Imagination is our power

Archive for August, 2011

SEO Essentials for Web Designers

The life of a freelance web designer brings you freedom in your work and allows you to escape the confines of a boring 9-5 office life and develop your creativity within the comfort of your own home. However, as a freelancer, you’ll have none of the support structure that a professional web designer can rely upon in a large agency; you cannot rely on the marketing department to create contacts with clients on your behalf. Therefore, the only way for you to survive is to showcase your unique web design skills, present your passion and flair for design and make sure to avoid the common SEO mistakes in web design that can ruin the chances of your site ranking high and block your path to success.

Making a SEO-friendly Freelance web design website

Talent, creativity and an appreciation of the latest trends and colours may win you converts to your work but even the simplest of SEO friendly modifications such as these will raise the profile of your work and help find you more clients by increasing traffic to your site;

URL Structure: Make the URL structure of your website organized and keyword optimized. If the content of the page deals with multimedia then the URL should reflect this. By categorizing the content of your site within the URL structure of a sub-page, not only are you helping the visitor to your site by giving them an idea of what content will appear on the page, you are also clearly explaining the layout of your site to the Google search robots which will improve the crawling of your page.

Effective internal linking strategy: Make sure to create “silos” of webpages within your site. This means for example that all pages regarding graphic-design services must link to each other. This enables to search robots to crawl similar content pages with ease and also allows for any link juice created by backlinks to be shared out amongst all of these similar content pages.

Optimize anchor text for your internal, external and backlinks. Use specific keywords that you wish to rank highly for within these anchor texts. This will make your website rank higher for these keywords as the search robots can identify the topic/content of your site through the anchor text used in external, internal and backlinks.

How to balance your freelance design aspirations and SEO

Whilst following the technical rules of SEO will improve your ranking position you will still need to bring a little heart and soul to your site. The design of your site will form the first impression of your services to many potential clients therefore getting the right tone and style is important.

Nevertheless, before you integrate high-quality graphics take a note of the effect some of these designs will have on your SEO performance;

Do not use Flash graphics all over your site! Fancy multimedia presentations may impress visitors, but the Flash program cannot be read effectively by the Google search robots. It is far better to stick to using HTML and CSS. Also avoid using images as links and instead make sure your links are written in text, which is far more easily processed by search robots.

Optimize your images with Alt Tags: Including images as part of your portfolio is necessary to convince clients of your skills, however no images that are featured on your site should be without keyword optimized Alt Tags.

Splash pages: Having a splash page (where visitors are greeted by a fancy graphic and a notice saying “Enter website” or “learn more”) is a fantastic opportunity for you to create an impressive and stylistic webpage. However, the Google search robots will end up indexing this splash page as your homepage rather than the actual homepage. Plus most of these splash pages are created with Flash and other multimedia platforms which as previously mentioned, cannot be scrawled by the search robots. If the robots have difficulty crawling your splash page this will hinder their crawling of your entire site. If you want to create SEO-friendly dynamic content, look into the latest developments concerning HTML5.

 

As a web designer you will have to balance the design aspirations of your site with these SEO basics which if ignored, can kill your chances of a high ranking position within search results. Having a high ranking position will do more for your business than spending day after day tweaking the graphical design of your site.

6 Things You Should Avoid In Projects

When you start your work (mostly as a freelancer) you feel very proud when you get your first job. The idea that someones pays you for your work is totally awesome. For instance when you get picked out to design a website out of all the other people you feels incredible.

6 Things You Should Set Limits About And NOT Tolerate in Projects

But soon this ‘feels incredible’ changes into ‘feels terrible’!

This is because most of the times the projects are underfunded and the clients always ask for more. This means that you are required to do more work for less money.

Most of the times the logos are a mess, but still you can not do anything about them because your clients like them or have already built a brand around them. The products are also very unappealing and not modern. But when you think about it, at that time freelancers aren’t also very experienced, but still I think that you should always set limits and not tolerate some of the things mentioned below in your projects:

1. Client-Centered Design

User-centered design (UCD) is actually a design philosophy and a process in which the needs and limitations of clients are given utmost attention.

But what some clients want is “client-centered design”, which simply means designing what they want and prefer, even if it’s not good.

You can easily know if your client wants the “client-centered design” if he argues about the background colour you have set and wants you to change, or has done no basic market research, no metrics-tracking and and no user feedback.

A good designer’s top most priority is keeping the user happy by fulfilling his needs but these “client-centered design” type clients make it really tough by clashing constantly. This will obviously make the relation with your client sour!

2. Cheapskate Clients

Many clients ask for discounts. This thing might not look odd to people as bargaining is a part of our life but what they don’t understand is that in designing you can not keep a nice margin (like the seller does when selling a car). These cheapskate clients pay you less for more (or shall I say A LOT!) of work. This means that you won’t make any profit and maybe even lose your own money!

So the only way that you can give discount is by agreeing on a lower hourly rate that you can renegotiate later if required. But never start a project for less money than usual, because these cheapskate clients who ask for discounts mostly do ask for more work than agreed upon.

3. Terrible Logos

horrible logo

Having a good professionally-designed logo is extremely important for website as it is their identity. Terrible logos will make a website look terrible too. The only way a terrible logo can be ignored is if the site has some really good user interface and provide a good service. But still it is a fact that people are attracted to good logos.

The thing to keep in mind is that if you think the logo is really bad and you can do a better job then you should be able to change the logo.

4. Bad Names or Long URL

Bad domain names

Names are one of the most important thing of a website. Names like GreatPremiumWordpressThemes4Free.com maybe really good for SEO but if you think about it then it is really terrible! Think about how will it look on your portfolio? Wouldn’t it look like that you designed for placeholder sites that filled with spam links. A bad name clearly shows what kind of people you would work with.

Other names that are bad are the names that are unpronounceable like kxospkti.com. The fact that it is short does not mean that it is good. Imagine what impression you would give to your future employers when you can’t even pronounce the name of the site you designed for.

5. Bad (Or No) Business Strategy

Business Strategy

Bad (or no) business strategy of your client is one of the things that can prove to be really bad for you. You may think that you don’t have to worry about your client’s business plan as there is no harm for you and you are also getting paid for the work too. But the problem is that if your client has no clear strategy then what would your design be like and what idea will you present in your design?

One more thing that you should always keep in mind that sites with bad business strategy often fail, which means that they would not be around for long. So what will you display in your portfolio?

6. Bad Copy

You might think that as a designer should should not care about the content of the site because it is simply not your job. But the thing is that most of the people who come to a site do not come to admire the color gradients you used or the web typography you composed — but they come for the content.

Many people even ignore even basic copywriting tenets. They use slang language and acronyms and do not even tell the benefits of the product but only talk about its features — which is totally illogical.

So as a designer you should always tell your clients what you think they are doing wrong.

Conclusion:

If you want to be a successful web designer you should always try making the stuff that you can be proud of and establish long-term relationships with clients.

