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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Jul 1, 2019

What's holding you back?

[sc name="pod_ad"]September 30 will mark four years that I've been releasing episodes of the Resourceful Designer podcast. During the time I’ve received hundreds of emails from people thanking me for what I do. They tell me how much I’ve helped them, inspired them and motivated them.

There's no way for me to express how this makes me feel, knowing that me, a designer, working out of my home office in small-town Ontario, Canada is having such an impact on designers from around the globe. It’s truly humbling, and I cherish every message I receive.

But over time, I’ve noticed a common theme with many of the messages. Web and graphic designers write to me saying that after listening to Resourceful Designer for so long, they've finally started their own design business. I'm happy for them, but I can’t help wonder what was holding these people back from starting sooner? Why did it take them so long of listening to the podcast, in some cases years, before starting their business journey?

Does this describe your situation? Have you started your design business yet?

I understand those people who tell me they’ve lost their job for one reason or another and have decided with my inspiration to start their own graphic or web design business instead of looking for new employment. But what about those who tell me they’ve finally built up the courage to begin working with clients as a side gig while still employed somewhere? These people have a steady income at their current job, so the fear of not being able to support themselves isn’t a factor. What was holding them back? What hesitation was stopping them from trying it sooner?

If you’re in a similar situation, where you haven't started your business yet, why haven’t you?

Don't get me wrong; I’m not encouraging you to quit your current job. I don’t need that responsibility. Yes, some people have told me that I’ve given them the courage to do just that, quit their job and start their own design business. That’s a huge leap, and a lot of things need to be in place before someone does that. However, in most cases, quitting your day job is not required if you want to start a side gig.

Let me ask again. If you are listening to this podcast because of your dream of running your own design business, but you haven’t started one yet, why not? Is it fear? Is it imposter syndrome? What factor is preventing you from moving forward?

Whatever is holding you back, maybe I can help give you one more little nudge.

The 80/20 rule.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? It states that 20% of your effort will produce 80% of your desired results.

For example,

  • 20% of a sports team’s players will contribute 80% of the goals they score.
  • 20% of an investment portfolio will produce 80% of the profit.
  • 20% of a retail store's client base will purchase 80% of its products.
  • 20% of your design clients will result in 80% of your income.

Let's get your design business started

Let's use the 80/20 rule to make it easier for you to finally start your design business.

Write down ten things you need to do to start your business.

Of those ten things, I want you to select only two of them. Choose the two that will create the most positive impact toward helping you reach that goal.

Following the 80/20 rule, Those two things, the two most important ones from your list of 10, should bring you 80% of the results you need and bring you closer to having your own design business.

Even if those two things are not enough, they will put you further along the path than you are now.

Small steps, taken regularly, will lead to progress. It’s just like finishing a marathon is accomplished by putting one foot in front of the other. It’s called progress. Every step you take towards entrepreneurship will get you closer to that goal. Break down everything you need to do into small manageable tasks, and you’ll find it easier to get things done.

Maybe this might mean finding your first client. That may be all it takes to get you started.

Remember, you can be a freelancer before you become an entrepreneur.

The pieces will follow.

Some people think they need to have everything in place before they can start a design business.

  • I Can’t start yet; I don’t have a business name.
  • I Can’t start yet; I don’t have a website.
  • I Can’t start yet; I don’t have business cards.
  • I Can’t start yet; I haven’t registered my business.
  • I Can’t start yet; I haven’t figured out invoicing.
  • I Can’t start yet; I don’t have a contract.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Sure, these are all things you will eventually need, but they are not things you need to start your business journey.

All that’s required for you to get started are your skills as a designer and the willingness to find your first client. The rest can follow.

I want you to remember; you define your business; your business doesn’t define you. Meaning, you can get started now, and let the business grow and evolve around you over time. If the reason you have not started on the journey of working for yourself is that you are waiting for all the puzzle pieces to fall into place, I want you to know that it will never happen. Ask any business owner, and they'll tell you, There will always be learning and improving, and innovating and growing. In other words, there will always be more puzzle pieces to add to the picture.

When should you start?

So when is the perfect time to start your own web design business or graphic design business? Even if it’s not an officially registered business yet?

Why not today? You already have the knowledge and skills after all. That knowledge and those skills are all a client cares about when it comes to hiring a designer. Clients don't care about your business name, or if you have a fancy invoice. All a client wants is a designer that can produce a design solution for them. There’s no reason you can’t do that right now — the rest of it, all the business stuff, that can come later.

If your goal is to start your own design business, either it full-time or part-time, what’s holding you back?

You can’t accomplish anything without starting.

What makes you hesitate before taking business leaps?

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 John

Have you ever been in this situation:

There’s a perfect client you really want to work with. Someone you see over and over again at social gatherings and such and you keep pitching them your services in the hopes they’ll eventually bite?

Then one day they contact you with a project and you’re super excited and feel like you’ve landed a million dollar client?

You Start working on their project and everything is going really well. Then, a few days into the project you start to lose that fire you had. The fire that made you crave working with this client.

You start slacking off, you don't reply to their emails as fast as you should, your mind starts drifting to other projects because you’re not excited anymore about the client or their project. You still provide them with great work but the passion isn’t in it anymore.

Do you ever have episodes like this and what do you do in such a case?

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

Tip of the week Upgrade your 32-bit applications (Mac Users)

Mac Users: All 32-bit applications on your computer will cease to function when you update to OS Catalina Update.

If you've noticed this warning messages when opening an application “Application Name” is not optimized for your Mac and needs to be updated. It's your computer warning you that it won't support that application in future updates.

To see which applications on your computer need to be updated, select About This Mac > System Report > Software > Applications.

The right-hand column will show if an application is 64 bit or not with a simple Yes or No. If you click on the title at the top, it will sort the list with all the Yes and No together making it easier to view.

Look through all the applications marked NO and determine if it’s something you still need. If not, you can delete it. It won’t work after the next OS update anyway. If it’s something you do want to keep, find out if there’s an update available and update it.

Make sure all the applications you do use are 64 bit before updating to OS Catalina. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use them anymore.

Jun 24, 2019

Don't waste time when you're not busy.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have so much design work that you don’t have time during your work day for anything else?

Come to think of it; I don’t know if I’d like that. I enjoy a bit of downtime now and then, and I’m sure you do too. Downtime, when your brain isn’t working at one hundred per cent concentrating on some important task or churning away pumping out those creative juices.

You need time to give your brain a rest. It’s that old proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

Downtime is good. But downtime doesn’t have to be wasted time.

Downtime can be put to good use and become productive time, benefiting your business while still giving your mind a break. The next time you feel that pull from the rabbit hole that is YouTube or Facebook, I want you to think of productive things you could be doing instead. To help you, I’m going to share ten productive things you can do when you’re not busy.

Let me first state; If you are not busy because you don’t have any projects to work on, then you should ignore this list and concentrate your time on client acquisition. Your first concern as a business owner is to find work that pays the bills. If you can’t pay the bills, then you won’t have a business for long.

What I’m talking about here are those non-busy times between projects. Those times when you complete something 30 minutes before lunch and don’t want to start a new project on an empty stomach. Or Friday afternoons when you know you should be working, but it’s the end of the week, and the design spirit isn't in you.

Instead of wasting those moments doing something mundane and useless, try doing something productive with that time such as:

1) Organise your bookmarks.

If you’re like me, you bookmark a lot of websites that at the moment, seem important, but over time, become redundant. And again, like me, you probably rarely take the time to clean our or organise those bookmarks. Downtime is the perfect time to look over your bookmarks and clean them up.

2) Clean out your email.

Those times when you are not busy are the perfect times to look through your email inbox and delete unnecessary messages. You know the ones, the emails you put aside to look at later that you know you'll never read. Or funny jokes from friends that you'll never pass on.

If your email client allows them, use smart mailboxes to sift through your email and delete anything that is no longer needed.

This downtime is also the perfect opportunity to review your email subscriptions and determine which ones are worth keeping and which ones you should unsubscribe.

3) Watch a tutorial.

I’m sure there are things you would like to know but never find the time to learn. If you’re going to immerse yourself in YouTube, why not make it a learning experience? Find tutorials and training videos that will benefit your business.

If you're a proponent of Just In Time Learning look for interesting video tutorials and put them aside for viewing in the future.

4) Read business articles and books.

Running your own design business means you are not only a designer but a business owner. And being a business owner is not something they teach in school. Use your spare time to brush up on your business skills. Thirty minutes is plenty of time to read an article or a chapter in a book. You’ll be expanding your knowledge and benefiting your business.

5) Organise your office.

I don’t know any business owner that doesn’t have something in their office that needs organising. Most likely it’s that “catch-all” place. In my case, it’s the second drawer on my desk. It’s the place I put things when I don’t know where to put them. It’s my catch-all drawer.

If you have a drawer or a place like that in your office, why not use your 15-30 minutes of downtime to sift through it and start organising its contents.

6) Research potential new clients.

If you don’t feel like doing something physical such as organising a drawer, why not spend some time researching potential new clients? I’m not talking about client outreach, although if you have the time, then why not do some. I’m talking about research into who could be the right person to reach out to when you have more time.

Try a local search for new businesses and start a list of people you may want to contact when you do start your outreach.

7) Organise your computer files.

Is your computer is a mess? My desktop alone is covered with over a hundred files and folders, and my Downloads folder currently contains 1931 files. Both are in desperate need of some cleanup. If you are in a similar situation, why not take the time while you are not busy and organise your fonts, client projects, downloads, applications, stock images, etc. Downtime is the perfect time to do some computer file management.

8) Update your portfolio and website.

If you’re trying to attract new clients, you need to make sure your touch points are in order. A crucial touch point is your website, particularly your portfolio. Take some time to review it and see if it needs updating. While you're at it, look over the rest of your website to see if any other pages need updating. Check out this past podcast episode on creating the perfect About Page.

9) Update your software.

Isn’t it annoying when you’re in the middle of a project, and all of a sudden your software starts updating? Why not take the time between projects to check if any of your software has updates available.

10) Update your social media profiles.

Most people set up their social media profiles when they first open their account and then never look at them again. Does that sound like you? Take a few minutes to look at your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or whatever social networks you frequent. Make sure all your information, including your profile photo, is current and creates the best impression of you.

Bonus Tip: Reboot your computer.

Computers are finicky instruments, and as such, can develop glitches and problems over time. What’s the tried and true #1 remedy for any problem with an electronic device? You got it, Turn it off and on again.

Reboot your computer, your external hard drives, your internet router, even your tablet and phone. You have the time after all, so why not refresh your devices and give them a clean slate for the next time you use them.

Use your downtime productively

If you use your downtime, the time you’re not busy to do productive tasks instead of wasting your time watching movie trailers or cat videos on YouTube, you’ll be benefiting yourself and your business.

Plus you’ll get a little boost of endorphins that will make you feel good about how you are spending your time, even if your not spending that time making money doing design work.

What productive things do you do when you're not busy?

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.

Jun 17, 2019

How do you charge for design work?

[sc name="pod_ad"]Do you offer fixed prices to your clients or is hourly billing your pricing strategy of choice? I'm not interested in how you come up with your rate or your price. What I’m asking is, do you or don't you know how much a design job will cost before beginning the project?

Today I want to share my opinion on why you should stop billing by the hour and start offering fixed prices instead.

Changing my pricing strategy.

When I started my design business in 2005, I prided myself on the fact that I didn’t offer fixed pricing. Everything I designed was billed by the hour for the exact amount of time it took me to complete the project. It was my most prominent marketing feature.

I landed plenty of clients because unlike other designers who were charging “outrageous” fixed prices for the work they did, I only charged for the actual time I spent on a project.

For years I traded my time for money. And it worked. In no time at all, I grew my business to dozens of recurring clients. I thought I had made it big.

Now, however, when I look back, I realise I was doing a disservice to both myself and the design industry because I was treating myself like a commodity.

But you can understand my thinking, can't you? Most service industries bill by the hour after all. And lots of business people, the people who hire freelancers think in those terms as well. It’s familiar to them. They pay their employees by the hour so why shouldn’t it be the same with you?

It took me a few years before I realised that creative people like you and I, we aren’t selling our time. No, we’re selling our talent, our skills, our experience and of course, we’re selling the final creative product that we’re providing to our clients. We're not selling the processes involved in creating those designs.

For a business person used to paying people by the hour, it may seem logical that the faster you can produce your designs, the less it should cost them. However, it’s false to think that designers should be paid based on how long a project takes to complete. Instead, you should be paid for how much the final design you deliver is worth. It has nothing to do with how much time you spend on it.

I’ve spent days working on a logo concept before getting it right, and other times, I’ve designed the perfect logo in less than an hour. Why should I be paid less just because inspiration hit at the start? I shouldn’t, and neither should you.

Hourly billing causes opposing interests.

Charging by the hour for your design services creates a designer/client relationship with opposing interests. If you are billing by the hour, it’s in your best interest to take your time. Sure, you need to take the necessary time to complete the project to the best of your abilities, but you still know that the longer you take, the more money you’ll make.

The client, on the other hand, has conflicting interests. The client wants the best work you can deliver, but at the same time, they want you to complete it as fast as possible, so it doesn't cost them as much.

Why fixed prices are better.

Charging a fixed price for your services alleviates this burden of opposing interests because the final price is set at the start and agreed upon by both parties. The client is no longer worried about how much extra it will cost them with every revision.

By agreeing on a price beforehand, it puts both of your interest in perfect alignment. You know how much you are money you are making, and the client knows how much it costs them.

Time, the conflicting notion with hourly billing, is no longer part of the equation, and you and your client can work unencumbered by conflicting interests.

With fixed prices, the faster you come up with and execute your idea, the better. You end up getting paid more for your time, and the client receives their design more quickly, at the agreed upon price. You’re both happy.

Should you end up taking longer than expected, you get paid less for your time, but you still know how much you are making. And the client is ok with the extra time since it doesn't cost them any more.

The trick with fixed pricing is determining a price that is acceptable to the client and yet still covers you should a project take longer than expected.

Removing conflicting interests strengthens relationships.

When I stopped charging my clients by the hour and switched to charging fixed prices, I felt the relationships I had with my clients deepen because there was no more give and take from both sides wondering what the final cost of a design project would be.

Justifying your fixed prices

When offering fixed prices, you are sure to be asked questions such as "why are you charging $800 for a logo when services are offering $20 logos?" Here's what you can tell your clients to justify your prices.

When you design something, you are creating from a marketing perspective. In other words, you are developing a marketing tool for your client, a tool that will represent them for years to come and help them grow and generate income.

Those offering inexpensive design services are only providing pretty images with no thought or research behind them. That’s it. Those people don’t care about the client beyond wanting to make something cute for them, collect their money and move on to the next client and project.

Marketing tools created by professional designers, especially those around branding, involve a well-developed strategy and therefore cost more. To create the right piece for a client, you need to take the time to get to know that client, what they represent, how they operate, and how they think. This discovery process is the real value behind the design process and is not something offered by cheap design suppliers.

Cheap design suppliers don’t take that time because they don’t care about the client; they only care about pumping out designs as fast as they can.

If your client questions your prices, ask them what they think their business is worth? Their company's representation starts with its branding and continues with every marketing piece and design they put forward. If they feel that representation is only worth $20, so be it, you are not the designer for them.

However, a professional, well thought out design that is a good representation of the company and everything it encompasses should be worth more than that.

Do you charge by the hour or do you offer fixed prices?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Adobe Color

Adobe Color is an excellent resource for choosing colour pallets for your design project. You can create your perfect palette by selecting a base colour and apply their various colour rules. Once you have your pallet, you can convert it to Pantone swatches and then download it for use in your desktop applications.

To check it out visit


Jun 10, 2019

Do you use Cold Emails to attract clients?

Equivalent to Cold Calling, Cold Emailing is when you send unsolicited email to someone without prior contact.

A Cold email is a very effective way to reach out to potential new clients. So effective in fact that it’s been in use since the first businesses were around. OK, maybe not cold emailing, but cold calling has been. Even before phones were invented business people would knock on strangers doors trying to sell their wares. It was their version of cold calling. It’s a practice that has worked for generations and can work for your design business as well.

Sending cold emails is not the same thing as sending spam emails. A cold email is a one-to-one personalized message sent to a specific individual. Its purpose is to start a business conversation with that one person rather than to promote your services to the masses as spam emails do.

Email, a force to be reckoned with.

Did you know that email, in the form that we know it today has been around since the mid-70s? In terms of technology, that’s archaic. And yet, even in today’s world of social media platforms, direct messaging, video chats and the likes, email still reigns.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform boasts over 2.2 billion users worldwide. But there are over 3.8 billion email users, that’s almost double the number of Facebook users.

Over 500 million tweets are sent every day, but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the 281 billion emails sent each day.

Face it, business is built on email.

If you want to get ahead in your design business, knowing how to write effective and compelling emails is something you shouldn’t ignore. Especially when sending out cold emails. If you cannot capture someone’s attention with your first email contact, what chances do you have of starting a working relationship with them?

10 tips that will help your cold emails convert.

1) Self-Awareness

The problem with the written word is everybody interprets it differently. Your meaning could be misconstrued and not come across the way you intended.

Think of this simple sentence “I can’t wait”. Does it mean you’re looking forward to something or does it mean time’s up and you can't wait any longer?

In order for your words to come off the way you want them to, you need to be self-aware of what you are writing. Meaning you need to imagine yourself in the recipient’s shoes and try to understand how they will receive your message. Make sure what you write is straight forward and only has one meaning or interpretation.

2) Length

Be efficient. The less you write, the more chances of your message being read.

I’m subscribed to several email lists. I read almost every short message I receive but rarely do I read any of the ones that are several pages long. And that’s from people I’ve asked to send me stuff.

Imagine how people will react to a message from a complete stranger?

A 2018 study done by Hubspot said that only one in three messages longer than 2500 words receive a reply. Their study concludes that between 50 and 125 words, the length of a small paragraph is the ideal length when sending unsolicited emails.

People are busy, some receive dozens if not hundreds of emails every day. Increase your chances of being read by keeping your message brief.

