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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: May, 2022
May 30, 2022

There are two things I started doing that have helped me provide a better service to my clients. Which, in turn, makes me a better designer as far as they are concerned. I've been doing one of them for quite a while, while the other I only started doing a few years ago, and much more so since the pandemic began.

What are these two things, you ask? Contemplation and Revision.

Take time to contemplate after a design project.

When you have a busy schedule, it's easy to finish one design project and immediately jump to the next. After all, with deadlines and clients to satisfy, you need to stop diddle-daddling and start that next project. If this is how you work, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Some of the best insight you can gain is by taking time to contemplate after finishing a project. Think about the ups and the downs. What went right with the project? What went wrong? Were there any parts of the project that slowed things down or helped things along?

Take the time to think about all aspects of the project and ask yourself, what could I have done to make things better? Is there anything I can learn from this project that I could use to improve my SOP, Standard Operating Procedure, so that future projects go smoother?

If you have a team, talk it over with them. Ask your team if there's anything that could have made their part easier?

Do this after every design project, and you'll quickly learn ways to make your life easier.

I do things differently now than the way I did things when I first started my business. Heck, the way I do things now is different from how I did things a few months ago. All because I regularly take the time to contemplate how I've been doing things and if there's anything I can do to improve upon the way I work.

Now I know you're probably thinking. I already do what you're suggesting automatically. If something works on a project, I'll implement it on future projects.

That's well and good. And we should all do the same thing. But that's not the same thing as what I'm suggesting. Discovering something new and implementing it on future projects is great and should be automatic for you.

But what I'm saying is that by dedicating 15, 30, or 60 minutes, depending on the size of the project, to contemplate the ups and downs of how the project went, you can learn valuable insights you may otherwise gloss over.

Perhaps the way you've always done things isn't the best. Only by contemplating what you do can you spot areas for improvement.

You get the idea. It's hard to remember and even harder to try and fix problems if you don't think about them again once a project is over. The same can be said of things that go well. If something goes very well with a project, you should figure out if there's any way to implement it in future projects.

Contemplation: Dedicating time after completing a design project to figure out what went well, what didn't and how what you learn can improve your SOP on future projects. I've been doing this for years, and I can honestly say I'm a better designer for it.

Record your conversations.

The second thing I wanted to talk about that helped me become a better designer is recording my conversations with my clients.

This one kind of started by accident. When I first started my side business, Podcast Branding, I began interviewing clients over Zoom in a quick discovery meeting. And even though I took notes, I would often need to follow up with a client for clarification.

After doing this a few times, I started recording my Zoom meetings. And this became a game-changer for me.

Now, If there's something I can't remember or I'm not quite sure of, I can rewatch our Zoom call and find the answer most of the time.

Sometimes it might be a few days between when I talk to a client and start their project. I now make a point of rewatching the Zoom call before starting every project to ensure I do not forget anything.

As I rewatch our meeting, I follow along with the notes I took. Sometimes, I'll pause or rewind to add to or clarify my notes. And I'll often catch something I may have missed during our live meeting, or maybe I didn't fully comprehend it at first but listening back helped me understand.

Yes, relistening to your meetings adds more time to a project, but you would be amazed at how much it makes working on the project easier.

Not just that, but listening again with fresh ears allows me to create better artwork that better meets the client's needs. And the clients appreciate how diligent I am, especially when I refer back to our conversation.

It helps you become a better communicator.

The other benefit of recording your conversations is you'll be able to pick up on things you said or didn't say and how you communicate with your clients.

Listening to yourself on a recording will help you improve your communication skills. Did you sound confident? Were the questions you asked easy to understand? Did you answer your client's questions to the best of your ability? The more you listen to yourself, the more you'll improve.

I've been doing it for years with my podcasts. I hear every episode three times. Once while recording the episode, again while editing it, and yes, I listen to it a third time after it's released. And I think I'm a better podcaster and communicator because of it.

