Dutch Oven catering promo card

Take It and Run With It: What I Want Clients to Do with the Work I Create for Them

My family and I enjoyed a Saturday out at the Abbeville Spring Festival last week. The weather in the morning and afternoon was positively perfect! It was almost nippy when we arrived, and it was comfortable even in the afternoon sun. As the sun dipped into the horizon, a front blew through. We saw a few raindrops as we were trying to decide where to eat. As the weather rolled in, we quickly shifted our preferences from festival fare to any place with a roof. Thankfully, we were a short walk from The Dutch Oven.

We were seated at a table in the back room, and I was thrilled to see that Ivan was still getting use out of the menu layout I did for him. That project was early in my business (it was invoice #4, dated 11/25/2011). The owner has barely even asked for help with his menu since 2011. I think he needed a hand updating prices once, but there has been zero revenue from The Dutch Oven’s menu since I created it. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Major Point #1: I don’t begrudge the fact that my client is fully using what I provided for him. I intended for him to be able to use the design once I was finished with it.

<sales-pitch>The meal was everything we expected. If you haven’t eaten at The Dutch Oven in Abbeville, SC, give it a try sometime soon. Really, make plans soon.</sales-pitch>

During the meal, I noticed a small table-top display next to the napkin dispenser. It was a well-crafted postcard in an acrylic holder:Dutch Oven catering promo card

I noticed the images right away. They were from a shoot I did for Ivan about a year ago in efforts to create some content for his new website. And yes, I ate most of what I shot! Mmmmmm.

So Ivan hired me for some photos and his website. I agreed to provide rights to the photos, and he paid for them. I was happy with the way the website turned out, but I was thrilled to see that Ivan had used the images I captured in a card to promote his catering service.

Major Point #2: When you purchase the rights to use images, use them. That’s why you paid money for them. Put them on your website (if you secured permission for that). Use them in print ads (with permission). Use them on social media (if that’s what your license allows). Use them.

So there you have it. I’m happy when my clients need me. I’m just as happy when they don’t need me and they are extending the life of the things we’ve worked to create for them. Take it and run with it, Ivan.

Of course this “take it and run with it” admonition only applies when you have paid for the taking and the running. If it’s rights-managed photography or some type of single-license software or website, please do NOT take it and run with it outside the bounds of your agreement.

The Renaissance, Abbeville Chamber's Business of the Year

The Renaissance: Abbeville Chamber’s Business of the Year!

The Renaissance, Abbeville Chamber's Business of the Year

The Renaissance, LLC staff members Sheryl Fleming, Paul Bell, Susan Jackson and Jacqueline Owens received the Business of the Year award from the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce annual banquet on May 12, 2017.

ChooseRenaissance.com Screenshot - May 12, 2017

Click to visit ChooseRenaissance.com.

The Renaissance is an active lifestyle retirement community located in Due West, South Carolina. AJ Design worked with The Renaissance toward the end of 2016 and in early 2017 to provide a completely redesigned and expanded website.

On May 11, 2017, The Renaissance was named “Business of the Year” at The Greater Abbeville Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet. This honor is well deserved from my perspective! The staff at The Renaissance are doing a phenomenal job caring for residents and creating a genuine community.

Congratulations to The Renaissance for being recognized as Business of the Year by The Greater Abbeville Chamber of Commerce!

Another Reason I’m In It to #ENDIT

You may have noticed the big red ? in the footer of my website. I’m a supporter of the END IT Movement. It breaks my heart that there are tens of millions of people trapped in slavery, and I’m resolved to do what I can to help support their mission and bring awareness to the problems they are working to solve.

The END IT Facebook Page is a mixture of tragedy and hope. It’s tragic to explore the problem of slavery and human trafficking, but there are often moments of hope. Today was one of the later as they shared a story of a 13-year-old girl rescued in the Dominican Republic.

That’s news worth sharing. Would you consider supporting the END IT Movement today?

Color Theory Infographic

Infographic: Your Guide to Color Theory for Design

I’m a big fan of good content.

Specifically, I am a fan of having good content on my own website so that the robots employed by Google make sure you see said good content in your never-ending quest for wisdom. Okay, that was stated with a bit much dramatic flair, but you get the point. Sure, I like to write good content. But often times, it’s just as valuable to simply curate and share good content. In fact, that’s just about the reason anything ever goes viral.

So with all my motivations laid bare and all my cards on the table, feast your eyes on this infographic from Silkcards. Design and color theory are topics that seem intuitive and self-evident. However, I’ve been in far too many conversations with clients where I had to take them back to a very granular understanding of typography, color theory, or even the English language itself. The following resource on color theory is a helpful reference for when those artful impulses need to be reined in for the sake of the message.

