Next Time You Get Stuck, Do These Three Things

Next Time You Get Stuck, Do These Three Things

Being a designer isn’t always the rainbows and rivers of creativity that it seems from the outside looking in. It actually takes a lot of energy to take a unique approach to each project. What many people think is “easy to create a logo” or “easy to build a [simple] website” sometimes isn’t rudimentary at all. And when those days come we can get what I like to call designer’s block; where no matter how hard we try it is really hard to conceptualize a new creative thought. Here are some quick things you can do to help break that block.

Take a Walk or Hit The Gym

Stepping away from coding or designing a new logo can actually be pretty healthy. I’ll step away for a long walk, sometimes up to two miles just to really get my head clear. Listening to a podcast or music helps even better while taking that walk. Working out in a gym can also help and relieve a little bit of stress at the same time.

Take a Long Shower

I can’t tell you how many good ideas I come up with in shower or the loo. I used to think that maybe it had something with me being a Pisces but after several impromptu conversations with colleagues I find it’s not just me. Maybe it’s the running water that promotes a zen-like or calming environment, even if it is temporal.

Take a 30K View Look Down

When working on routine projects and something goes wrong along the way, we’re sometimes confused. Why would something break or go wrong, it never does at this point of the project. It doesn’t help that we can get tunnel vision and may have missed a step or forgot to confirm some details that are now vital.

  • Retrace your progress from the absolute beginning and review each step as if you were someone else checking someone else’s work
  • Perform an audit. Are you sure you have all the pertinent details necessary for your project?
  • Does someone else (with a specific expertise) need to finish this work?

So what are some things that you do to refresh your mind when you get stuck working on a project? Send me a Tweet me and let me know or comment below.

Photo Credit: Jordan Whitfield

Blab Replays: Work, Life, Health, & Social Media Balance

Blab Replays: Work, Life, Health, & Social Media Balance

This week’s topic was on the honest and transparent side for us I would say. Typically how we manage our lives can be seen through curated material in our social media channels and streams. But how we’re juggling all of that is more of a mystery than glitz, ease, and glamour.

In this replay we talk about how we manage our days, apps that we use, best practices, and also provide some health tips. Be sure to add your comments below if you’d like to add to the conversation.

Sizzling Summer Content Writing Tips

High ThermometerSummer is here and it’s not the time for cool, mediocre content on your blogs or website.  Send your content and website hits soaring with these successful tips to keep your rankings and indexing climbing to the top of the charts.

#1 Consider what sells you on eBay — A good description of a product as well as the imagery selected creates the motivation to buy the item, right? So it’s no different with your product or service description.  Want to heat up the return on your investment of time, money and effort expended on building your business, brand or blog?  You have to engage and inform in such a way that ignites the audience to take action.

#2 Yes, Sweat the Small Stuff — I don’t like saying the “devil’s in the details” but the small, sweat drops of critical points are what’s going to take the success of your content sky-high!  Remember, in the online world, all your competitors are just a few clicks away.  Give them more than just a simple photo and bland product dimensions; engage them visually and then close the deal.

#3 Hot Headlines & Following the News in Your Niche — News is a great source to turn up the heat on your content . You’d be surprised where great ideas can be formulated when derived from the media’s ‘hot topics’ and headlines promoted on Yahoo, CNN and various websites as well as TV. This technique can effectively increase the exposure of your content and be just what you need to jump-start your creative juices and typing fingers.  For example, while on my LinkedIn page, I saw an article about choosing the red vs. the blue pill in ‘Happiness Is Not the Most Important Thing at Work.’  It made me consider a future blog topic about the power of engaging headlines and questioning your audience within your content to fully-engage them.

#4 Test the waters with a Blog Aggregator  – A what?  You read it correctly – a blog aggregator.  It’s a website that keeps track of blog posts and where bloggers go for idea sharing with other bloggers in your niche.  This is a great way to be inspired, share ideas and even professionally debate a topic.  I recently wrote an article on Triberr, one of the prominent blog aggregators today. Not only were people engaged, but one of the founders of the company commented on my blog to address some of the points I made.  Engagement accomplished!

#5 Window Shopping & People Watching – Most of us are out & about more than usual during the summer months.  Whether at the beach, tanning poolside or BBQing in the backyard–watching others can give way to some pretty cool topics for blogging. Window shopping and long walks about town can also be the catalyst for thoughts on a product or service, from or for your own business.  Also, by watching how someone reacts to various stimuli can strike the right match to turn up creative thought within you.

I hope this ignited some inspiration in you with some great insights to consider when writing and posting your content.   I’d love to hear what other piping hot tips you have to share with me!

