Improved “Freelance to Agency” podcast

Now with significantly enhanced audio quality, courtesy of‘s Peter Richardson

Here, for your consideration and pleasure, is the new! improved! audio recording of “From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small.” Listen and enjoy.

[tags]design, webdesign, podcast, recording, SXSW, SXSWi, SXSWi09, panels, panel, freelance, agency, smallagency, transition, survival, economy[/tags]

[tags]design, webdesign, podcast, recording, SXSW, SXSWi, SXSWi09, panels, panel, freelance, agency, smallagency, transition, survival, economy[/tags]

“Freelance to Agency” Podcast

PRESENTING the full audio recording of “From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small”, a panel at SXSW Interactive 2009 featuring Roger Black (founder of agencies huge and small), Kristina Halvorson (freelancer turned agency head), and Whitney Hess (agency pro turned freelance), and moderated by yours truly.

The panel was about quitting your job (or coping with a layoff), working as a freelancer, collaborating with others, and what to do if your collaboration starts morphing into an agency. We sought to answer questions like these:

  • What business and personal skills are required to start a freelance business or a small agency? Is freelancing or starting a small agency a good fit for my talents and abilities?
  • Is freelancing or starting a small agency the right work solution for me in a scary and rapidly shrinking economy? Can the downsides of this economy work to my advantage as a freelancer or small agency head?
  • I’ve been downsized/laid off/I’m stuck in a dead-end job working longer hours for less money. Should I look for a new job or take the plunge and go freelance?
  • What can I expect in terms of income and financial security if I switch from a staff job to freelancing? What techniques can I use as a freelancer to protect myself from the inevitable ups and downs?
  • How do I attract clients? How much in-advance work do I need to line up before I can quit my job?
  • How do I manage clients? What client expectations that are normal for in-house or big agency work must I deliver on as a freelancer or the head of a small or virtual agency? Which expectations can I discard? How do I tell my client what to expect?
  • Do I need an office? What are the absolute minimum tools I need to start out as a one-person shop?
  • How big can my freelance business grow before I need to recast it as a small agency?
  • What models are out there for starting an agency besides the conventional Inc. model with all its overhead? Which model would work best for me?
  • Who do I know with whom I could start a small or virtual agency? What should I look for in my partners? What should I beware of?
  • If I’m lucky enough to be growing, how do I protect my creative product and my professional reputation while adding new people and taking on more assignments?
  • How big can my agency grow before it sucks? How I can grow a business that’s dedicated to staying small?

Whitney Hess has written a fine wrap-up of the panel, including a collection of tweets raving about it, some of Mike Rohde’s visual coverage, and links to other people’s posts about the panel.

LISTEN to “From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small”.

[tags]design, webdesign, podcast, recording, SXSW, SXSWi, SXSWi09, panels, panel, freelance, agency, smallagency, transition, survival, economy[/tags]

Extreme Markover

“Markover a site for a non-profit. Showcase your talent and gain industry recognition!” So advise the founders of Extreme Markover, an event that pits the talent and expertise of standards-based web designers against the challenges faced by underfunded nonprofits.

Sponsored by the World Organization of Webmasters in partnership with Web Design World 2008 Boston and Bizland, “the leader in web hosting,” Extreme Markover invites web professionals worldwide to demonstrate their talent and expertise while giving back.

For details, or to submit a prospective markover candidate, visit

[tags]WOW, webdesign, webstandards, markover, competitions[/tags]

Real type on the web?

A proposal for a fonts working group is under discussion at the W3C. The minutes of a small meeting held on Thursday 23 October include a condensed, corrected transcription of a discussion between Sampo Kaasila (Bitstream), Mike Champion (Microsoft), John Daggett (Mozilla), Håkon Wium Lie (Opera), Liam Quin (W3C), Bert Bos (W3C), Alex Mogilevsky (Microsoft), Josh Soref (Nokia), Vladimir Levantovsky (Monotype), Klaas Bals (Inventive Designers), and Richard Ishida (W3C).

The meeting started with a discussion of Microsoft’s EOT (Embedded OpenType) versus raw fonts. Bert Bos, style activity lead and co-creator of CSS, has beautifully summarized the relevant pros and cons discussed.

For those just catching up with the issue of real type on the web, here’s a bone-simple intro:

  1. CSS provides a mechanism for embedding real fonts on your website, and some browsers support it, but its use probably violates your licensing agreement with the type foundry, and may also cause security problems on an end-user’s computer.
  2. Microsoft’s EOT (based on the same standard CSS mechanism) works harder to avoid violating your licensing agreement, and has long worked in Internet Explorer, but is not supported in other browsers, is not foolproof vis-a-vis type foundry licensing rules, and may also cause PC security problems.

The proposed fonts working group hopes to navigate the technical and business problems of providing real fonts on the web, and in its first meeting came up with a potential compromise proposal before lunch.

Like everyone these days, the W3C is feeling a financial pinch, which means, if a real fonts working group is formed, its size and scope will necessarily be somewhat limited. That could be a good thing, since small groups work more efficiently than large groups. But a financial constraint on the number of invited experts could make for tough going where some details are concerned—and with typography, as with web technology, the details are everything.

I advise every web designer who cares about typography and web standards—that’s all of you, right?—to read the minutes of this remarkable first gathering, and to keep watching the skies.

