I heard this quote on a podcast recently.
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.
I looked it up, and it turns out this is an old Japanese proverb. It means if you have a vision, but you don’t do anything to achieve it, it’s nothing more than a daydream. However, if you take action, without any sort of vision to guide you, the results can be chaotic and possibly catastrophic.
I know that sounds kind of dire. But many new businesses, including graphic and web design businesses, never achieve their full potential due to a lack of vision. That’s why having a vision statement is essential.
The purpose of a Mission Statement is to define the what, who and why of a company at the present moment. It’s kind of an action-oriented instructional roadmap for how a business operates. It defines the purpose of a business; it’s function and objectives.
A vision statement, on the other hand, defines where the company, in this case, your design business, wants to be in the future. It guides you in your decision making when it comes to setting goals to reach an eventual destination.
When comparing the two, a Mission Statement is a journey, one you take to reach your destination, the Vision Statement.
As Jessica Honard, co-owner of North Star Messaging + Strategy, a copywriting and messaging company, puts it “A mission statement focuses on the purpose of the brand, the vision statement looks to the fulfillment of that purpose,”
In most cases, a Vision Statement is shared within an organization, while a Mission Statement is shared with the public.
The primary purpose of a Vision Statement is to give you focus. Many business owners, including designers, start businesses without any focus. And without focus, you can end up all over the place.
You know you want to start a design business, but what does that entail? Finding clients and designing projects for them? But what else?
Do you want to be still doing the same thing 3-4 years from now that you’re doing today? Do you want to be working for the same types of clients? Do you want to be doing the same kinds of design projects? Do you want to be making the same income?
Without a proper vision to follow, you may end up being very busy but not accomplish anything. A vision statement creates a clear picture of the future of your business 3-4 years from now.
Think of a vision as a mindset, a position to strive for in the future. It’s something you want to achieve, but it isn’t as measurable as a goal.
For example, your vision might be to become a recognized design influencer. Your goal to achieve that vision might start with talking at 30 regional and national design conferences within the next three years. Visions are more abstract, something to dream of. Goals are more concrete, something you can measure.
Having a Vision Statement makes it easier to create goals. Goals that help achieve your vision.
If you don’t have one already, you need to write a Vision Statement for your design business. Figure out a destination, a place you want to be in three to four years from now. Then figure out how to get there.
The purpose of a Vision Statement is to inspire you, encourage you, to push you.
Without a vision for your future, it’s easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day details of running your business. It’s like you’re on a boat in a river without oars. You’re making progress, but you have no control over the direction you’re going. You have no idea how far you’ll get, you have no idea where you’ll end up down the river, and you have no idea when you’ll get there.
Do you see why it’s essential to have a Vision Statement for your business?
There are no templates or plans to follow when writing a Vision Statement. It can be as short as one sentence or several pages long as long as it outlines what you want for the future of your business.
Set it in the future but write it in the present: Your Vision Statement shouldn’t reflect what you are doing now, but where you hope to be 3-4 years down the road. However, you should write it in the present tense as if you’ve already achieved it. It will help encourage you.
Make it challenging: Your Vision Statement needs to challenge you; otherwise, what’s the point? Make it attainable, but it shouldn’t be so easy that you lose focus over time.
Make it clear: Focus on one or two goals for your future. That’s all you need. Don’t stuff your Vision Statement full of grand ideas. They’ll only distract and possibly confuse you.
Make it general: Your Vision Statement, although defined, should be general enough to offer direction but not instruction. Meaning, it should say where you want to be, but not how you’re going to get there.
Make it inspiring: There’s no point setting a vision for yourself if it doesn’t encourage you to work hard to achieve it. Infuse some passion in what you write and allow it to inspire you.
Keep it short: Your Vision Statement should be simple, easy to read, without any fluff. Something you can memorize and repeat to your self as you work towards achieving it.
Here are some visions statements by companies you may know.
Patagonia: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Ben & Jerry’s: “Making the best ice cream in the nicest possible way.”
Habitat for Humanity: “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”
Walgreens: “To be America’s most loved, pharmacy-led, health, well-being and beauty company.”
Southwest Airlines: “To become the world’s most loved, most flown and most profitable airline.”
Do any of these inspire you?
Once you’ve written your Vision Statement, use it as a guiding light in everything you do with your business.
Your Vision Statement will help you decide what clients and projects to take on and which ones to pass on. Your Vision statement allows you to identify distractions from opportunities. The better your vision, the more productive you’ll be because you know where you’re going.
