All Posts By

Michael Johnson

3 Ways to Motivate Yourself When You Hit the Wall

Keeping motivated when everything in our bodies screams to stop can be difficult. Hitting ‘the wall’ during a particularly tricky task can be easier than continuing and finding that elusive solution to the persistent, nagging problem. Finding motivation can be hard enough, maintaining it can be even more difficult, but hope should not be abandoned. Here are some techniques to deal with getting motivated and staying motivated, from how students continue studying to how supermarkets keep custom. Following similar advice could help get you motivated or break through the wall.

Taking tips from students studying at university seems counterproductive, given the reputation students have for (not) actually studying. But as each university produces thousands of graduates every year, there is obviously something that keeps students motivated through several years of study. Breaking up larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks is the essence of the student journey. Taking inspiration here could be as simple as breaking a large task into halves, then halving it again, until each step in the task seems more realistically achievable. Counting percentages to completion can help motivate as each step forward spurns you on to finish whatever it is you started.

Taking inspiration from the world of business and how companies motivate customers to use their services can be interesting. Plenty of shops and cafes run loyalty schemes that reward customers for repeat purchases. This motivates them to choose to patronise a particular store over another when thinking of buying something they need. Online casinos also have neat tricks to attract customers, as can be seen through the bonuses offered at particular casinos seen in the source here. The motivation offered here uses a mechanism whereby the user receives a reward for completing a task or for achieving a certain level of completion. To help you beat the wall, set milestones that warrant such rewards and – rather than rewarding customers – you reward yourself when you reach one.

Another outside-the-box way to motivate yourself is to turn whatever you’re doing into a competition. Take tech giants Apple and Samsung, for example, whose motivation for completing designs and churning out new smartphone models is to be in healthy competition with one another. Motivating yourself by competing – either with someone else or just your own record – could unlock a competitive streak that ensures you get the task done. Nothing helps motivation more than winning – or, at least, not losing. According to this piece, Science has proven that competition is the best form of motivation when it comes to exercise. Fitness professionals surround themselves with those who motivate them to improve and there is no reason why this technique wouldn’t work across the board.

Motivation can be easy to say but impossible to find, but there are countless ways of breaking through and finding it. Sometimes the best way to pull yourself out of a tricky situation is to look at how others break themselves out of their own binds and break through that wall. It may inspire a spark of genius that gets the wheels moving.

Featured image by Fabio Comparelli

Networking for Creatives: Socialize Your Way to Success

Being a creative, whether you work in design, film, writing, or art, can feel like a relentless uphill struggle. When you’re first starting out, one of the biggest challenges is simply getting a paid commission, never mind racking up million-dollar deals.

In the creative industries, the work, unfortunately, does not speak for itself. Making a name for yourself is one of the single most important factors in determining your success. This means that any creative needs to a master of networking. This doesn’t come naturally to many people, but there are a few tricks that any budding designer needs to know about making those crucial connections.

Here’s your guide to networking for creatives. 

Source: Raw Pixel

Step One: Establish Your Online Presence 

If you’re a designer, chances are you already have an online presence in the form of a blog. So much of your creative network will be formed online, so you need to stretch your digital presence as widely as possible. Make sure your LinkedIn is up to scratch and try and connect with as many other creatives in your field as possible. Be very active on social media and be sure to offer commissions via Twitter DM or Instagram. Use a creative-only social network such as Ari.na in order to establish yourself with the right people. 

Step Two: Join the Right Clubs 

Effective creative networking is about running in the right circles. At the most basic level, this can mean joining Facebook groups for local creatives and consumers looking for the kind of work you offer. You can also join members’-only clubs for creatives such as Soho House or LIBRARY. Beyond this, you’ll want to be a part of a members’ club full of other successful people who will be able to get you the work you want. If you’re an online gaming fan, the members’ only Club Royale by Mr Green is an effective way to place yourself with high rollers and successful people who could turn out to be the magical connection you’re looking for. 

Source: Helena Lopes

Step Three: Meet Your Heroes 

Any budding designer has a list of people they look up to, people that inspire you to work harder so that you can reach their level one day. These A-list designers and creatives are not as untouchable as you might think. Reach out to your role models on Twitter, or do your research and find out which events and meet-ups they’ll be at. Connecting with big names will not only help boost your own profile as an artist, but could also be the start of a career-changing professional relationship. Many successful designers are all too happy to help others succeed, so never hesitate to approach your role models. The worst they can say is no and you’ll likely still walk away with some useful advice. 

