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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business

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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
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Now displaying: April, 2019
Apr 29, 2019

Are you ready for your next client meeting?

In part 2 of the Client Onboarding process, I told you all about the intro packet and how it’s the foundation for setting expectations going forward with your client relationship. If the intro packet is the foundation, then the client meeting is the framing, or structure if you will.

Think of the client meeting like a job interview, which in a way it is. You are interviewing the client, and the client is interviewing you. This meeting is less about the design project and more about discovering if this client is someone with whom you want to have a working relationship. Both parties need to feel comfortable working with each other before anything else can proceed.

Don’t mistake this first client meeting for a discovery meeting. Don’t get me wrong, you'll get a lot of answers to your discovery questions during this first client meeting, but that’s not the purpose of this meeting. The real discovery process comes after you've received the signed contracts and deposits.

The client meeting is the part with the nitty gritty, the part when the client explains what it is they are looking for and why they reached out to you as a possible candidate for the project. It's not a deep dive into their design project. It’s a fact-finding mission. The client meeting is your chance to gather information so you can prepare a proposal for the project.

Remember, at this stage of the game, you and the client are not working together yet.

If you gave the client an intro packet as I talked about in the last episode, then you have the benefit of going into the client meeting with established ground rules and a potential client that knows how you work and wants to proceed to the next step. That’s always a good place to start.

Meeting with a potential client for the very first time can be both exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because it’s a fresh slate. They are presenting you, and possibly entrusting you with a brand new design project. At this stage the possibilities are endless. If this first meeting goes well, it can be the start of a long and lucrative relationship. It’s exciting.

However, it can also feel a bit Terrifying. The client is potentially entrusting you with the responsibility of finding a design solution that works for whatever problem they’re trying to solve. That can be a lot of weight on someone’s shoulders. If you don’t impress them during this first meeting, there’s a good possibility that your relationship will be over before it has a chance to start.

What can you do during this all-important client meeting part of the client onboarding process to sway things in your favour and convince the client that you’re the one for their job? That’s what this episode will teach you.

Every client meeting is different.

Of the entire client onboarding process, the client meeting is the one with the most variables. Every client is different, and no two design projects are the same. It only makes sense that every client meeting will be different as well. Here is a simple guideline that will hopefully give you the best chance of success. Because until the contract is signed, the client can always walk away. So let's do our best to prevent that outcome.

How to meet with a client.

There are many ways two individuals can communicate. But when it comes to an initial meeting with a potential client, there are only three methods that matter.

In order of importance they are:

  1. Meeting the client in person.
  2. Meeting the client over video.
  3. Talking to the client over the phone.

No matter how busy you are, or how busy the client is, your first meeting should never take place via text (email or any messaging service). Most meetings with your client even beyond this first one should be face-to-face in person or over video or on the phone.

The written word can be interpreted in different ways. It’s easy to take something out of context and inadvertently change the meaning of what the writer intended. Plus, personality seldom comes through in the written word. And personality plays a huge role in that ever important relationship building. Try to have at least your first client meeting face-to-face or over the phone.

Preparing for a client meeting.

Remember how I said the client meeting is like an interview? You wouldn’t go into an interview without doing some research on the company you were interviewing with, would you? The same goes for a client meeting. You want to know things about the client before meeting them. Google the client and their company. Read through their website if they have one. Quickly look up their competition. A little bit of time spent researching the client can go a long way in impressing them. The client will appreciate that.

Just like an interview, you do not want to be late for a client meeting. Make sure to double check where the meeting is taking place, the route to get there and how long it takes, and who exactly you are meeting.

Preparing yourself physically for a client meeting.

Have you ever heard the term “Dress for Success”? Unfortunately, when running a design business, your abilities and skills as a designer are not always enough to land you a client. In some cases, physical appearance can play a factor in whether or not a client hires you. It’s sad to say, but it’s true.

If you show up to a client meeting with a bank manager or a controlling partner of a law firm dressed in ripped jeans and a graphic T-shirt they probably won’t take you seriously. Before your meeting, try and get a feel for who the client is and dress appropriately. In a lot of cases a "business casual" look is all that’s required, but sometimes, to win the client you may have to clean up a bit more.

Always err on the side of caution, it’s better to be awkwardly overdressed than it is to create a wrong first impression by being underdressed. And unless you’re Chris Do or Aaron Draplin, leave the ball cap at home. Sure we creative types love the freedom to express ourselves. But save it for your other outings, not for client meetings.

