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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: December, 2019
Dec 23, 2019

A look back at 2019 and a look ahead to 2020.

Thank you for your continued interest in Resourceful Designer. You have no idea how much I appreciate you. There are so many great resources available for learning and growing as a designer, and I'm humbled that you choose to spend a bit of your valuable time with me.

Last week in the Resourceful Designer Community, we held a video chat where we shared our goals for next year. We also listed our goals in the Personal-Growth channel in our Slack group so we could refer back to them as the year progresses.

Sharing my goals for 2020 reminded me that at the end of last year, I did a podcast episode titled A Look Back, A Look Ahead, where I talked about what I had accomplished in 2018 and my goals for 2019.

I thought it would be fun to turn the idea behind that episode into an annual tradition. So, as my final instalment of 2019, I bring you A Look back, A Look Ahead 2019 Edition.

A Look Back at my 2019 goals.

At the end of 2018, I set these goals for myself.

ACCOMPLISHED: Narrow down my niche: In February of 2019, I launched podcastbranding.co, a new endeavour where I focus on visual identities for podcasters. It's growing strong.

FAILED: I wanted to talk at more conferences in 2019, but I ended up not having any speaking engagements at all.

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow the Resourceful Designer audience. A change in the way podcast audience size is calculated makes this one hard to measure, but from what I can tell, I do have more podcast listeners now than I did at this time last year.

ACCOMPLISHED: Create and grow the Resourceful Designer Community. The Community has quickly become a place where friendships form and help is freely given. It's even more wonderful than I anticipated.

Some of my numbers from 2019

Resourceful Designer

  • Released 50 podcast episodes
  • Reached over 430k episode downloads in 2018
  • Resourceful Designer released on Pandora and Deezer

My design business

  • Switched to Plutio, a digital project management system.
  • Worked on design projects for 29 different clients in 2019
  • Seven of those clients were first-time clients.
  • I sent out 57 invoices resulting in income in the high five figures.

Podcast Branding

A Look Ahead at my 2020 goals.

My 2019 goals carry forward. I want the listenership of Resourceful Designer to continue growing. I want to speak at conferences (I'm already booked to speak at one in March). I want to build the Resourceful Designer Community. It's such a fantastic place right now, but I know it can be even better.

New Goal for 2020.

  • Grow Podcast Branding to become THE place for podcast websites and branding.

What about you?

Did you accomplish your goals for 2019, and What are your goals for the new year?

  • Are you a student getting ready to graduate? What are your goals once you’re done school?
  • Are you still relatively new to the design world? What are your goals to hone your skills?
  • Are you a veteran designer like I am? What are your goals for continued growth?
  • Are you a designer working for someone else? Maybe you enjoy your job; maybe you don’t. Either way, what are your future goals?
  • Or perhaps you’re already a home-based designer, a freelancer if that’s the term you use, what are your goals to grow your business?

Wherever you are in the world, whatever your level of skill, whatever your situation is, I want you to take some time to look back at 2019 and think about your accomplishments AND your shortcomings.

Did you stop after your accomplishments? Or did you plow right through them happy with yourself but reaching even further? What about your shortcomings? Did they discourage you, or did they create a sense of want even higher than before?

Did you reach the goals you set out for yourself and your design business in 2019? If yes, were you happy with the outcome? If no, think about what prevented you from reaching those goals.

So long 2019

As 2019 comes to an end. I encourage you to reflect on this past year. Think about everything you’ve accomplished and those things you fell short on. And come up with a plan to make 2020 your year of success. To help with your planning, perhaps you should listen to episode 55 of the podcast, Setting Goals For Your Design Business.

I’ll be back in 2020 with lots more advice for starting and growing your design business.

I’m Mark Des Cotes wishing you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. And of course, that no matter what goals you set for yourself in the new year, the one thing you have to remember is to Stay Creative.

What are your goals for 2020?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Dec 16, 2019

Speed up production with these design hacks.

[sc name="pod_ad"]If you spend a long time in the design profession, you tend to pick up a few tricks here and there. Methods that help make your job easier. Design hacks to increase productivity.

Here are some design hacks I’ve learnt over the years. Perhaps you can put some of them to use and become a more productive designer. Be sure to listen to the podcast episode where I share stories on how you can put these design hacks to use.

Design Hack #1: Get the files you require.

Clients are often confused as to what files you require in order to work on their projects. Stop wasting time explaining filetypes and resolutions to them. Instead, contact their head office and ask to speak to the marketing department. Chances are the people there will understand and be able to provide what you need.

If your client doesn't have a head office, you can try acquiring the assets you need by extracting them from PDF files the client already has. This is an excellent design hack for finding good quality vector files for logos and graphics.