Use your Vision Statement as part of your strategic plan, share it with your partners, contractors and clients to communicate where you envision your future.
Your vision statement is a destination. Sometimes destinations change.
It’s nice to know where you want to be 3-4 years down the road, but a lot can happen in that time. New opportunities may come your way that will change your vision. Or you may encounter roadblocks that force you to change your plans. And maybe, as you and your business grow, your priorities may change, and you’ll want to review and alter your vision statement to fit your changing needs.
Trust your gut. If it’s telling you your vision of your future needs to change, then do so. It’s your business, after all. A Vision Statement should not be a set of blinders to the world around you. Don’t let it limit your opportunity to grow your business in a different direction than initially intended. But have one nonetheless.
All the best companies have vision statements. Don’t you want to be considered one of them?
Share your Vision Statement with me by leaving a comment for this episode.
Tip of the week Emoji Shortcut
Here's an easy way to type Emojis on your desktop computer. From any text box, press this key combination to open up a pallet of Emojis for you to choose from.
When it comes to running a home-based design business, there are some things you can never have enough of. Here's a list of twelve you should consider.
You should always make sure you have spare ink cartridges and extra paper on hand. It's never fun when you need to print something, and you can't because one of your ink cartridges is empty of you ran out of paper.
It's always a good idea to have a spare input device for your computer. Perhaps an extra mouse, trackpad, trackball or pen and tablet to operate your computer. Should something happen to your primary instrument, you'll be glad you had a spare.
When it comes to graphic/web design, you can never have enough storage space for your digital files. The price of hard drives keeps dropping, so there's no reason not to have extras on hand.
As for cloud storage. You are always better off purchasing more storage space than you believe you need. Chances are, you'll end up glad you did.
Whenever you purchase a new computer, you should try to maximize the amount of RAM you get. The more RAM you have, the longer your machine will last as software and operating systems become more demanding on memory. The extra cost upfront will be worth it if you can get an additional year or two out of your computer.
It's better to be safe than sorry. And that means having backups of your backups. When disaster strikes, you'll be glad for the redundancy.
I don't understand people who don't have business cards for their design business. They make a great marketing tool. And at such a small cost to produce, the return on investment is well worth it.
You can never have enough cables. Power cables, charging cables, connection cables are just some of the various wires you should have on hand. You never know when you'll be required to connect a new device and not having the proper cable can cause unnecessary delays.
Most computers come with a limited number of connection ports. I'm talking about USB, Thunderbold, Video, Audio, etc. Devices that add extra ports are convenient in avoiding having to juggle your connections.
When it comes to graphic and web design businesses, the faster your internet, the better. Don't skimp on your internet plan. You'll be glad for the faster speeds. Plus, you get to write it off on your taxes as a business expense.
Your home office should have sufficient storage space to keep all your "stuff." Drawers, shelves, cabinets and closets are a must to keep your work area organized.
Try to keep a list of people who could help you with your endeavour. Web and graphic designers should keep lists of copywriters, photographers, developers, illustrators, translators, printers and anyone else you may need to call upon for future projects. Even if you have your go-to people. It's good to know others just in case.
Working from home can get very lonely. To battle the isolation, you need to build a community of peers you can connect with regularly. Join clubs, organizations and networks that keep you connected to what is happening in your local area, your niche and your industry.
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Resource of the week Udemy
As graphic designers, we need to keep our skills and knowledge in peak form. Udemy is one of the best places to learn new skills or brush up on rusty ones. Udemy offers a wide variety of courses for all stages of your career. I've personally bought courses on SEO, Google Analytics, Facebook Ads and more. Have a look today and see what you're going to learn next.
Without proper video chat etiquette, you and your design business can come off as amateurish and unprofessional. Not the impression you want to present to your clients.
I work with design clients from around the world. As such, video chatting is a practice I take for granted as part of doing business. But right now, the world is isolated at home to flatten the curve on the Coronavirus. That means that many people, perhaps yourself included, are only now discovering the intricacies of video chatting.
Allow me to share my experiences and make this new practice more comfortable for you and allow you to present yourself in the most professional manner possible.
You should always allow your client to choose a time that suits them for your video chat. However, you should dictate the times you’re available. Online scheduling software works really well for this. They show your availability and allow the client to chose the time they want to talk. Here are a few scheduling options you may want to try.
If you don’t have a calendar booking tool, email your client a range of times you are available and let them choose a time that works best for them. Be sure to let them know approximately how long the video chat will be so they can choose a time appropriately.
