COLOUR (iii): 50 shades of colour: psychology & brand palette

A lot is currently being said on colour and on how it affects the psyche and consumers’ behaviour, triggering emotions and reactions that make you buy or not and all that jazz. I have come across this controversial article that backs up exactly what I think about this. In short: “the truth […] is that color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings. Yet, there are broader messaging patterns to be found in color perceptions. For instance, colors play a fairly substantial role in purchases and branding”.

Colour perception for men and women

Colour preference in men and women

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 13.14.28

women:men colours

That’s Maroon, darling.

As for design, which is somewhat ultimately related to being a matter of taste (ie. I like this or that, just because), colours do have an impact in the psyche simply because we are used to seeing them used in specific ways and according to specific chromatic patterns. I.e.: White is pure, red is energy and so on. And I’ll tell you a secret: There’s nothing wrong with it IMHO.

Brands use red when they want to be seen as powerful, passionate companies

It's all about red after all

It’s all about red after all

My takeaways when it comes to choose a palette?

  • You – start from what you know & like because ultimately you’re your number ONE customer and critical consumer
  • Be open – ask others / bear in mind gender and demographics and see where it leads you. If everyone you ask gives you the same perception of a specific shade, reconsider
  • Elementary, Sherlock – research your competitors’ choice. Did they use the same colours? Is anyone standing out? Why? Which colour/s?
  • Cultural-bound – analyse / assess your cultural references and your target countries’. Maybe red means something / is associated to a specific concept in India and not in Europe and so on.
  • Easy, boy – don’t put too much strain on the eye, yet achieve your purpose. Attracting attention is one thing, affecting your audience’s retinas is a no-no.
  • Think consumers – put aside personal preferences and explore what you want your customers to feel. Maybe you’ll see that a specific group of customers / target does like one specific colour you didn’t even consider before.
  • Digital vs IRL world – consider how colour transitions from physical to digital worlds & vice versa. Every shade looks paler or darker in print and brighter or sometimes completely different on screen.
  • Back to the Fifties – think black and white. Does it work? Those are colours too.
  • Defy the diktat – who said men cannot wear pink? Look at what T Mobile did with their pink logo.
  • Only diamonds are forever – they say “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” but still, why can’t you change a colour or rebrand after a while?
I bet you never thought Chanel was masculine. Yet, it's black.

I bet you never considered Chanel to have a  masculine flair. Yet, it’s using black.

Another interesting poing to bear in mind is that – regardless the message they are normally attached to – some colours are more suitable for specific purposes compared to others. Mentioning Help Scout again, sometimes a contrasting colour is just what the eye needs to be attracted and take action.
Also, nobody said you cannot try different options – and see whether your brand comes across as more powerful or weaker based on a variation on the chromatic matching.

Up to you:

  • What colours do you like and why?
  • What colours do you think have an impact – of any kind – on you?
  • Do you think colour influences your purchasing habits as a consumer?

Read more:

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COLOUR (ii) – At the end of the rainbow: colour wheel and chromatic combos

Colour wheel and chromatic combos

Colour wheel and chromatic combos

I remember being a little girl – circa 1984 – and being in love with this cartoon called Rainbow Brite (Iridella in Italian).

Stars and colours

There is always a faithful horse in these situations

 

Men are always the weak sex.

Men are always the weak sex.

I’m sure this is the first memory of me and colours: each character was the walking symbol of a shade, and after 31 years, I see their figures and it’s vivid just as it was back then. Iridella was mesmerizing: she had the most beautiful costume and a corset the colours of the rainbow.  Just like smells and perfumes, from a very young age, colour has a huge impact on our life. Imagine being colour blind: how would the world look like to you? (This is how).
Colour is subjective. Or is it?

Clowns are scary in all shades.

In the same way, every time we think of sadness and evil, we evoke an image of darkness, lack of light and colour. The same is true in marketing and consumer products. And to achieve the perfect combination, designers work towards mastering the Wheel of colour. But before that,

…what are the basics of colours?

Primary colours: those colours that cannot be created through the mixing of other colours. They are colours in their own right: RED, YELLOW and BLUE. Primary colours can be mixed together to produce secondary colours: blue +red = purple; yellow + blue = green; red + yellow = orange. An important rule of the colour wheel is that opposite colours on the colour wheel usually work well together as a colour scheme – these are referred to as complementary colours.

Cool and warm.  (from Canva)

Cool and warm.
(from Canva)

In theory, complementary colours, when mixed, will complete the visible spectrum: thus, two light rays of complementary colour will produce white, and two paints or inks of complementary colour will produce black or grey – says the National Gallery glossary on painting. In practice, complementary colours are defined as colours that have maximum contrast for each other. The fundamental complementary pairs for painters are red/green, yellow/violet, and blue/orange, but each intermediate colour also has its unique complementary. The colour wheel arranges all the colours of the visible spectrum so that complementary pairs are opposite each other.

1908 and they knew all this.

Traditional wheel

Traditional wheel

As we read in Canva’s blog: understanding color relationships is fundamental to great design. Knowing how to navigate the color wheel can help you understand why certain colors look good together but others don’t. Visual marketing is a fantastic example of this. Did you know that in the first 90 seconds someone forms an impression, up to 90% of the outcome is based on color alone? 

Brands and colours go hand in hand

Brands and colours go hand in hand

Colours are always the same but as we all know… some are especially en vogue in specific times and eras and just go out of fashion in others. What’s the trend at the moment? Fashion is a good example: after two years’ worth of choosing bright jewel colors, The Pantone Institute of Color has surprised the fashion world with its 2015 color of the year. The winner is a dark, rusty brown identified as “Marsala” 18-1438 TCX. Although the name connotes the color of the rich, earthy wine from western Sicily, less complimentary adjectives link Marsala to rusty warships, deteriorating ruins, liver, dried blood, mystery meat (as we read on Color Combos).
Marsala and all its emotions. Can't you smell it, almost?