Design Hack #2: Search websites for PDF files.

The easiest way of finding PDF files (other than your client supplying them) is to find them on your client's website. To find PDF files (or any file for that matter), you can use this search query. In the Google search bar type:

site:nameofsite.com filetype:pdf 

The search results will only display the PDF files found on the domain you entered.

NOTE: You can search for other file types as well, such as jpg, png, doc, etc.

Design Hack #3: Remove unwanted formatting from text.

Copying text from word processing software such as Microsoft Word for use on websites can sometimes produce unwanted results. The reason being, the formatting the text received in the word processing software can often remain.

There are many tools to eliminate unwanted text formatting, but a quick and easy method is to create a new blank email message and convert the message to "Plain Text." Now, all text pasted into that email message will be stripped of all formatting. You can then copy it back again for use on a website.

Design Hack #4: Creating autoflow documents for print.

Autoflow documents are an easy way to add sequential numbering to tickets or names to certificates. After setting up your master page, all you do is take your list of numbers or names and paste them into the first ticket or certificate. The software will automatically create additional pages until the list runs out.

Here's an example of how to do this in InDesign.

Design Hack #5: Use Find and Replace to remove poor formatting.

If a client ever gives you poorly formatted text for a design job, you can use Find and Replace to remove the poor formatting.

Easily remove cases of tab, tab, tab, tab, or worse space, space, space, space, space, by searching for the multiple infringements and replacing them with your desired results.

For example: Find all cases of "tab, tab" and replace them with a single tab. Keep running the search until there are no more double tabs.

Do the same for double spaces, excessive carriage returns or any other formatting you want to fix.

Design Hack #6: Find inspirations from a colour palette.

An easy way to find ideas and inspiration for a project is by uploading the project's colour palette to a Google Reverse Image Search. In the search results, click on the "Visually similar images" link and see hundreds of ideas that use the same colour palette you uploaded.

Design Hack #7: Find the flaws in your designs.

One of the easiest ways to find any flaws in your design is to look at them upsidedown. By changing the perspective, your eye stops focusing on familiar things such as photos and text copy and instead sees the overall design. This allows you to spot inconsistencies or areas of your project that need attention.

Looking at large bodies of text upside down can help you spot typography faux-pas such as rivers in the text.

What design hacks do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Clockify

Clockifyis a free tool for creating timesheets and tracking the time you spend on projects and tasks. Clockify allows you to create separate timers for every part of your work. Track your time with a handy timer, log your time in a timesheet, categorize your time by project and mark your time as billable or not.

Clockify also allows you to create shareable reports breaking down your time.

Clockify works across all devices, both desktop and mobile so you can track your time from anywhere, and it's all synced online.

Did I mention that it's FREE? Visit clockify.me to learn more.

Dec 9, 2019

These applications are One Trick Ponies.

A One Trick Pony is a person or thing with only one unique feature, talent or area of expertise. In the scope of today’s episode, a One Trick Pony is an application that only does one thing, but it does that one thing very well. Here are sone One Trick Ponies I regularly use that could help you with your design business.

1) 1Password (Mac + Windows)

1Password is an application for managing passwords on Mac, Windows, IOS and Android. 1Password allows you to store all your strong hard to remember passwords in a secure location. All you have to do is remember one single password and let this password manager do the rest.

2) Squoosh (Web-based)

Squoosh.app is a useful website to optimize and shrink the file size of your images without compromising quality. Drag an image onto the browser window, adjust the settings if needed, and download the smaller image file for use.

3) BackBlaze (Mac + Windows)

BackBlaze is a set-it-and-forget-it backup solution for your computer. Install it and let it do its job unhindered and rest assured that your computer is continuously backed up. Should you ever need to restore your computer, you can easily do so from the online backup, or order a physical hard drive containing all your data shipped to you.

4) Carbon Copy Cloner (Mac only)

Carbon Copy Cloner creates bootable copies of any hard drive. Create manual backups or schedule automated backups of any drive. Smart Updates saves time by only backing up files that have been added or modified since your last backup.

Windows users, here are some alternatives to Carbon Copy Cloner.

5) Disk Inventory X - (Mac)

Disk Inventory X is a free disk usage utility for Mac. It shows the sizes of files and folders in a unique graphical way. Quickly determine what is using up the most space on your hard drive. Disk Inventory X is based on WinDirStat for Windows.

6) Font Doctor (Mac + Windows)

Diagnose and fix common font problems automatically with FontDoctor, FontDoctor locates and eliminates hard-to-find font issues that can cause problems on your computer.

7) Grammarly (Mac + Windows)

Compose clear, mistake-free writing that makes the right impression with Grammarly's writing assistant. Grammarly works in all your favourite web browsers and applications.