Unfortunately, your keenness to get work can contribute to the bad choices you make in life and can be the cause of your not being as successful as you would have wanted to be or not establishing long-term relationships with clients.

So you should always pick your clients wisely and not tolerate these things if you want to be a successful web designer.

Designing with Your Client in Mind: 6 Questions to Ask Before You Start a New Project

1. What do you need the final file format to be?

Many clients aren’t technically-savvy enough to know how to answer directly, so I usually just ask if it’s going to be for print or web use. I always ask this first since it determines the file size and color profile in which I will be working. When I am designing a new logo mark I always design in the RGB color profile at 300 PPI (pixels per inch). Although many entrepreneurs today are providing web-based services and intend to put graphics on the web, you never know when a client will need something for print later. You can always bump resolution down for the web, but you can’t add it if it wasn’t there in the first place.

This question also determines which one – or if both – of the next two questions are applicable.

2. What are the technical details of the online destination?

If some of your work is headed for the web, you’ll need to get specific information about the online destination for the graphics. For instance: Is the client using an existing website template? Which social networking sites do they have business pages on? Do they know which web-safe colors are on their template? Large, established brands will often have a style guide; but for small clients, you are basically making up the style guide as you go along. (Even if a client in this latter group doesn’t ask for it, after the project is complete I will usually compile a one or two page PDF with their logo, color and font specs.)

3. What printer are you planning on using?

If some of your work is headed for print, you should address this deployment-related question up front. For the most part, new clients won’t have a printer unless they are an established brand. Always suggest a small local printer who is well established in their area. These smaller printers often provide competitive rates compared to big office supply copy centers, and the quality is usually much better.  Since printing is highly specialized, it is best for the client and you as the designer to develop a close working relationship with the actual person who is operating the press. It is ideal to get in direct contact with the pressman working on your client’s job. I also encourage clients to ask their printer questions. Printers, like designers, want their customers to walk away happy; they want customers who will recommend their services to friends and associates.

Keep in mind, though, that this decision can be affected by the next key question – timing.

4. When do you need it?

Planning a time table for clients who have established brands is important, since many need to have their direct mail materials postmarked before a certain date or need printed samples to approve the color. In my experience, completely new clients with fresh businesses often have open deadlines since most of them still have their day jobs to maintain. There are exceptions, though, especially if they’re working in a partnership with a group or larger company.

If you’re printing the finished product, scheduling press time is key to a successful campaign. If your client needs a fast turnaround, they may have trouble getting time on the press at a local printer. In instances like this you should rely on online printing services. There are many options (some drug store chains are even starting to offer fast printing services on their websites), but I always use Vistaprint. My clients and I have had positive experiences with them, and they also offer an all-in-one service for direct mail campaigns that saves time.

5. How much do you expect to spend?

Even though it seems obvious to tackle this subject head-on in the project evaluation, budget questions can accidentally be overlooked. Make sure that both you and your client have detailed, clear expectations up front. I always check the prospective client out online to make sure they are a reliable employer. If they employ freelancers online, you can often view their profile and read employee feedback.

6. How many samples would you like to see?

It’s nice to know what clients expect, so my best advice is to ask them. For small jobs, two samples usually suffice. For larger projects, I always try to show an odd number of samples. This makes it easier for the client to isolate the extremes they don’t like, leaving the happy middle they do like.

You should also find out in what format the client would like the samples to be delivered. Do they want hard paper copies, or digital files? If digital files, do they want an email or an online sharing service where they can collaborate with other decision makers? Will they want to meet with you and make decisions on the spot, or take samples home and mull the decision over for a while?

The Three Key Phases of an Initial Consultation

The six key questions I just outlined should be woven into the initial client consultation. But what should the overall structure of this meeting look like? These consultations should have three distinct phases:

What clients need

It’s of extreme importance to listen to the client carefully during the first consultation. This is where you will learn about their new business and where they see their business in the future. I prefer to talk to the client on the phone or meet in person over lunch to get a feel for the style and personality that needs to be conveyed in the project. It’s hard to get this across in an email alone. Above all else, It’s my job as a designer to make my clients look good, and this requires a close familiarity.

People with new businesses need to know about the various services you provide as a designer. More often than not, people first want a logo for their new business venture. Usually, they think that’s all they need – that they can do everything else themselves. In reality, most non-designers don’t have the right eye for brochure layouts or business card compositions. Make sure your client understands how you can help them with these other materials.

(Tip: I see many business cards with way too much type and too many different typefaces all together. If a logo or business card is going to be successful, it needs to embrace the negative space around it. The viewer needs a place to rest the eye; allowing for white space means you are highlighting content. I see many new designers overwhelm the small space of the business card, when they need instead to accept and learn to work with negative space.)

I usually advise other designers to avoid educating the client about the design trade unless they ask a very specific question or they are in the trade. Otherwise, you may overwhelm them or end up confusing them. Some employers will say, “I need this graphic recreated in software application X.”. My instinct is always to ask, “What are you using it for?” Basically, have the client tell you what the final product will be. Then you can better determine if you can deliver, and if perhaps another tool would be more appropriate. For example, some clients insist on deliverables that include files created using the Adobe CS3 Suite. Many people who don’t use these products every day don’t realize that the CS3 version of Adobe Illustrator is unreliable. Unfortunately, in my own experience as well as that of my fellow designers, it has corrupted files and failed to save when the file was too large. Because I use Adobe products daily, I’m aware of these pitfalls that clients don’t (and needn’t) understand. Most clients are just interested in the final product, so emphasize that over the technical details.

During the assessment, I always also ask if the client has (or is planning) a social media page or an app for smartphones. This allows for planning multiple-platform branding and for looking ahead to the long-term maintenance of the brand.

What you (the designer) can deliver

It is highly important to address functionality when starting a logo, signage, website or social media branding project. If the end product doesn’t meet the client’s expectations it is a failure. I always start from scratch when developing a new brand. Making something from nothing is the ideal situation, but if the client has a piece of clip art they love and stubbornly insist on, you obviously have no choice. On the other hand, previously established brands come to me with typefaces and colors in mind. It’s gratifying to find design solutions in these situations too – it challenges you as a designer to problem-solve.

Many new businesses need guidance developing an advertising strategy. Most are aware of Google Adwords and Facebook Ads but have a hard time trying to figure out actual execution. A few of my clients depend on me as their one person marketing team, and you may want to consider providing this service as well. Online ad services like Adwords and Facebook Ads make this an easier task than it was in the past.

If the client asks you a question and you don’t know the answer or asks you about a software program you aren’t familiar with, tell them so. Don’t say yes to a job and then go home and try to figure out what they asked for. I’ve been there and it’s a waste of time and money on both sides. The best way to respond is to simply say, “I don’t know, but I can find out and let you know the next time we speak.”

Work with their budget

Always ask the client about their budget after getting all the information about what they want created for their new brand. Double-check that you’ve determined a set number for the budget and a payment schedule. Try to always get paid in three installments or less. I’ve noticed that when work is done in small multiple installments, it can be hard to track what was done or what files needed to be delivered to receive or complete installment number “umpteen.”

