Learn to Design a Letterhead – Free Beginners Course

If you are just starting out in design or are thinking about learning, you might want to check out my FREE – Learn to Design a Letterhead Course.

In this free letterhead design course you will learn about

  • Common positioning of letterhead elements
  • How to sketch out your letterhead ideas
  • How to add small details that add that extra something to your design
  • Some tricks of the graphic design trade
  • How to get your letterhead ready for print

You will also get a downloadable pdf with each section that you can keep and use for reference.

By the end of the course you will be able to design a letterhead from sketch to sending it out for print

Visit http://nobulldesignschool.com/free-design-courses/learn-to-design-a-letterhead-course/ to get free access to the course.

20 Top Promotional Tips for Freelance Designers

20 Freelancer Designer Tips

A guest post by Ben Fellowes,a design and marketing professional and chief blog writer for NextDayFlyers

1. Be Active and Get Seen

Shrinking violets don’t succeed as freelance designers. You have to “get out there” and get yourself noticed. Attend meetings and seek out local professionals to inform them of your business and services, i.e., the Chambers of Commerce, gallery shows, and local business events. You should also go as many business trade shows as possible to network with potential customers (if you’re a designer, every industry trade show has customers that need your services.) Social gatherings are also a great place to network and get seen and heard (you’re not going to get customers sat at home watching the TV) bookstores, schools, churches, coffee shops, etc, are necessary destinations for meeting and greeting potential clients. You don’t have to pester anyone! Natural conversations always turn to, “what you do for a living!”

Depending on your knowledge and experience, you may also consider contacting colleges and organizations about classes or seminars that you can speak or teach at – great word-of-mouth exposure for your business!

2. Cross-Promote

This is a biggie! I’ve got so much design work business through cross-promotion. Be direct and convince a contact or business associate to cross promote in their on or offline promotions, i.e., a print designer could promote themselves via a web designer, photographer, or copywriter, etc.

3. Referral

Offer your clients and customers a referral fee or discount for referring customers to you. It works for big companies and there’s no reason why it won’t work for you!

4. Buddy -Up With Other Graphic Designers

Make friends with other designers online in networking sites, and other online design communities and make design friends in the real world at expo’s and conferences. It’s one of the easiest ways to get collaborative work, referrals, or hired!

5. Sell Online

There is a whole online world of shopfronts and other places like etsy and threadless to flog your design and artwork in which you can sell or receive royalties for original designs. Avoid the 99 designs and crowdspring style of competition sites as they’re a total crapshoot!

Here are 5 of my personal favorites (that I’ve actually made money from):

  • graphicriver.net (templates and designs)
  • graphic leftovers (photographs, vectors and designs)
  • brandcrowd.com (logo design)
  • artsprojekt.com (t-shirt, mug, iphone case, etc)
  • society6.com (poster prints, t-shirts, etc)

6. Blog Away

  • Okay! Don’t all shout at me at once! I know I am being totally obvious with this tip but how many freelancers blog effectively? There are a few essentials to creating your own blog that you might have overlooked:
  • Your blog should not be on a separate domain with a different URL! I have seen so many freelancers with separate portfolio and blog site. This makes no sense. All that lovely content that you may be writing about your designs and experiences will go to waste if you create a separate “blogger” site (I’ve seen this done so many times.) Your blog must be tied to your own domain and URL! Make a separate header for it on your website which should be a one-stop-shop for ALL your design and business information
  • Fully utilize SEO tactics like title tags, meta info, and H1 tags – you should also tag every image and post with relevant terms, i.e., if you write a post about a logo design for a butchers shop, tag the post and the image with every keyword surrounding “logo design” and “butchers shop” you can think of!
  • Make sure you include the following share tools – RSS feed, digg, facebook, stumbleupon, pinterest, twitter buttons (displayed prominently)
  • The other alternative to creating your own blog is to “hit-n-hope” by creating interesting, madcap, funny, or bizarre video or online blogs for sites like tumblr! You never know, you might start getting thousands of visitors and a mass of business opportunities!

7. Old School Business Listings

As a freelancer, I would hope that you’re already rocking a thousand graphic designer job listing and directory sites but I would also suggest looking into an old school marketing technique that is much ignored and often overlooked. I worked as designer for yellow pages for a year of my life, creating ads for everyone from the local pet stores to major ad agencies. You’d be surprised how many businesses still use offline trade directories. It’s really cheap to advertise too!

