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Resourceful Designer

Offering resources to help streamline your home based graphic design and web design business so you can get back to what you do best… Designing!
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Dec 10, 2018

Avoid these common mistakes freelancers make.

To the uninitiated, running a design business sounds easy. You find clients, create designs for them, they pay you, repeat. Freelancers, however, know there is so much more to it than merely designing. And yet, even armed with that knowledge there are still several mistakes freelancers make when it comes to running their business.

1) Not using downtime productively 

One mistake freelancers make is not taking advantage of downtime. When things are slow, you should be using any spare time you have on something productive to advance your design business. 

Use downtime to:

  • Update your website
  • Attend networking events
  • Take a course/tutorial to learn a new skill
  • Experiment with your software

Use the time to grow your business and to make yourself a better designer. Just because you are not at a 9-5 job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be putting in a full day worth of hours into your business.

2) Not building a team (copywriter, illustrator, VA)

In episode 77of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about the importance of assembling a team around your business. To serve your clients, you should align yourself with people who have skills you don't or are more suited to performing specific skills than you are.

Your team can consist of:

  • Copywriters
  • Illustrators
  • Programmers
  • Developers
  • Translators
  • Social Media Experts
  • Photographers
  • Virtual Assistants
  • more

I made a mistake when I first started my business in thinking I needed to do everything myself. If I couldn’t do it, then I didn’t take on the project. I missed out on some great jobs and clients because the projects they presented me with were beyond my ability.

Then I learned that it’s ok to ask for help. Since then I’ve expanded my circle to include many talented people that allow me to offer services I couldn't provide if I were doing everything myself.

3) Not taking advantage of extra income opportunities

The bulk of a designers income should come from client design work. But many peripherals can earn you money as well. Things like:

  • Print brokering
  • Web hosting/maintenance
  • Selling design resources (Photoshop/Illustrator brushes, patterns, fonts, other design resources)
  • Merchandising (T-shirts, posters, etc.)
  • more

You’re a creative person. Put that creativity to work by looking around and finding innovative ways to supplement your income.

4) Not spending time working on your outreach when you're busy.

There are hills and valleys when it comes to running a design business. Some weeks you have barely anything to do, while other weeks you can’t believe how much work you have. To minimise this up, down, up, down effect you need to figure out how to fill in those valleys.

The problem is, most people wait until things start to get slow before trying to drum up new work. But the time to promote yourself is when you’re busy. When you're at the top of a "hill". If you do it right, you’ll drum up work while you’re busy that will fill in those valleys and even out the terrain for you, creating a much more balanced working life.

5) Not saving money

As a home-based designer, you probably don’t have a steady paycheque. Nor do you have any guarantees of how or when money will come in. If you do a good job on point number 4 and work on your outreach when you're busy you’ll minimise those slow times when money isn’t coming in, but that’s not a guarantee of income.

That’s why you should be putting aside a fixed percentage of all your income for those “just in case” or “What if” situation. You should be saving for those unexpected times when a "valley" stretches out longer than expected.

Start putting money aside for:

  • Slow Periods
  • Emergencies
  • Unexpected expenses
  • Known expenses (taxes, licences, etc.)
  • Time off (vacation, medical, etc.)
  • Retirement

There will come a time some day when you decide to stop, or you’re forced to stop working and then how will you provide for yourself?

6) Calling themselves Freelancer 

Long time listeners of the Resourceful Designer podcast know that I don't like the term Freelancer. Back in episode 17, I shared a story of a designer I know who missed out on a  job opportunity because she called herself a freelancer. The potential employer told me he was looking for someone who took the job more seriously than that.

He’s not alone. People often associate the term freelancer with temporary or in transition designers. Designers who are willing to work with you until something better comes along. You and I know that’s not the case. But that’s how many people in the business world, people who are your potential clients think about freelancers.

Consider this before deciding what to call yourself. A freelancer is a designer looking for a boss. If you imagine yourself working FOR your clients, then feel free to call yourself a freelancer. However, if you imagine yourself working WITH your clients, partnering with them to solve their design problems, then you are not a freelancer, you are a designer who runs your own design business. Don't sell yourself short.

Avoid these mistakes freelancers make

You already have enough on your plate. There's no need to cause yourself more stress. If you avoid these common mistakes freelancers make, and you'll be on your way to having a successful and fulfilling design business.

Are you guilty of making any of these mistakes?

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

Do you have any advice for those who are starting a business focused on 3D? Have you done much work with 3D artists? Do you know of any niches that a 3D graphic designer might pursue?

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

Link to the article I mentioned in my answer.

Resource of the week iThemes

iThemes makes some of my favourite WordPress plugins and add-ons. Including BackupBuddy for managing site migration and backups. iThemes Security for keeping nefarious individuals out of your website. And iThemes Sync for managing multiple WordPress websites from one easy dashboard.

Until the end of 2018 iThemes is offering 40% off all of their products. Here's my affiliate link if you plan on purchasing.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
Listen on Stitcher
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 TwitterFacebook 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

Dec 3, 2018

10 Money Saving Tips For Freelancers

Freelance designers rarely know when they'll get their next paycheque. That's why it's wise for us to hold on to the money we do have for those times when income slows down. To help you, I have 10 money saving tips for freelancers you should consider adopting.

Have you ever heard the saying a penny saved is a penny earned? It means that any money you save by not spending it is similar to the money you earn. I know there can be various debates about that, but you can't argue that any money you don’t spend on something is money in your pocket that you can put to use somewhere else.

Chances are you didn’t become a designer because you wanted to become rich. You chose to become a designer because of your creativity and a love of designing. 

Sure, there are designers out there living the good life racking in significant dollars for their services. But for the majority of us. We’re happy earning a decent, comfortable living doing something we love. If this latter one describes you, then money is probably not something you have to throw around. And since money is one of the gages used to determine success. It makes sense to avoid unnecessary spending and keep as much of your hard earned money for yourself.

And for the record. I use every one of these 10 money saving tips for freelancers in my business to keep as much of my own hard earned money as I can.

Freelancer money saving tips

1. Cancel recurring expenses you don't use

Take an audit of all your subscriptions, memberships, software, services, plug-ins, etc. that incur an ongoing regular monthly or yearly payment and cancel any that you seldom use or don't get your full money's worth.

2. Buy Refurbished

Save money by purchasing refurbished products whenever possible. Refurbished products are just as good as new ones, including coming with warranties. They can save you a lot of money on a product you were going to buy anyway.

3. Hire an accountant

Accountants are like magicians with numbers. They know all the tricks that can save you money during tax season. Letting an accountant handle your books and taxes can save you more money than the cost of hiring the accountant. Every freelancer should have one.

4. Ask for discounts from suppliers

You can't get something if you don't ask for it. Contact your internet, cable, phone, etc. suppliers and ask them if there's any way they can offer you a discount or do something to reduce your expense. You would be surprised how often they will compromise with you and save you money.

5. Use reward-based credit cards

You're probably using a credit card to pay for some of your business expenses. Take advantage of reward-based credit cards like those that offer cash back or those that let you collect points for travel or other rewards. 

6. Get a low-interest line of credit

Banks and credit unions provide lines of credit at much lower interest rates than credit cards. Use your line of credit to pay off high-interest credit cards whenever you can't pay them off that month. Don't be penalised by carrying over unpaid balances.

7. Save on heating/cooling

Stop heating/cooling your entire home while you're working. Adjust your thermostat to save you money and use a fan or heater to adjust the temperature in your office space. Warm sweaters can also help during the cold season.

8. Use coupons or discount codes

Before making an online purchase, do a quick Google search to see if there are any coupons or discount codes available for the product/service you're buying. Many companies will offer coupons or discount codes to certain groups which are also usable by the rest of us if we take the time to find them.

9. Shop around for better prices

When shopping for fonts, stock images or design resources be sure to check multiple websites before making your purchase. Prices on identical products can vary drastically depending on the source selling them.

10. Wait for sales

Whenever possible wait for a holiday or special deals to make your purchases. Black Friday, Boxing Day, Amazon Prime Day and similar occasions offer amazing discounts if you can wait for them.

A penny saved is a penny earned

You work hard for your money. Don't spend any of it unnecessarily if you can avoid it. Use these 10 money saving tips for freelancers to keep as much of your income in your pockets as you can.

Do you have any money saving tips for freelancers you would like to share?

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 Kevin

I've been running my web design business for almost half a year now. My current problem is reaching out to new potential clients. What is your take on cold emailing and how would you go about it?

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

Nov 26, 2018

This is a special episode. If you are new to Resourceful Designer please start with one of the previous episodes before listening to this one.

The Resourceful Designer Community and Mastermind Groups will launch in 2019. Find out about the community and how you can become a founding member.

Nov 19, 2018

Do you have any gift ideas for Christmas?

It’s November, and that means the holidays are just around the corner and everyone is looking for gift ideas for friends and family. I don’t know about you, but every year I dread the question “what do you want for Christmas?” I don't know what to say when someone asks me that question. Are you like that too? In case you are, I’ve come up with ten things you could ask for, that are very useful for designers and are not that expensive.

1) Luna Display

Luna Display is brought to you by the team behind AstroPad. AstroPad is software that allows you to mirror your Mac’s display on your iPad. Luna Display is their new hardware solution that turns any iPad into an actual, wireless second display for your Mac.

It’s available as both a USB-C or Mini DisplayPort device. All you have to do is plug it into the port on your Mac, and your iPad becomes a second monitor. It only takes seconds to set up and works over your existing Wi-Fi. Luna Display is excellent for MacBook users who could use more screen real estate.

2) Amazon Echo Dot.

The smallest of Amazon's Alexa devices, The Echo Dot is your small office assistant. Use it to set alarms and reminders, add items to your calendar, look up things, do calculations, play music and so much more.

The Amazon Echo Dot can also be used to control smart devices in your home. I have mine set up, so all I have to say is "Alexa, turn on/off office lights".

You can check out the Echo Dot and Amazon's other Alexa enabled devices through this link (affiliate) resourcefuldesigner.com/amazonecho

3) Amazon Prime

If you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, you really should be. Amazon Prime membership gives you access to great content such as Prive Video that gives you access to thousands of movies and TV series, including Prime Original series like Jack Ryan, which was terrific by the way. Prime Readingwith exclusive free and discounted eBooks each month, Prime Music so you can listen to all your favourite songs. And of course, fast and free shipping on over 100 million items for sale on Amazon.

The savings on shipping alone are worth the price of membership.

Plus, with subscriptions, you can save money on purchases you make on a regular basis. Receive a discount when you subscribe to stuff like toilet paper or laundry detergent. Just set it up by telling Amazon how often you need to replenish, and it will show up at your door on schedule.

