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Now displaying: January, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

Do you use "We" or "I" in your marketing material?

In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I tackle the longtime debate on whether or not you should use the pronoun "We" or "I" on your marketing material.

For the full discussion be sure to listen to the podcast.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but ever time I come across a URL for a graphic designer I just have to check it out. We’re such a creative bunch and I love seeing the wide variety of approaches when it comes to our business, our skills and our communications.

Besides looking at the structure of the site, reading the about page and looking at the portfolio one, of the main things I look at is the voice that was chosen for the page.

When I say voice, I’m talking about whether the site uses “We” or “I” in the copy. I then play a little game, if the site uses the pronoun “we”, I try to figure out if the site really is a “we” or if it’s in fact, an “I”.

I recently came across a designer's website that used the pronoun "we". My first thought was that he had decided to go the plural route to make himself seem bigger. However, upon reading the About page, I saw that there was, in fact, a business partner that occupied the role of Project Manager. So in this case, using the “We” pronoun was the right choice.

But I’m not talking about businesses like this one. In most cases, as a home-based graphic designer, you’re running your business all by yourself. And choosing “We” as your pronoun doesn’t necessarily reflect the business it’s trying to describe. But does that mean it’s wrong?

What is the best pronoun for a graphic design business?

First, let’s look at the hard decisions between choosing “We” or “I”. Some people believe that If you’re all by yourself and you choose “We”, you are misrepresenting yourself. But will it make a difference to your potential clients? What are they expecting of you and your business? Will they be willing to spend more money on a “We” as opposed to an “I”?

Let’s look at both individually.

Choosing “We” for your business.

What does using the pronoun “we” do for your business?

First off, if you ever work with partners or subcontractors then you aren’t really misrepresenting your business by using “We”. You could simply explain that you have a team of professionals at your disposal to handle the various portions of a design project. Hense the “We”

  • “We” also give your business a more established feel.
  • “We” makes you sound more corporate.
  • “We” may help you land clients who prefer working with companies over an individual person.

Keep in mind that If you use “We” a client may ask to speak with someone on your team which could cause problems for you.

Choosing “I” for your business.

What does using the pronoun “I” do for your business?

The biggest return for using “I” is that it focuses more on you instead of your business. This makes you sound more personable and accessible.

If the client is happy with the work, you and not the company gets the credit for it.

You’ve heard me talk many times about creating relationships with clients. Using “I” in your marketing copy is the first step in building that relationship since viewers establish a connection with you from the start.

  • Using “I” creates a sense of flexibility, giving a sense of ease to clients who may believe that as an individual, you will be more open to listening to what they have to say instead of dictating like a company might do.
  • Using “I” will attract clients who want to deal with a person rather than a company. They know the money they spend is benefiting you, someone they have a relationship with, and not a company where it will be distributed who knows how.
  • People who are not familiar with graphic design might also feel an individual will be more affordable than hiring a design firm.
  • Your clients will also be more flexible to your personal needs. In last week’s Question of the Week, I mentioned how clients can be very accommodating in times of family emergencies, whereas if they hire a company they would still expect the work to get done even if you’re not available.

Other things to consider.

The name of your company could play a part in the pronoun you choose. If you use your own name for your business, like Mark Des Cotes Design, it only makes sense to use “I” in your marketing material.

If the word Agency is part of your business name it would make more sense to use “We”.

In some cases, such as when you have a business partner, using “We” is the right choice. But there are still ways to make you sound more personable. Instead of always using “We” or “us” use your names. Instead of saying something like “give us a call” say “give Ben and Nick a call”. Or instead of “We look forward to working with you” you could say “Ben and Nick look forward to working with you. You may need to change from first to third person to pull this off.

Another way is to assign someone as the face of your marketing. For instance, make either Ben or Nick the spokesperson and say something like “Nick and I look forward to working with you”. This method covers both bases as it establishes you as more than just an individual but it also paints you as individual people.

What do I use?

I personally use the pronoun “I”. Yes, I operate under a business name but call me selfish, when all is said and done I want people to remember me for the work, not my company. Plus, as you know, I’m all about building relationships and that’s definitely all about Me. There’s no We involved.

What pronoun do you use for your graphic design business?

