It's hard to imagine that FireMane Studio is officially 10 years old this year. A lot has happened since my last (last) blog post for the New Year in 2018. Aside from COVID sending everyone home to work remotely, things around the studio didn't change much.

I set up FireMane to be remote first back in 2014 because I knew where the future of work was heading, even back then. The work I was doing was 100% through the internet. While I did meet with clients face to face when we were both in the same area, I expanded my client base beyond my city metro area. Cincinnati was a thick hub of design agencies and advertising giants at the time. I was a company of one. I didn't try to offer what I couldn't deliver on but had the resources to bring in more team members as needed. As 2019 was winding down, my personal life took a turn into the unknown.

Long story short; after a trip abroad I got the idea in my head that I wanted to build out a cargo van and live on the road full time. Yes, I wanted to live the Vanlife! The notion to travel more had always been on my mind, all the way back to high school and early college. But with the looming expectation to live where I worked, I tried to settle somewhere. Fast forward to 2019 and I found the best (or just plain insane) notion to save up, buy a van, and turn it into a tiny home on wheels. I had dedicated 2020 to be my "No Spend Year" where most of my income went into savings. COVID certainly helped that goal. With nothing open and everyone at home, not spending money became the least stressful part of that year.

Jumping to November 2022, the van build is complete and I hit the road to New Mexico for the winter. Since then, I've visited six new to me states, several National Parks, and expanded my sticker collection ten fold. It has been a wild ride!

Now that you're all caught up, I'm getting back into blogging more often. Not just about the importance of having cohesive visuals to support your business, but also musings from being on the road. I promise this won't become a travel blog. There are enough of those already!

But traveling is one of my passions and I chose to make it a big part of my life. Freelancing remotely has given me the opportunity to pursue full time travel in a way I never thought possible. So if you're new to my site, welcome! If you're a current client, you know my flavor of crazy pretty well.

Let's hit the road!

Sitting in the auto mechanic's waiting room, I spy a coffee station against the back wall. Figuring that I’ll be waiting a few moments, I decide to grab a cup. Before I even get up, I already knew what kind of quality coffee was sitting in that pot. It was going to taste some level of burnt, be extremely weak, and make me question if they just watered down some used motor oil. But I also know why it’s going to be so bad: I’m in an auto mechanic shop.

I don’t expect auto mechanics to be good at making coffee; I expect them to be good at fixing cars. If I want a good coffee, I’ll go to a cafe; because that is what they specialize in. Mechanics don’t have the proper equipment or training on how to make a stellar beverage; that’s not their area of expertise. The same applies to cafes; they are not equipped to read my vehicle codes or give it a tune up. Businesses are amazing at what they do because they have the proper training and equipment to get the job done. It is also their purpose.

I've seen many businesses in my career that are phenomenal at making their widget or providing their service, but they suck at designing a logo. Because that isn't what they specialize in. Does every small business owner balance the books every week, or write and publish the company e-newsletter, or make the bread for the sandwiches, or any other multitude of activities not within their station? The answer is: no. They succeed by doing what they do best and hire people to fulfill those roles to make it all work. It comes down to what do you want to specialize in, what do you need to make those roles operate at their best, and what don't you need at all. Knowing your weaknesses is your greatest strength.

I've worn many hats for my company, but I know when I'm wasting more of my time to accomplish a task that I don't know how to do properly. I'll hire a financial advisor when I need help with my business expenses. I'll hire a marketing pro when I want to expand my company's reach. I'll hire a printer to produce new business cards. Because I know where my strengths are. I’m amazing at very specific things and I'm OK with not being able to do everything. Business owners and operators need to focus on what THEY are good at and know when it's time to hire a professional.

Everyone seems to have a nephew that took a Photoshop class in high school. Or that friend of a friend, Carla, that got really into using Canva for every newsletter and birthday card opportunity. Which is great if you want something free/cheap, but the quality might not be up to par for a business. And it will show. Your visual brand will suffer if you don't put in the money that is required to present your business in the best possible manner. That's just a fact.

