprout is a breeze. And they don’t ask you for any credit card details either. On the flip side, the free trial is limited to 30 days.

Personally I don’t like the fact that once you sign up, you’re asked to attach with your Twitter account. Without authorizing, you can’t proceed.

Social Sprout asks for my business name and timezone upfront. Timezones can be tricky especially when dealing with social media, so I like how it is taken care of in the beginning.

Then, I am asked to do one of three things: Add social profiles, invite my team or jump into my inbox.

Sprout Social allows you to sync your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Feedly accounts.

5 Social Media Dashboard Tools to Help You Manage Your Social Accounts Better

Unlike Hootsuite, Sprout Social doesn’t use columns.

Another neat feature is easy setup for brand keywords (for social media monitoring). When you set up these keywords for your brand name, you’ll receive inbox messages from Twitter and Facebook even when someone mentions you without the @ tag.

Once you link your Twitter, you can search for people who follow you but you’re not following them under their Discover tab or “Clean up” any silent, irregular or “do not follow back” accounts. Cool!

The down side is it’s on the expensive end and allows for limited number of profiles that you can connect even with a paid plan.

Pricing: Starts at $59/mo for an individual plan for up to 10 profiles. Larger plans also available.

5. Buffer

If you don’t want any fancy features, are starting out or like to keep it simple, try Buffer. Signing up is pretty simple. They give you four options to login – Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or email.

The interface is delightfully clean with lots of whitespace that’s easy on the eyes. The free trial account can sync major social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

Once you sync an account, Buffer gives you four main tabs as below:

5 Social Media Dashboard Tools to Help You Manage Your Social Accounts Better

I love their “Suggestions” tab that has a list of posts I might like to share with my followers in categories of marketing, inspiration, lifehack etc.

Another plus is I don’t have to attach my personal profiles – I can choose to attach a Group on Facebook or a Page on LinkedIn, for example.

Pricing: $10/mo or $102/yr.

Business plans starting at $50/mo for 25 accounts, 5 team members and 15 RSS feeds pulled into your profile. Check their website for larget business plans.

When it comes to social media tools, there is no right or wrong pick, only what is right for you.

  • Are you going to use the dashboard only for social media or something more than that?
  • Do you have a team that will be posting?
  • Is the number of profiles connected important to you?
  • Perhaps you have a budget of less than $25/mo?

Such criteria will help you make a choice and eliminate anything that’s not a fit. J

Each of the above tools has a different look and feel, features and pricing. Choosing the right type depends on your business needs.

Your turn! Is social media slowly becoming a time-suck for you? Are you staying on top of things? If not, give one of the above tools a try and let us know how you go!

Guest Author: Pooja Lohana is an Online Business Coach + Writer & Editor. She helps entrepreneurs shine their blog and copy, and simplifies online marketing so they can make more sales and live the Un-9-5 life. Check out her step-by-step course on breaking into freelance writing.
Read more at http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/09/23/5-top-social-media-dashboard-tools-to-manage-your-social-accounts/#webR0QMY4eWCDTl8.99

graphic designing, Uncategorized

How to Continue Being a Competitive Freelancer?

In a field that is already highly saturated with very talented individuals, attempting to be a successful freelance designer is not an easy task to accomplish. Despite the tough competition, there is no need to be cut throat to achieve success. Today’s article shows you some ways to stand out from the crowd without stepping on anyone’s toes.

With the recent speculation regarding the dying trade of the design community and the increasing unemployment rate in the world of freelancing, everyone’s future seems more and more uncertain. The issue is not very serious and many may argue that there is no cause for worry at the moment. However, it pays to prepare for the day when it arrives. Here are some useful tips to help you stay afloat in the industry.

The Freelancer’s Survival Kit
Image Credit: Bethany & Scott

7 Tips to Put into Your Survival Kit

Go Green: The Hip Way to Reduce Expenses

The issue on the wellbeing of our planet has been one that is increasingly hard to ignore. Going green is the trend in recent times. As a freelancer, going green benefits not just our planet but can help us to save money as well. One of the ways to show your support for the green movement is to reduce the amount of paper used and wasted. Much of design is done with the use of computers today. Instead of being traditional and doing our sketches and mock-ups on paper, we can do so digitally.

Image credit: Little Miss Sunshine

This is just one of the ways that freelancers can start being considerate to our environment. You can also pledge to go green at Design Can Change.

