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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: 2019
Dec 23, 2019

A look back at 2019 and a look ahead to 2020.

Thank you for your continued interest in Resourceful Designer. You have no idea how much I appreciate you. There are so many great resources available for learning and growing as a designer, and I'm humbled that you choose to spend a bit of your valuable time with me.

Last week in the Resourceful Designer Community, we held a video chat where we shared our goals for next year. We also listed our goals in the Personal-Growth channel in our Slack group so we could refer back to them as the year progresses.

Sharing my goals for 2020 reminded me that at the end of last year, I did a podcast episode titled A Look Back, A Look Ahead, where I talked about what I had accomplished in 2018 and my goals for 2019.

I thought it would be fun to turn the idea behind that episode into an annual tradition. So, as my final instalment of 2019, I bring you A Look back, A Look Ahead 2019 Edition.

A Look Back at my 2019 goals.

At the end of 2018, I set these goals for myself.

ACCOMPLISHED: Narrow down my niche: In February of 2019, I launched podcastbranding.co, a new endeavour where I focus on visual identities for podcasters. It's growing strong.

FAILED: I wanted to talk at more conferences in 2019, but I ended up not having any speaking engagements at all.

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow the Resourceful Designer audience. A change in the way podcast audience size is calculated makes this one hard to measure, but from what I can tell, I do have more podcast listeners now than I did at this time last year.

ACCOMPLISHED: Create and grow the Resourceful Designer Community. The Community has quickly become a place where friendships form and help is freely given. It's even more wonderful than I anticipated.

Some of my numbers from 2019

Resourceful Designer

  • Released 50 podcast episodes
  • Reached over 430k episode downloads in 2018
  • Resourceful Designer released on Pandora and Deezer

My design business

  • Switched to Plutio, a digital project management system.
  • Worked on design projects for 29 different clients in 2019
  • Seven of those clients were first-time clients.
  • I sent out 57 invoices resulting in income in the high five figures.

Podcast Branding

A Look Ahead at my 2020 goals.

My 2019 goals carry forward. I want the listenership of Resourceful Designer to continue growing. I want to speak at conferences (I'm already booked to speak at one in March). I want to build the Resourceful Designer Community. It's such a fantastic place right now, but I know it can be even better.

New Goal for 2020.

  • Grow Podcast Branding to become THE place for podcast websites and branding.

What about you?

Did you accomplish your goals for 2019, and What are your goals for the new year?

  • Are you a student getting ready to graduate? What are your goals once you’re done school?
  • Are you still relatively new to the design world? What are your goals to hone your skills?
  • Are you a veteran designer like I am? What are your goals for continued growth?
  • Are you a designer working for someone else? Maybe you enjoy your job; maybe you don’t. Either way, what are your future goals?
  • Or perhaps you’re already a home-based designer, a freelancer if that’s the term you use, what are your goals to grow your business?

Wherever you are in the world, whatever your level of skill, whatever your situation is, I want you to take some time to look back at 2019 and think about your accomplishments AND your shortcomings.

Did you stop after your accomplishments? Or did you plow right through them happy with yourself but reaching even further? What about your shortcomings? Did they discourage you, or did they create a sense of want even higher than before?

Did you reach the goals you set out for yourself and your design business in 2019? If yes, were you happy with the outcome? If no, think about what prevented you from reaching those goals.

So long 2019

As 2019 comes to an end. I encourage you to reflect on this past year. Think about everything you’ve accomplished and those things you fell short on. And come up with a plan to make 2020 your year of success. To help with your planning, perhaps you should listen to episode 55 of the podcast, Setting Goals For Your Design Business.

I’ll be back in 2020 with lots more advice for starting and growing your design business.

I’m Mark Des Cotes wishing you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. And of course, that no matter what goals you set for yourself in the new year, the one thing you have to remember is to Stay Creative.

What are your goals for 2020?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Dec 16, 2019

Speed up production with these design hacks.

[sc name="pod_ad"]If you spend a long time in the design profession, you tend to pick up a few tricks here and there. Methods that help make your job easier. Design hacks to increase productivity.

Here are some design hacks I’ve learnt over the years. Perhaps you can put some of them to use and become a more productive designer. Be sure to listen to the podcast episode where I share stories on how you can put these design hacks to use.

Design Hack #1: Get the files you require.

Clients are often confused as to what files you require in order to work on their projects. Stop wasting time explaining filetypes and resolutions to them. Instead, contact their head office and ask to speak to the marketing department. Chances are the people there will understand and be able to provide what you need.

If your client doesn't have a head office, you can try acquiring the assets you need by extracting them from PDF files the client already has. This is an excellent design hack for finding good quality vector files for logos and graphics.

Design Hack #2: Search websites for PDF files.

The easiest way of finding PDF files (other than your client supplying them) is to find them on your client's website. To find PDF files (or any file for that matter), you can use this search query. In the Google search bar type:

site:nameofsite.com filetype:pdf 

The search results will only display the PDF files found on the domain you entered.

NOTE: You can search for other file types as well, such as jpg, png, doc, etc.

Design Hack #3: Remove unwanted formatting from text.

Copying text from word processing software such as Microsoft Word for use on websites can sometimes produce unwanted results. The reason being, the formatting the text received in the word processing software can often remain.

There are many tools to eliminate unwanted text formatting, but a quick and easy method is to create a new blank email message and convert the message to "Plain Text." Now, all text pasted into that email message will be stripped of all formatting. You can then copy it back again for use on a website.

Design Hack #4: Creating autoflow documents for print.

Autoflow documents are an easy way to add sequential numbering to tickets or names to certificates. After setting up your master page, all you do is take your list of numbers or names and paste them into the first ticket or certificate. The software will automatically create additional pages until the list runs out.

Here's an example of how to do this in InDesign.

Design Hack #5: Use Find and Replace to remove poor formatting.

If a client ever gives you poorly formatted text for a design job, you can use Find and Replace to remove the poor formatting.

Easily remove cases of tab, tab, tab, tab, or worse space, space, space, space, space, by searching for the multiple infringements and replacing them with your desired results.

For example: Find all cases of "tab, tab" and replace them with a single tab. Keep running the search until there are no more double tabs.

Do the same for double spaces, excessive carriage returns or any other formatting you want to fix.

Design Hack #6: Find inspirations from a colour palette.

An easy way to find ideas and inspiration for a project is by uploading the project's colour palette to a Google Reverse Image Search. In the search results, click on the "Visually similar images" link and see hundreds of ideas that use the same colour palette you uploaded.

Design Hack #7: Find the flaws in your designs.

One of the easiest ways to find any flaws in your design is to look at them upsidedown. By changing the perspective, your eye stops focusing on familiar things such as photos and text copy and instead sees the overall design. This allows you to spot inconsistencies or areas of your project that need attention.

Looking at large bodies of text upside down can help you spot typography faux-pas such as rivers in the text.

What design hacks do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Clockify

Clockifyis a free tool for creating timesheets and tracking the time you spend on projects and tasks. Clockify allows you to create separate timers for every part of your work. Track your time with a handy timer, log your time in a timesheet, categorize your time by project and mark your time as billable or not.

Clockify also allows you to create shareable reports breaking down your time.

Clockify works across all devices, both desktop and mobile so you can track your time from anywhere, and it's all synced online.

Did I mention that it's FREE? Visit clockify.me to learn more.

Dec 9, 2019

These applications are One Trick Ponies.

A One Trick Pony is a person or thing with only one unique feature, talent or area of expertise. In the scope of today’s episode, a One Trick Pony is an application that only does one thing, but it does that one thing very well. Here are sone One Trick Ponies I regularly use that could help you with your design business.

1) 1Password (Mac + Windows)

1Password is an application for managing passwords on Mac, Windows, IOS and Android. 1Password allows you to store all your strong hard to remember passwords in a secure location. All you have to do is remember one single password and let this password manager do the rest.

2) Squoosh (Web-based)

Squoosh.app is a useful website to optimize and shrink the file size of your images without compromising quality. Drag an image onto the browser window, adjust the settings if needed, and download the smaller image file for use.

3) BackBlaze (Mac + Windows)

BackBlaze is a set-it-and-forget-it backup solution for your computer. Install it and let it do its job unhindered and rest assured that your computer is continuously backed up. Should you ever need to restore your computer, you can easily do so from the online backup, or order a physical hard drive containing all your data shipped to you.

4) Carbon Copy Cloner (Mac only)

Carbon Copy Cloner creates bootable copies of any hard drive. Create manual backups or schedule automated backups of any drive. Smart Updates saves time by only backing up files that have been added or modified since your last backup.

Windows users, here are some alternatives to Carbon Copy Cloner.

5) Disk Inventory X - (Mac)

Disk Inventory X is a free disk usage utility for Mac. It shows the sizes of files and folders in a unique graphical way. Quickly determine what is using up the most space on your hard drive. Disk Inventory X is based on WinDirStat for Windows.

6) Font Doctor (Mac + Windows)

Diagnose and fix common font problems automatically with FontDoctor, FontDoctor locates and eliminates hard-to-find font issues that can cause problems on your computer.

7) Grammarly (Mac + Windows)

Compose clear, mistake-free writing that makes the right impression with Grammarly's writing assistant. Grammarly works in all your favourite web browsers and applications.

8) Little Snitch (Mac Only)

Little Snitch makes invisible internet connections visible so that you remain in control of who your computer is talking to. Keep track of your computer's network activity and take charge of who it does or doesn't communicate with.

Windows users, here are some alternatives to Little Snitch.

9) MAMP (Mac + Windows)

MAMP creates a local server environment on your Mac or Windows computer allowing you to run WordPress locally. MAMP is available in a Free and Pro version to match your needs.

10) Paparazzi! (Mac)

Paparazzi! is a small Mac utility for taking screenshots of entire webpages, even the portions not visible on the screen. Enter the URL and tell Paparazzi! what format you want your screenshot, PNG, JPG, TIFF or PDF.

Google Chrome screenshot feature.

On Mac
1.Opt + Command + I
2.Command + Shift + P

On Windows/Linux/Chrome OS
1.Ctrl + Shift + I
2.Ctrl + Shift + P

These keyboard shortcuts will open Chrome's developer menu. Then Type "screenshot," and you'll see options for capturing portions of or the full webpage. Chrome will automatically save the screenshot to your Downloads folder!

11) PDFKey Pro (Mac + Windows)

PDFKey Pro lets you easily unlock password-protected PDF files allowing you to open, edit and print them.

12) TNEF’s Enough (Mac)

TNEF's Enough allows Mac Users to extract and read Microsoft TNEF stream files, often received as windmail.dat attachments.

13) VLC (Mac + Windows)

VLS is a free cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio Cds and VCDs.

What One Trick Pony applications do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

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

Dec 2, 2019

Your mobile phone is so much more.

There are many uses for your mobile phone besides the obvious. Sure, you can text people, take photos and videos, peruse your social media accounts, watch YouTube, listen to music and podcasts, browse the web and even make phone calls. But there are so many other uses for your mobile phone that can help you with your design business.

Here are 12 ways to use your phone to support your design business.

1) Two-factor authentication

Two-Factor Authentication is an easy way to add extra security to a website. Apps such as Google Authenticatorturn your phone into a security key by generating a constantly changing number that is required to log into a website in addition to a user name and password.

2) What The Font App

Quickly identify fonts while you are out and about your day with What The Font App. Launch the app on your mobile phone, point your camera at a line of type, and What The Font will show you the closest matches in its database.

3) Pantone Color Studio

Pantone Colour Studio uses your mobile phone's camera to capture and identify colours. Discover the Pantone number for colours in everyday objects and share them with your Creative Cloud account. You can also use the app to generate colour pallets and test colours on 3D-rendered materials and designs.

4) Testing mobile versions of websites

Another use for your phone is to check the mobile-friendliness of sites. Many web design platforms and page builders, such as Divi, let you simulate what a website will look like on a mobile device. But it's never the same as actually visiting the site on the phone. Use your phone to spot problems before releasing a website to your client.

5) Time Tracking/Mileage Tracking

Stop guessing your time spent, or distance travelled. Your mobile phone is an excellent tool for keeping track of time and mileage associated with a design project.

6) Invoicing/bookkeeping/banking

Your mobile phone makes it easy to manage all your finances while on the go. Send and check the status of invoices, verify your accounts and do your banking, all from your phone.

7) Passwords

Use a password manager like 1Passwordor LastPass to access all your passwords in one convenient location securely. With the app on your phone, you never have to worry about not being able to access an online portal.

8) Project management/File Management

With Project Management software, your mobile phone allows you to keep track of your design projects regardless of where you are. Software like Trello and Plutioare perfect tools to manage your projects.

Your files can also be conveniently management through services such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive.

9) Make lists

Use your mobile phone to create all sorts of lists for your business and everyday life. Apps such as AnyListand Todoistmake it easy to create lists for anything and everything.

10) Set alarms and reminders

Never forget an appointment or meeting by setting alarms and reminders on your mobile phone. It takes just seconds with Siri or a similar mobile service.

11) Calendar

Keep track of your schedule and appointments by accessing your calendar on your mobile phone. Create different calendars for your business and personal life and always know what you have coming up.

