WIMP Blog

From The Wimptators: Volunteer for WIMP Contribute Day!

Photo Credit - TNaoko Takano CC-BY-NC 2.0

Photo Credit – TNaoko Takano CC-BY-NC 2.0

WIMP has been running for almost 4 years. That’s about 1,460 days or 35,000+ hours. Come April 2015, we will have achieved this with no sign of slowing down. In these near 4 years, the Wimptators (Melissa, Joshua, Randy and myself) have been hard at work pushing the community forward to its limits (hint: we have yet to find those limits!).

From the start, WIMP has been a community driven organization. We have many ideas and aspirations; however, there is only so much time and energy the Wimptators can put in.Even though WIMP is run by the four of us, it relies on the community’s efforts and contributions to make it what it is.

A Time To Give Back

Now is your chance to get more involved. WIMP is represented by the LLC, but it is by all accounts an open source community that thrives off of volunteerism and contribution. Last November we ran the first Contribute Day, we opened the WIMPspace doors for the community to gather and help improve and push forward our infrastructure. At first it was focused on our new website redesign, but we quickly realized there are many other ways one can contribute to the organization.

What’s great is that you aren’t required to be there all day – although I know you can’t stand the thought of being separated from your WIMP family. We had a few Wimps join us throughout the day, with some sticking it out for the whole day. Remember that you are always welcome to drop by at any time in the day, whatever works best for your schedule.

We had Wimps working on press releases, marketing materials, and getting our new website redesign a step closer to completion (note: still a work in progress!). Melissa had already worked on a mockup earlier in the year and we had volunteers slicing the mockup and building the HTML and CSS. We then converted the HTML/CSS into a WordPress theme. Meanwhile, others were working on refining the information architecture and sitemap of the new site.

And there are even more ways you can contribute, besides what we accomplished on the first Contribute Day. There’s always room for help with SEO, editorial work, outlining future events/meetups, design and any other skills you possess. What we’re saying is: this is the time to give back! It can also be a great time to learn something new too! At the same time, it’s not a time to learn something completely new from scratch, but a great opportunity to further your skills and learn.

How Can I Volunteer?

Okay, so you’re pumped and now you want to know how you can join us on this magical journey? You’re in luck, because we plan to host a Contribute Day once every quarter, our next one will be January 17! All you have to do is RSVP to the meetup event and show up!

The only requirement is that you bring a laptop (or some type of mobile computer) and your boundless energy to contribute! If you plan to contribute with development, a GitHub account is required and basic knowledge of Git. If Git is still new to you, don’t sweat! I’ll be more than happy to teach you some basics to get you off the ground, or you might check out this awesome blog post (h/t Quinn Supplee). With all that said, you are also welcome to contribute to our GitHub repos by submitting pull requests! WAT.

I hope to see you at our upcoming Contribute Day! It’s a great time to give back to the community and help us push it to the limit!

The Sustainable Freelancer: 6 Strategies to Deal with Difficult Clients

Mural of woman's face on wall, eyes open wide, mouth open as if screaming

Photo Credit – Thomas Hawk CC-BY-NC 2.0

Difficult Clients Happen To Every Freelancer

As freelancers, we all run into a difficult client situations here and there. Sometimes, it’s payment or contract negotiations. Other times, the client wants more from us than we anticipated. And every once in a while, we work with someone who just seems too difficult to please.

But the majority of the time, we can avoid difficult client situations by setting expectations upfront. The more that you, as the freelancer, control the process, communicate clearly, and explain what your clients should expect, the happier clients you will have.

The best projects run smoothly when you establish your rules of engagement early on.

1. Listen to the client’s needs and expectations upfront

Getting started on the right foot with clients can pave the way for much happier client interactions throughout a project

In your first discussions with a potential client, focus on learning what the client truly needs. The more you understand their expectations, the more you can tailor your estimate or proposal to satisfy them.

Often, a client has expectations around what is included in a project that you may not regularly provide, but they may assume will be included. Understanding these expectations upfront is one of the keys to establishing the parameters of your proposal.

For example, if the project is a website design, questions you should ask include:

  • Will the client want assistance with writing or editing copy?
  • How often will the client want to meet with you?
  • What level of design/creativity is the client looking for?
  • Does the client expect or need help with technical setup?

You also should use early conversations to understand how much hand-holding a client may need for a successful project. The same scope of work may require different time investments with different clients based on how much contact a client expects during the process, or how many decision-makers are involved. If you make yourself aware of this upfront, and price your work appropriately, you will be prepared to happily be available for the client since you’ve worked the appropriate project management time into your proposal.

