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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: October, 2018
Oct 29, 2018

Are you freelancing as a side gig?

I created Resourceful Designer to help designers run their full-time home-based design business. However, a large number of you are not full-time freelancers. Many of you have another job and freelance as a side gig.

Maybe you work for a design agency, or you’re an in-house designer dreaming of going at it alone. Perhaps you’re like Jose, one of my listeners. Josee is a full-time firefighter with a spark for creativity. He started by designing posters and things for his fire hall. When his coworkers saw how good he was, they started hiring him to create stuff for them. Eventually, word spread and now Josee runs a part-time design business on the side but has no intentions of leaving the fire service.

You might be a student, taking on a few side projects to earn some extra spending money while still in school learning the trade. Or you could be a student exploring your options for after you graduate.

Maybe you haven't started any side hustle yet. You are reading this because the idea of working for yourself appeals to you. It’s something you would like to do shortly or maybe far down the road, but you’re not there yet.

Regardless of your situation, know that many designers are in the same boat as you. To help you along, here are four things you need to take into consideration when freelancing as a side gig.

1) Time Management.

When you’re running your own business full-time, you are in complete control of your schedule; you have 24 hours every day to divide up how you see fit.

If there’s a networking event at 10 am on Thursday you want to attend, no problem, work your schedule around it. If the forecast calls for rain later today and the lawn needs mowing, do it now and put in an extra hour tonight if you need to. If you're burning the midnight oil to complete a project, no worries, you can make up for it by sleeping in a bit tomorrow.

When running your own full-time design business, your schedule can be as flexible as you need it. However, when you have a full-time or part-time job, and you're running your design business as a side gig, it diminished that flexibility drastically. You will have fewer hours in your day to devote to your side gig. That may translate into sacrificing leisure time or sleep, especially when you have deadlines to meet.

Clients don’t care if you run your business full or part-time, as long as they get their job when they need it. To meet those deadlines, you may have to give up relaxation time or time with family and friends.

It’s not that bad if you’re single, but if you have a significant other or children, your partner or kids won’t like playing second string to your design work.

Figuring out how you are going to manage your time is crucial if you are freelancing on the side.

2) The scope of the design projects you take on.

One solution to the above mentioned time management issue is the scope of the projects you take on. If your design time is a couple of hours in the evenings and a few on the weekends, you might want to avoid taking on any large projects with tight deadlines.

Running a part-time, some may even call it casual-time side gig requires you to know your limits. How much time do you have, or better yet, how much time don’t you have to devote to design projects?

Sure you can hire help with big jobs, but doing so requires time devoted to overseeing the parts of the project you hand off. Sometimes it’s not worth the stress of taking them on.

3) Extra income from your side gig.

One of the biggest fears holding designers back from becoming full-time entrepreneurs is the uncertainty of income. There are no guarantees of income when you are working for yourself. And giving up a steady paycheck is scary.

One mistake people often make is thinking "Once my side gig income equals my current job’s income I’ll be ready to quit my job and work full-time for myself."

This scenario is fine, as long as you don’t spend any of the money you earn from your side gig. If you put it all into savings and continue to live off your regular paycheck, you should be fine. When you decide it’s time to leap, you’ll have a nice financial cushion to hold you over during the transition period.

The mistake people often make, is in using their side gig income as extra income alongside their regular paycheque.

If you make $25,000 per year in your day job, and you work up your side gig to the point where you are making $25,000 per year there as well, you are actually making $50,000 per year.

When you quit your day job, you are cutting your income in half. That can come as quite a blow, especially if you’ve grown used to having that extra income.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use or spend your side gig income. I want you to be aware that if your goal is to build up your side gig until it can replace your new full-time job, be aware of the consequences before quitting.

4) Conflict of interests

If you are working for a design agency, studio, a commercial printer, or any other business in the design sector, be aware that starting a side gig may be a conflict of interest.

Some companies make you sign documents when you are hired restricting you from starting a business on the side. Even if they don’t, starting a business on the side that is, in essence, a competitor to your employer is not a good thing to do.

