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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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Mar 25, 2019

How much thought do you devote to protecting your WordPress website?

[sc name="pod_ad"]I want to share something that happened to me this week. I came home from a nice lunch with friends to both an email and urgent voicemail message from a client saying someone had hacked their website and their URL redirected to a porn site. This is a relatively large client of mine that gets a decent number of visitors to their website each day, so there was a good reason for the panic.

When I heard the message and the panic in my client’s voice, my only thought was to get this problem fixed ASAP. But I wasn’t worried because I know I have measures in place for exactly this sort of thing. But more on that later.

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. That popularity also makes it the most popular choice for hackers. Fortunately, WordPress is on the ball and releases regular updates to patch any new and existing security holes. But, security as a whole is a reactive process. Patches are only issued once a security vulnerability is known. At its core, WordPress is incredibly secure, but the massive ecosystem of plugins and WordPress themes makes it more vulnerable to security holes. That’s why you should have measures in place for protecting your WordPress Website and those of your client.

It’s not good enough to rely on what your web host provides as part of your hosting package. You need to have your own measures in place. Those measures need to include both a security plugin and a backup plugin.

Step 1: A WordPress security plugin

By installing a WordPress security plugin, you’ll get access to additional features that WordPress doesn’t have right out of the box, including things such as:

  • Site, file, and malware scanning
  • Protection from brute force attacks
  • Regular security scans, monitoring, notifications
  • Site firewalls
  • Overall security hardening

Sadly, a lot of site owners don’t think about security for their WordPress website until it’s too late. And once a WordPress site is compromised, there’s not a lot they can do besides notify visitors and try to clean up the mess if possible.

If only there were something they could’ve done to prevent the site from being hacked in the first place. Oh, there is. Installing a top-ranked WordPress security plugin is the first step in securing your WordPress website.

Top-ranked WordPress security plugins

Google Authenticator - Two Factor Authentication

Although not a security plugin, the Google Authenticator plugin is a great addition for protecting your WordPress website. It's something that should be installed on every website. Google Authenticator adds an extra level of security by adding Two Factor Authentication every time someone logs into the WordPress website. iTheme Security Pro, my security plugin of choice comes with Google Authenticator as part of the package. I'm unsure if the other security plugins mentioned above also include Google Authenticator.

Step 2: A WordPress backup plugin

Every WordPress installation should also have a backup solution. Not one provided by your web host, but one you implement and control yourself.

There are too many instances where web host provided backup solutions either take days to provide you with the backup of your website, the backup is outdated, or in some cases, it's corrupted. Don't take any chances with your WordPress backups and install a top-ranked WordPress backup plugin such as one of these.

Top-ranked WordPress backup plugins

So how did my story end?

First off, let me tell you that I wasn’t surprised that my client's site got hacked. I had seen increased login attempts on it lately numbering in the 10,000s. If a determined hacker wants into a website, there's only so much you can do to stop them. So I wasn’t surprised when it got hacked, but I also wasn’t worried.

The first thing I did was wipe the site. I logged into my cPannel, went to File Manager, found the directory for my client's website and deleted everything in the folder. That immediately solved the first issue of the site being redirected to the porn site since there wasn't a site anymore to do the redirection.

Then it was a simple matter of downloading the most recent backup from the cloud drive I send all my client site backups to and using BackupBuddy, reinstalled the entire site from the backup. In all, it took me less than 10 minutes to get the site back up and running.

After reinstalling the site, I changed the password for the database as well as all User passwords and made sure WordPress, the installed theme and all plugins were updated. Only then did I call my client. When he answered and immediately started asking what can we do about the problem, it felt so good being able to tell him that everything was already taken care of and his site was back up and running.

Please, don’t delay, and don’t rely on your web host's security and backups to handle this for you. If you are not already protecting your WordPress website with security and backup plugins get to it ASAP.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Are you protecting your WordPress website the way you should be?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I didn't answer a question of the week in 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.

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

Mar 18, 2019

Building Client Loyalty = Repeat Business

I have to preface today’s topic of building client loyalty by saying everything I’m going to talk about here won’t help you if you are not a good designer. You don’t have to be an amazing designer, simply being a good one will do. As long as you know what you are doing, then you will benefit from today’s topic. Face it; if you are not a good designer, there’s not much you can do to get repeat business from clients. Other than practice and get better that is.

But I’m guessing by the fact that you are here right now, that you are serious about your design business and therefore must know what you are doing when it comes to design. So let’s move on.

The idea here is to build relationships with your clients. Building relationships is the main ingredient in building client loyalty. I’m not talking about designer/client relationships, but relationships on a more personal level. No, I’m not suggesting you start dating your clients to keep them coming back. Although that might work. I don’t personally have any experience on that front, but hey, if it worked for you drop me a line and let me know.

What I’m suggesting, is to get to know your client on a more personal level beyond the design projects you work on together.

I’ve been following this principle since I got into the industry 30 years ago. Even more so since I started my own design business in 2005, and I must say, my track record is pretty darn good. The majority of my clients become repeat clients, and the majority of those repeat clients, keep coming back over and over again with more design jobs for me.

I have a special mailbox in my mail app where I keep “praise” messages that clients have sent me over the years. Let me share a few lines from some of them.

“There's nobody else I'd rather work with.” 

“I can't imagine working with anyone else.”

“I feel like you're a part of our company.”

“You get me, I don’t know how, but you get me.”

So how did I end up building client loyalty like this? Is it because I’m a world-class designer? Because I'm not. I consider myself very good at what I do, but I'm nowhere near world-class status. The reason I receive this sort of praise from clients is because of the relationships I’ve built with them over the years.

Think about it. Relationships are built on two principles. Trust and how much you like someone. If you don’t trust someone, chances are you won’t have a relationship with them. Same if you don’t like someone, chances are you won’t have a relationship with them.

Now the trust part is easy. Create good design work and deliver that work on time and chances are your clients will trust you. The other half of the equation is getting them to like you.

Think about this: Clients would prefer to work with a good designer they like, than work with an amazing designer they don’t like.

My strategy for building client loyalty

Here’s my strategy for building relationships with my clients and getting them to like me. Are you ready for it? I listen, AND I take notes. That's all there is to it. No, seriously, that’s the magic of it. Listening and taking notes.

The goal is to get clients to like you. The more you know about your clients, AND the more your clients realise that you know about them, the better the likelihood of those clients liking you.

Let me elaborate, whenever a client comes to me, for whatever project. Not only do I want to know about their organisation and how the particular design project fits in, but I want to know about the client themself, their personal life, their family, etc.. And I build up this knowledge over time through conversations.

How? Through idle conversations and chit chat and by asking the right questions when the opportunity arises. Don't be too forward by directly asking personal questions. Instead, ask indirect questions that will allow you to gain knowledge about your clients.

Let me give you an example. Let's say a client I'm working with calls me on the phone.

Me: Hello?
Client: Hi, it's Mike, I need to talk to you about the project."

Now's the perfect time for me to gain some personal information about Mike, my client. Instead of getting right into it, I might try stalling for some chit chat. One method I like to use is telling the client I need to save what I'm currently working on before talking to them. In doing so, I might respond with something like this.

Me: "Hi Mike, just give me a couple of seconds to save this file I'm working on." During the pause, I'll add"Do you have any plans for the weekend?"

While Mike is waiting for me to save my file so we can begin our conversation about his project he'll probably answer my question.

Mike: "My wife and I are going to our daughter's piano recital this weekend."

Knowledge bomb! I now know that Mike is married and has a daughter who plays the piano. This opens me up to asking followup questions such as asking how old his daughter is, how long has she been playing the piano, does she get her musical talent from him or his wife?.

