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

Offering resources to help streamline your home based graphic design and web design business so you can get back to what you do best… Designing!
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Resourceful Designer - Resources to help streamline your graphic design and web design business.



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Now displaying: February, 2016
Feb 25, 2016
Benefits of a Home Based Graphic Design Business - RD024

I will never work for someone else again.

That's how I feel each and every day that I sit down in my home office and get to work. I spent over 15 years working as a graphic designer at a commercial printer. It was a wonderful place to work. The people I worked with were great, even my bosses. I wouldn't be the graphic designer I am today if not for my time spent there, but I wanted more.

In the summer of 2007, after a year of running a part time web design business in the evenings, I handed in my notice and took the plunge into full time entrepreneurship and never looked back.

Running a graphic design business, especially a home based graphic design business has offered me freedoms I couldn't imagine before. When people ask me if I ever miss working for someone else I can honestly say no. After being on my own for so long I don't think I could ever go back to being someone's employee.

But running a home based graphic design business isn't for everyone. In the previous episode of Resourceful Designer I talked about the dangers of running a home based graphic design business. And although I used the word "Danger" in jest, it is true that this work environment isn't for every designer. However, if you don't have a problem being all alone every day, then the benefits of running a home based graphic design business greatly outweigh the isolation you'll need to put up with.

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, my graphic design podcast to help you run your own business, I cover the benefits that anyone thinking of running a home based graphic design business can embrace. Listen to the podcast for the full discussion.

Business Benefits

Choosing your clients: One of the first benefits you'll discover after starting your own graphic design business is the level of clients you get to work with. Being in charge means you can turn down the clients and jobs that don't suit your needs, leaving you with quality clients to create relationships with. I realized myself that after 15 years at a printing company, designing things for people who were there to have something printed, I was finally dealing with clients who truly know the benefits of working with a graphic designer.

Clients seeking your services will respect your skills and abilities much more and listen to what you have to say. Being a business owner puts you at their level and allows them to view you as an equal.

Work hours and money: One of the fears designers have about starting a graphic design business is the lack of a steady paycheque. Working at an agency or as an in-house designer guarantees you a weekly salary. Whereas working from home means your income is dependent on the clients you engage and the work you produce.

What these fearful designers sometimes fail to recognize is that the rates they can charge are much higher than the hourly salary they earn as an employee. When I started my own business I made the calculations and realized that I only needed to work 12 billable hours per week to bring in the same salary I was earning working 40 hours at the printing company. That freedom allows a home based designer to spend part of their week working on self promotion and attracting new clients.

Overhead and Write Offs: The benefits of working from home create so many tax breaks and write offs that drastically help your bottom line. I already covered tax deduction you can claim as a home based graphic designer back in episode 18 so I won't go over them again. But I can tell you that they make a huge difference. Fuel savings alone for not having to drive to and from work each day is a huge benefit in itself.

Home Benefits

There are many benefits to working from home that don't have to do with your business. The fact that you spend your days in the place you live, gives you the opportunity to do things you couldn't do if you were working somewhere else.

Doing chores: Taking a few minutes during the day to do a few chores can free up time later to spend with your family. There are many times when I knew the weather was going to turn bad that I decided to mow my lawn during the day and make up for it by putting in a few hours of work in the evening. This is something I couldn’t do if I didn’t work from home.

Meals: Not only do you have access to your entire kitchen during the day to prepare yourself some nice healthy lunches, but also being able to get dinner started for the family is another huge time saver. Sometimes all it takes is turning on the oven and putting in a casserole. Your family will appreciate it.

Sick days: If you work somewhere else and you wake up one day not feeling well you need to call in sick. Depending on your employer you may need to take it as a vacation day or a day without pay. But if you work from home chances are you can still put in a few hours of work without worrying about infecting anyone.

Family Benefits

Kids: One of the biggest benefits of working from home, at least for me, is being there for my kids. My wife and I saved several hundred dollars a month by not having to pay for after school or summer daycare. And being able to spend quality time with my kids between jobs means I've created precious memories that I never would have had otherwise.

