Websites – DIY or Hire a Web Designer?

Websites: DIY or Hire a pro??

 “It’s never about your resources, it’s about your resourcefulness.” Tony Robbins

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So many options are available for anyone to have a website spotlighting their portfolio. Although I am not a website expert, I have taken a four 10 – 15 week internet business courses, and I have worked with four different website designers over the past five years. Some of them for my artist and podcast websites and some for other companies. I thought it might be helpful to share what I have learned so that it might give you options for a path you want to take in building a new website for your artistic blacksmithing portfolio.

You have 3 choices about getting a new website:

DIY – Do it yourself

Use a “done for you” website template and hosting plan

Hire a web designer

DIY Option

Today there are so many resources available to build your own website easily and without the need of a huge amount of “techy” knowledge.

Things to consider:

  • What’s the best web design for your business model?
  • What’s the learning curve of building and updating your site on your own?
  • Pricing, hosting, email collecting, design?
  • Make sure the website is mobile responsive and look right on a mobile phone and tablet
  • Branding, business name, color schemes and logos
    • Branding and Logo Online Tools and Resources:
      • Canva – This is a free online tool that allows you to make you own graphics that can be used in documents, Facebook, and on your website. Once you sign up for free, Canva will send you design “how to” tips, very useful! https://www.canva.com/
      • Swiftly – This online company pools graphic designers from all over the world and best fits them to your task for only $19 per task.         Swiftly makes it super simple to get any small design task done quickly. From logo improvements, to business card updates, or even photo retouching. https://swiftly.com/
      • 99 Designs – A graphic design online marketplace, you submit a description of a design you are looking for (such as for a website) and then you will receive dozens of different design ideas and then you pick which one you like the best in 7 days. http://99designs.com/

YouTube is a great resource for free instructional videos on creating websites. I really like this YouTube Video – “How To Create a Website/Step By Step Tutorial” by Tutorial Nation. This 15 minute video guides you through choosing a platform, setting up a domain and hosting account, and installing the platform, they use Word Press for the platform. Link to video, https://youtu.be/cp2GzSFvBDQ .

I highly recommend using Word Press to build your website, it’s very easy to use. To see more information, such as features, a getting started guide, Word Press lessons go here, http://codex.wordpress.org/. Another Word Press resource I like to use is a business called WP Curve (http://wpcurve.com/ ). They offer world class developers to help with maintenance, support and any small jobs you need done for a low cost. This is an option if you don’t already have a “go-to” person to change or update your website when needed.

Here is a list of “must haves” that every website needs:

Home page

    • Explains why your site exists, why it benefits your audience, offer free value to build trust and genuinely help your audience.
    • Immediately let your visitors know why they have come to the right place.
    • Have a “Sign up for free updates” box that captures emails above the fold (meaning it is on the computer screen without having to scroll down) – growing your email list is the most important thing you can do to build an audience and gain their trust to eventually buy from you.       Your email list is MORE IMPORTANT than your Facebook page, Twitter followers or anything else, it is your most valuable asset.
    • Keep it simple and “sticky”, don’t add too many links that lead your audience away from your website to another website.

About page – (one of the most visited pages on your website besides the home page)

    • First it should be to educate your audience, not to sell them.       Tell the story of how you became who you are and how you developed what you are offering and why you are doing it. Help them relate to you.
    • This page is where you have them or you lose them. If you start talking about your company first, you might probably lose them. But if you talk about why they should care, why should they read, what problem are you going to solve, or how you’re going to make their lives better, are more likely they stay and keep going.
    • Provide testimonials, social proof.
    • Have a “Sign up for free updates” box that captures emails in the sidebar.
    • A photo of yourself to keep it real and personable.

Shop or product page – If you are selling on your website you will need a gallery or product page – aka your “shop”

    • Product descriptions.
    • What’s in it for the customer?
    • Details about the product – size, dimensions, weight, color, how many pages.
    • Pricing.
    • Guarantee, shipping and refund policy (this can all be on a customer FAQ page).
    • Pictures
    • Add a PayPal button in addition to accepting credit cards.

Contact page

  • Your first and last name.
  • An Address, this can be your home address or a PO Box.
  • Your phone number or 800 number (your visitors are more likely to instantly like and trust you when seeing this)
  • Your email or a contact form where your visitor can email you, there are free WordPress plugins for contact forms.
  • How soon your visitor can expect a response from you, maybe add your working hours.

