The last week we've been staying at this great little campground called Lake Harmony RV Resort. Somehow we managed to get the absolute best spot in the whole place - right down on the water. We've really enjoyed our time here.
Last night after a full day of rain, the clouds parted and the sun poked out right as it was going down. I was working and happened to turn around to see our entire RV filled with a golden glow. We ran outside and just gaped at the beauty of it. It was spectacular.
While we were out, the owners of the campground saw us and called over, “We knew you were leaving this weekend so Lake Harmony decided to show off for you.”
I laughed because that's ridiculous, right? But the more I thought about it I realized it was no coincidence.
Did I mention my family and I are traveling full time now? In case you missed it, check out our blog here. Let's just say that in the past 6 months I've run across a ton of brands in bunch of different places. This is one story of a lesson I learned when dining in the Adirondacks.
Back in the Summer, our travel adventures took us into Upstate New York near Whiteface Mountain. There, in the tiny town of Wilmington we hiked, climbed, canoed and explored to our heart's content. It's by far been one of our favorite places we've been.
We also ate out a few times, and had vastly different experiences. This - is a Tale of Two Restaurants! *Cue soap opera music.
Friends, I have a lot to tell you. So sit down, pull up a chair, grab some milk and cookies and get ready. It's story time!
It all started several years ago - a slow, subtle gnawing in the pit of my stomach. Our business was great, my kids were healthy and happy, and my relationship with my wife was better than ever. But I couldn't shake this feeling that most of our day-to-day lives seemed - empty.
I was asked to give a talk at a gathering of guys who were trying to be better husbands and fathers - and before I knew it I had an entire presentation of why I was discontented. I dug into books like “Linchpin,” researched all kinds of statistics about home ownership and global income, and realized that I was having trouble reconciling all the time and money our big beautiful house was costing us.
In fact, I was having trouble reconciling what the American Dream was necessitating on multiple fronts - from debt to consumerism to education and beyond. The things everyone else seemed to care about and spend so much time and money on were slowly losing their meaning for me.
My wife felt this, too and had talked many times of traveling more. Exposing ourselves to people and situations outside our comfort zone. Maybe even of traveling full-time, ditching the house and mortgage and exploring the US on our own terms. We knew a few people who had done it. Could we do it, too? With 4 kids?
Guys, did you know that 2015 marks 10 years of 47m? I'm having trouble computing that statement. Hold on. Cleansing breath. Ace Ventura face. Forehead wipe. Ok - better.
It also happens that 2015 is bringing about some ginormous changes, and I've been thinking back to how we got here. Needless to say there were lots of things that were thought, and the thinking gave me a few nuggets that I'd like to start sharing with you.
First up? Perspective.
When we start out we do it for the love of the craft. Mine was art and design - and soon became clean, standards based front-end markup that evolved into a full stack process from branding all the way to a finished content-managed site.
My drive was to do an excellent job artistically and technically, making a truly awesome brand and website for my clients.
While this obviously still exists, I've come to realize it's not the most important thing. (You may be having trouble computing this statement. Bear with me, keep reading. I'll get there.)
When you're starting out, any job is a good job, right? Without that steady stream of income, you move into fight or flight mode and take whatever comes your way. And that's ok in the beginning.
But pretty soon you'll start to notice patterns. Some projects go really well and others don't. Some clients are great to work with and others make you want to break stuff.
Now there's probably an entire book that needs to be written about “why” certain clients and projects don't mesh with you. Maybe I'll get to that soon. For now, though - I'm going to assume you're smart enough to know the kind of people you want to work with (hint: they have the same beliefs, goals and integrity system that you do).
All that to say - there will quickly come a point where you'll need to start pre-filtering your clients. How do we do this? Here's a few ways:
Alright, it's almost March. So that means you've got those feeble New Years Resolutions wrapped up and you've got your googly-eyed Valentine's Day mushy stuff taken care of for the year. What does that mean? It means it's business time!
That's why we (FortySeven Media and Bright Newt) are all kinds of excited to tell you that our newest business course is available! This is a streamlined, focused look at making the most money your business can make. What's it called? Freakishly Profitable.
Overnight successes rarely happen overnight. It's easy to look at those around us that have “made it” or “arrived.” It's easy to imagine them with their perfect lives, enjoying every aspect of their success, rolling in piles of money while genuinely enjoying every single thing they do all day.
