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My 7-Day, $7 GraphicsZoo Review

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The luxury of an on-demand graphic designer is a recent one. Gone are the Mad Men days of walking into a glamorous, sexy office building to hire a firm to do design work for you. Now, if you need a design completed, all you have to do is log on. GraphicsZoo is one such on-demand graphic designer. Here is a GraphicsZoo review you do not want to miss.

Side note – how fun is it to say “GraphicsZoo review” out loud? Say it with me “GraphicsZoo review.” Fun, no?

Anyway…

For a flat, monthly rate you can have all the designs your mind could dream of. So, I decided to see what was up with them. I signed up for their 7 Day $7 Trial. Not a bad deal, right? Here’s how my experience went. 

Logging On, Part One

When I first signed up for GraphicsZoo, I didn’t actually sign up. Not yet anyway. I had filled in and submitted the necessary log-in information. Next was the payment information. I paused on that for whatever reason, got distracted and closed the window. I would take care of it the next day when I had a moment. 

GraphicsZoo, however, took the initiative. I received this email the following day:

I hadn’t given them any money yet. Seems a little odd for a company to get the ball rolling when a customer has knowingly not handed over any kind of payment information. They sure seemed eager to get started, so, why not? Let’s get to work. 

Except, when I clicked on “Post a New Project,” I was sent to this page: 

You may be asking yourself, “what the hell is Laravel?” Because I sure did. Laravel is a free, open-source PHP web framework. It’s a website programming tool. That’s the best way I can explain something I don’t fully understand in layman’s terms. 

Why was I sent to this page by an official GraphicsZoo email? 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Logging On, Part Two – The Sandwich Shop of My Dreams

Now ready to hand over proper payment information, I signed up a second time. Again, GraphicsZoo sent me an email about starting a project before I had submitted the payment information. But this time, they didn’t even give me time to walk away. 

I get it, you’re Eager McBeavers. Let’s wait until I hand over payment information, yes? 

Once I got settled in, I submitted my design request. Since high school, I’ve had a very silly dream about opening up a sandwich shop. So, to make a younger me excited, I decided to create a logo for this dream sandwich shop. 

My nickname in high school was Blondie, so I decided to stick with the theme and name my dream shop “Blondie’s Sammiches.”

Now, I had plenty of ideas as to how I wanted a logo or a label to look for this dream shop. But I wanted to see what GraphicsZoo designers could do with minimal direction. I gave them the initial freedom to decide for me. Let’s see what kind of raw talent they got. 

I asked for a classic New York deli-style design, and the rest was up to them. At least to start. 

Once submitted, I happened to notice the expected delivery date. September 6. That date would seem arbitrary, but I signed up on September 1. Kinda funny that the first expected delivery date is just under the 7-day mark, no? 

I see what you’re doing, GraphicsZoo. 

Design First Draft

To GraphicsZoo’s credit, they delivered the first draft ahead of schedule. For minimal direction, they delivered a half-decent design. 

I asked for a classic New York deli-style design. I think, despite the super-dated early 90’s color scheme, they did pretty okay. 

Now, I wanted to see how they would take direction. I preferred the first design with the text wrapped around the sandwich logo. I only wanted to change the color. I asked for a variety of text options (black, white, and colored) and that the sandwich be filled with “sandwich colors,” for lack of a better description. 

We all know what “sandwich colors” are, right? 

Turns out, GraphicsZoo designers did. 

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

We were approaching the 7-day mark, so I was hoping to get a revision on the design before that mark. 

I would periodically check-in, but I would have a difficult time navigating the site. Upon checking in, I would see this page: 

If I were a less patient person, I would have been irritated. If I was paying regular, non-$7 prices, I would be furious. My inner Karen would be roaring. 

After some digging and clicking, I would eventually find my project. But, frankly, I shouldn’t have to do that no matter how little I’m paying. If I’m about to open my dream sandwich shop, I want to be able to find my potential logo with absolutely no issues. 

Seeing empty folders on an initial log-in is, well, not good. 

Design Second Draft

Thankfully, one day before the end of the 7-day trial, I received a second draft. To my delight, they had followed my directions well. 

Sure looks like “sandwich colors” to me. 

If I had more time to work on this, and if I were actually opening up my sandwich shop, I would have more revisions to make. But, considering the quality of design in the brief time allotted, I think this is a solid design. 

