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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: November, 2018
Nov 19, 2018

Do you have any gift ideas for Christmas?

It’s November, and that means the holidays are just around the corner and everyone is looking for gift ideas for friends and family. I don’t know about you, but every year I dread the question “what do you want for Christmas?” I don't know what to say when someone asks me that question. Are you like that too? In case you are, I’ve come up with ten things you could ask for, that are very useful for designers and are not that expensive.

1) Luna Display

Luna Display is brought to you by the team behind AstroPad. AstroPad is software that allows you to mirror your Mac’s display on your iPad. Luna Display is their new hardware solution that turns any iPad into an actual, wireless second display for your Mac.

It’s available as both a USB-C or Mini DisplayPort device. All you have to do is plug it into the port on your Mac, and your iPad becomes a second monitor. It only takes seconds to set up and works over your existing Wi-Fi. Luna Display is excellent for MacBook users who could use more screen real estate.

2) Amazon Echo Dot.

The smallest of Amazon's Alexa devices, The Echo Dot is your small office assistant. Use it to set alarms and reminders, add items to your calendar, look up things, do calculations, play music and so much more.

The Amazon Echo Dot can also be used to control smart devices in your home. I have mine set up, so all I have to say is "Alexa, turn on/off office lights".

You can check out the Echo Dot and Amazon's other Alexa enabled devices through this link (affiliate) resourcefuldesigner.com/amazonecho

3) Amazon Prime

If you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, you really should be. Amazon Prime membership gives you access to great content such as Prive Video that gives you access to thousands of movies and TV series, including Prime Original series like Jack Ryan, which was terrific by the way. Prime Readingwith exclusive free and discounted eBooks each month, Prime Music so you can listen to all your favourite songs. And of course, fast and free shipping on over 100 million items for sale on Amazon.

The savings on shipping alone are worth the price of membership.

Plus, with subscriptions, you can save money on purchases you make on a regular basis. Receive a discount when you subscribe to stuff like toilet paper or laundry detergent. Just set it up by telling Amazon how often you need to replenish, and it will show up at your door on schedule.

Try Amazon Prime free for 30 days(affiliate link) 

4) Whiteboard with dot grid

Whiteboards are staples in many offices. They’re easy to use, highly visible, and a great way to organise your day to day business activities. 

But if you’re like me, the top left of your whiteboard looks nice and tidy, but as you move down and to the right, the lists and writings become more and more crooked until the stuff written on the bottom right is way out of skew.

My son recently bought a dotted whiteboard, and when I saw it, I thought, what a brilliant idea. The dots are printed directly on the whiteboard in a grid pattern. They’re very light, so they’re visible up close but not so much from farther away.

Those dots help to keep your writing, lists, and drawings straight and aligned.

5) Daylight light bulbs

One of the benefits of working from home is not having to commute to work. But on the flipside, that benefit does have some drawbacks because people working from home spend less time outdoors and therefore have less exposure to the much-needed Vitamin D you get from being in the sun. Especially in the winter when it gets dark earlier. 

A lack of Vitamin D can cause all sorts of health issues. You can take pills to help, but another option is to equip your office lights with bulbs that mimic daylight. It’s not the same as being out in the sun, but it can help you get through those dreary winter months.

6) Monitor Stand

Back in episode 118 of Resourceful Designer, I explained how the optimal height of your computer monitor is to have the top edge of the screen level with your eyes.

I’m 6’2”, and even with a 27” iMac I look down at my computer. After a long day of work, my neck kept getting sore. Then I bought a monitor stand to raise my monitor, and it made a huge difference. Now my computer is at the right hight, and the stand I got looks good, plus it provides me with some extra storage space below my computer.

I bought the VIVO height adjustable monitor stand for iMac. The foot of the computer sits on an adjustable shelf so that you can set it to the hight that’s most comfortable to you.

7) Phone/tablet stand

A stand for your phone/tablet helps keep your device facing you which surprisingly helps eliminate distractions. When my phone beeps with a notification, I can quickly glance at it to see if it’s anything I need to deal with without having to pick up my phone or bending over my desk to see what the notification is.

