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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: November, 2019
Nov 25, 2019

Network without a face-to-face meeting.

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

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

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

Network with Email

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Network with Social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Network with a Newsletter

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

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

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

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

Networking with printed material

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

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

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

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

Get out there and build relationships.

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

What's your experience with networking?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Font Macherator

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

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

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

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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Contact me

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

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

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

Nov 18, 2019

How do you feel about design business networking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some tips to help you network.

Start with people you know.

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

Find small gatherings.

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

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

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

Listen and ask questions.

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

Set a “People quota.”

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

Attending large conferences.

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

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

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

Get out there and do some design business networking.

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

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

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

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

What's your experience with networking?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Nov 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't cut prices, lower your offering instead.

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

Look at it this way.

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

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

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

For example,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't cut prices. Lower your offering instead.

Do you use this strategy?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week A good office chair

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

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

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

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

Nov 4, 2019

These four questions will change your design business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question #1 - Why do you need this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most important question of all.

Question #4 - And What else?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four questions.

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

Do you use these four questions?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Jade

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

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

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

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

Resource of the week Dual Sim Phones

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

Here are some popular dual sim phones

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

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

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