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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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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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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 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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
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

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
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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 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

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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

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
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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

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
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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

Nov 17, 2016
How A Great About Page Can Attract Design Clients - RD052

How Good Is Your About Page?

The About Page or About Me page on your website is arguably the most important page on your site. And yet, it's so often neglected when people create a website in order to concentrate more on the "meat pages" of the site. Pages like their portfolio, or the services they offer. The About Page is often just an afterthought. You know you need one, so you whip one up quickly and move on.

But if you look at the analytics for your site you will probably see that your About Page is one of your most visited pages. Chances are you have a link to your About Page in your menu bar, and when someone lands on your site, regardless of the page they land on, they will probably click on that link to learn more about you. If you don't have a well-crafted About Page you could be turning visitors off and leaving potential business on the table.

What makes a great About Page?

People often fail in their About Page because frankly, they're talking about themselves. You would think that's what an About Page is for. But in truth, visitors really visit an About Page not to learn who a person or company is, but to find out why they should care. What's in it for them? they're there to determine if they should be interested in you and to figure out if you can help them. If not then why bother looking at the rest of the website.

How do you make a great About Page?

How long should an About Page be? There is no right answer to this. The length of your About Page should be long enough to get your message across and nothing else.

Every business's About Page will be different so it's imperative that you test different things to see what works for you. You've heard about A/B testing? The About Page is a great candidate for such testing.

Parts of a great About Page.

Part 1: Your About Page should have a hook. Something that immediately grabs the attention of visitors and lets them know they've found the right person or business for them.

Here's an example of a good hook.

"Welcome to my site. Are you wondering how to promote your business? Do you have a great idea but don't know how to present it to the world? Are you tired of your current brand and want something more exciting? If you're asking yourself any of these questions, then you've come to the right place.

The hook gets into the head of your potential clients. The hook tells them that you know what they need help with and that you have the solution to their problem. Trust me, if they think you have the solution to their problem, they'll be begging to work with you.

It's a very basic concept but it's super effective. Figure out what questions your potential clients have and list the most popular ones. How do you figure this out? By asking your clients questions. Over time you will learn what common questions come up, what problems they're seeking help with, and you'll be able to address them here on your About Page.

If you open with a great hook, your visitors will want to keep reading.

Part 2: Share the benefits people get by working with you. Not the services you offer, but the benefits they get. What will they get if they decide to work with you?

An example can be something like this.

"Allow me to use my vast skills and experience as a graphic designer to create something amazing, something that is truly unique to you. I have a knack for capturing the personality of a company and creating designs that will reflect not only who you are, but designs that lets you connect with your target market on a personal level. In other words, I create designs you can be proud of.

You see? This second part kind of describes you a bit, but in a way that benefits the viewer.

Part 3: Share social proof. This is a great place to display an image of yourself so your clients have a face to associate you with. Share your accomplishments, not to gloat, but to prove you're the right person for the job. In my case, this is where I would mention being in the design industry since 1989. That I've helped brand 100s of successful companies. Where I've had my designs featured and what awards I've won. A little name dropping also adds social proof as to why someone should hire you so list any well

A little name dropping also adds social proof for why someone should hire you. List any well well-known companies you've worked with. They may be local, national or global companies. If you think it will help, mention them here.

Another great way to share social proof is to include one or two testimonials from clients praising your skills and partnership with them. People visit your About Page to learn about you. What better way to learn, than by hearing what others have to say about working with you?

Be cautious in part 3. Don't include too much in this section or you might come off as too overbearing and smug. Don't talk about awards you won 10 years ago. They have no meaning to today. You only want to share enough to assure people that you are capable of helping them.

Part 4: This is where you finally get to talk about yourself. You could mention where you went to school and how you got into the business. Limit it to just a couple of paragraphs. Enough for people to get to know you a bit better. Imagine you are meeting someone face to face for the first time and they ask you why you became a designer. Part 4 of your About Page is the answer you would give them.

In my case I would tell them I had no intention of becoming a graphic designer. I only enrolled in the course as a stepping stone to something else I wanted to take in university. But once I started, I fell in love with graphic design and immersed myself fully in the program, graduating at the top of my class.

If you want, you can include a few fun facts here about yourself in this section. Hobbies, likes & dislikes, family information you don't mind sharing. Stay away from controversial subjects like religion and politics.

Myself I would mention my love of podcasting. That I'm a dog owner. I might also mention how I'm not a coffee drinker, which goes against the typical stereotype of the graphic designer. Use this section to really show off your personality. Remember, your About Page can also weed out people who wouldn't work well with you. If they don't care for your personality, chances are you wouldn't work well together.

Part 5: This is probably the most important section and yet it's also the most overlooked. Include a direct link for visitors to contact you. A contact form works best, but any method that allows them to contact you is imperative. Include some sort of call to action letting them know you're anxious to hear from them. They just spent the time learning who you are and how you can help them, so make it easy for them to get a hold of you to start a working relationship.

There you have it. A great About Page. Will following these steps guarantee new clients? Of course not. But every bit helps. And there's no reason your About Page shouldn't be given as much, if not more, attention than the other pages on your website. Don't leave potential business on the table because you have a weak About Page.

What does your About Page look like?

Leave a comment for this episode telling me your formula for a great About Page and I'll make sure to link back to it.

Questions of the Week

This week's question came from Michael. He asked...

I'm a staff designer at an established agency. The leadership here does allow us to take side (for lack of a better word) freelancing jobs to help us grow our skills and creativity. As long as it's not a direct conflict of interest with the company.

I'm struggling to gain traction in finding work. I have good set of personal clients that I work with already but nothing to add any substantial amount to mine and my wife's income. Just odd jobs now and then when my skills are needed.

What is your method to finding new work/clients? Which ones have you found most effective and which methods would you recommend I stay away from.

