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Resourceful Designer - Resources to help streamline your graphic design and web design business.

Offering resources to help streamline your home based graphic design and web design business so you can get back to what you do best… Designing!
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Jun 22, 2017

Who do you have on your Design Team?

Have you ever heard the term it takes a village to raise a child? Basically what it means is that a person is a sum of the people around them. Those people around them mould and form them into the person they become.

The same can be said of you as a designer. You are the child in the village. As such, you require a team to make you the most well-rounded designer your clients can hire. That team needs to be made up of people that can help your business succeed.

In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I discuss who should be on your team and how to find them. Be sure to listen to the episode for the full story. Here's a brief outline of what I talked about on the show.

Who should make up your team?

Your team should be made up of people with skills to complement the services you offer. People with skills you either don't have yourself, skills you are not that good at, or skills you simply don't want to do.

People to consider adding to your team.

  • Photographers
  • Illustrators
  • Copywriters
  • Programmers
  • Translators
  • Print designers
  • web designers
  • Developers
  • Facebook ad expert
  • Email marketing expert
  • Sales funnel specialists
  • SEO Experts
  • etc.

There are much more people you can have on your team but you get the idea.

Where do you find team members?

Good places to find team members are on websites like toptal.com, upwork.com or even fiverr.com. But don't limit yourself to these resources. People to include on your team can be found everywhere if you keep and eye out. Pick up business cards whenever you can. Write down names you hear on podcasts or read on blog posts. Take note of people mentioned in magazine articles, people you see on social media, people you meet at conventions and gatherings. People referred to you by family, friends and peers.

Basically, anyone with a skill you may end up needing some day should be added to your team.

They don't need to know they're on your team.

Building your team is mostly a one-way streak. It's great if you can get to know someone before adding them to your team but it's not necessary. All that is necessary is that you know what they can provide to you and your business. Team members don't even have to know they're on your team. In fact, they don't even have to know who you are to be part of your team!

If you hear of a great architectural photographer in your area you could add them to your team of photographers to call upon should the need arise. When the time comes and you need architectural photography you'll already know someone to contact. That's the reason to build a team.

Plus, when a client asks if you can take photos of their building you can say yes, knowing you have a great photographer you could hire for the job.

Team members to make your life easier.

Besides people with design related skills, you may need you should also have team members to help you run your business.

  • Bookkeeper
  • Lawyer
  • Accountant
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Business Coach
  • Mentor
  • Networking groups
  • Your Peers

And don't forget to include your family and friends. You need their support more than anyone's if you are going to succeed in your business.

Who do you have on your team?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Mrs. Flowerpot

How do you politely decline clients who requests part of your intellectual property. ie. suppliers details, how I created a particular graphic and more specific questions about my practice that has taken me years to gather the knowledge for. These incidences have happened to me in the past and in trying to be helpful, I have in fact allowed them to take work and fees from me. Am I holding my knowledge too tight? How much should we share? How do we decline their questions without the conversation becoming awkward?

To find out what I told Mrs. Flowerpot you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast

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Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Jun 15, 2017

Have you made the transition yet from employee to entrepreneur?

This week's podcast episode is a bit different. Instead of answering a listener's question at the end of the episode like I normally do, I chose to create an entire podcast episode to answer a great question I received.

Here is the question I received from Dave.

I work full-time as a graphic designer/prepress operator and have wanted to start my own freelance business for some time. I have also been learning web development to broaden my skills, which I usually try and work on at weekends along with juggling life as a new dad with a 5 month old son.

I am at the stage where I want to take on small design jobs to build my client base before eventually being a home based designer full-time.

So my question is how did you approach the transition of moving from the print shop to working for yourself? how long did it take? and do you have any insights for someone who is very time poor that wants to make the leap into self employment?

Thanks again for everything you do through the podcast, it has answered so many questions for me already. keep it up!!!

kindest regards,

Dave

I thought this question merited more than just a couple of minutes at the end of the show.

My Story

To fully answer Dave's question I need to tell my story of how I made the transition from employee to entrepreneur. I'm not going to go into everything here. If you want to know my full transition story you'll need to listen to the podcast.

The short version is when the print shop I worked at decided web site design was a service they no longer wanted to offer I took my skills and knowledge home with me and started a part-time business in the evenings.

It didn't take long for web clients to start asking me to design things that were a direct conflict of interest with my day job. After discussing it with my wife I made the decision to start working towards the day I could leave the print shop and work full-time for myself.

One year later I handed in my resignation and never regretted the decision.

Of course, there's a lot more to the story so be sure to listen to the podcast.

My advice for those getting ready to transition from employee to entrepreneur.

Create a business

Freelancing on the side doing the odd job here and there is great. But if you are planning to someday work for yourself full-time you should start a business now. By registering an official business you will have a much easier time in setting things up when it comes to dealing with banks, credit, suppliers, and so on. Not to mention all the tax write-offs you can claim through a business.

Create a buffer

Unfortunately, some people are thrust into the transition situation without warning through business closures, downsizing or any other number of reasons. But if you have the time to set things up I suggest you create a cash buffer to get you buy the slow times, because there will be slow times, especially at the beginning. Saving up six months worth of salary is usually a good buffer.

Build up a client list

If at all possible, try to form relationships with the clients you work with at your present job before transitioning. If you're lucky they may follow you when you leave. Or they may refer new clients your way if they know you're a trustworthy and skilful person.

Tell your employer

The first thing you should do is make sure you don't have any agreements with your current employer saying you cannot start a business on the side. If no such agreements are in place then you should let your employer know what you are doing. They don't need to know you eventually want to leave, but they should be aware of what type of business you are running after hours. They may even encourage and help you out. The last thing you want is for your employer to discover your side business through some third party.

Don't burn bridges

When the time finally comes to part ways from your current job, do so in an amicable way. No matter what you thought of your boss or the company you should part on good terms. You never know when you might require their services in the future or whether or not they may refer clients your way.

Being an entrepreneur is a wonderful thing

I love working for myself from home. I could never see myself working for someone else again. However, self-employment isn't for everyone. It takes a certain type of individual to have the drive and discipline to make it work. If you think running your own graphic design business is something you want to do I highly encourage you to start setting the pieces in place today for your transition. Mark your calendar and get working towards the day you make the leap from employee to entrepreneur.

Best of luck on your transition.

How did your transition go?

I would love to hear how your transition from employee to entrepreneur went. Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Udemy

As graphic designers, we need to keep our skills and knowledge in peak form. Udemy is one of the best places to learn new skills or brush up on rusty ones. Udemy offers a wide variety of courses for all stages of your career. I've personally bought courses on SEO, Google Analytics, Facebook Ads and more. Have a look today and see what you're going to learn next.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Jun 1, 2017

Does your design website have dedicated landing pages?

One of the most asked questions I get is how do I attract new design clients? I wrote a blog post a while back sharing 10 proven ways to do just that but today I decided to do a podcast episode on another way, landing pages.

Be warned, this isn't a quick way to attract new design clients. Landing pages are a slow burn meant to work over time but they do work. Below are some of the points I cover in the podcast. Be sure to listen to the episode for the full discussion.

What is a landing page?

Technically speaking, any web page someone lands on after clicking a link is a landing page. But when it comes to marketing the term "landing page" has taken on a new meaning.

A landing page is a webpage with only one marketing purpose in mind, to generate leads and sales for your business.

What makes a good landing page?

A good landing page should be a standalone page without any distractions except for its primary goal, getting visitors to click on your call-to-action.

The best landing pages have no sidebar, no footer and possibly no header or menu. The whole purpose of the page is to relay your message and allow your visitors only one option, to follow through on your CTA.

A good landing page should have a pleasant, flowing design including compelling copy, appropriate imagery and a very easy way for visitors to interact with it, either a button or simple form allowing them to contact you for more information.

At the bottom fo the landing page, almost as an afterthought, you should include a single line of text and a text link inviting visitors back to your website to learn more about you.

How to use landing pages for your design website.

Way back in episode 2 of the podcast I talked about how your design clients may not know everything you are capable of doing and how you should be informing them every chance you get. I also talk about this and how to get new work from existing clients in episode 72.

But when using landing pages to attract new design clients you need to flip that concept around and concentrate on only one service at a time.

I presume you already have a website for your design business and on that website you list all the services you offer. Things like logo design, business cards, trade show displays, posters, t-shirts, websites, social media profiles and so much more.

It's great that you list all those services but the problem is, so does ever other designer in your area.

That's where landing pages come in. You should be creating a landing page for every service you offer.

Logo design should have its own landing page, website design should have its own landing page, wedding invitations should have its own landing page, you get the idea.

Every one of those landing pages will focus on that specific service and nothing more. Not only that, but they should be composed in a way to entice visitors to want to work with you.

Think about it from a potential client's point of view. When they google "poster design [add city name]" the search results will display a bunch of designers in your area capable of designing posters. But what will be more impressive to the potential client, a design site simply mentioning they design posters, or a dedicated landing page specifically talking about posters?

Imagine them landing on a page with text something like this...

Are you in the [city name] area and looking to have a poster designed for your business or upcoming event? If so, you've come to the right place. Here at [company name], we've been designing business and event posters for over xx years and we would love the opportunity to design your next poster."

Again, what would be more impressive to the potential client looking for a poster design, a design site that mentions poster design amongst many other services or a simple landing page dedicated solely to poster design?

Now, imagine if your site had landing pages for poster design, T-shirt design, ticket-design, etc. etc. You get the idea.

Landing pages improve your design site's SEO

I've talked about the benefit of landing pages from a potential client's point of view, but don't overlook the benefits to your website's findability.

Adding dedicated landing pages to your site will improve its SEO ranking in Google, especially when it comes to Google's local search results. Google is much more likely to rank a page completely dedicated to logo design higher than a page that simply mentions logo design once on the page.

I just mentioned Google's local search which allows local pages to rank higher than non-local pages. Take advantage of this by specifically mentioning your city or area on your landing page.

You can also take advantage of other areas by creating multiple landing pages for each service by targeting different cities or areas. For example; build landing pages for wedding invitations in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, etc. Each landing page is a potential gateway to attract new clients.

Build it and they will come

As I mentioned at the beginning. This isn’t a strategy for getting new clients fast. It’s a long-term strategy. It may take months or maybe even years before it pays off.

But all it takes is one person to one day Google something like "event poster design" and your hometown and the effort will have paid off.

And you know what? As the concept of landing pages for online marketing becomes more and more popular others will be looking for landing pages for their own websites. So you can even build a landing page advertising that you build landing pages. How meta is that?

So go get building your own landing pages.

have you ever used landing pages before?

Let me if you've used landing pages before or if it's something you plan on implementing. Leave me a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Chloe

At what point should you start charging a client you started off doing volunteer work for. I offered to do a bunch of smaller design jobs for them to help out as my values and interests aligned with theirs. They are a smaller organisation without much money I wanted to offer some services for free as I really like their brand and would value having them as a client/for my portfolio. How do you bring this up without damaging the relationship and then how do you go about increasing your hourly rate over time as the workload increases and becomes more regular?

To find out what I told Chloe you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week: LeadPages

Leadpages integrates with many popular platforms and services to give you the best landing pages and lead generation tools available. Their very simple creation tools have allowed everyone from Fortune 500 companies to first-time entrepreneurs, people in every industry to take control of their marketing and get better results.

Leadpages is what I use here on Resourceful Designer to deliver all my special content including my free 4 Week Marketing Boost guide.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 25, 2017

How often do you feel that afternoon crash?

You know what I’m talking about don’t you? That crash you feel somewhere around 3 pm? You were productive all morning, you had a good lunch and came back revigorated but somewhere mid-afternoon it hits you. The Afternoon Crash. 

Some say it’s caused by low blood sugar, some say it’s your body’s natural sleep cycle, others blame diet or being mostly inactive during the day.

Although I can’t make you suppress those afternoon yawns, I can offer some tips and advice on how to avoid the dreaded afternoon crash and remain productive until the end of the day. For full details be sure to listen to the podcast but here is a brief rundown of what I talk about in this episode.

Tip #1, Take Short Breaks

You’ve heard how sitting for too long isn’t good for you? Well, One of the best suggestions I have for you is to incorporate short breaks into your workday to get up and walk around.

Getting up and walking around will help clear up your mind so you can remain focused when you return to whatever task you were working on. Not only that but it’s also good for your long-term health.

Just like your body gets tired and needs rest to recuperate, your brain gets tired as well. All it takes is a couple of minutes of getting up and walking around and you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel.

Tip #2, Eat Well

One of the perks of being a home-based designer is that we have the entire kitchen at our disposal when it comes to snack and meal time.

One of the cons of being a home-based designer is that we have the entire kitchen at our disposal when it comes to snack and meal time.

What you choose to eat during the day plays a big part in how productive you’ll remain.

Having the whole kitchen at our disposal makes it very easy to grab the wrong things when we’re “in the groove” and don't want to take too much time away from our desk. It’s a lot easier to grab a few cookies and get back to work than it is to peel and cut up a carrot.

