A lesson in seizing opportunities when building your business

Paul Boag

On this final episode of the season, we are joined by Mike Kus to discuss pivoting your career and grasping new opportunities as they arise.

Skip to the discussion or this week’s links.

This weeks show is sponsored by FreeAgent and Proposify.

Paul: Hello and welcome to Boagworld the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. We have reached the last episode of the season. Wow.

Marcus: It’s time for a little break Paul.

Paul: Yes I need a little lie down. Hello Marcus, you are joining us again as always.

Marcus: Yes, as ever. I don’t think we’ve ever done a show well not for very long time, without me on it. I do sometimes think whether I could get away with not being on this week, but no.

Paul: But the problem with you not being on the show is that the audio quality takes a massive dive.

Marcus: That’s the only reason?

Paul: That’s all that you add to the show. Anyway, talking of people adding stuff to the show, we are being joined by Mike Kus. How are you Mike?

Mike: I am good, how are you?

Paul: Really good, especially as I reached the end of the season. That’s always a good feeling, having a few weeks off and putting my feet up. So Mike, you’ve lived this rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. You seem to be all over the place these days.

Mike: It doesn’t feel very rock ‘n’ roll but I am glad it looks that way.

Paul: Every time I look at you, you seem to be in a different country.

Mike: I have been recently but I don’t think in 2015 I went away anywhere. I travelled a lot in 2013 and 2014, 2015 I had off and I doing a few more things this year.

Paul: So whether you going this year?

Mike: Well, I’ve just returned from the Caribbean yesterday.

Paul: Oh it’s a hard life.

Marcus: Very nice.

Mike: I’ve been doing a few projects with Thompson. In recent years have taken a break from speaking but I decided to get back into it this year so I booked up a few speaking slots this year, so I’m speaking at Awwwards in New York in June, Generate in London in September and Beyond Tellerand in November. So it would be good to get back into doing but speaking as well.

Paul: Was it India that you went to? Somewhere with Land Rover as well?

Mike: Yes done a few projects for Land Rover, photography wise. I went to India and we travelled in a convoy. Basically we had a hybrid Land Rover each, driving across a section of India. Their team did all way from Solihull to Mumbai in India and there were 10 stages and I did one of those stages in India. And that’s just one of the things that Land Rover does, these expeditions. Another thing I did it was that they did a speed test up at Pikes Peak in Colorado and I documented that as well which is pretty cool.

Paul: That sounds incredible. You’ve had some good trips away haven’t you?

Mike: Yes it is, it’s nice to do different things and mix it up, doing a bit of everything.

Marcus: Last time I spoke to Mike you did some web design and had come out of doing some print work and I really haven’t kept up with you. But I hate you now. I just have to let you know that now.

Paul: It gets worse.

Marcus: It’s not fair.

Paul: Well that’s what the whole show is about. Just how Mike has had some opportunities presented to him and I want to explore that as I think a big part of Chris success is grasping those opportunities as they come along and I wanted to get into that. So to set the scene I wanted to talk about all this amazing travelling that he’s been doing. Do you get to take your family with you along on any of them?

Mike: Well that’s the funny thing. The trip that I’ve just done in the Caribbean was the second time I’ve taken my family with me. The good thing of having a bunch of young kids as well, having the family there worked really well in illustrating how you could enjoy the Caribbean.

Paul: You’ve got incredibly photogenic kids as well which helps.

Mike: Yes, they probably hate me as I basically give them orders all the time. ‘Kneel down’, ‘look through this hole’, ‘do this’. Basically just instructing them and they make deals with me, saying we’ll do that if we can get to do this.

Paul: Good for them.

Mike: Yes so it’s quite fun.

Paul: What they don’t realise is that they really should be getting royalties as models. So you’re still getting one over on them.

Mike: This is true. I did feel a little bit bad about that but they did get to go to the Caribbean.

Paul: They can’t really complain company. But Marcus, you are getting to go to Washington DC.

Marcus: Which I’m looking forward to very much, that’s true. I didn’t go away last year anywhere either. It seems to come in fits and starts. That’s not true. You would I went to Italy didn’t we?

Paul: We did. We had a lovely little trip.

Marcus: It was nice actually. But I go to Washington and were doing a whole week’s workshop out there in a couple of weeks’ time. So there’s going to be pretty full on but I’m looking forward to it very much. I imagine DC in spring is probably very, very pretty.