Record all meetings.

Recently, since we can now meet people face to face again, I've asked clients if I can record our conversations in person. I use the Voice Recorder app on my iPhone for this. I put it down on the table between us and press record.

I explain to the client that I'll refer back to the recording should I need clarification on something I may have missed during our conversation. Plus, it gives us a recorded record of what was said during the meeting. Which eliminates the "I thought you said this" scenario.

So far, I haven't had a single client refuse to let me record them.

Ask for permission before recording someone.

In most places, it's illegal to record someone without their consent. Luckily, Zoom notifies participants they are being recorded before they join a call. By joining, they consent to be recorded.

During in-person meetings or on the phone, the best practice is to ask for permission first, and once given, press record and ask for permission again, so you have it on record.

Once I have the client's consent for my meetings, I press record and open with this statement. "Today is [date], and I'm with [name of the client(s)]. Do you consent to be recorded for this meeting?" and have all parties present say yes.

Since I started recording client meetings, I've found it so much easier to work on their projects. I no longer have to ask silly questions such as, "I can't remember. Did you say you wanted this or this?" I just listen back to the recording. And through listening, I'm becoming a better communicator, which will benefit me in my next client meeting.

I know these two things; contemplating after a project and recording your meetings sound simple, and maybe you're already doing them. If so, good for you. But I can tell you that these two things have helped me become a better designer, and I know they can do the same for you.

After your next design project, dedicate time to contemplate the ups and downs of the project and note how you can do things better the next time.

And during your next client meeting, ask if you can record it. Your clients will appreciate how diligent you are at understanding their needs.

Do these two things, and you too can become a better designer.

May 23, 2022

One of the best things about being human is our ability to make choices. If you’re in the mood for a hamburger but also in a rush, you still have options. Do you go to Mcdonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s or one of the other fast-food burger joints?

If you’re in the market for a new car, do you look at Ford, Dodge, Toyota, or Honda? Need a new computer? You can choose one of the many models of Pcs or go with a Mac. Regardless of your choices, the ultimate decision is still up to you.

But how do you go about choosing?

You do so by looking at what makes each option different and how those differences appeal to you.

We all know that not all hamburgers are equal. McDonald’s has consistently stated that “Great Taste” makes them different. I know, that’s very subjective. But it is a recurring marketing slogan they’ve used over the years. Burger King claims it’s the flame broiling that makes them different. At Wendy’s, it’s the fact that their meat is never frozen, so it taste’s fresher. Ultimately, you decide which one of these differences appeals to you the most. And that’s where you get your burger.

This same concept of what makes something different can equally apply to designers. What makes you different from the other designers in your town? What would make a client choose you over one of them?

If you can figure out this question and use it to your advantage, you may outpace your competition with more work than you can handle. So what makes you different?

Culture and Heritage.

Maybe your culture or heritage makes you different. People find it easier to deal with people similar to them or who understand them.

It’s currently the middle of May, which is Asian Heritage Month. As a white person, I would never expect someone to hire me to design a campaign for Asian Heritage Month. It’s not that I don’t think I could do a good job. It’s just that I feel that an Asian designer is better suited for the project. After all, they can relate to the subject matter better than I ever could.

Whatever your heritage or culture is, you should embrace it and find a way to use it.

A member of the Resourceful Designer Community is an indigenous Canadian woman. She’s using this to her advantage by marketing her design business to companies, organizations and groups run by First Nation people. And she’s killing it. She had to halt a recent marketing campaign because her available time quickly filled up for the rest of the year. Wouldn’t you like to be booked entirely for the rest of the year?

She’s become so busy that she’s in the process of hiring another designer to help with the workload. How is this possible? Is it because she’s terrific at marketing her services? That may be part of it. But her marketing message alone isn’t what’s bringing in so many new clients. It’s who she’s marketing to.

