What I’m Learning Lately

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This is going to be a list more than anything…

  • Accounting – my UoPeople course this term is Financial Accounting 2. Honestly, I’m really struggling to keep up with my “formal” education given my current workload. I got an 88% on my first exam last night – not bad, but not great either. I’d really like to get an A in this course.
  • MailChimp – kinda of unintentionally, which is how most of my learning happens. A client requested that I prepare an HTML email template for her and rather than start from scratch I decided to use MailChimp’s visual editor to get me to a point where I could start to write custom code. I would up figuring out all of MailChimp’s little shortcodes in the HTML and in-line CSS that open up editing options in their visual editor, which was fun. I also found myself copying and pasting code between MailChimp’s editor and Mozilla Thimble to play around with options before finalizing the template and sending it back to my client.
  • JavaScript – I’m making some educational videos for Udemy that cover the basics of web development, and in the process I’ve brushed up on my JavaScript. Which is nice. (By the way, if you’d like to take my course, you can sign up for it here.)
  • Google Adwords – I’ve got a meeting next week with a client who needs help with pay-per-click advertising, and Adwords is the best place to start. However, I’ve never used Adwords. So I’m taking some time every day to study up and get the basics down before I go off formulating a complex strategy…I want to make sure that whatever strategy is selected will actually work! So far I’ve covered keywords (including negative keywords), dynamic display ads, Adwords extensions, and I’ve even created my first campaign for WaltersWorks with a very limited budget.

I know there’s more but I’m out of time for today! What have you been learning lately?

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Moving into Online Learning

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Look, I get it – not everyone has the time or inclination to manage their own websites. Business owners, nonprofit leaders, government employees…they’re busy adults with many important things to do.

But every now and then I run into someone who has a desire to really get their hands into things, and it frustrates me when they’re pushed out by greedy web developers and designers who justify their exorbitant rates with the excuse that nobody can do what they do.

Baloney. This is 2017. Anyone can manage a website.

Sometimes all that’s needed is a little support, and that’s where I can step in. I’ve saved businesses thousands of dollars by setting up user-friendly websites that they can manage on their own, and if they ever need me, I can step back into the picture.

Up until now, I’ve only been able to provide support in person or remotely using WebEx, Join.me, or another remote troubleshooting tool. Today, I’m throwing out a new method – online tutorials.

Using my professional audio equipment and screen recording software, I can prepare carefully-crafted and easy-to-follow video content to help individuals and organizations manage their own web presences.

Here’s just a sample of the kinds of courses I can prepare for you. Interested in hearing more? Contact me today.

Web Design, Art, and Making Things Look Different When People Want Them to Look the Same

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As I sit here looking at my portfolio, one thing stands out to me – I’ve done a great job of diversifying my work. Over the last five years I’ve made a lot of websites and I’m proud to say that none of them look the same.

In this templatized world there are so many websites that are nearly identical. From a technical standpoint, templates make sense – it’s easier to modify than to build from scratch. While my websites may not look the same, I’ve used plenty of WordPress and Webflow templates and undoubtedly there are other sites on the web that are nearly identical.

But from an artistic standpoint, I hate the thought of giving two or more of my clients the same look and feel for the web presence. Especially if there is proximity – competing businesses, geographically-close organizations, or overlapping social networks. I don’t want any of my clients to get feedback that their site looks like somebody else’s. I know I wouldn’t like that if it happened to me.

So when a client was browsing my portfolio and asked me to make something that looked like one of my existing designs, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel – I’m glad to have their business and I want to deliver a site that meets their needs, wants, and expectations. But as an artist, how can I differentiate the two sites from each other?

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Too similar? Different enough? I’m conflicted. I’ve only been working on the latest project for a day so I’m sure I’ll continue to find ways to make them different *enough* artistically, but I want to be sure that my client’s vision is brought into reality.

Ranked

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For the last five years I’ve been running WaltersWorks as a side job, just some extra cash here and there. And it shows – my revenue last year was just about $3,500. Nothing to write home about. I was intentionally unsuccessful – I knew that as long as the business didn’t get too big, there was no conflict with my full-time job. I didn’t have to try very hard, just keep doing some work here and there and leave it at that.

I just found out that WaltersWorks is ranked #20 in the Central Penn Business Journal’s list of top web design companies in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, and York counties.

I feel like being ranked changes things.

When you’re ranked, you can gain ground or lose ground.

That’s why I’m setting new goals for 2017. No, I’m not going to aim for that #1 spot – the top dogs in the area are making millions in revenue and have upwards of 50 employees on the roster. But if there’s ever going to be a year where I break out and make big gains, this is it.

What’ll it take to make the leap? A commitment to every client that I already have, and to all those that I will have, to provide the very best service when it comes to web design, graphic design, social media marketing, SEO, and audio/video content creation. Every web site needs to be brilliant. Every graphic and logo needs to be pixel-perfect. And I need to provide outstanding communication and customer service in every aspect of the business.

I just opened up a Yelp account and turned on Facebook reviews because as I make these gains I want to make sure that my clients have an outlet for their feedback. I hope that every client has great feedback and loves what I do, but I also need to hear when I haven’t met expectations. So, if I’ve provided you with a product or service, please feel free to let me know how I’ve done.

And if we haven’t worked together yet, maybe now is the right time to start?

 

First Foray into Video Production

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Last August and September I had the opportunity to carry out a video production project for Beautiful Smiles Family Dental Center in Etters, PA. Here’s what I learned from the experience: anyone can do this. Anyone.

To get started, I visited their office with an iPhone and a GoPro Hero 3. I shot video in all of their waiting areas, cleaning rooms, sedation room, and office spaces. Then I used my PreSonus AudioBox iTwo, high-quality mic, and iPad to record their practice administrator’s narration of said video. Then I popped everything into Filmora Wondershare for editing.

My first version was absolute garbage. Recording all of the video by hand was a terrible idea – shots were shaky and inconsistent.

So I went out and purchased a Canon EOS Rebel T5i and a tripod, and I re-shot all of the video. I used furniture moving feet to allow the tripod to slide across carpeted areas smoothly.

Back to the studio, where I popped everything back into Wondershare for editing.

After several rounds of revisions, here is the finished product!

What a difference! Certainly not perfect, but leaps and bounds ahead of what I had previously put together.

I stand by my previous statement – anyone could do this. If I had used an iPhone tripod and some of those little mounts for the GoPro, I could have shot decent video on the first go-around. Sensing that this might become something I do more frequently, I invested in a better camera…but it wasn’t a necessity. And recording /editing the audio was a breeze with the PreSonus equipment which cost a few hundred dollars. Wondershare…I may have used with a spoofed product key. If another video production job comes along, I’ll gladly spend the money to buy a license as it was incredibly easy to use.

So there you go…video production for beginners.

New theme!

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Well, it’s not a new theme, but it’s new to this site.

For a long time I used the P2 theme. I enjoyed the custom header image, infinite scrolling, and good sidebar options as well as the ability to post right from the blog page.

But alas, things must change from time to time.

Today I installed the Writr theme in order to keep up with the times. P2, as good as it was, was not fully responsive and it’s important that my sites be viewed comfortably on mobile devices. Writr offers many similar features – custom header, infinite scrolling, and the distinct sidebar for my Twitter feed and other important links. I can no longer post right from the blog page, but I might as well get used to the new WordPress editor anyway, right?

I hope you like the new theme!