Internet security and privacy must be taken seriously now more than ever. With millions of people using the internet, wide-scale cybercrimes are also likely to happen. This includes fraud, hacking, identity theft, scams, and malware attacks, to name a few. And if you do not have an added protection over your internet usage, you could be the next victim. This is not to scare you but rather to emphasize how these cyber criminals work. They will use every opportunity and it doesn’t matter who you are.
This is where a VPN can help you.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s an extra layer of protection that allows users to create a secure connection to a different network over the internet. This means that everything you do over the internet will be encrypted. No one (not even the government) could track your online activities. Additional benefits of a VPN is that you can access websites that are restricted in a particular region.
So the next question is: Who should get a VPN?
Back in the day, big companies are the common clientele of VPN providers. But as we’ve mentioned, the number of individual internet users surged over the years. It goes without saying that the rate of cybercrimes could go up too.
10 Best VPN for 2020
If you Google ‘free VPN’ right now, you will be overwhelmed with hundreds of providers to choose from. It is tempting, but we do not encourage free VPNs. Frankly speaking, these do not guarantee a high level of protection. Thus, our list only includes paid VPN providers that have passed our high standards.
In the last 6 years, NordVPN’s team of engineers, designers, and system administrators worked hard to create a tool that will bring them closer to their vision – Having a more open, yet private and secure internet.
With NordVPN, you can safely transact online even on unprotected Wi-Fi. Your online activities won’t be tracked as well because basically, it’s nobody’s business. And since they have more than 5600 servers in 59 countries, you can access your favorite websites, streaming services, and messaging apps anywhere in the world. The best part is, it works on all devices.
We recommend that you take advantage of their 3-year plan where you get to enjoy the VPN services for only $3.49 per month. In our opinion, it’s a cheap price given its features.
Aren’t you interested to see Netflix libraries from other countries? SurfShark has 15 different libraries to choose from. But of course, there is more to love about SurfShark.
With them, just one subscription can cover unlimited gadgets in your home. They also have more than 1700 servers in 64 countries.
Let’s not forget their Kill Switch option wherein your connection will be automatically disabled when your VPN drops. Talk about protection all the time.
They have a very affordable package for only $1.99 per month if you get their 24-month plan.
PrivateVPN allows their users to enjoy geo-restricted websites and it will only take you one minute to unleash the internet. With them, expect lightning-fast streaming services and excellent website experience.
The PrivateVPN’s team is particular with their customer service. It’s one of the things they are proud of. For issues, you can directly talk with their in-house developers and it will be resolved the fastest time possible.
To date, they have 100 servers in 60 different countries. You can get their services for $3.82 per month as long as you choose their 13-month plan.
ExpressVPN is almost in every top VPN list. That’s not surprising considering the quality of service you can get from the provider. They have a huge global network in 94 countries, and that means you can expect nothing less from them. You can even use the VPN in most devices and gadgets! It’s pretty hard to pinpoint what’s not to love about it.
What we personally like about ExpressVPN is their split tunneling where you can route some of your app traffic through the VPN while others can be directed to the internet.
Get their 1-year plan for $6.67 per month. This might be a bit steep but considering that ExpressVPN is one of the leading and most trusted providers, the price can be justified.
CyberGhost has 15 years of experience under its belt. We recommend this if your online activity involves heavy streaming and torrenting. With one subscription, you can cover and protect up to 7 devices. Their customer support is also available through chat and email.
As of the moment, they have 6400 servers in over 90 countries. In addition, CyberGhost uses 256-bit military-grade encryption which can protect your data all the time. Get their 18-month plan for only $3.15 per month.
IPVanish provides its users access to over 1400 anonymous servers. You are guaranteed with fast and unrestricted internet access practically from every corner of the globe.
What’s good about IPVanish is that all its services are managed internally and there is no middle man. Having said that, your information and data will be kept safe and confidential.
Lastly, they offer SugarSync which provides file management and encrypted data backup for various devices. It also has a wipeout feature in case your device gets stolen. For $3.25 a month, you can get all of these and more from IPVanish.
UltraVPN boasts its fast internet connection where you can watch continuous videos without the need to pause. Right now, they have more than 50 server locations across the globe.
UltraVPN gives you the access to unlock social media, watch sporting events that are restricted in your region, or check out videos that are only available in certain countries. UltraVPN can give you that power and limitless internet connection that we all deserve.
