Keeping Smaller Projects Profitable

Earlier this week, I was with a friend who was setting up a site for a client of his on LightCMS. The client's budget was limited, and his needs pushed the limits of that budget. While a large portion of clients fit this description, it can be difficult to make a living off of time-consuming projects with low profit. To get the most out of the project, my friend needed an efficient platform and workflow.

And that's where LightCMS came in. As you probably know already, LightCMS uses web standards. So regarding design, there really aren't any limits. And that means even themes or templates can be made endlessly more unique to the project. You might not like the idea of using a theme or template as a starting point, and that's awesome. Everyone can respect that, especially if you can keep your work profitable. But  using templates or themes as starting points can help make that less attractive project more beneficial.

Before we talk about how LightCMS impacts your efficiency, let's look at how the designer in question changed up the free LightCMS theme to make it unique and tailored to his client's needs.

 

The Tweaks That Changed Everything

To customize the theme, he took his notes and what he knew of the organization to determine the color palette and what changes to make.

 

Color Palette

The organization works with U.S. military veterans, so the designer chose a more fitting color scheme that utilized red, white, and blue. To keep the site modern, professional, and serious, he chose darker, moderately saturated tones as well as an off-white to bring out elements. The header and background were also changed to a textured black, which keeps the focus on the content much as a vignette would.

Font

The font was changed to Arvo, a Google web font, to compliment the more sleek, modern look.

Flair

The choice of cyan for the bullets and break gradients keep the color scheme cohesive while still attracting attention.

How LightCMS Keeps You Clothed and Fed

You might think the link between the clothes on your back and your use of LightCMS is a bit of a stretch, but believe it or not, we're huge supporters of you wearing clothes. If you've used us for a while, you know we're all about design freedom and "simple yet powerful" features that streamline your workflow. You probably sensed it now, and you were right -- here comes the shameless self-promoting feature-marketing plug disguised as a design case study. The following is a mock workflow for how we help you keep even these smaller projects profitable:

  1. You create an account for your client in as little time as it takes you to come up with the publispath URL.
  2. You've decided that one of our free themes or a third-party template will fit your client's needs. You download the files straight from our site and begin work in whatever software you know best.
  3. You set up FTP access and upload your magnum opus.
  4. You add content, set up your pricing plan, and tell us to bill your client for you.
  5. You do a little dance, make a little $$$, and watch a couple episodes of Dr. Phil while we keep your new site up and running. And with us hosting, you make a passive income while letting us deal with uptime, security, and updates.

But Wait! It's Too Easy!

You're right. Maybe it is too easy. And now that we've got eCommerce set up and online store functionality, it's easier than ever before to keep your smaller, budget-strapped projects fun to work with. For example, the theme customization and setup referenced in this article only took my friend around six to eight hours, which includes adding content. TLDR: He got to watch a lot of Dr. Phil.

Conclusion (Now With 100% Fewer References to Dr. Phil)

Efficiency is key, especially with smaller projects. And if there's a lot of anything out there, it's smaller projects. It's been a common lament of designers for as long as they've existed that clients can have unrealistic or difficult expectations. And in a struggling economy, it's only worse. But we offer a lot of handy tools that can help increase your efficiency by letting you spend more time on design, which directly affects your ability to stay fully-clothed.

So at what point do you decide that a project should be based on a theme or template? And what other time-saving workflow ideas do you use?

5 comments (Add your own)

1. colourworks360 wrote:
isn't it just like clients to have a low budget when it comes to the site design,the one thing that they should not do as it is there face to the world,when will they learn?

Thu, June 30, 2011 @ 4:49 PM

2. Eric Granata wrote:
Great post. I do this kind of thing a lot and, while I'm not building portfolio pieces, I AM feeding my babies. In fact, almost a third of my household income came from LightCMS related work last year (thanks, btw). That's nights and weekends!

Thu, June 30, 2011 @ 5:14 PM

3. Michael Thomas wrote:
Vince, this is good stuff but only scratching the surface. I'd love to see a little more "meat" on the bone, like a case study. Also - where's the finished product?

Keep it up!

Fri, July 1, 2011 @ 9:42 AM

4. justinjuk wrote:
Nice article. Managing client expectations and unrealistic budgets are always a challenge. LightCms offers great value for those quickturn/low profit jobs. Light has some nice looking templates to start.

Fri, July 1, 2011 @ 12:00 PM

5. Vince Conn wrote:
@Eric - That's great to hear! Feeding babies is another thing LightCMS supports wholeheartedly :) We love having you around and being able to partner with you.

@Michael - I totally agree. While going over some of the stuff for this post, I found some great finished examples that would work better as case studies. Ended up splitting the ideas so I don't go all markety in the fuller case study. I'll be working more on that next week. And thanks for the encouragement / feedback. P.S. - I'll see if I can add the finished product as well.

Fri, July 1, 2011 @ 3:29 PM

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