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Connecting The Dots

May 1, 2009

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Today I spoke at a Nashville area AIGA local conference called Connecting The Dots. About 80 – 100 designers, marketers and publishers turned out to learn about new techniques in direct marketing that integrates print with web and mobile strategies. I spent my session discussing the importance of eye catching imagery as an integral part of creating design that gets noticed and rises above the noise. It was a great time. Learning and networking was experienced by all. We’re thinking about taking the show on the road. What do you think? Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? Also, if your a designer you should seriously consider checking out the AIGA. They’ve been around for about 100 years and are a great professional association for designers.

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Preparing For Lean Times

February 13, 2009

The one constant in freelance work is that it isn’t. Sometimes you have so much work to do you can’t possibly finish it all and then there are the times when you have no jobs on the horizon. 

Recession is happening all over the country. Layoffs are rampant and budgets are being slashed and slashed again. Most of the time one of the first things to go will be the part of the budget out of which a freelancer is paid. Its the new web design, the new mailer or promo video that clients decide to hold off on for a while. Those things seen as not integral to the bottom line, otherwise known as the stuff most freelancers make their money doing, is what gets cut first. 

If you make your money as a freelancer you need to be proactive. If these times haven’t hit you yet…they are coming. So how do you “recession proof” yourself/your business so that you don’t go under if times get lean?

First off, if you’re in debt, get out as fast as you can. Debt is a noose around your neck and it will hang you. There are lots of places around that will teach you how to get out of debt, its hard and it requires discipline but its so worth it in the end. There are way more benefits to being debt free than there are in whatever you bought that got you there. Once you are debt free you’re half way there. Here are some tips to keep you that way, even in the rough times. 

1. Save up 3-6 months income. Put it away and don’t touch it. It isn’t your slush fund for a new guitar, computer, or lens. Its insurance for when jobs stop rolling in. Most people with steady employment need only a couple months but because freelancing is much more unpredictable, you need more. 

2. Live on less than your making now because tomorrow you might be making less. If you start by not living at your max you have less of a chance of becoming overextended. 

3. Set up an emergencies fund of $1000 or so, that way if something breaks down, falls apart, or burns up you won’t go reaching for your credit card. Having a good cushion of cash between you and disaster has a way of keeping disaster at bay. (Dave Ramsey calls it Murphy)

4. Diversify. Work for more than one client, surely they won’t all stop calling at once. This will help insure that your cash flow dwindles slowing instead of shutting off all at once.

Finally, if you have spare cash floating around consider investing it in a business different than your own or starting that new venture you’ve been kicking around but didn’t have the time to pursue. 

You can weather the lean times if you are proactive and prepare. Don’t be caught in the cold without your coat!

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Motivation

January 26, 2009

When you are a freelancer there is no one looking over your shoulder. There’s no big brother keeping your nose to the grind stone. There is only you, and the millions of distractions swirling around you. This is even more compounded if you work from your home. It can be really hard to get started or keep at it when there are so many other things you could be doing. Andy Ihnatko posted a quote on Twitter today that is worth repeating: “Tip for freelancers: if a typical day is practically the same as being home from work sick with the flu, you’re definitely doing it wrong.”

How many of you have had days like that, where you didn’t get out of your pajamas and you sat on the couch and watched movies? I know I have. Those days once in a while can be good but when they extend on for multiple days and impede your productivity they are a problem. Laziness is an easy rut to fall into and its a pretty difficult one to climb out of. It requires retraining yourself, breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones. Its not easy and it takes time. Like dieting or training for a marathon it’s about discipline. Getting motivated and staying motivated take effort. It begins with a choice, a choice that you will have to make over and over again on a weekly, daily, and even hourly basis. It isn’t easy and you won’t always feel like it, that’s why its a choice. The rewards of that choice are not always instant. Sometimes the payoff is weeks, months, or years down the road. You can’t be focused on the now, be motivated by the future, the long run. Short term pain reaps long term rewards.

Get motivated!

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Consistency

December 5, 2008

A couple months ago I moved from Texas to Nashville (Franklin, TN to be precise) and I took on another job in addition to working for iStock and freelancing. It’s the busy time for me at iStock and with the move and learning a new job, its been a whirlwind of a couple of months. There’s so much I still haven’t had a chance to do yet like get new license plates and drivers license. I still have boxes that aren’t unpacked (avoidance works for me on this particular issue).

One of the main things I’m doing at my new job is blogging, only you won’t know its me cause I’m a ghost blogger for the owner of the company. This process has taught me a lot about being consistent with a blog.It feels really good to have a schedule I try to keep and I think in the long run it will pay off. Here at Creative Fray I’ve been anything but consistent. It makes me mad at myself because I don’t take the time to update it like I should. I have things to say but I never seem to nail my butt to the chair and pound them out. Its a discipline issue that I’ve been working on via another life avenue but I’ve far from conquered. Soon I’m going to start applying here what I’ve learned there and also what I’ve learned working on the ghost blog.

