The Top 4 People I Admire Most

I want to share with you the four people who I admire and respect more than anyone else. Well, at least outside of my own sphere of personal contacts and people I know well.

To me, all four of these people are celebrities and I consider myself a fangirl of each.

Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed being a nearly psychotic fan of someone I really liked for one reason or another. It makes me feel good to latch onto strangers who manage to put stuff out into the world which resonates with me on some level.

I always have to be extreme about everything I do and feel, and being a fan is certainly no exception.

A few quick little factoids before I introduce you to these insanely unique and amazing people.

First, they are all people who I discovered via the internet. They would never be found on a list with each other for any other reason; they all do totally different things and none of them are very related.

The reason they are all right here on this list is because of one thing which links them together in my mind: they are everything I love in people. Mind you, I generally hate people.

Just bear with me here…

Gary Vaynerchuk

I discovered Gary Vaynerchuk mostly by chance and thanks to StumbleUpon. I suppose since I did tell them what I’m interested in, we can’t attribute the encounter entirely to chance, can we?

Gary is probably the most “mainstream” of these celebrities. He’s been a guest on Ellen and has been featured in every big business and tech publication that comes to mind, including Mashable, Techcrunch, Bloomberg, NY Times and tons of others.

StumbleUpon sent me to a video of him. He was just this regular looking guy talking in front of a camera and the first thing about him which really got my attention was his obvious confidence and the passionate volume of his frenzied voice.

As I listened to him sort of ramble about social media and the importance of authenticity, I slowly began to realize how awesome the shit he was saying was and how every word he spoke rang absolutely true in my mind. I was hooked instantly.

So who is Gary Vaynerchuck and what is he all about? Well, I think of him as a brilliant entrepreneur and storyteller first and foremost. He helped grow his father’s family business (a liquor store) into a multi million dollar enterprise and launched a sort of video blog called WineLibrary TV way back in 1997 or some shit.

From there, he saw the massive potential of using the web and later social media to grow his business even further and eventually went on to start his own digital media marketing startup which today is VaynerMedia.

Using clever content marketing in favor of traditional media such as advertisements, his agency works with brands like Nilla to create highly effective social media marketing campaigns which produce tangible results. In the case of Nilla, the campaign created by Gary’s company boosted their sales by something like 12% after over a decade of stagnant sales.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of awesomeness that is Gary freakin’ Vaynerchuk. The man is about as genuine and real as anyone in sales has ever been, which counts for a lot in my book.

Plus, he swears freely and never flinches when he drops an F bomb during an interview with a serious media outlet, which I’ll admit makes him stupidly cool to me all on its own.

I’ve included just a few of his videos here for you to see him in action. Trust me, my words come nowhere close to doing him justice. Just watch one of them please. You can thank me later.

Caliban Darklock

Caliban Darklock has the noble distinction of being the only one in this list who has actually spoken with me, on more than one occasion. In fact, back when I first joined the Warrior Forum several years ago, he was one of the very first people who exchanged private messages with me there and who cared enough to be friendly towards me and I immediately liked him.

He’s a serious badass, you’ve been warned.

His advice on business has the same quality of sincerity and sensibility that Gary’s does and I really can’t say I’ve encountered many people in life who I consider more fearless than myself, but I think Caliban is one of them. He is literally unafraid of being himself at all times, on his own terms.

I pride myself on not giving a shit about the opinions of most people, but I have often read things Caliban has said publicly that I’m not brave enough to say myself.

He is the ONLY reason that I visit Facebook, which has never been a platform I can say I’m particularly fond of. I go there only to read his stuff (and play the occasional game while I’m there) and on the rare occasion when he goes on a blackout for a week or two, I immediately begin hating Facebook again and stop visiting there as often.

Okay, I also love the make up and the fact that he can make videos of himself saying really awesome shit even when he’s drunk on Sailor Jerry’s Rum. He’s also an amazing storyteller, you should go check out his products and buy them ALL RIGHT NOW. You can thank me later, once again.