I've spent many hours "fixing" or "updating" everything that nephew of yours designed. Quite frankly, he needs to pursue a different career path. He's not good at this. And that's OK. Hire a professional because it's a worthy investment to your company. Because it is so much more than just how everything looks. There is a reason for color selections, font uses, photo collections, and every facet behind a brand. Your nephew isn't aware of your market competition, is he? Does Carla know the correct file output for printing in full color? Short answer, no.

And buy your coffee from people that know what they are doing.

Another year has left us so it’s time to look ahead for 2018. Forget Christmas, I’m all about New Years during the holiday season. December is my month for reflection over the body of work done in the past year. What worked, what didn’t work, what projects did I enjoy, what projects will I never do again, that sort of thing. With the build up to 2018, I have the chance to outline what I want to tackle in the new year.

Goals Over Resolutions

I’ve abandoned the concept of resolutions. It’s a definitive concept but it doesn’t have much room for growth. The definition is “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” I make the resolution to work out more this year than last. If that means I run only one more mile than last year, I’ve done it. But is that it? It seems too flimsy to be anything worth continuing once you’ve done the bare minimum. The work is done but it feels hollow.

Instead I make goals I want to achieve throughout the year. They often require many steps, check-in points, and have many moving parts. I’m more involved in getting things done that work towards my end goal. It’s more than “do or do not” to something. It keeps me motivated to continue in the progress, as I’m much more involved in the success. Plus the end goal is greater as it requires more work to get it done.

Self Measured Success

Everyone compares themselves to others. Whether it’s how much money they earn, the type of car they drive, the house they own, any part you can see will be judged. I’m guilty of doing it for years. Even over the most simplistic of stuff, I was living in envy of my closest friends’ success. Or things I thought meant they were successful. It took years to break that habit, but now I live on my own level of success. The new year allows me to see how well I did last year and the years before that. I can measure my success to myself, no one else.

I can now look back at my own path and see what did and what didn’t work on my journey. Spending time checking-in on other people was a distraction from my goals. With the power of hindsight, I can now make better judgements on myself and work in the direction I want to go next.

Start With Small Goals

Everyone should have goals that vary in scale. Some should be easy to achieve so they are easy to maintain and quickly become habitual. Those little victories will keep you motivated to continue with whatever it is. Without a reward, your interest will wane and the goal will become a chore. Eventually it’ll become a burden and poses a risk of being abandoned completely. Even if you have a lot of small goals, make them manageable for you.

Do One Thing Everyday
I’m drawing on my iPad everyday. I don’t start with the intent of making an amazing illustration, I just doodle until it becomes something interesting. It’s just practice to get more comfortable with the tool for future projects. You can only get better with practice.

Be Accountable
After I’m satisfied with my daily doodle, I post it to Instagram and Facebook. I started a new photo album on Facebook just for this exercise. If I don’t post a new image everyday, I feel guilty. That aversion to guilt motivates me to keep drawing. Whatever works to keep you going, it’s better than giving up.

Push Yourself More
The year is still young but I know I’ll get tired of these simple doodles. I’ll have to switch it up with drawing from life, which presents a new challenge to an ongoing project. I have a jar filled with ideas that I’ve yet to get around to doing. When I feel stuck, I’ll dip into that jar for an idea to explore.


No matter what your goals are, take time to check-in with your progress. How far are you in achieving your goal? Are you where you expected? Why aren’t you further along than you wanted to be at this time? This coupled with being held accountable will help you take a moment to step back and see the progress made, or lack thereof. Ask friends or colleagues to look over your progress whenever possible. Another set of eyes can help spot an issue you might have missed.

Forgive Yourself

And finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Set backs will happen and being upset at yourself for a lapse in progress won’t help you move forward. It might not even be your fault for a delay: illness, unexpected obstacles, really anything outside of your control can screw things up. Even if there’s a delay, don’t dwell on it too long. Your progress will keep going forward, you just might not reach the destination when you intended. It’s still a noble effort none the less. Learn from mistakes and missteps along the way. It’ll make you faster next time.

I sincerely hope you all have a wonderful 2018.
Here’s to making great things and doing good now and into the future!

