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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: August, 2018
Aug 31, 2018

When clients view design as an investment, you win.

Whether or not a potential client decides to work with you relies heavily on your pitch to them. If they like the presentation but view the cost of hiring you as an expense, they may choose to look for more affordable options. However, if they consider the cost of hiring you as an investment, there's a good chance they'll decide to work with you.

Not promoting the investment opportunity is a critical factor that holds so many designers back from charging what they are truly worth.

One of the most significant concerns over raising design rates is that clients can get design work done cheaper elsewhere. Yes, it's true, but only for clients who view design as an expense. Something to shop around for the best deal. For clients who see design as an investment, the price isn’t usually an issue.

Nurturing an investment mentality in your clients.

How can you get clients to view design as an investment? Change how you make your pitch to them, and it will make a difference in your proposal success rate. It all comes down to semantics.

When you tell a client their new website will cost them $8000, they hear the price and imagine it as an expense they need to justify. They may feel reluctant to move forward and may want to shop around for a better deal.

However, if you explain to a client that by working with you they receive much more than just a website, they receive a strategic partner that focuses on their business success, the same $8000 suddenly becomes an investment in the future of their business. If you can get a client to think about the return they will receive after paying your fee; they will be much more inclined to work with you.

The trick is to expand beyond the receivables you are providing the client and explaining what they can accomplish with those receivables.

A well-designed logo can bring them better exposure and brand recognition and make them stand out amongst their competition.

A well-designed website can generate more traffic, get them a better market share, help them monitor trends and visitors through analytics and increase their conversions.

When you explain what the client gets beyond the designs, they are much more inclined to appreciate what you offer them and invest in you. You can even change the wording on your proposals from Total Cost or Total Price to read Total Investment. It’s such a subtle shift, but if it clicks with a potential client, then that client becomes loyal to you.

An investment is something people want to do, whereas an expense is something people try to avoid but know it's sometimes inevitable. If you can convince clients you are offering the first one, there’s a good chance they hire you.

I've talked in past episodes of Resourceful Designer about building client relationships and how you want them to see you as their strategic partner and not just a design supplier. Clients are much more willing to invest in a partner because they feel like they will get something out of it.

What if the client still questions the price?

If you present your proposal as an investment and the client still questions your price, you should try explaining it to them in business terms more familiar to them.

If a client has a storefront, look at its location. Is it in a busy downtown area? Is it in a shopping centre?  Ask them why did they choose that location instead of opening in a cheaper location on the outskirts of town.

If the client runs a service based business and relies on their vehicle for work, ask them why they didn't choose an older model vehicle that would have cost them less money?

The reason clients choose premium locations or newer vehicles is that they are thinking of them as investments and not merely an expense. Yes, you could argue that mortgages, leases and loans are expenses according to accounting practices. But they are investments when it comes to the success of the business.

Store owners will pay more for a better location because of the exposure it gives them. Service businesses are willing to pay more for their vehicles because of the perception it instils in people who see them.

The same should apply to design.

Clients can get websites, logos, and marketing material designed cheaper than what you are offering. But if they genuinely want what is best for their business, they should be willing to invest more to get something that will impact their business beyond just the design, and that’s where you come in.

To paraphrase author and business leader Michael Hyatt.

If a design seem cheap, dated or confusing, potential clients will think the business is cheap, dated or confusing.

No business can afford to be percieved this way. The best way to avoid being viewed as cheap, dated or confusing is to hire a professional designer who will work closely with the business to ensure their success. That's where you come in.

So if you are not already doing it. Change the way you pitch yourself to clients. Stop telling them how much things will cost them and start telling them how much of an investment hiring you will be.

Do your clients know they are investing in their business by hiring you?

Let me know your thoughts on this topic 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 Ursula

How do you approach Project Proposals? I feel like I spend a lot of time and energy on proposals, and I always wonder how much of them I could have prepared ahead of time to make the processes faster for my (potential) clients, and cost effective for me in terms of my time. But I feel like I should be approaching each project with a clean slate so that my proposal is individualized for them. There must be a better way. Can you share your process or other best practices in this area?

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

Resource of the week BackupBuddy

BackupBuddyby iThemes is the easiest way to backup, restore, migrate and relocate a WordPress website.

With BackupBuddy you always have peace of mind knowing that your website is safe and if ever the need arises, can be restored with just a few simple clicks.

Do you design client websites locally or in a designated sandbox? BackupBuddy makes it easy to move and deploy the site to its permanent domain once it's complete.

BackupBuddy is the first plugin I install on every WordPress site I build.