Social Media buttons

  • If you are using WordPress there are several free plugins that are easy to install and connect each button to your Facebook page, Google+ page and twitter account.

Privacy Policy – a statement that indicates how you are gathering and using a customer’s data.

  • You can Google standard privacy policy samples for templates or you could even write your own.

Hiring A Web Designer

There is a difference between a website designer and a website developer. A designer has strong skills in graphic design, branding, color schemes, and layout. A developer has strong skills with SEO, writing code, and making the site functional. Some people can do both.

Things to consider before hiring a web designer:

  • What can the pro do for your website?
    • Can they make a website from scratch?
    • Will they “a la carte” parts of building a website?
    • Can they make graphic designs into vector formats?
    • Are they familiar with ecommerce and online shopping carts?
    • Do they know about the importance of building an email list and how to integrate that?
    • Do they understand what needs to be “above the fold” on your home page?
  • Ask them to share their 3 latest projects or websites.
    • Contact the owners of the websites to ask them if they would recommend there designer?
  • What is their availability like, how quickly can they get back with you?
  • What are their hours/days that they work?
  • What are their specialties?
    • Shopping cart integrations
    • SEO Tactics– visibility on the internet
    • Artist portfolios and galleries

Before signing a contract make sure you know what happens if you are not happy with the work they provided. Also discuss clear timelines and payment options.

To wrap up, there are many options to choose from to start a website. Just be clear with what you want on your website before you begin. I like to draw out the framework on a piece of paper first, I’m a visual person and that always helps me “see” it in a clear perspective.

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A Blazing BlacksmitHER – Joy Brenneman

 

Blazing BlacksmitHERs are ladies that are forging their own path in blacksmithing and sharing their story.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” Mary Angelou

Name

Joy (aka Joy Fire) Brenneman

Where in the world are you?

Irvine, California

How did you start blacksmithing? Did you take classes?

I went to college in Santa Barbara CA and was majoring in studio art. I got into some jewelry making and casting toward the end of my time there. In my last semester a friend told me about this place in town where a couple of brothers had started a custom metalworking business called Santa Barbara Forge and Iron (http://sbforge.com/ – check out their website, these guys are rad!) I went to check it out and immediately fell in love with everything about it. At the time it was only the 2 brothers and one other guy working there. I talked to them and pretty much begged them to just let me hang around and sweep the floor or do whatever it took just to be there. They kindly obliged, and eventually started teaching me. One of the brothers specialized in the forging aspect of the business and started to teach me more and more. So I worked there as an apprentice (for free) until they had taught me enough to be a valuable part of the team and started paying me! I’ve never taken any classes and learned everything either on the job or at the shop working on personal projects in my own time (which my boss was generous enough to let me do). I ended up working there for 3 years after college, and really enjoyed everything I learned. In 2014 my partner was accepted to a PhD program at the University of CA, Irvine. So I bid a very fond farewell to the guys and moved with my partner to Irvine in September. After some searching I eventually was hired at a shop in Long Beach. The owner has been a fabricator all his life, but specializes in a very different kind of metalwork. There was no forge there, and most of what he did was TIG welding stainless steel, at which I had almost no experience. So since starting there I have learned a lot of new skills, like TIG welding, running a mill and a lathe, also how to use Computer Aided Design programs. My boss also let me bring in and set up my own forge and anvil! However, my role there has changed a lot since I started. My boss is actually in the middle of starting a new business and doesn’t need as much fabricating as much as someone to help him run the company. I like working with him and he likes having me, tells me he sees a lot of potential in me. I am learning a lot of things that I hope will help me run my own business one day, but it has been hard. I love making things, I’m not so passionate about ordering supplies and making spreadsheets, attending meetings and calling people.  So right now I am focusing on improving my business skills and learning as much as possible about running a small business. One day I WILL have my own shop and my own tools and will forge as much as I want!  So for right now I’m still learning and growing as much as I can, keeping the dream very much alive!

Are you a beginner, hobby or professional blacksmith?

Professional blacksmith

What is your favorite blacksmithing technique? Even if you are beginner, what do you enjoy doing the most?

Forging large pieces under the power hammer. I really enjoy making furniture and coming up with interesting joinery.

Do you have a favorite tool? What is it?

Either my 3lb Hofi hammer or a power hammer, which I do not have (yet!) I also really enjoy running the mill. I know that’s not technically blacksmithing, but I want to incorporate machined aspects in my forging designs.