Marsala and all its emotions. Can’t you smell it, almost?

Combining colours is very much a matter of taste. Yet these are the main types of colour schemes we can consider when thinking about the use of colours to be fit for purpose – from amazing Smashing Magazine where you can find examples of shades too.

 

MONOCHROMATIC

Monochromatic color schemes are made up of different tones, shades and tints within a specific hue. These are the simplest color schemes to create, as they’re all taken from the same hue, making it harder to create a jarring or ugly scheme (though both are still possible).

ANALOGOUS

Analogous color schemes are the next easiest to create. Analogous schemes are created by using three colors that are next to each other on the 12-spoke color wheel. Generally, analogous color schemes all have the same chroma level.

Rainy London Translations' page uses shades of red and yellow.

Rainy London Translations’ page uses shades of brick red and ochre.

COMPLEMENTARY

Complementary schemes are created by combining colors from opposite sides of the color wheel. In their most basic form, these schemes consist of only two colors, but can easily be expanded using tones, tints, and shades.

SPLIT COMPLEMENTARY

Split complementary schemes are almost as easy as the complementary scheme. In this scheme, instead of using colors that are opposites, you use colors on either side of the hue opposite your base hue.

TRIADIC

Triadic schemes are made up of hues equally spaced around the 12-spoke color wheel. This is one of the more diverse color schemes.

DOUBLE-COMPLEMENTARY (TETRADIC)

Tetradic color schemes are probably the most difficult schemes to pull off effectively.

How to go about it?

The hint comes from fashion, once again and uses the power of the wheel.
The power of the wheeeeeel

The power of the wheeeeeel

1. Colors directly next to each other (i.e. yellow and yellow-orange; yellow and yellow-green; violet and blue-violet, etc.)
2. Colors that form right (90 degree) angles with each other (i.e. yellow and red-orange; blue and violet-red; green and orange, etc.)
3. Colors directly across from each other (i.e. yellow and violet; blue and orange; red and green, etc.)
4. Colors that form a T (i.e. blue, orange, and violet-red; yellow, violet, and red-orange; yellow, blue-green, and red-orange, etc.)
5. Colors that form an X (i.e. blue, orange, violet-red, and yellow, violet, blue-green, and red-orange, etc.)

And remember, colour does matter. Choose well.

Subconscious. It's all hidden down there.

Subconscious. It’s all hidden down there.

Read more:

Colour scheme tools:

COLOUR (i) – Chromatic history, perception & emotional baggage

This month we show our true colours!

Chromatic history and perception

Chromatic history and perception

ColourIt all started with a dress — it always does and then my bank account is on fire!
Just joking: it was just a mere few months ago when the Internet was broken about this dress and it was all about colour, one of my favourite branding-related topics. As BBC says, you can measure it, hold it and count it. […] But colour is not light. Colour is wholly manufactured by your brain. How do we know this? Because one light can take on any colour… in our mind. And optical illusions are just that. In the same way, in terms of the relationship between emotions and colour, nearly every adult assigned yellow to happiness, blue to sadness and red to anger (surprise and fear, which are the other two universal emotions, had no obvious colour).
In September last year I went to see an amazing exhibition at the National Gallery, called Making Colour. This was a real visual and interactive journey from lapis lazuli to cobalt blue, ancient vermilion to bright cadmium red, through yellow, orange, purple and verdigris to deep green viridian – in a series of colour-themed rooms plus one, devoted to gold and silver. I’ve always felt fascinated by the way that colour gets associated by our mind to concepts and I’ve already written about it before.
If they do it, there must be a good reason (via http://boutiquemc.co.uk)

If they do it, there must be a good reason (via http://boutiquemc.co.uk)

Buy  buy buy • via http://www.webyogi.co.uk/

Buy buy buy • via http://www.webyogi.co.uk/

In the same way, I cannot stop looking at this chart with all the shades in English:

Ah, that’s handy

or at this very Royal Pantone set:
Shades of Elizabeth

Shades of Elizabeth

so I’ve decided to share some interesting notes on colour.  How did the ancient cultures use colours? Were they available? And how did they stumble upon them? Especially for the artists of earlier times, the palette was extensively limited, and some of their colours were immensely expensive, while some were unstable and tended to fade or darken. In order to make their materials and put them to the best use, painters once had to be chemically literate. Blue and turquoise came from lapis lazuli and were seriously precious and hard to find, that’s why the Virgin Mary in Renaissance paintings was most of the time wearing a bright blue veil, a precious token to pay tribute to the uniqueness and the importance of her role.

Back to our times… think about how TV was in black and white just a while back. On the 20th April 1967 David Attenborough appeared on a news bulletin and explained that a gradual introduction of colour film was necessary so that engineers and production staff had time to familiarize themselves with the new service.

David means home even to me.

Colour does shape our lives as much as branding and shapes do.
I am a black kinda girl — even though in recent years I’ve developed a passion for red, mostly in its pillar-box hue.

A good profile pic on social media is key

A red lip is always right.

Energy, passion and character: this is the message oozing from anything that I see or get in this shade. That’s why I’ve decided to adopt it every day a bit more in my daily life and in my brand. Choosing a colour is as personal as it gets — yet, it’s crucial to identify the emotions that are connected to it to make sure your audience perceive the same message and the same vibe as you, in the way you wish to convey it. In the same way, we perceive some colours based on the meaning society attached to them — just yesterday I asked myself: what if I had a boy and wanted him to wear pink? Would it still cause a debate? 