Also, I recommend following him on Facebook unless you are too lame. If that’s the case, just leave my blog now please.

WAX (Rapper)

Oddly enough, StumbleUpon introduced me to more than one of the four people in this list. What are the odds, right?

Several years ago now, I clicked the Stumble button and it took me to a video. I’m not exactly a huge fan of videos most of the time. I usually find them annoying and have to be in the right mood for them.

Oh, and they have to be something I find interesting or entertaining to begin with of course. I often just click the button again when I see it start to load something from Youtube or another video site.

Thank the stars that I didn’t hit it again before the Youtube page loaded the video (in the playlist above) that shows a young man driving around in his car, rapping his heart out to the perfect beat almost non-stop for nearly an entire five full minutes.

After the first two minutes, my jaw had pretty much hit the floor and I was glued to the screen. I literally couldn’t stop watching and listening to him spit rhymes more clever than my ears had ever heard.

When the video was over, I just sat there in total awe of this raw rampage of lyrical talent that had just showed up out of fucking nowhere and interrupted whatever I had been distracted with at that moment.

I was like, “who the hell is this kid and why have I never heard of him before now?!” I didn’t understand how it was possible.

Needless to say, I was an instant fan from that day on.

Almost as if I had discovered him at just the right point in time, he visited Portland (my home city) shortly after I became aware of him and I was fortunate enough to be one among a small crowd of no more than twenty people who were cool enough to see him perform at the Roseland Theatre downtown.

I admire Wax because his style is truly unique. I first heard him rap better than most “artists” played on the radio, but when I saw him live he also busted out a guitar for a couple of his songs and started, like, singing.

I was like, “hey, wait a second! I thought he was a rapper…”

He’s much more than a rapper. He scored a record deal with Def Jam, but eventually left because the executives leaning over his shoulder kept trying to cramp his style.

Their loss, I have to say. You can’t put him or his music into a box, he’s way too real for that. I love it that he is able to be an indie artist and that his fans love him and support him. That’s how I believe the world should work.

I have bought tickets to two more of his Portland shows since then and on both occasions, something came up that kept me from making it there. I am still trying to get over that…I’m convinced fate is at work here somehow.

Jes Baker

Before you make assumptions, I’d like to make sure everyone knows that I’m not including Jes Baker on this list just because I feel obligated to include at least one woman.

In fact, guess how I “stumbled upon” her? Yep, you guessed it. One day I landed on a blog post of hers and read some poetry she shared by another author, and I was pretty moved by what both of them had to say.

So who is she and why is she awesome? Well, she is a well known advocate of what she calls “body love” and in my mind is one of the leaders of what many refer to as the “Fat Acceptance Movement.”

Basically, she says that being fat is fine and in no way has any bearing on how physically beautiful you are. She’s 100% right about that too.

The work Jes does for women (and men) all over the world who struggle with their weight (myself among them) is truly inspiring and the reason I admire her so much is that she is standing up for a group of people who are harshly criticized, bullied and even hated by much of society.

Her notion that being fat is just fine defies current popular opinions about weight and body image and she simply refuses to feel negatively about her own body simply because the rest of the world hasn’t evolved far enough to see their own shortsightedness yet.

I am not the type of person who feels genuinely jealous of others very often at all, but I do envy Jes because she knows who she is fighting for and has successfully started a movement to change the world, rather than giving in and changing herself in the ways it wants her to.

I wish I could say the same for myself, but I’m not there yet. Maybe it’s because we are the same age that I feel jealous of her, I guess I feel like she’s accomplished more in her time here and is doing more meaningful things than I am.

Last year, I flew all the way to Tucson to attend her first annual Body Love Conference, which you need to buy tickets for. Read a post or two from her blog so that you see for yourself why she is the ideal hero for any girl or woman who has ever been told that she’s fat and thought less of herself afterward.


The Easiest Way to Write a Book

the easiest way to write a bookI don’t care if you are the author of several published books or just a savvy entrepreneur looking for an extra source of passive income — in either case, you have (however guiltily) wondered at some point, “what is the easiest way to write a book?”