To hear how I answered Michael's question you'll have to listen to the podcast. I did however share this link with him. 10 Proven Ways To Attract Design Clients

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

Resource of the week Who Stole My Images FaceBook Group

This is not a resource I'm familiar with myself but when I heard about it I thought it would be great for my audience. It was shared by Molly in the Resourceful Designer FaceBook Group. Who Stole My Images is a group that helps creative people when their intellectual property has been stolen for illicit gains. If you sell your designs anywhere on the internet there's a good chance that someone copied your artwork and is selling it as their own. It's not always easy to stop these people and that's where this FaceBook group comes in. The members have experience and are willing to share their tips and tricks to help you target the thieves. If you find yourself in such a situation simply ask to join the group.

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

Nov 10, 2016
12 Steps To Great Design Presentations - RD051

Are your design presentations great?

Whether it's in front of just one person or in front of a board of directors, giving design presentations to your clients can be scary, even for the most seasoned graphic designer. In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I share 12 steps you can use to make your design presentations great.

Please listen to the podcast to hear me act out two fictional presentations to show you the difference these 12 steps can make.

The 12 Steps To Great Design Presentations.

1 Practice your presentation

It doesn't look good if you stumble on your words, or you don't come across as knowing what you're talking about. It doesn't matter if you're presenting in person or via video, you need to come across like you know what you're talking about. After all, you should know what you're talking about. If you need to, write out your presentation in full or point form and study it. It will help you know your material inside and out. Plus, should your client interrupt you with questions, you'll know your presentation well enough not to be thrown off track.

2 Be punctual

This one should be obvious. Make sure you show up for your design presentations on time. If you don't show up on time you already have a strike against you regardless of what you present. The client may love your design, but as far as future projects are concerned, designers are replaceable and they may not consider you if they think you are not punctual.

3 Dress for success

I'm a T-Shirt and Jeans kind of guy. But I would never go into a meeting dressed that way. when you're doing your research for your design (you are doing research aren’t you?), also find out what type of client you have. If they all wear suits and ties to work, you should do the same. If they wear khakis and Hawaiian shirts, dress better than them. Don't be afraid to be overdressed. It's better than looking underdressed.

4 Have handouts

People like holding things, but don't give them out before the meeting. You want their eyes on you as you lay out the story of the design. If you give them handouts they will be more focused on what's in their hands and not on you. By the time you reach the grand finale of your presentation, they will have already seen it in the handout.

5 Show Confidence

If you show confidence people will be more inclined to trust you and engage with you. You've been hired to do a project, so don't act as if you're applying for the position. Act like someone who is already familiar with the position. You also show confidence with the words you choose. Never use words like "I think you'll like this" or "Maybe we could do this". Instead show your confidence in your abilities by using decisive words like "You'll like this" or "We should do this". Don't give your client a chance to consider if you are right or not. Use your words with confidence and they'll know you are right.

6 Use keywords

Work recognisable keywords into your presentation. Use keywords like brand recognition, brand awareness, customer loyalty, increased sales, better exposure, growth. Terms that will leave a positive impression on your client and make them more inclined to go along with what you say.

7 Refer to the brief

Whether you were provided with a formal brief for the project or it was just a casual email conversation, make reference to it. Not only does this show that you were paying attention but it shows that you take what the client has to say seriously.

8 Talk about the research you did

Your client doesn't know what goes into designing something. All they know is what they are paying you. Give them some peace of mind by explaining the type of research you did. Give details so they know the money they are paying you is worth it. Plus, talking about your research gives them insight into the type of person you are and they will appreciate you that much more.

9 Explain before showing anything

The best presenters use a system. They tell the audience what they are going to see, then they show the audience, and finally they tell the audience what they saw. Your presentation should be done the same way. This three step approach will help you client retain the information you are giving them and they will feel you've given a very good presentation.

10 Anticipate questions and answers them before they are asked

This one is tricky. When preparing your presentation try to think like your client and anticipate any questions they might have. Then address them in your presentation. You'll come across as someone very knowledgeable and help put them at ease.

11 Plant seeds for future work you can do for them

This might be just one project. But there's no harm in planting the seeds for future work. Try to work into the presentation other things you could do for them. Mention other services you offer. Things they may not have even thought about. The best thing to do is include them in the process. Don't say things like "This new design will help you grow your business" instead say "Together, with this new design we can grow this business"

12 Follow up after the meeting

Don't wait too long. Call or send an email the next morning asking if there are any new questions that came up that you could answer. In fact, let them know during your presentation that you will be following up the next day in case they think of any new questions. This way they know to expect your call. A few days later follow-up if you haven't heard from them to inquire if they've reached a decision.

Do you follow these steps?

Let me know what you do for your presentations? Please leave a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Due to time constraints, I didn't answer a question this week. But 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 Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith

SELLING THE INVISIBLE: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing is a succinct and often entertaining look at the unique characteristics of services and their prospects, and how any service, from a home-based consultancy to a multinational brokerage, can turn more prospects into clients and keep them. SELLING THE INVISIBLE covers service marketing from start to finish. Filled with wonderful insights and written in a roll-up-your-sleeves, jargon-free, accessible style.

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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

Nov 1, 2016
Perks To Running A Graphic Design Business - RD050

There are some great perks to running a graphic design business.

There are many benefits to running your own home-based graphic design business. In episode 24 I covered some of them, including getting to choose who you work with. Making your own hours. Deciding how much you want to charge and other things like the tax breaks you get and being able to work in your bathrobe if you want to.

All of these are great reasons to want to run a graphic design business, especially from home. But in this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I'm talking about perks. The little things that go a bit beyond the benefits.

7 Perks to running your business.

Free Stuff

When you register your business you are put on a list that becomes available to anyone who wants to purchase it. I know that sounds scary, but in fact, it's a good thing. Because many of the people who purchase that list want to send you FREE STUFF! Mostly promotional items like pens, mugs, keychains etc. usually with your company name on them. They hope that you like their stuff enough to either buy them in bulk to hand out yourself or to become a reseller for them.

Another perk is free magazine subscriptions. There are many graphic design related magazines that offer free subscriptions to businesses in the industry. Visit your favourite magazine's website to see if they offer this.

Credit Card Points

When you run a business you need to buy things. You might as well get some extra perks in the process. Use a credit card that offers some sort of reward. It could be travel, goods and services, or simply cash back. Make all your purchases using this card and watch how quickly your points accumulate. Just make sure to pay off your card each month. The extra perk isn't worth it if you pay interest on your balance.

