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: May, 2021
May 24, 2021

Have you ever given a presentation?

This Bootstrap Advertising series is to help give you ideas to use to gain exposure for your design business. Because after all, people won’t hire you if they don’t know about you.

So far in this series, I’ve covered Bartering Your Services For Exposure, Promoting Yourself On Client Projects and Getting Free Media Exposure With Press Releases. But in my opinion, one method trumps all of those, and that's making presentations.

Making presentations is one of the best ways to get exposure and actually land new design work. Almost every time I make a presentation, I end up with at least one new client.

I’m not talking about design pitches or presenting to your clients. I’m talking about getting up in front of a group of people and presenting on a topic that is beneficial to them, AND paints you as an expert when it comes to that area.

Did I lose you? I know that many designers are introverts, and the thought of getting up in front of a group of people sounds terrifying. However, if you can find it within yourself to conquer that fear, I can almost guarantee it will be worth it.

Save your trepidations for now and hear me out. Who knows, I may convert you.

Why Presentations?

Presentations are a great way to educate people on the part of the business industry that you are familiar with—design. It may be branding, marketing, advertising, online presence through websites or social media, or any other design aspect that the average business owner might find useful.

Regardless of what aspect of design you decide to present, just the fact that you are presenting it gives you credibility in the eyes of those watching. The fact that you are presenting to them, that you are educating them, that you are bestowing valuable knowledge that will help improve their businesses elevates the way they see you.

They may have known you before as just another graphic designer, but you graduate to becoming an expert once you present. And as an expert, you become someone they admire and look up to. And when it comes to hiring a designer, who do you think they’ll consider? One of the many designers from your area? Or, the expert designer they admire because you gave them valuable advice during a presentation?

It sounds strange, but it’s true.

In March of 2020, I was at a podcast conference in Orlando, Florida. A few of us designers met up for an impromptu get-together in the hallway outside the conference rooms. We had a very in-depth conversation on the impact good design has on the success of a podcast.

As with any conference, several other attendees, non-designers migrated their way to our conversation. They were curious as to how design could help their shows.

My fellow designers were very knowledgeable, and we had a great discussion. It was obvious to anyone listening that each one of us knew what we were talking about.

During our conversation, I mentioned I was presenting the following day on the importance of good podcast cover artwork to help grow a show. When we were done, and we parted ways, several podcasters stopped me to ask questions. The other designers walked away unaccosted while I had a small gathering around me. These people chose me because I was a presenter at the conference. I hadn’t even presented yet, but the fact that I was, was enough to elevate my status above the other designers as far as these podcasters were concerned. The conference had chosen me to present; therefore, I must be someone worth listening to.

That’s the power of presenting. It elevates you in the eyes of those you talk to.

And you know what? A couple of those people hired me to help brand their podcast. And I gained several more new clients after my presentation. It works.

Where can you give presentations?

You may be thinking, "That’s easy for you Mark, you started a podcast branding business, so it makes sense for you to present at a podcast conference. But I don’t have a niche like you. So where am I supposed to present?"

I’m glad you asked.

You don’t have to travel to big conferences with thousands of people in attendance to present. There are many opportunities for you around where you live. In fact, presenting close to home is even more beneficial because you have the bonus of word of mouth afterwards.

“You’re looking for a designer? I heard so-and-so present recently, and they really knew what they were talking about. So you should give them a call.”

Places you can give presentations.

Chamber of Commerce.

  • Special events.
  • Small business month (October)
  • Business trade shows

Business Associations

  • Municipal Business Associations (Downtown, Waterfront, Central, etc.)
  • Women's Business Associations
  • People of Colour Business Associations
  • LGBTQ+ Business Associations.

Business Enterprise Center

  • Small business startup presentations
  • Entrepreneurial help presentations

Municipal Events

  • Lunch and a talk
  • Business growth seminars

Local Library

  • Themed Presentations
  • All sorts of presentations

Networking groups

  • Local Networking Groups
  • National Networking Groups

Co-working spaces

  • Business Growth Sessions

Schools

  • Present to Business Students
  • Present to Marketing Students
  • Present to Design Students

If you look around, I’m sure you can find places or venues around your area that would love to host your presentation.