What is the worst thing about blacksmithing?

Not being able to do it!!!

Are you a member of a blacksmithing association? If so, which one? What does it do for you?

I am a member of the California Blacksmith association. It provides me with connections with other smiths, a forum to ask questions, and helps me to feel like part of a larger community.

Do you have a website? If so, enter it here

http://joyfireblacksmith.tumblr.com

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

One of my most important philosophies regarding blacksmithing is to bring it into the modern age as much as possible. It is important of course to preserve the old skills, but that’s not where my passion lies. I think the future of forging is to come up with new ideas and to incorporate new technology as much as possible. That, to me, is the real future of blacksmithing, it’s something I want to work toward and encourage as much as possible. I have such an incredible love and passion for metalworking, and I am going to do great things one day!!!

Joy's Tables

 

A Blazing BlacksmitHER – Susan Szczepanski

Blazing BlacksmitHERs are ladies that are forging their own path in blacksmithing and sharing their story.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams

Name

Susan Szczepanski

Where in the world are you?

Alabama, US

How did you start blacksmithing? Did you take classes?

A local college offered a one-day Intro class taught by two Master Smiths.  I’ve been swinging a hammer for years doing DIY stuff and have always loved metal so I thought it’d be a great way to spend a Saturday – turned out it was a great way to spend thousands of dollars!  I was hopelessly hooked from the first pigtail we were taught to curl that day. Then came tracking down an anvil (rare as hens teeth around here!), finding a forge, finding steel suppliers, etc, etc, etc.  I tell people I really don’t want to know how much this “hobby” has cost me, but in the end it really doesn’t matter.  I’d spend every penny of it again, it has brought that much joy into my life. Are you a beginner, hobby or professional blacksmith?

Are you a beginner, hobby or professional blacksmith?

I’d say I’m both a beginner and a hobbyist.

What is your favorite blacksmithing technique? Even if you are beginner, what do you enjoy doing the most?

One of the things I make that is the most popular with people are split crosses, which I make in both necklace size and “desk” size (those from railroad spikes).  I’m branching out into larger crosses made from a variety of materials and techniques, many mounted on wood.

Do you have a favorite tool? What is it?

My Peddinghaus hammer!  Before I bought it I was using an old hammer that I felt was a bit too heavy for me, at 3.5 pounds.  I switched to a 2.5 from Peddinghaus and was so surprised to find it fit like the proverbial glove.  It was a lesson to me in finding tools that fit me instead of me trying to fit to the tools.

What is the worst thing about blacksmithing?

Well, the burns of course!  🙂   And the fact that, at least in this area, it’s really not likely that you’ll ever be able to quit your day job and pursue blacksmithing full time.  There just aren’t opportunities for that here.  It physically and mentally HURTS me to turn off the forge on the weekend and get ready to go back to my “real” job.     Big sigh……

Are you a member of a blacksmithing association? If so, which one? What does it do for you?

I belong to the Athens Forge Council (Athens, AL) and to ABANA.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I have been astonished and touched by the generosity of time and attention other smiths give to complete novices like me.  All the smiths I’ve met are so willing to stop whatever they’re doing and help you solve a forging problem, answer a thousand pesky newbie questions or demo a technique.  The smiths I’ve encountered have been so generous to me, and I’m also touched by their seemingly oblivious lack of attention to the fact that I’m a woman!  It matters not, not one tiny bit, which is remarkably refreshing!

This is a cake set Susan made for a Christmas present
This is a cake set Susan made for a Christmas present

A Blazing BlacksmitHER – Hulmis Tapola

Blazing BlacksmitHERs are ladies that are forging their own path in blacksmithing and sharing their story.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams

Name

Hulmis Tapola

Where in the world are you?

Finland

How did you start blacksmithing? Did you take classes?

I started when I was 16 and studying horse grooming. I got in a farriery course and an opportunity opened up to try forging. It was love at first sight! I did 2 years of farriery studies and now I have done 3 years in Ikata College of Crafts and Designs. I am about to graduate as a metal artisan in few months. I have been an apprentice for 3 metal artists, master bladesmith Hankala, master blacksmith at Häijään Paja and at Jurkka Design.

Are you a beginner, hobby or professional blacksmith?

Beginner blacksmith

What is your favorite blacksmithing technique? Even if you are beginner, what do you enjoy doing the most?

