Info

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!
RSS Feed
Resourceful Designer - Resources to help streamline your graphic design and web design business.
2018
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2015
December
November
October
September


All Episodes
Archives
Now displaying: Page 1
Jul 20, 2018

You can't grow your design business if you rationalize the value of what you do.

Most designers don’t get paid what they’re worth. The reason they don’t is that they rationalize the value of the service they provide. What I mean by this is they try to justify why they are charging the price they do for their designs by itemizing what’s involved in their creation process.

A logo will cost this amount of dollars because it will take me X hours of research, and another Y hours of development and finalization. Since my hourly rate is Z, the cost of the logo is (X+Y) x Z

Cost of design = hours invested X hourly rate.

This formula works for many designers and they're happy with running their business this way. But the problem with this scenario is you're trading time for money. Yes, it’s a tried and true method used across many industries. But it shouldn’t be used for design. Or at least it shouldn’t be the sole method of calculating what you charge your clients.

How much you earn running your graphic design business should not be related to how many hours you put in. It should be connected to the value you provide.

Face it; we live in a world where we assign a dollar amount to most services. A haircut costs this much. A cab ride downtown costs this much. Having your car serviced costs this much. But even simple things such as these have variations based on value.

My daughter changed her hair colour recently. It’s not the first time she’s changed the colour, but this time she decided to go to a different salon. One that charges almost double what her usual salon does. Why? Because the man running the new salon has a reputation for excellence and the perceived value of the service he provides is worth that much more to those who go there.

In the end, my daughter paid a much higher price for her new hair colour than she used to. She loves her new look and is getting compliments left and right so in her mind it was well worth it. It's a perceived value.

The same scenario applies to cars. When you have a problem with your vehicle you can take it to a privately owned garage, maybe a national chain such as a Walmart garage or you can have it serviced at the dealership.

From my experience, the dealership is always more expensive. But think of it from a value perspective. If you drive a Honda, who is more equipped and more knowledgeable about your car than the Honda dealership? That perceived value is why some people are willing to pay more to have their car serviced by the dealer.

What does this have to do with your design business?

The services you provide as a web designer or graphic designer are not commodities like haircuts or oil changes. There is no one price fits all. Or at least there shouldn’t be.

A logo for a local bricklayer should not cost the same as one for a regional airline because they bring different values to each client. The representation the logo brings to each client affects them each differently.

You may design a great logo for the bricklayer but what’s he going to do with it? Stick it on the side of his truck and his business cards. That may be it. Most of his work will come via word of mouth referrals and through contractors. What his logo looks like may not have that much impact on his business.

The airline, on the other hand, is going to showcase their logo on everything to bring awareness to their business. It will be on their planes, their building, their uniforms, their tickets, even on the cups and napkins they serve on their planes. And that’s not counting the vast marketing campaign they will use it on. Their logo will be displayed everywhere, and over time the logo you designed will come to represent an excellent, reliable airline, that offers quality flights with courteous, friendly staff. For that reason alone the airline’s logo should cost way more than the bricklayer’s logo.

It doesn’t matter that both logos took you the same amount of time to design. Their value is different. And yet many designers would still charge for both logos solely on the time they spent designing them.

When you start trying to rationalize what it is you do by focusing on things like time and effort, you lower the value of the service you provide. This rationalization devalues what design is all about.

Designing is all about vision. It’s about emotional impact. Giving a visual voice to what the design represents. It’s about problem-solving.

Both the bricklayer and airline needed a logo, but the problem that logo is solving for each company is vastly different.

Instead of rationalizing your pricing to your clients by explaining every little thing you are charging for, or how much time a project will take, you need to explain to your clients how they will benefit from your designs. How design is an investment and not just an expense. When done right and with proper focus, a well-implemented design can skyrocket a company’s growth. When explained this way, a client will begin to see the value you bring.

Will there be a backlash if you do this? Of course, there will be.

Some clients will counter with “You're crazy. I could have someone on Fiverr design my logo for a fraction of your price.”

Yes, they absolutely could. And what would they get back in return?  Maybe a hastily-designed image. Something that uses stock imagery and may or may not be similar to many other logos out there. There is one thing to be sure; it will fulfil their rationalized expectations of getting a logo for as cheap as possible.

What they won't get from places like Fiverr is the conviction a well thought out design generates. A design that represents their company’s voice, the tone they want to present to the world. Something that will truly represent them and everything their company does. they will be missing that value.

Don't rationalize the value of your designs.

As a professional designer, and that's what you are, it's your job to explain to your clients how that extra value goes beyond how much time it takes to design something. It's that overall value that you should be charging to your clients. The logo itself is only part of the overall picture it represents.

Show your clients the value you provide them. Show them how you are focusing on the desired outcome they want to achieve with the design and not just on the design itself. When you can successfully convey that message to your clients, they will stop questioning your prices. They’ll know that whatever they pay you is an investment they are making in their business and not simply a purchase.

If you want to grow your design business, you need to stop exchanging your time for money. Stop rationalizing value.

Do you agree or disagree?

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 Adam

I've recently quoted for a Web Design & Development job. After the project is finished, I've quoted a monthly fee that covers ongoing content updates and design consultation, plus domain, web hosting, and 7 custom email addresses.

The client is stating my price is a bit too high and is wondering how I "calculated" my price. I don't necessarily "calculate" my price numerically, but rather set it based on value to the client and what I believe my services are worth.

The client's mentioned that July-Dec is typically quite slow for content updates, and so, would like to see a reduced price for the 2nd half of the year.

What do you think? Any suggestions are appreciated.

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

Resource of the week resource name

Resource Description

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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 13, 2018

Avoid these 10 things to grow your design business.

To run a home-based freelance design business you need to know what to do for it to succeed. You also need to know what to avoid doing so as not to fail.

You’ve done it. You’re running your own design business. It’s a fantastic feeling, isn't it? The freedom and the power it brings you. The counterweight is the responsibility and pressures you face because everything is now on your shoulders. When done right, running your own business can be the most satisfying occupation there is. Just ask any successful entrepreneur. But if things go wrong, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

When it comes to starting a home-based freelance design business, most people research how to go about starting one. They read up on the things they need to get. They make lists upon lists of what they need to do to give themselves the best chance of success. That’s how you should do it.

However, what often happens along the way is you pick up bad habits that can affect you and your business negatively.

Here are 10 things you need to avoid while running your freelance design business.

1) Avoid Slacking Off

One of the most significant obstacles to overcome when running your own design business is the illusion of the freedom it brings.

Don’t get me wrong. Setting your hours and taking time off whenever you want without having to ask for permission is a definite perk when it comes to freelancing.

However, I said the illusion of freedom for a reason. Freelancing doesn’t mean fewer hours and less stress. It’s the opposite in fact. You are running a business on top of designing for your clients. That doubles your responsibilities. This holds especially true for new businesses. You may find your social life suffering as you devote countless hours to get things off the ground.

Avoid slacking off.

2) Avoid A Lack Of Direction

Maybe running your own home-based design business was always your dream. Perhaps you ended up here unexpectedly through lack of employment. Regardless of why you are doing it, you need to have goals if you want to succeed.

What do you want to accomplish with your business? Do you want to conquer a particular niche? Do you want to become known for a specific skill?

It’s nice to have design work that pays the bills, but if you don’t have goals and you don’t push yourself towards those goals, you will not improve as a designer.

As a design professional, you should have a mindset that design can change the world. Set goals to grow your business and to grow as a designer and don’t get left behind.

Avoid a lack of direction.

3) Avoid Isolating Yourself From Other Designers

As a freelance designer, you spend a lot of time by yourself, sitting in front of your computer designing amazing things for your clients. But how do you expect to improve as a designer if you’re not communicating with other designers? There’s only so much you can learn from articles, videos and yes, even podcasts. You need people you can bounce ideas off of and get real criticism from. People who are not afraid to tell you when you’re going in the wrong direction.

Clients don't count. Sure clients give you valuable feedback on what you’re doing. But they will never be able to view your work with the critical eye you need to improve your skills as a designer and business person.

I’m talking about your peers. Other designers. People who not only understand what it is you do but how you do it. People in the same trenches as you. One of the biggest mistakes Freelancers make is not keeping in touch with other designers.

Find people to discuss design ideas with, to get critiques from, to solicit business advice. The more designers you are in contact with the more you'll grow.

Avoid isolating yourself from other designers.

4) Avoid Being Exploited

One of the problems of running a home-based design business is that many people don't see it as a real business. They imagine you as an unemployed designer who sits at home binge-watching Netflix and occasionally designing something whenever someone calls upon you. To them, it’s like designing has become your hobby and you’re lucky enough that some people pay you for it.

Because of this perception, friends, family and acquaintances may ask you to design for them as a favour. If they do offer to pay you, it's rarely what you merit. After all, you're not doing anything, and it shouldn’t take you long. Plus, they’ll help you out by spreading the word of what a great designer you are. Maybe they're hoping this exposure will lead to employment for you. Don’t fall for it.

Sure it’s OK to design your sister’s baby announcement cards as a gift. But if your brother, your uncle joe or your old college roommate asks you to design a logo for a new business, they need to pay you. Give them a discount if you want, but let them know you’re not at their beckon call. You are running a business, and they will treat them as clients.

Not sure where to draw the line? Look at it this way. If they are asking you to design something that could directly or indirectly bring in money for them, and this includes charities raising funds, then they should pay you for your services.

Avoid being exploited.

5) Avoid Being Under Paid

Another issue when starting your own design business is not knowing how much to charge. In most cases, designers undersell themselves and it ends up hurting them and the industry as a whole.

Even if you are a new designer fresh out of school, your skills and knowledge are still valuable. Seek the compensation you deserve. Find out what other designers and design studios in your area are charging and try to fit in line with them.

Remember, it takes a lot less effort to land one $60 per hour client than it does to land four $15 per hour clients.

Avoid being underpaid.

6) Avoid Taking On Every Project

It’s human nature to want to please others. When a new client comes along or an existing client has a new project for you. You welcome them with open arms.

This gimme, gimme, gimme attitude is great when you are just starting out and can use all the work you can get. But as you grow and take on more clients and more work you will realise that not every client or design project is a good fit for you.

You need to be comfortable turning down work. It may sound like a foreign concept to you, but you need to determine if the project offered is right for you or not. If it isn’t then it’s OK for you to turn the job down.

Avoid taking on every project.

7) Avoid Rushing

As a home-based designer working by yourself things can get stressful when jobs start to pile up. Instincts will tell you to pump out as much as you can to lighten the load. But in doing so, you are compromising your creativity.

Design concepts take time to germinate. The more time you take thinking about them, the more variations will come and go from your mind helping you narrow down your focus and creating the perfect solution to the problem.

To allow yourself the time needed to do the job properly you could always pad the timeframe you tell a client. If you think a project will take you three days, tell them it will take five. It will allow you extra time if you need it. And If you complete it within three days, your clients will appreciate you even more.

Yes, there will be projects you will need to do in a short time. But remember episode 71 of the podcast titled Good Design, Quick Design, Cheap Design, Pick Two? If you rush a project, you are either producing sub-par work, or you need to make sure you are being compensated financially for the extra burden of turning a job around quickly.

Your best bet, avoid rushing.

8) Avoid Being Over Accessible

Unlike traditional 9-5 jobs, home-based designers are almost always home. That knowledge will often lead to clients expecting you to be available whenever they need you regardless of the time or day. It’s OK if you want to work evenings and weekends but do you want clients reaching out and expecting replies during those times?

You need to set boundaries from the start. Let clients know when they can contact you and how they can contact you. If you have a business phone, it’s not OK for clients to contact you on your home phone. Same goes for email. Clients should not be contacting you on your personal email.

Remember, this is your business. Your clients are just that, clients. You work on your terms, and you get to decide when it’s appropriate for clients to communicate with you and how clients should contact you.

Avoid being over accessible.

9) Avoid Overworking

At the top of this article, I talked about how you should avoid slacking off. The opposite is true as well. Without the regiment of a 9-5 job, many freelancers or home-based designers tend to overwork themselves, working more extended hours than an agency or in-house designer.

Working long hours adds extra stress and could compromise your creativity and lead to burnout. You need to step away from work on a regular basis. A healthy social life is vital if you want to be a happy and healthy designer.

Enjoy your evenings and weekends. Spend time with family and friends. Separating your work and private life will help both your business life and personal life success.

Boost your motivation and avoid overworking.

10) Avoid The Status Quo

Designers by nature are critical people, and I presume you are no different. You never settle for what is good enough when you know you can do better. It’s what makes you great at what you do and It’s the the reason clients keep coming back to you.

You are a problem solver. But the key thing to remember is that problems are not always correctly defined. Meaning the problem a client comes to you with may not be the actual problem they are trying to address.

A client may tell you they want more visitors to their website when in fact the problem is they need better visitors to their site. There are two options for every design problem presented to you. Give the client what they want, or give the client what they need.

Giving the client what they want is the easy route, but it doesn’t help you stand out from all the other designers out there. By digging deeper and giving the client what they need you will be making a name for yourself which will help the success of your business.

Question every design problem you face and see if there’s something more you can provide. Don’t limit yourself by just following orders and following the briefing word for word. Running your own home-based design business opens up a whole world of possibilities for you.

Take advantage of your position and avoid the status quo.

Are there other things you should avoid while running your design business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

My mailbag is empty, so there is no question of the week this week. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week Daily Logo Challenge

Like the title says, each day Daily Logo Challenge send you an email with a fun new logo design challenge for you to try. These are not real projects. These challenges are to inspire you and expand your abilities as a designer. You can share your design for community feedback to help you grow as a designer. Signing up at https://www.dailylogochallenge.com will get you 50 days of design briefs.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Jun 29, 2018

When Life Interferes With Your Design Business

Running a home-based design business is the best thing any designer could do. At least that’s my opinion, but I could be biased since I’ve been doing it for over 13 years now and I love what I do. But running a home-based design business does have its drawbacks. Such as when life interferes with your plans.

Running a home-based design business is great. You can set your hours and work as much or as little as you want. You decide how much you want to charge and if you wish to charge by the hour or by the job. You also get to choose what clients you want to work with or not. Meaning you have the option of turning down any jobs that don't interest you.

Plus, you have nobody to answer to since you work from home all by yourself. OK, you have to answer to your clients. But at least you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck to get the job out, or else. Yup, being a home-based designer is great.

However, there is one major drawback to running a home-based design business. And that’s when life interferes.

Life has a way of messing with you in unexpected ways. Some days are good, some are bad, and some can send you into a panic. I'm talking about the latter one. When life throws something in your path that grinds your design business to a halt. I'm talking about sickness, accidents, family emergencies, even death. There are also grand scale emergencies like natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes or earthquakes. And don't forget uncontrolled events such as power outages or having your equipment stolen.

All of these can have a negative impact on your design business.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything that affects your business is a bad thing. Marriages, births, vacations, etc. also affect your business. Life interferes, and the status quo of your business changes.

So what can you do when life interferes with your design business?

Prepare for expected breaks

In some cases, such as vacations, marriages, births (to some extent) and even things like surgeries can all be scheduled. Advanced knowledge of these events gives you an opportunity to prepare for the time your business is affected. In some cases, your business may be shut down for a few days, but it could also be affected for several weeks or months.

When you know a break is coming, you should warn your clients well in advance of these shutdowns.

To help ease the pressure, you can try to get things done before your time off. Or you can tell your clients you cannot work on their project until after a specific date.

I never start any new projects during the two weeks leading up to a break. This buffer could cause problems for some clients, but you'll have to live with your choice. Yes, you may lose some work because of it. But that’s life.

Prepare for unexpected breaks

What do you do when life interferes with your business in unexpected ways?

First things first, when life interferes in an unexpected way, notify your clients. They will understand. No client will respond with  “sorry about the death in your family, but I have this job I need you to finish by Thursday, can you handle it?”. Your clients knew you were a home-based designer when they hired you. They knew the benefits of working with you also came with some risks. One of those risks is the possibility of you needing unexpected time off.

There may be deadlines, and yes, you may feel bad about missing them, but you might be surprised how many deadlines you can miss without any ill effects. Unless there’s a firm date in place, such as for scheduled events most deadlines have flexibility built into them.

Once you’ve notified your clients, try to figure out if there’s anything you can do. Maybe it’s providing a list of compatible designers your clients can use in your absence.

In cases of natural disasters or equipment failure, you could try and find ways to get back up and running while trying to minimise your time away. Even if it’s merely so you can get the most pressing things done?

Get Help from other designers

If you are running a studio as I talked about in episode 125, you may have people on your team that can handle the work for you. If you don’t have contractors in place, you may need to turn to a friend or colleague and see if they can take on some of your work while you are incapable.

There’s always a risk any time you direct a client to a new designer. The client may like the other designer and decide to stick with them. You’ll have to take that risk and rely on the relationship you’ve built up with your client to bring them back.

If you are worried, you could try to minimise the risk with a contract between you and the other designer saying they will not poach your clients. But if you’re in a pinch due to some emergency situation, worrying about a contract is the last thing you want to be doing.

Besides, chances are if your client realises they like working with a different designer better than you, there’s not much you can do about it.

Long-term hiatuses

In the worst scenarios, you may have to scale back or shut down your design business for an indefinite amount of time.

Sometimes, when life interferes, the only option is to accept it. There’s nothing wrong with shutting down your business and wishing all your clients well.

If your situation eventually changes you can always start up again. You built up your design business once. There’s nothing stopping you from doing it again.

Life is unpredictable.

I don’t want to sound negative, but part of life is dealing with things outside our control. How you deal with those situations, and how you come out the other side will determine your success in life. Don’t worry if you have to shut down your design business for a few days, weeks, months or even longer when life interferes. You’re a designer; I’m sure you’ll find creative ways to make it through.

Have you ever had to close your business unexpectedly?

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 Ken

I love listening to your podcast on my way to work, a lot of the topics have been really intriguing. I have always had an interest in the arts and I recently started my own design business in December designing Print Templates. I love the idea of design consulting and helping people not just make pretty designs but help their entire business using design but I'm not even sure how to really get started with finding clients. Also, in yours and other podcasts I always hear that you have to educate your clients on the importance of design, but just getting started in this kind of business I'm not sure everything to say. Can you give me some kind of idea what some of these conversations look like? Thank you for your time!

