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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: May, 2018
May 25, 2018

You need to promote your design business if you want it to grow.

Just like any other endeavour, if you don't promote your design business you are drastically impeeding its chance to grow. It's called brand recognition, which you being a designer should know. The idea is that when someone is in need of a service, you offer, there's a good chance they will choose to work with someone they know, or at least someone they've heard of. It's up to you to get your name out there so that the "someone they've heard of" is you.

I've put together a list of 12 inexpensive or free ways you can promote your design business. I go into much more detail on each one in the podcast. Be sure to listen for the full story.

12 Inexpensive (or free) ways to promote your design business.

Newsletters/Bulletins

Many organizations, service clubs, churches, charities and such put out electronic or printed newsletters or bulletins for members and followers. If you belong to any such organization, you should reach out to them about advertising your business in their newsletter or bulletin. Most organizations would be happy to promote a member for a small fee. Recipients of these newsletters and bulletins are often inclined to support fellow members and use your services when needed.

Sponsor a Team or Club

Local sports teams and clubs are often looking for donations to fund their events. In exchange, your business name becomes associated with the team or club and is mentioned along with them in news articles. By sponsoring a team or club, you are not only helping your community, but you are spreading the word about your business and the goodwill associated with your donation.

As an added benefit, some teams or clubs will offer you a tax receipt so you can write off the donation as a business expense.

Promotional Events

Businesses, non-profits, charities, and organizations will often put on an event attracting a gathering of people. These events often include draws, prizes, giveaways or some other form of incentives for attendees. Offer a discount or coupon towards your services to be included amongst the incentives. For example; offer a free business card layout design with every logo design project or one year of free website hosting with every website project.

Silent Auctions

Similar to promotional events, silent auctions are a way for an organization to raise funds. Most items in a silent auction are provided by local businesses. Offer a coupon towards a service you offer showing the value of the offer. For example, $300 off design services or a free year of web hosting (a $xxx value). The people who bid on your service are people who are in need of your help. Those who don't bid will at least see your item in the auction and hopefully remember your brand should they ever need it.

Business Card Boards

Have you ever been to an establishment that has a board or wall filled with peoples business cards? Why not add your own. It doesn't cost you anything, and if someone who requires your services spots your card, there's a good chance they contact you.

Wear a T-Shirt Promoting Your Services

When I first started my business, I had a T-Shirt made that said "Hi, I'm a web designer. Is your website working for you?". I wore that shirt everywhere potential clients might be. I was amazed how many people approached me with questions about their website or asking about my services. Many become clients. If you want to try this yourself, I created a couple of T-Shirts you can purchase at http://resourcefuldesigner.com/tshirt

Claim Your Online Local Listings

If you haven't done so already, you should claim your free local business listing on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Places for Business. Sign up and be found in your local areal. Warning, you have to enter an address to claim your listing. If you work from home, you may want to think twice before proceeding unless you have a separate business address you can use.

Community Sites and Local Directories

Search for online directories in your area to list your business. Some such as your local Chamber of Commerce business directory may require a membership but other directories, such as your local municipality may be free.

Car Magnets

If you use your vehicle for both business and personal use, you may not want permanent signage affixed to it. Car Magnets are a great way to promote your business while out on business errands and are easily removable during your time out with family and friends.

Press Releases

Sending out press releases is a great way to get free promotion for your business. Send out a press release any time you or your business does something newsworthy. Have you won an award? Are you offering a new service? Have you been involved in promoting some local event or charity? Send out a press release every time you have news to spread. News outlets may not publish every press release you send out, but those they do will be free promotion for your business.

Run a Workshop

You are a professional designer. As a professional designer, you have knowledge and skills most people don't. Run a workshop in your area teaching local business owners information they can use to improve their businesses.

Contact your local library, College, Chamber of Commerce, Business Service Center or Economic Development Center and ask to put on a workshop covering your expertise. Reach out to business networking groups. They are always looking for people to talk at their meetings.

Present at your local College

Many colleges and adult learning institutes offer entrepreneurial and business startup courses. Contact them and ask to present to the class the benefits of proper branding or having a well-built website. Most of the students attending these classes could become future clients.