Paul: So Mike, when you go away on these trips and you do your photography, do you use iPhone would you take a proper camera now?

Mike: I’d say personally I’m still using an iPhone but some projects require a camera because they are wanting to use higher resolution images outside of Instagram. So for example on the trip that we’ve just done took pictures with a camera because they needed to use high resolution afterwards. Not everyone wants to do that. But the weird thing is that I love photographing with my iPhone and it isn’t always necessarily the best camera but it’s much more spontaneous. I always feel that my photographs actually better with an iPhone because I just whip it out and shoot something when I see it whereas with a camera is almost, I’ve got to get it out of the bag, turn it on, try and focus the thing… I feel less creative with a camera weirdly. It’s great for taking pictures with the kids because you get a nice shallow depth of field and soft focus background stuff, so it’s nice for that but I don’t feel quite as creative as I do with an iPhone.

Paul: I remember you vividly talking about when you first got a few of these clients off of the back of the instant stuff and will talk more about that later. You were saying that you turned up and they said so where is your phone? And you tap your pocket and say, it’s right here. It’s like they were expecting something more somehow.

Mike: Yes it is a weird thing when you just shoot professionally on a phone because you do look like a tourist. For example, I did a shoot once at a Burberry fashion show in London during fashion week and I was in the pits of photographers with massive lenses and I was just using the front of an iPhone. They were seriously annoyed at me and one guy turned around to me and said if I ever see you again I’m going to kill you.

Paul: No?!

Mike: Yeah. He probably won’t see me again. But yes, it was weird. I almost feel as though I should get myself a case that says ‘Photographer’ on the back so that people understand I am there in a professional capacity and not just a hanger on. Because you work in these projects for example, you go there and you got a contact. Then you are just one of maybe 50 people that are hanging around. There are film crews and all sorts of different staff members and vans and editing suites. Hundreds of people I’m just lurking there on my phone, so you don’t look particularly professional.

Paul: I just find that absolutely fascinating that we have certain expectations of things like that and also I can imagine that you encounter some kind of professional photography snobbery in all of it as well. As I know a lot of professional photographers have got this mentality that their kit is everything. In some way it makes them creative. My dad as a professional photographer and I don’t think he’s ever bought a new piece of kit in his life because he has this attitude of that that is not where the creativity comes from, it’s just kit. But so many people see it differently don’t they?

Mike: Yes they do, they do. I think something really interesting has happened though with social media and Instagram and photography. When I started to do these projects there was maybe more snobbery towards these people shooting with iPhones. Other photographers didn’t know what it was all about, taking a photo on a phone and posting it on Instagram – what’s that all about? I think it was a little bit scary to some that some people were hiring photographers based upon their social media following. For some photographers is not good enough anymore just be taking good pictures. I spoke to someone about the modelling industry and how they shoot their models. They were saying that models need to have social media followings to be more successful. So they hire social media influencers to take pictures of them and bump up their profiles and their social media following. I don’t know how true that is but they have experience in the area and I found it very interesting that in certain professions it helps if you have a good social media following.

Paul: Let’s be honest, the same is even true in the digital space. Your personal brand and how well known you are makes a big difference to how much work you win. I might not be the best user experience person out there but because people are aware of me they would choose to hire me over someone else they are totally unaware of.

Mike: Yes. That’s an interesting thing because I look to your questions earlier and one of the questions was about getting these things and opportunities – is it just down to luck or is it personal promotion? I feel that in a design sense, so the neglected of late is updating my portfolio and updating Dribble and things like that. The funny thing is that when I post a few shots on Dribble, it normally tends to follow with a work request in a couple of days’ time. Which ensures that I keep updating it!

Just going through my back catalogue of done so much work that have never published or was never used and I going to go back through all of that stuff just publish parts of projects that I thought were good and did get used. While they may not be my main portfolio they’re probably perfect for the Dribble. Dribble and other places like that are definitely where potential clients go to look for potential designers to work for them.

Paul: We get into the interview now and I really shouldn’t do this you started it. I’ve noticed that you started to share some of your design work on your Instagram theme. Obviously you got a huge number of people that follow you on Instagram – was it a conscious decision to start pushing your design side on there?

