Firedove


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Audio Engineering (Welcome Kevin!)

Audio Engineering (Welcome Kevin!)

Today we are happy to announce that Kevin Partridge has officially joined the Firedove flock! Kevin brings his audio engineering expertise to Firedove. He was able to put together a quick 30 second spot about Firedove to demonstrate his capabilities. Kevin also did the voice-over for the spot. Take a listen below!

Firedove can now offer even higher quality audio production, creation, and editing for our clients than we could have before. This combined with our strong marketing and analytics background allows us to help our clients with audio advertisement creation, targeting, production, media buys, and analytics.

Welcome to the team Kevin!

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The Perils of DIY Marketing

The Perils of DIY Marketing

We’ve been running a series of Ads on Google Adwords Express.

Adwords Express claims that it “is perfect for the one-person marketing team, or if you don’t need all the features of AdWords. Just set up your account and we’ll manage where and when your ads appear on Google. No keywords to choose, no ongoing maintenance — so you can spend less time on advertising and more time with your customers.” They also have an incentive that for the first $50 dollars you spend, they’ll give you $100 dollars in ad credit.

As an agency that doesn’t have a ton of time to dedicate to marketing itself and is trying to maximize every dollar we’ve got, we’ve decided to give Adwords Express a chance.

We decided to run an ad within a 25-mile radius of our office that played to our known strengths, that we are local and affordable.

Adwords Express Ad

Our Ad

We decided to let the ad run for about 14 days without any interferences on our end. We figured that the best case scenario is that we’d start to get emails and phone call from prospective clients interested in setting up consults and that at a minimum we’d be putting our name in front of local individuals seeking the services that we offer.
Initial Adwords Data

Google Adwords Express Analytics

 

The first problem we ran into was that Google was almost exclusively running our ad on Google Partner Sites. Google Partner Sites can be anything that has space designated for advertising and is associating with the Google Ad Network. These ads typically just feature text and we have no ability to add images or specify the targeting.

We reached out to Google and asked for our ad to be only displayed in search with relevant industry search queries (web graphic design, website tech support, firedove technology, etc.). Google said that they would be happy to do this and it may take a day or two to kick in.

Ads on Google Search do not have a set price. Instead, it’s a continuously blind bidding system and the top ad spot goes to the highest bidder. Some phrases are extremely expensive as a lot of people are bidding on them, like “web design”, whereas others are relatively cheap as fewer people are bidding, like “firedove technology”. With traditional Google Adwords, you are allowed to either set a bid or have Google automatically bid within a certain range. With Google Adwords Express, Google automatically sets your bid.

This whole system is meant to automate the process as much as it can, so the small business owner can focus on providing their services to clients, and not crunching numbers or tweaking keywords. It is reasonable to assume that since Google’s business is advertising, that their algorithm would be able to know what is best for your business.

Our search ad was clicked on twice and consumed a whopping 37% of our, albeit small, budget for Google ads. This would be fine if both of those clicks resulted in a consult and perhaps just one of them resulted in a contract, but that didn’t happen.

Hotter Screencast

Hotjar Visitor Screen Recording

We utilize Hotjar to watch how our visitors use our website. The screencasts revealed that while people were reading some of the content on our website, they left the website before hitting the “Contact Us” button. While we want to bring more visitors to our website, we cannot afford to be spending $9.18 per visit.

With all that said, we are presented with a decision. Do let the campaign finish on its current course without intervention from us? Do we double down and increase our ad spend? Or do we pull the plug immediately and redirect our marketing budget elsewhere?

We stay the course… but not for the reasons you might expect.

As we mentioned before, Google is offering a $100 credit to first time Adwords Express customers after they spend $50. We’ve met that threshold and we have quite literally nothing to lose by spending the $100 credit to see if those $9.18 visitors (approximately 10-11 visitors) generate any meaningful ROI. Since we provide a service, one conversion (a person who sees the ad, sets up a consult, and signs a contract with us) would certainly cover our costs.

Would we do this again?

Probably not.

Both Google and Facebook have been offering seemingly cheap and automated advertising solutions for small businesses. For us, the time it would take for us to design a campaign with Google’s or Facebook’s traditional ad platforms would be worth the flexibility, targeting options, and ability to deploy more engaging ads. Designing our own campaign should allow us to decrease the CPC (cost per click) and net more visitors to our website, which hopefully should result in more conversions.

