freelance posts

Givecamp 2011

Last weekend I went to GiveCamp in Cleveland. GiveCamp is a weekend of developers and designers building sites and applications for various charities. There were like 202 people there, working in the Lean Dog boat and in the hallway of Burke Lakefront Airport. There were 22 charities, each assigned a team appropriate to their needs. 21 of the projects were completed or nearly so in the one weekend allotted.

My project was Cleveland Carousel. My team also included a designer named Greg and another developer named Jon Knapp, who kind of managed the project most of the time. We had continuous help from at least one of the Cleveland Carousel people at all times. We also had a couple dedicated project managers come help us out for a little while as well.

The clients had a simple WordPress site in running with four pages, but they want something with a lot more content and pictures and a custom design. They came well prepared with a detailed plan of what they wanted, allowing us to move quickly with our small team. They worked with Greg to come up with a design, worked to put all of the content in place, and gave us continuous feedback as we built the site.

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Haley Litzinger: New Site for an Old Friend

It just so happens that Christian Bryant, a previously former friend of mine from my Winking Lizard days, lives almost right across the street from my new place of employment at Cogneato. And it also just so happens that his girlfriend is another previously former friend of mine named Haley Litzinger. She went to school with me in my Woodridge days, was in my class, and we were two of the three percussionists from our class in the school band. We also had seen each other a bit in college at Kent and then on very rare occasions after that. I saw Haley drive by after work one day, found her email address on her website, and emailed her.

Haley is trying to make a career as an artist, a notoriously difficult task. She does these very interesting paintings that are composed of multiple layers by painting on and combining layers of a transparent substance resembling glass. They are very interesting to look at, and she has sold quite a few over the years, but not enough to make a living or a name for herself. She built a website (the one I found) to more easily show her work to clients or galleries. She’s no web guru, so the site currently looks sub-par, unpolished, and is missing a lot of content. It also has a splash page and second home page that takes forever to load and site navigation only on the home page.

So I offered to help her fix up the site. After talking about the project, I will be creating a new site for her from scratch. It will be a very simple site, so it will probably not take long at all. Even though it will only have four basic pages/sections, the gallery section will have a lot of individual images, each with their own page. I decided to use WordPress because of the images, giving me a fairly powerful image management admin section without much effort. To make it more interesting for myself, I decided to delve a bit deeper into HTML 5 for the site. I will likely post about this soon.

I hope that I can provide her a better and more successful site. She wants it to be very simple design-wise, but I hope I can give it enough substance to give it a more clean and professional look.

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Samba: Site is Live

I’ve “completed” my first freelance project, the Samba Soccer Club site (sambasoccerclub.org). It went live almost two weeks ago. I’ve got my first freelance pay, and though I didn’t ask for much, they liked the site enough to give me a little extra. They were very nice to work with, a definite good beginning into the freelance world. I’ve hear plenty of stories about troubles with clients, but I had none. They will have me continue working on the site from time to time, updating it with new content, so I will have a little extra long term income.

The site has already made it to number one on Google and Bing for “samba soccer club” (not surprising), though not Yahoo. For the Stearns project, it had been Bing that was slow to find the site. I’m no SEO master, but hopefully we’ll be able to get decent rankings on “cleveland soccer club” or the like, things that people who don’t know about Samba but might want to would search for.

I’ve also set up my first Google Analytics account for the site. I’ve always just used apache log analyzers, such as awstats. I’m leery of the tracking implications of having so many sites with such tracking scripts, but I think the information will be useful for my clients. Google Analytics provides a lot of information in a fairly nice format. Some of the information, such as the detailed maps, I don’t get with awstats. I will have to look into a way to get my clients these stats, since the account is currently in my name.

Hopefully the site will work out well for them and make a good portfolio piece for me. I definitely learned a lot from the project, and hope my future projects go as nicely.

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Samba: Another Freelance Project

Yay! I’ve got another freelance project now, and this one I’ll actually get paid for. It won’t be much pay, I gave them a very low price, but it sounds like I will get paid more from this job in the future: They want me to be their go-to guy for updating the site and new features. They will probably have me do things like update dates and add images, so it may be like an hour a month or something, not a lot, but something.

So finally, the project is for Samba Soccer Club, a small Cleveland youth soccer club. I got the lead from Ronda Leffel, the coordinator of the eBusiness program I was in at Tri-C. I met with them Saturday at Baker’s Square to talk the project over.

