The uber best of March 2009

Color your digital canvas

33 Digital Painting tutorials – Great list with plenty of help and inspiration if you are starting out in digital painting

The best stuff comes for free

Smashing Magazine Freebies – This is an amazing list of freebies that you are free to use for any project as long as you don’t redistributed or resell them. Which is awesome.
Insights on the Free Economy and how it evovled. Great and very long read.

5 Useful insights into creative traffic

Traffic analysis of a huge blog – This is an amazing insight into where a big blog like psdtuts draws it’s traffic.
Which video’s went viral? – Ever wondered which videos went viral the last few weeks? This site has in detail stats about the most recent videos that have been buzzing around the web.
Finding your commentsEver wondered where you leave your comments? This site keeps track of your movements.

Scariest animal of the month

Meet… I don’t know how to call it… I just know that Hitchcock Birds would fly away from those…

The 5 coolest portfolios found in march

Laurent Perbos – Great concept artist, love those works.
The stray voltage – CoOoOl art blog by ron van der ende.
Tokyo Candies – The coolest strong geisha’s you are about to see, probably not sfw – Beautiful and unique photography portfolio that works without JS or Flash!
Eliza Gauger – Loads of cool sketches

Sarcasm meets youtube

Coming to the point

A point rarely is a perfect circle, it’s rather just a small splash, so do it, get to the point. Screw everything else for today.

Pocket Money for freelancers

Sometimes it’s hard to get started in the freelance world. Unless you have been working in the creative industries and leave with a few of the clients your company has been working with, you have to start at zero. Maybe you already own a solid portfolio, maybe you don’t. In any case you have to spread the word, and what is better than creating work that will pay for itself. Here are a few things that you can easily do yourself without the need of finding clients.

Create a Website.

Don’t neglect the place where you start out, no matter what you do, a unique personal website is a must! It does not matter if it is just used as a business card linking to all the free services where you sell/showcase your work, as a blog or if you create a shop there. Your unique domain will make you brandable, display professionalismn and in the best case, will be easy to remember.

Start a blog.

You can start one at wordpress or blogger, join an existing blog as a co-editor or start something up at your own website. A great way to start out is to pick 3 topics you are interested in an write about them, see which blog works best and go from there.
After picking the topic you want to stick to you should create a blog on your own domain. An unique domain will make your website brandable, display professionalismn and in the best case, will be easy to remember and search engine friendly.
Showcase your skills and be aware that it’s your portfolio. A great example is skelliewag. Giving information, building trust and working at all those big blogs such as freelanceswitch, problogger,…
After some time, your blog might actually turn out to earn you some money through recommendations, advertisements, paid reviews, affiliate marketing… there are a million ways to monetize a blog, just get it up and running. In the worst case scenario you have learned how to create a blog and can offer this service, in the best case scenario you create an asset that will produce you money and potential clients en masse.

Take part in T-Shirt contests.

There are plenty of sites offering T-Shirt contests. Threadless, lafraise or designbyhumans are the ones that are really popular. In case you know how to create cool artwork people would love to wear these are your places. You can win between a few hundreds to a few thousand dollars in case your shirt is printed, can add those designs to your portfolio and be part in one of those communities. There are a few popular people such a Ray Frenden or GoMedia who use this to leverage their popularity.

Open a Shop

You don’t need some fancy software, you can simply start building a shop for your creative output. Take zazzle or cafepress for example you can create almost everything with zero budget. You design the items and get a share of the revenue. It’s a great way to find out how well your items would sell and if you should consider selling them yourself.

Create Stock items

I have a love / hate relationship with stock items. It might be cool for a lot of people, but if you are an artists who loves his work, it might be hard to sell it for such a low price. Sure the idea is cool, but somehow it does devaluate work. Besides that you need to create items that will sell well, this might be someone simple or simply high end work that can be used for plenty of things. So usually high quality artistic items sell pretty bad. It’s great for leftovers or simple things that don’t take much time to create.

Create an affiliate product

The easiest way to create an affiliate product is to write an ebook. Just look at freelance switch and their rockstar series. Create something people need to know and are willing to spend a few bucks on. Now you need to give some of your revenue away and pay it to people who are going to promote your book. It eases your marketing efforts and gives other people the chance to earn money. It’s a win-win situation for both sides. A good service to help you selling your ebook is E-Junkie as it is cheap, easy to use and there are a lot of people using it, such as freelanceswitch.

