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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business

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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
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Apr 10, 2023

It’s the beginning of spring here in Canada. And with spring comes a desire to put all the messes of winter behind us and clean things up as we prepare for summer. That’s where the term Spring Cleaning comes from.

However, today, I’m not talking about packing away your sweaters and pulling out your shorts. Nor am I referring to cleaning the yard or washing the grime off the windows. Although, it is time to do all of those things. No. I’m talking about doing some spring cleaning of your design business. More specifically:

  • Cleaning Your Computer
  • Cleaning Your Office
  • Cleaning Your Business
  • Cleaning Your Branding

Cleaning Up Your Computer.

Spring is an excellent time to review your computer and see what you can clean up.

Clean up your Backups.

The first thing I suggest is examining your backup strategy. Are you doing everything possible to ensure your important files are adequately backed up? Do you have a good in-house as well as an online backup strategy? The price of hard drives is one thing that doesn’t seem to be affected by inflation. You can get large-capacity hard drives for great prices these days. Paired with Time Machine on Mac or an equivalent solution for Windows or Linux can ensure you always have your backups on hand.

I recommend Backblaze, a much more reliable backup system for online backups than Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive. And priced as low as $65US per year makes peace of mind very affordable.

Speaking of backups. When was the last time you double-checked to ensure your backup files were backing up? You’d hate to have something happen only to discover your most recent backup is months old. Whatever backup strategy you’re using, take a few minutes to ensure the backups are functioning and are current.

Clean up client files.

Clients come and go. So do design projects. After a while, you tend to accumulate a lot of outdated and even redundant files on your computer. Take some time to review your client files and see if you can get rid of anything.

Delete or move files off your computer for any client who isn’t in business anymore. If you want to keep something for nostalgia, keep the finished files which are often smaller. There’s no reason to keep large working files for something you’ll never use again. The same is true for old projects from active clients. If you don’t think you’ll ever need them again, get them off your computer.

And all those stock images files you accumulate. Did you know that once you acquire them from a stock image site, you can re-download them anytime without paying again? So there’s no reason to keep them on your computer.

Clean up your Client List.

One thing that can get out of hand in our business is our client list, especially if you do a lot of one-off projects.

Depending on the system you use to keep track of your clients, you may want to divide them into Active and Inactive categories. It makes managing it much easier if you don’t have to scroll through dozens or hundreds of inactive clients to find the one you’re looking for.

Clean up your email mailboxes.

You may not realize how much hard drive space email takes up, especially in our field, where attachments weigh in at multiple megabytes.

Chances are you save any attachments you receive to their respective client folder. It’s the smart thing to do. But that means you have two copies of that attachment on your computer. One is stored in the client folder, and one is still attached to the email message.

The same goes for attachments you send to clients. On a Mac, a duplicate copy is stored in the Library folder for your mail client. You can easily clean this up by highlighting a group of emails and telling your email client to delete the attachments.

Clean up your Mail Lists.

Another thing you may want to clean up is the email lists you’re subscribed to. It’s gotten to the point where you can’t enter your email anywhere online without being subscribed to some email list. Take a few minutes to see what’s in your inbox that you don’t need, and unsubscribe from them.

If you want to make it easy, look at unroll.me. Sign up to quickly unsubscribe from email lists you’re no longer interested in. And get an easily consumed digest of the ones you want to keep.

Clean up your Fonts.

The next thing you may want to do is clean up your fonts. As of last year, Adobe software no longer supports PostScript version fonts.

If you’ve been in this business for a while, you’ve probably accumulated many PostScript fonts. Since they’re no longer usable, either get rid of them or convert your old PostScript version fonts to OpenType fonts using TransType 4 from FontLab.

Clean up the rest.

You can clean so many other things this spring on your computer. Take a few minutes to review your applications folder and delete any you don’t use. Remove seldom-used icons from your Dock. Cull down your bookmarks. And update any passwords that need updating.

And although it’s not your computer. When did you last take inventory of the apps on your phone? If you’re anything like me, there are probably a few you can eliminate.

Cleaning up your Office.

This one is probably the easiest since it’s mostly visible. Although, in my case, not necessarily the quickest. Look around your office space and see what you can clean.

What do you have on your desk, shelves, and other exposed surfaces? Do you need all of it? There’s a fine line between well-decorated and cluttered. I know. I cross it all the time. That’s why one of my biggest spring cleaning projects this year is cleaning my office.

But it’s not just about what you can see. How well organized are your closets, cabinets and drawers? Do you toss things into them to get them out of sight? If so, now may be the time to go through and organize what you need to keep and get rid of what you don’t.

And, of course, once the clutter is taken care of. A good dusting and maybe washing of windows can help keep your office space as a place you enjoy being in.

Man o man, just looking around my office. I have a lot of work to do this spring.

Cleaning up your Business.

There’s no time like spring to look at your business and see where you can tidy up.

Clean up your Resume.

If working for yourself isn’t your goal, then refreshing your resume is something you may want to look at.

Clean up your Portfolio.

What about your Portfolio? The one on your website, or perhaps Behance or some other online platform? Are the projects you’re showcasing up to your current design skills? If not, take them out and replace them with newer work.

Clean up your expenses.

Is there anything you’re paying for that you don’t use? Now is a great time to look at your expenses and see if you can cut back on unneeded expenditures.

Do you need to pay for all of Adobe Creative Suite if Photoshop is the only application you use? What about your web hosting? Are there better options out there you can move to? BTW, feel free to use my SiteGround affiliate link if you decide to move there. It’s where I host mine and all my clients’ websites.

Look at what you’re paying monthly or yearly and see where you can save money.

Clean up your Branding.

It’s pretty standard for designers to neglect their branding. After all, you spend all day working on other people’s projects. You don’t always have the energy or desire to work on yours. But if you neglect your branding, you may lose out on potential clients.

Take time to review things like your website. Besides the ordinary things like updating themes and plugins, you may want to check for broken links and ensure you’ve done everything you can for SEO.

It’s also an excellent time to review your content. Does the wording need refreshing? Read Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller. It’s a great book to help you compose your brand story.

Is your about page giving the proper impression? For more on creating a great about page, listen to episode 52 of the podcast.

What about your social media profiles or profiles on Upwork, Fiverr or any other platform? Does your profile photo need updating? What about your description? Sometimes a minor tweak can make all the difference.

You’ll feel better after you clean.

So there you have it—Spring Cleaning for Your Computer, Office, Business, and Branding. Of course, there are many more things you can clean. And everyone’s environment is different. But you get the idea. Spring is in the air, and the desire for freshness comes with it. And that can start with a little bit of cleaning on your part.

Ensuring your workspace is a clean and enjoyable place to work and go a long way in helping you succeed. So get cleaning.

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