Scroll and enjoy!

Theory of Color
Infographic provided by SILKCARDS

Good Web Hosting Matters

I never aspired to be a web hosting reseller.

It’s true. In fact, I never aimed to design websites for clients. My first commercial WordPress site was something my client had to twist my arm to have me do. It worked out because I had to twist her arm to let me design a logo for her.

This is what the website part of my business felt like then:

That was five years ago this summer. I have learned so much since then. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed and how quickly it has gone by. The world has changed since then. My business has changed. And believe it or not, my clients’ businesses and organizations have changed.

This is what the website part of my business feels like now:


While I didn’t really aspire to be a web designer or a hosting reseller, I have always aspired to do good work. I want the things I do for clients to provide clear value. I even want to provide long-term value. So instead of rolling on with the status quo, I’m starting to rethink the way I’m managing websites to better serve my clients.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last few months as the realities of being more or less responsible for 45+ client websites settle in:

  • Websites can be fleeting. As permanent and stable as we wish them to be, they are still temporary. And even when they are static, they are dynamic. WordPress updates are released. There are updates to themes and plugins. It takes a decent amount of work, over time, for a website to remain available — even if the owner of the site never wishes to change it. In addition to that, in fewer than five years, I’ve already seen the business cycle and organizational consolidation result in shutting down websites.
  • Websites can be fragile. This is true because website are, by nature, held out to the public Internet. And the Internet can be a very harsh environment. If the sites of giants like Amazon and Facebook stumble through occasional downtime and problems, be assured that your identity website with a desired reach no bigger than your ZIP code will take a beating. How much more sites with national aspirations? It’s not so much that sites are delicate; the hazards are just relentless.
  • Websites can be frustrating. It’s a challenge to cling the search ranking mountain. It’s hard when you need x amount of traffic and you need to convert y% of those visitors in order to keep the lights on. It’s mind-numbing to find spammy links pop up out of nowhere on your site. It’s a hassle to forget where things are and get locked out of your own site. Yes, it happens!

Websites are still worth the headache.

Despite the challenges, most businesses and organizations find their website to be a critical part of communicating their identity to the world. A site with even a modest amount of traffic can result in thousands of impressions every year. For small businesses in a local market, there usually isn’t a more efficient marketing option.

Since websites are so important to my clients, they have become important to me. Instead of slapping together one or two sites once in a while, website development has grown into a substantial percentage of my business. While it made sense at one time to have a hands-off approach to domain name and hosting, I’m now re-evaluating how I’m doing everything concerning website hosting and management. I expect I’ll be providing clients significantly more value in the area of hosting. Will it cost more? Probably. But it will be worth it.

My clients have been so good to me over the years. They are worth my best efforts and the best solutions I can offer.

I’ll post again as I solidify my plans for a better hosting configuration.

Adobe Creative Cloud 2017 Release Splash Screens Roundup

2017 Adobe Creative Cloud Splash Screens

Adobe Released a Major Update to Most Creative Cloud Apps

Adobe just released major updates for the flagship Creative Cloud apps including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. The apps receiving updates also received new splash screens. Super critical, right? No. But they are almost always good conversation fodder for designers! If you’re curious about the art Adobe selected for the splash screens, scroll on down. But first, let me give you some brief information on what I experienced when I updated.

My Experience Upgrading to the Latest Apps in Adobe Creative Cloud 2017

I’m using a 2015 MacBook Pro with 15″ Retina display. Here is my system information:

screenshot-macbook-pro-specs

My initial upgrade action involved clicking “Update All” in the notification within the Creative Cloud app. I noticed that the progress indicator for Photoshop froze at 84%. I found this article that instructed me on the process to fix my hung-up installation. Before I knew it, I had removed ALL my Creative Cloud applications. Scary!

Thankfully, it wasn’t painful or time-consuming to reinstall the Creative Cloud desktop app and install the new 2017 applications. And everything works so far. The installation process even preserved my saved workspace in InDesign.

And now, here are the new splash screens.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway…) that these images are the intellectual property of Adobe and the artists who created them. They are provided here as reference and are for review only.

Adobe Photoshop 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Photoshop 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Illustrator 2015 Splash Screen

Adobe Illustrator 2015 Splash Screen


Adobe InDesign 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe InDesign 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Dreamweaver 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Dreamweaver 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Audition 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Audition 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Premiere Pro 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Premiere Pro 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe After Effects 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe After Effects 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Experience Design 2017 Intro Screen

(There is no true splash screen like the rest for xD…it just displays a start panel with a video. Here is a still.)