Access To Credit

Owning a business allows for easier access to credit. Many banks and financial institutions are much more willing to lend money to businesses than they are to individuals. If you're in a bind and you need some extra cash, this is one perk you'll be glad your business provides you.

Networking

Face it, it's much more impressing to say you own your own business than it is to say you work for someone else. Not only will it open more doors for you, but the quality of the interactions will be better as well. Not only that but the knowledge you gain from these interactions can greatly benefit your business.

Education

Another perk of running your own graphic design business is the chance to learn new things when you want to learn new things. If you want to take a course or watch a tutorial you have the option to do so. There's nobody to stop or hold you back. The same goes for things you're not interested in. If it's not something you want to learn you don't have to. You have the option of hiring someone to do it for you instead.

Work/Life Balance

Creating your own work hours is a perk in itself. But the big bonus when you run your own business, is the ability to step away from your business whenever you want to. There's no need to schedule personal appointments around work hours. Instead, you can schedule your work hours around your personal appointments. If your doctor only has an opening at 10am it's not a problem for you. If your child has some special event you want to attend, there's no one you need to ask permission of for you to go.

Your Businesses' Personality

One of the biggest perks of running your own graphic design business is your ability to personalise it however you want. If you want it to have a formal corporate look, do it. If you prefer a fun joyful look, then do that.

Your business has a personality that reflects who is behind it, you. The freedom to mould that personality into anything you want is probably one of the most powerful perks you have. Express yourself, there's nobody holding you back.

What perks do you enjoy from your business?

I would love to know what perks your business allows you. Let me know what they are 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

I have a few questions about budget and pricing. Your pricing podcast was amazing. Here are some questions you can include in a future podcast.

1) How to ask a client for a budget?
2) Should it be in the project questionnaire
3) Should it be in the contact form
4) How about a pull down menu of price ranges
5) Would it be better to allow prospect to enter their own amount rather than selecting a price range?
6) How about showing prospects minimum project price for any given job. This is the starting price and the quote would reflect the price quote from thereon.
7) How about showing three price ranges after questions are all asked.
8) Majority of designers do not negotiate or wish to discuss pricing if it does not agree to the prospects budget. Should we be open to that considering this is a business first then design?

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

Resource of the week is TopTracker

This resource was shared by Dan in the Resourceful Designer FaceBook Group. Here's what he had to say about TopTracker.

I know Mark uses Billings Pro, but I don't use a Mac currently so I searched around for an alternate. I checked out a few and decided that there's a better one for me. I've been using TopTracker to track my time. It's excellent, easy, flexible and can spit out a tonne of different reports for you to prove your time if you need it. And best of all, it's free forever for freelancers.

According to the website TopTracker offers;

  • Effortless Time Tracking From Any Device
  • Centralized View Of All Projects
  • Full Privacy Control For Freelancers
  • Detailed Productivity Reports
  • 100% Free and No Limits

There are no superficial limits on the number of projects or users you can configure.

Available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

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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

Oct 26, 2016
Print Brokering To Supplement Your Graphic Design Business - RD049

Print Brokering, it's easy money.

Is print brokering part of your graphic design business strategy? If not, it should be. We spend hours upon hours putting our creative skills to use for our clients. But if at the end of a design project we simply hand the printer files over to our client then we're leaving money on the table. With the addition of print brokering to your services you not only increase your value to your clients, but you can also drastically increase your income.

It's not as scary as it sounds

Getting into print brokering isn't that daunting a task. You don't even need to know anything about the print industry. You only need to know how to set up a proper print file, which you should be doing already. Then, instead of handing those files over to your client, you send them to the printer on your client's behalf.

So what's the point?

Let me illustrate it for you with an example.

Let's say you design a 4-colour tri-fold brochure for your client. You spend several hours creating it until it's exactly what your client wanted. You send your client the final file along with your invoice, and you get paid a few hundred dollars. Good job!

Now let's say you've added print brokering to your services. Instead of sending the final file to your client, you contact two or three printers for quotes on printing the brochure. You then show those quotes to your client, decide together which is the best one, and send the file to the selected printer. Once the job is printed and delivered to your client, you send them an invoice for both the design and the printing. In return, you receive an invoice from the printer MINUS your commission for bringing them the job. Did you catch the keyword in that last sentence? Commission. That's right; you receive a commission for sending the job to the printer. Depending on the cost of the printing job that commission could be several hundred, or perhaps even thousands of dollars.

That's the point!

So, how do you start print brokering?

Contact local commercial printers.

The easiest thing to do is contact your local commercial printers and ask them if they have special deals for graphic designs which bring them work? Chances are they already do. If that's the case, you simply have to let them know who you are and start earning income from print jobs you send them.

If they don't have some plan already in place here's one you could suggest to them. Ask if they are willing to give you a flat discount on all print jobs you bring to them. 15% is a good place to start. Whenever you have a print job to broker, the printer would supply you a quote for the full printing price. This quote is what you share with your client. Then, once the print job is finished, the printer invoices you, including your 15% discount. Your client pays you the full price of the quote, and you, in turn, pay the printer the discounted invoice, keeping 15% of the printing price as your commission.

This way, your client is not being taken advantage of since they are paying the same price they would have if they went directly to the printer themselves. The benefit to them is you now handle that part of the job for them. The benefit to the printer is unlike their regular customers who doesn't understand printing files or printing, once they train you how to supply files to them the way they want them, they never have to worry about your jobs again. This means faster turnaround through their pre-press department which translates to more profit for them. Of course, the benefit to you is the added income you get from the print brokering.

Copy shops

Copy shops are a bit different. They don't have the same profit margins as print shops and can't offer the same discounts. However, most copy shops offer tiered pricing. Meaning the price per copy drops with the more copies ordered. A deal you could offer them is to pay a certain amount in advance. Like a retainer of $500 or $1000 for example, in exchange, they would charge you their lowest rate for copies you order regardless of the quantity. They simply deduct your copies from the "retainer" you've provided them.

