5 More True Things Every Creative Already Knows (or Should Know) Vol. 2

1. Your Network is Essential

The truth is, successful creatives are successful not only because they do good work, but also because they have people in their lives who know they do good work.

Imagine two creatives. Artist number 1 is a superstar graphic designer who has worked for clients like Nike, Vogue, [insert dream client here]. The other is a struggling freelancer worried about where their next project is coming from. What’s the difference between them?

Luck? Geography? Talent? Socio-economic standing? Maybe all of these things?

In reality, luck or geography or varying levels of talent can all be compensated by the people you know and surround yourself with. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best at what you do if no one else wants to support you or cares if you succeed or not.

This isn’t some kind of ringing endorsement to be a schmooze-y brown-noser to everyone you meet (those people are the worst). It has, however, more to do with valuing the connections you make with others and nourishing those relationships so that you have good people in your corner. Do good work for a client and they’ll be more than happy to recommend you to their friends. Share your passion and enthusiasm with others and they’ll want to help you succeed because who doesn’t want to be part of a success story? You must welcome others to care about your work because that’s the only way your work will be relevant to others.

No one gets “there” alone. Not ever.

2. Perfection is a Lie

Perfect work does not exist. There will always be something you’ll see in your work that will make you want to throw it out and start over.

We are our own harshest critics. If you’re a self-respecting creative (I’m assuming you are), you’ll always be overly critical of your work because you’ll always want to be a better version of yourself. The truth is, that’s enough because wanting to do better work is the same as actually doing better work. Be happy with that. Stop chasing perfection because that will get you nothing besides another missed deadline.

3. Trends Aren’t as Important as They Seem

Following trends is a dangerous proposition. Chances are, by the time you get the hang of an emerging trend, it is probably on its way out. Or at the very least, slightly irrelevant to the next incoming trend.

The truth is, trends are merely indicators of our shifting sensibilities. Trends are just reminders that things are always moving and changing. They aren’t destinations, they are merely directions or headings. Trends let us know which way the industry is moving so that we can adapt accordingly and keep moving forward with our work. Being good at the newest hot trend right now doesn’t mean you’ll have an advantage tomorrow. It just means you’ve been paying attention. Paying attention is all you really need to get by. Pay attention well enough, do good work, and you’ll get ahead of the curve.

4. Getting Paid is Important

As much as we would all like to make excuses for those times when we accepted work that paid us in”experience” or the opportunity to beef up our portfolios, the truth is we all need to get paid for the real work we do. Creative work is one of those professions in which “free work” is readily discussed and accepted for one reason or another. For instance, a friend will ask you to design a logo for free in exchange for a “mention” in some obscure section of their website. A client will promise to pay you in “future work” because they don’t have the budget right now. No other profession works like this.

No matter what anyone says, the truth is that the real work we do as creatives has value. That needs to be acknowledged and honored accordingly. Always.

5. Distractions are Real

The nature of creative work is such that you have to actually create things. This requires clarity of thought and a certain concreteness in your ideas. Distractions, by their very nature, keep you from those things.

Be honest about what distracts you and clear your surroundings of these distractions. You might think you work better with loud music playing in the background but what if the noise is just distracting you from your best ideas? You might think working in a busy cafe is productive, but what if it’s just mimicking productivity? Maybe you even pride yourself in being able to focus in the harshest situations but imagine how focused you can actually be if you weren’t so distracted all the time.

The truth is, distractions can take many forms and they’re not always obvious. The sooner you acknowledge what helps you and what doesn’t, the sooner you’ll be able to get your work done — and done well.

Tell us more about the true things in your life in the comments below.

Drupal vs Magento: Which is Right for Your Ecommerce Business?

As the owner of an ecommerce store, you have many major decisions to make that directly impact your company. What products will you carry? How will you determine your pricing? What shipping services will you use? All these and more are questions you need to answer before launching your site.

But before you begin the process of designing your store – or selecting a web design agency to take on the project – you have to determine which content management system, or CMS, you want to use. And in when it comes to ecommerce, there are two major names to choose between: Drupal and Magento.

In this post, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about Drupal and Magento so you can pick the right CMS for your site.

Lessons Learned from an Unsuccessful Kickstarter

About a year ago, I launched my first Kickstarter called Habitat, a smart home automation platform that takes everyday items in your home and connects them to the Internet and your mobile devices.

Habitat prototypes.A couple of Habitat prototypes.

We only raised 24.6% of Habitat’s funding goal (which was $80,000 CAD), so it was not successfully funded.

Here are some lessons I learned from the experience.

Ideally, You Should Already Have a Minimum Viable Product

I love this infographic on how to build a minimum viable product (MVP):

Fast Monkeys MVP infographicSource: Fast Monkeys

What it boils down to is that your MVP needs to be something that provides value, no matter how different it is from your final product vision.