Over at the ghost blog I’ve written close to 30 posts and have several more in the works. There are about 20 in the cue, approved and ready to go. 10 have been published. I’m pretty proud of them (its killing me not to link to them but that would blow the whole ghost part of ghost blogging). This process has taught me a lot about the writing process and I can’t wait to learn more and apply all that I’m learning. (“On Writing Well” is going on the plane with me to Vegas this weekend).

Anyway, consistency isn’t something you have to do when its just something you do for yourself but if you want to build a following consistency is a must. How consistent are you on your blog? Do you think it makes a difference? What keeps you going/motivated/on task/etc?

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Off Topic – Voting

November 4, 2008


So I voted today, I hope you did too. I even got the sticker to prove it (they never handed out stickers back home. I thought only people on TV got I voted stickers. I must live in a real city now!)

Anyway, I know this really doesn’t have anything to do with creativity but I’m putting it here anyway. Here’s what I noticed about the voting process that kind of frightened me…. I never really had to show ID. I had my voter registration card (which doesn’t have my picture or anything on it just my name and address) and that was it. The thing about it is that I could have just as easily stolen that registration card out of someone elses mail box and impersonated them. I never had to show ID or in anyway prove that I was the person I said I was.

This fact in mind has me wondering why there is such opposition to voting online. The argument has always been that there is no way to prove that the person voting is the person in question and also that the system could be hacked. I grant that hacking could be a problem but so is someone else pretending to be me. With this election being as heated and crazy as it is why was I not asked to prove I was me? Honestly in 4 years I hope I have to prove I am who my voter registration card says I am.

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Conference Websites

August 24, 2008


I go to conferences for a living (somebody has to right?). So needless to say I’m all to familiar with conference websites. I’ve encountered some that were so great and some that were just down right awful. For instance, last years Catalyst Conference website was so bad that they eventually posted the conference info on the Catalyst Blog and made it a downloadable PDF because the information wasn’t accessible on the actual conference site.

As someone who needed to refer to conference information several times it was a very frustrating experience and I was glad when they posted the information in other places. I applaud Catalyst and what they were trying to do. They are always trying to be on the cutting edge and aren’t afraid to try something new and outside the box. The thing about going outside the box is that sometimes you fail at what you attempt, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying. The website this year is much better and the conference itself is top notch. However, if you are putting on a conference I have a few tips for you on how you can make your conference as successful as it can be by making sure the website is all that is should be.

What needs to be included:
1. What is the conference purpose
. People want to know what the point of the conference is. The first page should tell them what the conference is all about and why they should attend.

2. Who should attend. This can be bullet points on that opening page. Make it as easy as possible for people to figure out if your conference is where they need to spend their time and money.

3. Speakers. People want to know who is going to be at the event, sometimes people will choose a conference based on getting to see a speaker they really admire. So tell us who is going to be there and at least a little about what they are going to be talking about.

4. Where and When. The date and location should be on the front page. People need to know if your event will fit into their schedule before they can get excited about attending.

5. Hotel and Travel Information. We aren’t from your area so tell us what hotels and airports are near by, tell us how much cab fare from the airport is or how much parking is at the event and hotels. Even better, include nearby restaurants too. Innovate does a great job of telling us what’s around and how far away it is, they even put a restaurant map in the conference book, however this year on the site that information is buried under a link titled “quick links” on the registration page (not the most obvious place for that info to live but at least its there and I have to say again, this is the best conference about church ministry you can go to all year!)

6. Finally, exhibitor and sponsorship information. A large part of what makes a conference successful and cheap enough for people to attend is the money that comes from conference sponsors and exhibitors. Do yourself a favor and make information about sponsoring or exhibiting at the event easy to access. Post a listing of who is already a sponsor. One conference I wanted to exhibit at put that information under the tab on their site titled “Speakers” needless to say I didn’t find it in time and the conference missed out on the money. Today in fact I looked up the conference The Sticks, but no where on their site does it give info about sponsorship or exhibiting opportunities. Exhibitors and sponsors are willing to give you rather large sums of money in exchange for the opportunity to speak to the people gathered at the conference, do yourself a favor and make it easy on them or you might miss out.

Final Thoughts
Make your site easy to navigate. Flash and wiz-bang are great attention getters but don’t sacrifice quick and easy access to pertinent information for them. Make the aforementioned critical information available without having to drill down, put it right on top where people can get to it quickly and easily and make the site look good so people don’t mind spending time there.