2. Discuss your rules of engagement early – meetings, deliverables, and support

Discussing how content should be delivered, the number of concepts you will provide, the number and frequency of meetings and revision rounds you plan to make – prior to creating a scope of work – helps protect you later when the client makes a request outside of that scope.

This does not have to be a one-way conversation. But you, as the freelancer, are the expert in helping frame this discussion. Provide your suggestions and get their feedback, so you can appropriately shape your pricing and scope of work.

Clients will often want to say yes to everything you offer, so help them understand their decisions in context of price. “I hear that you’d like [insert time-consuming request here], and I’m happy to provide that. Just be aware this will increase the cost.” If they push back on the mention of increased cost, this is your chance to modify your planned deliverable while helping them understand a shared commitment to the agreed upon scope of work.

Don’t forget to talk through these points as you work on the project as well. If your client requests a 5th round of revisions and your contract mentions only 2 rounds, it’s easier to remind them regularly. You can say something like, “After this, we’ll have just one more round of revisions before we publish the site.” You can even help enforce this by politely explaining that you’ll start on the last revision only after they’ve provided all their feedback.

3. Detail the scope of work in writing

A one-page estimate, with just a few words covering each item you plan to deliver, may be easy and quick to write up, but it leaves too much open to interpretation once the project begins.

Writing a detailed scope of work is your protection against all unknown requests that may come up during your project.

Include everything you’ve discussed with your client in your written estimate – revision rounds, number of concepts, administrative time, whether or not you will be helping editorially, etc. This may take several pages. The amount of time you spend in writing a detailed scope of work will be saved in avoided trouble later.

4. Don’t be the bad guy

It’s easy to feel upset when a client asks for more than was included in the scope of work – you can feel taken advantage of and may immediately want to say no.

But instead, consider the opportunity behind the request.

Instead of getting upset, state the consequence of their out-of-scope request as a simple matter of extra cost to them, based on their needs. Don’t take their request as a reason to say you can’t help them (unless you truly can’t). Think about what it will cost to them – i.e. how much you would need to make it worth it for you – and state it as such.

5. Include terms in your contract to protect you

Your proposal or contract should include terms separate from job-specific deliverables that you will include.

You may want to include statements about:

  • Who owns the source files of your work (PSDs, vector art, uncompiled code).
  • What happens if a client abandons or seriously delays a project.
  • Consequences and/or fees for late payments.

6. Create a project timeline

Too many projects begin with an agreed upon deliverable date, and clients continue to expect their deliverable on the originally agreed upon date, even when they’ve delayed in providing the items needed for the project when you asked for them.

The answer to helping clients back off timing demands is to create an upfront, agreed-upon timeline.

The beauty of the timeline is not in the fact that the client will stay on track with it and all will be delivered to you on time (if only!).

Instead, it’s the fact that, once the client gets behind schedule on their deliverables, they know that it is due to their own delays, because the timeline details their culpability in delaying the schedule.

Create a timeline up front which includes milestones for both your production and their delivery of required items, and you can clearly show your client how their delays will affect the schedule, and help them respect your time.

Now You’re Off To A Good Start

Getting started on the right foot with clients can pave the way for much happier client interactions throughout a project. Your time spent upfront to frame the project and your expectations will be well worth it when you set your project in motion.

However, sometimes you’ll run into difficult client scenarios even when you’ve established the rules of engagement and expectations. Coming up later, I’ll share strategies for what to do when a client interaction starts to go poorly, and how sometimes you can even turn an unhappy client into your best advocate with the right responses. In the meantime, if you think of any other tips to deal with difficult clients, post your comments below!

From The Wimptators: Launching The WIMP Referral Program

Introducing The WIMP Referral Program

WIMP’s official Referral Program is a big fat GO as of last Friday [Ed: That would be December 12]. It may not seem like a big deal because it’s more or less what we’ve been positioned to do for quite a while, but formalizing and streamlining the process says a lot about where we are today as an organization.

The Impact of Referrals in the WIMP Community

In recent months WIMP has literally been put on the map with the opening of our physical location, and as we’ve put so many more hours into the running of the organization, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people coming to us for help with finding just the right freelancer or agency for their project or position. Up until now it’s been a matter of finding the time to send off a few names of people in the WIMP community we happened to know (through them being engaged in the Facebook group or coming to meetups) that specialize in a certain area.

It’s a great way not just for us to start to see some compensation for our effort, but to also more efficiently track the movements, metrics, etc. and better serve our community.