3) Be Clear

Short messages are not good enough if the message isn’t clear. Skip the niceties and get directly to your point.

Messages that come across as boasting or too academic in writing makes it difficult to understand and can hurt your odds of getting a reply.

The company behind the Gmail add-on Boomerang found that emails written at a third-grade reading level are 36% more likely to receive a reply than those written at a college reading level. Don’t try to sound smarter than you normally do. Excessive formality, complex sentences and long-windedness won’t impress anyone.

4) Be specific

Be very specific in why you are emailing this person and what you are expecting from them.

Don’t list every design service you offer. Instead, mention the one service you think this client is in most need of. Let them know how you can help them with that service and let them know how to get in touch with you should they want your help with that service.

Once you get the conversation started you can mention your other services, but in this cold outreach, you should stick to one specific topic.

5) As a question.

According to the Hubspot research I mentioned earlier, emails that ask one to three questions are 50% more likely to receive a reply than emails without questions.

A question is your call-to-action. It informs the recipient that you are expecting a response from them and will increase your chances of receiving one.

6) User soft language.

Cold emails are sent to people that don’t already know you. You don’t want their first impression of you to be harsh. Don’t overstep your bounds or come off as too forward. Avoid this by using friendly, more suggestive language.

Instead of saying something like “Call me to discuss this more”, say something softer like “If you’d like to discuss this more, call me.” It’s friendlier and more inviting to a reply.

7) Use short sentences.

This is a secret that copywriters use. The longer the piece of text is that they are writing, the shorter the paragraphs they use. Shorter paragraphs create more white space, making them easier to read. As a designer, you know the importance of white space.

Use short sentences in your cold emails

8) Read your email before sending it.

We’re all busy, and sometimes it’s easy to simply write an email and send it off without a second thought. But that’s a mistake. You should never do this when composing a cold email or any email for that matter.

Take the extra time to read over your email. Better yet, read it out loud. Doing this will help you catch typos, weird language, excessive verbiage and anything else that may hurt your credibility if you sent an unpolished message.

9) Add the email address last.

One of the worst feelings is accidentally pressing send on an unfinished email. It makes you look like an amateur and very unprofessional. Especially if this is the first time you are reaching out to someone.

Avoid this feeling by doing everything in steps 1 through 8 BEFORE adding the recipient’s email address to the message.

10) Follow up, and follow up again.

If you don’t hear back from someone you sent a cold email to, don’t give up, follow up. These people live busy lives and can’t answer every email they receive from strangers. However, if you follow up they may take notice and take action.

Statistics show that 80%of inquiries require multiple follow-ups before an action is taken. And yet, 44% of people give up after the first follow-up. This is where you can succeed where other designers have failed.

Follow the 2:1:1 rule for your cold emails. Wait two days after your initial email to follow up. If you don’t hear back, follow up again after one week. If you still don't receive a reply follow up again after one month.

This strategy will allow you to get through to people who might have been having a bad day and ignored your initial email, or those who may have been away at a conference or on vacation.

If you are offering something the recipient needs they will be happy you followed up.

Rules when it comes to unsolicited cold emails

Depending on where you live and where the recipient of your cold emails live you may fall under certain legislation and laws restricting how you proceed.

Regulations such as:

  • GDPR General Data Protection Regulation)
  • CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act)
  • CAN-SPAM Act
  • Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
  • Australian Spam Act
  • New Zealand - Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act

For the most part, as long as you are targeting one individual, you are not collecting, storing or selling any of their data, and you abide by their request to not contact them anymore, you should be safe.

Cold emails are a communication tool that can greatly increase your client base and revenue and they’re much easier to implement than cold calling over the phone or in person. If you apply these strategies you should see your return on cold emails drastically increase.

Do you use cold emails as part of your marketing campaign?

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 Will

Have you ever looked into becoming Adobe Certified? Other than personal education, I am wondering whether clients ever consider this when choosing a designer.

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

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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

Jun 3, 2019

Do you worry about your eyesight?

Do you worry about your eyesight? As a designer, there’s pretty much no escaping being in front of a screen. If you’re like me, between the computer, phone and TV, you probably spend more time each day with your eyes staring at a screen than you do sleeping. Face it, we’re slaves to our tech displays.

Did you know that this constant exposure to one screen after another throughout the day can cause strain, and even damage to your eyes?

The issue is ultraviolet blue UV light emitted by all these devices. Although researchers are at odds on whether screen use can cause permanent damage or not, they do agree that prolonged exposure to blue UV light does affect your eyes.

Dr Ritesh Patel, an optometrist with the Ontario Association of Optometrists here in Canada, describes the problem.

Our eyes are sensitive to a narrow band of light frequencies called the "visual light spectrum”. In that spectrum, blue light has the shortest wavelength causing it to emit the most energy.

Traditionally, ultraviolet blue UV light comes from sunlight. It’s why you’ve been told all your life to protect your eyes with UV protecting sunglasses. However, unless you’re an MTV rapper trying to look cool, or you’re playing in the World Series of Poker, chances are you don’t wear sunglasses indoors. That’s a problem because all these screens we stare into each day also emit blue UV light. That’s not taking to account the LED lighting in our homes and offices which also put out blue light.

Blue light is known to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin, causing an artificial feeling of wakefulness and disrupting sleep patterns, which can add to eye strain and affect your life in general. But it goes beyond just the blue light. Some screens today have built-in features to alter the light spectrum and reduce the amount of blue light they project, but they can’t eliminate it altogether, and it doesn’t change the fact that you are staring at a screen.

How screens affect your eyes.

A Canadian study reports that one-quarter of Canadians spend over 2 hours per day staring at their phones. Staring at a screen for hours at a time puts a heavy strain on your eyes, so it’s probably not a big surprise that doing so can put your eye health in jeopardy.

Researchers are linking exposure to blue light to macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness. This research is referencing the blue light from the sun. These same researchers are not confirming a connection between screen time and blindness, but it’s a scary thought nonetheless that the same outside light they’re worried about is also being emitted by that device in your hand.

According to a study done by Weill Cornell Medical College in New York:

  • 93% of American adults spend two or more hours per day in front of a screen.
  • 61% spend five or more hours in front of a screen.
  • 30% spend more than nine hours in front of a screen.

Chances are, as a designer you fall in that 30% bracket spending more than nine hours per day in front of a screen. Does that concern you? It should.

Other studies say between 50%-90% of people who work all day in front of a computer screen experience symptoms of what doctors call Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). CVS is not one specific condition, but rather a term used to classify a multitude of problems caused by prolonged computer use. Things like:

  • Blurred Vision
  • Double Vision
  • Dry, Red Eyes
  • Eye Irritation
  • Headaches
  • Neck or Back Pain

People with existing vision issues are even more at risk to Computer Vision Syndrome.

Eye strain isn’t only annoying, it can lead to health issues. Not to mention that when your eyes start bothering you your performance drops, you slow down, you become less creative. Not good for a designer.

Smartphones are just as bad as computer screens. A study out of the United States predicts that 2 out of every 3 Americans will experience eye strain caused by excessive use of their phone. I'm sure the same applies in most countries around the world.

Eye strain is a growing concern.

Did you know that until the 1960s, the majority of the world’s population was farsighted? But since the 60s the table has shifted and now there are more nearsighted people in the world than people with farsighted vision. The 60s is when the television gained in popularity as a form of daily family entertainment.

When I was in grade school back in the 70s, there were maybe two or three kids in my entire school who wore glasses. Nowadays, it’s hard to find a single classroom without at least one child with vision problems. Just look around you and you’ll see evidence everywhere of how people’s eyes are getting worse.

As a graphic designer or web designer, someone who relies on your vision to make a living, you should be taking precautions to protect yourself.

What can you do to protect your eyes?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to drastically reduce the risk of eye problems in the future.

20-20-20 Rule

The first thing you should do is start giving your eyes regular breaks. Have you ever heard of the 20-20-20 rule? Every 20 minutes you look away from your screen and spend 20 seconds looking at something that is 20 feet or more away. This will alleviate strain on your eyes.

Blue UV Light Glasses

Something else you can try is blue UV light filtering glasses. These special glasses are coated with a blue UV light filter to help protect your eyes. This coating is available on prescription glasses but there are also a wide variety of non-prescription glasses available to protect your eyes from blue UV light.


Installing a humidifier in or near your office will help keep your eyes moist. Working all day long in dry air is really bad for your eyes. A humidifier can help eliminate that dryness.

Artificial Tears

Eye drops can help moisturize your eyes. If you do use eye drops, avoid the ones that “get the red out”, they work great for a quick fix, but did you know that your eyes become even redder when you stop using them?

Regarding your screens:

Screen brightness

Turn down the brightness on your phone and tablet. Most people have their brightness set much higher than necessary. Reducing the brightness will make it easier on your eyes. Plus, it has the added benefit of conserving your battery life.

Increase Text Size

If you find yourself squinting to read your phone or computer, try making the default font size larger. Press Command/Control and “+” to increase the font size in any web browser making websites easier to read.

Screen position

Position your computer screen at arm's length or more away to avoid excessive eye strain, and place your screen so that your eyes are at the top edge of the screen looking at a downward gaze towards the monitor. This will lower your eyelids slightly and help protect your eyes.


The average person blinks 15-20 times per minute, but when looking at a computer screen that number drops by up to half. It may sound crazy, but consciously blinking will help keep your eyes moist.

Take care of your eyes

You are a designer. You chose this profession because you love the creativity and challenge it brings you each and every day. Don’t let Computer Vision Syndrome affect your ability to do your job to your fullest. Take precautions to protect your eyes and you'll enjoy a long career.

Do you wear protective glasses when working at your computer?

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 Adam

I’d like to ask for some advice in regards to a dilemma I've found myself in recently. I have a client I acquired when I bought out the client portfolio of another web designer who decided to close up shop.

This client’s site is ugly and uses poor design technique.

I met with the client a few weeks ago to discuss designing a new website for them. This meeting was not predicated on the client's recognition of any problem with their site, but rather because I informed them of the issues with their site. They understood the gravity of the problem and agreed to consider a new website for their next budget year.

Then, we talked about their logo... Oh boy, this logo is atrocious, and I'm quite certain that it was actually designed in Word or Powerpoint. I quickly learned that there is some personal stake in this design by the organization's Director, and that she actually dictated this design to the designer, who obliged her design.

This logo is not only ugly, but it doesn't really represent the business. The Director gave me her explanation of what the logo means, but admitted that her target audience likely did not understand its meaning. My suggestion of a re-design was quickly met with a loud and clear "off limits."

I've been sitting on this proposal for a few weeks because I'm simply not comfortable with designing a new website that incorporates that hideous logo. At least not in its current state. I'm trying to set myself apart from my competition as a premium web design, hosting and management service. I'm afraid that to use this logo on my website design does not reflect well on my business. Am I wrong to feel that way? I'm tempted to tell the client that I can't design a website for them if they want to continue to use that logo, but I'm not sure that's really reasonable. It feels like holding them for ransom just to get more design work.

I'm considering offering the client to at least clean up the current logo design so that it doesn't look quite so bad. I've even considered offering to do this at half my normal rate because it seems silly to kick an existing client to the curb and give up a several thousand dollar website design over a few hundred dollars work to their logo.

How would you handle this set of circumstances? Thank you for taking the time to consider my question; any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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

Resource of the week Elementor

Elementor is a WordPress Page Builder that works seamlessly with almost any theme and plugin. Similar to the Divi Page Builder, it allows you to drag and drop elements making it extremely easy to build and customize beautiful responsive websites. With over 80 design elements, and more being added on a regular basis, Elementor offers a complete set of dedicated tools that help you generate more traffic, leads and conversions.

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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

May 27, 2019

The Goodbye Packet

Last week I told you about Client Offboarding, the process of finalising a design project and preparing a client for working together again in the future. Offboarding is a way of informing a client that you’ve completed the work they’ve paid you for, and any additional work from this point forward will be considered a new project, incurring further fees.

In this last part of the Client Onboarding series, I’m talking about the Goodbye Packet, a way to collect and package up all the offboarding information in a convenient package to hand over to your client.

What is a Goodbye Packet?

A Goodbye Packet is a document informing a client their project is complete. It lets them know that any additional work you do will incur extra charges. You can also use it as a transition phase between your web design contract and your maintenance package.

If a client continues to ask for changes after the completion of a web design project, it’s a good indication that you should sell them an ongoing maintenance package if you haven’t already done so.

In brief; a well put together Goodbye Packet should accomplish the following:

  • Informs the client of the completion of their project, stopping them from asking for more changes.
  • Thanks the client for choosing you as their designer showing how grateful you are.
  • Instructs the client how to access their deliverables such as downloading asset files or logging in to their website and any other relevant accounts.
  • Teaches the client how to use their website.
  • Relays essential details about their design project.
  • Encourages the client to hire you for more design work in the future (or right away if you can manage it)
  • Answers common questions most clients have at the end of a project.
  • Shows the client how professional you are, which will make them more likely to refer you to others and to use you again in the future.

Unlike the Intro Packet, which is a document about you and your business, a Goodbye Packet is all about the client. It’s about making it easy for the client to transition to using whatever it is you created for them.

Where the intro Packet is handed out to all clients showing them your services and design skills, the Goodbye Packet is a document customised to each specific client. There are pieces of it you can reuse again and again, but overall, it should be unique to the client receiving it.

How to create a Goodbye Packet

A Goodbye Packet is a document you create for your client. It could be a printed booklet, a Word document, A PDF, A dedicated page in a password protected client area of your website, or even something as simple as an email. The platform you use to create your Goodbye Packet is not as important as the information that goes into one. However, no matter the platform you use, do make it look good. You are a designer, after all.

Some sections of your Goodbye Packet can be reused from client to client with minor changes. Creating templates for them can save you time and save you having to create each one from scratch — website login instructions, for example. The instructions to log into a website are the same for all sites; it’s just the URL, Username and Password that changes.

Contents of a Goodbye Packet

Think of your Goodbye Packet as a small booklet, whether it’s printed, a PDF or a web page. Here's what it should contain:

  • Cover:The Goodbye Packet is all about the client and should be recognisable as such. Design the cover with the client’s colours and branding.
  • Introduction:Give an overview of what information the client will find in the packet and why it’s crucial they hold onto it.
  • Access Info:Provide login information for websites or any other accounts you created for the client. Make sure they know to keep this information safe. Better yet, provide them with a temporary password and instructions on how to change it.
  • Quick Reference:A cheat sheet if you will. This section should contain information such as font families, Colour codes/values, Image guidelines for the website, branding do’s and don’ts. Think of this as a mini style guide.
  • Tutorials:Provide links to online resources or written or video tutorials you’ve produced yourself showing the client how to use their new product.
  • Additional Services:Remind the client that you are available for further work should they need you. Also, remind them of other services they may not be aware you offer.
  • FAQ:Provide answers to commonly asked questions. Such as the importance of keeping a website updated (if they haven’t hired you to maintain it for them). Or when to use different file formats.
  • Conclusion:You should end your Goodbye Packet by thanking your client for hiring you and letting them know you are there for them should they require your services again. Don’t forget to ask the client for a testimonial.

Why use a Goodbye Packet?

Why take the time to dress it up when you can send a simple email with this information? It’s all about exceeding the client’s expectations, a crucial part of building a long-lasting relationship.

A Goodbye Packet is a simple extra step that most businesses don’t provide. Your clients will notice and appreciate it, which means they will be more inclined to spread the word about the great services you offer.

It’s a great way to mark the finish of a project, minimise revisions and questions, and finally, set your client up for success.

So what are you waiting for? Get working on your Goodbye Packet ASAP

The Client Onboarding Process

So there you have it, the Client Onboarding Process:

When combined, they form a proven recipe for success when it comes to turning potential clients into long term paying clients. I hope you found value in this Client Onboarding series and that you see growth in your design business by implementing it.

Does your Client Offboarding process include a Goodbye Packet?

Let me know about your Goodbye Packet and your overall Client Onboarding/Offboarding process 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 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.

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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 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

May 20, 2019

Client Offboarding

[sc name="pod_ad"]Client Offboarding is the final step in building that oh so meaningful client relationship that will keep them coming back to you time and again with more design projects.

For the past few episodes, I’ve walked you through the various steps of Client Onboarding — everything you need to do to turn a potential client into a paying client. But once the client is onboard and you have their project, is that the end? Of course not. The whole purpose of Client Onboarding is to create relationships with your clients. What kind of relationship would it be if it ended once the project is over?

Acquiring new clients is hard work, especially the type of clients you want to work with and that pay well. But what’s even more important is having those clients come back in the future with even more projects.

They say it takes roughly five times more time and energy to land a new client than it does to keep an existing client. If you can get even 5% of new clients to come back, you should be able to increase your profitability by 25-125%. That’s huge.

The best way to keep an existing client is to impress them with good work and by exceeding their expectations.

All the steps in the Client Onboarding process, The Intro Packet, The Client Meeting, The Design Proposal and The Contract are all used to impress good clients with your organisational skills and the thoroughness you bring to your profession. By setting high standards from the start, you create a powerful impression that will encourage clients to come back again and again. But to hit the ball out of the park, you need to have a good Client Offboarding strategy.

What is Client Offboarding?

Client Offboarding is the process of finalising a design project and handing over everything you’ve promised to the client. It informs the client that their project is now complete. Should the client require your services again in the future, you would be happy to help them under the umbrella of a new project.

Where client onboarding was all about turning a potential client into a paying client, the point of client offboarding is to transition them from being a current client to a future returning client.

What does Client Offboarding do?

Client Offboarding defines an end to a project and prepares your client to bring you future projects.

Have you ever finished a project, only to have the client linger on, asking for adjustments or more work? This is especially bad with websites. The client contacts you weeks after it’s launched asking for fixes and changes. Do these fall under the original project or is this considered new work? Without proper offboarding, it’s kind of a grey area.

Client Offboarding clears up this confusion by informing the client that their project is completed and all future work will be considered a new project. In the process, it makes the client feel welcome to bring you more work. It’s another way of showing your professionalism.

The Client Offboarding Process.

