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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business

Offering resources to help streamline your home based graphic design and web design business so you can get back to what you do best… Designing!
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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
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Now displaying: August, 2019
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
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 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.

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