Here is a round up of fantastic tips recently flittering about out there in twitterland.

Design

19 Firefox Add-ons For Designers – http://bit.ly/16sUvF

6 Simple Ways For Freelancers To Increase Productivity – http://bit.ly/43t9Tt

27 Useful Logo Design Tutorials and Tips – http://bit.ly/ipS95

Can I Have Fries with That? What Clients Really Want – http://bit.ly/3fRsg9

15 Exceptionally Useful Resources for WordPress Theme Designers – http://bit.ly/CkboW

25 Examples of Three-Column Blog Designs – http://bit.ly/xu4Ys

12 Common Photoshop Mistakes, Misuses and Abuses – http://bit.ly/3IB04J

What Does Good Web Design Look Like? – http://bit.ly/ZjE0w

25 Detailed Tutorials for Coding Up Your Web Designs – http://bit.ly/Q7zI0

20 Tools For The Freelance Designer On A Shoestring Budget – http://bit.ly/alNIg

Business

Startup Basics: 5 Ways to Grow Your Profits – http://bit.ly/Vyw0b

How to Give Feedback to Contractors – http://bit.ly/eehYf

6 Essential Things To Do On Friday To Make Monday Morning Manageable – http://bit.ly/vdUxV

10 Things You Must Do to Earn Your Audience’s Trust – http://bit.ly/1PGJ5n

Time for a Makeover? How to Reinvent Your Business – http://bit.ly/5e94E

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Hey Everyone,

The book cover project for Tim Ferriss has now come to a close. We want to thank everyone who participated and send congratulations to Bari, fxfxfxfx, Aneta and Innisanimation for being selected as the four winners. Projects like Tim’s will help 99designs continue to attract high profile and really cool projects going forward.

Tim was very impressed with quality of the submissions and as a special thank you, he has arranged for each of the 202 designers who participated to receive a gift coupon of $50 to donate through DonorChoose.org. That’s over $10,000 in donations that can help really make an difference in the lives of children by improving education, often through greater exposure to the arts.

We hope you all enjoyed participating and thanks again.

Cheers,
The 99designs Team
Thank You Photo By

http://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/ / CC BY 2.0

People often ask me about the designers in the community 99designs.com. Who are they, where do they come from, are they professionals or hobbyists…etc. Well I recently chatted with one designer who has become quite prolific on the site over the past few months when the local work available to her design company slowed much more than normal.

Designer Profile

kellyhero

Martha Golding – Bluffton, South Carolina
99designs handle: Kelly_Hero
Projects entered: 62
Projects won: 14

How did you get into design?
My brother built a computer for me back in 1998 and after a couple of months of playing around with it, I ran across some online tutorials for creating web pages. I found it interesting so I took some online classes, bought some books on graphic design and programming, and generally taught myself to develop websites.

At that time, I was pretty unhappy in my job as a Customer Service Manager for a local grocery store. A position opened at a local web design firm so I went for an interview. I got the job and within 3 months was promoted to Head Designer. As time went by, I noticed that a lot of the firm’s clients were being charged thousands of dollars for web design – this was before the “dotcom bust” – but were getting very little in the way of customer service. With my design skills and customer service background, I felt sure that I could provide a better service on my own. I talked it over with my soon-to-be husband and we decided to start our own design company. In June of 2000, just a little over a year after being hired, I started Lighthouse Design Group and have never looked back.

CollegeTownMenus
How long have you been using 99designs?

Since about January (2009). I have known about it since it first split off from SitePoint. I have been a member of SitePoint forever and ever. But I never took the time to really check it out and see what it was all about until about January. In our business we typically know that we are not going to have any web design work between the end of October and December and then it starts picking back up in January after the holidays. But this year, I guess because of the economy, we were deader than a doornail. I had no work coming so I had to do something. So I went on to 99designs, started checking out projects and started winning. It really has been a way for me to bring in some extra money and to make up for where we weren’t getting jobs otherwise.

How many projects have you won so far

Well I entered two logo projects at the very beginning and I found out pretty quick that I suck at logo design. So I don’t count those. I have entered about 60 projects and I have won 14.

GiggleShirts
So the experience has been generally pretty good for you then?

Yeah overall…I did win one project for $1000 dollars and the project holder abandoned it. After communicating back and forth with Nonie…she finally was able to get him to respond via email. He said that circumstances had come up and he wasn’t able to continue so that was pretty disappointing. But I can see where 99designs is trying to make improvements and trying to do the best thing for everybody. I know it’s had to please everybody and make sure everybody is happy. But yeah I would say that I am pretty satisfied overall. I have 99designs.com up more than any other website.

Have you been able to develop any additional relationships with clients through 99designs?
GoldenBingo
Oh Yeah…There’s one that I won early on for Golden Bingo…he is a guy in the UK. I have probably got a couple of thousand dollars of extra work from him. So instead of him going back through 99designs he comes directly to me.

