Should Designers Join Pinterest?

A Crash Course on Pinterest

For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a form of social bookmarking service (specifically, an image social bookmarking site).

Pinterest home page

You find an image or video you like on the Internet, and then pin it to your account. So it’s basically an online version of a pin board.

Within your account, you can arrange your pins into separate boards. Your boards are your own categorization scheme for your pins. For example, you can organize your pins into boards like "Photography", "Infographics", "My Wedding Plan", and so on. You aren’t required organize your pins or create boards, but this is a key feature of the site.

People can follow your account or just your boards. You can also follow other Pinterest users and their boards.

With so many other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook demanding your attention, is it really worth it to carve extra time out of your day for Pinterest?

Yes! Here are 10 reasons why.

1. It’s a Great Source of Design Inspiration

When you’re stuck on a design project, you can browse Pinterest and look at what other people are designing and creating. You can just start pinning to generate ideas and concepts as you browse around the site.

For example, let’s say you’re stuck on the typesetting for a project. You can use Pinterest to find out what fonts your favorite designers have discovered recently. For instance, check out this "Free Fonts" board by Vladimir Prochazka.

Design Inspiration

Here’s an idea: You can use a Pinterest board as mood boards to develop your design ideas and concepts, or even as a presentation tool to show your clients.

2. Organize the Unorganizable

With Pinterest, you can create separate boards for different themes or ideas. Then when you come across something online that strikes your fancy, you can pin it to the appropriate board.

This saves you time later on because instead of having to sort through an entire browser history or bookmark list, you can simply go to the board for that subject and find the thing you need.

For example, you can create a board for Photoshop tutorials that you’ve found helpful, like this one by Julie Bode.

Pinterest Photoshop Tutorials

3. It’s a Good Source of Traffic for Your Site

Allowing people to pin your pages, blog posts, photos, etc., will help your design work reach more eyes.

Pinterest is social — people follow each other and are notified when someone they follow pins something. So, when someone pins or repins (the equivalent of retweets) your stuff, the people who follow that person will see it as well.

Let’s take as an example your online portfolio. Adding a Pinterest button for visitors of your portfolio can allow them to pin your design work for their social network to see.

If you’d like to integrate a Pinterest button on your site, they have a nifty widget builder tool for easily doing that.

Pinterest Widget Builder

4. It’s a Good Learning Tool

What do you want to learn about today? Do you remember when you used to be able to go to Yahoo! and simply choose a category of sites to surf through?

Those days are over for that search engine, but they’re alive and well on Pinterest.

Let’s say you’re very proficient in Photoshop but aren’t sure you want to pay the monthly subscription fee for the Creative Cloud subscription, so you decide to learn GIMP.

You can use Pinterest’s search to find the best Gimp tutorials.

Pinterest GIMP tutorials

5. You Can Promote Your Design Work Through It

In addition to being able to have links to your own sites and projects in your Pinterest account profile, you can set up boards that relate to those sites and projects.

One technique that has become quite popular is to create two specific boards.

One board is for your work that has been commissioned by other people, or things you design that you think your followers will find interesting.

The other board is for pages, posts, photos, etc., that mention or feature you and/or your work.

That way you promote yourself, you promote your clients, and you promote those who promote you!

Pinterest as a Design Portfolio

Here’s an idea: If you don’t have an online portfolio yet, you can consider creating a Pinterest board for pinning your design work on that you can show or link to clients. Though this isn’t what Pinterest is designed for — and there are plenty of free hosted online portfolio services out there that have specialized features for displaying your design work — it’s worth a ponder.

6. There’s a Real Sense of Community

In addition to creating your own boards on which to pin things to, you can also join group boards that allow pinning by multiple Pinterest users.

Pinterest Group board

Group boards help put you in touch with other people who are interested in the same things that you’re interested in.

It’s sort of like networking, but more fun. And with more rabbit holes to fall down into.

7. It’s Low Maintenance

Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest has no messaging capability (yet). This means that you don’t have to check or worry about responding to messages from other people. You simply pin and re-pin, and that’s it!