Once you agree on a time, add it to your calendar and set two reminders, one a couple of hours before to remind you of the upcoming call, and a second reminder five or 10 minutes before so you can get ready.
If you plan on recording the call, which I suggest you do for later referral, let your client know in advance. In most places, it’s illegal to record someone without their consent.
To video chat, you need a computer or a mobile device. Although most modern devices have a camera built-in, you may want to use an external camera for better quality. The same goes for the microphone. The one built into your device is acceptable for infrequent video chats. But if you plan to implement regular video chats into your routine, you will want to invest in a better microphone.
If you are using a mobile phone or tablet for your video chatting, a stand or tripod will help you keep the camera steady and at a proper hight.
The next thing to consider is your lighting. Natural light is preferable but not always available. There are several desktop options for lighting your call.
With hardware taken care of, you should next consider your software. There are numerous platforms for video chatting, including the following.
You should video chat from a quiet, well-lit area. Before the meeting begins, make sure your lighting is in place and turned on, and turn off anything that makes noise, including washing machines, furnaces, fans, etc. Close your windows to prevent distracting noises from outside.
Examine your background. The person you are video chatting with can see what’s in your room behind you. It’s ok to have a busy background, so long as it’s not messy. If you’re unsure about your background, try hanging a drape or curtain of some sort to act as a backdrop.
If you are using a laptop, make sure it’s plugged into a power source. Video chatting uses a lot of CPU power. If you’re running on battery, your laptop will heat up faster, and your noisy fans will run longer.
If possible, plug your computer directly into your modem or router. You want the best internet connection available, and WiFi can be unreliable when video chatting.
Close all unnecessary running software during the video chat. Some software connects periodically to the internet without your knowledge and could interfere with your connection. If you are unsure, try restarting your computer and only opening the required software.
Turn off all notifications. All those pings and beeps can distract you while video chatting.
Set your camera as close to eye level as possible. If not elevated, a laptop camera will force your guest to look up your nose.
For best sound quality, external microphones should be as close to your mouth as possible.
If you are using your phone or tablet, set it horizontally. Portrait mode is fine for Facebook and Instagram stories, but most video chatting takes place on a computer where landscape mode is preferable and professional looking.
If you plan on sharing your computer screen with your guest, clean up your computer’s desktop and close unnecessary windows.
When preparing yourself for a video chat, you should dress in the same manner you would if you were meeting your guest in person, including your grooming. Just because you are video chatting from home is not an excuse for not shaving.
Be sure to check yourself in a mirror before getting on the call. You don’t want to find out afterwards that you had food stuck in your teeth or worse.
Depending on your lighting, you may want to remove your glasses as the light reflection in your lenses can be distracting for your guests.
When video chatting, you should act as if you were meeting the client in person. Sit up straight, don’t fidget and look directly into the camera, not the image of the person on the screen. If you’re finding it difficult to look into the camera, try minimizing the video window and placing it at the top of your monitor so that you’re looking at the person just below the camera.
Avoid looking at distractions outside your window or in other parts of the room outside of the camera’s view. Your guest can’t see what caught your attention and may feel like you are ignoring them.
If you must cough or sneeze, or make any other sound, mute your microphone beforehand.
It’s good practice to follow up with the person after a video chat. Send them an email thanking them for their time and outlining what you discussed.
If you recorded the video chat, save the recording in your client file for future reference. You may need to watch it later for clarification on something that was said or as proof in case of a dispute.
Until the Coronovirus pandemic is over, video chatting will be the norm in our industry. And who knows, once people get used to it, it may become a routine for you in the future. If you follow these suggestions, your clients will appreciate you as they come to know you as not just a professional designer, but as a business person, able to conduct themselves professionally.
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
A conversation I had with Andrew, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, inspired me to write this post. Andrew is a very talented illustrator and designer. He’s created many illustrations for his clients as well as illustrating and publishing his own children’s book Heyward the Horse! In his book, children follow along with Heyward, a carriage horse from Charleston, South Carolina, as he takes them on an illustrated tour of local landmarks.
Andrew and I were discussing various ways he could use his illustration skills to earn extra income. After our conversation, I started thinking, Andrew is not the only designer with illustration skills. So why not use our discussion as a starting point for a podcast episode?
Just to preface, you do not need to be an illustrator to benefit from what I’m about to share. I am not an illustrator, and yet I’ve generated a decent amount of passive income over the years by putting my design talents to use on things other than client work.