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

Resource of the week Google Data Studio (beta)

Google Data Studio (beta) turns your analytics data into informative dashboards and reports that are easy to read, easy to share, and fully customizable. Dashboarding allows you to tell great data stories to support better business decisions. Create unlimited Data Studio custom reports with full editing and sharing.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Jun 22, 2018

Freelancer or Design Studio, which is best for your home-based business?

I talk a lot on the Resourceful Designer podcast about running a home-based design business. In fact, it’s why I started the podcast in the first place. Like my catchphrase says, I’m doing this to help designers like you streamline your business so you can get back to what you do best, designing.

I’ve covered many topics in the previous 124 episodes over the past few years. Things like pricing strategies, attracting new clients, coping with the isolation when working from home and many more. However, I’ve never talked about what options you have in the type of design business you run.

Deciding what type of home-based business you run is important because the direction you take could determine the kind of clients you attract and the growth of your design business. Including how much money you can potentially make.

The options I’m talking about are whether you define yourself as a Freelancer or Design Studio.

There is a third option available, a Design Agency. The reason I’m omitting Design Agency is that by definition, a Design Agency is made up of several people, all with different talents working on all aspects of client projects and usually all working under one roof. Perhaps you fit that category, but as I stated earlier, Resourceful Designer was created to help home-based designers, and I don’t think many home-based designers run agencies.

That leaves two options, Freelancer or Design Studio

Calling yourself a Freelancer

According to dictionary.com, a Freelancer is a person who sells work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer. Cambridge Dictionary defines Freelancer as someone who works on different projects with different companies instead of being a company employee. And finally, Merriam-Webster says a Freelancer is a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer

I’ve never called myself a Freelancer. I’ve always found the term derogatory and noncommital. I always viewed the term as a kind of fly-by-night thing where the client will never be sure if the Freelancer will be there for them. Remember the Merriam-Webster definition was someone who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment.

Not to mention my business is registered, so in a roundabout way, I can say that I’m an employee of my own company, therefore, as an employee, I cannot be a Freelancer. But that’s neither here nor there. For this article, a Freelancer is merely a one-man band when it comes to design services.

As a Freelancer, you are everything from an art director, to a designer, to a coder, to handling accounts receivable and payable, etc. You do it all, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

When I first started my own home-based design business, I did precisely that. I handled everything. I was a one-man band. And if I didn't think I could do something in a project, I didn’t take on the job.

Defining yourself as a Freelancer, meaning it’s just you, limits the type of clients you can take on by the skills and services you offer. If you’re not a web designer, you don’t take on web clients and vice versa. Freelancers tend to attract smaller clients such as Start-Ups or the "quick" clients. Those who call you up and need something done this week, or worse yet, they need it tomorrow.

The average freelance designer takes on clients and jobs in the $500-$5000 range.

Calling yourself a Design Studio

Remember above when I said a Design Agency is made up of multiple people working together under one roof? A Design Studio is similar to an agency in that is offers a wide variety of skills and services, but some of those skills and services come from third-party contractors.

As a Design Studio, you still run your home-based design business like a Freelancer does, however, rather than offering a full range of services under one roof like an agency, you subcontract the parts of a project that you can’t or don’t want to handle yourself. Things like photography, coding, copywriting, illustration, etc. Being a Desing Studio allows you to take on larger clients with more significant projects and spread out the work to get jobs done more efficiently.

With a Design Studio, everything is processed through your business and clients deal directly with you instead of dealing with multiple businesses. You take on the role of art director and manage the subcontractors working on the projects with you.

Design Studios tend to attract small to mid-sized companies as clients. Companies that may have a marketing department but don’t have an in-house creative team. The Design Studio acts as their creative team.

Clients seeking Design Studios often have budgets ranging from $5,000-$20,000 or more.

Freelancer or Design Studio, what’s right for you?

Choosing between a Freelancer or Design Studio is a matter of choice. The difference between the two is your willingness to work with subcontractors to complete design projects. Neither Freelancer or Design Studio is a more favourable choice.

I ran my business as a Freelancer (even though I don’t use that term) for several years before switching models and redefining as a Design Studio. I still do most design work myself. But I now have a list of illustrators, copywriters, coders, etc. that I can call upon should I need their skills and talents for a project.

I don't suggest one option as being better for you over the other. It’s entirely up to you how you run your business. If you’re fresh out of school or still new to the industry, maybe you want to work as a Freelancer for a while until you get the hang of things. Perhaps you don’t want the extra responsibilities of overseeing subcontractors. That’s OK. Many designers spend their entire career working as Freelancers.

If you are comfortable handling larger projects and directing various people to complete specific tasks then maybe a Design Studio is right for you.

This article is simply to give you an idea of what’s possible depending on how you define what you do. So are you a Freelancer or a Design Studio?

Do you consider yourself a Freelancer or Design Studio?

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 Allison

Hello, I love your podcast and have enjoyed getting some great advice on my freelance business from it. I was wondering if you had any recommendations for font subscriptions. Fonts are so expensive, I don't know how designers can afford to purchase so many unique fonts and was wondering if a font subscription would be the way to go.

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

Resource of the week Sharpen.design

This week's resource was shared with me by Resourceful Designer listener Naomi. It's the website https://sharpen.design. Sharpen.design produces random design prompts to challenge you to think outside the box. With over a million possibilities you are sure to find an interesting project you can tackle to grow your skills and portfolio. This website is an excellent resource for students or anyone new to the design industry who needs ideas of what they can design. Give it a try.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Jun 8, 2018

Referral Partners 10 People to get Design Referrals From

It's confusing for wannabe entrepreneurs to start a business. Their confusion creates an excellent opportunity for you, as a designer to team up with referral partners and not only help these entrepreneurs get started, but it also helps grow your and your referral partners' businesses.

Starting a business is a daunting task. You don't just get out of bed one morning and think to yourself “What should I do today? I know, I’ll start a business.” That's not how it works. There are so many steps involved in starting a business that it’s difficult to know where to start. That’s why most people wanting to start a new business seek guidance, help and advice in their endeavour.

Since there’s no Start Here button to push whenever someone wants to start a business, that guidance, help and advice they seek out can come from anywhere and anyone, including you, their designer. If you want to help these new entrepreneurs to the best of your ability you should have referral partners that can lend a hand.

What is a referral partner?

A Referral Partner is as simple as it sounds. It’s partners that refer to each other. If someone comes to you for advice on starting a business, you refer them to the partner that would best help them, and vice versa, whenever someone goes to one of your partners, and they require design services, your partner refers them to you. That's all there is to it.

Choosing your referral partners.

A referral partner should be someone integral in the development of new businesses that complement what you do as a designer. Here is a list of 10 people you should approach to become referral partners.

Industry suppliers

Industry suppliers include printers, sign makers, vehicle wrappers, and anyone else within your industry but who don't compete with you for design. When a new startup hires you to design their new logo, you can refer them to these people to get the rest of their branding and marketing material produced.

When a client contacts one of these partners asking about their services, the partner can send the client your way for design and web work.

Lawyers

A lawyer may be the first person contacted when someone is thinking of starting a business. Partner with them and they can refer these new business people your way. When a new client comes to you at the start of their business journey you could recommend them to the lawyer.

Accountants

Just like a lawyer, some people will talk to their accountants before deciding on a course of action for their business. Team up with one and send clients both ways.

Financial Institutions

Financial institutions include banks, credit unions, financial advisors, money lenders, venture capitalists or anyone involved with financing business. Financial institutions make great partners.

Local business offices

Most places require businesses to register their name, obtain a license, submit a business plan etc. Partner with these places to get more clients.

Chamber of Commerce

Most communities have a Chamber of Commerce. They make great referral partners. You may have to become a member to partner with them, but it's well worth the cost to gain more clients.

Local business groups

Municipalities often have private business groups made up of local business people that handle specific areas of a community. For example, a Downtown Business Group, or Waterfront Business Group. Contact these groups and ask them to refer any new businesses in their area to you.

Commercial real estate agents

Partner up with commercial real estate agents and send growing clients their way when they need to expand and ask them to refer similar businesses back to you.

Business schools

Contact local schools to see if they offer business classes or workshops for new entrepreneurs. Ask to speak to the class about the importance of good branding. You can also ask them to refer students your way.

Unions

Approach Union offices and ask them to refer any union members who are thinking of starting a business.

How to reach out to referral partners

Becoming a referral partner with someone is easy. Send them an email or better yet drop in and talk to them. Explain the mutual benefit. How from time to time your clients ask for advice that they would be better-suited providing and you could refer your clients to them. In exchange, when they have a client that is in need of design services you would appreciate them giving out your name. It’s that easy.

You can have more than one referral partner in an industry

It’s ok to be referral partners with multiple people in the same industry. Give your clients various options when referring them to someone. Be sure to tell your client to mention you, so your referral partner knows the client came from you.

You should also send an email to your referral partner letting them know that you gave their name to someone. That way your partner will know you are helping them out even if the client never contacts them.

Have you ever partnered with someone for referrals?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Joshua

Hey Mark, I have recently found your podcast, and love listening to it, it awnsers any and all questions that I thought I had and didn't even know I had. However I have yet to start freelancing, for I am still in school, I'm a junior in a graphic design program In the states, and am very weary on how I should start freelancing. In your opinion should I wait to finish school to start freelancing, or should I just go ahead and start? This is something I have thought about for a while, but still am 50/50 on wether or not I should.

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

Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost

I put this guide together in the hopes to encourage you to look at your brand and image. The daily tasks in my guide require only 15-30 minute of your time and focus on the parts of your marketing material that are often overlooked or neglected. After completing this four-week plan you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

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

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

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Jun 1, 2018

Using Google AdWords to Attract Design Clients

Any time designers get together in person or online on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Reddit, you’re sure to hear someone ask how to attract more clients. It’s one of, if not the most significant problem faced by designers.

Without clients, your business fails. It doesn’t matter how good a designer you are if you don’t have people paying for your services your business will not survive.

There are many ways you can attract new clients. Last week I shared 12 inexpensive ways for you to promote your design business. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post where I shared 10 proven ways to attract design clients. All methods I’ve used myself to gain clients.

Today I want to talk about a great way to attract clients that for some reason, not many graphic designers or web designers are taking advantage of. Google AdWords.

How do clients find you?

Ask most designers, and they will tell you the number one way they gain new clients is through word of mouth referrals. Referrals are great. But what if you don’t have a large catalogue of clients advocating for your business? Let's look at it from a client's perspective.

Let's say you need a plumber. Who will you call? Your first choice would be to call a plumber you know, or at least one you've heard of before. Your Second choice would be to ask family, friends, co-workers and associates who they would recommend. That’s the referral part. If it doesn’t work, you would probably turn to a search engine and look for plumbers in your area.

Design clients do the same thing. They contact a designer they know or have heard of before. That’s where brand awareness comes in. Second, they ask family, friends, colleagues, associates etc. That’s where referrals come in. But when that fails, clients will turn to the internet and search for a designer online. And chances are they will formulate their search to look for someone in their local area.

That last part is a huge benefit for you, especially if you are using Google AdWords to get in front of them.

If you’re already familiar with how AdWords works, you’re probably nodding your head right now in agreement with me, but I’m going to continue with the assumption that you are not familiar with Google AdWords. Forgive me if I'm wrong.

For the record, Yahoo and Bing also have similar advertising platforms, but since the majority of people use Google, I’m going to concentrate on it.

So how does Google AdWords work for attracting design clients? Let me break it down into the simplest terms using only three steps,

  1. You figure out what keywords people are searching.
  2. You create an ad that Google puts in front of people actively searching for those keywords.
  3. You pay Google for the people that click on your ads.

That’s all there is to it. The best part about Google AdWords is you only pay when your ads are working, and people engage with them. If they don't click, you don't pay.

Now of course, “when your ads are working” is a relative term. In this case, it means when people click on your ad. Whether or not they become a client after clicking on your ad is not Google’s concern.

A deeper dive into AdWords.

I won't go into the technical nitty gritty of setting up a successful AdWords campaign. There are plenty of other resources where you can learn the ins and outs of fine-tuning your ad campaign to get the most bang for your buck.

I will, however, elaborate on the three steps I mentioned above.

Create an AdWords Account

The first step is creating a free AdWords account and telling Google how to charge you for your ads. They have to make their money after all.

Once your account set up, you can create your first ad campaign by choosing the type of ads you want to run. There are several options, but in my opinion Search Ads are the best ones for attracting new design clients.

Next, you select the campaign type. I suggest you choose website traffic and don’t include Google Search Partners or the Ad Display Network. Both are good for driving traffic to a product or resource, but your goal is to attract clients.

Set up the delivery

What makes Google AdWords such a valuable marketing tool is the ability to pick the geographic location where your ads will appear. If you live in Cleaveland Ohio, you can set up your campaign so that only people in Cleaveland will see it.

There are several reasons to limit your search to particular geographic regions. Top among them is the amount of competition you face the broader your target area. If you set your campaign to all of the USA you are competing with every other designer across the whole country. It is possible to win in that scenario, but since a kind of bidding/auction system is used to determine ad placement, it could get costly.

Of course, there's a lot more to the whole thing that I'm not getting into which is why I suggest you take an AdWords course before starting. But basically, targetting an entire country is just too difficult for someone just starting out.

By narrowing down your geographic area, you are narrowing down who you are competing with and the effort required to get your ads in front of potential clients.

Set your budget

You need to set a budget for your ad campaign. It can be as high or as low as you want. There are several options for choosing how to invest your money in your campaign. What I suggest is using the standard delivery method since it gives you better analytical data on your ads.

For the bidding method. I suggest Clicks over Views. With Clicks, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad whereas with Views you get charged every time your ad is displayed regardless of whether or not someone interacts with it.

The final part of setting your budget is choosing a start and end dates of your campaign. I suggest starting out with short campaigns until you get the hang of it.

Choose your keywords.

Choosing keywords is the fun part. You get to decide what keywords you want to target with your ads. These are the words you think people will type into the search engine to find you.

Start off with common sense terms like;

  • web design
  • website design
  • web designer
  • logo design
  • logo designer
  • etc.

You can narrow down your keywords even further by adding a location such as "web designer Cleveland."

Choosing keywords is easy, choosing the right keywords is a bit more tricky. Targetting "website designer" may bring you a lot more traffic than "web designer" or vice versa. There are tools to research what keywords are more popular than others, or how often specific keywords are searched. Google’s Keyword Planner is a popular free one. I use software called Long Tail Pro for my keyword research.

Create your ads

Finally, you need to create your ads. There is an option to create banner style ads, but for finding design clients, all you need is standard search results ads. These show up as the first few listings when you do a Google search. They have a small [Ad] next to them.

Then it's just a matter of choosing the right title and wording to attract clients to your site, launching your campaign and waiting for clients to come calling.

How to get the most out of Google AdWords.

Google AdWords is very easy to learn. However, there is a learning curve if you want to get good at it and not end up wasting money. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your AdWords campaign.

1) Build landing pages.

AdWords campaigns work best when linked to a dedicated landing page and not your home page. Google give each ad a rank that helps determine it's placement (along with other factors) vs the competition. The page your ad is linked to plays a significant factor in your ad rank score. If your ad is for logo design. Make sure it’s linked to a landing page that is just about logo design.

2) Study what your competitors are doing

Figure out what keywords your competitors are targeting and what ads they are displaying and try and outdo them. Keyword tools like the one by Google can help you figure out the best keywords to target, but they also allow you to enter a competitor’s URL and see what keywords they are targetting.

3) Split test

Google AdWords is not a set it and forget it system. You should study the performance of your ads and adjust things on the go. If you are getting a lot of traction with the keyword “web design” but not much with “website design” then you should adjust your campaign to push more of your budget towards the keyword that is performing better. Split testing ads for a single keyword also works well in figuring out which ad copy is earning more clicks.

4) Link your Google AdWords and Google Analytics Accounts.

AdWords has some excellent tracking info, but it only tells you what happened with your ad up until the point it is clicked. By linking your Google Analytics account to your AdWords account, you can follow along and see what happens after your ad is clicked.

5) Start small and grow as you get more comfortable creating ad campaigns.

Although AdWords is easy to learn, there are a lot of things that influence the success or failure of an ad campaign. Until you are comfortable, I suggest setting short campaigns and starting with a low budget until you learn the nuances of the platform.

"Hacking" Google AdWords

I mentioned above that one of the best things about Google AdWords is the ability to target geographic areas because it narrows down the competition. But what if you live in a large metropolitan area with lots of competition? In my example, I used Cleveland Ohio. Let's say there's a lot of competition for web designers in Cleveland and the cost of running your AdWords campaign is getting high. Nothing is stopping you from targeting other areas instead.

There are plenty of smaller areas around Cleveland that you could target. Places like Bedford Heights, Euclid, Olmstead Falls, and others. Nothing is stopping you from choosing keywords targetting those smaller communities. Chances are the competition will be much lower so your budget will go much farther and clients there shouldn't be opposed to working with a web designer in Cleveland.

And the best part is if it doesn’t work out and nobody clicks on your ads, it doesn’t cost you a cent.

Give Google AdWords at try

So many designers are struggling to find design clients, and yet this inexpensive way to target exactly the people you want to work with is at your disposal. It doesn't matter where in the world you are; Google AdWords can help you attract design clients because it's putting your ads directly in front of the people actively looking for your services.

If you are not already taking advantage of search engine advertising, I highly suggest you look into it soon.

What is your experience with online advertising to attract design clients?

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 Shaun

Hi Mark. Only started listening to your podcast recently, I really enjoy listening. You give us some really good advice and it sounds like you really enjoy your job and lifestyle. keep up the good work!

I am from South Africa and I am currently working for the government as a Graphic Designer, work is very repetitive and boring. I am stagnating at the moment and would like to make a move...I am thinking about freelancing on the side. I am currently busy learning app development. I heard you mention 99 designs and am currently doing some designs...I feel like I am lacking in creativity and skill. But this wont get me down...