My takeaways:

— colour is very important and remember, we do NOT perceive it all in the same way. If in doubt, run a survey and check if your readers / clients / friends see it like you do.
— colour can define a mission, a message, in short it’s a vehicle of meaning.
— it’s very culture-bound: white reminds of pureness, violet makes me think of lent, as a Catholic — yet, bright colours are conceived and used differently in India than in Norway, just to mention two examples.
— chromatic choices are important for user-friendly purposes ie. reading better on screen, clarity on paper, harmony in design and so on.
— we are emotionally involved with colours and we probably do not even know it: our behaviours as consumers are driven by that — just look at your house or your clothes to realise that we operate serial choices based on chromatic combinations.

Reference

If you need to read only one book about colour:  Bright Earth — the invention of colour, by Philip Ball. Unmissable. And for those with more time:

Online visibility (iv) – Graphics, photos and images

4th and - alas - last instalment

I love beautiful things, and images. A passion that links back very strongly to design and elegant shapes. Those who follow me on social media by now will be aware of my passion for iconic graphics, neat pictures and illustration along with clean lines and strong looks — especially true for colours and for clothes. I enjoy looking at perfectly constructed compositions and even if I’m a spontaneous, imperfect person, I like to think of myself as someone with taste and balance. Graphics are — just like video, that we talked about just last week — part of our day-to-day life, and without noticing every day a little more. Design surrounds us — and it pretty much makes things what they are.

Val's Facebook Cover

Val’s Facebook Cover

But what is in there for us as freelancers? What are the advantages of creating / using beautiful images?

  • Clearer message —  it’s great to share links and text (ultimately we need texts and explanatory paragraphs to understand in depth but what we want at first is a clear message. Short, to-the-point infographics are really popular and help save reading time.
  • Reliability — your brand should be showing off who you are and also why prospects need to choose you and not other freelancers. If you go for cheap, stock images or graphics that are either dated or unclear, it’ll show.
  • Professional images — be it your own headshot or a banner for your website, quality images create trust. Fact.
  • Quality-infused, professional impression — you cannot give a good second, first impression!
  • Higher shareable factor / more clicks — it’s proven. As I said last week about videos, the chances of clicking on a post featuring an image are higher than for posts with no graphics or with a longer text. As attention span gets shorter, we need to capitalise on what appeals to the eye and gets shared more.
  • Better visualization, esp. on mobile — Sharp, hi-res images with eye-catching, bigger fonts are better viewed on smaller devices — and with the advent of mobile offices, well, you don’t want your reader to be disappointed when what they click on does not read clear.
  • Consistency to complement the brand identity — if the style is in line with the brand, it’ll create consistency and build trust.
  • …FUN — at least for me 🙂

You may wonder what can we do as freelancers with all these imagery. Here some examples of output:

  • Social media post
  • Instagram / FB /Twitter ad format — make sure the format is right for these channels, which have very specific sizes.
  • Banner
  • Poster
  • Ad
  • Newsletter (think of Mail Chimp)
  • Facebook / Twitter cover
  • Magazine — Issuuu is one good example
  • Brochure: see mine here
  • Leaflet
  • Flyer
  • Catalogue
  • Business cards: the better the resolution, the clearer the font, the stronger the message you send across.
  • Postcards
  • Presentations / PDFs
Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 22.34.46
While I always recommend you take your own photos, I realise not everyone has an eye for it or even wants to. And sometimes, we just need something we do not have handy to shoot e.g. I currently do not own a pet or a car!

So, where to find images? Here some hints:

  • iStock
  • Shutterstock
  • Getty Images
  • Fotolia
  • Flickr (Creative Commons licence)
  • Unsplash
  • …or simply contact the owner ans ask!

Find inspiration on design galleries too, some of my favourite are:

  • Awwwards
  • Logopond
  • Best Web Gallery
  • Site Inspire
Apart from the more pro and classic computer-based software like InDesign, Fireworks, Photoshop, etc., as a wild aficionada of phone apps, I tend to edit my images on mobile. Being a little crafty is good, provided you use the right tools.
A cuppa, in b/w and red

A cuppa, in b/w and red (@rainylondon’s IG)

#TFBonTour and its boxers: an example of font use for a fun photo

Here’s my top apps to edit photos:

  • Facetune — lots of filters and handy functions like the “smooth brush” are perfect to create softer tones and colours.
  • Diptic / Layout — these apps help you create photo collages and they’re super easy to use.
  • Phoster — create interesting poster-format images to share
  • Over — to write beautiful fonts on your own images
  • Canva — the most complete of all but only for desktop (and now iPad). You can create all the abovementioned type of outputs with this basic design-for-dummies website.
  • Whitagram — to add a nice frame to your images, and while you’re at it, reduce their size to fit better on IG and other platforms.
  • Instagrid Pro — you can create amazing-looking Instagram puzzle picture, using a minimum of 3 photos and showing them in a visually impacting effect on your IG feed.
  • Squaready — make your photo square for IG and other platforms, very handy.
  • Aviary — ideal for making colour pop e.g. a black and white image with just a splash of colour is possible by selecting intelligent colour to bring out from the photo.
  • Camera+ — the main feature for me is the chance to take auto-shots, but hey, now on iPhone you can with the native app for the camera 🙂
  • Enlight
  • VSCO Cam
  • Union/Matter/LoryStripes/Tangent/Fragment — they come as a package with a wide range of very specific features.
Diptic is so handy

Diptic is so handy (amazing friends not included)

Unsure of how to combine fonts? Or which one to use? 

Samples in Dafont

Samples in Dafont

To check of find inspiration for fonts, read this very handy guide from Canva and I also recommend Dafont or MyFont, websites featuring list of fonts you can try with an instant preview and buy for commercial use.

Well… What are you creating next?

(p.s.: most of these apps are for iOS)

Online visibility (iii) – video and alternative media aka: innovation and new frontiers

Video & alternative media

Online visibility: video et al.