If you work at a design agency that only handles print design, you may be OK starting a web design business as your side gig. However, if your web design clients ask you to design logos for their websites you may have a conflict of interest if the design agency you work for also creates logos. Watch out for conflicts of interest between what you are doing in your side gig and what your employer offers.

You should also ensure you haven't signed any documents granting ownership of anything you design to your employer while in their employ. If you do, then those websites or logos you develop on the weekends belong to your employer, and they could demand compensation or refuse to transfer ownership rights of the designs to your client.

Even if you didn’t agree to anything in writing, make sure what you do at home isn’t potentially taking money away from the company where you work. I’m not a layer, but they may have grounds to sue you if it does.

Start your side gig

Enjoy your freelancing side gig for whatever it is. A simple side hustle to bring in a bit of extra income. A lucrative past time to unleash your creative side. A toe dip in the water to see if the entrepreneurial life is for you. Or a stepping stone to your new career as a full-time home-based designer.

If you are not already taking on design projects on the side, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Start slowly with small jobs for family and friends and then move on to acquiring real clients. I have a feeling that once you give it a go, you’ll be hooked.

Are you running your design business part-time?

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 Landon

I was just wondering how you select a color palette for a website/brand. I'm aware of a boat-load of tools out there, but are there some rules of thumb I should keep in mind?

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

Resource of the week Coolors.co

Coolors.co is a super fast colour schemes generator. Press the spacebar and create beautiful colour schemes that always work together.

Coolors.co also allows you to pick colours from uploaded images. You can adjust and refine colours by temperature, hue, saturation, brightness and more. You can also save your pallets for easy future access.

They also offer an IOS and Android app as well as an Adobe Add-on for Photoshop and Illustrator to display all your pallets in your programs.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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Contact me

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

Follow me on TwitterFacebook 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

Oct 22, 2018

Design Contract Failure

In this week's episode of Resourceful Designer, I share a case study where a poorly written design contract cost a web designer her fee for the client site she built.

Be sure to listen to the podcast for the full story as I go into much more detail in the episode than I will here.

Earlier this week a long-standing client of mine called about a bind she was in. Convinced by a friend that she could save money by using Wix for her new website, she hired someone inexpensive in the Wix Arena to build it for her. Not liking the completed site and confused about the terms and jargon the Wix designer was using my client swallowed her pride decided to call me, her old web designer for help.

What I discovered was a very poorly designed website and a bunch of inaccuracies in the correspondence between the "designer" and the client. Such as the "designer" offering SEO Search Engineering Optimization and a free CSS Security Certificate for the website. Or the "designer" saying the client would have to pay extra if she wanted the website to be mobile friendly. (who doesn't design websites to be mobile friendly in 2018?)

The "designer" also offered to set up a Wix account for my client FREE OF CHARGE. All my client had to pay was the annual hosting fee of $299US. The strange thing is the account she was going to set up for my client is priced at $120US per year on Wix's website.

After a quick perusal, I determined that the person my client hired may have been a Wix site builder, but they were definitely not a designer, and there were too many red flags in their correspondence for my liking.

My client asked me if there was any way she could get out of the deal she made, so I took a look at the contract she had signed. That's when I spotted a big failure in the design contract. Here's how it was written.

Investment for the website design: $800.00*

*(300.00 ahead + 200.00 on publishing and 300.00 30 days after publishing).If our company does not make your website, we will refund it completely.If you do not pay for the total amount the website will be out of work. In case of cancellation after starting service, there is no refund for the ahead payment of 300.00)

As per the contract, my client had given the "designer" a $300 deposit before the start of the website. But from what I was reading, that was the only amount my client had to pay if she decided not to continue with this "designer".

The contract clearly states the next payment of $200 is due upon publishing of the website, which never happened. The last line of the contract's payment clause indicates that "In case of cancellation after starting service, there is no refund for the ahead payment of 300.00". Technically, regardless of what stage the website was currently at fell within the parameters of "cancellation after starting service". Meaning my client could cancel their agreement at any time and all she would lose is her initial $300 deposit.