Just like the steps involved in Client Onboarding, you’ll have to adjust your offboarding process to work for you and your business. But generally, the process should look something like this. You’ve finalised your revisions; the client is pleased with the work you’ve presented them, and they give their final approval. Now it’s time to begin the Client Offboarding Process.

Project review:

Go over the final project with the client. Review the website or other deliverables and make sure the client knows and understands what it is you are giving them.

Go over any expectations that were in your initial proposal or contract. For example, I allow 14 days after a website launch for fixing any bugs or small errors. After 14 days, any requests are considered a new project. The client was told this information at the beginning of the project, but I remind them again during the offboarding process, so there's no confusion.

Provide deliverables:

Package up logos and other design material and deliver it to the client in an efficient matter. If a style guide was part of your package, this is when you present and explain it to your client. Launch websites, publish content, deliver printed materials, hand over whatever you are expected to give your client.

Provide access information:

Provide usernames and passwords your client will need to access their website, analytics, emails or whatever. I usually record a short screen capture video walking a client through how to use their website. It's a great way to reduce any follow-up questions once the project is over.

Send Invoice / Request payment:

If your payment terms stated full or partial payment upon completion of the project now is the time to request it. Send your final invoice or payment reminder and ensure the client complies as per your agreement. Some contracts state that payment in full must be received before any deliverables are turned over to the client.

Offer more services:

The client offboarding process is the perfect opportunity to once again explain to your client what other services you offer. Be sure to ask if there’s anything else you can do for them. Don’t presume the client knows what other services you offer.

Thank the client:

Thank your client for choosing you for their project. They could have used any designer, but they decided to hire you. Make sure they know you are grateful. Consider sending them a handwritten note. A personalised card delivered in the mail is much more memorable than an email or phone call. If they were a good client, consider sending them a thank you gift. Unexpected gifts are a fun way to make the client feel important and valued.

Followup and ask for feedback:

Follow up with the client after a predetermined amount of time to make sure the client is satisfied with the way the project turned out. If the project was for an event, inquire how the event turned out.

If the client is satisfied with your work, be sure to ask them for a testimonial about your services and their experience working with you.

Ask for referrals:

The perfect time to ask your client for referrals is when the positive experience of working with you is fresh in their mind. If the client enjoyed working with you, they’ll want others to experience what they did and will be more open to spreading the word about your services. Don’t presume clients will talk about you. Permit them to.

Celebrating the project:

You did good work for your client, show off what you did by sharing your design work on social media. Make sure to tag your client in your posts. If you add the project to your portfolio, be sure to inform the client so they can share it with their audience as well.

Cutting your offboarding process short.

Everything up to this point presumes you enjoyed working with the client. However, There may be times when you don’t feel a client merits the full offboarding process.

Maybe, after working with the client for a few weeks, you realise the two of you are not a good fit after all. In cases like these, you want to provide only as much information as to satisfy the client that their project is complete.

In these instances, you can forgo the client retention parts of the process. That’s not to say the client won't come back in the future. You did do a fantastic job on their project, after all. But you can minimise the encouragement you offer them. If they do come back, you’ll need to decide if it’s in your best interest to work with them again or not.

Things to remember.

Let me state once again that your offboarding process needs to be personalised to you and your business. The whole purpose of client offboarding is to prepare the client for the next go around and to encourage them to make that sooner rather than later. If you do a good job, clients will be eager to work with you again.

What is your client offboarding process?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Dribbble's Hang Time

Dribbble’s Hang Time takes place on June 6 at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center. It’s a one-day inspiration fest tailored to designers. It’s a full day of connecting, learning and community.

There’s going to be several speakers offering hour-long sessions fielding questions about tips, tricks and best practices that working designers can utilise as they get ready to take the next leap in their careers.

Hang Time attendees can also expect designer showcases, live drawing, workshops, discussion panels, case studies, fireside chats, and personal stories of living creatively—each in an intimate, limited-seat setting for a meaningful conference experience.

The day is capped off by a networking after-party where you get to hang out with other designers and design celebrities.

Dribble is offering $100 off the price of tickets for listeners of Resourceful Designer if you use the code resourceful at checkout.

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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

May 13, 2019

The Design Contract

The Design Contract is the final part of the Client Onboarding Process. This vital part confirms that a potential client is now a paying client.

In this series, I talked about the Client Onboarding Process as a whole before breaking it down into the individual components, the Intro Packet, the Client Meeting and the Design Proposal. Each of these different elements helps win over potential clients encouraging them to hire you, which brings you to this next step, the Design Contract.

In the last episode, I shared a statistic with you; 48% of designers don’t use a contract. I find that number mind-blowing. Not only does a contract establish you as a professional business, but it’s your protection against anything that may go wrong with the project or the client.

Have you ever been part of a design forum or online group where someone mentions an issue they are having with a client? What is the #1 response or comment they receive? “Did you have a design contract?” If you are part of that 48 %, I hope you take note and add a contract to your client onboarding process right away.

Before I go any further, let me state that I am not a lawyer. Do not take anything I mention here as legal advice. My advice is for you to either have a lawyer draft up your contract or at least create one yourself and have a lawyer review it. If you don’t have the budget to consult a lawyer, please find yourself a ready-made contract and start using it today. A quickly written, non-lawyer verified contract is still better than no contract at all. Then, once you have the means, consult a lawyer.

As Mike Monteiro, co-founder of Mule Design Studio said.

“You need a lawyer when you decide to stop being a design amateur and decide to start being a design professional.”

Here are two sources for free design contracts you can modify for your needs:

Stuff and Nonsense - Contract Killer

AIGA Standard-Agreement

What is a Design Contract?

A Design Contract is a legal terms and conditions document that defines the expectations of a project for both parties. A design contract should contain:

  • An overview of who is hiring you, what they are hiring you to do and for how much.
  • The respective responsibilities agreed to by both parties.
  • Specifics listing everything included and not included in the scope of the work involved.
  • What happens should one of the parties change their mind about anything pertaining to the project.
  • An overview of liabilities and any other legal matters.

In other words, Your design contract needs to cover your process, what the client can expect, what you can expect from the client, time frames, payment details, technical details and any other legalese you deem fit.

Everything in your contract should be explicitly stated and agreed upon by you and your client before a project begins.

Do you really need a design contract?

Maybe you're thinking “if 48% of designers don’t use a contract then how can it be so important?” Let me tell you. A contract is the only surefire way to protect you and your business’ interests while working with a client. So the answer is it's crucial. You should use a design contract for every client and every project you take on.

In the case of disputes, a signed contract will quickly establish if anyone is at fault, and what actions should be taken to remedy the conflict.

With that said, you need to be reasonable. If your mom or sister wants you to design an invitation for their annual poker tournament, you don’t need her to sign a contract. Friends and family are exempt, most of the time that is. My rule is; If what I'm designing will be used to generate money then I have them sign a contract, even if it's family. This includes charities, fundraisers and non-profits. When money is involved, it's better to protect yourself.

Contracts prevent problems.

You want client relationships to go smoothly, don’t you? A contract can help by preventing problems before they start.

A Contract protects for both parties: A good contract should benefit both parties signing it. Not only does it protect you but it should protect your client as well.

A Contract shows your importance: The goal of any client relationship should be to see each other as partners. A contract establishes this. Without one, a client may think you are working FOR them instead of WITH them. They will treat you differently if you get them to sign a contract.

A Contract makes expectations clear: When both parties understand their roles, the whole project will move smoothly.

When do you present your contract?

A great time to present your contract is as soon as you finish your Design Proposal. Everything is fresh in the client’s mind, and they are receptive to moving forward. You can even use it as a stepping stone or launchpad to land the client.

“That was my proposal for designing your new website. If you would like to move forward to the next step, here's a contract we can go over and sign together before beginning working on this project.”

Presenting your contract may be all that’s needed to push the client to hire you.

If the project doesn’t require a proposal, you can email your contract to the client and request they sign and return a copy of it. Make sure your contract is clear that you will not start on a project until you have the signed contract in hand. Don't fall for a "The contract is in the mail so go ahead and get started." line.

As a side note: If a client brings their lawyer to the meeting, you will want to have your lawyer present as well. Never discuss your contract with a client’s lawyer yourself.

Not all Desing Contracts are the same.

Drafting a Design Contract takes time, and lawyers cost money. Although tempting, it is not advisable to create a single contract that covers every type of project you undertake. Some sections of your contract may be reusable, but most need to be flexible enough to adhere to the scope of a given project.

For example; a contract for a logo design should include a transfer of Intelectual Property clause upon completion, but a contract for website design has no such requirement. It’s best to have variations of your contract for each type of design work you do.

What goes into a design contract?

Here are different sections you will want to include in your design contract.

Define the parties: Name yourself and your company as well as the individual you will be dealing with and their company name. Make sure you mention your contact person by name. It can save you having to deal with multiple people at the client's company.

Project Basics: Outline the scope of the job, what project(s) the client is hiring you for and what process you will take to complete said the project(s)?

Client responsibilities: List the client's responsibilities at each stage of the project (providing content, providing logins and passwords if required, proofreading).

Deliverables:  Define what the client will receive from you at the end of the project, as well as what you don't provide. For example: who is supplying the images and copy for the project? Do you offer layered working files at the end of the project, or do you only provide final JPGs or PDFs? Also, be sure to talk about storage and archiving. How long do you retain files once the project is complete? Is there a charge should the client ask for files in the future?

Procedures: Mention the processes you follow, such as the number of proofs you will provide and the number of revisions the client is allowed. You can also state your use of third-party contractors if you use any.

Timelines and deadlines: You should both agree to realistic schedules and deadlines for the project. How long should each stage take? How much time will the client have to review each step? Also, remind them of your acceptable contact schedule and contact methods, so you don't get interrupted late at night asking how the project is going.

Payment details and terms: List the total cost of the project. Also, mention any payment stages or breakdowns. Include penalties for late payments as well as fixed or hourly fees for additional work outside the scope of the defined project.

Confidentiality and NDRs: Because of the nature of most design projects, and how we are privy to information before it becomes public, it’s a good idea to state in your contract that all sensitive information provided to either party is confidential. You can also indicate your willingness to sign a non-disclosure agreement should the client request one.

Intellectual property: As the designer, you automatically own the rights to anything you create. If an IP transfer is required, state when and under what conditions this will happen. Also, be sure to mention what you do and what you don't include in the IP transfer. If you are licensing your IP to the client, what are the terms of the licensing agreement?

Promotion and credit: Include a clause giving you permission to promote and share the work you create, including intellectual property you’ve signed over to the client. Have an allowance in your contract that allows you to use the work for self-promotion and to submit the work for competitions and display. Also, include any information for the client to appropriately credit you for your hard work. Include the exact language you would like them to use when crediting you in press releases, in awards and competitions.

Cancellation: State what happens if either party needs to end the project for some reason. What happens to any payments you've received or fees that are pending? Are there different cancellation policies for different stages of the project?

Force Majeure: Also known as “Acts of God”. You should specify what happens should any unforeseen situations beyond your control make you unable to complete the project. Can the project be salvaged through extra time? What happens to payments?

Liability: Make sure you cover yourself should something go wrong. You don’t want to be held responsible for problems down the road.

Legal jurisdiction and legal fees: Should you have to enforce the contract in small claims court, state that all legal proceedings take place in your local jurisdiction and that all legal fees are the responsibility of the client.

Personal guarantee:(Most clients will ask you to remove this section): Should for some reason the client company fail to pay you, this permits you to go after the person who signs your contract for payment.

Signatures: This is the most crucial part of the contract. It’s the part where both parties agree to the terms within. Signing the contract makes it legally binding.

When things go wrong

I hope it never comes to this for you, but should a situation with a client turn ugly; your contract is what will protect you. A good design contract will allow you to quickly and easily sort things out and possibly salvage the relationship with your client.

Should any disputes arise, get on the phone or meet the client in person. Talking directly to the client can often deescalate a situation before it becomes a big mess. Calmly remind the client of the terms of your contract and what they agreed to. Not reading or not understanding something in a contract is not an excuse that holds up once they’ve signed it.

If you can’t solve the issue through conversation, get your lawyer involved. It’s their job to handle situations like that. Use your time to concentrate on the next client and project.

Keys to remember

Your contract has to fit your workflow and policies. Even if you find a ready-made contract template online, you need to alter it to apply to your personal needs.

Find a lawyer: I’ve already mentioned it but it merits saying again. You really should consult a lawyer about your contract. It’s cheaper to craft your contract and have a lawyer review it than it is to pay one to write it up from scratch, but either way, it should be seen by a lawyer, so you know that it’s legit. Keep in mind that the contract you found online may not be suitable for your jurisdiction.

Ever Evolving: A contract is a living thing. You should always be improving it by adding details from each experience you face. If you run into a difficulty with one client, alter your contract to prevent it from happening with future clients.

Let the client read it: You want to present your proposal, but let the client read your contract on their own. Offer to answer any questions they have about it, but allow them to absorb it at their own pace without any pressure from you.

Be as detailed as it needs to be: Because it’s an evolving document, it’s OK to have a long contract. The more you cover, the more you protect yourself.

Contracts are negotiable: It’s ok to negotiate the terms of your agreement with a client. Just make sure that the newly negotiated terms benefit you.

There you have it: Design Contracts, the final part of the client onboarding process.

Next week I’m going to finish off this series with client offboarding, an essential part in solidifying your client relationship. I hope you’ll join me for that one.

Have you ever had to enforce your contract with a client?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week BEEFree

BEEFreeis an easy, quick way to design elegant, mobile responsive emails. Over 1,000,000 people have used the BeeFree email editor. BEE aims to be the best drag-&-drop email builder for designing mobile-responsive emails, quickly and easily, anywhere. Check them out.

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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

May 6, 2019

Continuing the client onboarding process with the design proposal.

Part 4 of the Client Onboarding Process is the Design Proposal. A tool you use to convince clients that you are the designer for their project.

Last week I told you all about the Client Meeting. The part in the process where you learn about the client and about the project they are presenting to you. After a successful client meeting, you should know whether or not you want to take them on as a client and tackle their design project. You should also have a good feel for whether or not the client is inclined to hire you. The client onboarding process is all about finding the right clients that fit your business and goals.

If after the client meeting you’ve decided you're not a good fit, then there’s no need for a proposal. Simply thank the client for considering you and inform them that you are not the right person for their project. However, if you think you are a good fit, and you would like to work on their design project, the next step is the proposal.

Is a design proposal required

Before I dive any further into design proposals let me state that unlike and Inro Packet, which is an important advertisement for your services, or the client meeting, which is required in order to figure out what the client needs from you, not every design project merits a design proposal.

If you are bidding on a website worth thousands of dollars, it makes sense to create a proposal. However, if a client has an existing logo and they're asking you to design a business card, or they have a powerpoint presentation already done and they just need you to “make it pretty” for them, then there’s no need for a design proposal.

Weigh the pros and cons of creating a design proposal against future returns from the project in question. Is it worth spending an hour, 2 hours, 10 hours or more working on your proposal in the hopes of landing a design project? It all depends on the possible returns you will get on that investment. It’s up to you to decide whether or not a design proposal is the proper next step.

The Design Proposal

Too often, designers, especially freelance designers work without any kind of protecting documents in place, documents outlining the parameters of a design project. Industry statistics suggest that 48%, almost half of all designers don’t protect themselves with a contract. Without any such documents, agreed upon by both the client and designer, what’s to prevent issues such as scope creep or missed payments from happening?

Proposals and contracts are a designer’s best friends. Not only do they protect you and establish the groundwork for a smooth project, but they can help you close the deal, and land more design work.

Don’t confuse the design proposal with the design contract. A proposal isn’t always required whereas a contract should be. Some designers combine the two but know that a proposal and a contract, although often used together, are in fact two different things. I’m going to talk about the contract in the next episode.

What is a design proposal?

A design proposal is a document you present to a potential client outlining details pertaining to their particular design project in order to convince them to hire you.

The content of the design proposal is generated through the information you acquired during the client meeting.

Just like an intro packet, a design proposal isn’t just a tool to present project details, it’s a tool to show off your talents. Create your design proposal in a way that showcases your skills as a designer. It needs to look professional since it’s a representation of you and your brand. Wow the client with your presentation and they’ll be itching to see what you can design for them.

Once you’ve created your first design proposal you should be able to reuse its layout for future clients with minimal alterations except of course for the content pertaining to the client and project in question.

As a freelancer, a designer running your own business, you need to get comfortable with presenting design proposals if you want to continuously get bigger and better clients. In time, you will become so good at preparing design proposals that it will become second nature to you.

The structure of a design proposal.

A design proposal should be well presented to show off your skills as a designer. It should also contain pertinent information leading the client to want to work with you.

What a proposal shouldn’t be is a novel. Nobody wants to read through a dozen pages regardless of how highly they think of you. Aim for a one or two page document containing five sections plus an introduction and conclusion. Your content should say as much as you can with as few words as possible. Just like designing, simplicity wins.

Every proposal should have an introduction, a body and a conclusion and it should show the client the value you bring to the relationship.


The introduction should be a brief overview of what you discussed during your client meeting. Outline what you learned about the client and what their goals are pertaining to the project in question. You can even mention how the work you will create for them will help them achieve their goals.

Be sure to also state why you are excited to work on their project and why you are the perfect person for the job. Always assume the client is considering other designers so use this opportunity to sell yourself.

The Body:

The body of your design proposal should be divided into 5 sections.

  1. Define the client’s problem.
  2. Offer a solution to the client’s problem.
  3. Highlight the benefits over features of your solution.
  4. Present your price(s) and terms.
  5. Ask the client for a decision (CTA).

1. Define the client’s problem

Most clients don’t care about you or your business; they care about their own business and whether or not you can solve whatever problem they are facing.

As a designer, your job is finding solutions to problems presented to you by clients. You can’t find those solutions unless you know what problems your clients are facing. Use the information you gathered at the client meeting to identify the problem and define it at the beginning of your design proposal.

Be specific, use any data, stats and figures to illustrate the gravity of the client’s problem. This will not only show the client that you understand their situation, but that you care and are approaching it seriously.