Things labeled "for women" are subconsciously misogynistic. Soft colors, rounded edges, and with a huge focus on the children and husbands of the targeted woman. How can this product make a women better for the benefit of the people in her life rather than for herself?

Sure, not every product or service with this label are pushing that stance. But after attending many events specifically catering to women, all have displayed common traits that are too blatant to ignore.

For Women Translation- Keep Things Vague

I attended a financial strategies event that was hosted by a women oriented organization and had "Strong Women" in the title. It was about saving for retirement, how to invest your money for future wealth and stability, and how soon you should be doing what. I was excited, since I hate money topics, that this would give me clear steps on how to go about setting up investments and the like.

Boy was I way off.

It introduced vague topics like, "What are your dreams?" and "Keep looking ahead."

Umm... what?

I thought I would be given a guide of steps I need to take in order to best prepare for a financial future of independence. Or where do I begin if I want to invest, who to contact, what are my options, common investment accounts. You know, money stuff. Or an outline of what are my assets now and what new ones do I want later down the line. Logical steps to achieving a singular goal.

Instead, we were rushed through a slide show with brief touch on different types of markets; Bull, Swing, and Bear. That was the most useful content our speaker covered. And I'm not giving the guy any flack, I'm sure he's good at his job. But he seemed to lean on his history of being around strong women in his life that he knows the best language to teach other women.

It's Not About Women; It's About Families

Another big issue I had was the heavy focus on married women and children. Yes, being married does grant some financial perks. But not everyone is married. And to that point, not everyone wants to get married. Same applies for having children. Out of the five women our speaker covered, that were all fake for this presentation, only one was single without children. But he did emphasize she was "thinking about the future." Another vague statement.

All the language boiled down to "Think about everyone else, because you're just here to take care of them." How do you save your money to make sure your kids get into college? Will you be able to take care of the family if your husband gets laid off? What if something happens to you, who will take care of everyone?

Yes, this information applied to 99% of the room. But what about us non-married, child-free professionals? We have goals and dreams and a desire to move forward in a vague manner. Where's the money talk for those women?

Women Focused is Soft Focus

Events, seminars, lunch and learns, and all things catered to women have worn me down by being too soft. Women are strong and can handle way more than even our fellow ladies give us credit for. Putting pastel colors and rounded edges doesn't improve your message for a female audience: it keeps them down.

It labels us as only being receptive to feminine things because we can't handle it any other way.
"This topic about thermodynamics is too much for them. Let's put in some pinks and purples into the presentation. That'll help them understand such a complex subject!"

This has turned into a bit of a rant, I know. But it's an issue that I have noticed over the time I've been a freelance designer. All the women focused events and organizations I've gone to are all guilty of catering to their audience this way. They don't provide solid guidelines or steps, they make blanket statements and send you on your way. Or they offer you more cheesecake and coffee.

My point is, women need to acknowledge our strength and play up to it; not play down to it. You can keep your pastel colors and soft focus photos in your slide show, but please don't talk down to us. We women get that enough as it is.

There's nothing quite as sickening as the feeling that you've been scammed. The deep sensation of regret and embarrassment, coupled with a huge bill that started out as a great paycheck, and just the thought that you were duped. Yeah, it's the worst! It almost happened to me just this past week. Thankfully, I paid attention to the huge red flag and was able to avoid being out lots of money.

Story Time

While I was driving home from visiting family out of state, I got a text message from a number I didn't know. They were pushy about me getting back to them right away about graphic design work. When I pulled off at a rest stop I directed them to my professional email for any design inquiries. I didn't know the number or the name off the top of my head, but I didn't want to immediately dismiss a possible project.

Once I got back to the office the next day, the email was stilted and littered with poor grammar. English wasn't this persons first language:

Good morning and hope you're getting on well today? Here is the job details,
I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now but basically I'm currently working on a contract and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Galilea Nut and Cocoa so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me ?  So I need you to check out this site but I need something more perfect than this if its possible . th e site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and I want the same page as the site I gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.

The email felt odd but I didn't want to say "yes" right off the bat. So I sent him a message asking for more details. I started by asking how he found out about me and my company. A point he failed to mention in his follow up email. He was also texting me immediately after he sent an email. Not a practice I tolerate with potential clients.

