In the last few years, I have seen a host of sites appear that help you with design for your business or personal brand. Seeing as I know nothing about the subject of design, I thought I would interview the founder of the very popular DesignCrowd business, Alec Lynch, to educate us all. Alec started the business because he saw a problem with businesses buying designs from traditional methods. He viewed the process as slow, expensive and even risky. The risk he saw was that it could take a few months and then after all that you could hate what you ended up receiving from the designer.
Talented designers struggled to break into the design industry. In Australia, for example, there are 20,000 designers employed full time but around 60,0000 have graduated from design courses and don’t have employment. The numbers are similar in other developed economies. DesignCrowd attempts to fix the traditional problems of the industry by allowing customers to get designs faster (first designs by the morning), offering better value for money, allowing more creative designs (with over 400,000 designers), allowing designers to compete on creativity as opposed to cost, and allowing more choice with an average of 60-100 designs for your project.
DesignCrowd was launched in January 2008 out of Alec’s mums garage in a design industry that now is now more than $50 billion dollars. The first 2 years of the company were funded my credit cards and loans from Alec’s friends and family, in 2009 they raised $300k AUD in angel investment and grew the business fourteen-fold over the next two years. In 2011, they raised a Series A venture capital round of $3 million with Starfish Ventures.
Since then they have grown the team from three people to thirty-five people. In 2013, they raised a Series A1 again from Starfish Ventures and then in 2015 they raised a Series B led by Airtree Ventures for a further $6 million AUD. Their current revenue run rate is $20 million per year, and more than 75% of their customers are outside of Australia.
“The main thing that separates a wannapreneur from an entrepreneur is action. Don’t get too lost in books and start your business on the side or buy a domain name, but just take action”
Similar to Blue Dot, who we interviewed earlier, Alec and his team approached dozens of venture capital firms before they found the right one. Some of these approaches were relationship building, and others were actual pitches. In order for them to raise a round of funding it typically took 3-12 months to put a deal together. Alec says, “the more firms you approach, the more chance you will have of being successful in funding your startup. If you end up speaking to a large number of firms and you don’t get much interest, it probably means you need to look at your pitch, the product or the even your team.”
Having multiple, interested investors through this process can also assist in creating that magical, competitive tension that works in your favour.
Time Square and Virgin have used the platform, and there have been quirky projects like a tattoo design that says who’s your momma and a snowboard design – the options are limitless. Expect to see DesignCrowd expanding further in the USA and UK as well as other geographies.
The secret sauce of online marketplaces
One of the hardest challenges to overcome in any marketplace business is getting both sides of the market onto your platform. DesignCrowd took the logical approach and started by getting the designers first. They did this by running a crowdsourced contest and offering some money to have their own logo designed. This contest was promoted at design colleges and universities to attract designers to the marketplace.
As they acquired customers and projects were put up on the site, more designers came to the site and started telling each other in a very organic way. The other way they have increased both sides of the marketplace is to make some small acquisitions of websites and design communities, which has helped inorganically, grow the bottom line.
Many marketplaces have a natural “viral loop.” When a customer posts a project and requests a design with an offer of money, this creates content. Essentially this is a job listing that Google can now index, and it can be shared with other designers.
As designers respond by uploading designs, once the project completes each of those designs become public on their own page linking to the overall project and the designer who created them. This also creates content for Google and bloggers which helps attract designers and new customers.
Below are the six tips that Alec Lynch gave me for creating a great design for your startup.
1. Attract a good designer
To attract a good designer to your project you need to write a good brief, that’s not too long and not too short. Really short briefs signal to designers that you don’t really care or you might not be clear what you want. If your brief is too long, it can imply that your work is too difficult and is going to take a designer too long. In a marketplace context, a designer could be more inclined to gravitate towards a project that is easier. If you have lots of ideas about your design, you need to find the essence and the direction you want to go in a simplified way. Prioritise the parts in the design that are most important to you.
2. Pay your designer a fair price
You should be offering an amount of money for your design that your startup is comfortable paying and think is good value. Ideally you want to be offering more than the average amount of money in the marketplace, and then you will naturally attract the best designers that are on the site. It’s also worth handpicking designers from the directory that’s available.
On a platform like DesignCrowd, you can offer small participation payments to top designers that come off your budget, to encourage them to work on your project. Designers typically put more effort into these projects and prioritise them over others, which can help you get the best design.