As it happens for photography, video is very out there: it implies some degree of exposure and pretty much a conscious willingness to risk your face. Risking face is a concept I learnt when I studied English linguistics in university. A quick search on Wikipedia tells us this: the term face idiomatically refers to one’s own sense of dignity or prestige in social contexts. In the English-speaking world, the expression “To save face” describes the lengths that an individual may go to in order to preserve their established position in society, taking action to ensure that one is not thought badly of by their peers. It is a fundamental concept in the fields of sociology, sociolinguistics, semantics, politeness theory, psychology, political science, communication, and face negotiation theory.

There's a drawer for that

There’s a jar for that

In a business environment, face is mostly an Eastern concept most likened to the Western concept of respect and dignity. Making people feel they are losing face occurs more easily than we might expect and can seriously damage relationships. This cross-cultural aspect of ‘losing face’ can for instance play a role when you are responsible for leading a complex change project involving people from other cultures. If you think of the current panorama, most bloggers, influencers and speakers use now video and clips (even Snapchat as we mentioned last week) to create engagement, stir things and reach their audience keeping that element of storytelling alive. And what is more up close and personal that putting your face and your voice and your body language in a motion media? At a personal level, with The Freelance Box my colleague Marta and I have recorded some promotional short videos that can help invite future attendees. It’s short and compelling, and it shows you care. Of course, speaking in public is something you may not be born with – but you can (and should) learn how to do it.

(ps.: shameless plug… the next #TFB workshops are in Madrid, Zagreb and Belfast!)

What makes a video worth recording?

What elements should it feature?

Record if you…

  1. Have a great message or something to say/promote
  2. Want to be remembered as a person AND a business
  3. Want to show you’re trustworthy
  4. Want to show your voice and social skills
  5. Want to engage more

How:

  • Duration: unless it’s a screencast or a tutorial, normally short and to the point is the way to go. Anything from 1 to 4 minutes is bearable.
  • Register: suitable for anyone, yet knowledgeable. If it’s a tutorial, remember your audience.
  • Body language: natural and spontaneous.
  • Setting: make sure there’s light and that the camera is stable. Create harmony of colours (what you wear, what’s around you…) and also try to record with the same layout and at the same venue to create continuity and trust.
  • What channels can you use?

Vimeo, YouTube or even upload a file onto a platform like Facebook or Twitter. You choose! And if I feel like it, maybe I’ll record you a video on this 😀

Other alternative media: what’s out there?

The frontiers of broadcasting are being torn down: bloggers are live-streaming events they’re attending via their Snapchat accounts as we speak and thousands are sharing their activity with people around the world on Periscope just now.

What can you use them for?

Well, it’s up to you to find the medium that most suits your purpose – of course it takes just a bit of common sense to understand what you can pull off or not esp. in the case of videos, have some non-biased person watch it for you and get some honest feedback. It can be harsh but it does make you see a bigger picture and tweak the performance.

I have used video in the past for:

  • Promos of courses or events
  • Tutorials & How-Tos
  • Invitations and teasers
  • Feedback to supplier (this is easily done in audio files too)
  • Training to colleagues and/or clients (esp. nice to explain the workflow for your business)

 Some of the alternative media I can think:

  • Apps – of course you need to have an app built by a professional developer and it takes times and money to invest but apps – also demo ones, usually free – are becoming increasingly common to promote your visibility.
  • Prezi / Slideshare – short visual presentations can be done with Prezi, a cloud-based software or Slideshare, a platform to upload and share publicly or privately PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and Adobe PDF Portfolios.
  • Podcasts – you can colleague
  • Camtasia / Screenr – Camtasia allows you record videos that you can then edit and save and add effects to. It’s a paid-for software but I have been using for a while and it works wonderfully. Screener is just one of the many options to share a recording of yourself using a computer. In short, you can create a simple tutorial with the tasks you’re executing.
  • Soundcloud – a platform I explained in previous posts, but it’s great to upload and share short audio files – both existing and created by you – and it’s easy to embed too.
  • Ebooks / Medium – certainly the least animated options of the list, yet a good writing solutions to share meaningful content that also looks impeccably chic and professional. Medium is great for that.
  • HangOuts OnAir – the public version of recorded HangOuts is a good way to increase visibility. You simply invite participants and you start recording. It’ll be on air for the public to enjoy and it’s Google so it’s always worth considering.
  • Audiobooks – why not? An audio book would be an interesting option to explore. Imagine you can guide your clients with your voice whenever they want.
  • Telegram or audio notes on your device – especially good to send audio files. I’ve used this recently with a large project for which it was the most immediate and quickest option to communicate in a large group of suppliers. Still, it’s also an idea to share content.

What is the bottom line then?

As they say, pictures of kitties and puppies always engage more that anything else on the Internet. And so does video and alternative media! Jokes aside, it’s proven.

Let me just get camera ready

Let me just get camera ready

“Video is the future of content marketing. That is, if it’s not the here and now.” -Chris Trimble, Axonn Media

As read on Single Grain:

93% of marketers are using video in their campaigns

84% are using video for website marketing

60% are using video for email marketing

82% confirmed that video had a positive impact on their business

So, what are Y O U recording next?

If the Maestro says so...