Mike: Yes I guess it was. I thought obviously, why not? There were obviously bound to be eyes seeing that stuff he thought it might be interesting and useful and so going forward I probably do plan to add more design stuff. Personally follow quite a lot of designer profiles on Instagram. It’s a great way of looking at design work. Instagram is an app is easy to use and it’s great to go through liking various pieces of design and actually go back to my likes on Instagram to look at the stuff that I’ve been saving for inspiration. So I think I might as well post it there, I probably will be a little bit careful as a don’t want necessarily turning into a design blog but if I’ve got something to share I would if we carry on doing it.

Paul: Anyway, we just wandered into the interview and you told me off about this before Marcus haven’t you?

Marcus: That’s okay, I can keep up just about. I love the idea that people are using iPhones for holiday pictures etc but you still do get ‘all the gear, no idea’ people. I’d left the battery out of my little camera which take around everywhere with me. And I realised I couldn’t take pictures so I thought I’d just have to use my iPhone and all the pictures I got a great. But I was surrounded by people with enormous cameras, and I remember thinking they didn’t really know what they were doing with them. I think it’s great that we got the stool that just in our pockets that takes great pictures all the time.

Paul: We have provided the listen of any context whatsoever of Mike or who he is so we will do a sponsor and then take a step back and explain a little bit more about Mike and what he’s up to.

I just want to quickly talk about Freeagent who has supported pretty much this entire season and a huge thanks to them for doing so. It’s an absolutely great app and I’ve talked about it all season because I use it passionately, well no I’m not passionate about my finances that’s absolute rubbish, I’m a passionate fan of the app if not what it does. That’s the great thing about Freeagent – it makes it easy to deal with this kind of stuff.

It adds so much value just on one screen alone. The very first screen that you log into is their dashboard and there so much that makes you feel in control just on that single screen. You can see your cash flow to the glance and where you’ve been after the last 12, six, three months or whatever length of time you want. All at a glance you can see how your cash is going with the business.

You can look at your invoice timelines, expenses, bills, projects, it’s all laid out there for you. They’ve got a life profit and loss which I absolutely love. It’s an up to date full profit and loss just there for you on the dashboard, including details of what reserves you’ve got so I know whether I am poor or rich can afford a new gadget or a massive new camera which I have to buy to compensate for something. You can see your tax timeline there which includes upcoming tax dates and deadlines so you know when you’re going to get that big bill coming through. There’s a live bank balance on all of your accounts and you can customise the dashboard and anywhere you want as well which is great so you can see which information is most important to you.

If you are a freelancer or running a small agency, just give it a go and I promise you won’t regret it. It will make your life so much easier in managing your finances. It’s great having a product on the show that you can recommend wholeheartedly knowing that it would benefit everybody. So give it a try for 30 days by going to Boagworld.com/freeagent.

Discussion with Mike

Paul: Let’s take a little step back. Mike, you’re with designer primarily. You started off in print though is that right?

Mike: Yes I basically did graphic design and went to graphic design college out of university. I was lucky as I got a job for the Bodyshop and I basically never used a computer before, this was in 1997. They trained me up using Illustrator, Photo Shop and Quark express and I started doing print design for them.

Paul: So you did that for a few years then you kind of got yourself into the web, how did that happen?

Mike: Basically by 2007 I had spent 10 years in print and I’d always had requests for websites but it would turn them down saying I didn’t do websites. I had this penny drop moment when I’d had this client asking me to do a website. I hadn’t answered them yet as I thought it was getting frustrating. I can’t build websites and so I thought I would have to turn it down. So I was cycling to my office and decided I was just going to build the site. I phoned a friend of mine and asked him to teach me how to build websites. We just did it, it was obviously before responsive design so it was a little bit simpler and only front-end as well. He came and gave me a two-hour lesson on site and we designed it up in Photo Shop. I literally sat there and did what he told me and we did a menu that night. He went away and I then deleted it and did it again, deleted it and it again and then went on to the next part of the page. Doing this until we completed the whole page and doing it like that I had a grasp on how to build a page and then went on about all the other pages. So I did that site and then took on a site of a friend of mine who was a musician and I really put a lot of effort into making the design nice. I built it and got really obsessed with CSS galleries. From that I got approached by Personified the CSS gallery who asked me if I wanted to work for them. So I had an interview with them and ended up getting that position and obviously with Personified being heavily involved in the web industry at the time it was a great place to work and start building my web design career. Ryan Carson was very supportive of my creativity and loved all the stuff that I did visually. I had a bit of a slight naivety to my work as well. I probably saw the web as a slightly different medium to standard web designers and did things that maybe I wasn’t supposed to do, got told off about it on Twitter. But I spent those years building a profile at Personified before going freelance in 2011.