What is “solid” in terms of an academic grade? A “B?” A “B-?” Either way, my mother would tell me to do better. 

Cancelling The Trial Before The Real Charges

I was now in a time crunch. Considering I don’t want to pay over $300 for a service I won’t be returning to anytime soon, I wanted out and fast. I mean, look at these prices. 

Not exactly in my budget. So, it was time to cancel. I requested a cancellation and then… well, I waited. 

But, I don’t want to wait to see if my cancellation goes through or not. When you go to cancel your Netflix subscription, they cancel it. There’s no suspense. And when there’s that amount of money at stake, suspense is not the emotion I’d like to be feeling in the moment. 

I reached out to GraphicsZoo’s support team. I had asked for a confirmation of cancellation. But they had something else in mind, at first. 

And so, our dance began. 

There was a decent amount of back and forth. “How about this subscription plan?” No, just cancel, please. “Well, how about this one?” No. Just cancel, please. “Consider this plan!” I said NO. No means no! 

Eventually, my persistence and complete and total unwillingness to pay a single cent more won out. Grace, my support … person, finally conceded. 

She was doing her job. Can’t sneeze at that. I can sneeze at the practice of hounding someone not interested in paying a single cent more. If I were running a business, however, I’d insist on that policy. 

I may have been mildly annoyed about that process, but ultimately no harm was done. The cancellation went through. 

Conclusion

All in all, I would call my 7-day $7 trial experience with GraphicsZoo mediocre. I found the initial signing-up experience to be bizarre and unintentional. There’s no way GraphicsZoo meant to send me to a web programming tool when asking me to start a project. 

That’s the kind of whoopsie-daisy that really needs to be rectified, and immediately. 

I was slightly irritated by the persistence of a support coordinator to get me to keep paying them, but that’s the nature of business. There’s nothing wrong with that. 

I was mildly impressed with the designer’s ability to deliver a decent design in a short amount of time with minimal direction. What they delivered was fine, but given the circumstances, I think it was solid. 

Despite the decent work by the designers, I probably wouldn’t recommend GraphicsZoo. The experience with the initial signing up, the difficulty navigating their site, and the over persistence by the support department left me with a bad taste. There are plenty of other services out there better organized with the same quality of design. 

If I could put my experience with GraphicsZoo in a single word, it would be “Meh.”

Be sure to read our other GraphicsZoo review to help make up your mind!

Chris Blondell is a Philadelphia-based writer and social media strategist with a current focus on tech industry news. He has written about startups and entrepreneurs based in Denver, Seattle, Chicago, New Haven, and more. He has also written content for a true-crime blog, Sword and Scale, and developed social media content for a local spice shop. An occasional comedian, Chris Blondell also spends his time writing humorous content and performing stand-up for local audiences.

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Business

10 Subscription Based Services Business Owners Need to Try in 2022

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Over the past decade, subscription-based services have taken the business world by storm. Cloud-based infrastructure makes it easier for businesses to start, scale, and succeed. Paying a simple regular fee to use a software or service helps keep all your expenses in order.

Nobody wants to get tangled up in too many subscriptions. And with so many services on the market, it’s easy to end up with more than you need. That’s why we’ve assembled 10 great subscription based services for your business needs.

1) Hive – Subscription based project management tool

Project management is one of the areas where cloud-based tools come most in handy. Real-time collaboration is a great way to keep track of everyone’s work and ensure that it all gets done.

Hive offers just that. On top of task management and time tracking, they offer a variety of views to help each team member visualize their work the way they see fit, whether it’s as a kanban board, Gantt chart, calendar, or table.

There are plenty of great project management tools to choose from, but Hive’s versatility puts it over the top. They offer quick integrations, automations, and even a built-in messaging system.

Pricing: Unlike the rest of these services, Hive only has a single paid subscription plan. They offer three options:

  • Solo – Free of charge, for individual users.
  • Teams – $12/user/month. Includes shareable forms, an in-app calendar, and Zoom and Slack integrations.
  • Enterprise – Bespoke plans for enterprise customers. Include flexible add-ons, heightened security, custom analytics, and dedicated support.

2) Omnisend – Subscription based ecommerce marketing service

Marketing solutions aren’t exactly hard to come by, but what if your company has specific needs? For ecommerce brands, that’s where Omnisend comes in. This SaaS has everything you need to create successful, automated email and SMS marketing campaigns.