Also, these are not ways to earn money quickly. That’s not the point of all of this. What I’m sharing today are ways to put things into motion to generate a form of recurring income down the road. Be it a year from now or even ten years from now.
I’ve always believed that creative people should never lack for work. A creative person has the skills to make money from their creations. As graphic and web designers, you earn your primary income by completing projects for clients. But there are numerous other ways you could make money with your skills.
We’re living in an unprecedented age for creative people. There are more opportunities today than there has ever been before. Take Etsy, for example. Before platforms like Etsy, a craftsperson could only sell their wares in local bazaars or craft shows. Now, they can reach clients around the globe. The same opportunities are available for illustrators and designers.
Here are some ways for you to use your creative skills to earn extra income.
Talent marketplaces such as Fiverr or Upwork have a bad reputation amongst designers. However, these are perfect marketplaces for illustrators. Many people search these platforms for illustrators for both small and large projects. If you are an illustrator, you should create an account on talent marketplaces to showcase your services.
Don’t think of these marketplaces as cheap discount services. You can charge whatever you like for your illustrations. Showcase your portfolio of work, and even if your prices are higher than other illustrators on the platform, clients who love what they see will find it within their budget to hire you.
If you’re not on these platforms, there’s zero chance of being discovered.
Earn extra income by digitizing and uploading your illustrations to sell on stock image sites.
A friend of mine has been doing this for years. He’s uploaded hundreds of illustrations to various stock image sites. He doesn’t make much money on each sale, but the volume of sales adds up to a nice income.
Stock image sites are one and done platforms. Meaning you create something, upload it to the platform, and forget about it. Allowing you to draw your next illustration as the first one earns you money with each sale.
The trick to earning extra income through stock image sites is diversification. While some images will sell very little, others will bring in a steady earning each month. The more images you have for sale on these sites, the better your chances of a monthly payout.
Add in compounding by uploading the same image to multiple stock sites, and you increase your return for that one image.
Design market places such as Creative Market and Design Cuts offer a platform for designers and illustrators to sell digital products. Fonts, digital brushes, and illustration bundles, amongst other digital products, provide various opportunities for creative people to earn extra income.
Designers and other creative people frequent these marketplaces looking for ways to simplify their process. Make money by offering a solution to their needs.
Unlike stock image sites that sell individual images, the benefit of design marketplaces is the bundles they offer. Bundles contain many similarly themed illustrations packaged together for one price.
An example of a bundle might be a collection of illustrations of farm animals all drawn in the same style. Floral packages are also trendy.
Whatever you enjoy illustrating, try to find a way to turn it into a product to sell. If you’re not an illustrator, you can create brochure templates or logo templates that people can use as a starting point for their projects.
Print-on-demand services allow you to upload your image or design and sell it on merchandise in their marketplaces. Popular merchandise includes T-Shirts, mugs, phone cases, stickers, pillows, leggings, notebooks, wall art, and so much more.
You don’t have to be an illustrator to make money on these platforms. A well-designed image or a word or phrase written in a beautiful font can also sell very well on merchandise.
Not sure what to design, consider Fan Merchandise. Platforms such as Redbubble, CafePress and Zazzle have license agreements with entertainment properties that allow you to create and sell merchandise without infringing on intellectual property.
Design merchandise for popular movies such as:
You can also design merchandise promoting the U.S. Military.
If you decide to put your illustration skills to use on any of these services, keep in mind this is a long game. You probably won’t make much money this week, or this month or possibly for months to come. You are doing this to generate extra income down the road.
These platforms work because of compounding. You start slow, with maybe one or two images per week, or possibly even per month. And over time, if you’re persistent, you’ll end up with lots of designs that bring you money regularly.
Even if the payout from each platform is small, they all add up over time. Wouldn’t it be nice to know your monthly car loan or mortgage payment was taken care of through the work you created long ago?
You’ve heard the saying, “you need money to make money?” In most cases, that’s true. However, for everything I’ve talked about above, the only investment on your part is time. If you’re willing to put in a little bit of time now, it can pay off tenfold in the future.
And there’s something satisfying when you see that first $1 come in because some random person, somewhere in the world, purchased an image you created. That’s when you know you’ve got something. Because if one random person thought what you created was good enough to spend money on, there must be others out there as well.
That feeling should encourage you to keep on producing and uploading. Who knows, maybe one day, you’ll be able to retire and live solely off this passive income you’ve created with your creative skills.
Let me know 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 the best first impression to potential new clients.
This guide is divided into 20 short actions that comfortably fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After completing this four-week plan, you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.
You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost for free by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.
Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.