Why are we talking about this?

Because we are in this peculiar position of marketing marketing-service, and we believe that to be successful we need to have a thorough understanding of all the tools that our potential clients may be drawn to and with that we will be able to make accurate recommendations on services.

The cost of a seemingly inexpensive solution will outstrip the cost of using an agency to run your next advertising campaign. If you want to advertise in Spokane or the surrounding areas, consider giving us a call to schedule a consult and go over a few alternative options than Adwords Express, boosting a Facebook post, or other DIY advertising platforms.

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Audio Editing

Audio Editing

Getting that pitch perfect sound in post-production can be a difficult and tedious task, so why not outsource it to us? Whether it is an audio book, podcast, radio advertisement, or anything in-between we can help create the perfect track for you.

Getting that pitch perfect sound in post-production can be a difficult and tedious task, so why not outsource it to us? Whether it is an audio book, podcast, radio advertisement, or anything in-between we can help create the perfect track for you.

We happen to have a knack for the type of work. Perhaps it is because Robbi and Keith are both musicians (albeit Keith is a far superior one). Maybe it is from the hundreds of hours of previously edited audio for other projects. Regardless as to how we initially established this skill set, audio editing is something of a harmony between our technological prowess and creativity.

Since each audio project is so unique, so we don’t have a set per minute price. Instead we will ask for an audio sample and a list of edits that you are looking to have made. We will perform those edits, time ourselves, and establish a rate or fixed fee from there based upon our standard hourly rate.

We take on projects of all sizes. Feel free to reach out for a free consult. We’d be happy to discuss your project over the phone, via email, or in person at our office in Downtown Spokane.

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Truly Fair Pricing

Truly Fair Pricing

We use Bonsai for our invoicing. It’s a really neat system that integrates nicely with Stripe, and it makes managing invoices a breeze. Bonsai has made some of its data regarding freelancer’s rates public, and we have used that data to help inform us as to where our prices should be.

Web / Mobile Industry Average Rates

Industry Average Rates of Web / Mobile Designers on the West Coast with 3-5 years of experience.

This graph suggests that the industry average for web designers at similar levels of experience to us, end up charging folks between $60-80 per hour on average. Robbi has 6 years of experience, yet our hourly rate of $35 is 56.25% less than the industry average. We aren’t skimping on quality by any stretch of the imagination, rather we are providing our services at a price that we believe is fair.

Graphic Design Industry Average Rates

Industry Average Rates of Graphic Designers on the West Coast with 5-10 years of experience.

With respect to graphic design, Robbi has 8 years of experience, and while the average range of prices skews towards the lower end of the chart, the average is between $40-60 per hour. Our rate represents a 41.66% price difference over the industry average. Graphic design tends to be less expensive than website development because designing a static image is inherently less technical than building a website. Additionally, there are more graphic designers out there than web developers.

We are not looking to be cost leaders in our industry. We need to get paid, just as every other professional, and we are not advertising “cheap websites.” We are advertising websites at a fair price.

As we continue to try to buck the industry and bring the outrageous rates to a reasonable level, we welcome you to bring your next graphic design or website development project to us to help keep your piggy bank happy. ??

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10K in 50 Days

10K in 50 Days

We recently achieved a major milestone for our company. After 50 Days of operation we reached $10,000 in revenue! ???

By our best estimate, we’ve consumed 175 cups of coffee since our humble beginnings on February 23rd, 2016.

coffee ad nauseamWe’ve committed 60 hours to sale efforts, 20 hours to administrate efforts (taxes, banking, etc.), and 19 hours to strengthening our brand.

Hours DistributionWe’ve worked multiple back-to-back 12 hour days, put in numerous hours over the weekend, and have adjusted to a life of being always on call to help our clients out when they need it. At a standard rate of $25 an hour, it takes about 400 clients hours to pull in $10,000. Those 400 hours divided over 50 days equates to 8 hours a day. Given the nature of running our own business, we have worked countless 9, 10, 12, and occasional 14 hour days to make time for our sales efforts, administrative necessities, and brand development.

Firedove Technology is on a very positive trajectory. From starting out with zero brand recognition, enough funds to purchase a laptop,  software, and few other odds and ends, and no office space, we are extremely pleased with the current state of our company.