When Habitat launched on Kickstarter, it was not yet a viable product at any level.

We might be stretching the truth to say that it was even a prototype.

Did we have the product development and design planned out? Yes. Could we have taken it to market by our deadline? Absolutely.

Did it look like we didn’t have a product yet? Definitely.

We had a lot of comments along the lines of Do you have any footage of the actual product working? No. We didn’t. We had bits and pieces of it working, but we hadn’t yet invested the time to bring them together as a product, minimum-viable or not.

Building an end-to-end product reveals so much you hadn’t thought of. It reveals user interaction problems you haven’t solved and features you hadn’t considered.

How minimal your product is when you launch can vary, but it has to be a product before you launch.

Somebody Has to Own It

It doesn’t matter who it is, but somebody has to own the project. I launched Habitat with a team of incredibly talented people. But they all had full-time jobs and were working on Habitat in their spare time.

Although it was a great team, the lack of ownership meant a lot of things slipped through the cracks. Although all of us liked the idea and wanted Habitat to be successful, none of us felt the ownership required to make it successful.

This lack of genuine ownership revealed itself to people looking at the Kickstarter campaign as a lack of product vision, a lack of refinement, and a lack of discipline when it came to attention to detail.

For example, when we launched, we had a number of different pledge levels, but we failed to notice that some of the levels didn’t make sense. Also, some desired combinations of features couldn’t actually be purchased because we had failed to notice that a user could only pledge once.

I don’t think there is any problem with launching a Kickstarter with a part-time team, but it is hugely beneficial to have at least one team member who’s on it full-time. This person can lead the project and the team. Just one person who truly lives and breathes the product being developed can make a world of difference.

Have a Proper Strategic Plan

When we launched on Kickstarter, funding from the platform was our plan A, plan B, and plan C. There was no fallback. There was no long-term plan that Kickstarter was a part of. Kickstarter was the whole plan.

We assumed that we would be able to adjust based on whatever happened on Kickstarter, and just go from there. The problem is that the lack of a long-term vision and plan was evident to the potential backers looking at our Kickstarter campaign.

The content on Habitat’s Kickstarter page was lacking, the product video was missing something, and so on. The people looking at our Kickstarter page wouldn’t have been able to put a finger on it, but I think they would have felt there was an overall lack of planning, which made them hesitant to get behind us.

Even if Kickstarter is your plan A, the effort spent thinking through alternatives help you refine your vision and strategy in subtle but significant ways that will seep into your marketing copy, your video content, and your visuals.

Don’t underestimate the value of strategic planning.

Be Honest with Yourself and with the Kickstarter Audience

If you’re thinking about launching on Kickstarter, ask yourself this question:

How much will it matter to me if my Kickstarter fails?

If the answer is "not much", you’re unlikely to be successful. Without a deep desire to see your product succeed, you won’t have the motivation to hone every last detail.

A Kickstarter failure should be devastating. But I wasn’t devastated when Habitat failed to reach its funding goal.

It’s also important that you’re honest with the Kickstarter audience. For the most part, we were. But there were sins of omission in some cases. We were "dishonest" simply by not telling the whole story.

For example, when we launched Habitat we had probably written 5% of the software required for the product we envisioned. A lot of the major software challenges had been solved, and there was no question we could do it. But we still weren’t completely upfront about the amount of work still to be done.

I genuinely believe that potential backers aren’t expecting a polished product before they are willing to pledge, but they are looking for a team they can trust. Be honest with them. Transparency is key.

Proof-read Everything

Because nobody felt ownership of the project, nobody took the time to go over (and over, and over, and over) the content on our Kickstarter page. Immediately after launching, we realized we had typos, grammar issues, inconsistencies, and holes in the product descriptions.

The importance of proof-reading.Can you spot an error?

It may sound silly, but we really didn’t realize how important content is.

You’re definitely going to have some friends and family that back your product, no matter how bad it is, but the vast majority of your pledges are likely going to come from people browsing Kickstarter or coming in from Web publications covering your launch.

The coverage you get and the pledges you receive are going to be heavily dependent on the quality of your content. Typos and bad grammar reveal the fact that nobody on your team is paying enough attention to detail.

Take Your Time

There are lots of articles out there on how to time your Kickstarter campaign, how to get good coverage, and other advice on launching your Kickstarter project. The only thing I’ll add to the body of Kickstarter tips that already exist is to take your time.

We decided to launch in December and run through to January. This decision was made for no other reason than because we didn’t want to wait any longer. In hindsight, we should’ve waited until after the holidays. And we should’ve invested time up front setting up media coverage.

