Info

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!
RSS Feed iOS App
Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
2024
March
February
January


2023
December
November
October
September
July
May
April
March
February
January


2022
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2021
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2020
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2015
December
November
October
September


All Episodes
Archives
Now displaying: December, 2020
Dec 21, 2020

A look back at 2020 and a look ahead to 2021.

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

I'm continuing the tradition of making the final podcast episode of the year a form of a retrospective where I look back a the year that's coming to an end and look forward to the year ahead. I bring you A Look back, A Look Ahead 2020 Edition.

A Look Back at my 2020 goals.

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

ACCOMPLISHED: Talk at more conferences in 2020. Surprisingly, although not as many as I expected, the two conferences I talked at in 2020 were more than I did in 2019, so mission accomplished.

FAIL: Grow the Resourceful Designer audience. The 2020 pandemic took a big toll on podcast listenership, and Resourceful Designer was not immune. With fewer people commuting to work, I saw my download numbers dip during COVID lockdowns. The end of the year saw a rise in downloads but not enough to view it as a growth from the previous year.

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

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow Podcast Branding. My niche design business focusing on the podcast industry saw huge growth in 2020. With so many people stuck at home, many decided to start a podcast and needed visuals to go with it.

Some of my numbers from 2020

Resourceful Designer

  • Released 47 podcast episodes
  • Reached over 550k total episode downloads in 2020 (Over 125k of which were in 2020)
  • Resourceful Designer released on Gaana and Amazon Music.

My design business

My design business took a huge hit from COVID-19, with many of my clients being affected by lockdowns.

  • Worked on design projects for 9 different clients (down from 29 in 2019)
  • Two of those clients were first-time clients.
  • I sent out only 14 invoices in 2020 (down from 57 in 2019)
  • Lost 7 long-standing clients due to various reasons.

Podcast Branding

My Podcast Branding business saved me from a horrible year.

A Look Ahead at my 2020 goals.

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

New Goal for 2020.

  • Keep going the podcast listenership.
  • Keep growing Podcast Branding to become THE place for podcast websites and branding.
  • Keep growing the Resourceful Designer Community

What about you?

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

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

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

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

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

So long 2020

As 2020 comes to an end (good riddance). I encourage you to reflect on this past year. Think about everything you’ve accomplished and those things you fell short on. And come up with a plan to make 2021 your year of success. To help with your planning, perhaps you should listen to episode 55 of the podcast, Setting Goals For Your Design Business.

I’ll be back in 2021 with lots more advice for starting and growing your design business.

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

What are your goals for 2021?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Dec 14, 2020

There are so many things you can do to improve your design business. Here are 5 tips to help you along the way.

Tip # 1) How do you get people to pay attention to you?

How do you get people to pay attention and be interested in what you have to say? Be it at a networking event, during presentations, in the emails you send, on a landing page or other marketing material? Start by identifying the problem you solve.

As a designer, you are a problem solver. That's your superpower. But nobody cares about a solution if the problem hasn’t been identified. Our brains are wired to go from problem to solution, problem to solution. If you only offer the solution, nobody will care what you have to say.

For example; When someone asks what you do for a living, don’t just say, “I design websites for startup companies.” Try it, and you’ll see just how fast someone’s eyes can glaze over.

Instead, start with a problem like this. "Do you know how hard it is for a new startup company to compete online these days? With people’s patience and attention spans getting shorter and shorter, it can seem like an impossible task to get noticed. What I do is create great looking and high-converting websites that help new startups quickly gain traction, catch up to and eventually surpass their competition."

A problem, followed by a solution. Now you have their attention.

Tip # 2) Be confident in your calls-to-action.

Every good website, including your own website for your design business, needs a call-to-action (CTA). Without one, what’s the point of the site?

Sure, you want people to know more about you.

Sure, you want people to know what services you offer.

Sure, you want people to see your work portfolio.

But ultimately, what you want is for people to hire you. The best way to do that is with an assertive CTA.