8. You Can Sell Your Designs on Pinterest

According to a 2012 Social Shopping Survey, 59% of Pinterest users have purchased something they saw on the site. When compared to Facebook users, Pinterest users are almost 80% more likely to buy something that’s been pinned. This is particularly good news if you’re trying to sell design work (like posters and printed material) independently!

Pinterest vs. Facebook

9. It Isn’t Overrun by Social Media Marketers (Yet)

How often do sponsored posts turn up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds? This hasn’t started happening on Pinterest yet.

While people have started using this social platform to promote their wares, the number of marketers on there is still relatively low.

This means you can feel sure that someone is pinning something because they genuinely like it, not because they want you to buy it from them.

10. Everybody Else is Doing It

Normally this is not a good reason to do something — but when it comes to social media — it’s actually a very good reason.

Wrapping Up

I’m still figuring out my own Pinterest boards. I went crazy pinning social media badges there a while ago when I wanted to dress up my own blog a little bit.

And, of course, all of my friends talk incessantly about the great recipes they find through the site.

Exploring the system has been really fun and is definitely something you should think of doing as well.

30 Beautiful Dark Websites for Inspiration

1. Weyland Industries

Dark website example: Weyland Industries

2. Etch

Dark website example: Etch

3. Hexaedro

Dark website example: Hexaedro

4. Jack Daniel’s

Dark website example: Jack Daniel's

5. Ascensión Latorre

Dark website example: Ascensión Latorre

6. HYT

Dark website example: HYT

7. Rune Werner Molnes

Dark website example: Rune Werner Molnes

8. Holler

Dark website example: Holler

9. The NoMad Hotel

Dark website example: The NoMad Hotel

10. eyegix

Dark website example: eyegix

11. 76 Synthesizer

Dark website example: 76 Synthesizer

12. Diehl Group Architects

Dark website example: Diehl Group Architects

13. Julien Renvoye

Dark website example: Julien Renvoye

14. Dark Prayers

Dark website example: Dark Prayers

15. SpritePad

Dark website example: SpritePad

16. Welikesmall

Dark website example: Welikesmall

17. Legendary Entertainment

Dark website example: Legendary Entertainment

18. Ignition Creative

Dark website example: Ignition Creative

19. Creative9

Dark website example: Creative9

20. Formfett

Dark website example: Formfett

21. RED Interactive

Dark website example: RED Interactive

22. TAG Interativa

Dark website example: TAG Interativa

23. Nelson Cash

Dark website example: Nelson Cash

24. Jess & Russ

Dark website example: Jess & Russ

25. Mercedes-Benz

Dark website example: Mercedes-Benz

26. Rooftop Cinema

Dark website example: Rooftop Cinema

27. Vool

Dark website example: Vool

28. Ghost Games

Dark website example: Ghost Games

29. Plain

Dark website example: Plain

30. Planet Propaganda

Dark website example: Planet Propaganda

More Beautiful Dark Websites for Inspiration

Want to see more dark websites? Check these other showcases out:

9 Simple Productivity Tips for Freelance Designers

How can you increase your productivity to a level where you can get everything done and still have a happy life? Here are my tips for being more productive.

1. Work on Creative Tasks at the Optimal Time

A 9-5 schedule doesn’t work for everyone. And, as a freelancer, one of the perks of the job is that you have better control over your work schedule.

Some people are more productive in the mornings, some in the evenings, and some really late at night. You might be able to increase your productivity simply by working at a different time of the day.

How can you figure out when you’re at your best?

  • Try working at different times and track your creative output. You can try working in the morning for two weeks, in the afternoon for two weeks, and in the evening for two weeks. At the end of each day, write down what you have accomplished. You can even use a tool like RescueTime to understand and analyze how you use your time.
  • Take a look at the data and try to stay as objective as possible. It might be that you won’t see any big differences in your creative output at different times of the day, but if you see a clear trend that indicates you’re much more productive at certain times of the day, consider changing up your schedule so that you utilize those more productive times. Move all your creative tasks to that time slot.

2. Work on Supporting Processes in Batches

Supporting processes like accounting, emailing, and communication with clients is an inevitable part of a freelancer’s life. These tasks might not require so much of your creative thinking brainpower, but are nonetheless important to your overall business success.