Adobe Experience Design 2017 Start Screen


Adobe Animate 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Animate 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Character Animator 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Character Animator 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe InCopy 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe InCopy 2017 Splash Screen

Rey Star Wars™ Fan Photo Dress-Up

My daughter dressed up as Rey from Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens for a Halloween event. We have boys in our household too, so we of course have a few lightsabers around the house. When these things come together like so, one just can’t NOT do a photo shoot, right? I did a little post work, and voila, my daughter looks like she walked off the set of Star Wars 8. Here’s the result. Enjoy!

clareyn-share

Background image credit: Unsplash.com

Tips: How to Get Likes on a New Facebook Page

Social media is here to stay. It’s something most of us touch daily. But being a user and making it work for your business are very different. When you have a brand new Facebook Page and you want to build your initial audience, where do you start? How exactly do you get likes on a new Facebook Page? I had a client ask me that very question today, and without much thought, I fired back this list. First, the screen grab of our conversation. Then scroll down for the list.

5 Tips to Boost a New Facebook Page

5 Tips to Boost a New Facebook Page

 

5 Tips to Get Likes on a New Facebook Page


First things first, I’m talking about a Facebook Page. This is not a personal profile where you set up your business as a person with the first name ACME and last name Widgets, Inc. I’m talking about an actual, proper business page. Here’s how  Facebook explains Pages:

If you’re logged in to Facebook and want to create a page, this link will take you to the right place:

When you create the page, you’ll need to add a good profile image. Your profile image should be your logo, ideally. If you are managing a personal brand in which you are virtually inseparable from your business, you might want to use a professional headshot for your profile image. This usually makes sense for people in the insurance business, sales reps, authors, and media personalities. Almost every other kind of business should use a logo for the Facebook Page profile image.

Don’t have a logo?

No worries! That’s something AJ Design can help with. Click here to get started.

In addition to having a well-built profile image, you’ll also want to set your Facebook Page URL. Your Facebook Page’s default address will be something like this:

http://www.facebook.com/My-Business-Name-829472633711178365/

Not cool. It’s not only not cool; it’s also pretty hard to type or remember. If you set your Facebook Page address, this is what you can have:

http://www.facebook.com/MyBusinessName

Much better isn’t it?! With those two preliminaries out of the way, proceed.


Okay, No More Teasing. Here’s the Five Tips to Get Likes on a New Facebook Page

1) Add an appropriate cover image.

Your cover image is among the first opportunities you have to make a good impression. What’s unique about your business? What can you do best? What are you most remembered for? Make sure your cover image features that thing.

2) Invite your friends and family to like the page.

Yep. Play the family card. Don’t be shy! Most of your family and friends (let’s hope…) like you and want you to succeed, right? Don’t ask them for a loan. Don’t ask them to buy things they don’t need. But do ask them to like your page.

3) Add a link to your page to your email signatures. Invite your customers and vendors to like the page.

Many people barely read emails, much less email signatures. But hey, having it there is likely to reach more people than not having it there. I would recommend adding a simple text link like this:

Like us on Facebook

And don’t hesitate to ask your customers and vendors to like your page. It’s usually good to be relaxed with this request:

Hey there Bob,

Thanks for getting that order shipped! I know that was a special request, and you really helped us meet the deadline. Thanks so much!

By the way, we decided to jump in to social media with a Facebook Page. If you are on Facebook, would you mind liking our page? Click here to visit the page. Thanks again!

4) Ask your clients’ permission to mention them (and tag them) in posts or images.

This may be a little tricky if you’re not used to how Facebook works. When you post an image with people in it, Facebook allows users to “tag” people in the photo. It’s a brilliant feature that allows you to say, “Let me look at all the photos on Facebook showing Sally…” The feature breaks down if people over-use it or use it inappropriately, though. If Sally is tagged in a photo of knockoff Oakley sunglasses, it’s a frustration. You wanted one thing but found another. Further, some users’ privacy settings disallow tagging. That’s fine. Note the first few words of this step: Ask your clients’ permission… If someone disallows tagging, don’t worry about it.

But if you ask and they grant permission (getting this in writing may not be a bad idea), you can post an update or an image to your business Page and then tag them in it. This has an organic “viral” effect. Facebook shows that photo in the News Feed of Sally’s friends. It may be presented with text that indicates, “My Business Name tagged Sally in an update,” or some other similar language. If Sally has a large Facebook network made up of people who could benefit from your services in the same way as Sally, this type of sharing can be powerful!

