Archive for October, 2011

FREE online tools that can help your business fly

freeonlinetools1

On Friday I presented at the Technology for StartUp Britain event held at the new O2 store (with dedicated working space) on Tottenham Court Road. It was a day long session focusing on how businesses can “Harness the Power of Technology & Social Media.”

Here are some of the online tools that we think your business should be using:

  1. Woopra
  2. Knowem
  3. Social Mention
  4. Mailchimp
  5. MOO
  6. WordPress
  7. Theme Forest
  8. Dropbox
  9. Google Analytics

Woopra logo

Woopra

What is it?
It’s a real-time web traffic reporting tool. Imagine being able to see who is on your website at this very moment, where they are from, what they are looking at, etc.

Why is it so good?
Google Analytics gives you past data, which is of course extremely useful. Woopra is however real-time and perfect to monitor if you are launching a campaign or have a piece in the press landing. It is highly addictive so you have been warned.

Favourite feature
There is a built-in chat feature allowing you to open a chat window with visitors to your site. That isn’t to say you have to use it all of the time. We use it if someone spends a long time on our “how it works” page or tries to reset their password a few times.

Getting started
Woopra operate a freemium model so you can register and get started for free. You’ll then get a bit of code that you’ll need to add to every page of your website. It doesn’t clash with Google Analytics so you can have both.

knowem logo

Knowem

What is it?
It is a social media reservation tool that allows you to register your business username on sites such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn etc all in one go.

Why is it so good?
You don’t need to trawl through lots of sites trying to find out if your ideal username is taken. It shows you availability across hundreds of channels on one page. Easy.

Getting started
Visit the site and enter the username you’d like to register. You can then pay them less than $100 to register everything for you or you can do it yourself by visiting the sites directly.

Social Mention logo

Social Mention

What is it?
It is a real-time social search and analysis tool.

Why is it so good?
You can basically search for any term you like and get a snapshot of what people are saying and who might be saying it. You can also see how influential those people are.

How we use it
Here are just of the few ways you might use it:

  • Test the water and see if there is a demand for your product or service. Before you even launch you can find potential customers and even get them involved in the early phases of your business. For instance if you wanted to launch a coffee shop in Brighton you can find the key influencers talking about coffee in that area and reach out to them.
  • Keeping an eye on what people are saying about you and your competitors. It is a great way of trawling through blogs and forums for mentions of your company. You can also use the Alert feature to do this too (which is very similar to Google Alerts).
  • Seeding with bloggers.You may notice through some research on Social Mention that there are 1 or 2 bloggers who are experts in your business area. This tool will help you identify them.

Getting started
Just visit the Social Mention website and have a play with the search terms.

Mailchimp Logo

Mailchimp

What is it?
MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results.

Why is it so good?
Even someone who has no knowledge of HTML or email campaigns can produce stunning campaigns that deliver great results. There are best practice guides, design templates and tutorials to guide you through the process. It is also all done online and with their apps you can access reports on the move.

Favourite feature
The reporting is incredible. Mailchimp gives you such rich and detailed information as well as tips to improve your next campaign. You also get benchmarked against industry standards and your previous campaigns so you really know where you stand.

Getting started
You can register and start using Mailchimp for free. Start by reading the best practice guides as they will give you the inspiration to get started.

MOO logo

Moo (not FREE, but extremely good value)

What is it?
Moo help you print stunning Business Cards, Stickers, Postcards and Mini Cards.

Why is it so good?
Their website is incredibly helpful, the design process is very easy and the end products are of such a high quality.

How we use it
We are Moo addicts. We have business cards, mini cards, stickers and postcards. The postcards were the latest things we printed. For about £20 we printed 20 x postcards that we sent out to people who helped us launch Concept Cupboard. They were extremely well received. So much so that Dan Martin from Business Zone wrote an article about them.

Getting started
Visit the Moo website and have some fun.

WordPress Logo

WordPress.com / WordPress.org

What is it?
WordPress is an open-source blogging platform that allows you to easily create your own blog and/or website. Due to its Content Management System you are abe to easily amend the content on the blog or site with little HTML knowledge.

Which one to use
WordPress.com – This version is hosted on WordPress servers which means it is very easy to get started and you don’t have to worry about the additional costs that come with hosting a blog. To begin with your blog would have a URL like businessname.wordpress.com, but you can change the URL to anything you like for about $50 a year. The downside of this approach is that you have a smaller number of plug-ins available to you. Plug-ins are like useful apps for your blog or website. There are also only so many themes to choose from, but it is a good starting point for someone looking to start a blog for the first time.