[tags]web typography, typography, standards, webstandards, W3C, fonts, embedded, @fontface, EOT, workinggroup[/tags]

ALA No. 270: progressive enhancement 2; work at home

In Issue No. 270 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Progressive Enhancement with CSS


Organize multiple style sheets to simplify the creation of environmentally appropriate visual experiences. Support older browsers while keeping your CSS hack-free. Use generated content to provide visual enhancements, and seize the power of advanced selectors to create wondrous (or amusing) effects. Part two of a series.

Working From Home: The Readers Respond


We asked. Our gentle readers answered. In A List Apart No. 263 we inquired how you walk the blurry line when you work from home. Here are your secrets—how to balance work and family, maintain energy and focus, get things done, and above all, how to remember the love.

[tags]progressiveenhancement, workathome, webdesign, webdevelopment, alistapart[/tags]

Housing Works launch

We call ourselves web designers, but sometimes we are more than that. Sometimes we get to participate, in however small a way, in something much larger and more important than ourselves.

Started in 1990 by four members of ACT UP, Housing Works helps people who are homeless and have HIV or AIDS. Housing Works not only saves lives, it restores dignity, purpose, and hope to those whom society has cast aside. Happy Cog is honored and humbled to have worked with this amazing organization and to announce the relaunch of the Housing Works website, redesigned by Happy Cog.

Our thanks to Housing Works’s Christopher Sealey and his team—we bow endlessly in your direction, sir. And my thanks and commendation to the amazing people at Happy Cog who did the work:

[tags]Housing Works, AIDS, HIV, homeless, homelessness, advocacy, hope, happycog, work[/tags]

Dear AIGA, where are the web designers?

Dear AIGA:

I am a member in good standing and was honored to be part of the AIGA site redesign.

I received your email about the AIGA Business and Design Conference and am impressed with the speakers at the main show, as well as the 20/20 presenters. You have chosen brilliant talents who have made major contributions; with such speakers, the conference will undoubtedly be an illuminating and brilliant success.

But in reading the mini-biographies of the presenters, I can’t help noticing that for all the brand directors, creative directors, Jungian analysts, and print designers, one rather significant specimen of the profession is missing. Where are the web (or if you insist, the interaction) designers?

I am probably missing someone, but I count two people with web experience, and neither gets more than 60 seconds of stage time.

In my years as a web designer, I’ve worked with dozens and met thousands of gifted, passionate design professionals who would surely love to spend three days soaking up graphic design brilliance at an event like Gain.

But if no one on the stage shares their experience—and if one of the two speakers with web experience thinks the web is a crude medium where second-rate designers create unmemorable and mediocre works—AIGA is unlikely to reach this audience.

I need hardly add that this audience makes up an ever increasing percentage of the design profession, and performs work that is global in impact.

If you exclude us from the conversation, the conversation may end up excluding you.

Comments are now closed, but you can read what other people had to say.

[tags]AIGA, webdesign, GAIN, conference[/tags]

ALA No. 265: better experience

In Issue No. 265 of A List Apart, for people who make websites: The web is a conversation, but not always a productive one. In “Putting Our Hot Heads Together,” Carolyn Wood shares ways to transform discussion forums and comment sections from shooting ranges into arenas of collaboration. Plus: Because of limited awareness around Deafness and accessibility in the web community, it seems plausible to many of us that good captioning will fix it all. It won’t. In “Deafness and the User Experience,” Lisa Herrod explains how to enhance the user experience for all deaf people.

P.S. The Survey for People Who Make Websites closes Tuesday, August 26. Don’t miss your chance to help educate the world about the practice of our profession. Please take the survey and encourage your friends and colleagues who make websites to do likewise.

Comments off.

[tags]alistapart, deafness, user experience, UX, accessibility, collaboration, discussion, comments, community [/tags]

Pick a Panel

The SXSW panel picker launched today. SXSW Interactive is probably the world’s biggest web shebang, and the panel picker is how the festival begins winnowing out which panels, out of the many submitted, will actually be presented to the public.

A few potential panels feature Happy Cog personnel:

From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small

Jeffrey Zeldman

The web has always attracted mavericks and entrepreneurs, and a rocky economy makes the freelance life more desirable (or at least more inevitable) than ever. So what happens when your freelance business starts to grow? How big can you get without getting bad? How can freelancers and small teams compete with traditional agencies? Hip freelancers and cool agency heads will answer questions, compare experiences, and tell their stories.

Not the Same Old Story

Jason Santa Maria

If the web provides so many ways to connect with audiences, why are we all stuck telling the same story with our designs? Hear from a panel of storytelling experts on the importance of narrative and art direction online to break away from static and boring experiences.

Web Triage: Methodical Madness

Shaun Inman (featuring Ethan Marcotte & Dan Mall)

The web is always evolving—but not quite fast enough for dream-big designers and developers. Join our chief residents as they share their methods for developing groundbreaking techniques. They’ll also demonstrate how to identify your own unique strengths and apply them to technical- and design-related problems.

[tags]sxsw, panels, happycog, zeldman[/tags]

The Survey for People Who Make Websites

It’s back, it’s improved, and it’s hungry for your data. It’s A List Apart’s second annual survey for people who make websites.

I took it! And so should you. The Survey for People Who Make Websites.

Last year nearly 33,000 of you took the survey, enabling us to begin figuring out what kinds of job titles, salaries, and work situations are common in our field.

This year’s survey corrects many of last year’s mistakes, with more detailed and numerous questions for freelance contractors and owners of (or partners in) small web businesses. There are also better international categories, and many other improvements recommended by those who took the survey last year.

Please take the survey and encourage your friends and colleagues who make websites to do likewise.

[Comments off. Pings on.]

[tags]survey, web design survey, webdesign, webdevelopment, professional, alistapart[/tags]