If the Maestro says so…

Online visibility (ii) – social media aka: you were born a social animal

Social media

Social media

Social media platforms, social networks, social media…

I remember when I first heard about Facebook. A friend was just back from an overseas exchange in Australia and she was telling a very wary Val – still hooked on MSN Messenger and just discovering the joys of an early, slow-functioning, buggy Skype – how everyone worth being called a cool kid had an account like that. I’ve always been a sucker for new stuff, I have to say… So I created a profile. At the time I was living in Italy and honestly,… it was already sensational if you *knew* anyone who *owned* an iPod back then, so the people I could really have and use Facebook with were mostly foreigners who had lived in the US or in an English-speaking country. I admit it did not seriously grow on me until later in time, roughly around 2008, when I moved to the UK to stay. Still the number of Italians using it was scarce, but I had got the hang of it by then and I actively used it to keep in touch with my friends around the world. After that, I think it all spiralled for me: I got Twitter first, then everything else was out there. Mainly out of curiosity and because of my designer boyfriend who helped me be in a tech “full immersion” condition at all times, in just about a year I was all in with social media.

Cake Pops

As we speak, I am a proud owner of several social accounts:

to mention the main ones, along with pretty much anything that has to do with online connection, online exchange of files and boosting productivity as well as with my translation career (market place profiles, for instance). Not all of the above are FOR business; yet, if you really focus, you can find a reason for it and a good use that could bring time-related ROI and help with marketing yourself.

A good profile pic on social media is key

A good profile pic on social media is key

What are some of the advantages of getting on board with social media?

  • SEO —  Google will like you better;
  • Lowering risk of people using your handles or name;
  • A way to monitor yourself and your brand reputation online;
  • Keeping in touch with clients — and a chance to keep up with their sites, feeds and events;
  • Creating a link to someone otherwise inaccessible: interaction can really open doors. Engagement is key to bridging the gap and getting in touch with people you otherwise would not be able to reach;
  • Sending & dealing with complaints — everyone knows that a complaint let loose into the online world of the Internet gets amplified 10,000 times than a regular complain or form you filled. Try it for yourself. It tells so much about reputation and the importance of having these tools as well;
  • Keeping in touch with colleagues (aka: networking). Simples;
  • Being at the ready when someone looks for your services;
  • CPD opportunities — feeds can be daunting but if you have downtime you can read and learn of everything in beautifully crafted, at-hand snippets of information readily available on your devices. Great for those who travel!

OK, it’s coming: the CONS

  • Addiction (!)
  • A über visibility: good or bad. You make a mistake and as they say… it takes years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to destroy it.
  • Exposure: risks of fraud or scam
  • An over-connected life
  • A reduced privacy (or at least the feeling it is so)
  • FOMO and all the so-called modern “diseases” related to hyper connectivity and online stress (i.e.. always remember: not all that glitters is gold…)

Needless to say that these are things that can be avoided if you wish to and very easily. I’ve never experienced any of these issues – OK; maybe I’ve felt jealous flicking through the gorgeous pictures of the Caribbean getaway my friend had spent a week at but still) so I’m sure you can decide for yourself. I don’t see it as a matter of ‘all in or bust’; rather, I am sure you can in fact make use of social media in moderation, in the right measure for your and for the right purposes you aim to.

So, what platforms should freelancers have and why?

Facebook

Thumbs up. And more.

Thumbs up. And more.

We mentioned LinkedIn last week (link) and briefly touched on Facebook. But Facebook is indeed growing as the main platform for businesses. As you may remember, I’ve got a personal and business page — and this format has proved viable for me so far. My personal profile has a “follow” feature, which allows those I‘m not friend with IRL or simply people who want to know more about me to follow my public activity. It’s ultimately the profile user who decides what to publish and to whom making it visible by whom so that it’s safe / appropriate. RL business page is reflecting the look and feel of the brand even though it uses a slightly fresher approach that is suitable to an online platform ie. banners, specific FB cover and so on. Customisation is king yet it still has to be in line with the original flavour of the brand. Apps and widgets can be added to the FB Page: Twitter feed, Polls, Photos, Notes, Pinterest feed just to mention a few. The new ‘Call-to-Action’ button is also very interesting: you can set it up to carry out several actions for you like Book, Buy, Sign up… Mine is currently on Buy because it directs visitors directly to my BigCartel shop where you can purchase my #rainycups and other merchandising. The best thing to do is try and keep the content you share interesting and varied. That’s why I tend to alternate frequency and nature of posts with a variety of photos, quotes, links, other people’s links/events, original content, information about the industry and similar work-related content and a bit of a personal touch (in the languages I speak/work with). It’s proven that a healthy mix of these components brings more engagement and keeps the audience on their toes. Remember: visuals are essential for even a great message to go down well.

Twitter

When "followers" took a whole new meaning

When “followers” took a whole new meaning

Twitter is a great source of on-point, concise information. I find this very useful especially when on the go because I can read short messages and be on top of news very quickly. Also, the bookmarking tools and the readers you can connect and link to Twitter are a godsend for this who plan their social media output on a weekly basis. Buffer, Feedly and Listly are just a few examples along with Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

Instagram

Good photos are not cakeyI’m a believer in great images and photography. My Instagram — partially personal despite being a public profile — mixes photos of what I do and what I like – I recently got a job via Instagram! One of my followers gave my name to someone who needed translation and that was it: a real job, that paid really well too. In short: for branding purposes, IG has become the fastest growing tool that big brands — and especially bloggers — are using to present themselves to the world and reinforce their identity. And with the upcoming carrousel function and paid ads, well… there’s going to be so much more to it for us in the near future.

FourSquare

The F word

The F word

FourSquare is based on geotagging and GPS position. It helped me find restaurants in Bratislava and find my way around the city; also, I remember that day it made me notice that a colleague was nearby, so we ended up having a cuppa together.

Skype, Telegram and Whatsapp

Ticking boxes

Ticking boxes

They may be “just” messaging tools but hey, we need to communicate, don’t we? I worked with a colleague on a project that had lots of back and forth comments to discuss. Doing it using voice messaging on WA was the way to go, making the flow quick and personal. And I’ve got a few clients who will contact me via the Skype chat to allocate jobs – I can accept them via my phone and it saves time and stress.