So I decided to really push this guy. He was being persistent with getting a quote on his job. I told him I only had time for web design and not development. So I threw an outrageously high price to him of $5,000 for just design work. Trust me, this price is beyond what I would have actually charged. I was surprised he didn't balk at it:

That would be great, I need you to know that I'm comfortable with it.
Also I'm going to make a %50 down deposit of your service charge using my credit card and balance you the remaining amount once the job is done.
Let me know if you're in the right position to proceed ASAP.

That was the red flag for me. I did some research into online scams and found this article that was a direct copy/paste of the first email I got from the scammer. So I was lucky and avoided getting scammed, but what to do next?

Report That Mess

After that email I blocked his number and researched how to report fraud. I ended up reporting it directly to the FTC via their spam email address I found on their website:

I'm lucky and glad I didn't get scammed. But I feel terrible knowing this person is doing it to many other small business owners and freelance creatives. Will reporting his email and phone number to the FTC turn up something or stop him? I hope so. Emails and phone numbers are easy to fake and I'm sure scammer has several running simultaneously. He didn't get me, but he's already gotten others. But what can you do about it?

Protect Yourself and Your Business

Scammers are everywhere and being a small business is tough. When someone asks for your services for a much higher price than you would actually charge, the idea of so much money can be intoxicating. I'll admit, I would have loved to have that extra $5,000 in my bank. But it would have cost me much more if I had taken his credit card payment. I'd be worse off and absolutely humiliated that I fell for such a blatant scam.

You have to be mindful 100% of the time. It's exhausting but it's easier than trying to clean up the mess after getting scammed. And that's not to say there aren't generous clients that would be happy to pay such a high price for your work. Just pay attention to the red flags or your intuition about it. If it feels odd or wrong, it probably is.

Running a business means making a sacrifice or two, both professional and personal. With summer officially over, fewer personal sacrifices need to be made: festivals are winding down, vacations are recent memories, and everyone has their minds back to work or school.

Not so for the small business owner and operator. They never stop. At least I didn't this past summer.

Putting Work First

There were many events, parties, and get togethers I couldn't attend. It got so depressing, I avoided using Facebook since everyone was talking and posting pictures of the fun they were having. It wears down the spirit knowing you missed out on so much with the people you love. But when you're in charge, that's one of the sacrifices you have to make; putting work before your personal life.

In early May, I took a weekend job to make ends meet financially. Studio work was slow and I had my eye on landing an office space. I gave up the prime hours of my weekends to make extra cash to afford renting the office. It was the best move I made professionally this year (so far) and I don't regret working to make this dream a reality. But it came with a cost, a personal one. One that I've had to repeat to friends all summer, "I can't go. I'm working."

I put work first because I wanted it to succeed, and I knew the price I would pay for that effort. Even now, I make those choices everyday. It's impossible to cram everything into every free moment with no regard to burn out. I can't sacrifice my well being just for a few hours of fun. It will drag down the most valuable thing I have: my health.

Taking Care of the Boss

While business has slowly picked up, it's important to take care of the one in charge. Sacrificing all the time will make work a terrible place to be and ruin the point of going solo. I did take a few small trips over the summer to alleviate my itch for traveling. I have one more trip planned in the next few weeks which will have to hold me over till next year.

On the smaller scale, taking a half day from the office to just catch up with house-hold chores is sometimes relaxing. Even one day off a week to do nothing is enjoyable, until I get bored and end up back at the office later. It's a curse wanting to work so much. As long as I can find enjoyment in small things, I don't feel quite as bad when I miss the bigger things due to work.

Planning Ahead

There's no reason not to make plans for bigger vacations next year. It's just a matter of keeping clients in the know of when you won't be available. Everyone is entitled to some time off, and your clients will completely understand. And it's all about balancing work and personal life.

I've pushed my personal life aside for a while but I know it's only temporary. If I earn enough to not need my weekend job, maybe I'll bid them farewell or take a month off during their slower season. Being in charge means I have to make all the big decisions. I have to pick what is best for myself in tandem with what's best for my business. It's only just started, so I'm sure I have lots of time to learn.

