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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: Page 2
Mar 27, 2023

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 17, Being A Freelance Graphic Designer Could Hurt Your Business. For any links or to leave comments, please visit https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode17

Mar 20, 2023

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 195, Design Hacks To increase Productivity. For any links or to leave comments, please visit https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode195

Mar 13, 2023

The second most common question among graphic and web designers, after how to attract clients, is how much to charge for our services. No matter what price we settle on, we’re never sure it’s right.

Could you have gotten more for that job the client so readily agreed to? Probably. Is price the reason another client isn’t replying to the proposal you sent? It could be. No matter how long we work in this industry. I don’t think we will ever figure out the “right price.” But that’s ok if you feel adequately compensated for your work.

Getting paid $200 for a logo design is a great accomplishment for some designers. In contrast, other designers won’t consider a logo design project for under $2000. It all comes down to the value you feel you bring and the impression you give your clients.

But let’s look at this from the client’s point of view. From their perspective, what’s the difference between a $200 logo and a $2000 logo?

You may say it’s the value. It’s the experience of the designer, their skills and their knowledge. And I can’t argue with you there. More experienced designers do tend to charge more. But does that mean the experienced designer’s $2000 logo is ten times better than the $200 logo from a less experienced designer? Maybe, and maybe not. The less experienced designer may end up creating a better logo.

So why would a client hire a $2000 designer over a $200 designer? It can be summed up in one phrase. Price equals expectations.

Let’s look at another industry.

Say you’re going on vacation and need a place to stay. Your destination has two options (It’s not a popular vacationing spot.) Those two options are a $49 per night motel and a $200 per night hotel. Not knowing anything about or seeing photos of either of these two places beforehand, what do you think your expectations are?

Both the motel and hotel offer a bed for sleeping. Both include a TV and free Wifi. Both have breakfast included. They even both have positive online reviews. So you would expect the same experience at both places, right? Wrong!

The fact that one of the places charges four times the price of the other creates a higher expectation. For $200 per night, you expect the beds to be more comfortable. You expect more offerings on TV and faster Wifi. You expect a more inclusive breakfast.

You expect more from the hotel because they’re charging a higher price. Even though, in the end, both places give you precisely what you need, a place to sleep at night.

The same goes for graphic design services. The more you charge, the more clients expect from you. And I don’t mean deliverables. However, that may be part of it. What I mean is your clients expect better communication from you. More professionalism. More attention to detail. And a more take-charge attitude.

The more you charge, the more the client expects that you can get the job done with minimal involvement on their part. These expectations breed trust. And when you’re clients trust you. They give you the freedom to do your work in the manner that suits you best.

The less you charge, the fewer expectations they have. Which means lower trust.

I speak from experience, and many designers can attest that the less you charge for your services, the more clients want to dictate exactly what you do. They don’t want your knowledge or your experience. They only want to fork over a few dollars for your skills. It’s almost like you’re a rental designer. These are the type of clients who say, “I have an idea. I need you to create it for me.” They expect less from you because it’s what your prices tell them.

Would a client hire a $2000 logo designer and say, “Here, I drew up this rough sketch of an idea. Can you clean it up for me?” No. That’s because price equals expectations. Clients will treat you differently depending on how much you charge.

Clients willing to pay more for design services expect higher service, expertise, and attention to detail. They expect you to understand design principles and are current on design trends and technologies. These clients will likely have more complex and demanding design needs and want to work with a designer who can deliver exceptional results.

Designers who charge higher rates can expect to be treated more respectfully and professionally. They will also need to deliver a higher level of service to justify those rates. The more you charge, the more your clients expect. Price equals expectations.

On the other hand, clients looking for more affordable design services are usually willing to sacrifice some level of expertise and customization in favour of a lower price point.

It’s up to you to decide whether to be a higher-rate designer or an affordable designer. But remember that setting too low rates can harm your business in the long run.