We attribute our success to our fair pricing and high quality of service. We’d like to thank our significant others for not only putting up with the madness of starting a company, but wholeheartedly embracing the rollercoaster that comes from being engaged to entrepreneurs.

This is just the beginning for Firedove Technology. We’d be foolish to assume that anything will get easier from this point on. We will continue to work hard. We will continue to have long days.

At the end of the day, that hard work enables us to fly with our own wings as entrepreneurs, and we couldn’t be happier.

The data shows that business owners and consumers in Spokane appreciate fair pricing for their website development, graphic design, IT support, and data analysis.

The data shows that Firedove Technology is here to stay.

??

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Technocratic Expansion

Technocratic Expansion

We’ve been in business for 35 days and have been fortunate to experience strong growth while providing our services to 16 unique clients. We’ve been able to provide a wide range of technology, graphic design, and website solutions for businesses in all different industries of all different sizes. As we bring on more clients we have more responsibilities, and we’ve been observing how our distribution of hours is skewing heavily towards client time.

Hours logged by Firedove Technology Staff

No surprises here. As we increase the amount of time we spend on clients our cash increases.

We would love to be spending 100% of our time with our clients, but there are other functions of the business that we need to tend to, including our latest project, Firedove Incubator.

So, how does a small firm like ours increase the amount of hours we can commit to our clients and other business activities? The answer is deceptively simple.

The time has come for Firedove Technology to increase the size of our team. Before we announce our newest addition to our flock, we wanted to share with you how we are using our data to guide this decision.

Firedove Technology does not have the capacity to guarantee two (or even one) full time salary. We live and die on our invoices coming in on time. Some weeks are rather lucrative and others bring in minimal amounts of revenue. In the absence of consistent salaries, we needed to come up with an equitable way to pay everyone in the organization a fair amount that wouldn’t put us into any financial jeopardy. This is our solution.

Staff Member A Hours

Employee A

The image above is an theoretical breakdown of hours by an individual, Employee A, at Firedove. We’ve decided to weight each of our tracked hours with a different value. Client Time has a multiple of 5 (as it is what brings in most of our revenue) and Personal time has a multiple of 0 (as this time doesn’t add value to our company). By using these multiples, we can reasonably assess the value of each person’s contributions based on the activities that they participated in that week.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.43.02 PM

Employee B

In this example, we can see that Employee B worked 19.5 hours for Firedove compared to the 40 hours Employee A worked. If we calculate the division of labor solely using the total hours, Employee A is entitled to 67.2% of the earnings that week, whereas Employee B would be entitled to 32.8%. The difference between Employee A and Employee B is that Employee A had contributed a greater amount of hours that week towards Client Time than Employee B did. By using our weighted system, Employee A is entitled to 71.3% of the earnings (representing a 4.1% increase) whereas Employee B is entitled to 28.70% of the earnings.

By using data we can understand who is adding the most value to the company and reward them proportionally. Some organizations have a company and compensation structure that resembles a monarchy or oligarchy. At Firedove Technology we are attempting to model our company like a technocracy.

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Introducing Firedove Incubator

Introducing Firedove Incubator

Today we are happy to announce the start of Firedove Incubator. Firedove Incubator is a division of Firedove Technology where we develop products in-house. As we’ve mentioned before, our team is full of individuals that have built numerous consumer electronic products. It should be no surprise that we are continuing to develop products, and starting today we will house those efforts within Firedove Incubator.

Why are we doing this?

A few reasons.

a.) It allows Firedove Technology to subsidize the development costs of a new product instead of having the inventors pay out of pocket for parts, tools, and the other necessary items to develop a new product.

b.) It consolidates our intellectual property into one entity. This makes it easier for us to maintain and license our IP.

c.) It takes a long time to build a product, and even longer to bring the product to market. Firedove Incubator allows us to still draw enough of an income from Firedove Technology so we can still feed ourselves while we are prototyping, designing, and assembling the products.

What will be your first product?

We are building a consumer electronic product to be made in Spokane, Washington. We hope to sell it for anywhere between $125-$200. We will periodically share more details as our development continues, but we think that anyone who shares our similar ethos in respect to design, technology, and data, will appreciate our first product.

Can I join?

We’d certainly be open to having individuals join the efforts of Firedove Incubator. Give us a call or email if you want to get in on this exciting new endeavor.

