Category Archives: Fun Stuff

20 Top New Tools For Freelancers

CREDIT: 

Freelancing looks idyllic from the outside. Working with the best clients, choosing fun projects, determining your own hours and working from home or wherever you like. But there’s a lot that happens under the hood to keep the momentum going.

Doing the actual freelance work for your clients never takes up 100 per cent of your time. Soon you’ll be swamped with paperwork and admin – writing proposals, drawing up contracts, sending invoices, writing down tasks and managing your workflow.

To accommodate that, we’ve seen an abundance of new tools spring into the market to assist freelancers. You can now write proposals and send them directly to the client without ever opening up your email client. Instantly glance at your revenue for the month and compare it to last year’s. Check how much time you spent on that new project last week.

To help find the best, I’ve broken down the tools into the following categories: proposals, finance, legal, time management and workflow. Let’s begin!

Proposals

The value of a great proposal shouldn’t be underestimated – they can be the key to winning or losing a project. I’ve tried out a number of different proposal tools and even used InDesign CC to make my own custom template. These tools aim to make things simpler by providing templates and customisation features. Many also enable the user to send the proposal smoothly to the client and track its progress – a feature that I’m a big fan of.

01. Prospero

From The nuSchool, this stripped-back proposal tool will also help you price your project

Currently in a private beta, Prospero not only helps you create a proposal but also helps you price the project. From the founders of The nuSchool, Prospero is a completely stripped-back proposal tool. There are no dashboards or even account settings; its strength lies in helping you create a proposal, rather than just letting you fly blind. It promises ‘More client, more money, less headache’.

When you create a proposal, Prospero asks you some brief questions, such as your rate, the time it will take you to complete the project, and the type of work you’re doing (Prospero covers print and branding proposals as well as web and app design). It then smartly generates a proposal based on your answers, which you can edit. There’s no design customisation (only text-editing options), but the default design isn’t bad. When you’re finished with the proposal, you can download it as a PDF or send it directly to the client.

02. Nusii 

The proposal editing in this tool is attractive and simple, and once completed you can send it straight to the client

Nusii’s dashboard not only lets you create proposals, it also lets you glance over your sales revenue or proposal acceptance rate. I commend this tool on using the available data in a useful way so users can keep track of how proposals are progressing. The ‘send to client’ experience is smooth, and you’re notified when a client views the proposal.

The proposal-editing process in Nusii is attractive and simple. However, visual customisation is limited and you can’t insert tables – an odd decision considering freelancers often like to include a breakdown of deliverables and expenses in a table. A nice touch is that the tool supports a range of currencies and languages, so you can use it almost anywhere.

03. Proposify

Select a proposal template to get started with this WYSIWYG option

A true WYSIWYG tool, Proposify comes with a range of templates. Though pretty bland, the templates give you a nice place to start if you’re new to writing proposals, and the editor includes a range of customisable features (and even some basic drawing tools). However, it is quite like a word processor – you don’t get that beautiful proposal writing experience that I personally prefer.

One of the benefits of Proposify is that you can embed videos and images. It also lets you create content snippets to drop into your proposals and re-use, which is a great time-saver.

Finance

Keeping track of the money coming in and out is essential to the sustainability of any business. If you’re looking to get better insights into your earnings, try one of the following finance tools.

04. Invoiced

This tool lets you work with whichever payment method you prefer

Invoiced was co-founded by a freelance web developer, and inspired by his own personal struggles. This tool makes it nice and easy to create and send invoices to your clients. The specific payment method is up to you – Invoiced integrates with Stripe so you can set up online payments via credit card, Bitcoin, PayPal, or even offline.

The smarts of Invoiced are in its ability to track your collections efficiency, how long it takes on average for you to get paid, and any monthly recurring revenue (useful for clients on a retainer). If you’re using an accounting tool to keep track of finances, Invoiced integrates with both Xero and QuickBooks.

05. Zipbooks

This new and free accounting tool lets you track all your financial information

ZipBooks is a new accounting tool that is not only free, but also beautifully designed and simple to use. You can use it to create invoices, track your time, manage payments and clients, track your expenses, and more. Once you’re logged in you’ll see a nice dashboard that displays your billings versus collections, revenue in the last 12 months, average collection period and more. Handily, you can set up late payment reminders for those clients that need them.

