Welcome to the 200th episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast. In celebration of this milestone, I’m going to try something a bit different.
For this episode, I’m going to be succinct and to the point as I share 100 wise words with you, in the hopes that some of them will help you grow as a designer and help your business succeed.
Before I get to my 100 words of wisdom I want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of my journey in reaching episode 200. Maybe you’ve been with me from the start, or have gone back and listened to each and every episode I’ve put out. Perhaps you discovered this podcast somewhere over the past 4+ years, and picked up from there and keep listening. It could be that you’re a casual listener and only listen to certain episodes depending on the topic. Or, this might be your very first episode of Resourceful Designer.
Regardless of how much or how little you've listened, I just want you to know how much I appreciate you. YOU are the reason I keep doing this. I love helping designers like you. If just a small portion of the things I talk about on this podcast each week, helps you to become a better designer and a better business person. Then I’m a happy guy, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do when I published episode 1 of this podcast four and a half years ago.
And I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, as long as there are people like you who are willing to take the time to listen and to grow.
So once again, thank you for being part of my journey in reaching 200 episodes. And now, 100 Wise Words To Designers Everywhere.
1. Save your work, often
2. invest in a comfortable chair
3. learn how to give a good handshake
4. splurge when buying your computer. it will last you longer
5. raise your prices. you’re worth more than you think
6. look people in the eyes when talking to them
7. learn keyboard shortcuts
8. make the time to stretch
9. look at application preferences. You may find settings to turn on or off that will make your job easier
10. If you're not sure how to improve a design, try simplifying it by taking something away from it
11. Clean your keyboard
12. Get out of your comfort zone
13. Password protect your computer and other devices
14. Never show a client a design you're not proud of.
15. name your layers. you’ll be grateful whenever you revisit your file in the future.
16. create another user accounts on your computer. never let anyone use your own
17. don’t forget to take breaks
18. turn off distractions
19. avoid open drinks or messy food near your computer. it's called an accident for a good reason
20. smile. it releases endorphins, and that's a good thing. plus, people can hear it in your voice
21. charge for it. you do enough non-billable things. make sure you charge for everything you can
22. step back from your work. literally. stand back several steps. you may notice small details you might otherwise miss
23. eat well. a healthy body creates a healthy mind
24. creative blocks will happen. you will get over them
25. don't forget to drink. it’s harder to concentrate when you’re dehydrated
26. don’t rely on bevels or drop shadows, they rarely make a design better
27 know a good lawyer
28. hire a good accountant
29. find a dedicated place in your home to work
30. claim everything you’re allowed to on your taxes
31. be daring. trends are started because someone dared to try something no one had done before
32. understand the license for whatever you use. know what it allows you to do and what it doesn't
33. empty your trash
34. befriend other designers
35. trust your gut. it often knows better than you do
36. always use a contract. even for free work
37. buy lifetime deals. they're more expensive up front, but they'll save you money in the long run
38. proofread. don't rely solely on spell-check. this goes double for headlines, they’re were most errors are missed
39. make time for exercise
40. doodle whenever you can
41. always under-promise and over-deliver
42. network every chance you get
43. get to know your suppliers and contractors
44. meet clients face to face whenever possible
45. keep a list of people with unique skills you may someday have use of
46. don't fret about your business name. you can always rebrand yourself
47. study the designs of others. it's a great way to learn
48. don't steal. but feel free to borrow ideas
49. it's ok to ask for help
50. never stop learning
51. decide if you want to market yourself as I or We. And then own it
52. diversify. don’t stake your business on a couple of good clients
53. repurpose old ideas and unused designs
54. find a hobby that is not design related
55. get to know your clients
56. give criticism constructively
57. don’t neglect family and friends for the sake of the job
58. remember to thank your clients, suppliers, contractors
59. ask for criticism from your peers. it’s the best way to grow as a designer
60. time your work. you’ll be surprised just how off your guesses are
61. it’s ok to admit you don’t know something. just don’t let it stop you from finding out
62. use we when discussing a project. where we refers to both you and your client. they’re part of it after all
63. upgrade whenever you can
64. get enough sleep