A similar old-school strategy would be to post in the local newspaper listings. Print is not quite dead (yet!)

8. Coupon Coding

Include a discount coupon for your design services on the back of your business card, flyers, etc. However ‘old-school” this may seem, nothing resonates more with other businesses than the thought of getting your services for cheap!

9. Magazine Pitch

You have to be a serious design expert to get published in magazines such as Advanced Photoshop and How but you will get a cavalcade of links and business interest in your work. Plus, you will be seen as an expert in that field. What a lot of freelancers may not realize is that these magazines rely on graphic and tutorial input from designers and freelancers (such as yourself) for their content. Digital Arts Magazine, for instance, has a whole section devoted to new and upcoming designers that needs your design work! Don’t be shy…get pitching your tutorial ideas and portfolio work.

10. Give Free Design Consultations

I can sense some freelancers getting very hot and angry at this suggestion but it makes sense in the long-run. I’m a firm believer that when a client meets with you, they are also giving up their time and effort! And anyway, you’re not a doctor or a lawyer – you should design consult for free. It’s worth the time and effort (even if you don’t get their business, there’s always the chance of a referral for a different project!)

11. Wear Your Business like a Badge of Honour

Put your coolest, hippest and most commercial design on a t-shirt and turn yourself into a walking advert for your company. It’s pretty inexpensive to do and worth it for all the “where did you get that shirt” questions you’ll receive. At worst it’s a good exercise in company branding (give them out free to all your friends and relations so that they too become walking advertisements for your business!)

12. Guest Blog

If you’re a good writer and can write interesting content about freelancing, design, and other industry related topics, then contact relevant site administrators and guest blog. Ensure you get a link back to your own web pages from specific design-related keywords or personal brand keywords.

13. Send a Press Release

If you’ve created some brilliant design work for a local charity or a piece of design work that you think is truly original or groundbreaking, send a press release about it. Press releases get widely distributed and may even get picked up by a local or national news organization. (A paid for press release is way more effective but there are free press release organizations out there, such as, free-press-release.com)

14. Always Send Follow-up Emails

Always thank customers who hire you, friends who refer you, and people who have helped your business. It’s just poor business practice to not email a client after delivering a project? Personally, I go one-step-further and write a hand-written note rather than an email. Keep in regular contact with clients after you’ve finished a job (you are NOT being a pest, it’s just normal business practice!)

15. Email Promotion

An online newsletter, or e-promotion has become an essential way to promote any business, big or small. It’s also a great way of getting contact information from potential customers. Ensure that you create a subscription button with your promotions.

16. Actively Seek Out Poorly Designed Print Materials or Web Sites

When you notice bad print promotions or you come across web sites that are poorly designed, don’t ignore them or turn your design nose up at them! The likelihood is that the client is fully-aware that they have inferior promotions. Contact the business owner immediately and offer your design services (be forthright but tactful)

17. Submit to Others!

You will get a lot of traffic if you get your work listed on popular design and design resource sites. You may also want to think about creating some freebie design backgrounds, vectors, brushes, or web templates (drupal, wordpress, etc) to draw attention to your work and website. Target popular design sites that rely on free resource materials for their own web traffic to get a truckload of new visitors to your site and your work. Something that I’ve recently done that you might want to consider is designing your own font as a giveaway to some of the major font websites as a means of getting some great link and design exposure (make sure you get your links displayed prominently with all your resource submissions.)

18. Find and Approach New Businesses in Your Area 
Do some serious web research.

Look at the local papers and make a conscious effort to find out about new start-up businesses in your area. You could also simply drive round your locale to see if there are any new shops or restaurants that need design or print services. New businesses need design materials.

19. Send Your Work to Agencies

Don’t let anyone convince you that you shouldn’t cold-contact agencies and clients! Make a CD, postcard sampler, or mini portfolio and send it to ad and design agencies, or other relevant businesses. It’s way more likely to get you remembered than a typical email shot-in-the-dark!

20. Google AdWords

This doesn’t occur to most small businesses and freelancers but ALL businesses who have an online presence should consider at least testing the waters of paid search out. Create a small ad campaign on Adwords and see what happens! What have you got to lose? It will cost you usually about 5 cents per clickthrough.

Ben Fellowes is a seasoned design and marketing professional from the UK who now lives and works in California. He is currently the chief blog writer for NextDayFlyers – a major web and print company that provides flyers, business cards, and other prints.