Final Step: Know Your Worth 

Finally, when you’re starting out, it’s important to know your worth. Working for free is an inevitable part of the journey, but learn to assert yourself. Too many companies try to pay designers with “exposure”, but this doesn’t put food on the table or pay the bills. Don’t be afraid to ask for cold hard cash for your work, just as any other professional would. 

Featured image: Raw Pixel

3 Important Facts About Converting Video Formats

Being able to convert video formats has become essential nowadays, especially if you’re managing lots of video files, using different types of devices, or sharing and distributing videos in any way. It is easier than ever to convert video formats as well nowadays, as there are many user-friendly video converters as well as online converters that can be used.

However before you start to convert your videos between different formats, there are a few important facts that you should be aware of:

Store the original video file in its original quality

As far as possible you should always store the original video file in its original quality. That is due to the fact that while it is possible to downscale the video or lower its bitrate to optimize it for certain devices, upscaling or increasing its bitrate won’t restore its original quality.

If the original video file is an uncompressed or lossless video file that is too large for you to store, you should consider compressing it once into a more accessible format with better compression (such as MP4 with H.264). While not ideal, you can at least store that copy in as close to the original quality as possible.

Of course if storage space isn’t an issue, keeping a lossless copy of the video file is ideal – and it is often what is done during professional video production.

Avoid transcoding a video file multiple times

Transcoding is basically when you convert a video format from one codec to a different codec. Because each codec uses different compression, some data from the original video will be discarded.

If you were to just transcode a video once that lost data won’t be that noticeable. However if you transcode the same video multiple times (e.g. from H.264 to H.265 to H.264 again, and so on), eventually the data that is lost will start to add up and affect the video quality.

That is why you should always try to avoid transcoding any video file multiple times. Additionally it is another reason why keeping the original video file is a good policy – since you can transcode different versions of the video directly from it and minimize the data loss.

Always check for hardware acceleration and not just software support

When you play a video in any format on any device, it needs to be decoded from the compressed video file before it can be displayed. That decoding can either be handled on a software level (i.e. software support) or can be offloaded to the hardware.

As a rule it is always best if the codec you use is supported by the hardware of the device it is going to be played on. Software decoding is not only processor intensive, but also consumes a lot of power – which can be an issue on devices with a limited battery life.

In contrast hardware decoding is more efficient and requires a fraction of the power, making it certainly the preferable option. The only downside is that it takes time for devices to have hardware support built-in.

Actually converting videos from one format to another is the easy part, especially with a user-friendly movie converter. For example you could try Movavi Video Converter if you need one with a wide range of supported formats.

Regardless of the converter that you use each of these facts will help you to convert videos more effectively while preserving their quality. On your part, all you need to do is make it a point to keep them in mind the next time you need to convert a video.

Featured image by Wahid Khene

5 Reasons Your Computer Might Be Running Slow

Thanks to the growth of technology, it’s now possible to work at home and find success. However, it can be hard to achieve that success if your work computer is not running at peak performance. In fact, if your tools of the trade are lagging, it can be crippling to your online business.

There are few instances more exasperating than a new laptop or PC which takes all day to run programs or execute tasks. While you may be tempted to pull your hair out and purchase a new machine, your slowdowns may be preventable. To that end, we will discuss several avenues you can pursue that very well may be the cause for your computer’s slow performance.

Your Hard Disk Space is Full

As time goes on, you will inevitably download programs, applications, photos, files, and other types of data to your computer. These things take up memory, with some filling up more space than others. If you are making your living in graphic design, you will no doubt use up more memory and hard disk space than would someone who merely uses their computer for internet browsing. For this reason, it is advised that you purchase an external hard drive.

Eventually, as more and more files are saved, your central processing unit will inevitably run out of space or grow dangerously close to that capacity. Memory is necessary for programs to run smoothly and it’s recommended that you leave at least 15%-20% space of hard disk available for your computer to be able to run at peak performance. Consider downloading a program like WinDirStat in order to view disk usage statistics and then use it to remove some unnecessary files. If you wish to manually check your disk space, take the following steps:

  • Hit Start
  • Open Windows File Explorer
  • Click on your PC
  • Look below the Windows (C:) to see the percentage of hard disk space available
  • If the hard disk is full, remove programs that take up space

Programs are Running in the Background

A common culprit for computer slowdowns is background programs that automatically and continuously run without your directive. Such programs like ESET are necessary to protect you from malicious software but should be set to scan manually by your command, rather than on a continuous loop. Continuous scans use up a ton of space and processing power, which in turn lead to slower speeds. In order to see background programs and the CPU percentage they require, take the following steps: 

  • Open up Windows Task Manager
  • Go to Processes
  • Click on hidden and visible programs
  • Double click the programs you no longer want to run in the background
  • Hit “End Task”

Monitor Refresh Rate

The refresh rate of a monitor can have a marked impact on input lag. For designers, such issues can seriously throw off your ability to operate at peak levels. Your time management might be thrown entirely out of whack by this small but annoying slowdown. Read up on your monitor refresh rate, including what it is, how to view it, and ways to change it.