What would you suggest for someone that is in a creative rut? any exercises that one can do? to get back on the horse?

Just wanted to say Thank you for your advice and what you are doing. Keep it up!

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

Resource of the week BackupBuddy Deployment

With BackupBuddy’s Deployment feature, you can push or pull a WordPress site’s database, media files, plugins and active theme back and forth between a Staging Site (or Test/Development Site) and a Live Site. BackupBuddy allows you to develop on one site and then push changes to another, so you never have to develop on a live site again.

Deployment now supports setting the deployed site’s Search Engine Visibility option to either visible, not visible, or no change. A default for this setting can be set in the Deployment settings.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

May 25, 2018

You need to promote your design business if you want it to grow.

Just like any other endeavour, if you don't promote your design business you are drastically impeeding its chance to grow. It's called brand recognition, which you being a designer should know. The idea is that when someone is in need of a service, you offer, there's a good chance they will choose to work with someone they know, or at least someone they've heard of. It's up to you to get your name out there so that the "someone they've heard of" is you.

I've put together a list of 12 inexpensive or free ways you can promote your design business. I go into much more detail on each one in the podcast. Be sure to listen for the full story.

12 Inexpensive (or free) ways to promote your design business.

Newsletters/Bulletins

Many organizations, service clubs, churches, charities and such put out electronic or printed newsletters or bulletins for members and followers. If you belong to any such organization, you should reach out to them about advertising your business in their newsletter or bulletin. Most organizations would be happy to promote a member for a small fee. Recipients of these newsletters and bulletins are often inclined to support fellow members and use your services when needed.

Sponsor a Team or Club

Local sports teams and clubs are often looking for donations to fund their events. In exchange, your business name becomes associated with the team or club and is mentioned along with them in news articles. By sponsoring a team or club, you are not only helping your community, but you are spreading the word about your business and the goodwill associated with your donation.

As an added benefit, some teams or clubs will offer you a tax receipt so you can write off the donation as a business expense.

Promotional Events

Businesses, non-profits, charities, and organizations will often put on an event attracting a gathering of people. These events often include draws, prizes, giveaways or some other form of incentives for attendees. Offer a discount or coupon towards your services to be included amongst the incentives. For example; offer a free business card layout design with every logo design project or one year of free website hosting with every website project.

Silent Auctions

Similar to promotional events, silent auctions are a way for an organization to raise funds. Most items in a silent auction are provided by local businesses. Offer a coupon towards a service you offer showing the value of the offer. For example, $300 off design services or a free year of web hosting (a $xxx value). The people who bid on your service are people who are in need of your help. Those who don't bid will at least see your item in the auction and hopefully remember your brand should they ever need it.

Business Card Boards

Have you ever been to an establishment that has a board or wall filled with peoples business cards? Why not add your own. It doesn't cost you anything, and if someone who requires your services spots your card, there's a good chance they contact you.

Wear a T-Shirt Promoting Your Services

When I first started my business, I had a T-Shirt made that said "Hi, I'm a web designer. Is your website working for you?". I wore that shirt everywhere potential clients might be. I was amazed how many people approached me with questions about their website or asking about my services. Many become clients. If you want to try this yourself, I created a couple of T-Shirts you can purchase at http://resourcefuldesigner.com/tshirt

Claim Your Online Local Listings

If you haven't done so already, you should claim your free local business listing on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Places for Business. Sign up and be found in your local areal. Warning, you have to enter an address to claim your listing. If you work from home, you may want to think twice before proceeding unless you have a separate business address you can use.

Community Sites and Local Directories

Search for online directories in your area to list your business. Some such as your local Chamber of Commerce business directory may require a membership but other directories, such as your local municipality may be free.

Car Magnets

If you use your vehicle for both business and personal use, you may not want permanent signage affixed to it. Car Magnets are a great way to promote your business while out on business errands and are easily removable during your time out with family and friends.

Press Releases

Sending out press releases is a great way to get free promotion for your business. Send out a press release any time you or your business does something newsworthy. Have you won an award? Are you offering a new service? Have you been involved in promoting some local event or charity? Send out a press release every time you have news to spread. News outlets may not publish every press release you send out, but those they do will be free promotion for your business.

Run a Workshop

You are a professional designer. As a professional designer, you have knowledge and skills most people don't. Run a workshop in your area teaching local business owners information they can use to improve their businesses.

Contact your local library, College, Chamber of Commerce, Business Service Center or Economic Development Center and ask to put on a workshop covering your expertise. Reach out to business networking groups. They are always looking for people to talk at their meetings.

Present at your local College

Many colleges and adult learning institutes offer entrepreneurial and business startup courses. Contact them and ask to present to the class the benefits of proper branding or having a well-built website. Most of the students attending these classes could become future clients.

Promoting your design business

There are thousands, if not millions of ways to promote your design business. The idea I wanted to share with you is that it's important to get your name out there. People may not need your services right now but should they in the future there is a greater chance of them turning to someone they are familiar with. Let that someone be you.

How do you promote your 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 Silas

I noticed your resource section is full of very powerful tools, but just about all of them are way out of my price range as a recent graduate. Is there anyway you can suggest some free tools? For example, I went out to find an alternative to Suitcase Fusion because as much as I loved it, it was not in my budget. I found a program called FontBase for free that works similarly.

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

Resource of the week Enlarge an image without losing quality

From time to time you may need to enlarge an image in Adobe Photoshop beyond what is considered good practice. There are many third party options to do this but most cost money and enlarging an image may not be something you do on a regular basis. Here is a link to a quick tutorial showing an easy way to get the best out of your image enlargements in Photoshop.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

 

May 18, 2018

Most Design Clients Are Ignorant

When I say that most design clients are ignorant I'm not trying to be mean or derogatory. I'm simply stating a fact. The definition of "Ignorant" is someone who is lacking in knowledge or information as to a particular subject. That description is a perfect fit for design clients who often don't understand what it is you do, or how you do it.

Design clients don't understand how the creative process works. They don’t know how much effort goes into even the simplest of designs. They have no idea of what is involved in maintaining a website. In some cases, they don’t understand the language or terms you use. In all of these areas, design clients are ignorant.

It's OK if your design clients are ignorant because It’s not their job to understand what you do. Their job is to hire someone to handle the things they don't understand and on that part they're brilliant because they hired you.

And your job is to make sure that even though your clients are ignorant of what you do, they should not be confused by what you do. You have to put them at ease, so they know that hiring you was the right decision.

There’s a comedian by the name of Dane Cook that does a routine about dealing with auto mechanics. In his comedy routine, Cook says that when an auto mechanic explains what's wrong with a vehicle, most people smile and nod while hearing a little voice in their head saying “this guy could be feeding me B.S. and I wouldn’t know the difference.”

Don't be the designer that clients listen to and think "this guy could be feeding me B.S. and I wouldn't know the difference."

Learn how to talk to design clients

One area that could confuse clients is the way you talk. Just like any industry or sector, you have a language as a designer filled with jargon and acronyms that most clients have never heard or don't know what they mean..

Clients are not designers; you shouldn’t expect them to think like designers. The best way to avoid this is to minimize or even eliminate the jargon, acronyms, and other industry words that could confuse them. Or, you need to educate them on the meaning of those confusing words and terms.

Terms we take for granted like SEO, Keywords, Back-end, Dashboard, SER, CMS, Bleeds, Plug-ins etc. need to be explained so that your client clearly understands what it is you are saying.

If you can explain design jargon and acronyms in a way that makes a client feel comfortable and doesn't make them feel ignorant, they'll appreciate you for it. If you can communicate in a way that they understand what it is you are telling them, they will feel comfortable dealing with you and are much more inclined to hire you for the job.

Learn how to listen to design clients

Sometimes a client comes to you with a clear idea of what they need. However, many times, the client doesn’t even know what it is they need or why they need it.

A client may contact you saying they need a website but when you ask them why, their answer is because everyone says they need a site. That's not a good reason.

In the last episode of the podcast, I talked about the Discovery Process and how the purpose of design is to solve a problem. Many clients don’t know what their problem is. Some don’t even realize there is a problem. Those that do may know there’s a problem, but they’re often looking for a solution to the wrong thing.

Your job as a designer is to get to the core of the problem and to provide the best solution.

Does your client need a website to bring awareness to their brand? Do they need one to automate service calls? Sell their products? Advertise an event?

Sometimes a client may think they want one thing when something entirely different might be a better solution.

A client comes to you looking for a folded brochure may not realize that their minimal text is better suited to a rack card. A client wanting a payment system on their website to accept multiple currencies may actually need a way to display their pricing in a visitor's native currency while still conducting the transaction in the client's currency.

That’s why discovery is so important. It allows you to converse with the client to discover the exact purpose of the item or feature it is they are asking of you.

Because design clients are ignorant, sometimes what they are asking for isn’t what they need. It won’t solve their problem. Part of your job as the designer is pinpointing their actual problem and communicating to them what can be done to address it.

When in doubt, ask for examples.

It can be difficult talking to clients. Especially when both sides think they are discussing the same thing while both are imagining something completely different. A "modern" looking design could have two entirely different looks depending on who is imagining it.

The easiest way to understand what a client is telling you is to ask for examples. Don’t leave things up to chance. Your homework is the discovery process. Give your client homework as well. Ask them to provide examples of the things they mention to you. What does "modern" or "edgy" or "rustic" look like to them? Getting examples from your client will help you in your design direction and save many miscommunication headaches down the road.

Learn the proper way to communicate with ignorant design clients, and you will go a long way to earn their trust and build a relationship with them.

Do you ever feel like your design clients are ignorant?

Let me know how you handle yourself when your design clients are ignorant to what it is you do. 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 Alyssa

In web design I'm used to crediting myself via the footer and internal comments in the code.

How do you give yourself credit for graphic design? Adding a watermark would limit how the client can use the design. When you share your designs for comments from others, how do you prevent theft?

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

Resource of the week Daisy Disk

Regain precious hard drive space with Daisy Disk, While working on your Mac you create and download lots of files, but rarely delete anything. At some point, you find that your startup disk is full. What to do? A larger disk will cost you a few hundred dollars. Yearly fee for cloud storage is about the same. Or simply get DaisyDisk at a fraction of the price and make plenty of space by removing old junk.

Daisy Disk is easy. Just scan a disk and see all of your files and folders as an interactive visual map. Find an unusually large file. Preview its content, and delete if you don’t need it anymore. It's that simple.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

May 11, 2018

How in depth is your Discovery Process?

The Discovery Process is kind of like dating, or at least what I can remember from my dating days. It’s done at a point in your client relationship when you want to get to know them better. What are their goals, what makes them feel good, what frustrates them, what do they like, dislike? Why do they want to work with you?

This conversation reveals the thoughts and feelings your client has towards their business, product or service.

Larger agencies have people who are responsible for the discovery process. They meet with the clients, define the strategy and goals of those clients, and create a creative brief, or a project plan for a design department will follow. All the designer has to do is read the detailed brief and start designing.

As a freelancer or home-based designer, you don’t have that luxury. Sure some clients may give you a design brief, but can you trust it to be what you need to create the best designs for them? No, when you’re on your own, the discovery process, as well as the design process, is all your responsibility.

What is the Discovery Process?

The Discovery Process is a fact-finding mission. A way to learn more about your client and to learn what they expect from hiring you for their design project. Discovery should be the cornerstone of every new relationship with a client and of every new design project you do for those clients.

Discovery not only helps you learn what you need to know before starting a design project, but it’s also an essential step in building relationships with your clients. During a discovery process, you will learn your client’s needs, you’ll learn their challenges, and you’ll also learn the results they’re expecting from you.

Discovery should be a two-way streak. Not only will you learn what you need to know about your clients and their projects. But your clients will learn about you as well. How you work, your thought process, how you tackle a problem, and so on. More importantly, they will learn things about themselves they may not have thought of before.

All of this is vastly important because to design without the proper focus is a waste of time. When it comes to any design project, designing is one of the last steps of the process.

As you know Design solves a problem, and if you don’t know for sure what problem it is you’re facing, how are you suppose to create a design that addresses it? Before you can define the problem that your designs will solve you need to go through a discovery process. A process that takes into account analytics, brand standards if they exist, goals for the project, and many other things to figure out what direction your creativity will take. Plus, keep in mind that while you make the required steps during your discovery process to find solutions to a given problem, you may trigger additional insights or even more questions about the problem that might lead you in whole new directions. That’s why the discovery process is so important.

Steps in the discovery process.

1- Define your client’s goals.

The first step in the discovery process is to determine what your client’s goals are. This is a two-way conversation between you and the client. The trick is narrowing down those goals to SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, Trackable/Time-Related). Ask your clients lots of questions and listen carefully to what they tell you. Because sometimes what they say isn’t really what they mean and they don’t realise it.

Your client may think their problem is they need to generate more leads but in reality what they need is better leads that convert into sales. Designing something to get more leads is entirely different to designing something to get better leads. Determining not only what your client says, but what your client needs, could take the design you create in a whole different direction.

Your job in defining your client's goals is to ask the right questions to get to the heart of the problem they hired you to solve.

Speaking of questions, I’ve put together a list of questions you could use in your discovery process while talking with your clients. The list is too long for me to go over during this podcast, but if you are interested you can get it by visiting resourcefuldesigner.com/discovery

2 - Study your client’s competition.

To find the solution to your client’s problem, you will need to know more about their industry. What they do, who they serve, how they go about doing it. The best way to learn this is to study the competition.

Things to look for when studying the competition might be.

  • What makes your client different from their competition?
  • What would make people choose your client over them?
  • What hurdles do customers face when dealing with the competition that your client could address?
  • How does your client’s pricing compare to the competition?
  • What marketing strategy is the competition using and is it working?
  • What are people saying, both negative and positive about the competition?

Studying the industry and the competition is a vital part of the discovery process.

3 - Auditing your client's marketing assets.

For existing clients look at what they are currently doing to promote themselves or have done in the past. What has worked for them? What hasn’t? Look at everything from their logo, business cards, flyers, website, social media presence, advertising, etc.

If analytics are available for their website, be sure to study them to see how people interact with their site. Find out what parts of the site gets the most traffic and what parts get barely any.

Depending on how much you are charging for your discovery process. And yes, you should be charging for your discovery process, Remember, Your clients are paying you for the entire package, not just the finished designs you will provide them. Depending on how much you are charging for your discovery process, you may even want to do an SEO analysis on both your client and their competitors. Look to see what keywords each is ranking. Is the competition ranking for any keywords your client isn’t targetting? Keyword research will go a long way in improving your client’s visibility in the search ranks.

By studying your client's marketing assets, you should be able to spot their weaknesses and strengths which will help you set a path for your project.

If your client is a startup, then talk to them about what they were thinking of doing. Ask them what they like that other businesses are doing. Provide ideas and guidance for them. You may have thoughts they hadn’t considered. I love helping startups because you’re starting with a blank canvas and you know that you will do everything the right way.

4 - Examine your client from a customer’s perspective.

If you want to understand your client and their brand you need to experience it from the perspective of their customer.

If you already are their customer then great. You know first hand what dealing with them is like, and you can put that knowledge to work for you. But if you are not already their customer you can go out an buy their product or service as if you are a member of their target market.

Ask your family and friends for their opinion just like you would with other purchase you might make. Read online reviews about them. Learn whatever you can, just like if you were a real customer.

Talk to the salespeople online or in store. Ask questions about their product or services and ask what other customers have said about them.

If you can’t afford or don't need their product or service, you can still go through the process without making the purchase.

By becoming a customer, you can fully see what it is your client wants you to achieve. Your experience will be precious for your designs as well as useful information for your client.

Put it all together.

Those are four steps to a sound discovery process. Now, of course, every client and every design project will require particular steps in their discovery.

Some general questions won't be required every single time, and some unique questions may be useful in some instances. Only you will know how in depth you will need to go. On some projects, discovery can take an hour or two, while on other projects it could take weeks to learn everything you need before starting the actual design stage of the project.

The discovery process as a stand-alone project.

If the first project you will be working on for a new client is an expensive one they may be a bit hesitant without knowing more about you. Offering a discovery project as a way to “break the ice” is a great option.

If they're still not sure after all the questions and research you've done then maybe the two of you are not a good fit. You can part ways, and all they will owe you is for the discovery process. They can take the information you gathered and use it themselves or even pass it on to another designer if that’s what they want to do. But chances are, if you've done your job right, they will see the value in sticking with you and decide to proceed with the project.

Remember, Discovery is like dating. Your job is to give a good enough impression that you get asked out on a second date.

How does this all add up?

When the time finally comes for you to start the design process, you should not be asking “Will this design work?” What you should be asking yourself is “Do I have enough knowledge to know if this design will work or not?” If you did your discovery process well, the answer to that question should be yes, and you will be on your way to creating a winning design for your client.

What is your Discovery Process?

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 Brianna

Is there an online course you'd recommend for best practices in developing/redesigning an existing Wordpress site? All courses seem to assume you are building a whole new site from scratch. I can do that in my sleep, but more often than not a designer is tasked with redesigning something that already exists. Navigating somebody's else's code structure is a pain at best and I break out into a cold sweat whenever I am tapped for something like this. I almost always outsource the development because I just don't know what those best practices are -- even though I have a very similar skillset to those I outsource to. I'd love to get a handle on this type of project, as I have a huge Wordpress site redesign coming up over the summer and would much rather keep all the work "in-house" so to speak.

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

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer App

Resourceful Designer now has its very own App to make the listening experience even better. Look for it on the IOS, Android and Amazon App Stores.

Benefits of using the new Resourceful Designer App?

  • Easily find old episodes
  • Listen by downloading or streaming
  • Rotate your phone for convenient Car Play mode
  • Highlight your favourite episodes to make it easier to find in the future
  • Convenient for people who don't know how to listen to podcasts.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

May 4, 2018

How effective are you when you work?

I don’t know if it’s because it’s springtime or if there’s some national or international initiative going on, but a lot of podcasts and blogs have been talking about productivity lately. Covering things such as ways to get things done more proficiently. Ways to make your job easier. Ways to not only do more but do more in less time.