My client informed the "designer" that she would not be continuing with her services and thanked her for the work she had done. Crisis averted (minus a $300 learning lesson).

So why am I telling you this story?

A contract is meant to protect all signing parties. In this case, it didn't protect the "designer". All she would have needed is to include something to the effect of "...and payment will be due for any work completed up to the time of cancellation." added to the end of the paragraph. With that simple sentence, she could have demanded full payment for the website she had completed for the client.

Take the time to read over your contract and make sure it's written in a way that it protects you as much as it protects your client.

I feel bad for the "designer" because she did complete the work. But in this case, I was looking out for my client and took advantage of this design contract failure.

I have a new website project.

In case you are wondering, yes, I’m now designing the website for my client. She tells me she shouldn't have listened to her friend and she should have just hired me in the first place. She tried to save a bit of money, and it ended up costing her $300.

I feel bad for what she went through, so I'm designing her site for the same $800 the Wix "designer" quoted her. It's much lower than my standard minimum website fee, but sometimes you do what you can to help people out. However, I will not be using Wix. I'll be building her website on WordPress using the Divi Theme and hosting it on my servers.

When was the last time you verified your contract?

Don't let design contract failure affect you. Let me know your contract stories by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Jordan

Do you charge for the time it takes a file to load/save/render/process?

I’m curious how others handle this. I’m currently working on a massive project that takes about an hour to load/save/render between edits. Edits only take a few minutes. But I’m not able to work on anything else while it’s processing. My specs are maxed out. So it’s not a “need more RAM” issue either.

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

Resource of the week Werner's Nomenclature of Colours by P. Syme

Designer Nicholas Rougeux put together a beautiful web page showcasing Werner's Nomenclature of Colours By P. Syme. A recreation of the original 1821 colour guidebook with new cross-references, photographic examples, as well as some beautiful posters designed by Rougeux himself.

Here's the write-up on the original guide.

Before photography became commonplace, colorful details were often captured by the written word and Werner’s guidebook served as one of the best guides for classification. Charles Darwin even consulted it for reference during his voyages on the HMS Beagle while researching natural history.

In the late 18th century, German mineralogist Abraham Werner devised a standardized scheme for classifying colors which was later adapted and revised in the 19th century by Scottish painter Patrick Syme.

Syme enhanced Werner’s original guide by including painted swatches for each color based on Werner’s precise descriptions and examples of where to find the colors in the natural world.

The first edition was published in 1814 later in 1821 with minor revisions and some additional observations in the preface for how color classification systems are used in various areas of scientific study.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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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

 

Oct 15, 2018

How do you motivate yourself to avoid burnout?

Running a home-based design business is stressful work. It takes motivation and dedication to avoid burnout. But what do you do when that motivation and dedication is waning?

As a solopreneur, you are probably a very busy person. You’re either spending a good amount of your time trying to get new clients or spending it trying to please the clients you have. Probably a bit of both. But doing it all by yourself can take a lot out of you. Having a team to pick up some of the slack can help, but not for everything.

Face it. You embrace the freelance lifestyle because you want to be your own boss, to make your own rules and do things your way. That’s one of the best things about being a home-based designer. You’re in charge, and you get to decide how things work. But being in charge and doing everything yourself can become overbearing at times. Especially when your business is busy, and you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

I want to share 8 Tips with you to help you avoid burnout and motivate yourself to keep going, even when things get tough. Please listen to this podcast episode. In it, I dive deeper into each of the following tips more than I do in this article.

1) Find Inspiration.

Without inspiration, your creativity will stagnate and fizzle out. Look for things around you that will rejuvenate your creative juices.

Make time to do things that get you excited. Visit a museum. Try a new recipe. Take a course and learn something new. Talk to a coach or mentor if you have one. Watch or listen to YouTube videos, Podcasts or TED Talks that motivate you.