65. have your eyes checked on a regular basis
66. consider everything a client tells you as confidential
67. you only get one chance to make a first impression. make it count
68. apologize beforehand whenever possible. it’s much easier than after the fact
69. hold yourself to your highest standards
70. never discuss a design project over text message
71. admit when you’re wrong
72. find a niche
73. don’t wear fragrances to client meetings. you want them to remember you, not how you smell
74. your biggest competition today is the future designer you will become. crush that competition
75. don’t answer emails after business hours
76. update your portfolio as often as you can
77. don't follow design trends. use them as inspiration to design something unique
78. rules are meant to be broken. know when to and when not to follow design rules
79. be wary of anything free
80. work with good lighting
81. once you’ve made your pitch, stop talking
82. silence your phone when meeting with clients
83. the client is always right, except when it comes to design. that’s why they hired you
84. If you don’t understand something the client is saying to you, ask before it’s too late
85. make both short and long-term goals for yourself
86. as a designer you can never have too many fonts
87. advertise while you’re busy so that you have less times that you’re not
88. when you find yourself in a creative slump walk away and refocus
89. buy insurance. it’s better to be safe than sorry
90. it’s ok to ask a client for their budget
91. identify yourself when answering your phone. even if you work alone
92. software is but a tool. it’s you, the designer that creates the magic
93. using stock imagery as part of your design is acceptable. using stock imagery as your design is not
94. it’s good practice to have someone else look at your work before showing it to your client
95. some clients will like your work, others won’t. that’s the nature of the design business
96. farm out mundane work and concentrate on the fun projects
97. it’s ok to show off the work you’re proud of
98. sometimes you have to let the client go
99. be a good listener
100. never stop creating
There you have it, 100 Wise Words To Designers Everywhere. I know this episode was very different, but I hope you enjoyed my departure from what I normally put out. Let me know by leaving a comment below.
You already know that for any business to grow, people have to know about it. After all, if someone doesn’t know a business exists, there’s very little chance they’ll interact with it, let alone purchase from it. And the process for letting people know about a business is called Marketing.
When it comes to marketing, there are hundreds and hundreds of strategies you can choose for promoting a business. But, when narrowed down to its two fundamental principals, There are only two forms of marketing.
Today we're looking at that second one, retention marketing.
As a designer, people must know about your design business before there’s any chance they’ll hire you. Don't you agree? That's why companies put so much effort into growth marketing. They want to attract new clients. However, while most businesses are marketing to attracting new clients, only 16% of them make any effort at marketing to their existing clients. They ignore the people who are already familiar with their services.
A study published in the Harvard Business Reviewstates that acquiring a new client requires a minimum of five times more effort than retaining an existing one. And research done by Bain & Company says that if you can increase the number of returning clients by 5%, your profits will go up by at least 25%.
Therefore, marketing to your existing clients is a valuable strategy when it comes to growing your design business. Your current client base is a priceless treasure trove of future opportunities.
That’s why you need to focus effort on retention marketing, meaning marketing to your existing clients for them to bring new projects to you.
You may be thinking
"my clients already know what I do. They were happy with the last project I did for them. The next time they need my design services, they'll know how to get a hold of me."
Don’t be so sure of that.
I've designed dozens of things for a local jewellery store over the past fifteen years. They keep telling me how much they love my work. And yet, in all that time, only once did they contacted me to initiate the project.
Almost every project I’ve designed for this client was initiated by me when I contacted the client to see how things were going. During those conversations, the owner would sometimes ask me if I was interested in working on a design project for him.
I guarantee you, if I had not initiated those conversations, I wouldn’t have gotten those projects. I know this because every time I go into his store, I see things that I didn’t design for him. And everything I inquire about was created by a different local designer.
You see, this particular client likes to spread the wealth amongst local designers. He wants to make everyone happy, so he gives his next design project to the next designer he sees.
That’s why part of my retention marketing strategy when it comes to this client is making sure I reach out to him regularly.