Old Trend Here, New Trend Elsewhere

Instead of trying to fight in an area that is already saturated, venture into markets that still have room for you to develop your name. Trends are not always global immediately. A trend that is popular and all the rage in your country might take a while before it travels to other regions of the world. One good example is the popularity and saturation of design blogs in the US. Instead of trying to hop on the design blog bandwagon in the US, cater your design blog to work well and appeal to countries where it is the new and latest fad like the Middle East and Europe.

Image credit: lukasztyrala

The popularity of Web 2.0 is another good example. Some regions are only just starting to enter the world of Web 2.0 and if you are residing in such a region, your knowledge of it will greatly benefit you and raise your worthiness there. However, remember that what works for one country might not work for another in exactly the same way. Ensure that you cater to the needs of the region rather than blindly follow the trend that succeeded in another country.

Of course if you want to break into another market, you have to know the market well and be able to communicate with the region you want to break into, leading us to our next point on learning a new language.

Learn a New Language: Say Hello! 你好! Hola! Bonjour! Hallo! Det!

English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. However, according to several lists, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish are ahead in numbers in regards to how many individuals speak the language. These two present a very big market that can be tapped into if you speak the language. Although English is still one of the most widely used Internet languages, learning a new language will help you to reach a new market you might otherwise be cut off from due to language barriers.

Image credit: Dzoy >>>>> VB*

English is very often a second language for several Internet users and if you know the language they are more comfortable using, it will allow you to communicate with them more easily and put them at ease. Many Japanese businessmen communicate in English with various markets because it is a necessity. However, if you can do business with them in their native language, they will view you in a different light and feel more comfortable working with you.

Embrace D.I.Y: Pick Up New Skills

We are in the era of ‘doing-it-yourself’. Especially for freelancers, we often do not have the luxury of hiring an accountant, manager or marketing personnel because these are extra costs incurred if we do not do the task ourselves. We all have to learn how to multi-task and to juggle the various business hats we have to wear to succeed.

Image credit: Mikko Reinikainen

In recognition that not everyone is naturally talented in both design and business management, in order for you to take on multiple key roles in your quest to be a truly independent freelancer, you might need to have someone teach you the ropes. Invest in educating yourself properly. Take up courses that will teach you the intricacies of business management and learn how to execute a good business strategy. You are never too old to learn a new skill.

The industry is very competitive and you have to constantly upgrade yourself and learn new skills in order to continue to have a competitive edge over others. The more skills you have or the better you are at a particular skill, the higher your net-worth will be. If you can be the designer as well as the developer for your projects, you will save yourself the trouble and the extra cost of out sourcing the job to others.

Stay Fresh: Work With Others

It is great to be able to do everything yourself. However, no man is an island. Although it is important to build up your own brand and identity, to be distinctive, you must not alienate yourself.

Working Partner
Image credit: missestoner

Build friendships with others and work together so that you can fall back on one another in times of need. Working with others occasionally can put a fresh spin on your design and creativity, preventing you from becoming stale and boring.

Be a Trend Spotter

Yes we all hope to be the ones to start a new trend. However, it is also important to recognize trends and even better if you can anticipate upcoming trends. Keep a close eye on the industry and the technological news that will affect your industry. Make sure you know the movers and the shakers that will turn your industry upside down. Be among the first to try out new products and services when they hit the market.

Image credit: bocavermelha-l.b.

This may seem too expensive to be practical, but once you learn to spot the products or software that will greatly impact the industry, be sure to be on top of your game by having already tested it out. Having great foresight in this area is a major plus and a way to stay competitive and ahead of others.

One good example is the way the iPhone and its application has taken the world by storm. If you were able to anticipate the popularity and success of the gadget and all things related to it, you would have learned ahead of time how to develop the applications for the iPhone.

We all aspire to be the one to set new trends, it should be one of our goals as designers and if you are successful pat yourself on the back for contributing to the industry. If not, ride the popularity of the trends and make the most out of it by creating products and services that stem from the original trend itself.

Exploit the Inter-Dependence of Industries

Most industries are inter-dependent on one another. Your web skills allow you to venture into other industries such as e-Commerce or even publication. Venturing into other industries also helps you to grow as individuals and learn new things.

Image credit: stevendepolo

The vastly different people you meet in other industries also give you more opportunities for business and networking. You can take a look at a list of highly sought after occupations you can consider in the future.