Let me know your goals by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I didn't have time to answer a question this week. But I would love to answer yours. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week Fontpair.co

This week's resource is a fun site to help designers pair Google Fonts together. Fontpair.co offers a gallery of Google font combinations for you to look at. You can narrow down your search by clicking on one of the menus to view just Sans-Serif/Serif combos, Serif/Sans-Serif, Cursive/Serif, Cursive/Sans-Serif and many other combinations. Not every Google font is listed but there's enough of a variety to give you a good starting point for your next project.

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Contact me

Send me feedback

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I want to help you.

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

Jan 19, 2017
How To Get Out Of A Productivity Slump - RD056

Have you ever been in a productivity slump?

It’s nice to think we’ve got everything under control. That we’re on top of our game. That our business is running like a well-oiled machine.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

There will be times when everything just piles up. You feel tired, overwhelmed and have no idea how you got to that point, or how to get out of the hole you're in. You feel stuck with no obvious path out. You’ve found yourself in a productivity slump.

You see, the problem with running a business is you want it to succeed. I know that sounds strange. If only we all had the problem of a successful business. Right?

But success is addictive. The more we succeed the more we crave it. To the point where we take on so much work that it tips the balance and all of a sudden, success is no longer an option.

It’s at that point that things fall in on us and we experience that feeling of being overwhelmed and we're unsure what to do next. Oftentimes that feeling of not knowing what to do next leads to a productivity slump and you end up not doing anything at all.

Perhaps you can’t relate to that scenario. Perhaps your business is doing well, but you haven’t yet reached that level of success I’m talking about. That doesn’t mean your immune.

Sometimes a productivity slump hits us for no particular reason. You sit down at your computer, or tablet or easel, but you just don’t feel motivated enough to actually work. Instead, you doddle around for a bit, look to see what’s happening on Facebook, watch a few Youtube videos, you use every excuse you can to avoid work. This is also a productivity slump.

Maybe you're taking on too many projects all at once, causing some of them to fall behind or take longer than you originally anticipated. This can also lead to a productivity slump.

Regardless of the path that led you there, being in a slump is no fun. And if you don’t find a way out of it the problem could compound.

So what do you do?

Here are my suggestions.

First off, in order to get out of a productivity slump, you need to know exactly what got you there in the first place.

Take out a pencil and paper and write down everything that is contributing to the problem. Every project that feels out fo control, every task that needs doing, absolutely everything, including other parts of your business other than working on client projects. Don't forget to write down priorities from your personal life as well that may be adding to the issue.

Are there bills that need to be paid? Do the kids have medical appointments you need to make? Does the car need an oil change?

The more you write down, the easier it will be to sort through everything.

Now look at your list and categorize it.

  • Is there anything on the list that you can simply forget about? If so delete it.
  • Is there anything on the list that can be put off until a later time? If so reschedule it.
  • Is there anything on the list that someone else could do instead of you? If so delegate it.

Don’t forget, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Find someone equally as good, or perhaps even better than you and have them do the task for you. Back in episode 45 titled "It’s OK for Graphic Designers To Ask For Help" I discussed this exact scenario of finding help.

I myself have a virtual assistant that helps me with simple things like making sure all the plugins and themes of my clients' WordPress websites are kept up to date. Passing this task on to her has freed up so much of my time to do other things.

Once you've completed your list and narrowed it down. All you should be left with are the things that you need to concentrate on. Prioritize them from most to least important.

Now, look at each item on your list, and break it down into smaller tasks. Things that can be done in one sitting. If you can’t complete it in one sitting then it’s not a task, it’s a project. Big projects can be broken down into smaller projects, and those smaller projects can be broken down into individual tasks. The trick is to break them down and make them more manageable.

You need to realize that most of the time, a productivity slump happens when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Which happens because we’re thinking too big. We’re looking at projects as a whole instead of their smaller tasks.

Once you start looking at the individual pieces it becomes much easier to knock them off your list one by one.

Say for example you’ve been hired to brand a new startup company. The client wants a logo, stationery, marketing material, a website, and a whole bunch of other things. That’s a big project. Thinking of it as a whole can feel overwhelming. But each part of it is a smaller project within the larger project. If you look at them that way, they suddenly seem more manageable.

Now, let’s look at the logo design as it’s probably the first one you’ll work on. How can you break the logo design project into smaller tasks? You need to choose a font. You need to decide how to use that font in the design. You could design an icon or symbol to go with the logo. There are colours to consider. And so on and so on.