Time off: Being your own boss means you don't have to ask permission when you want to take a vacation or simply take some time off for an appointment. If you do have children you know how doctor appointments, dentist appointments, eye appointments all add up. Because you run your own business you can go to these appointments and make up for lost time later.

Pets: Working form home also benefits your pets, letting them keep you company while you're working instead of waiting all day for you to come home.

Mental Benefits

Satisfaction: Running a home based graphic design business gives you a sense of satisfaction knowing this is your company, you are in charge. It makes you proud for what you do. When a client appreciates what you do they share it with others, and they're talking about you, not some agency or printing company, you. When this happens you can't help but be overcome with a feeling of "I did it" I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a business owner, I'm a graphic designer and people know about me.

Wardrobe: I don't know about you, but I'm most comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt. Running a home based graphic design business means you don't have to worry about what you wear unless you are going out to meet a client. You can even work in you pajamas if you want. You don't even have to shave on the days you're staying home if you don't want to.

Laziness: Laziness was covered in last week's "danger" episode, but it can be put to good use. There will be days that you just don't feel like working. Being your own boss means you can take a lazy day and not have to answer to anyone. Just don't make a habit out of it.

What are your benefits?

What do you think are the best benefits of running your own home based graphic design business? There are hundreds of benefits I didn't cover and I would love to know what you think. Please leave a comment and let others and me know.

Resource of the week is Evernote

Evernote is, in my opinion, one of the best organization and note taking applications there is. I use it on a daily basis to keep track of everything from podcast and blog topics, to business contacts, websites I need to revisit, and so much more. Evernote's ability to sync across all my devices means I can access it no matter where I am. It's become one of the most invaluable tools in my arsenal. If you are interested in giving it a try visit

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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

Feb 19, 2016
Dangers of a Home Based Graphic Design Business - RD023

Running a home based graphic design business isn't all fun and games. There are some dangers involved.

There have been many times when I've told someone what I do for a living, and they've replied that they could never do what I do. I'm not talking about being a graphic designer, although for some people that would be an acceptable reply. What they mean is they could never work from home like I do. Now being the person that I am, I have a hard time imagining how anyone wouldn't want to be their own boss, work their own hours and create their own rules. But the fact is, there are many people who just can't handle the dangers of running a home based graphic design business.

Dangers you ask? Well perhaps "dangers" is a bit too harsh a word. But there are certain aspects of running a home based graphic design business that are too frightening for some.

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, my graphic design podcast to help you run your own business, I cover five "dangers" that anyone thinking of running a home based graphic design business should consider before taking the plunge. Listen to the podcast for the full discussion.

Mental State

One of the biggest dangers faced by home based graphic designers is isolation. We live a life of solitude. Designers working at an agency or in a design department at some company have the benefit of social interaction with the people around them. Home based graphic designers on the other hand spend most of their time alone. You need a strong mental state to combat the stress of isolation, of boredom and possibly fight off the laziness that can manifest itself due to the lack of accountability and supervision.

Home based graphic designers require a willpower to persevere in the absence of social companionship and the ability to self motivate in the absence of others. Not everyone is capable of doing this.

By the way, if you do experience boredom while waiting for more work to come in, you may want to give my FREE Four Week Marketing Boost a try. Use it to create the best first impression you can and attract more design clients.

Environmental Dangers

In this case dangers is synonymous with distractions. When running a home based graphic design business you are surrounded by distractions that agency designers don't face. I'm talking about your TV, Your video game console, your fridge and pantry, even unfinished chores from around your home. All these "dangers" can taunt you and lure you away from your work. With nobody watching over you, it would be so easy to turn on Netflix and finish that show you started binge watching on the weekend or go mow the lawn so you wont have to do it on Saturday. Everything that pulls you away from work are environmental dangers.