Taking “the client will contact me when they need my help” approach could hurt you.
I lost a long-standing website client last year. This client was in bad need of a website refresh, and he knew it, but he didn't have the money in his budget. I understood and asked him to contact me when he was ready to proceed.
The client knew my services; he knew I was familiar with his business and eager to work with him on their new site. Plus, I manage his domain name for him. So I had nothing to worry about. The client would contact me when he was ready.
Or so I thought.
Then one day, out of the blue, I received an email from someone asking me to change the nameservers for the client’s domain. Confused, I called my client, asking what was going on, and he told me he had hired a different local firm to design his new website.
When I asked if there were any issues with the service I provided him, he said no. It was just that this newer company had mailed him info packages, had reached out by email and had visited the store to talk with him. My client said he was impressed by their dedication and decided to reward this new design firm with his new website project.
Because I was too confident that my client was loyal and didn’t bother doing anything to retain him, I lost him.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Don’t take your existing clients for granted. No matter how good you believe your relationship is, you still need to make an effort to keep that relationship going strong.
It’s just like healthy friendships. The friends you keep in contact with are the ones that will ask if you want to get together. The friends you don’t stay in touch with are less likely to do so. The same happens with clients you don’t keep in contact with.
Maybe If I had put in the effort to keep in contact with my client, he would have turned down the new company. But he didn't, because they were there, and I wasn’t.
The best advice I can give you is to stay in touch with your clients.
As stated earlier, it requires at least five times less effort to market to an existing client than it does acquire a new client. After all, current clients already know you and the services you offer, so that part of marketing is already taken care of.
The best kind of marketing you can do with a client is to provide them with a fantastic experience when working with you. My free 7 part Client Onboarding Serieswalks you through the process of getting to know a client, introducing them to your services, navigating them through a design project, and parting ways in a manner that encourages them to come back for more.
Part 7 of that series covers The Goodbye Packet. The Goodbye packet is a way to build client loyalty after the completion of a project. It’s an excellent foundation for retention marketing, but there are other ways to stay in touch as well.
It's a good idea to reach out to clients periodically to see how they’re doing. Don't use this as an opportunity to pitch your services. It’s merely a way of staying in touch. That’s how I keep getting work from that jewellery store client.
Call or email an old client, tell them you were thinking about them for some reason and thought you’d reach out to see how things were going? If the conversation turns towards work, that’s great, but it’s not the reason for the call.
Relationship building is essential here. So pretend you’re a couple of friends who got busy with things in life and now you’re catching up.
Resourceful Designer Communitymember Andrew has a newsletter he sends to his clients. It’s a wonderful tool for keeping in touch and letting his clients know what he’s been up to. Even if it’s not a personal letter, just having it show up in his clients' inbox keeps Andrew top of mind, which hopefully means his name will be the first person they think of the next time they need a designer.
Another designer I know told me that he often receives replies to his newsletter with new projects. Receiving his newsletter jogged something in the client’s brain that made them take action, hit reply and send a new project his way.
So a newsletter is a great form of retention marketing to remain in your client’s lives while between projects.
It's a good practice to follow your clients on social media. When possible, do so from a business account and not your personal profile. There’s a good chance your clients will follow you back, and you don’t want them seeing photos of your family vacation or random pics of your dog.
The retention marketing strategy with social media is similar to a newsletter. You want your client to know your still around. Reply or comment on your client’s posts. If there’s something special going on with one of your clients, consider sharing or reposting it and mention they’re a client of yours.
Make sure you tag your client in any post that's relevant to them. That simple gesture ensures that they remember you and what you do.
Sending a client something tangible is the easiest way to get them to think about you.
I recently received a handwritten card in the mail from the instructor of an online course I took. It immediately made me think of her again and even encouraged me to place a new order from her. That’s retention marketing at it’s best. She probably wouldn’t have made that sale if she had not sent me that personalized card in the mail.
A card or postcard is one of the easiest physical things you can send. Not sure what to write? Listen to episode 59of the podcast, where I talk about using holidays to build your graphic design business.
