OnClick(Studios) Adventure

new business, new adventure, new thoughts

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Getting Connected to the Design World

Posted by Heather Feimster on August 19, 2009

*View original post published on Web Designers’ Edge on Aug. 12, 2009

Starting out as a freelancer is never easy. In web design, it’s even tougher because we mainly work by ourselves from home. If you are like me, you first experienced designing for print; now, however, you’ll need to tweak those skills for use with an online medium – too bad since I always loved the smell of a good print shop.

When I decided to pursue web design full time a few months ago, I decided that to be the best, I needed to learn from the best. The hard part was – where are “the best”? How do I find them? And how can I learn from them?

Through trial and error I’ve come up with an effective strategy for making a name for myself among other designers in the “community.” These are what have worked for me – you’ll want to experiment and try different things out to determine what works for you.

Not a big writer? Maybe a blog isn’t up your alley. Like to teach others? Try creating some tutorials. The key is to put yourself out there.

So here are my recommendations for getting connected with other designers.

1. Get involved on Twitter.

Okay, so what’s the big deal with Twitter? I had no idea three months ago – I heard it all over the news but hadn’t experienced it. Good thing for us designers is that most other designers, like us, are sitting at their computers all day. So Twitter works really well as a means to get connected. Here’s what I did to launch myself into the Twittersphere.

Follow other noted designers on Twitter.

I read their profiles and visit their sites. Follow those that practice in the area you do. You can find many different lists of designers to follow out there, so start with one and go from there.

Don’t set your account to “auto-follow.”

This is just my personal preference, but I only want quality content to come through my feed. So I screen people who follow me before I follow them. This strategy is also used by some of the most popular people on Twitter. It helps me better follow the conversations and dialogue that I want to engage in on Twitter – instead of just generating an RSS feed of resources (although that is a great bonus!).

Learn other tips from the experts.

Since I won’t pretend to know the best Twitter techniques, I suggest you read this post by Grace Smith on Using Twitter for Inspiration.

2. Do your research.

To effectively engage with other designers, you need to know how to design. Knowledge about the medium, the tools and the jargon of the trade all enhance your ability to really get the most out of interactions with other designers.

  • Keep track of good resources and references. I prefer Delicious so that I can access my links from anywhere, but other bookmarking services would work just the same.
  • Share good content with others so they can benefit as well. I do this most often via Twitter (see the circle beginning to form?).
  • Take the time to find and complete tutorials that are outside your comfort zone. Many times just reading through a tutorial can give you tips that will make your next design pop. I recommend two different sites on development tutorials and design tutorials, but there are many others out there.

3. Put yourself out there.

So you’ve been slowly getting into the Twitter world and have done a bit of research and feel like you’re getting your feet under you. Now it’s time start building your reputation among other designers.

  • If you feel up to it or need a place to release your wisdom with more than 140 characters, start your own site/blog. Not only is this necessary to gain clients, but it also creates link for folks to associate with you – this is the start of your “brand.”
  • Engage other designers in relevant dialogue. Ask for advice on client questions, seek collaboration on projects and provide your own feedback to others’ inquiries.
  • If possible, attend conferences or other face-to-face meetings with designers in your area. As great as technology is, it can’t replace a good ol’ cup of coffee and creative personal discussion. Danny Outlaw has a great list of conferences on his Outlaw Design blog, and MeetUp is a great resource to connect with other local professionals.

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5 Tips for Healthy Programming

Posted by David Campbell on July 31, 2009

HAPPY SYS ADMIN DAY!

Developer, designer, programmer, engineer, whatever: if you code, you know the diet of crunch time. When I started out coding Java (and now Ruby on Rails), I could be found with energy drinks, beer and fast food. Being a college athlete, I could feel the effects on my body, mind and even my work almost instantly.  The more experience I got, the more I realized how healthy choices really make an impact on the quality of my work, especially in the early hours of the morning – let’s face it, that’s when a lot of us work anyway.

