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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic 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: Strategies for running a graphic design business
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Now displaying: January, 2018
Jan 26, 2018

Do you worry about isolation while working from home?

Isolation is one of the major concerns when running a home-based design business. Spending day after day, week after week having minimal contact with other people can take its toll on some people. That's why working from home is not for everyone.

When asked about working from home most people will give one of two responses.

  1. I wish I could do that. Be my own boss, work my own hours with nobody looking over your shoulder.
  2. I don't think I could do that. It would drive me crazy being by myself all the time.

The type of person you are will determine if isolating yourself to run a home-based design business is right for you. After all, to live a healthy and fulfilling life you need to have close, interpersonal relationships. Which isn't always easy for home-based designers.

Before I go any further, let me just state that I am not a qualified therapist or health professional. If you are feeling the effects of isolation to the point where you are feeling lonely or depressed, please seek professional help.

Ways to cope with isolation when working from home.

Create a happy work environment

A key factor to a pleasant work at home experience is working in a space you enjoy. If at all possible, have a dedicated room in your home for your workspace. If your living arrangements don't allow for this try dedicating a corner of a room with a desk and other things you need to run your business.

Liven up your workspace with artwork and mementoes that make you feel good. Work with music if that's something you like, or if you find music too distracting you can try soothing sounds of nature. And make sure you have good lighting. Natural light from a window is best, but a good daylight lamp will suffice if need be.

If you like your working environment, chances are you will feel less isolated when you spend time in it.

Get out for a bit

Whenever you start to feel isolated, it may be a good time to take a break and get out. Go for a walk in a park or spend some time at a mall. Just being around other people, even if you don't interact with them will help alleviate some of your feelings of isolation.

Move your workspace

If you work on a laptop or tablet why not take it to a coffee shop or some other place with wifi. You could also try a shared workspace. Many cities now offer short-term office space rentals. Think about renting a space for a couple of hours once per week. Shared office paces give you the opportunity to work on your business while still being around others. Simply being around other people can have a therapeutic effect when you're struggling with isolation.

Become part of a community

Try joining groups or clubs in your area. Joining a group or club is a great way to meet new people and give you a chance to interact outside of a work environment. Check your local community centre for recreational sports leagues or other social gatherings.

For a quick fix from feeling isolated don't discount the power of social media. Being part of an online community can help take the stress out of your busy work life.

Mastermind and networking groups are another great way to interact with like-minded people. See if there are any in your area you could join.

Sometimes, all it takes to get over that feeling of isolation is to share your thoughts and experiences with other people.

Get a pet

This might not be for everyone, but having a pet in your house can help you feel less alone. Pets are very therapeutic and have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Dogs are great listeners and give you their undivided attention when you need it, and cats have a way of knowing when you need a little affection.

If cats or dogs are not an option, perhaps you may want to try a fish or some other less demanding animal. Simply having another living being in your house can help curb that feeling of isolation.

Talk to yourself

I know, it sounds crazy. But when you're in a pinch talking to yourself can be a way of feeling less alone. Simply hearing a voice, even if it's your own can relieve stress and soothe you. After all, who better to discuss your design and business issues with than the person who knows you best, you.

There are far worse things you can do than have a conversation with yourself when you are feeling isolated.

Working from home can be a wonderful experience. It does take discipline and willpower, but if you can get over the isolation, you shouldn't have any problems.

How do you cope with isolation?

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 Shenai

I'm listening to episode 93 and you just hit on a problem that I've been struggling with. Having a main business and then a separate brand for a niche.

I have been struggling back and forth with the idea of using my own name or a business name that I already have picked out. I would like to keep it personal with my local clients but also have my own designs and plans of printed materials that I would rather have a business name attached to. (for marketing and also privacy) Should I do both? Or just pick a route and stick to it? How would you recommend setting up banking and such for these different brands to keep it less confusing?