And don’t just look for existing opportunities. Make them. Approach your Chamber, library, Business enterprise center, etc. and ask them if you can put on a presentation. Many of them would be happy to accommodate you.

What to present?

The idea behind any good presentation is to keep it simple and keep it focused. How much you present is determined by the time allotted to you and to whom you’re presenting.

In most cases, pick one topic to talk about. The broader your presentation, the more confusing it will be. The more focused it is, the more memorable it will be.

The best presentations provide 2 to 3 pieces of actionable advice at the most. But, of course, one piece of actionable advice is even better.

Instead of giving a presentation on branding a business, which entails a lot. Give a presentation on choosing a colour palette. The idea is to narrow down the topic so as not to confuse people.

Possible presentation topics include:

  • How Landing pages can help increase website conversions.
  • How to focus on benefits instead of features in your marketing material.
  • How to understand Web analytics.
  • The importance of consistency with your visual assets.

Who you’re presenting to will help you decide on what topic to chose. For example, if you’re talking to a group of retailers, you may want to talk about increasing sales by marketing with floor decals. Or how different colours on a website can increase conversions.

If you’re talking to a group of new entrepreneurs, you may want to talk about using visual assets to help build a brand. Or the importance of creating visual assets that appeal to their target market, not just the business owner.

If you’re talking to a mixed group of businesspeople, you may want to talk about the importance of branding in social media. Or how to identify your competition. That’s actually a good one. Unfortunately, many new business people don’t know how to identify their competition.

The skies the limit to the number of topics available to present.

And if you find yourself unable to narrow down your topic, maybe consider doing a series of presentations instead of just one. Whatever works.

Making presentations works.

In my opinion, presenting is one of the best ways to garner exposure for your business without spending anything. Not only that, but there’s an excellent chance that you pick up some work from it. It's worked for me time after time. Over the years, I’ve made presentations at:

  • Chamber of Commerce events.
  • At a Starter Business seminar put on by our local Business Enterprise Centre.
  • A business series put on by our local library.
  • At several local schools.
  • At networking events.
  • At trade shows.
  • At conferences.
  • And more.

And almost every time I gave a presentation, I gained new clients from those who attended.

So try to get over your fear if presenting is not something you’re used to doing. It helps to start small and work your way up. Like anything else, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become.

As you get better at presenting, you'll discover people will invite you to speak at their events. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll actually get paid to present. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Until then, try to settle with the new clients that come your way from those you help.

Presenting, it’s worth looking into if you’re not already doing it.

Remember, the idea behind this Bootstrap Advertising series is to get your name out there. To get as much exposure for your business without having to spend anything doing it. I believe in you. So go out and do it.

Resource of the week Swatchos.com

Swatchos is a deck of 130 cards to help you choose colours for your design projects.

Each card has one clour on the front and six on the back. The front is the primary colour, and the back shows darker and lighter versions of the colour on the front. That’s 903 colours in total with millions of possible combinations.

Each colour shows the CMYK value and the Hex Code.

And because they’re cards and not in a book, like the Pantone swatch books, they’re really easy to mix and match to find that perfect colour combination.

And once you do find that perfect combo. Use the downloadable swatch files for Adobe CC and pick the colours within your favourite applications.

I bought my deck through a Kickstarter campaign.

But you can get yours by visiting swatchos.com. There’s a link at the top of the page to where you can purchase your deck.

May 17, 2021

Use Press Releases To Get Media Exposure.

In parts one and two of this bootstrap advertising series, I talked about bartering your design services for exposure and promoting yourself on your client projects. Two great ways to get your name out there. After all, the more people there are who know about you and the services you offer, the more successful you will be.

Both bartering for exposure and putting your name on client projects are great methods of spreading your name. But that’s all they do. They don’t offer any form of credibility or positioning. Sure, people can’t hire you if they don’t know about you. But just knowing about you doesn’t guarantee they’ll contact you when they need a designer. Especially if all they know about you is your name.