8) Little Snitch (Mac Only)

Little Snitch makes invisible internet connections visible so that you remain in control of who your computer is talking to. Keep track of your computer's network activity and take charge of who it does or doesn't communicate with.

Windows users, here are some alternatives to Little Snitch.

9) MAMP (Mac + Windows)

MAMP creates a local server environment on your Mac or Windows computer allowing you to run WordPress locally. MAMP is available in a Free and Pro version to match your needs.

10) Paparazzi! (Mac)

Paparazzi! is a small Mac utility for taking screenshots of entire webpages, even the portions not visible on the screen. Enter the URL and tell Paparazzi! what format you want your screenshot, PNG, JPG, TIFF or PDF.

Google Chrome screenshot feature.

On Mac
1.Opt + Command + I
2.Command + Shift + P

On Windows/Linux/Chrome OS
1.Ctrl + Shift + I
2.Ctrl + Shift + P

These keyboard shortcuts will open Chrome's developer menu. Then Type "screenshot," and you'll see options for capturing portions of or the full webpage. Chrome will automatically save the screenshot to your Downloads folder!

11) PDFKey Pro (Mac + Windows)

PDFKey Pro lets you easily unlock password-protected PDF files allowing you to open, edit and print them.

12) TNEF’s Enough (Mac)

TNEF's Enough allows Mac Users to extract and read Microsoft TNEF stream files, often received as windmail.dat attachments.

13) VLC (Mac + Windows)

VLS is a free cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio Cds and VCDs.

What One Trick Pony applications do you use?

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.

Dec 2, 2019

Your mobile phone is so much more.

There are many uses for your mobile phone besides the obvious. Sure, you can text people, take photos and videos, peruse your social media accounts, watch YouTube, listen to music and podcasts, browse the web and even make phone calls. But there are so many other uses for your mobile phone that can help you with your design business.

Here are 12 ways to use your phone to support your design business.

1) Two-factor authentication

Two-Factor Authentication is an easy way to add extra security to a website. Apps such as Google Authenticatorturn your phone into a security key by generating a constantly changing number that is required to log into a website in addition to a user name and password.

2) What The Font App

Quickly identify fonts while you are out and about your day with What The Font App. Launch the app on your mobile phone, point your camera at a line of type, and What The Font will show you the closest matches in its database.

3) Pantone Color Studio

Pantone Colour Studio uses your mobile phone's camera to capture and identify colours. Discover the Pantone number for colours in everyday objects and share them with your Creative Cloud account. You can also use the app to generate colour pallets and test colours on 3D-rendered materials and designs.

4) Testing mobile versions of websites

Another use for your phone is to check the mobile-friendliness of sites. Many web design platforms and page builders, such as Divi, let you simulate what a website will look like on a mobile device. But it's never the same as actually visiting the site on the phone. Use your phone to spot problems before releasing a website to your client.

5) Time Tracking/Mileage Tracking

Stop guessing your time spent, or distance travelled. Your mobile phone is an excellent tool for keeping track of time and mileage associated with a design project.

6) Invoicing/bookkeeping/banking

Your mobile phone makes it easy to manage all your finances while on the go. Send and check the status of invoices, verify your accounts and do your banking, all from your phone.

7) Passwords

Use a password manager like 1Passwordor LastPass to access all your passwords in one convenient location securely. With the app on your phone, you never have to worry about not being able to access an online portal.

8) Project management/File Management

With Project Management software, your mobile phone allows you to keep track of your design projects regardless of where you are. Software like Trello and Plutioare perfect tools to manage your projects.

Your files can also be conveniently management through services such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive.

9) Make lists

Use your mobile phone to create all sorts of lists for your business and everyday life. Apps such as AnyListand Todoistmake it easy to create lists for anything and everything.

10) Set alarms and reminders

Never forget an appointment or meeting by setting alarms and reminders on your mobile phone. It takes just seconds with Siri or a similar mobile service.

11) Calendar

Keep track of your schedule and appointments by accessing your calendar on your mobile phone. Create different calendars for your business and personal life and always know what you have coming up.

12) Take written or audio notes

Jot down important details or record things you don't want to forget so that you can review them later. Use your mobile phone's voice recorder to record meetings to capture everything you discuss with your clients.

What else do you do on your mobile phone?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Streamline icons

Streamline Icons boast over 30,000 icons. That’s Over 10,500 in three different weights. Fifty-three categories, 720 subcategories, and over 30,000 something in total.

These icons are great for UI designers. They have different pricing categories depending on if you want all three weights or just one of them. They also offer 100 icons in all three weights for free.

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