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.

Aug 24, 2018

Do you focus on the Features or the Benefits of working with you?

I love visiting graphic and web designers' websites. I love looking at their portfolio of projects to see the work they produce. But even more than looking at portfolios, I love studying how these designers promote themselves to potential clients.

One of the things I’ve noticed while visiting these sites is the different focuses presented to visitors. Some focus heavily on the features and services they offer to clients, while other sites focus on the benefit a client receives from working with that particular design studio.

After visiting hundreds, if not thousands of designer sites over the years, I've concluded that the ones most likely to convert visitors into clients are the ones who list the benefits. The ones who let potential clients know what's in it for them.

Don't get me wrong. You should list your features and services on your website. Many clients are looking for a designer for one project and don’t even realize that they offer other servicesas well. However, your features and services shouldn't be the primary focus of your message. They should be secondary to the benefits a client gets from deciding to work with you.

Here’s an example from a website that focuses mostly on the features they offer:

Why work with us?

Whether you need a website, an event poster, or to add graphics to your vehicle, we can create the designs that will direct your potential clients back to you. We create designs for you that are aesthetically pleasing, modern and relevant within your industry, with a simple and clear message.

With creativity and clarity, we develope your branding through custom graphics that you and your customers will appreciate.

We offer services in:

The message goes on to list the features and services this design company offers.

This is good information for the client to have. But It doesn’t show the benefits for the client from choosing this company.

Here’s an example of a company focusing on benefits:

We want to work with you.

When you partner with (name redacted) to develop or expand your brand, you not only get a team of experienced designers and marketers who have helped hundreds of businesses just like yours excell. You get a team of devoted people whose focus is on your success. When you look good, we look good.

Our aim in working with you is to develop a connection and learn everything we can about your business. This partnership will allow us to develop a personalized branding strategy that fits your budget.

If you are ready to expand your business then so are we. Click here to set up a call to discuss your business and the services we can offer you.

Do you see the difference? Sentences like "When you partner with..." or "You get a team of devoted people whose focus is on your success." or "Our aim in working with you is to develop a connection...". These all show a benefit to the client. It shows that the design company cares about their clients' success. It shows that choosing this company is choosing a partner in developing your brand and not just a supplier.

This website did list their features and services on a secondary page reachable with a "Learn more" link for potential clients who want to know more about this company.

Listing your features and services is a good idea. It helps expand who you are, and It does work in attracting clients. Visitors are interested in what it is you can offer them. But it should be secondary to your main message. When you focus on the benefits, you are reaching the client on a personal level, and that makes it much easier for the client to decide to work with you.

Developing your message strategy

When it comes to creating your marketing material; your website, brochures, advertising etc. you need to keep your target audiences' behaviour in mind. How will they react to the message you put in front of them? Is your message more knowledge-based, meaning it focuses on the features? Or is it emotion based, focusing on the benefits?

Remember that clients want to know “what’s in it for them?” If you can trigger an emotional response from a potential client, you are already most of the way there to winning them over. This subtle shift in how you word things can make a world of difference in the growth of your design business.

Do you explain the benefits to your clients in your marketing material?

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 Stian

My main focus is webdesign and development. So I will get loads of logins to FTP servers, web clients, web services, I even make new ones for my clients. And on top of this there is the contact information to each client.

Do you have a tip to organize this ? Like a software where I can store passwords and usernames safe, and other client information. I am not looking for some sort of billing system.

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

Resource of the week SetApp.com

SetApp.comis a subscription service for Mac apps. Starting at $5.99 per month for students and teachers and $8.99 per month for everyone else, SetApp gives you access to over 120 Apps for Mac OS. These are full version apps with no in-app purchases. Plus you get free updates and upgrades as they are released for every app. You also automatically get access to new apps as they are added to the SetApp package.

Some of the apps included are

CleanMyMac - free up disk space and speed up your mac
iStat Menus - monitor your mac’s health
Flume - Use Instagram on your Mac
Chronicle - Financial organization
MacGourmet Deluxe - for discovering and managing recipes.
Gemini - Remove duplicate files from your Mac

Plus so many more apps ready for you to use as part of your subscription. SetApp categories include Maintenance apps, Lifestyle apps, Productivity apps, Task Management apps, apps for Developers, for Creatives, for Writing & Blogging and apps for Education and Research.

Check out SetApp.com to see if it's something you are interested in.

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

Aug 10, 2018

Have you tried downselling to win over design clients?

Building client relationships is one of, if not the most important thing you can do as a designer. One of the best ways to build relationships is by downselling to your design clients.

