Monday, January 25, 2021

Refresh Your Visuals in the New Year

Us freelancers tend to get attached to those fonts, icons, and other imagery that makes our brand stand out both offline and online.  And if the visuals are unique and transfer well in a virtual world, letting go may seem impossible.  However, there comes a time when it can't hurt to explore other publishing options if you don't use professional graphic design software and tools.

It's just recently that I've become really comfortable with Canva.  And no, this isn't a promo because I still have that old school CD-ROM mentality that you pay for one time only.  Yup, I'm one cheap frugal chick who likes to get the most out of her money, especially when a venture is on the starting ground.  So while I won't be spending monthly subscription fees to use graphic design software, I can tell you that Canva is good for small volume projects.

If you want a switch from Microsoft or a little variety, Adobe Spark has a few nice surprises.  This free online software is ideal for those who have small or uncomplicated (as in minimal animation or resolution) projects in mind that you'd like to produce in minutes.  While elaborate visions are nice, these also tend to take time, which eventually cut into productivity time.  Take it from one who's been fussing with the audio feature on an "upcoming" presentation for nearly two years now.

Another thing about letting go of your old ways...don't get too comfortable with images you created back in the early 2000s.  Yes, time flies and places like Mickey D's have had the same golden arches for the past 3000 years.  Yeah, blah, blah but if you're still using clip art (which was cool in the late 90s), then you probably still listen to cassette tapes.  Not that these won't come back in style but you see how long it took before people began to see the real value in vinyl.

Both of these apps will give you what you need for the following - 

  • Storytelling
  • Short videos (these can be edited to in YouTube)
  • Social media content
  • Graphics
  • Hand deliverables (hard copy promo items)

Anyway, above is an unbiased video that breaks down which free software is best for your freelance or microbiz venture. Back to the money thing, while the guy says that Canva is $10/month, it's more like $13.  While Adobe Spark costs a ten spot (after the free trial period) every month and the annual plan only saves you $20, you may want to judge for yourself.

Monday, January 18, 2021

A Freelance Gig to Consider: Trendspotter

 Also known as trend forecasting, this not to be confused with an influencer but there are some similarities. While this title does deal with visuals, ideal candidates must also possess analytical skills, as well as the ability to create reports based on historical data and cyclical information.  If you're wondering where to start as a freelancer or career changer, your personal blog can be a great starting point.

Instead of catering to the consumer first, and then other companies that want to pay you through ads and endorsements, you will do the opposite here.  The reason being is that consumers don't always care to hear the backstory of things and usually want to hear what's good so they can buy ASAP.  Companies, on the other hand, want to go over the data, history, and other information that will support why they should invest in a trend.

The above video covers four types of trends but how deep you go is up to your level of expertise.  You may want to build a strong influencer following before while learning consumer behavior, marketing, and psychology on your own.  So far, I've seen no hard educational requirements but if you don't have paid experience as a buyer, you have your work cut out for you.

Get to know organizations and agencies that can supply information about your desired industry.  Although fashion is the industry most associated with trendspotting, food, home products, and even technology want to know what's the new thing that will interest people in the near future.  Without the facts, companies have to deal with the expense of product fails.

Orbitz soda (1997).  It sounded cool at the time but not long enough to stay. @Wikimedia

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Making Up For Lost Freelancing Time

 For the past 11 months, freelancers have been thrown curves left and right.  In addition to the pandemic and how we live, some of us who live in California had to deal with statewide restrictions by companies that don't offer gig workers a benefits package.  Not to mention having to balance family and social life so that we don't get sick.

And while some of us have managed to sidestep the tragedy, every day is a new adventure we're forced to challenge.

Stay Ahead While Seeking a Better Life

And then there are bills.  Monthly expenses we may have been able to skip or reduce for the time being for some.  On the other hand, people are relying on local and federal resources to stay alive.  Even the best freelancers have made sacrifices since companies, large and small, have either downsized or closed their doors altogether.

So it's a new year and normally people promise to change for the better.  You may have realized that it's time to get that advanced degree or go into a new line of work.  Others may be ready to continue the search for good clients while looking for ways to increase marketability.

Back to School isn't Always Best

There are a number of resources that can help but it's best to remember that a solution is never one-size-fits-all.  One thing I've noticed is an increase in online university ads.  What makes these more noticeable than before is they're targeting minorities, single parents, career changers/older workers, or any group that appears to be in dire need.  

While you may be part of one or more of these demographics, it doesn't mean that going back to school (or that particular learning institution) is for you.  Diploma mills are just as prominent as before and like some small businesses that are barely hanging on, they're more desperate than ever for your money.  Chances are strong that a community college may serve the same purpose, or can at least save you some money down the road. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A New Outlook for Freelancers to Consider

 Now that the holidays are over and you're still making progress on your New Year's resolution list, you can get back to the freelancing business, right?  Well...yes and no.  In a lot of areas, COVID-19 numbers have increased and more people are looking for ways to make money or add to their current income.  While you may be thinking 'well duh', think of the growing numbers of people coming for your clients (eventually).

So you may be ahead of the game and are already thinking about ways to boost profits.  Nothing wrong with that but you should determine if the method is even necessary.  For instance, if you run a popular blog, more ads may seem like the way to go, even if you get paid a couple of dollars for a few clicks without commitment.

At the same time, think about whether this is necessary or whether it's something your readers will appreciate.  A lot of times, popular content is rewarded with what was once described as 'lazy revenue' but bloggers (and I, too, have been guilty of this) tend to reach for anything that sounds good and not consider the content.  Imagine visiting your favorite website and having to sit through a 60-second (which feels like an hour) video ad or a pop-up that can't be turned off easily on a tablet.

We as freelancers are trained to seize the opportunity and sometimes act aggressively for those that may be within reach.  This is fine until we shoot ourselves in the foot by not considering the future.  Instead of giving into ad companies, think about new ways to reinvigorate sluggish revenue.