Info

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!
RSS Feed iOS App
Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
2024
June
May
April
March
February
January


2023
December
November
October
September
July
May
April
March
February
January


2022
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2021
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2020
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2015
December
November
October
September


All Episodes
Archives
Now displaying: October, 2019
Oct 28, 2019

Less about you and more about your clients.

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

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

Flip your marketing message.

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

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

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

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

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

Put your clients' needs first.

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

Designer #1has this statement on their home page.

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

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

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

But if we reworded the same message?

Designer #2 

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

Do you see the difference?

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

Opening statement:

Designer #1“Need a designer?”

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

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

The body:

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

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

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

Closing statement:

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

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

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

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

The power of putting your client first.

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Divi 4.0

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

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

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

Oct 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

Why choosing the right business name is important.

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

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

Imagine someone asking a friend about web design.

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

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

OR

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

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

Yes, your business name matters.

A process for choosing a name for your design business

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

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

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

1) Who is your target audience?

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

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

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

2) Descriptive or Abstract?

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

3) Real or Made Up Words?

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

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

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

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

Criteria for choosing a name.

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

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

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

Do Your Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple names are not always the best names.

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

What it comes down to

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

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

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

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Pauline

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

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

Oct 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all there is to it.

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

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

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

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

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

I help _______________ to _______________.

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

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

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

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

What's your brand one-liner?

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

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Pauline

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

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

Resource of the week BackBlaze

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

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

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

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

Oct 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Investment vs. Expense.

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

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

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

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

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

How to position yourself as an investment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you positioning yourself?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

1