For more useful tips, visit http://www.onextrapixel.com

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

10 free tools for creating infographics

Don’t have hours to spare crafting something beautiful in Photoshop? Sarah James selects tools that won’t cost you a penny…

For all the importance we place on text, it’s an indisputable fact that images are processed in the brain faster than words. Hence the rise and rise of the infographic which, at its best, transforms complex information into graphics that are both easy to grasp and visually appealing. No wonder magazine readers and web visitors love them.

The only problem is, infographics that look like they were simple to make are often anything but. Creating something beautiful and instantly understandable in Photoshop is often beyond the limits that time allows. Which is why it’s occasionally useful to use a quick and dirty infographics tool to speed up the process.

We’ve selected our favourites here. They’re all free, or offer free versions. Let us know which ones you get on best with…

01. Vizualize

This generator could be the start of how ‪résumé‬s will be portrayed in the future

After the success of our post on an infographic ‪résumé‬, it was only a matter of time before this infographic ‪résumé‬ generator turned up. You can visualise your resume in one click and also take a look at previous examples. Enabling people to express their professional accomplishments in a simple yet compelling personal visualisation, we think this is the start of something big.

02. Google Developers

Display real live data with Google Developers

Google chart tools are powerful, simple to use, and free. You can choose from a variety of charts and configure an extensive set of options to perfectly match the look and feel of your website. By connecting your data in real time, Google Developers is the perfect infographic generator for your website.

03. Easel.ly

Easel.ly offers a dozen free templates to start you off

This free web-based infographic tool offers you a dozen free templates to start you off, which are easily customisable.

You get access to a library of things like arrows, shapes and connector lines, and you can customize the text with range of fonts, colours, text styles and sizes. The tool also lets you upload your graphics and position them with one touch.

04. Piktochart

The Piktochart’s customizable editor lets you modify colour schemes and fonts

Piktochart is an infographic and presentation tool enabling you to turn boring data into engaging infographics with just a few clicks. Piktochart’s customizable editor lets you do things like modify colour schemes and fonts, insert pre-loaded graphics and upload basic shapes and images. Its grid lined templates also make it easy to align graphical elements and resize images proportionally. There’s a free version offering three basic themes, while a pro account costs $29 per month or $169 for a year.

05. Infogr.am

Customising the data that makes up the infographic takes place in an Excel style spreadsheet

Infogr.am is a great free tool which offers access to a wide variety of graphs, charts and maps as well as the ability to upload pictures and videos to create cool infographics.

Customising the data that makes up the infographic takes place in an Excel style spreadsheet and can easily be edited, watching the software automatically change the look of the infographic to perfectly represent your data. When you’re happy with your infographic you can publish it to the Infogram website for all to enjoy and even embed it in to your own website or share it via social media.

06. Visual.ly

Visual.ly is both a tool and a community for infographics creators

Visual.ly is a community platform for data visualization and infographics set up in 2011. It allows you both to create infographics and get them shared on social media. The website is also able to match those commissioning infographics – including brands, companies and agencies – with its community over more than 35,000 designers.

07. InFoto Free

 Infoto Free
Build infographics based on your photo taking habits

This one’s a bit niche, but if you take a lot of photos with your Android phone it’s worth checking out. InFoto takes the EXIF data attached to your photos and builds nice-looking infographics from it. It’s got a great interface, and the paid-for version (which comes without ads) only costs 99 cents.

08. Venngage

infographic tools
Looking for an easy-to-use tool? Venngage is your best bet!

Venngage is a great tool for creating and publishing infographics because it’s so simple and easy to use. You can choose from templates, themes, and hundreds of charts and icons as well as uploading your own images and backgrounds, or customize a theme to suit your brand. You can animate them too!

09. Dipity

infographic tools
Upgrade to the Premium plan for custom branding

Dipity is a great way to create, share, embed, and collaborate on interactive, visually engaging timelines that integrate video, audio, images, text, links, social media, location, and time stamps. You can join for free but premium plans offer custom branding and backgrounds, analytics, and custom iPhone apps.

10. Get About

This free Windows app lets you monitor your social media activity and generate infographics that help you visualize how you connect and share with your network.

Words: Sarah James and the Creative Bloq staff

Sarah James is an infographic designer who runs and The Infographic Design Company, which offers custom infographics design and data visualization services.

For more tips, visit http://www.creativebloq.com

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

21 Often-Overlooked Ways to Generate Leads Online

Most of us are familiar with the usual suspects when it comes to generating leads online and we are pretty comfortable with using those platforms. However, there are a lot of other ways to create relationships, gain exposure, and increase interest so let’s explore some of those opportunities.