When I design a logo, I almost always start by determining the font. I’ll spend an hour or more sifting through my font library, writing down the ones I think would best fit the logo. Once I have the fonts chosen I type out the logo's text in Adobe Illustrator, duplicate it, and apply each font to one of them for me to compare. This allows me to view all the fonts I chose in one document and helps me narrow down my selection until I'm left with just two or three fonts to use in the logo design. That’s one task I can scratch off my list. Choosing the font. I’m now one step closer to completing the logo.

I can then move on to the next task in that same project or move on to a completely different task from a different project.

Simply work at each task one by one until you climb out of your productivity slump.

"That’s great Mark, but what if looking at all those smaller tasks still leaves you feeing overwhelmed?"

I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips for you.

Change your environment: If you work on a laptop, try a different location to work for a while. Maybe play some music or try a different style of music. If you don't use a laptop you could still try completing tasks away from your computer. Searching for stock images for a client job is just as easy on an iPad as it is on your computer and you can do it anywhere.

Change your routine: Do you do the same thing every day? Get up, have breakfast, catch up on some news and social media, then get to work? Try changing it up a bit. Go out for a walk before work. Do some chores around the house. Heck, watch a movie before getting to work.

That’s the great thing about being a home-based designer. If your routine is part of the problem, simply change it up. We have that privilege.

Simply remember that where or when you finally sit down to work, choose one task to work on and don’t get up until you’ve completed it.

Once it’s done, scratch it off your list and move on to the next one. I promise you, you’ll feel both physically and mentally lighter with each task you scratch off.

Just like any good battle plan, the simplest strategy is to divide and conquer. So go divide your projects into manageable tasks and start conquering them one by one.

What's your way of getting out of a productivity slump?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from an anonymous designer, they ask...

My business has come to a stop because of my mothers health issues and I have found myself having less and less time to attend to my business. This is really out of my control and once I was self sufficient financially , now I am finding there is no income coming in. I really do not have much options as far as having someone help with my mothers illness, currently into my 4th month visiting her in the hospital in a different town.

I can go on and on, but what do you think one can do to pickup business or return to what it was. My friends tell me nothing is forever

I know many business owners do not talk about their weaknesses but possibly this topic is something that many people are facing and your opinion would be valiable.

To find out how I answered this question you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week The Productive Woman podcast

This week's resource is The Productive Woman podcast. A podcast intended to help busy women find the tools and encouragement they need to better manage their lives, their time, their stress and their stuff, so they can accomplish the things that matter to them.

However, don't be fooled by the title guys. Laura McClellan, host of The Productive Woman offers great advice that we can learn from as well. In fact, it's one of my most anticipated podcasts to listen to each week. Check it out by visiting theproductivewoman.com

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

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

Jan 13, 2017
Setting Goals For Your Design Business - RD055

Do you set goals for your design business?

[sc name="pod_ad"]In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I'm talking about setting goals for your graphic design business. I'm not talking about resolutions. I know it’s January when I'm releasing this episode, the time of year for setting resolutions, and that’s all fine. But what I’m talking about are goals. Whereas resolutions are more ongoing, like becoming a better illustrator or improving your coding skills. Goals, on the other hand, have a set target to achieve.

When is a good time for setting goals?

How about right now? I'm not saying this because it's January, the time of year many people are setting goals. What I'm saying is now, no matter when now happens to be, is a great time for setting goals. In fact, you should be setting goals for your business on a regular basis. How else are you going to measure your progress going forward?

Why is setting goals important?

Setting goals is one of the most important things you can do to stay on track and prosper. Goals keep you motivated, they give you focus, they give you direction, and they hold you accountable. Without goals, it's much harder to measure progress.

How to go about setting goals.

Have you heard the term S.M.A.R.T. goals? Much of what I'm discussing here is based on that concept. However, I'm taking it one step further and making it S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. Which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Related, Evaluate, and Reward (or Repeat if you like that one better.) Here's how it works.

SPECIFIC

Your goals need to be precise, if not you won't be able to focus your efforts to achieve the goal. When making your goal, try to answer these questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who if anyone is involved?
  • Which resources are required to complete the goal?

Example of a Specific goal: I want to complete three new website redesign projects over the next three months. This goal is very specific. You know exactly what needs to be accomplished in order to reach it.