Tools like sign-up forms are geared directly towards ecommerce. They offer integration with all the major platforms, including Shopify, WooCommerce, and dozens more. They also have some pretty extensive analytics tools to help you keep track of your campaigns’ success.

Pricing: Omnisend comes in three tiers:

  • Free – $0/mo. Reach up to 250 contacts. 500 emails/mo.
  • Standard – Starts at $16/mo (pricing based on contact list size). 6,000 emails/mo.
  • Pro – Starts at $59/mo. Unlimited emails. 3,933+ free SMS credits.

3) Identity Guard – Subscription based data theft protection

Identity theft protection services are often geared towards individuals and families. But while security may start at home, your business’ data is just as precious.

If you’re looking for data theft protection for your business, look no further than Identity Guard, an AI-driven subscription based service by AURA. They offer robust data breach protection as well as employee protection plans, all backed by IBM’s iconic Watson AI.

Pricing: Breach protection comes in two plans:

  • Value – $36/year per activation code
  • Total – $120/year per activation code. Includes bank account and credit monitoring.

Employee benefit plans are custom-built.

4) Zoho CRM – Subscription based CRM platform

Zoho offers a staggering range of cloud-based software solutions, including email, customer service, docs, HR, and much more. But their first, foremost, and perhaps best offering is their customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

Zoho has great customer solutions for businesses big and small. You can micro-manage operations with their detailed analytics, or streamline your process with automated workflows. On top of all that, it’s totally customizable, so you can create your ideal workspace.

Pricing: Zoho’s CRM comes at five tiers:

  • Free – $0. Includes up to 3 users, essentials like leads, documents, mobile apps.
  • Standard – $14/user/month. Includes automated workflows and custom dashboards.
  • Professional – $23/user/month. Includes real-time notifications and inventory management.
  • Enterprise – $40/user/month. Includes AI, mobile SDK, advanced customization.
  • Ultimate – $52/user/month. Includes advanced BI and highest possible feature limits.

In addition, you can buy Zoho CRM Plus, which combines 8 other Zoho services, for $57/user/month. Bigin, a pipeline-based CRM for small businesses, starts at $7/user/month.

5) HubSpot CMS Hub – Subscription based content management system

Like Zoho, HubSpot offers a wide range of software solutions for businesses, which they call “hubs.” You can buy these hubs individually according to your needs or combine them for discounted bundle pricing.

Their content management system (CMS) is one of their more impressive hubs. It includes handy tools for secure website hosting and building, including a drag-and-drop editor and mobile optimization. On top of building websites, HubSpot makes it easy to scale with multiple plans and performance monitoring.

Pricing: HubSpot CMS Hub comes in four plans:

  • Free – $0. Allows for 1 blog and up to 25 web pages. Includes analytics, hosting, SEO, drag-and-drop editor.
  • Starter – Starts at $23/mo. Includes 50 web pages, ad management, URL mappings, payment support, reporting dashboards. Removes HubSpot branding from site.
  • Professional – Starts at $360/mo. Allows for up to 100 blogs and 10,000 web pages. Includes custom analytics, advanced SEO, dynamic personalization, content staging, video hosting, site tree.
  • Enterprise – Starts at $1,200/mo. Includes highest limits on all features, custom objects, site performance monitoring, web apps, sandboxes, permissions.

A 14-day free trial is available. Add-ons such as custom SSL and limit increases can be built into your plan.

6) Penji – Subscription based graphic design service

Content management is one thing, but where do you get the content itself? When it comes to graphic design, Penji offers professional-quality designs on a subscription basis.

With Penji’s unlimited model, you can get as many designs as you need. Their plans cover everything from logos to social media graphics. They even design websites and apps. With a global team of full-time designers, they deliver quality designs in a matter of days.

Pricing: Penji offers three plans:

  • Pro – $499/mo. Includes unlimited graphic design, illustrations, logos and branding.
  • Team – $699/mo. Includes unlimited web designs, app designs, presentations, and animated graphics.
  • Daytime – $999/mo. Includes USA daytime designers, same-day turnaround, and a dedicated art director.

All plans come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

7) Rippling – Subscription based HR and IT cloud service

This enterprise software solution is one of the best options out there for payroll maintenance, but it’s got much more than that. It combines workflow automation with HR and IT tools, helping enterprises streamline their employer-to-employee processes.