Paul: So there was this one pivot point where you went from print to the web and then one that was very much cemented with the move to Personified is that then increased your profile massively and gave you opportunities to start speaking. Then there was another pivot point and another opportunity with Instagram. What happened there?

Mike: Well it’s interesting actually. I’ve always had a hobbyist interest in photography. Not cameras, I’ve never really been into cameras but I like taking photographs and days to have a couple of cameras that used to go out and shoot with. When the iPhone 4 came out as you probably noticed it was probably the first one I had a really good camera. I took a few pictures with it and obviously by then there were a few camera apps available which you could edit pictures with. I thought I just can start editing these pictures and posting them to Twitter, just for fun. At the very same time as this over a three-week period I’d noticed that Dan Rubin had been posting pictures via Instagram as he was part of the beta testing group. At that point there were just single webpages with a photograph on it, so I was slightly curious. When it came out on 6 October 2010 I noticed and Tweeted about it so I downloaded it onto my phone and tested it. I had it for the first week and there are few things that happened for me, three notable things that I was really excited about. Firstly, I realised that this is the perfect tool to assist me in my photography ambitions on a personal level. There was simple editing, you just a filter on it posted in shared it. Secondly after one week I had 300 followers and they were all chatting away in the comments which was an amazing engagement. So at the end of that week I wrote a blog post explaining that it had only been out for five days but I remember writing Howard been showing pictures and using Instagram and I remember saying that I thought Instagram would be the biggest revolution in photography since the invention of the camera. I think it was probably quite a correct prediction because what I loved about it was the way that it made everything so accessible. It made taking photographs accessible, it made sharing them accessible and talking about them accessible. I just love when technology and apps do that, they just bring something that was maybe not accessible to everybody and suddenly it’s in the palm of your hand and you can do it. Obviously Instagram has done that for a lot of people and its expanded massively quickly.

Paul: A point came as well did it not where you started to get featured by Instagram?

Mike: Yes. As the weeks progressed probably between October and Christmas and my followers kept growing quickly, I was in touch with Kevin Systrom who actually reached out to me to design a webpage at one point, which I actually did but was probably completely inappropriate but I sent it to him and never heard back. I think he had heard me chatting about it on a podcast and he then reached out. So then in the early days it was just one big feed, everybody’s pictures were in one big feed and then you used to get on the popular page. So that was how it worked in the beginning. You do a picture and if you got a lot of likes you go on the popular page and then get more followers because of that and then suggested users which I got put onto. I guess it was just the luck of being in the early and having some initial like-age to my photography and Instagram recognising that putting me on the user lists. Plus, the app naturally growing at such a huge rate just meant that my followers grew pretty rapidly back then. I remember there was a point when I had about 10 or 15,000 followers and I remember thinking then before I had any requests to do anything, there must be something that I could do with this. Shortly afterwards people started to get in contact.

I think in the early days also being on their early I was lucky as everybody was writing articles about Instagram, all the tech press and I was quite often featured as one of the top 10 Instagramers which got my name known. So in the early days I was in the very top few Instagramers on there before the famous people came along and took over. So it really was all just a matter of luck and timing.

Paul: This is why I asked that question that we talked about earlier – how much success is down to luck and timing because I look at my own career and when Marcus and I first started doing this podcast there was no other web design podcast. We had a monopoly which gives you an incredible advantage. There was also a degree that we had gotten in early and took advantage of that situation. Again to some degree I remember Twitter as well. I remember very early on I had one of the largest number of followers on Twitter very early on because Twitter was in its early days and there weren’t many other people out there. I can’t work out what it was luck or…?