12) Take written or audio notes

Jot down important details or record things you don't want to forget so that you can review them later. Use your mobile phone's voice recorder to record meetings to capture everything you discuss with your clients.

What else do you do on your mobile phone?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Streamline icons

Streamline Icons boast over 30,000 icons. That’s Over 10,500 in three different weights. Fifty-three categories, 720 subcategories, and over 30,000 something in total.

These icons are great for UI designers. They have different pricing categories depending on if you want all three weights or just one of them. They also offer 100 icons in all three weights for free.

Nov 25, 2019

Network without a face-to-face meeting.

Networking is an essential element to grow your business. In part 1 of this two-part series, I shared advice for getting out and interacting with people face-to-face to promote your design business.

But to many people, the thought of networking is intimidating. That’s why I suggested you don’t think of it as networking, but instead think of it as relationship building. When you adjust your mindset, it alleviates a lot of the burden that comes with trying to grow your business.

However, meeting people face to face isn’t the only way to network. There are other ways to build those relationships. Here are some less intimidating methods of reaching out to people.

Network with Email

You may not realize it, but every time you send out an email, you’re building relationships. And since relationship building is a crucial element in your business’s growth, you should consider upping your email game, especially when you’re just starting.

The best advice I can give you as a new design business owner is to email everyone you know. Not just family and friends. I’m talking

  • Former co-workers
  • Former bosses
  • Other designers
  • Printers
  • Former classmates
  • Your neighbours

Email everyone in your contact list. Let them know you’ve started your own design business and explain how you’re helping people solve their problems through your design services. Then ask if they know anyone who could benefit from working with you.

That’s a secret trick to networking. Don’t ask if they need your services, ask if they know anyone else who does.

This way, you’re asking for their help, which goes much further towards relationship building than asking them if they need a designer. It’s implied that if they need a designer, they can hire you.

Email is also an excellent way to grow an established design business. It can never hurt to reach out to people. Just change your message from “I started a design business” to “I’m looking for new clients for my design business.”

Don’t just ask them if they know anyone who could use your services, ask them for that person’s contact information so you can reach out to them directly. Most people won’t give you that information, but it shows them you’re serious, which will make them less likely to delete your message and instead ponder your question and possibly forward it on to someone.

Network with Social media

Networking is all about building relationships, which is the driving force behind social media. The trick to networking on social media is to interact with people positively. Join groups and communities where the type of people you want to work with hang out and help them.

If you work in a niche, then you’re all set. Join niche related groups and start engaging. If you don’t have a niche, try to figure out the type of client you want to work with and go to where they hang out online.

Once you find a group, start interacting. Answer people’s questions whenever you can. Leave comments on people’s posts. Post useful information and tidbits that will benefit people. Let people know you're there.

For example, as a designer working in the podcast niche, I’m part of several podcast-related communities. I scan those communities regularly for people asking questions about podcast artwork, or websites, and I try to answer them in the most helpful way I can.

I don’t offer my design services unless it’s directly related to their question. Instead, I offer advice free of any sales pitch. I’m building relationships.

On Instagram, I comment when people post their new podcast artwork. My comment usually goes something like this.

“Hi, I just wanted to let you know how much I like your new artwork. I design podcast artwork and websites, but you obviously don’t require my services. Good luck with your new podcast.”

Why do I bother when they already have artwork? Because maybe that person has their cover art done, but they still need a website. Seeing my comment may make them check out my website and hire me.

That’s what happened with one of my clients. She saw a comment I left about her friend’s new podcast artwork and reached out to me for help with the social media branding for her show.

The other reason I do this is that from time to time, someone will ask a question on facebook or LinkedIn such as “does anyone know where I can get my podcast cover artwork designed?” Inevitably, someone usually ends up mentioning my name before I get a chance to reply. Why? Because they’ve gotten to know me through my interactions in the group.

And when the person who asked the questions receives a dozen different designer names, I’m hoping they recognize my name from all the times I’ve helped other people in the group.

I’m building relationships. And you can too, all it takes is a tiny bit of time and the willingness to help.

Network with a Newsletter

Another great way to build and strengthen relationships is with a newsletter.

Andrew, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community,has a fabulous newsletter he shares with his clients.

In every issue, he shares useful business advice that may or may not relate to his services. He also shares some personal information about what he’s been up to lately and talks about a project or two that he’s recently completed. He always finishes his newsletter with a question. This question allows him to engage with his clients should they answer it.

A newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with current and past clients, which in turn will keep you front of mind should they hear of someone who is looking for a designer.

Networking with printed material

If you're running a design business, you should have a business card. I know, I know, we’re living in a new world where you can tap a button on your phone and someone’s contact information is instantly added to your contact list.

Don’t get me wrong. I love how easy to use our phones. When I was at WordCamp Ottawa, a presenter asked us to open LinkedIn, and with the press of a few buttons, I connected with over 40 WordPress enthusiasts in attendance.

But still, there’s nothing like having a conversation with someone and then handing them your business card. Or better yet, giving them several cards and asking them to share the extra with people who would benefit from working with you. Let them do the networking for you.

Business cards are not the only way to network with printed materials. You could try postcards, door hangers, pens and such. Anything that can be picked up is a form of networking, relationship building.

Get out there and build relationships.

So there you have it, four ways to network without having to meet people face to face: email, social media, newsletters and printed materials. Get out there and spread the word. Build relationships and watch your design business grow.

What's your experience with networking?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Font Macherator

According to the FontSpring website, The Macherator is the most robust font detection tool available. It offers powerful technology and features under the hood and allows you to match OpenType features. Something WhatTheFont doesn’t provide.

I’ve been using WhatTheFont for years. I have the app on my phone and have used it several times while I’m out and about and spot an attractive font. However, WhatTheFont is not infallible. There are several times it couldn’t identify a font for me. That’s why it’s nice to have Matcherator as a new player in the game for font identification.

If you want to give it a whirl, visit https://www.fontspring.com/matcherator

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I want to help you.

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

Nov 18, 2019

How do you feel about design business networking?

For some people, networking comes naturally. Put them in a crowd and watch them work their magic. But to other people, the thought of walking up to a stranger and starting a conversation fills them with dread.

I know, I was that guy. Growing up, I was as introverted as they get. Unless I was with my small group of friends, I preferred to be by myself. I was quiet, shy, and tended to avoid eye contact whenever possible, especially with those of the opposite sex. I was not one of the popular kids at school.

Then I got a job working at Sears and met my friend Mike. Mike and I worked together throughout high school and college. We didn’t work the same departments, but since we were the same age and had the same breaks and lunchtime, we started hanging out.

Mike was the complete opposite of what I was. I was quiet and kept to myself. Mike was loud and outgoing and treated everyone like they were great friends, even if they had just met. From the day we met, Mike set a goal to get me out of my shell. And he eventually did to an extent.

I’m by no means a converted extrovert. I still prefer to be by myself than spend time in large crowds. A small dinner gathering with a few friends, I’m in. A large party or gathering with dozens of people, I may take a raincheck on that one.

But I am much more outgoing than teenage me was. I have no problem striking up a conversation while in the checkout line at Walmart, or asking a perfect stranger for advice at a store. But stick me in a large gathering of people and tell me to go network, and I still feel that apprehension creep back.

Therein lies the problem for many designers, the apprehension towards networking. However, to grow your design business, you need to get out there and talk about your design business. You can’t just sit at your desk all day and hope the work comes to you. You can’t keep your fingers crossed and hope that your SEO efforts pay off, and clients start arriving in droves. It doesn’t work that way. Or at least for most designers, it doesn’t.

If you want your business to grow, you need to get out there, meet new people and talk about what you do.

So how do I get over the apprehension towards networking? I stopped thinking of networking as “networking.” Instead, I try to think of it as “relationship building.” I don’t attend gatherings with the intent of getting new clients or growing my business.

Don’t get me wrong. That is the desired outcome. Otherwise, why do it at all? But I don’t set it as a goal. Instead, I set a goal of starting and building relationships with people. I’m not there to win them over or sell them. I’m there to get to know them.

Removing the burden of being a salesperson makes it much easier for me to interact with perfect strangers. I present myself as an interested bystander as I get to know people. You see, Landing a new client is a byproduct of building relationships. Not the other way around.

I’ve talked many times before on the Resourceful Designer podcast about the importance of building relationships with your clients. And yes, you should be trying to build a relationship with every client you have. But relationship building isn’t exclusive to existing clients. Relationship building can be a strong precursor for someone to become a client eventually.

I do work for a media agency. I got the gig because I had built a relationship with the owner of the agency. Because of that relationship, when it came time for him to find a designer, I was the first person that came to mind.

But how does that help you at networking events? It doesn’t, but it does show you the power of relationship building. So what if you’re an introvert and the thought of networking or relationship building still terrifies you?

Here are some tips to help you network.

Start with people you know.

It’s a lot easier to have a conversation with someone when you’re familiar with them. Talk with your doctor and dentist, the mechanic who services your car, your landlord, parents of your children’s friends. Old schoolmates. Anybody with whom you’re already familiar. Have conversations with them and be sure to mention small tidbits about what you do.

Find small gatherings.

You don’t need to attend large conferences to be successful. Start building relationships at a small gathering.

If you have kids, try talking with other parents at their school events. Don’t have kids? Look in your local area and attend events where you can meet people.
Check Facebook for events happening near you, or try meetup.com.

Check to see if there’s a WordCamp near you. It’s a great place to meet people, and you’ll probably learn something while you’re there.

Listen and ask questions.

The best part of building relationships as opposed to networking is instead of trying to sell yourself; you’re trying to get to know people. Ask them questions about where they work and what they do. Then listen and follow up with more questions depending on how the conversation goes. Be sure to mention what you do, but don’t’ try to sell yourself.

Set a “People quota.”

Before attending an event, set a goal for yourself to meet a certain number of people. Tell yourself I want to meet X new people today. And once you’ve accomplished that goal, permit yourself to leave if you feel inclined.

Attending large conferences.

Before attending a large conference, join in the community. If there’s a Facebook group or such associated with the conference, become a part of it and get involved.

Follow the conference hashtags on Twitter or Instagram. Use the hashtags yourself. Take note of other people who are also excited about the conference and ask them if they would like to meet up once there. It will give you a reason and a base to talk to people.

The best thing about conferences is the people you meet. Given a choice, I will always skip a session or speaking panel to keep a great conversation going with someone I just met.

Get out there and do some design business networking.

So there you have it, tips to help you get over the fear of meeting new people and growing your design business.

I know this can be difficult, especially if you’re an introvert. But if you want to grow your design business, you need to get out there and talk about it. But like everything else in life, if you take it one step at a time, you’ll manage.

You may never become entirely comfortable having a conversation with a stranger. But hopefully, that feeling of apprehension will diminish, allowing you to give it your best effort.

Have a look in your local area and choose an event to attend. There’s no time like the present to get started.

What's your experience with networking?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Nov 11, 2019

No matter how nicely a client asks, don't cut prices.

[sc name="pod_ad"]Does this sound familiar? You present a quote for a design project, and the client responds with, “Is there any way you can cut your price?”

If you haven’t heard that question before, or something similar, it’s only a matter of time. It’s almost a right of passage for home-based designers. Because you work for yourself, some people think they can haggle with you as if you were selling your services at a yard sale.

So what do you do when someone asks you to lower your price?

My advice is never lower your price. On Resourceful Designer 113, I talked about offering discounts. In that episode of the podcast, I shared six valid reasons for providing a discount, and three times you shouldn’t offer one. Can you guess where “Because the client asked for a discount” falls?

If you lower your price, you’ll be setting future precedences. Once a client knows they can negotiate with you, they’ll never take you, your services, or your prices seriously again. You’ll become a discount designer.

Even worse, the client may start spreading the word that your prices are negotiable, which is not the kind of reputation you want when trying to grow a business.

Hopefully, you’re in a good enough financial situation that you’re ok with possibly losing clients if you don’t cut prices.

But what if your financial situation isn't stable? What if times are tough and bills are piling up? Or you just started your business and money hasn’t started flowing in yet? Or for whatever reason, you cannot afford to turn down clients. What then?

That’s a conundrum. Lowering your prices may bring in a bit of money now, but it’s bad for future business. Whereas not cutting your prices may drive away clients, which is bad for your present business. So what’s the solution?

Don't cut prices, lower your offering instead.

What does this mean? It means you can appease your clients and meet their lower price expectations, but only if you equally lower the service you’re offering.

Look at it this way.

Imagine a contractor gives you a quote of $9,000 to completely renovate your bathroom. You think that price is a bit high, so you ask if there's any way he can do it for less?

The contractor replies he can do the job for $7,000, but only if you choose a laminate countertop instead of granite, and choose a ceramic tile for the flooring instead of marble. He lowered the price by reducing the offering.

You can do the same with your design services. Don’t cut prices. Instead, offer fewer services for a lower cost.

For example,

If a client thinks a web design project is too expensive, offer to lower the price in exchange for a three-page website instead of a six-page site.

If a client thinks your logo price is too high, offer to lower it by providing only two initial concepts instead of three, and allow only a single round of revisions instead of two or three.