Whatever source of motivation you choose, make the time for yourself and do something that energises and excites you and helps you move forward reinvigorated.

2) Relax and Recharge.

If you are a "go, go, go" kind of person, you need to learn to slow down and take some time to relax every once and a while.

Take a few hours, or better yet a day or more and forget about your business, your clients and ongoing design projects. They'll still be there when you get back, ready for you to pick up where you left off.

Turn off your computer and your phone. Disconnect from your email and social media and all the other anchors tying you to your business and do something calming. Read a book, take a walk, spend time with friends and family, anything to take your mind off work, even if it's just for a little while.

If you don’t take regular breaks to relax and recharge, you’ll end up hitting a wall and feeling crushed by the weight of everything on your shoulders. You need some "Me Time" to avoid burnout.

Separate yourself from the stress of your business and take the time to enjoy the life you are working so hard to have.

3) Appreciate your accomplishments.

Sometimes, when you are working for yourself trying to get by day by day, it’s easy to forget everything you’ve done to get to where you are. Take some time to appreciate everything you’ve accomplished in reaching where you are and feel gratitude for those who have helped you get here.

Appreciating applies to both the big and the small. Think about everything you’ve done since you began your journey as a designer. What and who motivated and helped get to where you are today. But also think about the little things that have happened recently to help you get to here and now. Such as the small tasks and to-dos that you’ve checked off in the last few days. All of it plays a part in how you ended up where you are right now and deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated.

4) Look at the big picture.

Take a few minutes to review the goals you set out for yourself and your business. Examine and reassess what is still important and what isn’t. Are your goals still relevant? If you want to change your trajectory, now’s the time to adjust your goals accordingly.

Revisiting your goals will help you focus on what is essential for yourself and your business and allow you to realign yourself for better future success.

5) Stop doing everything.

One of the problems with being a solopreneur is the overwhelming feeling that you need to please everyone and need to do everything. Learn how to say no. Especially if what you are being asked to do doesn’t align with the goals you set out for your business.

You can’t do a good job when you are trying to do everything, so stop spreading yourself too thin and learn to become selective of which projects and clients you take on.

6) Audit your client ROI.

Before you get to the point of feeling unmotivated and are on the cusp of burning out you should run an ROI (Return On Investment) audit on your business and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit with your goals.

Examine which clients and which projects are the ones you enjoy the most and are bringing in the most money. Spend your energy focusing on them.

For the clients and projects you don’t enjoy or are giving you the least ROI on your time, try raising your prices to bring them in line and make them worth your time, or let them go altogether.

Losing motivation and feeling burnout happens most often when you are forced to work on projects you don’t enjoy and those that bring in very little return for your time.

7) Identify and eliminate bad habits.

Bad habits can often lead to feeling overwhelmed and burnout.

Are you checking your email or phone too often? Do you get distracted by every notification you receive? Are you repeatedly hitting the snooze button in the morning to avoid starting work? Are you eating unhealthy foods that make you feel tired and sluggish?

These bad habits and more can lead to a lack of motivation. Identifying them and working to eliminate them can help you avoid burnout. Doing so will help keep you motivated and productive.

8) Get out of your comfort zone.

Try doing something different for a change. If you have a laptop, try working from a different location for a change. Either within your home or go someplace else entirely. If you usually work 9-5 try changing your schedule and work 11-7 or 1-9 for a few days and see what happens.

Different people have different times of the day when they feel the most productive. Some thrive on mornings, other’s peak in the afternoon and some people are most alert at night. Figure out when your most productive time of the day is and schedule your most important work during that time. A change of scenery or a change to your schedule can make a world of difference and completely change your outlook on things.

Getting out of your comfort zone stimulates your mind and causes your brain to reassess your surroundings. Those extra mental juices will help channel inspiration and make you think more creatively.

You can avoid burnout.

