Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Project Shedding

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I’m an idea machine. Not a week (or, a lot of times, a day) goes by that I don’t think of some new site or web application that’d I’d love to see come to fruition. I’ve got an entire Backpack page overflowing with ideas should I ever get bored.

In 2006 I tried my hardest to actually build a lot of these ideas out. I had over a dozen different personal projects on my plate and some were even extremely close to being finished.

The predicament I found myself in was that I was killing myself trying to manage, design, and develop so much stuff in addition to managing, designing, and developing client work.

So what did I do? Right after the holidays I sold and dropped all projects that I either didn’t give a rip about or had been around for 6 months and hadn’t made any money or showed no signs of making a significant profit soon. That left me with only active (or almost active), profitable projects that I was still really excited to be a part of.

Since shedding all of those projects, I’ve found myself much more relaxed with work and a lot more productive. Projects that run themselves still require a certain amount of mental space and the amount of mental space my projects were taking up was more than I could handle.

Project shedding applies to much more than just business related things. Life in general can get far to full to enjoy. I highly recommend evaluating both your work and personal lives and, if anything, temporarily let go of some things and see how much your quality of life improves.

Posted at 4:11PM by Josh in Business, Lifehacking and Personal
Feb 20 2007

A year in review

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A year ago in July of 2005 I married the woman of my dreams. We moved out to Denver, CO as a newly married couple fresh out of college with no jobs, no plans, and not knowing anybody. Within a matter of a couple of weeks we both had great jobs and were really settling in. I had the exact job at a fantastic interactive firm that I had always wanted and got that job within a couple of months (not years) after college. I was blessed to say the least.

But after working there for a mere 7 weeks I had become extremely unhappy with the job. The people I worked with were great and I got to work on some huge projects for major companies, but I hated it. Why did I hate it? Because I was working for someone else. Everything that was put out had to go through a total of about 10 people…10 opinionated people. When any project was finished it was rarely something I was proud of and really was hardly even my own work after all the revisions. Sure…that’s just the industry, but why did I have to put up with it? I ultimately made the decision to work on my own from home. And here we are, one year later, and I’m still alive.

The past year has proven to be one of the greatest years of my life. From a business perspective, going freelance was a fantastic decision. I doubled my “salary” while actually spending less time in the “office.” It has been very successful to say the least.

Was the decision to quit a “stable” job hard? Sure. I had a family to support and no real work lined up. But it turned out to be the right decision in every way.

Maybe you’re in the same spot I was a year ago and aren’t sure if you should give it a go. I’ll say this, it’s not for everyone. Working for yourself requires and truckload of discipline and perseverance. It can get a tad boring sitting in a room by yourself all day. But ultimately the payoffs really are great.

So if you’re thinking of taking that step, do some planning, weigh your options, and go for it!

Posted at 10:55AM by Josh in Business and Personal
Nov 16 2006

Tools of the trade

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Here’s a pretty solid listing of the various apps/websites that I use on a daily basis to make business happen. Hopefully you’ll be able to find something here that you didn’t know about before.

Software

Adium - Use this for business? You bet I do. I value instant messaging and email over phone calls any day. Sure phone calls are still necessary, but there’s nothing like having a transcript of everything you and client talked about.

Adobe Illustrator - For all vector work…all of it.

Adobe Photoshop - I do all my website comps here. It’s industry standard for a reason…don’t let anybody tell you anything different.

CocoaMySQL - A must for any MySQL database development.

Color Schemer - Great for inspiration on color combinations as well as just figuring out what colors will work together.

Mail - Does this really need an explanation?

NetNewsWire - Gotta keep up on what’s happening in the industry.

OmniGraffle - I use this to build out wireframes and flow charts for almost any web or UI project I take on.

QuickBooks Pro - For keeping track of the cash money…ya herd?

Safari - For the obvious.

Studiometry - An absolute must. This application tracks time, handles invoicing, and is used for all client management. So good.

TextMate - Every single bit of code I write calls this home.

Transmit - The best FTP app I’ve ever used.

Wallet - This great little app keeps track of the hundreds of usernames and passwords I’ve got for all the websites and servers I manage.

Websites/Web Applications

Basecamp - A project management must. Basecamp keeps projects on task and moving smoothly.

GotVMail - Handles call routing and voicemail. Has a great online admin area and is reasonably priced.

Mint - The most beautiful web stats software…ever.