This is information I can use in the future to help build my relationship with Mike. The next time I talk to him, I can ask how his daughter's piano recital went. That's the sort of question that makes the client think "wow, this person cares enough to inquire about my personal life. I like that about them."

Building a client information database

The first part of my strategy for building client loyalty is to gather as much personal information about them as I can (without getting creepy and stalking them). The second part of my strategy is to organise that information so I can easily access it in the future. To do this, I use my Contacts App since it syncs between my computer and mobile devices, so I always have it at hand.

Most Contacts Apps allow you to enter information such as the name of their spouse, children, birthdays and more. Any information that doesn't have a dedicated field goes into the Notes filed.

I also have a dedicated calendar on my Calendar App specifically for client information — things like birthdays, anniversaries and all other occasions I might want to remember. I do the same with their business information by keeping track of trade shows, launch dates, special events their business is holding.

I try to gather as much information about my clients as I can.

What do you do with this information?

I use the information I've gathered through various conversations to build relationships with my clients. If I know their birthday is soon, I might bring it up in conversation "Isn't your birthday coming up?". If they told me they were going to Paris for vacation, I might ask them about their trip afterwards. If I know their son plays baseball I might inquire about the upcoming baseball season. Anything that helps connect on a personal level builds the relationship and forms a bond with the client. This bond will increase the likelihood of the client liking you, and as I stated earlier, loyalty is based on trust and how much someone likes you.

Get to know your clients.

I go into much more detail on the podcast so please listen to this episode for more examples if you want to know more about building client loyalty.

Make sure you take the time to get to know your clients. Learn about their business and the work they do, but also learn about them, their personal lives, their family, etc. The more you know about your clients, the closer of a connection you can have with them. And when that connection becomes solid, the client won't imagine working with anyone else but you. Building client loyalty makes clients for life.

Do you learn everything you can about 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 Scott

I love the idea that a design should not be quoted based on time but how do you come up with a price ? And what can you answer when a client asks you for justification for a price?

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

Resource of the week abc.useallfive.com

abc.useallfive.com is an online tool that shows you how ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant your colours are in relation to each other. By adding your colours on the right, you can generate a chart to see how they can be used together for accessibility, and find similar colours that work better.

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

Mar 11, 2019

Have you ever considered selling digital products?

Selling digital products is a great way to put your design skills to the test. Not only will you challenge yourself to come up with great ideas, but if you're successful, you can make excellent money doing it.

I've never tried selling digital products myself so on this episode of Resourceful Designer; I'm happy to be joined by Tom Ross, the founder of Design Cuts, one of if not the best place for acquiring and selling digital products online. Listen in as Tom, and I discuss everything there is to know about selling digital products so you can hit the ground running and do it right.

In this episode you'll hear us discuss:

  • How to determine what product you want to create
  • Choosing quality over quantity
  • Ways to promote your digital product
  • Creating sample and preview images for your digital product
  • The difference between designing for clients and designing for a marketplace
  • Income possibilities
  • And more

Whether you are contemplating selling digital products or you are an old pro at it, you're sure to gain some valuable knowledge from this episode. Be sure to share it with all your design friends.

What's your experience with selling digital products?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

There's no QotW this week, but I would love to get one from you. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week The Honest Entrepreneur Show

The Honest Entrepreneur Show is a new podcast and YouTube channel by Tom Ross, founder of Design Cuts. Each episode is 10-20 minutes long and contains zero fluff and zero B.S. Just real, candid insight into modern entrepreneurship. Tom covers topics such as dealing with mental health, to burnout, to behind authentic.

You can watch The Honest Entrepreneur Show on YouTube, or listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts on Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Be sure to follow Tom on Instagram at instagram.com/tomrossmedia

Mar 4, 2019

Do you have an organization strategy?

I was recently leafing through an old business magazine from the early 2000s, and I came across an article on organization skills. Specifically, organization skills to help you regain control over your schedule, your environment and your life. Although this article wasn’t about design, I found a lot of what it said still applies to today’s businesses and us as designers.

Here's my spin on the article with some of my knowledge to bring you four basic organization principles to help you as a designer.

Clear out the clutter

In today's society, it's not uncommon to feel overloaded. We deal with too much stuff. Too many obligations, too many tools and resources, too much information. Clearing out the clutter means doing away with anything that is unnecessary. Clutter takes up time, space, energy and money.

Make yourself a plan to clear out as much clutter from these areas as you can. Tackle them one at a time and free yourself.

A place for everything

The number one reason for clutter is not having a set place for stuff. In order to be organized, you need to have a system in place to organize your things. That may be hanging file folders in a drawer, a file cabinet or even a cardboard storage box.

It also means having an organization strategy for your client files and folders on your computer. Whatever it is, having a clearly designated area for your “stuff” will make it more likely that your “stuff” will end up where it belongs. And when stuff is where it belongs, it will make it much easier and faster to find it in the future. That’s the time-saving part of an organization strategy.

Develop systems

I talked about organizing your “stuff” but what about your time? You can go about your daily activities in one of two ways. You can either do things randomly, meaning you have to figure out how to do things each and every time you do them. Or, you can work systematically, where you have a set way of doing those things each time you need to do them.

Systems can apply to any activity you do, from designing logos or websites to invoicing clients, to collecting your tax information at the end of the year. When you have systems in place, you end up spending less energy figuring out how to do things. Instead, it becomes automatic.

I have a system I follow for building websites. It’s a step by step list of everything I need to do in order to set things up to get started, such as installing Wordpress and plugins. Laying out the structure of the website. Figuring out the content of each page, putting those pages together, and finally testing the site to make sure everything is hunky dory.

When you have systems in place, you can spend your time and effort focused on completing the task instead of figuring out how to do the task. Which in turn allows you to finish it much more quickly.

Review and revise your systems

Having systems in place is wonderful. They definitely help you become more organized. Providing they are still effective.

If you are using the same organization systems you put in place 5 years ago there’s a good chance they are not as effective as they were and they could actually be impeding you.

Don’t fall in the rut of doing things only out of habit just because it’s how you’ve been doing them for so long. Every once in a while you should ask yourself these three questions about your familiar routines.

1) Does it even need to be done? Don’t let “busywork” dictate your time just because it’s a habit.

2) Is this something that needs to be done by you? Can it be deligated?

3) Is this the most efficient way to do this? Is there an easier or quicker way?

Get your life in order and you’ll not only be happier, but you’ll be more productive. And if you’re more productive, there’s a good chance your business will grow.

Develop good organization strategies.

What's your organization strategy?

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 Antonio

Hi Mark, I’m studying graphic and web design. I’m from Spain and I start to listen your podcast for homework. After so many years in the business, what advice would you give to someone who is just starting in the industry?

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

Resource of the week Securitycheckli.st

Securitycheckli.stis an open source checklist of resources designed to improve your online privacy and security. Check things off to keep track as you go.

It covers interesting things such as how to encrypt your text messages — reviewing your social media privacy settings — reviewing permissions such as location services and even your camera setting.

Feb 18, 2019

Do you have a business plan for your design business?

Did you make a business plan when you started your design business? If you did, then you are in the minority. Most designers who freelance or run their own design business don’t bother creating a business plan unless they are required to do so by a bank or such.

I’m lucky; my bank asked for one when I first approached them for a business account. At the time I thought it was a nuisance, but in hindsight, I’m glad they made me do it. It gave me direction and made me think about what I wanted to accomplish with my design business.

So if you don’t already have a business plan, even if you’ve been in business for a while, you may want to take some time to come up with one.