Media coverage, on the other hand, gives you credibility. It means you’re “important” enough to merit mentioning. And that publicity can mean the difference between someone just knowing about you and someone hiring you.

When combined, these different forms of exposure leave a powerful impression that can lead to more business.

But how do you get media exposure?

Send out press releases.

The easiest way to get media coverage is by submitting a press release for each of your accomplishments.

A press release is sometimes called a "press statement," a “news release," or a "media release,” which is an official way to inform the media about something you deem important.

Media could be newspapers, radio or tv stations. It might be blogs, magazines, podcasts, social media channels, YouTube channels or industry journals. Any platform people visit for current information is considered media. And most media outlets are constantly looking for new stories to cover, especially on slower news days.

Press releases are a great way for media outlets to add “filler content” to their platform. Then, if they deem the press release to be newsworthy, they’ll write or report on it. It’s that simple.

Don’t forget other places that may be interested in your special announcements. If you’re a member of your Chamber of Commerce or similar associations, send them your press release. They may publish it in their newsletter. If you attended design school, send your press release to the school. Most schools love hearing and sharing the good news about their alumni.

Lastly, reach out to any industry-specific platforms related to the announcement you are making. For example, if you designed new signage for a local law office, send your press release to any law-related publications or outlets that may cover your story.

The purpose of a press release isn’t just for recognition and publicity; although it is the principal reason, most media outlets that run your story will also include a link to your website. And every backlink to your website, especially from recognized news outlets or schools, helps to boost your position in the search rankings.

What merits a press release?

Any time you do something somewhat “newsworthy,” you should send out a press release. This includes any time you...

  • Offer a new service
  • Complete a big project
  • Win an award
  • You are recognized for an achievement
  • You reach a milestone
  • If you take on a partner

Any exciting news you would share with family, friends and peers might be worthy of a press release.

When Resourceful Designer was a finalist for a People’s Choice Podcast Awards, I sent a press release to my local media. It must have been a very slow news day because my story appeared on the front page of my local newspaper. All because I sent a press release.

When my local Chamber of Commerce told me the cover I designed for their printed club directory won an award at a national Chamber of Commerce event, I sent a press release. The story was covered by two local newspapers and one of our radio stations.

When I was awarded the contract to design the event program to unveil a new Canadian National Heritage site, I sent a press release, and several media outlets shared the story.

When I launched my secondary design business, Podcast Branding, I sent a press release to everyone who covers news in the podcast space. Many of them mentioned my new business.

Sending out a press release is an amazing way to get media exposure for your design business.

How to write a press release.

A press release is usually one page, two at the most, with succinct information on what you want the media to know.

The idea is to give the reader the details so they can, in turn, write or compose their own story. Rarely will the media publish your press release word for word. Instead, in some cases, they’ll compose something based on what you submit, and in other cases, they’ll contact you for an interview or perhaps invite you to appear on their program.

The generally accepted format for a press release is as follows.

1. Title.

Your press release title is important. The more irresistible you make it, the better your chances of it being picked up. If required, you can use an italicized subheading to summarize the news you’re sharing.

Make your titles stand out. For example, instead of “Designer builds a website for local business,” which is pretty boring. Write something like “Business hires local designer and sees online revenue soar.” That’s something people want to hear about.

2. The body.

The body of your press release has to grab whoever is reading it. Chances are the person reading your release gets dozens, if not hundreds of them each day. So the quicker you grab their attention, the better your chances of them using your story.

It’s customary for your first paragraph to start with the city you are in so they know where the story relates to. In my case, I would start the first paragraph of my press release with – Cornwall, Ontario: and then introduce my story.

Your first paragraph needs to cover not only who you are but the what, why, where, and how of whatever it is you’re telling them. Please keep it to the facts without any fluff. They should know everything they need to know about your story after reading that first paragraph.

Once you’ve set the scene with your first paragraph, the rest of the paragraphs in your release help fill in the details and give them any other pertinent information with greater detail that will help them paint a picture of what they can write.

  • How has what you’ve done made an impact?
  • How has it changed the client?
  • How will people benefit from it?
  • What makes it newsworthy.