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

Resource of the week Fontreach.com

This week's resource is fontreach.com. A fun site that shows the popularity of various fonts being used by the top one million websites. Want to know how many of them use Arial, or Helvetica Neue? Simply type in a font, and the site will tell you. Or you can view a list of the top fonts being used. As I said, this is a fun site that you may want to check out the next time you're deciding on fonts for a web 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, 2018

Are you failing on your To-Do list?

One of the biggest mistakes people make on To-Do lists is mixing projects with tasks. A To-Do list should only contain tasks, items that require you to do only one thing to complete them. Projects, on the other hand, should be on a completely separate list. By separating the tasks from the projects, you make it much easier to organize, and your To-Do list will seem much less daunting.

I talked about To-Do Lists, Tasks and Projects in episode 66 of the podcast titled "Tackle Your To-Do List With Tasks and Projects". If you haven't listened to that episode yet, I suggest you do before continuing with this one.

The Project List

Your project list is where you keep track of the various routines, responsibilities and of course, projects on your schedule. These items may be one time projects or recurring routines and responsibilities you don't want to forget about.

Example of Projects

  • Design new website for Good Sole Shoe Company
  • Create a Facebook Ad campaign for Pump-R-Up Fitness and Spa.
  • Update brochure for Sullivan and Sullivan Law Office with the new location and new partner bios.
  • Design T-Shirt for the Heart & Stroke Foundation charity marathon.

Examples of Routines and Responsibilities

  • Send out weekly invoices and statements
  • Check client websites and update themes and plugins
  • Write weekly blog post for website
  • Attend bi-weekly networking meeting

The purpose of a Project List is to have one place that lists everything you need to do or work on. As new projects, routines and responsibilities arrive you add them to the list.

The Project list should be checked at least once per day if only so you can decide what tasks to add from it to your To-Do list.

The To-Do List

Your to-do list is where you keep track of the individual tasks that need to be done to wrap up the items on your Project List. You should be referring to this list every time you complete a task to know what needs to be done next. Each task on the list should require only one action to complete. That action may take only a couple of minutes or it could take several hours to complete but it is still only one action.

Examples of a Task on a To-Do list.

  • Chose possible fonts for Heart & Stroke Foundation T-Shirt
  • Choose number of colours for the T-Shirt design
  • Decide what type of image to use in the T-Shirt design
  • Decide size of design to go on T-Shirt
  • Iron clothes for networking meeting
  • Choose topic for blog post
  • Touch up and crop photos of Sullivan and Sullivan Law Office new partners.

Each one of these items requires only one thing to do on your part before you can check them off the list.

To help prioritize, you can divide your To-Do list into things that need to be done today, tomorrow, this week, or whenever.

Having a well-organized system composed of a Project List and a To-Do list will make you a more productive designer as well as a more productive business person.

As a more productive person, you will find that you waste less time trying to figure out what needs to be done next. Which translates into more tasks being completed, which means more projects finished, which means more money coming in for you.

So take control of your Project list and To-Do list and get back to work.

How do you organize and keep track of your workload?

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 Jax

I’m considering an occupation change to graphic design. But I’m a beginner. Like just leaning the basics on Adobe Illustarator beginner. I’ve always been very artistic and I love creating so I think over time I’ll be able to make the occupational transition. My question is, what steps should I take and what suggestions do you have for a newbie? What are things I should be working on and how to I start building a portfolio?

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

Tip of the week Highlight sections that need editing?

This week I want to share a tip. This is something I've been doing for years that has helped me get jobs done more quickly and make sure I don't miss anything. Whenever I create a template for a job, or I use a previous version of a project for a job, the first thing I do is change the colour of the text in all the sections that will need editing. In my case, I usually change the colour to magenta. This way, whenever I open the document, I can immediately see what parts of it require new information and what parts I don't have to bother with.

This method works great with my design contact. There are parts of the contract that remain the same regardless of who the client is or what the project is. Not having to read or verify those sections is a time saver when writing a contract for a new project. All I have to do is make changes to the sections where the font is magenta, and I know it's done.