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Sizing Up The Competition

Sizing Up The Competition

For Firedove Technology to be successful, we need to understand our competition. We provide four distinct services and we wanted to examine our competitive position in respect to web design. Since our brand  is still developing, we often need to fight and compete for new business by responding to requests for bids. We use a multiple tools to find opportunities to bid on, and one of them is Craigslist.

We wanted to know who we were bidding against, so we created (and have since removed) an ad calling for the following:

  • A website for a new business that shows our business, has a contact form, and lots of pictures.
  • Estimated total of 5-10 pages.
  • A cost estimate.

We received 18 responses in 23 hours.

Firedove Inbox, Mail Counter, Animation, Gif

This is what happened to our inbox after posting the ad. This is also the first animation we’ve made!

Firedove Technology would bid this type of project between $250 – $500. On average we charge about $50 per page.

55.5% of the 18 responses came in five hours after we initial posted the ad. We knew that there were a lot of web designers in Spokane, but we didn’t think that there would be 18 different bids that quickly.

Map of Spokane Web Designers, Google Maps

Well, there are a lot of web designers in Spokane. Maybe 18 responses makes sense.

Turns out, despite this being a local Craigslist ad, we were getting bids from people all around the country and even Canada.

  • 2 stated they were from Spokane WA
  • 1 was from New Jersey.
  • 1 was from Illinois after doing some research.
  • 3 were from California.
  • 2 were from Florida.
  • 1 was from British Columbia.
  • 1 was from Ontario.
  • 1 was from Toronto
  • 6 gave no indication as to where they were from.

Okay. So how did these 18 fare in responding to the ad itself? Only 7 provided bids. 2 respondents provided an hourly rate with no bid for how much time they suspected it’d take to complete the website. If we are being generous here let’s say that only 50% of the respondents actually read the ad and responded with the cost. Yikes.  For those that did response with the cost, it ranged between $175 – $650.

responses, hours,

The rate of responses from the ad.

A few of the company websites, portfolios, and examples that were sent over genuinely good quality. Unfortunately, the vast majority were either broken, extremely outdated, or just poorly designed.

The quality of the actual email response also varied tremendously.  Here are some of the worst offenders.

“Hey there i will built you a awsome web site for hundred bucks a page check out my portfolio at”

“Hiya, there are many CMS’s out there”

“I can build a custom WordPress website with custom traffic pulling plugins your going to love your logo included and 15 pages I will through in 3 bonus e-books on how to get free traffic to your site, Also as an added bonus if you get back to me in the next 5hours to give you time to think about it I will through in 100 custom keyword rich unique spun articles to use to add even more traffic to your site and I will show you how to apply for google AdSense  for added income for you. I can take all payments through PayPal. Contact me so I can get started rite away.”

To be fair, the two individuals from Spokane had the best written emails out of the entire group.

What does this mean for us?

This experiment validates that our pricing is in line with others who are competing for the same work and that our presentation is much better than our competition.

Are you curious as to how we respond to a request for a website? Contact us today to experience our service yourself. Or you can post on Craigslist, we might just respond.

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Time Management & Productivity Blocks

Time Management & Productivity Blocks

We’ve talked before about how we are tracking our time in order to better understand how this business works.  If you haven’t read that piece, it may be a good place to start before reading further. You can read it here.

Today, we want to expand on that and show how we are tracking our individual days and share what insights we are pulling from that data.

TimeTrackerWe’ve gone ahead and blurred all the text to protect client privacy.

Each colored block represents an hour. We try to keep tasks within 1/2 hour increments to a.) make our data collection easier and more consistent and b.) keep us focused on the tasks at hand. The white rivers between each block is a weekend. You can see that we occasionally put in time over the weekend, but we do our best to avoid that.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.54.57 AMOur secret color code!

You can already start to see patterns. There are days that are primarily client time. There are also times where we are going on a sales push and other times that we are working on brand development. These are all productive tasks that help increase our revenue, brand recognition, and customer satisfaction.

The purple blocks of personal time are indeed personal activities during the work day (getting lunch with a friend, walking to and from downtown, or tinkering on a side project), but they can also represent productivity blocks. A productivity block is either when work just simply isn’t getting done or busy work is occupying our time instead of other activities that can help add value to our operation.

productivityblockThese two days sucked.

As you can see, two days were plagued with two hour productivity blocks. We attempt to manage all of our work within an eight hour work day, which means that this was a loss of 25% of our productive time that day.