06. Momenteo

With a travel expense feature built in, Momenteo is perfect for freelancers who like to roam

With its travel expense feature built in, Momenteo is great for freelance digital nomads. Momenteo will also turn approved estimates into invoices without any additional work. Refreshingly, unlike many other tools, Momenteo just has one pricing plan, with the option to pay monthly or annually. You’ll get access to all features and unlimited use of the tool during your subscription.

07. Bonsai

Send contracts, create invoices and collect payments, all via a seamless UX

Still in beta, Bonsai gives freelancers the ability to send contracts and collect payments. When creating a contract, Bonsai will ask you what type of work you’re doing, to help it tailor the contract to your project.

You’ll be asked a few questions, including your basic info, project brief, rate, when you’d like to be paid and so on. The tool will then provide an editable contract on your behalf that you can send to the client straight from the tool. Once signed, Bonsai generates an invoice for you to issue. You can also set the invoices to be recurring – handy.

Not only is the functionality of Bonsai great, but the design and user experience is seamless. The tool is easy and enjoyable to use, omitting any unnecessary clutter.

08. Wave

This tool contains all the bare bones of accounting software without the unnecessary extras

Wave is another popular, free option. This straightforward tool has all the bare bones you’d expect from accounting software, but without the unnecessary bells and whistles.

Its invoice flow moves through visual steps, making it easy to keep track of where a project is up to in the payment process. A nice touch is that you can create free, unlimited invoices on the go via the iOS app.

It’s easy enough to send a receipt, set up a Stripe integration and connect your own bank account. Payroll features do exist, but are currently limited to the US and Canada only. You’re probably going to want to invite your accountant in to take care of the reporting features, like balance sheets and income statements.

Legal

Not the most fun category, but definitely one of the most important. Contracts don’t have to be as scary as they sound – they’re good for you and your client. While these tools are helpful and often include templates, if you’re unsure about the laws in your country I recommend consulting a professional.

09. Termsfeed

TermsFeed has a range of free terms templates for you to use

Selling products online? Chances are you’re going to need some legal documentation, such as a returns policy. TermsFeed has a range of free terms templates for you to use, including Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service. There’s also a generator that asks you a range of questions and then builds a contract best suited to your use.

10. Shake Law

Need a contract? Choose from a range of templates and get expert advice

A very basic contracting tool, Shake Law lets you choose from a range of contract templates. A nice addition is that you can choose a contract template for an assignment-based or licensing project.

Once you’ve created your contract, you can get it reviewed by a lawyer. While this sounds generous at first, Shake Law actually redirects you to a law firm, which requires an additional fee.

The features of Shake Law themselves are pretty limited. For example, you can’t send the contract to the client (only download a PDF), and there’s no way to visually edit the plain contract. As a designer, the design and consistency of all my collateral is pretty important as I consider it a reflection of my skills and professionalism. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending my clients something so plain.

Time Management

It’s the one thing we all wish we had more of: time. Unfortunately we can’t make more time, but we can choose how to spend it. Covering everything from time tracking to scheduling to estimation, time management tools are useful for any freelancer, even those who don’t bill based on time (like me).

11. Cushion

Rather than tracking time, Cushion lets you schedule your hours for work and time off

Rather than tracking time, Cushion helps you schedule your time – and not just at work. You can schedule time spent on projects, as well as time off. It highlights when you’ve overbooked yourself, to help you avoid burnout and encourage you to manage your time better. Easy to set up, Cushion also lets you display a badge on your website to show when you’re available, which is helpful for those interested in working with you.

12. Timely

A feature letting you compare your planned and logged hours helps you plan your time better

Elegantly simple time tracking software, Timely greets you with a calendar view the first time you log in. There’s no timer – rather, Timely encourages you to fill in the hours you worked on a particular project. You can view the history of a project and gain a good overview of time spent across all areas of the business.

This tool lets you enter both your planned and logged hours so you can see the difference in your estimations. A nice way to teach you to estimate your time better if you’re always getting it wrong! Timely works in the cloud, or you can choose to access it from your browser.

13. Harpoon

Create projects, track time, allocate invoices and record expenses

Though it may seem overwhelming at first, once you’ve spent a little time with Harpoon and oriented yourself, you’ll see it is a powerful tool. Harpoon lets you create projects, from which you can then track your time and add invoices and expenses.