Preparing yourself mentally for a client meeting.

Preparing yourself mentally before a client meeting is crucial to your success. You need to think positively about the outcome of the meeting.

Henry Ford is famous for his quote.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right,”

If you go into a client meeting thinking “I don’t have a chance of getting this project” then there’s a good chance you’ll fail.

Remind yourself that you are there for a reason. The client asked you to meet with them because they think you have what it takes to take on their project. You are capable. You know what you are doing. You have the skills needed to get the client’s job done. Skills that the client and everybody they work with don't have. So own it.

Make your first impression count.

When you first meet the client, you want to create the best first impression you can. Don’t slouch and try not to look nervous (no matter how nervous you are). Walk into the meeting with an air of confidence. Stand tall, look the client in the eye and smile.

Take the initiative and offer to shake their hand before they offer theirs. And please make sure you have a firm handshake. If you are not sure, find a practice partner. Nothing deflates an air of confidence like a limp handshake. Finally, just for etiquette allow the client to sit before taking a seat yourself.

What do you talk about during your first client meeting?

Before diving into the reason for the meeting, it’s always a good idea to engage in a bit of small talk to get comfortable with each other. Remember, this is the first stage of building a relationship with the client. Keep the conversation about positive things. DO NOT complain about the weather or traffic or anything else that may make you sound easily annoyed. It could turn the client off.

Be confident, but not overbearing. Try to act the same way you would on a first date. Would you give a second chance to someone who sounded desperate? Of course not. You want the client to think that you don’t need the work, that you are busy, that you’re in demand, and it will make them want to work with you even more.

I’ve said it many times before on the podcast, but it merits repeating it. Clients prefer to work with a good designer they like, then an amazing designer they don’t like. Use this opportunity to show the client you are likeable.

Once the small talk is out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. You can start by asking the client what they thought of your intro packet and if they have any questions about it — following that you should ask about their project and their business. If the chance comes up, ask about their family, or anything else that presents itself. Use this opportunity to get to know the client. The idea here is to make the client comfortable in dealing with you. Make sure to tell them a bit about yourself as well if they ask, it’s a two-way streak after all.

Let the client talk as much as they want. They’re the ones that wanted to meet with you. You’re busy and in demand after all. Let them explain why they contacted you. Be attentive, focused, and interested in what they have to say. Throw in a few words or gestures to show them you understand and let them feel comfortable talking to you.

And take notes, even if you don’t need them. Clients like it when people take notes while listening to them. It makes them feel like you value their information more.

Once the client is done talking, and you have a better grasp of their project, it’s time for you to ask questions about their design project and show them why you are the perfect candidate for the job. Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Talk about possible solutions without going into too much detail.

Use this opportunity to flesh out the details of what the client needs so you can write up your proposal. Also, use it as a chance to show them your experience and how much you care about their business. Make sure to use examples of past successes you’ve had. Clients love to hear case studies, especially those that closely match their situations.

Finally, ask the client for their budget. I know it’s a touchy subject, but it’s a necessary one before you can write your proposal. The client's budget will determine the solution you provide them. If they are looking for a website, a budget of $10,000 will get them a much different site than a budget of $3,000. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, but if you ask with confidence like it’s just another step in the process, they’ll feel more inclined to answer you.

Before wrapping up the meeting, make sure to ask if the client has any more questions. It’s a good sign when they do. It means they are considering hiring you. Clients who have decided you are not the right person will seldom ask followup questions. But don’t worry if they don’t have any more questions. It may be because you did such a thorough job during the meeting.

Keep in mind while answering their questions that it's ok to say “I don’t know” or “I can look into that”. Then take note of their questions, and follow through with an answer as soon as you can.

Key pointers to remember.

  1. Relax and enjoy your conversation with the client. Remember that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain since they are not your client yet.
  2. Be confident. Even if this is your first client meeting, pretend like you’ve done it countless times before. It will help you come across as a seasoned professional.
  3. Talk to the client like you are partners. Use terms like “We” and “Us” when talking about working together.
  4. Use the client’s first name when addressing them. Using their first name sounds more personal and creates that impression of a relationship.
  5. Act as if you’ve already won the contract. Say things like “this is how we’ll do it” or “I’ll do this” when discussing the project.
  6. If you are meeting with more than one person try to determine who in the group is in charge and present to them directly. Don’t ignore the others in the group but present mostly to the person in charge.
  7. Practice beforehand. Stand in front of a mirror, present to a friend or family member, practice in the shower. The more prepared you are before the meeting, the better the meeting will go.
  8. If you are meeting at a neutral location like a restaurant or coffee shop, insist on buying their meal or drink. Keep the receipt and deduct it as a business expense.