They had a site at one point, but let that lapse, and now want a completely new site, from scratch. They still have the URL, so they will just have to get a host and transfer it, or however that works (I’ve never done it yet). I’m going to have to do a bit of research on hosts for them, but I might suggest they just let me manage their site on my hosting account. I’ve not done this before, but it sounds like Dreamhost‘s version of reselling is just letting us create users for our clients and bill them ourselves. They shouldn’t have too much traffic, so this should work fine.

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Canine Lifeline: Meeting and Start

Jason and I have begun work on the Canine Lifeline site I had mentioned as a freelance project.  It will be for free (they are a non-profit) but will be good experience and we will get our names and links in the footer.  As our first project outside of school together and my first real freelance project altogether, the experience should be great and free should make it more relaxed.

We met with the clients on Sunday to discuss the project.  We met at Yours Truly in Valley View and discussed the site over lunch.  They all were very nice and seemed to know a good bit about websites and what they want, which should help a lot.  They gave a good idea of the functionality and content they wanted, as well as some basic thematic ideas.

Their current site is a simple four pager built with a template and hosted for free with adverts.  We will be building a many-page CMS for them, using WordPress after our experiences with the Stearns project, so they can make frequent updates.  They want a dynamic site that entices people to visit frequently for updates.  They, like Stearns, will need some custom data types, so I will be using Magic Fields again as well as trying out Pod CMS, which should allow for more complex uses of data.  We shouldn’t need multi-column pages for this site, so we hopefully won’t run into the TinyMCE editor troubles we had with Stearns.

Stylistically, they want a blend of professional looking with bright and colorful.  Since Jason is the designer of our duo, I will let him handle most of the theme design while I work on the functionality of the site.  I do want to at least give a try at a couple of hand drawn mockups though.

Since this is about all I have going on, I will continue to post about this project, how its going, and anything I discover from it.

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Done with school

School

I’m done with school. The semester is over, finished on Wednesday.  I also happened to have finished the last classes for my degree.  For all intents and purposes, I have graduated.  I’m not sure when it is official or what not.  In fact, I’ve received almost no information on graduation, the ceremony, anything.  As I recall at Kent, they were sure to tell us not only about the upcoming graduation but about the cap and gown we needed to purchase, etc.  I was much more aware of what was going on.  At Tri-C, I’ve only recently come to the conclusion that the ceremony is most likely only done once a year, in May.  Not sure if I get my degree before then or what.

So now I have little to do.  I have no job and no school, two of the more time consuming parts of my life thus far.  I am considering taking another web-based class or two next semester.  That could be nice if they aren’t too hard.  If they are, it might be hard to enter into a full-time job (hopefully), work some freelance projects (hopefully), etc, and still do alright.  If they are too easy, I might as well just get books and use online resources instead, and be able to learn exactly what I want at my own pace.  I’m still thinking on this.

Jobs

As my monetary reserves drain, I am in the process of looking for a job, and will look much harder now than I had while still in school.

I did have promising possibilities come up at a recent Tri-C IT event.

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Potential Freelance Group

I am very excited about this.  Last week I asked Nadia, a girl from my Web II class who is good with design, if she would like to form a freelance-like group with me.  She had mentioned earlier in the semester that she didn’t like the idea of going fully freelance, being totally alone.  She liked to have people to critique ideas and collaborate with, as well as to share expertise.  I had thought when she mentioned that to ask her about forming a group, but my shyness and unsurity made me wait.  I finally did it, and she said yes, and was excited about it as well.

We talked a bit (via email) and she wondered who else we could include in this group, so I mentioned Jason, another good designer from our class.  We asked him the next day of class, and he said yes.  He, of course, was also excited by the prospects.  And he has had experience with freelance design.

They are both very good at design, which I am not.  They can do flash and drawings and what not.  I am fairly good working with scripting and data, and have, and have some experience turning designs into HTML/CSS.  So we should complement each other well.  We seem to work together in class well as well, which will hopefully make things work smoothly.

So we’ve been talking a bit via email and class.  We have to figure out things such as what sort of business entity to become, how we will handle money (don’t want any disputes with this), what sort of contract we will use, etc.   We will probably want to become an entity like a partnership, with a separate name from our own, so that we have a brand and people can pay that single entity.  This will also make sense for tax purposes.

Part of the idea of this is to be like freelancing, but with the support and image of the other members of the group, so we don’t want it to start off as something complicated and expensive.  It is also going to be set up as something that can be done on the side of a full time job.  We want it to be easy for people to come and go if need be, and maybe even have only part of the team work on some projects.  Our entity and other choices will have to reflect this.

We’ve discussed where to find clients, and we may start with some free sites, such as for non-profits, to figure out how things will work and get a group portfolio going.  Those shouldn’t be too hard to find.

We will continue talking, get things going, and hopefully it’ll work out.

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