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

Jan 11, 2018

Are you looking for opportunities to grow your business?

[sc name="pod_ad"]It's a given, you want your design business to succeed. To accomplish that, you need to find opportunities to grow. Some of those opportunities take time and money and are well worth the effort. But some opportunities to grow are so small and simple that they are often overlooked. On this episode of the podcast, I share five such opportunities you can implement today to help grow your design business. Be sure to listen to the podcast for the full story, but here's a sample of what I discussed.

5 Overlooked Opportunities To Grow Your Design Business

1) Your Email Signature

Most people's email signature consists of their name, title, perhaps their business name and contact information. If this sounds like your email signature, you are missing out on an opportunity to grow your design business.

Include a short sentence or a bullet list mentioning the services you offer. Be specific. Go beyond simple print and web design and mentions things like trade show displays, T-shirt designs, Facebook and Google Ads, vehicle wraps, signage and anything else you may offer.

You never know when someone might see it and think "I didn't know they did that. I should contact them about it".

2) Your About Page

The About Page on a website is something many people get wrong. Don't be one of them.

An About Page is not there for people to learn about you, it's there to help people decide if you are someone they want to work with on their next project.

If your about page isn't formatted correctly, you are missing out on a HUGE opportunity to grow your business.

To learn more about the proper way to construct an about page listen to episode 52 of the podcast titled How A Great About Page Can Attract Design Clients.

3) The Back Of Your Business Cards

Why do people leave the back of their business cards blank? It's such a waste of valuable real estate and a lost opportunity to help grow their business.

Face it, most of your clients don't know what you do for a living. They hired you for one thing, and as far as they know, that's the only thing you do.

The back of your business card should be used to list your services so naive clients can see everything you offer and perhaps give you more work.

Whenever you hand out a business card, make sure you mention your list of services on the back. You never know who will end up with one of your cards and contact you because of a service you list on your card. Don't miss out on this opportunity to grow your business.

 4) Your Social Media Profiles

Just like your email signature and the back of your business cards, you are missing a huge opportunity if you don't list your services on your social media profiles.

Every social media platform allows you to write a description of yourself. Simply saying you are a graphic and/or web designer isn't good enough because it doesn't mean anything to a lot of people. Use this space to list your services.

Your social media posts should speak for themselves. But if the person viewing them wants to know more about you, don't make them jump through hoops.

A link to your website or portfolio is a must in your profile but listing your services is an even better way to attract people's attention. Many designers find new clients via social media so don't neglect this opportunity to grow your business.

5) Your Out Of Office Reply

A typical out of office reply looks something like this;

Hi, thank you for your message.

I’m out of the office and will not be replying to emails until my return. If a reply is required I will get back to you the week of [week of return]

Thanks,

If this is the type of out of office reply you are using you are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your business. Use this space to interact with the person emailing you and start a conversation you can continue upon your return. Something like this;

Hi, thank you for your message. I can’t wait to talk to you about ways to improve your website’s search engine rankings.

Unfortunately I’m out of the office right now and won’t be replying to emails until my return.

I’m back the week of [week of return] and I’ll get back to you then and we can discuss your website or anything else you want to talk about.

Thanks,

I recently used this as my out of office reply with amazing results. 75% of the people who received this message asked me about search engine rankings upon my return. 25% of them converted into new website projects. Best of all, none of the people who received my out of office reply was contacting me about their websites.

It just goes to show you that there are opportunities to grow your design business where you least expect them.

What overlooked opportunities to grow are you using?

Let us know what small and simple things are growing your business 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 Ismael

I am a full-time Government employee in the U.S and currently attending Full Sail University pursuing my Graphic Design degree. I am only 5 months in. The reason I am reaching out is because I am a bit nervous. I have never been very good at drawing and being creative. As you progressed through your education how did you feel? I am 35 years old, not very young. I plan to eventually start my design business on the side while I continue to work in my current profession until hopefully I just have to dedicate more time to it. Some general life advice as to how you became self employed with a family may be useful. Thanks again. You are doing us all a great service by providing this content.