Ending the meeting.

Once all the questions have been asked and answered it’s time to end the meeting. Use this last opportunity to leave a positive impression on the client. Smile and be confident. Let them know how much you’ve enjoyed meeting them. Thank them for their time.

Leave your business card and any other material you want to leave behind, and let the client know that should they have any more questions they can contact you.

If the client asked for a proposal remind them when they can expect to receive it. If they didn’t ask for one, let them know they can contact you if they want to proceed any further. After the meeting, make sure you follow up on anything you said you would.

Followup

If you haven’t heard back from the client within a week or so, follow up with a phone call or email. Let them know you are available if they have any questions about their project.

The chances are that after such a successful meeting the client will decide to hire you, but if they choose to use a different designer, don’t take it personally and don’t let it hurt your confidence. Even the most experienced designers in our industry lose out on clients. Just chalk it up to a helpful learning experience and start preparing for the next client meeting.

How comfortable are you at client meetings?

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 Scott

As a full time local newspaper ad print designer for 23 years and freelance designer when the opportunity comes up what is the best way to boost my clients from social media or otherwise? Most of my jobs come from word of mouth. Any direction in form of podcast episodes or otherwise would be greatly appreciated.

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

Resource of the week Focus Music

If you are someone who enjoys listening to music but finds it distracting while working you may want to try listing to what is called "Focus Music". Focus Music is downbeat instrumental music with a soft, slow tone that is perfect for filling the silence. It's the type of music that will not distract you while you work.

Search for the term "focus" in your favourite music app and find a playlist that suits your tastes.

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

Apr 22, 2019

Do you have an intro packet for your design business?

An intro packet is a tool you use to land new clients and facilitate the client onboarding process. It can either be a dedicated page on your website, a detailed PDF or better yet, a well designed and nicely printed piece to hand out to potential clients.

An intro packet is a great way to create a good first impression of who you are and what you do. It answers basic questions, sets expectations and gives clients a first look at what it will be like working with you. It’s also a good tool to filter out clients that are not a good fit for your business.

In the last episode of the podcast, I told you all about the client onboarding processand how having a good onboarding process is crucial to landing new design clients. A good intro packet is the foundation of that important onboarding process.

What’s in an intro packet?

Think of your intro packet as well designed piece containing all the introductory information you normally give to potential clients. Not detailed information like what goes into your proposals and contracts. Instead, the intro packet contains an outline of what you do and what it will be like working with you.

  • Your payment policies
  • Time frames
  • How you work
  • What you expect from your clients
  • etc.

It answers those basic initial questions a client needs to know before they start discussing their project with you.

The intro packet should be the very first thing you present to a client before agreeing to talk to them about their proposed project. Its purpose is to outline the big picture of what working with you will be like. It also saves you time by providing clients with answers to the most asked questions you receive saving you having to answer them personally.

When should you send an intro packet?

The intro packet should be one of the first steps in the client onboarding process right after the initial client inquiry. Your onboarding process should look like this:

  1. Client contacts you
  2. Send them your intro packet
  3. Meet the client to discuss their design project
  4. Proposal and contracts are sent
  5. Send the client a welcome packet (more on this in a future episode in this series)
  6. Start the project.

Whenever a client emails you, fills out a form on your website or contacts you by phone, your first response should be to send them your intro packet and ask them to look it over before you schedule a meeting with them. This will accomplish one of two things.

1.It will ensure the client they’ve made a good choice in reaching out to you and strengthen their resolve to work with you.

2.It let the client know that you are not a good fit and save you both a lot of time and possible headaches.

The purpose of an intro packet.

An intro packet serves multiple purposes.