It’s impossible to quantify just how much work people have gotten as a result of being involved and engaged in the community. We’ve tried, and we have an idea, but what we have learned is that the impact of WIMP goes way beyond what is measurable. The bottom line is that the impact on peoples’ careers has been huge.

At lunch with a couple members one day I asked just how much work they get as a result of WIMP – their answer was about 80%. My mouth literally fell open. I couldn’t even fathom that work that we were doing to bring people together and connect clients with contractors and employers with employees was paying off in such a huge way.

That’s just one example. We have heard so many stories of how Wimps, as a result of engaging in the community, have managed to have success and stability. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re even at least partially responsible for someone finding work, but to me there’s no better feeling in the world.

The Reasoning

We started the formal Referral Program for a few reasons. The first is because we have an increasing number of inquiries that come our way and we’ve been sending them in the direction of all the same people, despite WIMP having well over 1,000 members. We wanted to give all Wimps equal footing and an opportunity to benefit from the jobs that come to us all the time.

The second is that we need revenue streams in order to keep WIMP operating, and establishing a commission for work gained from direct referrals seemed a fair step in that direction. After polling the community first, we settled on the decision of a 5% commission for direct referrals, which is well below average for what I’ve experienced and heard of in the web industry. (I myself have paid companies 20% commission for referrals before and that was beyond painful.)

The Referral Process

one-does-not-simply-make-a-referralOur referral process is a bit different from anything we’ve seen before. We don’t just put a link on a page and point potential clients that way – we recognize that we are the first point of contact. When someone comes to us asking for help, we provide them our Referral Questionnaire. We ask as many questions as we can to match them with the right person or company for their particular needs. We want to uphold our reputation of being a valued resource for the broader community to look to for anything related to digital media.

From there we send them a list of referrals based on Wimps who have submitted an application and been approved for the Referral Program. We match people based on type of service needed, technology and platform, industry specialty, budget, timeline, and a few other factors.

Each Wimp keeps track of their inquiries and jobs and then reports back earnings. It’s a great way not just for us to start to see some compensation for our effort, but to also more efficiently track the movements, metrics, etc. and better serve our community.

Join the Program

If you are a Wimp, no matter what skill level you are (student or seasoned professional) there’s a need for what you have to offer. It’s our biggest wish to see you succeed and have professional stability. Don’t hesitate – fill out the form and we’ll start to send your information to potential clients immediately!

If you need a Wimp, don’t worry, we’ve got you! If you are looking for a web designer, back end developer, social media strategist, video content producer, photographer, copy editor – odds are we have just the right fit for you. Better yet, they’re a vetted and reliable member of the WIMP community!

Share Your Story

Have you or your career been impacted by WIMP in some way? Have client referrals, either direct or indirect, helped you get work and maintain a steady income? We want to hear your stories! Please tell us in the comments section below!

Search Engine Debunked: A 10 Point Pre-Launch SEO Checklist

Pre-Launch SEO Checklist

It’s Time To Launch!

So, you finally finished the project and you are ready to launch your client’s new cat toy website.

But are you really ready? Probably not. There are a number of things you should review before you set that new site free for everyone (including the search engine crawlers) to see. In no particular order, here are my 10 points:

1. Title and Description Tags

There are dozens of tips and tricks that can help a website rank well.

One of THE most important things you can do to help a new site rank is to make sure that there are unique Title and Description tags on every page of the site that clarify for the search engines what each page is about. Creating these tags can be very time consuming as it requires a lot of work, including:

• Researching and understanding the content of the page
• With the clients help, picking the keyword phrases that best fit the product and/or services of the website.
• Researching these keyword phrases to determine which phrases can provide the most possible traffic.
• Writing the tags and making sure that they are not too long as they will be truncated by the search engines.
– Posting the tags on each page of the website.

2. Create “schema” markup

Does your client have a brick and mortar location? Do they have testimonials on their website? These are just two of many reasons to use schema markup on a website. For specific details, Google Webmaster Tools can help. If you want more info on tags that can be added to a specific page of your site, you can check that as well on Google Webmaster Tools. Just enter the URL you want to know more about.

Schema tags are made for the search engines, not humans, although information such as contact info can be displayed on the web page. I highly recommend adding schema tags to the “contact us” page at the very least. If it is possible to add contact info with schema tags to the footer of every page on the site, that is even better.