If applicable, provide a direct quote they can use in the story they write about you. For example, when I submitted the press release about the Canadian heritage site, I included a quote something like this.

“it’s an honour to be chosen for this project out of the many talented graphic designers from across Canada.”

The writer assigned to my story used my quote in his article.

You should also provide any background information on the press release subject, such as why you undertook the project or what you won the award for. The reader already has most of the vital information they need. Don’t provide superfluous facts or such about you, your company or the announcement.

Remember, a press release needs to be concise. But do offer any details that strengthen your narratives, such as any creative ways you accomplished your announcement or any struggles you had to overcome.

If you can, comment on the future implications of your announcements. For example, in the case of a new client website, you may want to say the company expects to double their income with their new online sales. Just make sure the information is factual.

3. Your last paragraph.

The last paragraph of your press release should summarize who you are and what you do. In plain English, list your company name, your name and title, the full URL to your website, and your email address and phone number should they need to contact you.

Follow that information with pertinent details such as how long you’ve been in business, What you offer, for example, “Graphic and web design services,” and any awards or recognition you’ve received.

4. Photos

It’s a good idea to include a headshot of yourself and a photo that relates to the announcement.

When my Resourceful Designer story was published on the front page of our newspaper, I included a photo of me sitting in front of my microphone with the press release.

Attach any photos to your press release if you're submitting them by email. It’s also a good idea to upload them online and include a URL link where the reporter can download them. Just in case something happens to the attachments you send.

The very last thing on your press release should be three octothorps. Or as you may know them by Hashtags or Number signs.

###

This is the traditional way to mark the end of a press release and is still appreciated by the media. It informs the reader that there is no more information to read.

Tips to submitting press releases

  1. If you know a specific journalist, try sending your press release directly to them instead of the general news@ address. You’ll have a much better chance of having your press release seen.
  2. Give them enough time. Most media outlets release stories at specific times of the day. TV news, for example, often airs at noon, 6 pm and 11 pm. So send your press release early enough for your best chance to get in on the next news cycle.
  3. And lastly, if your announcement does get picked up, be sure to share it as much as possible to help spread the word.  Keep the buzz going for as long as you can.

That’s how you submit a press release.

Just because you submit a press release doesn’t mean they will use your story. If you’re lucky and it’s a slow news day, there’s a better chance they’ll use your press release. But it is hit and miss. However, when they are used, the media exposure you get from it is a great form of publicity.

As I said initially, when someone sees, hears or reads about you in the media, it increases your clout. It strengthens the mantle of the professional that you are. And it gives you credibility in the eyes of those who see or hear it. And all of that is great exposure. And it doesn’t cost you a cent.

For more information about press releases, read this great article by Hubspot. It includes a free press release template kit for you to download.

Resource of the week Designers Available

Simply put, Designers Available connect social justice organizations with pro bono designers.

Let me stress, this is not a platform for getting paying clients. This is an opportunity for you to put your design skills to work for causes you can get behind.

As stated on the website, Designers Available is an opportunity for designers to use their skills and abilities to support the work of community organizations, non-profits, social causes and movements.

Upon submitting your name, you will be included in a member network that receives regular calls for designers to be matched with organizations.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in please visit designersavailable.com

May 10, 2021

Get your name out there.

In part one of this Bootstrap Advertising series, I discussed bartering your services to get exposure. This week I’m sharing more ways to get exposure by promoting yourself on client projects.

Exposure means making people aware of your design business. After all, People cannot hire you if they don’t know you exist. So the goal here is to get your name, business name, and logo in front of as many people as possible.

This form of promotion is called a shotgun approach. There’s nothing scientific or targeted about it. Instead, you hit the masses and hope that someone who sees it needs or knows someone in need of your services. This “spray and pray” approach doesn't cost you anything and is a great method of bootstrap advertising.

If you’re not familiar with the term bootstrap or bootstrapping, it means promoting or developing by initiative and effort with little or no assistance. In other words, bootstrap advertising is getting your name out there with minimal effort and practically zero expense on your part.

Let me share two methods you can promote yourself on client projects.

Put your name on everything project you design.