You can use the VPN for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and even for Fire TV. Get their 1-year plan for only $3.75 per month.
ZenMate is easy to use with its one-click connect feature. But even with its simplicity, it delivers an optimal experience to its users. With a rating of 4.7 out of 5 from more than 360 reviews on Trustpilot, it is beyond satisfactory. Currently, it has 3800 servers in more than 74 countries.
Affordable rates are also waiting for you. Their package starts at $2.22 every month under their 18-month plan.
9. Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield is known as the fastest VPN and this has been verified by experts. In fact, the company’s outstanding services bagged them a number of recognitions including ‘the 2019 Most Innovative Security Company’.
To date, they have more than 740M downloads and the number continues to grow. You can install Hotspot Shield in 5 devices, and it detects more than 3.5M malicious websites. For their 3-year plan, you just need to pay $2.99 every month.
Last in our list is PrivateInternetAccess. It has more than 3300 servers in 45 countries. With their services, you can block unwanted connections – thanks to its advanced firewall and filtering features of the Netfilter Project. Without a doubt, it is one of the best VPN providers today.
Its layer of security includes IP cloaking, encryption, firewall, identity protection, and unblocking websites, to name a few. Choose their yearly subscription and only pay $3.33 per month.
If security and privacy matter to you, we encourage that you get the best VPN right now. Think about it. Most of us pay monthly subscriptions for Netflix, Spotify, and other online services. It seems logical that you pay for protection too. Most VPN providers we’ve included in the list offer a money-back guarantee. Use that lead time to decide before actually paying for the services. It’s definitely a win-win if you ask us.
Depop: Etsy’s $1.6B Ticket to Access Gen Z’s Market
Depop is the home to progressive and diverse finds when it comes to fashion. However, is that why Etsy bought it for a dazzling price of $1.625 billion? Perhaps it’s one of the reasons, but that’s not the end of the story. It all comes down to the target market.
Depop and Gen Z
If you’re wondering what Depop is and why on earth it’s worth more than $1.6 billion, then you’re not alone. To give you a quick overview, Depop is a startup eCommerce marketplace for fashion. It’s a place where people can buy, sell and discover unique items. Let’s say if Instagram and eBay had a baby, it’s probably similar to Depop.
Depop makes it its mission to provide a “community-powered” fashion ecosystem to its consumers. It’s a brand that is kind to people and much kinder to the planet. Aside from being an online eCommerce site, it has become a community. It managed to evolve into having a community that’s creative, diverse, inclusive, and progressive.
The fashion eCommerce has over 26 million registered users hailing from 147 countries. It’s a marketplace where 90% of active users are under the age of 26. So yes, the majority are Gen Z’s. The most popular categories found on the website are vintage, one-of-a-kind clothes, Y2K, and streetwear.
Etsy, for $1.6 billion, gambled on the booming market for second-hand goods. Not only that, it gained access to Depop’s young and fashion-conscious audience. This scenario is an excellent example of how much brands are willing to pay to enter the Gen Z market.
Why is Gen Z’s Market important?
Currently, Millennials and Gen Z’s dominate the rank if we’re talking about online consumers. Although Millennials now sit at the throne as the most extensive consumer base, change is inevitable. As Gen Z’s grows old, they will slowly surpass millennials as the largest consumer base. By 2026, it’s expected that Gen Z will entirely surpass millennials.
Aside from its huge market base, Gen Z’s are considered ethnically diverse consumers. Also, they’re the most educated generation which explains why they always doubt brands. Gen Z values authenticity, transparency, and being unique. It’s the generation where they’ll research everything about your business before purchasing.
It makes sense why $1.6 billion is spent to acquire an active marketplace with existing Gen Z users. Let’s take it as a shortcut to access the soon-to-be primary consumers of the world quickly. Aside from their extreme distrust of unknown brands, Gen Z’s are known to value brands that show authenticity.
So now, it’s obvious why brands go through extreme lengths to secure their market base for the long run.
Depop’s Business Worth
So far, it’s clear why Etsy bought Depop, especially if we emphasize the percentage of Gen Z users on the website. But it’s not enough to measure the scale of Depop’s business worth.