Spring has sprung and that means kids will open their lemonade stands soon. There is one in every neighborhood run by a group of friends or siblings. Kids just trying to earn a buck or two in this economy. As an adult, we don't take these small operations seriously. They're playing pretend. They have no idea what they're doing. They're kids. But when does that mentality towards entrepreneurs stop? Does age matter when a business is trying to be taken seriously? Does gender?

Gender Clash

Speaking only from my own experience as a woman, gender does have a lot to do with it. I've had both male and female clients in my career. There is a distinct shift in how I'm treated depending on who I'm addressing. Women treat me more on an equal level. We understand what we've been up against to get this far. We get it. Men have an air of patronizing superiority. Not all of my male clients, but it isn't not there (excuse the need for the double negative). Most are probably not consciously aware of their behavior because they have had different experiences than I have. In the more politically correct world that I grew up in, I've become hyper aware of how I'm treated by people.

Being Taken Seriously

Women continue to confront issues of gender inequality in the professional world. I've been running my business for almost a decade and I still encounter professionals that don't seem to take it seriously.

"So you have your own business then?"
"Oh, how long have you been doing that?"
"And how successful has it been?"
"Think you'll be able to retire doing that?"

Much like the example of the lemonade stand, some see my business is a cute concept with a short shelf life. What do I need to convince potential clients of my viability as a business owner? A large office building filled to the brim with staff? To be publicly traded on Wall Street? To have several offices in North America? To earn a few millions dollars a year?

Self Projection

No amount of business paraphernalia is needed to convince people that my business, or any business, matters. What matters is how I treat it. What matters is how I approach people and introduce myself and my business. As an adult, it's harder to dismiss someone when they speak sincerely and passionately. When you speak with confidence it shows. You could have a staff of two or two thousand, being proud about your crew and the work you've done will speak volumes more than a fancy office will.

Proof in the Pudding

More than just treating your business like it's made of gold, you have work that backs up your claims. To be successful in the long run you need both equally. Passible work but a lot of confidence might fool some people but will leave them unsatisfied. Amazing work and not enough confidence will make you easier to dismiss. If you don't believe in your product, why should anyone else?

Making Lemonade

It is difficult to shrug off negative and condescending remarks, especially when it's something you're deeply involved with. There will always be people that doubt your abilities in one facet or another. Pleasing everyone is exhausting and a waste of time. Focus on what you're great at and you'll attract people who believe in your message. Take the lemons others give you and make your lemonade stand amazing.

Globalization has morphed the landscape of client and customer relations in only a few short decades. You may work with a company that has an office just down the street from yours or completely online as they are located on the other side of the world. Understanding how different companies operate will help you become a better consumer.

My Customer Story

I had an interaction with a potential client recently that left me taken aback. During our exchanges, I stated key team members didn't live within the United States. I mentioned this because an in-person meeting wouldn't have been possible. We were willing to work with their time schedule of course. This didn't sit well with them that they would be 'sending money overseas' in any capacity. They threw a vague threat that they could have the work done for cheap by any company located in India. Was the prospect of working with people outside the U.S. that daunting or inconvenient? I thanked them for their time and said my company wouldn't be able to help. I informed them that I don't allow my geographical location limit who I work with and that was how I operated my company.

Perhaps this confusion could have been avoided by a few simple steps.

Ask Questions

There's nothing worse than exchanging a dozen emails and phone calls, setting up a meeting date, and then getting through the meeting only to realize you aren't a good fit to work together. The way to avoid this would be to ask questions and lots of them. If you prefer to work with a state-side only company, ask where their headquarters are. If you want to know in-house staff will be working on your project, ask to meet them all. No, really. Asking to meet the team involved shows your initiate as a customer. That speaks volumes that you're a serious client and they need to step up their game.

Be Understanding

If you have no qualms with working with people outside of your area, globally or nationally, be understanding to what they have to contend with. Their time zones will be different and they are making compromises to meet and communicate with you. If they are dedicated to giving great service, they might be up very early or late just to fit your schedule. Keep in mind that no one is perfect. You wouldn't believe how often weather has crashed the meeting and kept people away. It isn't because they are being rude, they might have a literal hurricane to deal with.

