Accountants, lawyers, and doctors, oh my! A designer’s guide to business.

Accountants, lawyers and doctors oh my

Before I get started I want to stress a few things. First and fore most, it should ALWAYS be your goal to run your business 100% legally. This means paying ALL your taxes and following ALL laws. If you truly want to achieve great success with your company, it’s best to do it right (as right as possible) from the very beginning. You do NOT want to end up like Enron or Martha Stewart; cheating on your finances, getting caught and going to jail. If you start your business by cheating it will be a very hard habit to get out of.

This Tutorial will cover:

Starting a business can be VERY intimidating. You need money to live on. You need money to buy equipment. You need to find customers. You need to comply with all state and federal laws – and trust me, they do NOT make this easy on you. You need to pay taxes. You need to pay your employees. You need to provide benefits and you need to keep your customers happy. So, why on earth would ANYONE want to start a business? You would have to be crazy right? Well… maybe, maybe not. I’m going to give you my BEST advice on how to start a company (specifically a design firm) the RIGHT WAY. Now, this is NOT how I started Go Media. I did it all wrong. But if I had to do it over again – this is how I would do it.

General Strategies:

As a designer that creates brands (logos, color schemes, etc.) I have had the opportunity to work with a LOT of start-ups. And each time I start working with a new company, it’s the same story; they walk through my door and say: “I need you to design me a logo, letterhead, envelopes, stickers, t-shirts, a website and posters for my new business.”

And when I ask them why they need all that stuff they simply say: “Because I’m starting a business! Don’t I need all that stuff?” So I’ll ask: “How often do you even print and snail-mail a real letter that will require letterhead?” To this question they think for a while, then begin to realize; maybe they DON’T need to spend all that money to get their company started.

I suggest to all my clients: “Ask yourself, what do you TRULY need to start your business?” I suggest spending as little money as possible at the beginning. If you’re a graphic designer you don’t need much: a desk (this could be a piece of plywood and two saw horses), a computer, some power and one customer. That’s it. You don’t need a team of lawyers or a payroll company or an accountant – not yet.

Let’s face facts, if you’re just starting your company – you aren’t making any money. And if you’re not making any money yet, why go spend a small fortune on things like setting up a corporation or getting a trademark on your logo? In my opinion I would “fly below the radar” when you’re first getting started. By “flying below the radar” what I mean is: don’t worry about legal stuff or taxes or anything you don’t understand. I am ABSOLUTELY NOT suggesting this as a long-term company strategy. This is JUST about when you’re getting started.

Lawyers are expensive. Accountants are expensive. Taxes are even MORE expensive. And if you’re just getting started – these things can make getting started impossible. At least, it can make getting started so unsavory that you’ll just decide to not try. Well, that’s no fun at all. So, for now – I’m suggesting that you NOT worry about a vendor’s license. Don’t worry about taxes. Don’t worry about getting trademarks or protecting your company logo.

When you’re FIRST getting started, you should only be worried about one thing: MAKING MONEY. Until you can figure out how to make money, you don’t have a business. And the faster and better you can get at making money, the easier the rest of building a business will become. Because once you’re making money, you can HIRE THE HELP YOU WILL NEED to build your company right.

My logic behind this is simple; when you’re just getting started, your company is worth NOTHING. You are making NO MONEY. You are worthless (sorry but it’s true.) Why would you start spending money on something that’s worthless? So, I suggest that you start to make some money first – then prioritize what you start spending it on. As you grow and earn more and more money – you will THEN start to invest in things like protecting your logo with a Trade Mark, paying lawyers to insure your business is set up properly and paying accountants to make sure you’re paying Uncle Sam appropriately.

Also, if your company isn’t making any money – Uncle Sam doesn’t care about it. You don’t pay taxes on zero income.

Ok, now that I’ve told you to not worry about all this stuff until you’re making some money, let’s now assume that you ARE starting to make some money. And now you do need to start thinking about how to handle the business side of your business. After all, this IS a blog about lawyers, accountants and payroll.
lawers graphic design

So, let’s get started.

What type of company should you be? Here are just VERY simple layman’s explanations of a few legal entities. Eventually you should consult a lawyer to discuss what is best for your circumstances (but once again, don’t worry about this at first.)

