I imagine, as you read each of those words, your mind quickly thought of each one’s meaning and how you use them.
To you, a designer, deciphering these words uses up the same amount of brainpower as reading the words eggs, horse, car, or house. There’s no need to burn brain calories contemplating them since they are second nature to you because you’re familiar with the jargon of the design industry. You wouldn’t be much good as a designer if you didn’t know what pixels or bleed or a wordmark, etc. were.
But you deal daily with people who are not in our industry. That’s why they hire you, after all, because of your creativity and knowledge of all things design.
But sometimes, that knowledge can become a crutch—especially when dealing with clients who don’t know what we know.
I recently had a Zoom chat with a new client looking for podcast cover artwork. The gentleman was in his 80s and starting a podcast about the commonalities between creationism in religion and science. He’s a retired professor of quantum physics with an in-depth knowledge of string theory. He’s no dummy. Some may even consider him a genius.
However, during our discussion about his podcast cover artwork, he asked me what a pixel was. He had read how podcast cover artwork should be 3000px by 3000px square. He was unfamiliar with the term but rightly surmised that pixels are a form of measurement. But he had no idea how big or small a pixel was because, in his vast knowledge of the inner workings of our universe, pixels had never come up.
This goes to show you that even the brightest minds don’t know everything from every field. And nor should they.
Maybe you’re thinking, “The guy was in his 80s, so that’s understandable. However, most people these days know what a pixel is.” And I’ll concede that point. I, too, believe most people know what a pixel is.
However, if you ask a non-designer how wide 300 pixels are, they probably couldn’t answer. You, on the other hand, could probably make a reasonably accurate guess as to how wide 300 pixels are. That’s because you’re familiar with them. You work with pixels daily and therefore have a good idea. For the rest of the world, there’s no reason for them to know how wide 300 pixels are.
Let’s get away from pixels.
What I’m getting at is jargon is an excellent way for us to learn, for us to share information and communicate with our peers, and for us to instruct the next generation of designers.
But jargon has no place when communicating with our clients unless you explain what you mean by the terms you use.
For example, I never tell a client I’m installing an SSL Certificate on their website because they have no idea what that means. Instead, I say I’m installing a security certificate because most people understand the word “security.” I then further explain, in terms they know that a security certificate encrypts the communication between a visitor’s web browser and their website. So when the browser and website are exchanging information, it’s like that information is put in a sealed envelope and handed to someone to deliver it to the other side. Nobody can see what’s in that envelope until it reaches its destination, and the appropriate party opens it.
Without a security certificate, it’s as if that information is delivered back and forth on sheets of notepaper that everyone can read.
When explained in these terms, a client can understand the importance of an SSL Certificate without knowing the jargon.
When you’re talking with your clients, be conscious of the terminology you use. If you need to use jargon, make sure the client understands what you are saying. If you’re not sure, ask them.
For example, “I think a wordmark would suit your brand. Do you know what a wordmark is?”
Don’t presume the client knows what you’re saying. Give them a chance to learn during the process by asking. They’ll appreciate and trust you more for it.
Communicating with our clients is not the only time jargon comes into play. Our clients are just as guilty of this when they deal with their clients or customers.
Industry speak, another word for jargon is seen in marketing material everywhere, mucking up the message it’s trying to relay.
Your job as a designer isn’t to create pretty designs for your clients. It’s to ensure your designs tell a precise and accurate message, a message that provides a solution for your clients. One that those who see it will understand.
One of my clients is a Chiropodist (foot doctor).
When he acquired a new state of the art laser unit to help him treat various foot ailments, he asked me for a new brochure to help him spread the word. Rightly so. It was a great addition to his clinic. However, the way he wanted to spread the news was all wrong.
He sent me the text for the brochure he wrote himself. Copy that included all sorts of technical information about his new laser, information full of jargon that only other chiropodists would understand and find appealing.
I could have taken the information he supplied me and designed a beautiful looking brochure that would have ultimately failed. It would have failed, because his target market, people with foot problems would be confused by the industry jargon and not understand the benefit they’d receive from the new laser unit.
Instead, I sat down with my client to discuss not what the laser does or how it works or the technology behind it. But how it benefits his patients, what it means as far as their treatments go, how it speeds up the healing process requiring fewer and shorter visits, how it’s safer than the older traditional methods for treating different foot conditions.