Here is an example of schema markup for contact information:

 <div itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/FoodEstablishment”>
 <link itemprop=”additionalType” href=“http://www.productontology.org/id/Delicatessen” />
 <span itemprop=”name”>Name of Business</span>
 <div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
 <span itemprop=”streetAddress”>100 Fourth St.</span>
 <span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Santa Rosa</span>,
 <span itemprop=”addressRegion”>CA</span>
 <span itemprop=”postalCode”>95404</span>
 </div>
 <span itemprop=”telephone”>(555) 555-5555</span>
 </div>

Google has said that they do not rank one site above another because one has schema markup and the other does not, but they also say that a site may get more traffic due to the markup because the information in the search results is more complete and may therefore standout to viewers.

3. Make sure your pages have enough quality content

Each page on your site should have at least 200-250 words on it. This may seem like a lot, but actually it really is not that difficult to write content for each page with the help of the site owner. If you know enough about the subject matter, you should expound upon it as best you can. Pages with thin quality, such as 50-100 words and one or two images will not rank as well as pages filled with quality, focused content.

4. Header Tags (H1, H2, etc.)

This is incredibly important: every page on the site should have a descriptive <h1> tag that best describes the content of the page. Many times this is the exact same information in the Title tag, but it does not have to be so. Variations between the title and the H1 header can give the search engines a better picture of the overall content of the page.

You should also take into consideration any content on the page that should be considered a sub-heading and apply an <h2> tag to the description of the sub-section. You can use other header tags to create a hierarchy similar to an outline or list.

If the default size for your tags don’t suit your page design, use CSS to adjust it to look as you want, but don’t just leave them out because you don’t like how they look on the page.

5. Responsive design should be used whenever possible

There is little doubt that a mobile friendly website will rank better then one that is not mobile friendly, all else being equal. If you have not yet viewed your creation on a smartphone and a tablet, you really should do so before making it live. Not only is this a good SEO practice, you can avoid the embarrassment of having an angry client call you complaining that her site looks like garbage on a small screen.

6. Make contact information as easy as possible to find

Whenever possible, the contact information, at the very least the phone number, should be prominently displayed on the page somewhere near the top, preferably at the very top and most definitely above the fold. This is particularly important on mobile devices as visitors using a phone to find a business most likely would like to contact them by clicking the phone number.

7. Don’t use images for important text

Always put important information in text, not in an image. This is especially important for contact information, like a phone number or an email address as mentioned above. If you have content that you want to prominently display, use text and alter it using CSS. If for some reason the client insists on a graphic for something, make sure to use an ALT tag at the very least.

8. Image ALT tags

Every image should have an <alt> tag. The ALT tag is particularly important as it is read aloud to blind users on a  screen reader and is displayed to visitors that have images turned off. It is considered by Google to be one of the hundreds of “signals” they use in determining ranking because it creates a higher quality user experience.

Google uses ALT tags to help determine the best images for a visitors query and can help an image show up in the results pages for a search, thus increasing visibility.

9. Use an XML site map and make sure to submit it to the search engines.

There are many site map generators out there and many times there is one built-in to a plugin that you may already be using for the website. Make sure to have separate site maps for your pages, posts, images and even the post categories as this will ensure that the search engines are aware of all of the information located on the site.

10. Use informative file names for pages, images and other files.

Hopefully you thought of this before you created your site. Ranking can be improved if your website is created using URLs such as www.example.com/choosing-cat-toys as opposed to www.example.com/pageid=468. Also, having a descriptive name such as my-cat-loves-this-stuff.jpg is much better then IMG0003490877.jpg. Make sure to utilize this in as many places as you can including PDFs and video files.

But That’s Not All!

There are dozens of other tips and tricks that can help a website rank well. If you are a one-stop-shop as far as web development is concerned, I recommend subscribing to the news feeds of some of these sites to keep on top of the moving target that is SEO:

Be Your Business: Meet Your Marketing Future

Later this week, I will turn 46 years old. Not a particularly noteworthy milestone, and I don’t say it as some sort of “dude, you’re old” message, but rather more like, “it’s never too late to define yourself”. Here’s what I mean.

Recently, Forbes published an article talking about marketing trends to watch next year. In it, Forbes contributor Avi Dan talks through some interesting developments, and in them, something extraordinary happened.

The Rise Of The Marketing Technologist

Companies using digital marketing strategies are preoccupied with your eyeballs: using these computers, mobile phones, basically anything with a screen on it to try and get you to engage and interact, with the possibility that you might, someday, possibly, turn into a paying customer. Treating the digital world much like they would the broadcast and print worlds they’ve been working in for decades or longer.

And while the so-called fundamentals are sound, their execution of it is wanting.

So, I was excited to read the following:

We will witness the emergence of the marketing technologists. Too many companies think in terms of digital marketing. Instead, they should be thinking in terms of marketing in a digital world. The best marketer in a digital world would be the marketing technologists, people with heavy digital DNA and technology acumen.”