It prides itself on not just helping you invoice, but aiding you in your decision making and helping you plan better. You can quickly glance at your average revenue per project (or per month, day or hour, if you prefer) or check your outstanding invoices. There’s also an event revenue forecast, with spaces where you can set yourself goals and define your work habits (for example, how many hours or days per week you work). This makes it a great place to encourage you to plan ahead and keep track of your goals.

Harpoon is almost like an all-in-one tool, with smart reporting and dashboard features. The only things it lacks are contracts and proposals.

14. Freelancy

If you bill by the hour, Freelancy will turn your tracked time into invoices; no maths required

Freelancy lets you turn time tracked into invoices, quickly and easily upon project completion. I personally don’t bill this way, so it would not work for me. However, for those who do bill per hour, I can see this being useful, as it saves you from having to do the maths to work out your fee.

Freelancy’s reporting feature gives you a calendar overview of when you split your time. Here, you can easily see how much time you’ve spent and on which projects. You can filter by dates or by project, making it easy to see what your time was spent on and when. The reports are exportable, meaning you can download CSVs and charts for yourself or your clients.

While automatically creating invoices from your time tracked is handy, you can also create invoices manually if you prefer. Perhaps you’re only tracking your time for internal reasons, or maybe it’s irrelevant to the client.

15. Toggl 

Track the time you spend on projects and view summary reports

I’ve been using Toggl ever since I started freelancing. While I don’t bill my clients per hour or day, tracking time informs me about how and where I spend my time. After tracking the time you’ve spent on certain projects, Toggl uses that data to generate reports. The desktop app reminds me to track my time and lets me do so without having to log in to the web app.

Toggle also lets you create private and team-wide workspaces. So I can manage my personal time, but I could also invite a developer into a workspace if I wanted to track not only my time, but all the time spent on the project.

Workflow

Workflow tools can often take a little more effort to get your head around as they can be complex, yet powerful. I personally use my trusty paper-and-pen to-do list, but I can definitely see the benefits of having a digital workflow tool, especially when it comes to organising bigger projects.

16. Flow

In this tool, you can set up tasks to work on privately before sharing them with your team

At its core, Flow lets you create workspaces and tasks so you can keep on top of your projects. Like many workflow tools, Flow lets you collaborate with team members through task assignment and in-built chat. I tried using the chat feature with my developer and it worked fine, but there’s nothing quite as smooth as Slack. There’s also a ‘focus mode’ that turns off notifications temporarily and lets your team know when you’ll next be available.

Users create a selection of tasks to be completed, which are then organised into projects. Not all tasks can be seen by the whole team; Flow lets you create private tasks that you can share with your team members later. This is helpful if you have something you’d like to work on privately before sharing it with others.

The calendar view gives you a nice overview of what’s coming up soon, and you can filter to see just your own tasks or everyone’s. And if you find yourself with a bit of free time on your hands you can navigate to the ‘unassigned’ section. Here, you’ll see all the unassigned tasks ready to be picked up.

17. Azendoo

Filter tasks, check the calendar overview, create repeating tasks and more

Azendoo is a powerful workflow tool with a beautiful design and user experience. View analytics, attach documents, and group and organise your tasks into subjects.

The whole experience has been thought through; you can filter on tasks, see a calendar overview, create repeating tasks, set due dates and add checklists. You can also broadcast messages, send direct messages to team members (if you have any) and view notifications. A great tool for keeping you on top of things.

Bonus tools

There’s more to freelancing than just finance, time management and proposals; sometimes freelance life can throw up more unexpected challenges. I’ve rounded up three bonus tools to help you boost your creativity, get paid on time (without the stress) and prototype your ideas quickly and easily.

18. Just Tell Julie

Got a client that won’t pay? Just call in Julie Elster to get your money in the bank

Stuck in a situation where the client isn’t paying? Julie Elster offers to work as your accounts receivable virtual assistant to help retrieve absent payments; she works by calling your client on the phone and being ‘thermonuclear nice’. She has a proven track record, and is highly rated within the freelance industry.

19. Briefbox

Pick from a diverse range of hypothetical briefs to get your creative juices flowing

Briefbox is a collection of hypothetical briefs to help keep your creative juices flowing when you’re between projects. The team at Briefbox write a range of imaginative briefs – everything from designing local currency to creating branding for a painter – you just need to pick one and get designing. Once you’re done, you can upload your work to the site and get feedback from the community.

The team has just launched its Pro accounts. These offer tips from trade professionals, and constructive criticism on every submission.