Last night’s leftovers make a great lunch, providing you eat a lunch size portion. If you pack on your lunch plate like it’s dinner time you’ll only be contributing to that afternoon crash as your body uses up energy to digest the large meal.

Eating healthy and in proper portions will help you remain productive when you really need it.

Tip #3, Get Organized

Every designer has their own way of handling tasks and projects. To learn more about how to do this listen to episode 66 of the podcast Tackle Your To-Do List With Tasks and Projects.

Keeping your to-do list organized and up to date helps you organize your time and balance your workload. And when you have a balanced workload it makes it easier to focus on the tasks at hand, even when your brain starts to feel that afternoon crash coming on.

When you feel that fog approaching, turn to your to-do list to keep you on track. If you’ve organized it well, you’ll know exactly what it is you have to do next.

Tip #4, Limit Distractions

In order to work most effectively, you need to limit the number of distractions around you. This will allow you to remain focused on the task at hand.

Studies prove that it takes roughly 15-20 minutes to recover from a small distraction and get fully back into the task they were doing before being distracted. Every one of those distractions saps away at your energy and contributes to that afternoon crash.

Email is the biggest culprit. I talked about how to handle email in episode 43, A Don’t Do List For Your Graphic Design Business.

Emails distract you with every new email notification. If you stop what you’re doing to check your email every time you hear the new email chime go off, you’re going to find it hard to keep your concentration up for the entire day. Instead, you should set aside certain times of the day for checking and replying to emails. Or at least wait until you complete your current task to check them.

Better yet, turn off your email when you are not using it and you’ll notice a big difference in your work habits and energy.

Email isn’t the only distraction. Social media, internet browsing and many other things can distract you and sap the energy you need to get through your afternoon without experiencing a crash.

It's up to you

Everyone has a different working style and what may work for one person might not work for another. But if you follow these simple tips you’ll find yourself with enough energy to avoid that afternoon crash and overall you’ll be more productive.

What do you do to avoid that afternoon crash?

Let me know your strategy by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Andrew

I know you are wildly successful, so I'm surprised when I hear you talking about smaller jobs that you take on here and there. Do you take on everything that comes your way no matter how small? Do you have guidelines about what you will and won't take on?

To find out what I told Andrew you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Support The Podcast

If you've been enjoying the Resourceful Designer podcast and are looking for a way to give back, you can now become a Patron of the show. For as little as $1 per month, you can show your support. There are also several perks for those who wish to donate more. Visit http://resourcefuldesigner.com/patreon for more details and to start supporting the show.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 18, 2017

Do you dread pricing design jobs when you don't know how long they'll take?

Have you ever had to quote on a design job but you have no idea how long it will take to complete it? If you're familiar with Project Based Pricing or Value Based Pricing then it isn't really an issue. But if you're one of the many designers who bill by the hour you may dread this scenario. 

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talk about what you can do when you have no idea how long a project will take. Be sure to listen to the episode for the full story.

Pricing design jobs by the hour.

It takes a lot of practice to correctly guess how long a design job will take to complete. Notice I used the word "guess"? Because that's what it is, a guess. If you guess wrong you could loose a lot of money on the job. The only way to protect yourself if to pad your guess by overestimating which isn't good for your client.

But what if there's another way that works for both you and your clients?

Actual time billing.

When the scope of a design project is such that there's no way to determine how long it will take, offer to bill for the actual time you spend on the job.

Many clients will accept a contract stating you will bill them your hourly rate for the total time you spend working on their project. This is the easiest method and it benefits both you and your client. You know you won't loose any money on the design project, and your client knows they won't overpay on the job.

But what if the client is worried you'll take too long?

If your client is hesitant to sign your contract, you could offer a maximum price for the project. You bill them by the hour for the time you spend working on the project up to the maximum price, providing the scope of the job hasn't changed.

This option should satisfy worried clients and make you look good when you come in under the maximum price. Just be sure the maximum price you set is enough to cover any unforeseen complications that may arise during the project.

How do you handle pricing design jobs with undefined time lines?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Tim

How many works/projects/clients do you normally allow yourself to take in simultaneously within a week?

To find out what I told Tim you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week Get your Clients to pay for it.

When it comes to hardware, software, plugins, fonts etc., If you need to purchase something for a specific project then you should be charging the client for it. Even if it's something you will be able to use in the future for other clients. There is nothing wrong with telling a client you require something to complete their project and including it on your invoice. You can then use that item as a selling feature or service you offer for future clients.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 11, 2017

Where do you look for new work?

One of the most asked questions I’ve heard over the years is “how do I get new design clients?” It’s a valid question. But let me turn it around and ask you, why do you need new design clients when your existing clients have plenty of new work you could do for them?

In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I discuss how you can leverage your existing clients to get new work. Be sure to listen for the full story.

Your clients already know you.

Wouldn’t it be easier for both you and your client to work on new projects together since you already have a relationship started? It would be so much easier than starting from scratch with a new client.

"But if my clients had new work for me they would surely let me know."

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. In fact, your clients may be coming up with all sorts of great design projects and not thinking about you at all. There are so many jobs and projects that go on in a business that would be perfect for you but for some reason your name never comes to mind. Things like display and presentation boards, facebook ads, internal handouts and so much more.

It’s not because the client doesn't want to spend the money, it’s simply a case of them not realizing it’s a job for a skilled designer.

Why don't they ask me to do it?

The answer may be as simple as your client not knowing the full scope of what you are capable of. To learn more, listen to episode 2 of the podcast.

If your client hired you for web design they may not know you also do print design or vice versa. Just because you designed a logo for a company don't presume they know you can also design their business cards and stationary unless you've told them. A lot of clients don't think that way.

Telling a client you can design everything for them isn’t enough. Because your client may not know what “everything” entails.

How do I get new work from existing clients?

The answer is simple, make sure they don't forget about you. In other words, make sure you have a good relationship with them. Because people don't forget those they have good relationships with. And if they have a good relationship with you, they will think of you when new work comes up.

How do you build a good client relationship?

The trick is to keep in constant contact. No, I don't mean you should stalk your client. Just make sure they don’t forget about you. You have plenty of tools at your disposal you could use without seeming overbearing.

Email or e-newsletter.

Email or E-newsletters are great ways to stay in contact with your clients. Use them to let your client know what you've been up to.

  • Let them know what interesting projects you've done for other clients.
  • Let them know what new skills you've acquired.
  • Let them know what new products or suppliers you've started using.
  • Let them know what new services you're offering.
  • Let them know anything and everything that may peak their curiosity.

Your clients may find something you write about interesting and ask you to do a similar project for them.

Don't forget to send personal emails to congratulate your clients on anniversaries, events, new products, accomplishments, and anything else of interest. Congratulating them via email is much more personal than doing so over social media.

Any reason you can find to reach out to your clients and remind them you are there is a good thing.

Who knows, they may just reply to your email with some nice new work for you to do.

Phone

Email is good, but hearing your voice is so much better. Follow the same examples as above but do so over the phone. They will appreciate it more and remember it longer.

Not to mention that having you on the phone makes it much easier for them to ask your advice and possibly send some new work your way.

Social Media

Follow your clients on social media and interact with them. Comment on, like, and share your client’s posts. They take notice of who is following them and will remember you for it when they have new work that requires a designer.

Visit them in person

The above methods are a great way to improve client relations. But nothing beats a face to face meeting to drum up new work. Even if it's just popping in unannounced to say hello while you're in the neighbourhood. The fact that you took the time to stop in shows that you are serious about your relationship with them. Plus, there’s something about having you right there in front of them that can spark a client’s memory which can easily lead to you leaving with new work to do.

A wealth of opportunities exist.

We spend so much time worrying about attracting new clients that we sometimes overlook the wealth of opportunities available from our existing clients

Reach out to them. The worst that can happen is you build a better relationship with them which could lead to new work in the future. And that’s never a bad thing.

How have you leveraged your existing clients for new work?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Ruel

I'm starting to offer design services for payment. In the past I didn't charge. I'm at a point where I utilized a stock image from a service called Shutterstock.com. Since the service charges for license, how would you go about charging for a design project that uses licensed material like a photograph?

Would you pay for the photograph license and include that cost for the overall job?

Would you have the client pay for the photograph license separately and charge for the design job without it?

To find out what I told Ruel you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week Payment Fees

This week's tip is more of a warning. If you are charging your clients an additional fee when they pay by credit card or through services like PayPal you are probably breaking the law. According to the terms of agreement with these companies, you are not allowed to pass the service fee you pay on to your clients. If you are caught doing so you could loose the privilege of accepting payments that way.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 4, 2017

Have you heard the concept of Good, Quick, Cheap?

I first heard the concept of Good, Quick, Cheap on The Real Brian Show podcast. I was so fascinated with the concept that I decided to explore how it affects the graphic design industry. In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I expand on the concept and talk about Good Design, Quick Design and Cheap Design.

To get the full story you'll need to listen to the podcast but here's a breakdown of what I discuss in the episode.

The dream client

Wouldn't it be nice if our clients had unlimited budgets, gave us all the time in the world to work on their projects, and allowed us to design it any way we wanted?

We can dream, can't we?

The truth of the matter is, there are very few clients that have both the budget and the time we would like to have on a project. If you manage to find one of these elusive clients, latch on to them for dear life and don’t do anything to compromise that relationship.

The realistic client

More realistically clients want you to design something good, quick and cheap. But therein lies a problem. You see, good, quick and cheap are all possible but only two at a time.

Pick two

The concept behind Good, Quick, Cheap is that not all three are available at the same time. Your client can only choose two of them.

  • If they want a Good and Cheap Design, they won't get it quickly.
  • If they want a Cheap and Quick Design, it won't be any good.
  • If they want a Good and Quick design it won't be cheap.

It all comes down to perception, need and value. Your client needs to decide which one they can do without, Good, Quick or Cheap.

Be sure to listen to the podcast episode for the full story.

Have you ever thought of the Good, Quick, Cheap concept before?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Michael

Do you turn down work that does not align with your personal values and morals? If so, how do you "let them down gently"

To find out what I told Michael you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week iThemes Sync

It's important to update WordPress, both for the security of your site and to take advantage of the latest features and improvements. But updates to WordPress core and any plugins or themes installed on your sites can happen pretty frequently. If you're managing multiple WordPress sites, keeping them all updated can take up a lot of your valuable time.

iThemes Sync is an easy way to manage updates for all your WordPress sites from one place. Instead of logging in to each site individually, you have one place to view and install available updates, making WordPress maintenance easy.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Apr 27, 2017

Did you know your design business has a reputation?

Have you ever thought about your design business’s reputation? What both your clients and more importantly potential clients know about you?

Having a good reputation for your design business will not only enhance those important client relationships. But it can also increase your overall revenue and profit.

So it’s vital that you do everything to avoid a negative reputation and make sure everyone sees you in a positive way.

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I share tips for improving your design business's reputation. Be sure to listen to the podcast for the full story.

Here are some tips to manage your design business’s reputation

Timely responses

Provide timely responses to all inquiries, comments, complaints or requests you receive. It doesn’t matter if it’s on social media, by email, a phone call, even an old fashion letter. Getting back to someone in a timely manner will help your reputation.

Handle criticism well

Negative feedback and criticism can be harsh. How you handle it will influence your reputation. Reply to these comments politely and constructively, and use this feedback as a way to improve yourself and your business. You are a designer after all. Hopefully, you’ve developed a thick skin in dealing with criticism.

Promote your clients

Promote customer testimonials, success stories, and customer references on your website and print promotional materials. Clients like thinking they’re special. Show them off and your work along with it to your other clients.

Create a client referral program

One thing you may want to try is creating a customer referral program. It could be a discount on future orders or a gift card to a popular store or restaurant. Doing so will encourage happy customers to spread the word about you and your services. In the process, your reputation will grow.

Ask clients for reviews and testimonials

Encourage happy clients to write reviews and testimonials about their experience dealing with you. Having a client say good things about you will go a long way to increasing your positive reputation. Be sure to share them as mentioned above.

Share with your clients

Create newsletters, blogs, and even vlogs to keep your clients informed about new products or services you offer as well as industry news, and other helpful tips or resources. If you show you care about your clients they will care about you.

Follow your clients

Show you care about your clients by following them on social media. If they mention an event or a milestone congratulate them and share their message. To make this easier Set up social management tools and Google alerts so you can track and respond to client mentions on the web. Don't forget things like birthdays, anniversaries, events, etc.

Better Business Bureau

Set up a BBB (Better Business Bureau) profile so consumers can check your credibility. This will go a long way in improving your reputation.

Customer appreciation

Create customer appreciation events that are focused on thanking your customers for their loyal business.

Community involvement

Nothing makes you or your business look better than showing that you care about your community. Sponsor local organizations and teams, or donate time, money, or services to a charity to show your community support.

Ask for advice

Create customer surveys and offer a valuable coupon in exchange for your customer's time and input. Letting them know you care about their opinion will go a long way to helping your reputation.