Below is a list of conferences I’m going to, have gone to or would like to go to. Check out their websites, what are they doing right, what are they missing what could they do better to make it easier on you the potential attendee?
Innovate
MinistryCOM
Internet Ministry Conference
Catalyst
The Sticks
National Outreach Conference
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For Next Year:
Echo
National Worship Leader
Willow Arts Conference
Orange
Biola Media Conference
MinistryTECH
National Religious Broadcasters
National New Church Conference

Do you have any conference site horror or hero stories? Did I leave something out? Lets hear it…

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Internet Ministry Conference – Register Today!!!

August 24, 2008


If you do ministry online or even partially online you should make sure you attend the Internet Ministry Conference. Its a great place to learn about how to do online ministry better and be inspired by what others are doing. The speakers are great, the atmosphere is excellent, the people are amazing and the learning is top notch. And the food is pretty good too! Gabe Lyons of The Fermi Project, founder of the Catalyst Conference and co-author of UnChristian will be one of the keynote speakers. Not to mention that Brad Abare of Church Marketing Sucks, Kent Shaffer of ChurchRelevance.com, David Russell of National Community and Church, Cynthia Ware of TheDigitalSanctuary.org will be there too. My good friend Brian Atkinson will be the Emcee and teaching some breakouts and I will even be teaching a couple of sessions. So don’t walk, run today to sign up for this conference (registration ends August 31st) and I will see you there!

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The Slow Burn

June 23, 2008

28 Days ago the Phoenix Mars Lander touched down on the surface of the Martian Arctic. Its mission objectives:

1.) To determine whether Life ever arose on Mars

2.) To characterize the Climate of Mars

3.) To characterize the Geology of Mars

4.) To prepare for Human Exploration

It doesn’t move (like the Mars Rovers) it must bloom where it has been planted. It is equipped with a scoop and an oven and a camera so that it can extract samples from the surface and test them. I watched the landing via the online stream of NASA TV those 28 days ago. Phoenix Mission Control was a tense place. Everyone waited with baited breath to see if the mission was going to be a success. But why was everyone so intense? The answer, because the mission had been more than 5 years in the making and only 50% of all previous Mars lander missions ever made it safely to the surface. These people had poured their lives into this project for half a decade and it all came down to 5 minutes of sheer terror. If Phoenix didn’t land safely, the last 5+ years would have been in vain.

Unless you are an uber space geek you probably hadn’t heard of the The Phoenix Lander mission before 28 days ago. In fact, the vast population still probably isn’t aware of its existence and yet is a mission that has been in the works for more than 5 years. The lander blasted off from Florida on August 4, 2007 to arrive on the surface on Mars on May 25, 2008 (that’s a nine month journey through space just to get there). Now you may be thinking well that’s fine because its going to be there for a long long time. And while its true that the lander isn’t coming back to earth the entire mission is only scheduled to be 3 months in duration. That’s over 5 years of planning and 9 months of travel for a 3 month mission (that’s the equivalent of traveling from New York to visit your Great Aunt Ida in San Diego for a day and then getting in the car to go all the way back home.)

So by now you may be asking yourself, what’s the point? The point is this: Good things take time. In this day and age we’ve become a microwave society, we think everything is supposed to be instant. There are somethings that take time and they are better for it. While this definitely applies to steak it also applies to ministry. Change takes time. Don’t be frustrated because you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. It was 5 years before the lander even took off and it was nine months of just traveling and all of it is for a 3 month mission that is one small step toward a manned mission to Mars that is still many more years to come.

What are the Mars Missions in your life? Perhaps you’re make more progress than you realize.

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New Collide

May 13, 2008


COLLIDE Magazine just launched their new site today, you should check it out! They have a lot of content online now, including two articles by yours truly. So in a fit of shameless self promotion you can check out my articles here and here. I’ve really enjoyed working with COLLIDE so far and I hope I have more opportunity to do so in the future. So whatever you do make sure you check out the new COLLIDEmagazine.com! Its a truly wonderful web experience.

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Friends, Tweets, Acquiescence and Insanity

April 25, 2008

In the words of the Borg…. “Resistance Is Futile”

With that in mind I would like to announce that I have officially been swayed by peer pressure and am now both a member of Facebook and I just created a twitter account (tiffanibarnes).

Shoot me now!

I realize that its pretty much become a requirement for, business, ministry, friends and relationships so I have taken the plunge.

Its been pretty phenomenal so far. I’ve been on Facebook for about a week now and I don’t completely hate it (which is shocking to me).

I literally just signed up to Twitter, we’ll see how it goes. Its Anthony Coppedge and Terry Storch that finally put me over the top.

Its all bound to be an adventure.

So what are your thoughts on the Facebook and the Twitter? Do you use it? If so, how and for what purpose?