If you’ve been making use of this list, you’ll be especially happy to hear about Rippling’s app management. You can set up, manage, and disable employee apps in one simple place, ensuring that you’re using everything you need and nothing extra.

Pricing: Unfortunately, Rippling doesn’t offer transparent pricing on their site. Because they cater to enterprise customers, they offer quotes based on businesses’ precise needs. At the very least, their core platform costs $35/mo, with an additional $8/user/mo for payroll services.

8) Moz Pro – Subscription based SEO tool

Moz was founded as SEOmoz in 2004 as a site for some of the world’s earliest SEO experts to share their research. Basically, they wrote the book on SEO.

Moz Pro isn’t the cheapest option for SEO on the market, but it uses its history of experience to its advantage. They offer robust, eminently useful data to give your business the search engine boost it needs, crawling your site to precisely pinpoint issues.

Pricing: Moz Pro offers four plans:

  • Standard – Starts at $79/mo. Includes 3 campaigns, 300 keyword rankings, 60 tracked URLs, 100k page crawls per week.
  • Medium – Starts at $143/mo. Includes 10 campaigns, 1,500 keyword rankings, 200 tracked URLs, 500k page crawls per week.
  • Large – Starts at $239/mo. Includes 25 campaigns, 3,000 keyword rankings, 500 tracked URLs, 1.25 million page crawls per week.
  • Premium – Starts at $479/mo. Includes 50 campaigns, 4,500 keyword rankings, 1,000 tracked URLs, 2 million page crawls per week.

9) Tableau – Subscription based business intelligence service

You can have all the fancy subscription based software in the world, but it won’t get you anywhere if you’re not paying attention to what works. Tableau is a leader in business intelligence (BI) and analytics. They offer a robust array of digestible data to help your business work smarter.

Tableau is trusted by customers ranging from Whole Foods to Pfizer, Nissan to Charles Schwab. Powered by Salesforce, they also offer integrations with SQL, AWS, and dozens of other cloud services.

Pricing: Tableau offers three cloud-based plans for teams:

  • Viewer – $15/user/mo.
  • Explorer – $42/user/mo.
  • Creator – $70/user/mo.

They also offer server-based plans (on-premise or public cloud), a Creator plan for individuals, and embedded analytics.

10) Bit.ai – Subscription based service for workplace collaboration

The final piece of the puzzle that brings your whole business infrastructure together: collaboration. Plenty of cloud-based offerings include collaboration tools, and many businesses use free tools like Slack and Google Docs to power their communication.

Bit.ai combines all these features and more. Think of it like a document editor that’s also a content manager. It lets businesses share, create, and keep track of the content they put out, all with robust communication. They also integrate easily with tools like Tableau, OneDrive, Google Suite, Miro, Trello, Facebook, and more.

Pricing: Bit.ai offers three plans:

  • Free – $0. Allows for up to 5 members, 50 documents, 1GB storage. Includes content library, integrations, collaboration tools.
  • Pro – $8/member/month. Allows for unlimited members, unlimited documents, 500GB storage. Includes export, bulk import, version history.
  • Business – $15/member/month. Allows for unlimited storage. Includes trackable documents, priority support, engagement analytics, guest access.

Bit.ai also offers custom plans for enterprise customers.

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Thinking of Investing in An Early-Stage VC?

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venture capital

Do you find yourself asking, “should I invest in early-stage VC?” If so, you’re not alone. Venture capital has become one of the most popular ways to invest in high-growth startups. It offers high returns and the chance to join the founding team of a company before anyone else. With venture capital, you have not only access to top-notch business management but also an opportunity to build your portfolio.

However, due to its early stage, venture capital investing is not for everyone. Those who are looking for ways to make money fast should consider other options first. Think about it: what do investors require in order to fund a startup? An answer that’s likely yes will do it again—at least in this case. The same can be said about the minimum investment required by venture capital firms—it depends on their target sector or geography. This article will help you understand what you need to know before investing in venture capital.

What is venture capital?

Before we tackle the answer to the question, “should I invest in early-stage VC,” let’s discuss the basics of venture capital.

Simply said, venture capital is the funding of new businesses and expansion. That said, venture capitalists provide funding for startups at an early stage. They see potential in ventures that are often in the “uncertain” stage of their growth and usually lack funds. They provide the necessary capital to help companies realize their full potential. In addition to that, financial and managerial resources may also be offered.

Insider Monkey says the biggest VC companies in the world in 2021 are Google Ventures, Insight Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Index Ventures, and Sequoia Capital.

