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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!
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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
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Now displaying: December, 2021
Dec 13, 2021

A look back at 2021 and a look ahead to 2022.

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 chose to spend a bit of your valuable time with me.

I am continuing my annual tradition. This last podcast episode of 2021 is my Look Back, Look Ahead edition. It’s where I reflect, and of course, share, what my year was like as a design business owner. Then I’ll look ahead at what I want to accomplish in 2022.

A Look Back at my 2021 goals.

At the end of 2020, I set these goals for myself.

FAIL: Talk at more conferences. For obvious reasons (hint, there was a pandemic), I failed at this one. I talked at two virtual conferences at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t enjoy the experience and opted not to apply anymore.

FAIL: Grow the Resourceful Designer podcast audience. When the pandemic hit in 2020, my podcast listenership took a big hit like many other podcasts. A lot of people listen to podcasts on their commute. And with the elimination commutes, people didn’t have time to listen as much.

I was hoping that the numbers would tick back up this year. But I’m still way below what I used to get before the pandemic hit.

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow the Resourceful Designer Community. The Community is my pride and joy. One day, when I’m no longer doing the podcast, I’ll look back at everything I did with Resourceful Designer, and I’m sure the Community will be my proudest accomplishment. The friendships formed and all the freely given help is more than I could have ever hoped.

If you’re not a member of the Community and you’re looking for camaraderie with fellow designers, I highly suggest you check it out. Registration will open up again in February 2022.

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow Podcast Branding. I think I made the pivot this year from Podcast Branding being a side business to my main business. I know financially, it’s much more lucrative than my long-standing design business.

Some of my numbers from 2021

Resourceful Designer

  • I released 41 podcast episodes. The lowest in a calendar year since I launched the podcast. The number is down because I took several weeks off this summer after my father passed away.
  • Reached over 630k total episode downloads in 2021 (Over 63k of which were in 2021)
  • Resourceful Designer released on Samsung devices.

My design business

COVID-19 continued to affect my business in 2021. I lost several clients due to closure. And many who remained were affected financially and didn’t ask me for anything.

  • Worked on design projects for 23 different clients (up from 9 in 2020)
  • No new clients in 2021.
  • I sent out 41 invoices in 2020 (up from 14 in 2020)
  • Lost five long-standing clients due to various reasons but mostly COVID-19 related.
  • Started consulting work with our local Business Enterprise Centre.

NOTE: I didn’t actively promote my design business in 2021. Instead, I concentrated on growing my other business, Podcast Branding.

Podcast Branding

My Podcast Branding business was my moneymaker this year.

  • Worked with 64 different clients (up from 51 in 2020)
  • Launched nine new websites for clients. (down from 16 in 2020. However, revenue from those nine websites was more significant than the 16 last year.)
  • It was featured as a guest on two podcasts that brought in new business.

A Look Ahead at my 2020 goals.

My previous goals will continue to carry over in the new year. Continue to grow the Resourceful Designer Community. Concentrate more on Podcast Branding and so forth.

New Goal for 2020.

  • Create new partnerships to grow what I offer at Podcast Branding.
  • Expand the Resourceful Designer Community to include even more offerings than now.
  • Do more consulting work.

What about you?

Did you accomplish your goals for 2021, and What are your goals for the new year?

  • Are you a student getting ready to graduate? What are your goals once school is over?
  • 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; perhaps 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 goals do you have 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 2021 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 create a sense of want even higher than before? Think about what prevented you from reaching those goals.

So long 2021.

As 2021 comes to an end. I encourage you to reflect. Think about everything you’ve learned. Your struggles, the things you fell short on (be it your fault or just the state of the world) and your accomplishments. And come up with a plan to make 2022 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.

These past two years have been tough on all of us. I hope that we never have to endure something like this ever again. But you know that old saying, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Remember the lessons from these past two years, and use everything you’ve learned to make 2022 and future years even better.

I’ll be back in 2022 with more advice for starting and growing your design business. Until then I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. And of course, no matter what goals you set for yourself in the new year, always remember to Stay Creative.

What are your goals for 2022?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Dec 6, 2021

Make the most out of print brokering.

In episode 49 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about offering print brokering as a means to supplement your design business. If you do print design and do not offer print brokering, you’re losing out on a lot of potential income. I made over $1,000 from three different print jobs this past week alone. And that’s not counting how much I charged for creating the designs themselves.

One of those three jobs was reprinting an existing flyer for a client. It took me less than 3 minutes to find the print file, send it to the printer along with specifications for the order, including instructions to deliver the finished job to my client. Then I sent an invoice to my client. That 3 minutes of work earned me over $300 in print brokering commission.

What is print brokering?

If you are unfamiliar with print brokering, it’s when you act as the middleman between your client and the printer. In some cases, you mark up the printing price to invoice your client, and in other cases, you get a discount from the printer and charge your client the non-discounted cost, keeping the difference for yourself.

Clients like it when you offer this service because they don’t have to deal with the printer directly. Printers like this setup because they get to deal with someone who understands how things work. Listen to episode 49 of the podcast to learn more about print brokering.

Today I’m sharing ways to augment the money you make by print brokering. And not simply by increasing your markup. However, that is a way to do it. No, I’m talking about ways to improve your revenue, and at the same time, your client feels like they’re getting a better deal.

Upselling and Cross-Selling.

Let’s start with upselling and cross-selling. What are they, and what’s the difference between the two?

Upselling is when you offer more of the same thing. Think of McDonald’s when they offer to upgrade your medium drink to a large for only $0.25 more. That’s an upsell. You get a larger drink, and they get more money.