  1. It introduces clients to who you are and sets expectations as to what they can expect when working with you. This helps alleviate fears or anxieties they may have and make them more confident in working with you.
  2. It saves you both time. Presenting your process in a well-organized manner makes future communications between you and your client both faster an smoother.
  3. It establishes you as an expert and authority in your field. It also helps strengthen the brand image you are developing for your design business.
  4. It creates a great first impression that shows clients you are organized, thorough, capable and professional.
  5. It helps you screen potential clients before having to talk to them. After reading your policies and learning how you work a client may decide not to work with you, which saves you the time involved in figuring that out yourself, or worse not figuring it out until it’s too late.
  6. It gives you a chance to show off your skills because your introductory packet isn’t just a sheet of paper with info on it. It should be a well-designed piece to wow potential clients with your skills as a designer.

Imagine this scenario. A client needs help developing a brand for a new restaurant he's opening. He chooses three different local designers and emails them in order to get a feel for each one before deciding on who to hire.

Designer #1replies to the email saying they would love to sit down and talk with him about his project. When could they meet?

Designer #2calls the client and tells him all about his design services before trying to schedule an in-person meeting with the client. While on the phone he explains his work process, how payments work and anything else he thinks the client should know. The designer thinks he did a thorough job and feels good about his chances of landing the client. However, the client can’t remember half the details after hanging up the phone. Plus now he's committed to a meeting a designer he's still unsure about.

Designer #3Calls the client and thanks him for considering her for his project. The designer expresses an interest in working with the client and offers to send him her intro packet. The designer explains to the client that the intro packet contains all the information he needs in order to make an informed decision of whether he would like to work with her on his project. She suggests he look it over, and if he has any questions he can call her back and she would be happy to answer them. If the client thinks they’ll be a good fit he can set up a meeting with her to discuss the project more thoroughly.

Which one of these scenarios do you think leaves the best impression on the client? The first designer barely deserves a second thought. Designer #2 sounded good, but the client is a little overwhelmed and is starting to forget most of what they talked about. Designer #3 however, conducted themselves in the most professional manner, provided the client with all the information they required in the form of a well-designed info packet showcasing her design skills. This gives the client the chance to review her information on his own terms, letting him decide without any pressure if he wants to set up a meeting with her to discuss his project further.

If the client decides to move forward with designer #3, he does so with the knowledge of what he's getting into. Should he decide to use a different designer, then designer #3 only lost a few minutes of her time in the initial communication.

They say it costs five times more in time and effort to acquire a new client than to simply keep an existing client. The best way to retain clients is to properly set expectations from the beginning and then meet, or exceed them. An intro packet is a perfect tool to help with this. It makes sure you are not wasting time and energy on bad clients and helps you make favourable impressions on good clients.

By setting high standards from the first contact and following through with great service, you are sure to keep your clients coming back for more.

How to create your intro packet.

When creating your intro packet you want it to be thorough enough to inform your clients and answer their basic questions, but you also want it to be generic enough to work for all clients regardless of their project.

The same intro packet could be used regardless of who the client is. A mom and pop looking for a logo for their corner store, or a 5 partner law firm opening up downtown will both receive the same intro package. However, if you offer multiple design services such as web and print design, you may want to create different intro packets for each one. There will be a lot of crossover for the common areas such as how and when clients can contact you.

Your intro packet should include:

Cover:This is your chance to show off your design skills. Make the cover interesting and professional looking but not too wild.

Introduction:There’s a good chance the client already knows who you are and what you do, but an intro packet is a good place to showcase your skills and talents to round out their impression of you.

Contact info and contact policies:Set the rules of how you communicate with clients and when it’s OK for them to contact you.

What is your process:In this section, you explain how you work and what the client will receive from you at the completion of a project. List special features you may include. List the steps that take place before, during and after a project.

You can also use this section to explain what is not included in your process. Make it clear to the client what it is you do AND what you don’t do.

What is expected of the client:This section tells the client what is expected of them. Make it very clear that if the project requires the client to supply content such as images or copy, that it is expected in a timely manner.

Timeline:Explain how you work and how long certain processes take. If you need three weeks for discovery to research target markets and competition, let the client know so they don’t expect to see results in a week.

Payment:This section explains your pricing policy. Do you require partial or full payment up front? When is the balance due? Do you have a minimum price the client should know about? This section is very useful for weeding out clients below your required budget.

Cancellation policy:This section explains what happens should the client cancel a project once started, or should the client go dormant for a certain period of time.

FAQ:Use this section to answer frequent questions you receive from clients that don't fit in any of the other sections.

Conclusion:Use this section to thank the potential client for their interest in working with you. Encourage them to contact you if they have any questions or concerns and let them know what steps are required if they want to proceed and hire you.