Sole Proprietor:

Basically, a “sole proprietor” is just YOU. It’s one person. The government needs a business to have a Tax Identification Number (TIN) to track your income and taxes paid. In the case of a sole proprietor, your social security number IS your TIN (Tax Identification Number.) It’s most likely that when you start your company – you’ll be a sole proprietor. You don’t really need to set anything up. At the end of the year, you’ll just report your income from your services and pay your taxes. Your second year you’re in business the government will make you pay estimated taxes based on the previous year’s profit (assuming you have any.)

To get your design firm started – THIS is how I suggest you do it. Be a Sole Proprietor. It’s the easiest way. Eventually you’ll want to switch over to a corporation for tax benefits, but for starters – this is it. If you need “employees” you’ll actually have sub-contractors. You don’t need to worry about paying their taxes for them –

Partnership:

A partnership is like a bunch of sole proprietors that got together and wrote up an agreement. This type of business I know the LEAST about. I think the relative strength or weakness of this business model is all in the partnership agreement. This is a legal document that outlines the exact arrangement of the partnership. A partnership agreement would include things like what each person’s responsibilities are and how the money is split up. I THINK a partnership is good for short-term business arrangements. Let’s say for instance you and your buddy are going to go sell some t-shirts at a concert that is coming into town. You’re not going to hire a lawyer to set up a corporation, but you might write out your deal with your friend; I provide the design, you pay for the printing then we split the profits 50-50. Something like that.

S-Corporation:

An S-Corporation is a particular type of corporation that is set up for small businesses. This is what Go Media is. The advantages are that it’s easier to set up and requires less annual paper work than a C-corp. This type of business entity has it’s own TIN. In layman’s terms: the company is it’s own being. The company earns the money, not the individuals. Then the company pays it’s employees. So, yes – even though I am an owner of Go Media, I am also an employee of Go Media. I get a W2 just like the rest of my co-workers. At the end of the year, any profit or loss that the company has incurred is split up amongst the owners based on the percentage of the company that they own.

So, if the company has 100K in profits and I own 50% – I get a check for 50K right? Well, not exactly. Technically – yes, that’s what’s happening. But we cannot afford to just empty our bank accounts at the end of the year. So, what ACTUALLY happens is we take just enough money out to cover our taxes, and the rest of the money stays in the bank account to finance the company into the new year.

C-Corp:

This is what most large corporations are. It gives the owners the best tax advantages. But it is the most difficult to set up and requires more paperwork than an S-Corp. While an S-Corp requires you to split up the responsibility of the profits at the end of the year, a C-Corp allows you to just leave money on the books.

There are actually many more forms of businesses – but I just wanted to give you a little starter-course. As I mentioned before – you will most likely start out as a sole proprietor. I really wouldn’t worry about this stuff until you’ve started making some money.

Finding a Lawyer to help you set-up your business:

Setting up your company should be done by a lawyer. It’s important to do this right, so you’ll need someone you trust to give you advice. I suggest starting your lawyer search with your family and friends. Does your family already have a lawyer? Do you know a friend who has a good lawyer? Even if this trusted lawyer is not a business lawyer, there is a good chance that they will know one that they can recommend.

Vendor’s License

A vendor’s license is one very early, inexpensive step you can take towards making your business legal. A vendor’s license is a way for your county to track and collect your sales tax. The exact procedure to get this license may vary from one county to another. Also, the items each county taxes may also vary. So, I will tell you how I got my vendor’s license, but make sure to check all the specific rules for your county.

The way I got a vendor’s license was to do a Google search on the term “vendor’s license” and “cuyahoga county.” I live in Cleveland Ohio and my county is Cuyahoga. The search results gave me the web address for the Cuyahoga County Auditor. The auditor is the agency that tracks sales and sales tax. So, I went down to their office and filled out a little form. Since I was starting a design firm – I applied for a “service vendor’s license.” Within a few minutes I was given a little piece of paper with a vendor’s license number. The total expense for the vendor’s license was $25 with no annual renewal fees. Now, I think I’m somewhat lucky because services do not require sales tax in Cuyahoga County. I only need to charge my customers when I sell them a tangible product, like if I broker printing.