First Nations people, just like everyone else, need help when it comes to design and branding. And when given a choice, they are more likely to choose someone like them who is a member of a First Nation. Someone who understands their culture doesn’t need to be educated on what works and what doesn’t for them.

In other words, it means they are comfortable working with her because she understands them. And this makes it easy for them to choose her over another designer who isn’t a member of a First Nation.

Perhaps you can apply a similar strategy. Are you Hispanic, Asian, or a person of colour? Have you ever thought of marketing yourself to people of the same ethnic background? It may give you an advantage over others in your field as clients may prefer you over someone who isn’t of the same ethnicity as them. It’s worth a try.

Gender and Orientation.

There has never been so much discussion over gender and orientation as there is today. And that’s a good thing. The more we talk about it, the more it will become accepted. And when it comes to your business, your gender and orientation could be an excellent opportunity for you to attract clients.

If you are part of the LGBTQ community, you have an advantage over those of us who aren’t. Like-minded people prefer to deal with like-minded people. It makes them feel safe and understood. And it’s no different when it comes to business.

I know it’s not design-related, but I recently heard of a podcast editing company that only deals with LGBTQ clients. They’ve created a place where LGBTQ podcasters can feel safe and unjudged for the podcasts they make.

The same concept can be applied to a design business. An LGBTQ entrepreneur may feel more comfortable working with a designer from the same community. The manager at the print shop I used to work at is gay. And I know we had many LGBTQ clients because they felt comfortable dealing with him.

And when we talk about gender, it could be as simple as a female designer opting to work with women-led businesses. I’ve heard of several designers who do just this. They only work with companies that are run by other women. And they have plenty of work to keep them busy.

Niches

But what if you’re someone who can’t embrace your culture or heritage, or your particular gender or orientation doesn’t help? Then maybe you want to look at niching. Choosing a niche makes you different than other designers who don’t specialize.

Take Craig Burton, for example. I interviewed him back in episode 174 of the Resourceful Designer podcast. Craig’s design company is called School Branding Matters. And you guessed it; he designs brands for schools. That’s what makes Craig different. That’s what makes him stand out. And it’s helped him land clients around the globe. Not bad for a solo graphic designer from New Zealand.

But any time a school needs new branding searches for a designer, there’s a good chance they come across Craig’s website. And when given a choice between a generic designer and one who specializes in school branding. The choice is pretty simple. After all, chances are they won’t have to explain to Craig the intricacies of the school ecosystem and how a brand would be incorporated.

So yes, niches are a great way to make yourself different. You can hear more about niching in episode 54 and episode 93 of the podcast.

Other ways to be different.

Are there other ways to make yourself stand out from other similar designers? Sure there are. Take Ian Paget, for example. You may know him as Logo Geek. He’s a logo designer from Manchester, the UK and has a popular podcast of the same name as his business, Logo Geek.

Ian specializes in Logo Design, but so do a lot of designers. So how does he stand out? I just mentioned he has a logo design podcast. So that gives him some authority in the space. Ian has also judged logo design competitions. And he’s written articles about logo design for some well-established publications.

All of this gives Ian credibility and has earned him some prestigious clients. He’s been hired to design logos for universities, big corporations, large conferences, etc. His credentials differentiate him from all the other logo designers around. So he uses it to his advantage. And it’s working.

Small things can make a difference.

Finally, I want to mention that you don’t have to do much to be different. The things I just talked about are significant steps. But there are little things you can do to set yourself apart.

Take me as an example. As you may know, a few years ago, I started a second design business called Podcast Branding, which specializes in podcast cover artwork and websites for podcasters.

Other businesses in this niche specialize in podcast cover artwork beside me. Even though I know I’m priced higher than most of my direct competition; I have a thriving business.

So what did I do to make myself different?

For one, I established that not only am I a designer, but I’m also a podcaster. I’ve been podcasting since 2013, and that lays a strong foundation for my credibility in the space. I get podcasting. Any designer can design a square piece of art. But the fact that I’m familiar with the podcast industry helps me stand out.