Trade Printers

Trade printers are similar to commercial printers except they only deal with clients "in the trade" which includes graphic designers. Trade printers offer wholesale like pricing, so unlike the commercial printers mentioned above, you simply mark up their quotes by whatever margin you want to make before giving the price to your client.

Online Printers

Online printers such as ePrintFast offer low prices because they bulk print their jobs. Your business card order is printed on the same sheet as many other business card orders, lowering the cost for each of you. Even with shipping costs, the prices are great. That's how they offer prices that your local commercial printers can't compete with. You can make a good income by adding a hefty markup to their prices. Search online for similar printers near you.

Print brokering isn't just for paper

You can take your print brokering service beyond the printed page. Screen printed t-shirts, ball caps, coffee mugs, pens, pins, etc. You name it. If it can be printed on, you can make a profit from it.

Do you use print brokering to supplement your business?

I would love to know if you offer print brokering as part of your business. Let me know what they are by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resourceful Designer is one of the 12 best graphic design podcasts!

Resourceful Designer is #2 on a list of the 12 best graphic design podcasts put out by Creative Bloq. Here's what the article had to say.

Want to nail the business side of design? Hit up Mark Des Cotes for top advice

If you're interested in the business side of graphic design, Mark Des Cotes' Resourceful Designer is a must. With 48 episodes recorded so far, it's aimed at helping home based graphic designers and web designers streamline their business, with plenty of advice, tips and resources to help you get things right.

Each episode covers a specific theme, such as how to save money, dealing with deadlines and what to do when you mess up a a project and much more. And as well as the podcast, Resourceful Designer also has an in-depth blog plus a useful list of design resources.

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 Stacie

Why do we need a Pantone color book and which one should we buy? What's the difference between printing in 4 color and spot colors? And is it affordable for a client to print in more than 4 colors?

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

Resources of the week

iloveimg.com offers an array of tools for compressing, resizing, cropping, and converting image files from other formats to JPG, or from JPG to png or gif. Modify all your images en masse in one place. It takes just a few clicks with their easy-to-use tools.
Everything your clients need for their image work is there, and it’s all free!

iloveimg not great for compressing images since they don’t give you much control over the quality of their compression. Instead, I suggest optimizilla.com. This online image optimizer uses a smart combination of the best optimization and lossy compression algorithms to shrink JPEG and PNG images to the minimum possible size while keeping the required level of quality. Again, completely free.

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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

Oct 18, 2016
Things To Do Before Starting A Home Based Graphic Design Business - RD048

Before starting your home based graphic design business.

It sounds easy, doesn't it? You have your skills and a computer, so why not start a graphic design business from your home? Go for it I say. However, there are certain things you need to do before starting on your new journey.

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I go into detail on what you should do before starting your own home based graphic design business. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.

Required research before starting your business.

The first thing you need to do before starting your home based graphic design business is research. Being prepared for what's to come is the key to success. Here are a few things you should look into.

Choose your type of business

You have the options of operating as a sole proprietor, a partnership with someone, or one of the many forms of corporations. Choosing your business structure lays the groundwork for what you will do next.

Study up on tax laws

It's a good idea to learn what you can about the tax laws where you live. What can or can't you claim as business expenses? What tax loopholes can you take advantage of? Do you need to collect taxes from your clients when you invoice them?

Be aware of zoning laws

Zoning laws differ depending on where you live. Check with your city or county to see what affects you. Depending on where you live you may be limited to how you can run your graphic design business.

Size up your competitions

It's always a good idea to know who you're up against. Find out who is offering similar services in your area and figure out how you plan on carving out your own corner of the market.

What you need to get before starting your business.

Write a business plan

A business plan will help you stay focused and keep you on track to succeeding as a business owner. Not to mention they are a requirement if you plan on incorporating your business.

Register your business name

Find out the requirements in your area and register your business name. This will protect you in the future should someone else try to operate under the same name as you.

Obtain a business permit

Even home-based businesses require a business permit to operate legally. Contact your municipal government for instructions on obtaining your business permit.

Get business insurance

Just because you're working from home doesn't mean you're covered. Homeowner's insurance doesn't cover your business. Contact your insurance company to find out what options are available to you.

Get help before starting your business.

Where to look

Search your local or nearby communities and contact the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Board and the Business Education Centre. These organisations often offer free advice to help you start your business.

Look for business incubators in your area. They may offer classes and/or resources to help start your business.

Visit your local library. Most libraries offer resources to help small business owners.

Find professional help

Hire a business lawyer to help with things like contracts and incorporating your business.

Hire an accountant for financial advice and to help with your bookkeeping and tax returns.

Visit your bank manager to discuss your best options for a business account and other ways the bank can help you.

Additional help

Take business courses or workshops at a local college to improve your business knowledge.

Contact your local college or university for interns to assist you with writing your business plan.

Visit the US Small Business Administration website for podcasts, webinars, and basic information about starting and growing a business.

 

Are you ready to start your graphic design business?

What research and prep work are you doing before starting your 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 Daniele

I have a recurring issue that I need to solve as I do not want to face it anymore.

The issue is how to properly store bookmarks of helpful websites, web aps, articles and so on. We spend most of our time online and we use some great resources. We need to keep a track of them and store safely for a later use. I have hundreds of bookmarks on Google chrome divided in folders, whilst Chrome does a good job on offering a search bar for a quick lookup, I have found myself looking for an extended length of time as I would not remember how I called that folder or link.

So, I wonder if there is a better way than just saving bookmarks on Chrome?

To find out what I told Daniele you’ll have to listen to the podcast. But I'll give you a hint. I recommended she get the book Evernote Essentials.

Resource of the week is Have i been pwned?

Have i been pwned? is a free resource for anyone to quickly assess if they may have been put at risk due to an online account of theirs having been compromised or "pwned" in a data breach. A "breach" is an incident where a hacker illegally obtains data from a vulnerable system, usually by exploiting weaknesses in the software. All the data in the site comes from website breaches which have been made publicly available.

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Subscribe on iTunes
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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

 

Oct 11, 2016
Bartering Your Graphic Design Services - RD047

Have you ever considered bartering your design skills?

