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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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Now displaying: March, 2017
Mar 30, 2017

How Productive is your to-do list?

Do you ever look at your to-do list and feel overwhelmed?

Do you ever find yourself procrastinating on certain jobs on your to-do list because you’re not sure where to start?

Do you ever look at your to-do list at the end of the day and feel like you haven’t really accomplished anything?

If you answered yes to any of these questions there’s a good chance you’re not using your to-do list correctly.

Have no fear, on this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast I share with you the proper way to use a to-do list. Or more accurately to-do lists.

Projects and Tasks

If you’re having problems tackling your to-do list it could be because you’re putting projects on the list instead of tasks. There is a difference. When you start looking at each one separately you will see just how easy it is to get things done.

The basics behind the projects and tasks to-do list method

  • A task is something that can be accomplished in one session.
  • A project is made up of multiple tasks.

It’s really that simple. If what you want to accomplish requires you to do more than one thing it’s a project. If it only required you to do a single thing it’s a task. The trick to being productive is to know which is which and only put tasks on your to-do list.

What do you do with projects?

Keep a separate list for projects so you can keep track of what you’re working on. But it’s your to-do list of tasks that you will keep referring to on a regular basis.

To start off, look at the list of projects you are currently working on. They may be for clients or they could be for yourself. Now identify all the tasks that make up that project and write them down on your to-do list.

Remember, a project can be divided up into either smaller projects or into individual tasks. But tasks cannot be divided.

A task can take as little as a couple of minutes or it can take several hours. But to accomplish it you should only have to do one thing. I give examples of this in the podcast.

Here's an example of dividing a large project into smaller projects and tasks.

A branding project could be divided into these smaller projects.

  • Logo design
  • Business cards and Stationery
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Signage and banners
  • Website
  • Social media identity
  • Other marketing material

Each one of these sub-projects can then be divided into even smaller projects or into tasks. Take Logo Design for example. It could be divided into the following tasks.

  • Choose fonts
  • Choose colours
  • Choose a design style
  • Design the iconography
  • Etc.

Designing a website can be broken down into these tasks.

  • Register a domain name
  • Choose and set up hosting
  • Instal a CMS such as Wordpress
  • Choose and install a theme
  • Instal basic plug-ins
  • Choose a colour scheme
  • Choose fonts for the site.

These individual tasks are what should be on your to-do list. They are simple and only require one action on your part. As you complete each of them check it off your to-do list. This will make you feel like you’re accomplishing things and making progress.

If all you have on your to-do list is design a website you would be seeing it day after day and you might not feel like you’re getting anywhere even though you've accomplished several tasks.

Accomplish more with simple tasks

Make tasks as simple as possible in order to accomplish them. Especially tasks that you're not too keen on doing. Such as those you keep putting off or finding excuses not to do.

Preparing your taxes is a prime example of an undesirable project that really needs to be broken down into smaller tasks. Gather receipts, gather income reports, gather expenses. All of these can be done individually as tasks and checked off the to-do list one at a time.

The hardest part of any project is just getting started.

You’ve heard the saying “every journey begins with a single step”? That’s what this idea of projects and tasks is all about. Taking that single step. Once you get used to this method you'll find that it’s really not that hard.

The objective here is productivity. But productivity can be a tricky concept. You can spend an entire day working and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. That’s why, by creating a to-do list of tasks instead of projects. You'll feel satisfaction with every item you scratch off your list. So make as many tasks as possible. Break them down into their smallest possible components and then tackle them one by one.

If you try this method I guarantee at the end of the day, instead of feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything. You’ll look at your to-do list and think to yourself “I rocked it today! Look at everything I got done". Projects and Tasks, it’s how we do it.

Do you break your projects down into their individual tasks?

Let me know how you manage your to-do list 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 Hannah

I am currently working for a real estate company in the USA as their marketer/graphic designer. I began working for them fresh out of college and have been with them for 3 years now, learning a lot in the process but would like to start the transition to a home based designer at some point. However, leaving the consistency of the corporate world and into freelancing will be a major hurdle. Do you have any tips on establishing a relatively steady income without the help of a spouse/family member's income?

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

Resource of the week: Udemy 

Udemy is a great online source of courses related to the graphic design industry. They offer everything from basic to advance instructions in popular topics such as logo design, typography, colour theory, plus courses on all the popular software we use. Sign up for their email list to receive special discounts and to be notified when their courses go on sale. I recommend Udemy to everyone who wants to learn to be or to better themselves as a graphic designer.

Subscribe to the podcast

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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

Mar 23, 2017

When was the last time you evaluated your graphic design business?

You know the phrase, stop and smell the roses? It means that sometimes we’re so busy and focused that we don’t take the time to notice the little things around us.