My stance is if I design something, my name deserves to be on it, from websites to posters, brochures, car wraps, wedding invitations and more. If I can get away with it, I put my name on it.

I’ve learned over the years that, as the adage goes, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission?” If you ask a client if it’s ok to put your name on their project, there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll say no; they’d prefer you don’t. And many times, they’ll ask if they get a discount if your name appears on their project.

However, if you include your name on the initial project proof without asking, only one in twenty clients will ask you to remove it. That’s why I never ask a client if I can put my name on their project. Instead, I present the work with my name and sometimes logo already there. Should the client ask me to remove it, I’ll take it off without a fuss. But in my experience, there have been very few clients who have asked me to take it off.

My name or logo appears in small inconspicuous corners of the project for printed work—kind of like an artist's signature.

On a poster, I include it in the bottom corner. I try to include it on the back cover of a brochure, sometimes running vertically along the spine. If it’s a book or booklet, and I can’t put it on the back cover, I’ll try to include it on the inside front cover somewhere.

Over the years, I’ve included my name on

  • Posters
  • brochures, flyers and rack cards
  • books and booklets
  • door hangers
  • reports
  • pocket folders
  • event tickets
  • invitations
  • stickers and decals
  • Vehicle wraps
  • Window signage
  • Banners
  • and many more items I can’t think of right now.

I’ve even included my name and logo on trade show booths. I’ve designed several pop-up or roll-up banners as well as many backdrop walls for trade shows, and I’ve included my name and logo on the bottom right corner of all of them.

For websites, the obvious place is the footer, or sometimes on a separate bar below the footer. Divi makes this really easy.

Sometimes, when I do T-Shirts, I’ll have my screen printer add my logo to the sleeve with my client's permission. My screen printer is a great guy, and depending on the size of the order, he'll add my logo to the sleeve at no extra cost. Think about it. Everyone walking around wearing one of these shirts has my name displayed on their sleeve.

So whenever possible, I try to include my name on every printed piece I design.

Showcasing yourself via an ad.

I’m a bit surprised how well the following method works.

Have you ever designed something for a client that includes boxes for ads?

I've designed event programs, maps, placemats, pocket folders, magazine layouts, and more for clients. What all of these had in common were advertising spots the client could sell.

Take a program for a local theatre company, for example. The program contains information about the theatre company, the play their performing, the cast, perhaps upcoming plays, etc. The theatre company then sells the extra space in the program as ad spots to cover the printing costs.

The way these sort of projects work is the client has the program designed, and once all the pertinent information is in place, they are supplied with a PDF to see how much available space is left for ads.

When I present the client with this initial proof, I include an ad for my business in one of the spots. I tell them it's so they can show potential advertisers what an ad may look like. And you know what? 75% of the time, the client leaves my ad in the program. Of course, I’ll gladly remove my ad if they ask me to, but they rarely do. And not once have they ever asked me to pay for my ad spot.

Over the years, I’ve had ads show up for free in programs for theatre productions, sporting events, entertaining events, fairs and festivals and other things. In addition, I’ve had my ad appear on local maps, paper diner placemats, on the back of pocket folders that real estate agents and mortgage brokers hand out to their clients, and even in a couple of local business magazines. All because the initial project proof included my ad, and the client never asked me to remove it.

Funny story, one client actually apologized, saying they had oversold the allotted ad spots and asked if I would be willing to give up my spot to accommodate it. Of course, I said yes.

These were all free advertising opportunities gaining good exposure for my design business. All because I took the time to include an ad in the initial proof.

I designed a website for a local association that includes three ad spots on the home page. They planned to sell these ad spots to association members to promote their businesses.

When I designed the website, instead of leaving the three spots blank, I included my ad in one of them. That was in 2017, and even though I’m not a member of the association, my ad is still there. The other two ads have changed over the years, but they’ve never removed mine.

When given the opportunity, present the proof to your client with a “temporary” ad, and cross your fingers that they don’t remove it.

These are two great ways to get free advertising for your design business without spending anything.

Why it works.

The idea behind this is to get your name out there. If people don’t know about you, there’s zero chance they’ll hire you. By putting your name on as many things as you can, those who see it will take notice.

