Understanding Your Client

Over the course of the year I’ve dealt with clients from one end of the spectrum to the other. Every client has also given me valuable learning lessons. The most recent being a training session. The key lesson learned  - understand your client’s expectations of site and their level of computer and web knowledge.

Before handing off a newly developed web site, you need to train the client on how to maintain it (unless you’re going to maintain it). From the previous assessments made about the client’s tech saavy knowledge, you will be able to produce a better training presentation. They will have to be individualized to each client.

If the site was designed using dynamic web templates (DWTs), the client will be able to change only the editable areas and upload to their hosting via Dreamweaver or Expression Web. In content management systems(CMS), they can edit the content via an Internet access log in and have various user access levels.

I just had a training session with a client. In this case, I used DWTs in my design in order to maintain consistency throughout the site, and I didn’t have too much experience with CMS as of the time of design and development. Prior to the training session, I felt the training materials were thoroughly put together and the web site was done very simplistic for their level of understanding of web development. As the end of the training session drew near, I had a sense that the client was unconvinced they could handle the maintenance. Reflecting back on the experience, I realize now that I may have overwhelmed the client with information. I may have had to use just step-by-step directions instead of the all the step-by-step directions AND web content tips/training.

After the session, I handed off the project and reassured the client everything will be just fine. It isn’t as difficult as they think it is. I reminded the client that if after reviewing the training materials, they could contact me with any additional questions – I would be there to help.

I know clients are unique and handle things differently from one another. It is a great reminder to have such issues arise to help make your total learning experience truly invaluable. All the little details and issues will only make your training and education get that much stronger.

A “New” Business Promotional Tool

It may have been launched in 2008 but it is definitely new in the Milwaukee area. It is called It is a daily coupon for an unbeatable deal on stuff to do, see, eat and buy in your city. They call it “collective buying power” since the participating businesses are promised a minimum number of  customers in turn offering discounts not found anywhere else.

Miss Groove is a great example of its success. Miss Groove is a friendly neighborhood boutique located on Milwaukee’s historical Brady Street.

Pam decided to try out the new marketing tool and have a $35 gift certificate available for $15, which was offered on May 4, 2010. Just that day alone, the Miss Groove web site got almost 1,000 hits! Previously their highest was 70. Talk about exposure. As for the actually number of gift certificates sold, it was 173. I couldn’t believe the turnout. With all of those gift certificates sold, that means they all are coming into store as well.

With Groupon there is a commission, but it is worth it if you get a great turn out. Traditional marketing methods of radio and print advertising doesn ‘t necessarily guarantee the foot traffic into your store, but this does. If people are willing to go online and purchase the coupon, you’ve made a sale either way.

So how does it work (as a consumer)?

First sign up to receive the daily Groupon. When you find a deal you like, just click “Buy” before the offer ends at midnight. If the minimum number of people sign up, Groupon will charge your card and send you a link to print your Groupon. The Groupon has a redemption instructions and a map right on it. If there wasn’t enough people to join, no one gets the deal and they won’t be charged.

Since many Groupons have an expiration date, you don’t have to use the Groupon the same day you buy it. You can also buy a Groupon for someone else as a gift. The only catch is that if you decide to use it, try to use the whole Groupon value because you won’t receive store credit or cash back for whatever you don’t use.

Interested as a business to participate?

Check out how Groupon works for businesses

I had originally heard about it from Miss Groove’s web designer and my co-worker Sandy. It really intrigued me and when I found out the success I was astonished. I think this is going to be a great promotional tool in the area. So far it is in Madison and Milwaukee (for Wisconsin), but who know it just might expand even more. They are growing fast. Feel free to make a suggestion to Groupon for your city.

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Countdown to Graduation

The Finishing Touches

After a couple weeks of work, I finished the prior learning exam for a web course credit demonstrating ASP.NET and Expressions Web. I’m glad I made the extra effort because I gained a little more experience through this venture. While I was required to do certain tasks, I took the initiative to take things a step farther by implementing behaviors that would have been quite simple on an XHTML page into ASPX pages (ie image swap). That’s just who I am. After documenting my work and reflecting back on my positive experience, it is still a wave of relief seeing the instructor’s approval of the work done. Yea! One more step closer to graduation. It just has to go through the proper channels now to get the actual credit.

I’m getting excited as the end draws near. I know I’ve already been through two graduations (high school and Associate Degree in Graphics), but this one has a little more influence. I am not a student fresh out of high school, but rather a 12 year veteran in the work force. I have a family and work full time. I did the secondary education in my spare time in order to make my skills more competitive in the design industry.

There were some trying times, but I strived to do my best in all my aspects of life. It was quite the balancing act. In the end it has all paid off. I will be working across that stage with my family watching and with high honors.