Posted at 5:48PM by Josh in Business
Aug 20 2006

Project Updates: August

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Each month I plan on giving a bit of an overview on the various projects I’ve got my hand in. So here’s the August installment.

Adregate

Adregate is the ad management and ad serving solution that Kyle Neath and I are developing. We got sick of there not being any real way for the majority of website publishers to manage the ads they run on their site. Adregate will provide them a way to manage their ads as well as provide them with tools to help sell ad space on their site.

Right now we’re working towards pushing out the first round of private betas. I hope to be using Adregate to manage the ads on a few of my sites within the next 2-3 weeks. We’re really excited with how things are going and some cool new things that we really feel will change how people sell ads.

Arcaplay

Arcaplay is a fun project of mine to try and bring something new to the table of free online gaming. There really are probably a hundreds of thousands of free online game sites out there and at the core of this, there’s not much different…it’s a place to play games, for free. But some really cool features I’ve added are the ability to tag games yourself, rate them, add them to a group of favorites, and get the code to drop the games into your own website or blog.

I’m currently working on the next version of Arcaplay that will improve on the current features and add a few new ones. One major new feature will be a “Friends” area where you can see what games your friends like and get recommendations based on what your friends have enjoyed recently.

I’m also recoding every bit of code (css, xhtml, php, javascript) from scratch.

Here’s a sneak peak at the new design as well:
Arcaplay Preview

ColourMod

About a month ago I acquired ColourMod. I’ve always love the CM widgets and when the opportunity was presented to buy it, I had to take it.

The widgets themselves will still be developed, but the immediate concentration is to develop the site itself further.

The two major changes thus far are the addition of the ColourMod Galleria and a shopping feature for the products.

The Galleria is a place to showcase and comment on great use of color in design.

The shop is simply a better solution for handling the purchase of the ColourMod products. On a business note, implementing a shopping cart solution instead of the previous “Click here and redirect to PayPal”, has almost tripled the conversion rate…nice.

Posted at 10:00AM by Josh in Business
Aug 16 2006

Business Goals for 2006

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I always find it both interesting and useful to set goals for the year to come.
At any rate, here are some goals:

  1. Launch and turn a profit with Fugitive Toys
  2. Redesign/Rebrand The Apple Blog
  3. Redesign/Rebrand/Refocus/Relaunch Indie Riot
  4. Launch Mediajot and have 1,000 paying users
  5. Rely soley on Sabotage Media endeavors for income (as opposed to client work)

And there we have it. At this point it’s a fairly short list. None of these goals are really things that I could sit down and do in a day or even a week. They take time and dedication. And time, dedication, and a freaking ton of work are what will make these few goals so rewarding.

When setting goals, think both big and small. The goals I’ve mentioned are the large, overall goal. But also be sure to set small “sub-goals” if you will. For instance, on turning a profit with Fugitive Toys I’d set monthly sales goals. You get the idea.

Posted at 7:18PM by Josh in Business
Jan 3 2006

Daily routine and focus

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Do you have a routine/schedule that you try to follow each day? I know for me, being self-employed requires large doses of discipline and motivation. A routine, of some sort, helps keep me in check and from just hitting refresh on my RSS feeds all day (I’m an information junkie).

Generally, I’m not really a creature of routine. I usually find that term associated with monotony and boredom. But here, in this case, it actually brings some freedom to my work day.

So what’s my routine?
1) I get up at 6:30AM every Monday thru Friday. Period. It’s pretty easy to make excuses to sleep 30 more minutes when your alarm is screaming at you, but this first thing is a must.
2) Shower. Some people are night shower people, but if I don’t have a shower in the morning then I don’t wake up.
3) Breakfast. At this point my wife is frequently off to work already and so sitting at the dinner table by yourself gets a bit lonely. This is when I usually head to my desk and start browsing through the various RSS feeds I subscribe to and doing some casual reading as well as catch up on the plethora of message boards I’m involved with.
4) Email. After my relaxing breakfast and news reading, the work day begins. At this point it’s usually between 7:45 and 8AM. The first thing on my agenda for the day is email. I read through all of the items in my inbox and then delete and/or archive what doesn’t need any sort of action. Then I respond to what needs responding to. After this I do the same with voicemail.

At this point my work day is off to it’s official start. One major key to actually having a productive workday is to actually…yes…work. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked much or next thing you know you’ll have followed 37 different links and read 56 different articles and it’ll be lunch and you won’t have a single hour of profitable work to show for it.