The easiest way to speed up tasks in this category is to batch them together. For example, dedicate a time slot in the day for handling all of your emails. Only open your inbox during that time, and deal with your emails until your inbox is empty.

You can apply the same principle to many other chores: Shop only once a week, prepare your meals in big batches, do all the research at once, etc.

Batching can save you a lot of time.

3. Take the Business Side Seriously

As a freelance designer, you probably enjoy spending your time on your designs and working on creative projects versus dealing with the other tasks required to maintain your business. However, one of the simplest ways to earn more as a freelancer is to become a better businessperson. Here are some ways you can improve your business.

  • Focus on repeat business. Looking for new clients is probably a major time-consuming activity that freelancers have to engage in on a regular basis. It makes sense to prioritize work that is repetitive over those one-off gigs. It’s much harder to find a new client than to keep an existing one.
  • Say "No!" to low-paying clients. Many freelancers start off their careers by taking on low-paying jobs. However, make sure that it doesn’t become a habit, because working with low-paying clients will only attract more low-paying clients. You don’t want that.
  • Specialize. Imagine that you’re a tech startup entrepreneur looking for a web designer. Would you rather hire someone who creates websites for all sorts of businesses, or someone who specializes in creating websites for companies in the tech industry? Freelancers are often afraid that narrowing down their niche will lead to less work, but the reality is that it’s not only much easier to get clients when you have a clear specialization, but it also allows you to charge higher rates.

4. Take Care of Your Health

Research studies suggest that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and sticking to a regular exercise routine improves productivity.

What can you do in order to enhance your overall wellbeing?

  • Get enough sleep. There’s a very good chance that you are sleep deprived without even knowing it (a majority of adults in our society are). Poor sleep leads to productivity loss. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Make sure your diet is healthy. People with poor diets are 15% less productive than those who eat a healthy, balanced diet. There are many opinions on what exactly a "healthy diet" means. However, pretty much everyone agrees that processed junk food, fast food, and sodas are not a part of it. Try to eliminate as much junk from your diet as you can and then replace it with healthier alternatives.
  • Exercise regularly. A research study indicates that people who exercise habitually have better job performance. If you’re a freelance designer working from home, your lifestyle is usually even more sedentary than it would be if you were working in a corporate office (which is already a pretty sedentary lifestyle), therefore it’s wise to make a conscious effort to include some exercise in your daily routine. Pick an activity you like — whether it’s weightlifting, martial arts, boxing, dancing, or simply walking for an hour everyday — any physical activity that you can stick to doing on a regular basis is a good candidate.

5. Eliminate Distractions

When you have a regular corporate job, and you know that you’ll have to stay in the office until 5:00PM no matter how productive you are simply because the boss requires you to, it makes sense to indulge in different distractions.

However, when you work for yourself, spending hours watching funny cat videos on YouTube is not only damaging to your productivity, but also to your life.

Think about it: the more time you spend distracted, the more time it takes to complete a task at hand, and the less time you have for your hobbies, friends, and family.

What can you do in order to eliminate as many of these distractions as possible?

  • Don’t allow email to dominate your work hours. I’ve already made this suggestion earlier, but I’m going to repeat it again because I think it’s important: Schedule a time slot in your daily routine for dealing with emails and don’t open your inbox at other times.
  • Turn off the internet if you don’t need it for work. You might need Internet access to communicate with clients, but chances are that you don’t need it in order to get your most important tasks done. The easiest way to avoid temptations is to disconnect yourself from the Internet when you are working on these tasks.
  • Block distracting websites during work hours. When you need Internet to get your work done, turn on an app that blocks your access to the websites that distract you (like Twitter and Facebook). Check out StayFocusd if you’re a Google Chrome user or LeechBlock if you’re on Firefox if you’d like to do this. This way you won’t find yourself commenting on your friend’s birthday photos when you’re supposed to be working.

6. Have Standardized Processes

Many freelancers do the same type of work over and over again. It’s a good idea to develop a specific process for these types of repetitive tasks so that you don’t have to start from scratch every time you start a new project.

How can you do that?