Now that I have the vendor’s license the county knows I’m in business. Now they expect me to report my sales twice a year. Which leads me to my next subject – which you will need to have in order to report your sales to the county.

Sales Tax

Sales tax is different in each state. You will have to do a little research to find out how your state handles it. I will tell you how it works in Ohio so you have some understanding. In Ohio sales tax is paid to the county auditor’s office that the business is located in. The payment is due every six months. Fortunately for Go Media, design services are not a taxable item in Cuyahoga county (and in all of Ohio, I think).

We only need to pay sales tax on tangible items – like if we sell a t-shirt or poster.) To calculate our sales tax due I use QuickBooks. As you set up each product in QuickBooks you assign it as either taxable or not taxable. Then every six months I just run a report in quickbooks and it shows me exactly how much I sold and what I owe. In cuyahoga county they have a website where I log-in to pay my sales tax. I just type in my total taxable sales and the amount due, then select the payment option. I guess the hardest part is just remembering every six months that it’s due.

accounting bookkeeping graphic design

Bookkeeping and Accounting

Now, I know for most of you, this will be just about the most annoying part of your job. Personally, I am lucky. I was born with some strange passion for BOTH art and bookkeeping. Ok, maybe I wouldn’t call it a “passion” for bookkeeping, but I would say that it doesn’t bother me to keep business records.

So, how do we keep track of our sales; two words: QuickBooks. QuickBooks is accounting software. Before you go running for the hills screaming, hear me out. QuickBooks is a huge scary piece of software, yes, but you don’t need to use all of its many features. Try to remember the first time you used Photoshop. Did you know how to use layer masks, apply filters and run actions? No, you just knew how to pick the brush, pick a color and start drawing. Try to think of QuickBooks like that. It has tons of features you’ll largely ignore. All you need to do is make invoices and record payments. Over time you’ll start to explore and learn more and more about QuickBooks. Soon you’ll be feeling like an accounting wizard. You won’t be, but you’ll feel that way.

I won’t get into step-by-step instructions on how to use QuickBooks. You can probably find a book at the library. Like I said – start with the basics. Just learn how to make an invoice and record a payment on that invoice. This is a good enough start. As you grow, eventually if you have tons of transactions – you’ll need to hire someone to record all these transactions. But QuickBooks IS the industry standard, so starting on this will insure that you don’t have to learn new software in the future.

Also, QuickBooks offers super-cheap online credit card processing. I shopped around a while before I started running my credit cards with them. I think it’s a great value.

Finding/Hiring an accountant

As your business grows you will eventually need an accountant to help you with your bookkeeping and taxes. I have found that big firms charge lots of money and tend to work with big companies. So, I’m suggesting that you grow your use of accountants along with the growth of your business. When you first realize you could use some accounting advice, I would just start with a one-time consulting. After this, you should be able to employ an accountant at the end of the year. Basically, you’ll walk into one of those store-front accounting shops with your QuickBooks (digital) file and a big box of receipts.

They’ll tell you how disorganized you are and how you need a full time accountant. But at the end of the day, they’ll have your taxes done properly and it will be cheaper than keeping an accountant on retainer. Each time you go through this – just ask tons of questions. Most of the accounting work can be done by you in QuickBooks. So, ask questions like: “If a customer disappears on me and only half of the invoice is paid – what do I do with that open invoice?” Ask enough of those types of questions and you’ll have yourself an education!

When you realize that you are truly in need of some regular accounting help I would follow the same rule of thumb with finding an accountant as you did with finding a lawyer. Start with your family and friends. Try to get a referral. It helps to start with someone you trust. Even with a referral I suggest meeting with two additional accountants. Then pick the one you are most comfortable with. It’s critical that you pick a good accountant. They will become a trusted advisor that will help you make important business and financial decisions.

Payroll for your design firm

When you first start out (as a sole proprietor) you won’t actually have “payroll.” You will simply take money out of your bank account and spend it as you need it. The money you spend on the business will be a business expense and will not be taxed as income by the government. The money you spend on yourself will be considered your income and you will pay taxes on that. At the end of the year any money left in your bank account will be considered income and you’ll have to pay taxes on it. So, as you’re approaching the end of the year and you have some stuff you need to buy for your business, do it before December 31st! This will save you up to 35% in possible taxes on that money. This is very common in businesses; year-end spending to empty out the bank accounts.

