New Site, New Beginnings!

14 Mar 2017

Around 18 months ago, I launched my original site - having previously relied entirely on freelance portals or word-of-mouth to generate business.  The original site was very much a 'last minute', 'good enough' job spurred on by the closure of a number of platforms that I relied on for new business.  It was always my intention to update it, or at least keep it up to date - but it never happened.

Part of the problem with 'portfolio' sites is that there isn't always an incentive to keep them updated - they're not always seen as a valuable tool to work with.  A while ago I started looking for an alternative that incorporated some form of project management tool, but none exist.  There are plenty of 'portfolio' platforms (Behance etc), plenty of project management platforms (Basecamp, Asana etc), but none that bring the two together - and crucially, nothing with integrated billing and payments.

So, when it came time to think about my own site, I decided to not only address the need to update things, but also make it more of a tool that I'd use every day.  As I have developed it, it's evolved to become 'the business' - it's no longer just a portfolio, but also a project messaging platform and an invoicing system.  Essentially, my entire business will run through this website.

So, on to the features of the new site...

The 'Wall' is the dominant part of the home page, it functions in much the same way as a social media stream - and is probably more a way of keeping me 'honest' in terms of updating content than it is anything else.  I'm not a huge social media user, so this is where I'll post little updates about the site, what I'm working on etc - essentially anything too brief to warrant a blog post.

Live Chat - I work entirely online, with the majority of my communication done via email (until now).  I'm a big believer in effective communication, and my clients are situated around the world spanning many different timezones.  Sometimes that means it can take me up to 8 hours to reply an email or message if the client happens to be at the other end of the world.  So, as well as providing another means of communication, the live chat functionality also allows clients to see whether or not I'm likely to see their message straight away - If I'm showing as online, you'll generally get a reply within the hour.  Above this, you'll also see I've added my local time - again, this is to give you an idea of how long it's likely to be before I reply (as a general rule, I'm sleeping between 11pm - 7am).

Portfolio - Not a huge difference from the original site, but I've made it much easier for me to update, so hopefully this will see new items being added on a fairly regular basis (note however that I don't add items I produce on behalf of other agencies, which currently accounts for around 75% of my work).

FAQ - I'm often asked the same questions every week, so I'll be putting answers to those here.

Client Feedback - Feedback is always important to me, and can be invaluable to any client.  The feedback shown here links directly to the projects I undertake via the website (some have been manually 'copied and pasted' at the time of launching, but I can point you to the original versions if you'd like to verify they're genuine!).  When a project is completed here, clients are asked for their feedback (it's optional though!) - that feedback appears here immediately, I don't screen or edit anything.

Blog - You're reading it now ;-)  I'm not going to commit to keeping this 'fresh', but I will try not to allow too much time to pass between posts.

Start a Project - This is where the 'magic' starts to happen!  Rather than sending emails back and forth, asking for pricing and availability etc - I've semi-automated the process of creating a project.  Pricing will be shown in your local currency (if that happens to be £GBP, $CAD, $USD, $AU or €EUR - everyone else will default to $USD), and timeframes are 'live' - so if I'm going to be away for a day or two, or if I already have enough projects ongoing, the estimated time for delivery of initial concepts will reflect that.  The process guides you through selecting the type of project, allows you to upload any relevant files, and asks a few simple questions that allow me to get started.  You'll immediately have a workroom created that allows direct communication on your project - and you can do that either via the website, or via email - all messages are posted to the workroom, regardless of how they are sent.  For non-standard projects (basically anything other than a logo or corporate ID), you can use the same process to tell me what you need and request a quote.

Invoicing and Payments - When a project is started, 2 invoices are created automatically - the first is for 10% of the project total (the deposit) and becomes due immediately. The second is for the balance, which doesn't fall due until your final artwork package is complete.  I've integrated 3 forms of payment method - bank transfer, credit card and PayPal.  All 3 payment methods are automated, so you'll immediately have access to files, get receipts etc the moment payment is made.  Of course, all payments are made securely.  Invoices can be viewed online, printed or downloaded as PDF documents.

Dashboard - From the user dashboard, you can access all projects - both active and completed.  This acts as a central 'hub' of all activity you conduct with me.  If you happen to have multiple projects ongoing with me, the initial view will list all active projects and highlight any with new messages since your last visit.  The Invoices and Billing tab shows you all invoices, across all projects.  When you're logged in, the 'Start a Project' area will be partly pre-populated for you, to speed things up.

User Settings - Finally, you can set your own user avatar, add or update your invoicing address, email etc in the 'Profile and Settings' area, accessible from the top-right of the screen when logged on.  This area also provides a link to the dashboard.

There are many more bits of functionality I have planned, some of which will be added in the coming weeks - others will take a bit longer.  As with most things, it's still a work in progress and there will no doubt be a few bugs here and there that I'll fix in the coming days - please do let me know if you spot anything so I can get it fixed right away!