Admit it. Don’t let it make you feel dirty, no one is any better than anyone else who has shared that same thought.

You might think it feels like some form of cheating. At least it tricks you into feeling shame because you assume that what you are asking for is a shortcut to writing a fantastic book that no one can put down until they have made the captivating journey from cover to cover.

But ask the jury for a verdict on this one instead of jumping to conclusions. Are you really asking for a shortcut or are you asking an honest question about the most efficient method of writing a book?

Stop Worrying About Writing a Book

I don’t care what preconceived notions you have come to this post with as far as gaining prestige as an author, landing a big publishing deal or becoming the next Shakespeare. The fact of the matter is that you should really stop concerning yourself with writing a book because anyone can write a book that totally sucks. There is nothing special about that.

What you should actually be trying to figure out is how to tell your story. The one that is every bit as unique to you as your fingerprints.

This is the truly amazing feat because you are literally the only person capable of doing that. Only you know all the parts to your story and only you can pass it on for others to hear if you choose to.

There is more than one way to skin a cat, while we’re on that topic. A book is only one of many forms that a story can take. Stories are told through more mediums than I can list here.

They can be spoken out loud or told to live listeners. They can be acted out on a stage or add the missing lyrics to an otherwise perfect song.

Your whole life and the story of your journey is the landscape picture on the front of the box of a 1,000 piece puzzle. The pieces are each a small sticky note that ends in mid-sentence. You simply need to figure out where each one starts and ends.

The Easiest Way to Write a Book

Here’s the answer the question. What is the easiest way to write a book? Not just for you or me but for anyone, regardless of skill or experience or talent?

The easiest way to write a book is to not write one at all. The second easiest way is to fill a few pages, put your name on it and not care at all about the words on those pages.

You won’t feel better by doing either of these things. If you do, this blog isn’t for you.

The next easiest way to write a book?

Is to not think, not put off, not be afraid, not critique, not make excuses for, not settle, not imitate and to just simply write it. Your story. Exactly the way you think the thoughts with no filter and no regard for whether another soul will even be able to decipher a word of it.

Only when you write it all out the way it exists in your mind will you have the raw material needed for what will later become a book.

This is the part that you want to believe is easier than it seems. The part that feels like the hard work.

The Write Way is the Only Way

Honestly, it is the  hard work. But it’s also incredibly easy if you follow the instructions on the bottle.

Write the book and do nothing at all while you are writing it. Don’t interrupt yourself, not even once.

The words you use are tempered into the story that can later be sent out into the world in the form of a book, almost as an insignificant afterthought.

You don’t even have to do that part at all if you don’t care to. Have someone else do the parts you have no desire for. Worry about it all once you hold the same story in your hands that you carry in your heart. Live your life, tell your story. It can all become a book later.

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Yet Another OptimizePress 2.0 Review

optimizepress 2.0 review

Okay, so what the hell is Optimize Press, you ask?

For those of you that do not know, it was a WordPress theme that was designed with internet marketers in mind. Meaning, the  pages were styled to resemble landing pages and websites more so than the traditional blog style of a WordPress site.

Optimize Press 2.0, as you probably could have guessed, is the newest release and it’s a whole different beast.

Since I had the first version already, I got an email about the launch at the end of last month and figured I’d sign up as an affiliate during the pre-launch. Afterwards, I did a quick Google search for Optimize Press 2.0 review and was slightly horrified by the hordes of affiliates who were already pushing the product on the internet populace with what I’m sure was strictly fair and truthful recommendations based only on their experience with said product.

Sarcasm is sometimes hard to pick up on when reading, so I’ll just admit to it right now.

At any rate, I figured that I’d join the army of these affiliates and write my own review after I’d had a chance to try it out myself. Why not, right?

I mean, there is certainly no way my review will find its way to the first page of Google and therefore it’s highly unlikely that I’ll even make a single sale as a result of writing this. Luckily for the internet peoples, that isn’t my main motivation.