Whatever the design project is, lower the price by offering fewer services or features. This way, the client gets a lower price, but you also reduce the amount of work required to complete the project. The client will appreciate you accommodating them, but they won't think they are getting a discount since they're still paying full price for the reduced services you are offering them.

And you know what? When you lower your offerings to lower the price, many clients will decide to stick with your original higher price for the extra value.

This is a similar concept to Three-Tier Pricing. Implementing a three-tiered pricing strategy is a great way to prevent people from asking you to lower your price because it’s built right in.

A three-tier pricing strategy works by offering a client three price options, the middle price being the one you hope they choose. The lower price option cuts back on the provided services, and the higher price option adds in extra perks and bonuses that may not be necessary.

The reason a three-tier pricing system works so well is that the human brain is wired to compare things to the first item it sees. If you go into a store to buy a new shirt, and the first shirt you pick up has a price tag of $40, then subconsciously, you will compare every other shirt in the store to that first one. A $60 shirt will seem expensive by comparison, and a $30 shirt will look of lesser quality compared to the $40 shirt.

This is why you see three-tiered pricing so often used for online purchases. In most cases, the middle price is labelled as “Best Value” or “Most Popular.” It’s a way to subconsciously embed that middle price as the focus element in the viewer's mind. When they see it, their brain automatically registers it as the base price. The higher price on the right may seem too expensive, and the lower price on the left won't feel like a good deal compared to the middle one.

The other benefit of three-tiered pricing is that instead of the purchaser wondering what other options are available elsewhere, they often use the three prices in front of them to make their decision.

But even if you don’t use a three-tier pricing model, it’s a good idea to use the lower-tiered strategy to lessen your services or options to reduce the cost should a client asks if you can do something for less.

Hopefully, you won’t be at this stage for too long, and your business will be successful enough for you not to have to cut prices. Instead, you can reply, "This is the price for what I'm offering.” and leave it to the client whether they want to work with you or find another designer. If they decide to hire you great. If not, no worries, you have plenty of other clients vying for your services.

Hopefully, you understand that lowering your price is never in your best interest. You have nothing to gain from doing so. You're now prepared not to offer a discount, but offer a lesser service that is more in line with what the client is willing to pay.

Don't cut prices. Lower your offering instead.

Do you use this strategy?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week A good office chair

You can get by as a home-based designer with old computer equipment and inexpensive software, just don’t cheap out on your office chair.

On average, a home-based designer spends between 8-10 hours a day sitting in front of their computer. If you’re going to spend that much time sitting in front of your computer, you really should invest in a good quality, ergonomic chair. Something comfortable for long periods.

Trust me on this one. Your health, especially your back, will thank you for it.

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I want to help you.

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

Nov 4, 2019

These four questions will change your design business.

[sc name="pod_ad"]Your job as a designer is to solve problems, not to create pretty designs. When you embrace the notion that your job is to provide a solution to whatever dilemma your client is facing, a few things will happen.

  1. You’ll start to understand your client’s needs better.
  2. Your clients will show more respect for what you do.
  3. You’ll be able to charge more money for your services.

After all, a solution to a problem is much more valuable than a pretty picture, no matter how well designed that picture is.

Before you can find the perfect solution, you need to figure out precisely what the problem is your client is facing. The only way to do that is to ask questions, lots of questions.

In episode 15 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I shared 50 questions you can ask before every design project. Those questions cover a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Questions about the company hiring you.
  • Questions about their target market.
  • Questions about their current brand.
  • Questions about their design preferences.
  • Questions about a project’s scale, timeframe and budget.

What I didn’t get into on that episode are the four most valuable questions you can ask your design clients.

  • Questions that will get to the root of the problem for which they need your services.
  • Questions that can either change or narrow down the focus of a project.
  • Questions that may allow you to charge higher rates because as I said earlier, solutions to problems are much more valuable than pretty designs.

Here are the four most valuable questions you can ask your design clients.

Question #1 - Why do you need this?

The power in asking, "Why do you need this?" is that the question is unexpected. When was the last time you tried to buy something, and the salesperson asked you why you wanted to buy it? I can’t remember either. That’s why this question is so powerful. It gets the client thinking, and it gets them to open up.

It doesn’t matter if a client is coming to you for a logo, a website, a poster or a trade show display. And it doesn’t matter if you think the reason is apparent, ask your client why they need this?

And then listen carefully to what they say for some real gems. The deep insights that could completely change your way of thinking about the project or help you narrow down your focus to one small area.

Question #2 - What results do you expect from this project?

The results a client is expecting can often change the direction of a project. As a designer, you may see better options to reach those results than what the client is expecting.

For example, your client may be asking you to design a poster for an upcoming event. However, you can explain to them, based on their expectations, that a postcard may produce better results. Listen to the podcast episode to hear my story of how this question helped me deliver a better solution for one of my clients.

Question #3 - How will you judge the success of this project?

This is another great question that can change the direction of a project.

If you’re building a website for a client, you may make different design choices depending on how a client will judge the site successful. If the client is looking for increased website traffic, you may design it one way. If sales measure success, then you may create it differently. And if it’s to elevate their brand image, then you may design it a third way.

How a client judges a design project successful can have a significant influence on how you tackle the project.

For example, You're hired to produce a poster for a local school’s drama club. Will success be measured by ticket sales, or by the awareness the production brings to the school's drama program?

In one case, you will design a poster with emphasis on how and where to purchase tickets, with only a little focus on the school itself. In the other case, you will design a poster with more emphasis on the school and keep only a small portion of the poster for ticket information. That’s why asking, “How will you judge the success of this project?” is so important.

The most important question of all.

Question #4 - And What else?

"And what else?" The power of this simple question is endless.

  • Why do you need this? Ok, great, ok... And what else?
  • What results do you expect from this? Mmm, mmhmm. And what else?
  • How will you judge the success of this project? Perfect, that’s great, I understand. And what else?

Use this short and yet amazing question during any conversation you have with your client.

  • Tell me about your target market. And what else?
  • What marketing approach have you tried in the past? And what else?

Do you see the power of this question? By asking “and what else?” you are;

  1. Showing your interest to your client, which helps build your relationship.
  2. Getting them to open up to you, making them feel more comfortable talking to you.
  3. Getting additional information your client wouldn’t have offered freely.

Asking, "And what else?" will give you valuable information you can use to shape the perfect solution to your client's problem. After all, don't you wish you had more information before tackling any problem?

Four questions.

When you put these four questions to use, you'll find not only will your clients appreciate you more. But you’ll be able to create much better designs for them because of the information you’ve gathered from asking them.

Do you use these four questions?

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 Jade

I have a huge predicament! Im in the midst of drafting a rebrand. Im doing drafts for 2 different reps (2 different contracts repping the same company) that know each other has contracted me for their design ideas. Both paying out of their own pockets.

Essentially they will be presenting these designs to a board to make a decision. Now the board themselves have been involved with one of the reps, contacting me directly to further refine ideas.

My questions is.... should I just can both original contracts and redo one with the company itself, that way everyones ideas go through the same avenue? Or continue the way it is and feel like s**t cause Im charging everyone for the same rebrand?

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

Resource of the week Dual Sim Phones

If you are looking for a way to manage both home or mobile phone number along with a business phone number, you may want to think about getting a dual sim phone. A dual sim phone allows you to receive text messages and phone calls from two different phone numbers on a single mobile phone.

Here are some popular dual sim phones

  • iPhone XS, XR and 11
  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • OnePlus 7 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10 or S10 series.

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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 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

Oct 28, 2019

Less about you and more about your clients.

Graphic and web designers tend to have visually striking websites. However, where they excel in visuals and usability, they often lack in their marketing message. A lot of designers don’t know how to market themselves properly.

Have you ever heard the statement, “The best marketing in the world can’t help a bad product?” The same is true of the opposite. Bad marketing can harm a great product or service. That’s what many designers are doing to themselves — bad marketing.

Flip your marketing message.

Want to know a secret? Clients don’t care about you; they don’t care where you got your education; they don’t care what awards you’ve won; they don’t care what big-name clients you’ve worked with before; they don’t care about your processes and procedures. What the client cares about is whether or not you can help them with their problem.

As a designer, you’re a problem solver, and that’s all the client cares about, whether or not you can come up with a solution to whatever problem they are currently facing.

No business person wakes up in the morning, thinking, “I want to hire a designer today.” What they actually think is, “I need a logo, or website, or marketing material, etc. for my new business, and to get that, I’ll have to hire a designer today.”

It's the end product that will help their business that's important to them, not the designer. They don’t care about you. They care about whether or not you can provide what they need.

When it comes to their marketing message, a lot of designers are not putting the client’s needs first and foremost in their marketing. So what’s the trick? Stop talking about yourself and start talking about the client when promoting your services.

Put your clients' needs first.

It all comes down to your wording. Let me give you two hypothetical examples.

Designer #1has this statement on their home page.

“Need a designer? I’m an award-winning designer with over 15 years experience and I would love to work with you. If you would like to diacuss your project, please schedule a time via my contact form.”

Designer #1's statement is all about themself. There’s no incentive for the client to hire them. The client may be impressed by the credentials. But there’s nothing in the statement telling the client what’s in it for them.

Designer #1 delivered a very brief resume for the client to contemplate. Almost as if they were applying for a job position instead of being a professional business for hire.

But if we reworded the same message?

Designer #2 

“Do you have an idea that requires a designer? You’ve come to the right place. For over 15 years I’ve been helping people just like you with their creative needs. I look forward to working with you on your design project. Please let me know the best time for us to discuss your project via my contact form."

Do you see the difference?

Let’s dissect both statements from a client’s point of view.

Opening statement:

Designer #1“Need a designer?”

Designer #2“Do you have an idea that requires a designer?”

Remember, a client never needs a designer, what they need is something designed, and someone to do it for them. The design itself is more important to the client than the designer. So Designer #2 wins the opening statement because they appeal to the actual needs of the client. They talk about the problem.

The body:

Designer #1“I’m an award-winning designer with over 15 years experience, and I would love to work with you.”

Designer #2“You’ve come to the right place. For over 15 years, I’ve been helping people just like you with their creative needs. And I look forward to working with you on your design project."

Once again, Designer #1 is talking about themself, whereas Designer #2 is saying the same thing but from the point of view that takes the client's needs into account.

Closing statement:

Designer #1“If you would like to discuss your project, please schedule a time via my contact form.”

Designer #2“Please let me know the best time for us to discuss your project via my contact form.”

These two statements are almost identical, yet Designer #1 still manages to make it about them by telling the client, "here's when I'm available, pick a time." Designer #2, on the other hand, is asking the client to pick a time that is most convenient for them, making the client feel in charge.

Both designers may have the same time slots available on their calendars. But the difference in wording changes the emphasis from the designer to the client, creating a subtle difference that could persuade a client to choose Designer #2 over Designer #1.

The power of putting your client first.

These examples use one small paragraph. Imagine if you used this same marketing message strategy across an entire website. A client visiting a site with a marketing message talking about them and their problems would quickly start to feel like the designer behind that site gets them, understands their challenges and their needs. When that happens, the client will start thinking, “I need to work with this designer.”

Isn’t that the goal of your website? To entice clients to want to work with you?

So stop explaining your skills and your accomplishments, and start weaving those same facts into your narrative as you tell clients how their problems will be solved by working with you. In the end, that’s all that matters to the client.

P.S. Once you learn how to create a marketing message that focuses on the client. You’ll be able to incorporate this same process into websites you build for those clients, creating high converting sites they will love.

Does your marketing message talk more about you or your client?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Divi 4.0

The Divi Theme Builder is a fully-featured website templating system that allows you to use the Divi Builder to structure your site and edit any part of the Divi Theme including headers, footers, post templates, category templates and more. Each Theme Builder template consists of a custom Header, Footer and Body layout. These three areas can be built and customized using the Divi Builder and its full set of modules along with Dynamic Content.

Click here to learn more about Divi 4.0 and to purchase your copy.

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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 21, 2019

Are you having trouble choosing a name for your design business?

[sc name="pod_ad"]How much trouble are you having choosing a name for your design business? Do you already have a name picked out or are you wracking your brain thinking up and then discarding dozens of names hoping to find one that suits you?

One of the hardest decisions entrepreneurs face is choosing a name for their business.

In a previous episode of Resourceful Designer, I talked about the pros and cons of using your name as your business name compared to using a unique made-up name. Consider this episode a sequel to that one.

Why choosing the right business name is important.

Why is the name you choose for your design business so important? It’s important because word of mouth is and always will be a design company’s most lucrative avenue for acquiring new clients. Ask any home-based or freelance designer, and they’ll tell you that the bulk of their work comes from word of mouth referrals.

Therefore, choosing a good, memorable name could help propel your company by making it easier for clients to spread the word about your services. Whereas, if you choose a poor, hard to remember name, you could impede your company’s growth.

Imagine someone asking a friend about web design.

– "Do you know where I can get a website made?"

– "Yes, I heard of this place called 'The Web Design Studio,' you could try there."

OR

– "Do you know where I can get a website made?"

– "Yes, I heard of this place called... 'Stellarific Web Design'? or maybe it was 'Synergific Web Design'? 'Stunningific'... I don’t know, it started with an S and had 'ific' at the end of the name. Sorry I can't be more helpful."

