Friday, September 28, 2007

As a freelancer, I do all my personal marketing. From writing articles, free designs, forum postings, classified advertising, guestbook and blog hopping, social bookmarking, tagging, pinging, web directory submissions and anything I can think of to promote and market myself and my service. The latest one is starting a small shop in Second Life.Second Life? Second Life or SL is a virtual world created by Linden Labs. It is very much like the real world where people can interact with each like sell goods and services, hold events, collaborate on projects, etc. It is also like the internet but instead of 2D webpages you see everything in 3D.


I saw this as an opportunity to further extend the reach of my website design service. With more than a million users logging in to SL each month, it is very promising. Of course, like with websites, you don't build one and expect people to come. I must also advertise, market and promote my shop in Second Life. There are lots of ways to do it.

My shop in Second Life is not all about my first life profession, it also sells virtual items I designed. As of this writing, I have men's undershirts for sale in my shop.

You don't have to own land in SL to setup a shop. Rentable spaces are everywhere. I spent like an entire day shopping for one that is within my current SL budget. My current rent is 50 L$ per week and it is located in a very nice place above the clouds. LOL!

There are hundreds of shops in SL that offer both real life and virtual goods and services. Real life businesses are starting to take notice and have contributed in one way or another. Examples are:

  • Sky News has a virtual newsroom, where vistiors can visit the newsroom and see how Sky News is made, reporters and presenters also can be seen from time to time. Also all visitors can take home a TV to watch Sky News

  • Toyota have offered a virtual replica of the Scion xB

  • MTV held a fashion show which was later broadcasted on G-Hole, a show on MTV's IPTV channel, Overdrive

  • MLB.com broadcast the Home Run Derby and a Red Sox-Yankees game into SL, with the help of the Electric Sheep Company

  • ABN AMRO Bank has opened a virtual branch in Second Life

  • click here for more
I find this new arena very interesting and it didn't take too much from me to start one but starting was the easy part of it. The difficult part is getting noticed and eventually becoming successful!

Anyway, if you are not interested in Second Life then websites with free content, like Article Writing Services, can also help generate interest for your site.


To join Second Life for FREE, CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

As a freelance web designer based in the Philippines most of my clients are abroad or foreign and all transactions are conducted online. From submitting designs to receiving payments.

One of the most commonly asked question by many of my new clients is how to send payment and another question commonly asked to me is, "do you accept paypal".

About paypal, unfortunately does not include the Philippines in its list of countries. So, as much as we want to use paypal, we can't but you can help bring paypal here to the Philippines by supporting this online petition, PaypalNow.

When asked, "how to send payments?" the answers I give are:

  1. through Western Union and;

  2. through XOOM
Western Union (WU) is the most popular Money Transfer service provider here in the Philippines and I guess around the world as well. Money sent to you through WU can be claimed immediately at any WU Agent/Center in your area. To claim money sent to you through WU you must visit a WU Agent/Center and you will need the following information:

  • Sender's Name
  • Sender's Address
  • Sender's Phone
  • Amount sent to you
  • MTCN (Money Transfer Control Number)
Actually you only need the MTCN but many WU Agents/Centers requires you those mentioned information. You will also be asked to present proper identification like your driver's license, passport, SSS card, etc.

Advantages that I see in using WU:

  1. WU is safe and secure
  2. WU is fast and reliable
  3. WU is known worldwide
One main disadvantage of WU the high money transfer fees.{adinserter Adcode03}

XOOM is an alternative to using WU and it is slowly gaining some popularity. XOOM works much like WU. Your client can send their payments at XOOM's website, http://www.xoom.com. You'll need to provide your client your personal info like name, address, etc. In XOOM, you can also choose if you want to pick-up your money or have it delivered to your home. You can pick-up your money at any PCI-Equitable Bank branch or at any authorized XOOM Agents/Centers all over the country. I always pick-up money sent to me through XOOM at an M. Lhuillier Pawnshop. Don't forget to bring some valid identification cards and the following information.

  1. Sender's Name
  2. Sender's Address
  3. Sender's Phone
  4. Amount sent to you
  5. XOOM Tracking Number
  6. Passcode if any
Claiming your money is also fast with XOOM except when your client sent you an e-check which could take at least 5 business days to clear.

Advantages of XOOM compared to WU:

  • It has lower money transfer fees
  • It is somewhat affiliated with PCI-Equitable Bank
Disadvantages of XOOM compared to WU:

  • It is not as established as WU
  • I still don't know who operates XOOM

I have yet to encounter any problems with any of the two, WU and XOOM, but currently I prefer XOOM to WU because of its low money transfer fees which is great for my clients.