Don’t define the problem in an abstract way the client may not understand:

“The problem is the client needs a better brand”

Instead, define it in a way the client will recognize and appreciate:

“Over the past few years, the client company has faced stiffer competition from newcomers in their space and feel like they are losing ground. One of the reasons is because the client company doesn’t have a strong brand they can incorporate across their marketing material.

Client company requires a new brand image that will allow them to create a unique and memorable identity that can compete in their industry. This new brand should be unique and create a strong presence for their marketing and advertising campaigns.”

The more you make recognizable to the client, the more they’ll think “this designer understands us”.

2. Offer a solution to the client’s problem.

Up until this point, the potential client has suspected that you are the right designer for their project. This is your chance to stick the landing. Confirm their suspicion by offering them an outline to your solution for their aforementioned problem.

Keep in mind. It doesn’t matter how good a designer you are, if the client doesn’t believe you can offer a solution to their problem, they won't hire you. Make sure you explain in your proposal how the course of action you plan on taking will solve their problem. However, don’t offer the solution itself. Remember, at this stage, the client still hasn’t hired you yet. Let them know what you can do for them without going into specifics.

For example, tell them how their new website will convert more visitors into customers but don’t tell them what plugins or methods you will use to help you convert that traffic.

Your solution should include:

  • A course of action outlining the steps involved in achieving the solution.
  • Reasons supporting why those actions will produce a solution.
  • An explanation of how the solution will solve the client’s problem

Show the client that not only do you have a plan to tackle their problem but that your solution has a reasonable chance of success.

Don’t present a solution such as:

“I’ll design a new brand or a new website for the client”

Instead, present something more on these lines:

“For Your company to increase its foothold in your industry an updated brand image is required. Achieving this new brand image will first require extensive study of both the target market as well as what is currently working for your competition.

From this study, new visuals and text will be developed that clearly convey your message and tangibly represent your brand, which in turn should help your garner a greater market share for your company.”

Again, play to the client’s needs. If you do a good job with this section, the rest of your proposal might not even matter. The client will want to sign on the dotted line right there and then.

3) Highlight benefits over features.

On top of just offering a solution to the client’s problem, you should identify the benefits the solution will bring to the client.

How will the solution give them an edge over their competition? Briefly talk about the features of your solution and then concentrate on what benefits those features will bring. You have a much better chance of closing the deal with the client if you can accomplish this and show them what they will get from their investment.

“As I work with you to create a new and unique brand image. I’ll also create a style guide for you to follow, that will allow you to keep a consistent brand image across all platforms both online and in print.

Through use of this guide, you will be able to consistently apply your new brand to create memorable visuals and help you attract a larger market share in your industry.”

Use this section to show the client that your job as a graphic designer goes beyond simply creating pretty images. This is where you prove your value to them.

4) Present your price(s) and terms.

The main purpose of a design proposal is to encourage the client to make a final decision and hire you. They can’t make that decision if they don’t know how much of an investment is required. Outline your prices and terms in a clear concise matter and let the client know what they should expect.

Avoid itemizing your prices such as for a website: Home page $1500, Services Page $500, About page $300, Contact Us Page $200

Doing so makes you seem like a commodity.

Instead, offer one price for the project: Website $2,500

It all comes down to confidence, clarity, and transparency in what it is you are offering to the client. Even if you are a new designer, remember that you wouldn’t have started on this freelance journey if you didn’t believe that you are good enough to be paid for your services. Don’t be afraid to ask for the money you deserve.

The design proposal is a great way to present your three-tier pricing strategy, showcasing what the client receives for each option.

As for terms and conditions: Make sure you indicate things such as how many revisions you offer, remind them how and when it’s appropriate to communicate with you, and any other details you think they should know.

Make sure you also mention when the “working relationship” on this project begins. The client might think you’ll start working on their project as soon as they sign your contract. If that’s not the case be sure to let them know in your proposal.

5) Ask the client for a decision (CTA).

The design proposal is the final step in pitching the client, giving them all the information they need to make a decision. Close the deal by making it easy for the client. Lead them down the path of what you need them to do next in order to accept your proposal and move forward. In other words, ask them to commit.

Ask them to

  • Approve the proposal
  • Pay the deposit and sign your contract
  • provide you with the necessary content and deliverables to get the project started.

Be sure to mention in this section how excited you are to work with the client and how you can’t wait to solve their problem. This goes a long way in assuring the client they’re making the right choice in hiring you. However, don’t presume the client will just sign away without encouragement. You don’t know if they are also entertaining proposals from other designers. So ask them for a commitment.

The Conclusion

By this point, you’ve already said everything there is to say, so keep the conclusion brief. Once again thank the client for their time and how you look forward to working with them and how you hope this is the start of a long relationship.

If you’ve done your job right, the client should accept your proposal. All that’s left is for them to sign the contract which I’ll talk about in the next week.

Protect Your design proposals

  1. The design proposal is a valuable document. It outlines the strategy for a design project and borders between consulting and proposing. Be careful about who you share proposals with. If you are unsure about the client's intent to hire you, you are best to not share your proposal with them until you are almost sure they are on board.
  2. Just like the client meeting, you should always present your proposals in person, over video or on the phone. Never email your proposal, never mail your proposal, in fact, never print out your proposals. For some large projects, you may have spent hours preparing your proposal so you want to make sure it is received properly.
  3. If the client asks you to email your proposal to them, simply tell them your policy is that all proposals are presented.
  4. Always present it to the decision maker. Insist that all parties that need to sign off on the project are present during your presentation. You do not want your proposal to be translated to someone via a middleman who may not have understood you and has no interest in whether or not they hire you. Insisting on presenting to the decision maker will affirm your position as a professional, plus it protects you from clients receiving your proposal and then never hearing from them again.
  5. Don’t leave your proposal with the client. You are presenting your ideas on how to solve the client’s problem. That's valuable information that you’ve invested time developing. Until the client has signed your contract and given you a deposit, that valuable information should remain yours. If you leave your proposal behind you are inviting the client to use your hard work to shop around for a more affordable designer.

The design proposal is a process

Creating a design proposal might sound like a daunting task. In fact, It can be an entire design project in itself. But rest assured, you’ll get better and quicker the more of them you do.

Think of your design proposal in terms of quality over quantity.  It’s not about sending out tonnes of proposals, it’s about sending out quality proposals. One well-designed proposal could be the difference between acquiring a high-quality, high paying client, or not. Take the time to do it right and it will pay off in the long run with better jobs, higher paying clients and longer relationships with them.

Plus, you can take pride in knowing that by using a design proposal you are presenting yourself as a true professional designer, and as such, someone who merits to make the money your skills and expertise deserve.

Do you use a design proposal as part of your client onboarding process?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week The Logo Package Express

Saving out logo files for clients is really boring. The Logo Package is an extension for Adobe Illustrator that makes exporting logos very easy. I’m super excited to start using it! Logo Package Express automates the colouring, exporting, and sorting of logo files. This is going to save hours and hours of time. Watch my demo of The Logo Package in use.

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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

Apr 29, 2019

Are you ready for your next client meeting?

In part 2 of the Client Onboarding process, I told you all about the intro packet and how it’s the foundation for setting expectations going forward with your client relationship. If the intro packet is the foundation, then the client meeting is the framing, or structure if you will.

Think of the client meeting like a job interview, which in a way it is. You are interviewing the client, and the client is interviewing you. This meeting is less about the design project and more about discovering if this client is someone with whom you want to have a working relationship. Both parties need to feel comfortable working with each other before anything else can proceed.

Don’t mistake this first client meeting for a discovery meeting. Don’t get me wrong, you'll get a lot of answers to your discovery questions during this first client meeting, but that’s not the purpose of this meeting. The real discovery process comes after you've received the signed contracts and deposits.

The client meeting is the part with the nitty gritty, the part when the client explains what it is they are looking for and why they reached out to you as a possible candidate for the project. It's not a deep dive into their design project. It’s a fact-finding mission. The client meeting is your chance to gather information so you can prepare a proposal for the project.

Remember, at this stage of the game, you and the client are not working together yet.

If you gave the client an intro packet as I talked about in the last episode, then you have the benefit of going into the client meeting with established ground rules and a potential client that knows how you work and wants to proceed to the next step. That’s always a good place to start.

Meeting with a potential client for the very first time can be both exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because it’s a fresh slate. They are presenting you, and possibly entrusting you with a brand new design project. At this stage the possibilities are endless. If this first meeting goes well, it can be the start of a long and lucrative relationship. It’s exciting.

However, it can also feel a bit Terrifying. The client is potentially entrusting you with the responsibility of finding a design solution that works for whatever problem they’re trying to solve. That can be a lot of weight on someone’s shoulders. If you don’t impress them during this first meeting, there’s a good possibility that your relationship will be over before it has a chance to start.

What can you do during this all-important client meeting part of the client onboarding process to sway things in your favour and convince the client that you’re the one for their job? That’s what this episode will teach you.

Every client meeting is different.

Of the entire client onboarding process, the client meeting is the one with the most variables. Every client is different, and no two design projects are the same. It only makes sense that every client meeting will be different as well. Here is a simple guideline that will hopefully give you the best chance of success. Because until the contract is signed, the client can always walk away. So let's do our best to prevent that outcome.

How to meet with a client.

There are many ways two individuals can communicate. But when it comes to an initial meeting with a potential client, there are only three methods that matter.

In order of importance they are:

  1. Meeting the client in person.
  2. Meeting the client over video.
  3. Talking to the client over the phone.

No matter how busy you are, or how busy the client is, your first meeting should never take place via text (email or any messaging service). Most meetings with your client even beyond this first one should be face-to-face in person or over video or on the phone.

The written word can be interpreted in different ways. It’s easy to take something out of context and inadvertently change the meaning of what the writer intended. Plus, personality seldom comes through in the written word. And personality plays a huge role in that ever important relationship building. Try to have at least your first client meeting face-to-face or over the phone.

Preparing for a client meeting.

Remember how I said the client meeting is like an interview? You wouldn’t go into an interview without doing some research on the company you were interviewing with, would you? The same goes for a client meeting. You want to know things about the client before meeting them. Google the client and their company. Read through their website if they have one. Quickly look up their competition. A little bit of time spent researching the client can go a long way in impressing them. The client will appreciate that.

Just like an interview, you do not want to be late for a client meeting. Make sure to double check where the meeting is taking place, the route to get there and how long it takes, and who exactly you are meeting.

Preparing yourself physically for a client meeting.

Have you ever heard the term “Dress for Success”? Unfortunately, when running a design business, your abilities and skills as a designer are not always enough to land you a client. In some cases, physical appearance can play a factor in whether or not a client hires you. It’s sad to say, but it’s true.

If you show up to a client meeting with a bank manager or a controlling partner of a law firm dressed in ripped jeans and a graphic T-shirt they probably won’t take you seriously. Before your meeting, try and get a feel for who the client is and dress appropriately. In a lot of cases a "business casual" look is all that’s required, but sometimes, to win the client you may have to clean up a bit more.

Always err on the side of caution, it’s better to be awkwardly overdressed than it is to create a wrong first impression by being underdressed. And unless you’re Chris Do or Aaron Draplin, leave the ball cap at home. Sure we creative types love the freedom to express ourselves. But save it for your other outings, not for client meetings.

Preparing yourself mentally for a client meeting.

Preparing yourself mentally before a client meeting is crucial to your success. You need to think positively about the outcome of the meeting.

Henry Ford is famous for his quote.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right,”

If you go into a client meeting thinking “I don’t have a chance of getting this project” then there’s a good chance you’ll fail.

Remind yourself that you are there for a reason. The client asked you to meet with them because they think you have what it takes to take on their project. You are capable. You know what you are doing. You have the skills needed to get the client’s job done. Skills that the client and everybody they work with don't have. So own it.

Make your first impression count.

When you first meet the client, you want to create the best first impression you can. Don’t slouch and try not to look nervous (no matter how nervous you are). Walk into the meeting with an air of confidence. Stand tall, look the client in the eye and smile.

Take the initiative and offer to shake their hand before they offer theirs. And please make sure you have a firm handshake. If you are not sure, find a practice partner. Nothing deflates an air of confidence like a limp handshake. Finally, just for etiquette allow the client to sit before taking a seat yourself.

What do you talk about during your first client meeting?

Before diving into the reason for the meeting, it’s always a good idea to engage in a bit of small talk to get comfortable with each other. Remember, this is the first stage of building a relationship with the client. Keep the conversation about positive things. DO NOT complain about the weather or traffic or anything else that may make you sound easily annoyed. It could turn the client off.

Be confident, but not overbearing. Try to act the same way you would on a first date. Would you give a second chance to someone who sounded desperate? Of course not. You want the client to think that you don’t need the work, that you are busy, that you’re in demand, and it will make them want to work with you even more.

I’ve said it many times before on the podcast, but it merits repeating it. Clients prefer to work with a good designer they like, then an amazing designer they don’t like. Use this opportunity to show the client you are likeable.

Once the small talk is out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. You can start by asking the client what they thought of your intro packet and if they have any questions about it — following that you should ask about their project and their business. If the chance comes up, ask about their family, or anything else that presents itself. Use this opportunity to get to know the client. The idea here is to make the client comfortable in dealing with you. Make sure to tell them a bit about yourself as well if they ask, it’s a two-way streak after all.

Let the client talk as much as they want. They’re the ones that wanted to meet with you. You’re busy and in demand after all. Let them explain why they contacted you. Be attentive, focused, and interested in what they have to say. Throw in a few words or gestures to show them you understand and let them feel comfortable talking to you.

And take notes, even if you don’t need them. Clients like it when people take notes while listening to them. It makes them feel like you value their information more.

Once the client is done talking, and you have a better grasp of their project, it’s time for you to ask questions about their design project and show them why you are the perfect candidate for the job. Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Talk about possible solutions without going into too much detail.

Use this opportunity to flesh out the details of what the client needs so you can write up your proposal. Also, use it as a chance to show them your experience and how much you care about their business. Make sure to use examples of past successes you’ve had. Clients love to hear case studies, especially those that closely match their situations.

Finally, ask the client for their budget. I know it’s a touchy subject, but it’s a necessary one before you can write your proposal. The client's budget will determine the solution you provide them. If they are looking for a website, a budget of $10,000 will get them a much different site than a budget of $3,000. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, but if you ask with confidence like it’s just another step in the process, they’ll feel more inclined to answer you.

Before wrapping up the meeting, make sure to ask if the client has any more questions. It’s a good sign when they do. It means they are considering hiring you. Clients who have decided you are not the right person will seldom ask followup questions. But don’t worry if they don’t have any more questions. It may be because you did such a thorough job during the meeting.

Keep in mind while answering their questions that it's ok to say “I don’t know” or “I can look into that”. Then take note of their questions, and follow through with an answer as soon as you can.

Key pointers to remember.

  1. Relax and enjoy your conversation with the client. Remember that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain since they are not your client yet.
  2. Be confident. Even if this is your first client meeting, pretend like you’ve done it countless times before. It will help you come across as a seasoned professional.
  3. Talk to the client like you are partners. Use terms like “We” and “Us” when talking about working together.
  4. Use the client’s first name when addressing them. Using their first name sounds more personal and creates that impression of a relationship.
  5. Act as if you’ve already won the contract. Say things like “this is how we’ll do it” or “I’ll do this” when discussing the project.
  6. If you are meeting with more than one person try to determine who in the group is in charge and present to them directly. Don’t ignore the others in the group but present mostly to the person in charge.
  7. Practice beforehand. Stand in front of a mirror, present to a friend or family member, practice in the shower. The more prepared you are before the meeting, the better the meeting will go.
  8. If you are meeting at a neutral location like a restaurant or coffee shop, insist on buying their meal or drink. Keep the receipt and deduct it as a business expense.

Ending the meeting.

Once all the questions have been asked and answered it’s time to end the meeting. Use this last opportunity to leave a positive impression on the client. Smile and be confident. Let them know how much you’ve enjoyed meeting them. Thank them for their time.

Leave your business card and any other material you want to leave behind, and let the client know that should they have any more questions they can contact you.

If the client asked for a proposal remind them when they can expect to receive it. If they didn’t ask for one, let them know they can contact you if they want to proceed any further. After the meeting, make sure you follow up on anything you said you would.


If you haven’t heard back from the client within a week or so, follow up with a phone call or email. Let them know you are available if they have any questions about their project.

The chances are that after such a successful meeting the client will decide to hire you, but if they choose to use a different designer, don’t take it personally and don’t let it hurt your confidence. Even the most experienced designers in our industry lose out on clients. Just chalk it up to a helpful learning experience and start preparing for the next client meeting.

How comfortable are you at client meetings?

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 Scott

As a full time local newspaper ad print designer for 23 years and freelance designer when the opportunity comes up what is the best way to boost my clients from social media or otherwise? Most of my jobs come from word of mouth. Any direction in form of podcast episodes or otherwise would be greatly appreciated.

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

Resource of the week Focus Music

If you are someone who enjoys listening to music but finds it distracting while working you may want to try listing to what is called "Focus Music". Focus Music is downbeat instrumental music with a soft, slow tone that is perfect for filling the silence. It's the type of music that will not distract you while you work.

Search for the term "focus" in your favourite music app and find a playlist that suits your tastes.

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

Apr 22, 2019

Do you have an intro packet for your design business?

An intro packet is a tool you use to land new clients and facilitate the client onboarding process. It can either be a dedicated page on your website, a detailed PDF or better yet, a well designed and nicely printed piece to hand out to potential clients.

An intro packet is a great way to create a good first impression of who you are and what you do. It answers basic questions, sets expectations and gives clients a first look at what it will be like working with you. It’s also a good tool to filter out clients that are not a good fit for your business.

In the last episode of the podcast, I told you all about the client onboarding processand how having a good onboarding process is crucial to landing new design clients. A good intro packet is the foundation of that important onboarding process.

What’s in an intro packet?

Think of your intro packet as well designed piece containing all the introductory information you normally give to potential clients. Not detailed information like what goes into your proposals and contracts. Instead, the intro packet contains an outline of what you do and what it will be like working with you.