16 Reasons why artists designer/photographer should love stock

Now that we covered why you should hate stock photography, let’s not make things worse than they are. There are plenty of reasons why people love to create stock items. Here are 16 reasons, and I am sure people can find a lot more than these. Still I don’t think artists will be happy creating stock, as it offers such a low value for unique work that is not easily recycleable.

  1. It’s easily accessible
    Accessing a stock site is very easy; you just have to pass a simple test and are free to upload your work. It’s even easier for people who want to buy stuff, as they just have to sign up.

  2. Create a portfolio
    A stock site offers you an inexpensive way to create a portfolio where you can already start selling items. You can find potential clients who like your work.

  3. Share your work with the world
    You can simply share your work with the world and make it visible.

  4. Learn how to create high quality pictures
    Stock sites only accept perfect pictures, at least from a quality point of view. This forces you to really work on your output.

  5. Improve your technique
    Improving your technique is a gradual process and you will grow with each picture you upload.

  6. Your work generates sales for itself
    Once you have uploaded your work, there is no need to think about it anymore, as people can buy it from that point on.

  7. You learn how to create items that sell
    Making money is your main choice, and chasing downloads makes you look for things that sell well. You will either develop your own style, or learn how to successfully copy other people’s work, which everyone does when they start out. After a phase of emulating others you will certainly know what works for you and purse those things more.

  8. There is no need to look for clients
    One of the big plus for the creator is that they just have to create their work and have no hustle to find potential clients.

  9. Simply upload your work
    Take the picture or create whatever you are doing and upload it, adding a few good keywords. Then it will be either approved or not, nothing more is involved in that process.

  10. Selling leftovers is no shame
    In case you don’t want to create stuff for stock, but have leftovers from your regular jobs you can recycle them there.

  11. Simple items sell best
    Stock is not sophisticated, it’s actually pretty simple. That’s why generic and simple items sell best- just make a case study yourself and look which items are the best selling items; you are in for a surprise in case you think they have to be artistic. Simple, generic and usable for a wide audience, or of good use for a designer are what sells best.

  12. Create a stream of passive income
    Passive income is what everyone strives for. Creating items that can be sold without having to take care of is great. You can earn a few extra bucks each month when you have a portfolio, when you keep on growing it you can earn more than a few bucks.

  13. Connect with likeminded people
    The communities around those stock sites are usually pretty cool. You can connect with people, ask questions and socialize.

  14. Income will grow with time
    The longer you are in this and the more items you upload, the bigger your income stream can grow.

  15. During a crisis people want to save money
    Pretty simple, when there is no big money to be spend people look for cheap alternatives and stock items are exactly that. Stock is a cheap alternative to a professional and unique product.

  16. It’s a challenge
    Creating stock is a challenge, as there are many obstacles such as search engines, getting files rejected and the images you think will sell like mad not creating a single sale, while others you didn’t think much off sell like crazy.

16 Reasons to hate micro-stock

People love to create stock, I say that’s wrong, just be honest with yourself and you will agree that you should actually hate stock! Here are 16 reasons and I am sure you can find a lot more to hate the micro stock industry.

  1. Stock is uncreative compared to artistic work
    You are not free to do anything, even if you think you are. You want to sell your work and therefore you have to create something that people want to buy.

  2. You have to please clients to make sales
    You actually have to please the clients less than when you do contract work, but you still have to create stuff that people want to buy.

  3. Technical perfection is more important than artistic vision
    It pretty much does not matter how great your idea is behind your picture, everything that matters is technical perfection and if there is purple fringe or a bit of noise, you are out.

  4. You have to promote your work to be really productive
    Creating stock is not enough, you have to promote the stuff yourself to create some real sales.

  5. It’s a numbers game
    The more stuff you create the more you can sell. It’s all about having the right item for the right person at the right time.

  6. Your work is judged by others
    And I don’t mean by your customers, rather by amateur artists like yourself. It’s not that most people doing this are professionals. They are professional artists just like most of the people submitting there.

  7. Some topics sell, others don’t
    Some niches are saturated; others are not interesting for commercial purposes. You can’t change that and you are doing spec work.

  8. You have to find trends before others do
    The main thing a contributor has to care about is which thing will be the next big hit and produce according to that.