Yes, your business name matters.

A process for choosing a name for your design business

Make the process of choosing a name for your design business easy on you by starting with a procedure you should be familiar with.

Chances are every design project you start begins with a design brief. It might be a multi-page document with a detailed analysis of what the design project needs to accomplish. Or it might be a 5-minute conversation where a client briefly explains what they are looking for. Either way, you have a brief to work from to create your designs.

Use the same method for choosing your business name. Create a naming brief. Ask yourself some standard brief questions to help guide you in choosing a name.

1) Who is your target audience?

If you are targeting a niche, it might make sense to choose a name for your business that fits in well with that niche.

If you are targetting small to medium size law offices, then a name such as Rock On Designs may not be suitable. However, if your target market is people in the music industry, then Rock On Designs may be a perfect fit. If you plan on targetting a niche, you may want to consider a name that suits that niche.

For example, Craig Burton's design company is called School Branding Matters. Can you guess who his target market is?

2) Descriptive or Abstract?

Do you want a descriptive name, something with meaning like Reliable Design Services? Or do you want something more abstract like Peacock Creative Agency?

3) Real or Made Up Words?

Do you want a business name that uses real words like Solid Core Creative? Or do you want to create a new word like Ryjo Design Services?

Rember that word of mouth is a key source of new design clients. If you create new words, make sure they’re short, easy to remember and easy to pronounce.

Be careful with the fad of dropping vowels from words. It may be cute and the "In thing," but it could also confuse your target market. How many times do you think Chris Do has to say, “That’s 'The Futur' without an “e” at the end.” I’m sure that can become tedious very fast.

There are no right or wrong names for your business. Names are subjective, just like designs are. What one person likes another won’t. Make sure you choose a name that feels right for you and the design market you are targetting.

Criteria for choosing a name.

Here are some criteria you can use to determine a name's effectiveness. Create a grid with potential names listed on the left and these criteria listed along the top. Then assign a score of 1 to 5 under each criteria for each of the names. Once done, add up the scores for each name, and the one with the highest score is probably the best choice for your design business.

Assign a score from 1 to 5 for each of the following criteria.

  • Distinctiveness (How distinct is the name? Ex. Joe’s Design Studio probably ranks a 1 or 2, whereas Joe’s Emporium of Creativity ranks a 4 or 5)
  • Emotional Impact (What emotional impression does it give clients? Joe's Design Studio doesn't enlist much of an emotional response, but Amazing Creations Design Studio does.)
  • Clarity (Do people know what the business does just by hearing the name?)
  • Pronounceable (Is the name hard for people to say?)
  • Memorable (Is the name easy to remember?)
  • Trademarkable (Can the name be trademarked?)

Do Your Research

Once you come up with a solid list of potential names for your design business, it’s time to do your research.

The problem with discovering the perfect name for your business is, if the name is that good, chances are someone thought of it before you.

Before you get too excited about a name, do some research to see if you can use the name. Start by Googling the name and see what comes up. Are there any other design businesses using it or a very similar name? Make sure you search broadly enough. There may not be another graphic or web designer around with the name you like. But what about interior designers, fashion designers, or even cake designers?

If you are in the USA, try searching through the U.S. Patent and Trademark website. It’s an excellent place to see if anyone has already registered the name you like.

Companies in different industries can sometimes have the same names providing there is no chance of mistaking one company for the other. For example, "Crowd Pleaser Creative Services" and "Crowd Pleaser Pool Installations."There is little chance a client will mix up these two companies.

Just because another design company has the same name as you doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use the name. It all depends on where they registered the name. A name registered in the USA doesn't prevent someone from registering the same name elsewhere, such as in Canada or Australia.

Contact your local municipality's business resource center and get their advice on registering your business name. They’ll be glad to help.

I highly suggest you get a lawyer involved when it comes time to register your business name. It’s good for you to do your research, but a lawyer who specializes in business law will have more resources available to make sure the job is done correctly. Hire a lawyer to vet your name before you spend money trying to register it.

Simple names are not always the best names.

Something else to avoid is using common words or popular "keywords" when naming your business. Earlier I used an example of a web design business called The Web Design Studio. In reality, The Web Design Studio is not a very good name for a business because it will be almost impossible to rank for it in search engines since it's a term used by many web design businesses.

What it comes down to

The name you give your design business is one of the most critical touch points for anyone encountering your business. You can update logos and branding reasonably quickly, but not so much with a name. However, your business name, although important, is only one facet of your business. A great name won’t guarantee success, just like a less than ideal name doesn’t ensure failure.

It’s up to you to ensure that the business you are running creates a strong foundation for your business name to live up to. As long as the name you choose reflects your brand and values, you should be good.

How hard was it for you to come up with your business name?

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 Pauline

When you're brand new in business, should you price a little lower at first, or are you storing up trouble for later?

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

Oct 14, 2019

How do you answer the question, "What do you do for a living?"

Does this sound familiar? You meet someone for the first time, and they ask, "What do you do for a living?" and you reply that you’re a graphic designer or a web designer or a UX Designer or whatever form of designer you identify as. Then one of two things happen. The person you’re talking to replies with “that’s great” and then immediately changes the subject. Or, they show a mild interest and ask you to explain more. Perked up by the inquiry, you stumble through your repertoire that you design logos and websites and posters and brochures and t-shirts and tradeshow booths, etc. etc. etc.

Pretty soon, the person you’re conversing with is smiling and nodding with a glassy-eyed expression that indicates they regret asking you for more details.

That’s the problem with our industry. Most people have heard of designers, but unless they’ve dealt with one of us before, they have no idea what it is we do. And when they do find out, they quickly realize they don’t care.

Saying you’re a graphic designer is not the same as saying you’re a firefighter, or an electrician, or a dentist, or an accountant. All these professions have a distinct image in people’s minds. Sure, there are many different types of accountants, but regardless of what branch of accounting someone works in, most people understand that an accountant spends their day working with numbers. That's the acknowledged impression of who an accountant is.

But when it comes to designers. Most people don’t know what you do on a day to day basis, nor do they care. And the reason most people don't care is that most designers are not clarifying their brand message when it comes to presenting themselves.

The proper way to respond when someone asks you, "What do you do for a living?" is not to talk about yourself; instead, you should be talking about your ideal client and how you solve problems for them.

The idea for this topic came to me after reading an article on Medium titled Stop Calling Yourself A Freelancer, written by Andrew Holliday of Special Sauce Branding. If you’ve been following Resourceful Designer for a while, you’ll know that I don’t like the term freelancer, I find it demeans what we do as designers. The connotation behind the term freelancer is someone who is flighty and doesn’t take what they do seriously. I've never called myself a freelancer. I’m an entrepreneur, a business owner. And the business I chose is design.

While reading Andrew's article, I found myself agreeing with his statements, especially on how people perceive freelancers as interchangeable commodities. Then one part of his article jumped out at me. A section titled “Clarify Your Message.”

In his article, Andrew states that the easiest way to clarify your brand message, one that connects with your ideal client and doesn’t just sound like spewed blabber about yourself, is to write a brand script and memorize it.

And it’s so easy to write a branding script. All you have to do is complete these four sentences.

  1. My client is...
  2. They struggle with...
  3. I help them by...
  4. The one thing that makes me different is...

That’s all there is to it.

By completing these four simple sentences, you’ll have a script that provides structure for your business, your brand, AND all your marketing for your design business. It identifies your ideal client, it defines their problem, it solidifies your solution, and it states why you are the perfect design partner for them.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “I'm not going to say all of that when someone asks me, "What do you do for a living?” and you’d be right not to. It’s overkill. This script is meant to clarify your brand message for YOU.

When it comes to the “What do you do for a living?” question, you need to simplify your script to a single sentence. As Andrew put it, it’s your brand one-liner.

Your brand one-liner is something you’ll be able to use on your website, your social media accounts, your marketing material, AND in every conversation you have where you talk about what you do. Especially when asked, “What do you do for a living?”

Here's how you shorten your script down to a single one-line sentence. You take what you composed for your four-line script and break it down to this.

I help _______________ to _______________.

For example, I help small businesses to grow their customer base with a strong brand image. Or, if you want to be a bit more creative, I help small businesses to clobber their competition with comprehensive sales funnels that drive sales through the roof.

Now those are conversation starters that are sure to peak interest, especially if the person you're talking to is a small business owner.

Once you have your brand one-liner figured out and memorized, you won’t be stumbling over an answer the next time someone asks you, “What do you do for a living?”

If you are interested, Andrew, who wrote the Medium article inspiring today's topic, has a worksheet to help you craft your brand script.

What's your brand one-liner?

Do you already have a brand one-liner, or are you now planning on writing one? Please share it in the comments 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 Pauline

How do you manage holidays/vacations, both in terms of responding to initial inquiries, and/or making progress on current projects?

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

Resource of the week BackBlaze

Never Lose a File Again with the World's Easiest Cloud Backup. Backblaze gives you peace of mind knowing your files are backed up securely in the cloud. Just set it up and forget about it. Backblaze works in the background and automatically backs up new and modified files.

With their Version History feature, Backblaze allows you to quickly revert to a previously saved version of files you have backed up. 30-days of Version History is available on all plans. For a small monthly fee, Version History can go back as far as 1-year or more.

The Map Your Computer feature allows you to track your computer via an IP address or even the ISP it's using. Perfect in the event your computer is misplaced or stolen. Coordinate with the police and get your hardware back.

Hard drive crashes are only one thing you need to worry about. Your files are also vulnerable to hardware theft and natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes etc. With Backblaze, you can rest at ease, knowing your business files are safe no matter what happens. Backblaze works on Mac or PC and starts at just $55/year.

Oct 7, 2019

When pitching, do you position yourself as an Investment or an Expense?

I've covered a similar topic to this in a past episode of the podcast. This time around, I don't want you to think like a designer. Instead, I want you to put on your entrepreneurial hat, and think like a business owner.

As a business owner, what is your number one goal? If you answered anything other than growing your business, you need to rethink your priorities. Any business owner who’s first goal isn’t to grow their business, might as well throw in the towel and find a job working for someone else.

Don’t get me wrong; according to Entrepreneur.com, there are plenty of reasons to start a business.

  • To provide a needed service
  • To help people
  • The Freedom it gives you
  • The pride of ownership
  • Allows you to follow your passion
  • Gives you more flexibility
  • Lower taxes

However, regardless of why someone starts a business, if their priority, once the business is running, isn’t growth, then failure is almost a sure thing. Because in the business world, standing still is the same as going backward.

With that in mind, what is one fundamental way to grow any business? Let me give you a hint. To make money, you need to... SPEND MONEY.

For any business to succeed, the owner has to spend money on the company’s behalf. And there are only two types of spending when it comes to business — spending as an investment or an expense.

What’s the difference between spending as an investment or an expense? The difference is ROI, Return on Investment.

When spending money on a business the owner needs to determine whether or not there is an expectation of return from that spending. With an investment there is. The same cannot be said of an expense. Have you ever heard the term ROE - return on expense? I haven’t. An article on the website Ratchet and Wrench states “you can recover an expense, but only by identifying it and reframing it as an investment”

So with an expense, a return is not expected. However, there is a return expected with an investment. The very definition of an investment is “to allocate money in the expectation of some benefit in the future.”

So once again, thinking like a business owner, what do you think will help you grow your business faster? Spending money on an expense or spending money on an investment?

The obvious answer is as an investment. The tricky part is knowing how to identify which is which.

Investment vs. Expense.

How do you know when an expenditure is an investment or an expense? Is a building an expense or an investment? What about a vehicle? Office furniture? Decore? Association or Memberships fees? Training?

It can sometimes be challenging to identify because many spendings could fall into either category. A business owner needs to be able to identify, which is which and try to minimize expenses while spending on investments to grow their business.

Ok, you can take off that entrepreneurial hat and start thinking like a designer again. As a designer, whenever you pitch an idea to a client, be it a logo design, a new website, a car wrap, or a trade show booth. Are you consciously positioning yourself as a business expense or as a business investment?

Are your clients wondering how much your services will cost them, or do they imagine how much your services will earn them? Do you see the importance of that distinction?

As soon as you flip that switch, and get clients thinking about the ROI, the return on their investment with you, then the price you charge isn’t an issue anymore. When done right, the client will think you are not charging nearly enough and sign your contract before you come to your senses.

How to position yourself as an investment.

The way to position yourself as an investment is by showing your client the value you bring them.

For a logo design project, you want to explain how the new logo will be memorable, increase client retention and familiarity with the brand and grow the customer base. More customers sound good to any business owner.

Plus, a new logo can rank at the top of the market and possibly even surpass the competition’s brand imagery. How much is it worth to a business to be seen in higher standards than their competition? $1,000? $5,000, $10,000?

There’s much more to successfully pitching a branding project, but you get the idea. Your part of the selling process is much easier when the client sees you as an investment.

For a web design project, never agree to a web project simply because "the client needs a website." It's a given that every business needs a website, but there's much more to it. Why do they need a website? If a client's only reason for a new site is because everyone else has one, then what you are offering is an expense for the client.