We eliminated the jargon and explained in easy to understand terms why people suffering from foot problems should book an appointment with him.
And you know what?
After distributing his brochures to doctor’s offices and clinics around the area, he saw a spike in new patients asking about his new laser treatment. I’m convinced that replacing the jargon with easily understood copy is what made that project a success.
Your job is to ensure your client is thinking about their project from their target’s point of view. It doesn’t matter what your client thinks or likes, just as long as it appeals to their target market.
It’s not always easy to convince clients to think in terms of their target market. I know. I’ve been a designer for over thirty years, and I still have trouble doing it. But here’s something you can try.
Ask your client to imagine that a grade-schooler is doing a research project on their brochure, website or whatever it is you’re designing for them.
With the information provided, do they think a grade-schooler would understand it? If not, then they should change the wording of the message.
If they argue that their target market isn’t grade-schoolers, remind them that according to studies, when interpreting instructional or informative texts:
What this means is, people have a hard enough time comprehending the instructions or information they read that you shouldn’t complicate it by adding jargon to the mix.
I recently built a new website for an engineering company that manufactures control systems for industrial plants, hospitals, hydro dams, airports, etc. Any business requiring industrial automation.
My client didn’t need this website to attract new clients. They needed it for recruitment. The problem they faced was weeding out the skilled and capable engineers amongst the hundreds of resumes they receive every month.
So in their case, we used all sorts of industry jargon that only the most qualified candidates would understand.
Since its launch, they’ve received few resumes, but the quality of candidates increased.
So there are some instances where jargon can be beneficial. But in most cases, jargon should be saved for conversations amongst your peers.
When talking to your clients, you should make a conscious effort to minimize the jargon you use or at least explain it in terms your clients will understand.
And don’t be offended if they ask you to clarify something. There are no dumb questions when posed by the uninformed.
If you take care of your clients, they’ll be more impressed and more loyal to you.
Resource of the week Coolors.co
Coolors.co is a super fast colour scheme generator. Press the spacebar and create beautiful colour schemes that always work together.
Coolors.co also allows you to pick colours from uploaded images. You can adjust and refine colours by temperature, hue, saturation, brightness and more. You can also save your pallets for easy future access.
They also offer an IOS and Android app as well as an Adobe Add-on for Photoshop and Illustrator to display all your pallets in your programs.
[sc name="pod_ad"]Offering Website maintenance is a great way to make extra money while putting in minimal effort. It’s right up there with print brokering as a way to supplement your design income.
Way back in episode 9 of the podcast, I shared 12 ways designers can earn extra income. On that episode, I mentioned making extra income by offering to host your client’s websites. Since then, I’ve made a few changes to the way I operate. I no longer provide web hosting on its own. Instead, I offer website maintenance, and I make a lot more money doing so. And so can you.
Once this process is over, you may or may not hear from that client again until they need a new website in a few years. That’s providing they don’t meet another web designer between now and then. If they do, then all bets are off.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
By offering a website maintenance plan as part of your web design services, you retain that client on the books, and chances are when they need new web work in the future, they’ll turn to you because of your ongoing relationship.
Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to earn a recurring monthly income that gives your clients piece of mind while costing you very little in return? If you are not offering a website maintenance plan as part of your services, you’re leaving easy money on the table.
The best part of a website maintenance plan is if done right, you don’t need much tech knowledge. I didn’t know much when I started. And to be honest, there’s still a lot I don’t know. But I don’t have to know much for my plan to work.
Website maintenance plans differ from designer to designer. However, let me break down what my website maintenance plan looks like.
When I started offering website hosting in 2005, I charged my clients $12/month. When I switched from hosting static HTML sites to hosting WordPress websites, I raised my hosting fee to $35/month. Then I attended WordCamp Ottawa and met a fellow designer whose business was very similar to my own. However, instead of just hosting his client’s websites, he was offering a website maintenance plan. After hearing about his success, I immediately implemented it in my business. I raised my price to $69/month and expanded my offering from simple hosting to a full-fledged website maintenance service.
Some web designers may find $69 per month expensive. But it’s not. I know designers who charge much more than I do for their website maintenance plans.