A passive CTA such as “Learn More” or “Get Started” just don’t cut it. What they actually do is instill doubt in the client. It’s as if you’re not sure about your business and are afraid to ask the client to commit. So instead of asking them to hire you, you’re asking them to learn more about you in the hopes you can convince them. Or to get started, and if they don’t like what they see, we can stop.

No. What you want to do is be bold and show confidence that you can help the client and show it in your CTA. Be direct and use CTAs like “Hire me,” “Schedule a Call,” or “Order Now.” The more direct you are with assertive CTAs, the better the chance someone will hire you.

3) Get paid faster by sharing the value you provided on your invoices.

Wouldn’t it be nice if clients paid your invoices as soon as they receive them, and you didn’t have to sit there wondering when or if the money would ever come in?

What if you could make one small change that would actually encourage your clients to pay your invoices faster? You can. By sharing the value, you provided directly on the invoice.

If your invoice looks something like this...

Item 1) Designed website = $xxx
Item 2) Designed Logo = $xxx
Item 3) Designed brochure = $xxx
Total = $xxx

Then you’re missing out.

Use a description field or add a footnote reminding your clients of their purchase value, not just the cost... the value.

Item 1) Designed website with clear and concise messaging, which will produce a good conversion rate, translating to increased sales.
Item 2) Designed Logo that shows the brand's quality and longevity and stands out amongst the competition.
Item 3) Designed brochure to showcase the client's premium services and instill an air of confidence in people hiring you.

Show the client that you provided more than just a website, logo or brochure. You provided something that will help their business grow and succeed. When they see and are reminded of that, they will be much more willing to pay your invoice quicker.

Tip # 4) Go from being a good salesperson to a great salesperson.

We don't’ like thinking about it, but a major part of running a design business is being a salesperson. Otherwise, we wouldn’t ever get new clients.

The number of clients who hire you is directly related to how good a salesperson you are. If you want to go from being a good salesperson to being a great salesperson, you need to remember two things: empathy and authority.

Empathy

Empathy is showing that you understand the problem the client is coming to you with. “I understand how you feel.” “I get where you’re coming from.” “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

When a client feels you have an empathetic connection with them, they are much more likely to hire you.

Authority

Authority is showing you’re not only confident you can help them, but that you have the experience to back up that confidence. “I’ve helped other clients with similar problems.” “That’s a common issue that I know we can solve.” “Here’s what we can do to solve that.”

Think of the power when you combine Empathy and Authority. “I understand how you feel. Rest assured, I’ve helped other clients with similar problems before.” “I get where you’re coming from. That’s actually a common issue that I know we can solve.” “I know exactly what you’re talking about. Here’s what we can do to solve that.”

Tip # 5) Avoid being cute or trying to be clever in your marketing.

When done right, cute and clever can be a huge success. Unfortunately, the majority of the time they are not done right. And there’s no way for the person who’s developing the campaign to know if it’s done right or not because they’re too close to it.

The problem with trying to be cute or clever is a lot of people won’t get it. They’re not in your head. They’re not part of the discussion that comes up with the campaign idea. And therefore, they won’t understand the message. That idea that you think is so cute or clever is completely lost to them. And if a potential client feels confused about your message. You’ve lost them as a client.

For any marketing campaign to be successful, the message needs to be clear. Clear what the message is and clear what you want them to do. "Do you need a professional graphic designer to develop your new company’s brand? Book a call to discuss your project."

Concise and Clear will win out over cute and clever every time.

 

Resource of the week Evernote

Evernote is, in my opinion, one of the best organization and note-taking applications there is. I use it on a daily basis to keep track of everything from podcast and blog topics, to business contacts, websites I need to revisit, and so much more. Evernote's ability to sync across all my devices means I can access it no matter where I am. It's become one of the most invaluable tools in my arsenal. If you are interested in giving it a try visit evernote.com

Dec 7, 2020

Do you understand what perceived value is?

Many graphic and web designers have difficulty understanding perceived value when it comes to how their clients view them. You can offer the same service to multiple people, and each one will perceive the value of what you’re offering them differently. I thought I would do something different by telling you a story to get the point across. Here goes.