How do you manage your design business's reputation?

Let me know your goals by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Jerome

I am a young student and I am into graphic design. I need help choosing a name for my business.

To find out what I told Jerome you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Four Week Marketing Boost.

I put this guide together in the hopes to encourage you to look at your own brand and image. The daily tasks in my guide require only 20-30 minute of your time and focus on the parts of your marketing material that are often overlooked or neglected.  After completing this four-week plan you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A. you can text the word MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

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Contact me

Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Apr 20, 2017

Are you an expert graphic designer?

Have you ever felt uncomfortable being referred to as an expert graphic designer or expert web designer?

Can I ask you why you felt that way?

I’ve seen it over and over, designers cringing at the title of expert because they don’t feel they deserve it.

In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I share a little secret with you. You are an expert.

Don’t believe me?

The Webster Dictionary defines Expert as follows:

An Expert is someone having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.

With this official definition in mind, let me ask you again. Are you an expert?

I hope you said yes.

I'm guilty myself.

I must admit. I used to be guilty of this as well. I felt uncomfortable when people would say something like...

“Hi Mark, so and so told me I should talk to you because you’re a web design expert”

or “Hi Mark, I need a logo for my business and I’m told you’re the expert”

It used to make me uncomfortable. But once I realized we're all experts in someone's eyes I started embracing it. Now if someone asks me if I’m an expert I proudly say yes, yes I am. Allow me to shower you with my expertise. OK, maybe I don't say that last part, but I don’t shy away from the title anymore.

Why does being called an expert bother designers?

I’ll tell you why. Because as designers we’re creative people, and being creative people we’re constantly learning to improve our skills and knowledge. But if we’re constantly learning to improve our skills and knowledge, and there’s always so much new to learn. how can we be experts? It doesn't make sense.

The fact of the matter is, we are experts to everyone not in our industry.

  • To everyone who doesn’t understand the workings of a website. we are an expert.
  • To everyone who doesn’t understand the intricacies of proper branding, we are an expert.
  • To everyone who doesn’t understand the nuances of type manipulation and colour usage and page layout, we are an expert.

Because we have skills and knowledge they don’t possess we are experts in their eyes.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a designer for many years like I have, or if you’re just getting into this profession.

To everyone who relies on our skills and design knowledge, we are experts. So embrace it.

Trust me, you want it this way. How do you think your business would be doing if your clients didn’t see you as an expert at what you do. I don’t think I have to tell you the answer to that one, do I?

How do you feel when someone calls you an expert?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Audrey

My name is Audrey and I'm from Sydney  I've been working as a graphic designer for 1 year. I'm an in house graphic designer for a fashion brand but I do freelance web design work outside of my daytime job. I have question about how you do web design. Do you show your client a wireframe or just a high fidelity mock up and do you code as well to build a website? Like html and css. Or do you work with a developer to build a website. Also lastly what's the difference between web design and UI&UX?

To find out what I told Audrey you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Espresso

This week's resource is a web editor called Espresso by MacRabbit. I've been using Espresso since it first came out for all my HTML, PHP and CSS coding. I've created over 50 websites using this application. It's very well laid out and very simple to use. Here's the description from their website.

Espresso is for people who make delightful, innovative and fast websites — in an app to match. Espresso helps you write, code, design, build and publish with flair and efficiency. Sophisticated text features, amazing Live Preview with Browser Xray, CSSEdit tools, the Navigator, Dynamo auto-building, and Server Sync. Whether you're starting from scratch or tweaking a live site, Espresso has you covered.

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Contact me

Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Apr 14, 2017

Would clients stick with you if you take advantage of them?

I was thinking recently how our design clients rely on us when it comes to their branding and marketing material. How easy would it be to take advantage of that trust and make a few extra dollars on each project we bill them for.

This reminded me of a joke I heard not too long ago.

A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, "This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you."

The barber puts an old crumpled dollar bill in one hand and two brand new shiny quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, "Which do you want, son?" The boy takes the quarters, thanks the barber and leaves.

"What did I tell you?" said the barber. "That kid never learns!"

Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store.

"Hey, son! May I ask you a question?

Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?"

The boy licked his cone and replied,

"Because the day I take the dollar, the game is over!"

The moral of this joke can apply to our design businesses just as easily.

I’ve talked before about pricing strategies for your design business, as well as how raising your prices can actually attract more design work. But one thing I haven’t talked about before is our ability to take advantage of our clients.

We work in an industry without standardized pricing. Someone could literally pay $5 for a logo or fifty thousand dollars. We’ve seen it happen both ways. And paying more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better product for your money.

With this wide pricing range available to us, it could be tempting to take advantage of our clients for a few extra dollars here and there. it would be so easy to pad your time if you’re charging by the hour. After all, your client doesn’t know how long you actually spent on their project.

If you bill by the project you could easily pad that price as well in order to put some extra dough in your bank account.

I’ve seen it happen before. I’ve seen designers boast about it. They get greedy and if it works once they try upping it again next time.

But just like the kid in the joke, if you take more for your services than they merit, your game could soon be over.

I knew a designer who priced himself beyond what his market could afford and he suffered. In fact, a couple of my clients are with me for that exact reason, their previous designer got greedy and started charging too much.

I’m not saying you’re not worth your rates. In fact, most designers I talk to are not charging enough for the services they provide.

What I’m saying is know what your rates are and stick to them.

This applies to all levels of business. I know some designers who won't take on projects under $5000, and that’s fine. There is a market at that level of work. But the same rules apply to them as to those who do less expensive work.

If they charge $10,000 for a corporate website that’s only worth $7,000 it could come back and bite them.

This doesn’t only apply to cost. The same goes for services and features. There’s a term that started in the restaurant industry but has migrated across all business. It’s called the upsell. If you’ve ever been asked if you would like to turn your meal order into a combo, that’s an upsell. They are trying to persuade you to purchase something that sounds like a great deal. A fry and a drink for an extra $1? What a bargain. You'd be crazy not to take it.

What they did was get you to spend an extra dollar, money you weren’t planning on spending to begin with, on something that cost them only $0.30. They didn't have your best interest in mind. They were simply trying to make an extra $.070 off you.

The same applies to your business.

If all a client needs is a very simple $500 website don’t try to sell them a $1000 website full of features they don’t need.

Again, I’m not saying upselling is wrong, providing what you add is of value to the client and isn't just there to increase your bottom line.

There are times that the client won't think of everything. In fact, most times the client doesn’t think of everything. That’s part of what we do as designers, offer solutions to their problems, even if they don’t see the problem yet. But again, don’t sell them on something they don’t need just to make a buck.

There’s a local web design company in my area that doesn’t like me because I’ve stollen so many of their clients away from them. I didn’t seek out to steal them. Those clients came to me when they found out they were being charged for services they didn't need and were not even using. That web design company was taking the dollar bill instead of the two quarters.

There’s a big difference between being greedy and charging an honest price no matter how expensive it is. And clients are not that dumb not to realize it. They may be fooled for a bit, but not forever.

If you get greedy and start charging more for your services than what they are worth, the game will be over for you as well.

Have you ever been taken advantage of?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Michael

I've been a professional graphic designer for 8 years this August, but I'm just now transitioning from general graphic design to doing mostly web design. What are some resources you can recommend for an easier wire-framing and design mockup process.

I'm aware of a couple applications like Sketch, and Adobe XD. Have you had any experience with either of those and if so what has your experience been thus far?

To find out what I told Michael you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week; prevent wrist pain

Many designers suffer from wrist pain. Sometimes it can get so bad that surgery is the only solution. This week I would like to share a tip that a doctor gave me many years ago when I was suffering from chronic wrist pain. Tilt your keyboard backwards. Positioning your keyboard so that the number keys at the top are lower than the spacebar at the bottom forces your wrists into a more natural position and removes the strain that often is the cause of wrist pain. Since I changed the angle of my keyboard my wrist pain has gone away completely. That was over ten years ago. Invest in a [easyazon_link keywords="keyboard tray" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]keyboard tray[/easyazon_link] that allows you to tilt your keyboard backwards. Your wrists will thank you.

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Contact me

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Apr 6, 2017

Can you use more design referrals?

We are graphic designers. We have the know-how and creative ability to promote our own business like no other businesses can. We can tweak our websites to get the absolute most out of them. We can go out and network until the cows come home, (whatever that means).

And yet, even with all of our know-how and ability to promote ourselves, nothing feels better than getting a call from someone looking for a designer and hearing that you were referred to them by a satisfied client.

I don’t know the actual statistics, but I can almost guarantee that when it comes to freelance and home-based designers acquiring new work, referrals is the number one way by far.

Maybe you’ve been in business for several years like I have and have an established client base. Or maybe you're just starting your graphic design business. You chose the perfect name for it. You’ve designed a bunch of marketing material to help you promote it, including a stunning website with a great About Page. You’ve even figured out what your pricing strategy will be. Then you go out into the world, or more likely your local area and land yourself those first few elusive clients. 

After creating some stunning designs for them you sit back and keep your fingers crossed that they'll spread the word about your amazing talents and start sending referrals your way.

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I discuss one strategy to get people referring you. A strategy that I’ve used recently for getting design referrals with great success.

How to improve your chances of getting design referrals.

This strategy works best if you are part a niche you want to work in. Preferably something you know a lot about. A hobby, group or interest of yours. It’s not absolutely necessary. However, it will work better if you are.

Go to where like-minded people in your niche hang out. It may be in person or it could be online like in Facebook Groups or on Reddit.

The first thing you want to do is make friends and start creating relationships with them. Then offer help the people in that space by sharing your knowledge. Try to solve people's problems by answering questions about design and websites you come across.

Over time this will create social proof that you are an expert in your field and people will start to recognize you. Then, when they require someone with your skills they’ll know who to turn to.

What I did to expedite this strategy.

Here’s the strategy that has been a game changer for me and the reason I’m getting so much work in the podcasting space, my niche of choice.

Offer design work at no charge.

No, I am not suggesting you should work for free. If someone contacts you asking for free work turn them away quickly unless there’s a very valid reason why you should work for free.

What I’m saying is offer a completed design to someone who could use it even though they never asked for it.

Let me explain. As graphic designers, we are constantly learning new things, expanding our skills, and exploring our creativity. Whenever you decide to test out some new technique or tutorial, try out some new Photoshop plugins or actions you just acquired or play around with a new font. Instead of just fooling around with them, try designing something for someone who needs it and offer it to them at no obligation to use it.

Don’t tell them their current design is bad. Simply tell them you were trying out a new technique or such and decided to use their “brand” as a gunnie pig. Since you can't use the design for anything yourself, they might as well have it.

Here’s the payback. The person you offer it to will either love it and tell everyone about it. Or they will thank you but decide not to use it, but they will still be grateful nonetheless that you thought of them and tell everyone about it. The next time they hear of someone who is looking for a designer you can almost guarantee they will mention you.

The bonus thing is you didn't waste your time designing the artwork since you used that time to learn a new skill or technique.

Keep in mind.

Do good work

Face it, If your work isn’t good you won't get any referrals from it.

Create a relationship

This strategy works best if the person you offer the free artwork to already knows you. That's where offering help and advice to those in the niche pays off. The more you participate the more your name will spread amongst the community and become better known which is another benefit that will help garner referrals.

Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals.

Once you finish a project for a client and you know they’re satisfied, ask them to refer you to anyone else they think could use your services.

If you’re not comfortable asking them outright here’s something you can do. Set yourself a reminder for two weeks after you either finish the project or two weeks after the event the artwork was designed for took place. When that time arrives, send your client an email asking them either how the event went, or how the project you did for them is working out. Mention that you enjoyed working on the project with them and ask them to contact you when (not if) they have more projects for you. Then tell them, in the meantime, to please feel free to refer you to anyone they think could use your services.

What this does is put you fresh in their mind again. If they do know someone that could use your services they will let them know. Plus it has the added benefit of building that relationship with them. You didn’t forget about them or their event once the project was done. The next time they have a project they’ll remember your effort and contact you.

If you do all of these things an amazing thing can happen. People will start referring you. What’s even more amazing is some of those referrals may come from people you didn’t even work with. Especially if you’re focusing on a niche where people like to share and help each other.

So whatever your hobby or passion is, be it motorcycles, line dancing, butterfly collecting or basket weaving, connect with other like-minded people online or in person and offer design-related advice whenever you can. Build those all important relationships.

If you follow this strategy the time will come when you will be rewarded with all the referrals you could dream of.

What strategies do you use to get design referrals?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Sulley

Sulley has a question about working online as a freelancer. I easily get overwhelmed when presented with a job offer such as designing a logo for a company. Mainly because I try to take the professional approach and I don't know where to begin. When is the right time to give a questionnaire? When do I create a mood board? How does a proposal come to play and how do I submit finished works?

I'm still learning to be a good designer. I started working for people sometime in the last year and I don't feel like I'm taking a professional approach which might hurt my design works in the future. Any advice from you will be of great help to me. Thanks for taking time to read all these. Hope you have a wonderful day.