The other thing I do that makes me unique is offer a one-on-one meeting with every client. Most of my competitors provide a questionnaire for clients to fill out. They then take the client’s information and design a podcast cover.

On the other hand, I get on a Zoom call with every client to discuss their podcast. I ask why they’re starting a podcast. What do they hope to accomplish with it? What format will it be? Will it be just them, or will they have a co-host? Will they interview guests?

I find out everything I can about their new show. I do this for two reasons. I need to know about the show if I’m going to design artwork for it. And I want to get a feel for who the podcaster is. Their personality will affect what I create for them. If a person is very serious and formal, I may design their cover one way. However, if they come across as joyful and bubbly, I’ll probably create it differently.

These 15-minute meetings make a massive difference to me. And I’ve been told over and over it’s the reason why a client chose me over someone else. Even when I’m the more expensive option, they felt my way of doing things is more personal than a questionnaire.

Conclusion

We all know that finding new clients can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting. We also know that word of mouth is the most common way designers get new clients. I talked about this in length in episode 281 of the podcast.

Word of mouth spreads quickest among like-minded people. Why is that indigenous member of the Resourceful Designer Community doing so well? It’s because indigenous people talk to other indigenous people, and when she does a good job with one, the word spreads.

The same applies in all communities, whether it’s an Asian or coloured community, an LGBTQ community or even a school or podcaster community. Like-minded people talk to like-minded people. And when you do a good job helping one of them, they’ll spread the word. Especially if they know you specialize in people of that community.

So what’s unique about you. What can you do to make yourself stand out from the competition? What can you do differently that will make clients choose you?

Figuring the answers to these questions can mean the difference between looking for your next client and being completely booked for the rest of the year.

Worth thinking about, isn’t it?

May 9, 2022

It’s so easy to get caught up in what we do, be that logo design, vehicle wraps, websites, trade show booths; you name it. We forget that our clients don’t live in the same world as we do. Our clients don’t see the world through a designer’s eye.

When they look at a billboard, they see the message. When a designer looks at a billboard, not only do we take in the content and message. But we also take in the layout, the hierarchy, the use of negative space and the colour pallet. We note what fonts are used and what imagery they chose to relay their message.

When we see something that isn’t kerned correctly, we feel the need to point it out.

We feel almost obliged to mention every stock image we recognize out in the wild. "See that photo of that happy family in that car insurance ad? I saw that exact photo on Depositphotos."

And we stop to admire displays, posters, cards and everything else we think is well designed. After all, when you see something that you feel is well designed, don’t you secretly start cataloging pieces of it away in your mind so you can “borrow” the idea for something you create in the future?

As designers, our brains are just wired that way. We see the world through a designer’s eye. But sometimes, we forget that non-designers don’t see the world the way we do.

My wife has perfected the eye roll she uses whenever I start talking design about something I see. Sometimes she’ll feign interest, but I know that she doesn’t care that the line spacing on the restaurant’s menu is too tight. She just doesn’t get it because she’s not a designer.

But neither are our clients. That’s why they hire us for their projects. And sometimes, it’s easy to forget that they don’t have the same knowledge as us, nor the same interests. And they view the world through a different set of lenses than we do.

That’s why it’s a good idea that before you say or present anything to a client, you try to consider it from their point of view.

Case in point. A designer shared an intro packet PDF in a design group I belong to, asking for advice. The PDF is to give prospective website clients to explain what a CMS is, a Content Management System.

She went into great detail, outlining everything there is to know about CMSs. I how thorough she was. However, I and several others pointed out that it wasn’t suitable for clients.

She explained how databases work, with columns and rows and entry IDs. and how you can edit a database directly with tools such as phpMyAdmin. Then she explained how she builds a custom portal for each client that allows them to easily add, delete, and edit posts in the database.

And finally, she explained how the items in the database end up displaying on the web page. She even showed examples of the PHP code required to make it all happen.