Mike: I think it’s a combination isn’t it? I mean you did it for a start and did it well – the combination of doing it well at the right time. It’s an ingredient isn’t it. I could have gotten on Instagram really early and taken a load of rubbish pictures and gotten nowhere. It’s a combination of taking some half decent photographs, being there on the right time and being consistent. I’ve been on it for five years and post regularly so I guess it was persistence. Being persistent, going for high quality and then with a dash of luck being there at the right time. I think you have to have all those factors to make it work don’t you?

Paul: Yes, which makes it really hard when people turn around and say ‘give me some advice about how to be successful in your career’. Because there is a big proportion of luck in it. There is also a proportion of spotting the opportunities in the same way you looked at Instagram and in a week had concluded that this could be such a profound thing within photography. But then there was the quality of what you are putting out and I totally agree with what you’re saying about the consistency because you have to keep fitting that content out regularly otherwise you fade away.

Mike: Yes totally and it happens to anyone doesn’t it? If you don’t keep it up, you do fade away.

Paul: We had that experience didn’t we Marcus with the podcast? We took a hiatus from it and there was a drop-off.

Marcus: We thought that we had said all that we could ever say it is a case of repeating ourselves and that it was time to concentrate on other things. We soon realise that we weren’t winning as much work getting as many opportunities for work and it seems that many people have enjoyed this podcast and it has bought us work over the years and we’ve always enjoyed doing it so it’s a bit of a no-brainer to carry on. But it did take a long time to get it back up to where it was previously.

Mike: It’s good that you’ve done it and proved you can do that.

Paul: Yes I think it is possible to pull it back but it is hard work. But then it’s hard work to build it up in the first place. If you take Instagram, to begin with if you had a few hundred followers in the first week, and that seemed really quite exciting, the truth is that wasn’t that many within today’s context. You have to wait for the audience to grow and keep going, keep sticking with this Instagram thing – is it going to take off? Is it going to be a long-term winner? And so it’s really identifying what those long-term winners are and really sticking with it.

Mike: You just said have you got advice for anyone trying to get into this sort of thing, I think for me I’ve explained how I’ve got into it but I think the other people now on Instagram obviously there are millions of people with millions of followers talking about all aspects of photography and all aspects of life that you can think of. And so if you’re trying to break into that there’s a lot of noise to break through. I think persistence is probably key. If your putting out high-quality work on a regular basis in the end people do start to notice. I was asked by a few guys who had been taking some really good photos and starting to gain followers and they asked me what they do to get more work through Instagram and I gave them all the advice I could and they were persistent and kept doing it and doing it and doing it and in the end they got recognised and suddenly work started coming in. There’s a tipping point. I think the keys just keep going at it all the time.

Paul: You are right there is a tipping point. For example, once you get Land Rover and you’ve got that one client and your posting that kind of stuff on Instagram then you are immediately planting that in the minds of other brands. For me it was with speaking. Once I’d won that first speaking slot with the podcast, then the invitation started coming in. It’s a weird scenario really.

Mike: Yes it is weird. It’s funny as a voice been into design stuff but have never been a massive Dribble user. I have posted less than a hundred shots and how long has Dribble been around? And I don’t update my portfolio regularly enough and I don’t Tweet very much. Quite insular when it comes to my design work for some reason, I don’t know why. I should really be posting stuff all the time because that’s how it is you get noticed and remembered. So I think it’s just that regardless of what area you are in, the key is just to make sure people know you exist and keep posting, keep talking about yourself. Is quite hard to do think it comes naturally for everyone. I don’t particularly like blowing my own trumpet but sometimes you have to haven’t you?

Paul: There is another element mind here. We focus very much on the persistence but there is also that looking for the next frontier thing. In my case that was with podcasting and Twitter and in your case it was with Instagram and firstly getting into the web. When people come to you and ask ‘how can I be successful with podcasting?’ or ‘how can I build my brand on Instagram?’ perhaps the answer is ‘you shouldn’t be’. You should be looking elsewhere the next thing, whatever that is.

Mike: I totally agree and that’s how I felt about Instagram at the time. You get to recognise an opportunity although I didn’t think of Instagram as that at the time but I did recognise how unique it could potentially be. I just got a feeling that this is brilliant and it could be massive. Actually had that recently last year with another product. Do you know Cameo by Vimeo?

Paul: No I don’t actually.