While clients may be attracted to lower prices initially, they may also be wary of working with a designer who charges significantly less than their competitors. That trust between you and your clients never reaches the level it does with higher-priced designers and their clients.

Setting your rates too low can make investing in your business and growing your skills and expertise challenging over time. Because the lower you charge, the more clients you need to make ends meet.

In the scenario presented above. The lower-priced logo designer must find ten clients to make the same amount of money the higher-priced designer earns from just one. This means the higher priced designer can focus more of their thoughts and energy on one client instead of dividing it among many, which helps them meet and exceed their client’s expectations.

How to justify higher prices.

One of the first things clients do when considering a graphic or web designer is looking at your portfolio. They want to understand your style, capabilities, and the types of projects and clients you’ve worked with.

It’s essential to have a portfolio that showcases your best work. One that highlights your strengths. Something that shows you’re worth the prices you charge.

Case Studies can help justify higher prices. Where a portfolio piece shows what you’re capable of designing. Case studies illustrate the who, what, and why of the designs you created.

A case study that shows how you think and approach design problems can demonstrate why you’re worth your higher rates.

But besides portfolios and case studies, it all comes down to confidence. You need to feel confident in the prices you charge. And that’s something that can take time. However, you can get there if you slowly build up to it. The next time someone asks for a price, quote them a bit higher than the last similar project you did. And keep doing this until you reach a price point you’re happy with.

I charged $500 for the first website I designed. The next one was $700, then $900 and so on. Nowadays, I rarely do a custom website for under $5,000. And the clients I have respect my abilities and trust me to provide them with attention to detail that befits my professionalism. I meet the expectations of clients looking for a $5,000 and more website designer.

Whether you charge higher rates or more affordable prices, the most important thing you can offer your clients is high-quality work that meets their needs and builds strong relationships. Although, if you deliver high-quality work to your clients, you might as well make a bunch of money doing it. After all, price equals expectations.

Mar 6, 2023

This isn't a standard episode of Resourceful Designer. Instead, I want to share two tips with you.

Tip #1

Set up your Google Analytics 4 account ASAP. Google is turning on Universal Analytics on July 1st, 2023. Google has said the data collected in your UA account will not be migrated to your GA4 account. Unless you want to start again from zero, you need to set up your GA4 account now and start collecting data while you still have access to your UA information.

Listen to the podcast episode to learn more.

Tip #2

Never tell a client that you "Should" something. "I should be able to start your project next week, " or "I should have something to show you by Friday." etc.

Instead, tell them you "plan." – "I plan to start your project next week." or "I plan on having something to show you by Friday."

Saying "Should" instills doubt. It tells the client you are unsure of your abilities. Using "plan" instills confidence while not guaranteeing anything in case you cannot fulfill what you say.

Using "plan" instead of "will" is also a good idea for the same reason. Planning on doing something but not succeeding is forgivable. Saying you will do something and not following through harms your reputation.

Semantics can go a long way in helping you become a better business person.

Feb 27, 2023

Are you running or considering starting a graphic or web design business? If so, let me tell you, you’re in for a wild ride! The graphic and web design industries are filled with opportunities and challenges, and understanding what to expect can be the difference between success and failure. In this Resourceful Designer episode, I’ll look at some common challenges you will surely encounter.

Here are four of the most common challenges you may face.

Finding Clients.

Finding clients is one of the most challenging aspects of running a graphic or web design business. You may be a very talented designer with the most fantastic portfolio in the world, but that doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get work from clients.

To find clients, you’ll need to focus on networking and marketing to increase your chances of success. Attend as many networking events as possible, especially when your business is young. Ask friends and family to refer you to people who can benefit from your services. Reach out to potential clients via email, social media, and other platforms. Whatever it takes.

Clients can’t hire you if they don’t know who you are. This industry is all about connections and relationships. It’s not who you know that will help you succeed. It’s who knows you.