Themes such as authenticity, transparency, agile processes, lateral thinking, and breaking down traditional silos all play prominently in any marketing campaign going forward, because they’re the only ones that are expected to really work going forward. Sure, the old shotgun spray-and-pray marketing will still be seen out there in the world, as it steadily rides the curve under the noise floor of consumer attention spans. But as businesses need to execute these new strategies and apply these new ways of thinking to marketing problems, they’re going to need people who can actually, you know, do this.

“Crap, this is me they’re talking about!”

For the last two decades, I grew up immersed in this lifestyle. Occupying the gap between business and technology has largely been a “red-haired stepchild” situation: at first glance, nobody can quite tell what value you bring to the marketing process: you’re not purely product, and you’re not purely marketing. However, as soon as you open your mouth and use your technological know-how to inform how people will perceive and receive the marketing strategy, the product people say, “he understands us!” and the businesspeople say, “I get it!” Suddenly, instead of being the red-haired stepchild, you’ve become the “lovely auburn-haired wunderkind”.

Of course, I have my own name for it: Unicorn.

Can You Get Here From There?

However, while we can’t all be mythical magical creatures, there is a very closely related cousin to the unicorn who is equally capable as marketing technologists: we call them generalists. These are rare people who simultaneously exist across many skill categories, who aren’t easily pigeonholed into a single role (though many middle managers try their hardest to do exactly that). These folks have wide and seemingly improbable interests. They are hard to identify, and even harder to retain, mainly because you don’t realize who they are until they’ve moved on.

Occupying the gap between business and technology has largely been a “red-haired stepchild” situation

What’s more, there is no recipe for becoming this nexus of technology and business know-how. If there was, every MBA program in the world would churn out as many of these beings as possible.

Okay, that isn’t helpful, but this might be: When you find yourself struggling to work out a digital marketing strategy, realize that it might be that you’re thinking about the problem the wrong way. Try turning it into a question of how to demonstrate your company’s relevance to your audience, letting them know that you get them, that they are your tribe and you are one of them. The hard part here is that it can’t be forced or faked.

Most importantly: if you don’t feel connected to your audience in that way, then find someone who does. Hot tip: they are not likely to be the marketing consultant, or the MBA graduate, or the cousin who “knows social media”.

It’s more likely to be an unassuming person from the community who listens and observes but rarely speaks. However, when he or she does speak, the things they say are profound and insightful. And if you can get them on your team, you should rejoice, because that person will be your greatest marketing asset this coming year.

View From The Front: You should really learn HTML

You Should Learn HTML

Really?

Working in the web arena I find myself more often than not with my back against the ropes facing down my own learning curve. I’m constantly getting pummeled by an onslaught of new technology and improved methodologies. At times it feels like I’m striving and struggling just so I can live to fight another day.

The front end of the web experience is where everything comes together…

or falls apart.

Lately I am astonished at how often I meet a web professional who doesn’t know the basics of HTML and CSS. I’m talking about people way more intelligent and talented than I am who can do amazing things in worlds where I only dabble: design, SEO, even advanced software development.

These same people can’t clear a floated div without flipping a table or banging their heads on their desks.

There are also those who are new to the web, who have the privilege of getting started with robust frameworks that function great, right out of the box. Still others prefer to stay out of code completely and leverage GUI editors, which are becoming better able to generate decent looking, usable websites.

I can see why it’s tempting to skip learning to code web pages by hand, but in the ever-changing technical landscape, having a fundamental understanding of HTML, how it’s affected by CSS, and the basic operation of the box model is still a necessary and useful skill.

What is so great about HTML?

With HTML5, semantic data is inherently integrated into your markup. HTML gives your content structure by breaking it up into meaningful sections, adding a hierarchical flow to the content. In an HTML page, your content is structured into sections which make sense for both search engine robots and your end users. Adding CSS to style your markup lets you change the way the content looks. You have the opportunity to give your content even more visual nuance to convey a deeper meaning and create a greater impact. You have the ability to articulate the meaning of your content in a visually rich and organized way.

Is HTML even still relevant?

The web is constantly changing, and the tools we use to create it are constantly improving. And yet, HTML has been around since the beginning. But this doesn’t mean it’s obsolete or irrelevant; rather, it demonstrates HTML’s ability to adapt and move forward in pace with the web.