When you eventually switch your business structure from a sole proprietor to a C-Corporation, you will be running payroll. A corporation is an independent entity. So, if you need money from your own company – that’s now payroll (income.) And when you take payroll you have to not only cut a check for yourself, you need to pay all the appropriate government agencies. These include, but are not limited to: Federal Tax Collectors, State Tax Collectors, City Tax Collectors, Social Security, IRA account (if you have one set up) and Medicare.

Now, you might think the government would organize this in some way so it’s easy to keep track all this stuff. After all, you’re paying them right? They should make it easy. But they don’t. It’s an absolute pain in the ass. Each agency has its own system, its own schedule for payments, its own rules, it’s own forms, etc. Keeping track of who you owe and when to pay them is very difficult. I ran Go Media’s payroll for one year. I probably spent 10-15 hrs a month working on it. It was ridiculous. And when the year was over I discovered that I had missed a bunch of payments and owed the government a bunch of money.

Here is the better option: hire a payroll company. They do everything for you. All you have to do is jump online and log your hours worked for each employee – or simpler, set-up salaries for regular full time employees. They will either mail you checks or wire the money into each employee’s account. They also send payments to every government agency – on time, with the correct amount. They pull the money from the company’s account to pay for everything. And for all of this, they charge Go Media about $60 per payroll ($120 per month.) If you consider I was spending 10-15 hrs a month to do this work – that’s a real bargain!

Medical Insurance

This is another one of those things that needs to grow with your company. I’ll admit, when I got started I had no medical insurance for about two years. But I was taking a huge risk. If I had gotten really sick I would have been financially ruined, possibly dead. As soon as I had a little extra cash I invested in a personal medical insurance plan. I was a healthy young male, so it was about $100/mo. Females are twice as expensive (since they can make babies.) As the company grew we switched over from a bunch of individual plans to a single company plan. This company plan saved us some serious $$$.

Summary

Well, that’s about it. Obviously, this was just a starter guide. The important thing is to focus on getting started and making money. Then, as you start to earn some money, improve the legal and organizational side of your business. The more money you earn, the more you need to spend it on getting “legit.” Obviously as your company grows in value you need to protect it by not cheating. The execs from Enron cheated. One committed suicide, the others are in jail. Ok, that was a little grim – but you get the idea. If you have any specific questions – leave me a comment and I will try to get back to you in a timely manner.

Moleskine: The Artists’ Notebook

I’ve often felt product lust over those shiny Moleskine notebooks on the shelf in Borders, and this is why: guys like Jeff Finley use ’em – they must be good.

As I was flipping through the Moleskine that sits on Jeff’s desk here at Go Media, I thought you might like a peek at it too! Read on for scans of the first few pages of the notebook, and Jeff’s comments on his sketches.

Getting Things Done: My First Weekly Review

After a long day at your desk, do you ever ask yourself “What the heck did I accomplish today?” I know I could be working like a madman and pushing projects out before deadlines and I still won’t even remember what I did. It’s all a blur. At the end of the week, I could barely tell someone what I have been doing at work lately when asked. I’ve found a nice trick to help me fix that and regain that feeling of accomplishment.

Maybe you’ve heard of the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. I’m reading this book at the moment and one of the most important things he talks about is writing things down. Write everything down. When you think of an idea, get it out of your head and onto paper. The reason behind this is to get your brain clear of distractions so you can focus on the task at hand.

This past few weeks, I’ve been using my Action Notebook that I bought from Behance. I don’t think I’m using it perfectly, but it’s a good reminder for me to write things down and outline my todo lists AS it happens. I’m always adding items to my list with little checkboxes as I go along. For the most part, I’ve seen a serious productivity increase.

Another thing David Allen stresses in his book is doing a constant review or revisiting to those items. What good are they if you don’t review them to see what you’ve accomplished or missed?

So every Friday I’m going to review my lists and time I’ve logged at Go Media and come up with a short review of what I have accomplished this week. It should give you a way to kind of look inside my life at Go Media as well as give myself a way to remind myself that all the hard work I did over the week actually meant something. View my weekly review after the jump:

Adobe Bridge is iTunes for Designers

Really?