Here are seven common business plan mistakes to avoid.

1) Putting off writing a business plan.

Most designers don’t bother with a business plan unless they’re asked to create one. Once their business is up and running most think they don’t need one, or that they are too busy running their business to make a plan for how to run it. That’s a big mistake. The busier you are, the more you need a plan.

Have you heard the term “work on your business, not in your business”? A business plan will help you accomplish that by helping you focus on the things you need to do to work on your business.

2) Fearing the business plan.

The thought of writing a business plan is much scarier than actually creating one. A business plan is not a thesis paper or a novel. It’s a simple guide for you to follow that will help your business to succeed.

There are plenty of great resources online and in your local municipality, such as small business development centres, libraries, banks etc. that can help you with your business plan.

3) Ignoring cash flow.

Most designers think in terms of profits and not cash. Profits are your sales minus your costs and expenses. Unfortunately, you don’t spend profits; you spend cash. And that’s where a business plan can help you.

When you are running a home-based design business, there are plenty of things that require payments that go beyond the business — things like utilities, property taxes, home maintenance, and so much more.

An essential part of a business plan involves creating a cash flow table showing you exactly how much of your profits get converted into spendable cash.

4) Establishing vague goals.

A business plan is not about the dreams you have. You don’t write “I want to be the best designer in my area” in your plan. That stuff is all hype. The objective of a business plan is to generate results for your business. And for results, you need to be able to track and follow up.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are a great way to look at a business plan. Your plan should contain specific dates, the responsibilities you need to take on, and the budget you are allotting to those responsibilities. Then set milestones so you can follow up and check your progress against your business plan.

No matter how well written your business plan is, it’s meaningless if it doesn’t produce results.

5) Copying someone else's plan.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to business plans. The resources I mentioned above can help direct you in writing your plan, but it has to be tailored to your specific business and needs. Remember, a business plan is a sales plan, a detailed action plan, a financial plan, a marketing plan and even a professional growth plan.

A business plan is essential for starting a new design business, but it’s also useful for running and growing your business.

You can bet that big design agencies such as Pentagram or Landor not only have a business plan but regularly review and revise it as their business grows.

6) Diluted priorities.

A business plan is meant to be a focused strategy for your design business. Therefore you need to focus on the priorities in your plan. A plan with 20+ items to keep track of is not very focused and will be much harder to adhere to. Each section of your business plan should have only three or four essential items you are working towards.

Remember, the more items you are focusing on, the less importance and less attention you can devote to each one. A short, precise business plan has a much higher chance of success than a long diluted one.

7) Not reviewing your plan.

Hopefully, you're convinced of the importance of having a business plan, no matter how small or large your design business. But having a business plan isn’t very helpful if you don’t review it on a regular basis.

Set annual reminders to review your plan and make amendments to it to help your design business grow. Doing so will help keep you focused and show you the direction to take to achieve to achieve success.

Do you have a business plan for 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 Rosey

How do you balance multiple priorities? It causes me a great deal of anxiety to leave things unfinished. In a perfect world, for me, I would only have one thing to do at a time and could just work from beginning to end, but that never happens. If you're working on 4 things at the same time, and none of them are finished (that's me right now). How do you know when is the right time to stop working on one thing, and pick up working on another?

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

Tip of the week resource name

I received a concise email from my copywriter this week. It went like this.

Hi Mark,

Here is the brochure copy. Let me know if there are any changes you would like me to make.

Pam

It’s that second line that gave me pause. “Let me know if there are any changes you would like me to make.

In a way, she was encouraging me to make changes to what she wrote. I opened the attached Word document with the thought in my head to look for things to change. I didn’t find any, the copy was perfect, but the idea was there.

This got me thinking about all the conversations I hear, where designers are complaining about the number of revisions clients ask for. The usual solution I hear is to limit the number of revisions you offer. Or Charge for revisions beyond X number.

Maybe the problem is these designers are inviting their clients to make revisions by asking them if there are any changes they would like the designer to make.

Instead, the designer should be asking their client what they like and don't like about the design. If the client wants something changed they will ask without being prompted, so what’s the point of encouraging them to look for things to change?

If you are guilty of this, maybe you should alter your wording and see if it somehow reduces the number of revisions you’re asked to do.

It’s just a thought.

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

Feb 11, 2019

Designing for family and friends is the bane of many designers.

Opinions vary amongst designers regarding designing for family and friends. Some are firmly against it and for others, it's no problem. I fall into this latter group.

A couple of weeks ago I released an episode on starting a design business from scratch. My second step in the process involved reaching out to family and friends to help spread the word about your new design business. After all, who better to spread the word then the people who know you best, your family and friends. And chances are one of them will become your first design client.

I go into much more detail and share personal experiences in the podcast episode. Be sure to listen to it for the full story. Here is a rundown of what I covered on the podcast.

Setting ground rules for family and friends.

Because family and friends are familiar with you outside of a work environment, you need to set ground rules before agreeing to work with them. If you state the terms of your business relationship with them up front, your dealings should go much smoother.

Here is the process that has worked for me over the years. Keep in mind that everyone's family and friends are different so what works for me may require some adjustments to work for you.

A family member's or a friend's business is still a business.

A business operated by a family member or a friend is still a business, and you should treat it as such. Your relationship with them should not change the way you operate your design business. You need to treat family and friends like you would any other client. Follow your standard procedure by sending proposals, making them sign a contract and issuing an invoice once the project is finished.

Family and friends should not be exempt from good business practices. The only exception I make is offering them a "Family and Friends Discount" of 30% off my design services. I charge full price for all expenses such as printing or web hosting.

Even if you are doing the work for free, you should still use a contract and issue an invoice with a 100% discount. This will teach your family member or friend to value your time and skills by showing them how much you would typically charge for the services you are providing them.

Dealing with personal projects from family and friends.

Family and friends will sometimes approach you with a personal project that has nothing to do with business. They're hoping that the bond between you is strong enough for you to volunteer your time and skills. How you handle these requests is entirely up to you but keep in mind that it's perfectly ok to say no to them.

One option at your disposal is bartering, getting something in return for your services. Family and friends are a great resource for a "favour for a favour".

The way I handle these situations is to determine if the project in question is personally for my family member or friend. If it's something specifically for them, I'll do it, as a favour to them. However, if they are asking on behalf of someone else or a group they belong to I will treat the project as a business dealing and determine if it merits a discount or not.

Mom's are exempt.

When it comes to your mom, everything I mentioned above goes out the window. The woman put up with all your nonsense growing up the least you can do it offer your skills and time to whatever she asks of you. You probably owe her way more than you'll ever be able to pay back anyway.  

How do you deal with family and friends?

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 Kayla

In a past episode I remember you saying that you upcharge print materials (i.e. you've designed a brochure and the client wants 500 more of the exact same design. You simply send it to print again). How do you suggest upcharging? A flat rate? Or a percentage?

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

Resource of the week Facebook Groups

Facebook groups are a great way to stay connected with our industry and a great source of information when you need help. There are various Facebook Groups for just about any topic. Here are a few I belong to that may interest you.

Resourceful Designer Group

Logo Geek | Logo Design Community

This Design Life

Divi Theme Users

Divi Web Designers

 

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

Feb 4, 2019

Don't ruin your design business, avoid the following.

[sc name="pod_ad"]Think of your design business like climbing a mountain. To climb a mountain, you require willpower, perseverance, skill, knowledge, stamina, patience and concentration. All these traits come together to allow a mountain climber to make their way up a mountain. You need these same traits to run a design business. Sure, you use them differently, but they’re the same traits nonetheless. And similar to maintain climbing, one slip can mean disaster.