For new brands I always suggest an hourly rate, especially when dealing with entrepreneurs and not-for-profits. This benefits brand stability, since you’ll have the time to ensure their images are unique, setting them apart from competitors. If it’s an established brand looking for a small alteration or a quick turnaround on a direct mail postcard, a flat rate works best. They usually have their logo, colors and fonts already picked out, so you as the designer don’t have to create any content that determines branding.

For small business ventures and not-for-profit groups I always try to provide an offering that matches their budgets. Today’s economy is tough and competition is global; adapting to your clients’ situations will serve you well.

Conclusion

In this overview, I’ve provided some valuable tips from my years of experience in the design field. Whether you’re a newbie just starting out or a seasoned veteran looking to refine your processes, my advice will help you become a better – and more valuable – designer.

The Key Features of a Perfect Landing Page

Computer technology has had a huge impact on the economy and education, and the number of online transactions is escalating. This makes competition tough, although there are endless opportunities. The Internet is a world of opportunity where flowers of success grow on the trees of conversion.

The Internet certainly is amazing; anyone can reach almost anyone else. The only hitch is that competitors abound. If you don’t manage to float to the top with online charisma, millions of potential buyers will ignore what little waves you make. Today’s customer is free to select, compare and analyze your products and services against those of your competitors.

 

 

There are plenty of effective tactics you can apply to get the best out of your website traffic. When a targeted visitor hits your website, you need to demonstrate brand identity and hook that visitor into the company’s profile. The landing page requires a bunch of marketing approaches and a ton of creativity to make the sale. A landing page tells your visitors the details of your proposition, and its design is important and can affect your success.

The landing page is not necessarily the home page. It is the page by which visitors enter your website, so it’s also known as an entrance page. It’s the first thing visitors see when they arrive.

 

Outline: Purpose and Marketing

Most business website owners attempt to ensure that their landing pages generate sales. Online marketing is by far the most important aspect of any Internet business. Top entrepreneurs earn extra money every year by promoting other people’s products to their contacts and then selling their own products.

The purpose of a landing page is to present a product or group of products and provide as much information as is required to secure a sale. The primary reason for creating a landing page is to elicit some sort of action, or “conversion.” Almost every Internet marketer understands the significance of a landing page. A good landing page helps you sell your product and builds your list of customers, among other things. A badly designed landing page can cost you business, so take heed!

instantShift - Key Features of a Perfect Landing Page

Every landing page design must be furnished with care and built with the user experience in mind. A click on your promotional ad before reaching the actual page should satisfy the needs of the visitor; only then will they stay and give you the chance for a conversion. Your goal is to get a high percentage of visitors to take the desired action.

Landing pages are a critical part of any online marketing strategy. As a website accumulates content, the number of pages grows, people link to various pages from your website, and search engines rank them. Thus, the subject-specific page becomes your landing page—and your most crucial page if you want traffic to translate into profit. Landing pages are crucial for businesses that sell products online, and they are also used intensively by associated vendors.

Basically, a landing page is a web page that is highly optimized. The effectiveness of a landing page is measured by its conversion rate: how often visitors take the action desired by the company. In marketing terms, it’s a specialized page that visitors are directed to once they’ve clicked on a link, usually from an outside source such as a pay-per-click ad. The page is usually sharply focused on a particular product or service and aims to get the visitor to buy or take some form of action rapidly that will ultimately lead to a sale.

A Different View of Landing Pages

A landing page can also refer to every other page on your website. Many website owners believe that the arrival-to-sale process works like this: a visitor arrives on the home page, selects an option from a menu or an offer on the page, arrives on the page with the offer or product, and then purchases it.

Of course, this does happen; there’s no harm in considering every page on your website as a “home” page. Many will enter the website via search engine listings of pages other than the home page or links from other websites to particular sections; in fact, they outweigh the number of people who hit the home page first. Many landing-page strategies are relevant to all pages of your website and are worth considering in general for writing and development.

Two Schools of Thought

Some marketing experts believe that a landing page should be solely dedicated to one offer and nothing else. Others say that it’s good to provide easy access to other areas of the website and to mention other offers in case the visitor isn’t interested in the main offer.

You’ll have to experiment to figure out which is best for your website, but my general view is that if you are using PPC advertising to drive clients to a specific offer, then creating a dedicated page with little mention of anything else is the best strategy. After all, PPC ads are usually targeted, so traffic from this source will be focused.

 

Developing Landing Pages: The Basics

As you create your landing page, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What are you offering?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Why would they be interested in your offer?
  • What do they need to do in order to participate or purchase?

Collect all your ideas, and pare them down to their core elements, making them as motivating as possible without overhyping them. Think of your landing page as a summary of all the other pages connected to the product or service.

 

Types of Landing Pages

There are seven basic types of landing pages.

instantShift - Key Features of a Perfect Landing Page

1. Click-through

This is the simplest type of landing page. Its purpose is to provide details about an offer or product and explain its benefits and features to visitors, who should then feel informed enough to make a purchase.

2. Lead capturing

Also known as a “squeeze” page, this gathers personal information, such as the visitor’s name, email address or phone number. Normally, there are no links or navigation, only a form for submission. Often, there is an incentive to submit this data.

3. Infomercial

These tend to be narrow and extremely long so that visitors have all the information they need, all on one page, to make an informed purchased. The more a person reads, the more they get sucked into the sales message, which leads to a call-to-action button (”Buy now!”).

4. Viral

Large companies that want to create online buzz about a new product or service create these pages, which build brand awareness and usually include flashy games or funny videos.

5. Microsite (or minisite)

A microsite is a small supplementary website that provides information specific to a large campaign or business segment. It’s usually more than a single page but is still considered a type of landing page. It is often used by car manufacturers and movie studios.

6. Product information

This is the main page of a website, which houses all information related to a product for sale, and it is commonly used in the retail industry. This page usually comes with navigation, links and well-designed graphics.

7. Website as Landing Page

This is the least effective type of landing page. There are way too many distractions, and it can confuse first-time visitors. It often has links, videos, features, graphics, advertising and maybe even a few interactive elements. When a new visitor arrives, it’s easy for them to become overwhelmed and leave before grasping the message.

 

The Role of a Landing Page

Think of a landing page as a fantastic opportunity to grab the attention of a person seeking your particular product or service. The page on which visitors arrive after clicking on your promotional ad is the landing page of your website. Its role is to induce visitors to take concrete action; you don’t want them departing from your website until they do what you want them to do (click on the “Buy” button, sign up for an affiliate program, download an e-book or free software, subscribe to your free newsletter).

instantShift - Key Features of a Perfect Landing Page

A landing page should also answer the user’s questions:

  • Is this the correct place?
  • Is this what I imagined it would be like?
  • Does this seem trustworthy?
  • How much time will this take?
  • Should I click the “Back” button?