Promoting your design business

There are thousands, if not millions of ways to promote your design business. The idea I wanted to share with you is that it's important to get your name out there. People may not need your services right now but should they in the future there is a greater chance of them turning to someone they are familiar with. Let that someone be you.

How do you promote your design business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Silas

I noticed your resource section is full of very powerful tools, but just about all of them are way out of my price range as a recent graduate. Is there anyway you can suggest some free tools? For example, I went out to find an alternative to Suitcase Fusion because as much as I loved it, it was not in my budget. I found a program called FontBase for free that works similarly.

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

Resource of the week Enlarge an image without losing quality

From time to time you may need to enlarge an image in Adobe Photoshop beyond what is considered good practice. There are many third party options to do this but most cost money and enlarging an image may not be something you do on a regular basis. Here is a link to a quick tutorial showing an easy way to get the best out of your image enlargements in Photoshop.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

 

May 18, 2018

Most Design Clients Are Ignorant

When I say that most design clients are ignorant I'm not trying to be mean or derogatory. I'm simply stating a fact. The definition of "Ignorant" is someone who is lacking in knowledge or information as to a particular subject. That description is a perfect fit for design clients who often don't understand what it is you do, or how you do it.

Design clients don't understand how the creative process works. They don’t know how much effort goes into even the simplest of designs. They have no idea of what is involved in maintaining a website. In some cases, they don’t understand the language or terms you use. In all of these areas, design clients are ignorant.

It's OK if your design clients are ignorant because It’s not their job to understand what you do. Their job is to hire someone to handle the things they don't understand and on that part they're brilliant because they hired you.

And your job is to make sure that even though your clients are ignorant of what you do, they should not be confused by what you do. You have to put them at ease, so they know that hiring you was the right decision.

There’s a comedian by the name of Dane Cook that does a routine about dealing with auto mechanics. In his comedy routine, Cook says that when an auto mechanic explains what's wrong with a vehicle, most people smile and nod while hearing a little voice in their head saying “this guy could be feeding me B.S. and I wouldn’t know the difference.”

Don't be the designer that clients listen to and think "this guy could be feeding me B.S. and I wouldn't know the difference."

Learn how to talk to design clients

One area that could confuse clients is the way you talk. Just like any industry or sector, you have a language as a designer filled with jargon and acronyms that most clients have never heard or don't know what they mean..

Clients are not designers; you shouldn’t expect them to think like designers. The best way to avoid this is to minimize or even eliminate the jargon, acronyms, and other industry words that could confuse them. Or, you need to educate them on the meaning of those confusing words and terms.

Terms we take for granted like SEO, Keywords, Back-end, Dashboard, SER, CMS, Bleeds, Plug-ins etc. need to be explained so that your client clearly understands what it is you are saying.

If you can explain design jargon and acronyms in a way that makes a client feel comfortable and doesn't make them feel ignorant, they'll appreciate you for it. If you can communicate in a way that they understand what it is you are telling them, they will feel comfortable dealing with you and are much more inclined to hire you for the job.

Learn how to listen to design clients

Sometimes a client comes to you with a clear idea of what they need. However, many times, the client doesn’t even know what it is they need or why they need it.

A client may contact you saying they need a website but when you ask them why, their answer is because everyone says they need a site. That's not a good reason.

In the last episode of the podcast, I talked about the Discovery Process and how the purpose of design is to solve a problem. Many clients don’t know what their problem is. Some don’t even realize there is a problem. Those that do may know there’s a problem, but they’re often looking for a solution to the wrong thing.

Your job as a designer is to get to the core of the problem and to provide the best solution.

Does your client need a website to bring awareness to their brand? Do they need one to automate service calls? Sell their products? Advertise an event?

Sometimes a client may think they want one thing when something entirely different might be a better solution.

A client comes to you looking for a folded brochure may not realize that their minimal text is better suited to a rack card. A client wanting a payment system on their website to accept multiple currencies may actually need a way to display their pricing in a visitor's native currency while still conducting the transaction in the client's currency.

That’s why discovery is so important. It allows you to converse with the client to discover the exact purpose of the item or feature it is they are asking of you.