Like it or not, money rules our world. Without it, businesses fail, economies collapse and people suffer. However, money isn't the only commodity when it comes to doing business. Thousands of years ago, long before currencies were introduced, people relied on bartering in order to survive. If you had a field of wheat but no meat and your neighbour had a herd of cattle but no grain, the two of you would barter the goods you had in exchange for those you required. Everybody was happy in the end.

Bartering still remains a viable way of conducting business and there's no reason why it wouldn't work for your graphic design business.

In this week's Resourceful Designer podcast I share examples of how bartering can help your business. Be sure to have a listen, or better yet, subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.

What is bartering?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Barter means to trade or exchange commodities (such as products or services) for other things instead of for money.

Have you ever seen a classified ad where someone has a boat and is looking to trade it for a car? That's bartering. It's a trade in which both involved parties feel like they are getting a good deal. Maybe even the better deal.

The idea behind bartering is for you to trade something, such as your graphic design services for something you find more valuable in return.

The power of bartering

Have you ever heard of Kyle MacDonald? He's a Canadian blogger who in 2005 started with one red paperclip and over the course of one year, bartered 14 different trades with the final trade making him the owner of a two-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan Canada. All without any money ever exchanging hands. This story alone should prove to you the value of bartering.

Bartering and your graphic design business

So how does bartering relate to your business? Simple, trade your time and skills for goods and services in return.

When I first started my home based graphic design business I had an old used desk I purchased off my old employer. It was wobbly and didn't look very nice, but it did the job it was required to do. Then one day I was asked to quote on a new website for a master woodworker. The price I quoted was too expensive for him but he asked if I would be willing to build it for him in exchange for a custom made wood desk. We agreed that I would purchase the required wood, and he would build the desk at no charge to me. In exchange, I would build a custom website for him. All he would have to pay was the hosting fee.

In both our minds we were getting the better deal. He was getting a new website, something he couldn't afford and was incapable of doing himself. I was getting a solid wood desk, built to my specifications, that I would never have spent the money on otherwise.

Perceived value.

The appeal of bartering all comes down to perceived value. Both parties involved perceive the value of the goods or service they are receiving as more valuable than those they are providing.

You design for a living so spending a few hours in front of your computer creating comes naturally to you. But to someone else, the idea of doing that seems daunting and beyond their capabilities. The same goes for you. Your client may have a skill or product that you can't produce on your own. So to you, it's perceived as more valuable than your few hours in front of your computer.

Bartering is truly a win-win scenario.

Bartering ideas

  • Are you a parent with active kids? You could barter your services in exchange for your child's membership in a club, group or organisation.
  • Do you have a hobby? Barter your skills with other enthusiasts in exchange for whatever you need to grow in your hobby.
  • Do you need anything for your home or office? Barter with clients for the things you need.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to what you can get through bartering. Why don't you give it a try?

Have you bartered your services before?

I would love to know how you bartered your design services. Please leave 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

I live in an area that has a deeply rooted DIY mentality. As a result, I am struggling to sell local businesses on the value of my marketing and design abilities. Do you have any recommendations to break businesses out of this mentality, and show them the value of professional services?

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

Resource of the week ScreenFlow

This week’s resource is something I've shared before, ScreenFlow screen recording software. It has helped me streamline my graphic design business so much that I have to share it again. Using ScreenFlow has saved me so much time and headaches. Instead of teaching clients how to use their new websites and then helping them again a month or so later when they’ve forgotten, now I just record a short instructions video showing them what to do. If they need a refresher or need to train someone new, they have access to the video and they don’t have to interrupt me for help. For that reason alone I highly recommend ScreenFlow.

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

Sep 30, 2016
Take Care Of Yourself Not Just Your Business - RD046

What happens to your business if you don't take care of yourself?

Running a home based graphic design business offers you the freedom and flexibility to work when you want and the way you want. But what if you don't take care of yourself and you get sick? What becomes of your business?

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcasts, I discuss how you need to take care of yourself if you want your graphic design business to prosper.

As designers, our clients rely on us to give their projects our undivided attention. But how are we suppose to do that if we're dashing to the washroom every few minutes or if we have a headache so bad that we can't look at our computer screens? The answer is we can't.

Face it, when we're under the weather our business suffers.

So what can you do about it?

Have you ever heard the term "prevention is the best form of medication"? It holds true for us designers. If we take care of ourselves both physically and mentally we won't have to face this dilemma that often.

Although there is no guaranteed way to keep you from getting sick. There are things you can do to help minimise the occurrences. Try to eat healthier meals and snacks. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Exercise to keep your body fit. Make sure you get enough rest. Wash your hands!

It's not rocket science. We've heard all these tips many times before. But if we don't follow them, they won't help.

We graphic designers often feel that so much depends on us that we neglect our own needs. Don't' make yourself sick because you're trying to please everyone else.

Working too much can make you sick.

There's nothing wrong with working long hours or working all hours of the day. Setting your own hours is actually one of the benefits of running a home-based graphic design business. However, problems start when you do it every day and all the time without setting time aside to take care of yourself.

Set time aside during your busy workday for yourself. Get up and stretch. Look out the window. Go for a walk. If you can afford it, be a bit more creative and go for a massage or get a manicure. The point is to rejuvenate and refresh yourself. Because if you run yourself into the ground you won't be able to accomplish anything and your business will suffer.

If you find it too hard to make time throughout your day, try setting larger periods of time aside each week. Take Friday afternoons off or break up your week with a Wednesday morning sabbatical.

But I don't have time to take time off.

Trust me, it's more important to take care of yourself than it is to check things off your to-do list.

Your health forms the base of your business. If you're not healthy it suffers. And when you are suffering nothing gets done on your to-do list. Even if you don't have the time you can still take care of yourself by starting your day with a good breakfast.

Why not schedule a workout or meditate before starting work? Not a morning person? lunch time is a perfect time to exercise. Not only will it help you stay fit, but it will also give your brain time to process what you did that morning and prepare it for the afternoon tasks to come. When you're healthier and stronger, you'll be able to better serve your clients and family.

And don't forget what I talked about in episode 42. It's OK to say no to things that take up all your time. You don't need to do every little task that family and friends ask of you. Determine what really needs to be done and say no to the rest.