Stop Auto Launch

Many programs to try and launch automatically every single time you turn on your PC. While our four productivity apps for students are fantastic, if they are set to auto-launch, they can lead to lags by diverting memory and processing that should be working elsewhere. If you wish to stop the auto launch, take the following steps:

  • Open up Settings
  • Hit “Applications”
  • Click “Startup”
  • Uncheck apps you do not want set to autorun

Remove Browser Add-ons

Browser extensions are fantastic tools that can improve your time on the internet. That said, they may be responsible for slowdowns, especially if you have a lot of them running at one time. Sometimes extensions crossfire and send out conflicting commands that affects speed while browsing. By clicking on “manage extensions,” you can see which add-ons you are running and how much space they take up.

Last Word

Computers are very sophisticated tools so there are several explanations for why they may be running at a snail’s pace. Carefully go through all of these suggestions to see if they are, in fact, the cause underlying your computer’s laggy performance before buying a new device.

Featured image by RawPixel

Key Factors Creative Workers Should Look for in a Job Offer

Creative workers, such as artists and designers, may have a more difficult time getting the right job offer. Many companies are opting to use creative workers as independent contractors instead of committing to hiring them for full-time positions. Despite this trend, there are still a large number of jobs out there for people in this industry. If you are considering an offer for a full-time job, consider these important factors before sending your acceptance.

Flexible Work Environment

One thing to think about before saying yes to an offer is the work schedule. Creative workers may have an easier time of asking for a flexible work environment. Many people in this industry work remotely from home. If you can’t get a remote job, you can negotiate with your employer to give you flexible hours or a few days per week of remote work.

Helpful Team Members

Another important thing you should look for with a company’s job offer is how helpful the rest of the staff is. At some point during the interview, take some time to investigate company culture and the overall feel of the working environment at the office. Talk to different people in a variety of departments to see how everyone works together and if you may fit in.

Positive Work Environment

Creative workers should also seek places where positivity reigns. Employee happiness increases when the management team focuses on encouraging staff members instead of constant criticisms. You should look for a company that focuses on keeping employees engaged and increasing morale with different strategies. You can look at online reviews of the company from past employees to get a sense of how positive the workplace is.

Unique Perks

Along with employee happiness, companies today may also offer unique perks to employees. Creative workers are often recruited by tech companies for design work using technology, so they can also take advantage of some of the coolest company perks this industry offers. Look for things that appeal to you and your lifestyle along with helpful plusses, such as a gym stipend, sharedcommuting costs, and family-friendly workplaces.

Strong Company Identity

It’s also beneficial if you have a lot of pride for the company you can’t sign on with. Research the company’s brand and identity with consumers. Check out user reviews of products and services to get an idea of what the general public thinks of the business. This is one of the key motivators that drive flexible work to accept or reject a job offer. Candidates want to go with a company that is rising towards success instead of limping along to failure.

Possibilities for Growth

The last essential for a strong job offer is one that has the potential for growth. If your position has no upward mobility it maynot be enough to meet your future career goals. Look for a job offer that hintsat the potential to expand your skills and gives you some options for growth.

Instead of landing small gigs here and there in the creative industry, look for a steady full-time position that offers you what you need for your career goals. Think about these possibilities before saying yes to a job offer to help you achieve what you’ve always wanted.

Featured image by Rawpixel

5 Quick Facts about VPS Hosting

Virtual Private Server (or VPS) hosting is one of the most commonly used hosting services for websites. It uses virtualization technique to deliver seemingly dedicated resources, despite having multiple users accessing the hardware simultaneously.

Unlike shared hosting, a VPS provides a stable and secure solution for your business. It’s widely popular because it’s more cost-effective than renting a whole ‘dedicated’ server. VPS hosting is a great option if you experience medium-level traffic that passes the limits of a shared hosting but still do not require resources of a dedicated server.

Good value VPS plans often provide more choice than just a single hosting plan. For example, top companies like KnownHost offer more than one plan so as to match individual business needs, allowing you to scale your website smoothly whenever you require more resources.