WordPress.org – This version requires your won hosting and doamin but gives you much more control and plenty more customisation options. There are hundreds of plug-ins to take advantage of and there are a huge number of themes you can adopt too. The downside with this approach is that you need a bit of HTML knowledge or need to work with someone who can get you set up. Some hosting providers do offer 1-click install which makes life a lot easier.

Getting started
Once you have decided which route to take visit the site to get started for free.

Theme Forest

Theme Forest

What is it?
An online marketplace selling a raft of stunning WordPress & HTML website templates. For around $35 (AUD) you can buy a template that you can base your business website on. Saving you lots of time and money.

Why is it so good?
It is incredibly good value and provides lots of choice.

Getting started
Visit the site and take a look at all of the templates available. The live preview options make it really easy to imagine how your site might look.

Dropbox Logo

Dropbox

What is it?
Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website.

Why is it so good?
Just imagine never having to use a USB stick again. Never forgetting an important file. Having a backup of all your important document.

Getting started
You can get a 2GB account for free plus an extra 250MB by visiting this link.

google Analytics logo

Google Analytics

What is it?
Most people know what Google Analytics is, but just in case you don’t – it’s a website analytics tool alowing you to track your website activity.

Why is it so good?
Not only does it provide you with an incredible amount of data about the people visiting your site, but it is very easy to set up and use. If you’re looking for  business improvement, Google Analytics is the safest choice to get results. Plus it is completely free. It is litterally Google’s data, given to you, and really, who is more powerful than Google right now?

Favourite feature
The custom email reports you can set up are fantastic and a real time-saver. Spend a bit of time upfront creating your favourite reports and then have them sent at specified times. For instance I send myself a weekly detailed report. I also send the Concept Cupboard board a monthly report that shows how this month’s traffic compares to previous months.

Getting started
Set up a Gmail account. I’d recommend setting up a new one specifically for your business and then go to www.google.com/analytics/ and register. You’ll then get a bit of code that you’ll need to add to every page of your website.

Using tools like the ones mentioned above really can help you create a huge competitive advantage and in the current climate free resources should be leveraged as much as possible. It saves you money that you can spend on attracting new customers or improving your product or service.

We’ll be writing about more FREE online tools over the next few weeks so feel free to share any you think we should mention. Equally if you’ve used any of the tools above and have something to say (whether it is good or bad) then leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Steve Wozniak at IP EXPO

IPEXPO_sticky2

Earlier today I was lucky enough to be able to attend the UK’s largest IT enterprise event, the IP EXPO. There were a multitude of significant players from IT the sector but a big buzz was being created around one particular keynote speaker; the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak.

With the amount of media spotlight and outpouring of public sadness surrounding Steve Jobs’ recent death, it was no surprise that it was full house.

Whilst part of the talk was concerned with computer memory, PCI’s and memory buses (this takes me back to my Computer Science degree), I will focus on relaying the messages of innovation and enterprise that were so eloquently put during the keynote.

The keynote was introduced by Rick White who is the co-founder of a company called Fusion-io and which Steve Wozniak is Chief Science Officer. Rick stated that one of the key obstacles to innovation is saying ‘it can’t be done that way’.

After this brief and insightful introduction by Rick it was time for Steve to take to the stage. After providing some initial detail about his current venture it was during the Q&A session that some great insights into innovation, enterprise and even some comment of Apple came through.

Before the first question could be fired however he did make the request that none should revolve around the subjet of how he felt about Steve Jobs’ death. The first one however came from someone who enquired as to what he believed Apple’s future would hold in terms of maintaing the quality of its products as well as the success of the company without Steve Jobs. He responded by saying that he believed that such a culture had been laid and nurtured at the firm that they would be more than able to pay testament to the successes that they had achieved so far.

Whilst he said that there is no set rulebook for innovation, there are factors you can utilise in order to give you and your company the best chance to cultivate it. He summed up what he believed was lacking from companies today in fostering creativity and innovation through an anecdote from his time at HP. He stated that he used to be able to use tools and parts to work on his personal projects and that this education could be infinitely more valuable to the company than some of the courses that firms send their employees to presently.

Steve and Rick were also asked what they believed to be the biggest difference in innovation between the US and the UK. They both agreed that the UK was a highly innovative country but that it’s shortfalls would usually be when a company sought out venture capital. Silicon Valley and the resources that it has in terms of funding can be a powerful factor in drawing in talent from the UK.

To sum up the difference between the UK and US Steve Wozniak stated :

“We had Apple, you had Sinclair”

I will leave you with one final message.

Steve and Rick both believed that you could still work for a corporate during the day, but work on your own passion project from ’5 to 9′ (when you got back from work). It is these pursuits backed with passion that will ultimately drive you more than money ever could and this is pretty much how Apple started in its first steps to becoming the company it is today.

Viva la innovation.

Freelance web programmer needed!

