Tag Archives: freelancing

Fast Company How to Make Procrastination Productive

I found this neat little animation about procrastination at Fast Company. Basically procrastination can be good if you can simply translate into a worthwhile activity. Your hatred of actually doing that urgent work will be your ticket to motivational bliss.

If you think about it, it kind of makes a case for keeping lots of optional projects on the go. Sure, you’ll have more stuff to put off, but eventually that one activity that you’ll hate the least. Come to think of it, my kitchen needs cleaning…

Stack Overflow

Just in case I’m not the last person on earth to hear about it, stackoverflow.com is one of the most useful programming sites on the internet. If works a lot like Yahoo! Answers, where questions are asked, answers are posted by humans, and the answers are voted on for their effectiveness. Unlike Yahoo! Answers, the questions are less “How is babby formed?” and more of the “How do I get this *bleep*ing code to work?”. All manner of programming subjects are tagged and categorized, from ESRI to fortran.

Most importantly, by answering questions on the site, freelancers can show off their skills or keep certain areas of expertise fresh . Unlike posting on programming forums and blogs, stackoverflow has the potential to reach more people from multiple disciplines. If demand for one technology goes down, clients and recruiters don’t have to go look far to see what else you are capable of.

The Joy of Not Knowing How

The computer industry implants in the minds of many the legend of the lone programmer, sequestered in a parents basement coding the next paradigm shift of technology. The myth is not that far from the truth, since many of the big names in software, Microsoft, Apple, and Google, were all created by hobbyists charting unknown territory in code.

I’m sure that everyone working in computers today, everyone, has some crazy project roiling in the back of their heads. But the majority of us don’t even start, let alone finish these projects out of fear that we aren’t qualified to do this, that we should let someone with “expertise” eventually make that app we want.  What we fail to realize is that the “experts” rarely know more than we do what unwritten programs look like. The only reason they are experts is that they’ve made their fear work for them. The frustration and uneasiness that comes from a new language and technology drives them forward instead of holding them back.

So if you’ve got an app or a script or whatever on the back burner, get it up on the monitor right now. Find that spot where you left off and feel that mixture of rage, terror, and embarrassment that made you shelve it. That feeling isn’t telling you that there is something wrong, it is telling you that you are working on something challenging and worthy of your skills. That feeling, right there, is the frontier of software development.

5 Rules of Designing for Non-Designers

When you make the decision to freelance, you end up having to learn skills they never taught you in school. The big one for me has to be graphic design. I’ve somehow avoided any formal education in it, thinking I could just knuckle down and specialize. It is the most nebulous and troublesome skill I’ve had to learn. What is good design? Is it typefaces? Swooshes? It doesn’t help that every so often on digg or reddit you find these snarky blog posts saying things like, “You used Kozuka Gothic Pro font over Deja Vu Sans Serif? How many other people have you killed with your stupidity?”

Graphic design is definitely a soft discipline. One decision that might be perfect for one document might be utter suicide for another. But take heart. Millions of people do graphic design every day. To let the opinions of few typeface snobs trip you up is no way to go through life. The guidelines listed here are probably “birds go tweet” propositions for more experienced designers, but nonetheless they should get you through any project.

1. Research

Yes, you can research graphic design projects. The human imagination is little more than a surreal mishmash of everything we experience through our senses. So, if you’re short on ideas about how to proceed with your logo or web page, look for visual elements that relate to your subject. This can take the form of searching other websites or going on a photo-hunt. This will help you narrow down the colors and shapes you’ll use with your project.

2. Clarity Beats Originality

If it’s not a generally accepted principle of graphic design, it should be. No one is going to appreciate how edgy or original your design is if they can’t read it. Use a heirarchy to arrange your elements in order of importance. A larger heading or body text means the element is more important. It sounds self explanatory, but it’s surprising how often it’s ignored.

3. Learn Your Software

Don’t limit yourself to what you already know about GIMP or Illustrator. Any sufficiently used piece of software will have scads of tutorials to help you do what you want to do. Google is your friend, use it early and often.

4. Know Your Audience

This is pure gospel for any product you are trying to unleash on the world. This doesn’t just benefit your clients. You can also mine a lot of inspiration by gathering information about who is going to be looking at your work.

5. When in doubt, test it out

There is no better way to test your work out than to get a fresh pair of eyes on it. You can recruit friends, parents, grandparents, or even random people off the street. The point of graphic design is to convey information. You can learn a lot from watching someone actually try to get information from your page.

Passion

“What’s your Passion?”

That has to be my least favorite job interview question. “What’s Your Passion?” It’s so loaded. If you are able to do your job, or even excel at it, why should passion be a factor? I don’t have to wonder where my next paycheck is coming from. That makes me feel passionate. What if my passion doesn’t directly relate to my job? For instance, I like to write, but I can think of a lot of reasons not to do it for money. What if the reason I have my passion is that it takes my mind off work?

Here’s another thing. It’s always passion. Singular. What if you have several? You might want to do programming 5 days of the week and go skiing for the other two. You can be passionate about the environment and small government budgets. I guess the thing I hate most about “What’s Your Passion” is that it makes it so obvious that the interviewer is only pretending to care about who you are as a person. Job interviews are commerce, plain and simple. To ignore that fact is nothing short of patronizing.