New Graphic Design and Marketing Podcast

If you are anything like me, you love a good podcast, but the problem is there are few and far between on the topic of Graphic Design. Designer and blogger Rob Cubbon is trying to change all that, with a new podcast he has just started called none other than The Design and Marketing podcast.

“The Design and Marketing Podcast will be concentrating on how graphic and web designers and others can market their business to increase and vary their income streams.”

I was lucky enough to be one of Rob’s first interviewees on his new show and we talked about

  • how I got started as a designer
  • how I found clients initially
  • how I plan to take my business in the future

graphic design and marketing podcast

Check it out over on Rob’s Design Blog

I know Rob has some great shows and interviewees coming up in the future so make sure you subscribe to his website, Youtube Channel or Itunes feed.

Quick and Easy Web Design Tips

A guest post by Michael Turner, a Graphic Arts and Design graduate

graphics tablet web designer

Web design has become a very competitive business in recent years. You may have great, unique content on your website, but if the look and feel is of a poor standard, visitors won’t want to stay and look around. The design of a website should first and full most complement the purpose as well as the particular niche it is in, and it should ensure reading and browsing is as easy and hopefully intuitive experience for any visitor.

Structure

The content on any website must be structured and organised. Content should be planned out and divided into logical sections by making them visible and easily discoverable. When content needs to be broken up, break it up into different pages. If content is sparse on a particular topic, try to add it with content that complements it in a logical way. Blank space in some cases can look out of place, and it can give the impression that the content is not important. This does however depends on what the site is about. For example, an art or design site may for aesthetic reasons use negative space.

Optimisation

Optimising a website makes it load quicker and more efficiently for visitors as well as improving the overall design. Imagery of any kind needs to be sized and optimised appropriately. Stretched images that are too large, for example, will look awkward and probably pixelate too. Use a gallery view or thumbnails if larger images are needed, so that they don’t eat up too much room on the page. This will also help towards a faster loading website. Remember to take in to consideration that your site will be used on a number of different devices including laptop and desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets, all with varying sized screens. All have different resolutions, and the website must be readable and optimised for them all.

Break Up your Text

Websites with walls of text are hard to read and off-putting to visitors. Breaking up the text and content with images, paragraphs, lists or subheadings lets visitors quickly scan content to see if it is relevant to their interests. If so, they will be encouraged to read the rest.

Readability and Usability

All websites should have content that is easy to find so visitors can intuitively find the information they need. Users should be able to scan pages and know what information is where, and navigation on the website must be easy with the use of appropriate menus and buttons. Navigation should always be consistent throughout a website and a site search function or site map can make it much easier for visitors.

Similarly, websites should be clear. Avoid overusing distracting animations and graphics, using garish or contrasting colour schemes and using vivid colours for the fonts. Busy backgrounds often make a website harder to read. If the overall design of a site strains the visitor’s eyes or makes it difficult to look at, they won’t want to read it and will move on in most cases.

Create A Brand

Branding a site can actually make it more appealing and in some cases attractive, and it can tie in with the design of the rest of the site. An appropriate, well-designed logo can make the website more recognisable and hopefully memorable, and it can also determine the whole colour scheme for the design. Make sure the colours used reflect the sector and possibly even the values of the site.

Keep it Simple

Your websites functions and features need to be appropriate and simple. They don’t need a huge amount of Web 2.0 features just for the sake of it. Embedded media and other plug-ins can be used effectively too, but overusing them can make it look a little over crowed. This is most true for social media widgets, which should only be used if the social media sites have a dedicated user base that is active.

Six Tips for Freelance Designers

designer on mac

A guest post by graphic designer Luke Clum

Working in freelance design often involves keeping up with several projects at once and effectively managing diverse demands on your time. But there are a number of steps you can take to help keep your professional life in order.

1. Build An Inspiration Bank

There are times when you find yourself awash with ideas and others when inspiration runs dry. Have a store of creative sources up your sleeve that you can turn to in these times of draught. Premium Pixels is an extensive catalogue of some of the best and new web designs, while Inspire Me Now provides a comprehensive look at innovative image creation and use online.

2. Keep Up With Technology

Not only is this important for your design work, it can also help you manage your time. Downloading the right time-saving apps — particularly cloud apps that will connect your desktop, laptop, iPad and phone — is an excellent way to keep track of your work on the move, from the latest website wireframes to invoices and accounts. The popular document saving and sharing app, Dropbox, can be used to store information across a number of devices as well as between you, your colleagues and clients, while iBlueSky will help you get your ideas in order when beginning a new project.