20. Atomic

Prototypes are a great way to get ideas across, and Atomic offers a quick way to build and share them

Create and share prototypes with your client with Atomic, the fastest way to design beautiful interactions. Import an existing design from Sketch or Photoshop (or design in the tool itself), then link the pages together and fine-tune the transitions to create your prototype.

Once finished, you can easily share your prototype with the client by sending them a link. The client can then add any comments or feedback on your design.

Full disclosure: Femke van Schoonhoven works in marketing and design for Atomic.

Get started

That’s it! This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of new freelancing tools popping up every year, so I encourage you to keep an eye out and see what’s improving over time. Remember, when it comes to freelancing there’s no one-size-fits-all. Each tool has its own strengths and feature set so it might take some time before you find the best ones for your toolkit.

10 Great Uses of Whitespace in Web Design

While clients often ask you to cram in as much information into a page as possible, seasoned web designers know this can lead to a usability nightmare.

Confident and careful use of whitespace, in contrast, is all about giving content room to breathe.

The examples listed here work because everything the visitor needs is still there on the page; all that’s absent would just be clutter. In place of that clutter, whitespace helps create a balanced, easy to navigate interface where you can find what you need without being overwhelmed.

01. Made by Sofa

This restrained design grabs attention through its measured use of whitespace

How tempting it would have been for this software and interaction design company to have used an in-your-face, colourful hero image on its homepage in an attempt to grab your attention. Ironically, by keeping things so simple, it’s fashioned a minimal design that’s actually far more eye-catching. Measured use of whitespace conveys a feeling of trustworthiness and reliability, while a subtle slice of negative space in the sofa icon adds an extra touch of class.

02. Apple

Apple uses whitespace to focus attention on its gorgeous products

If Apple stands for anything, it’s the importance of design in tech, and its own website demonstrates that masterfully. When you have products as gorgeous-looking as this, you want to focus attention on them, and the acres of whitespace surrounding them achieve just that.

03. Built by Buffalo

The relatively complexity of Buffalo’s nav system is offset by generous amounts of whitespace

Whitespace isn’t just for ultra-minimal layouts, and here’s a great example. Brighton agency Buffalo’s homepage presents its main nav elements in colourful hexagons, clustered together in a lattice and surrounded by generous amounts of calming whitespace. It’s a strikingly original layout that both contains a kaleidoscope of colour and links while at the same time providing a laid-back, stress-free feel to the scrolling experience.

04. Dropbox

Dropbox uses child-like illustrations and calming whitespace to soothe the fears of the technophobic

One of the tech world’s big hitters, Dropbox combines child-like illustrations with confident use of whitespace on its homepage to great effect. The overall feel is laid-back and approachable, making what could be, for the uninitiated, a scarily complex proposition seem like a fun and useful thing to try out.

05. Fell Swoop

This Seattle agency uses whitespace to add a touch of sophistication to its site

Whitespace has always been a well-used tool in magazine design, and there’s an echo of that sensibility in the website design of Seattle consultancy Fell Swoop. Slightly larger than usual fonts and restrained use of whitespace lend a slice of rare sophistication to what would otherwise be a fairly standard company site.

06. UX Myths

UX Myths practises what it preaches with this minimalist homepage design

A site that teaches you about how to provide good user experiences needs to practice what it preaches. And UX Myths, a site that collects the most frequent UX misconceptions, certainly does that. Its stark, text-focused homepage at once harks back to the early days of the internet while at the same time avoiding that era’s on-screen ugliness. There’s actually a ton of information on this homepage, but clever use of whitespace means it doesn’t feel like that at all.

07. Something Splendid

This site for an extinct agency uses whitespace to draw attention to important information in the header

Something Splendid is an Australian design studio that no longer exists, after merging with another agency, Liquorice, in 2013. The nature of the internet, though, means that people are still going to click through old links to their previous URL. What greets them now is this adorable collection of their previous work. The header makes brilliant use of whitespace to provide a sense of distance and convey that this is a loving tribute rather than a ‘working’ site. How much nicer than a 404 page, or an unexplained transfer to the new company, would have been.

08. Chanel

Chanel harnesses whitespace to fashion a fabulous-looking website

The fashion industry is all about looking good, and it fully understands the potential of whitespace to create an atmosphere of rarified sophistication. Chanel hasn’t stayed in business for 107 years and counting by accident, and its elegant website stands as an example to anyone wanting to succeed in ecommerce.