5) Learn about Adobe Spark and use it to create great images.

Spark from Adobe is AMAZING. It’s FREE. Spark enables you to create professional graphics for social media without having to be a designer. I routinely use Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, but I reach for Spark when I am not in front of my computer. Here are several examples of images I created with Spark:

There you go. That list of tips for Facebook ought to take most new business Pages from zero to 300 likes and beyond.


If you need help getting things started, contact us. AJ Design works with start-up concerns, entrepreneurs, established businesses and large organizations. I would love to discuss your needs!

If you want some help managing your social accounts on an ongoing basis, Jennifer at Palmetto Social can help.

A Blog Post About Not Blogging Enough

I’m composing a post about how much I write for my blog. Or how much I don’t write. Yep, I’m blogging about not blogging enough. Okay, I really just got tired of seeing the latest post in the most recent slot, knowing it was old news and knowing that it wasn’t really compelling. So maybe a quick cathartic rant — laced with a little bit of empathy and encouragement — is just the ticket! Need a new blog post? Write one about not writing. That’s a very Jerry Seinfeld thing to say, is it not?

JUST DO IT! MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!No, the irony isn’t lost on me.

So what do you do when you know you ought to blog but you can’t find the time? Well for starters, here’s some encouragement from Shia LaBeouf.

How Much Do YOU Need to Blog?

Maybe a better approach is to ask yourself, “Self, do I need to blog all that much?” The metrics on blog frequency and successful lead generation are a ridiculous burden for most small businesses to bear. I recall one article shared on the Fuel Your Photos Facebook group showing through data that  the most successful companies publish more than 16 posts per month on their blog (!). That may be realistic for several types of businesses, especially those with a business-to-consumer mode of operation and those who have someone with a full-time responsibility for marketing. However, in my experience, 16 posts would be a good year in blogging for most small business websites.

By the way, Corey Potter is an amazing wealth of insight and information concerning SEO and marketing. Check out Fuel Your Photos on their website and their Facebook group. It’s geared toward photographers, but I have found the information to be applicable to pretty much any small business.

More Is Better, Right?

Anyone with a website and a blog knows that more content, more traffic, more conversion is always better. It’s the lure of productivity. There is certainly a point at which more web traffic (and more blog posts that give a place to that traffic) is a good thing. But let’s look at a reminder from Sabrina:

More isn’t always better, Linus. Sometimes it’s just more.

But to be honest, from a SEO perspective, it’s better to have more instances of your keywords and your message occurring in the index. SEO algorithms are somewhat unintelligent in that they generally equate quantity to authority. For example, the more I blog about business friendly graphic design, the more the search engine considers me to be an authority on the subject. The organic results from Google, Bing and Yahoo would agree.

Reaching for An Excuse — and Hope

Okay, you got me. I’m not really making a case for blogging less. I’m just reaching for an excuse to justify how I could possibly be content with such an infrequent and irregular blogging frequency. Yep, that’s pretty much it.

But really some businesses do okay not blogging once a week or once every two days. But a target like once a week is a good thing. If you mess up and only do half that much, over the course of the year you’ll have 26 blog posts. And if you do a good job of staying on message while learning just a little bit about SEO, your website will have at least 26 more opportunities for people to find your content and maybe become interested in what you offer. Ah, there’s the hope.

And here’s a little real-world example of how this plays out: I was inspired to create a new post about 9:42 a.m. I said, “I wonder if I can knock this out by 10:00 a.m.?” That didn’t happen. It’s 10:24 a.m. and I’m not quite done yet. But I’m about to hit the Publish button, and I’m only about a half hour over what I aimed at. Not too shabby.

If you strain for a goal that’s beyond what you think possible, you’ll do more than if you simply don’t try.


When you’re ready to “try” but need some direction, contact us. AJ Design can help you get started with a blog, website, or ecommerce platform.

Featured Photo credit: Thom

AJ Design is Now Accepting Stripe for Online Payments

AJ Design is Now Accepting Stripe for Online Payments

This week I set up Stripe as a payment processing option for AJ Design. I am content to receive checks for payment of services, but that’s a major inconvenience for some clients. I am glad to be able to offer a convenient online payment option, even though there will be an adjustment made to cover the merchant fees.

How about you? Do you pass merchant fees through to your clients/customers? Or do you adjust your pricing to conceal the fee?

Here’s a hint: The customer ALWAYS pays…they just don’t always realize it!