Mike: Cameo is a simple moviemaking app and it’s an iPhone app and you just drag your film clips into it, you make them shorter or longer, add a song as they’ve got a brilliant music library and it makes you a nice music video. But it’s super easy to use with brilliant quality music. You can select to filter a bit like Instagram, and is just ridiculously simple. It’s all about ease-of-use. I got massively into that and I love it and still use it now. The thing they’ve missed a trick on is that it should have been a platform in its own right. Basically Vimeo acquired it and they rebuilt it and relaunched it. So basically is an iPhone app where you publish your video and it goes on to your Vimeo account. I just wonder why it hasn’t got its own platform to publish the videos on to the people can keep tabs on these little videos as they are so simple to make. I just felt like it should be its own thing.

So I’ve been making this is the videos, making quite a lot of my kids and stuff but I just felt that if I started posting some these videos, making short films on the iPhone. I’ve just done another little video for this Thompson project because when they came and said to me that they liked the little movies that I’d been making, I did some. I just been commissioned to do another short iPhone film for Hawkesmill which is an independent camera bag manufacturer, so I just made them a short film again on my iPhone and I wrote to the guy who did the music and asked if we could use the music on there. So is massively early days but I’m making a tentative step to making short films. I guess the platform for that would still be Instagram almost because it’s where I can get those short films out. But again it’s another thing to me, Cameo, is doing something similar to Instagram in levelling that playing field so that anyone can make a video or try to make a video and it makes it accessible for people.

Paul: That’s kind of looking for the next thing isn’t just necessarily even apps or platforms, is also the ‘in’ thing, whether that be on a large scale like photography and videography but also within my world, I remember vividly starting to hear talk about this idea of digital transformation. It’s being able to go yes, that is going to be a thing and yes that’s worth pursuing are looking at more. And always in your career you should be looking for that next thing whatever that be.

Mike: Totally. It’s true it’s not just like physical apps, it’s noticing these things so that he can take advantage of them.

Paul: One of the things that does maybe curious about your approach to things is that I went along to your website and you describe yourself as specialising in web/UI design, graphic design, branding, illustration and photography. Now that’s pretty impressive that you’re specialising in all of those things.

Mike: The funny thing is I am a bit of a Jack of all trades but it depends on how you define specialising the day all the things that I do that earn me money. I do them all on a regular basis.

Paul: That’s really interesting because that’s kind of against all the rules isn’t it? Again you are bucking the trend. These days people say you need to specialise in something specific – I specialise in mentorship – and if the client came to me and said they did a bit of graphic design and bitter branding and a bit of illustration and a bit of photography, I was tell them offer that. Yet you’ve managed to make it work and I’m interested in how?

Mike: I guess the thing is that I didn’t on day one go ‘oh I’m going to specialise in these seven things’. I specialised in graphic design initially and I got my first job and started to illustrate for a few years. So I did that on the side and then I could say I could design and also illustrate but then I spent a good couple of years learning the web so I can say I could design, illustrate and do the web. They got into Instagram… The fact that I have got them all listed now wasn’t the case in day one. It’s the twenty-year progression and is just the skill set that I’ve built up over a long period of time.

Paul: I think also is there not an element whereby you perhaps are specialised in a way that you’re not communicating? At least not verbally but in your very style? People come to you for a very specific reason. You’ve got a certain illustrative style which is very unique.

Mike: You’re right. I’ve been having talks of my colleagues here in my office about this about what it is that you’re selling. We’re talking in design terms here because technically yes, I can design apps, iPhone apps and websites. I can do these technical things. What is it that I’m selling? Personally I feel in terms of design I’m selling those things but is under the banner of something else that I’m not communicating. In a way it’s like communication design. People come to us and say they want a website because we are a website design agency and so basically they got the same information as everybody else has got. They got a bunch of team members that are passionate about the web and they’ve got a list of clients. How do you tell them that story? What do you do? Is that little thing that I feel like I specialise in, in a way. It’s how to tell someone’s story, how to communicate what this company does and how it makes them special over another company. Because we all know they must possess the same skills as the website company next door but what is it that they do that makes them unique? That’s what I’m interested in them that’s what I like to get hold of and dig into what that is, translating that into a design that conveys that message to their potential audience. Things like UI design and website design I just things underneath this main selling point.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking of doing on my personal site is what do you get if you hire me? What to actually tell people? I thought about making a video – ‘Hello, I’m Mike. If you hire me this is what I’ll give you’. I don’t think I got the confidence to do this though. But in a way that I want to do. If you want me to design your website not going to blurt out a bunch of rectangle boxes and say that you’re passionate about this and you got a load of good values, I’ll talk to about what it is you’re about, things that are unique to you. Then I will devise a way of communicating that’s through words. As one of the first things I would ever actually do, is work with copy. I start to work out a load of potential strap lines or short paragraphs that I feel define that company.