I think one of the main keys to a productive day is focus. There is just so much information on the web that it’s easy to get into a little bit of information overload. With 97 RSS feeds that updated every 30 minutes and your email auto-checking every 30 seconds, it’s no wonder we find ourselves stressed out with to much on our plate…we’re pilling the stuff on as fast as we can.

So what do we do? We focus. We focus not just our mind on the task at hand, but we also focus our information intake. Clear out those RSS feeds you don’t really read and set your email to only check every 20 minutes. You and your overloaded mind will thank you.

Posted at 9:26AM by Josh in Business and Lifehacking
Dec 17 2005

Holding a contest: How to get free stuff to give away

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The Overview

Over on one of the sites I run we’re having a huge contest where we’re giving away over $1500 in stuff in the winner. Did we shell out $1500 to buy the stuff to give away? Heck no. And we’re not just giving away 800 small items donated by small companies. We’re giving away items from Wacom, Adobe, Computer Arts, and iStockPhoto. So the question lies, “How did you get all of those companies to give you stuff for free?” Ah, good question.

First, what exactly we’re giving away, just so there is no confusion:
1) Wacom 4×5 Graphire3 tablet
2) Adobe Creative Suite 2 Premium
3) A one year subscription to Computer Arts
4) iStockPhoto goodie bag (free credits, tshirts, bags, etc etc)

That’s it…just those 4 things. Also note that I didn’t have a single contact with any of those companies other than the fact I use their products.

The Process

So what’s the process for getting this sort of thing? Well it’s actually fairly simple.

  1. First, come up with a contest or giveaway idea. Decide what it will actually be…a contest or a giveaway. Will the participants actually need to complete some sort of task (write a review, design something, etc)? Or will they just simply need to send in their email address or register on your forums? Write your details down. And by “details” I mean every little aspect you can think of. From deadlines to file sizes and more.
  2. Second, 5-6 weeks ahead of your contest date, compile a list of the companies you’d like to be involved in your contest. Do you think the new The Movies game would be a killer giveaway for your movie community? Then add Lionhead Studios to your list. At this point all your doing is making a list, you’re not contacting a soul just yet. I would also advise going ahead and actually getting contact info for each company, just to save yourself some time. You’ll want the contact info for the marketing/PR department.
  3. About 3-4 weeks out from your contest, start contacting the companies on your list. I’d advise calling over email as your first attempt at contacting. The marketing/PR folks get tons of email from people everyday and your chances of actually getting a response (and a positive one) are much more likely if you can get a hold of them on the phone. But make note, do them and yourself a favor and cut right to the chase. Don’t talk about the weather or what you did this weekend. Tell them quickly what it is you’re calling about. Something like, “Hi, this is Josh from SITE NAME. We’re doing a contest over here and would be interested in involving COMPANY NAME in the contest in some way.” At this point they’ll either say “No, thanks” and hang up or inquire more about the contest as well as your site. Be prepared with site details such as traffic and demographics and make sure you have your contest details handy.

    While you’re explaining all the details of the contest be sure you don’t forgot to hit on a very important point…how will this contest benefit them? As nice as people can be, Adobe isn’t going to want to give $1000 worth of software just because you are nice to them. They need for this contest to benefit them more than it benefits you. So be sure to come up with some way to really push the companies that are involved and let them know that you plan on pushing them and that this really will benefit them.

  4. At this point, if everything goes as planned, you’ll have yourself a few nice prizes to give away in your contest. Most companies will just ship the product to you and let you ship it out to the winner. You’ll do yourself a favor if you keep them up-to-date on how the contest is going as well as when it’s over and who the winner is. Many times they’ll like to send the winner a little “congrats” email or letter. Plus, keeping them up-to-date will generally form a good relationship with them for future contests.

The Closing

What is so great about a contest is that pretty much everybody wins. You get increased traffic, the prize providers get publicity, and the winner(s) of the contest get some sweet gear. So what are you waiting for? Get that contest moving!

Posted at 5:55PM by Josh in Business
Dec 15 2005

Arcaplay

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Well I’m almost done with Arcaplay. And by “done” I mean not really anywhere close. I’ll be releasing a beta version of it hopefully tomorrow. It won’t have any of the registration features done…but it’ll atleast get the ball rolling as far as SEO junk goes.

Posted at 10:39PM by Josh in Business
Nov 27 2005