My Favorite Source for Low Cost Custom Graphics to Keep Your Website Looking Fresh (and How Get the Best Product Quickly)

If you are a startup entrepreneur doing business online or using a website to drive traffic to your brick and mortar business, there’s a good chance that you are involved in graphic design decisions.  For the well-funded startup this means that you will periodically review concepts presented by your graphic design team.  For the rest of us, it means staring at the same, boring homepage thinking, “how am I going to freshen up the look of this site without breaking the bank.”

My secret?  Fiverr.Com.  Okay, millions of people use the service, but it seems that at least half of the people I talk to haven’t heard of it.

Fiverr, a marketplace for products and services that cost 5 dollars, is a treasure trove of true bargains in a sea of “you get what you pay for.”

On Fiverr.com you can hire an actress to dress as a nun and deliver a custom video message from your own script.  For five dollars.  Paint your logo on somebody’s back?  Five bucks.  Video of a guy dressed like a banana shouting the name of your limousine service?  Five bucks.

“Fiverr, a marketplace for products and services that cost 5 dollars”

Some of the real gems on Fiverr reside in the Graphics and Design category.  You will find very specific offers for “gigs” to create web graphics.  A top banner for your facebook page.  An HTML action button.  A Google+ profile page banner.  Each of these graphic element must meet specific requirements to be compatible with the hosting service and these parameters can change from time to time.  For example, the standard for iTunes podcast artwork is presently 1400 x 1400 pixels.  There was a time when 800 x 800 worked fine, but as screen resolutions improve, standards change.  And that’s part of the beauty of Fiverr.  Need new artwork?  Throw down 5 bucks and you are back in business.

I went to Fiverr looking for something fresh for my Sports Car Junkies Business Podcast website, www.sportscarjunkies.com, and I found a seller (profile name: semigod) who was offering to create a custom license plate graphic with the name of my website on it.  His ratings looked solid and his recent deliveries where all completed within one day.  I looked through his sample work, selected a design and paid using PayPal.  About 3 hours later, I received a link to the completed file.  Easy.

This is what he sent me:

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Pretty cool for five bucks.

Now, the classic cost, schedule, performance tradeoff applies here as much as anywhere else.  As the old guy in my grandfather’s story said, “You can get it fast, cheap, or good.  Pick two.”  When my grandfather told his story (over and over again, actually) he was thinking like a guy who spends only American dollars.  On Fiverr that may not always be the case.

What if the person offering a 5 dollar gig lives somewhere that people routinely work for 5 dollars a day?  Right.  Now you are dealing in the realm of “not cheap”, opening the door to both good and fast.  As a practical matter there are American sellers on Fiverr who can either create a product with very little effort and time (as in the license plate graphic example here) or are willing to work for peanuts with the expectation that they will be introduced to a few customers who might be willing to buy full-price services and goods as a follow-on to their Fiverr gig.

“how do you sort through the sea of vendors to find the right one?”

So, how do you sort through the sea of vendors to find the right one?  My method is less than perfect but it gets me a good product most of the time, and when it doesn’t work I’m only out five dollars.

First, decide what you value most: cost, delivery time and/or quality.  Then apply the relevant tips for best results.

If Cost is a Priority

Cost is pretty straightforward with a few exceptions.  Some gigs will require upgrades, called additional gigs, to deliver what you actually want.  For example, the listing may show a full color caricature with two subjects.   When you to to order you learn that a black and white drawing is one $5 gig, color is another $10, and a second subject is an additional $10.  $25 may still be a good deal, but you will have to sort through a few listings to get the full story if the one you are considering requires upgrades.

If Delivery Time is a Priority

If fast delivery matters look first for “express gigs”.  You can search any category for these gigs which are promised to be delivered within 24 hours.  Presumably, sellers who list express gigs have to perform on schedule to continue offering them.  If there are no express gigs in your category or if you are not impressed by those offerings, look for gigs with short delivery times (1-3 days) then cross check the seller’s average delivery time.  They display a histogram of recent delivery times to give you a good idea of what you can expect.

