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Why designers should never work for free

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Listen to The Joker

Working for free is a discussion subject that comes up way too often in the design world sadly. As the late Heath Ledger’s Joker character says in the film The Dark Knight above, “If you are good at something, never do it for free.”

There are a number of reasons for this, and a quick Google will find many other reasons not to work for free from other designers. But from my experience, it’s all about respect.

If you work for free, or offer to work for free, you may be liked by that person for doing it, but you will never be respected. And when you are not respected, your work and ideas are not respected. So that piece of work that you do for free, partly for experience, partly for your portfolio, will almost certainly be ruined by the client. Effectively becoming useless as an example of your work, and can’t be shown to future clients or employers.

Avoid business sharks

The other reason I strongly recommend not working for free, is the type of people who accept free work. They are generally awful. They are not a client for the future, and will never pay you for work at a later date, as they will just look for another ‘sucker’ to work for them for free. I saw a young designer post on a freelancers’ Facebook group offering to work for free. The people responding were like sharks circling wounded prey. Avoid these types at all costs.

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Back to work after a relaxing summer

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Back to school work

With August about to turn into September, I find myself happily going up through the gears back into proper work mode. I’ve had a great summer, my first real break in many years. My batteries are recharged, and I’m raring to go from my base in Copenhagen.

One of the best aspects of living in Copenhagen is the work, life balance. The business side of the city clearly winds down a bit during the peak summer months, but then cranks back to life with everyone refreshed, with ideas and eager to explore possibilities.

We are three!

My design business will shortly be three years old. I am very proud of what I’ve achieved, and grateful to all the clients I have been lucky enough to meet and work with. Here’s to the next three years!

So if you want to see some of my work, here is web design.

This is for graphic design, specialising in logo design.

And my other core area Illustration.

Skål, Slangevar, Cheers!

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Famous brands using WordPress

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There are many famous brands using WordPress. Sony Music, Renault, Vogue, Facebook, The New York Times and the BBC. There is an excellent Showcase page on the WordPress site that features many of the great sites using WordPress.

A favourite of mine is Facebook’s Company info page, in which Mark Zuckerberg is just another humble CEO, on just another humble About Us page on the internet. Sheryl Sandberg even mentions her fish.

So with around 20% of the internet, and 70% of the CMS market, and growing, if you are not already using WordPress, you really ought to, come your next new website.

Adding plugins in WordPress

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Plug from The Beano, who is copyright D.C. Thomsen, and just holding this space until I get an illustration drawn…

Adding plugins

There are some great plugins that can improve your site. Here is how to add one to your WordPress site.

In the back end > plugins > add new, put the plugin you are looking for into the search box, install and activate it. Easy. Some work immediately on activation, some need certain aspects set up on their set up page. Somewhere in the backend left hand sidebar, will be the set up page for the plugin. Look under ‘Settings’ if you can’t see it.

A word of warning on plugins. They can cause problems on your site. Don’t bring in too many (I’d ay about 5 max, less is better). Check to see if a plugin is popular by downloads, or has lots of complaints in their forum before bringing it in.

Dealing with plugin issues

If something goes wrong with your site in WordPress it is almost always a plugin that is responsible. Not necessarily a bad plugin, it can be two plugins are conflicting with each other, or with your theme. If something goes wrong with your site, start by de-activating your plugins one by one, and checking if the problem is resolved. If that doesn’t solve it, deactivate them all together. If that doesn’t solve it, change your theme to one of the default WordPress themes you got with the install. Between those steps, almost all issues will be solves. You should be able to isolate, what will almost always be a problem plugin, and then delete it.

Update your plugin

Whenever the red symbol appears that a plugin needs updating, update it. This also goes for WordPress, keep it updated, and your theme.

Recommended WordPress plugin

I recommend you  should have WordPress SEO by Yoast. Adds a box below each article in the back end of your site for you to fill out for SEO. It teaches you how to SEO each article or page through choosing a key phrase for that page or article, then adding it to the Title, description and in the content. It effectively teaches you to write better SEO content.

I also recommend Disqus plugin for comments. At the bottom of this article you can see my comments section is with Disqus. It allows visitors to log in with social media, or Disqus itself, and can interact with other blogs. You occasionally meet it on large scale sites such as The Daily Telegraph.

You may also like:

My WordPress portfolio page.

Inspiration for writing your blog

Whether your blog is part of your business or you are blogging for fun, getting going with writing content is often the hardest part of the process.

There is a very inspirational video interview on the WP Elevation site with professional blogger Bill Belew. www.wpelevation.com/2014/02/episode-19-bill-belew/

Watching this will give you some good tips, and should leave you feeling energised. The two main points I took from the video (and there are lots) is ‘you haven’t really started until you have written a hundred articles’, and ‘just press publish!’. Bill is also a fascinating character, and Troy at WP Elevation is a great interviewer on all things WordPress.

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If you are still struggling to get going with writing for your blog, advice from Morten Rand-Hendriksen of lynda.com is to set aside thirty minutes once a week at the same time. What ever is written after 30 minutes, just publish. This way content will build steadily, and deadlines concentrate the mind.

From my experience the regular addition of content also makes me more alert for other possible subjects for blog articles.

It is important to understand it is unlikely you will know how your writing will be until you get going. It will evolve over time. You can always delete or edit old articles if you become uncomfortable with old content.

 

 

Working on The Dental Trauma Guide website

A number of years ago I had the privilege to work for The Odontologist Videncenter (Department of Rare Oral Diseases), a research department within Rigshospital (University Hospital), Copenhagen’s main hospital.

I worked under the legendary dentist Jens Ove Andreasen, known as the Father of dental traumatology, and also department head Jette Daugaard-Jensen, and Søren Steno Ahrensburg Christensen. Working with other animators, graphic artists, and illustrators, we worked on The Dental Trauma Guide website which is a non-profit website dedicated to optimising worldwide treatment of dental trauma.

Their work in research and treatment of patients was fascinating and incredibly inspiring to see.

 

 

And what do you do?

My job title is something of an issue/mouthful. Web designer, graphic designer and illustrator. Depending on the context, I’ll generally respond to the question of what I do, as ‘I make websites’. In most situations it is just polite smalltalk and no-one could care less. But as a freelancer, you never know who might be a potential customer.

The Web designer title is a particularly confusing one, as it seems from my experience to imply I’m a developer. A techy. Someone who can help fix computers, set up email accounts, get broken printers to work. Oh no I can’t. I belong to the designer tribe, which buys a mac because a. it looks pretty, and b. I get it home, plug it in, and it pretty much works. How it does this, how much kilobytes of download upload processing capability, I neither care about, nor wish to waste valuable brain RAM understanding.

There is the title Digital designer. However along with Multi-media designer, it’s a bit yeuch. In Danish there is a job title of Webgrafiker. Web graphic designer, effectively. A nice term which explains the job function well.

Illustrator is also a job title I dislike. On being further pressed the conversation often develops to ‘aah you do cartoons!’ with a deeply patronising smile. Cartoonist is an awful job title. Cartoonist illustrator, nope, doesn’t work. Again in Danish, there is a lovely job title for this, Tegner. At tegne is the verb to draw. Tegner, someone who draws. Covers pretty much all fields of illustration, without the pretention implied in Illustrator or heaven forbid, Artist(e).

Graphic designer I have no problems with. Although others in similar fields to me use the term Art director. That to me implies a person who sits around all day in a design agency doing precious little, appearing for the last five minutes of a project to change everything and/or take all the credit/apportion blame.

Potential art director clients. I’m. Just. Kidding.