Remember, the client onboarding process is your opportunity to convert potential new clients into paying clients. Your intro packet is the first step in that process. Keep your wording compelling enough, but don’t presume you will be working with the client because you might not. Be vague, but use a language inclusive to building a relationship with them.

The intro packet is a vital part of the client onboarding process. Make sure yours is up to par.

Do you have an intro packet?

Let me know how your intro packet is working for you by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from John

Do you have any clients that listen to your podcast and if they do are you worried that they will get upset if you mention your business with them?

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

Resource of the week Palettte.app

Palettte.app is an interesting way to explore and create colour palettes for use in your design projects. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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

Contact me

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

Follow me on TwitterFacebookand Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Apr 15, 2019

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of turning potential clients into paying clients. It’s the process of introducing them to your business, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring they understand the services you offer and your processes while providing those services.

Onboarding is all the steps from the initial contact with the client until you start working on their design project. It’s your chance to explain to a client;

  • What they should expect from you.
  • What their part is in the relationship.
  • How communication between you should happen.
  • When and how you are to be paid.
  • And more

Over the next few episodes of the podcast, I’m going to dive into specific parts of the client onboarding process, but for today, I’m going to talk about the process as a whole.

Why is Client Onboarding important?

Let’s look at the process from two angles.

From the client's point of view:

The Onboarding process plays a vital part in building and nurturing the relationship between you and your client. It’s a way of ensuring you’re all on the same page when it comes to working together.

Clients don’t often know how partnering with a designer works. It’s nervewracking for them to trust you, someone they may not know, with this vital part of their business's future. With proper Client Onboarding, you give the client a glimpse of what it will be like working together and hopefully leave them feeling confident that they’ve made the right choice in hiring you.

For your point of view:

The Onboarding process is a way for you to grasp the scope of the project the client is presenting you with, as well as a chance to get to know the client. You learn their communication style which allows you to address any concerns you may have right at the start, so they don’t become problems later on. And it allows you to show the client your "plan of attack" for tackling their project, letting them know what you expect of them.

The onboarding process is also a great way to weed out potential bad clients. At this point, you have not agreed to anything with the client. Use this time to determine if they are someone with whom you want to work.

Finally, the onboarding process is a great opportunity for you to show the client just how awesome it will be to work with you, hopefully putting them at ease and solidifying in their mind that they’ve chosen the right designer.

To sum it up, Client Onboarding is all about keeping the client happy, because a happy client will come back for more. That’s how vital the onboarding process is.

Ignoring the process.

Client Onboarding is a process. As a process, it has a structure that over time you will become intimately familiar with and comfortable using. Once you get used to an onboarding process, you will find it much easier to land clients.

If you receive inquiries from potential clients but with very few of them converting into paying clients, then you need to evaluate your client onboarding process.

Whenever you meet a potential new client, you can’t just start throwing random information at them and expect them to come on board immediately. It’s overwhelming for them. And yet, that’s precisely the strategy many designers take. They give as much information as they can without taking the client’s point of view in mind, which is probably why they find client acquisition difficult.

Onboarding involves not only informing the potential client of what they need to know but listening to them and answering their questions and concerns. It’s about making the experience of hiring a designer as smooth as possible for them. If you don’t do it right, you’ll leave the client with the wrong impression, and the chances of them hiring you or coming back are slim. However, If you do it right, the client will come to believe that there is nobody else they want to work with but you.

Part of running a design business is being a salesperson. And as all good salespeople know, having a good onboarding process in place is half the battle to winning over clients.

When should Client Onboarding start?

The onboarding process should start as soon as a client reaches out to you. There are various steps to the onboarding process that I’ll cover in the next few episodes of the podcast. But just know that Client Onboarding is ongoing from the first contact until project start, and sometimes beyond.

Client Onboarding gives you direction.

Any time you start working with a client, both sides usually have a sense of enthusiasm towards the new project. Ideas go back and forward, people get excited and before you know it, decisions have been made without any form of direction.

Client Onboarding gives you that direction.

Part of the process is to create a schedule and a plan for the project. This allows you to set out roles by determining who will be doing what and when. How long the process should take and what is expected from all parties. This way nothing is left up in the air and there are no surprises. Design projects go so much smoother when everyone involved knows what to expect.

Managing client expectations.

I mentioned earlier how a lot of clients don’t know how partnering with a designer works. Onboarding can help alleviate this by managing client expectations.