These articles and podcasts also talk about the wide variety of apps, journals and other tools to help increase your productivity. These resources are a great help because after all, being productive means getting a great deal of work done in a relatively short period, and by using as little resources as you can.

Many of those podcasts and blog articles had such great advice on being more productive that I wrote quite a few down so that I could talk about them in future episodes of the podcast.

But one of the things I noticed while reading or listening to what they had to say is that a lot of energy and effort is going into teaching you how to be more productive. But unless that information is pointing you in the right direction, it can be downright ineffective.

You see, being productive is only a good thing if you are also effective during the process.

How to be effective while being productive.

Have you ever worked hard on a project, maybe a logo design or a website, only to discover that you’ve wasted your time because your client doesn’t like what you did?

Have you ever told a client that you would provide 3, or 5 or maybe even ten different design ideas from which they can choose?

How effective do you think that is?

You may feel like you poured your heart and soul into your creativity and felt like you delivered great design ideas to your client, only to be bewildered as to why your client is indecisive or outright rejects your designs.

Chances are, you were very productive during the design process, but you were not effective.

Being effective doesn’t mean getting a great deal of work done in a short period. It means getting the right work done in the time you spend doing it.

To be effective, you need to do a thorough job beforehand researching and ascertaining the actual goals and objectives of each project. Because without laying down that initial groundwork, without starting your creative process on a solid foundation. It doesn’t matter how productive you are because that productivity probably won’t be effective.

Your job as a designer is not to create great designs for your clients. It's to create the right designs for your clients.

Thinking back upon all the productivity tips I’ve been hearing and reading lately; I’ve concluded that merely being productive without the proper alignment of goals, without a purpose behind what you’re doing, without a focused vision of what your client wants, is an easy way to be ineffective.

You need to do your absolute best to tune yourself into the vision behind the goals set out for you by your clients. Not just once, but on every project, you take on. Only that way can you indeed be effective in your use of all the productivity tools, strategies and advice that are at our disposal to make our lives easier.

The next time you are whipping along in a design frenzy, feeling very productive, I want you to take a quick break to stop and ask yourself. I'm very productive, but just how effective am I right now?

How do you balance being effective vs being productive?

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 Phill

What are some strong points of advice for an early 20s individual who wants to move from an industrial manufacturing work place to the world of web design/development?

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

Resource of the week Wordpress 5.0 Gutenburg

Wordpress 5.0 Gutenburg will be released in a few weeks and from what I've seen the newly revised editor will make our jobs as web designers easier. But don't take my word on it, have a look at what web242.com has to say.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Apr 27, 2018

Do you suffer from back or neck pain?

The other day at dinner during some idle chit-chat with my wife she mentioned a presentation she attended about ergonomics and how to minimise back and neck pain from sitting at a computer all day.

The following morning at breakfast I found presentation handouts she had left on our kitchen table, and I started skimming over them. Before I knew it, I had read them all. They were so informative that after breakfast I came into my office and made some adjustments to my workspace.

Then I thought to myself if this information is useful enough for me to make changes. Then I’m sure you could benefit from this as well. After all, as designers, we spend most of our time sitting in front of a computer or staring at a smartphone or tablet.

I go into much more detail in the podcast so be sure to listen to this episode to learn more.

Setting up your workstation to minimise back and neck pain.

Adjusting your chair

Your chair and how it's adjusted is a significant factor in minimising back and neck pain. When you are sitting in your chair, the ideal position should follow the 90/90/90 principle throughout your body. Meaning your back should be at a 90-degree angle to your hips. Your thighs should be at a 90-degree angle to your legs and spine, with your feet flat on the floor.

Your elbows should be at your side, and your upper and lower arms should make a 90-degree angle with your wrists parallel to your forearms.

Adjust the height of your chair or keyboard tray so that your arms remain at this neutral position while typing. If your chair has armrests, adjust them to this level as well. If you have short legs, you may want to get a footrest.

The 90/90/90 principle is the ideal position to minimise strain on your joints and muscles.

The critical thing here is to have a good chair. I know it’s sometimes hard to justify spending money on an expensive chair. But try to remember, you will be sitting in it every day week after week, year after year. It's worth investing in something that is not only comfortable but something that will support you adequately.

Setting up your computer.

It doesn't matter what setup you use as your workstation there are ways of optimising it to minimise back and neck pain. Here are a few different scenarios.

Laptop Users

Laptops are very convenient for people on the go. However, if you use one as your regular workstation here are some things you should consider.

To prevent neck strain, you should position your laptop so that the top of your laptop screen is at your eye level. You may need to use a laptop pedestal or something to raise it up to the right level. Even a few reams of paper or books can act as a pedestal.

Naturally raising your laptop will make it difficult to type so you may want to get a separate keyboard and mouse that you can connect directly to the laptop or a docking station.

Desktop users

Desktop users should follow a similar plan to laptop users. The top of your monitor should be at eye level. There are stylish stands available to raise your computer or monitor to the proper level.

Ideally, your screen should be at arm's length away. Meaning you should be able to fully extend your arm and touch it. If need be, adjust the resolution or magnification so that everything is easily readable.

Tablet Users

If you use a tablet on a regular basis, such as an iPad a Surface or any other Drawing Tablet, you may want to look into a stand or easel that will hold it at the proper position to minimise neck strain. Looking down at a tablet can create the equivalent of 27kb (60lbs) of stress on your neck and spine.

Standing Desks

If you are someone who uses a standing desk, it's a good idea to get a footstool and alternate elevating one foot at a time to relieve stress on your back.

Remember to Use A Neutral Position When Working

A lot of this sounds like common sense, but the fact is we don’t always follow what common sense tells us. After reading these papers, my wife left behind I made some adjustments to my chair and workstation. In the days since I’ve already noticed some differences.

Don’t forget to stretch

Setting up a proper workstation is only half the solution. Our bodies are made to move. Don't let it seize up by sitting in your chair for hours at a time. Set yourself a reminder to get up out of your chair at least once an hour. Even if it’s just to stretch your body and sit back down. Yes, it's common sense but how many people do it?

What do you do to minimise back and neck pain?

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 Chris

I'm a young kid (16) and I would like to do some volunteer work for graphic design. I have a small portfolio of "personal projects" and i've practiced graphic design for the last 4 years and am ready to delve into client work. How would you recommend finding volunteer graphic design work for a young student?

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

Resource of the week Wordmark.it

Wordmark.it used to sample all the fonts you have installed on your computer and makes it extremely easy to choose the perfect font for the project you are working on. Simply visit the site, type in a word or phrase of your choosing and click “load fonts”. In no time flat, you will see your word/phrase displayed in every font you have installed. You can use various filters to adjust the size, case, and readability of the fonts. Simply click the fonts you are interested in and then view only the ones you selected.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Apr 19, 2018

What's in a title?

Since the inception of the design industry we designers have struggled with what title to give ourselves. I started my career calling myself a Graphic Artist. Later I changed to Graphic Designer and stuck with it until just recently when I took on the title of Design Consultant.

Even though the bulk of my work these days is web design I’ve never called myself a Web Designer unless I paired it with Graphic Designer. As in, I'm a Graphic/Web Designer. In my experience, the title Graphic Designer encompasses a broad array of work, possibly including web design. However, the title Web Designer limits you skill wise to only web design.

Graphic Designer and Web Designer are but two of the many titles designers call themselves. Some others include;

  • Creative Designer
  • Visual Designer
  • Visual Artist
  • Artistic Designer
  • Communication Designer
  • Multimedia Designer
  • Commercial Artist
  • Commercial Designer

As well as some more focused titles such as;

  • Logo Designer
  • Brand Identity Designer
  • Motion Designer
  • Video Designer
  • Package Designer
  • UX or UI Designer

Shouldn't your work be more important than your title?

I always thought the title you used wasn't as important as your portfolio of design work. After all, isn't that why clients hire you? Then something happened recently, and I realised how people perceive you based on the title you use.

For the longest time, whenever I would meet someone new and our conversation would inevitably turn to what we did for a living. I would answer the question saying I’m a Graphic Designer. The most often reply to this is, “what sort of things do you design?” To which I would go into my long-practised routine of telling them that I design everything from logos, business cards, posters, magazine ads to websites and online advertising etc.

Most of the time the response I would get would be something along the lines of “That sounds interesting” before whoever I was talking to quickly changed the subject.

Sure, on some occasions the person was interested and ask me to elaborate. Sometimes those conversations would lead to a proposal and maybe even a design project. But most of the time the discussion about what I did for a living just stopped there.

The effects of calling myself a Design Consultant.

A few months ago, I was at a local gathering, and I met someone who asked me that oft-asked question, what do you do for a living? Instead of my standard response of "I'm a Graphic Designer", for some reason, on a whim, I told them I was a Design Consultant.

The reaction I received was noticeably different than previous encounters. Instead of asking what type of things I designed, the person asked what a Design Consultant does. I quickly made up an elevator pitch on the spot. I told him I help businesses fine-tune their brand strategy through the proper use of graphic and web design which helps them attract more clients.

To find out more about elevator pitches and how mine has evolved since that meeting, listen to episode 116 of Resourceful Designer 

After blurting out the random title of Design Consultant and giving an impromptu elevator pitch, the person took me by surprise by asking how much I charge for a design consultation. I wasn't prepared for that question so I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head. $200 for a 1-hour session. The guy handed me a business card and asked when I was available to meet to go over his company's brand strategy.

To make a long story short. I set up a meeting to go over his company's brand identity and current marketing material. He’s now hired me to not only refresh his website and print material but to act as a design advisor to ensure he keeps on track with his brand strategy going forward.

I genuinely believe I landed this client because of the title I gave him when he asked me what I did for a living.

My new title as Design Consultant is not a fluke.

Since that day, I've been using the title of Design Consultant, and I've discovered that what transpired with that gentleman is repeatable. Every new client I’ve met with since then has agreed to my fee to meet with them and go over what could work for their business.

The best part is, clients are now interested in discussing their entire brand strategies, not just logos, business cards and websites. We examine everything including uniforms, vehicle colours, office decorations and more. Things that are not graphics or web related, but do play a part of their overall brand strategy.

For me, this translates into clients with bigger initial budgets. In fact, since implementing my new title, I’ve landed clients with bigger starting budgets than most clients I've worked with in the past.

Weeding out undesirable clients.

Another benefit of calling myself a design consultant and charging a consultation fee for our initial meeting is it weeds out clients that would otherwise take up my precious time.

I’ve had a few people say they can’t afford my consultation fee. If they can’t afford my consultation fee then they certainly can’t afford my design rates.

An added benefit for me.

Something I had not foreseen is people that want to hire me just for the consultation. I’ve had a few people hire me just to get my advice on what they can do themselves to help their brand. These are people who don't have a budget to hire a professional designer but still want to know the best way to build their brand. It’s a win-win for me. Since changing my title, every person I’ve met with has paid me. Not all of them have become clients, but I was paid for the consultation regardless.

Will calling yourself a Design Consultant grow your design business?

I would love to say outright that yes, changing your title will grow your design business but that would be naive on my part.

I know I have almost 30 years of experience behind me and I have a lot of confidence when talking to people. Both of which help me sell people on hiring me as a design consultant. If you have the experience, knowledge and confidence to be a design consultant then maybe it will work for you as well.

If you're not at the point in your career where you can pull this off, you should keep it in mind for the future. Maybe, down the road, you'll be ready to take your design business to the next level by offering your services as a design consultant.

What title do you use?

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 Laurie

Hello! I love your podcast

By the way, you came to me at the perfect time as I just became an LLC running my own graphic design business.

I had a question about the non disclosure agreement episode. I have a graphic design agreement done but is an NDA recommended?

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

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Facebook Group

I would love to see you in the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group. Join many designers just like you as we share our experiences of running a design business. It doesn't matter at what level of your career you're at I would love to have you as a member. Be sure to answer the three question that pops up after clicking the join button. See you on Facebook!

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Apr 12, 2018

Do you have an elevator pitch?

Imagine running into an old high school classmate at the airport. Someone you haven’t talked to in years. After exchanging some pleasantries, you realise they would be a perfect design client for you. They ask you what you do for a living, and as you start thinking of the best way to pitch your services to them, their flight is called, and you’ve lost your chance.

That’s where having an elevator pitch could have helped you.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch sometimes referred to as an elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short persuasive speech you give to people that explains who you are in such a way that it sparks an interest in the listener. It typically explains what it is you do, who your services are for, why the people may need those services and how you go about completing those services.

Your elevator pitch needs to be interesting, succinct, memorable and it needs to describe how you are unique amongst all the other designers out there.

It also needs to be short. An elevator pitch of around 20-30 seconds works best.

When to use an Elevator Pitch.

You should use your elevator pitch any time you are talking about yourself and your business. Use it whenever you meet a new potential client. Use it whenever you are introduced to someone, and they ask what you do for a living. Use it as an introductory paragraph on your website.

You should use your elevator pitch every chance you get.

How to construct an Elevator Pitch.

Your Elevator Pitch will evolve and may change depending on who you are talking with. You may even have more than one Elevator Pitch depending on the situation. Regardless, it should follow these basic rules.

1) Explain who you are.

Start off by introducing yourself and your business. If you’re already acquainted with the person you are talking to you may skip this part for obvious reasons.

2) Explain what it is you do.

For an elevator pitch to succeed, it needs to explain what it is you and your business does. Remember, an elevator pitch should be interesting and memorable. Don’t say that you design websites or logos or flyers. Those things are boring to everyone but you. Instead, explain what sort of problems you solve for your clients. Give the listener something to remember about you.

For example. Instead of saying “I design responsive websites”. You could say something like “I design websites that let my clients communicate to their target market in the most efficient way possible regardless of what device they are using.”

Isn’t that more interesting than just saying "I design responsive websites"?

If what you are saying doesn’t excite you, then it certainly won't excite the person listening to you. Your pitch should make you smile. The person listening may not remember everything you say, but they will remember the enthusiasm in your voice when you said it.

3) Explain your Unique Selling Proposition.

A Unique Selling Proposition often referred to as a USP, is what makes you different from all the other designers competing for the same clients. It needs to be something that will make the listener take notice and want to work with you.

For example, you could say something like this. “When it comes to websites, I take the time to research and get to know my client and their target market before ever sitting down to design their site. This allows me to create something that not only looks great, but something that appeals to the site visitors and truly represents the core of who my client is.”

4) Finish by asking the listener a question.

The whole point of an elevator pitch is to start a meaningful conversation. To do that you need to make sure you finish your pitch with a question that gets the person thinking and forces them into a discussion with you.

Make sure you ask a question that cannot be answered by a simple "Yes" or "No" answer. You might ask something like “What kind of return are you getting from your website?”

5) Combine everything together

When you put all these previous steps together, you should have a solid 20-30 second elevator pitch to impress potential clients.

Time yourself. If it’s too long, you risk losing the person’s interest. Find ways to shorten it.

Here’s how the examples I gave earlier come together.

“I design websites that let my clients communicate to their target market in the most efficient way possible regardless of what device they are using.”

“When it comes to websites, I take the time to research and get to know my client and their target market before ever sitting down to design their site. This allows me to create something that not only looks great, but something that appeals to the site visitors and truly represents the core of who my client is.”

“What kind of return are you getting from your website?”

See how it all works together?

6) Practice, practice, practice.

Your elevator pitch needs to sound natural, not rehearsed. How you say it is as important as what you say. You may have to edit it a bit since we often write differently than we talk. Say your pitch out loud repeatedly and on a regular basis.

As you practice, you may end up changing parts of your pitch so that it sounds more natural to you. The more you do it, the better it and you will become.

Here’s my elevator pitch.

This is the elevator pitch I currently use in my business. It has evolved many times over the years, and I'm sure this will not be its last incarnation.

"I help businesses and organisations fine-tune their brand strategy and give them a better chance of success.

Unlike a lot of designers, I invest my time in building a relationship with my clients in order to help them reach their goals. I accomplish this through the proper use of graphic design, web design and other marketing means.

In other words, I help businesses reach their target market.

How are you attracting your clients?"

What's your elevator pitch?

Do you already have an elevator pitch or have I convinced you to create one? I would love to hear it. Leave it as a comment for this episode, and I'll let you know what I think of it.

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 Diego

Hi Mark!

My name is Diego I'm from Uruguay and I'm an art librarian. That’s right, I’m not a designer, but I did take some courses in my teens. Now I’m 26 years old and I’m trying my fit back in at the University again.

I see all the other kids at school with their amazing drawings and I just don’t feel up to their level. I'm feeling discouraged, like I’m trying to catch up. I would really like some advice.

Is it important to have the artistic skills to be a designer?

Are there any course you recommend I should look into? Not on how to use Photoshop or how to create a logo in illustrator. But basic design things.

Thanks, I Love your podcast.

Diego.

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

Resource of the week Canva Colors

Canva Colors is a great source for discovering colours for your next design project. Their Design Wiki on Colors teaches you everything you need to know about specific colors, their meanings, their history and the color combinations that will hopefully give inspiration to your next design!

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Apr 6, 2018

Design should not be a commodity.

I recently saw a conversation in a Facebook group discussing price lists on design websites. The consensus was that including fixed or package prices on your site diminishes the value of your services as a designer. This got me thinking. Are designers who include price lists positioning themselves as a commodity?

What is a commodity?

Let me share three definitions of a commodity that I found online.

  1. A commodity is a physical substance, which is interchangeable with another product of the same type.
  2. A commodity is a good or service whose wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors other than price.
  3. A commodity is a good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market.

Do any of those pertain to design? Are the designs you create easily interchangeable with designs from other designers? Are the services you offer so widely available from other designers that it diminishes the importance of your skills on every level other than price? Are the services you provide without qualitative differentiation from those of other designers?

If you answered yes to any of those questions then maybe you’ve positioned yourself as a commodity. If you have, I’m telling you right now that you need to change the way you think about your skills and your services. Especially if you offer your services as “package deals” or fixed prices based on the services you provide because all that does is diminish the value you bring to your clients.

What is Design?