My favorite part is when I manage to do something through for the first time. It is better when it has taken a few try outs before getting the first grip of a new skill. I also love the part when an awesome idea rushes through me and I run with pen and paper to light up the forge.

Specific favorite technique would be forge welding, every time I do it and sparkles fly, burning tiny holes to my clothes, I feel like there is strength in me to do what it takes to learn.

Do you have a favorite tool? What is it?

Oh, this is difficult one! There are so many I like, definitely those that are in good shape and do their job…. I’m going to say welding pliers, those that have lock-mechanism on them. Or maybe the anvil!

What is the worst thing about blacksmithing?

Getting something in my eyes! I have learned to wash eyeballs, that is handy, but seriously, those are moments I dislike so much. And burning hands, too, when it stops me for a while from what I do.

I get often offensive comments, but the more I learn about blacksmithing, the more I see we are all just here to learn and those who want to lash out would do it anyways. I can’t be anything more from their point of view than a trigger. On the flip-side of that, I’ve met some awesome creative personas, too!

Are you a member of a blacksmithing association? If so, which one? What does it do for you?

Not at the moment

Do you have a website? If so, enter it here

https://www.facebook.com/hotandcoldupnorth

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Love and hugs to all of you who are on this journey of on-going learning!

Hulmis's Knives Hulmis at the forge (640x480)

Working with an Artist Blacksmith

I recently interviewed Mark Aspery and we talked about how he works with clients and what his process is regarding estimating, design fees and working with clients.  He shared a short article he wrote about his process and this is it.  Thank you Mark!  Please visit Mark’s website to view and purchase any of the 3 books he wrote, http://www.markaspery.com/School_of_Blacksmithing/Home.html

Working with an Artist-Blacksmith by Mark Aspery

As a professional smith I have at some time got to talk ‘money’ with my clients. I consider myself an OK blacksmith, but I am a poor business owner and hate talking money. Initially there never seems to be the right moment to discuss the costs of a commission with a client(s).

For me commission generally goes something like this;

”Yes, I do make railing, the minimum that you will be charged per foot is $XXX, are you still interested?”

“Would you like to make an appointment to meet?”

What follows next is an interview process with the client to find out what they want and to explain what

I can and cannot deliver. I do not show the client any coffee table books on blacksmithing at any time during the meeting. I do not have a portfolio in the normal sense of the word. I have a file that contains close up photographs of various items of blacksmithing –such as all things organic, joinery, repousse.

With this file I can explain to the client, in a pictorial form, some of the blacksmithing terminology that I may use during the meeting. “Here is an example of a…”

I leave that first meeting with a series of very rough sketches and a few notes and or photographs. I leave them with a copy of my ‘Working with an artist blacksmith’ which sets the ground rules for our future working relationship, which hopefully centers around good communication. From that point on I am ‘on the clock’ and charging for my time. I return after a period of time (usually a week or so) with three or so thumbnail sketches of designs that I have made as a result of our first meeting. One of these designs, I hope, will come close to their vision of the piece they are trying to commission. I go back home and further refine the design and make some test pieces as samples. The test pieces help me

1.) develop my tooling

2.) it enables me to give a cost estimate to the client

3.) allows both of us the ability to look at a 3 D rendition of a 2 D drawing to see if we still like it

I present the client with a bill for my time thus far. At that stage both the drawing and the test pieces are theirs to do with as they see fit. If they want to shop around for a better price, they can. I have yet to have this happen but I have heard stories. A separate bank account to receive the deposit is helpful. Hardly an IRS escrow account, but it works. You can now bill the client for your time and transfer funds from the separate account to your normal business account. You can show the client the statements at your various meetings and request a topping up of the separate account. I work in the black where I can. It’s not my fault that the stock market or the like takes a dive during the commission. Contractor’s laws in the various states will set directions for licensed contractors with regard to deposit money caps and the client.

One thing more. A little while ago I accepted a commission at a time when I was busy doing something else. The result was that I did not give the commission my full attention and the delivery date came past due. I did a little work in an effort to get out of ‘hot-water’ and took pictures of a step-by-step progression of a piece needed within the commission. I constructed a 1 page PDF document of the progression with a cute little saying on the bottom and my contact details on the top (This goes onto everything that I mail out) I sent the document via E-mail to the client and extended my apologies for my tardiness. The unexpected happened, the client forwarded the document to her friends, “Look what my artist-blacksmith is making for me!” The client forgave (well almost) my tardy behavior and I got e-mails from her friends asking about possible commissions.