Other services/sites which you can use to receive payment:

  • Stormpay
  • Moneybookers
  • E-gold
  • Alertpay
Other ways to receive payment:

  • Check by Postal Mail. This is not very secure but I still receive my check from Google through postal mail.
  • Bank Transfer. If your client is willing to shoulder the expense then by all means use this method. It is very fast, it is very secure and the funds get transferred directly into your bank account. I've had only 2 clients that sent their payment through bank transfer.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I am a firm advocate of good design but most of the time people tend to interpret design as amazing graphics and astounding visuals they tend to forget that design is the culmination of every aspect of good and effective presentation into one (visit Vincent Flander's WebPagesThatSuck.com).

We all know that design and content have equal importance in regards to websites but if you must choose which one is immediately important, which will you choose, design or content? If you're going to prepare an entire web marketing strategy on which of these two shall you focus on more? Why? Please defend your answer?

During my early days (around 1997), when I was still studying/learning to develop webpages, websites with astonishing visuals never fails to impress and I'd always ask myself this, "Man, how did they do that great graphic?" I will spend countless hours surfing the net collecting every graphically and visually orgasmic websites I could fine and I'll try to imitate and recreate them with photoshop (Photoshop 4) and if I can't recreate them I'll scour the web for tutorials on how to make those visuals. Man, if I were paying for my internet connection I would be dead broke by now. It was a good thing that my internet access was free.

Then it hit me, after saving a screenshot of those awesome website, saving all those wonderful wallpapers and all those banners and images, in my mind a very simple question was formed, "When was the last time I visited these websites again?" the answer was simple, once or never. After, analyzing my thoughts I finally noticed that most of these sites offers nothing but visuals. I had spent countless hours browsing these websites and I was only looking at their visuals, why, because that was all they have. That was the only thing they can offer, visuals.

I finally realized that the websites I regularly visit like Yahoo, Web Monkey, Web Developer Virtual Library, and now google doesn't have all these WOW factor thing, they don't have the bells and whistles of those extraordinary websites. All they have and all they offer was information, tons and tons of information. They never bothered to develop their look and their feel, what they developed was their content, their information database. Millions of people or millions of potential clients, buyers and opportunities go to these websites not to look at their remarkable visuals or presentations but to acquire what everybody need information and people pay a lot of money for information. A father will pay millions of dollars just to get some information about his long lost child but this same father would not pay anything more than 10,000 or even 50,000 USD just to look at a design, he won't even pay at all.

Content development is in a much higher level than Design Conceptualization, Creation and Development. Yes, design will capture your visitor's immediate attention. All the wows, oohhhsss and overwhelming appreciation of the design will follow it but after that what? I for once is very irritated of websites which will make you wait 1 minute for you to download their 3 minute intro just to find out later that the information you are looking for is not there. It does not only irritates me, it also makes me mad as hell because I've wasted 5 minutes of my time for nothing and I believe that almost all internet users especially those on dial-up have the same sentiments as mine.

Content makes the big bucks. Here is another analogy. It is like a commercial ad on TV, they'll hype a product with visuals, graphics, amazing videos, cool sounds and they'll even get your favorite star to endorse it but in reality it is just as good as the next product. If you ever seen that TV ad for a brand of powdered laundry soap where the speaker just places the cloth stained with grease on a basin of water and just poured some of their product and left it, and after an hour she'll be back and it is already clean without any effort from you. I tried it, using the same product but it didn't work. I even left it longer. It didn't remove the grease from my shirt but it did remove the color and the grease is still there.

I'm not saying that the product doesn't really work, what I'm saying is, it is all hype just like a website with all the hype. If you have a website that has all these bells and whistles, have you ever wondered how many potential paying clients have pressed the back button or have typed in a different URL just because they can't wait to load your website, just stop for a while and think of the dollars that you easily could have raked in only if your site loaded just a nanosecond sooner.

Websurfers are an impatient breed. Very few will actually wait until your elaborate design loads. Only those that are interested in your design will wait and look at it and who are they? They are not the paying public, they are not the CEO's, they are not the business people and they are not the people who have the dough to pay for your services, skills and talents. They are not the people whom you are trying to sell your service to. Then who are they? They are designers, artist and creative people who are just there to steal, copy and plagiarize your hard work.

Content is KING. In fact, it is a GOD. A website with good and well thought out content can and will survive longer than an extravagantly designed one. A lavishly designed website will bring in immediate traffic but they are not quality traffic. They could even be just one time visitors but content, fresh and new (am iterating), will drive not just new visitors but will bring in more visitors which could become potential users of your site and once they become users and get hooked on your site then the big bucks will not be very far behind them (hopefully).