Another great way to find clients is to build relationships with other designers or people in the industry. Working with other designers allows you to exchange ideas and resources and can lead to referrals and more business opportunities.

Designer groups like the Resourceful Designer Community can help with this.

A good client of mine reached out when his church was looking for a logo. I was in the middle of several large projects and couldn’t take this on. But I knew that Ciera, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, had shared several church branding projects she had designed. Thinking it was a perfect fit, I introduced her to my client, and now his church has a new logo they can be proud of.

This is just one example from the Resourceful Designer Community of how connecting with other designers can benefit you. Finding clients is challenging, but you can make the task more manageable if you put in the effort.

Staying Up-to-Date on Trends.

The graphic and web design industries are constantly changing and evolving. What worked yesterday may not work today, or there may be a new and better way of doing it. You’ll need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques to stay ahead.

Devote time to reading graphic and web design blogs, articles and publications. Listen to podcasts and watch courses and videos. Try to attend conferences and workshops if you can afford them. Follow design influencers on social media to keep up with what’s new in our field.

You’ll also want to stay abreast of the latest software and hardware developments. Tools and technologies are constantly changing. Take time to learn what’s out there and how to use them effectively in your business.

Staying up-to-date on trends will help you stay ahead of the competition and make you a more efficient designer. And allows you to provide your clients with the best possible work.

Managing Time and Money.

Time and money management are essential in the graphic and web design industry. You’ll need to learn to manage your time to ensure you complete projects on time and within budget. This means setting realistic expectations and deadlines and charging enough for the work you produce. Don’t undervalue yourself to land a client. You’ll only regret it. Communicating realistic deadlines, schedules, and fair pricing with your clients will help things move smoothly.

You’ll also need to budget for overhead costs like software, hardware, and marketing. And don’t forget the fees for design resources and subscriptions you may require. Everything from stock imagery to website hosting costs money and will eat your profit. Your monthly credit card bill shows you how much you need to make to cover the various expenses associated with running your business. You must learn how to price jobs accordingly to cover these expenses.

You’ll also need to manage your finances, both personally and professionally. Create a budget for yourself and your business, and track your income and expenses. You need to know how things stand if your design business income supports your business and personal expenses.

Being organized and staying on top of your finances will help you remain profitable and ensure the success of your business.

Finding Balance.

Running a business can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be stressful and time-consuming. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, you must be conscious of the time and energy you devote to each.

It’s so easy when working for yourself to lose track of time and put in 12 or more hours of work in a day. Yes, hustling is part of running a business, but doing it consistently will impede your health. Schedule regular breaks during the day and week. Take vacations. Making time for yourself will help you stay motivated and productive and can even help you think up new ideas and solutions. I can’t tell you how many times a winning idea came to me after stepping back from a project for a while.

You’ll also need to make sure you don’t neglect your personal relationships. Make time for family and friends, and continue to pursue your hobbies and interests. Your business will still be there when you get back.

Doing things besides design work will help you stay inspired and energized and can help you avoid burnout.

The Rewards Outweigh the Challenges.

Starting a graphic design business can be an exciting and rewarding experience but also challenging. Starting my design business is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Many designers have told me the same thing.

To increase your chances of success, you must be prepared for the hurdles you will encounter. Finding clients, staying up-to-date on trends, managing your time and money, and finding balance are all critical aspects of running a successful graphic or web design business. Being aware of these will help make your journey easier. If you’re prepared for the challenges of running your own business, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Feb 20, 2023

Page Redirects. I know. Sound boring, right? I mean, how much can one talk about page redirects? After all, as the name implies, they redirect one web page to another—end of the story.

Not so fast.

Yes, Page redirects do redirect one web page to another. But there’s a lot more power to them that you may not have thought of.

When used correctly, page redirects can help attract clients. They can show authority. They can strengthen a website. They can even steal visitors from the competition.

Yes, there’s much more to the lowly page redirect than what it lets on. And maybe you can use one of these ideas for yourself.