Look at it this way, if you’re building $500 or $800 websites for clients. Then yes, they’ll find $69/month expensive. However, a client who pays several thousand dollars for a website, won’t hesitate to pay $69 or more each month to keep their investment safe. That’s what a web maintenance plan offers, safety and peace of mind.
My website maintenance plan consists of:
In return for these monthly services, my clients get a stress-free website. They don’t have to worry about their website getting hacked. They don’t have to about keeping their site updated. They don’t have to worry about evolving security measures. They don’t have to learn how to manage their own website.
Instead, my clients can concentrate on growing their business, knowing that I’m taking care of their website for them. Over 90% of my website clients see the value in my maintenance plan and sign up without hesitation.
Some web designers offer a certain number of non-carryover hours as part of their monthly plan that allows a client to request small updates to their site. I don’t provide this. If a client wants changes to their website, I bill them extra.
Some web designers offer to maintain their client’s website regardless of where the site is hosted. I don’t provide this either. If one of my clients wants me to manage their site, I insist they host it with me. This way, I’m familiar with the web host, which makes it easier to fix any problems that may arise.
Maintaining a WordPress website doesn’t require a whole lot of effort. Other than keeping WordPress, the theme and the plugins updated, there’s rarely anything to do.
Most of the work is done before launching the site and continues working month after month without any input required.
I use SiteGround to host my clients’ websites. They help me set things up, and their 24/7 support means I can count on them should I need help with anything. Here’s what I install on every client website I maintain.
Should anything go wrong with a website, If it crashes during a plugin update, or gets hacked, I can quickly restore it by reverting to a previous backup and have it up and running again in less than 30 minutes.
That’s it. There’s nothing else for me to do. Except collect $69/month from the client. It’s that easy.
The first thing you need to offer website maintenance is a web host. There are many great web hosts you can choose from, but as stated previously, I recommend SiteGround.
Basically, a good web host will help you do the things you’re not comfortable doing.
Once you've chosen a web host, the next thing you need are plugins to manage your security and backups. I prefer iThemes plugins for this, but there are many other good ones you can choose.
Finally, if you want to get serious and maintain a growing number of websites, you'll want a way to minimize your time. iThemes Sync is the platform I use to maintain all my client websites. From one dashboard, you can monitor, update, backup and restore all the sites you manage, saving you precious time every month.
On average, I spend less than 5 minutes per month, maintaining each client’s website.
Of course, not all of the $69 I collect goes into my pocket. I have to pay for the hosting fees, the SSL certificates (if they require something other than a free one.) Theme and premium plugin licenses, etc.
So maintaining ten client websites takes less than one hour per month at $69 each, which turns into a great hourly rate.
I suggest you put a small percentage of your monthly fee aside in case of an emergency. In the rare case that something goes wrong with a client’s site that is beyond your abilities to fix, you can easily hire an expert to handle it for you.
Here are some things to look for when searching for a web host for your clients’ websites.
As I’ve already mentioned several times, I recommend SiteGround as a great web host with all of these features.
Offering a website maintenance plan is a great way to supplement your design income. I estimate between 30%-40% of my annual income is from monthly website maintenance payments. This recurring income allows me to continue earning money while on vacation or at a conference.
You can do the same. You’re already designing the websites for your clients. Why not go the extra step and offer them the peace of mind of a worry-free website by providing a website maintenance plan? Both you and your clients will benefit from it.
You can thank me later.
I had a conversation with a fellow designer recently who works full-time for an ad agency and periodically takes on small design projects on the side. He called it a hobby. That got me thinking, what is a hobby and does what he’s doing qualify?
Standard disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, accountant, tax expert or business advisor. The following is solely my opinion.
Hobby: A hobby is an activity done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time. A hobby encourages the acquisition of skills and knowledge in that area.
Business: Business is the activity of making money by producing or selling products such as goods and services. Simply put, business is any activity or enterprise entered into for profit.
By those definitions, any design work you do where you get paid should be considered a business venture. At least you would think.
According to the IRS, a hobby is an activity that an individual pursues without the intent of generating a profit. “Intent” is the keyword here. Meaning it’s ok to make money pursuing your creative hobbies as long as it wasn’t your intent, to begin.
For example, let’s say you have a screen printing machine and print yourself graphic T-Shirts. If someone sees one of your shirts and offers you money to make one for them, it’s still considered a hobby, because it wasn’t your intent to sell the design or shirt when you created it. However, if you designed and printed the shirt with the hopes of selling more like it, then it’s a business.