09. Lionel Durimel

Whitespace is central to making Lionel Durimel’s experimental portfolio site work

As we said earlier, it’s not just minimalist designs that employ whitespace. But if you are experimenting with ultra-minimalism, it can comes in very handy indeed. Parisian art director Lionel Durimel’s stunning portfolio site combines transparent text, scrolling effects and attention grabbing colours to really sell his services, and bold and adventurous use of whitespace helps pull it all together nicely.

10. Google

Google has kept its homepage design largely unchanged for two decades and counting

Google.com stands as the great granddaddy of whitespace on the web. Just a small square of this homepage would attract an almost unimaginable monetary value. But the search giant has stuck to its guns and its design has remained largely unchanged since the 1990s. If anyone ever criticises your use of whitespace in web design as “wasted space”, point them here and ask them whether they think the world’s most successful company knows what it’s doing…

Source: Tom May

6 Hot Illustration Trends of 2016

When it comes to illustration, everyone has their own personal style. And across your career, developing that style and making it more representative of your own ‘inner voice’ should of course be your main priority, rather than slavishly following trends.

But that said, it’s still fascinating to see what’s happening in the wider world of illustration, and what kind of work is actually getting commissioned. So in this post, we round up 6 hot trends in illustration we’ve noticed spring up over the last 12 months.

If there’s a trend you think we’ve missed, though, please let us know in the comments below!

01. VR

Simon Silsbury finds out what new technology can do for illustrators

2016 has truly been the year of VR, and even illustrators have got in on the game, with the likes of Simon Silsbury sketching on a wall and then hopping straight into a HTC Vive headset to recreate the same live illustration (see the results in this video). We also saw Christoph Nieman transformed his cover illustration for The New Yorker magazine into a 360 degree VR animation, while new software such as Quill for the Oculus Rift provided a way for digital illustrators everywhere to conjure up new worlds by drawing and painting in mid-air.

02. Abstract

Chris Harman’s illustration for Hamburg design studio Hort

In many ways, the world of 2016 felt a little darker and disjointed, and this was reflected in a clear trend towards abstraction, subtraction and the surreal in the cutting edge corners of the illustration world. Examples of the trend can be seen in the weirdly disjointed and freeform work of Chris Harman (above); the blocky, lopsided cartoon characters of Joel Plosz; the ink and watercolour-based soft forms of Eleni Kalorkoti, and the beautifully trashy abstractions of Anna Beil.

03. Lo-fi

Working predominantly as a fashion illustrator, Zoë Taylor’s first book Joyride was published in 2016

Another way to view abstraction is to take a deliberately lo-fi approach to your illustration. And we’ve seen a fair bit of that about this year, from Zoë Taylor’s book Joyride, published by Breakdown Press (above) to Paula Bulling’s gloriously childlike colour-pencil drawings for Leibniz Magazine, the moody monoprints of Yann Kebbi and Marcus Oakley’s illustrated Instagram experiments.

04. Political

Mark Leibovich’s celebrated illustration for the New York Times Magazine

2016 has been a year dominated by political upheaval, and illustrators have responded in full voice. Mark Leibovich’s illustration for the New York Times Magazine feature “Will Trump Swallow the G.O.P Whole?” was among those getting the most attention (you can read more about how that was put together here).

But there were countless others, with Bob Staake’s brick wall illustration for The New Yorker following Trump’s victory; an anti-Brexit poster campaign from a range of top illustrators, Eva Bee’s evocative illustrations for The Guardian, and Oliver Kugler’s heartbreaking illustrated tales of Syrian refugees leading the way.

05. Collage

Taku Bannai’s collages are constructed with beautiful simplicity

Inventive and eye-catching collages seem to be proving an increasingly popular way for illustrators to raise attention for themselves on Instagram. We’ve particularly enjoyed the simple but artful work of Taku Bannai (above); the collage comics of Samplerman, the lo-fi creations of Jean Philippe Calver, and the gorgeously handcrafted work of Carlin Diaz.