1) Redirect alternate domain extensions.

A page redirect is used to redirect one web page to another. Those two pages don’t have to be on the same domain. Page redirects can be used to redirect one domain to another. The best use of this is with domain extensions.

For example. I live in Canada, and many businesses use the .ca extension for their domain. It’s highly encouraged, especially for companies that deal exclusively in Canada.

But we all know that .com is the most popular domain extension. When in doubt, most people try the .com first. That’s why I always recommend my clients purchase multiple domains, including the .ca and .com.

Then, using a redirect, they can send people who type in the .com domain to the website with the .ca extension. Or vice-versa, depending on which extension they want to use.

This also prevents someone else from registering and competing with the other domain extensions.

2) Redirect alternate spellings or misspellings.

Alternate spellings or misspellings are also excellent for page or site redirects.

For example, a food truck business called 2 Brothers In A Food Truck wants a website. Due to the possibility of mistyping their name, they may want to register multiple domains,

  • 2brothersinafoodtruck.com
  • twobrothersinafoodtruck.com
  • toobrothersinafoodtruck.com

They can then pick the one they want to use and redirect the others.

Here’s another example. Let’s say your name is Shawn Johnston. And you start a business called Shawn Johnston Consulting. While talking to people, you tell people to visit your website at shawnjohnstonconsulting.com.

But how do you spell that? Is Shawn spelled S-H-A-W-N, or is it S-E-A-N? What about Johnston, is that Johnson without a T or Johnston with a T?

You can spell it out every time you say it. But there’s no guarantee that someone else will spell it out when referring to you. A better option is to register the multiple spellings and redirect them to the correctly spelled domain.

  • shawnjohnsonconsulting.com > shawnjohnstonconsulting.com
  • seanjohnsonconsulting.com > shawnjohnstonconsulting.com
  • seanjohnstonconsulting.com > shawnjohnstonconsulting.com

3) Redirect an old site to a new site.

Redirects are extremely useful when building a new website either under the same or a different domain.

Every website will accumulate what we in the industry call “Google Juice” over time. Google Juice is a way to measure the SEO power of a webpage.

When building a new website or changing a website’s domain, you don’t want to lose that accumulated Google Juice and start from scratch.

If you’re changing a page’s URL, you want to create a 301 redirect that tells the search engines that the old page is no more, and they should now assign its Google Juice to this new page.

For example, Franklin & Barton Law office may have the URL franklinandbartonlaw.com.

Beth Barton gets married and changes her name to Beth Jackson. She wants to change the company’s name to Franklin & Jackson Law office and the URL to franklinandjacksonlaw.com.

Changing the domain on a website is fairly easy. But if they don’t want to lose their current search engine rankings, they need to redirect every page URL from the old site to the new one.

  • franklinandbartonlaw.com redirects to franklinandjacksonlaw.com
  • franklinandbartonlaw.com/about redirects to franklinandjacksonlaw.com/about
  • franklinandbartonlaw.com/service redirects to franklinandjacksonlaw.com/service
  • franklinandbartonlaw.com/contact redirects to franklinandjacksonlaw.com/contact

And so on for every page on the original website. This ensures the new domain retains the power of the old domain.

4) Redirect to shorten a URL.

We all know that the shorter something is, the easier it is to remember. Let alone tell someone else about it.

The show notes for this podcast episode can be found at the difficult-to-remember URL https://resourcefuldesigner.com/8-Uses-For-Page-Redirects-rd312. That’s why I use a redirect and tell you the show notes can be found at https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode312. Which one do you think is easier? Easier for me to say and easier for you to remember.

And it’s not only for super long URLs. The URL for the Design Resources page on Resourceful Designer is https://resourcefuldesigner.com/design_resources. But I also have a redirect so that I can say https://resourcefuldesigner.com/resources. It’s only one word shorter, but it’s still easier to say and remember.