I’m more in this blogging bull shit to help others and share my own experiences than I am out to earn a commission off of every visitor to my site. That being said, let’s dive into my thoughts on Optimize Press 2.0 since I purchased it and began using it several days ago now.

What Can Optimize Press Actually Do?

Okay, so if you already have a site that uses WordPress, then you are already familiar with themes most likely. For those who don’t currently use WordPress, a theme is essentially like a skin or template that changes the visual appearance of your site.

As you may already know, WordPress also has something called plugins. These like extensions and they add different types of functionality to WordPress when added to your site.

For example, you may want to add social sharing buttons to your blog posts and you would have no problem finding an appropriate plugin to accomplish this, as there are enough to cause a nice case of decision paralysis.

Back to the point — the first version of Optimize Press allowed you to create pages using a number of different page templates that were included. There were different styles for landing pages and sales pages, mostly. It also had lots of customization options too.

They added fields to the page editor which made it easy to copy and paste your autoresponder codes and you could add marketing style headlines and all that jazz.

Optimize Press 2.0 New Features

Okay, so when the creators of Optimize Press said that 2.0 was a completely new product built from the ground up, they weren’t kidding.

Here are a few of the cooler additions in terms of capabilities, at least in my opinion.

  • Comes with a membership plugin that makes it easy to setup membership-style sites with recurring payments via Paypal or your choice of several other payment processors
  • Features a live page editor that allows you to insert content modules and see the changes on the screen immediately
  • Significantly more control over page layout and design of elements

Those are some of the major ones I’ve noticed. There are also new templates which look pretty slick, and they apparently have a monthly membership that is optional if you want to receive new styles and templates on a monthly basis. I skipped that part, as I wasn’t interested. I simply paid the $97 for the core package.

Who Should Buy Optimize Press 2.0?

This is an important point, which is why I gave it a whole section here. Optimize Press 2.0 is not a worthwhile purchase for EVERYONE who simply has a site or blog. It’s really not all that useful if you are strictly a blogger.

I setup a couple new pages on this website using Optimize Press 2.0, but just for an squeeze page with an opt-in form.

I mostly bought it to use on my other sites, which are quite a bit different in terms of my goals.

Most importantly, Optimize Press 2.0 is for website owners who are trying to make money with their website. It’s not well suited for hobby sites or personal blogs. This product is for people marketing products or services in order to make a profit.

My OptimizePress 2.0 Review

I remember when I bought the first version, I wanted to use the theme on certain pages of this website but wanted the rest of my site to continue using the same theme I already had at that time.

Well, since you can’t have two themes in use on the same blog at the same time, that wasn’t possible.

Some people suggested I simply install the theme on a sub directory of my site, which I did end up trying. But that wasn’t really what I wanted to do, or how I wanted to do it.

So that was pretty frustrating.

Luckily, this is no longer an issue with Optimize Press 2.0. Why? Because in the new version, it’s available as both a theme AND a plugin, which achieves the same or similar effect.

That’s probably one of my favorite changes in the new version. If you don’t want to change the look and feel of your entire website, you can just keep using your current theme and then setup pages with Optimize Press styles and templates by installing the plugin instead.

Best of both worlds!

I also really like how you have more control over the layout of pages. Among my favorite content modules are the very underrated additions such as Vertical Spacing (this really does make your pages look better) which is essentially just adding spacer images between the elements on your page. Small tweak, big difference.

What I Didn’t Like About Optimize Press 2.0

Okay, I’d like to first make it clear that I tend to be incredibly stubborn when it comes to things like reading instructions or, God forbid, watching a goddamn video tutorial that would probably make my life so much simpler. Screw all of that!

I have a strong preference for simply digging in, getting my hands dirty and figuring it out on my own and as I experiment.

What this results in is tons of time spent making mistakes that I could probably easily avoid if I sat through a five minute video. But since that sounds like a fate worse than death, I avoid it at all costs.