06. Naughtiness

Brooklyn illustrator Cute Brute’s rude illustrations have garnered him a cult following

A new generation is emerging for whom hardcore porn and obscene pics on social media are more likely to evoke a shrug than shock. So it’s not surprising that illustration that veers towards to the saucy and scatalogical is abounding. Examples of the trend can be seen in the work of Brooklyn illustrator Cute Brute (above), Joe Schlaud’s seedy Karma Sutra gifs, Teresa Orazio’s Moonmambo series, Jade Shulz’s collection of Video Vixen drop caps and Josh McKenna’s global warming campaign for Mother London.

SOURCE: Tom May

Copyrighted Images VS Royalty Free Images

[Copyrighted Images VS Royalty Free Images]

Technology changes EVERYTHING! This is especially true in the field of Graphic Design. The growth of personal computers and desktop publishing software made EVERYONE an amateur graphic designer.

Now, the internet has become a wealth of knowledge and resources; especially for people looking for photos. This brings us to a VERY important topic: Image Use and Copyright Law.

Click here for more info

8 Tried and Tested Ways To Unlock Your Creativity

Ever had one of those days when, no matter how hard you try, every idea you think of is rubbish, and every visual you design is bland and uninspiring?

Don’t worry, it’s happened to all of us, and more times that we’d care to admit. Usually the best thing to do (time permitting) is take a break and give your mind and body a chance to recharge.

But sometimes that doesn’t work, so what else can you do? Here are 8 tried-and-tested ways to climb out of that misery rut and unlock the innate creativity trapped inside your head.

01. Create a moodboard

Moodboards can be physical or digital, like this one created with the online app Nice (https://niice.co/)

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees: you’re trying to work out the finer details of an illustration/poster design/website/whatever when you actually haven’t nailed the overall tone/themes/aims/ideas you want it to convey. So it’s time to take a step back and settle on this ‘bigger picture’. One way to do this is to create a moodboard: a collection of textures, images and text that symbolise different aspects of your design theme.

This is normally a physical board, to which you attach images printed from your computer, magazine cuttings, photos, beer mats, feathers… anything at all, basically. Alternatively you might prefer to create a digital version using a range of moodboard apps. To learn more about moodboards, read our pro tips for creating moodboards.

02. Talk it out

A creative problem shared is a creative problem halved. Photo courtesy of Matus Laslofi, https://www.flickr.com/photos/matusfi/

We’ve evolved as social animals, so it’s not surprising how parts of our brains seem to light up when we discuss a problem or challenge with another human being. Why, then, do we spend so much time at our laptops, silently struggling to come up with creative solutions?

The moment you start to explain your struggle to another person, you usually find your creative mind starts to kick into gear… even if the person listening hasn’t the faintest clue what you’re talking about. This became a running joke on hospital TV drama House: despite the main character, Dr House, being a genius, he couldn’t solve a problem without bouncing ideas off his team. Then, when he sacked his team, he ended up going through the same process with his janitor.

The lesson here is that even if you are a genius (and we do think very highly of Creative Bloq readers), it’s always good to talk things out. Sometimes, though, just expressing a problem out loud isn’t enough to solve it. So it may be time to move on to another, more structured form of discussion; namely…

03. Brainstorming

Brainstorming can free up your mind to think the unthinkable. Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley, https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley

Brainstorming involves discussing a problem in a particularly structured way. Most importantly, participants agree at the outset that ‘There is no such thing as a bad idea’ – whatever you suggest, however outlandish, you won’t be criticised.

This is a great way, of course, of coming up with a long list of terrible ideas. But by suspending the normal constraints that hold back our imaginations, it often leads to some really great ideas too. Find out more about brainstorming by reading our article 7 ways to brainstorm like a creative pro as well as these brainstorming tips.

04. Mindmapping

Mindmaps can clarify your thoughts in a way that can lead to better ideas, using an app like iMindMap HD, or just pen and paper

The thoughts that jumble around your head are all connected up in a logical way, but sometimes all you can hear is noise. A mindmap is a way of representing the ideas and concepts you come up with, and how they connect up with each other in a graphical, structured way. By seeing your ideas written down in black and white, it can become much easier to analyse them, critique them, tweak them, and use them to generate new, better ideas. Learn more about mindmapping in this article, and also check out our article on mindmapping tools.

05. Doodling

Doodling can be a help to unlock ideas hidden in your subconscious

We all remember doodling in class when we were stuck in a boring lesson at school. But doodling isn’t just a way of passing time. By ‘drawing without thinking’, you can often unlock creative ideas that are bubbling away at the corners of your mind. You can learn more about harnessing this process in Sunni Brown’s book The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently. Or get a taster by watching this visual summary (essentially a doodle about doodling, if that’s not too meta for you).