  • Your payment policies
  • Time frames
  • How you work
  • What you expect from your clients
  • etc.

It answers those basic initial questions a client needs to know before they start discussing their project with you.

The intro packet should be the very first thing you present to a client before agreeing to talk to them about their proposed project. Its purpose is to outline the big picture of what working with you will be like. It also saves you time by providing clients with answers to the most asked questions you receive saving you having to answer them personally.

When should you send an intro packet?

The intro packet should be one of the first steps in the client onboarding process right after the initial client inquiry. Your onboarding process should look like this:

  1. Client contacts you
  2. Send them your intro packet
  3. Meet the client to discuss their design project
  4. Proposal and contracts are sent
  5. Send the client a welcome packet (more on this in a future episode in this series)
  6. Start the project.

Whenever a client emails you, fills out a form on your website or contacts you by phone, your first response should be to send them your intro packet and ask them to look it over before you schedule a meeting with them. This will accomplish one of two things.

1.It will ensure the client they’ve made a good choice in reaching out to you and strengthen their resolve to work with you.

2.It let the client know that you are not a good fit and save you both a lot of time and possible headaches.

The purpose of an intro packet.

An intro packet serves multiple purposes.

  1. It introduces clients to who you are and sets expectations as to what they can expect when working with you. This helps alleviate fears or anxieties they may have and make them more confident in working with you.
  2. It saves you both time. Presenting your process in a well-organized manner makes future communications between you and your client both faster an smoother.
  3. It establishes you as an expert and authority in your field. It also helps strengthen the brand image you are developing for your design business.
  4. It creates a great first impression that shows clients you are organized, thorough, capable and professional.
  5. It helps you screen potential clients before having to talk to them. After reading your policies and learning how you work a client may decide not to work with you, which saves you the time involved in figuring that out yourself, or worse not figuring it out until it’s too late.
  6. It gives you a chance to show off your skills because your introductory packet isn’t just a sheet of paper with info on it. It should be a well-designed piece to wow potential clients with your skills as a designer.

Imagine this scenario. A client needs help developing a brand for a new restaurant he's opening. He chooses three different local designers and emails them in order to get a feel for each one before deciding on who to hire.

Designer #1replies to the email saying they would love to sit down and talk with him about his project. When could they meet?

Designer #2calls the client and tells him all about his design services before trying to schedule an in-person meeting with the client. While on the phone he explains his work process, how payments work and anything else he thinks the client should know. The designer thinks he did a thorough job and feels good about his chances of landing the client. However, the client can’t remember half the details after hanging up the phone. Plus now he's committed to a meeting a designer he's still unsure about.

Designer #3Calls the client and thanks him for considering her for his project. The designer expresses an interest in working with the client and offers to send him her intro packet. The designer explains to the client that the intro packet contains all the information he needs in order to make an informed decision of whether he would like to work with her on his project. She suggests he look it over, and if he has any questions he can call her back and she would be happy to answer them. If the client thinks they’ll be a good fit he can set up a meeting with her to discuss the project more thoroughly.

Which one of these scenarios do you think leaves the best impression on the client? The first designer barely deserves a second thought. Designer #2 sounded good, but the client is a little overwhelmed and is starting to forget most of what they talked about. Designer #3 however, conducted themselves in the most professional manner, provided the client with all the information they required in the form of a well-designed info packet showcasing her design skills. This gives the client the chance to review her information on his own terms, letting him decide without any pressure if he wants to set up a meeting with her to discuss his project further.

If the client decides to move forward with designer #3, he does so with the knowledge of what he's getting into. Should he decide to use a different designer, then designer #3 only lost a few minutes of her time in the initial communication.

They say it costs five times more in time and effort to acquire a new client than to simply keep an existing client. The best way to retain clients is to properly set expectations from the beginning and then meet, or exceed them. An intro packet is a perfect tool to help with this. It makes sure you are not wasting time and energy on bad clients and helps you make favourable impressions on good clients.

By setting high standards from the first contact and following through with great service, you are sure to keep your clients coming back for more.

How to create your intro packet.

When creating your intro packet you want it to be thorough enough to inform your clients and answer their basic questions, but you also want it to be generic enough to work for all clients regardless of their project.

The same intro packet could be used regardless of who the client is. A mom and pop looking for a logo for their corner store, or a 5 partner law firm opening up downtown will both receive the same intro package. However, if you offer multiple design services such as web and print design, you may want to create different intro packets for each one. There will be a lot of crossover for the common areas such as how and when clients can contact you.

Your intro packet should include:

Cover:This is your chance to show off your design skills. Make the cover interesting and professional looking but not too wild.

Introduction:There’s a good chance the client already knows who you are and what you do, but an intro packet is a good place to showcase your skills and talents to round out their impression of you.

Contact info and contact policies:Set the rules of how you communicate with clients and when it’s OK for them to contact you.

What is your process:In this section, you explain how you work and what the client will receive from you at the completion of a project. List special features you may include. List the steps that take place before, during and after a project.

You can also use this section to explain what is not included in your process. Make it clear to the client what it is you do AND what you don’t do.

What is expected of the client:This section tells the client what is expected of them. Make it very clear that if the project requires the client to supply content such as images or copy, that it is expected in a timely manner.

Timeline:Explain how you work and how long certain processes take. If you need three weeks for discovery to research target markets and competition, let the client know so they don’t expect to see results in a week.

Payment:This section explains your pricing policy. Do you require partial or full payment up front? When is the balance due? Do you have a minimum price the client should know about? This section is very useful for weeding out clients below your required budget.

Cancellation policy:This section explains what happens should the client cancel a project once started, or should the client go dormant for a certain period of time.

FAQ:Use this section to answer frequent questions you receive from clients that don't fit in any of the other sections.

Conclusion:Use this section to thank the potential client for their interest in working with you. Encourage them to contact you if they have any questions or concerns and let them know what steps are required if they want to proceed and hire you.

Remember, the client onboarding process is your opportunity to convert potential new clients into paying clients. Your intro packet is the first step in that process. Keep your wording compelling enough, but don’t presume you will be working with the client because you might not. Be vague, but use a language inclusive to building a relationship with them.

The intro packet is a vital part of the client onboarding process. Make sure yours is up to par.

Do you have an intro packet?

Let me know how your intro packet is working for you 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 John

Do you have any clients that listen to your podcast and if they do are you worried that they will get upset if you mention your business with them?

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

Resource of the week is an interesting way to explore and create colour palettes for use in your design projects. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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

Apr 15, 2019

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of turning potential clients into paying clients. It’s the process of introducing them to your business, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring they understand the services you offer and your processes while providing those services.

Onboarding is all the steps from the initial contact with the client until you start working on their design project. It’s your chance to explain to a client;

  • What they should expect from you.
  • What their part is in the relationship.
  • How communication between you should happen.
  • When and how you are to be paid.
  • And more

Over the next few episodes of the podcast, I’m going to dive into specific parts of the client onboarding process, but for today, I’m going to talk about the process as a whole.

Why is Client Onboarding important?

Let’s look at the process from two angles.

From the client's point of view:

The Onboarding process plays a vital part in building and nurturing the relationship between you and your client. It’s a way of ensuring you’re all on the same page when it comes to working together.

Clients don’t often know how partnering with a designer works. It’s nervewracking for them to trust you, someone they may not know, with this vital part of their business's future. With proper Client Onboarding, you give the client a glimpse of what it will be like working together and hopefully leave them feeling confident that they’ve made the right choice in hiring you.

For your point of view:

The Onboarding process is a way for you to grasp the scope of the project the client is presenting you with, as well as a chance to get to know the client. You learn their communication style which allows you to address any concerns you may have right at the start, so they don’t become problems later on. And it allows you to show the client your "plan of attack" for tackling their project, letting them know what you expect of them.

The onboarding process is also a great way to weed out potential bad clients. At this point, you have not agreed to anything with the client. Use this time to determine if they are someone with whom you want to work.

Finally, the onboarding process is a great opportunity for you to show the client just how awesome it will be to work with you, hopefully putting them at ease and solidifying in their mind that they’ve chosen the right designer.

To sum it up, Client Onboarding is all about keeping the client happy, because a happy client will come back for more. That’s how vital the onboarding process is.

Ignoring the process.

Client Onboarding is a process. As a process, it has a structure that over time you will become intimately familiar with and comfortable using. Once you get used to an onboarding process, you will find it much easier to land clients.

If you receive inquiries from potential clients but with very few of them converting into paying clients, then you need to evaluate your client onboarding process.

Whenever you meet a potential new client, you can’t just start throwing random information at them and expect them to come on board immediately. It’s overwhelming for them. And yet, that’s precisely the strategy many designers take. They give as much information as they can without taking the client’s point of view in mind, which is probably why they find client acquisition difficult.

Onboarding involves not only informing the potential client of what they need to know but listening to them and answering their questions and concerns. It’s about making the experience of hiring a designer as smooth as possible for them. If you don’t do it right, you’ll leave the client with the wrong impression, and the chances of them hiring you or coming back are slim. However, If you do it right, the client will come to believe that there is nobody else they want to work with but you.

Part of running a design business is being a salesperson. And as all good salespeople know, having a good onboarding process in place is half the battle to winning over clients.

When should Client Onboarding start?

The onboarding process should start as soon as a client reaches out to you. There are various steps to the onboarding process that I’ll cover in the next few episodes of the podcast. But just know that Client Onboarding is ongoing from the first contact until project start, and sometimes beyond.

Client Onboarding gives you direction.

Any time you start working with a client, both sides usually have a sense of enthusiasm towards the new project. Ideas go back and forward, people get excited and before you know it, decisions have been made without any form of direction.

Client Onboarding gives you that direction.

Part of the process is to create a schedule and a plan for the project. This allows you to set out roles by determining who will be doing what and when. How long the process should take and what is expected from all parties. This way nothing is left up in the air and there are no surprises. Design projects go so much smoother when everyone involved knows what to expect.

Managing client expectations.

I mentioned earlier how a lot of clients don’t know how partnering with a designer works. Onboarding can help alleviate this by managing client expectations.

Part of the Onboarding Process is to make sure clients know what they can expect, and also what not to expect from you when it comes to your processes and how you work. Take scope creep for example. It’s the bane of many designers. However, Most clients don’t realise the problem when they ask you to do “just one more thing.”

To prevent scope creep, outline your policies in the onboarding process and let clients know by;

  • Defining exactly what is involved with their project.
  • Explaining what is allowed and what isn’t allowed within that definition.
  • Letting them know the costs involved with additional work.
  • Making sure the client knows what they are paying for.

Setting them straight on the way you work and the processes you use is a key ingredient to a successful project and a long and prosperous relationship.

Show your clients why choosing you was the right choice.

Client Onboarding isn’t just about preventing potential problems. It’s also about showcasing what it is you can do and how much value you can bring them. This is important because, as I mentioned earlier, at this stage the client is excited to get their project started. That excitement lends well to you introducing other creative ideas and services to them. While they are most receptive take the opportunity to bring up other creative ideas or services you offer.

The results of good Client Onboarding.

When you’re successful with your client onboarding, you will not only increase the percentage of potential clients that convert to paid clients. But those clients will:

  • Stay with you longer and be more loyal.
  • Order more products and services from you.
  • Become ambassadors and advocate for your company and services. Spreading the word and helping you grow your design business.

And that’s why you should have a client onboarding process for your design business.

Do you have a client onboarding process in place?

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 Fanis

My name is Fanis, and I am from Greece.

By reading about Graphic Design process, I always turn out to the same issue. What if I live in an island and most of my projects are about tourism, like hotel brochures, maps, rental brochures etc.? How can I define my client goals and who may be my client competition?

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

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 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.

Apr 8, 2019

Understanding Priorities will help grow your design business.

Whether your design business is still new or you’ve been doing this for many years, I'm betting you started it feeling greedy. Meaning you took on any design work that came your way. That's OK. Not many designers just starting their freelance career are picky about the type of work they take on.

I’m not talking pricing. Just because you have a new business isn’t a reason to accept $25 logo jobs. You still have to have your principals after all. What I’m talking about is the type of work you take on; logos, brochures, postcards, websites, banner ads, powerpoint presentation, etc. If you started a web design business and a client asked you for a logo, and the money was good, chances are you took on the project and designed a logo for them, even if it didn’t align with your business model of running a web design business. You have to pay the bills after all, and money is money.

Understanding priorities become essential once the ball is rolling, money is coming in, and your business is out of the infancy stage. At some point, you need to take a measure of what it is you are doing with your design business, compared to what it is you want to be doing with it and ask yourself,

"am I saying yes to stuff I probably shouldn't be saying yes to?"

The answer to that question should come easily once you understand your priorities.

What is important to you?

What type of design business do you want to run? The options are endless.

  • Do you want to be a branding specialist?
  • Do you want to focus your talents on print design?
  • Do you want to create product packages?
  • Is building websites your passion?
  • Or is coming up with the best ways for users to interact with things what excites you?

Whatever direction you want to take your business, you need to streamline your process to match it. Figure out what aspect of the design space you want to focus on and make all future decisions with that goal in mind. Once you know what to focus your choices on, it will become much more transparent and easier for you to see what you should be saying yes to, and what you should be saying no to.

Choosing where to take your design business.

Think of everything you are currently doing in your design business. Of all of those things, what can you clear out? Here’s an exercise in understanding priorities that will help you weed out the yes's and no's for your business. Take out a pad of paper (Post-it notes works great for this) and follow these steps.

Compile your list of tasks.

  1. On each sheet of paper, write out ONE thing you are currently doing with your business. For example, write out all the different types of design jobs you take on (logos, brochures, websites, magazine ads, etc.). Then write out all the peripheral tasks associated with those design jobs. Such as photography, photo editing/manipulation, copywriting etc. Don't' forget to Include things like discovery research, file handling, backups and archiving. Every single thing you do, write each one on a separate piece of paper.
  2. Next, write down all the administrative tasks you do in your design business. Things like invoicing, bookkeeping, client followup, taxes, outreach, marketing etc. Write down as many items as you can on as many sheets of paper or post-it-notes as you need.

Separate your tasks into two piles.

  1. Once you’ve written down everything that you do in your design business, it's time to start separating them into two piles. Look at each note and ask yourself these two questions.
  • Does this bring me joy or Do I like doing this one particular thing?
  • Am I good at this particular thing?

If you answered yes to BOTH questions, put it in pile number one. If you cannot respond yes to both questions, put it into pile number two. Separate your collection into these two piles.

Continue separating.

Now, look at pile one, the tasks you enjoy doing or bring you joy AND that you are good at, and ask yourself one more question.

  • If I continue doing this thing or offering this service, will it help my business grow in the direction I want it to become?

Make two new piles, one pile containing the tasks that will help your business grow and one pile containing the tasks that won’t.

In the end, you will be left with a small pile that:

  1. You enjoy doing or bring you joy.
  2. You are good at doing.
  3. Will help your business grow.

The items in that pile are the things you should prioritise for your business. Those are the things you should be marketing to potential clients. Those are the things you want to hone your skills even further. Those are the things that will let you achieve your business goals.

What about the other piles?

What about the other piles that don't meat all three criteria? It all comes down once again to understanding priorities. Here’s what you do.

The pile with tasks you enjoy doing and are good at, but Don't help your business grow, these are the items and services you continue doing when needed. You don't have to list them under your services but if a client asks if you can do them feel free to say yes. After all, these are things you are good at and enjoy doing, so don’t cut them out just because they don’t help grow your business, just don't prioritise them.

Dividing the rest.

Divide your original second pile, the things that don’t bring you joy or you are not very good at, into two more piles — ones that will help your business grow and the ones that won't.

The pile that will help grow your design business becomes the stuff you offload. Meaning those are the tasks you hire other people to do for you. These are the things that you don’t like doing, or you are not good at, BUT you know they are necessary for your business to grow. Find people who both enjoy doing those things and are good at them and let them help you to build your design business.

Finally, the pile of tasks you don’t like doing, you're no good at and won't help your business grow, stop doing them. They’re a waste of time and resources on your part. They’re not even worth the hassle of farming out. Remember, it’s OK to say no if a client asks you if you offer a particular service you don’t want to do.

Understanding priorities when it comes to your business is the key to its growth. Concentrate on the things that bring you joy, you are good at, and help grow your business, and you will be on your way to success. Once you master this tactic, your business will have nowhere to go but up.

What do you think of this strategy?

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 Greg

Love the podcast, although I'm opting to start from the beginning, so I'm still only about 45 episodes in. I've been running my own design business for a number of years, but I went to school as an opera singer, so I've been in "fake it 'till you make it" mode and it's great to hear about this stuff from someone who actually knows what they're doing!

I had a question for you! I've been doing this now for about 10 years (mostly web design), but it's only been in the last year or so that I've actually started trying to make it a main source of income. I had a decent talent for design, and have become a pretty good web developer over the years, but because I only did it on the side and I wasn't really immersed in the design world, whatever "talent" I had went un-trained and un-refined. As a classical musician I know first-hand that that is never going to get my skill to where I want it to be.

Now that I'm trying to "level up," as it were, I'm finding that I'm rarely happy with my designs anymore. I dove in to learning about design, which I think has significantly upgraded my taste, but now I look at even my most recent designs and think "Yeah, this is fine but it's not amazing." It's been hard making money, not because I have any trouble finding clients, but because I don't feel confident about my work and I end up under-charging or "waiting until I'm better" before looking for new clients. In trying to figure out what's wrong, I've come to think that my designs would have been great 10 years ago, but now the "go-to" design aspects that have worked for me for years look dated and un-polished.

At the same time, I get tired of seeing websites that all basically look the same. Menu at the top, hero section with giant photo and CTA overlay, usually three columns below, then some centered content, blah blah... So, my current struggle is figuring out how I can design things that are unique, but still look modern and polished. To some degree I know I just need to practice and learn more, but my question for you is: After all these years of doing what you do, how do you update your "style"? Are there resources you go to that talk about design trends or do you just let yourself evolve as you go, and if so, is it just a matter of trying things until you figure out what you think works? Do you have ways of deciding which styles, techniques, design principles, etc., no longer work well? Are there other aesthetics that you look to, like fashion or music, that help you creatively connect to the modern world?