However, by positioning the website as a client acquisition tool that, once again grows its customer base, increases their sales rates, brings more awareness to their brand, etc., etc. Suddenly the cost of the website changes from an expense to an investment.

So many designers struggle with pricing. They are afraid to let the client know how much a project will cost, for fear of losing the job. Don't be like them.

Prepare your clients by showing them how hiring you is an investment and not an expense, and the cost often becomes a moot point. When taking the ROI of their investment into consideration, most clients will think you are not charging enough.

When done correctly, you will discover just how easy it is to land design projects.

How are you positioning yourself?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Sep 30, 2019

Do you claim all the business expenses you're entitled?

[sc name="pod_ad"]Are you aware of all the things you can claim as business expenses when running a home-based design business?

You've heard the saying, "You need to spend money to make money"? People quoting that often neglect to inform you that some of the money you spend running your design business, can be recuperated as business expenses.

If you are running your own design business, you really should enlist the help of a professional when it comes to filing your taxes. If not, you could be losing out on entitled money. The cost of hiring an accountant or bookkeeper is a wise investment when it comes to doing business.

With that said, I am not an accountant or bookkeeper. I'm going to share some often overlooked expenditures that may qualify as business expenses for you. Please verify with whoever prepares your business taxes if you are allowed to claim any of the following.

People

In the course of running your design business, you may need to hire external help. The money you pay these people may qualify as business expenses.

  • Virtual Assistants
  • Business Coaches
  • Contractors (illustrators, programmers, developers, designers, etc.)
  • Massage Therapists / Physio Therapists (after those long days sitting in your chair)
  • Counseling
  • Accountant / Bookkeeper

Subscriptions

As a designer, there are plenty of reoccurring expenses when it comes to your design business. You can claim many of them on your taxes.

  • Design Software
  • Wordpress Plugins
  • Software Addons
  • Membership / Club fees
  • Magazine subscriptions

Business Expenses

You can claim the costs involved with running and promoting your design business as business expenses.

  •  Advertising fees
  • Delivery and Shipping Costs
  • Legal, accounting and professional fees
  • Tax prep
  • Bank fees
  • Processing fees

Travel Expenses

You can claim business-related travel expenses, whether it's to a conference or to see a client, on your taxes as business expenses

  • Conferences costs (travel, hotel, ticket fees, meals)
  • Networking event fees
  • Travel Expenses (fuel, parking, rental, car wash, maintenance)
  • Vehicle expenses, including interest on loan or lease payments.

Home Office Expenses

  • Office Decorations
  • Work Clothes (must be branded to your business)
  • Cleaning (house, yard)
  • Office Supplies

Personal Expenses

  • Computer Glasses
  • Cellular phone
  • Computer Tablet
  • Smart Watch
  • Training / Courses
  • Child Care

These are only a few of the hundreds of things that may qualify as business expenses.

In some cases, you won't be able to claim some of these items. It all depends on your situation, your business, and where you live. Check with your accountant. They'll know what you can and cannot claim.

I go into more detail on each item on the podcast. Be sure to listen to the episode for the full story.

What unusual item have you claimed as a business expense?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Entrepreneur Mindset

I heard someone quote Tony Robbins on a podcast recently. To paraphrase the quote, "Being an entrepreneur is 80% mindset and 20% mechanics." I couldn't agree more. Without the confidence and proper mindset, you will not succeed. And when you do have the appropriate confidence and mindset, the actual running part of your business should come easily.

As Henry Ford put it, "If you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right." So when it comes to running your design business, make sure you have a "CAN" attitude. It will make things so much easier.

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

Sep 23, 2019

There's wisdom in all of us.

I chose the title "With Age, Comes Wisdom" for this episode not because I believe I’m very wise, but because it’s inevitable that as time passes, all the ups and downs, the successes and failures, the roadblocks and overcome hurdles all add up. And whether you realize it or not, each one of them helps in its own way to shape you into the wise person you are now.

As I approach my 50th birthday, I can’t help but reminisce and ponder the choices I’ve made in my life, the paths I’ve followed, and of course the journey that’s still ahead of me. And I’ve come to appreciate better something I’m sure you've known for a long time. And that is, that with age comes wisdom. And what use is wisdom if you can’t share it with people?

I’m not talking about being a know it all. Please, don’t be a know-it-all. I’m talking about using the knowledge you’ve gained over time, whether you’re 20, 50 or 80, to help the people you serve. Including your family, your friends, people in communities you frequent, and yes, your design clients as well.

I've said it before on the podcast but let me repeat it. No matter what stage you’re at in your design career, to everyone out there who knows less than you, you’re a professional. Even if you’re fresh out of school and have never worked on a real client project, when it comes to designing, you are a professional compared to the majority of people out there.

Hold on to that thought every time someone questions your prices or tries to negotiate a “special deal for exposure” with you. You are wiser than that, because of the time you’ve put in to get to where you are. Nobody can take that away from you, and nobody has the right to devalue what you’ve learned during that time.

Have I ever told you that Resourceful Designer is the third name I chose for this podcast?

I first came up with the idea of doing a graphic design podcast in 2014, shortly after I turned 45. I had just passed the threshold of the early 40s to late 40s. I know there’s the whole mid 40s thing but face it, once you hit the five mark, you’re on the downward side of that hill.

As I realized I was in the latter part of my 40s, I started looking at my future. I began having thoughts in my head saying, “who’s going to want to hire a 45-year-old designer, let alone a 50, 55 or 60-year-old designer?” Especially with all the tremendous young design talent that is emerging these days. Not to mention the up and coming generation that's seeing business owners, managers, CEOs in their early 30s if not their 20s. Wouldn’t they want to partner with someone closer to their own age?

Luckily I didn’t stay in that funk for too long. sIn fact, it didn’t take me that long to appreciate that at 45, I had accumulated a lot of useful knowledge and skills. Wisdom if you will, that could be very useful to that same younger generation of businesspeople. I had 15 years of experience working at a print shop, plus another nine years running a successful design business.

At that time, I had already been podcasting about TV shows, so I knew what I was doing, so I decided to start a design-related podcast. I was going to call it The Aging Designer.I even designed the logo and website.

I was going to use the podcast as a platform to talk to 40, 50, 60-year-old designers and remind them that we still have a lot to share with the younger generation. I recorded an introductory episode but never published it.

I sat on that podcast idea for quite a few months, not doing anything with it because something didn’t feel right about the whole concept. I ended up sharing my frustrations with some trusted podcast friends, and they told me that the knowledge and wisdom I wanted to share, although useful to people my age and older, might better serve a broader audience.

That’s when I switched gears from how to survive as an ageing designer, to how to grow and thrive as a home-based or freelance designer. So with renewed enthusiasm and a clearer path for the podcast, I renamed the show The Wise Designer (I never designed the logo). However, I soon started thinking that calling the podcast The Wise Designerpeople might think I was pretentious. So after some more contemplation, I settled on Resourceful Designer, and I’m glad I did.

The word "resourceful" has helped me stay on track and navigate the direction of the show. The podcast allows me to share my experiences and knowledge, you can call it wisdom if you want, with designers like you.

I'm talking to you, designer to designer. I don’t know how old you are. I don’t know at what stage of your design career you're at or what discipline of design you are pursuing. I don’t know where in the world you live, your background, your heritage. None of that matters in the context of Resourceful Designer.

What does matter is that you’re a designer who cares enough about your current or potential business to listen to my podcast. That’s what counts.

Since I launched Resourceful Designer, I’ve probably gained more value from doing it than you have from being a listener. It keeps me rejuvenated. It keeps me curious. It keeps me informed. And it makes me feel relevant.

I’m turning 50 this week, and I’m ready to embrace it. I’m prepared for whatever lies ahead on my journey.

Those doubts I felt turning 45 are way behind me. I have more today to offer as a designer than I have at any part of my career to date. And I hope you feel the same way, no matter what stage of life or your career you’re at right now.

Embrace ageing. Appreciate the skills you’re accumulating, the knowledge you’re gaining, and package it all up in that ball we call wisdom. And use that wisdom to benefit those around you. Even if it’s just to explain to a client why making the logo bigger won’t help.

What do you think?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Community

The Resourceful Designer Community is an active community of designers with a common goal, a goal of improving and growing their design business.

The Community is for designers of any levels. Current members include designers just starting their business, members with agency experience, members with knowledge of web design and print design, all willing to share what they know.

The Community interacts via a private and very active Slack group, with new conversations happening every day.

There are also regular video meetings. These video chats are where the magic happens. By seeing each other’s faces and interacting directly with each other, members become closer and more invested in what each of their fellow members is doing with their business. If a member can’t make the live video chats, they can view the recording which is archived for members to watch at their convenience.

If have your own design business or are thinking of starting one, regardless of your skills as a designer, and you are looking for a tight-knit group of designers to help you by being mentors, confidants, and friends, then you need to be part of the Resourceful Designer Community.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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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 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

 

Sep 16, 2019

When was the last time you updated a piece of software?

Think about the last time you updated a piece of software. Whether it was an app on your phone, a website plugin or theme or an application on your computer. When you updated it, did you look at why it was being updated by reading the release or change notes?

There are three main reasons why a piece of software requires an update.

  1. Bug Fixes
  2. Security improvements
  3. New Features and Functionality

Do you know which of these reasons each update you perform is for, and why it was released?

We've been taught to update without thinking about the reason.

It’s become so easy these days to update software. Our phones have a convenient “Update All” button, so we don’t have to scroll and update each app individually. There are convenient services that allow you to manage and update multiple WordPress websites from a single dashboard. Even the software on your computer makes it easy. Most of the time, a popup will appear informing you of a new update and asking if you want to update the program right away or do it later. In some cases Later will happen in the background without you needing to be there.

What added new features and functionality do those apps, plugins, and software you download offer? By not paying attention to why there's an update to a piece of software, are you being left behind? Are you missing out on functionality that may improve your processes and your abilities as a designer?

I remember back in the day when physical floppy disks or CDs were required to update software. In those days, software companies would mail you promotional material showcasing all the great new features they were adding to their program hoping you would purchase it. I also remember reading magazine articles leading up to the new releases describing how each new feature would make my life easier. With today's subscription models, software companies don't need to sell us with the hype of new features, they already have our money.

I remember reading about the upcoming version 3 of Adobe Photoshop with the introduction of great new features, including one called Layers. I just had to have it, no matter the cost. By the time I received and installed the latest versions, I knew every new feature available to me and whether or not it was something I would use.

Nowadays, there isn’t as much fanfare with software releases as there used to be. We've been conditioned to automatically click when we see a little red dot without giving it much thought. Maybe it’s just me not being on top of things or following the right blogs or social media accounts, but I don’t think I’m the only one in the dark. Are you’re like this too? It makes me wonder what other features programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop have that I don't know about that could benefit me.

Adobe regularly releases a major update for all their programs each October. Many Adobe users, myself included have absolutely no idea what new features Photoshop, Illustrator and all the other CC programs will have. There are probably articles highlighting what new features to expect. But unless you search for them, there's a good chance you'll update your software without giving it much thought. What will you be missing out?

If you want to improve your productivity, increase your skills, and add to your toolbox, the next time you update an app, plugin, or software, read the changelogs or release notes. Learn why the update was released and what possible new features and functionality they offer.

So let me ask you again, when you perform a software update, do know why?

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 a member of the Resourceful Designer Community

I have a website project that has stalled out and has been dormant for several months. My client is unable or unwilling to provide me what I need to complete the site. The copywriter I hired is demanding full payment for her services even though there’s still some outstanding copy to be written that’s dependent on what the client still needs to provide me. Should I be paying the copywriter her full fee even though not all the agreed upon copy was written?

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

Resource of the week Careful Cents article on Lowering Invoicing Fees

Do you use PayPal as part of your invoicing process? Are you aware of the fees you are paying to use the service? Would you like to lower those fees and keep more of your hard-earned money? Decrease PayPal Fees: 5 Ways To Lower Invoicing Feesis an article on Careful Cents that may be able to help you do just that.

Sure, transfer and processing fees are the costs of doing business. But lowering those fees by even half a percent could save you thousands of dollars each year and put more money in your pocket.

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

Sep 9, 2019

Are you moving the needle and growing your design business?

Let me ask you a question. What have you done today, this week, this month that will help propel your design business? How are you moving the needle towards future growth and sustainability?

Isn't that a funny saying; "Moving the needle"? It means making a significant difference, having a measurable statistic that will change as a result of an action.

So let me ask you again, how are you moving the needle for your graphic or web design business? What actions are you taking that will produce a measurable change in the statistics of your business?

Statistics such as:

  • Getting more clients.
  • Increasing your revenue
  • Streamlining your processes.

What are you doing to move your business forward?  

Businesses are like sharks.

Just like a shark can't sit still or it will die, for a business to prosper, it needs to make advancements. it needs to look forward towards the future, It needs to evolve.

Think of car companies such as Ford or Honda. They don't just develop a new car and let it be. No, every year they make advancements and evolve each one of their models. The 2020 Ford Edge or Honda Civic is better than the 2019 models which were better than the 2018 models.

Subway, the biggest restaurant chain in the world, even larger than McDonalds, did not get to where they are by riding the status quo and always offering the same sandwiches. 