BTW, that page is where I list various design-related tools and resources you can use for your business. Check it out.

5) Use redirects when sending someone off-site.

Instead of giving someone a different external URL, redirect them from your website. It gets them where they want to go while strengthening your brand.

For example. Are you interested in joining the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group? I could tell you to visit facebook.com/groups/resourcefuldesigner, but that’s wordy, and it’s sending you away from my website. Instead, I have a redirect set up. If you want to join the group, visit https://resourcefuldesigner.com/group.

The destination is the same. But in the second one, you subconsciously associate the destination with my domain, which is never bad.

6) Use redirects for affiliate links.

An affiliate link is a unique URL that, when used, informs the destination where you came from for them to pay a commission.

For example, I’m an affiliate of Logo Package Express. An amazing Adobe Illustrator plugin that makes it highly efficient to package up logos to hand off to clients. If you haven’t tried version 3, what are you waiting for? It’s much better than version 2, which was already a great product.

The link you need to use for me to receive a commission on the sale is long and complicated. It’s full of numbers and symbols, making it too easy to get wrong.

That’s why I created a redirect of https://resourcefuldesigner.com/lpe20. Not only does that take you to the Logo Package Express purchase page, but that link also gives you 20% off the purchase price.

You should do this for all your affiliate links.

Want another one? Try using https://resourcefuldesigner.com/amazon. It redirects you to Amazon’s website, and if you make a qualifying purchase, I earn a commission on the sale.

7) Redirect the competition.

At the beginning of this episode, I mentioned how you could use redirects to steal clients from the competition.

Back in tip #1, I talked about redirecting different domain extensions. In tip #2, I spoke about redirecting different spellings. And in tip #3, I talked about redirecting old sites to new ones. You can combine these three methods to steal clients from the competition. I’ve helped several clients do this with great success.

For example. Let’s say you are creating a website for a new local Mexican restaurant. There are two other Mexican restaurants in town your client is directly competing with.

Check if these competing Mexican restaurants registered all the possible domain extensions. Or check if there are domains with alternative spellings available. You could help your client register and redirect them to their website if you find any.

This way, should someone looking for a competitor’s website type the URL wrong, there’s a chance they end up on your client’s website instead and decide to give them a try.

I’ve done this for several clients over the years and have tracked hundreds of visitors landing on my client’s website using these “wrong links.”

As for old websites. If a competitor closes for whatever reason, you could ask to purchase their domain name or wait for it to expire and register it yourself. Then redirect it to your or your client’s website and take advantage of the competitor’s Google Juice by adding it to your own.

8) Create authority using redirects.

Redirects are a great help when it comes to networking. Imagine these two scenarios.

Scenario 1:

You’re at a networking event, and a new entrepreneur asks if you know of a business lawyer. You mention Beth Jackson from Franklin and Jackson Law Office. You even give them the domain franklinandjacksonlaw.com for them to contact her.

Scenario 2:

You’re at a networking event, and a new entrepreneur asks if you know of a business lawyer. You mention Beth Jackson from Franklin and Jackson Law Office. Then you hand them your business card and point out your web address. You tell them to visit yourdomain.com/lawyer, which will redirect them to Beth’s website.

Which of these two scenarios sounds more genuine? Which one comes off as the better referral? I hope you’re thinking of the second one.

In the first scenario, the new entrepreneur has no idea about your relationship with this lawyer. For all they know, you’ve never dealt with them. You’ve only heard about them but don’t know if they’re good. You should be sharing their name so as not to sound naive.

In the second scenario, having a link on your website redirecting to this lawyer’s website shows the entrepreneur you’re confident in Beth’s skills. They’re much more likely to trust your opinion of her.

You can do this with lawyers, accountants, or any professional or service you may recommend. You establish yourself as an authority by sharing a redirect link from your website.

Other benefits of using redirects.

There are several benefits to using redirects beyond what I’ve shared with you today.