  • Track and record all the things you do when you work on a typical project. I know this sounds like a huge hassle, but when you start working on a new project, write down all the actions that you take, from start to finish. It’s even better if you do this throughout several projects. You can even create a Done list (instead of a To-Do list) that will additionally help with motivation.
  • Take a look at the records you’ve gathered, analyze what things you do often, and develop a standard workflow. The idea is to create a checklist where all the things that you have to do is outlined in the order in which they need to be done. This will save you a lot of time on your next project since you won’t have to wonder what you should do next.

7. Plan Your Work

Very few people take time to plan their work. It’s much better to plan your work properly and then work systematically than to start straight away and work haphazardly.

Here’s a simple process for planning your work effectively:

  1. Make a list of all the things you need to do in order to complete a project.
  2. Sit down and go through the whole project in your mind.
  3. Take your pen and paper, and write down everything that you need to do in order to complete the project from start to finish.
  4. Go through the whole project in your mind again. Is there anything missing in your list? Make sure that it’s as comprehensive as possible.

Develop a timeframe for the project that shows what you have to do each week. Now that you have a list of things that you need to do, spread them all out throughout several weeks, making sure that on each week, you have a reasonable workload.

Also, pick a deadline for the completion of the project that is earlier than the deadline set by the client. Most projects usually take longer to complete than what you have originally planned due to all sorts of unexpected events. It’s smart to set your own deadline before the client’s deadline in order to give yourself some extra time in case something goes wrong.

8. Establish Boundaries between Work and Life

Many freelance designers feel like they should be working all the time. This really affects their productivity; they can’t work because they are too stressed out to focus, and they can’t relax because they are too stressed out to relax.

You have to consciously enforce boundaries between your work and your life if you don’t want to fall into this vicious cycle.

It’s a good idea to have three separate to-do lists: daily, weekly, and monthly.

  1. At the end of each month, make a to-do list for the next month that includes all the
    things that need to be done that month.
  2. At the end of each week, take a look at your to-do list for that month, and transfer
    some items to a to-do list for the next week.
  3. At the end of each day, take a look at your to-do list for that week, and transfer some items to a to-do list for the next day.

How does this habit help you maintain clear boundaries between your work and your life? Simple: once you have crossed off everything from your list, you’re not allowed to add any more items to it.

Yes, that means that if you finished your work for the day at 2PM, or your work for the week on Wednesday, or your work for the month on the 21st, you aren’t permitted to add more tasks to your list.

Crazy? Maybe. But this system can force you to create a better work-life balance.

9.  Have a Life!

Have you noticed that when all you have to look forward to after work is watching TV and eating potato crisps, you often find yourself working late into the night? The truth is that you have to want to get things done as fast as you can in order to be really productive.

You can’t stay motivated when there’s no reason for you to do your best. That’s why if you want to be a successful freelancer, you have to make sure that you have a life, otherwise you’ll simply end up spinning your wheels in front of a computer for hours and not getting anywhere.

You will be surprised at how fast you can get things done when you know that you have something fun arranged after work.

Conclusion

You have to take action if you want to become more productive! No amount of reading about productivity will help you unless you take action. It’s easy to read articles about all the things you should do in order to be more productive, but nothing is going to change in your life until you actually apply some of the ideas that you have learned.

That’s why I want you to pick just one piece advice from this article and implement it in your life over the next four weeks.

You will be surprised how much difference a commitment to make a small change can make when you actually follow through with it.

What is the one idea from this article that you will apply in your life in order to become a more productive freelance designer? Let me know in the comments!

14 Essential Resources for New SEOs

If you are new to search engine optimization or just trying to find some more helpful resources, take a look at this list of the 14 tools that every SEO should be familiar with.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an important tracking program offered for free by Google. It allows you to determine where your visitors came from, how long they stayed on your site, and what they did while they were on your site. You can also track return on investment and conversions so that you can not only increase your presence on the web, but increase the money that you are making too!

Google Webmaster Tools

Like Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools has many features and uses. Some of the main features include checking for crawl errors and broken links (keep your fingers crossed that there aren’t any).  You can also submit a sitemap which tells search engines how to crawl your site. Another important feature is checking your site for duplicate content, Google hates duplicate content.