No, all these companies grew, because they evolved with the times, they experimented, they introduced new options and features. These companies are continually moving the needle.

Now I don't expect your design business to compare on the same levels as Subway, Ford or Honda. But if you're not consciously trying to improve your business, there's a good chance others who are will surpass you.

Even if you are happy with the current state of your business, if you're lucky enough to be making a decent living and you have plenty of clients to keep you busy, that doesn't mean it will always be that way. 

If it did, your town or city would have a family run general store instead of a Walmart or other big-box chain.

No matter how great your design business may be right now, you can never forget that even the best clients can shut down, reduce their design budget or even find another designer.

New technologies and software are always emerging, that makes our jobs easier, but they also make it easier for clients to do things on their own, requiring less and less of our services.

And as time goes by, you'll need to adjust your income to accommodate your ever-changing lifestyle, not to mention inflation who's steady pace seems to be a sprint.

It's great to be happy with the current state of your business, as long as you don't get complacent. Avoid getting into habits and routines that keep you in the status quo. If you do, you'll find that eventually you'll become out of the loop and be outdated.

So how do you move the needle?

  • Make sure you stay up to date with technology and trends. 
  • Learn a new skill that makes you more valuable to your clients. 
  • Find new avenues to promote your business.
  • Become more involved with your existing client's business.
  • Streamline your process and become more efficient.
  • Build a team that can help you evolve and grow.

Once again let me ask you. What are you doing to move the needle for your design business? Take one step today that'll help you in the long run. That's what moving the needle is all about. 

Growing a business is a journey; you need to do it one step at a time. Even a baby step still counts.

How do you plan on moving the needle for your design business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Professional Head Shots

Clients always prefer dealing with a person over a faceless company. Having your photo visible on your website creates that sense of intimacy clients seek when hiring a designer. Seeing your face gives them comfort that they are dealing with a real person.

Since you only get one chance to make a first impression, why not give it the best shot you can by having your photo taken by a professional photographer. Not only will a professional photographer capture the best you, but visitors to your website will see that you take your business seriously enough to invest in professional photos.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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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

Sep 2, 2019

Do you have a YES attitude when it comes to accepting design projects?

If you want to grow as a designer, you need to embrace a YES attitude when it comes to dealing with prospective design projects.

I’m hearing more and more designers, both graphic and web, who turn down projects because the job doesn’t fit their skill set. It frustrates me when I hear this. It frustrates me because I’ve been there and I’ve done that.

When my design business was still relatively new, I turned down several projects and several clients because I didn’t know how to do what they were asking.

I turned down a $50K website project because I wasn’t comfortable enough with my knowledge of PHP and MySQL. I wasn’t sure I was capable of doing the job and was afraid to try. I’m not an illustrator, so when projects requiring illustration came my way, I would turn them down.

It frustrates me now knowing how much work I turned away, and how many possible great clients I ended up not working with because I didn’t have the skills for the job, so I turned them down.

I wish I knew then what I know now. Running a design business as a solopreneur, all by yourself doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Yes, you should take every opportunity to learn and expand yourself as a designer, but in some cases, the best option is to team up with someone proficient in the skills you lack.

Every independent designer requires a team.

In episode 77 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about how being a self-employed designer requires a team effort, how every independent designer needs to have an arsenal of peers and associates with complimenting skill sets to fill in the gaps that they have. 

That’s where embracing a yes attitude comes in. And it’s simple. When a client asks you if you can do something, say yes even if you don’t know how to do it.

Saying yes to one of these projects can open incredible doors for you. If it’s doable, use the project to learn the skill you are lacking and add it to your repertoire. If it’s not something you can or want to learn, find someone who can do it for you.

When I started embracing a yes attitude, it propelled my design business by leaps and bounds. I embraced a yes attitude and stopped turning down jobs on the pretense that I wasn’t sure I could do them.

This doesn’t mean you should take on every single job presented to you. There are still plenty of valid reasons to turn down design projects. What I’m saying, is to embrace a yes attitude for projects that sound great but that you’re not sure how to do. Then figure out how to do them yourself, or figure out who can do them for you.

Grow as a designer.

Since embracing a yes attitude, I’ve had a client ask me if I could add their logo to a photo and make it look like a neon sign. I’ve had a client ask me if I could create a realistic-looking 3D type heading and make it look like it was on fire, with realistic flames. I’ve had a client ask me to create a title heading for their poster with the words made out of stacked ice cubes.

I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to do these things when I took on the jobs. But when they asked me I readily said yes, I could do that. And you know what? I figured out how.

You don’t need to know how to do something beforehand to get it done. Learn along the way.

Grow your design entourage.

Since embracing a yes attitude I’ve had clients ask me for e-commerce websites, I’ve had clients ask me for illustrations, for video. In each case, I found someone who could do those things for me and delivered the job.

Saying yes to a client doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. It just means you can get the job done.

Solve the problem.

Remember, as a designer; you’re a problem solver. It’s your job to provide a solution to what your clients want or need. Solution, that’s the keyword. A solution indicates that the answer is unknown and you must discover it. This challenge applies to every design project.

So the same way the answer is unknown, the skills and knowledge required to complete a project may be unknown at the start as well.

Part of finding that solution may be trying to figure out how you’re going to get something done that you don’t know how to do. Say yes, and then find the solution.

When you say yes to one of these design projects, you end up adding to your skill set, your repertoire, possibly to your portfolio, and of course, to your reputation.

Clients will appreciate you.

I know some designers feel like this is being deceitful to their clients. However, a client doesn’t care if it was you or someone you oversaw that completed the work as long as they are happy with the outcome.

Think of it this way, whenever someone is having surgery, they want to know who the doctor operating is. But surgeons never operate alone. They have a team assisting them and doing things the doctor can’t or shouldn’t be doing themselves.

The same goes for your design business; you’re the “design surgeon”; the client is hiring you. They don’t need to know who your team is because they’re putting their trust in you. As long as you deliver, they’ll be happy, and they’ll keep coming back.

All because you embraced a yes attitude.

What was the last project you took on that you didn' have the skill set for?

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 Christie

I have a question. Many times when I’m asked to do a new project, there are elements of the project that I don’t know how to do. One guy needs a video along with his marketing, another needs illustration, etc. My experience is designing websites, brochures, email, mailers and I don’t feel I’m very good with logos. I also don’t know video, have a great camera or know how to do the backend of a website. All of these things would have been done for me at companies I’ve worked at before, and my freelance projects have been so random that I’m continually learning new skills. It’s nice, but sometimes I don’t know what to do in those scenarios since I don’t know a lot of other freelancers. Can you recommend some resources or best practice? I’m just starting out.

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

Resource of the week Your Local Library

Your local library can be an excellent opportunity for you and your design business. We often forget all the great resources libraries offer. Libraries are great for learning, getting inspiration, self-improvement, hosting presentations, and so much more.

Enquire with your local library to see what services they offer that you could incorporate into your life.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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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

Aug 26, 2019

Finding clients at niche conferences

I had planned a different topic for this week, but after attending Podcast Movement last week, I want to share my experiences hoping they can help with your design business.

Here’s a little background.

I’ve attended five out of the six years Podcast Movement has been around. The first year I couldn't attend, but I did purchase a virtual ticket so technically I've been part of all of them.

The first one I went to was in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2015. That was before I launched Resourceful Designer. At that time I was a TV Show Fan podcaster, in fact, I still am. If you’re a fan of the science fiction television shows Killjoys or The Expanse you can check out my fan podcasts on my network at Solo Talk Media.

In 2016 I attended Podcast Movement as both a TV Show fan podcaster and as host of Resourceful Designer. But my attendee badge still listed me as Mark Des Cotes from Solo Talk Media. I changed that In 2017 and 2018. When I attended those conferences, I made sure Resourceful Designer was front and center since it was my main podcast. 

Attending the conferences as the host of Resourceful Designer started to get my name out there as a designer. After all, I was doing a podcast related to the design industry, so I must be a designer, right? 

What started happening was whenever the topic of podcast artwork or websites came up, my name got passed around. It would be in the context of, “you need artwork, or you need a website? Mark is a designers, maybe he could help you.” Sure, my name was shared, but so was every other designer out there.

A change of strategy.

This year I did something different. In February 2019, I launched Podcast Branding; a company focused on providing professional design services to podcasters.

I’ve talked about niches in episodes 54 and episode 93 of the Resourceful Designer podcast. Not to mention my interview with Craig Burton in episode 174 where we talked about his work in the School Branding niche. I decided to take my advice and started a company that focused on the podcast niche. Podcast Branding was born.

Attending the conference.

At a podcast conference, the icebreaker question whenever you meet someone new is, “do you have a podcast?” After all, the majority of attendees either have a podcast or are thinking of starting one.

So at Podcast Movement, when someone asked me, “do you have a podcast?” I answered, “Yes, but I’m here promoting my company Podcast Branding,” and the rest of the conversation focused on their branding needs and the services I offer.

Before I knew it, my name was being passed around to anyone interested in podcast artwork or websites. People were tapping me on the shoulder, saying, “so-and-so said I should talk to you.” In some cases, I didn't even know who the "so-and-so" who referred me was. 

These conversations usually ended with them asking me for my business card so they could reach out to me after the conference. Throughout the four day conference, I quickly gained recognition, not as Mark, the graphic designer who can possibly help you. But as Mark, the guy who specializes in artwork and websites for podcasters. I was the "podcast designer."

It just goes to show you that being available to a niche and actively focusing on a niche are two different things. For years, I was available to podcasters for their design needs. It wasn’t until I decided to focus and target podcasters that things took off.

And for the record, I landed several new clients at the conference, and even more emails with “Hi Mark, I met you at Podcast Movement." are starting to come in.

I put my money where my mouth is and took my advice. I attended a conference where my target market was. I promoted a business that focuses on that target market, and my name is now slowly spreading amongst that market as THE person to talk to when it comes to their branding needs.

It could work for you.

If you target a particular niche, even as a side gig, the best thing you can do is go where your target market is. After all, what better place to network, than a large gathering of your ideal target market?

Find a conference in your niche market and try to attend. Before you know it, your name may become known as THE designer for that niche.

Clients know the added value of working with a designer who specializes in their industry and are willing to invest more in hiring them.

Have you ever attended a conference to pick up 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 Juliane

I'm curious if you have any resources on how to charge sales tax for prints?

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

Tip of the week Dealing with stubborn or difficult clients.

Sometimes, it’s easier to make a client happy by doing what they ask, even if it goes against your better design judgement. It's not worth arguing with them and possibly pushing them away just to make your point.

The client is always right, even when you secretly know how wrong they are.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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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

Aug 19, 2019

Are you promoting your design business through social media?

[sc name="pod_ad"]Many designers don't know how to use social media to attract design clients. They post their work hoping to attract business, but all they get is a following of fellow designers. Does this sound familiar?

I'm by no means an expert on social media. That's why I invited Andéa Jones of OnlineDrea to join me and help clear the confusion of attracting clients via social media. Andréa is a social media strategist who helps businesses build their online presence through targeted social media and content marketing solutions.

Andréa is also the founder of the Savvy Social School, where she shares her proven strategies for succeeding on social media. Savvy Social School helps businesses to stop wasting time on social media and finally get more attention, leads, and sales from their online community. Through the strategies she teaches, you learn to build a following of people who will hire you for your design services. As a Resourceful Designer listener, save $20 off the monthly membership fee.

Here are some of the topics you'll hear us discuss in this episode.

  • Building your social media presence.
  • Social media platforms should you use.
  • The Power of LinkedIn.
  • Narrow down or diversify your social media presence.
  • How much time to devote to social media.
  • Attracting and converting followers into clients.
  • Best times to post to social media.
  • What content works best for social media.
  • What language to use in your posts.
  • Using #hashtags.
  • Turning a sigle case study into multiple social media posts.
  • Are paid social media ads worth it.
  • And so much more.

Here are the tools Andréa recommends for managing social media.

Are you successfully using social media to grow your design business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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

Aug 12, 2019

Are you competing with discount designers?

Let me start by saying that I've never lost a client to discount designers. I've had clients question my higher prices, but in the end, they ended up hiring me. I know that many designers have difficulty justifying their costs to their clients so I thought I would share what I do when a client asks "Why should I hire you when I can get that designed cheaper elsewhere?" 

This is a follow up to last week's episode - Stop Competing On Prices. In it, I explained why lowering your design prices to compete with discount designers is not a sustainable way to run a design business. If you haven't listened to that episode, I suggest you do before continuing with this one. 

I don’t have a ready-made checklist or prepared response for when a client questions my prices compared to discount designers. Instead, I follow these guidelines.

Encourage the client to inquire about discount design sources.

I never tell a client with my true feelings about these discount design services. Doing so would seem petty and expected. After all, of course, I want their business, so why wouldn’t I badmouth the “competition?”

Instead, I encourage my clients to look into whatever service they mentioned. Even if it’s another local designer. Here’s something I might say:

“I think you would be better off with me because I’m going to take the time to get to know you and your business before designing anything for you. By getting to know your business and its pain points, I’ll be able to direct my creative energy to find the perfect design solutions for your problems. I understand if you need to consider your budget and decide to look into (insert cheap designer source here), however, if you do decide to hire them instead of me, I want to make sure you get what you truly need.”