Running a home-based design business is stressful work. It takes motivation and dedication to avoid burnout. Knowing what to look out for is the first step in your success. These 8 tips will help you stay focused, keep your creative juices flowing and allow you to be a more productive designer and entrepreneur.

What do you to stay motivated and avoid burnout?

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 Amy

I listened to your Spring Cleaning podcastwhich was helpful, as usual. I have this question for you. After eliminating all the unneeded data from my hard drive, do I need to run some sort of program to defragment (as in the old days) or something else? Or is it simply good-to-go after emptying the trash? And if I do, how do I do that?

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

Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost

The Four Week Marketing Boost!is a free guide I created that will help you strengthen your marketing position, boost your brand’s awareness & social presence and ultimately ensure you are in tip-top shape to offer a best first impression to potential new clients.

This guide is divided into 20 short actions that comfortably fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After completing this four-week plan you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost for free by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOSTto 44222.

Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

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

Oct 8, 2018

How much should you charge for your design services?

How many times have you asked yourself that question? It doesn’t matter if you are new to the design life or a veteran designer, that nagging question is always around. How much should you charge for your design services?

There are many things to take into consideration when you ask yourself that question. Such as what pricing strategy you want to use for your design business. But regardless of which approach you choose, be it charging by the hour, by the project, or based on value, you still need to figure out how much to charge for your services.

But where do you start?

How do you know if you should charge $20 an hour, $50 an hour or $100 an hour? For project-based pricing, do you charge $500, $5,000 or $50,000 for a website? Figuring out how much to charge can get confusing.

I'm going to share one way for you to look at things that may help you calculate what you should be charging as well as help you figure out what type of clients you should be going after.

Look for the sweet spot

The trick to figuring out how much you should be charging for your design services is to find that sweet spot between how much you charge your clients and how many clients you need to sustain the lifestyle you want to live.

The first step is to figure out how much money you want to make annually as a designer. You could pick a number at random and say you want to make $30,000 a year, or $80,000 or even $200,000. Or you can try calculating your business and personal expenses, including savings plus money for leisure things, and come up with an annual salary to cover that number.

Regardless of how you come up with the annual amount you want to make, once you know it, it’s time to look at your design rate versus your workload.

For example, let's say you want to make $48,000 per year. $48,000 per year is $4,000 per month or $1,000 per week (based on four weeks per month. The extra days are your vacation days). At a regular 40 hour per week 9-5 job, your wage would be $25 per hour to achieve this.

But as a home-based designer, you are not working a 40 hour per week 9-5 job. Chances are you are not working 40 billable hours per week either. You may be working 40 or more hours per week, but they are probably not all billable.

To figure out how much to charge your clients and how many clients you need to take on, we have to do some calculations. There are several ways for you to make $4,000 per month such as.

  • 1 client that pays you $4000/month
  • 2 clients that pay you $2000/month
  • 4 clients that pay you $1000/month
  • 8 clients that pay you $500/month
  • 16 clients that pay you $250/month
  • 20 clients that pay you $200/month
  • 40 clients that pay you $100/month

Every one of these bullet points will earn you $4,000 per month. But if you imagine them like a bell curve, you will find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle that will be much easier to attain and maintain. That sweet spot is where you have the right number of clients paying you the right amount of money to earn your desired monthly income. While at the same time having a number of clients that is sustainable.

Let’s look at those numbers again.

One $4,000 client each month.

Finding one client every month that will pay you $4000 may prove difficult for some designers. It will take a lot of work to acquire and onboard a new $4000 client every month. Not to mention that $4000 clients will demand a lot of you which could be stressful for you.

Failing to sign a new client every month could leave you financially strapped.

Forty $100 clients each month.

At the other end of the scale, procuring forty $100 clients every month will also be very difficult and stress-inducing. You will need to spend a lot of your unbillable time trying to acquire 40 clients each month. Then, after onboarding all of these clients, you still need to find the time to produce 40 pieces of design work that month. That’s 2 completed design pieces per business day.

Not to mention, lower paying clients are usually the most demanding clients. Sounds like a nightmare to deal with, doesn’t it?