This is a great philosophy for life but it's also a great lesson for business.

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I discuss various ways you can evaluate your graphic design business. Be sure to listen to the episode for the full content. Here's a bit of what I talked about.

When to evaluate your graphic design business.

Whether you're just starting out or you’ve been in business for several years. Now is a great time to evaluate your graphic design business.

Evaluating your graphic design business will help you focus on your strengths, identify your weaknesses and streamline your workflow and make you a more efficient graphic designer.

How to evaluate your graphic design business.

What sort of things do you look for when evaluating your graphic design business? It differs with each person and each business so you’ll have to develop your own evaluation but here's a good starting list for you to consider. I've also listed past podcast episodes covering each topic in case you want to learn more about them.

We only have a fixed number of hours in our lives. By evaluating your graphic design business you can identify the areas that are working and those that need to change and free up some of those wasted hours.

By evaluating your business, you will become a much better business person as well as a better graphic designer.

Have you ever ran an evaluation on your graphic design business?

Let me know how it worked out 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 Sarah

Hi. For the last 10 years, I've worked for myself as a freelance writer and communications consultant, usually with a basic design work thrown in the mix. In the last couple years, I've started to do a lot more document layout, which definitely incorporates design, and I want to get more into the design side of things. I'm trained in indesign although I've never had any formal graphic design training. I plan to take some courses in the next year to improve my skills.

I live in a small town so there are only a few people here who have these types of skills. But it's been a very natural progression for me to do writing, editing and design.

I'm just wondering how common you think this situation is. Are there other designers out there who also do writing and other communications services. And vice versa? Also, where does document layout fit into the graphic design world? Any info would be much appreciated Thank you! Really love the show.

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

Tip of the week: Compare multiple stock image sites

This week's tip is more of a warning when dealing with some of the more expensive stock image sites that offer "exclusive" images. If you find that "perfect image" on a premium stock image site, take a bit of time to search less expensive sites for almost exact or very similar images. You could save yourself a lot of money. I recently found the perfect stock photo for a project I was working on. The photo would have cost me roughly $40 but I was able to find an almost identical photo on another image site for $1. The photos were taken by the same photographer at the exact same location. The only difference between the $40 photo and the $1 photo was that a single item in the photo was moved. This allowed the premium site to offer their version as "exclusive" since it was different than the much less expensive shot.

Subscribe to the podcast

Subscribe on iTunes
Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Android
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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 feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Mar 17, 2017

Fuel your creative juices with personal projects.

We graphic designers are creative people. It's in our blood, it's who we are. And as creative people, we need an outlet for our creativity. We get some of it through client work but limitations and restrictions hold our full potential back. The only way for us to truly unleash our creativity is by working on personal projects for ourselves. 

I talk in length on this topic in this episode of the podcast so please listen for the full story. Below are some takeaways from the episode.

Make time for yourself and your personal projects.

Just like the mechanic that never has the time to work on his own car, most designers don't take the time to work on the projects we want to work on. We spend our time every day (and some nights) fulfilling our clients wishes so why don't we do the same for the things we want to work on?

You need to learn how to set time aside for your own personal projects.

Set goals for yourself and make deadlines.

The only way to ensure you have the time to work on personal projects is to set goals for yourself and make deadlines. For example, if you like to paint, set yourself a goal to complete one painting by the end of the month and then make the time to work on it.

Instead of setting deadline you could also set a time commitment such as committing five hours per week to painting. Simply set aside a certain time period every week to work on your personal projects. It's no different than the time you schedule for your clients.

If need be, delegate or delete things from your calendar to make room for your personal projects. After all, we are trustworthy to our clients. Why not be trustworthy ourselves as well?

Personal projects help your creativity.

Working on personal projects allows you to stretch your creativity much more than you can on client work. It allows you to experiment, it gives you release and creates a sense of peace within you that will show through in your client work. Take it one step at a time. Pick one project you would like to start and commit to it. you'll be better off for it.

What personal projects do you work on?

Let me know what personal projects you work on 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 Liz

I have a question regarding volunteering time and work. I am a home-based designer who lives in a smaller community in Vermont where everyone is somehow connected to everyone. Word of mouth has been great, but once you are "discovered" you continuously get hit up for volunteer projects or asked to join various committees and boards. I certainly want to give back to the community but I fear I am often asked because they want free design work out of the deal.

Do you have any advice on how to go about this whole can of worms?

I wouldn't object to offering up some knowledge or volunteering some unrelated skills or tasks, but at this point I really can't do all my design work for free.

I have an instance in particular right now where a client I did some fundraising event marketing material work for last year is asking me to join the planning committee this year. I would consider but only if I could still get paid for the work. However, I fear that might be a conflict of interest.

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

Tip of the week.