So taking that into consideration, one of the things I didn’t like so much about Optimize Press 2.0 was the learning curve. It really isn’t anything like its predecessor and I had to literally start all over in terms of learning how to use it.

Now, there are plenty of instructions and tutorials on their website. So the help is there, should you have enough sense to simply use it. This is more of a shortcoming on my end than a fault with the product.

But make no mistake, the new Optimize Press is more complicated and as such, can do significantly more than was possible in its first form.

I spent like an entire day playing around with it, making new pages and trying to learn how it all worked. It was kind of exhausting, to be honest. I still haven’t gotten it all sorted out, but I have made a good handful of pages so far, which you can check out here if you’d like to get an idea of what they look like:

And here is a page I created inside my new membership site for Kindle authors.

membership page example

I don’t know about you, but I think that looks pretty darn spiffy and since I am one of those weirdos who feels passionately about visuals and design, I basically dig that a lot.

My Exclusive Bonus Offer

Okay, so this is the part where I add a bonus for people who choose to buy this product through my affiliate link, which you can find sprinkled throughout this post as you may have noticed.

So what am I willing to throw in the deal to sweeten the pot for you?

My Mega PLR package, that’s what.


What is included in this mighty package, you must be wondering?

  • Huge volume of content, weighing in at over 40,00 words total
  • Several hot niches including: green living, skincare/acne, dating tips, reputation management and Kindle publishing
  • Several extra goodies like squeeze page templates, worksheets, opt-in reports and other promotional stuff
  • Full private label rights to the content (change the author name to yours, edit however you see fit, use however you want)

The total value of this particular product is $47.00, but if you decide that you would benefit from purchasing Optimize Press 2.0 then you get this entire package as a free thank you from yours truly.
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My Vook Publishing Review

So it was actually quite some time ago that the idea of turning my blog into an eBook first occurred to me. 

But first, we should ask ourselves an important question…is turning a blog into a book even a good idea to begin with?

The answer will depend on who you ask, like most things. However, I do know that several well known bloggers have compiled anthologies of their best blog content and used it to publish a book or eBook.

Before we dive in to this though, I just wanted to make it clear that I do not have any illusions about my blog being turned into a book that makes me millions of dollars. I know that isn’t going to happen.

In fact, the blog makes me nothing at all in terms of money other than the affiliate links I endorse, which aren’t many. 

So what was my motivation with this idea? To offer my best blog content in another format and in doing so, reach more people who may be more responsive to an eBook than they are to a blog. The way I look at it, all it really means is that there is one more way to be found.

And in the online world, being found is the most important thing. Period.

What I Wanted to Do

Okay, so…what did I want to do specifically to create this book from my blog?

First, I wanted to narrow it down to a single category. As you may have noticed, I post on several different topics and sort them according to which category they fit best in.

My main categories are:

  1. Self-Publishing
  2. Freelance Writing
  3. Making Money Online
  4. Internet Marketing
  5. Branding
  6. Social Media

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that categories one and two have a significant overlap. So do categories three and four, but I don’t focus on them as much as the first two.

I was most interested in turning my posts about self-publishing into an eBook. I blog about that more than the other topics and felt that I had the most value to offer within that group of posts.

Also important to take note of is that the appeal of the eBook will be tenfold if it centers around one topic, rather than several which is fine for the blog.

Why I Didn’t Want to Do It Myself

Some of my readers have probably already figured out that I’m a DIY type when it comes to getting things done online. 

This can likely be attributed to my own roots — I started with nothing at all and used only free resources when I began to create my online platform.

I’m also just a huge fan of free tools and can rarely justify paying for something when there is a free alternative that gets the job done just as well, or nearly as well. I admire companies like Google because they create free tools that kick ass, or at least they once did. 

So why then, you might ask, did I not simply opt to take on this project myself? 

When I went to publish my first book in 2010, formatting was one of the aspects of self-publishing that I quickly came to wish I could just outsource to someone who knew what the hell they were doing. 