To find out what I told Sulley you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week: Update your email signature.

I mentioned back in episode 2 of the podcast how it's possible that your existing clients don't know everything you can do for them. Help ease that confusion by including bullet points or a short sentence in your email signature briefly explaining what services you offer. If you're lucky you may just pick up some new projects because of it.

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Contact me

Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Mar 30, 2017

How Productive is your to-do list?

Do you ever look at your to-do list and feel overwhelmed?

Do you ever find yourself procrastinating on certain jobs on your to-do list because you’re not sure where to start?

Do you ever look at your to-do list at the end of the day and feel like you haven’t really accomplished anything?

If you answered yes to any of these questions there’s a good chance you’re not using your to-do list correctly.

Have no fear, on this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast I share with you the proper way to use a to-do list. Or more accurately to-do lists.

Projects and Tasks

If you’re having problems tackling your to-do list it could be because you’re putting projects on the list instead of tasks. There is a difference. When you start looking at each one separately you will see just how easy it is to get things done.

The basics behind the projects and tasks to-do list method

  • A task is something that can be accomplished in one session.
  • A project is made up of multiple tasks.

It’s really that simple. If what you want to accomplish requires you to do more than one thing it’s a project. If it only required you to do a single thing it’s a task. The trick to being productive is to know which is which and only put tasks on your to-do list.

What do you do with projects?

Keep a separate list for projects so you can keep track of what you’re working on. But it’s your to-do list of tasks that you will keep referring to on a regular basis.

To start off, look at the list of projects you are currently working on. They may be for clients or they could be for yourself. Now identify all the tasks that make up that project and write them down on your to-do list.

Remember, a project can be divided up into either smaller projects or into individual tasks. But tasks cannot be divided.

A task can take as little as a couple of minutes or it can take several hours. But to accomplish it you should only have to do one thing. I give examples of this in the podcast.

Here's an example of dividing a large project into smaller projects and tasks.

A branding project could be divided into these smaller projects.

  • Logo design
  • Business cards and Stationery
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Signage and banners
  • Website
  • Social media identity
  • Other marketing material

Each one of these sub-projects can then be divided into even smaller projects or into tasks. Take Logo Design for example. It could be divided into the following tasks.

  • Choose fonts
  • Choose colours
  • Choose a design style
  • Design the iconography
  • Etc.

Designing a website can be broken down into these tasks.

  • Register a domain name
  • Choose and set up hosting
  • Instal a CMS such as Wordpress
  • Choose and install a theme
  • Instal basic plug-ins
  • Choose a colour scheme
  • Choose fonts for the site.

These individual tasks are what should be on your to-do list. They are simple and only require one action on your part. As you complete each of them check it off your to-do list. This will make you feel like you’re accomplishing things and making progress.

If all you have on your to-do list is design a website you would be seeing it day after day and you might not feel like you’re getting anywhere even though you've accomplished several tasks.

Accomplish more with simple tasks

Make tasks as simple as possible in order to accomplish them. Especially tasks that you're not too keen on doing. Such as those you keep putting off or finding excuses not to do.

Preparing your taxes is a prime example of an undesirable project that really needs to be broken down into smaller tasks. Gather receipts, gather income reports, gather expenses. All of these can be done individually as tasks and checked off the to-do list one at a time.

The hardest part of any project is just getting started.

You’ve heard the saying “every journey begins with a single step”? That’s what this idea of projects and tasks is all about. Taking that single step. Once you get used to this method you'll find that it’s really not that hard.

The objective here is productivity. But productivity can be a tricky concept. You can spend an entire day working and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. That’s why, by creating a to-do list of tasks instead of projects. You'll feel satisfaction with every item you scratch off your list. So make as many tasks as possible. Break them down into their smallest possible components and then tackle them one by one.

If you try this method I guarantee at the end of the day, instead of feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything. You’ll look at your to-do list and think to yourself “I rocked it today! Look at everything I got done". Projects and Tasks, it’s how we do it.

Do you break your projects down into their individual tasks?

Let me know how you manage your to-do list by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Hannah

I am currently working for a real estate company in the USA as their marketer/graphic designer. I began working for them fresh out of college and have been with them for 3 years now, learning a lot in the process but would like to start the transition to a home based designer at some point. However, leaving the consistency of the corporate world and into freelancing will be a major hurdle. Do you have any tips on establishing a relatively steady income without the help of a spouse/family member's income?

To find out what I told Hannah you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week: Udemy 

Udemy is a great online source of courses related to the graphic design industry. They offer everything from basic to advance instructions in popular topics such as logo design, typography, colour theory, plus courses on all the popular software we use. Sign up for their email list to receive special discounts and to be notified when their courses go on sale. I recommend Udemy to everyone who wants to learn to be or to better themselves as a graphic designer.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Mar 23, 2017

When was the last time you evaluated your graphic design business?

You know the phrase, stop and smell the roses? It means that sometimes we’re so busy and focused that we don’t take the time to notice the little things around us.

This is a great philosophy for life but it's also a great lesson for business.

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I discuss various ways you can evaluate your graphic design business. Be sure to listen to the episode for the full content. Here's a bit of what I talked about.

When to evaluate your graphic design business.

Whether you're just starting out or you’ve been in business for several years. Now is a great time to evaluate your graphic design business.

Evaluating your graphic design business will help you focus on your strengths, identify your weaknesses and streamline your workflow and make you a more efficient graphic designer.

How to evaluate your graphic design business.

What sort of things do you look for when evaluating your graphic design business? It differs with each person and each business so you’ll have to develop your own evaluation but here's a good starting list for you to consider. I've also listed past podcast episodes covering each topic in case you want to learn more about them.

We only have a fixed number of hours in our lives. By evaluating your graphic design business you can identify the areas that are working and those that need to change and free up some of those wasted hours.

By evaluating your business, you will become a much better business person as well as a better graphic designer.

Have you ever ran an evaluation on your graphic design business?

Let me know how it worked out for you by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Sarah

Hi. For the last 10 years, I've worked for myself as a freelance writer and communications consultant, usually with a basic design work thrown in the mix. In the last couple years, I've started to do a lot more document layout, which definitely incorporates design, and I want to get more into the design side of things. I'm trained in indesign although I've never had any formal graphic design training. I plan to take some courses in the next year to improve my skills.

I live in a small town so there are only a few people here who have these types of skills. But it's been a very natural progression for me to do writing, editing and design.

I'm just wondering how common you think this situation is. Are there other designers out there who also do writing and other communications services. And vice versa? Also, where does document layout fit into the graphic design world? Any info would be much appreciated Thank you! Really love the show.

To find out what I told Sarah you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week: Compare multiple stock image sites

This week's tip is more of a warning when dealing with some of the more expensive stock image sites that offer "exclusive" images. If you find that "perfect image" on a premium stock image site, take a bit of time to search less expensive sites for almost exact or very similar images. You could save yourself a lot of money. I recently found the perfect stock photo for a project I was working on. The photo would have cost me roughly $40 but I was able to find an almost identical photo on another image site for $1. The photos were taken by the same photographer at the exact same location. The only difference between the $40 photo and the $1 photo was that a single item in the photo was moved. This allowed the premium site to offer their version as "exclusive" since it was different than the much less expensive shot.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Mar 17, 2017

Fuel your creative juices with personal projects.

We graphic designers are creative people. It's in our blood, it's who we are. And as creative people, we need an outlet for our creativity. We get some of it through client work but limitations and restrictions hold our full potential back. The only way for us to truly unleash our creativity is by working on personal projects for ourselves. 

I talk in length on this topic in this episode of the podcast so please listen for the full story. Below are some takeaways from the episode.

Make time for yourself and your personal projects.

Just like the mechanic that never has the time to work on his own car, most designers don't take the time to work on the projects we want to work on. We spend our time every day (and some nights) fulfilling our clients wishes so why don't we do the same for the things we want to work on?

You need to learn how to set time aside for your own personal projects.

Set goals for yourself and make deadlines.

The only way to ensure you have the time to work on personal projects is to set goals for yourself and make deadlines. For example, if you like to paint, set yourself a goal to complete one painting by the end of the month and then make the time to work on it.

Instead of setting deadline you could also set a time commitment such as committing five hours per week to painting. Simply set aside a certain time period every week to work on your personal projects. It's no different than the time you schedule for your clients.

If need be, delegate or delete things from your calendar to make room for your personal projects. After all, we are trustworthy to our clients. Why not be trustworthy ourselves as well?

Personal projects help your creativity.

Working on personal projects allows you to stretch your creativity much more than you can on client work. It allows you to experiment, it gives you release and creates a sense of peace within you that will show through in your client work. Take it one step at a time. Pick one project you would like to start and commit to it. you'll be better off for it.

What personal projects do you work on?

Let me know what personal projects you work on by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Liz

I have a question regarding volunteering time and work. I am a home-based designer who lives in a smaller community in Vermont where everyone is somehow connected to everyone. Word of mouth has been great, but once you are "discovered" you continuously get hit up for volunteer projects or asked to join various committees and boards. I certainly want to give back to the community but I fear I am often asked because they want free design work out of the deal.

Do you have any advice on how to go about this whole can of worms?

I wouldn't object to offering up some knowledge or volunteering some unrelated skills or tasks, but at this point I really can't do all my design work for free.

I have an instance in particular right now where a client I did some fundraising event marketing material work for last year is asking me to join the planning committee this year. I would consider but only if I could still get paid for the work. However, I fear that might be a conflict of interest.

To find out what I told Liz you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week.

This week's tip of the week is to get yourself a mailbox that is not at your place of residence. If you are a home-based designer you may want to consider renting a mailbox locally for your business. Your clients don't need to know where you live or work. There are several safety reasons for this. Especially if you are a female working alone from home. But also in the case of a disgruntled client. Plus if you have a family, you probably don't want your children dealing with strangers ringing the doorbell if you're out.

There are other benefits to having a rented mailbox. It's a convenient place for your clients to drop things off for you. You can have things shipped there and know there's someone there to sign for the package. Not to mention it adds a bit of legitimacy to your business.

And don't forget, a rented mailbox is tax deductible.

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Contact me

Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Mar 9, 2017

8 Simple steps to winning over design clients

ace it, we live in a dog eat dog world. Not only are we competing with other designers in our local area, we’re also competing with design contest sites, crowdsourced design as well as very cheap alternatives where people are offering design services for as little as $5.

What are we to do?

Don’t fret, there’s still plenty of work to go around and there are lots of people and businesses out there looking for a designer just like you.

But how do they know you’re the right designer for the job? Simple, you show them.

It all comes down to "subliminal warfare". Subconsciously whenever you meet someone there’s an internal battle that goes on between you and the person you are meeting. Each of you sizes up the other in order to form a first impression of them.

  • What does the person look like?
  • How do they act?
  • How do they compose themselves?
  • What do I like about them?
  • What don’t I like about them?
  • Is this someone I can get along with?

All these questions and more go through both your heads while you are conversing.

So while you are weighing up your “opponent”, it’s up to you to provide favourable answers to their similar questions about you.

Winning over clients

I’ve put together a few tips to help stack the odds in your favour and improve your chances of winning over design clients whether you are talking to them over the phone, through video or meeting them face to face.

Tip 1: Dress for success

Dress professionally but appropriately. this does not mean wearing a suit to every client meeting. In fact, dressing too nice could loose you some points.

Have you ever felt intimidated by someone dressed better than you? You don’t want the client to feel that way. Research your client if you can and coordinate your attire to match their preferences. Are you meeting the CEO of an investment firm, wear a suit. Are you meeting the inventor of a new electric skateboard? Dress casual but still professional.

If you dress appropriately you've already won half the battle.

Tip 2: Call them by their first name

I know, I know, we're taught to respect our elders and call them Mr. or Mrs. But I want you to remember, you are both business people, and as such, you are on eaqual ground. The goal is for the two of you to work together, not for you to work for them. Using their first name puts you on even ground.

Tip 3: Learn the names of the people the client works with.

Using someone’s name can be very powerful. It shows you made the effort to remember them. It makes that person feel good about themselves and it makes them take notice of you. Always try to learn the names of the client's support staff. Their receptionist, their doorman, their delivery driver. You never know when the boss might ask one of them what they think of you.

Tip 4: Put your hand out first

Shaking someone’s hand is an age old tradition when greeting someone. (depending on where you live of course). Don’t wait for them to offer. Put your hand out first. It shows a sign of confidence and authority. And it shows that you’re serious about meeting them.

A lot can be learned by a handshake. So learn how to shake hands properly. This goes for both men and women. Remember when I mentioned "social warfare"? Having a week handshake can harm you more than you think.

Tip 5: Anticipate questions and answer them before they are asked

When preparing for your meeting try to think of any questions the client may have and answer them during your presentation before they come up. It shows that you are knowledgable and a thinker.

Have answers ready for questions you don’t address as well, If you don’t know an answer, offer to find out and get back to them. There is no shame in saying I don’t know.