The truth is rarely that simple, though. Hard work is hard. It's not always fun. And you'll probably have to do a lot of it before you finally see your passion project catch and take flight.
For many years, the only way FortySeven Media took money was by paper check. That check then had to be taken to the bank and deposited before the money would be in our account. This worked ok when we were sending invoices spaced out between project phases, but we recently moved to tracking our time and invoicing every two weeks. Obviously more checks were going to be going out, and the time tracking software we were using (Harvest) had built in support for accepting credit cards.
It was time to start taking digital payments.
Harvest (or just about any invoicing software) supports a lot of different gateways and merchant accounts so we did some research before settling on one. I'll just be covering the “big three,” as these should be available for most apps, but let me know in the comments if we should be talking about some other ones.
Finally, we're based in the US so some of these may not be available if you're out of the country. Let's get started!
We get asked all the time how we get leads for new jobs. For those of you just starting out, it's really daunting. Overwhelming, really. Hopefully we can give you a few tips and places to start. But whatever you do - have a plan! Be proactive and work hard for it. Sitting around and waiting won't get you anywhere.
Do great work
First of all, let me get this out of the way: If you're doing bad or even mediocre work you have to get better. Nothing else I say will help if your product sucks. We get so many emails from people asking us, “How do I get better stuff in my portfolio if I don't have the work to add to it?” It's like the chicken/egg problem, right?
It sounds hopeless, but there are lots of ways to do this. Try working on passion projects – or find a cause or community you believe in and hone your skills there. We're not advocating for you to do all your work for free, but you have to take action if you want to get better. Don't sit around and wait on clients to magically appear out of thin air. They won't. Don't sit around waiting on awesome portfolio project to show up, either. Make your own. Also, see Branding down below ↓.
Today is an exciting day for us. Why? Because it's today that we realize a goal we've had for FortySeven Media right from the start.
Since the early days, we've been building some of the best looking and hardest working websites around. But once you have one, it is inconstant need of fresh content to really draw and keep people's attention. Which, let's be honest, can really be a pain. Who has the extra time and brain power to write and shoot a product overview video, or capture the right images to portray what it's like to stay in that exotic resort you run?
Here's the problem. Many of us who run small businesses aren't great at being profitable. We want to do a great job for our clients, charge a fair price, and focus as much as we can on our craft. Those are all great things, but barely making it brings a whole host of problems. Stress? Check. Not having enough money to pay your bills? Check. Being totally screwed when tax time comes around? Double check. At that point I guarantee you you're not doing a great job for your clients or focusing on your craft because you're too worried about how to pay your light bill.
What if instead of rushing to the bank every time a check came in you could wait 2-3 weeks before depositing it? What if you had several months' cushion in your savings account? What if the actual money part of the business was the last thing on your mind because you had taken the steps to setup a web shop that was profitable enough to actually keep you in business?
We've been on all sides of this, and after 8 years of doing this web design thing we wanted to share a few tips we've learned.
If you could design your perfect life, what would it look like? That's not a rhetorical question. Take a moment and let it sink in. What would you do everyday? What would your scedule be like? Where would you live?
People at conferences and seminars, authors, and “lifestyle business bloggers” often talk about this kind of thing to get you motivated about your dreams. And while sometimes a little cheesy, I think they are on to something in that “you can't hit a goal you don't have” kind of way.
The thing they don't mention is the hard and awkward work that lays before to take action on those dreams. Why? Because you have to change. You can say you like change all you want, but what you really mean is you like change you have control over.
I'm currently working towards this and I'll be transparent here as I relate my adventures in dream chasing and change. Ready? Here goes.
There's something you may not know about me. I'm a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. I loved it when I was a kid, and have rediscovered how much I love them as an adult as my kids have become fans over the past couple of years.
All four of my kids are crazy about the Turtles. It's all my 2 year old wants to watch. I have to keep up with toy fair announcements to let them know what figures are coming out next because we have them all. I considered posting a picture of the massive pile in our TMNT drawer upstairs, but it's a little embarrasing. I think we have a problem.
And so that brings us to what came out today - a for real, official sneak peak at the upcoming live action/motion capture movie coming out in August of this year. I'll give you a minute to watch it. Try not to pee your pants. Just come back and finish the article.