How do you take care of yourself?

What do you do to stay healthy and ensure that your business isn't interrupted by sickness? Leave 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 Sara

My pricing packages state that printing or other vendor expenses are charged separately. How do you best charge for those items after the hours have been used? Do you also give a list of hours to the client of how they were used? When you give estimates, just give them in hours?

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

Resource of the week the Resourceful Designer podcast

To celebrate the one year anniversary of the Resourceful Designer podcast on September 30th, which is also International Podcast Day, this week's resource is the podcast itself. If you know any designers that could benefit from the show please share it with them. Simply send them to resourcefuldesigner.com/subscribe where they can subscribe via their favourite platform.

If they ask you what a podcast is, take the opportunity to introduce them to this wonderful medium of podcasts by showing them how to subscribe and listen to the show. And make sure you tell them to leave a review for the show in iTunes once they've listened to it.

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

Sep 16, 2016
It's OK for Graphic Designers To Ask For Help - RD045

It's OK for Graphic Designers To Ask For Help

What's the one thing every business person struggles with, regardless of their occupation? The answer is time. No matter how hard you work there just never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. So what's the solution? Ask for help.

You see, the problem is time is finite. Once it's gone, it's gone. So you have to make the best use of the time you have.

This applies to life in general but in this week's Resourceful Designer podcast, I'm talking about how it applies to your graphic design business. About all the time you spend struggling or fiddling with client projects as well as other aspects of your business. You'll never get that time back. So why waste it in the first place when all you have to do is ask for help with it.?

I said I was going to talk about your business, however, there are things you could ask for help with that are not necessarily related to your business, but can still help benefit your business. Consider getting help with things like housekeeping, childcare and yard maintenance. Even having your groceries delivered to you. By hiring someone else to complete these tasks, you are freeing up your time for more productive things.

Why would you hire someone to do all these simple things you could easily do yourself? Efficiency, that's why. Think about it. A housekeeper or yard worker may charge you $10-$20/hr. You, on the other hand, make up to 5 times that amount when designing. So why not use your time to do the work you get paid higher for, and hire someone else to use their time to do the other work.

Ask For Help For Your Graphic Design Business

One of the easiest ways to ask for help is to outsource the things you are not capable of or the things you really shouldn't be doing. This will free up your time to do the things only you can and should be doing.

There are certain parts of your business you can't or shouldn't outsource. When it comes to promoting your business, designing for your clients or networking you need to be front and centre. But things like invoicing, bookkeeping and banking can all be handled by someone else. Ask for help in these areas.

Spend money to save money.

An old adage in business is that you need to spend money in order to make money. Don't be afraid to spend money to hire people to help you. It may cut into your profits on that job. But it will free up your time to work on other projects. Meaning you'll be increasing your overall profit because your business will be completing two projects at the same time.

Where To Ask For Help.

Build a community.

The best place to ask for help is in a community you've built for yourself. Collect a list of Writers, developers, illustrators, proofreaders, UI experts, social media experts etc. that you can call upon whenever you have need of them. You can find these people locally, at meetups, in Facebook Groups, on sites like UpWork, or ask fellow designers for recommendations.

Don't feel guilty if you ask for help

Nobody can do everything. We're not expected to. That's why agencies are made up of teams. If there's a task that one person can't do, then another team member is called in to handle it.

Just because you work by yourself doesn't mean you have to suffer. There's no reason to feel guilty if you ask for help. Any good business owner, even those running fortune 500 companies will tell you that to run a highly profitable business you need to surround yourself with competent people. People who support you in the areas you're not proficient in. You may not be running an agency, but there's no reason you can't have your own team.

Be confident in the skills and abilities you bring to the table and focus on them. Ask for help from others and let them focus on the skills and abilities they bring to the table. Together you have a much higher chance of succeeding.

Don't fall into the procrastination rut

If you find yourself procrastinating on certain jobs, it may be a sign that you should ask for help. Procrastination is often a sign of not having confidence in your own abilities. It can occur because you are seeking perfection that you don't know if you're capable of, or you simply have a fear of failure. Asking for help can overcome these hurdles.

Look at your past accomplishments to build your confidence in what you’re capable of and focus on that. Take stock of your unique abilities, whatever it is you bring to the table. And then seek unique abilities in others to help you accomplish your goals.

Remember, you are the only you there is. Nobody else can be you. So Be you and do the things you are good at. Then ask for help and let others do what they're good at in order to help you.

Do you ask for help when it's needed?

There are many tasks in a graphic design business where a designer can ask for help. What are some of the ones you've reached out for? Leave a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Sorry, no question this week. Submit your own question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting feedback page.

Resource of the week 10% Off The Ultimate Divi Bundle

If you use the Divi theme by Elegant Themes, you're going to want to check out The Ultimate Divi Bundle. It consists of 5 of the best Divi plugins there are. These plugins were developed specifically to enhance the already amazing Divi theme.

The 5 plugins included are:
Divi Booster: With a really easy to use interface, Divi Booster accelerates your Divi development by allowing you to make powerful changes to your Divi website. edit footer info, change the look of a sidebar, alter some of the module features, and more. All the little things that you wish you could do with Divi are now possible.

Divi Switch: Adds over 50 toggle switches to your WordPress Dashboard to quickly and easily turn certain Divi features on or off without having to go searching through Options.

Aspen Footer Editor: The one part of Divi that lacks the finesse of the rest of the theme is the Footer. This plugin opens that up and allows you to easily change the look and style of any Divi footer.

Divi Dashboard Welcome: Allows you to customise the Welcome screen whenever you or your client logs into WordPress. Add a contact form, leave a special note for your client. Write custom instructions. It's all possible with this plugin.

Divi Ghoster: Allows you to white label your Divi site. Allowing you to hide the fact that you used Divi to build the site from your clients, theme detectors, and everyone.

This bundle normally sells for $60, but if you use my link you'll receive an additional 10% off your purchase.

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

Sep 9, 2016
Overcoming Hurdles In Your Graphic Design Business - RD044

From time to time, every business will have hurdles to overcome.