Here are two key factors that can show at what level Depop’s is worth:
- Gross Platform Spend, 2020’s Revenue
In 2020, Depop earned $650 million and $70 million, respectively, each increasing over 100% year-over-year.
- Gross Platform Spend Trend, Historical
From 2017 to 2020, Depop’s gross market sales grew at an 80% annual growth rate.
From the 2020s 70 million revenue, Depop is valued at 23.2 times compared to the previous year’s top line. It’s notable how Etsy sees Depop as a high-growth “SaaS business” instead of a consumer marketplace.
Depop and Etsy
The majority of younger shoppers have been maneuvering the shift of resale on a broader note. Besides, according to GlobalData PL, 40% of shoppers under 24-years old have been buying second-hand fashion. This study explains why Depop, where they can resell unique items, is popular with Gen Z’s.
Meanwhile, Etsy is widely known as a marketplace for handmade goods where you can buy vintage items. According to CEO Josh Silverman, the transaction is a way to deepen their connection with the younger generation. The company had $1.8 billion in cash, investments, equivalents, and balance sheet. It also had an undrawn $200 million revolving credit facility last March.
Although Etsy has acquired Depop, the current chief exec of Depop is encouraged to continue running the marketplace. As for Etsy, it will remain in London and will continue its operations as a stand-alone marketplace.
Penji Review: How unlimited is it REALLY? (+25% Promo Code)
Move over Fiverr. Unlimited graphic design services are the newest alternative to hiring a graphic designer. But, these services bring up many questions. For example: How unlimited is unlimited graphic design?
We tried out one of the top services: Penji.
Like many of their counterparts, Penji offers graphic design work on a monthly subscription. We put their promise of fast turnaround, high-quality, and affordability to the test.
You can submit as many design projects as you want via their online portal, and they’ll complete your requests one at a time until your queue is complete. This type of service promises to be a great added resource for teams to improve productivity.
Does it sound too good to be true? We thought so too. So, we signed up to see for ourselves.
This article was updated on June, 2021.
As with any service, there are pros and cons. To help with your graphic design hiring decision, we decided to condense what we found in a bulleted list below. Here’s a quick summary of our review of Penji’s unlimited graphic design service.
(Still wondering what “unlimited graphic design” is? We explain what it is here.)
- Easy and quick to create design projects
- Storage for all my requested designs
- VERY fast turnaround on most projects. I expected just 1 draft in 24 hours but instead received 3 drafts. Revisions were sometimes completed the same day I submitted them.
- Helpful features such as a revision tool, ability to invite team members, brand profile, and more
- Upbeat and direct communication from everyone I interact with
- A dedicated and responsive account manager who replies within a few hours
- Can’t call or talk to designers
- Best if you have design projects ready to submit
- Not available as an app
Penji’s “unlimited” design model is a great choice if you have the right expectations going in. The service is affordable for growing businesses and their output is reliable. However, if you’re expecting to be on-call or face-to-face with your designer, this type of service is not for you.
Compared to designing yourself, hiring freelancers, or using Fiverr, Penji is a much better service and value by a long shot. Their team of designers lived up to the promise and exceeded my expectations.
Thinking of trying Penji out for yourself? Here’s a special promo code for Owner’s Mag readers:
Use the Penji promo code “OWNER25” to get 25% off your 1st month.
PENJI FULL REVIEW
We put Penji to the test by signing up, requesting a design, and examining the results. Here’s how it went.
We get it. You want to know how it went without reading all the mumbo jumbo.
All four projects were completed within two weeks and I was impressed with how they all turned out. If I had paid hourly or per project, these would’ve easily cost me well above $1200+ to get done, and probably taken weeks.
With Penji, it took just a few days and I paid a fraction of what I would’ve paid elsewhere. Definitely impressed with both the turnaround, quality, communication, and value this startup has to offer.
But Penji isn’t without its flaws. The service definitely isn’t for everybody.
Who would benefit:
- business owners
- creatives with consistent design needs
If you don’t have a consistent need, the bill will start racking up after a couple of months and you won’t see the value in the subscription.
However, if you do happen to fit their target demographic, then there’s no better alternative out there. The speed and quality of their work easily rival other services I’d ever used. For $399 per month, this is an absolute steal.
What I Did Step by Step
Now, if you want to get into the meat of how it went, keep on reading for every detail of how I got from the sign up screen to the final project.