It took me many long hours to get it just to the point where I felt it was acceptable for publishing. That’s to say, it still could have used some work once I called it good and published it. 

Quite simply, I didn’t have the money for professional formatting at that time. 

Of course, later on I would discover that my underused HTML skills were actually quite handy for Kindle formatting. Wish I had figured that one out earlier on. I was finally able to create an HTML template for Kindle books that you can download once you sign up for a free membership in my author’s training course.

But back to the story at hand. 

First I had to figure out how the hell to get all the text from my blog posts out of WordPress, which wasn’t as easy as I had hoped it would be. The first place I went to look was the native “Import/Export” menu in WordPress itself.

However, this only creates an XML file for importing into another WordPress installation. That was disappointing. 

So I headed over to Google to find out what my options were for exporting the text from my posts. Ideally, I wanted to export them as HTML in order to preserve the hyperlinks. Otherwise, I would have to go back and manually add all the links which would be a serious drag.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any good solution to achieve this. 

While I did find a cool service that turns blogs into print books you can order, it was only available for free blogging platforms like Blogger, Typepad and blogs, much to my dismay.

Next, I headed on over to the WordPress plugin directory and did a search for “export posts” to see if any developer had come up with a solution. Again, pretty grim results. 

I finally found a plugin that would export posts to a PDF, but there were some major problems. There was no option to exclude images, which I wanted to do (more on that in a moment). The resulting PDF was far from what I had hoped and definitely what I had envisioned the book to be like.

Since this time around I had the funds, I decided this would be a task better handled by a group of people who were professionals and that’s where Vook comes in.

Why I Chose to Work With Vook

imagesFirst, a little bit of background on them to serve as an introduction. Vook is a New York-based startup that specializes in book apps and interactive eBooks that feature several forms of multimedia, including videos. 

I had first discovered their website quite some time ago, when searching for professional ebook conversion services. I thought that their services looked promising, but they had no prices listed on their website and instead asked you to fill out a form for a free quote.

That along with the fact that they were advertising in Google AdWords was enough to convince me that they were likely out of my budget at that time, which would have been true as it turns out. 

Vook offers just about everything you could imagine for eBooks, from production and creation to cover design and an attractive distribution package that makes your books available on Amazon, B&N and the iBookstore.

Okay, but seriously…other than the fact that they were offering just what I needed, do you want to know what one of the main reasons I chose to hire them was?

Gary Vaynerchuk. I’m so in love with Gary. 

Any company who helps to create his books has to be awesome. It just makes perfect sense. 

Vook’s version of his popular 2009 book “Crush It,” includes a ton of video content that supplements the text and features exclusive interviews with the man himself. 

If anyone reading this has never heard of Mr. Vaynerchuk, stop reading this right now and watch this keynote speech he gave back in 2011. Now you’re in love with him too, right?

My Thoughts on the Vook Experience

So once I was decided on hiring Vook, I went ahead and filled out their quote form and attached the PDF I had created using the WordPress plugin as my manuscript. They sent a prompt reply and quoted me $350 for the eBook file creation, which I agreed to.

Next, they sent over some paperwork and I happily signed the agreement, which was very detailed and outlined exactly what they would do and what I would end up owing them.

Next, I received an email informing me that my Vook client dashboard had been created and they provided me with my login details. 

The dashboard is very clean and easy to use. It shows you the progress of your titles and has an “assets” button which is where you upload your documents and include any notes about the project that the staff may need along the way.

Speaking of the staff, I’d like to just say that they were incredibly professional, friendly and helpful throughout the process of creating my eBook files and cover design, which was an additional $199 I opted to tack onto my order. The project was handled with a high level of efficiency and they went out of their way to ensure that everything was right with the files before I approved them earlier today.

Since I still don’t actually own an eReader device, I downloaded some (apparently) quirky desktop program to read the preview of the epub file they sent for approval. I don’t remember what it was called, but it must have been kind of crappy because for some reason it generated the post titles twice throughout the whole book.