Why do people invest in venture capital?

person presenting something

The main reason people invest in venture capital is to gain a high return on their money. Another reason is the chance to build a portfolio of investments. For instance, some investors are interested in the high level of skill involved in the management of a venture capital fund. Some investors, on the other hand, want to be part of launching new products and services.

How does a venture capital firm operate?

VC firms are a unique blend of investment and management. They begin by identifying, researching, and screening a large number of high-potential companies. After evaluating these startups, the VC firm decides which to fund. It then hires management teams to run its companies. As mentioned above, the VC firm provides not just financial support but also expertise and advice. After all, the success of the startup means investment growth.

So, here’s the million-dollar question – should I invest in early-stage VC? The answer lies in whether you can stomach the risks. One of those risks is losing your entire investment. For example, a VC firm can fail due to bad investment decisions, poor management, or even bad timing. If you’re ready to go through these risks, however, then a VC investment may be for you.

Why should I invest in early-stage VC?

If you’re thinking of putting your money in a VC firm, some believe that now is the best time to do it. After all, some VCs have grown to be household names over the last 20 years because of their success. In addition to that, VCs have made a reputation for investing in early-stage SaaS ventures with low startup valuations.

But here’s what should be the biggest trigger for you to consider VC investment: global equity prices correction. Due to geopolitical instability, inflation, and many other factors, the economic downturn can be inevitable.

At the same time, many startups today are building products with world-changing potential. And given the high quality of these products, these startups can survive – and even thrive – in recession-like scenarios.

Given these two elements, many startups may be at a “discounted” valuation at the moment, and it would be wise to strike while the iron is hot. After all, VC is one of the most exciting ways to invest in high-growth startups with a potential for high returns.

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7 Effective Ways to Improve at Networking

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person using a laptop

Believe it or not, networking works. Whether you hate meeting people or socializing, if you want to grow your business, you need to do some networking. And when you want networking to work for you, you must be pushy and assertive but politely. Read here to know the ways to improve at networking.

Here are 7 Ways to Improve at Networking

Identify Your Goals

journal and coffee cup

The first thing you need to do is to determine what you want to get out of the task. Ask yourself, what am I looking for? Once you understand your goals and objectives, it’s easier to identify which events to go to. This way, you can find which ones are better aligned with your business to get more productive results. This will also assure you that your efforts won’t go to waste.

Research the Events

Once you determine your goals and lined up a few events to go to, do a bit of research. Try to get as much data about them as possible. It is also highly recommended that you get to know the people attending these events. If you see a company you’re interested in, you should find out more about them before going.

Wear the Appropriate Clothing

people in a meeting

They say, “dress to impress,” and this rings true when attending networking events. Choose clothes that will make you feel comfortable while suitably dressed for the occasion. You can wear bright-colored clothes for a casual event and be the ice-breaker. Or add an accessory that can be a conversation starter. This way, socializing becomes more effortless and will get you more people to network with.

Practice Makes Perfect

It pays to rehearse what you’ll say to people about your company. You can stand in front of a mirror and practice your pitch so you won’t have to forget an important detail. Remember to include your achievements to make them see how your business will help them improve theirs. A little bit of humble brag will go a long way.

Create a Killer Business Card

business card

There will be exchanges of business cards at these events, so make sure that yours will stand out. There are many websites you can go to where you can design your own. Ensure that all pertinent data is on it, so people aren’t left hanging. In addition, make sure that your design will grab attention and won’t have the card end up in the trash bin.

Be Prepared

Make sure to set yourself at ease and relax, especially if it’s going to be a long event. Get your socializing skills warmed up by getting a drink, if applicable. This can also set the mood for the event to help you start talking to people. Once you get the conversation going, you should engage in active listening. 

As much as you want people to absorb what you’re saying, you should do the same. Allot a time for each person you talk to and stick to that time. Then, excuse yourself politely to start conversing with other people. Hand over your business card and move on to the next prospect.

Don’t worry about offending people, many networking event attendees understand the transactional nature of them. Give them a promise to follow up and end the conversation. 

Follow the Best Practices

After you go to one event, analyze your moves and try to make a pattern of what worked. This can help you avoid mistakes such as wasting your time with one company and other similar situations. Also, think of the best lines that will quickly convey your message. Think of networking as speed dating, so arm yourself with the best pickup lines.

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