Nothing was wrong with anything she presented, except that most of them are redundant to clients.

A client doesn’t need to know how databases work or how the info from the database ends up on a web page. All the client needs to know is their website will have a CMS with an easy-to-use interface allowing them to add, delete and edit the content of their site.

Remember, these are perspective clients. Meaning they haven’t committed to working with you yet. You don’t want to scare them away before they’ve had a chance to work with you. Donald Miller, the author of Building a StoryBrand, said it best. “If you confuse, you’ll lose.”

Consider your marketing message from a design client's perspective.

Let’s say you specialize in logo design, and you showcase your three-step process on your website.

Step 1) I start with a meeting. I have a list of over 50 questions I ask you, covering everything from how your company got started, to your mission, to where you see the future going. This allows me to get to know you and your business.

Step 2) I take the answers you gave me and start the research process. I take a close look at what your immediate competition is doing. I examine your industry as a whole to determine if there are any trends we may want to follow. I may conduct focus groups to learn more about what your clients think of you.

I then gather all this information and begin the concept stage, where I brainstorm and develop several different ideas.

I then narrow it down to the most promising ones and fine-tune them until I’m satisfied.

Step 3) I present you with the best ideas. If required, we then enter the revision process, where you are allowed three sets of revisions to tweak your logo until you are satisfied.

Once done, I’ll create a brand guide that outlines the rules for using your new logo and supply everything you’ll need in various file formats.

This shows a comprehensive process. And a designer may think this is perfect for showing the client why they’re worth the price they’re charging. However, it may have an adverse effect from a client’s point of view. "50 questions? I just want a logo for my new business. Why does it have to be so complicated? Maybe I should find another designer."

Imagine a client’s perspective if they saw this on your website.

Here is my three-step process.

Step 1) I take the time to get to know you and your business.

Step 2) This is where the magic happens as I develop the perfect logo for your business.

Step 3) I present you with the best concepts for you to choose from. Don’t worry. You’ll be allowed to suggest minor adjustments to tweak the logo until you’re 100$ satisfied.

Now, this a client can understand. All the other information is redundant or can be relayed once the person becomes an actual client.

Presentation and mockups.

If you are not using mockups in your presentation, you are doing yourself and your clients a disservice. I can tell you from experience that mockups make a massive difference in a client’s decision-making process.

Many clients are not visual thinkers like designers are. Their creativity isn’t honed like ours to imagine how things will look in different situations. A logo presented on a white background doesn’t have the same effect as a logo shown on a storefront, a shirt or a vehicle.

A tri-fold brochure displayed flat may look good. But it doesn’t have the same oomph as a mockup showing what it looks like when partially folded.

I’ve had several clients over the years tell me they were hesitant about a logo design I presented until they saw the mockups. Once they saw the logo “in action,” they saw its full potential. That’s because clients often can’t picture it on their own. Asking them to imagine the logo on the side of a delivery van is nowhere near the same as showing them the logo on a delivery van.

When you prepare your presentations, thinking like a client can help you close more deals.

Showing confidence, a client's perspective.

You know the way you can sometimes tell when a person isn’t sure of themself. It’s offputting. Try to think about how you come across when dealing with clients. From the client's point of view, do you show confidence?

Think about it. As you’re pitching yourself to a potential client, They’re looking at you and considering whether or not you’re someone they want to work with. And that decision may have nothing to do with your actual pitch. From the client’s point of view, they want to see someone who shows confidence in themself and their ability to do the work.

You want every encounter with a potential client to end with the prospect thinking, “This is someone I want to work with.”

Let’s talk pricing from a client's perspective.

Once again, thinking from a client’s point of view. Are your prices too high or too low? Is a client willing to invest in you? There’s no right or wrong answer regarding how you price yourself. It comes down to the type of client you want to work with.