Part of the Onboarding Process is to make sure clients know what they can expect, and also what not to expect from you when it comes to your processes and how you work. Take scope creep for example. It’s the bane of many designers. However, Most clients don’t realise the problem when they ask you to do “just one more thing.”

To prevent scope creep, outline your policies in the onboarding process and let clients know by;

  • Defining exactly what is involved with their project.
  • Explaining what is allowed and what isn’t allowed within that definition.
  • Letting them know the costs involved with additional work.
  • Making sure the client knows what they are paying for.

Setting them straight on the way you work and the processes you use is a key ingredient to a successful project and a long and prosperous relationship.

Show your clients why choosing you was the right choice.

Client Onboarding isn’t just about preventing potential problems. It’s also about showcasing what it is you can do and how much value you can bring them. This is important because, as I mentioned earlier, at this stage the client is excited to get their project started. That excitement lends well to you introducing other creative ideas and services to them. While they are most receptive take the opportunity to bring up other creative ideas or services you offer.

The results of good Client Onboarding.

When you’re successful with your client onboarding, you will not only increase the percentage of potential clients that convert to paid clients. But those clients will:

  • Stay with you longer and be more loyal.
  • Order more products and services from you.
  • Become ambassadors and advocate for your company and services. Spreading the word and helping you grow your design business.

And that’s why you should have a client onboarding process for your design business.

Do you have a client onboarding process in place?

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 Fanis

My name is Fanis, and I am from Greece.

By reading about Graphic Design process, I always turn out to the same issue. What if I live in an island and most of my projects are about tourism, like hotel brochures, maps, rental brochures etc.? How can I define my client goals and who may be my client competition?

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

Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost

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

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

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

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

Apr 8, 2019

Understanding Priorities will help grow your design business.

Whether your design business is still new or you’ve been doing this for many years, I'm betting you started it feeling greedy. Meaning you took on any design work that came your way. That's OK. Not many designers just starting their freelance career are picky about the type of work they take on.

I’m not talking pricing. Just because you have a new business isn’t a reason to accept $25 logo jobs. You still have to have your principals after all. What I’m talking about is the type of work you take on; logos, brochures, postcards, websites, banner ads, powerpoint presentation, etc. If you started a web design business and a client asked you for a logo, and the money was good, chances are you took on the project and designed a logo for them, even if it didn’t align with your business model of running a web design business. You have to pay the bills after all, and money is money.

Understanding priorities become essential once the ball is rolling, money is coming in, and your business is out of the infancy stage. At some point, you need to take a measure of what it is you are doing with your design business, compared to what it is you want to be doing with it and ask yourself,

"am I saying yes to stuff I probably shouldn't be saying yes to?"

The answer to that question should come easily once you understand your priorities.

What is important to you?

What type of design business do you want to run? The options are endless.

  • Do you want to be a branding specialist?
  • Do you want to focus your talents on print design?
  • Do you want to create product packages?
  • Is building websites your passion?
  • Or is coming up with the best ways for users to interact with things what excites you?

Whatever direction you want to take your business, you need to streamline your process to match it. Figure out what aspect of the design space you want to focus on and make all future decisions with that goal in mind. Once you know what to focus your choices on, it will become much more transparent and easier for you to see what you should be saying yes to, and what you should be saying no to.

Choosing where to take your design business.

Think of everything you are currently doing in your design business. Of all of those things, what can you clear out? Here’s an exercise in understanding priorities that will help you weed out the yes's and no's for your business. Take out a pad of paper (Post-it notes works great for this) and follow these steps.

Compile your list of tasks.

  1. On each sheet of paper, write out ONE thing you are currently doing with your business. For example, write out all the different types of design jobs you take on (logos, brochures, websites, magazine ads, etc.). Then write out all the peripheral tasks associated with those design jobs. Such as photography, photo editing/manipulation, copywriting etc. Don't' forget to Include things like discovery research, file handling, backups and archiving. Every single thing you do, write each one on a separate piece of paper.
  2. Next, write down all the administrative tasks you do in your design business. Things like invoicing, bookkeeping, client followup, taxes, outreach, marketing etc. Write down as many items as you can on as many sheets of paper or post-it-notes as you need.

Separate your tasks into two piles.

  1. Once you’ve written down everything that you do in your design business, it's time to start separating them into two piles. Look at each note and ask yourself these two questions.
  • Does this bring me joy or Do I like doing this one particular thing?
  • Am I good at this particular thing?