MEASURABLE

If your goal isn’t measurable how are you going to track your progress? Knowing your progress is essential in motivating you to do well. It can also set a fire under you if you realize you're not doing well. Assessing your progress helps you to stay focused, meet your deadlines, and in the process, you’ll feel the excitement as you get closer to achieving your goal. A measurable goal should address questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How Long?
  • How will I know when it's accomplished?

Example of a Measurable goal: I want to design15 brand new websites this year. This goal is measurable. you simply need to count the number of websites completed to know how you're doing.

ACHIEVABLE

The goal you set for yourself needs to be realistic and attainable in order to be successful. In other words, it should be something that makes you stretch your abilities but still remains possible.

An achievable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How can I accomplish this goal?
  • How realistic is the goal?

Example of an Achievable goal: I want to help create brands for three new startups this year. Over the course of 12 months, it's not inconceivable that you could brand three new startups. It's an achievable goal. Wanting to brand 50 new startups would be very difficult to achieve and therefore isn't a good goal.

RELEVANT

This step is all about making sure your goal matters to you, and that it also aligns with other relevant goals you’ve set for your design business. It's important that your goal strengthens your business.

A relevant goal can answer "yes" to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match my other needs?
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?
  • Is it applicable to my current business?

Example of a Relevant goal: I want to master the newest features in Photoshop. This is a relevant goal for a graphic designer who works a lot in Photoshop. On the other hand, learning a new coding language such as PHP might not be a relevant goal if you're business doesn't focus on web design.

TIME-RELATED

All goals need some sort of targeted end time. Without one, you have no deadline to keep you focused and something to work toward. This is the most important part of setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. Without and end time to keep you in check, you may come down with the “I’ll do it tomorrow” syndrome. Wether you’re a procrastinator or not, you need a way to track your goals against a deadline if you want to achieve them.

A time-related goal will usually answer these questions:

  • When do I need to work on things to achieve this goal?
  • What do I need to do now, six weeks from now, six months from now?
  • What can I do today?

Example of a Time-Related goal: I want to create a new marketing brochure to hand out at the upcoming Trade show. This is a time-related goal because there is a fixed time you need to complete it by.

EVALUATE

This is where we add on to S.M.A.R.T. goals. As you progress towards accomplishing your goals, you need to stop from time to time to evaluate the progress you've made so far. Evaluating where you stand in relation to your goals reveals whether or not you’re still on track to achieve them.

While evaluating your goals you should ask these questions:

  • Do I need to adjust anything about my goal to ensure success?
  • Is there anything I can change or do differently to reach my goal?

Example of Evaluating your goal: You forgot when you set your two-month goal that you would be taking a vacation during that time. Can you adjust to goal to accommodate your time away? Or is there anything you can do differently to achieve your goal knowing you have two fewer weeks to work on it? Evaluating your goals on a regular basis is crucial to ensuring their success.

REWARD YOURSELF

Achieving or completing your goal should be a reward in itself. However, depending on the scope of the goal it may help motivate you if you set a special reward for getting there. After all, don’t you deserve something more than a simple pat on the back for your hard effort? A special reward can be a great motivator in helping you achieve your goal.

Ask yourself these questions while choosing a suitable reward.

  • Is the reward realistic if I accomplish my goal?
  • Is the reward enough of a motivator to help me achieve my goal?

Example of a motivating reward: If I increase my profits by 15% this year I will take my family on a tropical vacation. This is a very motivating reward. Especially if you share it with your family. Afterall, you don't want to let them down, do you?

REPEAT (instead of, or on top of a Reward)

If you succeeded in reaching your goal, why not try again with either the same goal or a harder one? Did you succeed in gaining three new clients this month? Then why not try for four next month?

If you failed to achieve your goal, reassess, regroup and restart. There is no shame in not reaching your goal. Only in giving up on it. Reassess your S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals and make any needed adjustments to help you succeed the second time around.

After all, as Henry Ford said, "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."

What goals have you set for your graphic design business?

Let me know your goals by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Jordan

Should I charge a different rate for my web design compared to my graphic design?

Resource of the week Free, Fee or Flee?

This week's resource is a website put out by RGD called Free, Fee or Flee? http://freefeeflee.ca This is a website to help you decide whenever you are asked to do some work for free. Should you agree? Should you be charging? Or should you be walking, or even running away? This fun website will guide you through various questions to help you make a decision. They also provide you with suggestions of how to respond to help explain where you stand.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
Subscribe on Google Play Music

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

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

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