Signing Up For Penji
Signing up for Penji was a relatively quick and painless process. All of my questions were answered in less than 5 minutes by customer support via Intercom and another 2 minutes to complete the checkout process.
Communication with Penji’s Support Team
How fast and reliable a company’s support team is before you are an active customer is a reflection of what’s to come. If they’re unresponsive now, it will only get worse once I’m a customer. I reached out to Penji’s customer support team via their Intercom chat popup and got a response within 30 seconds, which is pretty good. I asked basic questions and the agent seemed knowledgeable.
Communication as a Customer
All communication is done online through Penji’s proprietary online portal. That includes revisions, feedback, and answering any questions my designers may have.
Communication with Your Designers
Penji assigned me 1 designer, Billie, and communication with her was easy. If you have used any messaging platforms like Slack, Facebook Messenger, or Discord, you’d be familiar with this form of communication.
Billie was responsive, attentive, and always seemed to have a positive attitude no matter how demanding my requests were. She had many questions about the projects, which I tried my best to answer as a customer. Though the back and forth took longer than I wanted, I realized she was just being thorough to get the design done right, which I appreciate.
Communication with Your Account Managers
They assigned me an Account Manager, Charmaine, who was very quick whenever I needed something. It usually takes just a few hours for me to get a reply via email from her. When I had an issue with one of the projects, she quickly stepped in and helped resolve the situation.
1. Choose the Right Package
All the packages are laid out with monthly, quarterly, and yearly pricing. Starting at $399 per month for the Pro plan, you’ll be able to make unlimited graphic design requests with a 24-48 hour turnaround. As your design needs grow, you’ll have the Team and Agency packages to choose from.
The form is straightforward and easy to fill out. Checking out was a breeze and took about 2 minutes.
3. Submit a Design Project
Clicking on the “+ Create new project” button, I’m presented with a visual chart of all the design categories they offer. They offer an extensive selection of options and even the ability to request a custom project.
4. Fill Out the Request Form
Next, I filled out a short form detailing what I wanted them to design. For those of you who hate long forms, this one from Penji is easy to follow and doesn’t ask too many questions. Most of the questions are actually optional so you can be as descriptive or non-descriptive as you like.
My test projects
As a digital publisher, we produce content on a daily basis and always have a need for on-brand graphic design. I created several projects to test how well-rounded Penji is and how they handle both simple and complex requests. A simple banner should be difficult, but can they handle a complex infographic with lots of texts and imagery?
Here are my test projects:
- Blog Graphic: Best DSLR Camera Equipment For Beginners
- Custom Illustration: Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy
- Facebook Post: Isometric Tech Gadget Graphic
- Magazine Print Cover (Owner’s Magazine’s 2020 May Edition
Despite creating four projects, the entire process was quick and smooth. It only took a few minutes to create them and their internal platform was lightning fast. At this pace, I can see myself submitting multiple projects on their platform with ease.
I expected at least one draft the next day. What I didn’t expect were three drafts ready for review. To give you a comparison, most freelancers and design firms we’ve hired take several days to submit just one draft.
The designs were surprisingly good considering that it’s the first draft AND they had a 24-hour turnaround. After reviewing, I realized how they did it. Every project had a different designer. I wasn’t assigned just one designer. It was like having my very own virtual design team.
4. Requesting Revisions
Though the designs were good, I still needed a few revisions. The drafts were turned around usually the same day or by the next day. Their support agent actually told me it will take 24 hours to turn around revisions. The revisions that took 24 hours were typically much more involved.
Overall, revisions were quick. Most came back within a few hours after I submitted them.
My one gripe would be that I prefer to have some sort of real-time chat with my designer or at least have a Zoom call. That’s one thing I like about working with my freelancers. Whenever they were online, we could just have a back and forth conversation to get the revisions across. I can’t do that with Penji.
Built-in Revision Tool
Penji has a built-in revision tool that lets me click anywhere on the design to leave a revision. I found this incredibly useful as it enables me to pin-point what I want to change.
It took about 1 week to go back and forth with revisions and edits for all 4 design projects. At the end of the week, I received the final drafts for all three. Here are the results of the three test projects.