06. Music

Daniel J Levitin provides evidence that music makes you more creative in his book, This is Your Brain on Music

We all know from personal experience that putting on some kick-ass music is a tried-and-tested way to put yourself in the right mood to be creative. And it seems there’s neuroscientific evidence for this phenomenon too, according to Daniel J. Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain On Music. Apparently, when our brains process a song, it activates our default-mode network, which is associated with the ‘mind-wandering’ mode that’s connected with creativity (you can read more about the theory here). So whether it’s Mozart or Motorhead, crank up your speakers and get those creative energies pumping.

07. Lucid dreaming

Controlling your dreams can help you generate new creative thoughts. Photo courtesy of Ashkay Moon, https://www.flickr.com/photos/akshaymoon

Lucid dreaming is, quite simply, a form of dreaming where you know you’re awake and can control the dream. With your brain unencumbered by anything besides routine physical tasks like breathing, you can use its full powers for generating imaginative and creative ideas. It might sound a bit ‘out there’ but it’s a well established, mainstream technique that really does work.

This video from AsapScience provides a basic introduction to get you started with lucid dreaming, while there are more detailed articles about the phenomenon in the links below the video, and a handy lucid dreaming FAQ here.

08. Ask: what would Sagmeister do?

Leading designer and art director Stefan Sagmeister

One of the most popular bumper stickers on American cars in the 1990s was: “What would Jesus do?” The idea was that Christians struggling with complex moral dilemmas could come to a clear decision by considering how their saviour would respond. The same principle can be applied to other aspects of life, even design work.

Think of a designer (famous or otherwise) that you know and admire. Then close your eyes, and ask yourself how they would approach the task you’re facing. You’ll be surprised how quickly a mental image of a finished design can appear. If you’re struggling to think of someone to inspire you, then check out this list of famous designers’ portfolios.

Don’t settle for rest

Why you need to be selling print, WITHOUT selling print

There has always been a propensity to sell print based on price. Yet we recognize that we also need to sell quality. And service. And value. A quick google search on the term: how to sell print, showed 136 million results. There is clearly no lack of information available on the topic.

But we’re still selling. To the tune of 136 million results. Printers are still being referred to as vendors; while we all know that the preference is to be referred to as print providers.

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So why is that? I started thinking about how many times I’ve been pitched based on price. Or heard the phrase “Give us a chance to quote”. “What was the winning bid? Let’s sharpen our pencils.”

The way I see it, a print vendor is someone who sells print.

But what if we stopped selling? What if we focused on knowledge-sharing instead? And by sharing knowledge, we develop relationships. And with those relationships come business. Now I know some of you may be rolling your eyes thinking, “Relationship selling has been around forever. This is nothing new.”

I recently took a survey, and one of the questions focused on what qualities you look for when choosing a print provider. You had to rank, from one to 5, what criteria you value most (like price, customer service, etc.). The problem is, you weren’t allowed to repeat a rank. That means I had to really think about what was most important to me when it comes to selecting a print vendor. And it made me realize that as much as I will always compare costs, it’s value FOR my dollar that matters most to me. Not just the pure dollar.

So I started to think about all the printers I’ve either worked for, or purchased from. I thought about the types of jobs I’d award to each. What character traits do I believe give me the most value for my dollar? Now imagine, as I said, how truly difficult it was for me to rank each unique trait. And choosing the least important was just as difficult as choosing the most.

As printers, how in the world are you supposed to know how to sell, if you don’t understand your customer’s needs? If THEY have difficulty pinpointing their own needs?

I don’t mean the printing needs. I mean the selection criteria needs. How can we go charging in on price, or service, or turnaround time, or whatever other characteristic we’re selling, if we simply don’t know what the buyer is buying? Of course if you are entering an RFP and know the decision comes down to price, then you know for a fact, price is what you are selling.

There are so many ways to share knowledge and develop professional relationships these days, particularly with social media. I learn a great deal about the people I work with on social media. Not just their professional LinkedIn profiles, but from the groups and communities they engage in. #printchat is an excellent example of how the personality of the community shines. Relationships have developed outside the tweetup to more personal platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. From there…well I think you get the point.

Sell when you know for a fact you are selling on price. The rest of the time? Be a Print Provider. Sell print. Without selling print.

-by