A lesson in understanding perceived value.

Once upon a time (I know, it’s a cliché way to start a story, but I’m going with it.) Once upon a time, there was a young graphic designer by the name of Tom.

Several months ago, the large corporation Tom worked at was acquired. As part of the merger process, the new company dissolved the design department where Tom worked, and he lost his job.

Tom was upset, of course, but he decided to see this as an opportunity. With the help of his severance money, he decided to do something he had been dreaming of doing for quite a while, open his own home-based design business.

One day, on his way back from a client meeting, Tom decided to stop in and see his father.

“Hey, Dad! Where are you?”

“I’m in the attic.”

Tom made his way up to the attic, a place he seldom saw, even when he lived in this house with his parents.

“What are you doing up here?” he asked.

His father was sitting amid several open boxes, “I was taking out the holiday decorations when nostalgia got the best of me, and I decided to go through some of these old storage bins. Some of these haven’t been opened in decades. What are you doing here?”

“I had a meeting this morning with a new client not far from here, and I thought I’d drop by before heading home.”

“How’d the meeting go?” Asked his father.

Tom sighed, “I got the job.”

“You don’t sound that happy about it,” replied the older man.

“Dad, sometimes I think I made a mistake starting my own design business. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be. Take this new client, for example. He’s a handyman who does odd jobs for people. He’s looking for a logo he can put on the side of his truck and business cards.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Asked his father.

“Price,” replied Tom. “He only has a budget of $150. That’s not a lot of money for a logo.”

“You know,” continued Tom, “I read articles, I watch videos, I listen to podcasts, and they all say how graphic and web designers should be charging more money for their services. But I don’t see how. I mean, I’m lucky this guy is willing to pay me $150. Do you know there are services online where you can get a logo designed for under $10? How are designers these days supposed to compete with that?”

The father looked at his son, thoughtfully. Then he nodded inwardly to himself and said, “Thomas, that’s a tough situation you’re in, but I’m sure you’ll work it out.”

Changing the subject, the father asked, “Hey, look in that bin over there. Do you see that wooden box? Take it out.”

Tom looked in the bin and pulled out a small ornately carved wooden box. With a nod from his father, he opened it. The box was lined with old black felt. Resting on the felt was a very old watch. The gold on it was tarnished. The glass was cracked and fogged a bit, and the well-worn leather band looked dry and cracked.

“What’s this?” asked Tom.

“That my son is a family heirloom. Your, let’s see now, a family gave your great-great-grandfather that watch when he helped them during the Civil War. He called it his good luck charm. He passed it on to his son when he enlisted in World War I. Who then passed it on to your grandfather, who wore it during World War II.

When grandpa passed away, the watch was passed to me. And one day, it will be yours. It doesn’t work anymore, but it’s part of our history.”

“That’s pretty cool,” replied Tom. “Why have I never seen this before?”

“To be honest,” said the father, “I had all but forgotten it until today when I found the box. Hey, do me a favour, on your way home, can you stop by the pawnshop downtown? I don’t want to sell it. But I’d be curious to know what they’d pay for it.”

“Sure, Dad, why not.” Replied the son.

A little while later, Tom called his father. “Dad, I just came out of the pawnshop. They offered $20 for the watch. They said it looked old so that somebody may be interested in it, but since it’s not functioning, that’s the best they could do.”

“That’s disappointing,” replied the father. “Humm. There’s an antique store two blocks from where you are. Do you have time to ask them what they think?”

“Yes, I could do that,” replied Tom.

Later, Tom called his father again. “Guess what? The lady at the shop was intrigued by the watch. She said a watch that old is a rare find and offered $300 for it.”

“That’s a lot better.” Said the father. “Do you have time for one more stop? Take it down to the museum on the edge of town and show it to the curator.”

Tom hesitated a bit but then agreed.

Later that afternoon, Tom burst into his father’s home. “Dad, Dad, you won’t believe it,” he said excitedly, “The museum curator was so impressed when I showed him the watch. He said a piece like that would be a wonderful addition to their collection. He offered to buy it for $50,000.”