Now that I’m working on my own start-up at home AND full time for a Silicon Valley giant, I’ve tried to really pay attention to what I put into my body to get the most out of it. Here’s a list of quick, healthy and simple snack alternatives that I’ve found will help you eat good calories while still meeting deadlines:

  1. Salad – Wait… what? At my desk? Yes, salad! Lettuce is an obvious health food, yet still overlooked in the last moments of truth on launch days. Instead of the bowl, try it as finger food – buy a head of lettuce and cut it into wedges rather than buying the premade ‘by the bag’ varieties. Use them to scoop up cottage cheese or other dressing and veggies.
  2. Coffee – Really? While I personally prefer tea, coffee is a good alternative to your usual “pick-me-up” beverages. Sodas and energy drinks are known for slowing down your body and “the crash.” No wonder with the incredible amounts of sugar you ingest. Coffee is a healthier alternative and you still get your caffeine kick. You also may want to find some alternatives to drowning your sugar with coffee.
  3. Tea – Over 4000 years old and still healthy? I think so; green tea has more health benefits than this document has lines of code. Anti-oxidants – check, increases metabolism – check, shown to lower cholesterol – check! This miracle elixir has even been recently found to reduce or prevent arthritis![1]
  4. Fruits, veggies, crackers, meats and cheeses – The ultimate party platter will help you fight hunger and avoid the fries at 4 am. Most delis and grocers provide pre-made platters or you can make your own with endless variety by picking up a few things at your local grocery store. Putting it in the middle of the office can also help spark creativity (and exercise!).
  5. Protein Shakes – Okay meathead, don’t get judgmental just yet. I grew up playing football, even in college, and when it was hard to find something healthy to satisfy my cravings, simple shakes were a filling pick-me-up. By adding in some protein powder, poof! – An instant healthy snack for on-the-go. Buying supplements can make anyone’s head spin so I recommend soy proteins for their added anti-oxidants.  A handy cocktail shaker makes for an easy on the move mixer.

Those few changes have helped me make sure that what I put into my body while working reflects the high-quality work I put out. What have you found to help you stay healthy while working at your desk or at home?

[1] http://arthritis.about.com/od/preventionandriskfactors/a/greentea.htm

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The trail we’re blazing..

Posted by Heather Feimster on July 22, 2009

“Look out new world here we come
Brave, intrepid and then some

Pioneers of maximum
Audacity whose resumes
Show that we are just the team
To live where others merely dream
Building up a head of steam

On the trail we blaze
-Elton John, “The Trail We Blaze”

If you’re a Dreamworks/Disney buff you might recognize those lyrics from the movie The Road to El Dorado. It’s a movie about two friends who travel from Spain to Central America and discover the legendary “city of gold.” Along the way they go through harrowing adventures, one falls in love and one realizes that making a difference in people’s lives is what’s important – the usual Disney story plot line.

But these words struck home for me as I thought about where we are going with OnClick(Studios). We are blazing a trail into the unknown, and we’re attempting the American dream – to build a company from the ground up, on our terms. First, we have to know where we’re going.

As with any new business, the end shape that the company will take is still in flux – like a ghost shimmering in and out of focus and looking a little different every time. But there are several checkpoints that we want to achieve that remain constant:

  • Within 18 months: Establish ourselves as a website design and development team that offers more personal services including dedicated hosting, web mastering and maintenance with a focus on e-commerce (another post in the future on this reasoning).
  • Within 5 years: Develop full branch of system administration services and online IT support and bring in steady monthly revenue from retainer services.
  • Within 10 years: Add a dedicated online communications consulting arm to offer branding/design and copywriting services.

These checkpoints may shift a little or come into more focus, but now that they are down on “paper,” it will be a little bit easier to achieve. Our next step is to get our own site up and running – we are in the design phase right now – and to get our first clients to sign their contracts so we can have some positive cash flow.

In the end, this adventure is going to be about pushing ourselves to be better than we think possible. It’s about not losing faith in a goal and vision, and it’s about balancing our desires and dreams with reality and limits. Man, it’s going to be one heck of a ride – stick around and see how the dream shapes up.

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