An artist who paints for the joy of it, and sells the odd painting to cover the cost of supplies is considered a hobbyist. But as soon as that artist decides to showcase their paintings, in the hopes of selling them for a profit, it becomes a business.
If you create something because you want to help a friend, a family member, your church, a local organization or charity you support or your kid’s sports team, and they offer you money for your generosity, as long as you intended to help them and not of making a profit, then it’s not a business dealing.
However, if that friend, family member, church, organization or charity asks you to create something for them in exchange for payment of some kind, then your acceptance is based on the knowledge you will be making a profit. Therefore it’s a business transaction.
The distinction between hobby vs. business is essential for tax purposes. Yup, blame it on the government. If you are making a profit from something, they want their cut. But that could be a good thing.
If you are making money from your “hobby” or “side gig” you should want the taxman to take a cut. Why? Because as a hobby, you can’t deduct losses and expenses on your tax return. But once you’re hobby is classified as a business, you are entitled to the same tax advantages other businesses enjoy. Including home business expenses or additional costs that don’t typically apply to income from your day job. Who knows, declaring your hobby a business, may even end up saving you money on your taxes.
Rules may differ depending on where you live, so check with a professional in your area to see if your side gig or hobby qualifies as a business. Keep in mind; you have to be actively seeing to make a profit for what you do to be considered a business.
But be careful. Even if you are actively seeking to make a profit, don’t just declare what you’re doing as a business without checking with a professional first. There are stiff penalties for claiming business expenses on your taxes if you don’t qualify for them.
The IRS has a vague outline for determining the state of your earnings. However, here are some rules that may help you achieve business status with your hobby.
The easiest way to get the IRS or any government tax agency to view what you do as a business is to make it official.
There are no guarantees the IRS or whatever taxing agency there is in your country will consider you a business. But if you officially register as one, chances are they’ll agree with your assessment.
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Resource of the week Savvy Social School
If you’re looking for a simple, easy (and fun) way to use social media as a tool to grow your design business, the Savvy Social School takes you from wasting time to feel confident that you’re making the right choice for you and your business.
Savvy Social School is the BEST training and coaching resources for entrepreneurs wanting an online presence who are tired of GUESSING and STRESSING about social media.
I’ve been a member of the Savvy Social School for almost a year now, and it has helped me grow the social media presence for my business, which in turn has translated to paying clients. You can do the same.
Do you exude confidence when dealing with your design clients? If you answered no, you could be losing out on valuable business.
Designers usually fall into one of two categories: PixelPushers, and Design Thinkers.
Pixel Pushers rely mostly on instructions to do their job. A client or art director tells them precisely what they need, and the designer uses his or her skills to create it. Pixel Pushers can be amazing designers. Capable of turning those simple or vague instructions into something beautiful. However, Pixel Pushers tend not to exercise their creative powers as much, since they let other people do the conceptual thinking for them.
Design Thinkers, on the other hand, not only know how to use the tools at their disposal to create stunning designs, but they also have the skills to imagine and conceptualize those designs from scratch. They think up vague ideas, the smallest of thoughts and massage and expand on them until they turn it into something amazing.
Now, of course, I am harsh with these distinctions. There is no hard line separating Pixel Pushers and Design Thinkers. Pixel Pushers do require design thinking skills to turn someone else’s ideas into reality, just as Design Thinkers need the technical expertise to turn their own ideas into reality. In fact, in most cases. Design Thinkers started their careers as Pixel Pushers. Following the instructions of someone more experienced than them.
Think of your path. Were you ever a junior designer? Did you ever follow the instructions of a more senior designer? That’s how I started. The print shop hired me straight out of college, and without any experience working with real clients, I relied upon the other, more knowledgable designers around me for guidance. It’s how most of us start and grow as designers.
Some designers are content with that life, content with the limited creative freedom they have, as they design things based on someone else’s ideas. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know several designers who enjoy what they do, while recognizing the pressure of the design concept, dealing with the clients, the success or failure of a design campaign, is all on someone else’s shoulders.
But for people like you and me, being a Pixel Pusher isn’t fulfilling enough. We want more.