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

Resource of the week BNI

BNI is a global networking organisation that helps members increase their business through a structured, positive and professional referral marketing program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals. Through weekly meetings and exclusive resources, BNI helps you build a strong network that fuels professional growth.

The best way to find out more about how BNI works is to go to a local chapter meeting and see for yourself what it’s like. To learn more, or to find a chapter near you visit the BNI website.

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

Apr 1, 2019

What does a designer do on April Fools Day?

This week's release happens to fall on April Fools Day. The one day of the year where tomfoolery, shenanigans and levity abound. A day when you put all seriousness aside and let out your inner practical joker.

I thought of trying to pull one over you by starting off saying something like “I’ve decided to end the podcast, and this will be my last episode” But then I thought, what if someone is reading this or listening to the podcast for the very first time. That person might not realise it’s an April Fools joke and leave. Or what if a regular listener took me seriously and unsubscribed from the podcast? Not to mention, since my episodes are mostly evergreen, someone may be listening to this episode later in the month, the year or perhaps even years from now.

Instead, I decided to use this episode to share some of the “design” related practical jokes I’ve been part of over the years. I put "design" in quotation marks because I'm not talking about creating fake designs as a joke (although some of that does come into play) I'm mostly talking about pulling pranks on unsuspecting coworkers.

If you’re here for advice on your design business, I’m sorry, but you probably won't get much out of this episode. However, if you're looking for something to liven up your day, then keep on.

I’m a big proponent of working from home. I can’t imagine going back to office life working for someone else. But with all the perks of being self-employed, one of the drawbacks is not having coworkers to have conversations with, share ideas OR pull practical jokes on. That’s one of the things I miss since leaving the print shop.

Pulling practical jokes on my wife or kids is fun. But it’s not the same as pulling a good one past an unsuspecting coworker in the middle of a busy business day.

In honour of April Fools Day, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve pulled on my unsuspecting peers in years past. I describe all of these in detail on the podcast episode, so if you are here reading this, I suggest you press play and have a listen instead. They get better as you read.

  1. Unscrew the top of the salt shaker or switch the salt and sugar
  2. Saran wrap on the toilet seat (funny, so long as you don't have to clean up the mess afterwards.)
  3. Turn the lights off in the bathroom via the circuit breaker leaving the victim to finish their "business" in complete darkness.
  4. Turn Brightness off on monitors to make people believe their screen is turned off.
  5. Remove balls from mice (was fun before optical mice became the norm)
  6. Swap left and right mouse buttons, or change the tracking and scrolling speeds via System Preferences.
  7. Reroute computer wires, so keyboards and mice control the wrong computers (pre-wireless devices).
  8. Rearrange keys on a keyboard. Especially fun when used on people that need to look at their keyboard while typing.
  9. Put all phone lines on hold and tell someone there’s a call for them. Let them worry about picking up the wrong line.

Up until now, I've shared some of the typical harmless pranks I've done. Now it gets more fun.

Upsidedown screen:

Find someone's desktop/wallpaper image and rotate it 180 degrees in Photoshop. Watch their confusion when they turn on their monitor and see the image upside down.

Screenshot of a messy desktop.

For someone who keeps a messy computer desktop,

  1. Take a screenshot of their desktop.
  2. Put all the files and folders from their desktop into one folder.
  3. Change that one folder's icon to a 1px by 1px dot and rename the folder to a single character.
  4. Place the folder at the bottom of the screen so that the name is off the screen. This leaves only the 1-pixel square "visible".
  5. Replace the background/wallpaper of the now clean desktop with the screenshot of the messy desktop.

Watch and laugh as the person tries clicking on files and folders not knowing they are part of their background image.

Scary warning message

This was probably the best prank I pulled on my coworkers.

  1. Take a screenshot of a coworker's desktop.
  2. Take a screenshot of any warning or confirmation box that your computer displays.
  3. In Photoshop, crop the warning or confirmation box and alter the message to read something like "Warning: Proceeding with this option will result in the deletion of the hard drive.”
  4. Create two realistic looking systems buttons. One that says "Cancel" and one that says "Continue" but make the "Cancel" button greyed out.
  5. Place your new "Warning" message over the screenshot of your coworker's desktop.
  6. Replace your coworker's desktop image with your new creation.
  7. Sit back and enjoy.

Watch as your coworker panics at the message on their screen. They will try to press the Cancel button, but of course, it won't work. Plus you made it greyed out to look like its not clickable. They'll be afraid to do anything else in case they inadvertently delete their hard drive. Let them worry for a while before letting them in on the secret. Then watch your back, because they will want to retaliate after this one.

What’s the best design related practical joke you’ve ever pulled off or been the recipient of?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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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

Mar 25, 2019

How much thought do you devote to protecting your WordPress website?

[sc name="pod_ad"]I want to share something that happened to me this week. I came home from a nice lunch with friends to both an email and urgent voicemail message from a client saying someone had hacked their website and their URL redirected to a porn site. This is a relatively large client of mine that gets a decent number of visitors to their website each day, so there was a good reason for the panic.

When I heard the message and the panic in my client’s voice, my only thought was to get this problem fixed ASAP. But I wasn’t worried because I know I have measures in place for exactly this sort of thing. But more on that later.

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. That popularity also makes it the most popular choice for hackers. Fortunately, WordPress is on the ball and releases regular updates to patch any new and existing security holes. But, security as a whole is a reactive process. Patches are only issued once a security vulnerability is known. At its core, WordPress is incredibly secure, but the massive ecosystem of plugins and WordPress themes makes it more vulnerable to security holes. That’s why you should have measures in place for protecting your WordPress Website and those of your client.

It’s not good enough to rely on what your web host provides as part of your hosting package. You need to have your own measures in place. Those measures need to include both a security plugin and a backup plugin.

Step 1: A WordPress security plugin

By installing a WordPress security plugin, you’ll get access to additional features that WordPress doesn’t have right out of the box, including things such as:

  • Site, file, and malware scanning
  • Protection from brute force attacks
  • Regular security scans, monitoring, notifications
  • Site firewalls
  • Overall security hardening

Sadly, a lot of site owners don’t think about security for their WordPress website until it’s too late. And once a WordPress site is compromised, there’s not a lot they can do besides notify visitors and try to clean up the mess if possible.

If only there were something they could’ve done to prevent the site from being hacked in the first place. Oh, there is. Installing a top-ranked WordPress security plugin is the first step in securing your WordPress website.

Top-ranked WordPress security plugins

Google Authenticator - Two Factor Authentication

Although not a security plugin, the Google Authenticator plugin is a great addition for protecting your WordPress website. It's something that should be installed on every website. Google Authenticator adds an extra level of security by adding Two Factor Authentication every time someone logs into the WordPress website. iTheme Security Pro, my security plugin of choice comes with Google Authenticator as part of the package. I'm unsure if the other security plugins mentioned above also include Google Authenticator.

Step 2: A WordPress backup plugin

Every WordPress installation should also have a backup solution. Not one provided by your web host, but one you implement and control yourself.

There are too many instances where web host provided backup solutions either take days to provide you with the backup of your website, the backup is outdated, or in some cases, it's corrupted. Don't take any chances with your WordPress backups and install a top-ranked WordPress backup plugin such as one of these.

Top-ranked WordPress backup plugins

So how did my story end?

First off, let me tell you that I wasn’t surprised that my client's site got hacked. I had seen increased login attempts on it lately numbering in the 10,000s. If a determined hacker wants into a website, there's only so much you can do to stop them. So I wasn’t surprised when it got hacked, but I also wasn’t worried.

The first thing I did was wipe the site. I logged into my cPannel, went to File Manager, found the directory for my client's website and deleted everything in the folder. That immediately solved the first issue of the site being redirected to the porn site since there wasn't a site anymore to do the redirection.

Then it was a simple matter of downloading the most recent backup from the cloud drive I send all my client site backups to and using BackupBuddy, reinstalled the entire site from the backup. In all, it took me less than 10 minutes to get the site back up and running.

After reinstalling the site, I changed the password for the database as well as all User passwords and made sure WordPress, the installed theme and all plugins were updated. Only then did I call my client. When he answered and immediately started asking what can we do about the problem, it felt so good being able to tell him that everything was already taken care of and his site was back up and running.

Please, don’t delay, and don’t rely on your web host's security and backups to handle this for you. If you are not already protecting your WordPress website with security and backup plugins get to it ASAP.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Are you protecting your WordPress website the way you should be?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I didn't answer a question of the week in this episode, but I would love to answer one of yours. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

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

Mar 18, 2019

Building Client Loyalty = Repeat Business

I have to preface today’s topic of building client loyalty by saying everything I’m going to talk about here won’t help you if you are not a good designer. You don’t have to be an amazing designer, simply being a good one will do. As long as you know what you are doing, then you will benefit from today’s topic. Face it; if you are not a good designer, there’s not much you can do to get repeat business from clients. Other than practice and get better that is.

But I’m guessing by the fact that you are here right now, that you are serious about your design business and therefore must know what you are doing when it comes to design. So let’s move on.

The idea here is to build relationships with your clients. Building relationships is the main ingredient in building client loyalty. I’m not talking about designer/client relationships, but relationships on a more personal level. No, I’m not suggesting you start dating your clients to keep them coming back. Although that might work. I don’t personally have any experience on that front, but hey, if it worked for you drop me a line and let me know.

What I’m suggesting, is to get to know your client on a more personal level beyond the design projects you work on together.

I’ve been following this principle since I got into the industry 30 years ago. Even more so since I started my own design business in 2005, and I must say, my track record is pretty darn good. The majority of my clients become repeat clients, and the majority of those repeat clients, keep coming back over and over again with more design jobs for me.

I have a special mailbox in my mail app where I keep “praise” messages that clients have sent me over the years. Let me share a few lines from some of them.

“There's nobody else I'd rather work with.” 

“I can't imagine working with anyone else.”

“I feel like you're a part of our company.”

“You get me, I don’t know how, but you get me.”

So how did I end up building client loyalty like this? Is it because I’m a world-class designer? Because I'm not. I consider myself very good at what I do, but I'm nowhere near world-class status. The reason I receive this sort of praise from clients is because of the relationships I’ve built with them over the years.

Think about it. Relationships are built on two principles. Trust and how much you like someone. If you don’t trust someone, chances are you won’t have a relationship with them. Same if you don’t like someone, chances are you won’t have a relationship with them.

Now the trust part is easy. Create good design work and deliver that work on time and chances are your clients will trust you. The other half of the equation is getting them to like you.

Think about this: Clients would prefer to work with a good designer they like, than work with an amazing designer they don’t like.

My strategy for building client loyalty

Here’s my strategy for building relationships with my clients and getting them to like me. Are you ready for it? I listen, AND I take notes. That's all there is to it. No, seriously, that’s the magic of it. Listening and taking notes.

The goal is to get clients to like you. The more you know about your clients, AND the more your clients realise that you know about them, the better the likelihood of those clients liking you.

Let me elaborate, whenever a client comes to me, for whatever project. Not only do I want to know about their organisation and how the particular design project fits in, but I want to know about the client themself, their personal life, their family, etc.. And I build up this knowledge over time through conversations.

How? Through idle conversations and chit chat and by asking the right questions when the opportunity arises. Don't be too forward by directly asking personal questions. Instead, ask indirect questions that will allow you to gain knowledge about your clients.

Let me give you an example. Let's say a client I'm working with calls me on the phone.

Me: Hello?
Client: Hi, it's Mike, I need to talk to you about the project."

Now's the perfect time for me to gain some personal information about Mike, my client. Instead of getting right into it, I might try stalling for some chit chat. One method I like to use is telling the client I need to save what I'm currently working on before talking to them. In doing so, I might respond with something like this.

Me: "Hi Mike, just give me a couple of seconds to save this file I'm working on." During the pause, I'll add"Do you have any plans for the weekend?"

While Mike is waiting for me to save my file so we can begin our conversation about his project he'll probably answer my question.

Mike: "My wife and I are going to our daughter's piano recital this weekend."

Knowledge bomb! I now know that Mike is married and has a daughter who plays the piano. This opens me up to asking followup questions such as asking how old his daughter is, how long has she been playing the piano, does she get her musical talent from him or his wife?.

This is information I can use in the future to help build my relationship with Mike. The next time I talk to him, I can ask how his daughter's piano recital went. That's the sort of question that makes the client think "wow, this person cares enough to inquire about my personal life. I like that about them."

Building a client information database

The first part of my strategy for building client loyalty is to gather as much personal information about them as I can (without getting creepy and stalking them). The second part of my strategy is to organise that information so I can easily access it in the future. To do this, I use my Contacts App since it syncs between my computer and mobile devices, so I always have it at hand.

Most Contacts Apps allow you to enter information such as the name of their spouse, children, birthdays and more. Any information that doesn't have a dedicated field goes into the Notes filed.

I also have a dedicated calendar on my Calendar App specifically for client information — things like birthdays, anniversaries and all other occasions I might want to remember. I do the same with their business information by keeping track of trade shows, launch dates, special events their business is holding.

I try to gather as much information about my clients as I can.

What do you do with this information?

I use the information I've gathered through various conversations to build relationships with my clients. If I know their birthday is soon, I might bring it up in conversation "Isn't your birthday coming up?". If they told me they were going to Paris for vacation, I might ask them about their trip afterwards. If I know their son plays baseball I might inquire about the upcoming baseball season. Anything that helps connect on a personal level builds the relationship and forms a bond with the client. This bond will increase the likelihood of the client liking you, and as I stated earlier, loyalty is based on trust and how much someone likes you.

Get to know your clients.

I go into much more detail on the podcast so please listen to this episode for more examples if you want to know more about building client loyalty.

Make sure you take the time to get to know your clients. Learn about their business and the work they do, but also learn about them, their personal lives, their family, etc. The more you know about your clients, the closer of a connection you can have with them. And when that connection becomes solid, the client won't imagine working with anyone else but you. Building client loyalty makes clients for life.

Do you learn everything you can about your clients?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

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

This week’s question comes from Scott

I love the idea that a design should not be quoted based on time but how do you come up with a price ? And what can you answer when a client asks you for justification for a price?

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

Resource of the week is an online tool that shows you how ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant your colours are in relation to each other. By adding your colours on the right, you can generate a chart to see how they can be used together for accessibility, and find similar colours that work better.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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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

Mar 11, 2019

Have you ever considered selling digital products?

Selling digital products is a great way to put your design skills to the test. Not only will you challenge yourself to come up with great ideas, but if you're successful, you can make excellent money doing it.

I've never tried selling digital products myself so on this episode of Resourceful Designer; I'm happy to be joined by Tom Ross, the founder of Design Cuts, one of if not the best place for acquiring and selling digital products online. Listen in as Tom, and I discuss everything there is to know about selling digital products so you can hit the ground running and do it right.

In this episode you'll hear us discuss:

  • How to determine what product you want to create
  • Choosing quality over quantity
  • Ways to promote your digital product
  • Creating sample and preview images for your digital product
  • The difference between designing for clients and designing for a marketplace
  • Income possibilities
  • And more

Whether you are contemplating selling digital products or you are an old pro at it, you're sure to gain some valuable knowledge from this episode. Be sure to share it with all your design friends.

What's your experience with selling digital products?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

There's no QotW this week, but I would love to get one from you. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

Resource of the week The Honest Entrepreneur Show

The Honest Entrepreneur Show is a new podcast and YouTube channel by Tom Ross, founder of Design Cuts. Each episode is 10-20 minutes long and contains zero fluff and zero B.S. Just real, candid insight into modern entrepreneurship. Tom covers topics such as dealing with mental health, to burnout, to behind authentic.

You can watch The Honest Entrepreneur Show on YouTube, or listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts on Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Be sure to follow Tom on Instagram at

Mar 4, 2019

Do you have an organization strategy?

I was recently leafing through an old business magazine from the early 2000s, and I came across an article on organization skills. Specifically, organization skills to help you regain control over your schedule, your environment and your life. Although this article wasn’t about design, I found a lot of what it said still applies to today’s businesses and us as designers.

Here's my spin on the article with some of my knowledge to bring you four basic organization principles to help you as a designer.

Clear out the clutter

In today's society, it's not uncommon to feel overloaded. We deal with too much stuff. Too many obligations, too many tools and resources, too much information. Clearing out the clutter means doing away with anything that is unnecessary. Clutter takes up time, space, energy and money.

Make yourself a plan to clear out as much clutter from these areas as you can. Tackle them one at a time and free yourself.

A place for everything

The number one reason for clutter is not having a set place for stuff. In order to be organized, you need to have a system in place to organize your things. That may be hanging file folders in a drawer, a file cabinet or even a cardboard storage box.

It also means having an organization strategy for your client files and folders on your computer. Whatever it is, having a clearly designated area for your “stuff” will make it more likely that your “stuff” will end up where it belongs. And when stuff is where it belongs, it will make it much easier and faster to find it in the future. That’s the time-saving part of an organization strategy.

Develop systems

I talked about organizing your “stuff” but what about your time? You can go about your daily activities in one of two ways. You can either do things randomly, meaning you have to figure out how to do things each and every time you do them. Or, you can work systematically, where you have a set way of doing those things each time you need to do them.

Systems can apply to any activity you do, from designing logos or websites to invoicing clients, to collecting your tax information at the end of the year. When you have systems in place, you end up spending less energy figuring out how to do things. Instead, it becomes automatic.

I have a system I follow for building websites. It’s a step by step list of everything I need to do in order to set things up to get started, such as installing Wordpress and plugins. Laying out the structure of the website. Figuring out the content of each page, putting those pages together, and finally testing the site to make sure everything is hunky dory.

When you have systems in place, you can spend your time and effort focused on completing the task instead of figuring out how to do the task. Which in turn allows you to finish it much more quickly.

Review and revise your systems

Having systems in place is wonderful. They definitely help you become more organized. Providing they are still effective.