Without getting too philosophical, design is simply a solution to a problem.

Clients come to you because they have a problem to solve. They need an identity for their business. They have a product they need to market. They need to generate leads, they need to increase awareness for their brand, they need to convert sales. These are all problems your clients face. Your job as a designer is finding the most appropriate solution to those problems.

You know the saying “think outside the box”? That’s where you are, and it's why clients hire you. Because you are “outside their box”. You have a different perspective then they do about their business, and they are looking to you for solutions to their problems.

There’s a catch. When it comes to design, there is no one solution. Every designer out there will come up with their unique solution to any giving problem. That means that the solutions vary in quality and price depending on what designer a client chooses. It’s a case of “you get what you pay for”.

Back in episode 71 of the podcast, I talked about Good Design, Quick Design or Cheap design and how you can only offer two at a time to a client. How are you supposed to provide solutions to your client’s unique problems if you limit yourself to the cost of a predefined design package? When you do, you’ve already chosen one of the three options, cheap design.

Design should be a consultancy process. As a designer, your job is not to do what the client asks you to do. Your job is to get to know your client, understand their business, find out what their goals are, study their products, learn their process. Once you know everything you need to know about your client, your job then shifts to providing designs to your client that specifically addresses their problem.

Making a visually pleasing website that’s also user-friendly, or making a brochure that stands out amongst the rest is icing on the cake. It’s a byproduct of everything you do for your clients. Your primary job should always be to help your clients succeed in their goals, whether that’s generating leads, or generating conversions. You do that by using your skills as a designer to help your clients.

Clients are not hiring you for a logo, a brochure or a website. They may think that’s why they are hiring you. But in fact, they are hiring you for your knowledge, your experience and your ability to help them with their problem through the use of proper design. Your design skills are merely the tool you use to complement those goals.

When you start thinking about yourself and your business in this way. You’ll realise that

  1. Fixed pricing or package deals are not a way to grow a successful design business
  2. You are worth more than you give yourself credit.

Design is like a fine dining experience.

Think of going to a nice restaurant. The cost of your meal is more than merely the food you eat. You are also paying for everything from the time it took to prepare, to the skills of the chef or cook, to the presentation of the plate, to the atmosphere of the restaurant, to the service and experience they provide you from before you walk in their door to long after you leave.

The same applies to your designs. Your client isn’t just paying for a logo. They’re paying for everything that goes into the designing of that logo and everything they will get out of that logo design.

Continuing with the analogy, fixed pricing, package deals, cheap design, or crowdsourced designs are akin to fast food restaurants. The meals are fast and cheap, and yes they fill an immediate hole by satisfying one’s hunger. But what’s missing when you get fast and cheap? You're missing the GOOD.

There is no long-term benefit to fast food. In fact, there are many proven negative impacts to eating fast food. The same goes for any time design decisions are based on price and price alone. The designs may fill an immediate hole, but they will fail to satisfy long-term growth for a business.

Clients who make their design purchases based on price have no idea about the process that goes into good design, or it’s potential contribution to their business strategy. They see design as a commodity.

What is Creativity?

Here are two definitions of creativity that I found online.

  1. Creativity is the ability to generate innovative ideas and manifest them from thought into reality. The process involves original thinking and then producing.
  2. Creativity is the ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.

Do you hear those words? Innovative, Original, New, Imaginative, Artistic. These are not words that associate with a commodity.

Creativity and Design allow every designer to create qualitative differences between their works. It’s inevitable. That’s the exact opposite of the definition of a commodity. The challenge facing you is how to teach that to your clients.

Unfortunately, clients often don’t know what good design is. Therefore, how can they understand the value in it?

Here’s the issue, bad designs stands out like a sore thumb to the point where even non-designers take notice and recognise what bad design is. However, when something is designed well, it becomes so seamless that it often goes unnoticed. In other words, the better your designs are, the more natural they will feel, and the more natural they feel, the more they will go unappreciated.

Take a well-designed website for example. People who visit the site don’t often notice the aesthetics or user experience. That’s because a lot of thought and design went into those sites to make them feel natural to the user.

What visitors will remember is how easy the site was to navigate and how they felt while visiting it. But they don’t attribute that to design.

Visit a poorly designed site on the other hand, and visitors will notice every little thing that bothers them. Only when design gets in their way will people take notice of it. That’s why it’s so hard to explain to clients the value of good design. They’re not used to seeing the value in good design because when it’s done correctly, it goes unnoticed.

When a client fails to see the value of your services, when they can’t see the difference in what you can offer them compared to the next designer, then to them, design becomes about price. It becomes a commodity.

As a designer, you need to find a way to point out this flawed logic to your clients. You need to make them understand the value you’re offering them.

We live in a world where it is so easy to get a decent design. Not necessarily good design but at least decent design. Sites that offer design contests, crowdsourced design or easy DIY designs are popping up everywhere. Almost every part of the design process can now be outsourced or done cheaper. Like it or not, there will always be someone, somewhere that charges less than what you charge for design.

To most clients, who don’t understand the value of good design, paying less for a decent design sounds like a great way to save money. Once again, They are viewing design as a commodity.

Don’t people often judge things by the packages they come in? Doesn’t the perception of something being better often lead to the belief that it is better? Have you ever chosen something a bit more expensive from the grocery store shelf just because the packaging made it look like it was better quality than the other similar items? That’s proof that design does matter, which means that it’s outside the realm of commodity status.

As more and more design sources become available to clients, many of them will make their decisions based on cost. This will lead many designers to compromise their skills, their experience, their knowledge, and compete based on price alone.

Believe it or not, that’s a good thing for you. Let those designers fight over who can do it cheaper. Let them diminish what they do and compete as a commodity.

As they do, you position yourself as a designer that does more than produce pretty pictures for a small fee. Position yourself as the expert designer that you are. As the solution to your client’s problems. Show clients how good well thought out designs outperform bad designs every time. Show them the value it delivers, and they will become loyal clients for life.

Charge appropriately for that value you provide them. Even if you charge more than the other designers around you.

When you show your clients that design is an investment in their business and not just an expense like the paper in the copier, the lamps on their desks or the coffee maker in the break room. When they view it as an investment, that’s when you will find them investing in you, regardless of the cost.

Have you ever thought of design as a commodity?

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 Meg

I'm thinking about taking a fast track graphic design course this summer. The course teaches Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and illustrator as well as printing and publishing. Once completed you're given a certificate of achievement.

The course sounds really good  to me because I enjoyed using Adobe during school.

But I worry once I complete the course, I won't be able to find a job in graphic design.

Or if I do find a job, I worry that I'll be stressed or anxious under pressure!

Do you think it's possible for a graphic designer to be successful if they can't come up with a design without inspiration first?

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

Resource of the week Brandmark Tools

This week's resource is a suite of tools by Brandmark. Their free AI-powered design tools help you with colour and font ideas and a few other things.

Logo Rank

The Logo Rank Tool allows you to analyse any logo and gives you a rating based on uniqueness, legibility, colour/contrast as well as an overall score.It’s also useful for telling you how close it matches to any stock icon or image.

Font Generator

The Font Generator Tool shows you font pairings for Google Fonts. Find a font to match the one you already have or find pairs that work well together.

Logo Crunch

The Logo Crunch Tool lets you shrink a logo for use as a favicon or App icon while doing some impressive “fixes” to it.

AI Color Wheel

The AI Color Wheel tool automatically colour your graphics for you, allowing you to test out various colour pallets.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Mar 30, 2018

What I learned by talking to new entrepreneurs

I had the honour of presenting a "Branding Your Business" seminar to a group of new entrepreneurs this week. It was one of six in a recurring seminar series put on by my municipality's Business Enterprise Centre. They decided this time around that adding a "graphics" related seminar would be valuable to new business owners and they asked if I would be interested in presenting.

The seminar I presented was advertised with the title “Graphic Design Basics” but, with permission from the person in charge of the seminar series I changed it to “Branding Your Business”. I knew I could provide more value to new entrepreneurs by teaching them the importance of proper branding over simply giving them graphic design tips, although I did interweave some into my talk.

My decision to change the direction of the seminar proved the right one as the engagement and feedback I received both during and after presenting was all positive. In fact the Business Enterprise Centre asked me after the seminar if I would like to become a permanent speaker for all their future seminar series.

I'm not writing this to pat myself on the back. Even though I was the one teaching these new entrepreneurs the value of proper branding I learnt a few things myself that designers can use when dealing with new clients. I go into much more detail on the podcast so be sure to listen for the full story.

New entrepreneurs are often new to the business world

One thing I noticed during my presentation is that of the couple dozen people in attendance, almost all of them had zero business experience before becoming new entrepreneurs. Talking to them, I realised just how naive they were when it comes to marketing their business.

This got me thinking about all the times I hear of designers struggling to attract new clients. If you are trying to build your design clientele all you have to do is put in a bit of effort and you will be rewarded. There are hundreds, if not thousands of businesses all around you that are in need of your services if you just educated them on why they need you.

What talking to new entrepreneurs taught me

Here are a few of the things I picked up while presenting to this group that I believe could help you in landing new clients.

Choosing a business name

The majority of the people I talked to told me that they had trouble choosing a name for their business. Some of them even delayed starting their business because they were not happy with the name they had chosen.

This is a real issue with some people. If you as a designer offered a service that helps people with choosing a business name you can attract clients at the foundation of their business and them help them build upon that foundation with proper branding going forward.

New entrepreneurs don't think beyond the logo

At the start of my seminar, I asked how happy the audience was with their brand identity. Most of them said they were satisfied with what they had chosen.

After my presentation on Branding Your Business, I asked the same question again with different results. Almost everyone who was satisfied at the start admitted that they were going to revisit their brand strategy and find ways to improve it.

There is a huge opportunity for you as a designer to work with new entrepreneurs if you showed them the effect proper branding can have on their business success.

Colour pallets were not even a thought

Almost all of the attendees I talked to had not considered a colour pallet for their business. They may have selected specific colours for their logo, but they hadn't thought of incorporating those colours into the rest of their marketing materials.

You know that the key to a good brand is consistency. Lucky for you most new entrepreneurs don't. This creates the perfect opportunity for you to educate them and become vital to their overall brand strategy.

Trademarks, copyrights and other legalities

When it comes to the dos and don'ts of the design world, new entrepreneurs don't have the knowledge or experience you have. By talking to them about what they can and cannot do in regards to photos, slogans or, borrowing design elements from others, you can save them from the legal troubles ahead. Once they realise there is a line they shouldn't cross they may find it easier to let you handle all the design decisions for them.

Design is a burdensome expense

Many new entrepreneurs think of design as a burdensome expense. They think they are outsmarting the system and saving money by creating their own marketing material.

As a designer, this is the perfect opportunity for you to educate them on how design should be viewed as an investment in their business, not simply an expense. Once they realise this, they will be much more open to working with you.

Why invest in a website when Facebook is free?

I missed this in my presentation. It was afterwards when some of the people came to talk to me that I realised there is a consensual mentality amongst new entrepreneurs that they don't need a website. They believe they can run their business with just a free Facebook page.

If you teach these people the flaw in that logic, you are setting yourself up for having a great client for the future.

New entrepreneurs need you

From my presentation, I learned that new entrepreneurs are ripe for the picking. Most of them have no prior business experience and are perfect canvases for you to groom.

Back in episode 69 of the podcast, I talked about presenting yourself as an expert in the design field. By doing so, you create an opportunity for yourself to attract these new clients once they realise the value of hiring a designer.

Share your thoughts on this topic.

Let me know what you think of this topic by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

There is no question of the week this week, but I would love to answer yours in a future episode. Submit your question by visiting the feedback page.

 

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Alexa Skill

Resourceful Designer now has it's very own Amazon Alexa Skill! It's available in the USA (Canada and other countries coming soon). If you are in the USA and have an Alexa device all you have to do is say "Alexa, enable Resourceful Designer" then whenever you want to listen to the podcast you can simply tell Alexa to "play Resourceful Designer."

Here are some things you can do.

"Alexa, tell Resourceful Designer to play the newest episode."

"Alexa, tell Resourceful Designer to play episode X."

"Alexa, tell Resourceful Designer to fast forward X minutes."

"Alexa, tell Resourceful Designer to rewind X seconds."

"Alexa, skip" plays the next episode

"Alexa, tell Resourceful Designer to skip ahead X episodes."

"Alexa, tell Resourceful Designer to go back X episodes."

If you are in the USA and you to enable the podcast on your Alexa device, please let me know what you think.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Mar 23, 2018

Should you offer design discounts to your clients?

Let me start off by saying I'm not a fan of offering discounts for design services. And by the looks of it, I'm not alone. In preparing for episode 113 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I read a lot of articles about the pros and cons of offering design discounts, and almost all of them said it was a bad idea. The main reason is that offering a discount lessens the perceived value of you, your services and the overall brand you are building for yourself.

By offering a discount people will start to view you as a discount designer. Once you've been given that label, it's hard to escape from it.

However, that's not to say you should never offer discounts to your clients. Here are six situations that may merit design discounts.

When to offer design discounts.

There are occasions when offering a discount can strengthen your perceived value and your brand.

1) Passing on a discount.

Passing a discount you receive from a supplier onto a client is a great way to build loyalty towards your business. This works great for things like registering domain names or website hosting. As well as physical things such as T-Shirts or print runs.

If your supplier is having a sale or is offering you a discount, think about passing the savings onto your clients. They'll appreciate you more for it.

2) Recurring revenue.

Anything that helps you earn recurring revenue is a good thing, including offering a discount. Offering a discount on items like monthly web maintenance packages or design retainers can be the deciding factor in signing up clients.

A monthly recurring maintenance package may be easier to sell if you offer either a free month or a monetary discount if the client pays for a full year in advance.

Discounts for early renewals are another great way to ensure your clients stick with you.

3) Larger Print orders.

This isn’t a discount but it will save your clients money, and they'll appreciate you for it.

Whenever ordering printed material, you get better prices by ordering greater quantities. When a client requests a print job through you, ask them if they have anything else to be printed. Let them know that you can save them money if they increase their quantities.

For example; ordering 1000 business cards for a new employee may cost them $100. But if three other employees are running low on cards, and you combine their orders with the new one, the print job will cost $80 per 1000 cards. Your client will appreciate the money you are saving them.

4) Your client is a reseller.

Whenever you are working for a reseller/wholesaler, you should be offering a discount for your service. This will allow them to charge their client a similar price that you would have charged them directly.

Designing for a reseller/wholesaler usually means more and consistent work. Therefore the design discounts you offer are offset by the volume of work they are bringing in.

5) When the client merits it.

I know I said that I'm not a fan of offering design discounts. But sometimes the client does merit it. For example, I recently met with a new client to discuss an overall brand refresh for her business. The project will encompass many areas of her business including a new logo design. During my meeting with the client, I got a feel for who she is, what she stands for and the image she wants to portray to her clients. By the end of the meeting, I already had a very good idea of what her new logo should look like. Before leaving, she handed me a  rough sketch she had drawn of the type of logo she thought would suit her business. To my surprise, it was very close to the vision I had in my head. I told her as much, and then I offered her a discount on the logo portion of the project. After all, I didn't feel right charging her my full rate for a logo design considering it would be very close to her idea.

6) When you feel like giving a discount.

This is the one time I agree that a design discount is in order. Discounts are fine as a special gift, not as an umbrella deal. Meaning, it’s fine to offer a single client a discount for a special reason.

For example, a loyal client that brings you regular work asks you to design invitations for his daughter's wedding. You might consider offering him a discount as a form of thank you for the past and future work he sends your way.

When not to offer a discount.

There are certain times that may merit a design discount, but there are also occasions when you should not be offering a discount at all.

1) When a client asks for it.

Some clients will try to pressure you into giving them a discount. Don't be lured into this trap. Remember what I said about being perceived as a discount designer? That's precisely what will happen if you give into a client's demands.

Any client that threatens to seek design services elsewhere if you don't lower your price is not worth having as a client.

2) Additional design services.

This relates to designing something at your regular rate and then offering a discount to design additional items. Such as designing a logo and then offering a discount to design business cards.

There is no reason for you to offer any of your services at a discounted price. Once again it diminishes your perceived value and positions your business as a discount design service.

This scenario includes "design packages" where a client saves money by ordering packages of multiple items. Such as a stationery package that includes designing business cards, letterheads and envelopes.

3) Different rates for different services.

Not quite a design discount but some designers offer different rates depending on the service they are performing. For example; charging a higher rate for design services and a lower rate for page layout services. Your time is valuable regardless of the services you are performing. Remember, a client is hiring you, not the service.

Alternatives to design discounts.

Offering a design discount may sound like an easy way to build client loyalty, but in fact, it may be doing more harm than good.

Alternatives you could try include offering rewards or incentives for being a loyal client. Send a gift card to someone who referred a new client to you. Buy dinner or send flowers to a client after completing a large project with them.

Rewards and incentives will be remembered much more than a discount ever will. Clients will appreciate them more and will think highly of you for thinking of them.

Another option is to go above and beyond in your services. Clients will remember the little things you do for them, especially if they were unexpected. Such as hand-delivering a print order to make sure everything is ok with it.

Merely showing your appreciation towards a client is sometimes all they need.

Monetary discounts are quickly forgotten but doing something special will be remembered and appreciated.

Do you offer design discounts or do you have an alternative solution?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

There is no question of the week for this episode, but I would love to hear yours. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week resource name

Google Alerts, found at google.com/alerts, is the way I use to keep me up to speed on all sorts of topics. It's extremely easy to set up alerts. Simply enter the search terms on the page and Google will email you the results daily, weekly or as they come out. It's just like doing a search engine search, but the results are delivered to your email inbox. You can filter the search by language, region, sources.

Google Alerts is an easy and free way to stay on top of things.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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 16, 2018

Taking your design business international.

There are many ways to attract international design clients. You can travel the world and talk to people about your business. You can invest in an international marketing campaign. You can become an SEO wizard and draw clients from around the world to you. Or, you can do what I did and give something away for free.

My first international client, without even trying.

If you listen to the Resourceful Designer podcast, you may have heard me mention bits and pieces this story, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared it all in one place.