Tip 6: Use "we" instead of "you" and "I"

Talk to the client as if they've already hired you. Never say "if you hire me" or "if I get this job", instead use something like "once we're working on this" or "when we're working together". If you demonstrate from the start that you already view the relationship as a partnership, you will have much more success with the client.

Tip 7: Use "will" or "would" instead of "can" or "could"

I learned this trick from a parenting book. Trust me it works great on teenagers and equally well on clients and suppliers. I don't remember if it was [easyazon_link identifier="0060930993" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]John Gray - Children are from heaven[/easyazon_link] or [easyazon_link identifier="0060014318" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]Barbara Coloroso - Kids Are Worth it.[/easyazon_link] Regardless, the trick is when requesting things use "will" or "would" instead of "can" or "could". The latter questions their ability and has the potential for a negative response. Using "will" or "would" doesn't invoke that same response and is much more accepting in the recipient's view.

Would you send me the files is much more inviting than could you send me the files. Don't you agree?

Tip 8: Smile

No explanation required. A smile can go a very long way.

What tips do you have for winning over design clients?

Let me know your tips by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Suvi

Does it matter where I buy my domain names from? I live in Australia and some Australian domain name sellers are very expensive, and sometimes I feel tempted to go the cheaper route, for example Go Daddy.

Does it make a difference where I buy the name from, if I already have hosting elsewhere? I am especially talking about those extra domains with similar spelling to my domain, that I would like to register.

To find out what I told Suvi you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Website Grader

Website Grader is a simple but effective tool to see how a website stacks up performance wise. It measures the overall performance, mobile performance, SEO and security of a site and gives you advice on how to improve them.

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Contact me

Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Mar 2, 2017

Have you ever thought of hiring a Virtual Assistant?

Back in episode 45 of the podcast, I talked about how it’s OK for graphic designers to ask for help. After all, there’s only so many minutes in a day, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. So why not use them as wisely as you can?

I covered things like finding help with house and yard work, so you have more time to devote to your business and family.

I also talked about hiring someone to take on mundane non-design tasks for your business. Pay them a small fee and use the time they save you for designing and earn a larger fee.

If you haven’t heard that episode or if you think you need a refresher, you should go back and listen to it.

Today I want to talk about one aspect of hiring help. And that is a Virtual Assistant or a VA.

What is a virtual assistant?

Simply put, it’s someone that assists you from a remote location. Be it at another business location or from their home. Someone next door or half way around the world. They work with you virtually.

If you’re running your own business and you’ve ever hired another designer, a coder, a web developer, a copywriter, an illustrator or any other such person, you have in effect hired a virtual assistant although we don’t usually refer to these people as such.

These people are great. And they form a solid foundation for your “design team”, but that’s not what I’m talking about today.

The Virtual Assistants I’m referring to are the ones that may not be in the design space. Instead, they help you with the mundane tasks of running a business so that you can free up your time.

How could you use a virtual assistant?

Think of a typical week and all the small tasks you do that don’t fall under the umbrella of designing. Many of those could easily be delegated to someone else.

Design related

  • Update plugins
  • Online research
  • Review/test a website
  • Writing/Editing/Proofreading
  • Translations
  • Text/Database entries
  • Project Management

Business-related

  • Invoicing/bookkeeping
  • Cold calling
  • Late payment follow up
  • Organizing client meetings

Marketing

  • Manage social media for you and your clients.
  • Managing feedback forms inquiries

What does my Virtual Assistant currently do for me?

  • Plugin management
  • Blog/podcast research
  • Discovery research
  • Website testing

I’ve also used VAs in the past for

  • Database entries
  • Photo manipulation
  • Proofreading
  • Typing

What if you can’t afford a virtual assistant.

It’s a valid concern. But look at it this way. Time is finite; you need to use it wisely. Only you can make your business grow. Even if money is tight, you are much better off paying someone to do your simple tasks and use that time to work and grow your business.

Hiring a virtual assistant isn't as expensive as it sounds. If you can scrape together $10, you could gain an hour of time to invest back into your business. After all, wouldn’t you be better off attending networking events, meeting with clients, even working on your own promotional material? It’s worth considering don't you think?

I’ve never heard anyone who has hired a virtual assistant say it was a mistake to do so. Perhaps the person they hired didn’t work out, but the position itself wasn’t a mistake. In fact, most people say afterwards that they wish they had done it sooner.

"But I like doing those tasks."

Even if the tasks are something you LIKE to do, it might be better to delegate them and us the time for something you NEED to do.

In episode 4 of the podcast, I talked about Superhero Syndrome. It's what happens when we feel the need to do absolutely everything ourselves. The problem is, we can't do everything well. We should concentrate our time on the things we do best and leave the rest to people more qualified.

In episode 38 of the podcast, The Many Hats of a home-based graphic designer, I go over the many parts of running a graphic design business there are beside designing. Many of those tasks can be delegated to a virtual assistant.

There’s an awful lot involved with running a successful design business beyond designing. If you try to do it all it could lead to burnout and then where will you be?

Where can I find a virtual assistant?

The easiest thing to do is hire friends and family, but that could potentially lead to problems. You'd be better off paying someone else. Look for people to hire on.

And don’t forget, hiring a virtual assistant is tax deductable.

Have you ever used a virtual assistant for your graphic design business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Sean

If a prospect wants to change your contract, should you be open to it?

If a prospect asks to up-price your quote, does this mean that they are trying to use your quote to show a competitor for a cheaper price?

To find out what I told Sean you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week

Any time you put up a temporary website for yourself or a client, be it a "Coming Soon", "Under Construction" or "Undergoing Maintenance" page, be sure to include a short description of the site as well as contact information for anyone who lands on the page. It would be a shame to loose a potential client because they couldn't figure out how to get a hold of you or your client.

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Contact me

Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Feb 23, 2017

Here are 12 random graphic design tips to improve your business.

I'm trying a different approach to this week's podcast. Instead of talking about a single subject related to running your home-based graphic design business, I'm going to share 12 random graphic design tips with you. Even if you already know these tips, I'm hoping that talking about them will jog your memory and get you thinking about them again.

Here is an outline of the graphic design tips I cover on this episode. For the full discussion be sure to listen to the podcast.

Tip 1: Find the real deadline

When a client tells you there's a deadline to submit artwork to a third party, you should contact that third party to find out how strict their deadline is. In most cases, those deadlines have been padded to accommodate potential problems with artwork submitted by non-designers. Since you are a professional designer they may allow you to submit the artwork at a later date.

Tip 2: Get the proper file you need

In last week's podcast episode I mentioned how to find and extract logos from PDF files from specific websites using Google's Advanced Search. This tip is simply to contact a company's head office for the files you need. It's much faster for you to talk to them than getting your client to do it.

If your client doesn't have a head office you could instead contact the sign company they used to make their storefront or to put their logo on their vehicle.

Tip 3: Get a client's honest opinion of a design

If you want a client's honest opinion on a design, show it to them in black and white. Showing it to them in colour could influence their opinion one way or another. Showing the design in black and while will allow them to look at the design itself. Once they are satisfied with the design you can move on to colourizing it.

Tip 4: Stop explaining things over and over

If you find yourself having to explain to clients over and over how to do things on their website's CMS you should think about recording short videos of the tasks. This way you only have to do it once and if the client forgets they can simply re-watch the video. To do this I use software on my Mac called ScreenFlow.

Tip 5: Deal with only one contact person

Keep a strict chain of command. When dealing with clients that are made up of a committee or a board, insist you deal with only one person from the group. If anyone else contacts you for any reason simply redirect them back to the contact person.

Tip 6: Set your own meeting schedule

Don't allow your clients to set the times for meetings. Instead, you should give them a few time options to choose from. A client will be less likely to cancel a meeting if it was set to your schedule. Plus, by setting the schedule you are letting your client know that you are in charge of this project, not them.

Tip 7: Get a leg up when meeting a new client

If you ever meet a client at a bar or restaurant to discuss work, insist on buying their drink and food. This will subconsciously put them in your debt and could help in their decision making regarding you and their project.

Tip 8: Quickly remove formatting from text

Sometimes when you copy text from a word processor into another program you may end up with some strange characters or coding. To eliminate this problem, open a plain-text email, paste the copied text into the email, then select and copy it again. All the strange characters or coding will now be removed.

Tip 9: Use Find/Replace to your full advantage

Find and Replace is an often overlooked powerhouse when it comes to formatting text. Learn the advanced techniques for this tool and you could save hours of mundane text formatting on future page layout projects.

Tip 10: Cover all bases with domain names

Suggest to clients that they register multiple variations of their domain name as well as multiple domain extensions and redirect them all to the one main domain they plan on using. For example; The Ant & Aardvark Club may use the domain antandaardvarkclub.com as their primary domain. But they should also register variations such as theantandaardvarkclub.com, antaardvarkclub.com, antandaardvark.com, antaardvark.com, etc. Good practice would be to also register the .net, .org. .ca and any other pertinent extensions for all variations of the domain.

Tip 11: Hijack competitors with variations of their domain names.

Similar to Tip 10: Look at competitor's domain names and register the variations yourself and point them towards your own website. If anyone types in one of the variations they end up on your site instead of your competition. Do the same for your client's sites.

Tip 12: Order extras or tag on orders for yourself.

If you are ordering anything for your client that you may find useful, order extra for yourself. For example, if your client ordered t-shirts printed ask the company to send you a couple of extra shirts without any printing.

You could also tag on personal orders with client orders to save yourself some money. If you design a postcard for a client, design a second one for yourself and order them together. Some printers will charge less when multiple orders are combined. Charge your client the regular price and use the discount for yourself.

Do you have any tips you would like to share?

Let me know your tips by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Crystal

How do you schedule clients who are in different time zones? I have clients all over the United States and Canada, and none of them are in the same time zone as me. I find myself working late just to accommodate my clients who are 4.5 hours behind me. Is there a functional way that I can schedule my clients so I don't have to work until midnight?

To find out what I told Crystal you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Awwwards.com

Awwwards.com is an inspirational site I use to see what innovations people are doing in web design. Awwwards.com states they're a meeting point, where digital design professionals from across the globe find inspiration, impart knowledge and experience, connect, and share constructive, respectful critiques. Give them a look the next time you want ideas for your next web project.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
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Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Feb 16, 2017
Building The Perfect Design Portfolio - RD060

What exactly is a design portfolio?

If you want to get super technical, a design portfolio is a flat case, preferably made of leather, that is used for carrying, drawings, artwork, photographs and other designs.

At some point in history, the paper contents of these flat cases took on the verbiage of the container and they too became know as an artist’s portfolio.

Nowadays, with the advent of online galleries and such, a design portfolio is simply a collection or a sampling of an artist’s work, regardless of the means or medium used to present them.

What is the purpose of a design portfolio?

Taking it down to it’s most fundamental level, a design portfolio is simply a way to say “look at me, see how great I am, you should hire me”.

A design portfolio is a way to showcase what you are capable of doing in the hopes of impressing potential clients to want to work with you.

Let’s face it. You may want to deny it, but deep down we all know, we designers are a conceded bunch. And that’s OK. If we didn’t think we were good enough we wouldn’t be in this profession. Nobody says “I don’t think I’m a good designer but I’m going to start a design business anyway” No! We’re all doing this because we believe we’re good at what we do, and we like having people confirm that assumption. Why else would we showcase our work for everyone to see? And what better confirmation than having a client hire us for a job.

We’re no different than the proud peacock displaying his plumage in the hopes of attracting a mate. We just do it to attract work.

That’s it, really, there are no other reasons to have a portfolio.

Do you need a design portfolio to be successful?

The short answer is no, you don’t. I use myself as an example. My own business website has been “Coming Soon” for several years now. During all that time I have not had a visible portfolio, and yet I’m running a very busy and successful design business mostly through word of mouth referrals.

In fact, during the past year, I can count on one hand how many times I was asked to provide samples of my work before a client hired me.

Could I attract more work with a visible portfolio? I’m sure I could. But I just want to point out that a design portfolio is not the be all and end all of your marketing efforts. It’s a great tool to have, but it’s only one of the many in your toolbox.

What goes into the perfect design portfolio?

I hear this question a lot. Especially from newer designers just entering the field. And it’s a valid question. Even if a portfolio isn’t a requirement to be successful, it sure does help to establish yourself, especially at the start of your career. And it can help you attract clients.

Whether you have a physical or a digital portfolio, and if you want my recommendation you should have both, the contents within should represent your best work. The culmination of your skills and talents.

But where does that work come from if you're new and don’t have any clients yet?

This answer is simple. It comes from anywhere and everywhere you can get it.

Remember when I said that a portfolio is a way of saying “look at me, see how great I am, you should hire me”? That means your design portfolio should contain things that showcase how good you are.

A portfolio shouldn’t be a showcase of “look who I’ve done work for”. Although there’s nothing wrong with name dropping well-known clients, providing the work is actually worth showcasing.