We want to deal directly with the clients. We want to come up with the design ideas ourselves. We want to manipulate those pixels and bring the images from our head to life. We want to revel at the successful campaigns we design for our clients and learn from the failed ones because that’s what makes us better designers.
But how do you go from being a Pixel Pusher to a Design Thinker?
One word, confidence.
Confidence in your skills. Confidence in your knowledge. And confidence in your ability to do what it is you do, without the need for instructions from anyone else. You’re probably reading this because you either run your own part-time or full-time design business or you’re dreaming of one day starting one. So chances are, you fall into the Design Thinker category. Congratulations, and welcome to the club.
But, just how much confidence do you have?
There’s a wide range of Design Thinkers, and where you stand among them is mostly determined by your confidence level. That’s why you see some self-employed graphic and web designers who are struggling and barely getting by, while others are hugely successful. It’s not their design skills that separate them. It’s their confidence level. Their confidence when they deal with clients. Their confidence in their abilities. Their confidence in what they charge. All of this adds up to greater success.
Think about it. How much confidence would you have in a lawyer who tells you they’re not sure about your case? How about a surgeon who says they’ve seen the procedure they’re about to perform on you many times, but have never done it themselves? What about an auto mechanic who says, “sure, I’ll have a look at your car, but I have no idea what I’m looking for?” Your trust in them would be very low, giving you second thoughts about proceeding with them.
Now imagine your interactions with your design clients. From the client’s perspective, how are you coming off? Are you exuding enough confidence for them to know you’re the right person for their project?
Confidence is a state of mind that grows the more you practice. You don’t have to feel fully confident before starting anything. Start small and expand on it. Begin by “acting confident,” even though you don’t feel it. The more you practice this, the more your mind will shift, and soon you’ll stop acting and actually start to feel confident.
Keep in mind that a little fear and nervousness are healthy. Even the most confident people still experience these emotions. Don’t let them stop you from feeling confident.
A great way to grow your confidence is by focusing on the benefits you bring to your clients. Concentrate more on how your work will help your client and less on how you’re going to accomplish that work. If you show confidence and make it clear what the client is getting by working with you, you’re halfway to getting them to agree with you.
Tell your clients exactly how it is and how it’s going to be.
Clients will appreciate your directness and see you as a professional.
If you want to be confident, you need to be able to accept NO as an answer and move on. Every time someone says no to you, think of it as one step closer to getting a yes response.
If you confidently give a quote and the client rejects it, move on. If need be, use what you learned and adjust your price on the next similar project to quote.
To show confidence, you should look the part. Dress well for the client. Wear formal attire for corporate business clients and something clean, casual and yet still professional for more relaxed clients.
Your posture is a clear indication of your confidence level. If you’re slouching, you come off as insecure, lazy or disinterested. The straiter you sit or stand, without looking stiff, the more confidence you’ll exude.
Stop worrying about what others think of you. If you doubt yourself, people will sense it. Focus on the things you do well and learn and grow from your mistakes. If there are things you don’t do well, hire someone else to do them for you.
Gain confidence by focusing on your Vision Statement.Your business’ Vision Statement will help guide you towards your long term goals and give you confidence in your decision making. It will help you refocus on what is the most important moves for you and your business. Proceed with confidence with anything that enables you to reach that destination.
The more positive you are, the more confidence you’ll exude. When dealing with clients, look for the positive aspects in their criticism. Focus and expand on what they liked about your design, and put aside and forget the things they didn’t like.
Nobody is perfect; we all make mistakes. Don’t dwell on small errors. Don’t obsess over what you did wrong, Instead, take responsibility, apologize if you need to, fix the mistake if you can and move on.
The more you know, the more your skills improve, the more confident you’ll be. Confidence is like a muscle; it gets stronger the more you use it. So keep practicing it in your day to day life. Try acting more confident with family and friends and everyone you deal with on a day to day basis. You’ll soon see a positive change in the way they react to you. Invest in yourself and your business will grow.
One of the best ways to show confidence is by admitting you don’t know something. Let your client know with confidence that what they’re asking is beyond your abilities, but you’ll find someone with the required skills for their project.
If you want to be a highly successful design business owner and not a struggling artist, you need to show confidence in all your business dealings.
So go out there and be confident in everything you do.
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
SiteGround, in 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 websites 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.