Just imagine the reaction you would get if you sent a client a “Happy national donut day,” or "Happy wear two different colour socks day" card. I think they would remember you after that.
Of course, cards are not the only tangible things you can send. Gift baskets and flowers are great for special occasions, such as marriages or new babies, just to let them know you're thinking of them.
The ideas you can come up with are endless.
One of the best ways to grow your design business is by getting more work from your existing clients. And to do that, you need to practice retention marketing.
I only talked about a few of the methods for doing so. I didn’t touch on any actual marketing you can do, such as informing existing clients of new services you now offer or reminding them of services they may or may not know of or remember.
What it all comes down to is making sure your clients don’t forget about you and making sure they don’t feel like you’re ignoring or forgetting about them. That’s what happened with my web design client. I gave them space, and they decided to hire the company that was currently paying attention to them.
As I said, retention marketing takes a lot less effort than growth or acquisition marketing. So there’s no reason for you not to do it.
Look through your client list today. Identify clients you haven’t been in contact with for a while and reach out to them. Rekindle your relationship.
Please, let me know what you did and how it goes. Send me an email at feedback [at] resourcefuldesigner [dot] com or better yet, leave a comment for this episodeso everyone can see.
Resource of the week SiteGround
SiteGroundin my opinion, is one of the best website hosting companies out there. I have several of my own as well as clients' websites at SiteGround. They offer easy 1-clickWordPress installation and allow multiple domains and website on one hosting package. And if you are already hosting your site elsewhere you can take advantage of their free migration tool to have your site moved from your old host to SiteGround.
Designers fall into one of three categories, those who work from home, those who long for the ability to work from home, and those who don’t want to work from home because they don’t realize how great working from home can be.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Even though working from home is great, I admit, it’s not for everyone. In past episodes of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I’ve shared numerous excellent reasons for working from home. Still, I always cautioned you to examine your lifestyle before taking the entrepreneurial plunge, to make sure this life is for you.
If you are an introvert or someone who likes to do things at your own pace, then the idea of working alone, without anyone looking over your shoulder sounds terrific. Plus, of course, there are all the benefits.
That’s why, as we start this new decade, more and more people, designers included, are opting to work for themselves by starting a home-based business. But what many of these people fail to realize is, as I stated earlier, working from home is not for everyone, and you may fall into that category.
You see, even though working from home has plenty of perks, there’s a downside to it as well that I don’t touch on very often on this podcast. For one thing, you may be the type of person who will get bored being by yourself all day, every day.
There have been entire weeks where I haven’t seen another human being other than my family. That may seem fine to you at first, but will you be ok as time goes by and your life becomes more and more monotonous?
Anyone who works from home will tell you that inevitably, your work-life balance will be affected. Unless you have strict structures in place, the freedom that working from home gives you could cause you to falter and become lazy.
If you don’t set guidelines for yourself, you’ll start putting things off, and procrastination will become a problem. And before you know it, all your good intentions go out the window, and you become more interested in binging the newest Netflix series than working on that crucial website for your client. Why not? There’s nobody there to stop you.
Being all alone, without anyone to hold you accountable, can lead to your downfall. When you’re alone, it becomes easy to lose track of time, to forget to stop for meals, it can cause you to neglect your health.
I know, I’ve been there myself. There have been days when my wife walks in at the end of the day, asking about supper, and I realize I never even stopped for lunch. I remember seeing the school bus pull up at 3 pm to drop off my kids and sprinting to the bedroom to get dressed because I was still in my bathrobe. And I can’t tell you how many times over the years my wife has asked If I was planning on shaving soon because I hadn’t bothered for a few days. Why should I? I wasn’t leaving the house.
When you work from home, things that people with 9-5 jobs would never think of suddenly become the norm for you. To some people, this might sound great. But to others, it’s self-neglect, and self-neglect once started, can grow and grow.
When you work in an office environment, you get to interact with your coworkers. You talk about your families, your vacations, the latest sports scores, television shows you’ve watched and of course office gossip. When you work from home, there’s none of that. Talking to your family members is not the same as interacting with others. And even the most introverted individuals need some interaction with others.