3. Consider using the same designer again for future work
Sites like DesignCrowd allow you to work one to one so once you find a designer you like, this can be an easy way to move forward without having to run contests in the future. Around 20% of projects on DesignCrowd are follow-up projects. Even if the designer you used two years ago is not active, there is usually a 95% chance that they are still available on the site, so you can reach out to them again.
This was something that I found very comforting to hear. In the real world, you would normally only have a relationship with one designer that could be risky for your business if they become busy or go full time with another client. With a marketplace, you can go to other designers quite easily and basically have an unlimited design team. All the designs are also submitted to the site with industry-standard source files so that designs can be easily manipulated by other designers if need be.
4. Get all the elements of your design right
You want a design that is effective and helps you achieve your business goals. If these goals are related to growing revenue, then your design needs to match those goals. Brand awareness, brand loyalty and brand association are all things that you should aim for. In terms of colors, if you look at the top 100 brands in the world through interbrand, the most popular color is blue and then followed by red. While you don’t have to use these colors, it’s worth knowing what the best use.
If it’s a website your designing, then you want a design that helps convert traffic into sales. Understand the different elements of your website like your calls to action, your design / layout, your colors and your copy and make sure they are all based on converting traffic. All these elements need to be continually tested and improved in order to get the best result.
David Ogilvy Quote “Never stop testing and your advertising will never stop improving”
5. Use all the tools of a marketplace
On DesignCrowd, you have access to a directory of designers where you can go and look at their portfolio. There is a polling tool that allows you to poll your customers, friend’s family and employees about what they think of your design. For those of you who are looking to hide your projects from Google and competitors, there is also a function that allows you to do this. In terms of social media, make sure you use it throughout your design phase to gather opinions on what you’re doing and see if you are on the right track.
6. Avoid common design errors
Don’t make your design too complicated or have too much detail. If you’re getting a website design, don’t have too many things on the page and keep it simple for the user. You should try not to make the mistake of having a design that is effective to you or meaningful to you, rather than what will resonate more with your target audience. To uncover what will work, you can try testing your brand or design using Google Adwords to see what get’s the best outcome. You could also look at trying different domain names at the same time.
“No matter how good your idea is there is a fairly probable chance that someone else in the world has that idea. It may be the case that no one else has acted on that idea, but there is always a chance that they will if it’s a good idea. That said, you will always have competitors”
If you are working on a design for your startup check out DesignCrowd for some tools that will help you stand out from the rest.
Lessons I Have Learned About Scaling a Business as a Startup Founder
When I set out to start my own business three years ago, I never imagined bright lights and private jets to New York or Shanghai for business meetings. Good thing I didn’t because it is nothing like that at all. It was a struggle from day one and I had to embrace the grind to grow. (more…)
5 Hacks to Improve Your Writing Skills in English for ESL Learners
Studying in college is hard for everyone, but ESL learners arguably suffer the most. Moving to a foreign country, learning a new language, and keeping pace with the rest of the class may seem like an unbearable burden. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but you have to pull through and not give up.
In moments like this, it’s always a good idea to seek help. Whether you go to WriteMyPaper to order an essay or just talk to a friend, admitting vulnerability is an important step towards improvement. In this article, you will find some tips on how to get better at essay writing, even if English is not your native language.
Control Your Environment
Improving your language skills is all about constant practice. Living in an English-speaking community is the first thing you should do to start your practice. It might be tempting to surround yourself with people who already speak a familiar language. However, this way, you won’t be practicing English on a daily basis.
You need to make those lessons almost intuitive in a way that you don’t have to do anything to learn the language. If you live in an English-speaking community, for example, if your roommate speaks English, you will have to practice the language, whether you want it or not.
Still, make sure you don’t take it too far. Taking care of yourself is still as important as ever. Feeling like an alien for the sake of education is not worth it. Remember to keep in touch with your friends and family, talk to them as often as necessary.
Practicing language is not just about doing your homework. You can make practicing English a normal part of your daily routine by watching TV, listening to music, and reading books in this language.
Yet, this is a bit tricky. When being surrounded by white noise, people tend to learn not to notice it. You need to ensure this doesn’t happen. As you watch movies or read books, maintain your attention on what you’re doing. If you hear or see a word that you don’t understand – translate it and write it down. Be mindful and remember what you’re doing this for.
Writing Is The Answer
If you want to specifically learn to write, you need to do one thing, and that is to write. Continuous practice will help you understand what mistakes you often make and, in time, eliminate them. Focus on your goal, and don’t get discouraged when something’s not working. After all, even Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Get a journal and write in it daily. Pick a new topic every time and note everything you can think of. It’s also important that you write by hand, a spelling checker in your computer is tempting, but it will not help you remember how to spell words correctly.