Your work will probably suffer because of the high workload, and there is a good chance of burnout on your part. You couldn’t sustain this for very long.

Finding the sweet spot.

Somewhere in the middle of this bell curve is the sweet spot where you get a good amount of money per client. The task of finding new clients isn’t as difficult, and managing your client list and completing the design projects is easily doable.

Looking again at the bullet points above, It will take a lot less effort to land eight $500 clients or ten $400 clients every month than it does to find one high paying client or forty low paying clients.

With eight to twelve clients you should have the time to properly interview them, do your discovery, come up with ideas and complete their design projects without overstressing yourself.

You’ll also be producing better quality design work because you will have the proper time to devote to each project. Which in turn will help grow your portfolio and attract even more clients.

Once you know what price range you want to go after, it’s just a matter of finding enough clients in that budget range.

How much should you charge?

Thinking again of that bell curve and the range of the right number of clients at the right budget, you can then calculate an hourly rate. I’ll use ten clients as an example because it’s a nice even number to do the math with.

If you have ten clients per month, each paying you $400, you will make $4,000 per month. That works out to two and a half clients per week bringing in a total of $1,000.

Figure out your billable hours

In order to find out how much to charge your clients, you need to know how many billable hours you would you like to work each week.

Let’s say you put in a 40 hour work week. Roughly 15 of those hours will be spent finding new clients and managing your business. Those 15 hours are not billable, leaving you with 25 billable hours per week. Those are the hours you actually spend designing.

25 billable hours per week, divided by 2.5 clients, gives you 10 hours per client per week. If each client is paying you $400 that works out to an hourly rate of $40. So if charge $40 per hour for your design services, you need 10 clients per month, at 10 hours each in order to earn $48,000 per year.

Reality break.

Let’s be realistic. There’s no way you will ever have exactly 10 clients each month, each with a project that takes exactly 10 hours to complete. It would be great if life was that predictable but it isn’t. But it does give you a base to start with.

If you charge $40 per hour, you need to work 25 billable hours per week to make $48,000 per year. But what if you only want to make $30,000 per year? If that’s the case, you can still charge $40 per hour and drop your billable hours to roughly 15.5 per week. Or you can work 25 billable hours but only charge $25 per hour.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

The whole point of this exercise is to show you that there’s a correlation between what you charge your clients, how many clients you have, and how hard it will be to find those clients and sustain your business.

In reality, you need to average out these numbers over the course of a year. Some weeks you will work more hours and some weeks less. Some months you will have more clients and some you will have less. But if you use your own numbers and look at the bell curve, you should see that somewhere in there is that sweet spot. The spot where the number of clients you need to get each month is realistic and attainable and the average price you need to get from each one is also realistic and attainable.

By doing these calculations, you can set yourself a goal to aim for and have a good idea of what you should be charging your clients to attain that goal. That sweet spot is where you should aim for your business.

Have you ever calculated how many clients or hours you need to sustain your business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

There is no question of the week this time but I would love to answer yours on a future episode of the podcast. Submit your question by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week Elegant Themes Blog

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of Elegant Themes' Divi Theme. What I haven't shared before is the excellent blog that Elegant Themes puts out with articles covering not only Divi but all aspects of web design. Not only can you read about new Divi features, but you can find great tips and tricks from experts on how to do amazing things in Divi. You can also learn valuable information about WordPress and website design in general. If you haven't done so already, I highly suggest you check out the Elegant Themes Blog.

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

Oct 1, 2018

Failure Is Always An Option

I love that line “Failure is always and options”. I first saw it on a T-Shirt worn by Adam Savage of Mythbusters. In his case, it applied to science and engineering, but it applies just as easily to the world of design.

Failure is what lets us learn. Failure allows us to improve, to expand, and to grow. If you fail badly enough at something, you probably won’t repeat the same mistake.