1. Blog Graphic: Best DSLR Camera Equipment For Beginners
This far exceeded my expectations and will more than do for the blog I’m writing about DSLR camera equipment. I think most designers would probably just stop with 1-2 icons and graphics for this design. My designer decided to add the tripod, three lenses, drone, backpack, and a whole entire stage lighting kit.
I didn’t ask for those, but I’m impressed with the quality of the design. No revisions needed. I approved this project on the first try.
2. Custom Illustration: Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy
For this project, I asked my designer Kei to do a custom illustration of a man vacuuming his floor. He actually drew it up and sent me a rough sketch first before he started coloring it in. That was an extra layer of care and attention to detail I wasn’t expecting. Needless to say, I approved of his drawing and he delivered this draft the next day.
Everything in this graphic was hand-drawn and then colored digitally. Like the first project, I couldn’t think of any revisions except asking him to put the texts “Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy” on the graphic.
He went the extra mile and designed the text to fit the graphics. See for yourself above. It’s details like these that I would have had to harass my freelancer and he would try to nickel and dime me for every revision. Great work Kei!
3. Facebook Post: Isometric Tech Gadget Graphic
My designer Jave’s first draft amazed me because of how much detail he put into this project. I had asked for an isometric graphic with various tech products laid out on an isometric glass plane. I honestly thought my description may have been a bit too vague, but he understood my vision even better than I did.
4. Magazine Print Cover (Owner’s Magazine’s 2020 May Edition)
My designer Billie gave me 3 versions of the magazine cover. I don’t like version 1 at all. It looks too templated. I personally like version 2 and 3 and left revision notes accordingly. The coronavirus image was entirely her idea and I love it.
This project took a bit longer than the others because my designer Billie had questions and we had a lot of back and forth. I didn’t mind at all since she was asking good questions that I should’ve included in my design request. Overall, I appreciated the extra time she took to understand me and the project better.
About three days later, I received another draft which blew everything before it out of the water.
Reviews From Other Sources
Because you may not take our word for it, here are some of the most recent reviews from other sources:
Disclaimer: we receive an affiliate commission when the Penji promo code is used, however, the review is based on our experience.
Graphic Design Tips You Need to Know
If you’re not putting enough effort into your visual branding, there’s a chance your brand would be defunct in a few year’s time. Sounds harsh? Well, think about this – research by Kinesis says 75 percent of consumers judged a brand’s credibility based on website design. That being said, it’s vital to know the best graphic design tips to keep your business afloat and thriving.
Stick to a Color Scheme
This is one of the most crucial marketing graphic design tips pros swear by. To create a strong visual branding, you need to pick a color palette and stick to it. Resist the urge to overload your scheme with too many hues. Otherwise, you risk making your visual look amateurish and tacky.
If you’re having trouble picking a color scheme, consider color psychology. According to this field of study, colors can invoke moods or emotions. For instance, red signifies passion while blue channels peace and calm. Make sure to pick a hue that expresses your brand identity or what you want your audience to feel when engaging with your brand.
Use Fonts Wisely
Choosing fonts wisely is one of the graphic design techniques that separates pros from newbies. Without a doubt, one could get excited scrolling down a long list of new and cool fonts. However, too many fonts or using styles that clash against each other can wreak havoc on the visual. The rule of thumb is to never use more than three fonts in one design.
Also, if you’re combining two fonts in one copy, they need to have contrasting differences. For instance, using one serif and one sans serif font is a go-to trick for many pros.
Negative Space is Your Friend
Negative space pertains to the blank area in the design that surrounds the text or image. One of the best graphic design tips for beginners is to embrace negative space and not crowd every pixel with a design element.
But what exactly does negative space contribute to a design? For one, it offers a break to viewers, helping them absorb info better. In addition to that, it also brings the viewer’s attention to the crucial parts of the design. That said, not using negative space enough or having too little of it can result in a visual that’s too “noisy” for the eyes.
Ask Help from a Pro
Sure, you can take a pseudo crash course of all of the graphic design hacks out there. But if you don’t have the patience to actually put them into practice, then they won’t help your brand in any way.
If you’d rather focus your energies on other facets of the business, then it’s best to hire a pro to handle the creative work for you. Reputably designers know graphic design best practices by heart, and they can save you a lot of time, money, and effort.
In the end, it’s not about how beautiful or trendy your graphic designs are. Instead, it’s all about making sure that your visual assets reflect your brand values and let them shine through in every design.