I started podcasting in 2013 doing TV Fan Podcasts for some of the television shows I enjoy. I have podcasts covering the TV shows Under The Dome, Orphan Black, Killjoys, and The Expanse. You can find all of them on my podcast network at solotalkmedia.com

Unbeknownst to me, the journey that led me to have international design clients started with my podcast for the television show Under The Dome. While making that podcast, I met Wayne Henderson from California and Troy Heinritz from Illinois, two friends who were podcasting together about the same Under The Dome TV show. You might think that two podcasts talking about the same TV show would become rivals but the podcasting world is different. Podcasters are mostly outgoing people, and we like to help each other out, even when our shows are on the same topic. It didn't take long for Wayne, Troy and I became friends. In fact, Wayne is the man with the sultry voice you hear at the beginning of every episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast.

How does this relate to designing for international clients?

I'm the type of designer that doesn't like creating things without purpose. Any time I test out new software, buy a new Photoshop or Illustrator plugin, acquire a new font, or obtain anything else, I like to test them out on real projects. Often those projects are current client projects but if I don't have a client project suitable for me to "experiment" on I will find something else that may need a redesign and experiment on that. Even if it's not something I was hired to do.

Like many podcasters, Wayne had multiple podcasts. One of those podcasts was on the subject of Voice-Over Artists. I don't want to sound mean towards a friend, but the artwork for Wayne's podcast was horrible. So when I purchased a Design Cuts bundle and acquired a fancy new font with multiple variations for each character, I decided to experiment with it by designing a new logo for Wayne's podcast.

My goal wasn't to design a new logo; it was just to experiment with the font. But if I ended up creating something I liked, it might as well be something useful, and that's what happened. After experimenting for a while I liked what I had created, so I decided to spend a bit more time fine-tuning the design.

The artwork was useless to me so I offered it to Wayne free of charge and told him he could use it if he wanted to, no obligations. Wayne loved the artwork and immediately replaced his old artwork with my new design. Not just that, he was so grateful for the unexpected gift that he started telling everyone in the podcasting space about the great artwork I created for him.

A month or so later, I subscribed to the stock photo site GraphicStock (now StoryBlocks). While searching through the stock images, I saw one of a football on turf that caught my eye. A design idea popped into my head, and I downloaded the image.

By coincidence. Wayne and Troy have another podcast together for their favourite NFL football team, the Green Bay Packers. Once again, the artwork wasn't the greatest.

So using the stock image as inspiration, I designed new artwork for that podcast and gave it to them. Again, with no obligation for them to use it. Both Wayne and Troy were so pleased that once again they started sharing what I did on social media and the two became ambassadors for my design business.

After that, every time they saw a post in a Facebook group where someone asked a question about a design they would share my name. I would get a notification that my name was mentioned, and I would join the conversation. Most of the time I would just help the person out with advice or give my opinion on a design they already had. I didn't try to sell my services.

After a while, people started to notice that every time there was a design related question, I would provide a useful comment. It didn’t take long for one of those people to reach out to me to have something designed. The first was a woman from California. I created podcast cover art and a website for her. She was so pleased that she started sharing my name on both her podcast and on social media.

I was then contacted and hired to create podcast cover art by a couple of her listeners who heard her talk about me with high praise. One of them was from Hong Kong and another from London, my first overseas international clients. The client in Hong Kong liked working with me enough that he hired me for another project of his that was not podcast related. This project was in partnership with someone he knew in Japan. A couple of months later the man from Japan asked me to design something for a side project he was starting. And so on and so on.

Most designers agree that the bulk of their clients come to them via word of mouth referrals. That's precisely what happened to me but on an international scale. I've now worked with clients on every continent except for Antarctica. Most of them stem from those first two artworks I did for free for a couple of podcasting friends.

This all started in March of 2015. At that time almost all of my clients were local except for a couple in the USA. Now, over 80% of my clients are international. Half of them are linked somehow to the podcast space.

What exactly did I do?

  • Instead of wasting time experimenting with design, I chose to experiment by designing something useful.
  • Even though I was experimenting, I made sure to produce good work. Designs I could be proud of.
  • I gave the design away for free to people who would appreciate it. Please keep in mind that doing free work is not the same as working for free. I can guarantee you that if Wayne or Troy had come to me asking for the artwork, I would have charged them for it.
  • I provided good work that people appreciated, and it made them want to spread the word about me.

Now, three years later. My name is recognised in the podcast space as that podcasting graphic designer who understands the podcast industry. And who do people turn to when they need a designer? Someone they know, someone they’ve heard about, someone who understands them.

Times change.

We’re lucky that we live at a time where it’s so easy for someone in California to have a conversation and share knowledge with someone in Scotland, Brazil or Australia. We're also lucky that boundaries have been broken. It wasn't that long ago that people were fearful of hiring someone from outside their borders. Now, most people do it without a second thought.

How does this apply to your design business?

How does this apply to you? Easy, if It worked for me, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for you. In episode 54 and episode 93 of Resourceful Designer, I talked about Niches and how they can help grow your design business.

That’s what I did without even realising it. I went after the podcast niche. It took me three years to get to the point I'm at now, and no, not all my clients are in the podcasting space, but by ingraining myself in that niche I've built an international design business, and it keeps gaining traction every day. Now I've partnered with a podcast production company who contracts me every time they have a new client that requires either podcast cover art, social media branding, website or any other design work.

This method can work for you.

If you have a passion or a hobby, I encourage you to get involved with others that have the same passion or hobby. Attend events related to your hobby, follow them on social media, join facebook groups or sub-Reddit groups, even forums if they still exist. Get to know the people in your space, help them out if you can, let them know what you do but don't sell yourself. By offering valuable information and showing that you know what you're talking about, I’m sure that eventually, you will get work from it just like I did.

Gary Vaynerchuk has a book called [easyazon_link identifier="006227306X" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.[/easyazon_link] In his book, Gary explains that you will be more successful at selling yourself if you've continuously offered help before. Be helpful, and when the time comes people will repay you for that help.

As I said at the start, there are many ways to attract international design clients. This is the way that worked for me. It took three years but it was well worth it, and I can't wait to see what my client list will look like three years from now.

Be helpful, Do good work, Treat your clients right and be patient. It will work out for you as well.

How do you attract international design clients?

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 entire episode was based on a question I received from Nayda. This is what she asked.

Recently I listened one of your podcast in which you said that most of your clients are not locals in Canada. That’s why you set as one of your 2018 goals to gain more local clients.

I was wondering, how do you find overseas clients? Recently I stumble upon the “Upwork” platform. In Puerto Rico, where I am from, they developed something similar after Hurricane María hits us. It’s called “Shop & Hire”.

Did you use a platform similar to these to get your overseas clients? Also, what are your thoughts about the use of platforms such as the one I mentioned?

Have a great day!

Nayda

This article is part of what I discussed on the podcast. Listen to the episode for the full story.

Resource of the week Backblaze

Never Lose a File Again with the World's Easiest Cloud Backup. Backblaze gives you peace of mind knowing your files are backed up securely in the cloud. Just set it up and forget about it. Backblaze works in the background and automatically backs up new and modified files.

Hard drive crashes are only one thing you need to worry about. Your files are also vulnerable to hardware theft and natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes etc. With Backblaze, you can rest at ease knowing your business files are safe no matter what happens. Backblaze works on Mac or PC and is just $50/year.

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 9, 2018

What makes up good impressions?

The impressions you leave on your clients determine their willingness to work with you in the future. When good impressions outweigh bad impressions, clients will want to do business with you again. So how do you ensure you are making good impressions while dealing with your clients?

Let me tell you a story

About a year ago something happened to our washing machine. Every time we tried to do a load of clothes the washer would start up and then stop. Lights on the front panel would start flashing but nothing else. I tried the first trick in the book and banged it a few times, but it didn't help. It was time to make a service call.

I called an appliance repair guy I had used in the past only to discover he had retired. He was kind enough to give me the names of several people I could contact, and I dialled the first one on the list. A woman answered the phone and seemed confused when I started talking. She interrupted me, asked me to "hold on" and put the phone down for what seemed like minutes before a man finally picked up. I told him what my problem was and made an appointment for the next day at 10 am.

The following morning at 11:20 am a rusty pickup truck with a magnetic sign on the door advertising the repair business pulls into my driveway.

A couple of minutes later a middle-aged gentleman walked up to my door wearing sweatpants and an old Van Halen T-shirt. His branded sweat-stained baseball cap confirmed what the tuck said. This was the repair guy.

The first thing out of his mouth was an apology for being late. Apparently, there was a long lineup at the drive-through coffee shop that put him behind schedule and then he got lost trying to find my place. I invited him in and showed him the washing machine.

The first thing he did is start a wash cycle that ended with the same results I had been getting. He then proceeded to press a certain combination of buttons that put the washing machine into a diagnosis mode which allowed him to see what error codes the machine was generating by what lights flashed on the console. He then pulled out a sheet of paper and compared the flashing lights on the washer to their error code on the sheet.

At that point, I asked him what his thoughts were, but he told me he still had to run more tests before deciding. I let him get back to work without any more interruptions. After watching him for several minutes, I started to understand what he was doing even though I didn't understand what the flashing lights meant.

Finally, after several minutes he told me that it was the same error code that kept coming up. This confused me since I was seeing different lights flashing every time he did something. But I'm not an appliance repair guy, so I took his word for it.

He then told me the error code indicated a faulty motherboard and on a machine as old as mine he didn't think it was worth repairing. I thanked him very much. He wrote me an invoice. I gave him a check and sent him on his way.

For some reason, I wasn't feeling confident with his assessment. So I called my wife, explained the situation and told her that before we run out and purchase a brand new washing machine, I would like to have someone else come in and look at it. It may cost us a bit more, but I would feel better after a second opinion.

I went back to the list of names my retired appliance repair guy gave me and called the second one on the list. This time a man answered and introduced himself as Dave from, and he mentioned his company name. I explained my washer problem, and he asked a few questions. He then told me he was booked up for the week but his last appointment for that day wasn't that far from where I live, and he could stop by afterwards if that were OK.

At 5:05 pm Dave called me to confirm I was still home and told me he would be there in 15 minutes. At exactly 5:20 pm a white van with professionally applied graphics of Dave's logo and contact information on the side, pulled into my driveway.

When I opened my door, Dave was there wearing blue work pants, work boots and a blue button shirt with his logo embroidered on the pocket. Before stepping into the house, he took out a pair of disposable booties and put them over his work boots so not to damage my floors.

I showed Dave the washing machine, and he started doing the same thing the first guy had done. Except, Dave didn't have a paper to refer to, and he explained everything he was doing to me. He described how diagnosis mode worked and what each flashing light we were seeing represented.

He then explained how he had to press a specific button combination to reset the machine after each test. Otherwise, it would give him random errors codes, and he wouldn't be able to diagnose the problem. To my knowledge, the first repair guy never did that.

After only a couple of minutes looking at the machine, Dave told me he thought a drum sensor that was causing the problem. He explained to me that there’s a sensor under the drum that measures RPM and from what he could tell it was sending out false information.

Dave went out to his truck and returned with a new sensor. He replaced it and tested the machine, and it started working again. He then told me that he was 99% sure the new sensor fixed the problem but we wouldn't know until the machine had gone through an entire wash cycle and he wasn't going to wait around for it to do so.

So Dave took the old sensor and put it in the box the new sensor had come in. He then told me to run the machine for a few days. If everything turned out fine, I could dispose of the old sensor, and he would send me an invoice. However, if it turned out that the problem was more than just the sensor, he would replace the new one with the old one again, and he wouldn't charge me for it.

We shook hands and Dave left. A few days later he called to see how things had worked out and I told him the washing machine was working fine. A few days after that I received an invoice in the mail for $75. $40 for the new sensor and $35 for the 30 minutes Dave spent at my house.

Our washing machine is still working today.

Good impressions vs bad impressions.

Think about the story I just told you. According to my old retired repair guy, everyone on the list he gave me was an experienced and competent appliance repairman. From what I was able to discover while Googling contact information for both repair guys, each had been running their appliance repair business for over 15 years. Both had good ratings on Google, and the reviews for both were favourable showing past satisfied clients.

I don't dispute that each one knows his craft. Sure the first guy misdiagnosed the issue, but nobody's perfect. I'm confident that in his mind the problem was a faulty motherboard.

It's not their skill I'm questioning. It's the impressions they left on me. The first guy left a bad impression. Staring at his vehicle to his attire to his demeanour. The second guy, on the other hand, left a good impression on me. From the moment he pulled into my driveway to the moment he left.

How good impressions affect decisions.

Fast forward to this past weekend. My wife and I woke up Sunday morning to a fridge that wasn't working. Luckily the cold weather at this time of year in Canada was in our favour. We were able to save all our food by putting it on our back deck in coolers and plastic bins, but I knew we couldn't last like that. I needed to have a repair guy look at our fridge as soon as possible. Who do you think I called?

Even though it was Sunday and I knew Dave worked Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm I decided to call and leave a message for him to get Monday morning. I dialled his number, and when his answering machine picked up, I proceeded to leave the following message.

"Hi Dave, It’s Mark Des Cotes here. I don’t know if you remember me, but you repaired my washing machine last year. I’m calling because there’s something wrong with our fridge…”

At that point in my message, I hear the phone pick up, and Dave say “Hi Mark, Dave here, what’s the problem with your fridge?”

I was stunned. I wasn't expecting anyone to pick up and I told Dave as much. He said to me that he can listen when people leave messages and that his ears perked up when I mentioned that I was a past client. And then when he heard me say I was having a problem with my fridge, he decided to pick up.

Dave told me he wasn't busy that afternoon and offered to come by and have a look. I was about to give him my address when he told me he remembered where I lived and he would see me at 1:00 pm. More good impressions.

Dave tested a bunch of things, explaining to me the whole time what he was doing. Unfortunately, unlike the washing machine, we both agreed that the investment required to repair the fridge wasn't worth it. We had to get a new one. With all the good impressions Dave had left on me through our two encounters, I didn't question his assessment.

Good impressions and your design business.

So what does my story have to do with your design business? Simple, Good impressions make a difference.

You can be the best designer around, but if you don’t make good impressions on your clients, you could be losing them to lesser quality designers that do make good impressions.

How do you make good impressions?

Be courteous

Don't just listen to your clients speak, hear what they have to say. Involve the client in your conversations, shake their hand every time you see them. Look them in the eye when talking with them.

Be punctual

Show up when you say you will. Deliver when you say you will. If for some reason you can’t be punctual, let your client know in advance. Apologizingafterwards is too late. The bad impression damage is already done.

Be Presentable

Unless your clients are part of the corporate world wearing a suit or fancy dress may not be necessary, but you should still look clean and presentable. Wear professional looking clothes. Be conscious of your grooming. If you wear fragrances, make sure they are not overpowering. Don’t show up to a meeting with a backpack, carry your things in a good looking case or portfolio.

Act professional

Have answers to your client's questions. If you don’t have the answers, offer to find them and get back to your client. Answer your phone in a professional manner. Reply to your emails in a professional manner by always addressing the person you are talking to and signing the message, so there's no question as to whom it came from.

All of these things will make good impressions. If you do it right, you’ve already won half the battle when it comes to landing and keeping clients. If you have design skills to match, you have nothing else to worry about.

What are your experiences with bad or good impressions?

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 Joshua

I have been on my own for the last year and I am struggling to decide where to spend advertising dollars. What is the most efficient way to gain new clients? Working with the local chamber of commerce, FB or IG ads, or some other avenue. My clients have been good at referring to me but since I am new I do not have a giant book of business to pull from.

Any ideas would be great!

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

Resource of the week Four Week Marketing Boost

The Four Week Marketing Boost! is a guide I created that will help you strengthen your marketing position, boost your brand’s awareness & social presence and ultimately ensure you are in tip-top shape to offer a best first impression to potential new clients.

This guide is divided into 20 short actions that easily fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After 20 days you should be in a comfortable position to present your most favourable image to potential clients.

And yes, this guide is free! Get it by visiting marketingboost.net

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, 2018

What Is Value-Based Pricing?

Value-based pricing is a way to not only get paid for your time and expenses but a way to get paid for the value of the services and products you provide to your clients.

Value-Based Pricing = Time + Expenses + Value.

With hourly pricing and project-based pricing, you are compensated only for your time and expenses. This way is ok for newer designers just starting out. But once you’ve established yourself and start to build a reputation as a skilled designer, you become more valuable to your clients than merely the time you spend on a project. At that point, you may want to consider switching your pricing method to value-based pricing.

After all, If that new website or logo your designing will help your client’s business grow and perhaps earn them a half million dollars over its lifetime, that’s a great value to them, and your prices should reflect it.

Establish a baseline price.

Before you start using value-based pricing, you need to establish a baseline price. Your baseline price will be different depending on the scope of each project, but they all start off the same way.

When submitting a quote using value-based pricing, it’s important to remember the formula: Value-Based Pricing = Time + Expenses + Value.

To start, you need to estimate how long you think a project will take and multiply it by your hourly rate. Make sure your hourly rate reflects your skills as a designer.

Once you have your time figured out, estimate your expenses for the project. Not just project specific expenses but business expenses as well. Business expenses are something many designers overlook when quoting.

How much electricity will you be consuming while working on the project? If you are renting space, you should know how much per hour it costs you and include it as an expense. How much does your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription cost per hour of use? All of these are considered expenses and you should bill for them. Just because it’s a business expense doesn’t mean you can’t charge your clients for it.

Remember that besides your time, you should be charging enough to keep the light on and keep your business running as well.

Taking all of this into consideration, you will have a different baseline price for every project. A website will take more time to develop than designing a business card will. Don’t forget to add a buffer to your baseline price. We all know about scope creep so compensate for it in advance by adding anywhere from 5-20% or more to your baseline price.

Once you’ve determined your baseline price for a project, you can then adjust your quote based on the projected value of the project to your client, that's value-based pricing.

Determining the value of a project

Determining the value part of value-based pricing is tricky. Through back and forth conversations with your clients, you need to figure out what sort of return they expect to achieve with what you provide them. Only then can you figure out a percentage of that amount as the value part of your price equation.