Once again willpower comes into play. Home based graphic designers must learn how to ignore these distractions or they can lead to the demise of your business.

Work Strategies

One of the benefits of running a home based graphic design business is we get to decide how and when we work. If we don't feel like starting until noon we have that option. As long as we're aware of what we're doing it's ok. The dangers however is that without the supervision that agency designers have we can sometimes find ourselves overtaxing ourselves which could lead to burnout. It's not unheard of for a home based graphic designer to get into a "creative zone" and loose track of time. Concentrating so much on the work at hand that he forgets to take breaks, forgets to eat and drink and even forgets to stop at the end of the day.

On the flip side, another danger involving work strategies is the use of social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are great for social interaction but if not used correctly during working hours they can turn into huge time drains that suck the productivity right out of you. Youtube is especially bad for this. You may have a legitimate reason for watching a video during working hours. Perhaps it's a Photoshop tutorial or you're watching review videos for software your thinking of buying. The problem is all the extra content that YouTube throws at you, taunting you to watch "just one more video" until suddenly you realize that a couple of hours has gone by.

Agency designers have people watching over them and don't have to worry about these issues.


Let's get a bit more serious here. Security can be a real danger if you're not careful. You're working from home so it's possible your clients will know where you live. Hopefully this will never become an issue but it is something to keep in mind. I myself have a mailbox at my local UPS Store I use for work and it's that address on my business cards. If a client wants to meet with me I try to do it at their place or I meet them at a local coffee shop. I rarely share my home address with a client and when I do it's with clients I really trust.

I know a woman that lived by herself and ran a home based graphic design business. One of her clients mistook her kindness and easy going personality as flirtatious and started stalking her, showing up at her home at all hours of the day. She had to file a restraining order to get him to stop. Now this case was a bit extreme but it just goes to show you that there could be some dangers with working from home.

If you do allow clients into your home be sure your insurance covers any liability should they injure themselves on your property. Some home policies wont cover work related incidents so check with your insurance agent.

Well Being

The last topic I want to discuss is your personal well being. Dangers you may want consider before starting a home based graphic design business are the possibilities of you getting hurt while you're home alone. What happens if you fall and hit your head? Or you choke while eating something, or even suffer a stroke or heart attack? For some people, these dangers are the deciding factor preventing them from starting a home based business. At an agency there are people around that could help. But at home they may not be so lucky.

Sorry for finishing on a down note. I started with the word "dangers" more out of jest but I wanted to show to you that there really are some dangers to consider when working from home.

Did I miss anything? I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment and let me know what dangers you considered.

Resource of the week is Audible

I recently published a blog post where I shared non design books every graphic designer should read. If you found some of those books intriguing but don't really have the time to sit down and read, you may want to consider an audiobook. Audible offers over 180,000 books in their library including almost all of the titles in my blog post. You can download a free audiobook when you sign up for a free 30 day Audible trial. If you decide before the 30 days are up that Audible is not for you, you can cancel your membership and still keep the free book. Simply visit to try it out.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
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Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

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

Feb 11, 2016

The Amazing Task of File Management!

A little to enthusiastic? Oh well, can't blame a guy for trying. The fact is file management is probably one of the most boring tasks we do as graphic designers. Boring, but necessary if we want to run an efficient and streamlined business. After all, the less time we have to spend searching for some file we haven't touched in several years the better. A good file management system will make your life as a designer so much easier.

So although file management isn't the most glamorous topic to cover in a graphic design podcast, it is what I choose to cover In this week's Resourceful Designer.

Different areas of file management

In order to try and make this week's podcast episode a little more interesting I decided to break it into seven different sections of file management

  1. Resources
  2. Client Files
  3. Logos
  4. Fonts
  5. Training/Education Material
  6. Bookkeeping
  7. Backups


Resources cover everything you may use that helps you be the wonderful graphic designer that you are. I'm talking, image libraries, application plugins, Photoshop actions and styles, website themes, Wordpress plugins etc. Anything that you can use in the design process.