What happened? 

a.) We were experiencing a sales slump. All of our client work was done, our previous sales efforts were not working as well as they previously had been, and it was hard to come up with productive tasks that would increase revenue rather than incur additional expenses.

b.) Both of these productivity blocks came from previous days of being very productive. Having a slow day threw us off and we had a hard time managing the lull in business.

c.) Both activities occurred after lunch. We had spent the morning on both days doing brand development and sales efforts, and by the time the afternoon rolled around we were a bit fatigued with those activities.

How did we correct this? 

todaywasagoodday

These two days were better.

We continued with our sales efforts by literally driving further to meet with clients we weren’t reaching previously. We did some pro bono work to help individuals out and sharpen our skills. We built a simple app just to see if we could and to see if that would be a valuable service for our clients. We woke up earlier, chased more leads, and drank more coffee.

The Firedove team implements a simple idea when facing a productivity block.

What is the most expensive, dangerous, and illegal way we can solve a problem we are facing?

Our problem was that we didn’t have any client work at the moment. After you run through the most absurd of solutions and the creativity starts flowing again, it’s easier to come up with reasonable solutions to the problem.

Ultimately, somedays are not going to be as productive as others. That’s just a fact of life and business. What we can do is try to come up with more efficient and meaningful ways to break those productivity barriers.

Next time you are faced with a creative dilemma, try thinking about the most expensive, dangerous, and illegal solution. It might just jumpstart some new ideas.

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Watching The Wheel

Watching The Wheel

Firedove Technology is made by some of the same folks who made Vitreous.

Vitreous as described by the Spokane Journal of Business is “a digital mirror display that can access the Internet or content from a user’s smartphone.” The product promises to make getting ready in the morning a unique, entertaining, and informative process by brining information to you in a more seamless and transparent way.

Building a product is difficult. After many other inventions made by the team that works on Vitreous (and part of the Firedove team), we have learned how to effectively address the problems and challenges that come with putting together a hardware or software solution.

https://youtu.be/yiVxCK-eK3U

Perhaps the best lessons we’ve gained from experiences like these is that to create something amazing you need to start with bare-bones functionality (otherwise known as a Minimum Viable Product, a.k.a. a MVP) and increase functionality after the initial set of features are working flawlessly. Starting small and then expanding as new features become necessary saves us from trying to create a product that is unnecessarily complicated, unmanageable, and potentially even undesirable for our customers.

We don’t assume that the final product is going to be a creation of something entirely from our own imagination. The product will be refined by our customers using the device, explaining how they use it, and providing feedback.

We could arbitrarily add a toaster slot to the Vitreous to allow you to make part of your breakfast in the a mirror, but that idea isn’t supported by any compelling customer narrative. Maybe customers will want something that is capable of helping make their breakfast and we will implement that feature, but until we have the hard data to support that notion we will focus on improving our existing feature set.

At times, designers of all industries will attempt to build a project that simply outstrips the needs of the clients. Sure, a website that works with Google Cardboard is exciting, for example, but it may entirely miss the majority of visitors because they only use desktop computers to visit the website.

Ignoring the customer narrative can hurt and even kill a business. Instead of focusing on making one product, service, or offering really great, a business might overextend itself and make a product that’s only accolade is that it does a lot of things poorly.

Steve Jobs has been famously quoted saying ““It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And this is true. A dash of innovation and imagination is required to initially build a business or product, but how people use that product or business is something you cannot entirely control. Even the best UX may result in customers utilizing the service or product in ways that were not originally planned.

Your business is a product of innovation, observation, and instinct. By incrementally adding in hardware and software solutions that address real customer needs, you’ll spend less cash and time trying to reinvent the wheel, and instead spend time predicting, watching, and adjusting to how the wheel rolls.

We build thoughtful and innovative products. We watch how the wheel moves and create pathways to accelerate its speed, ramps to give it a boost into the air, and even an axle to help pivot.

Customers are the wheel. They ultimately decide where the market is going and what they want to support. Instead of trying to reshape their expectations as to what a wheel is, we try to make pathways that support the motion of the already rolling wheel. Firedove can bring this level of thoughtfulness to your next project.

P.S. Vitreous is live and well. We are still working on it and hope to bring it to customers soon. Keep up on all Vitreous developments @ www.DCIASM.com