Think about it: What if every time you wanted to jam to your Summer 2001 Playlist you had to re-construct it from your mess of mp3s in a folder called “downloads”? Well, you don’t, because iTunes doesn’t organize your tunes by folder, it organizes them by metadata: artist, album, genre, playlist.

Adobe bridge does the same thing – digital asset management. Basically it’s a supercharged file explorer. Adobe bridge is made to handle every digital file that any Adobe software could create. Besides the basic PSD, AI, EPS and INDD, this also includes RAW Camera files for photographers, Premier files for the video guys, and Audition files for recording engineers. But since this is a graphic design blog, we’re going to focus on managing vector and raster design files.

Project Managment: Go Media Style


Go Media’s Prooflab Demonstration Video from Go Media on Vimeo.

This video will walk you through our customer and project management system called “Prooflab.” We built this application from the ground up based on our specific needs as a design firm. There are many 3rd party apps out there like Basecamp, but we needed something tailored to OUR business. So we built it. It’s not exactly the most perfect system (its only version 2) but it’s helped us streamline our design process with our customers for over 2 years now. It works great (when our clients are using it). Most do, but some need a little educating on why it’s important to use it.

So, to help educate our clients and potential clients (maybe you?) we created this video. We want to show a

13 ways to trick your client into happiness

The art of making your customers love the designs you create.

In an ideal world our clients would think like designers. In an ideal world our clients have a good knowledge of marketing. In an ideal world they think logically and communicate clearly. Well folks, this is not an ideal world. And, unfortunately, our clients do not think like a designer. They don’t necessarily know the basics of marketing or branding. They are not designers. That’s why they’ve hired us.

title image for trick your customer

Now, if we could just get them to trust us. Well, that’s not going to happen. So, what’s left? I’ve got It! We’ll TRICK them. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

I’ve developed a few techniques over the years that help me “trick” my customers. These tricks are for both of our benefit. I trick them into picking the best design and trick them into being happy. It’s a win-win.

1. Lower your customer’s expectations. Ok, I’m not suggesting you tell the customer: “Your design is going to suck.” But I AM suggesting that you set your customer up with realistic expectations. Don’t promise the world. And if they’re ASKING for

Project Managment: Go Media Style

The Dreaded Design Lull – 9 Ways to Get Out of a Slump

Recognizing and reacting to a slowdown in design work.

I can remember clearly when it was just me alone in my apartment running this design firm. It was easy to stay busily and happily working on a non-stop string of client projects for months on end. Then unexpectedly one day – I would notice something strange. I felt depressed. I felt tired. I couldn’t seem to stay focused. I was more inclined to surf the web than work on my projects.

The design lull

Was I losing my ambition? Was I a no-good bum? Was I burnt out? No. I was just in a design lull. The work on my plate had suddenly stopped or lightened significantly.

2 New Fonts to Help you Win at Life

We just released two new fonts. They are now available to purchase on Go Media’s Arsenal. These two new fonts are sure to help you attract any customer you want and ultimately win at life. Well, maybe only get you part of the way there!

Goatbeard

Goatbeard font

Goatbeard is a handlettered font. It’s got an edge to it. And an odd smell like it hasn’t showered in a few weeks. Get your gruff on and destroy any project thrown your way with this amazing typeface. Buy Goatbeard for $9.99.

Cubicle

cubicle font

Inspired by corporate culture, this font pays homage to the cubicle. Utilized in many offices around America this quaint piece of office furniture disconnects you from other people and prohibits distractions. This font examines how typography and modular furniture could co-exist. Perhaps interacting with more aesthetically pleasing surroundings would elevate morale in the workplace. This font is available with both and outlined version as well as solid. This font comes in two different styles, regular, and outlines. Buy both Cubicle styles

http://www.gomedia.us/arsenal/fonts.php

Workflow Tip: Illustrator to Fontlab

Land Bigger Jobs: Appear “bigger” than you actually are

designer-growing150.jpgOne thing that Go Media has done ever since we we put our first site online back in 2003, is tried to appear bigger than we were. This can have its pros and cons, but to the designer just starting out, it has more pros. Let me explain. The idea of looking bigger simply means that by portraying an attitude of success and professionalism, you will earn those high paying jobs with bigger clients.

