Face it this field moves quickly and it’s always pushing you to be creative at every turn. It can be overwhelming and stressful but at the same time exciting and full of possibilities. Seeing your work on television or in magazines is always wonderful and is a nice reward for doing something you love. Hopefully you went into motion graphics or design because you do indeed love doing it. This is something you should try and remember everyday, it isn’t just a job it’s a job you really enjoy. The passion and determination you demonstrate will likely come with success. Just try not to stress yourself along the way. Success will only come if you keep learning, creating and just don’t give up. Just because you run into an issue with a certain job don’t let that freak you out. Each and every project should deliver a range of new challenges that you can learn from. If you want to be the best designer you need to set a goal and then put in the hours to get there. Get knee deep in it and read books and do tutorials. But don’t worry if you are not meeting the goal you have set sooner or later if you put in the time, things will just click and you will be cranking out quality work to the level you had been working towards.
Last week Matt Stone and I launched a new blog called Phazd. I am a huge fan of motion graphics in music videos and thats the point of this new blog. Phazd seeks to be a source of inspiration for the art and craft of music videos within a visual effects environment. The is some amazing work that is done for musical artists that aren’t in the top 40s and are rarely seen by anyone but that small group of people who may have worked on it. Sure there are sites like MTV that showcase many music videos but Phazd was created for anyone who appreciates graphics and visual effects in music videos. Matt and I are still working on getting the site fully together so bare with us while we get it together. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have or know of any videos you would like to see posted on the site. Although Matt and I try to add as many great videos as we can find, we can’t find them all so your help is greatly appreciated.
Your Diploma is Worthless Schools don’t want to tell you this since they are usually trying to get as much money from you as they can. But not once have I been asked if I graduated or even what year I graduated. There is the chance someone will ask you at some point what school you went to. But they are really just asking to see if you know anyone they might know. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to school, the self taught vs school taught is a whole other debate. Personally I’m happy I went to school, I just wish I would of worried less about the degree. The people you also meet at school are important, which brings us to tip number 2.
Network With People Besides having fabulous work, networking is the best way to get a job. Be social online and offline, you need to meet new people both in your area of work and out. Even if you’re creating the best work no one will ever find out about you if they don’t meet you. With things like linkedin, behance and facebook it has become a lot easier to meet new people but don’t underestimate the face to face. Now you don’t need to attend every user group meet-up or all the industry parties, just make sure that you are hopefully there when it counts. Networking also keeps you up with what is happening in the industry; you may find out who is hiring or what skills people are looking for in freelancers. You also never know who you may meet and they may refer you to someone else if you are just a cool person to chat with.
This isn’t a 9 - 5 Job I can’t even remember the last time I started working 9:00 am and then finished for the day at 5:00 pm. The last time I can even remember seeing the 5 o’clock news was when I was on vacation. Most of the time you will begin working either early to get a jump start or end up working late trying to make a deadline. But you are not usually putting in all these hours for just the money, it is because you love what you do and you want to make sure that you produce the best product. Any designer knows that good design takes time and I’m sure many of those same designers can agree that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Just don’t let the work consume you, make sure you make time to enjoy other things in life.
Keep Learning Just because you are done with school doesn’t mean you should stop learning. I guess this could be a reason that this isn’t a 9 - 5 job, because when the work is done you need to keep moving forward. You need to read, experiment and learn just to stay up-to-date with everything that is going on. Especially in motion design and the web world; trends and software are constantly changing. I am always reading about new work that is happening, new trends as well as doing tutorials. If you don’t do this you will quickly lose touch and there will always be someone else is there to move in front of you.
If you’re smart, by now you have some sort of portfolio website promoting yourself and showing off your skills. Having the site is the first step but the next issue to think about is how to get people to come look at your work. Sure if you do good work people will find you eventually. But you shouldn’t just sit around and wait to be discovered. People should be able to find your work when they search in google or whatever their favorite search engine might be. I thought I’d take a moment and share a few tips that anyone should be able to do on their portfolio site that will help boost traffic. The first goal of your site as a designer should be to provide users with an attractive site but also one that is easy to use. Now I know the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be somewhat intimidating and scary, but there are some simple SEO things anyone can do that really isn’t that difficult. Here are five tips that should help bring in some more visitors.
Number 1: Content! Your design should look good but no one is going to want to look at your site if it doesn’t have good content that people want. Search engines want new content to index, they love and can’t get enough of it. But the important thing to remember is that good content is what you want on your website. Posting new work is useful, you don’t want your site just sitting there with an out of date demo reel. People may think you have stopped working. The best thing that can generate content is a blog. Sharing with people the knowledge you have is helpful and rewarding. Potential clients also like to see that there is a voice behind the art. There have been a few times that people I do work with have commented on some photos I posted or something I’ve written about. But blogging full time is a lot of work and everyone just doesn’t have time for it. If you can’t blog then make sure to update your site with new work as soon as you can, it is well worth it.
Number 2: Header Information There is a lot of code that goes into the header of a website and one of the most important things in it is the title tag. The title of each page is that page’s topic and represents the content of it. A unique title for each page isn’t only helpful for users to know what page they are on but also when search engines index your page the title is displayed in the result as the most important piece, it is the first thing users will notice in the results. The usual place where search engines take the keyword from to rank for your site is in the title. If the content on the page is different, the title tag should be too. Also in the header is the meta information. The meta tags these days are no longer as important as they were in the past so coming up with keywords shouldn’t be something that keeps you awake at night. A long time ago meta tags were the secret to SEO, but thats the past. It is still good practice to put in a few meta keywords just so they are there because they do have some effects. But todays search engines are looking for great content, written in by real people. The only meta tag that really matters now is the description tag. You want to make sure it describes the page in a way that explains what a user searching for your content and what they might find on that page. Think of the meta descriptions as a kind of mini ad that should be descriptive.
Number 3: The Alt Tag When you use images, don’t forget to describe what the image is in the alt tag. The alt tag provides alternative text for when images cannot be displayed. Images are an essential part of a website especially for designers. As smart as search engines seem to be, they currently have no easy way to tell what an image looks like. This is where the alt tag comes into play, it helps search engines know what the image might be. When you do add the alt tag information please don’t just dump a bunch of random keywords into them either. For example on your header image you don’t want it to read “Cool Designed Neat Web 2.0 Header” all this tells me is that it is some sort of header. You also don’t want it to to be non-descriptive either like “Header Image” again, this just reads as some sort of header and will just get lost in the search results. Instead use something like “Your Name / Title - Header Image”. Now the alt tag contains descriptive and easy to understand information that search engines will be able to display to the users and now the users will understand what the image is if it doesn’t load correctly on your site. Overall just make sure the alt tag of an image is titled properly so that it describes what it is.
Number 4: Build incoming links The number and the quality of incoming links can play a huge role in the placement of your site in the search results. Having quality and unique content is a good way to get people to link to your site. Again this is where good content comes into play. Good content will get shared and posted on other blogs and that will bring more traffic to your site. Another way is to be generous with links on your website. On my site I have a friends section on my about page. Some of those friends also list me on their friends page so this is helping both of us without getting in the way of the sites content. While you’re working on building your links make sure you have submitted your site Google otherwise it can sometimes can take several days if not weeks to get listed.
Number 5: Sitemap Make sure you have a site map. This is an xml file that describes the structure of your page. Just a few clicks of buttons and you can take care of this. There is a Google sitemap generator that create an XML sitemap and will update as needed, informing Google of any new pages you may have. If you’re a designer and don’t dive into the code very often, I hope these tips will help get your feet wet and maybe boost some traffic to your website.