If you're like me you've probably purchased a few design bundles at some point (or many, don't judge). Design bundles are a great way of acquiring resources for your work. The thing with design bundles is they often come with way more than what you're actually interested in at the time. However, some of those pieces are worth saving for that "someday" you may need them.

Having a Resources folder makes it easy to find all those often used or seldom used pieces to help you in your designing.

My Resources folder contains many different folders for all of the above. For example; we all know that sometimes a good background can complete a design project. In my Resources folder I have a Backgrounds folder that contains every image file I own that can be used as a background. The folder is divided into sub-categories to make it easier to find what I want. Metal, stone, leather, paper, wood are a few of those sub-categories. If I'm ever working on a project and I think a nice wood background is needed I know exactly where to look for one. That's good file management.

Also in my Resources folder is a Stock Images folder. In it I have the original copy of ever single stock photo and image I've ever purchased. I have this folder subdivided as well into Photos, Vectors, and Illustrations and each of these is also subdivided. For example, my Photos folder is divided into People, Landscapes, Vehicles, Interiors, etc. and each of those is subdivided further. People is divided into Women, Men, Couples, Seniors, Families etc. Every time I purchase a new stock image I make sure to put it in the right category. If it could go into multiple categories I make aliases of the file (Shortcuts in Windows) and put them in each category they fit into. This makes it extremely easy for me to search through specific categories and quickly find what I'm looking for.

There are other ideas for the Resources folder I talk about on the podcast.

Client Files

File management of client files is a must. Otherwise you could spend hours searching for things when an old client contacts you down the road. On my computer I have my client files organized like this. I have one main folder that I call "Jobs In Progress". The title is a bit misleading since not everything in the folder is "in progress" but that's the name I gave the folder over 10 years ago and I just never bothered changing it.

Inside my Jobs in Progress folder I have a separate folder for each client I have. There are two special folders in there as well called "Old Clients" and "Inactive Clients". Old Clients is for any client I know will never come back. Businesses that have closed or have been bought out. That sort of thing. From time to time when I need to clear up HD space I will move these clients to an external device but for the most part I leave them there. Why? I've learnt over the past 25 years that just because a client doesn’t exist anymore doesn't mean you wont need their files anymore. It's happened more than once that someone came looking for something and I was glad I has saved them.

My Inactive Clients folder is for any client that I haven't heard from in over 2 years. They're still around but either they've found someone else to design for them or they haven't had need of me.

That leaves the rest of my Jobs In Progress folder that contains a folder for every client I've worked with over the past two years. Opening any one of the client folders shows folders for each project I've done for them. Stationary, Flyers, Billboards, Website etc. Now what's found in each of these changes depending on the client. Clients that I do a lot of work for I may divide their folders by year, month and date if need be, others just by year. Regardless of that hierarchy, once I get down to it, every single client project folder I have is built the same way.

Inside the project folder is the actual layout file (QuarkXpress or InDesign), or the website files. There are also four folders in every project folder.

  • Working; for all the .psd and .ai files pertaining to the project.
  • Images; for all the completed images that are actually used on the project.
  • Supplied; for all file that the client has supplied me.
  • Final; The final approved file to be sent to the client, printer, etc.

If there are common elements such as graphics or photos that are used across all marketing material I store these in a special "Images" folder at the root level of the client folder.


Now you may be wondering why logos don't fall under the images folder for the individual clients? I discovered many years ago that it's much easier to save each and every logo I have on my computer in one centralized location. In my case I have a Logos folder in my Resources folder. In it I have all my clients logos as well as every single logos I've accumulated over the years.

The reason i do this is for those time when you need to include "sponsor" logos on some poster or website for a client. Trying to remember if, or on what project you may have used some obscure logo a few years ago isn't fun. Since I started keeping all my logos in one place I've never had this issue.

Listen to the podcast for a fun story about my logo storing method.