Freelance Designer: How To Find Real Jobs

Cubicle JailSo you made the jump from a safe, warm, and cozy job to the freedom of freelancing. You’ve dreamt about it for so long, wondering how the sun feels during the day while you were locked away behind a fluorescent lit cubicle isles and rows from the nearest window. Well you’ve arrived; so now what? How are you going to pay your bills, grow your skills, and market your skills on a shoe-string budget? Keep reading…

One of the more important characteristics of a successful is maintaining a steady flow of work. That work may come from agencies, current, or new clients. To me, each creative will find their own way to attain their own work but below are a few tips to try:

Online Agencies: These are good because most of the risk is on them so long as you hold up your end of the bargain. If you’re great at creating logos, but really don’t like to get into haggling and negotiating prices, these places are for you. You can create a profile, list your skills, and post your rate per hour or project. Then wait for the emails to come in. You’ll want to do some market research though so that you’re not too high or too low that you price yourself out of work or respect.

Network Locally: This one may be a step out of your comfort zone. Yes we have social media now a days and we can hide behind our keyboards, smart phones, and laptops but live networking still is held in high regard. Find out when and where other business professionals are hanging out after hours; then be there with them. Bring your business cards, but don’t pass them out like free tickets. Instead try making conversation first. Ask individuals what they do and repeat it back to them along with points of view while including their name here and there to show that you are paying attention to them. Before you know it, they’ll ask you for your card and then you can tell them about how awesome you are at design and how much fun you have helping people grow their business and brand.

Sponsor a Community Event: Pro-bono may be a great way to start out especially if you’re skittish about how people may appreciate your work. It’s also great experience in dealing with customers. You’ll run into all kinds, and before long you’ll have favorites and you’ll have some you wish you never met. As a self-starter, your reputation is everything so doing a free design or website for a local church could win you a lot of “oooohhhs” and “ahhhhs” from the members who all work in the community. A few thank yous and nice words from some non-profit organizations that rub shoulders with city officials could propel you to great levels. So even though the money may not have been there, you’ll still have new material for your portfolio, highly visible clientele, and letters of recognition you can tout around like trophies.

Embrace Social Media: This one comes with a grain of salt. There are many outlets out there to use. Find two or three that you can really wrap your mind around and feel comfortable using – and use them! Post daily, post often, but keep in mind you’re looking to engage first. The selling of your skills will be evident enough in your bio. Use it to showcase new designs you created. Get people to rate or comment on your work or even offer opinions and feedback. Learn how to strike up good conversations that may provide some great insight to someone’s problem or project and that could land you a job right then and there or not long down the road since you sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Your Portfolio: Well after showing off and practicing your elevator speech, you must have a place for all these people to view your work and vet your skills.  Even if you don’t want to set up a full-out 50 page website that has all types of forms, sub pages, and FAQ’s with endless breadcrumbs, you should still have an online presence. I’ve seen some really nice designer websites that were nothing more than full-width graphics stacked, scrolling, or animated with just a contact page with a phone number and 3 line form. Be versatile though with your displays so that businesses of most industries can envision you doing their work and not think you’re just a niche designer. Unless however you want to be tied to a specific industry. Nothing wrong with that. Let me also mention blogging. A great way to provide great tips on your trade that not only shows insight, but proves you are the authority on that subject matter.

Well for those of you who’ve been doing this for some time, why not offer some tips to others in the comments below.


Comment, Please

No, this isn’t a blatantly obvious attempt to generate reader feedback.  This is a look at why developers should use well-commented code throughout their projects and how this seemingly simple addition can change the world–or at least, make people’s lives easier.

What are comments?

//this function does x
#this line does y

These lines of text are comments.  They may have slightly different syntax, depending on the language used, but their purpose is the same–to quickly inform those reading the code  exactly those particular lines do.

Why you should comment:

1. It helps other people understand it. This seems like a no-brainer, but you never know when someone else might need to understand your code. If you release the code under certain licenses–GPL, GNU–or another open source, it is important for those who will obtain the source code   to be able to modify and add to the overall functionality of your code.  Even if you aren’t releasing it under an open source license, consider the fact that someone else may eventually have to fix/add to it. I’ve personally have come across some intense code (spread across several dozen files) without any documentation and unraveling how all the pieces fit together took longer than the actual repair.
2. It helps you understand it.Comments can help you quickly troubleshoot an error. You exude a certain confidence when you are able to tell someone “I think I know exactly what’s causing that.”  In addition, you never know when you might have to put down the code and come back to it later.  If you’re looking to extend your code, you can easily remember what everything does and can better integrate any additional functionality.

3. It helps you write better code. After seeing a need for several occurrences of a similar command, you may be able to condense your code as a result of comments.  You also have a chance to logically address and document each step as it occurs, so you may consider errors or other situations that you might not have otherwise.

The key word here is well-commented. You don’t need to comment every line. In fact, it’s often better if you don’t since comments, as a general rule, shouldn’t match exceed the amount of actual code. Comments should describe the overall functionality of several lines, or help to define variables or cases that otherwise may not be readily apparent to someone reading your code for the first time. You must assume that the reader does have some general knowledge of the language in order to avoid overloading with comments.

//This is a blatantly obvious attempt to generate reader feedback. Please use the following form to share your experience with commented code–or, if you aren’t a developer, a similar experience.

Peter Burgin is a web developer and instructor who’s not afraid of debugging, large textbooks, or speaking in front of huge crowds.