Yael Reinhardt-Matsliah is a former activist turned web designer and the owner of Pixel Happy Studio, a design studio based in Israel. Yael works with clients all over the world who share her commitment to make the world a better place.
We came across Yael earlier this year while she worked on a brand new website for the Nu Mu Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity created for African Americans. We loved Yael’s super-clean integration of Charitable on the Scholarship Beautillion section, where donors can support young men preparing for college.
With the website now launched, I caught up with Yael to talk about her business and her experiences working with non-profit organisations.
You write on your website that you transitioned into web design pretty much by accident. How did that transition take place for you?
Well, as a new immigrant in Israel with limited Hebrew skills, my educational background didn’t provide much in terms of viable work options. I’m a self learner, was living in the Old City of Jerusalem at the time, and friends who had shops wanted a website. So I started with a pirated copy of Dreamweaver and Dummies for Dreamweaver book. Started learning and built my first website for a shop on the Old City.
That’s a great way to get started! How long ago was this?
That was around 2003, so 12 years.
Did you find there were many businesses in Israel trying to get their websites started at that time?
Yes, absolutely. It was during what is called the 2nd Intifada (2000 – 2005) where suicide bombings were almost a daily occurrence. Very few tourists, so all these shops in the Old City who had relied on tourists were looking to get online to sell their products.
When did you first come across WordPress?
That was probably 2008. Had been using Joomla previously.
Are most of your clients still in Israel these days? Or do you work with overseas clients as well?
Most of my clients are overseas. I only have a handful of clients now in Israel.
How do you find the experience of working with clients remotely?
Great question! It’s easier now with Skype and Google Hangouts. I rely on them a lot for initial consultations and weekly meetings with clients when working on projects. I actually prefer email / Trello for correspondence during projects so working remotely has in some ways been time efficient for me. However, having a local presence and working with local businesses has a lot of advantages and something I am considering now in terms of growing my business.
Definitely agree. We work remotely with clients quite regularly, and it’s so much easier these days.
Now, back before you got involved in web design, you were in the non-profit/activist world. How does your experience during that time affect the work you do today?
Another great question. I’ve been an idealist for most of my life and have come to understand my father saying to me many years ago, “your idealism will only take you so far.” He meant that mostly in terms of money and finances. I’ve really had to grow into being in business, especially around how to price the services I provide. Finding the balance between wanting to help people and to stay in business.
Pricing is definitely a tricky one, particularly when you have that background of idealism and wanting to help people. What are some things that have helped you shape your thinking about price?
Troy Dean and WP Elevation and Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing Rate has completely changed how I view pricing and the value of the work I provide clients. I’ve also recently participated in an Advanced Coaching group with Nathan Ingram of ithemes.com and the input and encouragement I’ve received has really helped. I’m actually planning to “re brand” in 2016 to incorporate the things I’ve learned and to implement a more sustainable business model.
I look forward to seeing that unfold next year!
Given your experience in the non-profit world, I’d love to hear your perspective on what you see as some of the main challenges that non-profits face with their web presence.
Yea, good question and one that I believe also ties in to what it means to be a “non-profit”, a term which I find rather strange. “Nonprofit.” It’s a curious word. It doesn’t tell us what it is but what it’s not. Why not for-good rather than non-profit? Because every person involved in the non-profit world — whether as founder, employee, or volunteer — wants to do some good. They are motivated by some ideal and the desire to make things better. Problem is, they often have financial limits that a “for profit business” doesn’t have.
Finance is definitely a huge challenge for many non-profits. What are some of your favourite ways that you have seen “for-good” organisations overcome this?
I’ve worked with one organization for years and they were a typical, struggling “for-good” organization always in need in funding. But the last few years that’s all changed, primarily because of online campaign options and, most important, the companies that join in and match donations from individuals.
I love the idea of finding companies that can join in the cause by matching donations. It can be such a great win-win.
Exactly, it is a great win-win!
When you work with organizations that are struggling with their funding in this way, do you find there are particular opportunities like social media that they are missing out on in terms of their online presence?
Actually, the organizations I’ve worked with are quite active on social media, probably more so than some of my other types of clients. I’m thinking this is born out of necessity and the desire to spread the word so to speak. But, again, I would say this is a new development — probably the last few years — and is probably related to the rise of crowdfunding.
We came across you through your work with the Nu Mu Lambda Chapter website. Can you tell me a little more about that project and how Charitable helped you out there?
Yea, that was a great project. They do a lot of work in their community but their website hadn’t been updated in over four years. And they didn’t have any real system in place for online donations. They were just sending folks to PayPal to make a donation. So after I completed the redesign of their site, I started searching for an “in house” solution to streamline and manage their campaigns.
I actually spent a few months looking at donation plugins for WordPress and thankfully found Charitable I believe only a few days after it was released.
What did Charitable give you that other plugins didn’t?
First, the front end display and layout was beautiful. Uncluttered, simple, and easy to use. Same for the setup. A powerful plugin with all the right features but not overly complex. And it’s really easy to customize. I experimented with some other plugins before Charitable came along and found them cumbersome to work with. For example, changing the default text required translating the plugin. With Charitable, I simply needed to edit a few of the template files, which are organized logically and include comments (instructions) about what needs to be edited. And, probably most important, was the support you provide. I had a few things I needed help with and you provided the answers I needed within less than 24 hours.
It’s about time to wrap up, Yael, but before we finish the interview do you have any final thoughts / plugs you’d like to share with readers?
We can do together far more than we can do alone. So reach out, connect, and utilize the amazing tools we have today to bring your vision to life.
Thanks for your time Yael!