Your landing page should provide visitors with exactly what they’re looking for. When keyword searches direct traffic to specific pages on your website, they lead to conversions because visitors see exactly what they searched for. Makes sense, right? If the visitor can’t find what they’re looking for on the gateway to your website, they’ll stay only a couple of seconds and then go “Back”—to find your competitors. Lose the customer and you lose the sale.

Your landing page should provide a customized sales pitch. The best way to customize it is to consider where the person has come from, who they are, and what they are looking for. With this information, your chances of engaging visitors go up, as should your conversion rate. For instance, if a Los Angeles-based web design company has a landing page for web design services, then a potential client searching on Google or Yahoo for “web design services in Los Angeles” will probably find that company and begin a relationship with it via its website.

Don’t have too many distractions (such as unnecessary images or links) or you’ll lose visitors before they read your whole message. Provide visitors with what they want and you’ll have a spellbound audience and loyal customers.

 

Tips for Effective Landing Pages

A good landing page provides steady income for the Internet marketer, which is why some marketing gurus refer to them as online ATMs. A good landing page captures sales leads and converts them into paying customers. Here are some tips for creating a good landing page with a high conversion rate.

instantShift - Key Features of a Perfect Landing Page

Research

Figure out what visitors are looking for and what offers will draw them in. Build a profile of your ideal visitor. Do not construct the page for anyone else—generic pages have been proven to fail. Keep everything on target.

Be straightforward

The landing page should be all about the product or service. The sales pitch should be simple, with no hype. You’ll establish credibility, and visitors will be curious to learn more.

Write clearly

The landing page should be easy to scan. People don’t have time to read long sales letters. That’s why they shop on the Internet: they want a convenient, fast way to purchase what they want. I recommend a bullet list of benefits of the product.

Include only relevant content

Use facts and figures instead of generalizations, and deliver a message. Cite as many referral sources as possible

Don’t replicate the home page

Yes, it’s a gateway to your website, and yes, your branding is visible, but the landing page should be unique. It should demonstrate that your company has depth and wants to provide targeted information.

Consider multiple landing pages

Many make the mistake of using their home page as the only landing page for their website. If you do this, you risk running into duplicate content issues, which could prevent these important pages from even showing up in searches.

Be creative

Unless you’re in the entertainment industry or real estate or you’re a travel agent who pushes holiday destinations, don’t go overboard with visual effects. Graphics and images serve only to enhance the message in the text. For direct marketing, remember that it’s the words that sell.

Encourage participation

The visitor knows what to do. Just make the conditions favorable and make their next step clear. They will be most motivated when they reach the landing page. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Design effectively

Lead the visitor’s eye along the page toward the conversion exit. A smart use of white space and typography, along with color, will draw attention. Be careful, though: an eye-catching image demands a lot of eye time and, if misplaced, could ruin the flow of the message. Impressive large copy and relevant graphics can make a long page seem short. Put important stuff near the middle, and don’t distract users from that focal point. Avoid putting interesting material in sidebars; it pulls the eye away from the main area.

Edit

Check your text thoroughly, and correct all grammatical and spelling errors, otherwise visitors will get a negative impression of your company, and it won’t be easy to convince them to stick with you.

Provide incentives

No one wants to spend more money than they need to. Make sure your prices are reasonable and are comparable to products or services of similar quality and quantity. Know your competitors. Don’t sell yourself short, though; if your product is more expensive than the competition’s, explain why. If people see that many others are carrying out a landing page’s call to action and getting positive results, it will give them the incentive to follow along.

 

Issues Surrounding Landing-Page Success

Certain issues will inevitably arise during the creation of a landing page. Unless you tackle these issues early on, you’ll likely run into many conversion problems that will cost you a lot of time—and potentially a lot of cash.

The landing page should be:

  • Designed with your goal in mind.

    Are you trying to get more subscribers, or do you want people to buy a product? Do you want visitors to return to your website again and again, or do you want them to click on one ad and leave? Each of these goals requires a different landing page design. Make sure you are well aware of your goal before you start.

  • Accessible to all sorts of visitors.

    Who is coming to your landing page? Are they male or female? What is the age group? Do your visitors have a college education? Have they got children? Are they Internet-savvy? These considerations are vital; if you fail to consider how Net-savvy your visitors are, you could miss out on a lot of earnings. Consider demographics in advance.

  • Profitable.

    Say your landing page is converting traffic into sales, and you’re making some money, so you’re thinking of scaling it up. Hold on a second! How do you know what percentage would be best and what kind of money this page and product combination could be making? What if, say, you changed the links from black to blue? Do what Internet marketers call “split testing”: run several different versions of the same ad, and see which version converts higher numbers. I recommend Google Website Optimizer. This amazing, robust and free tool lets you run different versions of your ads to see which elements of each one are helping or harming your campaign.

There is no particular formula that ensures each of your landing pages achieves the maximum number of possible conversions at all times. But, fortunately, there are several guidelines that even a newbie can follow to make sure landing pages deliver results!

 

Key Features of a Perfect Landing Page

Landing pages for products are everywhere. Marketers are always investigating new techniques for mastering e-commerce, but it takes a designer’s eye to create something extraordinary. How successful a creation is depends on the nature of the business and its goals. Some argue that sending visitors to a home page is less effective than sending them to a separate landing page. I say that the product you’re selling and your audience should be the deciding factors. Let’s look at some key features of landing pages (in the form of tips and instructions) that are required to increase sales.

instantShift - Key Features of a Perfect Landing Page

Ease of access is a big factor in any landing page’s success. The sign-up process should appear simple, even if it’s not. Provide a full sign-up area on the front page, and offer some sort of incentive or benefit to persuade users to fill out the form. Even an image can act as an enticement and illustrate the benefits.

A well-crafted unique selling proposition (USP) sets clear expectations for customers and helps them see why they should care. Break down your services to the basics: describe the specific benefits customers will get by choosing your product or service. The USP should be delivered on the landing page via the perfect combination of page elements: primary headline (an eye-catching headline that grabs the visitor’s attention instantly and compels them to read on) and sub-heading (a secondary headline, typically smaller in size, that provides clarification or expounds on the primary headline).

Know your visitors. Understand the motivations, desires, fears, and concerns that customers have with your product or service. Only then will you be able to create a landing page that focuses on converting visitors into customers.

Eliminate distractions. Do not crowd the page. Keep it simple. Even a navigation bar could undo a conversion by providing a way to click away from the landing page. Don’t give visitors too many navigational choices. On targeted landing pages, remove navigation tools and, instead, provide only links that lead to completed sales. The average web surfer can concentrate for only so long (getting distracted on the Internet is so easy!). One click on an unrelated link and the visitor is out of reach! Focus them on the landing page. Don’t distract them, even with invitations to the rest of your website. When visitors complete a purchase, send them to a “Thank you” page that provides links to the rest of the website.