When I requested a revision and explained the problem to the Vook team, they quickly got back to me and informed me that they had tested it out on all major eReader devices and did not encounter this particular issue. So I went and downloaded Adobe Digital Editions and opened the file with that instead, only to find that it was in fact perfect.

Must have been the program, so I went ahead and approved it immediately and thanked them for the outstanding experience they provided. I asked to be invoiced separately for the two services, which they were more than willing to accommodate me on.

I then sent them $550 via Paypal and my collection of blog posts is in the process of publishing in Amazon’s Kindle store at this very moment.

My Blog is Reborn as an eBook

I just checked on it a few minutes ago and it now has an ASIN, so it should be live soon. This should be an interesting publishing experiment, though I don’t expect it will sell many copies considering the content is available for free right here on the blog.

Which reminds me of the post I wrote not too long ago about non-copyrighted material in the eyes of Amazon, who have clearly stated in the past that they do not accept material which is available elsewhere on the web for free.

However, in that same post I shared a link to another author who published her fiction both on Amazon and elsewhere for free. Amazon gave her a pass, but what will the verdict be for others who do the same?

I guess we’ll find out.

This is dragging on longer than I had planned, so in closing I will simply encourage those who truly enjoy reading my blog to head on over to Amazon in a few hours and grab a copy of the eBook to show their support.

I will be eternally grateful and it will help me keep this site going, which is a tremendous help. It is jam packed with the best of my content on self-publishing and book marketing and I hope you enjoy it! Or you can grab a free copy by subscribing to my author’s training course.

My 99Designs Review

CrowdsourcingAbout a year ago now, I blogged about crowdsourced logo deisgns, including the costs and how the whole process works.

Now I’m no graphic artist at all, let’s make that clear. However, crowdsourcing has been used across the board for tons of different creative talents and I’ve also blogged in the past about different types of crowdsourcing sites you can make money with.

Personally, I am much better with words so for a while I was having a lot of fun with sites like SquadHelp and NamingForce.

Like many things which are fun, it was not making me much money. But that was fine, I didn’t expect it to. After all, you’re competing with tons of other creative people and the odds are stacked against you.

There are, however, some people on sites like these which do seem to dominate over the rest and have made thousands of dollars. They win contests more often than any of the other users on a site, but they are the exception.

My Experience in the Crowd

My own experience with being part of the “crowd” was mostly naming contests to help new businesses find a name for their company, product, service, domain (a bit more tricky) or a tagline/slogan to help brand them.

Obviously this is pretty easy on my end. That’s not to say it doesn’t require talent and creativity, but the reality is that thinking of a clever idea for a name and jotting it down to submit it on a crowdsourcing site is technically very easy to do and takes only seconds.

You can do this dozens of times to increase your chances too.

Now while I don’t claim to know much at all about graphic design, I would imagine it takes more time and work to design a logo for a crowdsourced contest. That means the designers are investing more into the competition, which should be something everyone thinks about who decides to go this route.

The Ethics of Crowdsourcing

I remember many times when I submitted names to contests on NamingForce and several of my suggestions were rated five stars by the contest holder, yet in the end no one was awarded the prize at all.

I figure that if a contest holder rates a good number of suggestions with five stars, they plan on choosing one of those names. In my opinion, it is dishonest and wrong to indicate you are totally happy with the names and then opt out for a refund and pay no one at all.

To be honest with you, paying only one person who has put in the work is questionable enough if you ask me. But to pay no one at all? That’s pushing it, in my book. 

What would stop the contest holder from simply using the name anyway? I mean, what could be done if that were to happen (which I’m sure it has)? There wouldn’t be any way of even finding out, much less doing anything about it.

So my point is that I know what a let down it can be when you are given praise for your idea or design or whatever else you contribute to one of these contest, only to be left high and dry with no idea how you could have improved your work.