Periscope

Live broadcasting made easy

Live broadcasting made easy

The newest and still controversial new live streaming service that I’m curious about. It’s like shooting a video on a webcam that goes live online and people connect to it to comment – in a chat mode, and it was used by Nicolas Sarkozy to run a press conference and show it to the world — or rather, those connected in live streaming to the app, which you log onto via Twitter. Of course you can think of privacy, relevance and then breach of security issues with this one but I see its endless potential for uses such as promotion of services, sneak peeks, launches of products and so on. Shame you cannot record the output of your live stream but that is what makes it all the more exciting. At the same time, I’d like to start using Snapchat – another notoriously ephemeral service – to target different audiences and see how it goes. Exciting!

SoundCloud

It may be all about music, but the fact that it allows for the upload of your own files makes it very useful for anyone who produces content. It can be used for short podcasts or audio files, or like I do, for voiceover sample demos. And it can be embedded into AboutMe for instance or used as a normal link anywhere you want.

Blogging

We all know that those who work with words should be first and foremost lovers of the written word, maybe avid readers and preferably great writers. Having a blog is not for anyone, as it means dedication, self- discipline and ultimately having something to say. Yet, it’s a good way – if not one of the most direct – to get the message out to existing clients and prospects alike. I’m restructuring the existing set of online writing tools I have (news coming up soon in the coming months) but at the time of posting this, I’ve got a branding blog and a translation blog. My idea is to be writing more and more for clients — possibly via newsletters tools like Mailchimp — so that I can give added value to them and build their trust in me as a good communicator too. One writing tool I like to mention and relates to this is Notegraphy, an app that helps you create personalised notes to share and use as posters. Great for quotes.

Spoilt for choice. Yet, thing before you act.

Spoilt for choice. Yet, think before you act.

Of course, this is merely an overview of why social media are crucial for me, why they make my life easier and help me with marketing; why you should consider them; and how the main ones work.

Are you using them?

Which ones are the most relevant for you?

Would you want to know more any of the ones I mentioned above?

Online visibility (i) – Websites et al. aka: you want to be found, really

Online Visibility is key

Online Visibility is key. And you know it.

This month I’ve decided to start with a new format to this blog, because the topics are many. I am a big supporter of quality over quantity, while I also believe in posts of more than 200 words: they should be long enough to be covering more than just the basic content yet short enough to not bore readers to death (at least, that’s what happens after I read for more than 800-ish words online… you know, I’m a millennial after all.) Hence, my decision to give my #rainybrandingtuesday a monthly theme: 4 tuesdays in a month, 4 posts, 1 topic. This April it’s the turn of online visibility, a topic that all freelancers should really keep close to their hearts. The options are many but I am going to cover 4 points (of course!)

  • Website / online CV profiles
  • Social media platforms
  • Video and alternative media
  • Brochures + graphics

Website or online profiles

Make your website work for you and put your feet up.

 

I hate to say this, but this is a lot like dating: IRL you just go out and meet people, you like some better than others and create some sort of connection. Still, you ask for their name, you try to understand what they like and what they have in common with you. I’m sure you put your best suit on, get a good shower and the ladies possibly get their hair done or put makeup on. Online, well, you do the same: a website is like the way you promote yourself in the eyes of others, and you want them to pick you. Just like (online) dating. If you are online, people will know you exist as a provider of services. And only by showing up in their searches, you can compete on the market and captivate your prospects’ attention. When I say website, what I mean really is some sort of profile: a page where those who are looking for your services can look you up and see whether you’re the right match for their needs. The options are several, and even though I ALWAYS recommend a professional look and the work of a real web designer, the alternative to a good, serious webpage done by a pro can be one of these, in no order:

  • About me.com: this option is simple and practical. You create a profile on this platform and you can insert a fair share of details, from links to photos and even quite a bit of content. It looks like a single page and it can drive quite a traffic if you’re lucky enough to get featured by the site. I was a few times and I got 10,000 visits over a week. Not everything would turn into business, buy hey, who knows. My AboutMe page can help you get the gist of it.
  • LinkedIn: this is like the searchable, indexed CV of the 21st century. Focus especially on a good bio and stay clear of vague descriptions. You may think they’re keywords – and they are – but they’re not working for you the way you need them or want to ie. they’re way too general. Writing “freelance interpreter, 10 years of experience” is not going to drive traffic to your profile so be specific, insert your language and something that really can the eye of the reader (who will end up on your profile driven exactly by that: specific keywords). Remember: a full profile, with a nice, professional headshot (here comes the old adagio: no cut-outs, no bikini or mojito photos, no pets or avatars unless it’s your logo) can really take you a long way, especially if you’re working with the public. First impressions still sadly counts.
  • Branded.me: this is strictly linked to LinkedIn (as it draws information from there, basically) so the clearer and the most complete your LinkedIn profile is, the better this one-page website-like platform will look. A similar offer comes from http://vizualize.me which is based on visuals and graphics.
  • Facebook business page: FB is rapidly becoming a very good source of traffic and to be honest, it is just that every day place where jumping from “it’s for the family” to “I follow my celebrity crush” to “I need a service, let me look it up there” has proved to be very easy. While it has become something we all are familiar with, with the new call-to-action buttons and the paid advertising, it’s worth considering – and again, if only to leverage its SEO potential. I have a personal and a Rainy London Translations’ business page.
  • WordPress: this is like the foundation of a real website. Among the many other options, most designers I know are familiar and choose this one to implement their custom-made design and back-end (ie. your website). As one of the most widely known Content Management System (CMS) WordPress is easy to set up and you can start using it as a blog or a website even if you do not own the domain. WP entitles you to a wordpress.com domain (if the url you choose is available, that is) and if you really like it, you can purchase it and turn it into a hosted domain (roughly $99 a year). This website and blog is hosted on WP. It is such a commonly used site that you can find an endless number of online tutorials on how to set it up and make the most of it.
  • Market place websites profiles (like Proz.com or similar for your industry): just like any other profile, they all have sections to fill in with your details and info. The more complete, the better.
  • Yelp, Google Places or similar services directories: they’re the ancient history of indexing but what you want is for your name to show up – and to avoid that some other business or someone completely unrelated or with a very similar use it in your stead or shows up in your prospects’ searches for no reason.