Short term work for a freelance web programmer has become available for a finance company based in Southwark, London. This opportunity would provide 1 to 2 weeks worth of work with the potential for more following this period. The day rate is £200.

More details in regards to this position will become available if you are a suitable candidate.

See more about the requirements below and please forward all details (availability, CV, examples of work etc) to adam@conceptcupboard.com.

Experience and Qualifications

  • Ability to work with Agile team and in Agile way (or willingness to learn how)
  • HTML5
  • CSS3
  • Experience of PHP templating
  • Ability to work with CSS frameworks (we use Twitter’s ‘Bootstrap’ framework)

Scope of work

To be provided, but as a guide: there is an overarching design in place already but you’ll be required to build the html toolkit and some specific content pages, tables & tools within the current site.

Image Source

October website improvements

The Concept Cupboard development team have been working very hard behind the scenes to make Concept Cupboard even easier to use. Today we launched another phase of upgrades that will hopefully make your experience even better.

site maintenance

Here are a few of the upgrades we think you’ll like best:

  1. Larger uploads & more file types
    Both project owners & creatives can now upload attachments up to 5MB (previously 2MB). You’ll also be able to attach file types such as PSDs.


  2. More chance to share
    Creatives can now share projects on Twitter, Google + & Facebook. So if there is a brief that really catches your eye you can share it with friends & other people on your course.


  3. Attachments made (even) clearer
    A few of you emailed saying that you couldn’t find the attachments in the brief. That’s obviously no good to anyone so we have made it super clear within the brief.

There are plenty more changes on the way over the next few weeks & we’ll keep you fully up to date. If you do have any feedback or encounter problems please get in touch.

Image source

One month on with a start-up

startup

I’ve now been working at Concept Cupboard for 2 629 743 seconds and I’m going to try and sum up the amazing experiences I’ve had working for a start-up so far.

Coming straight out of uni and into the ‘real’ world was a daunting prospect. With graduate unemployment at 20% still lingering from the 2010/11 release of statistics, I knew it was going to be a hard time finding a job.

Weeks into my job hunt and dozens of unread CVs littering the country, I received a prompt reply from the managing director of Concept Cupboard (Chris Dodson). I had read the brief summary over what the company did on the job advertisement but it was only when I came to the interview and started to find out what Concept Cupboard was really about that I knew I could not only gain employment but also give back to the student community from which I had recently left.

Getting the job was only the start and it has been a tremendous learning curve ever since.

Welcome to the deep end.

You’re thrown in the deep end working for a start up. Small companies just don’t have the budgets for extensive training programmes set in the French Alps or wherever  big firms send graduates. Whilst it is a steep learning curve, the experience you gain as a result becomes invaluable and you do adapt to the workload presented to you.

You pitch in everywhere.

Since there are no dedicated teams or departments you are helping in every aspect of the company and this has only been a good experience. In my first week I was switching between programming and blog writing amongst a whole host of other tasks that you would not be exposed to in specified roles in the bigger corporations. I’m a programmer by trade but have also been learning so much more than if I was in some cubicle writing lines of code all day long.

My second week consisted of getting involved with design, customer service, networking, an awards night, traveling the country to promote entrepreneurship and a TED talk to give you some idea of the variety of start-up life.

Your input is important.

Working at a start-up really gives you the chance to pitch your ideas directly to your team and see them come to fruition. Again, you are required to input on areas of a firm that may not be your forte but this can sometimes lead to viewing a problem from a new angle.

It’s an exciting time for a company.

Seeing something grow from your hard work is a tremendous thing. Whilst I’ve only gained the tiniest fraction of insight into this process it is something worth being a part of at least once. Everything is up for grabs and it is up to your own innovations, hard work and passion that will determine the success you experience in the future.

You do have to work hard but like most things the more you put into it the more you get out of it.

Finding Work

Keep in mind that, recruiters are using work-life balance company culture to find employees, this plays an important role. You can expect more criteria like this to creep up into the hiring process. For anyone else out there looking for work I found these tools extremely helpful.

  • Enternships – compiles some of the best in entrepreneurial placements and jobs
  • Milkround – one of the go to places to find a whole load of jobs aimed at grads
  • Prospects – the website most universities point graduates at and a great resource for job listings

Being a programmer at heart I also want to make a special shout out to an upcoming event Silicon MilkRoundabout. It’s on the 30th October and if your a programmer looking for work / networking this is going to be great. Here’s a brief round up of what to expect.

Silicon Milkroundabout brings together 100+ UK start-ups offering 500+ technical jobs. If you’re a developer or engineer with a passion for building real products and crafting great code, come meet us, hear our pitches, and see what opportunities are up for grabs.