Try Amazon Prime free for 30 days(affiliate link) 

4) Whiteboard with dot grid

Whiteboards are staples in many offices. They’re easy to use, highly visible, and a great way to organise your day to day business activities. 

But if you’re like me, the top left of your whiteboard looks nice and tidy, but as you move down and to the right, the lists and writings become more and more crooked until the stuff written on the bottom right is way out of skew.

My son recently bought a dotted whiteboard, and when I saw it, I thought, what a brilliant idea. The dots are printed directly on the whiteboard in a grid pattern. They’re very light, so they’re visible up close but not so much from farther away.

Those dots help to keep your writing, lists, and drawings straight and aligned.

5) Daylight light bulbs

One of the benefits of working from home is not having to commute to work. But on the flipside, that benefit does have some drawbacks because people working from home spend less time outdoors and therefore have less exposure to the much-needed Vitamin D you get from being in the sun. Especially in the winter when it gets dark earlier. 

A lack of Vitamin D can cause all sorts of health issues. You can take pills to help, but another option is to equip your office lights with bulbs that mimic daylight. It’s not the same as being out in the sun, but it can help you get through those dreary winter months.

6) Monitor Stand

Back in episode 118 of Resourceful Designer, I explained how the optimal height of your computer monitor is to have the top edge of the screen level with your eyes.

I’m 6’2”, and even with a 27” iMac I look down at my computer. After a long day of work, my neck kept getting sore. Then I bought a monitor stand to raise my monitor, and it made a huge difference. Now my computer is at the right hight, and the stand I got looks good, plus it provides me with some extra storage space below my computer.

I bought the VIVO height adjustable monitor stand for iMac. The foot of the computer sits on an adjustable shelf so that you can set it to the hight that’s most comfortable to you.

7) Phone/tablet stand

A stand for your phone/tablet helps keep your device facing you which surprisingly helps eliminate distractions. When my phone beeps with a notification, I can quickly glance at it to see if it’s anything I need to deal with without having to pick up my phone or bending over my desk to see what the notification is.

I do suggest you turn off all notifications, so you’re not distracted, but there are certain things you can’t turn off.

With so many variations of these stands to choose from you're sure to find one that suits your office. They make a great inexpensive gift idea.

8) Pantone Colour Books

If you’re a designer, especially if you design anything for print. You should have your own Pantone Color Guide. I prefer the Fan Books myself, and the one I recommend is the Color Bridge Set. It shows you the colours on both coated and uncoated paper and the differences between the spot colours and CMYK equivalents. The guide also shows you the Hex and RGB values.

At $300, it's the most expensive gift idea I’m sharing, but in my opinion, it’s a must-have for all serious designers.

9) Wireless charging pad

Another great gift is a charging pad for your wireless devices. If you have a phone or tablet, or maybe wireless headphones that can be charged wirelessly, then you should have a charging pad on your desk.

There are so many great looking options when it comes to charging pads. And at various price ranges, they make a great gift idea for any budget.

10) Second monitor

A second monitor is a big boon to any design office. I added a second monitor to my workstation this past year. I immediately realised what I had been missing out on for all those years I worked on just my iMac. I can’t imagine how designers working solely on a laptop manage with such a small screen.

A second monitor gives you so much more desktop real estate. You can have your email and web browser on one screen while you work on your primary monitor.

I spent 12 years working with only one monitor thinking that a second one would be a luxury I don’t really need. Now that I’ve experienced it I know that if mine ever dies, I will be replacing it immediately.

There you have it, 10 gift ideas for designers. I hope this gives you some inspiration the next time someone asks you "what do you want for Christmas?"

What design-related gift ideas are you asking for this year?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I don't have a question of the week for this episode. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
Listen on Stitcher
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 TwitterFacebook 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

Nov 12, 2018

Design Business + Chamber of Commerce = Success

[sc name="pod_ad"]One of the best marketing tools available to your design business is your local Chamber of Commerce. If you are not taking advantage of how this organisation can help you grow, you are missing out. Big time.

What is a Chamber of Commerce?

A Chamber of Commerce sometimes called a “board of trade”, is an association or a network of businesses and business people formed with the purpose of promoting and protecting the interests of its members.

The Chamber of Commerce is not a new idea. The very first one was founded in France in 1599. The first one in the USA was started in New York in 1768. Nowadays, you can find them in almost every country and most cities around the world. 

One of the primary roles of the Chamber of Commerce is to debate, promote and lobby for or against municipal, state/provincial and even federal policies and laws that affect businesses in your area. They have no direct role in creating laws or regulations, but they are very effective in influencing people who do create them.

At the municipal level, your Chamber of Commerce is there to advocate and promote its members. That’s why you should join your local Chamber of Commerce.

What benefits do Chamber members receive?

There are many benefits to joining your Chamber of Commerce. Although some benefits will differ from Chamber to Chamber some common ones are:

  • Your business listed in its member directory.
  • Receiving deals and discounts from other chamber members.
  • Your business gets promoted in your region.
  • Having a voice in shaping local business policies in your area.
  • Free or discounted admission to exclusive events such as networking and social events, guest presentations, trade shows, etc.
  • Being a member adds credibility to your business.

Why you should join your Chamber of Commerce.

The main reason you should join your local Chamber of Commerce is for the support of like-minded business people that can help you succeed.

You know that networking is a critical element of growing your design business. If nobody knows who you are, how are people going to know to hire you? Joining your Chamber of Commerce gives you an opportunity to meet and network with other local business owners, the company decision-makers, the people who hire designers like you.

Imagine the Chamber of Commerce as an exclusive club. Many members take this club very seriously and will often look to fellow Chamber members whenever they need help with something. Including looking for design services like yours.

I have several good clients that initially contacted me because I'm a fellow member of the Chamber of Commerce. Some met me at a networking event; some saw my business in the member directory, and the Chamber referred me to others.

The Chamber of Commerce itself also requires design services for the many events and promotions it puts on throughout the year. Who do you think they will turn to for these designs? Chamber members who are designers of course.

Free Marketing for your design business

As a member of your Chamber of Commerce, you also get free marketing for your business. Let me repeat that; FREE MARKETING. This free marketing may come in the form of exposure through physical or electronic newsletters, the Chamber's social media posts and other forms of publications. The Chamber loves spreading the word about its members because it helps them attract more members who want the same attention.

Have you designed a new logo or website for a fellow Chamber Member? Let the Chamber know, and they’ll tell everyone about the great work you've done in their next newsletter.

On a side note; once you are a Chamber member, please make sure you read your Chamber’s newsletters. The Chamber of Commerce is often the first one to break the news of new business starting in or coming to your area. Often, at the very earliest stages of those businesses. Talk about an excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door and introduce yourself to people who need your services.

How people view the Chamber

Many people, whether they are a chamber member or not, see their local Chamber of Commerce as an authority when they are searching for products and services. New businesses starting or relocating to your area will turn to the Chamber of Commerce for help and guidance in finding the local talent they can hire.

That authority means people TRUST their opinion when the Chamber recommends a business to them. And if there is a Chamber member that offers the sought after product or service, that’s who the Chamber of Commerce will recommend before anyone else.

Look at these numbers compiled by American Business Magazine.

  • 44% of consumers are more likely to think favourably of businesses who are members of their local chamber.
  • 51% of companies are more aware of businesses who are Chamber members than businesses who are not.
  • 63% of consumers are more likely to buy products or services from businesses who are members of their local chamber.
  • 57% of consumers view Chamber of Commerce members as trustworthy and are more likely to believe their products or services are better than competitors.
  • There's a 63% increase in the likelihood that someone who doesn’t require your services now, will use you in the future knowing you are a member of your Chamber of Commerce.

Those numbers alone should be enough to convince you that joining your Chamber of Commerce is a good move.

A wealth of contacts

I mentioned above that one of the perks of joining the Chamber of Commerce is to be listed in their member directory. That directory is available to the public. Since the Chamber of Commerce has a reputation for promoting good business, by association, having your name or company listed in their directory gives the perception that you too are a good business to deal with. As a result, clients will have a more favourable impression of your business and trust you more.

The Chamber's member directory is also an excellent tool for you. Use it as a contact list and promote your services to fellow Chamber members on your own or through one of your Chamber’s promotional avenues.

What a fantastic icebreaker for cold calling.

“Hi John, I was looking through the Chamber dirctory and noticed that you’re a fellow Chamber member. I was wondering if you had time available for us to meet and discuss your overall brand strategy to see what we can do to grow your businesss?”

Merely mentioning that you are a fellow Chamber member may be all you need for the client to say yes to meeting you. You could even offer them a deal, discount or bonus exclusive to Chamber members as an incentive.

You should view your Chamber of Commerce as your business partner. It’s a valuable tool for any business owner and if fully utilised, can help you grow your design business.

Every Chamber is different

Every Chamber of Commerce is unique in its way. They offer various benefits, resources and opportunities to their members. However, their end goal is the same. They serve as an influential voice for the well-being of the local business environment. Including helping to promote and improve the growth of local businesses.

Joining your Chamber of Commerce will grant you access to opportunities that will allow you to make connections, meet potential new clients and gain exposure for your design business.

Joining Chamber(s)

I’ve been talking about your local Chamber of Commerce. But most Chambers allow members from outside their immediate area, providing you do business in their community. Meaning, you can join a Chamber of Commerce outside of your community.

If you live in an area that is not served by a Chamber of Commerce, or if you live in a smaller community with a less active Chamber of Commerce. Look into joining adjacent or nearby Chambers where you would like to do business.

Do your part

I probably don’t have to say this but, merely joining your Chamber of Commerce is not enough. You can’t just pay the membership fee then sit back and wait for new clients to come calling. You need to take advantage of what the Chamber offers and partake in the events they organise if you want this partnership to help you.

People still need to know who you are and what you do before they will hire you and the Chamber needs to know who you are before they recommend you. By involving yourself in your Chamber of Commerce, your chances of success are much higher than if you tried doing all of this on your own.

And just in case you need any more incentive to join your Chamber of Commerce, your Chamber membership fee is tax deductible.

Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce?

Let me know how being a Chamber member is working for you by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Penn

Hi Mark, I have a question for you regarding web/graphic design. I graduated with a degree in graphic design 10 years ago, but during all that time, I never really pushed myself to get involved in web design and learn to do it well. Now I've come to the point in my career where I need to start doing extra work on my own time, but I realize that clients need web and mobile design more than ever before, and perhaps more than most other types of design. As a result, I'm using online learning to try to get familiar with html, css, and other web design essentials in order to be able to serve new clients with these skills. Could you explain on a podcast episode the steps you take in actually designing and building a website? I'm sure I'm not the only graphic designer who listens to your podcast facing this problem, but if I am, then any helpful insights or resources that unveil some of the mystery surrounding this process would mean a whole lot!

To find out what I told Penn you’ll have to listen to the podcast. Here's a link to the WordPress Plug-in checklist I mentioned in my answer.