Luckily, slipping up on your design business won’t result in death like falling off a mountain will. But it could ruin your reputation, which in turn will ruin your design business. That’s why it’s good to stay on your guard and avoid these 12 ways to ruin your design business.

Doing these could ruin your design business

1) Failing to communicate - taking too long to reply to emails.  

You are not expected to drop everything you're doing to reply to each new email. It's standard business practice to respond within an acceptable window of time. However, that window shouldn't stretch several days long. It can become increasingly frustrating for the person waiting for your reply. Do this often enough, and clients will lose confidence in you and take their business elsewhere.

If Gmail is your email platform check out Boomerang that allows you to set follow up reminders, so you never miss replying to an email. If you don't use Gmail, setting reminders is easy using Siri on your Apple device, your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Simply set a time for your device to remind you to reply to the email. 

2) Missing deadlines.

Missing deadlines is a sure fire way to ruin your design business. Miss more than one and there's a good chance your clients won't bring you any more design projects. Missing deadlines is usually a case of bad time management and biting off more than you can chew (see number 4). Whenever possible try to pad your deadlines, meaning once you figure out how long a project will take, add on a few days or weeks to act as a buffer, just in case. If you go over your estimated time that buffer will keep you within the deadline. And if you manage to finish on time, your clients will be that much more impressed with you. 

3) Showing a lack of confidence in your skills.

Nothing turns off a client more than showing a lack of confidence in your abilities. If you show any doubt in what you present to your clients, they will start having doubts about hiring you. Even if you are unsure, you need to present with confidence. Your client will let you know if your designs are not right for them.

Never ask a client what they think about the designs you present them. You can ask them what they like or don't like, but not what they think. Asking them what they think is a way of saying you are unsure of what you are presenting and you are seeking their affirmation.  

4) Biting off more than you can chew.

Don't be afraid to turn down work or to delay working with a client because of your heavy workload. Being in a situation where you cannot take on any more work is a great position to be in. If a client wants to work with you, they will wait their turn. The worse thing you can do in this situation is accepting the work anyways. It's a sure fire way to missing deadlines (see number 2).

The same goes for projects with scopes larger than you can handle. You should have a team you can call uponin certain situations, but some projects are just too big for solo designers, no matter how much you'd like to take them on. Don't be afraid to pass on them. 

5) Overreacting to criticism.

If you can't take criticism, you shouldn't be a designer. It's the nature of our industry that not everyone will like what you do. You need to learn and grow from the criticism you receive, regardless if you agree or disagree with it. Responding to criticism with a strong emotional reaction is an excellent way to alienate your clients. Keep your hurt feelings to yourself.

 

6) Over-promising and under-delivering.

Over-promising and under-delivering is another way to ruin your design business. Examples are missing deadlines (see number 2) or biting off more than you can chew (see number 4). However, sometimes you might be tempted to over-promise your skills and abilities. Telling a client, you can do something, when in fact you are not sure how to do it can lead to disaster. Never promise a client you will/can do something unless you know you can follow through. 

7) Don't take time to learn and experiment.

This relates to you as a designer. Our industry is continuously changing with new tools, new platforms and new trends. If you fail to keep up your business is doomed. Clients hire designers to help them compete in their market. For that to happen, you need to know how to design things that can compete. Nobody wants a designer who is behind on the times.

8) Don't take time to be inspired. 

You are a creative person; it's why you became a designer. Feed your creativity by seeking out things that inspire you. Visit museums, read art magazines, watch documentaries or study the world around you. Inspiration can be found in everyday things if only you take the time to look. Not finding ways to fuel your creativity is another way to ruin your design business.

9) Commenting negatively on a client's previous designs.

No matter what you think of a client's previous designs, you should never tell them they are bad (unless you are the one that designed them. In that case you are ok). You don’t know the history behind the piece. The client may have created it themselves or had a friend or relative design it for them. The client may be very proud of the work. If you tell a client their previous designs are bad, you may be insulting the client and ruining your chance to work with them.

Instead, tell the client how you will do things differently. How you will modernise the look. How you will use innovative new approaches to produce great work for them. Just don't tell them how bad their old stuff is. 

10) Talking carelessly about clients.

Once you've been at this for a few years, you'll build up a library of weird, funny, strange, and possibly horrible stories about clients. There's a whole website dedicated to lousy design clients. Even though they make great conversation topics, you should be very careful about what you say and to whom you say it when talking about your clients. You never know if someone listening may know and report back to the client. Talking about a client behind their backs will not only ruin your design business but ruin your reputation as a designer.

11) Lying to a client

I shouldn't have to explain this one to you. Lying to clients is not good. Never tell a client you are "almost done" a project you have not started yet. Never tell a client you "didn't receive their email" (they may have Read Receipt turned on). Never tell a client... you get the idea. Don't lie to clients. Getting found out is a definite way to ruin your design business. 

12) Passing off other’s work as your own

Another one I shouldn’t have to explain. However, I'm not talking about stealing another designer's work. There's already enough of that happening on crowdsourced design sites. I'm talking about taking credit for stock images you use in your designs or taking credit for something you contracted out. Clients understand that you cannot do everything yourself. Let them know when you've gotten help.

It's your reputation on the line.

Your business and design reputation plays a very important role in people deciding to hire you and whether or not they keep working with you. Building a relationship with your client is the best way to ensure a long term commitment from them. By avoiding these twelve things, you are taking the proper steps to ensure you don't inadvertently ruin your design business.

What did you think of this week's topic?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Kevin

I have a question about closing deals. At times potential clients reach out to me with an interest of having a website designed for them. They will usually reach out to me by email telling me the basic details for the website, such as page structure, features colors, etc. I realized that when replying to their first email, most of them never reply back.

So how would you go about responding to a clients email? Do you tell them your pricing straight up? Do you ask them to tell you their budget for the project?

To find out what I told Kevin 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 MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

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

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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

Jan 28, 2019

Micro Goals are the key to achieving your goals.

[sc name="pod_ad"]For your design business to succeed, you must set goals for yourself, and for those goals to be reached you need to break them down into micro goals. 

I've talked on a previous podcast episode about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your design business, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Related. But even S.M.A.R.T. goals fail sometimes. That's where micro goals come in.

You need goals to measure your personal and professional success. Without them, it's much harder to know when you’ve reached a milestone or level of success. There’s a certain satisfaction in accomplishing goals. It has even been scientifically proven that accomplishing goals releases dopamine, a bodily chemical associated with happiness.

Unfortunately, plenty of goals go unaccomplished. Mostly due to a lack of urgency. This happens when a person concentrates too much on reaching an end goal and not on the steps required to get there. Micro goals are the day to day steps needed to achieve those loftier end goals. 

For example, a person wanting to lose 100 pounds may feel like it's a daunting task. However, it will seem much easier to accomplish if they set micro goals to lose two pounds per week throughout a year.

Micro Goals give you a path.

The path to reaching a future goal isn't always clear. Micro goals act as stepping stones that help you along the way by showing what needs to be done tomorrow, today, or even right now. Since they are easier to concentrate on, there’s less chance you’ll lose focus on your micro goals.

If your goal is to start your design business within three months, what will you do between now and then? Perhaps some of your micro goals will look like these.

  1. Choose a name for your business
  2. Complete and file business registration papers
  3. Acquire a domain name
  4. Set up email accounts for your new business
  5. Design a logo for your business
  6. Build a website
  7. Have business cards printed
  8. Open a business bank account
  9. Choose and set up an invoicing system

These micro goals act as reminders of the steps you need to take each day until you open your design business.