Note that response time is very different from delivery time.  Many sellers will respond almost instantly to ask for additional information, such as the text to be printed on my license plates.  They may even use an auto-responder for this so the response time statistic doesn’t mean much to me.  In some cases you will see that the seller offers to upgrade delivery for another 5 dollars.  In my experience, many of these sellers will make it a point to deliver at the maximum time limit if you don’t upgrade to faster delivery.  This makes sense.

If Quality is a Priority

The real skill required to navigate Fiverr is the ability to sniff out poor quality.  I start with seller ratings, including number of stars and buyer comments.  Then I look at how long the seller has been on Fiverr and how many ratings they have.  You can sort sellers my ratings, simplifying the process a little.  Then I look closely at their sample products.

If the graphics look a little grainy in the samples, they are probably going to be a real mess when you get them.  Also look for correct proportions.  Some of the hack jobs you will see result from the seller grabbing a buyer-supplied image and jamming it into a header without regard for aspect ratios.  The end result looks like the subject has been smashed down or stretched thin, not unlike the images you would see on some of the early wide screen television.  If it looks like crap in the listing, it probably is.

My best advice?  Don’t count on a five dollar product for any elements that is critical to your business.

Have fun.  Expect little.  Celebrate success.

Hybrid Supercars of the Future

With governments throughout the world committed to reduce emissions and improve national fuel economy, it’s no surprise that the next generation of supercars will be substantially different from the last. Gone are the days of gas guzzling giants such as the Lamborghini Murcielago with its eye watering 13 mpg. Instead prepare for a new wave of hybrids to grace our roads, but don’t worry these chic and stylish models have all the sex appeal you’d expect from a super car, just with green credentials to boot.

I’ve scoured the net to bring you details of some of the most anticipated super cars of the future. Amazingly, these cutting edge designs are all due to be produced and on our roads within the next five to ten years, so here’s what we’ve got to look forward to.

1. Mitsubishi Evo XI

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Car enthusiasts love the Evo (including me) with a huge online following though owners clubs and dedicated track days, meaning the release of the Evo XI is hugely anticipated. Mitsubishi is stepping up to exceed expectations with promise of a car with over 500 bhp. Stylistically the new Evo follows the masculine lines of it’s predecessors with a carbon fibre bonnet to reduce weight and improve handling. Meaner and greaner as some would say.

2. Ferrari LaFerrari

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As far as names go, the latest offering from Ferrari is really scraping the barrel, however fortunately LaFerrari is one car that doesn’t live up to it’s name! The 6.3 litre v12 engine is fitted with a hybrid KERS system and pumps out an incredible 950 bhp, it’s just a pity it’ll set you back a cool $1.69 million, but I guess we can dream!

3. Audi R8

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2015 will see the launch of the new Audi R8 to our shores. Although the previous model made a huge splash it wasn’t seen as a super car by many critics, more of a high end sports car. The new 600 bhp hybrid engine, sleek carbon fibre chassis and impressive design will propel this model to the super car status it deserves. At under $300,000 the Audi R8 represents one of the more affordable super cars on the market, ensuring it’s at the right price point to be a hit with the mid life crowd!

4. Nissan GT-R

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As far as muscle cars go the GT-R is one of the finest, however until recent weeks there was no sign of a new model in the pipeline. Now rumours abound that a powerful hybrid version is being prepared for market in the next ten years. This is sure to cause a stir among enthusiasts who have ensured the popularity of this beast of the road since the early days of the Skyline.

5. Toyota Supra

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The original Toyota Supra is one of the most popular performance cars ever made. Since it was catapulted to the heady heights of super car stardom in legendary car movie The Fast And The Furious, the Supra’s fan base has eagerly anticipated it’s predecessor. Although nothing is confirmed yet, there are reports that new Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda wants to revitalise the brand by creating a new hybrid model.

6. Acura NSX

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The stunning Acura NSX is due for production in 2015 following release of the concept car at the Detroit Auto Show last year. Although Honda haven’t revealed any specifics sources say the motor will be a 3.7 litre V8 coupled with a hybrid electric motor. With an excellent mile per gallon promised the Acura NSX could be the sensible man’s supercar. Extremely good appearance with great moving makes it my personal favourite.