Xenu Link Sleuth

Xenu Link Sleuth is another tool which is great for finding the dreaded duplicate content and broken links on your site. Google Webmaster Tools only provides you with the top 1,000 pages of errors, while Xenu can crawl through thousands of pages on your site, and quickly. Unfortunately, Xenu only runs on Window PCs, so if you have a Mac, take a look at Screaming Frog.  Where would we be without, Tilman, who made this tool!

A1 Sitemap Generator

You should submit a sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools, but before you do so you’ll need to create one. This is where A1 Sitemap Generator comes in handy. With this tool you can scan your website and create a sitemap. The sitemaps can be XML (what Google recommends), RSS, TXT, ASP.net or HTML. Use A1 Sitemap Generator to ensure that all of your pages are crawled and index.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Picking keywords is one of the most important aspects of SEO. Without the correct keywords your optimization efforts may be futile. It doesn’t make sense to optimize a keyword that is extremely competitive if you have a start-up site and it doesn’t make sense to market a keyword that doesn’t have any search volume either. The Google AdWords Keyword Tool will provide you with competition and volume information for a keyword so you can determine what keywords to add to your campaign and it also gives suggestions for keyword ideas.

SEMRush

SEMRush is another tool for keyword research which provides organic keywords for a certain domain and a list of online competitors. This tool will also show some useful stats on each keyword such as volume and competition, just like Google AdWords. After determining some of your competitors, researching what keywords they are ranking for can be very useful. Don’t be afraid of stealing keywords from competitors!

SpyFu

A final keyword research tool that shows trends in both paid and organic search is SpyFu. SpyFu is geared more toward competitor research for paid searches, but also provides some great information on organic keywords and organic competitors. Use SpyFu to create a list of keywords that your competitors are targeting and steal them.

Open Site Explorer

Link building is such an important aspect of SEO these days, so finding the perfect tool to track your links is imperative. Open Site Explorer is the perfect tool to do just that! It will show you a list of inbound links along with the anchor text that is used and allows you to compare the link profiles of your site to 4 other sites at once. You’ll be able to identify what links your competitors have obtained, the anchor text their targeting, and work on getting those same links for your site. Open Site Explorer also displays metrics on page authority, domain authority, linking root domains, total links, Facebook shares, Facebook likes, Tweets, and Google+1s.

Filezilla

Once you have used all of the optimization tools above, you’ll have to make updates to your website. FileZilla allows you to edit files remotely, drag and drop to transfer files, and includes a site manager to store your log-in information. It does all of this with a user-friendly interface which displays both local and remote folders. Remember to make backups!

Raven

If using all of these tools separately seems daunting, Raven Tools integrates multiple resources into one easy-to-use interface. Resources that are incorporated in this one powerful tool include SEMRush, SEOmoz, Google AdWords tools, Open Site Explorer, Google Analytics, and more. Raven also encompasses social media tools. It will feel like a breath of fresh air to have many of your tools in one central location.

Social

Fiverr

Fiverr is a handy site where everything costs just $5! Normally, $5 doesn’t get you very far, a coffee at Starbucks maybe. So save your Starbucks money and ramp up your social media marketing using Fiverr. People will list social services such as “I will provide 100 tweets for $5” or “I will provide 50 Google+ votes for a blog post for $5.” With Google putting more emphasis on social signals every day, you will need these tweets and votes to help your site rank. And for only $5, you can’t beat that.

Blogs/Forums

SEOmoz

SEOmoz will keep you up to date with the industry because the staff at SEOmoz frequently makes updates to their blog with helpful tips and advice for search engine optimization. SEOmoz also provides many tools to assist with optimization such as keyword analysis, link analysis, on-page analysis, rank tracking, crawl tests, and more! SEOmoz is a popular resource among the internet marketing community.  Again, thanks to Rand for always keeping us true to the times!

Digital Point

Digital Point is a forum where you can get help with any internet marketing questions you might have. Just post your question and your internet marketing community will assist you with any issues you might be experiencing.

Warrior Forum

A second notable forum is the Warrior Forum. Along with getting answers to your marketing questions, you can interact with other members of the internet marketing community and stay involved and up-to-date!