Resource of the week Onepixel

Onepixelis a stock photo site offering beautiful images by professional photographers for the low price of $1 each. There are no subscriptions, no credits, no hidden fees and no minimum purchases. Every photo is only $1.

All photos are royalty-free and legally cleared for commercial, editorial and personal use, meaning they’re 100% safe for you, your organisation or your client to use for any creative project. 

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
Listen on Stitcher
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 TwitterFacebookand 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

 

Nov 5, 2018

What if you looked at design from a different perspective?

Sometimes, all it takes to improve your designs or to break out of a creative slump is to alter your perspective on how you go about designing.

For the past fourteen years, I've vacuumed the house starting at the South end and working my way North. A couple of weeks ago I took out the vacuum as I usually do only to discover that my wife had chosen that time to groom our two dogs in the living room near the South end of the house.

Instead of waiting for her to finish so I could pick up all the excess dog hair and nail clippings, I decided to start at the North end of the house figuring by the time I reached her she would be done.

In vacuuming the house from this different direction, I experienced a whole new perspective to our living quarters. I came at familiar areas from a new angle and in some cases discovered that it was much easier to reach those areas from this new perspective.

What does this have to do with designing?

Sometimes, changing up your regular design routines can change the way you perceive a design. Getting out of your comfort zone can alter your perspective on a project.

I always start a logo design project by choosing various fonts that I think will suit the logo. I then design the symbol or icon that accompanies the type before putting the two together and figuring out colours.

Last week with my vacuuming adventure still fresh in my mind, I decided to change things up for a logo I was designing. Instead of starting with the font, I dove right into creating the icon. Usually, the font I've chosen influences the icon I design. This time was the opposite. I picked the font based on the icon. In doing so, I decided on a font I might not have chosen otherwise.

By changing my perspective on how I approached the design I came up with an idea I don't think I would have reached if I had followed my normal routine. And the client loved it.

What did I learn from this experiment? Routines are good, but sometimes they can prevent you from seeing things you might not have otherwise. Changing your perspective can help you find a new solution to a hard design problem.

Have I changed the way I design things because of this? No. My routines are established, and they’ve worked for me for so long that I won't change them. But that doesn’t mean I can’t tweak them from time to time or ignore them altogether whenever I’m in a creative slump or merely need a new perspective on an idea.

Try changing your perspective every once in a while and see what happens. You might like the outcome.

For the full story be sure to listen to the podcast episode where I go into much more detail than I just did.

Have you ever tried breaking from your normal design routines?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I don't have a question of the week for this episode, but I would love to answer one of yours. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Tip of the week Minimalistic business cards

I was recently handed a business card that had the gentleman's name and title of "web designer" on one side, and only his website on the other side. He told me that as a web designer, he wanted to ensure that people saw his work before contacting him. His business card forced people to visit his website if they wanted the rest of his contact information. In the process, they could look at his services, his portfolio, the type of clients he works with and gets a feel for who he is before deciding if they want to work with him.

This gentleman told me that since he started handing out his new cards, a much higher percentage of people who contact him convert into clients.

If you are a web designer, you may want to give this idea a try. If you do, please let me know how it turns out.

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I want to help you.

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

Oct 29, 2018

Are you freelancing as a side gig?

[sc name="pod_ad"]I created Resourceful Designer to help designers run their full-time home-based design business. However, a large number of you are not full-time freelancers. Many of you have another job and freelance as a side gig.

Maybe you work for a design agency, or you’re an in-house designer dreaming of going at it alone. Perhaps you’re like Jose, one of my listeners. Josee is a full-time firefighter with a spark for creativity. He started by designing posters and things for his fire hall. When his coworkers saw how good he was, they started hiring him to create stuff for them. Eventually, word spread and now Josee runs a part-time design business on the side but has no intentions of leaving the fire service.

You might be a student, taking on a few side projects to earn some extra spending money while still in school learning the trade. Or you could be a student exploring your options for after you graduate.

Maybe you haven't started any side hustle yet. You are reading this because the idea of working for yourself appeals to you. It’s something you would like to do shortly or maybe far down the road, but you’re not there yet.

Regardless of your situation, know that many designers are in the same boat as you. To help you along, here are four things you need to take into consideration when freelancing as a side gig.

1) Time Management.

When you’re running your own business full-time, you are in complete control of your schedule; you have 24 hours every day to divide up how you see fit.

If there’s a networking event at 10 am on Thursday you want to attend, no problem, work your schedule around it. If the forecast calls for rain later today and the lawn needs mowing, do it now and put in an extra hour tonight if you need to. If you're burning the midnight oil to complete a project, no worries, you can make up for it by sleeping in a bit tomorrow.

When running your own full-time design business, your schedule can be as flexible as you need it. However, when you have a full-time or part-time job, and you're running your design business as a side gig, it diminished that flexibility drastically. You will have fewer hours in your day to devote to your side gig. That may translate into sacrificing leisure time or sleep, especially when you have deadlines to meet.

Clients don’t care if you run your business full or part-time, as long as they get their job when they need it. To meet those deadlines, you may have to give up relaxation time or time with family and friends.

It’s not that bad if you’re single, but if you have a significant other or children, your partner or kids won’t like playing second string to your design work.

Figuring out how you are going to manage your time is crucial if you are freelancing on the side.

2) The scope of the design projects you take on.

One solution to the above mentioned time management issue is the scope of the projects you take on. If your design time is a couple of hours in the evenings and a few on the weekends, you might want to avoid taking on any large projects with tight deadlines.

Running a part-time, some may even call it casual-time side gig requires you to know your limits. How much time do you have, or better yet, how much time don’t you have to devote to design projects?

Sure you can hire help with big jobs, but doing so requires time devoted to overseeing the parts of the project you hand off. Sometimes it’s not worth the stress of taking them on.

3) Extra income from your side gig.

One of the biggest fears holding designers back from becoming full-time entrepreneurs is the uncertainty of income. There are no guarantees of income when you are working for yourself. And giving up a steady paycheck is scary.

One mistake people often make is thinking "Once my side gig income equals my current job’s income I’ll be ready to quit my job and work full-time for myself."

This scenario is fine, as long as you don’t spend any of the money you earn from your side gig. If you put it all into savings and continue to live off your regular paycheck, you should be fine. When you decide it’s time to leap, you’ll have a nice financial cushion to hold you over during the transition period.

The mistake people often make, is in using their side gig income as extra income alongside their regular paycheque.

If you make $25,000 per year in your day job, and you work up your side gig to the point where you are making $25,000 per year there as well, you are actually making $50,000 per year.

When you quit your day job, you are cutting your income in half. That can come as quite a blow, especially if you’ve grown used to having that extra income.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use or spend your side gig income. I want you to be aware that if your goal is to build up your side gig until it can replace your new full-time job, be aware of the consequences before quitting.

4) Conflict of interests

If you are working for a design agency, studio, a commercial printer, or any other business in the design sector, be aware that starting a side gig may be a conflict of interest.

Some companies make you sign documents when you are hired restricting you from starting a business on the side. Even if they don’t, starting a business on the side that is, in essence, a competitor to your employer is not a good thing to do.

If you work at a design agency that only handles print design, you may be OK starting a web design business as your side gig. However, if your web design clients ask you to design logos for their websites you may have a conflict of interest if the design agency you work for also creates logos. Watch out for conflicts of interest between what you are doing in your side gig and what your employer offers.

You should also ensure you haven't signed any documents granting ownership of anything you design to your employer while in their employ. If you do, then those websites or logos you develop on the weekends belong to your employer, and they could demand compensation or refuse to transfer ownership rights of the designs to your client.

Even if you didn’t agree to anything in writing, make sure what you do at home isn’t potentially taking money away from the company where you work. I’m not a layer, but they may have grounds to sue you if it does.

Start your side gig

Enjoy your freelancing side gig for whatever it is. A simple side hustle to bring in a bit of extra income. A lucrative past time to unleash your creative side. A toe dip in the water to see if the entrepreneurial life is for you. Or a stepping stone to your new career as a full-time home-based designer.

If you are not already taking on design projects on the side, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Start slowly with small jobs for family and friends and then move on to acquiring real clients. I have a feeling that once you give it a go, you’ll be hooked.

Are you running your design business part-time?

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 Landon

I was just wondering how you select a color palette for a website/brand. I'm aware of a boat-load of tools out there, but are there some rules of thumb I should keep in mind?

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

Resource of the week Coolors.co

Coolors.co is a super fast colour schemes generator. Press the spacebar and create beautiful colour schemes that always work together.

Coolors.co also allows you to pick colours from uploaded images. You can adjust and refine colours by temperature, hue, saturation, brightness and more. You can also save your pallets for easy future access.

They also offer an IOS and Android app as well as an Adobe Add-on for Photoshop and Illustrator to display all your pallets in your programs.

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Contact me

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

Follow me on TwitterFacebook 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

Oct 22, 2018

Design Contract Failure

In this week's episode of Resourceful Designer, I share a case study where a poorly written design contract cost a web designer her fee for the client site she built.

Be sure to listen to the podcast for the full story as I go into much more detail in the episode than I will here.

Earlier this week a long-standing client of mine called about a bind she was in. Convinced by a friend that she could save money by using Wix for her new website, she hired someone inexpensive in the Wix Arena to build it for her. Not liking the completed site and confused about the terms and jargon the Wix designer was using my client swallowed her pride decided to call me, her old web designer for help.

What I discovered was a very poorly designed website and a bunch of inaccuracies in the correspondence between the "designer" and the client. Such as the "designer" offering SEO Search Engineering Optimization and a free CSS Security Certificate for the website. Or the "designer" saying the client would have to pay extra if she wanted the website to be mobile friendly. (who doesn't design websites to be mobile friendly in 2018?)

The "designer" also offered to set up a Wix account for my client FREE OF CHARGE. All my client had to pay was the annual hosting fee of $299US. The strange thing is the account she was going to set up for my client is priced at $120US per year on Wix's website.

After a quick perusal, I determined that the person my client hired may have been a Wix site builder, but they were definitely not a designer, and there were too many red flags in their correspondence for my liking.

My client asked me if there was any way she could get out of the deal she made, so I took a look at the contract she had signed. That's when I spotted a big failure in the design contract. Here's how it was written.

Investment for the website design: $800.00*

*(300.00 ahead + 200.00 on publishing and 300.00 30 days after publishing).If our company does not make your website, we will refund it completely.If you do not pay for the total amount the website will be out of work. In case of cancellation after starting service, there is no refund for the ahead payment of 300.00)

As per the contract, my client had given the "designer" a $300 deposit before the start of the website. But from what I was reading, that was the only amount my client had to pay if she decided not to continue with this "designer".