Besides, journaling as a habit has multiple health benefits, and it can be therapeutic. It can help you get in touch with yourself and process your emotions better.
Learn In a Group
It’s proven that learning in a group is more efficient due to the sense of competition. Find a bunch of like-minded people who want to study with you or join an already existing one, like a speaking club.
The benefit of such activities is that you get all these people from entirely different backgrounds who are all good at various things. This will help you exchange experiences, which is impossible if you’re alone.
Schedule regular meetings, come up with topics to discuss and activities to do. You could watch videos or movies together, or talk about common things. Having assignments like describing an event can also be beneficial for the entire group. This way, while one person speaks, the rest think about how they would say the same things differently.
This will help you feel more confident in your skills and, consequently, speak and write better.
The most important thing about learning a language is not to be afraid of making mistakes. It’s inevitable; you just have to take it as a natural part of a learning process.
A child that is learning how to walk doesn’t give up after falling once, and you shouldn’t either. It’s most likely that your friends understand that you’re just learning a language, and they won’t laugh at you for misusing a word or a few.
Get over that fear of error and make as many mistakes as it will take. Treat it lightly, and don’t beat yourself up for it. On the other hand, try to attend as many events as you can that will expose you to the foreign language. Not only will it boost your English skills, but also improve your social confidence!
Learning a language is hard; there’s no arguing about that. However, it’s going to get easier with time. Take every hard thing that life throws at you and turn it into a lesson.
Watch your favorite movies in English, converse with native speakers, and you’ll see the improvement very soon!
Remember to be patient about it. Don’t give up, and don’t beat yourself up over something that you have so little control of. Good luck!
Remote Work + Education: 3 Tips for Students Who Want to Have It All
Probably one of the greatest changes for the last year is the shifting to distant learning and working. There are many advantages to the issue, like, not having to commute every day, staying at a cozy home for a whole day. It makes our lives easier in terms of saving time and energy.
If you’re a student, you don’t have to bust out your textbooks every time you go to university. Instead, you have everything close and on the tips of your fingers.
However, within all the positive moments of distance learning, it is highly challenging for many of us. At college or in the office, we have a schedule, a plan which we simply have to stick to.
There is also a boss or a teacher who gives us tasks, checks and monitors our performance.
Well, now, we are our own bosses and teachers and have to come up with the plan and track our tasks independently.
So, how to stay tuned and efficient if you work and study from home? How to get the most of it and not drown in the ocean of procrastination? In this article, you will find three tips to help you out!
Set Up Your Workspace
When many think of a distance learning or work, they imagine themselves wearing pajamas and lying on a couch all day with the laptop. No more dress code, make-up, early mornings, coworkers or group mates, paradise!
This is a common misconception of remote work. If you want to work and study from home, it is crucial to create a space where you would stay focused and productive.
Still, if you have had a hard day and feel like having rest on your comfy couch, but there are assignments to be done, leave your worries to professionals in paperwritingservice, just place an order and enjoy your day.
When we both work and study from home, we stay with all those household essentials and, at the same time, have to focus on tasks. That is why a perfect workspace has to be created. So how to reach this ideal atmosphere at home? Here’re some pro tips.
Separate Spaces for Everything
This is a common problem for many that they sleep and study at the same place. Our body is a smart mechanism, which gets used to conditions very quickly.
So, as you sleep in your bed, every time you lie on it, your body gets ready to relax and concentrate is the last thing it is ready for. This principle is applied to any other space in your house.
So, your workspace should be particularly aimed at learning or/and work. Every time you get there, your brain will be ready to do the job.
Get Rid of All Distractions
This is a very important step if you want to stay productive at home. Your home may be a dangerous space in terms of concentration. To make it easier, help your brain and get rid of everything that might attract your attention and ultimately prevent good performance.
Plan Your Day
Every morning when you wake up, you approximately know what the tasks for a day are. So, what’s the sense in planning a day if you already have it all in your head?
This is one more important concept that helps us have everything done on time. Planning a day saves you time and boosts motivation and disciplines.
Here’s how it is done:
- You write down a list of tasks that have to be done;
- Prioritize them from less important to more important;
- Hang this list somewhere, where you can always see it;
- Mark completed tasks.