Micro Goals give you a reminding push.

Because micro goals are small and easy to accomplish, they encourage you to start doing things now that may otherwise get pushed off. They act as reminders that these things need to get done to make progress towards your end goal. Micro goals are also reminders of the progress you are making as you complete each one.

Without micro goals, you may fall victim to procrastinating. You may feel that a goal that is still months away isn’t a priority and you may delay working on it for another day, week or month. Micro goals keep you on track and help build momentum. 

Do you want to hear something funny?

That momentum you gain by completing micro goals makes you feel good about each accomplishment and pushes you to do even more. That's the dopamine effect. Your body releases dopamine whenever you experience a pleasurable sensation, such as completing a micro goal. This effect is associated with your body's reward system motivating you to crave it even more. And that means a greater motivation to tackle the next micro goal to feel good again.

According to Psychology Today, “everything from making your bed to doing all the dishes will give you the ‘ding-ding-ding’ feeling of having completed a task. Neurobiologically the satisfaction of completing a task creates internal rocket fuel that energises you to keep working towards your larger goal.”

And according to Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer of the Harvard Business Review "The more frequently you experience that sense of progress, the more likely you are to be creatively productive in the long run,”

It doesn’t matter how much is left to reach your end goal. Making these little strides can make a huge difference in how you feel and perform today. Isn’t the human body a fantastic thing?

Micro Goals help with time management

Most of us have more than one long term goal. Sometimes those multiple goals compete for our attention, and it’s hard for us to prioritise them. With our limited time available each day, on which goals should you concentrate?

Because Micro goals have small time frames associated with them, they allow you to cut through that confusion by letting you work towards multiple end goals at once. Spend an hour or two on one, a few minutes on another, and an afternoon on yet another goal. By the end of the day, you will have made progress on multiple end goals, and you’ll feel good about yourself.

How Micro Goals Work

To get started with micro goals you need to ask the question "What individual steps, once accomplished will bring me closer to my end goal?" Write out those steps and start working on and checking them off. You’ll quickly learn to appreciate all these minor accomplishments, and you’ll feel good about the progress you make towards your end goals.

Examples of micro goals

If your goal is to double your design business revenue, here are some micro goals you could try:

  • Call clients you haven’t talked to in a while and inquire if there’s anything you can do for them
  • Send out an email to your clients asking for referrals.
  • Read one chapter per day of a business or marketing book that could help with business growth.
  • Review and update your pricing strategy. 

These are just a few examples of micro goals you could use to double your revenue.

Get started today

What goals do you have for your future? Break them down into the smallest possible actionable units and get working on them. Pick a micro goal, finish it, and move on to the next one. Repeat this over and over, and before you know it, you will be reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself and your business. And don’t forget to enjoy the dopamine hit along the way.

Do you consciously set micro goals for yourself?

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 Vincent

I am just starting to get my business going and already have some good traction with some local churches that have asked for quotes. I am encountering a decent amount of questions about these services like ChurchCo (thechurchco.com) that will create a custom (on demand) website for you and are charging $20-40 per month for the service.

I would assume that you have come across some of these. Do you have any advice on how to show the value proposition of going with a true web designer vs. a service like this?

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

Resource of the week remove.bg

Remove.bg is a free service to remove the background of any photo. It works 100% automatically: You don't have to manually select the background/foreground layers to separate them - just select your image and instantly download the resulting image with the background removed! Currently, the resulting image is limited to 500px by 500px but they say they are working on increasing the size.

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 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

Jan 21, 2019

Here are nine steps I would follow if I were starting a design business from scratch today.

Since launching Resourceful Designer in 2015, one of the biggest struggles I’ve seen from my audience is starting a design business and finding clients. I realise that I've never actually said what I would do if I had to start a design business from scratch. Until now.

Over the past 148 podcast episodes and via countless conversations on Facebook, I've shared plenty of advice on growing and starting a design business. This is advice I’ve garnered through my own experiences and what I’ve learned from other’s who have gone through a similar journey. Every week I receive messages from listeners thanking me for that advice. They tell me how I’ve helped them start their own design business. Some even credit me with giving them the courage to leave their full-time job to pursue their dream.

I'm glad that they find my advice helpful, but I also know that I’m far removed from where these listeners are in their careers. I have a successful design business. I don’t need to go looking for clients; they come to me. I’m at a point where I can turn down projects and clients that don't interest me.

I don’t even have a website for my business. And yet, I’m prospering. That’s because I’m 14 years into this. Plus I have another 15 years before that working at a print shop. All these years have helped me build my brand, my reputation, and the client loyalty that I talk about so often on the podcast.

I know what I did to get to where I am today, and I share a lot of that with you. But I also know that I started at a time when "social media" wasn’t a common phrase. When most people hadn’t heard of Facebook. When YouTube was just getting off the ground and wouldn’t become mainstream for several years. And talking about podcasts would be met with blank stares. Things were different then.

When I decided to start a graphic design business I never dreamed that I would have clients all over Canada, the USA, some in Scottland, Australia, Hong Kong and more. Back then, I was just hoping to get a handful of good local clients to keep me busy. I built my business on that principle. 

But what about today?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently. What would I do if I had to start a design business from scratch today, without the benefit of 30 years experience? Here are the steps I would follow if I were starting a design business today.

Please keep in mind that I’m talking about starting a design business, not becoming a designer. In this scenario that I already know how to design.

Step 1: Build a website

The very first thing I would do while starting a design business is launch a website. I know it's ironic considering I don't have one for my current business. But a site is crucial to growing any business today. It’s the hub where people can find out about you and your business.

I’d Start small with just the basics and a small portfolio, and build upon it over time. But I would launch a website ASAP.

Step 2: Tell family and friends about your design business

The next thing I would do is start spreading the word that I’ve started a design business. I would tell my parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. I would reach out to cousins I haven’t seen since so and so’s wedding a decade ago and tell them that I've started a design business.

The purpose isn't to get business from them, although if I did it would be nice. I would reach out hoping they will spread the news. You never know when one of your relatives may know of or hear about someone who needs a designer.

I would then go through my email contact lists, my Facebook friends etc. and send them a message, even if I hadn’t spoken to them since high school. Again, I just want to spread the word. The more people who know I’m running a design business, the better the chances of me picking up clients.

I would say something like this.

Hi Lisa,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I hope life is treating you well.

The reason I’m reaching out is to let you know that I’ve started a graphic and web design business. Here’s my website (URL).

If you or anyone you knows needs a graphic designer I would be grateful if you would pass on my name.

Thanks and take care,

Mark

Step 3: Join the Chamber of Commerce

After contacting family and friends, I would join my Chamber of Commerce. Not only would I join the Chamber, but I would set up a meeting with whoever the director is and get to know them. I would inquire if they have any events or projects coming up that may require my services.

Then I would go through the Chamber's membership directory and reach out to every person on the list, introducing myself to them, and once again. Asking them to pass on my name if they know anyone that needs a designer.

Step 4: Contact suppliers who may need design work done.

Once my business was set up, I would visit every printer, screen printer, design agency, sign company, trophy shop, promotional marketing supplier, embroidery shop, etc. and let them know who I am and what I do. These types businesses sometimes need a designer but not enough to have one on staff. I would try to get my name on their contact list for when they do.

Step 5: Contact the tourism bureau.

Next, I would reach out to my local tourism bureau. The purpose of a tourism bureau is to attract visitors to your area, specifically to the events and attractions of the tourism bureau's members.

I would ask the tourism bureau if they need any help in promoting the area. I would also ask them to pass on my name should any of their members need a designer.