The contract clearly states the next payment of $200 is due upon publishing of the website, which never happened. The last line of the contract's payment clause indicates that "In case of cancellation after starting service, there is no refund for the ahead payment of 300.00". Technically, regardless of what stage the website was currently at fell within the parameters of "cancellation after starting service". Meaning my client could cancel their agreement at any time and all she would lose is her initial $300 deposit.

My client informed the "designer" that she would not be continuing with her services and thanked her for the work she had done. Crisis averted (minus a $300 learning lesson).

So why am I telling you this story?

A contract is meant to protect all signing parties. In this case, it didn't protect the "designer". All she would have needed is to include something to the effect of "...and payment will be due for any work completed up to the time of cancellation." added to the end of the paragraph. With that simple sentence, she could have demanded full payment for the website she had completed for the client.

Take the time to read over your contract and make sure it's written in a way that it protects you as much as it protects your client.

I feel bad for the "designer" because she did complete the work. But in this case, I was looking out for my client and took advantage of this design contract failure.

I have a new website project.

In case you are wondering, yes, I’m now designing the website for my client. She tells me she shouldn't have listened to her friend and she should have just hired me in the first place. She tried to save a bit of money, and it ended up costing her $300.

I feel bad for what she went through, so I'm designing her site for the same $800 the Wix "designer" quoted her. It's much lower than my standard minimum website fee, but sometimes you do what you can to help people out. However, I will not be using Wix. I'll be building her website on WordPress using the Divi Theme and hosting it on my servers.

When was the last time you verified your contract?

Don't let design contract failure affect you. Let me know your contract stories by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Jordan

Do you charge for the time it takes a file to load/save/render/process?

I’m curious how others handle this. I’m currently working on a massive project that takes about an hour to load/save/render between edits. Edits only take a few minutes. But I’m not able to work on anything else while it’s processing. My specs are maxed out. So it’s not a “need more RAM” issue either.

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

Resource of the week Werner's Nomenclature of Colours by P. Syme

Designer Nicholas Rougeux put together a beautiful web page showcasing Werner's Nomenclature of Colours By P. Syme. A recreation of the original 1821 colour guidebook with new cross-references, photographic examples, as well as some beautiful posters designed by Rougeux himself.

Here's the write-up on the original guide.

Before photography became commonplace, colorful details were often captured by the written word and Werner’s guidebook served as one of the best guides for classification. Charles Darwin even consulted it for reference during his voyages on the HMS Beagle while researching natural history.

In the late 18th century, German mineralogist Abraham Werner devised a standardized scheme for classifying colors which was later adapted and revised in the 19th century by Scottish painter Patrick Syme.

Syme enhanced Werner’s original guide by including painted swatches for each color based on Werner’s precise descriptions and examples of where to find the colors in the natural world.

The first edition was published in 1814 later in 1821 with minor revisions and some additional observations in the preface for how color classification systems are used in various areas of scientific study.

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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

 

Oct 15, 2018

How do you motivate yourself to avoid burnout?

Running a home-based design business is stressful work. It takes motivation and dedication to avoid burnout. But what do you do when that motivation and dedication is waning?

As a solopreneur, you are probably a very busy person. You’re either spending a good amount of your time trying to get new clients or spending it trying to please the clients you have. Probably a bit of both. But doing it all by yourself can take a lot out of you. Having a team to pick up some of the slack can help, but not for everything.

Face it. You embrace the freelance lifestyle because you want to be your own boss, to make your own rules and do things your way. That’s one of the best things about being a home-based designer. You’re in charge, and you get to decide how things work. But being in charge and doing everything yourself can become overbearing at times. Especially when your business is busy, and you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

I want to share 8 Tips with you to help you avoid burnout and motivate yourself to keep going, even when things get tough. Please listen to this podcast episode. In it, I dive deeper into each of the following tips more than I do in this article.

1) Find Inspiration.

Without inspiration, your creativity will stagnate and fizzle out. Look for things around you that will rejuvenate your creative juices.

Make time to do things that get you excited. Visit a museum. Try a new recipe. Take a course and learn something new. Talk to a coach or mentor if you have one. Watch or listen to YouTube videos, Podcasts or TED Talks that motivate you.

Whatever source of motivation you choose, make the time for yourself and do something that energises and excites you and helps you move forward reinvigorated.

2) Relax and Recharge.

If you are a "go, go, go" kind of person, you need to learn to slow down and take some time to relax every once and a while.

Take a few hours, or better yet a day or more and forget about your business, your clients and ongoing design projects. They'll still be there when you get back, ready for you to pick up where you left off.

Turn off your computer and your phone. Disconnect from your email and social media and all the other anchors tying you to your business and do something calming. Read a book, take a walk, spend time with friends and family, anything to take your mind off work, even if it's just for a little while.

If you don’t take regular breaks to relax and recharge, you’ll end up hitting a wall and feeling crushed by the weight of everything on your shoulders. You need some "Me Time" to avoid burnout.

Separate yourself from the stress of your business and take the time to enjoy the life you are working so hard to have.

3) Appreciate your accomplishments.

Sometimes, when you are working for yourself trying to get by day by day, it’s easy to forget everything you’ve done to get to where you are. Take some time to appreciate everything you’ve accomplished in reaching where you are and feel gratitude for those who have helped you get here.

Appreciating applies to both the big and the small. Think about everything you’ve done since you began your journey as a designer. What and who motivated and helped get to where you are today. But also think about the little things that have happened recently to help you get to here and now. Such as the small tasks and to-dos that you’ve checked off in the last few days. All of it plays a part in how you ended up where you are right now and deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated.

4) Look at the big picture.

Take a few minutes to review the goals you set out for yourself and your business. Examine and reassess what is still important and what isn’t. Are your goals still relevant? If you want to change your trajectory, now’s the time to adjust your goals accordingly.

Revisiting your goals will help you focus on what is essential for yourself and your business and allow you to realign yourself for better future success.

5) Stop doing everything.

One of the problems with being a solopreneur is the overwhelming feeling that you need to please everyone and need to do everything. Learn how to say no. Especially if what you are being asked to do doesn’t align with the goals you set out for your business.

You can’t do a good job when you are trying to do everything, so stop spreading yourself too thin and learn to become selective of which projects and clients you take on.

6) Audit your client ROI.

Before you get to the point of feeling unmotivated and are on the cusp of burning out you should run an ROI (Return On Investment) audit on your business and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit with your goals.

Examine which clients and which projects are the ones you enjoy the most and are bringing in the most money. Spend your energy focusing on them.

For the clients and projects you don’t enjoy or are giving you the least ROI on your time, try raising your prices to bring them in line and make them worth your time, or let them go altogether.

Losing motivation and feeling burnout happens most often when you are forced to work on projects you don’t enjoy and those that bring in very little return for your time.

7) Identify and eliminate bad habits.

Bad habits can often lead to feeling overwhelmed and burnout.

Are you checking your email or phone too often? Do you get distracted by every notification you receive? Are you repeatedly hitting the snooze button in the morning to avoid starting work? Are you eating unhealthy foods that make you feel tired and sluggish?

These bad habits and more can lead to a lack of motivation. Identifying them and working to eliminate them can help you avoid burnout. Doing so will help keep you motivated and productive.

8) Get out of your comfort zone.

Try doing something different for a change. If you have a laptop, try working from a different location for a change. Either within your home or go someplace else entirely. If you usually work 9-5 try changing your schedule and work 11-7 or 1-9 for a few days and see what happens.

Different people have different times of the day when they feel the most productive. Some thrive on mornings, other’s peak in the afternoon and some people are most alert at night. Figure out when your most productive time of the day is and schedule your most important work during that time. A change of scenery or a change to your schedule can make a world of difference and completely change your outlook on things.

Getting out of your comfort zone stimulates your mind and causes your brain to reassess your surroundings. Those extra mental juices will help channel inspiration and make you think more creatively.

You can avoid burnout.

Running a home-based design business is stressful work. It takes motivation and dedication to avoid burnout. Knowing what to look out for is the first step in your success. These 8 tips will help you stay focused, keep your creative juices flowing and allow you to be a more productive designer and entrepreneur.

What do you to stay motivated and avoid burnout?

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 Amy

I listened to your Spring Cleaning podcastwhich was helpful, as usual. I have this question for you. After eliminating all the unneeded data from my hard drive, do I need to run some sort of program to defragment (as in the old days) or something else? Or is it simply good-to-go after emptying the trash? And if I do, how do I do that?

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

Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost

The Four Week Marketing Boost!is a free 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 comfortably 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 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 for free by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOSTto 44222.

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

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Contact me

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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

Oct 8, 2018

How much should you charge for your design services?

How many times have you asked yourself that question? It doesn’t matter if you are new to the design life or a veteran designer, that nagging question is always around. How much should you charge for your design services?

There are many things to take into consideration when you ask yourself that question. Such as what pricing strategy you want to use for your design business. But regardless of which approach you choose, be it charging by the hour, by the project, or based on value, you still need to figure out how much to charge for your services.

But where do you start?

How do you know if you should charge $20 an hour, $50 an hour or $100 an hour? For project-based pricing, do you charge $500, $5,000 or $50,000 for a website? Figuring out how much to charge can get confusing.

I'm going to share one way for you to look at things that may help you calculate what you should be charging as well as help you figure out what type of clients you should be going after.

Look for the sweet spot

The trick to figuring out how much you should be charging for your design services is to find that sweet spot between how much you charge your clients and how many clients you need to sustain the lifestyle you want to live.

The first step is to figure out how much money you want to make annually as a designer. You could pick a number at random and say you want to make $30,000 a year, or $80,000 or even $200,000. Or you can try calculating your business and personal expenses, including savings plus money for leisure things, and come up with an annual salary to cover that number.

Regardless of how you come up with the annual amount you want to make, once you know it, it’s time to look at your design rate versus your workload.

For example, let's say you want to make $48,000 per year. $48,000 per year is $4,000 per month or $1,000 per week (based on four weeks per month. The extra days are your vacation days). At a regular 40 hour per week 9-5 job, your wage would be $25 per hour to achieve this.

But as a home-based designer, you are not working a 40 hour per week 9-5 job. Chances are you are not working 40 billable hours per week either. You may be working 40 or more hours per week, but they are probably not all billable.

To figure out how much to charge your clients and how many clients you need to take on, we have to do some calculations. There are several ways for you to make $4,000 per month such as.

  • 1 client that pays you $4000/month
  • 2 clients that pay you $2000/month
  • 4 clients that pay you $1000/month
  • 8 clients that pay you $500/month
  • 16 clients that pay you $250/month
  • 20 clients that pay you $200/month
  • 40 clients that pay you $100/month

Every one of these bullet points will earn you $4,000 per month. But if you imagine them like a bell curve, you will find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle that will be much easier to attain and maintain. That sweet spot is where you have the right number of clients paying you the right amount of money to earn your desired monthly income. While at the same time having a number of clients that is sustainable.