This past year my wife and I ventured into the apparel world with Last Night Ago, making awesome hand-designed shirts and jackets. It was shortly thereafter that I realized something very quickly: It had been a long time since I started over in business.
You see, all I've ever known was FortySeven Media. The whole “work nights and weekends till you get enough clients to make the jump” sort of thing. Or, “there's virtually no startup cost or ongoing expenses” kind of thing.
Guys, did you know there are completely different types of businesses? Because - well - there are. And Last Night Ago is absolutely nothing like FortySeven Media. Maybe I was naive, or maybe I was stupid. (Probably all of the above) But I jumped in trying to apply a services mentality to a retail reality. Physical product inventory is really difficult. It's expensive and nearly impossible to predict what people will actually buy.
Not only that, but I forgot how hard it is to start over. New logo, website, brand, accounting, billing - really every single process is unfamiliar and different.
Long before I did photography professionally, I lugged around this old DSLR I had and tried to snap fun pictures of the people and places around me. I loved it! And I shared those pictures with family and friends. They liked them and I did too. There wasn't much more to it. One day someone asked me, “How much do you charge to shoot an event?” and my brain melted a little. You mean you want to pay me for having fun?
They did. Which began a string of adventures that I'm still riding. And after all these years I still enjoy it, and am always looking for ways to do more.
While on one of these adventures my friend Leslie told me about a project she was working on. It was pretty ambitious. What was it? A design school for UX Designers. A real diploma granting university. A place to learn the craft and when you graduate, companies would fight over you because you had real world experience. It sounded crazy. I love crazy.
Loose ends, I've got em! We all do. It seems everyone I know has that thing they have been working on for ages. Things half built, paintings that are almost there, and for me, songs left to years past.
Here's the tale of a song that has bothered me for the better part of ten years. Why? Well, it wasn't quite perfect and there wasn't anything I could do about it. You see, the multi-track files for this and many other songs went missing. One night they were there, the next day they were gone.
Some of them even knew the words. Someone liked that song. And I don't know if they will ever hear this 10 year old new version, but it's for them. The ones who sang along and liked that thing we made.
All I had left of this song was one mp3 mix with scratch (place holder) vocals, and a not so in-tune guitar part I laid down quickly to get the idea before it left. It was 80% at best, and 20% pure frustration that I'd never get it the way I wanted. Not with the performances of friends that are seldom seen and one that I don't think even plays anymore.
January, or Planuary as we've called it before, is that magical time of year when you take a step back, reflect on the past and make big plans for the future. There's just something about the new year - as cliched as it might be - that lends itself to fresh starts, resolutions, resets and power-ups.
Last year we put together a nice little planning sheet and video on Kicktastic and we'll be using that for 47m as we move into 2014. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Nope. I want to ask you if you're doing any of this planning, prepping and polishing at home, too.
The truth is, when you have your own company many of those dreams, goals and plans directly affect your personal life, too. Are you including your husband or wife in that planning? If not, you should be.
Oh email. You of the world changing, panic inducing little numbered badge. You of the mentally overwhelming and exhausting distraction. You of the I do actually need you to get work done and get paid. Your false sense of urgency is both nerve wracking and soothing at the same time. “I'm answering emails so I'm being productive, right!!!?!”
But as it's been discussed so many times before, we often turn email into a psuedo-drug - waiting for that little badge to show something new so we can respond as quickly as possible. I noticed, too that scanning through my emails was just plain stressing me out. There were so many of them - and even if I caught a glimpse of one it would occupy a bit of space in my brain until I dealt with it.
This looks like a really interesting idea. Brace hooks up to your Dropbox account and lets you serve your static HTML/CSS/JS files as a website. This means you just update your files in your Dropbox folder and things get updated automatically. Even cooler, though - Brace actually creates a production version of your site that won't push those changes live until you're ready. Add to that Dropbox's simple file versioning and it sounds like a really simple, safe way to create static sites.
One of our recent tips over on Kicktastic was about Keeping Your Overhead Low - making sure you really need all those expenses you may have piled up. And one that piles up quickly for most of us are domain names. You know the one you bought because you had a great a idea but never got around to it -x 20? Twenty extra domain names and you're losing at least $200 a year. Not to mention the time sifting through renewal and registration emails.