In a previous episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about Upselling to increase your design revenue. In it, I mentioned how upselling is an excellent way of delivering more value to your clients which in turn will make them think higher of you. Upselling is a great way to build relationships with your clients while also increasing your revenue. However, downselling is another great skill you should practice to not only build client relationships but to win over clients that otherwise would not have hired you in the first place. Downselling is vital in building your company’s reputation.

What is Downselling?

Downselling is when you offer something of lesser value to win over a client. Usually, once the client has indicated, they won’t be proceeding with your original proposal. For example, you could offer to build a smaller website for less money by eliminating some of the features a client requested.

Downselling can also be used when you believe a client is asking for more than what they need or want something that is wrong for them and you counter with something of lesser value that suits them better. This is more of an ethical decision. Sure you can design what the client is asking for and charge them accordingly. But if you downsell them on a lesser idea because it’s the right thing to do, they will realise you have saved them money and possibly misery, and they will become big fans of yours. For example, after looking at their content, you may suggest designing a more economical postcard or rack card instead of an expensive tri-fold brochure.

Anything you do that helps the client achieve their objective and save them money will raise their impression of you and strengthen your relationship.

When should you downsell?

The best time to downsell is once you realise a client isn’t going to move forward with what you are offering them. However, be careful of downselling too early. Sometimes a client simply needs more time or more convincing before agreeing to your initial proposal.

But if there are indications that the client is not buying what you are offering them, then a downsell can work.

How do you downsell?

The best way to introduce a downsell is by acknowledging that your initial offer was too much for the client or that what the client is asking for is more than what they need.

“James, I understand that my website proposal is more than what you budgeted for. How about we go over the scope of the job once more and see if there are any areas we can rework in order to cut costs.”

In this example, the client was rejecting a quote for an eCommerce website to sell their new product. The downsell is to offer them a simple site with a purchase button hooked up through PayPal, it accomplishes their objective at a more economical cost.

When it's a case of the client wanting more than they need it could be something like:

“Jennifer, I would love to design the souveneir program for your upcoming concert tour. You mentioned how expensive it is to put on this tour. May I suggest going with a saddle stiched program instead of having it perfect bound? Your fans will enjoy it just as much and it will save you a lot of money on the production costs.”

Clients like Jennifer will appreciate your honesty and realise that you have their best interest in mind and your not just viewing them as another source of income.

What not to do when Downselling

One thing you should never do when downsellng is just lowering your price. Dropping your price is not downselling, it’s informing your client that you typically charge more for what you do than what you think you are worth.

Trying to win over a client by dropping your prices will have the opposite effect to what you are trying to achieve. The client will always second guess your future dealings.

If you can’t offer an alternate product or service of lesser value that will still benefit the client, you are better off to let the client walk away.

Other ways to downsell

Sometimes budget or needs are not the issues. Sometimes it’s the resistance of working with someone new for the first time. Downselling can help in these situations.

When a client is showing hesitation because they don’t know you or are unsure of your work, you can downsell your services by offering to take on a single part of a more massive project for them to get to know you better.

“Charles, I understand how hard it can be to trust your entire marketing campaign to someone you just met. Here’s a proposal, what if we start with just the post card design. If you like what I design for you then we can discuss the rest of the campaign.”

This "foot in the door" strategy is a great way to downsell a hesitant client and to build an excellent foundation for the relationship you are starting with them.

Downselling pays off

In my experience, there is no downside to downselling. Your clients will appreciate your honesty and will be inclined to bring you more projects in the future and to refer you to others. After all, a satisfied client is the best marketing strategy you can have for your design business.

Do you practice downselling?

Share your experience with downselling 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 Tiana

I just started out in this business and I’m finding it difficult to figure out invoicing and how to charge my clients. Do you take a deposit up front or do you charge for the entire job once it’s done.

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

Resource of the week Depositphotos

DepositPhotosis a great stock photography site that offers a reverse image search. No more struggles to find words to describe the right stock image; now you can show DepositPhotos what you want. Upload your photo to reverse image search, and choose from lots of similar high-res images.

You can either upload a picture from your computer or copy/paste the URL of a photo you saw online into the search bar. Reverse image search uses image recognition to analyse all components of the photo and provide similar image options in just a few seconds.

If this is something that interests you, please check out DepositPhotos

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, Facebookand 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

Aug 3, 2018

Nine Situations when you should say No to your clients.

How does that old joke go? “Business would be so much easier if I didn’t have to deal with clients.” It’s funny but unrealistic. Without clients, you wouldn’t have a business. So thank you to all the design clients out there that keep designers like you and me in business.