If you are using the same organization systems you put in place 5 years ago there’s a good chance they are not as effective as they were and they could actually be impeding you.

Don’t fall in the rut of doing things only out of habit just because it’s how you’ve been doing them for so long. Every once in a while you should ask yourself these three questions about your familiar routines.

1) Does it even need to be done? Don’t let “busywork” dictate your time just because it’s a habit.

2) Is this something that needs to be done by you? Can it be deligated?

3) Is this the most efficient way to do this? Is there an easier or quicker way?

Get your life in order and you’ll not only be happier, but you’ll be more productive. And if you’re more productive, there’s a good chance your business will grow.

Develop good organization strategies.

What's your organization strategy?

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 Antonio

Hi Mark, I’m studying graphic and web design. I’m from Spain and I start to listen your podcast for homework. After so many years in the business, what advice would you give to someone who is just starting in the industry?

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

Resource of the week

Securitycheckli.stis an open source checklist of resources designed to improve your online privacy and security. Check things off to keep track as you go.

It covers interesting things such as how to encrypt your text messages — reviewing your social media privacy settings — reviewing permissions such as location services and even your camera setting.

Feb 18, 2019

Do you have a business plan for your design business?

Did you make a business plan when you started your design business? If you did, then you are in the minority. Most designers who freelance or run their own design business don’t bother creating a business plan unless they are required to do so by a bank or such.

I’m lucky; my bank asked for one when I first approached them for a business account. At the time I thought it was a nuisance, but in hindsight, I’m glad they made me do it. It gave me direction and made me think about what I wanted to accomplish with my design business.

So if you don’t already have a business plan, even if you’ve been in business for a while, you may want to take some time to come up with one.

Here are seven common business plan mistakes to avoid.

1) Putting off writing a business plan.

Most designers don’t bother with a business plan unless they’re asked to create one. Once their business is up and running most think they don’t need one, or that they are too busy running their business to make a plan for how to run it. That’s a big mistake. The busier you are, the more you need a plan.

Have you heard the term “work on your business, not in your business”? A business plan will help you accomplish that by helping you focus on the things you need to do to work on your business.

2) Fearing the business plan.

The thought of writing a business plan is much scarier than actually creating one. A business plan is not a thesis paper or a novel. It’s a simple guide for you to follow that will help your business to succeed.

There are plenty of great resources online and in your local municipality, such as small business development centres, libraries, banks etc. that can help you with your business plan.

3) Ignoring cash flow.

Most designers think in terms of profits and not cash. Profits are your sales minus your costs and expenses. Unfortunately, you don’t spend profits; you spend cash. And that’s where a business plan can help you.

When you are running a home-based design business, there are plenty of things that require payments that go beyond the business — things like utilities, property taxes, home maintenance, and so much more.

An essential part of a business plan involves creating a cash flow table showing you exactly how much of your profits get converted into spendable cash.

4) Establishing vague goals.

A business plan is not about the dreams you have. You don’t write “I want to be the best designer in my area” in your plan. That stuff is all hype. The objective of a business plan is to generate results for your business. And for results, you need to be able to track and follow up.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are a great way to look at a business plan. Your plan should contain specific dates, the responsibilities you need to take on, and the budget you are allotting to those responsibilities. Then set milestones so you can follow up and check your progress against your business plan.

No matter how well written your business plan is, it’s meaningless if it doesn’t produce results.

5) Copying someone else's plan.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to business plans. The resources I mentioned above can help direct you in writing your plan, but it has to be tailored to your specific business and needs. Remember, a business plan is a sales plan, a detailed action plan, a financial plan, a marketing plan and even a professional growth plan.

A business plan is essential for starting a new design business, but it’s also useful for running and growing your business.

You can bet that big design agencies such as Pentagram or Landor not only have a business plan but regularly review and revise it as their business grows.

6) Diluted priorities.

A business plan is meant to be a focused strategy for your design business. Therefore you need to focus on the priorities in your plan. A plan with 20+ items to keep track of is not very focused and will be much harder to adhere to. Each section of your business plan should have only three or four essential items you are working towards.

Remember, the more items you are focusing on, the less importance and less attention you can devote to each one. A short, precise business plan has a much higher chance of success than a long diluted one.

7) Not reviewing your plan.

Hopefully, you're convinced of the importance of having a business plan, no matter how small or large your design business. But having a business plan isn’t very helpful if you don’t review it on a regular basis.

Set annual reminders to review your plan and make amendments to it to help your design business grow. Doing so will help keep you focused and show you the direction to take to achieve to achieve success.

Do you have a business plan for your design business?

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 Rosey

How do you balance multiple priorities? It causes me a great deal of anxiety to leave things unfinished. In a perfect world, for me, I would only have one thing to do at a time and could just work from beginning to end, but that never happens. If you're working on 4 things at the same time, and none of them are finished (that's me right now). How do you know when is the right time to stop working on one thing, and pick up working on another?

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

Tip of the week resource name

I received a concise email from my copywriter this week. It went like this.

Hi Mark,

Here is the brochure copy. Let me know if there are any changes you would like me to make.


It’s that second line that gave me pause. “Let me know if there are any changes you would like me to make.

In a way, she was encouraging me to make changes to what she wrote. I opened the attached Word document with the thought in my head to look for things to change. I didn’t find any, the copy was perfect, but the idea was there.

This got me thinking about all the conversations I hear, where designers are complaining about the number of revisions clients ask for. The usual solution I hear is to limit the number of revisions you offer. Or Charge for revisions beyond X number.

Maybe the problem is these designers are inviting their clients to make revisions by asking them if there are any changes they would like the designer to make.

Instead, the designer should be asking their client what they like and don't like about the design. If the client wants something changed they will ask without being prompted, so what’s the point of encouraging them to look for things to change?

If you are guilty of this, maybe you should alter your wording and see if it somehow reduces the number of revisions you’re asked to do.

It’s just a thought.

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

Feb 11, 2019

Designing for family and friends is the bane of many designers.

Opinions vary amongst designers regarding designing for family and friends. Some are firmly against it and for others, it's no problem. I fall into this latter group.

A couple of weeks ago I released an episode on starting a design business from scratch. My second step in the process involved reaching out to family and friends to help spread the word about your new design business. After all, who better to spread the word then the people who know you best, your family and friends. And chances are one of them will become your first design client.

I go into much more detail and share personal experiences in the podcast episode. Be sure to listen to it for the full story. Here is a rundown of what I covered on the podcast.

Setting ground rules for family and friends.

Because family and friends are familiar with you outside of a work environment, you need to set ground rules before agreeing to work with them. If you state the terms of your business relationship with them up front, your dealings should go much smoother.

Here is the process that has worked for me over the years. Keep in mind that everyone's family and friends are different so what works for me may require some adjustments to work for you.

A family member's or a friend's business is still a business.

A business operated by a family member or a friend is still a business, and you should treat it as such. Your relationship with them should not change the way you operate your design business. You need to treat family and friends like you would any other client. Follow your standard procedure by sending proposals, making them sign a contract and issuing an invoice once the project is finished.

Family and friends should not be exempt from good business practices. The only exception I make is offering them a "Family and Friends Discount" of 30% off my design services. I charge full price for all expenses such as printing or web hosting.

Even if you are doing the work for free, you should still use a contract and issue an invoice with a 100% discount. This will teach your family member or friend to value your time and skills by showing them how much you would typically charge for the services you are providing them.

Dealing with personal projects from family and friends.

Family and friends will sometimes approach you with a personal project that has nothing to do with business. They're hoping that the bond between you is strong enough for you to volunteer your time and skills. How you handle these requests is entirely up to you but keep in mind that it's perfectly ok to say no to them.

One option at your disposal is bartering, getting something in return for your services. Family and friends are a great resource for a "favour for a favour".

The way I handle these situations is to determine if the project in question is personally for my family member or friend. If it's something specifically for them, I'll do it, as a favour to them. However, if they are asking on behalf of someone else or a group they belong to I will treat the project as a business dealing and determine if it merits a discount or not.

Mom's are exempt.

When it comes to your mom, everything I mentioned above goes out the window. The woman put up with all your nonsense growing up the least you can do it offer your skills and time to whatever she asks of you. You probably owe her way more than you'll ever be able to pay back anyway.  

How do you deal with family and friends?

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 Kayla

In a past episode I remember you saying that you upcharge print materials (i.e. you've designed a brochure and the client wants 500 more of the exact same design. You simply send it to print again). How do you suggest upcharging? A flat rate? Or a percentage?

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

Resource of the week Facebook Groups

Facebook groups are a great way to stay connected with our industry and a great source of information when you need help. There are various Facebook Groups for just about any topic. Here are a few I belong to that may interest you.

Resourceful Designer Group

Logo Geek | Logo Design Community

This Design Life

Divi Theme Users

Divi Web Designers


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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 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

Feb 4, 2019

Don't ruin your design business, avoid the following.

[sc name="pod_ad"]Think of your design business like climbing a mountain. To climb a mountain, you require willpower, perseverance, skill, knowledge, stamina, patience and concentration. All these traits come together to allow a mountain climber to make their way up a mountain. You need these same traits to run a design business. Sure, you use them differently, but they’re the same traits nonetheless. And similar to maintain climbing, one slip can mean disaster.

Luckily, slipping up on your design business won’t result in death like falling off a mountain will. But it could ruin your reputation, which in turn will ruin your design business. That’s why it’s good to stay on your guard and avoid these 12 ways to ruin your design business.

Doing these could ruin your design business

1) Failing to communicate - taking too long to reply to emails.  

You are not expected to drop everything you're doing to reply to each new email. It's standard business practice to respond within an acceptable window of time. However, that window shouldn't stretch several days long. It can become increasingly frustrating for the person waiting for your reply. Do this often enough, and clients will lose confidence in you and take their business elsewhere.

If Gmail is your email platform check out Boomerang that allows you to set follow up reminders, so you never miss replying to an email. If you don't use Gmail, setting reminders is easy using Siri on your Apple device, your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Simply set a time for your device to remind you to reply to the email. 

2) Missing deadlines.

Missing deadlines is a sure fire way to ruin your design business. Miss more than one and there's a good chance your clients won't bring you any more design projects. Missing deadlines is usually a case of bad time management and biting off more than you can chew (see number 4). Whenever possible try to pad your deadlines, meaning once you figure out how long a project will take, add on a few days or weeks to act as a buffer, just in case. If you go over your estimated time that buffer will keep you within the deadline. And if you manage to finish on time, your clients will be that much more impressed with you. 

3) Showing a lack of confidence in your skills.

Nothing turns off a client more than showing a lack of confidence in your abilities. If you show any doubt in what you present to your clients, they will start having doubts about hiring you. Even if you are unsure, you need to present with confidence. Your client will let you know if your designs are not right for them.

Never ask a client what they think about the designs you present them. You can ask them what they like or don't like, but not what they think. Asking them what they think is a way of saying you are unsure of what you are presenting and you are seeking their affirmation.  

4) Biting off more than you can chew.

Don't be afraid to turn down work or to delay working with a client because of your heavy workload. Being in a situation where you cannot take on any more work is a great position to be in. If a client wants to work with you, they will wait their turn. The worse thing you can do in this situation is accepting the work anyways. It's a sure fire way to missing deadlines (see number 2).

The same goes for projects with scopes larger than you can handle. You should have a team you can call uponin certain situations, but some projects are just too big for solo designers, no matter how much you'd like to take them on. Don't be afraid to pass on them. 

5) Overreacting to criticism.

If you can't take criticism, you shouldn't be a designer. It's the nature of our industry that not everyone will like what you do. You need to learn and grow from the criticism you receive, regardless if you agree or disagree with it. Responding to criticism with a strong emotional reaction is an excellent way to alienate your clients. Keep your hurt feelings to yourself.


6) Over-promising and under-delivering.

Over-promising and under-delivering is another way to ruin your design business. Examples are missing deadlines (see number 2) or biting off more than you can chew (see number 4). However, sometimes you might be tempted to over-promise your skills and abilities. Telling a client, you can do something, when in fact you are not sure how to do it can lead to disaster. Never promise a client you will/can do something unless you know you can follow through. 

7) Don't take time to learn and experiment.

This relates to you as a designer. Our industry is continuously changing with new tools, new platforms and new trends. If you fail to keep up your business is doomed. Clients hire designers to help them compete in their market. For that to happen, you need to know how to design things that can compete. Nobody wants a designer who is behind on the times.

8) Don't take time to be inspired. 

You are a creative person; it's why you became a designer. Feed your creativity by seeking out things that inspire you. Visit museums, read art magazines, watch documentaries or study the world around you. Inspiration can be found in everyday things if only you take the time to look. Not finding ways to fuel your creativity is another way to ruin your design business.

9) Commenting negatively on a client's previous designs.

No matter what you think of a client's previous designs, you should never tell them they are bad (unless you are the one that designed them. In that case you are ok). You don’t know the history behind the piece. The client may have created it themselves or had a friend or relative design it for them. The client may be very proud of the work. If you tell a client their previous designs are bad, you may be insulting the client and ruining your chance to work with them.

Instead, tell the client how you will do things differently. How you will modernise the look. How you will use innovative new approaches to produce great work for them. Just don't tell them how bad their old stuff is. 

10) Talking carelessly about clients.

Once you've been at this for a few years, you'll build up a library of weird, funny, strange, and possibly horrible stories about clients. There's a whole website dedicated to lousy design clients. Even though they make great conversation topics, you should be very careful about what you say and to whom you say it when talking about your clients. You never know if someone listening may know and report back to the client. Talking about a client behind their backs will not only ruin your design business but ruin your reputation as a designer.

11) Lying to a client

I shouldn't have to explain this one to you. Lying to clients is not good. Never tell a client you are "almost done" a project you have not started yet. Never tell a client you "didn't receive their email" (they may have Read Receipt turned on). Never tell a client... you get the idea. Don't lie to clients. Getting found out is a definite way to ruin your design business. 

12) Passing off other’s work as your own

Another one I shouldn’t have to explain. However, I'm not talking about stealing another designer's work. There's already enough of that happening on crowdsourced design sites. I'm talking about taking credit for stock images you use in your designs or taking credit for something you contracted out. Clients understand that you cannot do everything yourself. Let them know when you've gotten help.

It's your reputation on the line.

Your business and design reputation plays a very important role in people deciding to hire you and whether or not they keep working with you. Building a relationship with your client is the best way to ensure a long term commitment from them. By avoiding these twelve things, you are taking the proper steps to ensure you don't inadvertently ruin your design business.

What did you think of this week's topic?

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 Kevin

I have a question about closing deals. At times potential clients reach out to me with an interest of having a website designed for them. They will usually reach out to me by email telling me the basic details for the website, such as page structure, features colors, etc. I realized that when replying to their first email, most of them never reply back.

So how would you go about responding to a clients email? Do you tell them your pricing straight up? Do you ask them to tell you their budget for the project?

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

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 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.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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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

Jan 28, 2019

Micro Goals are the key to achieving your goals.

[sc name="pod_ad"]For your design business to succeed, you must set goals for yourself, and for those goals to be reached you need to break them down into micro goals. 

I've talked on a previous podcast episode about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your design business, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Related. But even S.M.A.R.T. goals fail sometimes. That's where micro goals come in.

You need goals to measure your personal and professional success. Without them, it's much harder to know when you’ve reached a milestone or level of success. There’s a certain satisfaction in accomplishing goals. It has even been scientifically proven that accomplishing goals releases dopamine, a bodily chemical associated with happiness.

Unfortunately, plenty of goals go unaccomplished. Mostly due to a lack of urgency. This happens when a person concentrates too much on reaching an end goal and not on the steps required to get there. Micro goals are the day to day steps needed to achieve those loftier end goals. 

For example, a person wanting to lose 100 pounds may feel like it's a daunting task. However, it will seem much easier to accomplish if they set micro goals to lose two pounds per week throughout a year.

Micro Goals give you a path.

The path to reaching a future goal isn't always clear. Micro goals act as stepping stones that help you along the way by showing what needs to be done tomorrow, today, or even right now. Since they are easier to concentrate on, there’s less chance you’ll lose focus on your micro goals.

If your goal is to start your design business within three months, what will you do between now and then? Perhaps some of your micro goals will look like these.

  1. Choose a name for your business
  2. Complete and file business registration papers
  3. Acquire a domain name
  4. Set up email accounts for your new business
  5. Design a logo for your business
  6. Build a website
  7. Have business cards printed
  8. Open a business bank account
  9. Choose and set up an invoicing system

These micro goals act as reminders of the steps you need to take each day until you open your design business.

Micro Goals give you a reminding push.

Because micro goals are small and easy to accomplish, they encourage you to start doing things now that may otherwise get pushed off. They act as reminders that these things need to get done to make progress towards your end goal. Micro goals are also reminders of the progress you are making as you complete each one.

Without micro goals, you may fall victim to procrastinating. You may feel that a goal that is still months away isn’t a priority and you may delay working on it for another day, week or month. Micro goals keep you on track and help build momentum. 

Do you want to hear something funny?

That momentum you gain by completing micro goals makes you feel good about each accomplishment and pushes you to do even more. That's the dopamine effect. Your body releases dopamine whenever you experience a pleasurable sensation, such as completing a micro goal. This effect is associated with your body's reward system motivating you to crave it even more. And that means a greater motivation to tackle the next micro goal to feel good again.

According to Psychology Today, “everything from making your bed to doing all the dishes will give you the ‘ding-ding-ding’ feeling of having completed a task. Neurobiologically the satisfaction of completing a task creates internal rocket fuel that energises you to keep working towards your larger goal.”

And according to Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer of the Harvard Business Review "The more frequently you experience that sense of progress, the more likely you are to be creatively productive in the long run,”

It doesn’t matter how much is left to reach your end goal. Making these little strides can make a huge difference in how you feel and perform today. Isn’t the human body a fantastic thing?

Micro Goals help with time management

Most of us have more than one long term goal. Sometimes those multiple goals compete for our attention, and it’s hard for us to prioritise them. With our limited time available each day, on which goals should you concentrate?