Rebranding Myself

I actually really love my current logo, but I want to start using my real name now instead of The Girl Next Floor, because it’s too associated with my escorting persona. So I considered my options. 99Designs is the leader in crowdsourcing logo designs, which I have known for a long time now.

I worked for a company over a year ago now and they used 99Designs for their logo. I remember the owner sent out an email to have people vote on the finalists, which I did. It seemed like they got some really high-quality choices to pick from when I was checking them all out.

So I decided to go for it. Here are my thoughts on the experience.

99Designs vs. 48HoursLogo

99designs-2_600So I went with the bronze package for logo designs, which costs $299. It appears that the designer gets $200 and I assume that 99Designs pockets the remaining $99. 

I know that professional logo designs can cost thousands of dollars, but I’m nowhere near that level yet and this was a bit of an investment for me, which is fine.

But first a little background. Like I said, I really love my current logo. I bought it through a site called 48hourslogo, which is obviously trying to set themselves apart from similar crowdsourcing sites by suggesting a quick turnaround time.

Logo contests on 48hourslogo work a little differently than those on 99Designs. While the site may be nowhere near the size of it’s main competitor, I actually like some of the features enough to recommend them first. 

For starters, contests are significantly less expensive and start at only $29. This is great because you can test the waters without investing so much. Of course the drawback here is that your contest gets less attention from designers because of the lower amount.

If you don’t get many designs submitted to your contest after the qualifying stage, you can request a refund or relist the contest for free. 

I spent the $29 and once I saw the designs and was sure I liked the results I was getting, I went ahead and paid the full $99 for the guaranteed full payment.

While the contest only received a total of 15 designs, I must have just been lucky since there were a couple that I really loved. Obviously your mileage may vary. 

One of the things I really liked about 48hourslogo was the fact that they allow you to add “participation pay” if you want, which I did. Each participation pay is only $5, and I got three of them.

These are awarded to the designers who don’t win, but whose work you liked and appreciated most. I think this is really important and I think it should be at least $10 or even $20 instead, honestly. 

I wish that 99Designs had this feature, even if they are more expensive to begin with. I would have bought at least a couple.

Also, 99Designs says to expect about 30 designs for customers who purchase the bronze package. However, my contest received considerably more entries than that. In the end, a total of  108 designs were submitted and I obviously feel like I got an insane value and selection to choose from for the money I spent.

I imagine they purposely underestimate the number of designs that are likely to be submitted in order to offer a number they feel that they can guarantee to their customers, which is understandable. Besides, with their huge network of designers it seems highly unlikely that any contest would receive less than that.

My 99Designs Experience

Now for the record, I’m a little picky when it comes to graphic design and especially when the logo is supposed to resemble me in a realistic way. Many designs that were submitted were very well done, but just weren’t my style or didn’t look enough like me in my opinion. 

One designer in particular submitted several versions of a logo design for me and was obviously trying quite hard to win the contest. I thought their work was great, but it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

I rated the designs three stars and in the comments the designer replied by asking if I would please at least rate them four stars since they tried really hard and explained that they were trying to build a more impressive portfolio on 99Designs. 

Since I know all too well what it is like being on the other end of this deal, I said of course I would be happy to do that small favor to show my appreciation. So I rated them all four stars. In my opinion, it was the least I could do. They seemed happy, which made me feel better about the whole thing.

When I first paid for the logo design contest, I chose to hold off on guaranteeing the payment until I could see what kind of results I got first. Obviously the advantage for the buyer when they guarantee payment is that the designers take it much more seriously and you are likely to get a wider selection of designs to choose from.

Once I saw the quality of the logos and had a small handful of potential winners I was scoping out, I went ahead and guaranteed the payment and received another flood of awesome designs.

I also remember that when I was participating in naming contests on SquadHelp and NamingForce, I would mostly disregard the non-guaranteed contests and instead focused only on those for which someone would be paid no matter what.

While I wish I had the budget to at least offer some compensation to each designer that submitted a logo, it’s obviously not very realistic. However, I can’t deny that I would recommend 99Designs to anyone who needs a logo designed.