Conclusion;

I would send update, step-by-step, photos (with contact details on the page) to every client that I work with. This is great advertising.

Generally, a commission can be broken down into four stages:

Design: The design of a commission may be achieved in a number of ways. It may be the work of your architect, a professional designer, original work produced by you, the client, or by the blacksmith. Should you choose to work directly with the blacksmith, expect to pay a design fee. After consultation and a site visit, the blacksmith should provide a drawing of the project and sample pieces to support the artwork. Samples enable the client to visualize the project in three dimensions. They also help the blacksmith estimate the cost of manufacture.

Manufacture: Prior to the start of manufacture the client will usually be asked to place a deposit against the completed work. A 50% deposit is customary on most projects below $X,XXX. On large and complex projects an initial deposit of $X,XXX is required with progress payments agreed upon between the blacksmith and the client. In the event of cancellation by the client, materials and hours worked will be deducted from the deposit and any remainder returned.

Finish: The finish should be agreed upon during the design phase. In some cases the blacksmith may deliver the completed work to a finishing specialist, such as a painter or faux finisher. Some special finishes can be expensive to achieve and difficult to maintain. No finish will last forever. Most finishes will require periodic maintenance and occasional renewal. It is good practice to discuss and understand the durability and appropriateness of the finish being selected.

Installation: The installation of the completed commissioned piece is usually a separate cost item. Certain projects may require the services of specialists. Structural, mechanical and electrical work may be required to support the installation. Clients are well advised to secure the appropriate services. Items such as gate actuators are normally beyond the expertise of the blacksmith. New and remodel construction projects must be coordinated by the general contractor. Large installations may require the services of crane and rigging specialists. Licensing and insurance considerations may also dictate who participates in the installation process.

A Blazing BlacksmitHER – Kelly Potter

Blazing BlacksmitHERs are ladies that are forging their own path in blacksmithing and sharing their story.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams

Name

Kelly Potter

Where in the world are you?

Dallas, Texas

How did you start blacksmithing? Did you take classes?

I was a jeweler and thought that was what I was going to be! I had moved back to Texas from Colorado and took a jewelry class at the local community college just for some studio time and directed projects when there was an announcement that there would be a blacksmithing class starting the next semester. I had just gotten over major illness and was about 40 pounds underweight, so I really didn’t think that anyone like me should be taking the blacksmithing class. I thought, “WHO does that…” But also thought it could help me be a better jeweler.

I really didn’t have a lot going on so I signed up for the semester class. I was absolutely terrible and didn’t know why people would make their own nails when Home Depot was down the street (especially at the rate I was hammering them out). BUT I noticed it made me happy and I loved using my own hands and getting dirty and wearing myself out making things.

I was introduced to another blacksmith through my teacher and I stopped by his shop after the class ended and worked out a trade; I’d teach him mokume gane if he let me kind of hang out and learn some more blacksmithing. Since then I’ve worked in various shops over the last few years and now actually work alongside my original teacher doing architectural blacksmithing.

Are you a beginner, hobby or professional blacksmith?

Professional blacksmith

What is your favorite blacksmithing technique? Even if you are beginner, what do you enjoy doing the most?

Of course, anything involving a power hammer. But I also enjoy making scrolls and anything that can challenge me to come up with a crazy jig or die. I really appreciate a well thought out jig, or series of jigs.

Do you have a favorite tool? What is it?

I have a few constant favorites: a favorite hammer, a favorite anvil at work. Right now I’m really excited about a starrett straight edge I have. I actually made my fiancé make me a special wooden box with a lock on it and felt lining to keep it safe… and a granite surface plate. Perhaps it’s the jeweler still in me, but any tool I can use to push myself towards more accuracy or consistency is what I’m into right now.

What is the worst thing about blacksmithing?

After a while burns are pretty much no big deal and the physical accidents that happen you get used to but the worst is probably just the way everyone looks at you when you try to go anywhere else after leaving the shop and you are dirty and usually have a hole or two in your work clothes.

Are you a member of a blacksmithing association? If so, which one? What does it do for you?

I was a member of North Texas Blacksmithing Association but haven’t kept up with my membership lately.

Kelly Potter's Quiver Kelly Potter's Railing Lantern by Kelly Potter