I wouldn't stop there; I would look at the tourism bureau's calendar of upcoming events and contact those people directly to see how I could help them.

Step 6: Contact local theatre companies.

Almost every community has at least one theatre company who needs to attract spectators to their productions. I would contact whoever was in charge of my local theatre companies and offer them my services.

Step 7: Promote my services at networking events

This is a trick I actually did use when I started my business 14 years ago. I attended as many networking events, trade shows, get-togethers, or anywhere with a crowd of people and walked around with a T-Shirt that read "Hi, I’m a graphic designer, Let’s Talk".

It worked in 2006 and I know it still works because DaJaniere, one of my listeners sent me a photo of herself in her own “I’m a graphic designer, let’s talk” Tee and told me how she wore it to a women’s empowerment conference in Detroit, and people were going up to her and inquiring about her services. 

It works and I would do it again.

Step 8: Go door to door.

It's not the most glamorous option but it is tested. I would pick an area in my community, do a bit of research on the businesses there and then approach them asking if they need help improving their marketing material or website.

I would especially target any business with an unsecured website, those with an http:// instead of an https://. It's a great conversation starter. I would explain to them how Google is penalizing unsecured website and what it does to their search engine ranking. I would also make sure to offer my services as a solution.

Once I exhausted one area of my community, I would move on to another until I’ve gone door to door everywhere I wanted to.

Step 9: Leverage Linkedin.

A lot of designers swear by Instagram, and of course, there are the popular Twitter and Facebook. The problem with these social media platforms is most people visit them to get out of a business mindset. They’re there for the social connections and camaraderie.

Except for Linkedin that is. Linkedin is a very business-oriented social platform. Most people use it with business purposes in mind, and it's a great place to pick up new clients. 

I would start off by writing a few short articles about how design affects business decisions. Perhaps topics such as: How to use colour as a marketing strategy. How a rebrand can boost a businesses exposure. How most businesses fail when it comes to their brand.

Once I published these articles on LinkedIn I would start reaching out to people, probably people in my local area and once again, ask if they need design services. Those articles will act as social proof that I know what I'm talking about when they view my profile.

It’s all about the Ask,

Do you see the pattern here? Ask family and friends to refer you. Ask the Chamber and Chamber members if they need your services. Ask printers, agencies, supply shops if they need any help. Ask the tourism bureau. Ask theatre companies. Attend networking events wearing a T-shirt asking if people need a designer. Go door to door asking businesses if you can help them. Finally, reach out to people on LinkedIn asking if you can help. It all comes down to the ask.

When you are starting a design business, you can’t simply sit back and wait for clients to come. That may happen later but not in the early stages. No, you have to persistently ask people if they, or if they know anyone who could use your services. It may seem daunting, but that’s how you grow. 

Keep in mind that all these steps are geared toward landing your first clients. You don't need many clients when you are starting a design business. In 2006 when I quit my job at the print shop and went full-time on my own, I had less than 10 regular clients. Those few clients were enough to help me get started and grow to where I am today.

So there you have it. What I would do if I were starting a design business from scratch in today’s market. I hope if you are still new to running a design business that this episode gave you some motivation and some ideas that you could try right now in order to grow your business. If you stick with it, I’m sure you’ll do fine.

What strategies would you use if you were starting a design business from scratch today?

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 Steve

Hi Mark, you often refer to your "Virtual Assistant" who helps manage your websites on a monthly basis. Can you tell us more about using a "virtual Assistant" and where we should look to hire one?

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

Resource of the week Trim View in Adobe Illustrator

A feature in Adobe Illustrator that many have been asking for for years, is finally available. Trim View (View>Trim View) hides the part of any item or element that hangs off the artboard in Illustrator. Anything that touches the grey area around the artboard is hidden from view when Trim View is turned on. This allows you to view only the "active" part of your design. No more making masks or special layers to hide those items.

Thank you Adobe for finally implementing this long sought after feature.

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 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

Jan 14, 2019

You can't get worse by practising

[sc name="pod_ad"]Every skill you try to learn has a learning curve to it. Sometimes that curve is small, and sometimes it’s very long. And in some cases, that learning curve is never-ending. Such as with design skills.

The title of this episode is Progress Over Perfection. That’s because perfection is an unattainable goal, which is a good thing. Think about it. What if you designed the most fantastic logo or website, one that every single designer in the world acknowledged as being perfect. How would you follow that up? How can you improve on perfection? You can’t. And that’s a good thing. It’s what keeps us creative.

If you attained perfection, there would be no more motivation to carry on because everything after that point would be a step-down. That’s why I choose the title Progress Over Perfection. Because perfection is unattainable, your goal should be to make progress instead by continually improving your design skills. You do that by practising. There will never be a time in your life when you don’t need to improve your design skills.

Even famed designers such as Michael Bierut from Pentagram or Kate Moross from Studio Moross continue to practice their skills. Carolyn Davidson designed the Nike swoosh when she was a student at Portland State University. It’s one of the most recognisable brands on the planet. But do you think Carolyn stopped learning or trying to improve her skills after that success? The answer is no.

These designers, as well as every other designer around the world, continue to improve their design skills by practising their craft. And by practising, I mean doing things over and over again with the intent of becoming better. It’s a long road. I’ve been in this business for 30 years and the skill level I want to be at as a designer is still far beyond the horizon. That’s why I continue to practice my craft every day.

Have you ever watched an Aaron Draplin teaching logo design? He doesn’t merely pick up a pencil or his mouse and design an amazing logo. No, he tests out idea after idea, discarding some and expanding on others. He keeps doing this 50, 100, 200 times until he begins to narrow down the ideas to one concrete logo design. Even then, that final logo design may get discarded for something completely different.

That is practising. Call it brainstorming or brain-dumping or experimenting or whatever you will; it’s still practising.

When my daughter was a young teenager, she played on a competitive soccer team. One day, they had one of the women from Canada’s Women’s National Team help them out at practice. She was one of the players from the 2012 Olympic bronze medal team.

She told my daughter’s team that if you want to get good at soccer, you need to touch the ball over and over. Not kick it, or dribble it or bounce it on your knee, although those do help. Just keep moving it with your feet over and over and over again, and you will become a better soccer player.

Every time a soccer player touches the ball, the ball reacts. They touch the ball with their foot one way the ball behaves in a certain way. They touch the ball another way, and it responds differently. Every time the ball reacts to their touch, they are learning what to expect. After doing it a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand times, they will come to know exactly what to expect from the ball.

That is called practising. It’s not as glamorous as practising penalty or corner kicks. Or as fun as dribbling the ball through an obstacle course of orange cones but it’s practising nonetheless. And the more they do it, the better they will be on the soccer pitch because that practice will help them understand how the ball reacts to their touch.

To stay at the top of their game, they need to continue practising. Amazing players such as Renaldo or Messi or Canada's Christina Sinclair don’t stop practising just because they’re at the top of their game. If anything, they need to practice even harder than before.

The same goes for design.

Every doodle you make, every sketch you make, every ill-conceived design concept you come up with, every logo, poster, banner, or website that gets rejected by a client should be considered as practice in the journey to make you a better designer.

Every design you make will help you better understand how certain elements interact with each other, how things align, how colour combinations work or don’t work, how fonts complement each other. What things create flow and what things break it. Every design you make is practice to become a better designer.

