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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: September, 2019
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.

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

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
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

 

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.

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

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
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

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
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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