Think of it this way. Let’s say you’re in the mood to go out for a steak dinner. You can find a restaurant that serves a $20 steak. Or, you can go somewhere else and get a $200 steak. What’s the difference? The difference is how much you’re willing to spend on a steak.

People who opt for the $20 steak might never consider spending $200 for a similar meal. However, some people regularly go out for $200 steaks and would never consider a $20 cut of meat.

Now for all we know, both steaks came from the same cow. But that’s beside the point. The person who opts to spend $20 on a steak and the person who opts to pay $200 have two different mindsets. Neither is right or wrong in their decision. It’s just the way they are.

The same thing applies to design clients. Thinking again from their perspective. Most clients who consider Fiverr a good place to get designs made would probably never consider paying thousands of dollars for a freelancer. And there are just as many clients who are willing to spend thousands of dollars which would never consider ordering from a cheap designer.

So who are you marketing to? Do you want low-paying clients to say you’re their person? Or do you want high-paying clients to think you’re the perfect designer for them? Figure that out, and then target yourself to go after that group of clients. In this case, thinking like a client can help you land the clients you want.

I could go on and on about how thinking like a client can benefit you. But I think you get the idea. Most clients are not designers. They don’t think like designers, nor do they see the world around us the same way designers do. Don’t let that become a gap between you and them.

Before everything you do, ask yourself, “How would a client experience this?” And if you’re successful at doing this. There’s no reason why your design business shouldn’t be successful either.

May 2, 2022

Ask any designer, and they’ll tell you that their number one way of landing new design clients is through word-of-mouth referrals.

If you do an excellent job on a client’s project, there’s a good chance they’ll pass your name along should they hear of someone requiring services you offer. I’ve built my entire business on this model. And chances are, so have you.

But does that mean you should only rely on word-of-mouth referrals? No, it doesn’t.

Are you familiar with the term diversify? In short, it means “using different options.” Such as “you should diversify your investments,” meaning you should have multiple investments. If one of them isn’t doing well, your other assets can help make up for it.

Diversification can also apply to your income stream. If all your work comes from one client, and that client suddenly has financial difficulty and stops sending work your way, you’ll be in trouble. That’s why it’s best to have multiple clients. If one stops sending you projects, you can still make a living from the rest.

But I want to talk about diversity concerning how you obtain new clients. As I said, word-of-mouth is the most popular method in our field. But word-of-mouth has limits. That’s why you shouldn’t rely solely on it for your clients.

This is how word-of-mouth works.

Imagine a tree. The tree trunk s one client. You design a project for this one client. They may refer someone else to you via word-of-mouth if they like what you did. That someone else is now a limb on that tree.

Again, you do a good job, and that someone else, the limb, tells another person about you. That new person becomes a branch on your tree, and so on. Every limb and every branch can trace itself back to the trunk, the first client.

Now you have a big tree of clients, all somehow connected back to that initial client. And that’s great. But there’s more than one tree in a forest. This means many people could use your services but have zero connection to anyone in your tree of clients. And if they have zero connection to your existing clients, they’ll never hear about you through word-of-mouth. That’s why you should diversify how or where you find clients. Because every client you land that isn’t connected to your other clients starts a new tree for you.

Now there are many resources available on how to find clients. Searching the phrase “How to find graphic design clients” will produce more than 247,000,000 results. Have fun reading through all of them.

But today, I want to share six unconventional ways you can find design clients.

And just a note, I’ve successfully landed new clients using 5 out of 6 of these methods. And it’s not because one didn’t work. I just never tried it myself, but I know others who have. Also, note that some of these methods may require a small investment.

So let’s get started.

Placing business cards in books.

Leaving your business card in a book is a great way to introduce yourself to someone who may not know you.

Look at your local library or book store for books on starting a business and insert your business card. If there happens to be a chapter on branding or marketing, place your card there. Should someone read the book, they’ll come across your card at the point in the book where they’re learning about the type of services you offer.