There are no fast solutions. There are no books, tutorials, online courses or school programs that will magically make you a great designer. The only way to become a great designer is by learning new skills and practising those skills over and over and over again. This goes for both new and veteran designers. We all need to keep practising. The better you get at design, the more you’ll understand the importance of practising. Remember, Progress over Perfection.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re design skills are not improving as fast as you would like them to. Or the critiques you receive from your designs are harsher than you expected. Renaldo didn’t become a superstar of soccer overnight. He spent years and years honing his talents. Practising every chance he got. If you do the same, if you devote your time to practising your design skills, there’s no reason you can’t become a superstar of the design world.

You can’t get worse by practising.

How much time do you spend practising your design skills?

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 Victor

You mentioned before how it's good to get to know designers in the community so you can hire or pass work on to them. Do you think it would be a good idea to introduce myself to studios in my community as a freelancer? My thought was that if I could do this with freelancers in the community, why not studios?

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

Resource of the week Squoosh.app

Squoosh.app is a website that allows you to drag and drop images you want to optimise for web use. The image appears in a full browser window with a slider in the middle. Your uploaded image is on the left and the optimised image on the right. You drag the slider left and right to compare the two images. Options allow you to resize the image as well as reduce the colour pallet. You can also adjust the type of compression and quality of the image until you are satisfied and are ready to download your newly optimised image.

I don’t know how they do it, but I’ve been able to take optimised images out of Photoshop and cut their filesize in half without any noticeable degradation of the image. Check it out; I'm sure you'll find the site useful.

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 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

Jan 7, 2019

Are you taking measure of your design business?

Whether you are running your design business full-time or part-time, you probably started it with a vision of how your ideal business should look. 

How does it measure up? Are you exceeding your expectations or are you falling short? If you are exceeding your expectations, do you know how you're doing it? What is contributing to your success and can you sustain it and continue to grow your design business?

If you’re falling short of your vision of an ideal design business, do you know why? Knowing why your falling short is a significant step in rectifying your situation.

I’m publishing this during the first week of 2019. I know it’s cliché but the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to look at your design business and see if it measures up to what you imagined it would be. It’s also the perfect time to make any needed changes to realign and get back on track if it isn't.

For most people, the beginning of a new calendar year also means the beginning of a new fiscal year. If you've been in business for more than a year you can take some time and compare the past year over the previous ones to see how things stand. A new year also means you have a clean slate to build upon going forward.   

Taking measure of my own business, I see that I didn’t grow in 2018. I made about $2,000 less in 2018 than I did in 2017.  In the grand scheme of things, $2,000 isn’t that much, so I’m not worried about it. But it is the first time since I started my design business that I haven’t seen growth from the previous year.

So what went wrong?

I invoiced for more design work in 2018 than I ever have. So that’s not the issue. Looking at my accounting books, I see that revenue from the print brokering service I offer declined. Design revenue went up, while print brokering went down. Please don't take that the wrong way, there’s still a significant amount of money to be made in print brokering if you’re thinking of getting into it.

I believe I can pinpoint the decline in print brokering revenue to three clients. I had two clients who went completely digital and decided not to have printed versions of their annual report last year. A third client, a yearly festival had some financial difficulty and drastically reduced the number of booklets, pamphlets, posters and other printed material I handled for them.

Between the three of them, I lost several thousand dollars in printing revenue. Considering this, I need to take the time to figure out how I can make up for the decline in print brokering revenue going forward should the trend continue. Should I concentrate on promoting my print brokering service more, or should I focus on getting more design work? That’s up to me to decide.

What you need to decide is what it is you want to accomplish with your design business this year. I don't know your particular situation so I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do, but I can offer some suggestions that may help your business grow. 

Improve your touchpoints

Touchpoints are the avenues potential clients come in contact with your business. They consist of things like your business cards to your website to the way you answer your phone. My free guide, the Four-Week Marketing Boost can help you with this. As the old saying goes, "You only have one chance to make a first impression." so why not make it the best first impression you can.

Review your contract and proposals

Take a few minutes to review your contract and proposal templates. Do they protect both you and your clients as thoroughly as they should? Make sure any new services you offer are listed and remove anything that is outdated.

Raise your prices

The beginning of a new year is a perfect opportunity to raise your rates. Especially but not limited to anything you charge for by the hour. Raising your prices not only increases your income, but it can elevate the quality of clients who seek you out.

Expand your services

Did you learn anything new last year that you could add as a service you offer? SEO, Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Print Brokering and so much more can become new services that can increase your income.

Niche down

Have you considered specialising in a niche? Narrowing your focus and concentrating on one industry is a great way to be seen as an expert in your field. The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to start targeting a new niche.

Set goals for your business.

Of course, January is the perfect time to set goals not only for yourself but for your design business. Determine what it is you want to accomplish this year. Having a goal makes it much easier to track your progress, and it becomes much more satisfying when you reach it.

Any time of year works

No specific time of year is best for reviewing your design business, but January seems like the most popular time for taking measure of things in your life. However, even if you are listening to this episode in April or in July, you can still take a bit of time for taking measure of where things stand with your design business and make whatever course corrections you need to make.

What did you find after taking measure of your design business?

Let me know how things are working out for you by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Four 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.

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 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 24, 2018

A look back at 2018 and a look ahead to 2019.

I want you to take a look back at what you accomplished and at what you failed to achieve in 2018. With that in mind, what are you going to do to make 2019 even better?

I don’t know your situation. I don’t know your family dynamics. I don’t know your level of education. I don’t know your current work situation. Maybe you’re a student still learning design. Perhaps you’re a new designer still getting your feet wet. Perhaps you’re a veteran designer like I am. Maybe you work for yourself, or maybe you work for someone else.

Whatever your situation, I want you to take some time to look back at 2018 and think about your accomplishments and your perceived failures. I say "perceived failures" because they are only failures if you've given up on them entirely.

Like most people, you probably had some goals for yourself and your design business. Perhaps it was to start your own design business or to land that first paying client. Maybe it was a financial goal you set for yourself — a specific dollar figure you wanted to reach in revenue.

Did you reach those goals?

For those goals you accomplished, where you satisfied with the outcome? Thinking back, are there ways you could have made reaching those goals easier for yourself?

If there are goals you didn't reach, what prevented you from reaching them? Have you given up on them or are you working even harder to achieve them in 2019?

My 2018

I want to share some of my accomplishments from 2018 with you.

Resourceful Designer

  • Released 46 podcast episodes
  • Over 200k episode downloads in 2018
  • New Amazon Alexa Skill for Resourceful Designer
  • New Resourceful Designer App for IOSand Android
  • Resourceful Designer released on Spotify.

My design business

My 2019 goals

I have big plans for 2019. First off, I’m thinking of narrowing down my niche. Or, at least concentrating more on a particular niche while continuing with what I’m doing now.

I want to speak at more conferences. In 2018 I had two public speaking engagements, and I would like to do more.

I want to grow the listenership of Resourceful Designer. I know there are many more designers out there searching for answers for their design business. I want to be the source of those answers if possible. You can help me achieve this goal by helping spread the word about the podcast. Let your fellow designers know they can listen on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts or download the App.

And of course. I’m looking forward to engaging with you in the new Resourceful Designer Community. 

So long 2018

As 2018 comes to an end. I encourage you to reflect on this past year. Think about everything you’ve accomplished and those things you fell short on. And come up with a plan to make 2019 even better. To help, I suggest you listen to episode 55 Setting Goals For Your Design Business.

I look forward to helping you in 2019.

What are your goals for 2019?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
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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

Dec 17, 2018

Try this pricing strategy for your design business.

I learned of the three-tier pricing strategy many years ago, but I never gave it much thought in regards to the design industry. Until recently that is. A few months ago I came across it again while reading a business book. A day or two later I was watching a YouTube video, and a designer mentioned using a three-tier pricing strategy in his design proposals.