Encourage visitors to proceed and call them to action by including an action link or button (that says something like “Buy now” or “Subscribe now”). Use action words that clearly convey what you want the visitor to do and know, such as “Buy now,” “Sign up,” “Download” and “Add to cart,” and place the words where they will be noticed. Many people ignore the top 60 pixels of a screen because they expect to see a banner ad there. Make buttons large, graphical and bright, and put them in the middle of the landing page. A call to action tells the visitor what they are supposed to do on a particular page. Big shiny buttons make actions seem comfortable, and clear comprehensible text helps to secure sales. Provide such buttons and links after every important detail, or after every paragraph or two, so that visitors don’t have to scroll up or down to click. This might seem repetitious, but you never know which word will cause a visitor to click, and every second counts. Even during scrolling, a distraction could come up and cause a visitor to leave.

Communicate a consistent message. A landing page’s design should match the promotional ad as much as possible. Use the same words or expressions on the landing page that brought visitors there in the first place. If a user clicks on an ad, they will expect to see the same content, but fleshed out, on the landing page. The visitor clicked the link because they found it attractive, and so another expression could confuse them. For example, if a user clicks on an ad that shows a tall model wearing a red dress, the user expects to see that same model when they arrive on the landing page.

Give visitors what they’re looking for. Make sure that customers arrive at the exact information they seek. That’s why your promotions should lead visitors to the relevant landing pages and not the home page. Don’t risk distracting visitors by forcing them to search for information.

Thank readers for responding. Open your landing page with a brief thank-you note. Let visitors enjoy the personal attention and pride in their association with you. Show them that they’re in the right place, that they’re at a special page created just for them.

Capture crucial data. The whole point of landing pages is to get people to express some level of interest. When they identify themselves by responding to an offer, they enter the sales funnel, at which point your job of converting prospects into buyers begins. Before they get to download your white paper or demo, they should provide some information about themselves. Use forms to collect personal information. Online forms are typically the first step of the sales process. Start by asking for the person’s name and email address, and hang on to these for future use. Don’t ask too much. Make the conversion as easy on the customer as possible. With purchases, this might mean not requiring people to register but instead allowing them to order as guests. If there are online forms to complete, filling them out should be quick and easy. For example, have the input cursor jump to the next field in the form on its own. Focus only on the absolute essentials. Request only the information that is necessary for your purposes. The less time users spend on your conversion activity, the less time they have to change their minds.

Put critical information at the top. The landing page does not have to be short, but all the important information, such as benefits and the order button, should be visible without scrolling. Web developers call this “above the fold.” Visitors have different screen sizes and different browsers, so test information placement. Your landing page might look great at a 1024 × 768 screen resolution, but if most of your visitors are still using 800 × 600, they won’t see the “Buy” button without having to scroll. Plus, studies show that visitors leave a page within the first few seconds if the actions seem too confusing.

Put the product in context. Show your product or service being used in real life. The idea is to get customers to empathize and imagine themselves in a scenario where they are using your product. There are many ways to achieve this:

  • Photographs, for the “hero shot” (I’ll explain in a moment);
  • Video, a compelling way to showcase a product (the camera never lies!);
  • Testimonials (i.e. praise and commentary from past and current customers), which show that you already have customers;
  • Client lists, which provide context and create an atmosphere of trust.

The most interesting part of any landing page is the testimonials: the social proof. People always avoid being first, so share testimonials (real ones!) to convince them that many other people use and like your product. Share figures and facts to impart a sense of security. As for the hero shot, it is the visual representation of your product or service. From it, people gain an understanding of what it is or looks like. It can take the form of a photograph of the product in action, a diagram that illustrates how the service solves an existing problem, a chart that compares the product to the competition’s, or a graphic that reiterates concrete advantages of the offer (”100%,” “Bonus,” “Free”).

Go easy on links. Links are great for the average website, but on landing pages, all information should be displayed without having to click away. Links, if there are any, should direct visitors to internal pages for questions or order placement. Placing external links in the footer would be clever, perhaps to affiliate websites, friends’ pages or anything else you want to share. They can add dynamism to the landing page, but they should be used cautiously and only if relevant.

Incorporate media. Each part of the landing page should be used to its fullest to present your message. A landing page should be simple yet seductive. The first thing anyone notices about it is imagery, so select images that people will respond to. Images strongly affect where people’s eyes land and where they look next. People relate easily to images; they put themselves in the situation they see. Defining page images well is a special craft. Use them to direct attention to a call to action or to preview what happens when a visitor signs up (as Lavalife does). Make smart use of related media on your landing pages; include any audio, podcast, video or infographic that explains the process or benefit of your product.

Inform more to sell more. Share as much information as possible. Users want to find answers to their questions and have their doubts allayed. Provide enough information to persuade them and make them feel ready, firm and reassured enough to make the purchase.

Personalize the message. Copy on landing pages should seem to address the individual. It should be conversational and speak to people’s emotions and desires. Landing pages are successful when they get visitors to purchase, revisit, share or discover what they normally would not have thought of. Help them to discover why they need what you’re offering.

Give something away. The best way to get users to act immediately is to grab their attention. Offer a free e-book or trial download before purchasing. This can be a great way to gather email addresses and then update people about releases and products. Landing pages that include tantalizing offers, especially time-sensitive offers (a free product, newsletter or guide in exchange for an email address), see increased purchases. It’s not essential, but it can turn a banal commercial proposal into an occasion. The better the offer, the bigger the response will be.

Use a privacy policy. If you collect personal information through your landing page, let visitors know how it will be used. Many will not submit information unless they know it will be confidential. Draft a privacy statement to assure them of as much. Provide a link to your privacy policy so that users are assured that their personal information won’t be sold to or shared with another company.

Keep the layout simple. Page layout is critical; it’s the first thing by which visitors judge a website. Landing pages attract attention when they are have a simple appearance. Make headlines useful; don’t put everything in bold. Write compelling web copy, and break pages up into bite-sized pieces by adding headings and sharing bits of news between headings.

Provide access to support. Give customers an easy way to get support for errors or broken parts of the website, as well as for answers to their questions. Many software companies offer online chat support for clients periodically, and this is a great way to connect with customers and solve problems remotely. Offering an email address or phone number is an alternative. If you are running a large operation, put contact links in the heading. Or display contact icons mid-page or even in the footer. If you are online and a visitor asks about pricing, you might be able to push a sale right there!

The product is the protagonist. Don’t waste a single pixel on anything unrelated to the product. Every sentence, image and piece of multimedia should be used solely to sing its praises. Anything else is a waste of time for you and your users. The product should not only be the protagonist, it should be the only character.

The value proposition is the message; it’s what differentiates your product from the competition’s. List key benefits, and emphasize those that your competitors lack and those that make your offering superior. If you offer particular packages, let customers know that they are exclusive to your website. Create limited-time offers or deadlines for purchasing (based on trial periods or projected price hikes) to encourage customers. The value proposition is short and direct, but it can be saturated with value. After reading the copy, visitors should feel that it is a great offer.