I did an entire episode on dealing with isolation If you're interested in learning more.
Unlike the rest of the world, people who work from home need to schedule social time consciously — time to interact with other human beings.
When your family members get home at the end of a long day, they may want nothing more than to curl up on the couch and watch tv. That’s great for them, but you’ve been alone all day, so you don’t need to unwind as they do. In fact, contrary to what they desire, you may want to get out of the house.
That’s one of the reasons I do the groceries for our household. At the end of a busy day, my wife has no desire to go shopping. Me, on the other hand, I want to get out. I love going to the grocery store, even if the only person I talk to is the cashier I’m still out and among people.
A study done by the University of Iowa found that the average office worker has face-to-face interactions, a conversation of more than a few words with 20-28 people per day who are not members of their family. For a remote worker, such as a home-based designer, that number drops to 0.8 interactions per day. Translates to 71 days per year that a remote worker doesn’t interact with another human being.
For some people, that lack of social interaction from being isolated all the time can affect their mental health and lead to loneliness and possibly depression. Which, if not caught early, can spiral out of control.
People suffering from depression rarely want to interact with others. And therein lies the problem. A lack of interaction can lead to depression, and depression can make people isolate themselves from others resulting in a lack of interaction.
But interacting online is never the same as interacting with someone face-to-face. I know that this is a very dark thought compared to most of my podcast episodes, but I don’t want to hide the fact that there is a less glamorous side to working from home of which people don’t often talk.
What can you do if you start to feel any of what I talked about above?
The first thing to do is consider whether or not working from home is for you. Some people thrive better in a social environment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe you gave it a go and decided working from home is not for you. That’s OK. Use the experience you’ve gained to help you in your next position.
But if you are determined to give working from home a go, here are some steps you can take that may help.
Consider working from a co-working space, the library or a coffee shop. Even if you don’t talk to the people around you, simply being around others will improve your mental state.
Most people work a 9-5 job, so why don’t you? A fixed schedule can help maintain your work-life balance.
Writing down your daily tasks is a great way to stay productive, and it wards off procrastination by starting your day, knowing what you need to accomplish.
Find out what events are happening in your community and make a point of attending as many as you can. Even if it doesn’t lead to more work, it will contribute to your mental health by being around others.
If you start feeling Isolated and lonely, reach out to people. Join a community, as I mentioned earlier. A live in-person one would be best, but even an online community can help alleviate that sense of isolation. And if you start feeling depressed, please seek help. Depression is no small matter, and if left unacknowledged can lead to some dark places.
What I've talked about is part of the reality of working from home. And unfortunately, it’s not for everyone.
However, if you are ready to face the challenges and can overcome and persevere through this less glamorous side of freelance life, the rewards are numerous. As many home-based designers will tell you, myself included, I have never regretted my decision to work from home, and I will never go back to a regular office job.
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Resource of the week Vectoraster
Vectoraster is a macOS and IOS graphics utility by LostMinds for creating vector-based raster patterns and halftones based on images or gradients.
Create halftones with different point shapes including circles, polygons, and even font characters. You can even import your own custom vector shapes to use. You can also create circle and straight or curved line based halftones.
You have full control over the size of the points, the spacing between the points, the distribution pattern of the points and more.
And once you’re happy with the look of your pattern or halftone you can export it as a vector to EPS or PDF, or you can save it as a raster JPG, PNG or TIFF file.
Have you ever seen one of those photos that’s made up of paragraphs of text with different thicknesses of letters? When you look at the paragraph as a whole you can see the photo of a person or something? You can create that effect in seconds with Vecoraster.
If you ever wanted to create a halftone gradient or use an image effect making a photo look like it was printed using large halftone dots, then Vectorraster is for you.
I’ve had this program in my toolbox for years. And although it’s not one I use very often, when I do, it comes in very handy.
In February of 2019, I launched a new side business called Podcast Branding. I started this side business because I wanted to put into practice the advice I shared in episode 54and episode 93of the podcast, as well as my interview with Craig Burton in episode 174 on niching down your design services.