This response shows the client that I have their best interest in mind even if it means losing them as a client.

Coach the client on what to look for.

If I were to send a client off without any instructions, I would probably lose them on price alone. After all, why pay multiple times the price for what you believe is the same service. However, by coaching the client on what to look for and what to look out for, I help them make a more informed decision. Here’s a conversation I might have with them:

As you’re looking into (discount designers platform) for your design project, here are some things you’ll want to know before deciding who to hire.

1) Are they using clip art?

According to most licenses, clip art is not allowed to be used in logos. Not all, but many of the discount designers on these platforms use clip art to speed up their process and keep their costs down. You can run into legal problems if the designer you choose uses clip art. Don’t take their word that they don’t. Once you see the initial proof of your job, it’s your responsibility to check it against the various clip art catalogues to ensure you can legally use the design.

2) Is it copyrighted material?

Clip art isn’t the only thing you need to watch out for. Make sure that whatever they design for you is not stolen from someone else, or that there isn’t something almost identical out there that could again, lead to legal troubles. Some of the designers on these platforms have been known to steal other people’s designs and pass them off as their own.

3) What files are they providing?

Make sure you are getting the proper files and resolutions for everything you need now, and for everything you may need in the future. Some discount designers only supply you a screen resolution JPG file. You’ll want to ensure you choose someone who will also provide you with hi-res and/or vector files.

4) Are they willing to talk to you?

For a designer to do a good job, they need to know their client. Try to have a conversation with the designer you want to hire so they can fully understand you and your business. You’ll know a good designer because they’ll want to get to know you a bit before designing anything for you. Anyone who doesn’t want to talk with you first, doesn’t care about you or your business, all they care about is pumping out a design as fast as possible, because the quicker they can do it, the more money they make and the quicker they can forget about you and move on to the next client.

5) Do they charge for extras?.

Be careful of prices and add ons. A lot of discount designers advertise inexpensive designs and then charge you extra for things that professional designers include at no additional charge — items such as vector files or higher resolution files needed for print. In the end, you may end up paying multiple times what you thought it was going to cost. Make sure you find out all the prices upfront and ensure you are getting everything you need.

If you keep these things in mind when you’re choosing your designer, you shouldn’t have a problem. I’m here if you have any questions. Good luck.

By providing this list of things to look out for, I'm helping the client make a better decision and ensuring they are not losing out. It shows that I have their best interest in mind.

Results

As I said at the start, I’ve had several clients question my prices and bring up Fiverr or 99 Designs. And yet I’ve never lost a client to those or any other discount design platform. The trick is to be helpful and even encourage them to have a look. 

If you take a defensive position and start bad mouthing discount designers, the client won’t take you seriously. They’ll think you’re only saying those things because you want their business. Which they are correct in their thinking, regardless of how truthful you are about those discount graphic design services. You do want their business, after all.

But by being helpful, and encouraging them, they see that you have their best interest at heart, and that is a HUGE influencer in their decision-making process. A known relationship, even an unstarted potential one, is way stronger than an unknown faceless person at the other end of a text chain to who knows where.

In all my years, I’ve only had one client follow through and try to get something done on 99 designs. A couple of months later, he hired me after his failed experiment. For everyone else, they quickly dismissed the idea and hired me. Maybe I scared them with all the things to look out for, or perhaps they just appreciated the way I handled myself. Regardless, they all became my clients in the end.

So that’s how I usually handle the question of “why should I hire you when I can get this done cheaper over there?”

How do you handle it with clients challenge your prices vs. discount designers?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

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

Aug 5, 2019

Lowering your prices can hurt your design business.

I was talking to a fellow designer recently who is concerned about competing on prices. He asked me what I do if a client says they can pay less for a logo at Fiverr, Upwork, 99 Designs, or any other discount design platforms.

This isn't the first time I've heard this concern from a designer. You may have experienced this exact thing with your clients questioning your prices compared to discount design sources.

The fact of the matter is, competing on prices is a no-win scenario. There’s no way that you can compete with the prices these places offer. Ok, maybe that’s not true. Sure you could lower your price to their level, but what would it accomplish? You would be selling your services for a pittance, and cementing yourself in a rut that would be difficult to escape. Competing on prices is not a sustainable way to run, let alone grow, your design business.

I’m going to make this a two-part series. Next week I’m going to explain how I respond to clients who say, “I can get it cheaper elsewhere.”

For now, I want to explain why competing on prices is a harmful and unsustainable way to run your business.

It all comes down to this. If you offer rock bottom prices, you will never be taken seriously as a designer, let alone a business owner.

If you try to match the pricing found on places like Fiverr or Upwork or 99 Designs, You’ll end up developing an unfavourable reputation that will be extremely difficult to overcome. You'll have a tough time trying to raise your prices in the future, which you will need to do if you plan on making a decent living at this design life.

Are you familiar with the concept of a “dollar store”? There’s probably at least one, if not many around where you live. The premise of a dollar store is that just about everything they sell costs between one to three dollars. They're known as cheap discount stores.

Dollar stores have a reputation for selling cheap merchandise. Not just in price, but in quality as well. After all, just how good can a $2 butcher’s knife or a $1 mini speaker be? And These stores are ok with that reputation. They make no claims that they are anything but what they are. Dollar stores don’t make their money by selling quality products; they make it by selling quantities of products. They make their money one dollar at a time.

Could you imagine if all of a sudden a dollar store decided to sell a crystal wine decanter for $50? Their customers would question the validity of that product. There must be something wrong with the decanter, or it must be sub-par in some way. Nobody would take them seriously, let alone believe the decanter is worth $50. It’s a dollar store, after all. And their reputation for selling cheap merchandise for low prices would hurt them.

That’s what happens to your design business when you try to compete by lowering your prices. Nobody will take you seriously as a designer, especially if you later decide to raise your rates.

So how do you deal with discount designers taking clients away from you? The answer is easy; stop competing with them. In fact, and this may sound weird to you, but if you feel discount designers are your direct competition, the best solution is to raise your prices.

Wait; what? How can raising prices help in this situation? I’m glad you asked.

I talked about this in an early episode of Resourceful Designer. In it, I explained how Raising your prices can lead to getting better graphic design work and more committed clients.

Recently I was listening to Tom Ross’s Honest Entrepreneur podcast, episode 87, to be specific. Tom is the founder of Design Cuts. He was on episode 155 of Resourceful Designer where we talked about supplementing your income by selling design products. 

Tom mentioned an excellent point in episode 87 of his show. The biggest issue with pricing low is that the lower your price, the more designers you’re competing with.

Tom permitted me to use this image, depicting his idea.  

Designers verses design costs.

Looking at this hypothetical chart, would you want to be competing against 10 million designers for a client that will pay you $10? Or would you prefer to compete against 50,000 designers for a client that will pay you $1,000?

Because there are so many designers charging lower prices, a client has more leverage over you. If they’re not happy with what you’re offering, they can very easily find a different designer for the job at the same or even lower price. And since the cost is so little, the client doesn't care where they get it from, as long as they get it.

However, clients with a $1k or $10k budget have much fewer designers from whom to choose. So when they find one they like, they tend to stick with them.

As you can see, offering low prices not only diminishes your income, but it drastically increases the number of designers you’re competing with. Why would you want to be in that situation?

By ignoring all the discount designers and raising your prices, you diminish your competition, increase your income, and you earn the respect of those clients who hire you.

Paraphrasing what Tom said on his podcast,

“Increasing your prices goes way beyond just earning more money; it makes everything else about running and growing your design business easier.”

Now you know why you shouldn’t be competing on prices, and why, if you find yourself doing so, the answer is to raise your design prices.

Unfortunately, your clients don’t always understand these same reasons. Next week, I’m going to share how I handle it when clients bring up the option of discount designers. And I’ll give you a little tease. You may be surprised by what I tell them.

Have you ever raised your prices and discovered you had less competition and better clients.

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Community

The Resourceful Designer Community is an active community of designers with a common goal, a goal of improving and growing their design business.

The Community is for designers of any levels. Current members include designers just starting their business, members with agency experience, members with knowledge of web design and print design, all willing to share what they know.

The Community interacts via a private and very active Slack group, with new conversations happening every day.

There are also regular video meetings. These video chats are where the magic happens. By seeing each other’s faces and interacting directly with each other, members become closer and more invested in what each of their fellow members is doing with their business. If a member can’t make the live video chats, they can view the recording which is archived for members to watch at their convenience.

If have your own design business or are thinking of starting one, regardless of your skills as a designer, and you are looking for a tight-knit group of designers to help you by being mentors, confidants and friends, then you need to be part of the Resourceful Designer Community.

Jul 29, 2019

Turning down design work.

The idea may seem foreign to you. Especially if you’re relatively new to running your design business. If you’re at a stage in your freelance career where you’re trying to establish yourself, you’re trying to get your name out there; you’re trying to make ends meat and pay your bills, then you might not be ready for this concept. Turning down design work may not be in your best interest right now.

However, if you plan on growing your design business to be more than a commodity, more than selling your time for money, then there will come a time when you will need to stop and think, “Is this a design project I want to take on?”

You see, the goal for most home-based designers is to become successful enough to be in high demand. The type of demand where you are booking new clients and new design projects weeks, possibly months in the future. The kind of demand where a client is willing to wait several weeks for you instead of finding a designer that can start on their project sooner.

When I was hand-coding websites, there were times when I was booking two to three months ahead. I don’t see that as much these days since WordPress makes it much quicker to design a website, but demand is still there. And when there’s demand, it means there’s an abundance of work coming in. And when there’s an abundance of work coming in, you can afford to be choosy in the type of projects you take on, and which projects you turn down.

But how do you choose?

I’m going to give you three criteria. Each criteria is made up of a few simple yes or no questions. Asking yourself these questions can help you decide “is this a design project I want to take on?”

Criteria # 1

Yes or no?

  • Does this project sound fun or interesting?
  • Will it be challenging?
  • Will it push me?
  • Will it make me learn new skills?

Is the project to design an event poster for a new upcoming festival, or is it to format a company’s 80-page code of conduct manual? One of these two projects sounds fun and challenging and can push you to learn new skills. The other, not so much. You need to decide if the project is a YES or a NO.

Criteria # 2

Yes or no?

  • Will this project get me a foot in the door?
  • Will it lead to other work?
  • Will it lead to more interesting work?
  • Will it connect me with people I want to connect with?

What will the future hold for you by taking on this project? If it’s an entry to bigger and better things, then it’s a definite YES. Otherwise, it’s a NO.

Criteria # 3

Yes or no?

  • Is this project profitable?
  • Will I make money on it?
  • Will it bring me recognition or reward?
  • Is it worth my time?

Note: Being profitable and making money are not always the same thing. Profitable can mean the project is advantageous, or helpful to you in some way besides monetary income. If you’re trying to break into a particular niche, maybe adding a niche related project to your portfolio is worth more to you right now than the money you’ll make on the project.

Adding up the answers.

Ask yourself these criteria questions before every new design project. If you answered YES to all three criteria, then the design project sounds like a dream job and you should accept it.

If you answered YES to two of the three criteria, then you should highly consider taking on the project. It sounds like an ideal job for you.

If you answered YES to only one of the three criteria, you should be leary of the project. Chances are, it’s not a project worth taking on.

And of course, if you answered NO to all three criteria, take a hard pass on the project, it’s not for you.

Go with your gut.

These three criteria to accept or decline design work are just guidelines. Always follow your gut when it comes to working with clients and on new projects. If you’re hesitating about a job, even one that passes two or even three of the criteria, then the best course of action is to turn it down politely. Never take on a project you don’t feel right about.

Are you in a position where you can afford to decline design work?

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 Julie.

Should I use different branding for my photography business or I should include it as part of my design business?

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

Resource of the week WordCamp.tv

If you can attend a WordCamp in your area, I highly suggest you do so. However, if attending WordCamp is not feasible for you, fear not, the sessions and presentations from all WordCamps are available for viewing, free of charge at wordcamp.tv.

If you are a WordPress designer or developer, attending WordCamp should be a regular part of your schedule. WordCamp is a place for WordPress enthusiasts and novices to gather and share their knowledge. Sessions and presentations accommodate all levels of WordPress skills, so everyone benefits from attending. 

Jul 22, 2019

Have you ever considered designing in a particular niche?

Have you heard the term "The Riches Are In The Niches"? It shouldn't come as a surprise that the more focused you are on a particular sector, the more familiar with it you become. And the more familiar with it you become, the more you are perceived as the expert in that particular sector.

Graphic and web design is no different. Designers who focus on a particular sector become knows as experts and command more respect and earn more money from clients in that sector.

I've talked about niches before on the podcast. In episode 54; Should You Find A Graphic Design Niche, I explained what a niche is and the benefits of choosing one, as well as not having to limit yourself when you choose a niche. In episode 93; Targetting A Design Niche, I teach you how to go about finding and marketing to your particular niche.

In today's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I'm talking to Craig Burton, owner of School Branding Matters, a New Zealand based branding agency that specialises in helping schools craft compelling visual brands. Craig found his niche and has spent the past ten years building his company and inspiring journeys in school branding.