Two Tricks For Acquiring Logos

Sometimes it's a real pain to get good, usable logos from a client. Especially if they don't understand what it is you need. I have two tried and true methods of acquiring good quality logos quickly and easily. But you'll have to listen to the podcast to hear them (hint, it's at the 27 minute mark)

Font Management

Fonts are another thing we graphic designer tend to amass over time and it can be a real pain to sort through them to find just the right one. That's why I think everyone should have some kind of font management software to help organize the chaos. I can't speak for all the various options but I can tell you about Suitcase Fusion by Extensis. I've been using Suitcase Fusion since before they added the Fusion to it. This font management software integrates with all the design software we use to turn fonts on and off as we need them. This way you don't bog down your system with unnecessary fonts.

Suitcase Fusion is a great way to organize your fonts and make it easier to find that perfect one for the project you're working on. In the application you can create sets to organize your fonts. I have mine set up alphabetically as A, B, C, D etc with each font in it's appropriate folder. I also have special folders for Celtic Fonts, Script Fonts, Hand Drawn Fonts etc.

The best thing about Suitcase Fusion is the ability to assign styles and/or keywords to fonts. This makes it so easy to narrow down your choices. Looking for a slab serif font? Eliminate all fonts that don't fit that category and your search just became that much easier.


Perhaps not file management in the technical sense, but I've found that keeping all your training material in one place is a big help. Any eBook, video, guide, manual, web clip etc. should be in easy access for when you do need it. I have my Training folder divided into Web, Photoshop, Illustrator, (plus other applications) etc. Any time I download a guide or manual I store it in the appropriate place. Any time I stumble upon a good tutorial page or video I I grab the URL, label it as what it is, and put it in my Training folder for later access.

Having this resource has saved me many hours searching online for something that I remember seeing some time in the past.


This is a simple one that I use. The numbers on every invoice I send out begin with the current year. This January I opened my invoicing program, I use Billings Pro by Marketcircle, and I changed the numbering to start with 16-xxxxx. This makes it easer down the road to know exactly when a certain job was done.


Now backing up really has nothing to do with file management. But, what's the point of implementing a great file management strategy if you end up loosing all your files due to some unforeseen circumstance? There are things in this world beyond our control. Fire, flood, tornadoes, theft are just a few.

On-site backup via Apple Time Machine or some other external device is a must for all graphic designers. But off-site backup is something we should all be using as well. For this I use a company called Backblaze. Backblaze is a set it and forget it solution. It works in the background backing up your files so you never have to worry should a natural disaster ever happen. There are other solutions available but Backblaze is the one I'm familiar with.

Another form of backup you should look into is website backup. Most hosting providers offer site backup but they don't say how often. Some are every 30 days, 60 days, even 90 days. That's fine for a static website. But for any site that is updated on a regular basis it wont do. My preference for website backup is BackupBuddy by iThemes. BackupBuddy offers real time backups of your site. As soon as something is changed on the site it gets backed up. I have all my and my clients' sites backed up this way.

So there you have it. File Management in a nutshell. I hope that wasn’t too hard to get through. I would love to hear your comments. Share your strategies by leaving me a comment.

In next week's episode of Resourceful Designer I'm going to talk about the dangers of working from home.

Questions of the Week

I have another Question Of The Week to answer. If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Teri,

Hi Mark,
I have just started listening to your podcast in the past month and am really enjoying it! Thanks for all the fantastic advice! I have been working in the industry for about 7 years now here in Atlanta, Georgia. After the birth of my daughter a year and half ago I have started working from home part-time (which I love) and it has been keeping my quite busy! I was wondering if you had any advice on passing off work to other designers? Is there a good network you use or how do you build that network? I also feel that part of my value as a designer is that I know the clients and what they are looking for, thus it is difficult to explain that to another designer, especially with a super fast turn around.