Before starting Podcast Branding, I had been designing artwork and websites for podcasters for several years. Still, I was but one of the hundreds of general designers who dabbled in the podcast space. At the beginning of 2019, I decided to take that dabbling more seriously and focused my efforts on becoming known as a designer specializing in the podcast space.
Did I take specialized courses to become a podcast design specialist? No.
Did I undergo podcast design certification? No.
Did I hire a podcast branding coach to show me the way? No.
All I did was launch a new website and start telling people in the podcast space that I specialize in podcast branding. All of a sudden, people that knew me started passing my name around more and more often, and shortly after that, people who didn't know me but had heard of Podcast Branding started sharing it whenever someone asked about podcast artwork or websites.
This proves how valuable niching can be. People are sharing my name not because I'm a designer who can help, but because I'm a designer who specializes in podcasting.
In October of 2019, a very respectable podcast hosting company released a great blog article on how to design stunning podcast cover art. The author knew that not everyone would be comfortable creating their own cover art, so he listed five sources people can use to have podcast artwork designed. Podcast Branding was one of them. The other sources listed were Fiverr, 99designs and three “independent” designers, including Podcast Branding.
Side note: This is another benefit of niching. The author included Podcast Branding in his article because I focus on the podcast space. If I had a generic graphic design website, it wouldn’t have made the list.
Since that article came out, I’ve seen a spike in cover art orders through my website. The order form on my site asks the question, “How did you hear about Podcast Branding?” and over a dozen people so far have told me it was through that blog article.
When the author listed the five design sources, he included the price each source charges for podcast cover art, of which Podcast Branding is the most expensive. But if I'm the most expensive, why have I received over a dozen orders for podcast cover art in the past two months? I asked each new client that exact question. Of the five services listed in the article, why did you chose Podcast Branding?
Do you know what they said? Of the five services, my website looked the most professional and gave them the most confidence. Over a dozen people were willing to place an order, knowing I was more expensive than the other four services, solely based on how my website looks. It's my presentation. It’s the perceived value they get from ordering through me.
Here are some of the comments I received from these new clients.
“I wanted to deal with a professional, and I got that from your website.”
“I wanted to work with someone who understands the podcast space, and your site clearly indicated that you do.”
“Your website looked more professional than the others.”
“I wanted to deal with a real designer, not someone on Fiverr or 99designs and your website impressed me more than the other two designers listed in the article.”
Even though I’m the most expensive service listed, the perceived value of what I offer was enough for over a dozen people to invest a bit more of their money with me to get their artwork designed right.
I have no way of knowing how much new business the other four sources received from the article. Maybe they got more than me. But I don’t care about them; I care about me and my business. And I’ve proven to myself that what I’m doing is working.
The point I’m trying to get across here is that even if your prices are higher than others, people are willing to invest in you for the perceived value of what they will get in return. So how are you presenting yourself? Are you making sure you portray your professionalism? Do you instill confidence in your abilities?
Take a bit of time and look over your website and marketing material and see if there’s anything that can be improved.
And while you’re at it. Why not raise your design prices. If you present yourself as worth the value, people will be willing to pay your higher rates.
Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Community
January is the perfect time of year to take charge of your design business future, set goals for yourself, create a visual path to follow, acknowledge your career ambitions and figure out how to reach them.
The start of a new year, heck, the beginning of a new decade is the perfect time to get that ball rolling. And the Resourceful Designer Community is the ideal group to help you achieve your dreams.
The Resourceful Designer Community is a small, intimate group of designers dedicated to growing their respective design business AND helping fellow community members grow theirs.
Not a day goes by that community members are not sharing ideas, asking for advice or offer help. And we love sharing in the achievements of others, whether it's the approval of a small design job by a difficult client or the success of a design presentation ending with a contract. We’re there for each other. And we can be there for you as well.
If 2020 is going to be your year of growth, then why join a community of people willing to help you grow. Visit, resourcefuldesigner.com/communityand become a member today.