Be Upfront

If you have specific expectations, make them known before you sign a contract. Stating your desires and goals from the business relationship are best cleared up before any work gets started. If you think you might offend someone with what you're looking for, then it might be an issue to discuss with your contact in private. Working in an environment that is tense is unpleasant for everyone involved. Don't avoid it, address it.

Don't Make Threats

When the client from my story threatened to take their business elsewhere, I didn't hesitate to say 'No Thanks.' The attitude that I'll do anything for your business isn't how I run my shop. We aren't a big-box store that you can bring competitor coupons to and still get what you want. Making threats that you can get the same thing for less elsewhere makes me question why you are emailing me. I have the luxury of selecting the customers my team and I work with. If we don't mesh, that's completely OK. No one likes to be treated this way, so don't do it in a professional context.

The Golden Rule

It applies to everyday life, both in and out of the office: treat people the way you would want to be treated. Knowing how to be a better customer helps people you work with be better business people. A little give and take, clarity, and no fear on asking tough questions will benefit everyone.

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Website security is sometimes neglected, or treated as an afterthought. Focusing on securing only one layer of your website leaves you vulnerable. Let's prevent that, shall we? Websites are static vectors for targeted and blanket attacks. To put it bluntly, if you have a website, you need to keep security first and foremost in mind. When it comes to website security there are many layers that need to be taken into account.

Before sharing key things to keep in mind when addressing security issues for your website, I am going to continue my theme of sharing my experiences so you can learn from my mistakes. I have had websites hacked before. If you have not experienced that stomach-dropping moment, let me tell you, it’s enough to turn your blood into ice, and cause your hands to start shaking. But it is not the end of the world.

It won’t happen to me

See no vulnerabilities, speak no vulnerabilities, hear no vulnerabilities
If you take nothing else from this post, take the knowledge that it is not a matter of if, but when your website will be compromised. We live in a world where the “bad peeps” are ahead of us technologically and the “good peeps” are playing catch-up. There is no such thing as 100% safe. Simply being online is a risk. Having that domain URL makes your target static and increases your risk of compromise.

Back before I really understood all the different layers of security that needed to be implemented, I thought I was safe. I was one blog in a world of millions of other blogs. I didn’t write about anything political. There was nothing being posted that could be considered controversial. Still, I woke up one day to an email from a university's admin informing me that my website was attempting to attack one of their systems. Cue the cold sweat.

I was using WordPress, and my first thought was that the vulnerability was my site. I sat down with my host, and through a sleepless and stressful 26 hours we discovered the issue was not my site at all. It was previously unreleased vulnerability that targeted the hosting server. We were able to patch it and put rules in place to prevent it from happening again. In a way, I thank the bot that attacked the server, because it inspired me to focus on internet security for my Masters degree and really dig into what is really going on behind the scenes in all the click-bait news.

Website security is cake

Discovering that website security cake
You didn’t read that header wrong. Your website does not exist in a vacuum. The website is a collection of code which produces content for people to see. To serve that content a service such as Internet Information Services or Apache is running. Depending on your site, a database is used to store content. To run these applications, they need an environment.  This is usually a hosted server (physical or virtual).

These operating systems, along with all those other collections of code, are all individual attack vectors. These different systems are just for your website to exist. For a visitor to reach your site, they use a domain. That domain tells the computer to go out onto the internet and find the IP address associated with that unique name and direct all traffic that way. This adds yet another attack vector.

One thing I rarely see mentioned when it comes to website security is the users. Who has access to your site? Who can login to your site? Are they using a secure password? Are they using 2-factor authentication? When they login are they treated as an admin? Can they see and update everything? Does the person who is responsible for creating new job listings need to have access to editing the blog post that was written by someone in a different department? Now imagine if that user account was given carte blanche and its password was compromised.

As you can see, your website is actually a layered cake. Each layer works together to create that sugary goodness that presents your brand, content, and marketing to visitors. With all these layers to watch, it can seem daunting and instil a sense of impending doom. Do not fret though fellow website owner. Every single layer can be protected.