Here are five quick facts about VPS hosting that you probably didn’t know:

1. You can get a VPS solution that perfectly fits your business needs

When it comes to web hosting, there’s nothing good about one-size-fits-all. Top hosting companies understand that no business is similar to another – regarding needs, customers, budget and so on. So they avail different plans to match the diverse needs and preferences. What this means is that you get the opportunity to choose a plan that resonates with you, and to scale, or downgrade whenever you need to.

2. There are three categories of web hosting

In addition to VPS hosting, there is also shared hosting and dedicated server hosting. Shared hosting lets you, along with other users to have an account under one operating system; dedicated hosting, on the other hand, allows you to use the server alone. VPS hosting is somewhat in the middle of dedicated and shared hosting. Keep in mind that all these hosting options present their own set of pros and cons; so, you might want to do a thorough research upfront, before settling for one that matches your business goals, or speaks to someone on the hosting sales team to help find the perfect fit.

3. VPS is often the most convenient web hosting option

Shared and dedicated hosting have incredible benefits, however, VPS hosting is often the most convenient one because it provides more freedom than the shared hosting, and is more affordable than the dedicated one. If you are just getting started with your business, or still can’t justify the expense of fully dedicated, then VPS hosting could be just what you need.

4. VPS hosting is perfect for companies of all sizes

You can still take advantage of the VPS hosting irrespective of whether your business is big or small, startup or established. If yours is a small or startup business, you will love the fair price of VPS hosting and the freedom that comes with it, and if it’s large, you will also enjoy the high-end power of top-of-the-range VPS plans (including the benefits of not having to buy and maintain your own servers).

5. VPS hosting is flexible

As your business grows, you can seamlessly upgrade from one plan to another, flexing the resources allocated to perfectly match your needs – without committing to excessive expense, all without downtime, changing IP’s or the headaches account upgrades used to entail in the days of old.
Now is a great time to propel your company forward with powerful managed VPS hosting.

Feature Image by Thomas Kvistholt

5 Benefits of Moving Your Business Abroad

Whether you’re running a one-man design company or a team of 500 people, you’ve probably considered a relocation at some point. If you’re seeking an ideal location for your business, you should be motivated by more than just pure wanderlust (although this is also a good reason to get up and go).

Moving your business abroad, or even just setting up another brand of your business in a foreign country, can bring massive benefits and increased growth potential to companies of every stripe, especially creative ones. From financial incentives to increased productivity, here are five benefits of moving your business abroad.

Discover New Opportunities

Image by Studio Republic

Perhaps the most obvious point is that you’ll be entered an entirely untapped local market. Once you’ve exhausted your contacts, talent pools, and clients in your home region, moving your operation abroad can bring with it an entire country’s worth of opportunities. This is especially true if you’re working in design, as making a smart move can place you into the heart of a thriving design scene somewhere else, where you can thrive by filling a demand.

Receive Huge Incentives

Did you know that other countries actually really want you to start a business with them? In order to attract businesses and their customers, many countries offer huge tax breaks, grants, and subsidies to businesses willing to relocate. One particularly impressive example is Malta, which offers some of the most generous incentives for competitive businesses in the world, including the citizenship of a European country in some cases. That’s why world-leading tech companies like Mr Green have chosen in recent years to establish a base in Malta because few other places are friendlier to business.

Reduce Costs

Image by Linkedin Sales Navigator

Especially if you’re in a highly-developed country, you may find that the costs of running your own business outweigh the benefits. Even the supposedly business-friendly United States has some of the most crushing business taxes and licensing laws in the world, which can easily suffocate even the most promising of businesses. Exploring your options to see how a relocation could save you tons of money, in the long run, could pay off massively.

Setting up part of your business somewhere where labor costs are much lower, such as China or Vietnam, which companies like Apple have done, could also see you save literally millions over the course of a few years. If you’re a smaller company or just one person, you’ll also benefit from moving somewhere where living costs and office or studio spaces are much cheaper.

Reinvigorate Your Company

Image by Raw Pixel

This is perhaps most relevant to those working in a creative sector. A move to an exciting new place full of different cultures can be just what you need to breathe new life into your company and to get the ideas flowing again. You’ll be able to start fresh and immerse yourself in an entirely new world of opportunities, all while doing something exciting and fulfilling with your life.

Starting a business abroad has never been easier. Any business owner or creative looking to broaden their horizons and expand their trade should consider doing it at least for a short period, as the benefits are too good to pass up.

Featured Image by Shridhar Gupta

Selling Your Work as Merchandise: How to Get Started

There are many ways to make money as a designer and a creative professional. The internet certainly makes getting clients from around the world easier, so there are more opportunities to pursue in this field. With a strong portfolio, you can even land a remote job and some of the best clients in the world.