What potential clients are looking for when they look at your portfolio is whether or not you have the ability to help them. They’ll be able to judge that regardless if the samples you show are for real or fictional companies.

You see, the work within your design portfolio should display your diversity as a designer. It should demonstrate the skills you possess. It should show your knowledge of good layout, colour theory, and design technique.

It doesn’t matter if the work you’re showing was something you did for a client, something you made in school, something you did for fun for yourself, or something you designed specifically to go into your portfolio. As long as it demonstrates what you have to offer, it’s good.

And yes, you can showcase work you did while working for a previous employer as long as you don't have an agreement with them stating otherwise.

Showcase what you have, when you have it.

As your career progresses and you design newer and better things, you simply replace the older pieces in your portfolio with new ones. or in some cases age isn’t what matters, you replace your previous good designs with your newer great designs. It’s as easy as that.

Don’t go overboard with your design portfolio

The best design portfolios I see are the ones that are sparse in what they show.

When building your portfolio. Show only a handful of your best work in each category. Be confident in the few you display and keep a few more aside in case a client asks for them.

The worse thing you could do is to show too many samples. Showing a few samples invites the viewer to admire what you have to offer. Showing a large number of samples invites the viewer to criticise your work and find flaws in what you have to offer.

Keep it simple. I the client wants to see more let them ask for it and then tailor the extra samples specifically to their needs.

What to leave out of your design portfolio

Simply, don’t display anything you don’t want to do! If you don’t enjoy designing logos, then don’t include logos in your portfolio. If you’re not into web design then don’t display any websites you’ve created.

This should go without saying, but unfortunately, I see this all the time with new designers who include almost every school project in their portfolio regardless of their lack of desire to do many of them.

If you’re an artist who draws robots and science fiction scenes.  Don’t include the cutesy teddy bear drawing your mother guilted you into doing for your cousin Millie’s baby announcement. Because if you do, it’s almost guaranteed that’s the kind of work you’ll be asked to do.

What’s in your portfolio?

When was the last time you looked at your portfolio? Could it use updating? Have you designed anything really good lately that should be included? Why not take some time this week to go over it? It might just help land the next client that looks at it.

What are your thoughts on design portfolios? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Marselo

Can I Buy Adobe Photoshop outright? I want the Adobe software but honestly I am a bit lost with all the monthly payment options and extras that are offered. So what is the "common practice"? or what are most freelancers doing in general?

At the moment I am using Photoshop, Illustrator and Premier Pro but I ideally would like to buy all of them as you know we are continuously expanding and experimenting with new things as we never know what the future holds.

To find out what I told Marselo you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week Google Advance Search

This is a simple little trick that has helped me out fo a jam many times over the years. If you find yourself in need of a certain company's logo and don't want to jump through hoops trying to get it. Use this trick. In the Google Search Bar type "site:companywebsite.com" followed by "filetype:pdf". What this does is return search results displaying all PDF files at that particular domain. Open the PDFs one at a time until you find one with a good looking logo (you can usually tell by zooming in). Download the PDF and open it in a program such as Adobe Illustrator. If you're lucky you will have a perfect vector logo you can use.

You can also accomplish this by visiting Google's Advance Search page, but I find simply typing the paramaters into the regular search bar is much faster.

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Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Feb 10, 2017
Using Holidays to Build Your Graphic Design Business - RD059

Have you thought of using holidays to build your graphic design business?

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Using Holidays to Build Your Graphic Design Business. But bare with me. I’m not talking about drumming up business while on your family vacation. Although if you can, more power to you.

I once gained a client while on vacation. The owner of the campground where my family and I were staying mentioned how he wanted to increase his marketing. I offered my design services and I ended up doing work for him for a couple of years until he sold the campground.

But I digress,

When I say you should use holidays to build your graphic design business, what I’m talking about is promoting the actual holidays themselves.

You see, holidays are a great way to promote your business and excite your clients. And it’s not that hard to do.

Christmas is obviously an ideal holiday. Most people and businesses send out greeting cards and have special promotions around that time of year. If you can get in on the action you can make yourself a nice little income around just that one season.

Then there’s Valentine's day. Mother’s and Father’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day. Think about it. Is there an Irish Pub in your area? Why not see if they would be interested in a direct mail campaign to send out Happy St. Patrick’s Day cards to everyone in their area? Include some coupons and their business could be booming.

But there are many other holidays throughout the year that get overlooked. And if you are creative enough in your pitch, it’s not that hard to convince new or existing clients to try something a bit different.

For example. President’s Day in the USA or Victoria Day celebrating the British Queen. Businesses sometimes do special promotions around these days and they all need material designed.

What about Remembrance or Memorial Day depending on where you are in the world. It's a special day to remember fallen soldiers and to honour all who serve. Maybe you could design a poster for your clients so they can thank soldiers for shopping at their establishment.

Now maybe your thinking, Mark, that’s crazy, I’ve been designing for years and none of my clients have ever done anything for Memorial Day, or Family Day, or Labour Day, or whatever day.

That may be true. But here’s the trick. You need to remind them to do it. Most businesses are not thinking that far ahead. By the time Halloween, or Easter or Independence Day rolls around it’s too late for them to do anything. So it’s your job to remind them in advance.

Create a calendar or spreadsheet listing all the holidays and send out notices 6-8 weeks before any given one to remind your client of the upcoming day. Make sure you ask them if they need your help getting their material ready.

Don’t forget to contact other businesses as well, ones that are not already your clients.

If you contact someone asking if they need anything designed for, let's say, Dia de los Muertos the Day of the Dead. First off, you are reminding them of the upcoming holiday. And second, you are introducing yourself and letting them know about your services.

Even if they already do work with a designer, there’s a chance they may agree to work with you because you brought the idea to them.

Sometimes, the best way to attract new clients, or get work from existing clients, is to tell them they need work from you. It can be that simple.

Time to get creative

Now, this isn’t really a new idea. Special promotions and handouts around popular holidays have been done for years.

This is why you need to get creative. You see, there are A LOT more holidays or special days than just the main ones I’ve been talking about. In fact, there isn’t a single day that goes buy that doesn’t have some significance to it.

Don’t believe me, visit  Days Of The Year and spend a few minutes looking through their calendar.

For example. Thursday, February 9th, the day I’m releasing this episode is considered, Pizza Day, Toothache Day, Read in the Bathtub Day and Safer Internet Day.

Take a second to ponder those occasions… Do you have a client that could have done something for Pizza Day? Any dentists in the area that might have sent out a special promotion on Toothache Day?

There are literally hundreds of interesting, innovative and crazy days you could promote.

Here are just a few.

  • World Smile Day in October.
  • Hot Dog Day in July
  • Talk Like A Pirate Day in September
  • Star Wars Day in May
  • Pina Colada Day in July
  • New Home Owners Day in May

The riches are in the niches

If you or one of your clients works in a special niche, you can probably find a bunch of days suited specifically to that market. Take for example anyone working in the dog niche. Such a person may be interested in.

  • Dog Day
  • International Guide Dogs Day
  • Bulldogs are Beautiful Day
  • Purebred Dog Day
  • Sled Dog Day
  • Pet Obesity Awareness Day
  • Assistance Dob Day
  • Lost Dog Awareness Day
  • International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day
  • Walking the dog day
  • Puppy Day
  • Take your dog to work day
  • Hug Your Hound Day

I have a client that runs a hearing aid clinic. I’ll be sure to let them know about May 31st which is Save Your Hearing Day. Maybe I can design a newspaper ad, or a window poster, or a mailer helping them promote it. Can you see the possibilities?

Don’t forget the longer stretches like Credit Education Month, Hobby Month, Get a balanced life month. Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Native American Heritage Month or Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week.

As you look through the Days of the Year calendar you’ll see many weird and fun days to take advantage of in order to build your graphic design business.

So look at the calendar and pick a few fun occasions. Then contact both new and existing clients and let them know about the special days coming up and offer them your design services for...

  • Posters
  • Post Cards
  • Stickers
  • Landing Pages
  • Social Media images
  • Or anything else they may need

This year, why not use holidays to build your graphic design business?

Have you ever designed something for one of these fun and crazy days?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Andrew

Mark, you're very knowledgeable about so many aspects of being a home-based graphic designer and obviously very good at running your own business (not to mention the podcast). Tell us what you're not good at? ;)

To find out what I told Andrew you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Brand Colors

Brand Colors offers the official Hex Code colours for the world’s biggest brands. Companies like Amazon, Android, British Airways, Dribbble, PayPal and so many more. So the next time you are looking for colour inspiration of are in need of matching a top brand, have a look at what Brand Colors has to offer.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
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Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Feb 2, 2017
Talking To Clients - Choose Your Words Carefully - RD058

When talking to clients, be careful what words you use.

Every industry has its own language, design is no different. When talking to clients we have to remember that they’re not part of our industry and if we’re not careful we may scare them away.

I remember the first time I realized this. A potential client called to discuss a possible job. We spent about 30 minutes on the phone talking about the project and figuring out the best way to go about it designing it. I gave him some ideas and he pitched in his thoughts. At the end of the conversation, the client said he wanted to move forward with me and we made an appointment to meet in person to iron out the details.

Before hanging up, the client told me how different it was talking to me compared to the other designers he had contacted. He told me the other designers made him feel dumb because he didn’t understand half of what they said. But with me, it was like having a conversation with a friend. He understood everything I said and could picture exactly what I meant. In the end, it wasn’t the price that made him choose me, in fact, I wasn’t the cheapest bid, it was the way I talked to him that was the foundation for our new relationship.

We completed that project and that client is still with me today.

There’s a valuable lessen there. If you try to make yourself sound important by using industry jargon all you’ll end up doing is alienating your client, making them feel dumb and they may not want to work with you.

Let me tell you a story.

Our washing machine recently went on the fritz. It would go through the wash and rinse no problem but when it came to the spin cycle it just stopped. After a while, the washer would say the load was done but the clothes were still dripping wet.

I called a repair guy, someone I’ve used successfully several times in the past. He came in, diagnosed that it was some actuator or something or other that was causing the problem and ran some diagnostic tests. He replaced a part that I couldn’t even pronounce and said a bunch of mumbo jumbo that left my head spinning. The part didn’t fix the issue so he put mine back in and told me I needed a new motherboard (finally a word I understood), and that it wasn’t worth replacing, I would be better off purchasing a new washing machine.

The repair guy left and I had no idea what the issue was other than it was going to cost me a lot of money. The guy made me feel dumb which I didn’t appreciate. And I didn’t know if he had spouted all of that jargon specifically to confuse me or not. Either way, I lost my confidence in him and called a second repair guy to come have a look.

The second guy came in and had a look. He pointed out the same suspected faulty part but he told me it’s a sensor that reads the rotations of the washer drum. Every time the drum spins that part registers how fast the turn took and relays that information to the computer. Once a certain number of rotations have completed it tells the computer to stop spinning to complete the cycle. He then proceeded to explain to me, in words I understood, the processes involved to complete the wash cycle. He replaced the same part the first repair guy did and explained that in order to make sure it worked properly he had to run it through several cycles first, something the first guy hadn’t done. After a calibration and a few successful cycles he told me to test out the machine for a few days and if it continued to work he would bill me for the part and his labour. If the machine failed, he would remove the part and not charge me for it.

Long story short, the machine is now working fine and I understand exactly what the second repair man did because of the way he explained it to me.

As for the first repair guy, he may have thrown a lot of big words at me which made him sound like he knew what he was doing but it also caused me to second guess him and seek out a different opinion.

The same thing can happen to us if we’re not careful when talking to clients.

Take a minute to think of all the design related words we use in our business. Words we take for granted because we use them on a regular basis.

If a client contacts you for a 64-page booklet you may want to ask him the following questions.

  • Will it be perfect bound or saddle stiched?
  • Is it self cover?
  • 4 /4? 4/1? Something else?
  • Will there be spot colours?
  • Matte, Satin, Semi, or Gloss stock?
  • Lamination, Varnish, Aqueous or UV coating?
  • Will it bleed?
  • What’s the gutter size?
  • What about creep? Do we worry about it or does the printer?
  • What about pagenation?
  • Is the printer setting up the signatures or are we responsible for that?

If you design for print, you probably understood all of that. But to a client, it’s a foreign language. You need to learn how to say all of this in a way they will understand but also without sounding condesending.

  • Do you want the book to be folded and held together with staples or do you want it to have a flat spine with the pages glued in?
  • Do you want the cover to be a thicker stock than the inside pages?
  • Will there be colour photos or images inside. If so, will they be on all pages?
  • Do you want the images or photos to run off the edges of the paper or should there be a white border around the page?

Clients will be much more appreciative if you use a language they understand. It’s the concept they need to know, not the industrie’s terminology.

If a client contacts you for a new website you may want to ask him the following questions.

  • I presume you want it responsive?
  • Static is no longer recommended so is it ok if we go with a Dynamic site?
  • Do you require multiple landing pages?
  • Do you have your domain already? What’s the URL?
  • What you’re asking will require some custom JavaScript.
  • Will you be doing any eCommerce?
  • Now let’s talk about SEO, have you given any thought to your backlink strategy to increase your page juice?