Because design clients are ignorant, sometimes what they are asking for isn’t what they need. It won’t solve their problem. Part of your job as the designer is pinpointing their actual problem and communicating to them what can be done to address it.

When in doubt, ask for examples.

It can be difficult talking to clients. Especially when both sides think they are discussing the same thing while both are imagining something completely different. A "modern" looking design could have two entirely different looks depending on who is imagining it.

The easiest way to understand what a client is telling you is to ask for examples. Don’t leave things up to chance. Your homework is the discovery process. Give your client homework as well. Ask them to provide examples of the things they mention to you. What does "modern" or "edgy" or "rustic" look like to them? Getting examples from your client will help you in your design direction and save many miscommunication headaches down the road.

Learn the proper way to communicate with ignorant design clients, and you will go a long way to earn their trust and build a relationship with them.

Do you ever feel like your design clients are ignorant?

Let me know how you handle yourself when your design clients are ignorant to what it is you do. Leave me 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 Alyssa

In web design I'm used to crediting myself via the footer and internal comments in the code.

How do you give yourself credit for graphic design? Adding a watermark would limit how the client can use the design. When you share your designs for comments from others, how do you prevent theft?

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

Resource of the week Daisy Disk

Regain precious hard drive space with Daisy Disk, While working on your Mac you create and download lots of files, but rarely delete anything. At some point, you find that your startup disk is full. What to do? A larger disk will cost you a few hundred dollars. Yearly fee for cloud storage is about the same. Or simply get DaisyDisk at a fraction of the price and make plenty of space by removing old junk.

Daisy Disk is easy. Just scan a disk and see all of your files and folders as an interactive visual map. Find an unusually large file. Preview its content, and delete if you don’t need it anymore. It's that simple.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

May 11, 2018

How in depth is your Discovery Process?

The Discovery Process is kind of like dating, or at least what I can remember from my dating days. It’s done at a point in your client relationship when you want to get to know them better. What are their goals, what makes them feel good, what frustrates them, what do they like, dislike? Why do they want to work with you?

This conversation reveals the thoughts and feelings your client has towards their business, product or service.

Larger agencies have people who are responsible for the discovery process. They meet with the clients, define the strategy and goals of those clients, and create a creative brief, or a project plan for a design department will follow. All the designer has to do is read the detailed brief and start designing.

As a freelancer or home-based designer, you don’t have that luxury. Sure some clients may give you a design brief, but can you trust it to be what you need to create the best designs for them? No, when you’re on your own, the discovery process, as well as the design process, is all your responsibility.

What is the Discovery Process?

The Discovery Process is a fact-finding mission. A way to learn more about your client and to learn what they expect from hiring you for their design project. Discovery should be the cornerstone of every new relationship with a client and of every new design project you do for those clients.

Discovery not only helps you learn what you need to know before starting a design project, but it’s also an essential step in building relationships with your clients. During a discovery process, you will learn your client’s needs, you’ll learn their challenges, and you’ll also learn the results they’re expecting from you.

Discovery should be a two-way streak. Not only will you learn what you need to know about your clients and their projects. But your clients will learn about you as well. How you work, your thought process, how you tackle a problem, and so on. More importantly, they will learn things about themselves they may not have thought of before.

All of this is vastly important because to design without the proper focus is a waste of time. When it comes to any design project, designing is one of the last steps of the process.

As you know Design solves a problem, and if you don’t know for sure what problem it is you’re facing, how are you suppose to create a design that addresses it? Before you can define the problem that your designs will solve you need to go through a discovery process. A process that takes into account analytics, brand standards if they exist, goals for the project, and many other things to figure out what direction your creativity will take. Plus, keep in mind that while you make the required steps during your discovery process to find solutions to a given problem, you may trigger additional insights or even more questions about the problem that might lead you in whole new directions. That’s why the discovery process is so important.

Steps in the discovery process.

1- Define your client’s goals.

The first step in the discovery process is to determine what your client’s goals are. This is a two-way conversation between you and the client. The trick is narrowing down those goals to SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, Trackable/Time-Related). Ask your clients lots of questions and listen carefully to what they tell you. Because sometimes what they say isn’t really what they mean and they don’t realise it.