Let’s look at those numbers again.

One $4,000 client each month.

Finding one client every month that will pay you $4000 may prove difficult for some designers. It will take a lot of work to acquire and onboard a new $4000 client every month. Not to mention that $4000 clients will demand a lot of you which could be stressful for you.

Failing to sign a new client every month could leave you financially strapped.

Forty $100 clients each month.

At the other end of the scale, procuring forty $100 clients every month will also be very difficult and stress-inducing. You will need to spend a lot of your unbillable time trying to acquire 40 clients each month. Then, after onboarding all of these clients, you still need to find the time to produce 40 pieces of design work that month. That’s 2 completed design pieces per business day.

Not to mention, lower paying clients are usually the most demanding clients. Sounds like a nightmare to deal with, doesn’t it?

Your work will probably suffer because of the high workload, and there is a good chance of burnout on your part. You couldn’t sustain this for very long.

Finding the sweet spot.

Somewhere in the middle of this bell curve is the sweet spot where you get a good amount of money per client. The task of finding new clients isn’t as difficult, and managing your client list and completing the design projects is easily doable.

Looking again at the bullet points above, It will take a lot less effort to land eight $500 clients or ten $400 clients every month than it does to find one high paying client or forty low paying clients.

With eight to twelve clients you should have the time to properly interview them, do your discovery, come up with ideas and complete their design projects without overstressing yourself.

You’ll also be producing better quality design work because you will have the proper time to devote to each project. Which in turn will help grow your portfolio and attract even more clients.

Once you know what price range you want to go after, it’s just a matter of finding enough clients in that budget range.

How much should you charge?

Thinking again of that bell curve and the range of the right number of clients at the right budget, you can then calculate an hourly rate. I’ll use ten clients as an example because it’s a nice even number to do the math with.

If you have ten clients per month, each paying you $400, you will make $4,000 per month. That works out to two and a half clients per week bringing in a total of $1,000.

Figure out your billable hours

In order to find out how much to charge your clients, you need to know how many billable hours you would you like to work each week.

Let’s say you put in a 40 hour work week. Roughly 15 of those hours will be spent finding new clients and managing your business. Those 15 hours are not billable, leaving you with 25 billable hours per week. Those are the hours you actually spend designing.

25 billable hours per week, divided by 2.5 clients, gives you 10 hours per client per week. If each client is paying you $400 that works out to an hourly rate of $40. So if charge $40 per hour for your design services, you need 10 clients per month, at 10 hours each in order to earn $48,000 per year.

Reality break.

Let’s be realistic. There’s no way you will ever have exactly 10 clients each month, each with a project that takes exactly 10 hours to complete. It would be great if life was that predictable but it isn’t. But it does give you a base to start with.

If you charge $40 per hour, you need to work 25 billable hours per week to make $48,000 per year. But what if you only want to make $30,000 per year? If that’s the case, you can still charge $40 per hour and drop your billable hours to roughly 15.5 per week. Or you can work 25 billable hours but only charge $25 per hour.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

The whole point of this exercise is to show you that there’s a correlation between what you charge your clients, how many clients you have, and how hard it will be to find those clients and sustain your business.

In reality, you need to average out these numbers over the course of a year. Some weeks you will work more hours and some weeks less. Some months you will have more clients and some you will have less. But if you use your own numbers and look at the bell curve, you should see that somewhere in there is that sweet spot. The spot where the number of clients you need to get each month is realistic and attainable and the average price you need to get from each one is also realistic and attainable.

By doing these calculations, you can set yourself a goal to aim for and have a good idea of what you should be charging your clients to attain that goal. That sweet spot is where you should aim for your business.

Have you ever calculated how many clients or hours you need to sustain your business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

Resource of the week Elegant Themes Blog

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of Elegant Themes' Divi Theme. What I haven't shared before is the excellent blog that Elegant Themes puts out with articles covering not only Divi but all aspects of web design. Not only can you read about new Divi features, but you can find great tips and tricks from experts on how to do amazing things in Divi. You can also learn valuable information about WordPress and website design in general. If you haven't done so already, I highly suggest you check out the Elegant Themes Blog.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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Listen on Google Play Music
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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

Oct 1, 2018

Failure Is Always An Option

I love that line “Failure is always and options”. I first saw it on a T-Shirt worn by Adam Savage of Mythbusters. In his case, it applied to science and engineering, but it applies just as easily to the world of design.

Failure is what lets us learn. Failure allows us to improve, to expand, and to grow. If you fail badly enough at something, you probably won’t repeat the same mistake.

In your case as a designer, when I say failure, I’m talking about your designs being rejected by clients. That excellent logo design you created that wasn’t accepted by your client, no matter how hard you worked on it or how much you loved it. Or that cutting edge poster you did that was “too wild” for the event it was promoting. The designs may have been great in your mind, but they were still rejected, making them failures.

Who knows why? Maybe the client has different tastes than you do. Perhaps the market isn’t ready for your innovative approach. Or, and I’m just putting this out there as a possibility, maybe your idea stank. Whatever the reason, your design failed.

In researching this podcast episode, I looked up some famous quotes on failure. Here are some great ones that could apply to designers.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford

You have to be able to accept failure to get better. – LeBron James

One of my favourite ones is from Winston Churchill who said

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

As a designer, you can’t let rejections get you down. And yet I see it all the time in design communities. Designers mopping because a client didn’t like their idea. It happens, don’t fret on it. Pick yourself up and get back at it and try again.

Think of your draft process when you’re designing something. Chances are you don’t just come up with one idea and present it to your client. If you do, then I think I found the reason why clients are rejecting your designs.

If you're like most designers, you go through dozens if not hundreds of ideas and incarnations of those ideas before settling on a design you think is presentable to your client. If you look at those earlier design drafts, most of them are very poor compared to the presented version. Each one of those earlier drafts was a failure that led to improvements. Those failures allowed you to progress to the next version or next idea which was an improvement over the last one.

When a client rejects one of your designs, you shouldn't look at it as a failure. Instead, see it as one more step in the process. Maybe you showed it too soon. Maybe there are more variations to explore or refinements to make. Perhaps you hadn’t stretched your creativity enough to come up with the next, even better idea.

It’s all part of the creative process, and you shouldn’t view it as a failure. Doing so is not productive. If a client turning down your design pushes you to create something even better, then nobody will remember your previous unsuccessful tries.

Don't get attached to your designs.

The trick to getting past failure as a creative is not to become overly attached to your ideas and concepts. I know, it’s tough. You work hard to create something that you think is amazing. Something you know will blow the client's socks off. And then you're shocked when it doesn’t. You feel defeated because, in your mind, it was the perfect design.

That’s the problem. When you become so enamoured with your design that it blocks your creativity and prevents you from improving your idea. You’ll never progress as a designer if you allow that to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. Being proud of your work is ok. But those great pieces you create are still just stepping stones to even better ideas yet to come.

If you want to be a successful designer you need to learn to brush off rejections. Use the failure as a learning experience to improve your skills and abilities and become a better designer.

One more thing.

Just because a client rejects, a design doesn’t mean it’s a bad design. If you like it, put it aside and recycle it in the future if there’s ever use for it. Maybe, after time you’ll start to see the flaws in it you couldn’t see before. Or, if it still holds up, you can adjust it and present it to another client who will appreciate it.

Remember that design is subjective. Not everyone has the same idea of what looks good and what doesn’t. When you present something to a client, no matter what you think of the design, the client has the final say and failure is always an option.

What stories about failure do you have?

Share your stories about design fails you've had 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 Mark

What is your policy on sharing the source files with your clients? Some years ago I created a series of packaging labels for a small coffee roaster. Years later, a person I did not know e-mailed me, mentioning that he was now doing a project with the client and needed the photoshop files.

Although this was an easy task for me to do, it just didn't sit right with me.

I contacted the client to verify this person and they told me they were working on an advertising campaign and that person was in marketing. In the end, I sent the marketer (flattened) psd files and interestingly enough, I ended up working with him on a future project.

I have had discussions with others about openly sharing source files with clients. Some say they (the clients) paid for them by paying you for your service while others say absolutely not. What do you say Mark?

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

Resource of the week Podcasts

In honour of International Podcast Day on September 30th (and the third anniversary of the Resourceful Designer podcast) I encourage you to 1) find new podcasts to listen to. 2) Encourage others to try podcasts.

Podcasts are a great way to learn, discover, laugh and be entertained, With over a half billion podcasts available there's sure to be one for whatever hobby, interest and curiosities you have.

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

Sep 24, 2018

How to politely turn away clients

Are you afraid to be stuck with a client from hell? If so, knowing how to turn away clients politely is a skill you better learn.

In the last episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I shared 12 red flags for spotting bad design clients. You should be familiar with them before continuing to read. Unfortunately, spotting a bad client is only half the battle. The next hurdle is turning them away. I go into much more detail in the podcast. For the full story be sure to listen.

But what if you're wrong about a client? They may have raised one or more red flags, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't have turned out to be a great client after all. Just in case you have the opportunity to work with them again someday, you need to turn away clients in a way that doesn’t burn any bridges.

Script templates you can use to turn away clients.

Feel free to copy, use and reword these script templates whenever you need to turn away clients. Just be sure that your final draft is as polite as possible and that you don't insult the client. After all, you never know what the future holds.

Clients you want to avoid.

In most cases, this first script will be all you need. From the red flags I shared in the last episode, this one covers clients with a bad reputation, clients with inconsistent communications, clients who complain about previous designers, those who flirt with you and clients who for whatever reason, give you a bad feeling.

All of these fall under clients you want to avoid. The best way to avoid going any further with them is to send them a message like this.

Dear (client’s name)

Thank you for considering me (or your business name) for your (insert kind of design project here). It sounds like an exciting project. Regrettably, due to my current workload, I am not taking on any new projects at the moment.

Thanks again for considering me (or your business name). I wish you success with your (insert project name).

Regards,

(insert your name)

That’s it. That’s all you need to say. Politely tell the client you are unable to take on new projects at this time and you wish them the best. No other excuses or explanations are required.

If the client asks when you will be available for new projects, tell them your work calendar is full for the foreseeable future.

Client rudely challenges your fee.

Challenging your fee is expected. It's called negotiation. However, when a client starts to get rude or obnoxious about it, you need to remove yourself from the situation with a message like this one.

Dear (client’s name)

Thank you for considering me (or your business name) for your (insert kind of design project here).

I know my (fee/rate/price) is not for everyone. I’ve spent many years developing my craft as a designer, and I’ve positioned my fees to reflect the level of service I provide to my clients.

I understand you are looking for something in a lower price range. Perhaps you can contact (insert list of designers who may take on the project). I believe (he, she or they) may be able to help you where I cannot.