Again, this could leave a client’s head spinning.

It might give them the impression that you know what you’re doing, but it won't give them the confidence to hire you.

I’m an advocate for builing relationships with your clients. It’s the best way create loyalty which in return brings recurring work and referrals. Now think about your every day life. Do you have any meaningful relationships with people who make you feel dumb because you don’t understand half the things they say? Of course you don’t.

Your business shouldn’t be any different!

The next time you find yourself talking to a potential new client, be conscious of the words you use, or if you do use industry jargon, make sure you follow it up with an explination, not talking down like you’re explaining something to a child, but simply explaining a concept to a collegue.

If you use the right vocabulary when talking to clients you may find a lot more bids and proposals ending in your favour.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you didn’t understand what was being said to you?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Tyler

In high school I combined graphic design and videography to discover the wonderful world of motion graphics. I then moved away to go to school to learn as much as I could about the industry. 4 years of tutoruals, playing in programs, and going to classes where I was ahead of the curve and I find myself in a unique situation. At the beginning of last year I felt ready to dive into the industry, I found a paid internship working for a government agency doing all of their media, design, photo and video work. After a year of interning they hired me on a 1 year contract. I have found that where I live, there is a market for what I've been doing for this government agency and I think it would be a viable business. My biggest concern is simple, I am afraid I don't have enough experience to start an undertaking like this. I know that I have the grit, and I would like to think I have the skill, but I am fairly young and I know that could scare business away. What do you think?

To find out what I told Tyler you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week: Think With Google's Test My Site

Test how mobile-friendly your site is with Test My Site by Think with Google. Find out how well it works across both mobile and desktop devices. The site provides you with three basic scores out of 100. Mobile Friendliness, Mobile Speed and Desktop Speed. You can then request a free detailed report by email or you can click the provided links to get a basic idea of what needs to be looked at in order to improve your site’s speed.

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Contact me

Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Jan 26, 2017

Do you use "We" or "I" in your marketing material?

In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I tackle the longtime debate on whether or not you should use the pronoun "We" or "I" on your marketing material.

For the full discussion be sure to listen to the podcast.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but ever time I come across a URL for a graphic designer I just have to check it out. We’re such a creative bunch and I love seeing the wide variety of approaches when it comes to our business, our skills and our communications.

Besides looking at the structure of the site, reading the about page and looking at the portfolio one, of the main things I look at is the voice that was chosen for the page.

When I say voice, I’m talking about whether the site uses “We” or “I” in the copy. I then play a little game, if the site uses the pronoun “we”, I try to figure out if the site really is a “we” or if it’s in fact, an “I”.

I recently came across a designer's website that used the pronoun "we". My first thought was that he had decided to go the plural route to make himself seem bigger. However, upon reading the About page, I saw that there was, in fact, a business partner that occupied the role of Project Manager. So in this case, using the “We” pronoun was the right choice.

But I’m not talking about businesses like this one. In most cases, as a home-based graphic designer, you’re running your business all by yourself. And choosing “We” as your pronoun doesn’t necessarily reflect the business it’s trying to describe. But does that mean it’s wrong?

What is the best pronoun for a graphic design business?

First, let’s look at the hard decisions between choosing “We” or “I”. Some people believe that If you’re all by yourself and you choose “We”, you are misrepresenting yourself. But will it make a difference to your potential clients? What are they expecting of you and your business? Will they be willing to spend more money on a “We” as opposed to an “I”?

Let’s look at both individually.

Choosing “We” for your business.

What does using the pronoun “we” do for your business?

First off, if you ever work with partners or subcontractors then you aren’t really misrepresenting your business by using “We”. You could simply explain that you have a team of professionals at your disposal to handle the various portions of a design project. Hense the “We”

  • “We” also give your business a more established feel.
  • “We” makes you sound more corporate.
  • “We” may help you land clients who prefer working with companies over an individual person.

Keep in mind that If you use “We” a client may ask to speak with someone on your team which could cause problems for you.

Choosing “I” for your business.

What does using the pronoun “I” do for your business?

The biggest return for using “I” is that it focuses more on you instead of your business. This makes you sound more personable and accessible.

If the client is happy with the work, you and not the company gets the credit for it.

You’ve heard me talk many times about creating relationships with clients. Using “I” in your marketing copy is the first step in building that relationship since viewers establish a connection with you from the start.

  • Using “I” creates a sense of flexibility, giving a sense of ease to clients who may believe that as an individual, you will be more open to listening to what they have to say instead of dictating like a company might do.
  • Using “I” will attract clients who want to deal with a person rather than a company. They know the money they spend is benefiting you, someone they have a relationship with, and not a company where it will be distributed who knows how.
  • People who are not familiar with graphic design might also feel an individual will be more affordable than hiring a design firm.
  • Your clients will also be more flexible to your personal needs. In last week’s Question of the Week, I mentioned how clients can be very accommodating in times of family emergencies, whereas if they hire a company they would still expect the work to get done even if you’re not available.

Other things to consider.

The name of your company could play a part in the pronoun you choose. If you use your own name for your business, like Mark Des Cotes Design, it only makes sense to use “I” in your marketing material.

If the word Agency is part of your business name it would make more sense to use “We”.

In some cases, such as when you have a business partner, using “We” is the right choice. But there are still ways to make you sound more personable. Instead of always using “We” or “us” use your names. Instead of saying something like “give us a call” say “give Ben and Nick a call”. Or instead of “We look forward to working with you” you could say “Ben and Nick look forward to working with you. You may need to change from first to third person to pull this off.

Another way is to assign someone as the face of your marketing. For instance, make either Ben or Nick the spokesperson and say something like “Nick and I look forward to working with you”. This method covers both bases as it establishes you as more than just an individual but it also paints you as individual people.

What do I use?

I personally use the pronoun “I”. Yes, I operate under a business name but call me selfish, when all is said and done I want people to remember me for the work, not my company. Plus, as you know, I’m all about building relationships and that’s definitely all about Me. There’s no We involved.

What pronoun do you use for your graphic design business?

Let me know your goals by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I didn't have time to answer a question this week. But I would love to answer yours. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week Fontpair.co

This week's resource is a fun site to help designers pair Google Fonts together. Fontpair.co offers a gallery of Google font combinations for you to look at. You can narrow down your search by clicking on one of the menus to view just Sans-Serif/Serif combos, Serif/Sans-Serif, Cursive/Serif, Cursive/Sans-Serif and many other combinations. Not every Google font is listed but there's enough of a variety to give you a good starting point for your next project.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
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Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Jan 19, 2017
How To Get Out Of A Productivity Slump - RD056

Have you ever been in a productivity slump?

It’s nice to think we’ve got everything under control. That we’re on top of our game. That our business is running like a well-oiled machine.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

There will be times when everything just piles up. You feel tired, overwhelmed and have no idea how you got to that point, or how to get out of the hole you're in. You feel stuck with no obvious path out. You’ve found yourself in a productivity slump.

You see, the problem with running a business is you want it to succeed. I know that sounds strange. If only we all had the problem of a successful business. Right?

But success is addictive. The more we succeed the more we crave it. To the point where we take on so much work that it tips the balance and all of a sudden, success is no longer an option.

It’s at that point that things fall in on us and we experience that feeling of being overwhelmed and we're unsure what to do next. Oftentimes that feeling of not knowing what to do next leads to a productivity slump and you end up not doing anything at all.

Perhaps you can’t relate to that scenario. Perhaps your business is doing well, but you haven’t yet reached that level of success I’m talking about. That doesn’t mean your immune.

Sometimes a productivity slump hits us for no particular reason. You sit down at your computer, or tablet or easel, but you just don’t feel motivated enough to actually work. Instead, you doddle around for a bit, look to see what’s happening on Facebook, watch a few Youtube videos, you use every excuse you can to avoid work. This is also a productivity slump.

Maybe you're taking on too many projects all at once, causing some of them to fall behind or take longer than you originally anticipated. This can also lead to a productivity slump.

Regardless of the path that led you there, being in a slump is no fun. And if you don’t find a way out of it the problem could compound.

So what do you do?

Here are my suggestions.

First off, in order to get out of a productivity slump, you need to know exactly what got you there in the first place.

Take out a pencil and paper and write down everything that is contributing to the problem. Every project that feels out fo control, every task that needs doing, absolutely everything, including other parts of your business other than working on client projects. Don't forget to write down priorities from your personal life as well that may be adding to the issue.

Are there bills that need to be paid? Do the kids have medical appointments you need to make? Does the car need an oil change?

The more you write down, the easier it will be to sort through everything.

Now look at your list and categorize it.

  • Is there anything on the list that you can simply forget about? If so delete it.
  • Is there anything on the list that can be put off until a later time? If so reschedule it.
  • Is there anything on the list that someone else could do instead of you? If so delegate it.

Don’t forget, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Find someone equally as good, or perhaps even better than you and have them do the task for you. Back in episode 45 titled "It’s OK for Graphic Designers To Ask For Help" I discussed this exact scenario of finding help.

I myself have a virtual assistant that helps me with simple things like making sure all the plugins and themes of my clients' WordPress websites are kept up to date. Passing this task on to her has freed up so much of my time to do other things.

Once you've completed your list and narrowed it down. All you should be left with are the things that you need to concentrate on. Prioritize them from most to least important.

Now, look at each item on your list, and break it down into smaller tasks. Things that can be done in one sitting. If you can’t complete it in one sitting then it’s not a task, it’s a project. Big projects can be broken down into smaller projects, and those smaller projects can be broken down into individual tasks. The trick is to break them down and make them more manageable.

You need to realize that most of the time, a productivity slump happens when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Which happens because we’re thinking too big. We’re looking at projects as a whole instead of their smaller tasks.

Once you start looking at the individual pieces it becomes much easier to knock them off your list one by one.

Say for example you’ve been hired to brand a new startup company. The client wants a logo, stationery, marketing material, a website, and a whole bunch of other things. That’s a big project. Thinking of it as a whole can feel overwhelming. But each part of it is a smaller project within the larger project. If you look at them that way, they suddenly seem more manageable.

Now, let’s look at the logo design as it’s probably the first one you’ll work on. How can you break the logo design project into smaller tasks? You need to choose a font. You need to decide how to use that font in the design. You could design an icon or symbol to go with the logo. There are colours to consider. And so on and so on.

When I design a logo, I almost always start by determining the font. I’ll spend an hour or more sifting through my font library, writing down the ones I think would best fit the logo. Once I have the fonts chosen I type out the logo's text in Adobe Illustrator, duplicate it, and apply each font to one of them for me to compare. This allows me to view all the fonts I chose in one document and helps me narrow down my selection until I'm left with just two or three fonts to use in the logo design. That’s one task I can scratch off my list. Choosing the font. I’m now one step closer to completing the logo.

I can then move on to the next task in that same project or move on to a completely different task from a different project.

Simply work at each task one by one until you climb out of your productivity slump.

"That’s great Mark, but what if looking at all those smaller tasks still leaves you feeing overwhelmed?"

I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips for you.

Change your environment: If you work on a laptop, try a different location to work for a while. Maybe play some music or try a different style of music. If you don't use a laptop you could still try completing tasks away from your computer. Searching for stock images for a client job is just as easy on an iPad as it is on your computer and you can do it anywhere.

Change your routine: Do you do the same thing every day? Get up, have breakfast, catch up on some news and social media, then get to work? Try changing it up a bit. Go out for a walk before work. Do some chores around the house. Heck, watch a movie before getting to work.

That’s the great thing about being a home-based designer. If your routine is part of the problem, simply change it up. We have that privilege.

Simply remember that where or when you finally sit down to work, choose one task to work on and don’t get up until you’ve completed it.

Once it’s done, scratch it off your list and move on to the next one. I promise you, you’ll feel both physically and mentally lighter with each task you scratch off.

Just like any good battle plan, the simplest strategy is to divide and conquer. So go divide your projects into manageable tasks and start conquering them one by one.

What's your way of getting out of a productivity slump?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from an anonymous designer, they ask...

My business has come to a stop because of my mothers health issues and I have found myself having less and less time to attend to my business. This is really out of my control and once I was self sufficient financially , now I am finding there is no income coming in. I really do not have much options as far as having someone help with my mothers illness, currently into my 4th month visiting her in the hospital in a different town.

I can go on and on, but what do you think one can do to pickup business or return to what it was. My friends tell me nothing is forever

I know many business owners do not talk about their weaknesses but possibly this topic is something that many people are facing and your opinion would be valiable.

To find out how I answered this question you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week The Productive Woman podcast

This week's resource is The Productive Woman podcast. A podcast intended to help busy women find the tools and encouragement they need to better manage their lives, their time, their stress and their stuff, so they can accomplish the things that matter to them.

However, don't be fooled by the title guys. Laura McClellan, host of The Productive Woman offers great advice that we can learn from as well. In fact, it's one of my most anticipated podcasts to listen to each week. Check it out by visiting theproductivewoman.com

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Jan 13, 2017
Setting Goals For Your Design Business - RD055

Do you set goals for your design business?