When you mark the task as accomplished, you’ll get a sense of satisfaction, which may be compared to some sort of praise. There are many tools to write a to-do list from paper to online apps.
Dedicate Time for Yourself
When you work and study from home, there will be a risk of abandoning our personal time in favor of more important matters. This factor leads not only to great results but also a concept called burning out.
When people face it, they feel exhausted, demotivated, and apathetic. To avoid this, it is crucial to have time for things you enjoy. It may be a sport, hobby, listening to music, watching movies, seeing friends. Your brain has to relax and get positive emotions to be more efficient in the long run.
No matter if you want to work and study from home, these principles can be applied to any activity. To manage it all, just follow these basic rules, and you’ll see how your productivity boosts.
Good luck with all your endeavors!
5 Ideas on Starting a Business in College
Getting your own business is a very responsible yet liberating undertaking. By starting a business while still in college, you can be sure to have an income when you graduate or to at least get some life-saving skills and experience that will help you land whatever job you like later on.
Although starting a business can be quite intimidating, there are lots of resources online that will help you go through the process easier. In the meantime, here are some valuable ideas that will help you make sure your business turns out to be a success.
Develop a Business Proposal
Before starting a business, you need a working idea, something that you can sell to your potential customer. Having an idea is, unfortunately, not enough for success here. It is important to make sure that there is an audience, a group of people that actually needs the product you want to create, and will be interested in buying it. You can even define a “Buyer Persona,” which is basically a description of your target customer, what they are like, what triggers them, what their interests and needs are.
Business proposals can be different, depending on how big a business you want to start. In case you are thinking about looking for some investors, your business proposal should be a solid description of your business idea, convincing enough for people to understand that they will get their money back and gain some profit when your product goes live. In case you don’t need investors, your business proposal can be more of a business plan outlining the main facets of your business idea and the things you need to do to make it work.
Get Some Help
As a person new to the business world, you might need some helpers and advisors to keep everything under control. When it comes to your studies, there might come the point where you need to choose between your business and your degree. To manage the problem, you can reach out to a professional academic writer from essayservice and ask them to take care of your assignments while you focus on developing your business.
Additionally, you might need to reach out or hire some business or tax advisors, or at least request a consultation with them. Starting a legal business will require you to be good at paperwork, which means some preparation is in place. With a business advisor by your side, you can be sure not to miss any important steps when developing and marketing your business. If you define your company as a start-up, it is possible that some business advisors will be willing to help you out for free, given that they get interested in your business idea and want to get profit out of it too.
Create a Website
Whatever business you choose, whether you deliver services or products, you need to have a website. Luckily, you can make do with little investments here: you don’t need to hire an IT guy or a Web Designer as there are lots of tools where you can create a great website from scratch. You might just have to pay for your domain if you want it to be unique. One of such sources is Wix; it is a free website builder. You can also build a low-cost website on WordPress with affordable web hosting.
Why do you need a website, you might wonder? Well, the days when people learn about businesses from newspapers and leaflets are long gone. Now everyone will go online, look your business up, and expect to see some clear definition of what it is you do and what value you can bring. In case you want to open a shop, your website will function as an online shop. In case it is a service you are offering, your website will give your potential customer enough information about your service and will hopefully convince them to reach out to you and order the service.
Work on Social Media Channels
Having social media channels is as essential as having a website in 2020. While a website is a place where people can order and buy your products or services, social media is a sort of a platform that will lead them up to your website.
With the help of social media channels like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, you can find the right people, give them a brief description of your business, and get them to visit your website and learn more about what they can get there.
Social media is what can also help you develop a strong online presence and customer loyalty. Online presence means that your business gets regular online exposure. People see posts and notifications about it daily and thus remember and highlight it. When it comes to customer loyalty, social media can help you engage your potential customers, get their interest, and devotion to the product and the very idea of your product. They basically need to feel “at home” with your business, like it is something very close and personal to them.
Try Again Until You Make It
The reason why many businesses fail lies in the fact that people tend to give up if they fail, simple as that. However, the truth is that failure is part of the process. It is a sort of a learning curve you need to go through before you make your business into what it should actually be like. That’s why you should never expect to succeed on your first try or get disappointed if you fail several times in a row. Maybe it is just the universe testing how serious you are about achieving your goal.
Every company has this “success story,” where they tell everything about their ups and downs, their insights, and takeouts. It is good to read those stories to get some inspiration and do a reality check on what building a business actually looks like. If your determination and motivation are strong enough, your business will definitely succeed, no matter how many tries it takes to get there.
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