How Shopify Helps College Students Learn About Opening A Business

I recently opened a shop on shopify for my handcrafted jewelry.
While learning the interface I discovered a lot of useful information that I can apply to my classes. One of the projects that we have done in the past involves finding a client with a product to sell and then creating an online brand presence for that client. Last time we did it the student used Wix, but I think Shopify is a great resource because it is all about eCommerce.

It turns out I am not the only Professor that thought this is a good idea. I read this blog post on shopify:

Picture 7 “Matt Hill is a CEGEP business professor at John Abbott College in Montreal, Canada, and he’s using Shopify in a very unique way. He and many others would argue that you learn the most about running a business by actually doing it. Textbooks and case studies can teach you great lessons about startups, marketing, and accounting, but nothing can prepare you for the real world like taking a chance and turning your great idea into reality.” Read the entire article by clicking this link.

It is good to know that other professors think the way I do. I recommend that anyone opening a online eCommerce site visit Shopify and look at some of the case studies and resources that are available.

Thinking of Opening an Online Store?

I wanted to share a resource I can upon when setting up my shopify store: It's my new baby and I felt pretty lost, luckily I stuck at it and was able to come up with something I consider a pretty cool work in progress.

I found some great online mentors such as Tim Ferriss (The 4-hour Workweek) and Seth Godin (Linchpin), whose books I bought and will comment on after I read them. I also found some tutorial sites that I tried out for myself and love.

Picture 14 Therefore, I wanted to start by recommending this one. The site is authored by a young man named Vinay. First I want to say that is is not a paid endorsement, there is nothing to buy (unless you d ecide to open you our Shopify store or other ecommerce enterprise) and the information can be applied to any online store. I am blogging this to build my audience and to thank him for his generosity.

The reason I like it is because it takes you through all the steps of setting up an online ecommerce presence starting with how to research how popular what you want to sell will be; finding and using the right keywords to be SEO friendly and building an audience to make those sales! So check it out and let me know what you think by posting a comment below.


Did Twitter’s Touchpoint Video Hit the Mark?

When tweeting about a free jewelry giveaway that I am running for Valentine's Day on Etsy I noticed that Twitter was featuring a video on their homepage about the new features coming soon!

Since we have been discussing "brand touchpoints" in my Corporate Communications class, I decided to post the video for my students to comment on. Let's see what they and you think about how effectively this video connects with the target audience.

Questions: What message was communicated and was it communicted clearly and convincingly? What did we learn here that we didn't know before about Twitter? How would you rate the video on a scale of one to ten?

Charging Clients – how to estimate, invoice and track your time

A while ago I got a request from one of my students for some information on how to bill a client. They wanted to know how much to charge for a job, so I posted this article:

How much to charge a client for a graphic design job

Occasionally I get a request about time sheets and invoices. I am attaching a timesheet, but I think it is easier to set one up in excel – tried to upload one but didn't have any luck. I always recommend that students start tracking their time on projects so they can become aware of exactly how much time a job will take. Then when someone asks for a quote they aren't dumbfounded – I know from my early personal experience how that feels – :0.

I am also attaching an estimate that is pretty detailed but can be customized or parred down to fit the need and a typical contract that I use; as well as a much simpler invoice that I got from one of my freelancers – the name has been changed of course.

I hope this is helpful for those who need this information.

Time sheet

Download Timesheet


Download Estimate

Lindsey's contract form

Download Contract1

Download Contract2


Download Invoice

Setting Your Standards as a Freelancer: A Few Suggestions

I came across this article and I thin k it is worth reading, I hope you enjoy it.

"Having standards is important when you’re trying to find and work with
clients on your own.

Picture 3

It's surprisingly tempting not to stick to your
standards: a quick project that you wouldn’t normally take can look
pretty appealing if you’re having a slow month. But sticking to your
guns can be important in more ways than one. If you take that
problematic job, not only are you doing something that you don’t want to
do, but you’re also likely to hand in work that you know isn’t as good
as you could do. Even worse, that sub-standard job can take up the time
you need to find higher paying clients, sticking you in a position where
you can’t afford to move forward."

Here is the link to the original article:

Setting Your Standards as a Freelancer: A Few Suggestions.

How to Caculate What to Charge Clients for Creative Services

Picture 20From time to time my students will email me because they are stumped when asked by a potential client (perhaps their first real paying design job) how much will they charge for design services. They are afraid if they say the wrong thing or demand too much they won’t get the job, yet they want to be paid fairly. I got an email yesterday from a student named Jamie…

Jamie wrote…

Hi Ms. Baker – “This is Jamie G. I’m not sure if you remember me but I had you for Corporate Communications and Branding. I had a question I thought you could help me answer. A sushi restaurant I work for wants me to redesign their menus for the entire restaurant including all food, drinks and dessert. I am kind of confused about the pricing aspect though and am wondering how to go about finding a decent price to tell them. They just told me yesterday about this so I have a little time to figure it out…”

Here is my recommendation:

Determine the scope of the work

My best advise is to create a short concise estimate/agreement as
to what the scope of the work is – in other words get it in writing as
to what exactly what (how many pieces, how many versions, etc.) you will be
providing for the amount that you are quoting. This keeps the client and you on the same page about what you agreed to complete for “x” amount of dollars.

Hourly rates

The next step is to determine an hourly rate that you will be satisfied receiving for the work. Hourly rates vary by state, years of experience, and frankly, how much you want to work for a specific client. Sometimes taking a little less on a job that will get you experience in an industry that you want to work in is worth it, (paying your dues) as long as you don’t feel in your gut that you are being taken advantage of.

Calculating the Price

Next you must figure out how long each task will take. Be prepared to show time sheets so the client knows what they are paying for. You
keep track of your time on projects even while still in school, so you have
a good idea about how long it takes you to do a design task. Otherwise
you will have to guess how long it will take you to complete the work
then I suggest you add on about 25% more to make sure you cover your
time. If it turns out to be less time you can adjust the bill and you
still look good to the client, because you came in under budget. You
can tell the client that it is an estimate and you like to create a
buffer, but will definitely adjust the price if you over-estimated the

Other Expenses

Clients like to know what to expect so they can budget for the expense, so hidden costs can be unsettling to them. Make sure that if you are laying out money for things like stock imagery, illustrations, photography or other items, you determine the costs and include that in the agreement. Also, determine an
hourly rate for any work they my ask for that goes over
the scope of what you agreed to in the estimate/agreement. Include that
in the
written agreement as well. For example, have an hourly rate that would
be charged for anything over the scope of the original project. 

If you
handle the printing you must charge
for your time on that as well; meaning running back and forth to the
printer, etc. Sometimes they will want to save money by handling this
themselves. You can provide a service by recommending a good printer
that is willing to work with a non-professional to ensure that the work
turns out well. But it is probably more cost effective for them to
have you handle the printing, so line up some good printers ahead of

Getting paid

In terms of payment, I always ask for a third
upfront, this assures me that they are serious about the project and
are willing to make a commitment. I write in the agreement that payment
is due when I deliver the final work. In big companies you
have to get a purchase order number from their accounting department
before you start to ensure payment. Also, you probably will have to
wait for their accounts receivable (usually 30 or 60 or even 90 days)
cycle  to get paid.


One of my favorite resources for templates for forms and contracts is Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers (3rd Edition) Amazon link .

Please Note:

post assumes that you are working from a home office and will claim % of office space used from housing costs, will depreciate your equipment and claim business expenses on your income taxes. The rates charged by professionals that run a brick and mortar design studios and maintain an full time staff are factored differently.