Your client may think their problem is they need to generate more leads but in reality what they need is better leads that convert into sales. Designing something to get more leads is entirely different to designing something to get better leads. Determining not only what your client says, but what your client needs, could take the design you create in a whole different direction.

Your job in defining your client's goals is to ask the right questions to get to the heart of the problem they hired you to solve.

Speaking of questions, I’ve put together a list of questions you could use in your discovery process while talking with your clients. The list is too long for me to go over during this podcast, but if you are interested you can get it by visiting resourcefuldesigner.com/discovery

2 - Study your client’s competition.

To find the solution to your client’s problem, you will need to know more about their industry. What they do, who they serve, how they go about doing it. The best way to learn this is to study the competition.

Things to look for when studying the competition might be.

  • What makes your client different from their competition?
  • What would make people choose your client over them?
  • What hurdles do customers face when dealing with the competition that your client could address?
  • How does your client’s pricing compare to the competition?
  • What marketing strategy is the competition using and is it working?
  • What are people saying, both negative and positive about the competition?

Studying the industry and the competition is a vital part of the discovery process.

3 - Auditing your client's marketing assets.

For existing clients look at what they are currently doing to promote themselves or have done in the past. What has worked for them? What hasn’t? Look at everything from their logo, business cards, flyers, website, social media presence, advertising, etc.

If analytics are available for their website, be sure to study them to see how people interact with their site. Find out what parts of the site gets the most traffic and what parts get barely any.

Depending on how much you are charging for your discovery process. And yes, you should be charging for your discovery process, Remember, Your clients are paying you for the entire package, not just the finished designs you will provide them. Depending on how much you are charging for your discovery process, you may even want to do an SEO analysis on both your client and their competitors. Look to see what keywords each is ranking. Is the competition ranking for any keywords your client isn’t targetting? Keyword research will go a long way in improving your client’s visibility in the search ranks.

By studying your client's marketing assets, you should be able to spot their weaknesses and strengths which will help you set a path for your project.

If your client is a startup, then talk to them about what they were thinking of doing. Ask them what they like that other businesses are doing. Provide ideas and guidance for them. You may have thoughts they hadn’t considered. I love helping startups because you’re starting with a blank canvas and you know that you will do everything the right way.

4 - Examine your client from a customer’s perspective.

If you want to understand your client and their brand you need to experience it from the perspective of their customer.

If you already are their customer then great. You know first hand what dealing with them is like, and you can put that knowledge to work for you. But if you are not already their customer you can go out an buy their product or service as if you are a member of their target market.

Ask your family and friends for their opinion just like you would with other purchase you might make. Read online reviews about them. Learn whatever you can, just like if you were a real customer.

Talk to the salespeople online or in store. Ask questions about their product or services and ask what other customers have said about them.

If you can’t afford or don't need their product or service, you can still go through the process without making the purchase.

By becoming a customer, you can fully see what it is your client wants you to achieve. Your experience will be precious for your designs as well as useful information for your client.

Put it all together.

Those are four steps to a sound discovery process. Now, of course, every client and every design project will require particular steps in their discovery.

Some general questions won't be required every single time, and some unique questions may be useful in some instances. Only you will know how in depth you will need to go. On some projects, discovery can take an hour or two, while on other projects it could take weeks to learn everything you need before starting the actual design stage of the project.

The discovery process as a stand-alone project.

If the first project you will be working on for a new client is an expensive one they may be a bit hesitant without knowing more about you. Offering a discovery project as a way to “break the ice” is a great option.

If they're still not sure after all the questions and research you've done then maybe the two of you are not a good fit. You can part ways, and all they will owe you is for the discovery process. They can take the information you gathered and use it themselves or even pass it on to another designer if that’s what they want to do. But chances are, if you've done your job right, they will see the value in sticking with you and decide to proceed with the project.

Remember, Discovery is like dating. Your job is to give a good enough impression that you get asked out on a second date.

How does this all add up?