All these have in common that the more visibile you are on these platforms, the better indexed you’ll be SEO-wise – if Google likes your content it will rank your pages or profile higher and you’ll be easier to find (this is a very brief, for-dummies explanation so it’s all about the content and the use of the right words your client will be typing when they look for services).

Be the unicorn of your market.

Be the unicorn of your market.

So, here my takeaways:

  • If you can, invest in some good stuff: it always pays off. Maybe not in the very beginning, but consider it for the long-run. A good website? My colleague Marta’s is a good example (design by pro designer Fabio Benedetti who also works with me to offer logos and branding).
  • If you take the time to create a profile, do it right. Half-way, sloppy never impressed anyone in a good way. Have a look at my LinkedIn.
  • If you are not sure, ask. There are options out there for all budgets!
  • Good is the way: get a good logo and a few good photos, write nice, concise, clear content and you’re half way down.

Next week: we’ll talk social platforms and why they can make a difference for your business.

Making a difference for society’s sake aka: translation R O C K S

For today’s #rainybrandingtuesday I wanted to share something different, some food for thought rather than giving you a practical entry as I normally do. I recently read an interesting piece by Richard van der Laken, a designer working with studio De designpolitie and initiator of the event What Design Can Do. The main theme revolves around the importance of design as something we all perceive, see, enjoy and above all… create and live. So why cannot design help make a better world? Make lives easier? Saver energy, perhaps? Or streamline the way we approach recycling and possibly even save livesThis links back to a concept that I want to be very much the foundation of my business approach: after all, design does things to solve a problem. And so is translation, if we look at our own backyard. The concept of being a problem-solver is crucial to promote ourselves as freelancers: clients nowadays are bombarded by options – they are spoilt for choice, with the never-ending offers that come for just about everything that is sellable via the media, via newsletters or print…, and even Whatsapp (just a few days ago an unknown number messages me and tried to sell me designer bag at outlet prices. Yeah, sure).

All in all, this means that – once again, I must repeat myself – we ought to stand out from this avalanche of people offering the same in a sea of competitors. You may know the Blue Ocean Strategy (a book by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne) where instead of competing with others, we create our own oasis of peace and calm and nurture a pool of uniquely specific clients who want US and US only. In the same way, being a problem-solver for your clients is exactly that: making a difference. Be it the world, be it your community, that IMHO is one of the best ways to show you care and why clients should choose you all over again and again.

Love is the key

Love is the key

How do we apply this to freelancing?

In the same way design is not only aesthetics, translation and interpreting play a key role in society. How? You know all of this already but why don’t we refresh it? Here some of my favourites:
Rockin'

Rock n’ ruling

  • Translating books / literature: we translate work that can shape the culture of children, people and countries alike. And help bring down barriers of censorship and taboos, where possible, too. And we all know how literacy can change the world.
  • Pro bono / humanitarian help: our translation can help save lives – I recently worked on a brochure on how to spot the symptoms of Ebola and what to do on a plane. The accuracy of this work makes all the difference in real life or death cases.
  • App localization: if you’re familiar with my talk on apps and productivity, you may know that the apps on the market now are in the region of zillions. Have you ever thought how important for society and economy to make sure people can read and use all of this in their own native language?
  • Community and education: I recently talked to 150 school girls in London on the importance of not giving up languages after school. This very lively bunch of ladies not only is part of the future of society but now I hope they’re aware of how nurturing their knowledge of a foreign language can widen their horizon and maximise their job skills when they access the job market.
  • Kindness and inclusion: not only having an interpreter to assist speakers of another language is necessary but it is also an act of respect and inclusion that can promote kindness and debunk the fear of the other. And it’s a great feeling to be the interpreter who can convey a message. As little as it may sound, it’s crucial to somebody.
  • Every day life documents: you know that, all the gadgets and white appliances we use? Most manuals are a translation and we all use them.

And this, my friends, is also an extremely good point to raise awareness and show your clients why our job is so important.These are of course just a few of the many examples of how translation and interpreting make a difference in the world. And that does not only mean humanitarian causes.

What do you do to contribute?

What examples of successful game-changing activities can you think of?

Read on:

  1. Blue Ocean 
  2. Innovation
  3. What Design Can Do event 
  4. Making a difference
  5. Save lives in Africa

Brief me, please aka: clarity as the key to happy clients & happier freelancers

Information: we hear a lot about it. In all its forms and shapes. But what do we make of it? How accurate does it have to be for us to make the most of it? When I go to conferences as an interpreter for large corporations, or when I talk to prospects who are unhappy with the way their translations are handled or when I liaise with people in general, the common denominator for most of them is that they seem to complain about the lack of good communication in all the aspects of life. Most specifically:

  • unclear requests or sentences
  • poor grammar choices
  • bad customer service
  • wrong deliverables
  • mischievous ads or products
  • inaccuracy or wrong interpretation of needs
  • lack of detail or poor explanations
  • generalised rudeness – and I could go on. Sounds familiar?

As freelancers, how can we make sure we obtain / deliver the right information and products fit for purpose, day in, day out?