For some applications it makes sense to bypass HTML almost entirely in favor of a robust language like JavaScript; but if your aim is simply to display content in a web browser, using HTML as your foundation and then enhancing with JavaScript gives you better accessibility.  Mobile apps built with HTML5 and responsive design using CSS media queries is making web content device-agnostic. If you want to target the largest number of web-capable devices and keep with the best practice of progressive enhancement, HTML is still highly relevant.

Aren’t there GUI  web builders that do just fine?

I’m not typically a drag-and-drop kind of girl. I recently built a dummy web page with Wix during half of a lunch break while trying to fight off a nasty flu. I got the job done (that is, I published some content to the web), but there were still limitations which I could have easily overcome if I were simply coding HTML. Instead I had to struggle with, and eventually give up on, the limitations in the GUI – such as the fixed 980 pixel page width.

Other common frustrations that come up when helping non-tech people use GUI web editing tools include: extra line breaks that appear for no reason, images aligning to text in inexplicable ways, and text links that don’t encompass the first or last character in your link phrase despite all your best efforts. Even the best GUI experience leave something to be desired, and the ability to switch to code or text view and see quickly what’s going on can save hours of frustration.

My favorite front-end framework is awesome, why reinvent the wheel?

I’m not advocating that you code every web experience you build from scratch. Even though I enjoy it, I understand that people have other things they’d rather be doing with their time. What I do advocate is to cultivate the ability to code a webpage by hand so that, if there are pieces in your framework that get in your way, you are empowered to not just overwrite, but re-write them. You gain the ability and confidence to identify and remove pieces that you don’t need in order to achieve the best performance, and keep your CSS well organized, lean and easy to revise.

I’m a (Designer/Programmer/SEO/Content Writer). Knowing HTML isn’t my job.

Everyone who works in web can benefit from knowing HTML. The front end of the web experience is where everything comes together, or falls apart. If everyone on the team knows what goes into rendering the project in the browser, then everyone can integrate their specialty more fluidly into the whole. The programmer can understand the semantic markup to wrap around database queries. The designer can anticipate content reflow from the wide monitor to the narrow handheld view. The content writer can direct the nuance in the language by leveraging structural tags. The SEO can polish the well structured page with additional micro- and meta-data. Sure, the front end developer still does the bulk of the HTML coding, along with the PHP and JavaScript and whatever else is needed to tie it all together; but if HTML is a shared context among all the members of the team, the odds of telling a successful story are greatly increased.

 

HTML is a future-friendly technology because it is a present-friendly technology, highly accessible on all web-ready devices. Writing good HTML has benefits in accessibility, performance, and presentation. Learning it might seem challenging at first, but it doesn’t take long to get up and running. The only tools you really need to get started are a text editor and a web browser. Once you get a firm grasp on the basics it becomes fun and easy to learn more.

Community Survey: Measuring the Might of WIMP!

Measuring the Might of WIMP! Please take 3 minutes to fill out our anonymous survey.

It’s time for WIMP to take the pulse of our local creative economy. Our little community isn’t so little any more, and while the WIMP leadership (your “Wimptators”) feels in tune with our group, intuition doesn’t scale the way real data does. We want to better understand our demographics, benchmark our progress and, perhaps most importantly, shine a light on the tricky issues of compensation and contracts. That is why we are in the midst of conducting our first annual Community Survey.

Where WIMP Is Now

Discover whether you’re leaving money on the table, or perhaps that you’re charging as much as the market can bear.

The WIMP community is now over 800 people, mostly in the North Bay, 50% of which are freelancers. Yet, many local businesses needlessly send contracts for web development and design out of county and out of state. And freelancers, a population that is projected to outnumber regular employees by 2020, still don’t factor into long-term economic policy, school curriculum, and government reports on employment.

By taking our survey, you help us change that. While we know we’re playing the long game here, this survey will also deliver short-term value, and not in an abstract hand-wavy fashion.

In early 2015, we will publish a report based on the survey responses. That report will be full of useful information, but there are two things everyone is expecting to see:

  • How much people charge, and,
  • An analysis of modern creative contracts.

Money is the real elephant in the room, especially for freelancers and small agencies. It is impossible to know what is fair and what is competitive without sharing data. And sharing pay data in-person can be risky, not to mention uncomfortable.

Enter WIMP’s Community Survey, which we conduct anonymously in order to protect your privacy. And since we are surveying freelancers, employees, students, professionals, business owners, designers, developers, marketers and other creatives, we can correlate compensation with context.

Why You Should Care About A Survey

The report and analysis will help you figure out where to set your rates. You can discover whether you’re leaving money on the table, or perhaps that you’re charging as much as the market can bear. However, that insight is impossible without this survey and your participation!