When the time finally comes for you to start the design process, you should not be asking “Will this design work?” What you should be asking yourself is “Do I have enough knowledge to know if this design will work or not?” If you did your discovery process well, the answer to that question should be yes, and you will be on your way to creating a winning design for your client.

What is your Discovery Process?

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 Brianna

Is there an online course you'd recommend for best practices in developing/redesigning an existing Wordpress site? All courses seem to assume you are building a whole new site from scratch. I can do that in my sleep, but more often than not a designer is tasked with redesigning something that already exists. Navigating somebody's else's code structure is a pain at best and I break out into a cold sweat whenever I am tapped for something like this. I almost always outsource the development because I just don't know what those best practices are -- even though I have a very similar skillset to those I outsource to. I'd love to get a handle on this type of project, as I have a huge Wordpress site redesign coming up over the summer and would much rather keep all the work "in-house" so to speak.

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

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer App

Resourceful Designer now has its very own App to make the listening experience even better. Look for it on the IOS, Android and Amazon App Stores.

Benefits of using the new Resourceful Designer App?

  • Easily find old episodes
  • Listen by downloading or streaming
  • Rotate your phone for convenient Car Play mode
  • Highlight your favourite episodes to make it easier to find in the future
  • Convenient for people who don't know how to listen to podcasts.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

May 4, 2018

How effective are you when you work?

I don’t know if it’s because it’s springtime or if there’s some national or international initiative going on, but a lot of podcasts and blogs have been talking about productivity lately. Covering things such as ways to get things done more proficiently. Ways to make your job easier. Ways to not only do more but do more in less time.

These articles and podcasts also talk about the wide variety of apps, journals and other tools to help increase your productivity. These resources are a great help because after all, being productive means getting a great deal of work done in a relatively short period, and by using as little resources as you can.

Many of those podcasts and blog articles had such great advice on being more productive that I wrote quite a few down so that I could talk about them in future episodes of the podcast.

But one of the things I noticed while reading or listening to what they had to say is that a lot of energy and effort is going into teaching you how to be more productive. But unless that information is pointing you in the right direction, it can be downright ineffective.

You see, being productive is only a good thing if you are also effective during the process.

How to be effective while being productive.

Have you ever worked hard on a project, maybe a logo design or a website, only to discover that you’ve wasted your time because your client doesn’t like what you did?

Have you ever told a client that you would provide 3, or 5 or maybe even ten different design ideas from which they can choose?

How effective do you think that is?

You may feel like you poured your heart and soul into your creativity and felt like you delivered great design ideas to your client, only to be bewildered as to why your client is indecisive or outright rejects your designs.

Chances are, you were very productive during the design process, but you were not effective.

Being effective doesn’t mean getting a great deal of work done in a short period. It means getting the right work done in the time you spend doing it.

To be effective, you need to do a thorough job beforehand researching and ascertaining the actual goals and objectives of each project. Because without laying down that initial groundwork, without starting your creative process on a solid foundation. It doesn’t matter how productive you are because that productivity probably won’t be effective.

Your job as a designer is not to create great designs for your clients. It's to create the right designs for your clients.

Thinking back upon all the productivity tips I’ve been hearing and reading lately; I’ve concluded that merely being productive without the proper alignment of goals, without a purpose behind what you’re doing, without a focused vision of what your client wants, is an easy way to be ineffective.

You need to do your absolute best to tune yourself into the vision behind the goals set out for you by your clients. Not just once, but on every project, you take on. Only that way can you indeed be effective in your use of all the productivity tools, strategies and advice that are at our disposal to make our lives easier.

The next time you are whipping along in a design frenzy, feeling very productive, I want you to take a quick break to stop and ask yourself. I'm very productive, but just how effective am I right now?

How do you balance being effective vs being productive?

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 Phill

What are some strong points of advice for an early 20s individual who wants to move from an industrial manufacturing work place to the world of web design/development?

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

Resource of the week Wordpress 5.0 Gutenburg

Wordpress 5.0 Gutenburg will be released in a few weeks and from what I've seen the newly revised editor will make our jobs as web designers easier. But don't take my word on it, have a look at what web242.com has to say.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Android
Listen on Google Play Music
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

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