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.
I was forced into my phone simplification because I ran out of memory. You see, the kids and I like to make little mini-movies. Our most recent one involved all their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys and - well let's just say it's going to be epic. Because it took up most of my phone's space.
At least I thought it did. 'Till I loaded up iTunes and saw that my Apps were taking up more space than my HD video. Bleh. So since I was over capacity it was time to free up some space.
I've had an iPhone since the first version way back in 2007 so there was definitely some cruft laying around.
If you do a lot of Responsive Web Design you know how much of a pain it can be to change font sizes and line heights at all your different breakpoints. Thankfully the guys at SimpleFocus have come up with a really cool solution: FlowType.JS.
According to them: “FlowType.JS eases this difficulty by changing the font-size—and subsequently the line-height—based on a specific element's width. This allows for a perfect character count per line at any screen width.”
The Bullet Journal system is a really well thought out setup for using an analog notebook in really cool, useful ways. The table of contents tip alone made me say, “Holy crap why I have I never done this? I can't find anything in my notebooks!”
There's lots more than just this video. Check out the site where Ryder Carrol, the creator has documented every tip and trick imaginable.
There's been some talk lately about the benefits of being a generalist versus being a specialist. The idea being that you are more valuable as a generalist working at a certain level of skill, as opposed to a specialist in a particular realm of endeavor. And in some ways I can see that. I mean, if I wanted to hire someone to work at FortySeven Media, I'd be pretty drawn to the person who could do it all.
So, why do we want a person who can do it all anyway? For companies, it means a smaller team. And that smaller team can mean bigger profits and agility. It is a very tempting proposition. For individuals, it means you are more valuable as a potential hire or contractor.
To an extent, even Jon and I have run with this thinking, and for the most part, it's been good to us. However, I'm finding out that it might not be the best thing in the long run. Let's have a look the cost of being a skilled generalist.
Nate and I have been thinking a lot lately about simplifying our lives, both personally and professionally. Not that we have crazy lives, really. Unless you call crazy taking your 4 kids who are 7 and under out to eat by yourself crazy. Like I did last night. And it was a little crazy.
But seriously, we've been pondering how all the things we've placed in our lives might actually be keeping us from staying focused. Apparently decision fatigue is a real thing. You know those people who scream about how important it is to have unlimited choices? Yeah I'm not so sure it's such a good idea.
Maybe the reason we find it so hard to even have the brain space to deal with big picture stuff is because we've spent all day knee deep in inconsequential decisions?
Turns out you can only make so many decisions in a day, and if we're wasting them on low level tasks like what to eat, what to wear or even what item to do right now then we don't have the same amount of mental prowess when it comes time for the big, important decisions.
This isn't web related at all, but it's a superhydrophobic spray-on coating that repels water, mud, ice and other liquids. Say what? Yeah it's as crazy as it sounds. Just watch. It's like science fiction!