Marcus: Is branding work really isn’t it?

Mike: It is yes. Essentially branding and communication design for a company. Once I’ve done that I then work out how to visualise that through illustration graphics and there once I’ve got that I just put it into a website. For example, a client I worked on last year/early this year was a company called Beliyf and it’s in my portfolio actually. They work with companies to dig in to work out what a company is and where it’s losing focus and it helps them look at how they are unique, and sell that fact to potential clients through the company culture. Is a very similar thing. Working that design, I worked with the founder of the company and came up with this illustrative way of talking through what they did. I used leaves, illustrating how a company grows and the stage is that it goes through. I basically went out and collected leaves and painted them all and it just went from conversation to something visually that you would never have suddenly think of from the top of your head. This big journey of thinking and conversation and writing ideas. So in a way this is what I do. If anybody wanted to hire me as a designer, if you do whatever you do and you want someone to design your site and to really dig into understand your brand and communicate that to the world, that is what I would say I would do.

Paul: I think is a good lesson for everybody really, it’s not enough just to talk about the things that you deliver other platforms that you deliver it via. I see designers talk about developing a WordPress. That’s not what makes you a great designer or a great agency that you specialise in the platform or that you just do the web or they just do whatever. It’s your methodology and your process and your angle that really matters.

Mike that was absolutely brilliant and it’s been really interesting just to hear your approach to things and how you’ve moved from one area to the other and how that happens. It’s been a good conversation to end the season with.

We need to quickly talk about our final sponsor before we wrap up this week’s show. Our final sponsor is Proposify, another app that I use all the time because I’m lazy and hate writing proposals. There is a trend here isn’t there? Things that I hate doing, I get an app that does it for me. I hate finances so I have Freeagent, I hate writing proposals so I have got Proposify. What’s great about Proposify is that you have all these prewritten proposals that you can just import into get you going so you’re not starting from that blank canvas which is so depressing. You can choose from a set of beautiful themes if you are not so inclined to do all the design work. But if your design or someone like Mike, you can customise the content and the designer make you look pretty inappropriate.

The other thing I find really useful about Proposify is that it’s got this drag and drop system. You can write kind of chunks of content that you can just drag into your proposal. Was great as that library of content chunks can even reference the client’s name on it and when you drag it into a new proposal it will update with the correct client name. In fact, there was a whole load of dynamic content which you can drag and drop into proposals to stop that embarrassing thing where you have one client’s name in somebody else’s proposal because you copied and pasted. Perhaps that’s just me.

You can get Proposify for three months for free on any of their monthly plans as a special thank you for being a Boagworld listener and that’s on top of the 14 day free trial that you get anyway. Basically when you sign up for one of their monthly plans if you use the coupon code Boagworld, you will get the extra three months for free and you can do that by going to Proposify.biz.

Marcus this is the last joke of the season.

Marcus: Yes, this is from Meg.

Paul: Oh, from Meg?

Marcus: Yes, from our Meg who transcribes the podcast. So you can blame her.

What you call a chicken staring at a lettuce?

Paul: No idea.

Marcus: Chicken Caesar salad.

Paul: Haha!

Marcus: That’s quite good that one isn’t it?

Paul: That’s very good. Mike thank you for coming on the show, mate. Really good to chat with you. We need to actually meet up at some occasion I do not even that far down the road from me.

Mike: Maybe we will cross paths at a conference this year? Hopefully that will happen

Paul: Yes, absolutely. So a huge thanks to Mike and a huge thanks to you guys were sticking with the season. Don’t forget we got our next season where we will be going to be looking at those kind of project management/people management issues. So if you want to contribute a question that we can put to our panel of experts next season, something relating to the management of projects or people then you can do so by going to Boagworld.com/show/season–15. We will be back on 2 June. That sounds about right. Until then thanks for listening!