If you answered yes to BOTH questions, put it in pile number one. If you cannot respond yes to both questions, put it into pile number two. Separate your collection into these two piles.

Continue separating.

Now, look at pile one, the tasks you enjoy doing or bring you joy AND that you are good at, and ask yourself one more question.

  • If I continue doing this thing or offering this service, will it help my business grow in the direction I want it to become?

Make two new piles, one pile containing the tasks that will help your business grow and one pile containing the tasks that won’t.

In the end, you will be left with a small pile that:

  1. You enjoy doing or bring you joy.
  2. You are good at doing.
  3. Will help your business grow.

The items in that pile are the things you should prioritise for your business. Those are the things you should be marketing to potential clients. Those are the things you want to hone your skills even further. Those are the things that will let you achieve your business goals.

What about the other piles?

What about the other piles that don't meat all three criteria? It all comes down once again to understanding priorities. Here’s what you do.

The pile with tasks you enjoy doing and are good at, but Don't help your business grow, these are the items and services you continue doing when needed. You don't have to list them under your services but if a client asks if you can do them feel free to say yes. After all, these are things you are good at and enjoy doing, so don’t cut them out just because they don’t help grow your business, just don't prioritise them.

Dividing the rest.

Divide your original second pile, the things that don’t bring you joy or you are not very good at, into two more piles — ones that will help your business grow and the ones that won't.

The pile that will help grow your design business becomes the stuff you offload. Meaning those are the tasks you hire other people to do for you. These are the things that you don’t like doing, or you are not good at, BUT you know they are necessary for your business to grow. Find people who both enjoy doing those things and are good at them and let them help you to build your design business.

Finally, the pile of tasks you don’t like doing, you're no good at and won't help your business grow, stop doing them. They’re a waste of time and resources on your part. They’re not even worth the hassle of farming out. Remember, it’s OK to say no if a client asks you if you offer a particular service you don’t want to do.

Understanding priorities when it comes to your business is the key to its growth. Concentrate on the things that bring you joy, you are good at, and help grow your business, and you will be on your way to success. Once you master this tactic, your business will have nowhere to go but up.

What do you think of this strategy?

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 Greg

Love the podcast, although I'm opting to start from the beginning, so I'm still only about 45 episodes in. I've been running my own design business for a number of years, but I went to school as an opera singer, so I've been in "fake it 'till you make it" mode and it's great to hear about this stuff from someone who actually knows what they're doing!

I had a question for you! I've been doing this now for about 10 years (mostly web design), but it's only been in the last year or so that I've actually started trying to make it a main source of income. I had a decent talent for design, and have become a pretty good web developer over the years, but because I only did it on the side and I wasn't really immersed in the design world, whatever "talent" I had went un-trained and un-refined. As a classical musician I know first-hand that that is never going to get my skill to where I want it to be.

Now that I'm trying to "level up," as it were, I'm finding that I'm rarely happy with my designs anymore. I dove in to learning about design, which I think has significantly upgraded my taste, but now I look at even my most recent designs and think "Yeah, this is fine but it's not amazing." It's been hard making money, not because I have any trouble finding clients, but because I don't feel confident about my work and I end up under-charging or "waiting until I'm better" before looking for new clients. In trying to figure out what's wrong, I've come to think that my designs would have been great 10 years ago, but now the "go-to" design aspects that have worked for me for years look dated and un-polished.

At the same time, I get tired of seeing websites that all basically look the same. Menu at the top, hero section with giant photo and CTA overlay, usually three columns below, then some centered content, blah blah... So, my current struggle is figuring out how I can design things that are unique, but still look modern and polished. To some degree I know I just need to practice and learn more, but my question for you is: After all these years of doing what you do, how do you update your "style"? Are there resources you go to that talk about design trends or do you just let yourself evolve as you go, and if so, is it just a matter of trying things until you figure out what you think works? Do you have ways of deciding which styles, techniques, design principles, etc., no longer work well? Are there other aesthetics that you look to, like fashion or music, that help you creatively connect to the modern world?

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

Resource of the week BNI

BNI is a global networking organisation that helps members increase their business through a structured, positive and professional referral marketing program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals. Through weekly meetings and exclusive resources, BNI helps you build a strong network that fuels professional growth.