21 Overlooked Ways to Generate Leads Online

Register on Help A Reporter Out as a Source

You’ll get the chance to provide your expertise to reporters, bloggers, and radio show hosts who are looking for experts. This exposure works wonders in increasing your reach and opportunity.

LinkedIn Saved Search

While I’m hoping you have a complete profile and are in a couple groups, there is more to LinkedIn than many people realize.

You can conduct an advanced people search to find prospects and then save that search. Once saved, LinkedIn continues to look for people who fit your parameters and sends you an email with a list. It’s an incredible lead generation tool that is tremendously underused.

Provide Social Proof

When you share case studies or reviews, as well as nominations and awards you’ve received, you create an understanding out in the world that you really are a valued resource and vendor. In effect you are backing up your marketing claims.


Speaking of marketing, remarketing a product or service is another great way to generate leads. Has it been awhile since you promoted or launched something? Create a new message, maybe even for a new target market, and get it out there. You can generate renewed interest this way.

Influencer Marketing

This is similar to social proof but is when trusted influencers toot your horn. There are those people who garner respect and trust. We look to those people to tell us who else has value – where should we invest our time and money? When these influencers are talking about you, your value increases dramatically and therefore your leads.


One of the best ways to share information is through infographics. You can easily create them using platforms like Piktochart. Remember, sharing information is a great way to generate leads. People want to do business with experts.

Online Events & Open Calls

Have you ever used Google+ Hangouts or Skype to create an online discussion? There’s great power in setting up impromptu or planned, general information events. When they are designed to be drop-ins, people are more comfortable attending and are open to hearing what you have to say. You can build trust and prospective business by starting conversations with people.

Social Listening

Monitor what is being said about your business and brand. When you know what is being said, and who is saying it, you can target your messages.

Data Gathering

This goes along with social listening. You can create targeted ads and posts to see who responds and how they respond. That tells you where you should be saying what to whom.


Sharing information in a verbal format is a great way to draw prospects to yourself and show them who you are and what you know. You can set up an online radio show or create audio files and upload them to the social networks.

Radio Guest

Don’t want to do your own podcasting? No problem. Explore being a guest on other people’s shows. This gives you exposure to a whole new group of people as well as something to share within your spheres of influence.

Guest Writer

There are plenty of bloggers and newsletter providers who welcome expert content. Similar to being a radio show guest this gives you the chance to share your knowledge with a broader audience.

Niche Social Platforms

Explore platforms that are specifically targeted to your area of expertise and your audience. Sites like Untappd, a site for beer drinkers. You can get very niched and targeted this way.

Don’t ever forget the value of your current clients and their experiences with you and your company. Ask them to post on your social sites and share you with their connections.

Team Up

With a complementary organization or company, that is. Together you can talk about issues that matter to your audiences. You gain exposure to their world and they gain exposure to yours. The added conversations work wonders for lead generation.


Take advantage of the things everyone is talking about. When you discover things that are hot topics – craft engagement, promotions, and conversations around those topics. Since they are what’s trending you will be found more easily.

Connect to a Cause

Do you have a favorite cause that you volunteer for or donate to? Talk about it. Put their logo with a link on your website. Let people know that a portion of your proceeds goes to that cause.

Thank You Call to Action

Do you have a newsletter or digital downloads that people subscribe to? Set up a thank you page with a call to action. A lot of people have the thank you page but that’s it. This is a great place to get prospects to get more involved with your company.

Email/Social Combo

If you send out a regular newsletter, you can connect it to your social networks. This expands your audience and gets your information in front of many more people.

Publish on LinkedIn

LinkedIn recently opened up the publishing section to the users. You can apply to publish your content on LinkedIn alongside gurus and thought leaders. The expansion of your reach is incredible and elevates you to a higher level of expert status.

Promote Your Clients

Do you have clients who offer products or services? A great way to increase your own lead generation is to provide those clients with exposure. Giving them an audience leads to more awareness of you and what you have to offer.

Did you notice how many of these tactics have to do with sharing information? That’s because the best way to generate leads online is to provide consistent, relevant information to your audience.

The question becomes, how can you do that, as well as increase your exposure, so that people reach out to you when they have a need? Or so that when you reach out to them they already know and trust you. Lead generation comes from actively participating and sharing current, relevant information. So, take a look at the list, pick a couple of tactics, and get going.