This method worked for me recently. A client contacted me saying, “I found your business card in a book I bought.”

BTW, you could leave a business card as I did. Or, if you want to get more creative, you can have a special card made for just this purpose. Imagine someone reading a “How to start a business" book and coming across a card that reads, “Are you thinking of starting a business? I would love to help you with your website.

Join a board of directors or committee.

As I mentioned above, some of these methods require an investment on your part. This one isn’t financial. It’s time.

We all know that networking is one of the best ways to become known for what you offer. After all, if someone doesn’t know about you, there’s very little chance they’ll hire you.

But networking doesn’t have to be just at conferences or special events. You could join a local board of directors or a committee for an organization.

What’s good about this is you’re not just meeting people once. You regularly interact with people when you’re on a board or committee. This gives them a chance to get to know you. These relationships make it very easy for someone to consider you when they need a designer.

Don’t do this with the mindset of landing clients. If you're going to invest your time, it should be with an organization you believe in, even if it doesn't produce any clients.

Advertise your design business on T-shirts.

I’ve talked before about how when I first started my business. I had a T-shirt made with the message “Hi, I'm a website designer. Is your site working for you?” on the back. I wore this shirt to local events and trade shows. It landed me several new clients.

But wearing a T-shirt advertising your services isn’t what I wanted to talk about today. Over the years, I’ve designed T-shirts for various organizations, events and festivals in our area.

Not only do I design the image for the shirts, but I broker the screen printing as well.

Whenever I give a client a quote for a T-shirt project, I offer them two prices. A regular price and a discounted price if they allow me to put my name and logo on the back of the shirt.

If it’s for an event and they want a list of sponsors on the back, I’ll ask to have my name and logo on the sleeve instead. Most clients jump at this opportunity to save money. And since I’m brokering the deal, I make sure I’m still making a profit either way.

I’ve had my name and logo on shirts for sporting events, festivals, concerts, charity events, etc. Each of them is an opportunity for someone to find out about my business. And over the years, it's brought in new clients.

Sponsor your kid’s activities.

Another option to get your name out there is sponsoring your kid’s activities. If you don’t have kids, you can still reach out to local youth groups or leagues and inquire if you can help them.

Growing up, my daughter played competitive soccer and volleyball and danced on a competitive dance team. I found a way to advertise my business with each organization.

For soccer and volleyball, I approached the teams with a fundraiser idea. I created a T-shirt not for the athletes but for the parents, grandparents, friends and siblings who watch the game from the sidelines. I designed a graphic with the team name and “Sideline Support” on the front. On the back, I put my business info.

My daughter's team sold the shirts to family and friends of every team in the league. And all proceeds went to my daughter’s team.

For the dance team, my daughter was on. I offered to design their yearly dance recital t-shirt in exchange for a full-page ad in the recital program. I’ve had several clients discover me through that ad.

Advertise your design business on your vehicle.

Another way to get your name out there is simply by putting your information on your vehicle. Vinyl letters, a wrap or even a car magnet, create a moving billboard advertising your services.

This is the method I haven’t tried myself. But I know a few designers who have their business information on their vehicles, and they’ve told me it brings in many leads.

Include an ad for your design business in any proposal involving ads.

You’ll get to work on projects that involve ads from time to time. Maybe you’re asked to design a magazine. Or a program for a local event. It might be a sponsor board or a t-shirt with sponsor logos. Maybe a website client wants you to incorporate space for ads on their new site.

Whatever the project is, always ask for one ad spot to be reserved for you as part of the proposal. If it's a sponsor board, request to include your logo as a sponsor. Try to have your ad or logo on everything you can whenever possible.

There's more than just word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is, and will always remain, the best way for you to land new design clients. But it shouldn’t be your only way. Try as many of these unconventional ways to land design clients as you can. Who knows what will happen. After all, people aren’t going to hire you if they don’t know who you are.

The more you diversify how you find clients, the more trees you'll have in your forest.

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