Imagine a new entrepreneur looking for a designer to help brand their new business. They remember seeing your name on a store poster, in an event program, on their kid’s dance recital t-shirt and in a local magazine. They’re going to think, wow, this person must be good since I see their name everywhere. A lot of people must trust him/her. That confidence, along with repeated recognition, is good enough for them to reach out and hire you for their project.

All because you included your name on everything you could.

I’ve been doing this ever since I started my design business, and I can tell you, it works. The more people who know about you, the more successful you will be. Isn’t that what you’re going for?

A side benefit of putting your name on everything is that the contact people you deal with at your clients may change.

Sally may retire, and Jason takes her place. Maybe Sally forgot to inform Jason who their designer is. Luckily for you, you’ve included your name on everything you’ve designed for that client, making it very easy for Jason to know who to contact.

That’s yet another reason to put your name on everything.

Resource of the week pixsy.com

This week’s resource of the week is a great tool for photographers and illustrators to keep track, or should I say, stay on top of who is using their images.

If you sell your images through any stock image platform, you’re often left wondering what people are doing with the images they purchase.

Pixsy.com allows you to discover where and how your images are being used online.

It’s also a great resource for battling image theft. Find out who is using your copyrighted material and use Pixsy’s tools to help you resolve the issues.

Best of all, you can start with their free plan and only upgrade if you need to take advantage of one of their premium features, such as issuing a takedown notice.

As I said, if you are a photographer or illustrator, you’ll want to bookmark Pixsy.com and take a stand in the battle over Copywrite theft.

May 3, 2021

Do you ever barter for exposure?

Working for exposure. That thought is the bane of most designers. A client asks you to use your valuable time and skills to benefit them. And in exchange, they’ll tell everyone they know about the great services you offer. It’s a win-win for both of you. They promise you fame and fortune if only you do this project for them... for free, or at a vast discount.

It’s a crock full of s**t if you ask me or any other designer who’s ever been presented with a similar offer. Those clients don’t care about you. And they will never be advocates for your services. If they do tell someone about you, it will be in the context of “offer them exposure, and they’ll give you a great deal.” Is that really the reputation you want as a designer? of course it isn’t.

You should never agree to a request to exchange your services for exposure. But that’s not the same thing as you bartering for exposure.

Let me ask you a question. You’ve probably spent some if not a great deal of time stuck at home during the 2020 pandemic. During that time, did you ever order out for a meal?

How many times did you order from a restaurant you had never heard of before? I don’t mean a place you recently found out about through family, friends or colleagues. How many times did you order from a restaurant you’ve never heard of?

Of course, that’s a trick question. If you’ve never heard of a place, how are you supposed to order from them? The same applies to your design business. Nobody is going to hire you if they don’t know you exist.

Sure they can google designers in your area and stumble across your website. That might be all they need to reach out. But there has to be some intent for that to happen. The person needs to be seeking a designer.

But how can you let that person know about you and your services if they are not currently seeking a designer? The only way is through exposure.

What is exposure?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of exposure is:

Exposure:

the fact or condition of being exposed: such as the condition of being presented to view or made known.

In other words, getting exposure means making people aware of your design business. And once people are aware of you and what you can offer them. They are much more likely to think of you the next time they need a designer.

Think about it. If you wanted to order a pizza and, for some reason, your regular place is closed. Wouldn't you order from the next place you’re most aware of?

Would you order from a pizza joint you had never heard about and just found through a google search? Or would you choose the pizza place whose ads you’ve seen over and over, who’s commercials you’ve seen or heard, who’s delivery vehicles you’ve spotted around town?

Chances are you would choose the one you are most familiar with, even though that familiarity is only perceptual since you’ve never eaten one of their pizzas before. You would choose them because you’ve been exposed to them.

There’s a whole industry based upon this principle of exposure. It’s called advertising.

Needless to say, the more you get your name out there, so people become familiar with you and what you do, the more successful your design business will become.

But how do you get your name in front of people without spending a truckload of money on advertising? You barter for exposure.