This week's tip of the week is to get yourself a mailbox that is not at your place of residence. If you are a home-based designer you may want to consider renting a mailbox locally for your business. Your clients don't need to know where you live or work. There are several safety reasons for this. Especially if you are a female working alone from home. But also in the case of a disgruntled client. Plus if you have a family, you probably don't want your children dealing with strangers ringing the doorbell if you're out.

There are other benefits to having a rented mailbox. It's a convenient place for your clients to drop things off for you. You can have things shipped there and know there's someone there to sign for the package. Not to mention it adds a bit of legitimacy to your business.

And don't forget, a rented mailbox is tax deductible.

Subscribe to the podcast

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

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

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

Mar 9, 2017

8 Simple steps to winning over design clients

ace it, we live in a dog eat dog world. Not only are we competing with other designers in our local area, we’re also competing with design contest sites, crowdsourced design as well as very cheap alternatives where people are offering design services for as little as $5.

What are we to do?

Don’t fret, there’s still plenty of work to go around and there are lots of people and businesses out there looking for a designer just like you.

But how do they know you’re the right designer for the job? Simple, you show them.

It all comes down to "subliminal warfare". Subconsciously whenever you meet someone there’s an internal battle that goes on between you and the person you are meeting. Each of you sizes up the other in order to form a first impression of them.

  • What does the person look like?
  • How do they act?
  • How do they compose themselves?
  • What do I like about them?
  • What don’t I like about them?
  • Is this someone I can get along with?

All these questions and more go through both your heads while you are conversing.

So while you are weighing up your “opponent”, it’s up to you to provide favourable answers to their similar questions about you.

Winning over clients

I’ve put together a few tips to help stack the odds in your favour and improve your chances of winning over design clients whether you are talking to them over the phone, through video or meeting them face to face.

Tip 1: Dress for success

Dress professionally but appropriately. this does not mean wearing a suit to every client meeting. In fact, dressing too nice could loose you some points.

Have you ever felt intimidated by someone dressed better than you? You don’t want the client to feel that way. Research your client if you can and coordinate your attire to match their preferences. Are you meeting the CEO of an investment firm, wear a suit. Are you meeting the inventor of a new electric skateboard? Dress casual but still professional.

If you dress appropriately you've already won half the battle.

Tip 2: Call them by their first name

I know, I know, we're taught to respect our elders and call them Mr. or Mrs. But I want you to remember, you are both business people, and as such, you are on eaqual ground. The goal is for the two of you to work together, not for you to work for them. Using their first name puts you on even ground.

Tip 3: Learn the names of the people the client works with.

Using someone’s name can be very powerful. It shows you made the effort to remember them. It makes that person feel good about themselves and it makes them take notice of you. Always try to learn the names of the client's support staff. Their receptionist, their doorman, their delivery driver. You never know when the boss might ask one of them what they think of you.

Tip 4: Put your hand out first

Shaking someone’s hand is an age old tradition when greeting someone. (depending on where you live of course). Don’t wait for them to offer. Put your hand out first. It shows a sign of confidence and authority. And it shows that you’re serious about meeting them.

A lot can be learned by a handshake. So learn how to shake hands properly. This goes for both men and women. Remember when I mentioned "social warfare"? Having a week handshake can harm you more than you think.

Tip 5: Anticipate questions and answer them before they are asked

When preparing for your meeting try to think of any questions the client may have and answer them during your presentation before they come up. It shows that you are knowledgable and a thinker.

Have answers ready for questions you don’t address as well, If you don’t know an answer, offer to find out and get back to them. There is no shame in saying I don’t know.

Tip 6: Use "we" instead of "you" and "I"

Talk to the client as if they've already hired you. Never say "if you hire me" or "if I get this job", instead use something like "once we're working on this" or "when we're working together". If you demonstrate from the start that you already view the relationship as a partnership, you will have much more success with the client.

Tip 7: Use "will" or "would" instead of "can" or "could"

I learned this trick from a parenting book. Trust me it works great on teenagers and equally well on clients and suppliers. I don't remember if it was [easyazon_link identifier="0060930993" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]John Gray - Children are from heaven[/easyazon_link] or [easyazon_link identifier="0060014318" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]Barbara Coloroso - Kids Are Worth it.[/easyazon_link] Regardless, the trick is when requesting things use "will" or "would" instead of "can" or "could". The latter questions their ability and has the potential for a negative response. Using "will" or "would" doesn't invoke that same response and is much more accepting in the recipient's view.

Would you send me the files is much more inviting than could you send me the files. Don't you agree?

Tip 8: Smile

No explanation required. A smile can go a very long way.

What tips do you have for winning over design clients?