I do suggest you turn off all notifications, so you’re not distracted, but there are certain things you can’t turn off.

With so many variations of these stands to choose from you're sure to find one that suits your office. They make a great inexpensive gift idea.

8) Pantone Colour Books

If you’re a designer, especially if you design anything for print. You should have your own Pantone Color Guide. I prefer the Fan Books myself, and the one I recommend is the Color Bridge Set. It shows you the colours on both coated and uncoated paper and the differences between the spot colours and CMYK equivalents. The guide also shows you the Hex and RGB values.

At $300, it's the most expensive gift idea I’m sharing, but in my opinion, it’s a must-have for all serious designers.

9) Wireless charging pad

Another great gift is a charging pad for your wireless devices. If you have a phone or tablet, or maybe wireless headphones that can be charged wirelessly, then you should have a charging pad on your desk.

There are so many great looking options when it comes to charging pads. And at various price ranges, they make a great gift idea for any budget.

10) Second monitor

A second monitor is a big boon to any design office. I added a second monitor to my workstation this past year. I immediately realised what I had been missing out on for all those years I worked on just my iMac. I can’t imagine how designers working solely on a laptop manage with such a small screen.

A second monitor gives you so much more desktop real estate. You can have your email and web browser on one screen while you work on your primary monitor.

I spent 12 years working with only one monitor thinking that a second one would be a luxury I don’t really need. Now that I’ve experienced it I know that if mine ever dies, I will be replacing it immediately.

There you have it, 10 gift ideas for designers. I hope this gives you some inspiration the next time someone asks you "what do you want for Christmas?"

What design-related gift ideas are you asking for this year?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I don't have a question of the week for this episode. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
Listen on Stitcher
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 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

Nov 12, 2018

Design Business + Chamber of Commerce = Success

[sc name="pod_ad"]One of the best marketing tools available to your design business is your local Chamber of Commerce. If you are not taking advantage of how this organisation can help you grow, you are missing out. Big time.

What is a Chamber of Commerce?

A Chamber of Commerce sometimes called a “board of trade”, is an association or a network of businesses and business people formed with the purpose of promoting and protecting the interests of its members.

The Chamber of Commerce is not a new idea. The very first one was founded in France in 1599. The first one in the USA was started in New York in 1768. Nowadays, you can find them in almost every country and most cities around the world. 

One of the primary roles of the Chamber of Commerce is to debate, promote and lobby for or against municipal, state/provincial and even federal policies and laws that affect businesses in your area. They have no direct role in creating laws or regulations, but they are very effective in influencing people who do create them.

At the municipal level, your Chamber of Commerce is there to advocate and promote its members. That’s why you should join your local Chamber of Commerce.

What benefits do Chamber members receive?

There are many benefits to joining your Chamber of Commerce. Although some benefits will differ from Chamber to Chamber some common ones are:

  • Your business listed in its member directory.
  • Receiving deals and discounts from other chamber members.
  • Your business gets promoted in your region.
  • Having a voice in shaping local business policies in your area.
  • Free or discounted admission to exclusive events such as networking and social events, guest presentations, trade shows, etc.
  • Being a member adds credibility to your business.

Why you should join your Chamber of Commerce.

The main reason you should join your local Chamber of Commerce is for the support of like-minded business people that can help you succeed.

You know that networking is a critical element of growing your design business. If nobody knows who you are, how are people going to know to hire you? Joining your Chamber of Commerce gives you an opportunity to meet and network with other local business owners, the company decision-makers, the people who hire designers like you.

Imagine the Chamber of Commerce as an exclusive club. Many members take this club very seriously and will often look to fellow Chamber members whenever they need help with something. Including looking for design services like yours.

I have several good clients that initially contacted me because I'm a fellow member of the Chamber of Commerce. Some met me at a networking event; some saw my business in the member directory, and the Chamber referred me to others.

The Chamber of Commerce itself also requires design services for the many events and promotions it puts on throughout the year. Who do you think they will turn to for these designs? Chamber members who are designers of course.