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

Resource of the week Battery Life App

This week's resource is a smartphone app that helps you monitor the condition of your phone's battery. Smartphone batteries deteriorate over time and with each charge. The longer you own your phone, the faster you'll see your battery charge deplete. That's because your battery doesn’t hold as much of a charge as it used to. Using a Battery Life App allows you to keep track of the life expectancy of your battery, so you know if it's worth replacing or not.

Some of these apps also give you insight into what installed Apps and Services use the most energy on your phone causing your battery to discharge faster.

There are many such apps to be found in the Apple, Google and Windows App stores. Simply search for Battery Life and download the one you like the best.

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 4, 2018

How do you retain your design clients?

As a designer, you know how much work goes into acquiring new design clients. However, you also need to put some effort into retaining your existing design clients, or they may be taken away from you.

The design industry is not like the retail market where people walk into a store, browse around and then decide if they want to make a purchase.

Nor are we like other service businesses such as plumbers or auto mechanics. In those businesses, their clients call upon them whenever they have a problem that needs fixing like a leaky toilet or a car that won't start.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the design industry, things are not so cut and dry. There are many businesses that would benefit from working with a designer, but they don’t because they don’t see the value in hiring a professional like you. They don't understand how a professional designer can help boost their business.

Even worse, they do know the value of good design, but they are either misled to believe that cheep crowd designed alternatives are just as good as working one on one with a professional designer. Or they think their branding and marketing material is something they can handle themselves.

I wish there was an easy way to show these businesses the benefits professional designers bring to the table and how hiring you could help their bottom line. But, there isn’t.

That’s why it’s so important that when you start working with a new client, you do everything you can to retain that client once the project is over.

In this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I share tips and tricks to increase your chances of retaining those design clients. Here's an overview of what I talk about but for the full story be sure to listen to the episode. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast and never miss a single episode.

Retaining your design clients requires effort.

Just like any business It takes a bit of marketing to ensure your existing clients remain your clients. In essence, you need to stay in contact with your clients even when you are not working on projects for them. Because if you are not staying in touch, you are opening the door for someone else to step in and sway those design clients away from you.

Think of it this way… Do you always bring your car to the same place for service? Most people do. They find a service shop they like, and they stick with it. They go there for minor things like oil changes and tire rotations as well as bigger things like transmission problems and engine issues.

But what if another shop offers you a more convenient option for oil changes? Maybe they are less expensive. Maybe they offer a faster turnaround; Maybe they don't require an appointment so you can go whenever you have 30 minutes to spare as opposed to your current garage that tells you when it's convenient for them to take you. Would any of these options entice you to go to this new place? It's only an oil change after all. You can still get your other services done at your normal garage.

What has your garage done AFTER you've left their establishment to maintain your loyalty? Chances are they haven't done anything. They just expect you to keep coming back time after time because you always have. But without their even realizing it, you've found a new place to have your car's oil changed. And now that you've made that first step it will be much easier for you to go elsewhere when another shop offers you a convenient option for a different service.

The same can happen with your design business. Just because you’ve done multiple jobs for a client doesn’t necessarily mean they will bring their next job to you. You have to stay in touch and keep working on retaining those clients if you want them to keep coming back to you.

How to retain your existing design clients.

Open communication

Encourage open communication with your clients by requesting feedback and suggestions from them. Reach out to them after each project and ask them what they thought. Ask them if there were any steps in the process that could have been handled better?

Establishing a communication like this will make the client feel closer to you and make it harder for them to leave you for someone new.

Send follow-up notes

Shortly after a project is finished you should reach out to your client with an email or better yet, a handwritten thank you note thanking them for allowing you to work on their job.

Be sure to mention what you liked about working on that project and with them. If you learned a new skill along the way be sure to mention it. Clients love knowing how they helped contribute to you and your businesses growth.