Got another method that works well for you but seems to be one of the overlooked ways to generate leads online?

graphic designing, Uncategorized

14 Online Marketing Tools To Try In 2015

With more businesses committing time and money to online marketing, there are a growing number of services and tools that have been developed to help savvy marketers get better results from their online strategies. If you’re already dabbling in social media and sending out an email newsletter, check out these fourteen online marketing tools that will help take your business marketing strategy to the next level.

Social Media

You know the importance of advertising, and you are probably using social media to some extent. You may even have tried a Google AdWords or Facebook campaign. With so many options available, though, it’s easy to get lost in the online world.

Not only do you want to be on the front page of a Google listing but you also want to take advantage of the major players in social media. This can easily be overwhelming, but with the right tools you’ll not only spend less time managing your social media presence, you’ll get better results for your business.

If you’re looking to improve the results you’re getting form social, check out these do-it-yourself tools:

  • Hashatit quickly brings up what’s happening on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for any given hashtag. Use it to pinpoint conversations you should be joining, and connect with your market.
  • Followerwonk slices and dices Twitter into perspectives any marketer will love. It helps you understand Twitter analytics, your followers and any influencers in your niche.
  • Hootsuite is the quintessential social media dashboard. It allows you to view, analyze and post to all your social media presences from a command post.


If you’re in the B2C sphere and haven’t been collecting cell phone numbers and offering special rewards for signing up for text messages, it’s time to consider getting started. With shoppers carrying smartphones in record numbers, text messaging offers a rapid and easy way to get the attention of harried shoppers. Some of the key benefits of text marketing include its immediacy, directness, trackibility, personal feel and eco-friendliness.

There is no limit on your creativity when it comes to text message marketing campaigns. You can send your customers information about sales, promotions or new items. Or, you can reward them with coupons, discounts, limited-time offers and loyalty points. This can help you keep customers interested in your brand and keep them coming into your business.

Tools like SumoText and Outspoken offer easy-to-use solutions for businesses looking to deploy a mobile marketing strategy.

Geofencing, which is a location-based mobile service, is another technique that can boost the effectiveness of text message marketing. By using GPS on smartphones, marketers can know when customers are close to their place of business and alert shoppers to sales and deals or send them coupons or limited-time offers. Check out Thumbvista to learn more about how to apply this to your business.


Email marketing has been around for a long time, but too many businesses aren’t using it effectively. There are three things you need to do to get great results from email. The first is to understand your audience and find a writer who can develop great copy aimed at that audience, the second is to develop an email strategy that varies by target audience, and the third is to secure a service to send your bulk emails.

To better understand your audience, start by developing buyer personas. These detailed profiles of your ideal customer can not only help you refine your email marketing strategy – they’re also useful tools for business planning and sales enablement. Once you have your buyer personas in place, the key is to find a writer who understands the personas and how to write in a way that will capture their attention.

When looking for writers, you can hire someone in house or look at outsourcing. With outsourcing, your choices include hiring a marketing agency or using freelancers through sites such as Elance and oDesk, which give you lists of writers, their hourly rates and their rating. Hiring an agency is the more expensive of the two options, but it is also less time consuming because the agency takes on the responsibility of delivering publication-ready content, whereas you’ll be responsible for managing your freelancers and editing their work.

It’s not enough to simply develop buyer personas and write great email copy – your email strategy needs to be segmented by persona. Here at Quintain, we sell marketing services, website design services, and promotional products. The person who is intersted in buying promotional products shouldn’t be bombarded with emails about our web design services. If they are, they will most likely unsubscribe. Instead, send only information that is relevant to that persona. You’re results will improve – I guarantee it!

Once you’ve got your strategy in place, you can sign up for accounts with an email marketing service such as InfusionsoftMailChimp, or Constant Contact. These services will ensure you’re compliant with federal CAN-SPAM laws and help you learn about your subscribers’ engagement, website activity and other data, which can help you target them more successfully. If you want to go one step farther, get a subscription to HubSpot, which has built in tools to manage persona-based email campaigns and a complete solution for closed loop marketing.

Other tools for email include Scope, which helps you figure out how others configure their mail, and Email Spam Test, which helps you make sure your mail will get through the spam traps.

All of these tools are just the beginning. Start looking at your marketing strategy and how you can improve, so you can have a happy and prosperous new year!