What I’ve learned over the years is that – unlike most people think – design is a highly structured and organised process. My designer is aiming to deliver the right product to the right client in just one go and experience tells me he manages to do so 99% of the times. How? He has perfected the art – pun intended! – of the Creative Brief. It’s no big news, really: a creative brief is a document – normally a questionnaire – that the client should fill in for a designer to identify what he needs to produce for them.

So, why do we need a tool such as a brief as freelancers?

Briefing: nothing to do with men's underwear.

Briefing: nothing to do with men’s underwear.

Whatever you want to call it (it’s sort of a Purchase Order, really) or whatever you want it to include for you (I like as a bullet point list), it is a useful tool that
  • creates a framework of work, prone to no errors
  • prevents “derailment” of the projects with added requests
  • it gives reliability and structure to the process
  • makes you feel confident about timelines (and hurry to stay on track)

What to include, then?

Who said it must be boring?

Who said it must be boring?

Basics: name, start date, client contacts, delivery estimate, fee + expenses
Timeline: clarify delivery and payment deadline too (unless, as I like doing it, you ask for advances or full payment upfront). Still, that should be clear in the doc anyway. You can include “milestones” like possible checks with the client mid-way, tweaks or approval of samples/feedback.
Deliverables: clarify what you are going to give your client, black on white. That and that only. Include the formats too:
E.g.:
1 word file
2 powerpoints
1 tracked changed excel file
and so on.
Purpose: it may seem obvious but you, as a translator, need to know why the client wants to embark on this project and why.
  • What are the sensations to trigger?
  • What is the audience supposed to feel when reading this copy or using this interpreting service?
  • Is this for publishing?
  • What’s the demographics?
  • Is this adult or children’s material?
  • What the ultimate audience?
Tone, voice, manner: esp. when doing copywriting, it is essential to use the right tone (I talked about it in the latest two posts on emotional writing too) so ask who is the material addressed to. You can provide a list of adjectives for your clients with boxes to tick accordingly. This is a good way to fine-tune your work to the client’s expectations.
Special notes / requests: multiple copies, hand delivery, travelling arrangements… it can be anything you wish to add.
Legal: the small print is also crucial. Scripta manent. I’d include:
-Terms and conditions
-Payment terms / late payment section (including payment method/bank account)
-Refund section (if any)
You may wish to insert a feedback section or something for the client to include queries and doubts before and during delivery.
What to do in case of delays?
Bear in mind that in design just like in translation, sometimes things change during the project. Factor these delays into your brief and be clear with your client explaining what to do and what could happen eg. in case the client wishes to introduce changes, explain that they can slow down the initial quoted times and change turnaround dates, or that adding / removing a language last minute or extra texts can also change the conditions, etc.)
Now, go get it signed and emailed back. And start working!
Take your time  (via grupographic.com)

Take your time
(via grupographic.com)

To sum up:

  • be clear
  • include all the best/worst case scenarios
  • make sure the content of the brief is all confirmed and understood, signed and approved
  • always keep the client informed of what you’re doing during the process
  • promptly reply to emails
  • show flexibility but at your conditions
  • try and offer a free reward when you can (that extra revision or a followup sample to please the client)
  • clarify payment both via email and on paper
  • for interpreting, check dress code and research the client so you can adjust the brief / PO accordingly too
Upload, ask, contact me. Simples!

Tasks should be clear and direct.

Any more pointers or tips to include in the brief?

What would you do with 60 seconds of the world silence aka: the power of the perceived value

I’ve recently explained to a group of webinar attendees the importance of brand and entrepreneurial mind. I’ve told them how your focus and drive should ooze towards others; how being confident can be, yes, scary, but how it also defines and shapes the way other perceive you as a reliable and gutsy person / product / speaker etc.

Seeing somes before words

Seeing comes before words

In the same fashion, the way you project yourself outwards ultimately represents your business in the eyes of others it’s all about the perceived value that David Airey mentioned in his book.

What would you do with 60 seconds of the world’s silence?”

Ije Nwokorie challenges readers in an article for Computer Arts. “Would you charm them with your crafted elevator pitch? Would you show off what you’ve got?” he goes on. And I add: would you tell them who you are? Would you propose the meditated version of yourself that screams ‘Pick me’? Or would you give them a taste of your goods (“like a legalised drug dealer”, as Ije says in the piece)? I think the bottom line here is giving people something that matters to them – and that is how this links back to last week’s emotional writing postthe need for people to be told a story, the need to feel personal, close, surprised, rewarded. So how would you invest your 60 seconds?

What would you do to make your audience see how you can make the difference?

My 60 seconds? Take 1: the pitch

I quite like a short ’n’ sweet elevator’s pitch. While it can be crafted (and should be carefully rehearsed) it should never be stuffy. My aim is for people to remember why I’m THE person they may need.
  • short;
  • with little details;
  • no numbers;
  • 1 sentence, possibly with a question;
  • possibly with room for a question to be asked by your interlocutor;
  • with that “wanting for more” feeling (curiosity, originality…)
  • straight to the point, closured by a business card if the situation allows for it.
Branding should be smashing too

Branding should be smashing too

My 60 seconds? Take 2: the pros of working with me
Showing the result of my work: this can be tricky for interpreters but can be done by giving examples of output and solutions offered to people just like your prospect client. I can help your business expand in a new market – yes, but in THIS and THIS (specific for you) way. Inclusion and examples, again… storytelling, isn’t it?
Advantages of choosing me

Advantages of choosing me

My 60 seconds? Take 3: the “try me” 
In the shape of a sample job or simply an hour spent at the client’s office or discussing needs – if you do your homework, you can anticipate the expectations and the possible needs of a prospect client and make sure you act as a problem-solver for them, offering a “consultancy” for free.

What do you think? How would you use your 60 seconds to impress the world?

Won't you trust me? :)

Wouldn’t you trust me? 🙂

Some of the readings I suggest for this topic (or related anyways):