Don't forget to take this opportunity to offer related services you could do for them. Mention a few other things they could get from you or services you offer that they might not know about. Trust me; most clients don't know all the services you can offer them.

Feature your clients

Did you design something really good for a client? Make sure you share it on your social media and be sure to tag your client in the post. There's a really good chance the client will see it and either respond and/or repost it themselves. This creates great social proof of what you are capable of doing and could lead to even more clients in the future.

You could also share any client testimonials you receive or any success stories your client has that comes from something you designed for them.

Reach out on special occasions.

If you know your clients birthday, their work anniversary or the month their business was established, send them a note or greeting card congratulating them. This is such a simple thing to do, but it is huge when it comes to building relationships with your clients.

Add any special dates to your calendar and set reminders a few weeks ahead of time, so you know when to mail things out.

Create a newsletter

You're probably thinking "who has time to send out newsletters?". The real question is who can afford not to send out newsletters. You, that's who. A newsletter is a very simple way to stay in contact with your clients. Even if they don't take the time to read it, the fact that you are reaching out to them will keep you front of mind when they next need a designer.

Newsletters don't have to be complicated. Yes, they are a great way to showcase your design skills, but even a plain and simple divided email will suffice.

In your newsletter, you should include a "useful news you can use" section with tips and tricks to make your client's life easier. Perhaps advice on how to create better social media posts or a unique way to promote their website.

You should also pick one or two recent projects to showcase. Talk about what you did for a client and the results. The client being showcased will appreciate the exposure and your other clients may get ideas from it and contact you with more work.

Don't forget also to mention services you offer such as trade show banners or Facebook ads. Remember what I said earlier, there's a good chance your clients have no idea what you do other than what they hired you for. So mention unique things that may interest them.

Start a retainer program

Working with a business on retainer is almost a guaranteed way of retaining them as a client. Why would they shop around for design services if they are already paying you up front?

A great way to get clients to sign up for a retainer is to offer them a discount on their first-time sign-up. You can then keep enticing them by offering a similar discount if they renew the agreement before the current one expires. I talk more about retainer agreements in episode 32 of the podcast.

Socialize with your clients

I'm not saying you should take your design clients out for drinks, although it wouldn't hurt. What I'm suggesting is for you to attend trade shows and events where your clients are, Just by being there you are showing your client that you care about them.

Follow and interact with your client on social media

Social media is a great way to build relationships with your clients. Commenting on and sharing their posts is sure to be noticed and appreciated by your client. They will be less likely to use someone else's design services if they see you interacting with them online.

It's all about the relationship

Retaining your design clients is all part of building relationships with them. The closer they feel to you, the less likely they are to wander off and find a new designer.

In my example above, the auto repair shop could have retained their client if they had just put a bit of effort to make that client feel important to them.

I want you to make an extra effort this year to keep in touch with your design clients and build relationships with them. They’ll thank you for it by remaining loyal to you.

What do you do to retain your design clients?

There are so many more ways to build client relationships and ensure client loyalty. What methods do you use? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I don't have a question this week, but I would love to answer one of yours in an upcoming episode of the podcast. You can submit one by visiting the feedback page and then keeping an ear out for my answer.

Tip of the week Set a goal for your design business.

It's January as I write this, so it's the perfect time of the year to set goals. I'm not talking about losing those extra pounds you need to get rid of, I'm talking about goals for your design business. Ways to help you grow and prosper. Without goals, there's no way to measure your achievements. In episode 55 of the podcast I talked about setting goals for your design business, you may want to go back and listen to that one. But the simple matter is if you want to succeed you should be setting goals.

  • Are you in the "I'm thinking of it" stage of starting a design business? Set a goal to have something up and running by a certain date.
  • Are you a new and growing design business? Set a goal to gain X number of clients by a certain date.
  • Are you an established design business? Set a goal to expand into new markets and start working towards achieving it.
  • Are you losing focus? Fine a niche you are passionate about and focus on it.

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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