The desire to launch quickly ultimately led to a less polished, less visible, and less covered campaign launch. So, now, I sometimes wonder if just a bit more patience would have landed us our $80K goal…

Your Turn

If you’re thinking about launching a Kickstarter, tell us about it in the comments. If you disagree with things I’ve said in this article or if you have tips for launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, why not share?

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Ryan Brink is a software developer at LiveQoS, a mobile/Web developer, an entrepreneur, and a musician based in Canada. His latest project is GA.TODAY, a Google Analytics widget for iOS and OS X. Visit his site and connect with him on Twitter, GitHub, and Dribbble.

5 Games That Teach You How to Code

These Web games will give you a fun and engaging introduction to the world of programming.

CodeCombat

CodeCombat is an HTML5 role-playing game (RPG) that teaches you fundamental programming concepts.

CodeCombat

In CodeCombat, you play a hero adventuring through the game’s levels. The first level is Kithard Dungeon, which covers basic programming concepts. You’re faced with coding challenges throughout your journey, and if you overcome them, you’ll unlock the next level and earn experience points (XP) that you can use to improve your hero.

Levels in CodeCombat

CodeCombat is appealing to young, aspiring programmers. According to an in-game survey, 62% of CodeCombat’s users are under 18 years old.

CodeCombat supports five programming languages: JavaScript, CoffeeScript, Lua, and Python. The game covers a wide range of programming topics — strings, variables, method invocation, vector drawing, and much more.

Code Hunt

Code Hunt is a Sci-Fi-themed HTML5 game developed by Microsoft Research.

Code Hunt

In this game, you play as a code hunter tasked with repairing code so that it returns the expected result. There are 14 levels, called Sectors in the Code Hunt nomenclature, for you to complete.

Code Hunt user interface

Code Hunt supports either Java or C#. Programming concepts you’ll learn include arithmetic, loops, and conditional expressions.

Teachers who would like to extend the game with additional Sectors can do so by first reading the Code Hunt Designer Manual.

CodinGame

CodinGame is a huge suite of challenging games for programmers. If you want to improve your coding skills, playing CodinGame is a fun way to do so.

CodinGame

Over 20 programming languages including PHP, C, and JavaScript are supported by CodinGame. The user interface is feature-packed and can be customized. For example, you can choose your code editor’s style: "Emacs", "Vim", or "Classic" (the default theme).

CodinGame example

The game can be played on single player mode or multiplayer mode. In multiplayer mode, you can solve CodinGame challenges with other users.

Screeps

Screeps is a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) for JavaScript programmers.

Screeps

The game is an open-world strategy game where you control units, called creeps, that will help you mine resources, establish your territory, and so forth. Being a multiplayer online game means your creeps will be alongside the creeps of other players.

Screeps simulation

Controlling your creeps involves writing JavaScript. (Screeps = scripting your creeps.) To learn how to play the game, hit up the docs.

FightCode

In FightCode, the objective is simple: Create a robot that will defeat the robots of other players.

FightCode

How do you create a robot? By writing some JavaScript. For example, you can use the .rotateCannon() method to rotate your robot’s cannon by a certain number of degrees when a certain event happens.

FightCode demo

Before building your indestructible, world-dominating robot, the first step you’ll need to take is to read the docs to learn how to code a robot.

Read Next

10 Puzzle Websites to Sharpen Your Programming Skills

15 Free Books for People Who Code

5 Good Habits That Will Make You a Better Coder

Jacob Gube is the founder of Six Revisions. He’s a front-end developer. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Cheatsheet: Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

This useful cheatsheet shows the keyboard shortcuts for important Adobe Photoshop CS6 commands.

View Larger Version

Note: For Photoshop commands that are displayed in blue, such as "Quit", "Close", and "Merge Layer", you must also press Ctrl on Windows or Command on Mac OS. For example, to issue the "Quit" command, press Ctrl + Q if you’re on Windows or Command + Q if you’re on Mac OS.

This excellent resource is by ZeroLag. ZeroLag provided me with a special version of their existing Adobe Photoshop CS6 Shortcuts Cheatsheet. The version I posted here doesn’t display their logo.

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Jacob Gube is the founder of Six Revisions. He’s a front-end developer. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Exciting Illustrators That Will Inspire You: September 2015

Illustrators are always exploring new ideas and techniques in their work which makes them very exciting to us. We chose these artists specifically for their excellent works and their distinct voices and styles.

For more of the artists’ work, please be sure to visit their portfolios.

Benze

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Spiros Halaris

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UNA

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Veiray

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Elena Pancorbo

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Ise Ananphada

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Goni

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So PineNut

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Boris Pelcer

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Tell us about your favorite illustrators in the comments below!