3. Nurture Your Client-Designer Relationships

Spending adequate time getting to know your clients, learning more about their business or campaign and attending to their particular needs, is sure to save you time in the long run. Not only will you have a clearer understanding of the design services you’re being hired to provide, you will also get the chance to make your own demands heard, regarding the terms of your employment, invoicing and payment.

4. Get Your Invoicing In Order

One of the biggest difficulties for freelancers is being paid on time but there are a number of simple and effective ways to get round this:
• Make it clear from the start how and when you would like to be paid.
• Draw up invoices that communicate this in writing, stating in plain English the terms of payment.
• Invoice efficiently. This means sending the invoice as soon as the job is completed, sending it directly to the person who will pay you, and having a follow-up strategy in place should clients fail to adhere to your requirements. Check out this freelance invoicing guide for more tips on how to invoice more efficiently.

5. Create A Positive Work Environment

One of the great perks of freelancing is being able to work wherever you like but this can become a drawback if your home space becomes your work space or vice versa. Find yourself a place that you can dedicate to work — somewhere with plenty of light and space for a mood board — and stick to it.

6. Set Your Hours

As established above, freelancing allows utmost professional flexibility but this can come at a price to your social and/or family life. Be strict with yourself regarding working hours. Give yourself adequate time to rest and play. Even if you don’t stick to the same hours each day, be clear when you sit down to work when it is that you’re going to come up for air.

Luke Clum Luke Clum is a graphic designer from Seattle who specializes in print and web development. He loves coffee, hiking and alpine climbing in the mountains. Follow him on Twitter @lukeclum

A Graphic Designer’s Journey to Songwriting

A guest post by Anitra Jay

Anitra Jay Designer and SongwriterMy road to music started with graphic design. I was a PR major all set to make the world a better place when I first took my graphic design 101 class.  It was there I learned the essentials of Quark Xpress and Photoshop.  At that time Quark Xpress was the beez-knees. Ever since then, I was hooked on graphic design.  The thing that really drew me in about graphic design was seeing my creations being used in the real world. I designed newsletters, ads, brochures, logos, business cards, and so on. To think that my designs were being distributed around the country to people I didn’t even know just blew my mind.  Upon college graduation, I launched my own business as a freelance graphic designer.

I worked for universities, printers, entrepreneurs, and even a publishing company. It was so incredible yet nerve wrecking being my own boss. But being able to create and see people use the things I created powered me forward.

That was nearly 10 years ago. I’ve since evolved making strides within a new field of creation. Today, I’m a singer/songwriter. But the graphic design side of me didn’t go quietly into the night.  It reigns triumphant guiding my career to new levels.  Everything I knew about graphic design, I apply to songwriting and even my career.

Anitra Jay

There’s a simple creation process that exists whether you’re designing a logo or writing a song.  It all boils down to these three steps:

Brainstorming, Putting it all together, and Review/Critique

In the brainstorming phase, we want to know what feelings will this piece portray? What thoughts do we want to evoke? What is the complete story? We sketch and outline some initial ideas.

Putting ideas together

In the next phase we put those ideas together into one cohesive flow. We begin to tell the story. We’re looking to develop patterns, close in on a specific theme, and try to create something that’s both appealing and that makes sense to a particular audience.

Review what we have so far

The next step is to review what we have so far and perfect it to make it even better. We might switch out certain elements.  We might rearrange certain parts.  We might even scratch it all and start fresh with a new idea.  In this phase we review and critique until we arrive at our final masterpiece. Something we are very proud of.  Something we may one day share with the world.

That is what I do as a graphic designer and that is what I do everyday as a singer/songwriter.

Anitra Jay business cardsAnitra Jay, is a professional singer/songwriter based in Charlotte, NC USA and was surrounded by Jazz, Blues, and R&B as a child with Gospel at the helm of her influence. She began writing her own songs at an early age and soon after taught herself to play guitar. Inspired by a range of artists from Bill Withers to Erykah Badu, her music is a down-to-earth blend of soul and poetry. She combines soul-catching melodies with real life experiences that leave you inspired. For a free music download, check out her website at http://www.anitrajay.com or visit her on Facebook @ listn.to/anitrajaymusic.