Free Marketing for your design business

As a member of your Chamber of Commerce, you also get free marketing for your business. Let me repeat that; FREE MARKETING. This free marketing may come in the form of exposure through physical or electronic newsletters, the Chamber's social media posts and other forms of publications. The Chamber loves spreading the word about its members because it helps them attract more members who want the same attention.

Have you designed a new logo or website for a fellow Chamber Member? Let the Chamber know, and they’ll tell everyone about the great work you've done in their next newsletter.

On a side note; once you are a Chamber member, please make sure you read your Chamber’s newsletters. The Chamber of Commerce is often the first one to break the news of new business starting in or coming to your area. Often, at the very earliest stages of those businesses. Talk about an excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door and introduce yourself to people who need your services.

How people view the Chamber

Many people, whether they are a chamber member or not, see their local Chamber of Commerce as an authority when they are searching for products and services. New businesses starting or relocating to your area will turn to the Chamber of Commerce for help and guidance in finding the local talent they can hire.

That authority means people TRUST their opinion when the Chamber recommends a business to them. And if there is a Chamber member that offers the sought after product or service, that’s who the Chamber of Commerce will recommend before anyone else.

Look at these numbers compiled by American Business Magazine.

  • 44% of consumers are more likely to think favourably of businesses who are members of their local chamber.
  • 51% of companies are more aware of businesses who are Chamber members than businesses who are not.
  • 63% of consumers are more likely to buy products or services from businesses who are members of their local chamber.
  • 57% of consumers view Chamber of Commerce members as trustworthy and are more likely to believe their products or services are better than competitors.
  • There's a 63% increase in the likelihood that someone who doesn’t require your services now, will use you in the future knowing you are a member of your Chamber of Commerce.

Those numbers alone should be enough to convince you that joining your Chamber of Commerce is a good move.

A wealth of contacts

I mentioned above that one of the perks of joining the Chamber of Commerce is to be listed in their member directory. That directory is available to the public. Since the Chamber of Commerce has a reputation for promoting good business, by association, having your name or company listed in their directory gives the perception that you too are a good business to deal with. As a result, clients will have a more favourable impression of your business and trust you more.

The Chamber's member directory is also an excellent tool for you. Use it as a contact list and promote your services to fellow Chamber members on your own or through one of your Chamber’s promotional avenues.

What a fantastic icebreaker for cold calling.

“Hi John, I was looking through the Chamber dirctory and noticed that you’re a fellow Chamber member. I was wondering if you had time available for us to meet and discuss your overall brand strategy to see what we can do to grow your businesss?”

Merely mentioning that you are a fellow Chamber member may be all you need for the client to say yes to meeting you. You could even offer them a deal, discount or bonus exclusive to Chamber members as an incentive.

You should view your Chamber of Commerce as your business partner. It’s a valuable tool for any business owner and if fully utilised, can help you grow your design business.

Every Chamber is different

Every Chamber of Commerce is unique in its way. They offer various benefits, resources and opportunities to their members. However, their end goal is the same. They serve as an influential voice for the well-being of the local business environment. Including helping to promote and improve the growth of local businesses.

Joining your Chamber of Commerce will grant you access to opportunities that will allow you to make connections, meet potential new clients and gain exposure for your design business.

Joining Chamber(s)

I’ve been talking about your local Chamber of Commerce. But most Chambers allow members from outside their immediate area, providing you do business in their community. Meaning, you can join a Chamber of Commerce outside of your community.

If you live in an area that is not served by a Chamber of Commerce, or if you live in a smaller community with a less active Chamber of Commerce. Look into joining adjacent or nearby Chambers where you would like to do business.

Do your part

I probably don’t have to say this but, merely joining your Chamber of Commerce is not enough. You can’t just pay the membership fee then sit back and wait for new clients to come calling. You need to take advantage of what the Chamber offers and partake in the events they organise if you want this partnership to help you.

People still need to know who you are and what you do before they will hire you and the Chamber needs to know who you are before they recommend you. By involving yourself in your Chamber of Commerce, your chances of success are much higher than if you tried doing all of this on your own.

And just in case you need any more incentive to join your Chamber of Commerce, your Chamber membership fee is tax deductible.

Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce?

Let me know how being a Chamber member is working for you by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Penn

Hi Mark, I have a question for you regarding web/graphic design. I graduated with a degree in graphic design 10 years ago, but during all that time, I never really pushed myself to get involved in web design and learn to do it well. Now I've come to the point in my career where I need to start doing extra work on my own time, but I realize that clients need web and mobile design more than ever before, and perhaps more than most other types of design. As a result, I'm using online learning to try to get familiar with html, css, and other web design essentials in order to be able to serve new clients with these skills. Could you explain on a podcast episode the steps you take in actually designing and building a website? I'm sure I'm not the only graphic designer who listens to your podcast facing this problem, but if I am, then any helpful insights or resources that unveil some of the mystery surrounding this process would mean a whole lot!

To find out what I told Penn you’ll have to listen to the podcast. Here's a link to the WordPress Plug-in checklist I mentioned in my answer.

Resource of the week Onepixel

Onepixelis a stock photo site offering beautiful images by professional photographers for the low price of $1 each. There are no subscriptions, no credits, no hidden fees and no minimum purchases. Every photo is only $1.

All photos are royalty-free and legally cleared for commercial, editorial and personal use, meaning they’re 100% safe for you, your organisation or your client to use for any creative project. 

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
Listen on Stitcher
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 TwitterFacebookand 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

 

Nov 5, 2018

What if you looked at design from a different perspective?

Sometimes, all it takes to improve your designs or to break out of a creative slump is to alter your perspective on how you go about designing.

For the past fourteen years, I've vacuumed the house starting at the South end and working my way North. A couple of weeks ago I took out the vacuum as I usually do only to discover that my wife had chosen that time to groom our two dogs in the living room near the South end of the house.

Instead of waiting for her to finish so I could pick up all the excess dog hair and nail clippings, I decided to start at the North end of the house figuring by the time I reached her she would be done.

In vacuuming the house from this different direction, I experienced a whole new perspective to our living quarters. I came at familiar areas from a new angle and in some cases discovered that it was much easier to reach those areas from this new perspective.

What does this have to do with designing?

Sometimes, changing up your regular design routines can change the way you perceive a design. Getting out of your comfort zone can alter your perspective on a project.

I always start a logo design project by choosing various fonts that I think will suit the logo. I then design the symbol or icon that accompanies the type before putting the two together and figuring out colours.

Last week with my vacuuming adventure still fresh in my mind, I decided to change things up for a logo I was designing. Instead of starting with the font, I dove right into creating the icon. Usually, the font I've chosen influences the icon I design. This time was the opposite. I picked the font based on the icon. In doing so, I decided on a font I might not have chosen otherwise.

By changing my perspective on how I approached the design I came up with an idea I don't think I would have reached if I had followed my normal routine. And the client loved it.

What did I learn from this experiment? Routines are good, but sometimes they can prevent you from seeing things you might not have otherwise. Changing your perspective can help you find a new solution to a hard design problem.

Have I changed the way I design things because of this? No. My routines are established, and they’ve worked for me for so long that I won't change them. But that doesn’t mean I can’t tweak them from time to time or ignore them altogether whenever I’m in a creative slump or merely need a new perspective on an idea.

Try changing your perspective every once in a while and see what happens. You might like the outcome.

For the full story be sure to listen to the podcast episode where I go into much more detail than I just did.

Have you ever tried breaking from your normal design routines?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I don't have a question of the week for this episode, but I would love to answer one of yours. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Tip of the week Minimalistic business cards

I was recently handed a business card that had the gentleman's name and title of "web designer" on one side, and only his website on the other side. He told me that as a web designer, he wanted to ensure that people saw his work before contacting him. His business card forced people to visit his website if they wanted the rest of his contact information. In the process, they could look at his services, his portfolio, the type of clients he works with and gets a feel for who he is before deciding if they want to work with him.

This gentleman told me that since he started handing out his new cards, a much higher percentage of people who contact him convert into clients.

If you are a web designer, you may want to give this idea a try. If you do, please let me know how it turns out.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
Listen on Stitcher
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 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

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