The landing page ought to be social and dynamic. It should get people involved. Make visitors feel that they’ll miss out on something if they don’t sign up. To do this, highlight the features and benefits of signing up. Don’t just describe them; offer a free trial or incentive, or show a live preview of what’s going on inside (as Twitter does, for example).

Write distinctive headlines and copy, and edit for spelling and grammar. Big bold text can attract attention immediately and can entice visitors to scroll down for more information. In the copy, keep the message clear and to the point. There’s no reason to use complicated language; in fact, it will only confuse or annoy visitors. Put essential messages in bold to stand out. The landing page speaks volumes about your product, so use exquisite language. You need to come across as trustworthy and build strong connections, even if you don’t meet with clients in person. Use proper spelling and grammar to convey that you mean business and can be trusted to deliver quality.

Reinforce promotional messages. Users understand and remember messages if they are repeated several times and reinforced in various ways. Carefully chosen graphics and colors, for example, can enhance the design of the page. Use graphics and colors that are similar to, if not the same as, those used in all promotional material. Changing the aesthetic or color scheme could cause confusion and lead visitors astray.

Minimize risk, maximize profit. Give customers a warranty for products or a trial period for services (say, for 15 days), and give full refunds to customers who are not satisfied. Let them cancel at any time, and tell them they can do so. You could also offer free consultations to new clients so that they get a feel for your service without spending anything. And make sure visitors can easily find and understand your warranty or satisfaction policy.

Establish credibility. It’s a complex task, but it’s worth it. Take advantage of testimonials, recognizable icons (logos, etc.), mentions by third parties (as in reviews) and everything you have that could help (such as press releases). If your message is consistent—that is, if what you say about your product and what it really is match up—then you’ll build credibility.

Be trustworthy. Give customers good reason to believe why your product and brand are worth buying into. Describe things clearly. What science has helped you develop your product? What technological innovation or recent discovery does it exploit? Use a handwritten signature, which builds trust and makes the experience personal. And make sure your signature is legible. Illegible signatures subliminally suggest that the author has something to hide.

Keep testing. A landing page is never perfect. Split testing, or A/B testing, is a great way to determine whether you’re on the right path. Consider reaching out to fellow designers to see which techniques are shaping the market. Carry on practicing new ideas and pushing boundaries to see what can be done and what’s still out of reach.

Track results. Implement an analytics program, such as Google Analytics (which is free). With programs like this, you can learn how your website is performing. You’ll get an eagle-eyed view of who has visited your website, what pages they’ve visited and what links they’ve clicked on. Based on this information, determine which areas of the page need improvement.

 

Conclusion

Landing pages are a critical part of any online marketing strategy. Each element on a landing page, by itself or in combination with others, could influence a customer’s perception and decision. Yet the page must act as one voice, so integration is important. The wrong combination of elements, or too many elements, could kill sales.

Landing pages offer fantastic insight into psychological marketing techniques. They can be used to support marketing or sales or to brand communications, and they can contain branding, messaging and data-gathering tools. When just a small market segment is involved, the rules for landing page design can change.

A great landing page is key to turning visitors into buyers. Find a balance of beauty and effectiveness. Optimize the landing page as much as possible. It has the power to make or break your online business.

A good landing page can provide steady income for the Internet marketer, but not many companies take the time to experiment with offers. The climate in most businesses is conservative, so running different ads to test their effectiveness is difficult. There are legal and marketing-related reasons why certain statements can’t be made in isolation or as part of an offer, but if no testing is done, there is no way to find out what works and what causes problems.

Online marketing is a skill that takes plenty of time to develop. Work intelligently and use good design tools, and you’ll be all set for making a decent living online. Hang in there. The money will flow with passion and hard work.

Five reasons you need to trust your staff (read don’t micromanage)

Micromanagement.  The word is generally construed as a negative management trait to be avoided at all costs.  For hands-on, technical people that have come up through the ranks, it can be a tough trait to shed.  But, there are fie really good reasons you should embrace your inner CIO and let your staff do their jobs.  Here they are:

You’ll inspire confidence.

Trust begets trust.  Do you trust your staff to do their jobs and do them correctly?  If not, you have a situation that needs to be resolved:

  • Your staff truly doesn’t have the skills to get the job done. If this is the case, you need to train your staff or add people with the correct skills.
  • You may not have the self-confidence or experience to lead an experienced staff. This can manifest itself in a need to interfere or micromanage.

Obviously, there is a difference between general management and micromanagement and even the best leaders can sometimes devolve into micromanagement when stress is high, but when you have confidence in your staff, they will know it.  No one wants to be micromanaged; people want to work for those that value their contributions and that treat them like professionals.

There is also a difference between micromanagement and rolling your sleeves up and working alongside your staff when necessary.

You’ll get more done.

Every minute that you spend too closely monitoring someone’s efforts is a minute that you aren’t spending on strategic IT issues that can help propel the organization to new heights.  Further, when you’re riding someone, their productivity also suffers.  As a result, both of you are doing less.

Instead of sitting down with your staff and explaining to them exactly how they should do their jobs, consider a different approach to managing projects.  When the need arises for a new project and you’ve decided to assign the project to one of your staff, provide them with an assignment that consists of:

  • A project explanation
  • General guidance and expected outcomes
  • Deadlines
  • A project communications plan that provides you with updates in an agreed-upon manner

From there, expect the person to provide you with regular reports on progress and to come to you when there is an exception of some kind or a need for clarification.  There’s no need to constantly go to the person’s office and ask for updates as long as the person is providing you with information at the agreed upon intervals and milestones are being met.

This frees you up to work on your own work and keeps your staff focused on their work and meeting your expectations.  Sticking to the agreed upon communications plan also works to inspire confidence from your staff since they know that you trust them to be professionals.

You’ll breed new leaders.

If you’re micromanaging people all the time and doing their jobs, they’re not getting the opportunity to grow.  When you let them do their jobs and hold them accountable to outcomes and expectations, you’re helping them work better on their own.  By not jumping in and attempting to solve all of the problems they may encounter, you force them to seek solutions and answers.  Obviously, don’t be cruel.  If someone is truly at a roadblock that only you can clear, do it.  Watching people suffer isn’t really fun.

Your staff will stick around.

When people have opportunities and can see possibilities, they’ll stay.  If you’re the kind of leader that inspires confidence and trust, people will want to work for you.  On the other hand, if you’re the kind of CIO that has to push your DBA out of his chair and take over the keyboard to write a query for him, you’ll probably see some eventual resentment that will eventually take the form of staff departures, morale issues and complaints about their horrible boss.

You will get promoted.

Many CIOs have come up through the IT ranks and have significant difficulty letting go.  I say that from experience.  However, I’ve been fortunate in that, if I do happen to step too far (hey, I’m only human!), they respectfully tell me.  I like to believe that they trust my intentions and have enough respect for me to let me grow as a leader as well.

CIOs that have come up through very technical ranks sometimes tend to focus on the technology at the expense of overall company goals.  If you’re a CIO that has come up through the ranks and you’re spending most of your time doing the jobs of your staff members, you’re not focusing on being a CIO and will lose the respect of your executive peers.