Let me know your tips 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 Suvi

Does it matter where I buy my domain names from? I live in Australia and some Australian domain name sellers are very expensive, and sometimes I feel tempted to go the cheaper route, for example Go Daddy.

Does it make a difference where I buy the name from, if I already have hosting elsewhere? I am especially talking about those extra domains with similar spelling to my domain, that I would like to register.

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

Resource of the week Website Grader

Website Grader is a simple but effective tool to see how a website stacks up performance wise. It measures the overall performance, mobile performance, SEO and security of a site and gives you advice on how to improve them.

Subscribe to the podcast

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

Contact me

Send me feedback

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I want to help you.

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

Mar 2, 2017

Have you ever thought of hiring a Virtual Assistant?

Back in episode 45 of the podcast, I talked about how it’s OK for graphic designers to ask for help. After all, there’s only so many minutes in a day, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. So why not use them as wisely as you can?

I covered things like finding help with house and yard work, so you have more time to devote to your business and family.

I also talked about hiring someone to take on mundane non-design tasks for your business. Pay them a small fee and use the time they save you for designing and earn a larger fee.

If you haven’t heard that episode or if you think you need a refresher, you should go back and listen to it.

Today I want to talk about one aspect of hiring help. And that is a Virtual Assistant or a VA.

What is a virtual assistant?

Simply put, it’s someone that assists you from a remote location. Be it at another business location or from their home. Someone next door or half way around the world. They work with you virtually.

If you’re running your own business and you’ve ever hired another designer, a coder, a web developer, a copywriter, an illustrator or any other such person, you have in effect hired a virtual assistant although we don’t usually refer to these people as such.

These people are great. And they form a solid foundation for your “design team”, but that’s not what I’m talking about today.

The Virtual Assistants I’m referring to are the ones that may not be in the design space. Instead, they help you with the mundane tasks of running a business so that you can free up your time.

How could you use a virtual assistant?

Think of a typical week and all the small tasks you do that don’t fall under the umbrella of designing. Many of those could easily be delegated to someone else.

Design related

  • Update plugins
  • Online research
  • Review/test a website
  • Writing/Editing/Proofreading
  • Translations
  • Text/Database entries
  • Project Management

Business-related

  • Invoicing/bookkeeping
  • Cold calling
  • Late payment follow up
  • Organizing client meetings

Marketing

  • Manage social media for you and your clients.
  • Managing feedback forms inquiries

What does my Virtual Assistant currently do for me?

  • Plugin management
  • Blog/podcast research
  • Discovery research
  • Website testing

I’ve also used VAs in the past for

  • Database entries
  • Photo manipulation
  • Proofreading
  • Typing

What if you can’t afford a virtual assistant.

It’s a valid concern. But look at it this way. Time is finite; you need to use it wisely. Only you can make your business grow. Even if money is tight, you are much better off paying someone to do your simple tasks and use that time to work and grow your business.

Hiring a virtual assistant isn't as expensive as it sounds. If you can scrape together $10, you could gain an hour of time to invest back into your business. After all, wouldn’t you be better off attending networking events, meeting with clients, even working on your own promotional material? It’s worth considering don't you think?

I’ve never heard anyone who has hired a virtual assistant say it was a mistake to do so. Perhaps the person they hired didn’t work out, but the position itself wasn’t a mistake. In fact, most people say afterwards that they wish they had done it sooner.

"But I like doing those tasks."

Even if the tasks are something you LIKE to do, it might be better to delegate them and us the time for something you NEED to do.

In episode 4 of the podcast, I talked about Superhero Syndrome. It's what happens when we feel the need to do absolutely everything ourselves. The problem is, we can't do everything well. We should concentrate our time on the things we do best and leave the rest to people more qualified.

In episode 38 of the podcast, The Many Hats of a home-based graphic designer, I go over the many parts of running a graphic design business there are beside designing. Many of those tasks can be delegated to a virtual assistant.

There’s an awful lot involved with running a successful design business beyond designing. If you try to do it all it could lead to burnout and then where will you be?

Where can I find a virtual assistant?

The easiest thing to do is hire friends and family, but that could potentially lead to problems. You'd be better off paying someone else. Look for people to hire on.

And don’t forget, hiring a virtual assistant is tax deductable.

Have you ever used a virtual assistant for your graphic 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 Sean

If a prospect wants to change your contract, should you be open to it?

If a prospect asks to up-price your quote, does this mean that they are trying to use your quote to show a competitor for a cheaper price?

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

Tip of the week

Any time you put up a temporary website for yourself or a client, be it a "Coming Soon", "Under Construction" or "Undergoing Maintenance" page, be sure to include a short description of the site as well as contact information for anyone who lands on the page. It would be a shame to loose a potential client because they couldn't figure out how to get a hold of you or your client.

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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