The best way to find out more about how BNI works is to go to a local chapter meeting and see for yourself what it’s like. To learn more, or to find a chapter near you visit the BNI website.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
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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

Apr 1, 2019

What does a designer do on April Fools Day?

This week's release happens to fall on April Fools Day. The one day of the year where tomfoolery, shenanigans and levity abound. A day when you put all seriousness aside and let out your inner practical joker.

I thought of trying to pull one over you by starting off saying something like “I’ve decided to end the podcast, and this will be my last episode” But then I thought, what if someone is reading this or listening to the podcast for the very first time. That person might not realise it’s an April Fools joke and leave. Or what if a regular listener took me seriously and unsubscribed from the podcast? Not to mention, since my episodes are mostly evergreen, someone may be listening to this episode later in the month, the year or perhaps even years from now.

Instead, I decided to use this episode to share some of the “design” related practical jokes I’ve been part of over the years. I put "design" in quotation marks because I'm not talking about creating fake designs as a joke (although some of that does come into play) I'm mostly talking about pulling pranks on unsuspecting coworkers.

If you’re here for advice on your design business, I’m sorry, but you probably won't get much out of this episode. However, if you're looking for something to liven up your day, then keep on.

I’m a big proponent of working from home. I can’t imagine going back to office life working for someone else. But with all the perks of being self-employed, one of the drawbacks is not having coworkers to have conversations with, share ideas OR pull practical jokes on. That’s one of the things I miss since leaving the print shop.

Pulling practical jokes on my wife or kids is fun. But it’s not the same as pulling a good one past an unsuspecting coworker in the middle of a busy business day.

In honour of April Fools Day, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve pulled on my unsuspecting peers in years past. I describe all of these in detail on the podcast episode, so if you are here reading this, I suggest you press play and have a listen instead. They get better as you read.

  1. Unscrew the top of the salt shaker or switch the salt and sugar
  2. Saran wrap on the toilet seat (funny, so long as you don't have to clean up the mess afterwards.)
  3. Turn the lights off in the bathroom via the circuit breaker leaving the victim to finish their "business" in complete darkness.
  4. Turn Brightness off on monitors to make people believe their screen is turned off.
  5. Remove balls from mice (was fun before optical mice became the norm)
  6. Swap left and right mouse buttons, or change the tracking and scrolling speeds via System Preferences.
  7. Reroute computer wires, so keyboards and mice control the wrong computers (pre-wireless devices).
  8. Rearrange keys on a keyboard. Especially fun when used on people that need to look at their keyboard while typing.
  9. Put all phone lines on hold and tell someone there’s a call for them. Let them worry about picking up the wrong line.

Up until now, I've shared some of the typical harmless pranks I've done. Now it gets more fun.

Upsidedown screen:

Find someone's desktop/wallpaper image and rotate it 180 degrees in Photoshop. Watch their confusion when they turn on their monitor and see the image upside down.

Screenshot of a messy desktop.

For someone who keeps a messy computer desktop,

  1. Take a screenshot of their desktop.
  2. Put all the files and folders from their desktop into one folder.
  3. Change that one folder's icon to a 1px by 1px dot and rename the folder to a single character.
  4. Place the folder at the bottom of the screen so that the name is off the screen. This leaves only the 1-pixel square "visible".
  5. Replace the background/wallpaper of the now clean desktop with the screenshot of the messy desktop.

Watch and laugh as the person tries clicking on files and folders not knowing they are part of their background image.

Scary warning message

This was probably the best prank I pulled on my coworkers.

  1. Take a screenshot of a coworker's desktop.
  2. Take a screenshot of any warning or confirmation box that your computer displays.
  3. In Photoshop, crop the warning or confirmation box and alter the message to read something like "Warning: Proceeding with this option will result in the deletion of the hard drive.”
  4. Create two realistic looking systems buttons. One that says "Cancel" and one that says "Continue" but make the "Cancel" button greyed out.
  5. Place your new "Warning" message over the screenshot of your coworker's desktop.
  6. Replace your coworker's desktop image with your new creation.
  7. Sit back and enjoy.

Watch as your coworker panics at the message on their screen. They will try to press the Cancel button, but of course, it won't work. Plus you made it greyed out to look like its not clickable. They'll be afraid to do anything else in case they inadvertently delete their hard drive. Let them worry for a while before letting them in on the secret. Then watch your back, because they will want to retaliate after this one.

What’s the best design related practical joke you’ve ever pulled off or been the recipient of?

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

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