Maybe there's something to this I thought and I decided to give it a try. And you know what? It works. I’ve used it on several proposals recently with great results.

What is a three-tier pricing strategy?

A three-tier pricing strategy is when you offer three different pricing choices for essentially the same service or product but with different options which increases the value for each one. 

Look at this example of a fictional web hosting company using a three-tier pricing strategy.

A web host may offer three different hosting package.

A $4.99/mo package that is good for 1 site and offers basic security

A $9.99/mo package that is good for 3 sites, offers advanced security and monthly site backups and a free Basic SSL Certificate.

A $49.99/mo package that is good for unlimited sites, offers Super advanced security including daily malware monitoring, plus daily backups and the free Wildcard SSL Certificate.

I know you’ve seen this type of pricing strategy before. You’ve probably also noticed that companies usually highlight the middle price as the “recommended” or “most popular” one according to the seller. That’s because it’s the option they are hoping you will choose. The other two are there to help you come to that decision.

Why a three-tier pricing strategy works

There are two main reasons why this type of pricing strategy works.

  1. It gives the purchaser options to choose from, which makes them feel more in control of what they are buying.
  2. It showcases the value of what the purchaser is buying making their choice easier.

In the above web host example, the buyer sees three options.

One that’s good for one website, another for three websites and a third for unlimited sites.

It also shows escalating value options at each tier. Tier 2 offers more advanced security plus backups and an SSL Certificate where Tier 1 doesn’t. Tier 3 offers super advanced security PLUS daily malware monitoring. It also provides daily backups instead of only monthly and a Wildcard SSL Certificate over a standard SSL Certificate.

By offering these three options to a potential client, the hosting company is altering the purchaser's mindset. Instead of giving the client one option and having them ponder “is this a good value for me?” they are given three options and instead ask themselves “which one of these is the best value for me?”

A single pricing option requires a yes or no decision. But by introducing the variables in three-tier pricing, you force the client to contemplate their decision making them feel more in control of their buying choice. And when a client feels in control of their buying choice there's less chance of them deciding to shop elsewhere.

The other benefit of the three-tier pricing strategy is how it educates the client on the value of what it is they are buying. They see what their money is getting them.

The client came to the website looking for web hosting for their one site. But now they are shown that there are different values available to choose from when it comes to hosting a website. Even though tier 2 allows up to three websites, the added value included with that option may persuade the client to choose it even though they only have one site to host.

You can almost predict the outcome

The great thing about a three-tier tier pricing strategy is that you can practically guarantee what option a client will choose. Why do you think so many sites highlight the “recommended” or “Best Value” option? It's because they made it the most tempting of the three. Some people call that middle tier the "anchor price" or the "pillar price". You base your entire strategy on that price.

How a three-tier pricing strategy works

This pricing strategydoesn’t work very well if you charge an hourly rate based on your time. For it to work, you should be using fixed, project-based or value-based pricing.

You start by figuring out a price for your ideal proposal and what benefits/value to offer with it. That's your anchor price. It should be the best value for the price.

Once you’ve determined your anchor price, you create a lower priced option with fewer benefits/value. Make this more economical option close in price to your anchor price. You wan the client to look at the first two options and come to the conclusion that tier 2 is the better deal even though it costs more. For Tier 3, you set the price significantly higher and offer a lot more value with it. But most clients can usually do without the added benefit offered in Tier 3.

When a client looks at the three tiers, there’s a  good chance they choose Tier 2, your anchor price. Most people will see the cost vs value of Tier 2 as the better bang for their buck.

Most will skip over Tier 1 because they don’t want to be the person who chose the cheap route. It’s a prestige thing. Tier 3 is there to show the client there are more expensive options, making them feel like they are getting a bargain by choosing Tier 2.

Automobile manufacturers embrace this strategy. Most cars are available in three models. A base model, a deluxe model, and a Luxury model. Which model do you think sells the most? It's the deluxe model — the one in the middle.

There's nothing wrong with the base model vehicle. It will get you from point A to B just fine. But even though the deluxe model cost more, it comes with extra options. All those bells and whistlesare usually enough to get people to choose the deluxe model. 

That’s three-tier pricing at it’s best.

Not many people will choose tier 3, The luxury option, but embrace those who do, they really want to work with you.

Also, keep in mind, you do not want to underprice Tier 1. Make sure that if a client does choose that first option, you are not losing money on it. Trust me; those car manufacturers are still making good money any time they sell a base model vehicle.

Implementing a three-tier pricing strategy for your design business

So how does this apply to your design business? Let’s look at two examples using website and logo design. Keep in mind that you can apply this same principle to any design project.

When quoting on a website design, you may want to offer something like this.

Tier 1) $1,500 
Design a website based on the content and material provided by the client and install it on the server of their choosing. The client will be responsible for all maintenance and upkeep of website after launch.

Tier 2) $3,000 + $600/year for maintenance
Design a website. Provided content will be edited by a professional copywriter ensuring maximum SEO impact. Submit website to Google and other directories for faster indexing. Provide site security and manage monthly updates, maintenance and backups.

Tier 3) $9,000 +$2,400/year
Everything from Tier 2 plus Keyword monitoring and SEO rank tracking.

The idea here is to show the client how much value you bring when you partner with them.

If all they want is a website, you’re happy to design one for them and be done with it. However, if the client wants a partner that has their best interest in mind, someone who will make sure their website keeps performing optimally and help their business grow, they can have that for nominal extra investment.

When quoting on a logo design, you may want to offer something like this.

Tier 1) $750
Design a logo and provide it in colour and B&W in the necessary file formats.

Tier 2) $1,500
Everything from Tier 1 plus a style guide showing how to strategically use the logo to build a cohesive brand across the entire company.  This style guide will help the company create a positive brand recognition strategy as a foundation upon which to build their business.

Tier 3) $5,000
Everything from Tier 2 plus a full day strategy workshop presented at the client's place of employment. This workshop will explain the new brand to the company’s staff, teaching them the proper use of the new brand to achieve brand synergy throughout all levels, from part-time employees all the way up to top management.

When you look at all three tiers, you can see that the best value is Tier 2. A Logo and Style guide. The idea here is to illustrate the value the client receives by working with you. They should be hiring you for more than just a logo design. But if a logo is all they want, you’re happy to design one for them.

Give it a try.

I hope you can see the value in implementing a three-tier pricing strategy. I can tell you that of the last dozen proposals I sent out using this strategy, three clients decided not to hire me. From the nine who did, one chose my Tier 1 and eight chose my Tier 2.

One was ready to choose Tier 3 for their website design, but I convinced them after further review that Tier 2 was a better choice for them, I don’t believe they need the service I was offering in Tier 3. But I did tell them we can review it again in the future. They appreciated my honesty very much.

Are you using a three-tier pricing strategy?

Let me know if you plan on implementing a three-tier pricing strategy. If you already use this strategy, I would love to know how it's working for you. Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Christopher

On several episodes, you mention the "discovery phase" where you ask questions and do research on your potential client.

Can you elaborate on what kinds of research and the types of questions to ask? As I only do web design and not logo/graphical design, I would appreciate a focus on web sites.

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

Tip of the week Ask cold calling clients if you can add them to your email list.

Sometimes cold calling doesn’t work because the client doesn’t need your services at that time. But there's no way to know for sure. One thing that may help is by asking the prospect if you can add them to your email list to keep them informed of exciting projects you're working on.

If the prospect agrees you'll know they have an interest in you and could become a client in the future.

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 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

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 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
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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

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
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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 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.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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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 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.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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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.

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

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
Listen on Spotify
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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

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.

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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

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.

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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.

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