When first starting out with value-based pricing it's normal to offer lower prices as you get used to the concept of how much value design can provide. Over time as you practice and gain experience, you will get better at determining the true value of a project. The trick is to try and let your clients estimate the value for you by asking lots of questions about their business.

Be more than a designer

When you first start your business, chances are you'll run it more like a technician. A client tells you what they want, you design it for them, and they pay you. Many designers continue using that model their entire career. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But If you want to use value-based pricing you need to do more. You need to establish yourself not only as a designer but as a design consultant.

As a designer, most of the communication goes in one direction. From the client to you. As a design consultant, communication evens out or even tips in the other direction with you directing the project more than the client does.

To establish yourself as a design consultant, you need to be inquisitive about a client's business. Ask them questions like “What sort of growth do you anticipate for this upcoming year?” or "How do you think this proposed design project will affect your bottom line?" or “How much money are you willing to invest to ensure the success of your business?”

By asking these types of questions from the start, questions that have nothing to do with the actual designing of the project, your clients will realise that you bring much more to the table than merely your design skills. You deliver insight and value that will continue long after you’ve completed their project.

If you establish yourself as a problem solver, which is what a consultant should be, and you approach clients with confidence, you will build trust with them, and they will be much more willing to open up to you about their business. Once you have that trust and your clients see the knowledge and value you bring to them, they will be ready to invest more with you.

Several of my clients use me as a sounding board to ask my opinion on business matters. Matters that have nothing to do with design. That’s because of the trust and value I've provided them over the years. Those clients value me more than just for my design skills, And that means I can charge them more for my services based on that trust and value.

The tricky part is putting a price tag on that value. Maybe that value is $5,000, or perhaps it's $50,000. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to figure it out. You will need to judge for yourself what you think the value of each project is to your client and then present your value-based price with confidence.

It is trial and error. But with practice, you will get the hang of it, and start to know when you can charge more for a project based on value and when you can’t. Before long, you will feel comfortable and confident in asking for what you are worth.

I remember years ago when I used to design websites for $400-$700. The first time I quoted $1000 for a website I was very nervous, but I believed the value I was providing was more than what I had been charging. My clients must have agreed because they accepted my quotes, and soon $1000 became my new base price for a basic website. Later, recognising even more value I was bringing, I raised my price to $2000 wondering if clients would laugh in my face. They didn't. They agreed, and $2000 became my new base price.

Every time I raised my prices and asked for more money, based on the value I was providing, I kept thinking I was asking too much and I would never hear from those clients again. But you know what? It never happened.

Let me tell you what did happen. When I was asking $400-$700 for a website, I had a lot of clients say it was too expensive or they couldn't afford it. I was winning one out of every four or five quotes I submitted. But now that my starting price for a basic website is several thousand dollars, I rarely have a client turn me down. Most clients are referred to me by someone they trust, and they've heard of the value I provide beyond a simple website. With that knowledge, they are willing to invest in my services even though I charge much more than the next guy.

You are a professional designer, that’s why clients are coming to you in the first place. If a client doesn’t like your price for their project, if they don’t see the value in hiring you, then you don’t want them as a client.

There are no bad clients, only bad design choices.

Before that statement makes you stop reading let me explain. When I say bad design choices I don’t mean a designer's skills, I mean their people perception filters. If you end up with clients that are rude or disrespectful, clients that micromanage you or are stingy with their money, it's not the clients' fault; it’s yours for agreeing to work with them.

Unless you are just starting out, you should have enough experience in recognising demanding clients to be able to turn them away before ever having to deal with them. The money may be tempting, but the headaches are not worth it.

By using value-based pricing, by establishing yourself as a design consultant, a professional in your field, you will project a higher sense of worth which will allow you to charge the prices you deserve for the value you provide. Clients will respect you more and will understand that what you do is much more than just an expense for them. It’s an investment.

Don’t worry about the designers on Fiverr or similar platforms or the ones in your community that are charging less than you. Your prices are not intended to be competitive; they’re meant to reflect where you are in your career and the value you provide to your clients.

Your goal is to distinguish yourself by showing the uniqueness you can bring by showcasing a positive track record of successful projects. Use your portfolio and case studies and let them speak for themselves. They will prove that the value you provide is worth every penny.

Niche Down

Niches are a perfect avenue for value-based pricing. Whenever you serve a niche, you are automatically established as an expert and can charge much higher prices for your work.

When your business is new, you need to diversify your services to have many sources of design income and to build your portfolio. You may design logos, websites, business cards, posters, you name it. The object is to build up a portfolio that will gain trust from your audience and eventually allow you to work with the clients you want.

By taking on all these projects and doing them well, you will allow your reputation, your professionalism to grow organically over time. Eventually, you may want concentrate on a niche.

Niching down can be scary because doing it correctly means turning down potentially good clients outside of your niche. But if you look at the bigger picture, I’m sure you’ll agree, that one $15,000 project in your chosen niche more than makes up for several $1000 projects you turn down from clients outside your niche.

What usually holds designers back is the fear that those $15,000+ projects are far out of reach. How can a solo designer, working from home charge those kinds of fees? You can once you've built up a reputation of someone who provides value beyond the design.

If you concentrate on building your business the right way and don’t compromise on design projects, you can reach that level.

High paying clients are looking for you

You are not a factory worker on a production line, so don’t run your design business like you are.

I read a great line in an old article by Dina Rodreguez that I’m going to steal.

What would happen if you hired a doctor and then told them how to operate on you?

As a designer, you’re no different. You are a professional in your field, and you should be treated like one. Clients should not be telling you what to do, you should be telling them what they need. Be the problem solver.

Be confident in your skills and your work. Price yourself accordingly based on the value of the work you provide. If you do this, you will notice over time that less and less of those thrifty “shopping around” clients will be contacting you, and more and more big-budget clients will be knocking at your door.

Remember, Don’t base your prices on what those around you or online are charging. Recognize your true potential and realize the value you bring to your clients. Then pursue your passion without hesitation. Price yourself as a professional, not a commodity.

What are your thoughts on Value-Based Pricing?

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 Rich

I’m curious about if you use something like WHMCS (Web Host Manager Complete Solution) management software for invoicing and do your clients have sandboxed account logins or do you manage all your client’s within your hosting account?

I was thinking about starting out managing client sites from within my unlimited site shared hosting account and moving to the full “reseller” account as demand increases. It sounds like a WHMCS managed reseller account might be vital for automating invoicing, service tickets and other account related actions.

Thanks again, your content has been so helpful.

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

Resource of the week iThemes Security

This week's resource is the WordPress plugin iThemes Security, specifically the plugin's feature that allows you to change the URL of a site's WordPress login page from /wp-login.php or /wp-admin to anything you want. This makes it harder for bots and hackers to gain access to the site since they don't know what the login URL is. Simply click on the iThemes Security advanced settings, chose Hide Backend and change the URL slug to anything you want.

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 22, 2018

How much thought do you give client loyalty?

When it comes to your business, everything you do and everything you don’t do tells your clients how they should feel about you and your business. Being a great designer isn’t enough to garner client loyalty. There are plenty of great designers out there. So why should someone choose you over any of them?

It’s even more difficult in today's market with all the inexpensive crowdsourced or contest oriented design options available to clients these days. Not only do you need to prove you’re a good designer, but you also need to show you are worth the money you're charging for your services. You need to do everything you can to prove to your clients that their money is better spent with you.

When you achieve that, you’ll be rewarded with a client that is loyal to you and your design business. So how do you accomplish this?

Here are seven tips to help you build client loyalty.

1) Do What You Say You’ll Do

The ability to follow through on your commitments is extremely valuable when it comes to client loyalty. When you tell a client you’re going to do something, follow through and do it. Clients hear your comments as promises. So if you don’t do what you said you would do, it’s like you broke a promise with them and they will lose trust in you.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working with a client, or how much trust you’ve built up. Failing to follow through on something you said you would, will ruin all the goodwill and client loyalty you’ve been building up. It’s very hard to recover once someone loses trust in you.

If for some reason you are not able to follow through on something you told your client you would do, give your clients ample notice. Most clients will understand if you let them know in advance that you can't hold to your word. Apologizing after the fact is too late.

Remember, actions speak louder than words. Follow through on what you say you’ll do.

2) Share your discoveries.

In your line of work, you get to talk to a lot of different people in various fields. Some of the conversations you have or the news you hear may not be of interest to you, but it may be of interest to your clients.

Whenever you hear something you think one of your clients might be interested in, pass it along. Merely passing on information is a great way to stay in touch with your clients and it shows them that you care about them. This will go a long way towards building client loyalty.

3) Get to know your clients

Building client loyalty is all about building relationships, the cornerstone of any great partnership. Designer and client included. It’s so important that I’ve talked about client relationships on over 25 episodes of the podcast.

To build a client relationship you need to learn things about your client. Find out when their birthday is. Learn who their family members are and what they do. Discover what hobbies and interests your client has.

Later, when talking to your client, bring up some of this information in the conversation. Ask about their daughter's recital. Inquire how a family member is doing since they had surgery. Find out how their son's team is doing.

Just by discussing things that are related to your client’s personal life, you too, become part of their personal life.

This shows your client that you care about them more than just on a working basis and it will make them think twice before every hiring a different designer.

4) Provide added Value

Go above and beyond if you can. Tip #1 I was about keeping promises. What if you promise to deliver something by Friday and you give it to your client two days early on Wednesday? To your clients, this is an added value they will appreciate, and it didn’t cost you anything.

Another thing you can do is provide little extras that other designers don’t.

Create short instruction videos using software like Screenflow to show your clients how to use their newly launched website. Teach them how to log in, how to create or edit posts, how to upload media files, etc. Not only does this go above and beyond to provide added value to your clients. It also lessens your workload because your client won't be contacting you asking “how do I do that again?”

If you design a logo for a client, include a PDF explaining all the different file formats you are providing them. List each one and explain when and why each format should be used. This could be the same PDF you share with all your clients. To them, it's an added value.

Anything you do to create added value goes a long way to strengthen client loyalty.

5) Engage your clients and give them a reason to come back

Once a project is over, it doesn’t mean your communications with your client should be over as well. Keep in touch with them. Let them know of new or improved services you offer. Are you getting into the Facebook advertising game? Let your clients know about it. Have you discovered a new supplier that provides some new and innovative marketing dohickey? Mention to your clients how they might benefit from using it in their promotional campaign. Did a client ask you to design something you’ve never done before? Show it off to your other clients and offer to do the same for them.

By letting your clients know about the new and exciting happenings with your company you build momentum with them, and it makes them somehow feel involved and builds loyalty towards you.

6) Get Feedback from your clients

A great way to build client loyalty is to ask them for their opinion on your business and services. Were they happy with their most recent dealings with you? Did the service you provide meet their expectations? Ask them if there is anything you could have done to make the experience better.

Asking your clients for their opinion is a great way to show you care about what they think and that you are listening to their concerns.

7) Show your appreciation.

As a child, your parents taught you to say Thank You whenever someone gives you something. Your clients are giving you work they could have taken elsewhere. Once a project is over show your client you're grateful for it by saying thank you for the business.

This simple gesture is something rarely seen in the service industry, and your clients will take note and remember you for it, increasing their loyalty towards you.

If you follow these seven tips to increase client loyalty towards you and your business, not only will you be ensuring a long-lasting relationship with your clients, but you will be growing your business as well. Because loyal clients are more apt to talk about you and spread the word about the great work and excellent service you provide.

What do you do to build client loyalty?

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 Miranda

Hi Mark, I was wondering if you ever worked in a small design agency, and if you had any tips for a Graphic Designer with about a year of professional experience. I’ve worked in a big agency and small design businesses. I’d love your feedback on how to get a small design agency better quality work.

My boss is kind of old school so some of the work is not branding our clients it’s more production work. We have branded clients and have some great clients we’ve branded. But I wanted your take on how to get better clients and how to navigate them to understanding how important their brand is.

Thanks so much! Would love to hear from you!

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

Resource of the week Running SEO

This week's resource is Running SEO, a website that offers free instant website reviews and SEO audits. With their in-depth website analysis, you can learn how to improve your website rankings & online visibility through SEO, social media, usability and much more. Running SEO doesn't just tell you what's wrong with your site, it says you how to fix it. Their competitive analysis function gives you a side-by-side comparison between your site and your competitor. Find out what they are doing better on their site and implement it on your site. Running SEO is also great for landing new clients. Run an analysis before meeting a new client to show them what needs improving on their website.

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 and Instagram

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 15, 2018

Are you looking to become a freelance designer?

At one point or another, every designer wonders what it would be like to become a freelance designer.

Maybe you’re a student dreaming of tackling the world after graduation. Perhaps you’re an in-house designer tired of working 9-5 designing similar things for the same company year after year. Maybe you work for a design agency as part of a larger team of experienced designers, and you feel like you are not being used to your full potential.

Regardless of where you are in your design career, the thought of becoming a freelance designer, to run your own business from home, to be your own boss, might be something going through your head.

I’m a big advocate of freelancers. I’ve focused Resourceful Designer specifically on helping home-based designers. But I’m also the first person to say that not every designer is suited to freelancer life. That’s why I put together this list of 5 things you should consider before deciding to become a freelance designer.

Why do you want to become a freelance designer?

The first thing you need to ask yourself before handing in your resignation letter is why do you want to become a freelance designer?

Is it for the flexible schedule? Is it for the ability to choose your clients and projects? Is it for the tax write-offs? Is it for the ability to work in your pyjamas at any hour of the day? Is it simply to be your own boss?

Whatever your reasons, make sure they are good ones before you make the leap and start your design business.

Here are five things to consider before deciding to become a freelance designer.

1) How will you deal with the isolation of working from home?

Working from home can get lonely. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons designers give up the freelance life and go back to a 9-5 job. It’s a big enough issue that there's an entire episode of Resourceful Designer where I talk about coping with isolation when working from home.

Ask any home-based designer, and they will tell you that isolation is a real issue. If you are someone who enjoys talking face to face with colleagues throughout the day, it's something to keep in mind.

Before you decide to become a freelance designer make sure you can handle the loneliness that comes with being by yourself most of the time.

2) How good are you at time management?

When you are an employee, chances are someone is telling you, or at least directing you in what you need to do on a daily basis.

Once you become a freelance designer, you won’t have someone telling you what to do anymore. Some people see this as a benefit, but you need to make sure you are disciplined enough to not only create a work schedule for yourself but to stick to it.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Not having a boss looking over your shoulder and keeping you in check can lead you astray.

Without someone making sure you’re working on what you are supposed to be working on when you're supposed to be working on it makes it very easy to get caught up on tangents. Before you know it, you’re spending way too much time on YouTube or Facebook, or succumbing to the temptation of that brand new season of your favourite show that just dropped on Netflix.

Make sure you know how to manage your time and make sure you know how to stick to a schedule, even one you made for yourself.

3) Can you plan for the future?

Running your own design business is not about the here and now. It’s about the future. When you are an employee, chances are there’s someone else worrying about the future of the business where you work. But when that business is your own, it’s your responsibility to ensure for your future.

No matter how good your clients are, or how big the projects your working on become, there is no guarantee they will still be around in a few months.

You need to be able to look ahead and prepare for slow times by continuingly looking for new projects and new clients to sustain your business.

A home-based designer’s life is full of ups and downs when it comes to projects. The trick is to minimize those downward curves by preparing ahead for them.

4) Can you be your own boss?

When you become a freelance designer, you don’t give up a boss. You become the boss. But are you boss material?

Are you able to keep yourself accountable to not only get the design work done but to handle the other day to day activities that running a business requires?

Designers thinking about freelancing don't often think about everything involved. Running your own design business is much more than just designing.

If you want to know what else is involved in running a home-based design business, listen to episode 38 of Resourceful Designer: The Many Hats Of A Home Based Graphic Designer.

5) How good are you at finances?

One of the many hats you will need to wear after you become a freelance designer is that of an accountant. Freelancing is not a financially stable profession. You don’t get a steady paycheck every week. Some months lots of money may come in and other months barely a cent. Especially when you first start off.

You need to be able to handle your income in a way that is sustainable for you. That means making sure that not only are you covering your bills but that you have enough saved up for those times when work is slow.

Is the freelance life for you?

Many designers think that life would be so much easier if they started their own design business. The truth of the matter is that freelancing is very difficult and requires a particular type of person to succeed at it. You might be that type of person. But ask yourself these five questions before you quit your job to become a freelance designer.

Do you have what it takes to become a freelance designer?

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 Shenai

I know some universities have classes that cover some of the legal issues with designing but mine did not offer this. If you have advise on when you should trademark designs, or other ideas of design protection - I would love to hear that episode! In a time where everyone is marketing themselves on social media, I have a huge fear of being ripped off and really don't know at what lengths to go to cover my bases.

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

Resource of the week Coolors.co

This week's resource is the website Coolors.co. Coolors.co is a super fast and super easy way to create, save and share colour pallets for all your projects. Choose from a gallery of readily made pallets or create your own from scratch or based on some pre-selected colours.

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 8, 2018

If you want more design clients you need to follow-up.

It requires many hats to run a successful home-based design business. Beyond being a designer, you need to wear the hat of a bookkeeper, a receptionist, a marketer, a salesperson and many more. Often it's the salesperson hat that scares people away, but it's one of the most important ones you will have to wear.

To have a successful design business, you need to be a competent salesperson. You don’t have to be great. You don't even have to be that good at it. Just being competent is all you need to succeed.

I know that being a salesperson has a certain stigma to it. Salespeople are often depicted on TV and the big screen as annoying, slimy people. But the fact of the matter is, everyone is a salesperson in one way or another. If you've ever convinced your spouse to go out for Italian food when they were in the mood for Mexican, you're a salesperson. If you've ever told your kids they can get a dessert if they eat all their vegetables, you're a salesperson. If you've ever sold your design services to a client, you're a salesperson.

Being a salesperson

One thing all good salespeople have in common is persistence. Without persistence, they would never make a sale. As the salesperson for your design business, you have to be persistent when searching for new clients. That persistence requires you to follow-up with someone after your first contact with them.