I am truly grateful for my teachers, family and friends with their understanding and support as well as the clients for giving me  valuable experience.

Thank You!


How Much Do I Charge?

The Ultimate Question

I recently had a conversation with a fellow classmate about web design rates. I thought good question. For all my internship web projects, I had a proposal with a set hourly rate, but is that really the way to go?!

In my initial discussion with the classmate, I feel I was able to help her out with a few ideas because I had prior freelancing experience. But on that same note, she brought to light questions I didn’t realize I needed answering also. It was a win-win situation.

Things I started pondering after our conversation:

  • Should we set an a la carte price list?
  • Should we just use an hourly rate?
  • Should we have a base and then anything over that get charged accordingly?
  • Does it vary based on the maintenance contract?

Well I decided to do a little more investigating for myself to get a feel for what other web design companies are doing? I did a search and found several different ideas I’m going to use.

One site was a calculator for potential clients to use in order to get an idea of what a site they’d want develop might cost. Then I found several sites that gave different package levels with their various inclusions – both local and out-of-state businesses. Lastly I also found one that helped how to determine rates with figuring in overhead costs and other possible expenses, experience, etc. All the sites were great resources. Now I just have to sit down and determine what I would charge for my own freelancing services in my  area. I want to stay competitive. I don’t want to undercut myself or overprice myself out of a job.

I have a feeling that although school is almost over this is not the end of the line for our friendship. I’m sure we’ll be bouncing ideas and questions at each other since we do work well together and are in the same boat. It is great networking too.

So as things are slowly winding down, I will do a little more investigating to get a more definitive rate sheet for my freelance work. That way if potential clients call I will be thoroughly prepared to answer questions they may have.

Ahh… All the little things you need to consider when working for yourself, but I don’t mind it :)


Future Endeavors

What’s Next for Me?

Just because the classes are done, doesn’t mean the learning will stop. I will continue to work on my developing skills and my networking. I love learning – always have. With the web developing industry continuously changing, I have to keep up on the trends and technologies.

I have several potential clients I have to touch base with in the next few weeks. From my experience, word-of-mouth has been a great tool in my marketing tool box. It was worked for me as a graphic designer and now proving to be an asset for me as web developer too.

My non-profit project’s event, Laura’s Smile Mile, is coming up fast, and I will be volunteering as well as participating in the run too. So far it seems bigger than last year. It will be a blast and for a great cause – ovarian cancer awareness. This project has been a pleasure working on.

I want to continue working on building network connections. I will try to attend more local social networking gatherings and try to get the word out about my skills. I have been blessed with great connections for several businesses as it is. It can only get better.

I’m even considering taking my education to the next step, but I want to see where this one leads me this summer. If I do go on, I have to figure whether what school to go to or what online certifications can be completed.

There is so much to think about. One thing is for sure… I will always be a designer. It is not just a job, but my passion.


The End is in Sight!

Internship projects completed…
Classwork being finalized…

One month left and then I graduate… again. It is for the advancement of my career and personal growth.

It is such a great feeling of accomplishment when getting this far. I’m excited to be able to be a role model for my children as well. They will be able to see their mother receiving an additional diploma for higher education. I want to show them that nothing should get in the way of their dreams.

I’m just finishing up the work for a class I’m working on testing out of. I had taken a class that would have been the equivalent about 10 years ago, but since that technology has been outdated, I needed to show my knowledge and skills with this new technology. It was been moving along quite smoothly with just a few small bumps in the road. Nothing that I can’t handle.

I am also working getting the last project I’ve been working on handed off. It is for the Corrections Science Club of Moraine Park Technical College. I am pull all the training materials together as well as the production guide for the web site design. Hopefully I can train within the next couple weeks.

Corrections Science Club of Moraine Park Technical College web site

Corrections Science Club web site

Also on my plate to finish is the classroom work for the actual internship class. That is also going smoothly – just seem to be procrastinating and focused on the other task at hand. It is just a matter of pulling all my ideas together and putting it on my site. It should be finished within the weekend.

I have also been maintaining Laura’s Smile Foundation web site with updated sponsors for the upcoming event and assisting with getting the sponsor logos to the respective people for printing T-shirts and goodie bags. I will also be assisting with the event as the event gets closer. I am excited to see the turn out to the event.

I try to touch base with my internship clients to make sure the site is continuing to work well for them.  The sites are getting great responses, which makes me feel like it was a job well done. They have also agreed to write testimonials for me to display on my web site. Now I’m just waiting to hear back from them.

I can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone. I have been able to build more connections this year than I could’ve have imagined. Now it is a matter of staying contact because you never know what might might be headed your way – new clients referred, new business ventures developed, or even just new friendships.