Royalty Free Photo

Other ways to make money include selling your work, either in its digital form or as tangible merchandise like prints and tees. The latter can turn into a big business and getting started is easier than you think.

Tackle Production

Before you can start selling your own custom-designed merchandise, you need to figure out how to produce those products. There are basically two routes you can take right now. You can find a reliable print-on-demand service provider and start selling your products immediately. When a customer order comes in, you order the merchandise and have it shipped to the customer directly.

The second route is keeping the production of your merchandise in-house. You have more control over details such as the fabric used and how the colors are reproduced. However, you may not always be able to produce items due to manufacturing limitations. On the other hand, making some products for your inventory is cheaper in the long run.

Establish an Online Store

You can choose to sign up for a marketplace account as a way to start selling products immediately, but the best way to go is still setting up your own online storefront. This is because you can design the e-commerce site to really represent your brand and who you are as a designer.

The design part should be easy since you already know how to combine elements such as colors and illustrations into an attractive visual. When it comes to turning that design into a working e-commerce site and then optimizing the site for customers, services like www.bingdigital.com can help you.

Rather than doing everything yourself, having a team of web development experts assisting you through every step of the development process is the way to go. You can focus on creating great merchandise that sells while the web development team takes care of the website for you.

Tweak the User Experience

To get ahead of the competition, your e-commerce site needs to deliver the best customer experience possible. This means the checkout process needs to be seamless and easy to complete, and that orders are prepared and delivered in a timely manner. This is the actual challenge of running your own merchandise store.

Once again, you have the internet on your side. Many courier service providers now let you order shipping pick-ups online. You can also ask for prepaid shipping envelopes or boxes, which will make processing customers’ orders easier to handle.

To avoid unnecessary mistakes, try to automate most of the tasks in hand. Rather than making shipping labels manually, for example, you can print them out from Magento’s admin panel with the right plugin installed on the site.

The rest is all about marketing. Once you have products to sell, an online storefront for displaying them and taking customer orders, and a way to ship orders quickly, all you need to do is get potential customers to visit your site and start making money from selling your own merchandise.

Featured image by Krisztian Tabori

3 Tips for Finding the Perfect Font for Your Project

The fonts you use can have a surprising impact on how your designs are perceived. The font or typeface can affect how often your content is read and how well the message is absorbed. This means font matters in ways far beyond the way it fits into the overall aesthetics of the surrounding layout. Here are three tips for finding the perfect font for your project.

Simple Is Safe

Every graphic designer and website designer has a few outlandish typefaces they use on special occasions. However, 90% or more of the time, they’ll use what are called “safe” typefaces. These are simple fonts that are clear and legible so that they’re always easy to read. They are something that everyone can quickly read, so your message will always be absorbed. If you use a funky font that they have to figure out, you’ll likely lose your audience. This is why Open Sans gets used on presentations but funny and fancy fonts typically don’t.

Safe sans-serif fonts include Arial, Tahoma, and Helvetica. Safe serif fonts include Times New Roman and Palantino. All of these fonts are appropriate for any application since they display on the web with few to no issues.

Consider the Mood and the Purpose

If you put a funny font on a sign in a children’s play area, it fits the mood. However, if you tried to deliver a professional presentation with the same silly font, people will question your judgment. If you’re trying to convey a traditional, respectable vibe, go for an old-style typeface over a slick, modern one. When you’re sharing information, use a legible, formal typeface.

When you have the freedom to be whimsical or want to use a font to capture people’s attention, then you can choose something unusual. Some fonts like the Lobster Font aren’t for everyone but could work in some situations, so test it out to see what really works. Do experiment every once in a while, just to see if something is better than what you’re doing right now. Change up a headline or section break to see if it is actually an improvement.

Keep It Consistent

In general, you want to keep the same font across all of your content. However, you can use a new pictorial content to capture someone’s attention where warranted, just as you might inject a joke in your presentation to keep everyone alert and engaged. But never let the font upstage the actual content.

If you do choose multiple typefaces on the same page, make sure they have large, contrasting differences but can still look good together. Two slightly different fonts aren’t worth the effort, and you’d be better off choosing just one font for the whole page.

A general rule of thumb is to use fonts that have a similar X-height, stroke weight, time period or designer if you want to know they’ll look good when used together. That way there is a common look, though the fonts are different from each other. In short, the two fonts need to either contrast or correspond to look good together. Try using a pangram to evaluate how fonts look when combined on the same page before you throw the fonts together on a website or pamphlet.

The font you use can complement your webpage or printed flyer’s design, reinforce your intended message, and attract viewers or interfere with your end objectives. This makes finding the perfect font a necessity.

Featured image by Jeroen De Otter