All salespeople know that the majority of successful sales happen during the follow-up. The same applies when you are pitching new clients. Rarely will a potential client hire you the first time you meet them. But if you are persistent and follow-up with them, you drastically improve your chances of winning them over.

When to follow-up

You need to follow up any time you meet a potential client for the first time. Some of these situations may include;

  • Cold calling (email, phone or in person)
  • Client presentations (When a client ask you to meet them for the first time)
  • Pitches (When you are one of many designers pitching a proposal to a client)
  • Request For Proposals (Either RFPs you've been asked to submit or those you've discovered yourself)

If you don’t follow up, you are leaving things open for someone else to sweep in and use your initial effort as traction to win over your potential client.

Your follow-ups should continue until you establish a conversation with the client or they decline your requests for further communication. More on that last part later.

How to follow-up

There are many ways to follow-up with someone, and there are different stages to the follow-up to which you should adhere. Work your way through the follow-up stages until you establish a communication with the client. Here are a few things you can try.

After your first in-person meeting or phone conversation.

  1. Within two days of the meeting, you should thank them for taking the time to talk to you. Nothing more.
  2. One to two weeks after the meeting, Send them a message asking if they have had a chance to think about what you had discussed.
  3. If you do not get a response after your second follow-up, you could send them a message saying you understand they may not be ready to proceed with anything now, but you can follow up again with you in a few months.
  4. Mark your calendar and follow-up again after the time you specified in step 3.

After sending a first contact email or voicemail.

Usually, this falls under the scope of cold calling. You send a potential client an email or leave them a voicemail message introducing yourself. Don't worry if you don't immediately hear back from them. Follow these steps for more engagement.

  1. After a few days, call or email them again and ask if they received your first message.
  2. After one or two weeks contact them again and politely tell them you have not heard back from them and you were just wondering if your messages were getting to them.
  3. If they still don’t respond, you can follow-up by saying you understand they are busy so you will reach out to them again in a few months.
  4. Mark your calendar and follow-up again after the time you specified in step 3.

Keep following up until you hear "no."

Remember that the trick to being a good salesperson is to remain persistent until you either get the sale, or you're offer is rejected. Most people, even if they are interested in your services, won't respond to the first contact. It takes several tries before they are ready to commit. If you are not following up you are missing out on a lot of opportunities in gaining new clients.

That’s why following up is essential. You will get a higher number of people responding to your second and third contact request. By showing them your persistence, you are proving your value and dedication, both useful traits in someone worth hiring.

Keep trying until they tell you they are not interested or have no need for your services. Until they decline, you should continue to treat them as potential clients.

Pick another fish

If you are trying to land a large corporation as a client and you don't hear back from the person you are trying to reach. Try reaching out to somebody else in the company. Sometimes someone won't respond to you because what you are offering isn't part of their job description. After several failed attempts try moving on to someone else in the company.

It's a waiting game

To many people, this tactic feels intrusive and bothersome but’s it’s all part of the selling game. Since the dawn of time salespeople have been earning a living through persistence and following up. The tactics are no different for your design business. Keep at it, and you will land those clients you thought were out of reach.

You can be the best designer in the world, but if you don’t practice your skills as a salesperson, you’re going to have a tough time growing your design business.

How often do you follow-up with potential clients?

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.

I don't have a question this week, but I look forward to answering yours in the future.

Clarification of the week.

This week instead of a resource or tip I want to clarify something I've been noticing lately. Many people have been messaging me about episode 11 of the podcast about pricing strategies. These people are confused between Project-Based Pricing and Fixed/Flat Rate Pricing.

Project Based Pricing is when you look at the scope of a project and give the client a quote based on the work involved to complete that project. With Project-Based Pricing, every job is priced according to its scope. For example; You might quote $150 for a logo for a local charity run and $800 for a logo for a new law firm. Both are logos, but one will probably require more work.

Fixed/Flat Rate Pricing is when you advertise a certain price to do a specific task regardless of the scope of the job. For example; you promote that you design logos for $250. It doesn't matter if it's for a charity run or a law firm. All logos are $250.

I did not talk about Fixed/Flat Rate Pricing in episode 11 because I don't feel it's a viable method of pricing. Unless your fixed prices are very high, there's a good chance you will lose money on the majority projectsn.

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 2, 2018

Make a little progress every day to reach the next level.

Building a successful design business isn’t easy. It takes skill, it takes time, and it takes effort, a lot of effort. Think of your design business’s success as a journey. One where you strive every day to make progress towards that next level of success.

Every business starts off new, with all the potential in the world. To grow your business, you need to have a destination in mind of what next level you want to reach. Then you get to work and make progress towards that goal.

Maybe that destination is to land that first paying design client. Maybe it’s to see something you designed in print. Maybe it’s hearing from your client that they’ve made their first sale on a website you built for them. Whatever your destination is, you need to work hard until you reach it.

Of course, reaching that destination is not the end. It's a new beginning. Once you've reached that destination and achieved that goal, the next step is to progress to the next level. You do that by setting a new destination for yourself and setting off on that path.

Maybe your new destination is to get your second client. Maybe it's to design something portfolio worthy. Maybe it's to see your design on store shelves.

Whatever your goals are, or whatever path you take, you get there by putting one foot in front of the other until your next destination is reached.

Overcoming doubt.

Like any journey, there will be bumps along the way that may cause you to doubt yourself.

Am I a good enough a designer to be doing this?

Why would someone hire me instead of one of the other talented and more experienced designers offering similar work?

Can I create a design that truly reflects who the client is?

Am I charging too much or too little for my work?

These are all normal questions to be thinking. Some designers don’t even realize they doubt themselves by asking them. But it's ok; all designers do it. And you know what? Doubting yourself is healthy. If you didn't doubt yourself, there would be nothing to keep you in check. Nothing to cause you to stop and think is this the best idea or direction. Nothing stopping you from taking a wrong path that leads you away from the destination you set for yourself.

The trick is to use that doubt to help you navigate to that next level. This goes for whether you’re just starting out in your design business or you’ve been doing this for many years. The next level is still the next level. It’s the place you haven’t been before with your business. Another step on the road to success.

One of the big challenges of reaching those next levels is self-doubt, the uncertainty and the lack of clarity about how to get there.

We all experience it. There have been several times over the years when I wasn’t sure about what I should do next, or how I should proceed with my business either. I doubted myself.

When I switched from hourly billing to fixed and value-based billing, I wondered if it was the right move. When I went from charging hundreds of dollars for a website to charging thousands of dollars I was worried that nobody would hire me anymore. When I decided to give up hand coding websites and focus solely on building Wordpress websites I was worried that I wasn't being true to my design roots.

Heck, when I was thinking of starting the Resourceful Designer podcast I had doubts. I didn’t know how the show would be received. Would people like you enjoy it? Would you find the topics I talk about interesting and informative? Would you even bother listening to someone like me who isn't a big name in the design world?

All of these were next levels in my design career that I chose as destinations to reach. And I reached them by getting over my self-doubt.

Maybe you don’t have your own design business yet. Maybe you’ve recently started one and are in the process of growing it. Maybe you are running a part-time freelance business while working a full-time job. Or Maybe you’ve been at this a long time and already feel successful.

Regardless of where you are in your career, there will always be a next level to reach.

Reaching the next level.

If you want your design business to progress towards a next level, you have to be clear on what that next level is. Then do whatever you can to avoid distractions as you work towards it. Remember, How you get to the next level isn’t as important as what that next level is.

If your goal is to build $20k websites, maybe you decide to give up everything besides designing websites. You give up designing logos, posters, brochures, trade show booths, mobile apps, etc. and focus just on websites. You spend all your time working on one website after another, going from one client to another building up your skill and reputation until you land that big fish, the $20k website.

Or, maybe you decide to take it in smaller steps by building long-term relationships with your clients. You spend time helping them develop their brand and grow their business over months and years until they are big enough to pay you $20k for their next website.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it because how you get there isn’t as important as what your next level is.

Making progress

Once you know your destination, that next level, the trick is to make consistent incremental progress towards reaching it and being completely dissatisfied when you’re not making progress.

In other words, make progress every day. It should be your standard method of operation. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a little progress, like learning a new trick or shortcut to make something easier for you. As long as you make progress every day.

Can a brand new unproven web design business charge $20k for a website? There's nothing stopping them. However, they may find it difficult without any experience to show potential clients. Especially clients with deep pockets.

But a new unproven web design business with a focused goal in mind of one day designing $20k website, which spends its time working towards that goal every day. Month after month, year after year. There's nothing stopping them from eventually reaching that goal.

Remember that progress builds up over time. If you make a little progress every day, with a clear idea of where you’re going, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to stay focused and reach your goal.

Don't quit.

The final thing I want to say is, never quit.

Most designers, whether they are running their business as a side gig or as a full-time business, most of the ones that end up failing, they do so because they quit too soon. They set up their business thinking they would simply run it one day at a time and see what happens.

Those designers didn’t have a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve, and they didn’t know how to progress towards those next levels to reach their goals.

Yes, times may get tough. You may decide that putting food on the table is more important than trying to land that big fish client. Sometimes life’s situations may force you to seek other forms of income. And that’s OK. But that’s not a reason to give up on your goals.

Remember, a successful design business is a journey. And journeys take time and patience.

I know it’s easy to become discouraged when things are not working out. But you need to look beyond that. Maybe that discouragement you may be feeling can be overcome with some good advice about how to tweak what you’re doing and get back on track.

Maybe that discouragement is coming from your self-doubt of what you are capable of doing.

Find a business coach or mentor program to help guide you. Find places like the Facebook groups with people willing to listen and help. The answers are out there if you take the time to look for them. We all have these doubts from time to time that we need to overcome before progressing along our journey.

If you’re feeling discouraged or you doubt yourself, you need to figure out why that is and address it.

There are limitless opportunities out there for you to grow a successful design business. Don't let anything stop you.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

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 Anees

Hi Mark!

I hope you are doing well preparing more content for us :). Well my question may be not new but I want to hear from you.

What's the difference between good and great design.

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

Resource of the week Front-End Checklist

This week's resource is a website called frontendchecklist.io. Front-End Checklist is perfect for modern websites and meticulous developers! This site shows you all the different aspects of a website build with items divided into low, medium and high priority and allows you to check them off as you complete them. Filter the checklist into sections such as SEO, security, accessibility, performance, CSS, Javascript and more. If you develop websites, I think you will like this resource.

Subscribe to the podcast

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

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

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

Jan 26, 2018

Do you worry about isolation while working from home?

Isolation is one of the major concerns when running a home-based design business. Spending day after day, week after week having minimal contact with other people can take its toll on some people. That's why working from home is not for everyone.

When asked about working from home most people will give one of two responses.

  1. I wish I could do that. Be my own boss, work my own hours with nobody looking over your shoulder.
  2. I don't think I could do that. It would drive me crazy being by myself all the time.

The type of person you are will determine if isolating yourself to run a home-based design business is right for you. After all, to live a healthy and fulfilling life you need to have close, interpersonal relationships. Which isn't always easy for home-based designers.

Before I go any further, let me just state that I am not a qualified therapist or health professional. If you are feeling the effects of isolation to the point where you are feeling lonely or depressed, please seek professional help.

Ways to cope with isolation when working from home.

Create a happy work environment

A key factor to a pleasant work at home experience is working in a space you enjoy. If at all possible, have a dedicated room in your home for your workspace. If your living arrangements don't allow for this try dedicating a corner of a room with a desk and other things you need to run your business.

Liven up your workspace with artwork and mementoes that make you feel good. Work with music if that's something you like, or if you find music too distracting you can try soothing sounds of nature. And make sure you have good lighting. Natural light from a window is best, but a good daylight lamp will suffice if need be.

If you like your working environment, chances are you will feel less isolated when you spend time in it.

Get out for a bit

Whenever you start to feel isolated, it may be a good time to take a break and get out. Go for a walk in a park or spend some time at a mall. Just being around other people, even if you don't interact with them will help alleviate some of your feelings of isolation.

Move your workspace

If you work on a laptop or tablet why not take it to a coffee shop or some other place with wifi. You could also try a shared workspace. Many cities now offer short-term office space rentals. Think about renting a space for a couple of hours once per week. Shared office paces give you the opportunity to work on your business while still being around others. Simply being around other people can have a therapeutic effect when you're struggling with isolation.

Become part of a community

Try joining groups or clubs in your area. Joining a group or club is a great way to meet new people and give you a chance to interact outside of a work environment. Check your local community centre for recreational sports leagues or other social gatherings.

For a quick fix from feeling isolated don't discount the power of social media. Being part of an online community can help take the stress out of your busy work life.

Mastermind and networking groups are another great way to interact with like-minded people. See if there are any in your area you could join.

Sometimes, all it takes to get over that feeling of isolation is to share your thoughts and experiences with other people.

Get a pet

This might not be for everyone, but having a pet in your house can help you feel less alone. Pets are very therapeutic and have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Dogs are great listeners and give you their undivided attention when you need it, and cats have a way of knowing when you need a little affection.

If cats or dogs are not an option, perhaps you may want to try a fish or some other less demanding animal. Simply having another living being in your house can help curb that feeling of isolation.

Talk to yourself

I know, it sounds crazy. But when you're in a pinch talking to yourself can be a way of feeling less alone. Simply hearing a voice, even if it's your own can relieve stress and soothe you. After all, who better to discuss your design and business issues with than the person who knows you best, you.

There are far worse things you can do than have a conversation with yourself when you are feeling isolated.

Working from home can be a wonderful experience. It does take discipline and willpower, but if you can get over the isolation, you shouldn't have any problems.

How do you cope with isolation?

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 Shenai

I'm listening to episode 93 and you just hit on a problem that I've been struggling with. Having a main business and then a separate brand for a niche.

I have been struggling back and forth with the idea of using my own name or a business name that I already have picked out. I would like to keep it personal with my local clients but also have my own designs and plans of printed materials that I would rather have a business name attached to. (for marketing and also privacy) Should I do both? Or just pick a route and stick to it? How would you recommend setting up banking and such for these different brands to keep it less confusing?

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

Resource of the week Fontreach.com

This week's resource is fontreach.com. A fun site that shows the popularity of various fonts being used by the top one million websites. Want to know how many of them use Arial, or Helvetica Neue? Simply type in a font, and the site will tell you. Or you can view a list of the top fonts being used. As I said, this is a fun site that you may want to check out the next time you're deciding on fonts for a 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

Jan 19, 2018

Are you failing on your To-Do list?

One of the biggest mistakes people make on To-Do lists is mixing projects with tasks. A To-Do list should only contain tasks, items that require you to do only one thing to complete them. Projects, on the other hand, should be on a completely separate list. By separating the tasks from the projects, you make it much easier to organize, and your To-Do list will seem much less daunting.

I talked about To-Do Lists, Tasks and Projects in episode 66 of the podcast titled "Tackle Your To-Do List With Tasks and Projects". If you haven't listened to that episode yet, I suggest you do before continuing with this one.

The Project List

Your project list is where you keep track of the various routines, responsibilities and of course, projects on your schedule. These items may be one time projects or recurring routines and responsibilities you don't want to forget about.

Example of Projects

  • Design new website for Good Sole Shoe Company
  • Create a Facebook Ad campaign for Pump-R-Up Fitness and Spa.
  • Update brochure for Sullivan and Sullivan Law Office with the new location and new partner bios.
  • Design T-Shirt for the Heart & Stroke Foundation charity marathon.

Examples of Routines and Responsibilities

  • Send out weekly invoices and statements
  • Check client websites and update themes and plugins
  • Write weekly blog post for website
  • Attend bi-weekly networking meeting

The purpose of a Project List is to have one place that lists everything you need to do or work on. As new projects, routines and responsibilities arrive you add them to the list.

The Project list should be checked at least once per day if only so you can decide what tasks to add from it to your To-Do list.

The To-Do List

Your to-do list is where you keep track of the individual tasks that need to be done to wrap up the items on your Project List. You should be referring to this list every time you complete a task to know what needs to be done next. Each task on the list should require only one action to complete. That action may take only a couple of minutes or it could take several hours to complete but it is still only one action.

Examples of a Task on a To-Do list.

  • Chose possible fonts for Heart & Stroke Foundation T-Shirt
  • Choose number of colours for the T-Shirt design
  • Decide what type of image to use in the T-Shirt design
  • Decide size of design to go on T-Shirt
  • Iron clothes for networking meeting
  • Choose topic for blog post
  • Touch up and crop photos of Sullivan and Sullivan Law Office new partners.

Each one of these items requires only one thing to do on your part before you can check them off the list.

To help prioritize, you can divide your To-Do list into things that need to be done today, tomorrow, this week, or whenever.

Having a well-organized system composed of a Project List and a To-Do list will make you a more productive designer as well as a more productive business person.

As a more productive person, you will find that you waste less time trying to figure out what needs to be done next. Which translates into more tasks being completed, which means more projects finished, which means more money coming in for you.

So take control of your Project list and To-Do list and get back to work.

How do you organize and keep track of your workload?

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 Jax

I’m considering an occupation change to graphic design. But I’m a beginner. Like just leaning the basics on Adobe Illustarator beginner. I’ve always been very artistic and I love creating so I think over time I’ll be able to make the occupational transition. My question is, what steps should I take and what suggestions do you have for a newbie? What are things I should be working on and how to I start building a portfolio?

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

Tip of the week Highlight sections that need editing?

This week I want to share a tip. This is something I've been doing for years that has helped me get jobs done more quickly and make sure I don't miss anything. Whenever I create a template for a job, or I use a previous version of a project for a job, the first thing I do is change the colour of the text in all the sections that will need editing. In my case, I usually change the colour to magenta. This way, whenever I open the document, I can immediately see what parts of it require new information and what parts I don't have to bother with.

This method works great with my design contact. There are parts of the contract that remain the same regardless of who the client is or what the project is. Not having to read or verify those sections is a time saver when writing a contract for a new project. All I have to do is make changes to the sections where the font is magenta, and I know it's done.

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

1 2 3 4 5 6 Next »