Lofty Goals

Most designers just starting out have lofty goals in mind. They want to be doing the “big” projects and get the “big” clients. They want their name to be synonymous with the term “design.” Go Media started out just the same way. There are always the designers that start small and want to stay small and have no desire to attract bigger clients or higher paying work. But for this post, I’ll focus on the majority that want to get bigger and more successful. I’ll offer a quick rundown of the pros and cons of looking bigger than you actually are.

Pros of Looking Bigger

1. You get bigger clients and bigger jobs
2. You get treated with more respect
3. You become the envy of all your peers
4. You attract other successful people

Cons of Looking Bigger

1. You may get more work than you can handle
2. You risk disappointing your client if you cannot live up to your expectations
3. You risk appearing dishonest if you aren’t truthful in how you describe yourself
4. You may be perceived as “too big” and scare off some nice projects

So How do I “appear bigger?”

There are a few things you can do. I’ll speak from my personal experience. I discovered Go Media in 2004 after I saw their site. I looked on their contact page and they had a map of the USA with markers in a few major cities and multiple phone numbers. I thought to myself, man these guys

Make it Look Like Affliction

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As graphic designers for the apparel industry, we’ve heard the phrase “Make it Look Like Affliction” so many times. It’s a strange coincidence. You have a dozen apparel companies and bands who have absolutely nothing in common with each other except for one thing. And that is to make their shirt look like the ever so popular clothing line started by Eric Foss and Todd Beard in 2005. You know, with the dark gothic imagery, skulls, a generous helping of intricate ornaments and woodcut linework, the huge placement across the shoulders, the faded prints, the garment dying, the splatters, the grunge, I could go on! It’s an alternative clothing company’s dream! The ironic thing is, while these bands and clothing companies attempt to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack, they wind up all looking the same – just not quite there.

So why is Affliction the brand that most of these people want to be like?

Here are 5 reasons:

1.) The illustration is very good. Certainly much better than most of the shirts it hangs next to in the mall. It’s hand drawn, which is admirable in the world of cut and paste graphic “designers” today. Not everyone can just

Application advice for creative jobs

Because we’re looking to expand our staff here, I want to off some key advice to anyone applying. IT IS ALL ABOUT PRESENTATION!! Some of these things are common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t think about what they are doing when applying for a job. If anyone has committed any of the career crimes that I’m going to mention, don’t feel bad. I’ve made some of these same mistakes myself and learning from them helped me out immensely.

Angel artwork by Oliver BarrettThe first impression is key. A bad first impression will almost kill any chance of someone even looking at your work. For example, if you are emailing your resume, do not simply say “See attached” and that’s it. You come off as both lazy and uninterested. Why would someone want to hire you if you don’t make the effort to introduce yourself? You don’t have to write your entire life story in that first email, but say something professional about yourself and that you’re interested in the job. You could mention that you’ve worked in the industry for X amount of years, you just graduated, you’re a fan of the company’s work, etc. Do NOT mention that you are looking for a salary hike. It will never help you to mention money immediately. Also, NEVER EVER EVER cut yourself down no matter how bad you think your work is. If you think you stink, then we will think you stink. Drawing negative attention to yourself will not get you hired out of sympathy. It will draw even more negative attention toward you and the company will laugh at you. Okay, so maybe we won’t laugh at you, but we definitely won’t hire you. I’m not trying to sound like a jerk, but I’ve made some of these same mistakes and some well-timed verbal abuse really straightened me out.

A big no brainer in the first impression department is FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS. If a company is asking for 5 samples, don’t send a 9 samples, don’t send a text-only resume, SEND 5 SAMPLES! That’s a bit annoying, but nowhere near as annoying as when someone emails soliciting freelance design services when a company is looking to fill a full-time position. If the job description says “full-time,” it doesn’t mean “full-time, but maybe freelance too.” FAIL!

There are also obvious things like spelling and grammar. If there is someone specific that you are addressing, make sure to spell his or her name correctly and don’t screw up a prefix if you can avoid it (Mrs. and Ms.). Make sure you are articulate so that the company doesn’t question whether you made it through junior high.