In your case as a designer, when I say failure, I’m talking about your designs being rejected by clients. That excellent logo design you created that wasn’t accepted by your client, no matter how hard you worked on it or how much you loved it. Or that cutting edge poster you did that was “too wild” for the event it was promoting. The designs may have been great in your mind, but they were still rejected, making them failures.

Who knows why? Maybe the client has different tastes than you do. Perhaps the market isn’t ready for your innovative approach. Or, and I’m just putting this out there as a possibility, maybe your idea stank. Whatever the reason, your design failed.

In researching this podcast episode, I looked up some famous quotes on failure. Here are some great ones that could apply to designers.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford

You have to be able to accept failure to get better. – LeBron James

One of my favourite ones is from Winston Churchill who said

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

As a designer, you can’t let rejections get you down. And yet I see it all the time in design communities. Designers mopping because a client didn’t like their idea. It happens, don’t fret on it. Pick yourself up and get back at it and try again.

Think of your draft process when you’re designing something. Chances are you don’t just come up with one idea and present it to your client. If you do, then I think I found the reason why clients are rejecting your designs.

If you're like most designers, you go through dozens if not hundreds of ideas and incarnations of those ideas before settling on a design you think is presentable to your client. If you look at those earlier design drafts, most of them are very poor compared to the presented version. Each one of those earlier drafts was a failure that led to improvements. Those failures allowed you to progress to the next version or next idea which was an improvement over the last one.

When a client rejects one of your designs, you shouldn't look at it as a failure. Instead, see it as one more step in the process. Maybe you showed it too soon. Maybe there are more variations to explore or refinements to make. Perhaps you hadn’t stretched your creativity enough to come up with the next, even better idea.

It’s all part of the creative process, and you shouldn’t view it as a failure. Doing so is not productive. If a client turning down your design pushes you to create something even better, then nobody will remember your previous unsuccessful tries.

Don't get attached to your designs.

The trick to getting past failure as a creative is not to become overly attached to your ideas and concepts. I know, it’s tough. You work hard to create something that you think is amazing. Something you know will blow the client's socks off. And then you're shocked when it doesn’t. You feel defeated because, in your mind, it was the perfect design.

That’s the problem. When you become so enamoured with your design that it blocks your creativity and prevents you from improving your idea. You’ll never progress as a designer if you allow that to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. Being proud of your work is ok. But those great pieces you create are still just stepping stones to even better ideas yet to come.

If you want to be a successful designer you need to learn to brush off rejections. Use the failure as a learning experience to improve your skills and abilities and become a better designer.

One more thing.

Just because a client rejects, a design doesn’t mean it’s a bad design. If you like it, put it aside and recycle it in the future if there’s ever use for it. Maybe, after time you’ll start to see the flaws in it you couldn’t see before. Or, if it still holds up, you can adjust it and present it to another client who will appreciate it.

Remember that design is subjective. Not everyone has the same idea of what looks good and what doesn’t. When you present something to a client, no matter what you think of the design, the client has the final say and failure is always an option.

What stories about failure do you have?

Share your stories about design fails you've had 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 Mark

What is your policy on sharing the source files with your clients? Some years ago I created a series of packaging labels for a small coffee roaster. Years later, a person I did not know e-mailed me, mentioning that he was now doing a project with the client and needed the photoshop files.

Although this was an easy task for me to do, it just didn't sit right with me.

I contacted the client to verify this person and they told me they were working on an advertising campaign and that person was in marketing. In the end, I sent the marketer (flattened) psd files and interestingly enough, I ended up working with him on a future project.

I have had discussions with others about openly sharing source files with clients. Some say they (the clients) paid for them by paying you for your service while others say absolutely not. What do you say Mark?

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

Resource of the week Podcasts

In honour of International Podcast Day on September 30th (and the third anniversary of the Resourceful Designer podcast) I encourage you to 1) find new podcasts to listen to. 2) Encourage others to try podcasts.

Podcasts are a great way to learn, discover, laugh and be entertained, With over a half billion podcasts available there's sure to be one for whatever hobby, interest and curiosities you have.

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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