  9. You devalue your work
    You devalue your work, simple as that. You become a mass producer, nothing more. You can put it as you want to, but this process devalues your work as it flood the market with high quality, cheap images.

  10. Other people can simply look what sells and copy your work
    Create an awesome piece, you better get the word out before someone else rips off your style and creates stuff like you did.

  11. You lose a lot rights for very little money
    You give away a lot of your rights for very little money. Giving stuff away for free is great, but selling stuff for less than it’s worth is simply stupid. Big names save a lot money and you are not even making a name with it.

  12. Stock sites are like a factory producing a high output
    Ever wondered why hand-crafted items are more expensive than machine work? It takes time and dedication to produce them, they are unique and people value them far more. How much is a 20$ stock item really worth?

  13. You earn less than 50% of a sale
    This is what should everyone really piss off… you earn less than the company, which is ok, but you should earn at least as much as they do. They are not the only ones having costs running servers and people working in the company, you are working your time creating items, you are the one building their content, you should be worth at least 50%.

  14. You lose artistic freedom
    You sacrifice your freedom over some cheap work, as you have to create stuff that sells or you can simply stop contributing.

  15. You compete with amateurs
    You compete with amateurs who do this for fun and don’t care about the money.

  16. You have to be lucky
    You can be skilled, but you have to be a bit lucky, just like everywhere else. Unless you don’t get lucky it’s hard to create top selling items. You have to rank well in the search; otherwise you won’t sell much in high trafficked niches.

More than enough Reasons you should turn your computer off and call it a day

Get up stand up for your right, the Beastie Boys got it right, you don’t even have to stand up for your right to party, just get your butt up out of that chair you have been sitting on for more hours than you needed… need reasons to get out? Here are plenty…

It’s good for your health, ok you already know that, so why are you still sitting there?

10 Reasons for your health

  1. You will exercise your muscles, the muscles you once had when you were moving like a human is supposed to. Running, jumping and having fun, just look at what kids love to do and you know what humans are supposed to do.

  2. Stretch your back, you will grow at least two meters.

  3. Relax your eyes, our society today is extremely visual and in case you are sitting all day long in front of a computer you are prone to visual overload, headaches and burnout.

  4. Relax your ears, just as our eyes the ears are put to constant stress… noise, music, stress, traffic… we are pushing our body to it’s limit by simply sitting down. Pretty sick.

  5. Train other muscles besides your fingers and forearms, no matter what you do, everything is better than sitting 12 hours in front of your computer and will exercise your body better than that chair that grows out of your butt.

  6. By putting on those running shoes lying around in the corner and going for that jog you have been prolonging for ages you actually do something for your concentration and cardiovascular system. Or you could pick up that ball, and go to a playground and just have some fun.

  7. Muscles burn fat, in case you feel fat and fluffy, just turn the electronics off for 2 hours per day and get moving. We are living in a society where we have the luxury of getting things done without moving, it put a toll on your body.

  8. No matter if you are in a relationship or are single, the people around you will find you more attractive if you are active. There is nothing more boring than a bummer on the couch or in front of the computer. Have some interesting times, go to an amusement park, sailing, surfing, racecar driving, do what you always wanted to do, no excuses allowed.

  9. When was the last time you went to bed early? Turn off the electronics two hours before you want to go to bed, just to make sure you will go at the planned time. We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the interwebs. Sleep ain’t the cousin of death; it’s a small resurrection every morning.

  10. Meeting people outside is vital for our health. Social interaction proves to be one of those things that can’t be supplemented by electronics. Christopher Ross recently had some interesting thoughts on how to change your life when you are stuck in work.

One of those myths is that everything you do online will save you time, that’s utter bullshit. Good old, premium bullshit. Sorry for those words, but it needs to be said!

Things you don’t need an online application for

Online applications are time reaper, just like my social media reaper. They offer you stuff where you have to sign up for and are told that you will save a lot time, but actually when you use all those services you wonder where all your time has gone, besides that you store all of your personal information in places that you don’t have in control.
An online timer can be handy, but actually it’s useless, we are so tech obsessed that we really want to do everything with some nice little gadget. Just grab a pen and paper and see how good it actually feels to cross things out. The first thing with all those online applications is to look through them and make sure that those things are actually useful and not only a time killer. There are great and time saving services, no need to argue about that, but be honest to yourself and pick what saves you time, not what offers you to spend more time online while twitter and facebook is running in the background.