In this episode you'll hear us discuss:

  • How Craig stumbled upon his niche. Hint, he didn't look for his niche, his niche found him.
  • The early days of developing his niche
  • What worked and what didn't in the process
  • Working within his niche before defining it as his niche.
  • What came first, his niche or his business focusing on the niche.
  • How Craig learns about and creates unique brands for similar and yet very different institutions in his niche.
  • Conflicting branding ideas for different schools.
  • How Craig attracts clients ten years into his business.
  • Repeat clients, branding is more than a logo; it's a journey.
  • The Pros and Cons of working in a specific niche.
  • How working in a niche requires a passion for that sector.
  • Competing with non-niching designers
  • Working with non-niche clients.
  • How Craig has changed as a designer over the past ten years.

What's your experience with working in a design niche?

Do you work in a design niche? Let me know what your experiences are by leaving a comment for this episode.

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

Jul 15, 2019

Have you thought of your contingency plans?

[sc name="smartpress" ]So you're running a graphic design business. You're plugging away day after day, week after week, engaging with clients and designing amazing things for them. Life is great, and you’re living the dream. But what if the unexpected happened? Are you prepared?

What would you do in the event of a national disaster that destroys your home? What would you do if all of a sudden, without any warning, you lose all your office equipment?

What would you do if something happened to a loved one and you had to drop everything for who knows how long to be by their side?

What if you were hit by a car on the way home from the grocery store and end up in the hospital for several weeks. What would you do?

Any of these events could happen and prevent your business from functioning. That’s where a contingency plan comes into play.

What is a Contingency Plan?

The easiest way to define a contingency plan is to refer to it as a “plan B” for your business in the event of a setback. A contingency plan creates a clear path, a course of action to get your business through a hardship.

All of the scenarios I described above are pretty harsh, but a contingency plan doesn’t have to be. It just needs a bit of time and foresight to prepare. Here are some steps to help you with yours.

Identify triggers that could affect your design business.

Imagine different scenarios that could affect your business. I’ve shared a few with you already, but there could be many more. Each situation will require it’s own contingency plan.

  • What will you do if you lose your office or all your equipment?
  • What will you do if a loved one requires you and you can’t work?
  • What will you do if you are incapacitated and cannot work?
  • What will you do if a trusted contractor suddenly disappears?
  • What will you do if your electricity goes out or the internet goes down?
  • What will you do if, for one reason or another, your business has a setback?

You need to identify these triggers before you can figure out a plan to cope with them. Discuss this with family and friends; they may think of something you haven’t.

Create a contingency plan for each trigger.

Once you identify the various triggers that could impact your design business, the next step is to figure out what actions you will need to take to get over the hurdles.

No one’s contingency plans are identical, but there are a few things you should consider including in yours.

  • Your plan to notify clients of your situation.
  • Your plan to deal with approaching deadlines you can no longer meet.
  • Your plan to reach out to fellow designers if you need someone to take over a project for you.
  • Your plan to acquire new equipment for your office if it needs replacing.

Set a timeline to help you carry out your plans. What steps will you need to take in the hours, days and possibly weeks after your contingency plan is triggered?

Who to involve.

If you have business partners, they should be involved in the creation of your contingency plan since your absence affects them. Make sure they have all the information they need to handle your side of the business until you are back.

In the event of an emergency, you should have someone you can trust to contact your clients on your behalf and inform them of the situation. The last thing you want to be doing during an emergency is talking to clients.

Protecting yourself before anything happens.

There's already enough to worry about with whatever scenario you’re dealing with, and the last thing you need is more hardship that could affect your business. Protect yourself as best you can by setting the following in place beforehand.

Protect yourself in your contract.

You should have a clause in your contract that states any natural disasters, acts of god or family emergency that affects your ability to fulfil your end of the agreement automatically negates the contract. You can also offer a full refund to the client should you need to enforce this clause.

Insurance to cover your office equipment.

You probably have home/tenant insurance to protect your dwelling but does it adequately protect your business assets if you are running a home-based design business? Most home insurance companies will reimburse you for the value of your loss, not the amount it will cost to replace that loss. The money you will receive from the loss of a five-year-old computer will not be enough for you to purchase new equipment. Talk to your insurance company and see if you can include a rider on your policy that will reimburse you the current replacement costs of your losses.

Emergency Line of credit.

A line of credit can help you purchase new equipment or replace lost income due to an unforeseen business shutdown. A line of credit will allow you to pay your bills and make any needed purchases while you are waiting for insurance money to arrive.

Off-Site Backup.

In the event of a natural disaster or theft, and off-site backup is crucial for maintaining your client and personal files. Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Backblaze are essential for all home-based design businesses.

Safety deposit box.

A Safety deposit box is useful for storing backup drives and essential documents about your business. And you can claim it as a tax write-off.

Create your contingency plans

Creating contingency plans for something you hope never happens is not fun, but if you take the time to plan for the worst, it could mean the difference between your business failing or your business surviving in the aftermaths of whatever unforeseeable event you face.

Think about the various events that could affect your design business and come up with your contingency plans to get through them.

Do you have contingency plans for your design business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Kristy

Before I went off on my own, I used to work as an in-house designer at a local print shop. I got along very well with everyone except one person who would continually go out of his way to cause huge problems for both myself and others. After I left, there was apparently a huge fight between him and the boss and he ended up walking out. Now, he is asking if I still do design work and if can design business cards for him. I need a polite way to tell him that I absolutely do not want to work with him in any capacity that will hopefully end the conversation without further discussion. Thanks in advance!

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

Resource of the week Amazon Prime Day

If you are searching for equipment for your design business, Amazon Prive Day offers the perfect opportunity to acquire what you need at a discounted rate.

Here's a list of just a few of the items you may be interested in.

[easyazon_link keywords="computer monitors" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]Computer Monitors[/easyazon_link]

[easyazon_link keywords="USB 3 Hubs" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]USB 3 Hubs[/easyazon_link]

[easyazon_link keywords="phone charging cables" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]phone charging cables[/easyazon_link]

[easyazon_link keywords="Printer ink" locale="US" tag="resourcefuldesigner-20"]Printer ink[/easyazon_link]

Note: Resourceful Designer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon products.

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

Jul 8, 2019

Do you ever feel like a fraud?

In a previous episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about Superhero Syndrome. It's when someone takes on more responsibilities than they need or should take on. Sometimes doing things they are not qualified to do instead of doing the logical thing and finding someone qualified for the task.

Today I’m talking about the opposite of Superhero Syndrome. And that’s Impostor Syndrome.

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor Syndrome is a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.

In layman's terms, Impostor Syndrome is the belief that you're an impostor and not qualified to do the things that are asked of you, even though you are qualified.

Several years ago, I talked about impostor syndrome on an episode Stuff I Learned Yesterday, another podcast that I shared hosting duties. That was the first time I had heard about Impostor Syndrome, and I had to do a lot of research before recording that episode. Since then, the term, and unfortunately the suffering, has become more popular.

Before choosing this topic for today’s episode, I decided to do a bit more research into the subject. After reading several articles and blogs on the topic of Impostor Syndrome, I've come to one conclusion.

Impostor Syndrome is B.S.

Not the syndrome, that's real, and I believe that many people, especially designers, suffer from it, including myself.

I release a new podcast episode every week. I do this to help you with your design business. But there are plenty of times when I think to myself. “who am I to be advising the people who listen? Why should anyone care what I have to say? I’m no superstar designer. I don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers like Chris Do does.” That’s Impostor Syndrome. And even though I know what it is, the feeling is still there. We all suffer from it at some point.

As designers, we’re expected to create things from nothing using only our imagination and creativity. Businesses stake their growth on the ideas we dream up for them. That’s a daunting task. What if we’re not up to it? That’s what I'm calling B.S. on, that view that people suffering from Impostor Syndrome have about themselves.

Am I the most qualified person to talk about the 170 plus topics I’ve shared with you on the Resourceful Designer podcast? No, of course not. There are plenty of designers more qualified than me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not qualified in my own way. I have over 30 years of design experience, 14 of which I’ve spent running my own design business. Everything I’ve learned over that time and everything I’m still learning, that’s what I’m sharing with you, and there’s nobody better suited to share my experiences than me. I’m the designer, and the person I am today because of the time I invested in myself.

When I start feeling Impostor Syndrome, I remind myself that you’re there listening to me. You’ve decided to press play on my podcast. You’ve determined listening to me is worth your time. And that gets me through it.

But what about you? Do you ever feel like you’re a fraud? An impostor?

If you do, then I'm telling you to stop. If you are at the point in your design career where you are working with or thinking of working with clients, trust me, you earned that right. Chances are, if you weren’t ready yet to work with clients, you wouldn’t be trying to.

It's a common belief amongst impostor syndrome sufferers that they only got to where they are by pure luck, or by somehow deceiving others into thinking they're more skilled and competent than they believe themselves to be. No matter the evidence of their competence, those with Impostor Syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and don't deserve the success they have.

Again, it's all B.S.

I don't want to sound mean or come off as impassive. What I'm trying to say is, unless you're trying to pass yourself off as a designer but never designed anything before, then you’re not an impostor. An impostor would be someone offering to create a website, but they've never done one before, or someone charging to design a logo without any knowledge of what a logo is.

Chances are you got to where you are in your design career because you deserve to be there, wherever “there” is. I believe a lot of designers should have more confidence in their abilities than they do. It’s that the self-doubt that gets to them.

You've earned that degree that says you’re a designer. When you were in school, you did the same projects and took the same tests as those around you. Sure some of your classmates may have done better than you, but that doesn't mean you didn't earn your passing grade.

If you didn’t go to school for design, then chances are you’ve spent time honing your skills and learning the necessary programs and techniques to be a designer. Don’t think for one second that just because you didn’t attend design school that you are not a designer.

The same goes for your career if you’re working somewhere as a designer. You were hired for your design position because you were the best candidate. Nobody hires a designer out of pity. They hire a designer because they see the desired traits, skills and qualifications they need.

Keep pushing yourself.

As long as you continue to learn and push yourself, you can never call yourself a fraud. Are there people better qualified than you? I can almost guarantee there are, but that doesn't mean you are not qualified yourself. Not every player on a team can be the star player, but everyone one of them made the team on their own merits. So stop looking at other people’s successes and keep working on developing your best self.

Impostor Syndrome is not a mental disorder, nor is it a personality trait. It's only a reaction to certain stimuli and events, and you can overcome it. Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right."

You know the term “fake it until you make it”?. That term applies to every designer who ever lived. Even the best designers in the world keep learning and improving themselves because they know they can be better. They keep learning because, in their mind, they’re not as good as they want to be. I know that’s why I keep learning. Because I’m not the designer I want to be. I don’t think I ever will be, and that’s OK. It keeps me going.

You need to get out there, do your best, keep learning, and you’ll be ok.

What can you do if you suffer from Impostor Syndrome?

If you think you suffer from Impostor Syndrome here's something you can try. A conventional therapy I found in several articles says that keeping a journal of your accomplishments can help you associate them with reality. By keeping track of those accomplishments, you'll alleviate your sense of inadequacy.

Keep all those “Great Job!” and “This design is amazing!” emails and comments you receive. They make great testimonials for your website and promotional material, but they also act as a reminder that you’re good at what you do. They let you know that people appreciate what you do and that you're not a fraud.

Another thing you could try when you’re feeling insecure is to find people with whom you can talk. Best of all, other designers who know what you’re going through. The Resourceful Designer Community is a great place to share your thoughts and build confidence in yourself.

You’re not alone.

In my research, for today's episode, I came across a lot of famous people that suffer from Impostor Syndrome.

Actress and Comedienne Tina Fey often feels people will realise she's not that funny.

Michelle Pfeifer is constantly afraid that people will find out she's not very talented.

Kate Winslett wakes up some mornings thinking "I can't do this. I'm a fraud."

Even Tom Hanks suffers from Impostor Syndrome, in an interview he said ‘I still feel sometimes that I’d like to be as good as so-and-so actor,’ he continued. ‘I see some other actors’ work, and I think I’ll never get there. I wish I could.’”

Even someone as talented as Tom Hanks who is recognised as one of the top actors in Hollywood sometimes thinks he's not good enough. And yet he has the awards to prove otherwise.

You may not be as famous as those people, but that doesn't mean you don't deserve to be where you are.

If you feel this way about yourself, if you think you may suffer from Impostor Syndrome, let me tell you this. You've played a significant role in your success. It wasn't those around you, so stop comparing yourself to them. Nobody belongs where you are more than you do. You've earned your position. You are not a fraud. You didn't get to where you are by luck. Your accomplishments are yours and yours alone.

Once you realise this, there's no telling what you can achieve. So don't hold back. If you do, you're only robbing the world of the value you can bring.

Do you suffer from Impostor Syndrome?

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 Tracy

How do you separate life and work?

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

Resource of the week The Logo Package Express

The Logo Package Express is an Adobe Illustrator extension that allows you to create, export and sort hundreds of logo files in under 5 minutes. What would typically take an hour or more to do can now be accomplished in minutes. Think of all that time you can put to better use.

Do you want to see it in action? Here's a demo video I recorded using The Logo Package Express.

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