I wish you success with your (insert project name)

Regards,

(insert your name)

If you don’t want to provide a name or list of designers, you could switch paragraph three to this.

I understand you are looking for something in a lower price range. I believe you would be better served by a designer whose services are not as involved as mine are.

This paragraph reaffirms that your prices are higher for a reason. Should the client not be satisfied with another designer they may return and accept your higher rates.

A client wants you on call 24/7 or to micromanage you.

This client still has potential. If you don’t want to work with them, you can use the first script above. However, if you wish to try and save this client but curb their overbearing ways, you may want to try something like this.

Dear (client’s name)

Thank you for considering me (or your business name) for your (insert kind of design project here). It sounds like an interesting project that I would love to work on with you.

Before we get started I’d like to share how I operate. My business hours are (insert your working hours). I expect all communications between us to be via email or phone during my business hours.

All correspondence regarding your design project is to be by email. Email documents our communications, so we each have a record of what we discussed in case we need to refer to it in the future. I will try to respond to email promptly.

I am reachable by phone during my business hours. However, I do not accept any project changes, updates or approvals over the phone. Any changes or approvals must be sent by email.

If you would like to move forward with this project let me know and I will forward you my contract.

Thanks again for considering me (insert client’s name) as your designer.

Warmly,

(insert your name)

Include other vital points such as how often you provide updates or how many revisions you allow. Stating these things up front gives you grounds to part ways with the client should they not oblige.

If they agree to these terms, be sure to repeat all of them in your contract. That way, if they do start to become overbearing, you can refer back to the agreed upon document.

A client doesn’t want to partake in your discovery process.

A client who doesn’t want to partake in discovery is not only dismissing your abilities as a designer, but they are doing themselves a disservice by not providing you with everything you need to do your job. A message like this one may help.

Dear (client’s name)

Thank you for choosing me (or your business name) for your (insert kind of design project here).

Design is more than a pretty image or layout. When done right, design solves a problem. The possible problems I’m facing with your (insert project) are (list possible problems). To pinpoint your exact problem and come up with the perfect design solution, I need to find out everything I can about you, your company, and your clients. Only then can I create a design that will work for your needs.

To accomplish this I go through what’s called a discovery process in which I ask you questions that I need you to answer honestly. Only then, once I get to know you and your business will I see the direction your project will need to take.

Let me know when you will be available to talk.

Regards

(insert your name)

A client wants you to steal or copy another designer’s work.

In a case when this happens, and it will happen at some point in your career, you should educate the client on why you cannot do what they are asking with a message like this one. If they still insist your only option is to walk away.

Dear (client’s name)

Thank you for considering me (or your business name) for your (insert kind of design project here). Regrettably, I am not able to take on your project as described. What you are asking of me not only breaks copyright law but it infringes on ethical standards. Designers are skilled professionals who deserve to be paid for their expertise. You are asking me to steal the work of another designer and pass it off as my own. This I will not do.

What I can do for you is create something unique that will represent you in the best possible way. If you wish to discuss this possibility further, please contact me.

Thanks again for considering me for your design project.

Sincerely,

(insert your name)

A client doesn’t want to sign a contract.

A client not wanting to sign a contract is a terrible sign. You must insist on a signed document before any work is to start. Sending them an email like this may help.

Dear (client’s name)

Thank you for choosing me (or your business name) for your (insert kind of design project here). I’m really excited to start working on it. I’m just waiting for you to sign the contract before any work can begin. Once I receive the signed agreement I can start working on it.

Thanks again for choosing me (insert client’s name).

Regards,

(insert your name)

A client wants you to work for free, on spec or for exposure.

It's too bad that some people don't believe designers are worth paying. The best you can hope for is to educate them enough that they change their ways.

Dear (client’s name)

Thank you for considering me (or your business name) for your (insert kind of design project here). It sounds like an exciting project. Regrettably, without proper monetary compensation, I will not be able to take it on.

I’ve spent years developing my skills as a designer and although I appreciate the offer of (insert their offer of exposure, references, a portfolio piece.). However, such offers are a gamble, and there’s no way to guarantee the sustainability of my business by taking it on.

I’m sure you can appreciate that just like any other profession, I use my expertise as a designer to make a living. I cannot do that if I am not compensated financially for the work I provide.

Thanks again for considering me (insert client’s name). I wish you success with your (insert project name)

Regards

(insert your name)

Build your client list

Dealing with clients like the ones mentioned above is frustrating. The good news is there are a far greater number of clients who appreciate you and your talents. Over time you will build a list of great clients with whom you'll enjoy working. Appreciate them and build relationships with them. By doing so, you will ensure a happy and successful design career.

Do you have a script to turn away clients?

Do you have your own scripts you use to turn away clients in any of the above-mentioned situations? Please share them with me 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 Audry

My question is regarding logos and what files sizes to give to clients. I understand the file types (PDF, SVG etc.), but just don't know which ones to provide a client that doesn't know ahead of time where their logos will be placed. So how can I be safe and provide them with all the right sizes and file types they'll ever need? I just want to make sure I cover all the necessary formats for where it could possibly be going (pens, letterheads, vehicle wraps, billboards, etc.).

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

Resource of the week Porkbun.com

Porkbun.comis a great place to purchase speciality domains. You can purchase standard domains such as .com and .net at Porkbun.com but they specialize in domains such as .art, .boutique, .consulting, .gallery, .marketing, .photography or .photos plus many more. Porkbun.com prides themselves on being the #1 ranked registrar for lowest registration and renewal prices.

On top of low prices, every Porkbun.com domain also comes with Free WHOIS Privacy and Free SSL Certificates making them an even better deal.

I own several .design domains and if you would like to own one I highly suggest you give Porkbun.com a try.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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

Sep 14, 2018

12 Red Flags For Spotting Bad Design Clients

Bad Design Clients can ruin a business and destroy your love of design. Luckily there are certain Red Flags to help you spot bad clients before things go too far.

In past episodes of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about reasons for passing on design projects from both existing clients as well as from new clients. This time I focus on the clients themselves, specifically bad clients you want to avoid.

Maybe you’re just starting out, or perhaps you’re a struggling designer, and the thought of turning away clients is entirely foreign to you. Not to mention that telling clients you can’t or won’t help them is not only uncomfortable, but it goes against human nature to want to please people. Plus there’s the fear that turning a client away may backfire and you may lose future opportunities.

These are all real fears. But to run a successful design business, and also be happy in the work you are doing, there will be times when passing on a client is the right thing to do.

Not every client out there is a good fit for you and some you plain don’t want as a client. In the years I’ve been running my business I’ve had a few clients I wish I had turned away at the start.

Not every client out there is right for you and some you just plain don’t want to work with.

By being selective in your client selection you are not only helping yourself, but you are also helping the client who deserves to work with someone who is better suited to serve them.

So how do you spot the red flags letting you know when you should pass on a client?

Start by studying the client

Before you can decide whether or not to accept a new client, you need to try and get a feel for what it will be like working with them. Only then will you know if you want to invest your time in building a relationship with them.

Start by asking the client about themselves and their business before ever asking about their project. Get to know them a bit first.

Once you start discussing the project make sure you ask them what it is they expect from you as a designer. Not just the designs deliverables you will be providing, but what experience do they expect from working with you.

Through your initial conversation, you should get a small feel for what it would be like working with the client. Over time you’ll develop the ability to quickly feel out potential clients to decide whether or not you want to work with them.

One thing you could do is hold off agreeing to a project on the initial call or meeting. Always offer to send a proposal to the client outlining your discussion before taking on their project. You will accomplish two things by doing this;

  1. It will give you time to think about the client and research them if needed.
  2. Should you not spot any red flags and start working with the client only to discover later they are a bad client; you will have the initial proposal in writing to fall back on in case of any disputes.

12 Red Flags to watch for to spot a bad client.

1. The client has a bad reputation.

You might be unfamiliar with the client, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some research before agreeing to work with them. A quick Google search of their name or business can turn up all sorts of red flags with information that may help you make a decision.

If you know of anyone the client has worked with before, contact them and ask how it was to work with the client.

2. Inconsistent communication.

Clients who contact you in a rush to have something designed but then take forever to give you details or to respond to a proof. Or clients who harass you looking for quotes or proposals but don’t respond to you when you follow up afterwards. These are red flags that can help you see how communications will go during the project phase.

Inconsistent communication while working on a project can be a real pain. Spotting this red flag early could save you a lot of headaches.

3. The client rudely challenges your fee.

It’s normal for a client to question your price, as long as they do it in a professional manner “that’s more than I was expecting to pay, my budget was closer to X.”

What isn’t right if when a client rudely scoffs at your prices and replies with “who do you think you are charging this much?” or “you're working from home without any overhead, you can give me a better price than this” or “this price is ridiculous, I can get the same thing done much cheaper elsewhere".

Scenarios similar to these are akin to bullying. Any client that starts off the relationship this way isn’t work keeping.

4. A client expects you to be on call 24/7.

Some clients expect daily progress updates or to be shown every step of the design process. Some want to be able to communicate with you at any hour of the day. Some clients may expect super fast turnarounds, or for you to be “on call” at the drop of a hat whenever they need you.

There are also the clients that will send you an email, then a text telling you they sent you an email and then follow up with a Facebook PM letting you know they emailed and texted you.

If that’s not how you want to work, then don’t work with this client.

5. The client wants to micromanage you.

Clients who micromanage don't’ respect your skills and experience as a designer. They think they know best and want you to follow their lead. Remember that working with a client is a partnership, not a dictatorship. You are not their employee. You do not work for them; you are working with them.

There are few things worse than working with a bossy client. If you feel your authority in the partnership may be minimised, pass on the client.

6. A client doesn’t want to partake in your discovery process.

Some clients think the discovery process is a waste of their time. "You’re the designer, just design something". They don't understand why you need to know all these things about them and their business.

Without proper discovery to learn about your client, there’s no way for you to design the perfect piece to solve their problem.

If a client refused to partake in discovery, there’s a good chance you will fail to please them with your work since there’s no way for you to know what problem you are trying to solve with your design.

7. A client wants you to steal or copy another designers work.

This Red Flag doesn't need an explanation. If a client asks you to copy something and change the name on it to theirs or build a website identical to someone else's but maybe with different colours and text, there are only two things you can do.

  1. Educate the client on why you cannot do what they are asking of you (Ethical reasons, copyright laws) and that they are hiring you to design something unique to represent them in the best possible way.
  2. If they don’t want to listen, walk away. They are a bad client to have.

8. A client complains about previous designers.

No good can come from working with a client who complains about previous designers they’ve hired.

95% of the time there was nothing wrong with the former designers, it was the client that was the problem. You're taking a risk by trying to be the design saviour they want. If you fail to meet up to the standards they are looking for; they will be bashing your name and reputation in the future as well.