Have you ever had one of those weeks that you just want to sweep under the rug and forget ever happened? Me too. In fact, that's how last week went for me. But instead of letting it go, I've decided to share my hurdles with you in this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast.

My week from hell

My week started off like any other until I received a phone call from a website client. There was a problem with their site. Members couldn't log out. I had recently migrated their website from a Windows server to a Linux server and thought perhaps something had happened in the move. I told them I'd look into it and got to work.

This should have been a warning sign but it took me roughly 5 hours to find and fix the problem. A problem that should have only taken me two minutes if I had just looked. I spent hours combing through code trying to find the issue when it turns out the Logout button had the wrong URL associated with it.

Other than some wasted time that issue wasn't so bad.

Then on Wednesday I received an email from a client asking me when their new website would be launched. This one took me by surprise because I thought I had already launched it two weeks prior. But then I remembered that I had encountered a database error while migrating their site from my staging server to its permanent home, and had decided to put off the launch until the next day.

Somehow it slipped my mind the following morning, and two weeks later I'm being asked by the client for an ETA.

I quickly launched their site, but in the process, I forgot that this particular client runs their own internal email server and I didn't update the proper MX records to account for it.

To make a long story short (I go into all the details in the podcast), I broke their email and it took several hours the next day to get it working again. Unfortunately, this client relies heavily on email for their business and having it down for several hours cost them thousands of dollars in revenue. All because of my mistake.

Needless to day, I felt terrible. Sick to my stomach in fact. But what could I do? The damage was done and I had to move on.

Overcoming Hurdles

Sometimes in business things will derail you. It's up to you to decide how you'll proceed. Will you stop? Or will you overcome those hurdles?

You have to realise that these hurdles are only a drop in the pond when you look at your business as a whole. They may seem scary when they happen but in the long run they won't affect your business as much as you initially think they will.

What Hurdles Have You Overcome?

What hurdles have you encountered in your business? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week the Divi 3.0

The new Divi 3.0 theme by Elegant Themes is a real game changer when it comes to website design. The new Visual Builder allows you to create and make changes to your website… on your actual website! Meaning you actually get to manipulate the website as you see it! Want to change some text, simply highlight it and type in the new text. Highlight and adjust the font and style as well. Don’t like where an element of the site is? Simply drag it to a new location. There’s no need to preview or refresh the page because all your changes happen in real time right on your page.

You can try out the new Divi 3.0 theme but visiting resourcefuldesigner.com/trydivi and for a limited time get 20% off any membership at Elegant Themes.

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

Aug 26, 2016
A Don't Do List For Your Graphic Design Business - RD043

Regain valuable time by creating a Don't Do List.

Every day we spend needless time on tasks, routines and distractions just because they've become habits. We also spend valuable time doing things just to please others. Even if it doesn't benefit us at all. If you take back some of that wasted time you'd be amazed at how much more efficient your business can be. That's where a Don't Do list comes in.

Let me ask you a question.

Imagine this fictional scenario; you are a busy graphic designer with multiple client projects on the go. You win a great proposal and are  awarded a new 40-hour project to complete within a tight deadline. Unfortunately, due to personal issues, you are only able to devote 4 hours per day to your business for the foreseeable future. What would you eliminate from your daily tasks and routines to make your life easier? What would you include on your Don't Do List?

Create a Don't Do List

By creating a Don't Do List for your graphic design business you are able to hold yourself accountable and take back some of your wasted time and put it to better use. In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I share 10 items that are on my own Don't Do List. Your list may look different and that's OK. Please share in the comments below what you would include on your Don't Do List.

My Don't Do List

For more details on each item in my list please listen to the podcast.

  1. Don't schedule client meetings in the morning.
  2. Don't look at email until I've done at least an hour of work in the morning.
  3. Don't treat emails from people I don't know as if they're urgent.
  4. Don't answer the phone or reply to text messages in the morning.
  5. Don't check my social media in the morning.
  6. Don't listen to music with words which could interfere with my creativity.
  7. Don't eat a sugary breakfast in the morning.
  8. Don't turn on the TV in the morning before work. (I'm bad at this one)
  9. Don't start my morning without already knowing what I'll be working on.
  10. Don't leave my email or social media programs open all day.
    Turn off Email and social media notifications.
    Set my mobile phone's do not disturb to end later in the morning.

What's on your Don't Do List?

Is there anything you would include on your Don't Do List that I don't have on mine? 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 Norman

I have a question about dealing with clients that refuse to pay, or extremely drag there feet. I Recently had a client who asked for a 3 page list of changes to her website, I believed there would be no issues as I had no issues with this client not paying in the past, however this list turned out to be an 11+ hr job which was the biggest bill I ever sent her. She received the invoice and said she mailed my check, So after hearing that, and in good faith based on our relationship thus far, I committed a cardinal web design sin, I uploaded the site changes BEFORE I actually received the check.

To make a long story short, the check never arrived, 1 week later, when asked about it she told me to meet her at her studio to pick up a new check and she would cancel the missing one. I showed up but she was nowere to be found, when I finally heard from her she gave me some lame excuse that she was in a meeting running late. So I sent her a digital invoice via PayPal that she could pay. She never replied so I sent her this message:

"Considering you told me that you would be able to meet me at 2 I expect the invoice to be paid by 2 or you can meet me somewhere closer in town with a check, either way if payment is not received by 2:30 today I will unfortunately have no choice but to take down the updates made to the site until payment has been received. Thank you for understanding"

She immediately wrote back a very long message filled with excuses and finger pointing, also saying that she would pay the invoice within a few minutes. 2:30 comes around and still no payment, I wait another hour to give her the benefit of the doubt, until at 3:30. When I still did not receive payment I removed the updates. It is now the following day and still no payment.

Did I do that right thing by following up and taking down the updates until I received payment or should I have given her more time or approached it differently?

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

Resource of the week is DepositPhotos

DepositPhotos is a great stock photography site that now offers reverse image search. No more struggles finding words to describe the right stock image; now you can show DepositPhotos what you want. Upload your photo to reverse image search, and get lots of similar high-res images to choose from.