7. Infiniti Emerg-e

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I could wax lyrical about the incredible look of this car, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Incredibly the Infiniti has the full package as it’ll be the world’s first super economy car. This impressive economy is achieve by two electric motors with a lithium battery pack, giving a total range of 300 miles.

8. Porsche 918 Spyder

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Ever thought you’d see 80 mpg coming from a Porsche? Nope me neither, but thanks to the genius of hybrid engineering we will in 2014. The 918 Spyder had already been tested around the test track at Nürburgring Nordschleife and achieved an impressive time of 7 minutes 14 seconds, proving a hybrid car really can perform with the big boys.

9. Lexus LF-LC

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Lexus is in the doldrums in recent years, with an ever plunging reputation and the sales to match. In order to restore faith in the brand the Lexus LF-LC has been pegged as an innovative new design concept that will hopefully revitalise the brand to it’s former glory. Although the engine specifics haven’t been relieved yet no-one can deny the LF-LC is top looking motor, definitely one to watch for the future!

10. McLaren P1

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Like all good commentators, I’m saving the best ’till last. The McLaren P1 is one of the most highly awaited super cars of all time and it’s easy to see why, with the model tipped to become one of the highest performing cars on the planet. Cutting edge technology and Eco credentials combine to offer a stunning super car with soul. More details surrounding engine specifics will be revealed in recent months, but this is rumoured to be a 800 bhp beast.

Mary Ann Keeling, although the name might suggest an Irish descent, is a regular Brisbanian woman. She enjoys driving, though being a typical woman means that she chose her car based on the car’s safety features above all others. Don’t let that fool you though, she’s put many a man to shame with her knowledge of the car industry, and left those who dared race her eating her dust!…

Lime Rock Park: Where New Media Meets Old School Racing

In the course of researching the sports car industry for the Sports Car Junkies Business Podcast I sign up for and receive a lot of informational (junk) email. Some of it really is junk. But almost every day I find a nugget or two of new information that I can use.

Atop the sea of mostly redundant offers and updates filling my inbox I occasionally find something from Lime Rock Park‘s marketing machine. Racing fans will know the name as one of the oldest and most famous motorsport parks in the United States. Since its inception in the 1950′s Lime Rock Park has hosted events featuring virtually all the big names in racing. Names like Andretti, Moss, Gurney, Posey, Rodriguez, Hobbs, Hill, Donohue, Ward and Fitch. In the racing business this place is known both for its long, respected history and for its dynamic growth in recent years.

The track was re-paved in 2008. Owner Skip Barber, a legend in his own right, insisted that the surface geometries designed into the facility when it hosted its first race in 1957 be accurately restored so that today’s drivers can experience the same track that challenged drivers nearly three generations ago.

I’m excited about the new driving opportunities at Lime Rock Park. I’m on top of upcoming events. But I’ve never been there.

In the past couple of weeks I have shared two of their videos and a press release with my circle of friends. Not that any of us have short term plans to drive up to Litchfield County, Connecticut any time soon for a classic car race or a charity auction.

It’s just that the promotional material is so darn good that you can’t help but want to share it. Adam Carolla drives the Lime Rock Park edition BMW M3? Gotta see that.

“the promotional material is so darn good that you can’t help but want to share it”

If you are prepared to lose an hour of productivity one afternoon, then go to youtube and do a search for Lime Rock Park. You’ll waste half the day watching narrated high-speed runs through the varied elevations and turns, then waste the second half of the day figuring out what its going to take to prep your daily driver Miata in time for you to participate in the next amateur event.

Even if you don’t care about cars and going fast, you owe it to yourself to see how one business went all-in for online marketing.

Take a look at one of their videos to see what I’m talking about:

Lime Rock Park Promotional Video

A visit to their website is just as likely to kill a good chunk of your day. If you dare, check out the videos that guests have uploaded and learn about the Drivers Club.

Kudos to the team at lime rock park for showing us what New Media Marketing is capable of.

Now, I wonder if Southwest flies into Lakeville.…