And how about those contracts? I am not a lawyer (IANAL), but I think it’s safe to say that boilerplate contracts are generally terrible. Templates available from reputable trade groups like the Graphic Arts Guild (GAG) are passable at best.

We live in a mixed media world and our contracts should reflect that.

With your help, we will put together tailored contract templates that reflect the needs of a modern digital media professional. For standard clauses such as payment, termination, and arbitration, we want to find the best of the best. And we want to craft state-of-the-art clauses for things you may not have considered including IP transfer, warranty, maintenance, and more.

The Rising Tide

All of our ships rise with this tide. Please, take a few minutes to answer our survey and also share it with friends and coworkers in the industry. Whether you’re a “WIMP member” or not (you probably are), whether you’ve been to an event or not, whether you’re based out of the North Bay or not, we want to hear from you.

Help us make 2015 the year we stop running our careers on guesswork. Let’s make some data driven decisions!

The Sustainable Freelancer: Sell What You Know

Next up in our guest blog series brings us Ben Klocek, the true expert on what he calls “Sustainable Freelancing”, which in most cases involves, you know, actually making a living as a freelancer. Not as easy as it might sound. In this article, Ben talks about the most important aspect of a freelancer’s relationship with his or her client: perception.

Sell What You Know - Ben Klocek - Bracia

Have you ever felt this way?

…like you’re stepping out on a shaky limb when going to that first client meeting or sending out a proposal?

I have, and I figured out why, and how to change it. As I looked into it, I discovered that my approach was disorganized and unfocused, leaving me unsure of myself just when I most needed confidence.

Recently I read the Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns. It lists 12 “proclamations” designed to reclaim the high ground in client relationships, using your knowledge and expertise to become an “expert advisor” instead of an “order-taker”, and enjoy the benefits to your bottom line and work satisfaction.

The aim of the book is to get you to identify where your expertise lies, and then promote services with that expertise as the primary focus.

The key here is that you lead your client through your process for that particular service, rather than vice versa.

For example: a few years ago I dug deep into responsive design. I gave presentations about it, wrote about it, offered it as a service, and when I talked with clients, I could speak clearly and definitively about it (as much as one can speak definitively about web matters). This gave me “expert” status with regards to responsive design.

As a result, I had many project leads come to me seeking to engage me in making responsive websites. In initial client meetings and when submitting proposals I was confident, because I knew exactly how I could help them and ensure that we could meet the goals of the project.

Did I need to persuade them to hire me? Nope. I had already proven my value and expertise, so instead of having to rely on fast talking, fancy proposals and a ton of anxiety, I was being pursued by them.

What if I don’t have the experience to be an expert?

Start small, with an area of your services that you feel confident in providing and wish to expand. The key here is that you lead your client through your process for that particular service, rather than vice versa.

“It is the strength of our processes that drives the consistency of our outcomes.”
– Win Without Pitching Manifesto

A good place to start is the on-boarding process because it sets the tone for the whole engagement and is usually something we have all done at least a few times.

Developing confidence in your on-boarding process might look like this: Create a simple online form that your client fills out, then a script you follow when talking with them. Take time to develop this. Focus on key questions that you know you’ll actually use when you are doing the work. I used to have questions in my on-boarding process that I didn’t use, simply because I saw another developer ask that question. Make it yours and revisit which questions you ask after each project!

This indicates to the client that you have a process developed from your experience having done it before. It sets the rules of collaboration. Obtaining the “expert” title means you lead them, and aren’t taking orders.

Remember though, that the on-boarding process is just the beginning. After you have that dialed, select an aspect of your services that clearly provides value to your clients and develop a process for it. Only through consistent application of your experience, followed by evaluation of your success, will you get better.

All you need is to focus

Selling what you know requires you to “choose a focus, then articulate that focus via a consistent claim of expertise, and finally work to add the missing skills, capabilities and processes necessary to support that claim”.

When you do, you can focus on finding projects where you honestly and confidently provide real value, which in turn leads to better projects with greater value to you and the client.

Now go read the Win Without Pitching Manifesto, it’s free online!

WIMPgives: Paying it Forward

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On November 1, 2014, WIMP volunteers donated $75K worth of services to local nonprofits

About two years ago, the Wimptators and I were sitting in our office brainstorming. We had done a great job up to that point making WIMP known as the go-to community for web and digital media industry professionals in Sonoma County, but we knew something was missing. We lacked a connection between our group and the outside world.

We knew what we wanted:

  • To give our members an opportunity to collaborate with one another
  • To let the outside world know who we are as an organization and just how much talent there is in our local industry
  • To challenge and grow our skills by putting them to the test under pressure
  • To genuinely make a difference in the community

And so WIMPgives, our annual ‘charity hackathon’, was born.