You can either upload a picture from your computer or copy/paste the URL of a photo you saw online into the search bar. Reverse image search uses image recognition to analyse all components of the photo and provide similar image options in just a few seconds.

If this is something that interests you please check out DepositPhotos

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

Aug 12, 2016

If you don't want to do it, just say no.

As human beings, it's in our nature to want to please others. So when a client comes to us with a new graphic design project we have a desire to take it on even if it's not in our best interest. As a graphic designer, you have to determine if the project affects you in any negative way. If it does, just say no to it.

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I discuss the various reason, implications, and outcomes when you say no to graphic design work. Pless play on the podcast player to listen to the episode.

No is a complete sentence.

Why do we insist on coming up with excuses or feel the need to apologise when we say no? Saying no in itself is a complete sentence. There's no need to follow it with any form of reasoning to justify it.

"I'm too busy", "there isn't enough time", "I'm already committed to something else". These are some of the excuses we use when we say no. Why do we insist on justifying ourselves?

How do you say no?

It's harder to say no to existing clients for fear of losing them. However, if you've built a good relationship with your client like I discussed in episode 20, you have nothing to fear. In fact, your client will probably be the one afraid of losing you as their designer.

So saying no to an existing client is as simple as saying "thanks for thinking of me but I'm going to have to pass on this job". If they question you, be honest as to why. They'll appreciate you more for it.

When it comes to new clients, especially those that give you a bad vibe, simply say "Thank you for considering me but I won't be able to take on your project" and leave it at that. It's a polite way to just say no without any other explanation is required.

Say no to compromises.

At some point in your graphic design career, someone will ask you for discounts or possibly free work. In some cases, you'll agree but in most, you'll just say no.

  • Say no to discounted rates
  • Say no to haggling over prices
  • Say no to promised publicity for your business
  • Say no to promises of future work.

Just like a fancy restaurant won't serve you a $28 steak for half price just because you asked for it, or because you promise to recommend them to your friends. You shouldn't offer discounted prices for any promises from clients.

Family and Friends

I go into more detail in the podcast about family and friends, but keep in mind that just because you are close or related doesn't mean you can't say no to them as well.

Charities and Non-Profits

I share some tips and tricks for dealing with charities and non-profits you'll want to listen to but the main point to remember is most of these groups do have the budget to pay for your work. So don't feel bad when you say no to working for them for free.

Do you have any instances when you said no to a client?

I would love to hear your stories. Please leave 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 Deana

My question is about clients you don't want to work for. Lets say you know a client is difficult to work with, and they have come to you with a job request. How do you NOT take on that work? Do you tell them you are too busy? Refer them elsewhere?

This entire episode was devoted to answering questions like this one from Deana. Please listen to hear what I had to say.

Resource of the week Pencil and Paper

I know. A bit lame. But I'm always amazed by how many people don't use these simple instruments in their business. There's nothing like the feel of pencil on paper to get the creative juices flowing. Whether you are doodling, drawing out ideas, jotting down notes and reminders there are no easier tools to use.

Subscribe to the podcast

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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

Jul 29, 2016
Naming Your Graphic Design Business - RD041

Trouble naming your graphic design business?

Forget colours, forget logos, forget layouts, one of the hardest things you will face when starting out on your own, is naming your graphic design business.

Colours can be changed, logos can be updated, layouts can be tweaked, but your business name is something that will endure for the life of your business.

That's why it's so important to get it right the first time.

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast I go over the PROs and CONs of working under your own name vs. coming up with a unique business name. I talk about a lot of different considerations and problems that could arise when naming your graphic design business. I hope you find this episode helpful.

Here are a few of the things I covered in the podcast.

Naming your graphic design business with your own name

PROs

  • It makes you look more affordable
  • It makes you feel more transparent and approachable
  • People remember you and not a business
  • Your name is recognisable to people who know you
  • No worries about trademarks

CONs

  • Makes you seem less experienced
  • Can make you seem too approachable
  • Companies may treat you like an employee instead of a business contractor
  • Harder to grow or sell your business.

Naming your graphic design business with a business name

PROs

  • People are willing to accept higher prices from a business
  • It makes you seem more established
  • Allows for easier future growth
  • Easier to sell your business.

CONs

  • Less personal than using your own name
  • People automatically think you're more expensive
  • People don't remember your name
  • Can run into trademark or other legal issues.

Problems that could arise

Besides the PROs and CONs of naming your graphic design business with your name or a business name, there are other problems to consider.

  • Names that are hard to spell or pronounce
  • Common names; if they're too common you may get lost in the crowd.
  • Famous names; people may not take you seriously
  • Maiden names; may confuse people
  • Names with alternate meanings such as Wood, Steel, Silk.
  • Be wary of abbreviations and confusing acronyms

Inventing words when naming your graphic design business

  • Invented names don't mean anything so they are harder to remember.
  • Combining partner names may cause problems should the partnership ever end.

Other considerations when naming your graphic design business

  • Are there multiple ways to spell the name which could confuse people?
  • Are there silent letters that people might not notice?
  • Does the name or pronunciation have other meanings internationally?
  • Is the name future proof? (will it still be a good name 20 years from now?)
  • Is the name regional and will it impact clients decisions?

More things to consider

  • Is the name available? Do a registry and trademark search.
  • Are domain names and social media names available to match the business name?

Finally...

This is more my personal preference so take it as you will. But trying to get cute by changing the spelling of real words isn't always a good idea. Adding "Grafix" or something similar to your business name will just confuse people.

Don't forget...

There's nothing wrong with having a business registered under a business name and also running a side business under your own name. Some designers create multiple businesses in various niches to target certain clients.

Flaunt My Design has a fun questionnaire to help you determine what type of name to choose when naming your graphic design business.

Did I anything?

Did I miss anything when it comes to naming your graphic design business? If so please leave me a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

The podcast was a bit long this week so I didn't answer any questions. If you have something you would like to ask please submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week namechk.com

Use Namechk.com to see if your desired username or vanity url is still available at dozens of popular Social Networking and Social Bookmarking websites. Promote your brand consistently by registering a username that is still available on the majority of the most popular sites. Find the best username with Namechk.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
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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

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