On the other hand, if you’re able to move beyond your technical roots and can help propel the business, your opportunities are endless.

Conclusion

I try to avoid words like “always” and “never” because I absolutely, completely, definitely do not believe in absolutes.  In some circumstances, you’ll need to break the micromanagement rules for a perfectly valid purpose. But, that should be the exception, not the norm.

Trust your staff and avoid micromanagement to help your staff grow, help the organization better meet its goals and help your own career.

Elements of a Client-Converting Design Portfolio

If you’re a designer and don’t have an online portfolio, you’re missing out on some serious potential for business. Online design portfolios are the quickest and most reliable way to convert potential clients into actual paying clients.

But having a portfolio online isn’t enough in and of itself. In order to make the most of your design portfolio, you’ll want to include these client-converting elements.

Contact form

The contact form is the single most important element of a client-converting design portfolio. Make it easy to use and quick to fill out. You can get all the information you need from your client later.

Make it simple by only asking for Name, Contact Information (email or phone or both), and a brief description of what kind of work they need done.

 

 

Landing pages

You can have a million forms on your site, but if you don’t give potential clients a reason to fill them out, they won’t do you any good. That’s why you should also create a series of landing pages.

Landing pages are pages that encourage conversion (in this case, encourage users to fill out your contact form).

In your landing page, include sample work, testimonials, and reasons why site visitors should contact you for hire. Give them multiple reasons to hire you and also offer multiple forms in various places.

Testimonials

In the world of social recommendations in which we live, potential clients want to know what your past clients have to say about your work.

Include testimonials and words of praise from clients with whom you have had good experiences. It’s great to have a testimonials page that stands alone but to also have testimonials on your landing pages (see paragraph above).

Social Media Links

If your site visitors feel like they are able to connect with a real person through social media, they will be more likely to contact you, because they feel a human connection behind your work.

Bold work samples

No designer should include every piece or work in their portfolio. Every time I add a new piece of work to my design portfolio, I make a point to delete any old work that isn’t as good as my new work.

Use big pictures, bright colors, and bold photography to show off your design work. The more impressive upon first impression, the more likely potential clients will be to click through and fill out your contact form.

Easy to use layout

Nothing is more frustrating for a potential client than not feeling comfortable when browsing a designer’s site. Make sure your layout is easy to understand, easy to use, and doesn’t frustrate users.

Use friends and colleagues to test the layout of the site. Watch them browse it, ask for their honest feedback, and make changes accordingly.

Converting site visitors to paying clients

There’s nothing more gratifying that knowing that a potential client found your site, looked around, and decided to hire you for their next project.
With these tips on designing a client-converting design portfolio, you’re bound to see your leads increase significantly. Good luck!

Bait and Switch Job Seeking

Certainly there are many of us out there seeking jobs. Either we were laid off or just can’t stand our employers and their weird take on employee’s rights or practice of the Peter Principle and the promotion of serial incompetents and mental patients. In job searches for those who aim higher than the food service industry, the search usually entails recruiters. After God made the weasel, rat, leech and lawyer, the recruiter appeared, which is another explanation of the extinction of the dinosaurs and other species.

Over the past couple of years I have noticed a trend among the jobs I have fielded through recruiters – “bait and switch.” They call about a position and salary that makes one’s mouth water and keeps an erection for days or weeks, depending on how fast the process goes until the truth comes out.

 

 

It Starts Normally…

My last job of seven years was a bait and switch. It seems I was the only candidate this recruiter presented that made it to the interview stage. I was told it was a creative director position for just under a six-figure salary; certainly a great salary in that area of the country. Doing the dance with the employer, I received an e-mail detailing my interview schedule but at the top it read, “interviewing as: Designer.”

InstantShift - Bait and Switch Job Seeking

When I brought this up to the recruiter, he said to ignore it and just go on the interview but I shouldn’t bring up titles or salary. That’s not an odd request as part of the recruiter’s job is negotiations with the employer. I interviewed and it was obvious they wanted me as a designer. The offer came in for a design position, naturally at a lower salary and the recruiter was beside himself with glee that he had closed the deal. I told him I wasn’t interested and that I had another offer for an art director position for slightly less than the other position.

“Let me make a call and work this out,” he stammered.

He called back the same day and claimed that I would be a creative director but the company wanted me to learn the business from “the ground up.” He said they would promote me to art director in six months and then creative director in a year. It didn’t sound like an odd plan but I insisted the salary be the original offer that was dangled in front of me, and the “plan,” in writing. He came back with a higher salary then the company’s original offer, but nowhere near the creative director salary and a promise of a written agreement but I needed to start right away. I told him I would think it over.

The other firm was dragging its heels on a written offer and start date and my then wife insisted I take the other job, which was in another city so she could empty our bank account and divorce me. Well, she didn’t say the last part but that’s what happened.

Needless to say, after eight months firmly entrenched and a phone meeting with the firm’s staffing person, I found out there never was a creative director position and none of the promises made by the recruiter were ever relayed to the company. The recruiter had left the firm and the new head weasel didn’t want to “annoy” their client (my employer).

Since leaving that firm, I have had a string of bad luck with recruiters. My résumé doesn’t make it to the employer on time, the job was not a creative director position but a cafeteria bus boy position, the salary is a fourth of what was conveyed and the titles and duties never quite seem to be what the recruiter said.

 

Does It Happen Often?

The other day, I listed a question about bait and switch on the LinkedIn questions board (a social media site for business. It’s like Facebook but without the swearing, videos and sexual innuendo…come to think of it there is plenty of sexual innuendo. It’s almost a make out party). Within three hours there were a dozen answers. I had hit a hot button.

InstantShift - Bait and Switch Job Seeking

Job seekers had also experienced bait and switch with infuriating results. Recruiters responded in a very passive/aggressive tone. All of the blame, they wrote, is with the employers not making things clear, job seekers who “demand” a salary range for the job, which one recruiter claimed was impossible as the employer would “match the salary to the person’s skill set” and, of course, on job seekers who should “shut up and accept anything in this economy.” Now I love recruiters even more!

Yes, the economy stinks and most employers have learned that hiring young and cheap saves operating costs, but what can be expected from someone who is overqualified, working for less than they are worth? Less engagement? Moving on when another, fairer opportunity arises? More insightful business decisions that made this country great…or a miserable failure depending on how one describes record unemployment and a doomed trade deficit.

I wrote and asked one recruiter, who claimed he was the best and all other recruiters were incompetent, if he sent a candidate a job description or salary range before the interview process. He replied that he didn’t as the employer may change duties and salary based on the person’s skill set and the “internal politics” of the firm. Ah, good! Nothing works better than the trust system in business.

Of late, when contacted by a recruiter, I ask a lot of questions. I go to the internet to research the employer and then discuss my findings with the recruiter. Recently I had to ask if numerous pending law suits and government probes on one firm might effect my salary or the longevity of my employ. I was told the recruiter was unaware of any of this. Nothing like a recruiter with the whole story!