It’s impossible to quantify the impact these websites, and the relationships these projects catalyzed, will continue to make on an ongoing basis.

Last weekend we held our second WIMPgives. We had over 50 volunteers (twice as many as last year) donate 750+ collective hours building seven websites for Northern California nonprofits in one day. It was impressive to witness on so many levels.

This event has become something so near and dear to my heart – easily one of the highlights of my year. Since it brings together individuals who normally don’t work together, it’s very interesting to study the dynamics of the teams.

I loved seeing those members who are role models and trend-setters taking charge and inspiring and leading their teams.

I loved seeing people who normally work in isolation realize they do know their craft in comparison to others in the group.

I loved seeing the teams’ apprentices hold their own, gaining the confidence they need to attack their next project.

I am both humbled and awed by the genuine generosity and desire to give these amazing nonprofits the tools and knowledge they need to continue to effectively make a difference for the communities that they serve. It’s impossible to quantify the impact these websites, and the relationships these projects catalyzed, will continue to make on an ongoing basis.

While I’m always flattered when people thank us for making the event possible, we wouldn’t be anywhere without the folks that stepped up to brave the challenge and take time out of their lives to work so hard and not expect a darn thing in return.

Here are the websites completed during this year’s WIMPgives:

A massive thank you to everyone who helped make this day possible: each one of our project managers, designers, developers, marketers, content specialists, apprentices, photographers, film-makers, crew and fellow organizers.

A special thanks to our sponsors including Monster Gardens, SoCo Nexus, 1 Day Web Designer, O’Reilly Media, Beaver Builder, Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop, VOM Productions, WIMPspace, and especially TriNet and Pantheon who swooped in at the last minute to feed all of our volunteers breakfast and dinner!

Photo credits: Arken Studios

Coworking Culture: Why Coworking Matters

Our first guest blog is written by one of the North Bay’s experts on coworking: Natasha Juliana, owner/founder of WORK Petaluma. In this article, Natasha goes into the reasons why a cowork lifestyle matters in the current economic environment, and will remain relevant for a long time to come. (Edited by coWORKer Linda Jay.)

WORK-Petaluma-coworking

Why Coworking?

It’s the 21st century and work is being redefined in more ways than one. If you find yourself living in this new economy, the benefits of coworking can add up quickly.

The Office.

This used to be a single building you sat in from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. But the digital age has brought with it the potential for unprecedented freedom and flexibility. With the aid of a laptop and cell phone, many jobs can be performed from the location of your choosing.

Working by yourself and never leaving your house can become extremely isolating.

If you can work from anywhere, where will you do your best work? Working from home has its advantages… and disadvantages. It’s conveniently located, but also full of distractions — laundry, TV, refrigerator, dog, kids, all vying for your attention. It’s free, but it might not have the amenities you desire — a conference room, whiteboard, printer, and high-quality copy machine can come in handy.

Coworking gives you the good parts of having an office, for a fraction of the cost of setting up your own space, with the flexibility to accommodate your changing needs.

The People.

Yes, we live in a digital world, but people are still social animals. Most jobs used to have coworkers built in, but with the growing trend toward freelancing, telecommuting, and entrepreneurism, you may find yourself alone. Working by yourself and never leaving your house can become extremely isolating. Many people are taking to the coffee shop, but this is a short-term solution. A forty-hour week spent in Starbucks will leave your back aching and your brain jacked up on too much caffeine.

Coworking gives you the benefits of coworkers by filling the workspace with other professionals. It’s a great way to connect with the local business community, make friends, and enjoy a little water cooler chit-chat. And surrounding yourself with productive people can increase your own productivity. You’re much less likely to waste an hour scrolling through Facebook when the person sitting next to you is hard at work.

The Ideas.

Sharing knowledge used to be called cheating or stealing. Now, it is becoming the norm. Working in a vacuum can limit your potential and slow down your progress. Bouncing ideas off your cat can be futile, but bouncing ideas off coworkers can be inspiring and transformative.

This advantage is compounded by the fact that so many different professions are housed under one roof. Need help with your website? There’s a WordPress expert sitting next to you. Wondering if you should use a semicolon? There’s an editor across from you. Thinking about putting your new venture on Kickstarter? There’s a startup behind you that was successfully funded.

Now those are some big benefits worth cashing in on! Coworking may start off as a shared office, but it quickly morphs into a whole new way of working.

 

Want to learn more about new ways of working? Check out the book Remote by 37Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.