Then there’s always Concept Cupboard to gain valuable experience and get paid for it at the same time!

This brief blog post doesn’t do the whole experience justice but I wouldn’t change a thing about my time here so far.

(Image Source)

Why desk space rental is becoming so popular amongst creative freelancers

desk space for creatives

While the thought of renting an office may be the furthest thing from your mind, a growing number of freelancers in creative professions are doing just that. So what is luring them back into the home of the nine-to-fivers?

The first thing to note is the old ways of leasing an office space are no longer the only options available to freelancers. Gone are the days of being forced into a long contract and having to furnish, secure and manage the entire operation.

Now practically all cities and towns in the UK, as well as many smaller locations, are awash with serviced and shared office opportunities. Contracts can be as flexible as month to month, you can book a single desk (or more if and when you may need them) and can get in almost straight away.

office space

You don’t even need to rent it full-time, as many ‘hot desking’ schemes are also in operation allowing you to use the desk when you need it on a far more flexible basis, perhaps just a few hours a week. And of course the place is furnished, with all the facilities you need such as broadband, kitchen etc ready to go.

Also, you should find you have access to a meeting room and if you pick the right place, perhaps a postal service and IT support. A business address and meeting facilities may not seem like an expense you want to pay, but they can give a freelancer a professional edge when meeting a client, or perspective one.

Helping the creative flow

Freelancers in creative professions can also really benefit from getting out of the home office and into a shared office in a number of other ways.

First, many freelancers find it hard to get going with a lot of distractions around them. The TV, a good book, the chores you need to do – anything can get in the way of hitting that deadline. Even simply getting out and on the move to the office can be the separation you need to kick into action.

Second there is the office buzz. You’ll tend to find other like-minded individuals in these kinds of shared or serviced office developments, which can really help the creative process. You can bounce ideas of off each other and maybe learn new techniques, opinions or solutions to your creative problems.

This can also lead to both friendships and work opportunities. Perhaps you’re a designer who needs a writer, an entrepreneur who needs a website or a product designer looking for the PR to push your ideas? These are all professionals who you’ll likely find sharing office space in desker communities.

Of course there can be downsides, most of which are the flip sides of points made above – one man’s meat, as they say.

The most obvious is price. Renting a desk will put a dent in your profits, which you may not feel you’ll make up with the benefits. Another is not having the choice of internet provider, décor and the like, or the choice of just who you’ll be sharing your new work space with.

But with such short contracts available, it almost seems foolhardy not to give it a try – a lesson more and more creative freelancers are learning and are often very glad they did.

About the author: Chris Marling writes on behalf of www.officegenie.co.uk, the UK’s first proper online marketplace for desk space and shared office space.

Must Listen Podcasts #1 : Creative

Podcast

Here at Concept Cupboard we’ve brought together some of our favourite podcasts covering design and creative. We’ve tried to provide a balance between the useful and entertaining so hopefully there is something for everyone in this list!

#1 – London’s Design Museum

An eclectic mix of content from interviews with creatives through to showcasing some of the very best in design. The best aspect of this podcast are the stories that are told by some very inspirational people and allow you to see the trail they took to where they find themselves today.

London’s Design Museum (iTunes)

#2 – InDesign Secrets

This rather upbeat blog brings (you guessed it) all things InDesign right to your ears. From general tips and tricks through to  covering some of the more obscure aspects of InDesign; this podcast can help you whether you’re a beginner or even a pro if you can get past their sometimes scatty broadcast. Their website is also worth a visit as well. (InDesign Website)

InDesign Secrets (iTunes)

#3 – Design Matters with Debbie Millman

Debbie plays host to a multitude of interviews with some of the best from industry-leading graphic designers, change agents, artists and writers. The show covers topics from the importance of branding through to  entrepreneurialism. Content from these discussions was informative and would even be of interest to those not from a creative background.

Design Matters (iTunes)

#4 – TED Talks (Various)

We always enjoy a TED talk here at Concept Cupboard but in terms of getting the most diverse and wide ranging of views and ideas on creativity you will struggle to find another resource that matches on this scale and quality. Follow this link through to their theme on ‘Design That Matters‘ to find a whole medley of video talks on the subject.

#5 – Cool Hunting (Video)

This video podcast series provides bite-size episodes featuring designers, artists and innovators that gives you the inside view of their processes and inspiration. Whilst brief, each podcast lasting no longer than 5 minutes usually, the quality of production and content is truly great.

Cool Hunting (iTunes)

Get Broadcasting!

Whilst most of these podcasts are featuring American designers and creatives maybe this is your opportunity to create you own British creative podcast! Get out there, get sharing and let us know if you decide to start up your very own creative podcast!

© All rights reserved.     Terms of Use | Privacy Policy