Get away from this bad client while you can.

9. The client doesn’t want to sign a contract.

Run away, run away fast.

Some clients will try anything not to sign a contract. “Go ahead and get started, I’ll mail the contract to you tomorrow” or “There’s a tight deadline on this project, why don’t you get started and we can iron out about the contract later.

This red flag isn’t always the end all of a client relationship. If you firmly but politely tell the client you cannot get started without a signed contract there’s a good chance they will concede, and you can move forward. However, if they push back at all, you should kindly pass on the client.

10. The client wants you to work for free, on spec or for exposure.

In this day and age, I shouldn't have to explain why you should be compensated monetarily for your work. Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t see what you do as a real job and therefore don’t feel the need to pay you like a real business.

If a client offers to work with you in exchange for:

  • The exposure you will get once people see your work.
  • A project that will make a great portfolio piece.
  • The promise of referring you to others.
  • A design that if they like it, they will pay you for it.

It’s your duty as a professional designer to inform them that you deserve proper payment for your time and services. If they can’t pay you, then you can’t work with them.

11. The client flirts with you.

Some people are natural flirts and don’t even realise they are doing it. Others use it as a manipulating tactic to get what they want. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to distinguish between the two, and either way, it could leave you feeling uncomfortable if you are not receptive to the flirting.

Be wary of this client. There may be nothing wrong with them, and they may turn out to be a perfect client. But if their flirting makes you feel uncomfortable then pass on them.

12. You have a bad feeling about the client.

You can’t explain it. The client has an excellent project for you, they accept your terms, they’ve agreed to your price, and for all intent and purposes, they seem like the perfect client to have. And yet you have a bad feeling about them.

I don’t want to compare design clients to people in dark vans offering candy to kids, but some people can appear perfectly normal, desirable in fact, all the while hiding who they really are.

If you ever encounter a client that for some unknown reason just doesn’t fit right with you, listen to your intuition. Human beings have relied on it for millennia to keep them safe. Save yourself the stress and possible future troubles and pass on this client.

Weed out these Red Flags and build a great client base.

Life is too short to deal with undesirable people. If you keep an eye out for these Red Flags to weed out bad clients and build a great client base of wonderful people you enjoy working with, there's no reason you shouldn't have a successful design career.

You should love the work you are doing. Don't let bad clients ruin it for you.

What Red Flags do you look for in a potential new client?

Let me know what Red Flags you look out for or what bad client stories you've experienced by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Check your Inode limit.

I recently had an issue where all of my client's websites failed when I tried updating or installing a plugin or theme, and I was unable to add any new images to the media gallery. It turns out I had gone over my Inode limit on my shared hosting plan. My hosting provider informed me that even though my plan includes unlimited websites and unlimited disk storage space, there was, in fact, a limit to the number of Inodes I could have. What's an Inode? I asked the same thing. It turns out an Inode is a file (why they don't call it a file I don't know). So even though I have unlimited storage space, there is a limit to the number of files my hosting plan allows, and I had exceeded it.

They offered me two options, 1) Purchase a new hosting plan and migrate some of my client sites to it to reduce the number of files (Inodes) on my first plan. Or 2) Delete files on my current hosting plan to drop my total Inode count below my limit.

Luckily there were a couple of websites still on my hosting plan that were old and no longer live. Deleting them freed up enough space to allow me to continue working on the site I was building for a client.

I will be purchasing a new hosting plan for future client sites. Hosting is inexpensive, so it's not a big deal. However, I did learn something from this experience (not just what an Inode is), read the fine print. Unlimited disk space sounds great, providing there isn't some other cap in place.

I don't begrudge my hosting provider. If they didn't put a limit on the number of Inodes, there would be nothing stopping me from hosting hundreds if not thousands of websites for a small monthly hosting fee.

All of this to say, check with your hosting provider to see what your Inode limit is so you don't encounter the same problem I did.

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.

Aug 31, 2018

When clients view design as an investment, you win.

Whether or not a potential client decides to work with you relies heavily on your pitch to them. If they like the presentation but view the cost of hiring you as an expense, they may choose to look for more affordable options. However, if they consider the cost of hiring you as an investment, there's a good chance they'll decide to work with you.

Not promoting the investment opportunity is a critical factor that holds so many designers back from charging what they are truly worth.

One of the most significant concerns over raising design rates is that clients can get design work done cheaper elsewhere. Yes, it's true, but only for clients who view design as an expense. Something to shop around for the best deal. For clients who see design as an investment, the price isn’t usually an issue.

Nurturing an investment mentality in your clients.

How can you get clients to view design as an investment? Change how you make your pitch to them, and it will make a difference in your proposal success rate. It all comes down to semantics.

When you tell a client their new website will cost them $8000, they hear the price and imagine it as an expense they need to justify. They may feel reluctant to move forward and may want to shop around for a better deal.

However, if you explain to a client that by working with you they receive much more than just a website, they receive a strategic partner that focuses on their business success, the same $8000 suddenly becomes an investment in the future of their business. If you can get a client to think about the return they will receive after paying your fee; they will be much more inclined to work with you.

The trick is to expand beyond the receivables you are providing the client and explaining what they can accomplish with those receivables.

A well-designed logo can bring them better exposure and brand recognition and make them stand out amongst their competition.

A well-designed website can generate more traffic, get them a better market share, help them monitor trends and visitors through analytics and increase their conversions.

When you explain what the client gets beyond the designs, they are much more inclined to appreciate what you offer them and invest in you. You can even change the wording on your proposals from Total Cost or Total Price to read Total Investment. It’s such a subtle shift, but if it clicks with a potential client, then that client becomes loyal to you.

An investment is something people want to do, whereas an expense is something people try to avoid but know it's sometimes inevitable. If you can convince clients you are offering the first one, there’s a good chance they hire you.

I've talked in past episodes of Resourceful Designer about building client relationships and how you want them to see you as their strategic partner and not just a design supplier. Clients are much more willing to invest in a partner because they feel like they will get something out of it.

What if the client still questions the price?

If you present your proposal as an investment and the client still questions your price, you should try explaining it to them in business terms more familiar to them.

If a client has a storefront, look at its location. Is it in a busy downtown area? Is it in a shopping centre?  Ask them why did they choose that location instead of opening in a cheaper location on the outskirts of town.

If the client runs a service based business and relies on their vehicle for work, ask them why they didn't choose an older model vehicle that would have cost them less money?

The reason clients choose premium locations or newer vehicles is that they are thinking of them as investments and not merely an expense. Yes, you could argue that mortgages, leases and loans are expenses according to accounting practices. But they are investments when it comes to the success of the business.

Store owners will pay more for a better location because of the exposure it gives them. Service businesses are willing to pay more for their vehicles because of the perception it instils in people who see them.

The same should apply to design.

Clients can get websites, logos, and marketing material designed cheaper than what you are offering. But if they genuinely want what is best for their business, they should be willing to invest more to get something that will impact their business beyond just the design, and that’s where you come in.

To paraphrase author and business leader Michael Hyatt.

If a design seem cheap, dated or confusing, potential clients will think the business is cheap, dated or confusing.

No business can afford to be percieved this way. The best way to avoid being viewed as cheap, dated or confusing is to hire a professional designer who will work closely with the business to ensure their success. That's where you come in.

So if you are not already doing it. Change the way you pitch yourself to clients. Stop telling them how much things will cost them and start telling them how much of an investment hiring you will be.

Do your clients know they are investing in their business by hiring you?

Let me know your thoughts on this topic 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 Ursula

How do you approach Project Proposals? I feel like I spend a lot of time and energy on proposals, and I always wonder how much of them I could have prepared ahead of time to make the processes faster for my (potential) clients, and cost effective for me in terms of my time. But I feel like I should be approaching each project with a clean slate so that my proposal is individualized for them. There must be a better way. Can you share your process or other best practices in this area?

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

Resource of the week BackupBuddy

BackupBuddyby iThemes is the easiest way to backup, restore, migrate and relocate a WordPress website.

With BackupBuddy you always have peace of mind knowing that your website is safe and if ever the need arises, can be restored with just a few simple clicks.

Do you design client websites locally or in a designated sandbox? BackupBuddy makes it easy to move and deploy the site to its permanent domain once it's complete.

BackupBuddy is the first plugin I install on every WordPress site I build.

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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.

Aug 24, 2018

Do you focus on the Features or the Benefits of working with you?

I love visiting graphic and web designers' websites. I love looking at their portfolio of projects to see the work they produce. But even more than looking at portfolios, I love studying how these designers promote themselves to potential clients.

One of the things I’ve noticed while visiting these sites is the different focuses presented to visitors. Some focus heavily on the features and services they offer to clients, while other sites focus on the benefit a client receives from working with that particular design studio.

After visiting hundreds, if not thousands of designer sites over the years, I've concluded that the ones most likely to convert visitors into clients are the ones who list the benefits. The ones who let potential clients know what's in it for them.

Don't get me wrong. You should list your features and services on your website. Many clients are looking for a designer for one project and don’t even realize that they offer other servicesas well. However, your features and services shouldn't be the primary focus of your message. They should be secondary to the benefits a client gets from deciding to work with you.

Here’s an example from a website that focuses mostly on the features they offer:

Why work with us?

Whether you need a website, an event poster, or to add graphics to your vehicle, we can create the designs that will direct your potential clients back to you. We create designs for you that are aesthetically pleasing, modern and relevant within your industry, with a simple and clear message.

With creativity and clarity, we develope your branding through custom graphics that you and your customers will appreciate.

We offer services in:

The message goes on to list the features and services this design company offers.

This is good information for the client to have. But It doesn’t show the benefits for the client from choosing this company.

Here’s an example of a company focusing on benefits:

We want to work with you.

When you partner with (name redacted) to develop or expand your brand, you not only get a team of experienced designers and marketers who have helped hundreds of businesses just like yours excell. You get a team of devoted people whose focus is on your success. When you look good, we look good.

Our aim in working with you is to develop a connection and learn everything we can about your business. This partnership will allow us to develop a personalized branding strategy that fits your budget.

If you are ready to expand your business then so are we. Click here to set up a call to discuss your business and the services we can offer you.

Do you see the difference? Sentences like "When you partner with..." or "You get a team of devoted people whose focus is on your success." or "Our aim in working with you is to develop a connection...". These all show a benefit to the client. It shows that the design company cares about their clients' success. It shows that choosing this company is choosing a partner in developing your brand and not just a supplier.

This website did list their features and services on a secondary page reachable with a "Learn more" link for potential clients who want to know more about this company.

Listing your features and services is a good idea. It helps expand who you are, and It does work in attracting clients. Visitors are interested in what it is you can offer them. But it should be secondary to your main message. When you focus on the benefits, you are reaching the client on a personal level, and that makes it much easier for the client to decide to work with you.