 

Steps To Safeguard Your Career

When you are contacted by a recruiter, It’s best not to yell, “Thank goodness, I was about to become homeless!”

In the recent past, it was always easier to find a job while you have one. Employers use to think that the best people were kept and everyone else let go was incompetent. The truth is, the lower-paid incompetents kept their jobs and the experienced, higher-paid workers were let go. Not to say employed readers of this article are incompetent, but look around you and tell me there’s not a good deal of truth sitting at other desks, drooling and sticking paperclips into electrical outlets repeatedly, expecting different results every time.

It’s been tough on all of us. Act professionally and, as if stopping your freelance career for a staff position is of equal weigh to a full time position, be calm and detached but interested. You can dance and sing once the phone is hung up.

While I had a job, many recruiters tried to convince me that a lateral move to one of their clients was a great opportunity. You need to add up not just the dollars, but the company culture, city, lifestyle, relocation costs, job security, etc. You also have to remember if you’ve signed a non-compete with your present employer. If you did, you may not be able to work in the industry for a year or more. So how do you move on to another company? You don’t – mWaaa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Big competitors hire the other firm’s discards all the time (never fire someone you don’t want working for your competitor). A smaller company may be too frightened of legal actions if they hire you. I had to reveal that in interviews (as I was always asked) and one recruiter scolded me for saying it. Sorry! Let me start with this company based on lies!

A lateral move, unless it is a company that is showing growth, is a losing proposition. Making any move when you are hurting for a salary has few problems, unless you find yourself in a city you wouldn’t live in if you didn’t work there. When you are let go, moving elsewhere is up to you. It pays to ask a recruiter to negotiate an “escape clause,” spelling out costs of being moved back where they found you.

As part of a salary negotiation, aside from a bit more money and a signing bonus, I was given one extra week of vacation. When my years at the company entitled me to an additional week of vacation, I was told I had it already and they never agreed to keep extending my vacation by a week. In essence, I argued, they were lowering my salary by one week. I lost that and the recruiter, who didn’t want to anger the client, had been replaced by another recruiter, who said she didn’t know me and it was my tough luck. Get it in writing and have the recruiter give you a copy. Don’t sign anything until you have copies in hand. There is no he said/she said in business – only paperwork.

 

How To Spot The Great Recruiters

There are some great recruiters out there. I have them all on my mailing list. There is a large percentage that aren’t. If they haven’t connected with me on LinkedIn, I have to wonder how connected they are in my profession. LinkedIn is a great tool for researching recruiters and workplaces as well.

Look at the recruiter’s connections. 500+? Any recommendations? What companies do they deal with on a regular basis? Then check out the people who gave the recruiter a recommendation. Did they keep the job the recruiter had gotten them? Look at the dates of the recommendation, job mentioned and the person’s present position. Are they still where the recruiter placed them? If not, was it shorter than two years?

Then send a message to some of these people and ask for an updated reference. The last time I did that, I got nothing but thumbs down for the recruiter.

I encourage interviewing as much as possible. It keeps your skills sharp and you network with the people with whom you interview (many high level people with whom I interviewed went elsewhere and are in my network connections – which is good because now they can tell me why I wasn’t hired…and why I am lucky I wasn’t hired).

InstantShift - Bait and Switch Job Seeking

If it involves travel, well, I love the adventure and visiting different cities, but there is a cost you need to pass on to the firm interviewing you. Gas and tolls to the airport, parking, meals and certain travel expenses can add up to almost $100 for a one-day trip. Make sure the recruiter knows you expect the expenses to be reimbursed. A couple of interviews a month will break you, otherwise. Even across town, you are going to have expenses. Maybe I’m dreaming, these days. Do we need to spend money to show we need a job?

Rather then drone on about the good, the bad and the disgustingly ugly, let me draw some quick tips based on observations, experience and some stolen passages from Harry Potter:

A GREAT recruiter will have done all the research on the client, the people with whom you are interviewing, the salary range and title with job description (one had area information for living and lifestyle).

A BAD recruiter will refer to the client as “what’s-their-faces!”

A GREAT recruiter will go over what you should say in the interview with tips for steering things to your strong points.

A BAD recruiter will be using foul language while trying to remember where it was he/she was sending you to interview.

A GREAT recruiter will explain the salary range, what will effect it, how past placements went, bonuses, relocation costs, etc. It’s not a promise but a guideline. If the client calls and says, “We have to have Kris!” the recruiter will know how far to push.

A BAD recruiter will respond to a question about salary range with, “I’m trying to convince them they have to pay for quality.”

A GREAT recruiter makes sure they have all your travel arrangements set and will be available at the vulnerable time when you arrive at the airport and await pick up by the client, for last minute instructions and updates.

A BAD recruiter has gone to the airport and cashed in your ticket for crack money.

A GREAT recruiter will be available after you return to the airport to chat about how the interview went. It’s important to relay what was said, how you felt, any emotions you picked up on from people. A great recruiter knows the questions to ask to get the information he/she needs when they contact the client, i.e., “Speider thought you might have been put off by the fact his fly was open for the entire interview. He said you kept throwing up. I hope that wasn’t due to his work?!”

A BAD recruiter is still in a crack-induced haze.

A GREAT recruiter will call you as soon as he/she has spoken with the client. If it’s good news, you await the next move. If it’s not good news, the recruiter should have some idea of why, i.e., “they hated your work but loved the open fly!”

A BAD recruiter is never heard from again. Poor crack-addicted recruiter!

 

What About The “Local Yokels?”

Many freelancers work through placement recruiters for on-site work. More than once I showed up at a client for an assignment, only to find out that they asked for a “great illustrator” and NOT someone who was “great AT Illustrator.”

All of the same rules apply. The great ones are wonderful but few. The bad ones, usually are out of the business before you can request your first weeks pay.

One word of warning on every placement recruiter; they may conversationally ask who in town you are working for. Tell them and they will be on the phone with your clients in two minutes, undercutting your price. The recruiter, when calling to give you the heads up on an upcoming assignment won’t tell you who it’s for, because they don’t want you doing the same thing to them, they want to do to you. Just smile and say, “oh, I’m working here and there, for him and her, this and that!”

Placement people are also notorious for looking the other way on bait and switch assignments. A client wants a designer to “do some little designs for some print pieces.” You show up and are re-branding them for $15 an hour and building their web site.

Will the agent go back and ask their client to pony up more money for the different project description?

A GREAT recruiter will.

A BAD recruiter bonks you over the head with a shovel and dumps you at the edge of town so you can’t turn in your time sheet at all.

If I was a vindictive person, I would take any job via a bad recruiter and then resign just short of the period needed for them to earn their fee but I’m not vindictive, despite what you may see on my Twitter posts and what long-time friends may say. I’m also looking for a great staff position. Maybe you could recruit me for “what’s-their-faces?”