Because Micro goals have small time frames associated with them, they allow you to cut through that confusion by letting you work towards multiple end goals at once. Spend an hour or two on one, a few minutes on another, and an afternoon on yet another goal. By the end of the day, you will have made progress on multiple end goals, and you’ll feel good about yourself.

How Micro Goals Work

To get started with micro goals you need to ask the question "What individual steps, once accomplished will bring me closer to my end goal?" Write out those steps and start working on and checking them off. You’ll quickly learn to appreciate all these minor accomplishments, and you’ll feel good about the progress you make towards your end goals.

Examples of micro goals

If your goal is to double your design business revenue, here are some micro goals you could try:

  • Call clients you haven’t talked to in a while and inquire if there’s anything you can do for them
  • Send out an email to your clients asking for referrals.
  • Read one chapter per day of a business or marketing book that could help with business growth.
  • Review and update your pricing strategy. 

These are just a few examples of micro goals you could use to double your revenue.

Get started today

What goals do you have for your future? Break them down into the smallest possible actionable units and get working on them. Pick a micro goal, finish it, and move on to the next one. Repeat this over and over, and before you know it, you will be reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself and your business. And don’t forget to enjoy the dopamine hit along the way.

Do you consciously set micro goals for yourself?

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 Vincent

I am just starting to get my business going and already have some good traction with some local churches that have asked for quotes. I am encountering a decent amount of questions about these services like ChurchCo ( that will create a custom (on demand) website for you and are charging $20-40 per month for the service.

I would assume that you have come across some of these. Do you have any advice on how to show the value proposition of going with a true web designer vs. a service like this?

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

Resource of the week is a free service to remove the background of any photo. It works 100% automatically: You don't have to manually select the background/foreground layers to separate them - just select your image and instantly download the resulting image with the background removed! Currently, the resulting image is limited to 500px by 500px but they say they are working on increasing the size.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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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

Jan 21, 2019

Here are nine steps I would follow if I were starting a design business from scratch today.

Since launching Resourceful Designer in 2015, one of the biggest struggles I’ve seen from my audience is starting a design business and finding clients. I realise that I've never actually said what I would do if I had to start a design business from scratch. Until now.

Over the past 148 podcast episodes and via countless conversations on Facebook, I've shared plenty of advice on growing and starting a design business. This is advice I’ve garnered through my own experiences and what I’ve learned from other’s who have gone through a similar journey. Every week I receive messages from listeners thanking me for that advice. They tell me how I’ve helped them start their own design business. Some even credit me with giving them the courage to leave their full-time job to pursue their dream.

I'm glad that they find my advice helpful, but I also know that I’m far removed from where these listeners are in their careers. I have a successful design business. I don’t need to go looking for clients; they come to me. I’m at a point where I can turn down projects and clients that don't interest me.

I don’t even have a website for my business. And yet, I’m prospering. That’s because I’m 14 years into this. Plus I have another 15 years before that working at a print shop. All these years have helped me build my brand, my reputation, and the client loyalty that I talk about so often on the podcast.

I know what I did to get to where I am today, and I share a lot of that with you. But I also know that I started at a time when "social media" wasn’t a common phrase. When most people hadn’t heard of Facebook. When YouTube was just getting off the ground and wouldn’t become mainstream for several years. And talking about podcasts would be met with blank stares. Things were different then.

When I decided to start a graphic design business I never dreamed that I would have clients all over Canada, the USA, some in Scottland, Australia, Hong Kong and more. Back then, I was just hoping to get a handful of good local clients to keep me busy. I built my business on that principle. 

But what about today?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently. What would I do if I had to start a design business from scratch today, without the benefit of 30 years experience? Here are the steps I would follow if I were starting a design business today.

Please keep in mind that I’m talking about starting a design business, not becoming a designer. In this scenario that I already know how to design.

Step 1: Build a website

The very first thing I would do while starting a design business is launch a website. I know it's ironic considering I don't have one for my current business. But a site is crucial to growing any business today. It’s the hub where people can find out about you and your business.

I’d Start small with just the basics and a small portfolio, and build upon it over time. But I would launch a website ASAP.

Step 2: Tell family and friends about your design business

The next thing I would do is start spreading the word that I’ve started a design business. I would tell my parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. I would reach out to cousins I haven’t seen since so and so’s wedding a decade ago and tell them that I've started a design business.

The purpose isn't to get business from them, although if I did it would be nice. I would reach out hoping they will spread the news. You never know when one of your relatives may know of or hear about someone who needs a designer.

I would then go through my email contact lists, my Facebook friends etc. and send them a message, even if I hadn’t spoken to them since high school. Again, I just want to spread the word. The more people who know I’m running a design business, the better the chances of me picking up clients.

I would say something like this.

Hi Lisa,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I hope life is treating you well.

The reason I’m reaching out is to let you know that I’ve started a graphic and web design business. Here’s my website (URL).

If you or anyone you knows needs a graphic designer I would be grateful if you would pass on my name.

Thanks and take care,


Step 3: Join the Chamber of Commerce

After contacting family and friends, I would join my Chamber of Commerce. Not only would I join the Chamber, but I would set up a meeting with whoever the director is and get to know them. I would inquire if they have any events or projects coming up that may require my services.

Then I would go through the Chamber's membership directory and reach out to every person on the list, introducing myself to them, and once again. Asking them to pass on my name if they know anyone that needs a designer.

Step 4: Contact suppliers who may need design work done.

Once my business was set up, I would visit every printer, screen printer, design agency, sign company, trophy shop, promotional marketing supplier, embroidery shop, etc. and let them know who I am and what I do. These types businesses sometimes need a designer but not enough to have one on staff. I would try to get my name on their contact list for when they do.

Step 5: Contact the tourism bureau.

Next, I would reach out to my local tourism bureau. The purpose of a tourism bureau is to attract visitors to your area, specifically to the events and attractions of the tourism bureau's members.

I would ask the tourism bureau if they need any help in promoting the area. I would also ask them to pass on my name should any of their members need a designer.

I wouldn't stop there; I would look at the tourism bureau's calendar of upcoming events and contact those people directly to see how I could help them.

Step 6: Contact local theatre companies.

Almost every community has at least one theatre company who needs to attract spectators to their productions. I would contact whoever was in charge of my local theatre companies and offer them my services.

Step 7: Promote my services at networking events

This is a trick I actually did use when I started my business 14 years ago. I attended as many networking events, trade shows, get-togethers, or anywhere with a crowd of people and walked around with a T-Shirt that read "Hi, I’m a graphic designer, Let’s Talk".

It worked in 2006 and I know it still works because DaJaniere, one of my listeners sent me a photo of herself in her own “I’m a graphic designer, let’s talk” Tee and told me how she wore it to a women’s empowerment conference in Detroit, and people were going up to her and inquiring about her services. 

It works and I would do it again.

Step 8: Go door to door.

It's not the most glamorous option but it is tested. I would pick an area in my community, do a bit of research on the businesses there and then approach them asking if they need help improving their marketing material or website.

I would especially target any business with an unsecured website, those with an http:// instead of an https://. It's a great conversation starter. I would explain to them how Google is penalizing unsecured website and what it does to their search engine ranking. I would also make sure to offer my services as a solution.

Once I exhausted one area of my community, I would move on to another until I’ve gone door to door everywhere I wanted to.

Step 9: Leverage Linkedin.

A lot of designers swear by Instagram, and of course, there are the popular Twitter and Facebook. The problem with these social media platforms is most people visit them to get out of a business mindset. They’re there for the social connections and camaraderie.

Except for Linkedin that is. Linkedin is a very business-oriented social platform. Most people use it with business purposes in mind, and it's a great place to pick up new clients. 

I would start off by writing a few short articles about how design affects business decisions. Perhaps topics such as: How to use colour as a marketing strategy. How a rebrand can boost a businesses exposure. How most businesses fail when it comes to their brand.

Once I published these articles on LinkedIn I would start reaching out to people, probably people in my local area and once again, ask if they need design services. Those articles will act as social proof that I know what I'm talking about when they view my profile.

It’s all about the Ask,

Do you see the pattern here? Ask family and friends to refer you. Ask the Chamber and Chamber members if they need your services. Ask printers, agencies, supply shops if they need any help. Ask the tourism bureau. Ask theatre companies. Attend networking events wearing a T-shirt asking if people need a designer. Go door to door asking businesses if you can help them. Finally, reach out to people on LinkedIn asking if you can help. It all comes down to the ask.

When you are starting a design business, you can’t simply sit back and wait for clients to come. That may happen later but not in the early stages. No, you have to persistently ask people if they, or if they know anyone who could use your services. It may seem daunting, but that’s how you grow. 

Keep in mind that all these steps are geared toward landing your first clients. You don't need many clients when you are starting a design business. In 2006 when I quit my job at the print shop and went full-time on my own, I had less than 10 regular clients. Those few clients were enough to help me get started and grow to where I am today.

So there you have it. What I would do if I were starting a design business from scratch in today’s market. I hope if you are still new to running a design business that this episode gave you some motivation and some ideas that you could try right now in order to grow your business. If you stick with it, I’m sure you’ll do fine.

What strategies would you use if you were starting a design business from scratch today?

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 Steve

Hi Mark, you often refer to your "Virtual Assistant" who helps manage your websites on a monthly basis. Can you tell us more about using a "virtual Assistant" and where we should look to hire one?

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

Resource of the week Trim View in Adobe Illustrator

A feature in Adobe Illustrator that many have been asking for for years, is finally available. Trim View (View>Trim View) hides the part of any item or element that hangs off the artboard in Illustrator. Anything that touches the grey area around the artboard is hidden from view when Trim View is turned on. This allows you to view only the "active" part of your design. No more making masks or special layers to hide those items.

Thank you Adobe for finally implementing this long sought after feature.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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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

Jan 14, 2019

You can't get worse by practising

[sc name="pod_ad"]Every skill you try to learn has a learning curve to it. Sometimes that curve is small, and sometimes it’s very long. And in some cases, that learning curve is never-ending. Such as with design skills.

The title of this episode is Progress Over Perfection. That’s because perfection is an unattainable goal, which is a good thing. Think about it. What if you designed the most fantastic logo or website, one that every single designer in the world acknowledged as being perfect. How would you follow that up? How can you improve on perfection? You can’t. And that’s a good thing. It’s what keeps us creative.

If you attained perfection, there would be no more motivation to carry on because everything after that point would be a step-down. That’s why I choose the title Progress Over Perfection. Because perfection is unattainable, your goal should be to make progress instead by continually improving your design skills. You do that by practising. There will never be a time in your life when you don’t need to improve your design skills.

Even famed designers such as Michael Bierut from Pentagram or Kate Moross from Studio Moross continue to practice their skills. Carolyn Davidson designed the Nike swoosh when she was a student at Portland State University. It’s one of the most recognisable brands on the planet. But do you think Carolyn stopped learning or trying to improve her skills after that success? The answer is no.

These designers, as well as every other designer around the world, continue to improve their design skills by practising their craft. And by practising, I mean doing things over and over again with the intent of becoming better. It’s a long road. I’ve been in this business for 30 years and the skill level I want to be at as a designer is still far beyond the horizon. That’s why I continue to practice my craft every day.

Have you ever watched an Aaron Draplin teaching logo design? He doesn’t merely pick up a pencil or his mouse and design an amazing logo. No, he tests out idea after idea, discarding some and expanding on others. He keeps doing this 50, 100, 200 times until he begins to narrow down the ideas to one concrete logo design. Even then, that final logo design may get discarded for something completely different.

That is practising. Call it brainstorming or brain-dumping or experimenting or whatever you will; it’s still practising.

When my daughter was a young teenager, she played on a competitive soccer team. One day, they had one of the women from Canada’s Women’s National Team help them out at practice. She was one of the players from the 2012 Olympic bronze medal team.

She told my daughter’s team that if you want to get good at soccer, you need to touch the ball over and over. Not kick it, or dribble it or bounce it on your knee, although those do help. Just keep moving it with your feet over and over and over again, and you will become a better soccer player.

Every time a soccer player touches the ball, the ball reacts. They touch the ball with their foot one way the ball behaves in a certain way. They touch the ball another way, and it responds differently. Every time the ball reacts to their touch, they are learning what to expect. After doing it a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand times, they will come to know exactly what to expect from the ball.

That is called practising. It’s not as glamorous as practising penalty or corner kicks. Or as fun as dribbling the ball through an obstacle course of orange cones but it’s practising nonetheless. And the more they do it, the better they will be on the soccer pitch because that practice will help them understand how the ball reacts to their touch.

To stay at the top of their game, they need to continue practising. Amazing players such as Renaldo or Messi or Canada's Christina Sinclair don’t stop practising just because they’re at the top of their game. If anything, they need to practice even harder than before.

The same goes for design.

Every doodle you make, every sketch you make, every ill-conceived design concept you come up with, every logo, poster, banner, or website that gets rejected by a client should be considered as practice in the journey to make you a better designer.

Every design you make will help you better understand how certain elements interact with each other, how things align, how colour combinations work or don’t work, how fonts complement each other. What things create flow and what things break it. Every design you make is practice to become a better designer.

There are no fast solutions. There are no books, tutorials, online courses or school programs that will magically make you a great designer. The only way to become a great designer is by learning new skills and practising those skills over and over and over again. This goes for both new and veteran designers. We all need to keep practising. The better you get at design, the more you’ll understand the importance of practising. Remember, Progress over Perfection.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re design skills are not improving as fast as you would like them to. Or the critiques you receive from your designs are harsher than you expected. Renaldo didn’t become a superstar of soccer overnight. He spent years and years honing his talents. Practising every chance he got. If you do the same, if you devote your time to practising your design skills, there’s no reason you can’t become a superstar of the design world.

You can’t get worse by practising.

How much time do you spend practising your design skills?

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 Victor

You mentioned before how it's good to get to know designers in the community so you can hire or pass work on to them. Do you think it would be a good idea to introduce myself to studios in my community as a freelancer? My thought was that if I could do this with freelancers in the community, why not studios?

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

Resource of the week is a website that allows you to drag and drop images you want to optimise for web use. The image appears in a full browser window with a slider in the middle. Your uploaded image is on the left and the optimised image on the right. You drag the slider left and right to compare the two images. Options allow you to resize the image as well as reduce the colour pallet. You can also adjust the type of compression and quality of the image until you are satisfied and are ready to download your newly optimised image.

I don’t know how they do it, but I’ve been able to take optimised images out of Photoshop and cut their filesize in half without any noticeable degradation of the image. Check it out; I'm sure you'll find the site useful.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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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

Jan 7, 2019

Are you taking measure of your design business?

Whether you are running your design business full-time or part-time, you probably started it with a vision of how your ideal business should look. 

How does it measure up? Are you exceeding your expectations or are you falling short? If you are exceeding your expectations, do you know how you're doing it? What is contributing to your success and can you sustain it and continue to grow your design business?

If you’re falling short of your vision of an ideal design business, do you know why? Knowing why your falling short is a significant step in rectifying your situation.

I’m publishing this during the first week of 2019. I know it’s cliché but the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to look at your design business and see if it measures up to what you imagined it would be. It’s also the perfect time to make any needed changes to realign and get back on track if it isn't.

For most people, the beginning of a new calendar year also means the beginning of a new fiscal year. If you've been in business for more than a year you can take some time and compare the past year over the previous ones to see how things stand. A new year also means you have a clean slate to build upon going forward.   

Taking measure of my own business, I see that I didn’t grow in 2018. I made about $2,000 less in 2018 than I did in 2017.  In the grand scheme of things, $2,000 isn’t that much, so I’m not worried about it. But it is the first time since I started my design business that I haven’t seen growth from the previous year.

So what went wrong?

I invoiced for more design work in 2018 than I ever have. So that’s not the issue. Looking at my accounting books, I see that revenue from the print brokering service I offer declined. Design revenue went up, while print brokering went down. Please don't take that the wrong way, there’s still a significant amount of money to be made in print brokering if you’re thinking of getting into it.

I believe I can pinpoint the decline in print brokering revenue to three clients. I had two clients who went completely digital and decided not to have printed versions of their annual report last year. A third client, a yearly festival had some financial difficulty and drastically reduced the number of booklets, pamphlets, posters and other printed material I handled for them.

Between the three of them, I lost several thousand dollars in printing revenue. Considering this, I need to take the time to figure out how I can make up for the decline in print brokering revenue going forward should the trend continue. Should I concentrate on promoting my print brokering service more, or should I focus on getting more design work? That’s up to me to decide.

What you need to decide is what it is you want to accomplish with your design business this year. I don't know your particular situation so I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do, but I can offer some suggestions that may help your business grow. 

Improve your touchpoints

Touchpoints are the avenues potential clients come in contact with your business. They consist of things like your business cards to your website to the way you answer your phone. My free guide, the Four-Week Marketing Boost can help you with this. As the old saying goes, "You only have one chance to make a first impression." so why not make it the best first impression you can.

Review your contract and proposals

Take a few minutes to review your contract and proposal templates. Do they protect both you and your clients as thoroughly as they should? Make sure any new services you offer are listed and remove anything that is outdated.

Raise your prices

The beginning of a new year is a perfect opportunity to raise your rates. Especially but not limited to anything you charge for by the hour. Raising your prices not only increases your income, but it can elevate the quality of clients who seek you out.

Expand your services

Did you learn anything new last year that you could add as a service you offer? SEO, Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Print Brokering and so much more can become new services that can increase your income.

Niche down

Have you considered specialising in a niche? Narrowing your focus and concentrating on one industry is a great way to be seen as an expert in your field. The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to start targeting a new niche.

Set goals for your business.

Of course, January is the perfect time to set goals not only for yourself but for your design business. Determine what it is you want to accomplish this year. Having a goal makes it much easier to track your progress, and it becomes much more satisfying when you reach it.

Any time of year works

No specific time of year is best for reviewing your design business, but January seems like the most popular time for taking measure of things in your life. However, even if you are listening to this episode in April or in July, you can still take a bit of time for taking measure of where things stand with your design business and make whatever course corrections you need to make.

What did you find after taking measure of your design business?

Let me know how things are working out for you by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Four 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

Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOSTto 44222.

Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

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

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