Developing your message strategy

When it comes to creating your marketing material; your website, brochures, advertising etc. you need to keep your target audiences' behaviour in mind. How will they react to the message you put in front of them? Is your message more knowledge-based, meaning it focuses on the features? Or is it emotion based, focusing on the benefits?

Remember that clients want to know “what’s in it for them?” If you can trigger an emotional response from a potential client, you are already most of the way there to winning them over. This subtle shift in how you word things can make a world of difference in the growth of your design business.

Do you explain the benefits to your clients in your marketing material?

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 Stian

My main focus is webdesign and development. So I will get loads of logins to FTP servers, web clients, web services, I even make new ones for my clients. And on top of this there is the contact information to each client.

Do you have a tip to organize this ? Like a software where I can store passwords and usernames safe, and other client information. I am not looking for some sort of billing system.

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

Resource of the week SetApp.com

SetApp.comis a subscription service for Mac apps. Starting at $5.99 per month for students and teachers and $8.99 per month for everyone else, SetApp gives you access to over 120 Apps for Mac OS. These are full version apps with no in-app purchases. Plus you get free updates and upgrades as they are released for every app. You also automatically get access to new apps as they are added to the SetApp package.

Some of the apps included are

CleanMyMac - free up disk space and speed up your mac
iStat Menus - monitor your mac’s health
Flume - Use Instagram on your Mac
Chronicle - Financial organization
MacGourmet Deluxe - for discovering and managing recipes.
Gemini - Remove duplicate files from your Mac

Plus so many more apps ready for you to use as part of your subscription. SetApp categories include Maintenance apps, Lifestyle apps, Productivity apps, Task Management apps, apps for Developers, for Creatives, for Writing & Blogging and apps for Education and Research.

Check out SetApp.com to see if it's something you are interested in.

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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

Aug 10, 2018

Have you tried downselling to win over design clients?

Building client relationships is one of, if not the most important thing you can do as a designer. One of the best ways to build relationships is by downselling to your design clients.

In a previous episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about Upselling to increase your design revenue. In it, I mentioned how upselling is an excellent way of delivering more value to your clients which in turn will make them think higher of you. Upselling is a great way to build relationships with your clients while also increasing your revenue. However, downselling is another great skill you should practice to not only build client relationships but to win over clients that otherwise would not have hired you in the first place. Downselling is vital in building your company’s reputation.

What is Downselling?

Downselling is when you offer something of lesser value to win over a client. Usually, once the client has indicated, they won’t be proceeding with your original proposal. For example, you could offer to build a smaller website for less money by eliminating some of the features a client requested.

Downselling can also be used when you believe a client is asking for more than what they need or want something that is wrong for them and you counter with something of lesser value that suits them better. This is more of an ethical decision. Sure you can design what the client is asking for and charge them accordingly. But if you downsell them on a lesser idea because it’s the right thing to do, they will realise you have saved them money and possibly misery, and they will become big fans of yours. For example, after looking at their content, you may suggest designing a more economical postcard or rack card instead of an expensive tri-fold brochure.

Anything you do that helps the client achieve their objective and save them money will raise their impression of you and strengthen your relationship.

When should you downsell?

The best time to downsell is once you realise a client isn’t going to move forward with what you are offering them. However, be careful of downselling too early. Sometimes a client simply needs more time or more convincing before agreeing to your initial proposal.

But if there are indications that the client is not buying what you are offering them, then a downsell can work.

How do you downsell?

The best way to introduce a downsell is by acknowledging that your initial offer was too much for the client or that what the client is asking for is more than what they need.

“James, I understand that my website proposal is more than what you budgeted for. How about we go over the scope of the job once more and see if there are any areas we can rework in order to cut costs.”

In this example, the client was rejecting a quote for an eCommerce website to sell their new product. The downsell is to offer them a simple site with a purchase button hooked up through PayPal, it accomplishes their objective at a more economical cost.

When it's a case of the client wanting more than they need it could be something like:

“Jennifer, I would love to design the souveneir program for your upcoming concert tour. You mentioned how expensive it is to put on this tour. May I suggest going with a saddle stiched program instead of having it perfect bound? Your fans will enjoy it just as much and it will save you a lot of money on the production costs.”

Clients like Jennifer will appreciate your honesty and realise that you have their best interest in mind and your not just viewing them as another source of income.

What not to do when Downselling

One thing you should never do when downsellng is just lowering your price. Dropping your price is not downselling, it’s informing your client that you typically charge more for what you do than what you think you are worth.

Trying to win over a client by dropping your prices will have the opposite effect to what you are trying to achieve. The client will always second guess your future dealings.

If you can’t offer an alternate product or service of lesser value that will still benefit the client, you are better off to let the client walk away.

Other ways to downsell

Sometimes budget or needs are not the issues. Sometimes it’s the resistance of working with someone new for the first time. Downselling can help in these situations.

When a client is showing hesitation because they don’t know you or are unsure of your work, you can downsell your services by offering to take on a single part of a more massive project for them to get to know you better.

“Charles, I understand how hard it can be to trust your entire marketing campaign to someone you just met. Here’s a proposal, what if we start with just the post card design. If you like what I design for you then we can discuss the rest of the campaign.”

This "foot in the door" strategy is a great way to downsell a hesitant client and to build an excellent foundation for the relationship you are starting with them.

Downselling pays off

In my experience, there is no downside to downselling. Your clients will appreciate your honesty and will be inclined to bring you more projects in the future and to refer you to others. After all, a satisfied client is the best marketing strategy you can have for your design business.

Do you practice downselling?

Share your experience with downselling 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 Tiana

I just started out in this business and I’m finding it difficult to figure out invoicing and how to charge my clients. Do you take a deposit up front or do you charge for the entire job once it’s done.

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

Resource of the week Depositphotos

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

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

If this is something that interests you, please check out DepositPhotos

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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Contact me

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

Follow me on Twitter, Facebookand 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

Aug 3, 2018

Nine Situations when you should say No to your clients.

How does that old joke go? “Business would be so much easier if I didn’t have to deal with clients.” It’s funny but unrealistic. Without clients, you wouldn’t have a business. So thank you to all the design clients out there that keep designers like you and me in business.

Yes, clients are great. However, some of them can be difficult to work with at times, and others, let’s say they can be a real pain in the ASSumption that we’ll bend over backwards to work with them. Sometimes one of the best skills you can have is knowing when to say NO to your clients.

Having to say no to your clients can be very stressful. But sometimes the situation you find yourself in requires you to put your foot down and do just that.

In episode 42 of Resourceful Designer, I discussed how it’s OK to say NO to graphic design work. In that episode, I talked about how and why you should turn down design work or design clients.

Here are nine situations where you should say no to your existing clients.

1) Scope Creep

The dreaded scope creep. You’ve already agreed with your client on what a project entails, hopefully via a signed contract, but your client keeps trying to push things beyond what you initially discussed.

A little bit of scope creep is expected, but you’ll know when enough is enough and that's when you need to say no to your clients.

Let them know the project is growing beyond what you initially agreed upon, and you either cannot accommodate their new demands, or you need to renegotiate the terms of the project.

Clients will try to get whatever they can from you, but they will respect you when you say no.

2) The project is beyond your abilities

When a client asks you to do something that is beyond your skillset, you can say no. There’s no shame in showing your boundaries. In fact, the client may appreciate your honesty.

In some situations, if what a client is asking is beyond your abilities you can still take on the project and have someone else work on it. In that case, you can say yes to them. However, sometimes what is asked of you is beyond your comfort zone, and you don't want anything to do with it. In those cases just say no. Your client won't think any less of you.

3) Difficulties with previous projects

Some clients are difficult to work with. If at some point you decide that they are too much trouble you can choose to say no the next time they approach you with a project. Remember, "NO" is a complete sentence. It doesn’t require an explanation. Simply saying “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to take on that project” is good enough.

4) Negotiations

Everyone likes a good bargain, and design clients are no exception. Some of them like to haggle for the best deal. Nip this in the bud right away and say no to your clients. Your fees are what they are because you deserve to be paid that much. Tell those clients you don’t negotiate.

5) Micromanaging, or “Too many cooks.”

Some clients want to decide everything by committee, and that’s their prerogative. However, you can demand to have only one point person that you deal with. When anyone else on their committee contacts you directly tell them no, you can't deal with them. If they need you to do something they have to go through the point person.

Save yourself time and headaches by never dealing with committees without an assigned point person.

6) Impossible timelines

There are times when it’s just not possible to do what your client wants in the timeframe they want you to do it in. Maybe you're overloaded with work (good for you). Perhaps you’re getting ready to go on vacation. Whatever the case, if you can’t do something in the timeframe required, it’s your job to say no right away.

7) It’s not worth your time

For all those jobs that you don’t want to do there’s nothing wrong with you just saying NO to them.

Clients may ask you to design something mundane like an invoice or packing slip. Those things are boring and tedious, and you probably don’t want to do them. If that's the case, just say no. Plus at the rates you should be charging for your services why would your client want to pay you for something just about anyone can do.

8) Bad design choices

A client may ask you to do something with their project that you think it’s a bad design idea. If this happens, tell them you think it's a bad idea, and you won't do it.

Maybe it’s filling up every bit of white space with copy, or making the logo bigger for no reason. Whatever they want you to do, let them know that it will affect their design in a negative way. If they insist you can say no, you won't do it.

You'd be amazed that when you take a stand on design how all of a sudden clients will take you more seriously and listen to what you have to say.

9) Something compromises your Design Principals

Similar to bad design choices when a client asks you to do something, but in this case, it's something that could ruin your reputation as a designer.

Maybe they want you to use a script font in all caps. Perhaps they are asking you to use too many different fonts on a project. Or it might be an innocent request to add a hit counter to the bottom of their new website. If what they are asking will reflect poorly on you as a designer, or on the design profession in general, then you must say no to your clients.

What other situation would you say no to your 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 Amanda

When a client's corporate font is one that they’ve purchased, can they send you the font file? Or, does the designer need to purchase the font in order to use it to design their projects?

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

Resource of the week A Dedicated Mailbox

If you are running a business out of your home, I highly suggest you get a get a dedicated mailbox from someplace like The UPS Store to use as your business mailing address.

There are several reasons to use a mailbox for your business other than your home address.

  • Protect your home and family by not sharing your home address.
  • Packages can be delivered to a safe location when you are not home.
  • A convenient location for clients to drop off items for you without showing up at your home.
  • Makes your business look more legitimate and professional.
  • Some residential areas frown upon home-based businesses.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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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 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.

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I want to help you.

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

Jul 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.

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I want to help you.

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

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.

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I want to help you.

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

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.

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Contact me

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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
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Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
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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
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Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
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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

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