[sc name="pod_ad"]In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I'm talking about setting goals for your graphic design business. I'm not talking about resolutions. I know it’s January when I'm releasing this episode, the time of year for setting resolutions, and that’s all fine. But what I’m talking about are goals. Whereas resolutions are more ongoing, like becoming a better illustrator or improving your coding skills. Goals, on the other hand, have a set target to achieve.

When is a good time for setting goals?

How about right now? I'm not saying this because it's January, the time of year many people are setting goals. What I'm saying is now, no matter when now happens to be, is a great time for setting goals. In fact, you should be setting goals for your business on a regular basis. How else are you going to measure your progress going forward?

Why is setting goals important?

Setting goals is one of the most important things you can do to stay on track and prosper. Goals keep you motivated, they give you focus, they give you direction, and they hold you accountable. Without goals, it's much harder to measure progress.

How to go about setting goals.

Have you heard the term S.M.A.R.T. goals? Much of what I'm discussing here is based on that concept. However, I'm taking it one step further and making it S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. Which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Related, Evaluate, and Reward (or Repeat if you like that one better.) Here's how it works.

SPECIFIC

Your goals need to be precise, if not you won't be able to focus your efforts to achieve the goal. When making your goal, try to answer these questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who if anyone is involved?
  • Which resources are required to complete the goal?

Example of a Specific goal: I want to complete three new website redesign projects over the next three months. This goal is very specific. You know exactly what needs to be accomplished in order to reach it.

MEASURABLE

If your goal isn’t measurable how are you going to track your progress? Knowing your progress is essential in motivating you to do well. It can also set a fire under you if you realize you're not doing well. Assessing your progress helps you to stay focused, meet your deadlines, and in the process, you’ll feel the excitement as you get closer to achieving your goal. A measurable goal should address questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How Long?
  • How will I know when it's accomplished?

Example of a Measurable goal: I want to design15 brand new websites this year. This goal is measurable. you simply need to count the number of websites completed to know how you're doing.

ACHIEVABLE

The goal you set for yourself needs to be realistic and attainable in order to be successful. In other words, it should be something that makes you stretch your abilities but still remains possible.

An achievable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How can I accomplish this goal?
  • How realistic is the goal?

Example of an Achievable goal: I want to help create brands for three new startups this year. Over the course of 12 months, it's not inconceivable that you could brand three new startups. It's an achievable goal. Wanting to brand 50 new startups would be very difficult to achieve and therefore isn't a good goal.

RELEVANT

This step is all about making sure your goal matters to you, and that it also aligns with other relevant goals you’ve set for your design business. It's important that your goal strengthens your business.

A relevant goal can answer "yes" to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match my other needs?
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?
  • Is it applicable to my current business?

Example of a Relevant goal: I want to master the newest features in Photoshop. This is a relevant goal for a graphic designer who works a lot in Photoshop. On the other hand, learning a new coding language such as PHP might not be a relevant goal if you're business doesn't focus on web design.

TIME-RELATED

All goals need some sort of targeted end time. Without one, you have no deadline to keep you focused and something to work toward. This is the most important part of setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. Without and end time to keep you in check, you may come down with the “I’ll do it tomorrow” syndrome. Wether you’re a procrastinator or not, you need a way to track your goals against a deadline if you want to achieve them.

A time-related goal will usually answer these questions:

  • When do I need to work on things to achieve this goal?
  • What do I need to do now, six weeks from now, six months from now?
  • What can I do today?

Example of a Time-Related goal: I want to create a new marketing brochure to hand out at the upcoming Trade show. This is a time-related goal because there is a fixed time you need to complete it by.

EVALUATE

This is where we add on to S.M.A.R.T. goals. As you progress towards accomplishing your goals, you need to stop from time to time to evaluate the progress you've made so far. Evaluating where you stand in relation to your goals reveals whether or not you’re still on track to achieve them.

While evaluating your goals you should ask these questions:

  • Do I need to adjust anything about my goal to ensure success?
  • Is there anything I can change or do differently to reach my goal?

Example of Evaluating your goal: You forgot when you set your two-month goal that you would be taking a vacation during that time. Can you adjust to goal to accommodate your time away? Or is there anything you can do differently to achieve your goal knowing you have two fewer weeks to work on it? Evaluating your goals on a regular basis is crucial to ensuring their success.

REWARD YOURSELF

Achieving or completing your goal should be a reward in itself. However, depending on the scope of the goal it may help motivate you if you set a special reward for getting there. After all, don’t you deserve something more than a simple pat on the back for your hard effort? A special reward can be a great motivator in helping you achieve your goal.

Ask yourself these questions while choosing a suitable reward.

  • Is the reward realistic if I accomplish my goal?
  • Is the reward enough of a motivator to help me achieve my goal?

Example of a motivating reward: If I increase my profits by 15% this year I will take my family on a tropical vacation. This is a very motivating reward. Especially if you share it with your family. Afterall, you don't want to let them down, do you?

REPEAT (instead of, or on top of a Reward)

If you succeeded in reaching your goal, why not try again with either the same goal or a harder one? Did you succeed in gaining three new clients this month? Then why not try for four next month?

If you failed to achieve your goal, reassess, regroup and restart. There is no shame in not reaching your goal. Only in giving up on it. Reassess your S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals and make any needed adjustments to help you succeed the second time around.

After all, as Henry Ford said, "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."

What goals have you set for your graphic design business?

Let me know your goals by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Jordan

Should I charge a different rate for my web design compared to my graphic design?

Resource of the week Free, Fee or Flee?

This week's resource is a website put out by RGD called Free, Fee or Flee? http://freefeeflee.ca This is a website to help you decide whenever you are asked to do some work for free. Should you agree? Should you be charging? Or should you be walking, or even running away? This fun website will guide you through various questions to help you make a decision. They also provide you with suggestions of how to respond to help explain where you stand.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
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Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Dec 2, 2016
Should you find a Graphic Design Niche?

Have you ever considered a niche for your graphic design business?

Working in a design niche can be very rewarding as well as very profitable. Many graphic designers make a very good living by only servicing a very small demographic of clients.

In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast ,I discuss various niches, the benefits of working in one, and how not to limit yourself to just one market. I go into much more depth in the podcast but if you want to know some of what I talked about read on.

What is a niche?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a niche is A distinct segment of a market. A place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted.

So what does that mean for us as graphic designers? A niche in the graphic design industry can be defined in three different ways.

Design Niche

A design niche is when you specialize in a particular section of the design industry. Like a designer who only designs logos, or one who specialises in direct mail campaigns, or one who only designs trade show booths. All of these specialize in their respective design niches.

Client Niche

A client niche is when you specialize in a certain demographic pertaining to the sector you serve. Examples are designers who only design for restaurants or those who specialize in designing for medical clinics, or musicians, or sports teams. The demographic you serve makes up the niche.

Location Niche

A location niche is the most common and many designers fall into this category without even thinking of it. A location niche is when you promote your services in a defined geographic location. A designer who promotes websites for Chicago-based businesses is in a location niche.

Benefits of working in a graphic design niche

You become the expert: The main benefit of working in a graphic design niche is how you are perceived. If you service a particular niche, you are automatically viewed as being an expert in that niche.

Knowledge gained: By servicing a niche you gain valuable knowledge about the topic it covers. This knowledge can greatly help you and your clients when working on design projects.

Better referrals: Clients often talk to colleagues in their niche and referrals passed between them carry a lot more weight than normal.

You could charge more: As an expert in your niche, you can charge premium prices for the value you bring to your clients.

Imagine a dentist who wants a website for the new dental clinic she is opening. She looks for a web designer by asking her friends, family and peers for referrals. A friend recommends a great designer who created his music store website, while at the same time a fellow dentist recommends a designer who specializes in creating websites for dentists. Which one do you think would pique her curiosity more?

Now let's say the dentist decides to interview the two designers. The first designer listens to what the dentist needs and makes a few suggestions based on his knowledge and experience designing websites. The second designer listens to what the dentist needs but then uses her knowledge and experience dealing with the dental industry to suggest things the dentist hadn't even considered. Which one do you think would impress the dentist more?

When reviewing the two submitted quotes, the dentist takes into consideration her impression of the two designers and the value each can bring to her new dental clinic. Even if the second designer's quote is more expensive, there's a very good chance the dentist will still pick her because of her expertise in her niche.

So you see how choosing to work in a niche can be beneficial?

What if you don't' want to limit yourself?

Let me tell you a secret... are you ready for it? Keep this to yourself mind you. You can work in more than one niche.

WOW, Mindblowing isn't it?

There is nothing stopping you from specializing in more than one niche. Perhaps you specialize in creating websites for dentists. Maybe you can use that knowledge to also specialize in websites for chiropractors, or hearing clinics. Much of the knowledge is interchangeable considering they are all medical clinics of some sort.

You could also specialize in completely different niches. Like designing for dog breeders as well as designing for motorcycle racers. There's nothing stopping you from having more than one speciality.

Break one niche into multiple niches for more exposure.

Sometimes, the farther you niche down the more of an expert you appear to be and the more you can charge for your service.

Perhaps your niche is designing T-shirts for sports teams. You could break that down into several smaller niches by marketing yourself as a designer who designs T-shirts for hockey teams, a designer who designs T-shirts for football teams, basketball teams, soccer teams.

Each one of these niches could have its own landing page on your website. Or better yet, have their own website.

Think about it. If someone with a football team wants a T-shirt and does an online search for suppliers. Chances are your football T-Shirt website will be much more appealing to them than a general sports T-shirt website.

So there you have it.

Choosing to work in a specific niche can be a great choice for a graphic designer. Just make sure you are passionate enough about the niche to make the most of it. If so, you could make a killing by servicing a small portion of the market.

After all, as the old saying goes, the riches are in the niches.

Do you work in a particular niche?

Let me know your thoughts? Please leave a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

This week's question came from Don;

Do you work with dual monitors? At what point does multiple screens become nonsense.

To hear what I told Don, you'll need to listen to the episode.

I would love to answer yours in a future episode of the podcast. Submit your question by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week CreativeLive

CreativeLive is a great resource for expanding your design knowledge. They offer a wide selection courses and classes at reasonable prices related to graphic design. CreativeLive also offers FREE Live and On Air classes on a regular basis. Simply register for the class you want and watch it for free when it's offered.

At the time I'm writing this they have upcoming free classes on Designing a Proposal, Hand Lettering, Graphic Design Fundamentals, Building Infographics, as well as courses for many of the Adobe Creative Cloud programs.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Nov 23, 2016
Easy Gifts For Graphic Designers - RD053

What gifts do you get a graphic designer?

Have you ever been asked the question "what gifts do you want for the holidays?" and you couldn't think of any ideas to say? In last year's holiday edition of the podcast I talked about graphic design gifts for your office. This time around I share gift ideas you can share when that ever so popular questions comes up. 

Software/Apps Gift Cards

Face it, we live in a computerized world and as designers, we spend a great deal of our time in front of one screen or another. So why not take advantage of it and ask for gift cards that will allow you to buy software and apps. AppleMicrosoftGoogle all have app stores with great software for graphic designers.

Education Gift Cards

As graphic designers, we need to stay up to date on the latest software and design trends. What better way to do so than by taking courses. Places like Lynda.comCreativeLiveUdemy are great places to learn. You could ask for gifts of knowledge via a gift cards.

Gift Cards for "the other stuff"

Face it, running a graphic design business costs money. Wouldn't it be nice to cover some of your expenses with gift cards from places like AmazonBestBuy, or Walmart?

Notebooks/Sketchbooks

Creative people need an outlet. Most of us, regardless of our skills, like putting pencil to paper for all kinds of inspirational reasons. A nice notebook or sketchbook can help keep those creative sparks alive by organizing them all in one space. Ask for your favourite notebooks or sketchbooks as gifts.

Magazine Subscriptions

I mentioned in episode 50 of the podcast how one of the perks of running a graphic design business is the free magazine subscriptions you can get. However, there are some great design related magazines that you can't get for free. Why not ask for subscriptions as gifts that keep on giving the whole year long.

Creative Cloud

Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are staples in the design industry. They are also an expense graphic design business owners have to deal with. Ask for a Creative Cloud gift card to help cover the costs.

Graphic Design Books

There are hundreds of great graphic design related books out there. If you're like me there are a few you would love to have but don't want to spend the money on. Now's the time to ask for them as gifts, or put a bookstore or Amazon gift card to good use and finally get the one you've been eyeing.

Coffee Shop Cards

If you're a home-based graphic designer you've probably opted at one time or another to meet a client at a coffee shop instead of at your house. Coffee shops are also a great change of scenery when you need to think through projects through. If someone doesn't know what to get you as a gift, suggest a coffee shop gift card to them.

 

What gifts do you think are good for a graphic designer?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

There is no question this week. You can submit yours by visiting the feedback page.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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