Use complete sentences and avoid internet shorthand. “HI, U GUYZ R DA BEST DESIGNARS. CAN U PLZ HIER ME? C MY RESUME PLZ!” deserves a slap in the face. If you have actually done this, and I know some of you have, please write this on your forehead: FAIL!

The resume is obvious a very important part of getting hired and I think many applicants are not paying enough attention to it. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve received resumes created in Microsoft Word using the default settings. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it won’t help you stick out in a sea of applicants. We work in a creative field, so a well thought out resume is a great way to get noticed.

Treat your resume like a design project. Try different dimensions, colors, compositions, etc. I took a class in college called “Business and Professional Practices” and the Professor told the class about how she got her first design job. She had made a small booklet containing both her resume and some samples. She was creative with an intricate spiral binding of the booklet and made it so that anything placed on top of it would slide off. That forced her resume to be on top of the pile. A cool looking resume is a great way to capture the company’s attention.

The content of the resume can be just as important as its appearance. I would advise keeping your resume to a maximum of one page. There can be thousands of applicants for a job and no one wants to spend time flipping through a 15 page resume. You don’t have to put every job you’ve ever had on the resume. You only need to list the positions related to the one you are currently applying for. It’s a waste of space to mention that you were a soda jerk in ’98.

Samples are probably the most important part of your application. Make sure you are submitting your ABSOLUTE BEST work. If you are unsure of a particular piece of work, then don’t include it. You should be absolutely ruthless with yourself when putting samples together. Detach yourself from your work; don’t be afraid to cut your babies loose. Also, try your best to match what the company is looking for. If a company is looking for a web designer, include the best web work you can.

There are exceptions to everything I’ve mentioned, but not many. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from this. Again, some of these things may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many crappy applications we get. If you’ve read this and still send us a stupid application, I will come through your monitor and wring your neck.

Design Piracy – What to do when your designs are stolen

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It’s happened to the best of us and will inevitably happen to you if it hasn’t already. Your hard work and creativity are ripped off without consent, permission, payment, or even credit. Oftentimes the idiot who assembled a piece of garbage like you see above will take credit for the design entirely. You’ll even see fans of the band compliment the “poster” with remarks like “Wow, you’re really talented, you should make a flyer for me!” Or even “I always knew you could draw!”

The image above was a close recreation of a poster that some band on Myspace made using Go Media’s artwork as their “attention grabber.” Their typography was horrid and it made me want to barf. My first instinct was to be all super pissed off and flame the person who created this trash!

The Small Time Crook

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But then I sat back and took a deep breath. Was this as big of a deal as I thought? It was some band with less than 1,000 total plays and only a few hundred friends. They weren’t any good and were probably just a group of young kids who are fans of our designs. I didn’t want to sound like a complete asshole when I messaged them so I simply said “Woah, sweet design who made it?” The wrote back and said “A friend of mine created it…” Haha.

So was this kid just lying about it? Or did he have a friend make the poster and the friend stole it without the band even knowing? I wrote back and asked for the guy who created it, and he wrote back and said “Woah, I didn’t know that this was something you created. Sorry about that! I’ll take it down right away.” I didn’t even have to ask them to remove it. He was smart enough to notice my profile and portfolio and saw the original artwork in it. He must have got the hint!

This is typical of most cases of design piracy online. Small time, no-name designers wanting to use a cool piece of art for their own. They always say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right? I try to keep that in mind when “policing” any stolen art. Other examples are

The 40% Skull Rule

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Back in May, the girlfriend of Go Media co-founder Chris Wilson wrote us a letter expressing her concern about the number of skulls in our portfolio. I thought you might enjoy reading it and what we had to say about it. Keep in mind she’s an experienced reporter for a major newspaper in Southern Florida.

In the words of Rachel Myers:

skull1.jpg“Skulls. *sigh*

Ok, here’s the thing, and I sincerely hope you don’t take it the wrong way. I am, by no means, a design guru. You guys possess talents beyond my comprehension, and I have a great respect for your skull (er… skill). You all have come this far without any say from me, but I hope you will hear me out the same way I would if you were to critique my writing. This is just my opinion, and I only offer it because I was asked.

Answering Questions and Taking Suggestions!

What do you want to know?

Sometimes it’s hard for me to decide what to write about or what our next tutorial should be. So what better way than ask you! So, to all our loyal readers, give me