Protection as Prevention

Put all your pieces on the board to start, not after
Every day new vulnerabilities are being discovered which threaten to poison your brand or service. New attacks are created to exploit these vulnerabilities. In most cases, the attacks are not targeting your company directly. Instead, they become part of blanket attacks--testing every single domain, and IP, to find an attack vector. True website security requires each layer to be addressed. There are four key steps you should keep in mind:

Update - When the platform you’re using for your site, plugin, component, extensions, database, operating system, etc has an update, and it’s security related, then you must update. If your site is mission critical to your brand, you need to decide if you push that new update out without testing, but you need to keep it updated. The amount of websites still being defaced because they did not update the core code is staggering. Don’t become a victim to a situation you could have prevented.

Backup - Don’t just backup your website. Back up that database too. Hosting providers should be doing the same thing to their servers. And test the backups! I cannot tell you how many times I, and many other security professionals, have been called in to help fix a compromised site only to discover that the last working backup was from six months ago--or in one extreme case the backups never worked in the first place.

Protect - There are so many security tools out there for websites. Use them. Many offer anti-rootkits, firewalls, and antivirus. Those tools should also be used for your database and your hosting operating system.

Access Lists - Be aware of what each user can do, has access to, and the login process. Add 2-step verification to the login process. It is important to know who can do what. If Jim is no longer responsible for creating new blog posts for you, change their access level. Keep it updated.
As I said before, there is no such thing as 100% safe. Instead, what you can do is work to ensure each layer of your website is protected. This is one of the biggest reasons I advocate having someone whose sole job is to protect your website. This allows you to stay focused on making your company and brand shine.

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Freelancing is a lifestyle. It involves a lot of personal legwork that would otherwise be done by the company you're employed with. Going solo is a challenge as you have no choice but to do all the work in order to succeed. And depending on what your goal is, that freedom can be more valuable than the money you make.

Choosing the Lifestyle

In my pursuit for more work, I've taken up additional resources in the form of creative agencies. These are companies that do the heavy lifting to find clients that are in need of my talents. When I signed up, I told them I was only interested in freelance or short-term contract work. Recently, one of the agents I work with contacted me with a job she thought I would be perfect for. She sent me the description and it was everything I was capable of doing. The catch: it was a full-time, permanent position. You know, a normal 9-5 job. She told me to look it over and take some time to think about it. But I already knew my answer was no. It's not that I couldn't do with the extra money, it was the sacrifices I would have to make for it. And I couldn't do that.

Accepting Who You Are

I might sound stuck-up for turning down a job that many people would be happy, if not grateful, to have. I used to have that mindset not too long ago. What changed for me was after years of being in that environment, I knew I wasn't suited for it. I did everything I was expected to do and I felt empty inside. The offices I worked in was sterile and the work itself was no better. My last full-time office job was terribly mundane. I only used a tiny fraction of my creative abilities and I wanted more. They didn't have more for me, or they had enough designers already, or they might have more in a year. I didn't want to wait for job satisfaction to come to me, so I went to it. I turned in my 30 day notice, took the plunge into full-time freelancing, and never looked back. I do miss the paychecks but money seemed less important than my happiness. It took many years for me to accept that fact about myself, but I felt free once I did.

Know What Really Matters

What I wanted from my career was something I had more control of. I wanted to have the opportunity to doodle in a cafe in the middle of a weekday afternoon. I wanted to pick the projects, and the people, I worked on rather than be assigned to them. I wanted the chance to take the dog for a walk when I needed some time away. I wanted the freedom that only a freelance career could give. There may be a creative agency or company that allows their employees to bring their dogs to work and move their laptop to wherever they want. Maybe I haven't found the one for me yet. Maybe I never will. Should I spend everyday searching for the elusive dream job? Who says that happiness only comes from working for someone else? Only I can decide what works best for me.

This lifestyle isn't for everyone. I'm still waiting to hear from one person telling me how foolish I am for leaving a secure job. Perhaps I'll have to go back to an office someday and all this would have been for naught. Thankfully, I've never actually met that person since going solo. I hear more breaths of awe and support from people I meet. This lifestyle isn't easy, but I couldn't be more happy.