Yes, clients are great. However, some of them can be difficult to work with at times, and others, let’s say they can be a real pain in the ASSumption that we’ll bend over backwards to work with them. Sometimes one of the best skills you can have is knowing when to say NO to your clients.

Having to say no to your clients can be very stressful. But sometimes the situation you find yourself in requires you to put your foot down and do just that.

In episode 42 of Resourceful Designer, I discussed how it’s OK to say NO to graphic design work. In that episode, I talked about how and why you should turn down design work or design clients.

Here are nine situations where you should say no to your existing clients.

1) Scope Creep

The dreaded scope creep. You’ve already agreed with your client on what a project entails, hopefully via a signed contract, but your client keeps trying to push things beyond what you initially discussed.

A little bit of scope creep is expected, but you’ll know when enough is enough and that's when you need to say no to your clients.

Let them know the project is growing beyond what you initially agreed upon, and you either cannot accommodate their new demands, or you need to renegotiate the terms of the project.

Clients will try to get whatever they can from you, but they will respect you when you say no.

2) The project is beyond your abilities

When a client asks you to do something that is beyond your skillset, you can say no. There’s no shame in showing your boundaries. In fact, the client may appreciate your honesty.

In some situations, if what a client is asking is beyond your abilities you can still take on the project and have someone else work on it. In that case, you can say yes to them. However, sometimes what is asked of you is beyond your comfort zone, and you don't want anything to do with it. In those cases just say no. Your client won't think any less of you.

3) Difficulties with previous projects

Some clients are difficult to work with. If at some point you decide that they are too much trouble you can choose to say no the next time they approach you with a project. Remember, "NO" is a complete sentence. It doesn’t require an explanation. Simply saying “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to take on that project” is good enough.

4) Negotiations

Everyone likes a good bargain, and design clients are no exception. Some of them like to haggle for the best deal. Nip this in the bud right away and say no to your clients. Your fees are what they are because you deserve to be paid that much. Tell those clients you don’t negotiate.

5) Micromanaging, or “Too many cooks.”

Some clients want to decide everything by committee, and that’s their prerogative. However, you can demand to have only one point person that you deal with. When anyone else on their committee contacts you directly tell them no, you can't deal with them. If they need you to do something they have to go through the point person.

Save yourself time and headaches by never dealing with committees without an assigned point person.

6) Impossible timelines

There are times when it’s just not possible to do what your client wants in the timeframe they want you to do it in. Maybe you're overloaded with work (good for you). Perhaps you’re getting ready to go on vacation. Whatever the case, if you can’t do something in the timeframe required, it’s your job to say no right away.

7) It’s not worth your time

For all those jobs that you don’t want to do there’s nothing wrong with you just saying NO to them.

Clients may ask you to design something mundane like an invoice or packing slip. Those things are boring and tedious, and you probably don’t want to do them. If that's the case, just say no. Plus at the rates you should be charging for your services why would your client want to pay you for something just about anyone can do.

8) Bad design choices

A client may ask you to do something with their project that you think it’s a bad design idea. If this happens, tell them you think it's a bad idea, and you won't do it.

Maybe it’s filling up every bit of white space with copy, or making the logo bigger for no reason. Whatever they want you to do, let them know that it will affect their design in a negative way. If they insist you can say no, you won't do it.

You'd be amazed that when you take a stand on design how all of a sudden clients will take you more seriously and listen to what you have to say.

9) Something compromises your Design Principals

Similar to bad design choices when a client asks you to do something, but in this case, it's something that could ruin your reputation as a designer.

Maybe they want you to use a script font in all caps. Perhaps they are asking you to use too many different fonts on a project. Or it might be an innocent request to add a hit counter to the bottom of their new website. If what they are asking will reflect poorly on you as a designer, or on the design profession in general, then you must say no to your clients.

What other situation would you say no to your clients?

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 Amanda

When a client's corporate font is one that they’ve purchased, can they send you the font file? Or, does the designer need to purchase the font in order to use it to design their projects?

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

Resource of the week A Dedicated Mailbox

If you are running a business out of your home, I highly suggest you get a get a dedicated mailbox from someplace like The UPS Store to use as your business mailing address.

There are several reasons to use a mailbox for your business other than your home address.

  • Protect your home and family by not sharing your home address.
  • Packages can be delivered to a safe location when you are not home.
  • A convenient location for clients to drop off items for you without showing up at your home.
  • Makes your business look more legitimate and professional.
  • Some residential areas frown upon home-based businesses.

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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