I talked about bartering in episode 47 of the podcast. In that episode, I talked mostly about bartering for goods. For example, I acquired my custom-built desk through bartering. I designed a website for a woodworking client in exchange for him building my desk. As a result, I only had to pay for the wood. That’s bartering. Exchanging one good or service for another without the exchange of money.

Bartering for exposure works on the same principle, except instead of getting a physical product or service back, you are compensated for your time and effort through exposure. That exposure can come in many forms, but they all come down to a form of advertising.

Case study #1

Every year I design a T-Shirt, free of charge, for a local children’s dance studio. I make money by brokering the printed shirts, but I have never charged her for the design on the shirt. In exchange, I get a full-page ad in their yearly dance recital program. This gives me exposure to hundreds of people every year.

We’ve had this arrangement ever since I started my design business. Without fail, in the weeks following the dance recital, I’m almost guaranteed to get at least one and oftentimes several inquiries from parents of the dancers saying they saw my ad in the program.

Case study #2

Our city used to host one of the largest hot air balloon festivals in North America until it folded a few years ago. The festival was one of my biggest clients. I did all sorts of design work for them, and it paid very well.

One of the arrangements I made with them early on was that I would offer them a discount for being listed as one of the event sponsors.

As a sponsor of the event, my logo was prominent in all their marketing. It also appeared on the fence surrounding the festival grounds, and it appeared on the baskets of one of the hot air balloons. Every time that ballon went up, you could see my logo on the basket. It was giving me exposure.

Case study #3

Every year our local fire hall hosts a firefighter challenge. Firefighters from all over the region come to compete.

When they hired me to be their designer, I suggested a deal. I would max their bill at five hours of work, regardless of how much time I actually spent on their job. In exchange, I would be listed as a Bronze sponsor of the event, which meant my logo showed up on all their promotional material, giving me more exposure.

Case study #4

A few years ago, I was asked to design something for a charity Christmas fundraiser. They had a dozen or so fully decorated Christmas trees they were auctioning off.

They didn’t have a lot of money and were asking for a discount. However, it was a good cause, so I suggested that they place a sign in front of one of the trees listing me as the sponsor for that tree in exchange for my services.

They thought it was such a good idea that they found sponsors for all the trees. I have no idea how much they charged for the spots, but mine didn’t cost me anything but my time. And it gave me great exposure.

Case study #5

The last story I want to share with you is about a local theatre company. I built their website and designed the posters, ads, tickets and other marketing material for every play they put on.

I was brokering all the print material. When I noticed the theatre company's tickets were only printed on one side, I made them an offer. I asked them to allow me to put an ad for my design business on the back of the tickets In exchange for free website hosting. I agreed to pay the difference in print costs which worked out to nothing since I made money on the print brokering.

For every play they put on, every ticket holder saw my ad. Over the years, I gain many new clients through that exposure.

Get Exposure

I think you get the point.

In each of these cases, I took advantage of a way to get my name in front of more people. The more people who saw it, the better the chance they would call me the next time they needed a designer or the better the chance they would pass my name along the next time they heard of someone needing a designer.

Just like for a restaurant to succeed, people have to know about it. So likewise, your design business cannot succeed if people aren’t aware of you. And one of the easiest ways to gain exposure is to take advantage of your current clients and barter a way to get your name out there.

Even if each method only brings in one or two clients, they are clients you wouldn’t have had otherwise. And the more you do it, the more it adds up. So whenever you have the opportunity, I suggest you barter for exposure.

Resource of the week MailChimp

A great way to gain exposure is through a newsletter.

Exposure isn’t just for people who don’t know about you. Exposure helps those familiar with you keep you top of mind for the next time they require your services.

My favourite tool for creating a newsletter is MailChimp. I won’t lie. I like them because their free plan lets you have up to 2000 contacts, which means you can go a long way into building your mailing list before it starts costing you anything.

Although many options are not available on MailChimp’s free plan, I think it’s a great way to start.

When you eventually outgrow the free plan, you can then decide if you want to upgrade to one of MailChimp’s paid plans. Or if you want to export your list and move to a different email marketing platform.

1