Not only have I gone on to do additional work for projects that I have won, I’ve had project holders of projects that I didn’t win contact me and ask me to do work for them. I just recently was contacted with an offer to buy one of the designs that I submitted to project that I didn’t win – months after the original project was run. I’ve even had people contact me for work who have never run a project on the site, they had only seen the work I was doing on 99designs.

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You are about to launch a new business…it could be a product, a service…it doesn’t really matter…what matters is that when you launch…you’re going to make sure it is the best it could be. You are going cover all the bases…it will have every feature imaginable, every fangdangle and watoozle. It will satisfy your customers every wildest desire…right?

Not so fast says Eric Ries, guru of the lean startup. I recently listened to Eric give a presentation at the Lean Startup Circle where he advocated a different approach…that of the Minimum Viable Product. I know what your thinking…it sounds like he wants you to make your product the least it could be. Well that’s right…at least to start, but the Minimum Viable Product is not about building minimal products.

MVP2
The Minimum Viable Product is a product or service with the minimum set of features needed to learn from the early adopters with the least amount of effort. The idea is that by starting the product or service in the most basic form possible, only providing what is needed to get feedback from the most enthusiastic would-be users, you maximize your learning dollars spent and minimize the chance building something that nobody wants. Having customers fill in the feature gaps helps ensure the product is solving a real problem and providing a real value.

So what does a Minimum Viable Product look like? It could be as simple as designing landing page that describes the product or service you are going to offer. For Foodzie.com, Nik Bauman said they made Foodzie t-shirts and went to food shows to gauge interest and get feedback. So the Minimum Viable Product doesn’t even require a product at all, only an idea, a mechanism to capture feedback and the determination to measure it, act upon it, get some more feedback and repeat.

I highly recommend checking out Eric’s blog, Lesson’s Learned, where you can learn a whole lot more about the Minimum Viable Product and building a lean startup.

Here is a video of Eric’s presentation at Lean Startup Circle

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I am often asked for tips on how to run a design project on 99designs.com. While we do have a great article in our help section on how to run a successful project, I thought I would provide some insight straight from one of our clients – Stacey Tipton Reiman of InstaSpanish.com.
HomeSchoolSpanish Design by amir u3

Stacey used 99designs to get an awesome design for the user interface of her Spanish Teaching software. Using these tips, she was able to attract over 150 submissions from 30 different designers to her design project.

Here are the top things she did to ensure great results:

  • Give clear guidelines with examples
  • Actively participate in the project forum
  • Don’t just wait! Invite designers that catch your eye from other active projects
  • Be specific in your feedback about what you do or don’t like about each design
  • Use positive reinforcement to encourage designers to do better

On feedback Stacey said:

“In your feedback try to give them something positive. The way I see it every designer has the potential to win. I thought that every person who entered my project was worthy of my respect and my effort…and so I tried to give feedback to every entry…not just looking at…do I like this entry or will this entry work or not but… how can this entry work or how can this designer work for me.”

If this sounds easy…that’s because it is. It’s really about engaging the designer, giving them clear direction and then encouraging them along the way. The more specific you are about what you are looking for and what criteria you will be judging the designs by, the better results you will get.

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Well the amazing opportunities keep rolling in at 99designs.com. Up next…how about a chance to design the COVER of Tim Ferriss’ new book tentatively titled “Becoming Superhuman.”

FE_DA_080325productive_ferriss

This is super cool!

Tim Ferriss’ last book, The 4-Hour Workweek, has been sold into 35 languages and is a #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller.

So here are few things from Tim that you should know before entering this project:

1. I will offer $250 to four of my favorite designs, but this doesn’t mean any of them will end up being the cover. All of them could be vetoed completely. Obviously, if we do use your cover, you will get cover credit, fame and glory.

2. If we borrow elements or concepts from your cover but don’t use the whole thing, I will make sure you are recognized and thanked, whether in some form of partial/conceptual credit or in the acknowledgments.

3. That said, the publisher’s in-house design team, a few freelancers, and I have been working on tons, and I mean tons, of different cover options. This means that there is a distinct chance we might have tried concepts you might try. Please don’t assume we stole it if things look similar. It’s not in my best interest to screw anybody, and it’d be idiotic to do it so publicly. That’s not how I roll.

4. By submitting your design mock-ups and cover ideas, you are agreeing to the following terms and conditions. It basically says that once you submit anything for evaluation purposes, you can’t sue me or my publisher. Unfortunately, in a world where people sue McDonald’s for pouring hot coffee on their own genitals, this lawyering is necessary to prevent any misunderstandings.

Please read the brief here and take your shot at designing the cover of what could be an international bestseller!

Cheers,
The 99designs Team