Tom’s father looked at his son for a moment, then asked, “So what does that tell you about the watch?”

“It tells me that the guy at the pawnshop and the lady at the antique store had no idea of the true value of the watch.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, my son.” replied the father. “All three places you visited were correct in their valuing of the watch.

For the guy at the pawnshop, it’s just another watch. Sure it may be old, but that doesn’t matter to him. He sees watches come and go all the time. If you had accepted his $20 offer, he’d add it to the other watches for sale without a second thought and forget about it until someone showed interest in it. And since you didn’t accept his offer, it’s not a big deal to him. There will always be someone else with another old watch to sell him. So there was no real value in it for him.

The woman at the antique store saw a bit more value in the watch because she’s used to dealing with old things. She could appreciate it as rare antiquity and valued it as such. But to her, it’s still just an old watch to display amongst all the other old things in her shop. So even though she valued it more than the pawnshop owner did, it was still only worth $300 to her”

“Now, the museum curator, on the other hand, that guy saw more than just a watch. Sure, it would be just another museum piece for people to admire as part of their collection. But it goes beyond that. What he saw was not the value of the watch itself, but the value the watch could bring by improving the museum’s display.

Adding that watch to their collection would enhance the experience of the people who visited the museum. It would give them another story to tell. It would give them something new to expand upon. To the museum curator, that enhanced experience visitors would receive because of the watch is a lot more valuable than the watch itself. That’s why he was willing to offer so much more for it. Not for the watch, but for the experience the watch brings.

All three people you showed it to saw the exact same watch. But each one had a different perceived value based on their circumstances. And none of them were wrong.

Tom, son, the same principle applies to your design business. That handyman you told me about this morning, he doesn’t really care what his logo looks like. He knows he needs one. As long as people can read it and recognize it, he’ll be happy. That’s why he only wanted to spend what he did. He has a low perceived value of what you can do for him.

Let me ask you, does your knowledge as a graphic designer or are the skills you use to design logos any different weather a client pays you $150 or $1500?”

“No,” replied Tom.

“Do you think that the designers who charge thousands of dollars for logos are that much better at what they do than you?” asked his father.

Tom replied again. “No”

“No,” Agreed his father. “The difference between you and designers charging a lot more is they’re positioning themselves to go after clients who see the value in what they do. Clients that understand a logo as more than just a pretty graphic picture. They understand the value a well-designed logo can bring to their company.

Just like with the watch. There are clients out there who want the cheapest design option available to them. Some clients understand that good design matters and therefore costs money. However, to them, it’s still an expense they can afford only to a certain extent.

And then some clients know that design goes beyond the designed piece itself. When implemented right, good design can drastically affect their bottom line positively. To them, the design is an investment with a projected ROI. And that’s why they assign so much more value to it.

So, Tom, you’ve told me that what you do is no different than what those other high-end designers do. Is that correct?

“I did,” Tom replied.

“Then, son, be confident in what you do because you are an amazing designer. You need to decide what type of clients you want to spend your time working with—the ones who don’t appreciate your value or the ones who do.

And Tom?”

“Yes, Dad?”

His father smiled at him. “Don’t get any fancy ideas about that watch. I’m holding on to it. You can do with it what you will once I’m gone.”

The End.

So there you have it—understanding perceived value. I know telling a story like this was a very different approach. Still, I hope it showed you how different people could assign a different value to the same thing.

Just like the watch in my story, what you offer as a designer will be perceived by different people as worth different amounts. It’s up to you to figure out who the right people are and find a way to offer your services to them.

I read a quote recently that is the perfect way to end this post.

There are people out there who are less qualified than you doing EXACTLY what you have always wished to do. The only difference is that they chose to believe in themselves.

Words every graphic and web designer should live by.

What do you think of my story?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Google Alerts

If you are running a design business, you should set up Google Alerts to notify you any time your business name is found by Google.

Google Alerts is a great way to be alerted whenever someone online mentions your business. It allows you to thank them for their positive comments or get on top of things should their comments be less positive.

To set up your own Google Alerts visit https://google.com/alerts

1