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

Resource of the week is BackBlaze

One of the scariest things you can think of as a designer is what would happen if disaster strikes and you loose all your computer files. What would it mean for your business? Backblaze offers a simple unlimited online backup solution for your design business for less than $5/month. And it’s so easy. You just set it up and forget about it. Backblaze works in the background automatically backing up your files. And if you ever loose your data for whatever reason, you wont have to worry because you’ll know everything can be restored from Backblaze.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Backblaze’s online backup solution and trying a 15 day free trial, visit

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
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Subscribe on 

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

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


Feb 4, 2016
Ending Relationships With Your Graphic Design Clients - RD021

It was fun while it lasted. Or, maybe it wasn't. Either way, ending relationships with your graphic design clients is part of the job.

If you've been at this long enough you've probably come across a client or two that just rubbed you the wrong way. Maybe they were too demanding. Maybe their personality clashed with yours. Maybe they took forever to pay their bills. Or maybe they wanted you to do something you weren't comfortable with. Any number of these or more can lead you to ending relationships with said clients.

Although you should try everything you can to nurture and continue your dealings, sometimes ending relationships is what's best for everyone involved.

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, my graphic design podcast. I touch on various reasons why ending relationships with clients is the best option for your business. Here's a summary of what I talk about.

Ending relationships before they start.

Sometimes, when you meet a new potential client for the first time, you get a certain feeling in your gut that tells you this isn't for you. Maybe the client is giving you bad vibes or has a way about them that grates on you. No matter the reason, there's something about the situation that's telling you not to proceed any further.

You need to remember, this is your business. You are in charge and you get to decide who you want to work with. There is no shame in politely telling a potential client that the project they're describing isn't for you. Or that their budget is too small for you to consider the project.

Turning down work is not the same as ending your relationship.

Keep in mind that you can turn down work from new or existing clients without ending your relationship with them. Being too busy, leaving on holiday, too small a budget, and conflict of interests are just a few viable reasons for turning down work. As long as you do it diplomatically your relationship with the client should remain intact.

Ending existing relationships

This one is obviously harder. After all the time and effort put into building a relationship with a client it seems a shame to part ways. You should do your best to save the relationship. Unfortunately it's sometimes best for both of you to walk away.

Money is often the number one reason for ending relationships with clients. Face it, you're running a business. If a client isn't paying their bills there's no reason to keep them around. But there are many other reasons for ending relationships as well. Only you can be the judge on wether or not the situation has escalated to that point.

Bowing out gracefully

Regardless if it's a new client or an existing one, you should never burn any bridges when parting ways. You never know when things may change in the future and your paths may cross again. Not to mention that we often deal with one contact person when designing for a company. You may have issues with that contact, but they may not always be the face of that company. Don't give the company a reason to not want to work with you when it's the individual who is the problem.

How have you dealt with ending relationships with your clients?

Leave a comment and let me know how you handled this situation when you encountered it.

Questions of the Week

I'm introducing a Question Of The Week section to the podcast. If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.

This week's question comes from Jessica,

I currently do in-house print design work for an insurance company. I am approaching the idea of starting my own business, and I'd like to offer web design. However, I've never done any web design in the past. I'm wondering if you could advise where to start in the learning process? I'm looking at Lynda videos, but I don't even know what I should focus on- Wordpress, HTML, CSS? Or should I work on the front-end design of a webpage and partner with a web developer to handle the coding and backend design? I have never grasped writing code and am not sure if it's necessary to do myself.

To find out what I told Jessica you'll have to listen to the podcast.

Links mentioned in my answer.
Elegant Themes

Resource of the week is TextExpander

TextExpander is a huge timesaver in allowing you to create text shortcuts for longer pieces of type you use on a regular basis. I've created shortcuts for all my email addresses to save me time when typing them out and to make sure I don't make any errors. TextExpander is also a huge help for web designers. I've used it to store often used bits of HTML and CSS that I can call up with just a few keystrokes.

At the time i'm releasing this podcast episode, TextExpander is on sale through MightyDeals for $22. That's half off! The sale only lasts a few days so get it now.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on 

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

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