Cross-selling is when you offer an additional thing. When you order a burger and drink, McDonald’s will always ask you if you want to make a combo? That’s a cross-sell. In this case, you get something else, fires, and they collect more money.

Upselling and Cross-Selling Print Brokering.

How do you use these two concepts in print brokering?

Upselling.

You can upsell a print job in many different ways. But the easiest is through the paper stock and printing options. Printing on a specialty paper stock will improve the look and appeal of a printed job, which may interest your client. It will also increase the cost, which in turn increases your profit.

Printing using spot colours is a great way to improve the look of some printed pieces.

I have a client who is a lawyer. She insists on using spot colours for her business card. We could accomplish a similar result using CMYK, but she likes the flat look of the spot colours and is willing to accept the higher printing costs to get the look she wants. And in turn, I make more money on every print run.

Novelty stocks are a great upsell. Do you have a client who’s a window washer? Suggest clear business cards. How about a client in the construction or industrial industry? Suggest laser engraved metal cards. A client in the outdoor space may be willing to spend more on wooden business cards.

  • Embossing
  • foil stamping
  • die-cutting
  • rounding corners
  • Gilded edges
  • specialty folds
  • laminations or special coatings.

These are all printing options you can upsell to your clients.

Another way to upsell is to suggest larger quantities. Most of the operating costs in a print run occur in the setup stage–pre-press, printing plates, press set up, ink, etc. After that, all that’s left is paper and time. That’s why in most cases, the more you order, the less per unit the printing costs. Five hundred business cards may cost $50. Doubling the order to 1000 cards may only be $65. That’s an easy thing to sell a client on. They get more for their money spent. And you get more as your commission.

Cross-selling.

Like the McDonald’s combo, cross-selling a print order involves additional items.

When a client comes to you for business cards, you may want to suggest additional items such as thank you cards. If you’re asked to design invitations for an event, you could offer table cards or place cards. If it’s for a wedding, you could also suggest thank you cards and perhaps gift tags the couple can attach to whatever gifts they’re handing out to their guests.

Many designers offer stationery packs or bundles that include business cards, letterheads and envelopes. The bundle is less expensive than ordering each individually, which is great for your client. But it’s also usually more than what they initially thought to order. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve convinced a client to order envelopes to go with letterhead or maybe an invoice or other form. And it all means more revenue for me.

Another way to cross-sell is to suggest multiple print runs for various languages. I did this just recently.  A client hired me to design coasters for a local campaign. When they gave the information for the coasters, I noticed it was all in English. Our local area is bilingual in English and French, so I asked if they would like me to design a French coaster simultaneously, which they agreed to. This doubled the print run and doubled my profit.

Create opportunities for more print runs (more profit).

So far, I’ve been talking about increasing your revenue by printing more at a time–either larger quantities or more items. But another way to earn more money from print brokering is by designing something that has an “expiry date” which will require them to be printed more often.

I have a client that attends trade shows throughout the year. He includes his prices on his flyers. Every year as he increases his pricing, he asks me to update his flyer and have more printed.

Some products change appearance over time. If you include a photo of the product on the printed piece your client may be more inclined to update the photos as newer models come out, requiring new printed pieces.

I talked earlier about how larger print runs can save a client money in the long run. But sometimes they just don’t have the budget for a larger run. Smaller print runs will allow them to get by until they can afford to have more printed. And you make money each time.

Include dates on recurring events. A yearly festival could get away with using the same flyer and poster year after year. But if you include the date or any information specific to this particular year, they are forced to print new ones each time.

Another great way to increase your print brokering income is by keeping track of your client’s anniversaries. Designing an anniversary logo for a client is always a fun project. Suggesting they include the anniversary logo on all their print material is even better.

One of my clients is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2022. We’re in the process of adding the anniversary logo to the many print pieces they have. That means a huge printing order. All to showcase their special occasion. The following year they can continue using their current stock of printed material that doesn’t include the anniversary logo.

If you know when an anniversary is coming up, you can make the suggestion ahead of time and get the ball rolling. Your client will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and your business will appreciate the added income.

Two final tricks.

I want to share two more “tricks” with you that have helped me earn more money with print brokering.

I always tell every client who orders business cards through me, to never hand out just one card. Business cards are a networking tool. When you hand them out you should always give two or three at a time. You tell the recipient to keep one and hand the others out to anyone they know who could use your service. Clients love this idea. But it also means they run out of cards faster and need to reorder.

And finally, whenever possible, convince your client to include their photo on their business card. Again, it makes a great networking tool. A card with a photo makes it much easier to remember the person. It also creates a subconscious connection. When you see a photo of someone, seeds of trust start to germinate immediately. Knowing what a person looks like makes it easier to connect with them. Why do you think so many real estate agents put their photos on their For Sale signs? Because if you know who the person is, you’ll trust them more, regardless if you’ve met them or not.

But how does a photo on a business card help you as a print broker?

People change. Maybe it’s their hairstyle. Maybe they shaved their facial hair or grew some. Maybe they never liked their old photo. Whatever the reason, they may want to update their photo. And they won’t care if they have half a box of cards left. They’ll gladly discard them for new ones.

A couple of weeks ago one of my clients contacted me for business cards for a new employee. I replied back asking if any of their current employees wanted to update their cards with a new photo. That one order turned into four orders, which in turn, means more money for me.

If you’re smart about it. There are always ways to increase your print brokering sales. And not in a slimy salesperson way.

One last thing.

Make sure you follow up with your client after the fact. Following up lets you know if your client liked their print purchase. Hearing their comments is a great opportunity to learn what worked and what didn’t. And you can use those lessons when dealing with other clients.

How do you increase your profits from a print brokering job? Leave a comment below.

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