Cutting back online time

There are so many people telling you how to save time and cut back your online time, the easiest time is to set hours for your social media consumption. I think I read at skelliewag that she has two different computers, one simply used for her offline writing so she can get things done and leave the distractions outside. I think this is a great idea to cut down your internet time.
Other ways to cut down your internet consumption is to simply do things offline. The more things you do online, the more time you will spend in front of your computer. Going paperless might be a very noble decision, but actually doing all that online is nothing for me.
You have to be very strong to resist all that temptations and it is very easy to be caught up in a flow effect when you are spending time online, so why not simply cut back the time you make the internet accessible? Just plug out the internet for a certain time and see if you still spend so much time in front of the computer.
Another way to cut back the online time is to set you hours and make appointments with friends or even just with yourself. I am allowed to work for a 5 hours, then I have to go out and drink a coffee at that place and flirt with the waiter/waitress, go for a walk to the post office to send out those letters, print out flyers for my business and ask to place them in a coffee shop or local malls, go shopping for food or visit local stores to market your services.

Why we are wasting so much time online

Actually wasting time may sound harsh, but most of the generation internet is wasting their life!… people have hundreds of friends in facebook and twitter, but rarely leave their home. It’s easy to get stuck, especially when you work from home or spend most of your free-time in front of the computer. It does not matter if you are a designer, coder, blogger, poker player, marketer or whatever… the antisocial so called social media takes up so much time that there is not much left for real social interaction. Turning off the computer for a few hours each day might be the best decision you can make to improve your life, health and social contacts. You might even use time away from the computer to build your business locally. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck, get your life moving.

Search Engine Optimisation for Creative People

You should love search engine traffic! Rinse and repeat…
I love search engine traffic!
I love search engine traffic!
Ok… enough of that, I guess you got this message, why should you love search engine traffic you ask? That’s a good question! A lot of people would be too scared to ask why…

Too make a long story short: Search engine traffic delivers traffic to your site from people who are looking for something that your site seems to provide. It’s usually better than traffic from social media as those people are actively looking for something that they need and probably will spend money on.

A real life example

Someone searches a photographer in Tokyo, a gallery in Houston or a designer in St. Tropez through a search engine, you know exactly what he is looking for and you fit one of the 3 searches. You want that person to come to your site! You want him to find you! So your goal is to be on the first page of the search results.

How do you rank on page one?

You have a website, but don’t do search engine optimisation at all. Your website has loads of java and flash, almost no text, no keyword relevant domain, your text is written in the graphics and people don’t link to you with a good anchor text. This is probably the worst case scenario.

  • You have a domain with the keywords that fit his search…, or This alone will usually help you to rank pretty high for a term in case your domain name matches the search.
  • You have a website with your portfolio, added something like a blog with text and keywords that fit the search terms and location. As a bonus you are active within your community and a lot people link to your website. In case you get people to have the right anchor text for the search term… for example Tokyo photographer, and those pages are relevant to your site, you can rank pretty high as well.
  • You have a domain with good keywords and a lot of on and offsite search engine optimisation… This means you have your profession within your domain, get people to link to your site and have a site where you write about what you do and write articles with the right keywords for a search engine.

What do creative people do wrong?

They emphasize the gadget parts of their site too much. Search engines still have troubles to read Flash, JavaScript or images with text. If your goal is to rank well in a search engine to rank well for a certain term there are a lot things to consider, it’s almost a science and there are companies who make real good money offering their services.
Usually you don’t need one of those companies if you are not into credit cards, make money or little blue pills. You can do a lot on your own!

  • Get a good domain name, they are really cheap. Maybe you get a few more domain names and test out which one works best.
  • You should always have a blog on your site, it helps you to update your site regularly (search engines love that) and in case you have a lot of graphics in your portfolio it will help you to get more text that search spiders can crawl.
  • In case you are into design, don’t just showcase your work, add text to it. Describe what you have done and write short articles. Or even offer a tutorial about your speciality, even if you don’t give away all your secrets.
  • Give away a few things for free and people will link to you, which will usually improve your ranking as it shows that your site has value to others.
    A killer portfolio will help you to get more links to your site as well. People love to share cool stuff.
  • Oh and a last tip, add your business to local directories, you can even add it to Google maps if you didn’t already do that.