Redirects are easy to track. If I shared Logo Package Express’s URL, I could not know how many people use it. By sharing https://resourcefuldesigner.com/lpe20, I can see that over 500 people have used my link.

I do the same for internal website links. Any time I share a past podcast episode with you and tell you to visit https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode#, that’s a trackable link, I get to see how many people use it.

Another good thing about redirects is that you can change them should the need arise. If, for some reason, you want to start referring a different lawyer, change the redirect destination of the URL you share. So where yourdomain.com/lawyer used to point to Beth Jackson, it now points to whatever new lawyer you want.

This is what I do with Resourceful Designer. Suppose you ask for my recommendation on web hosting. I’ll tell you to visit https://resourcefuldesigner.com/hosting, which redirects you to SiteGround’s website, the web host I currently recommend.

Before I started using SiteGround, that URL pointed to HostGator. But I started having issues with HostGator and decided to switch to SiteGround, and I couldn’t be happier. And now https://resourcefuldesigner.com/hosting redirects to SiteGround because I trust and stand behind their service.

How to set up a redirect.

There are several ways to create redirects. My preferred method is the PrettyLinks WordPress plugin.

And to show you once again the power of the redirect. Since you use Pretty Links to create a pretty link, I set up links using both the singular and plural versions. So both https://resourcefuldesigner.com/prettylinks with an S at the end and https://resourcefuldesigner.com/prettylink without the S redirect you to the same page.

Pretty Links does have a free version. But I use the premium version for the extra feature.

There are other redirect plugins, but I have no experience with them.

You can also create redirects by adding them to the .htaccess file of your website. However, I don’t recommend doing this unless you’re sure of what you’re doing. It’s easy to break a website when messing with the .htaccess file.

If you know how to code, there are ways to create redirects using PHP or JavaScritp, but those methods are beyond my abilities.

For domain redirects, most domain registrars offer free redirects. I use this to redirect different domain extensions to the one I want to use, in most cases, the .com extension.

Different types of redirects.

There are various types of page redirects, but you should concern yourself with only two for what I’m talking about today. 301 and 302 redirects.

301 redirects are permanent. This indicates that the URL has been moved permanently from its original URL to a different URL. You use these when redirecting a page from an old website to a new one because the old page will never be used again.

302 redirects are temporary. This indicates that the URL has temporarily moved to a different page, and the original URL may be used again later.

Temporary redirects are suitable for affiliate links that may change, such as my hosting link that switched from HostGator to SiteGround. It’s temporary since someday I may change it to something else.

Conclusion

These are just some uses for page redirects. I’m sure there are many more reasons I did not cover today. I wanted to discuss this topic to get you thinking about what you could do with redirects. I hope you’ll continue to ponder this when the podcast is over.

And please, let me know in the comments for this episode if you have different uses for page redirects. I would love to hear them.

Feb 13, 2023

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 52, How A Great About Page Can Attract Design Clients. For any links or to leave comments, please visit https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode52

Feb 6, 2023

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 202, S.W.A.T. Analysis For Designers. For any links or to leave comments, please visit https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode202

Jan 30, 2023

Monetizing Your Design Skills: Making money without clients.

Do you dread interacting with clients? Have you ever considered monetizing your design skills to make money without working for clients?

Since starting Resourceful Designer in 2015, I’ve received many emails from designers worldwide seeking advice. People have sought my opinion on everything from naming their design business to my thoughts on specific tools.

The most popular questions I’m asked are about working with clients. It turns out, which should be no surprise, that many designers are introverted. And in some cases, these introverted designers have anxiety when dealing with clients. I can’t tell you how many people say they want to start their own design business, but dealing with clients is holding them back.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it. Working for yourself as a home-based designer, or as some people call it, a freelance designer isn’t for everyone. It takes a particular ability, personality and willpower to run your own business. And not everyone has what it takes.

There’s no shame if you don’t fit that mould. You can have a long and prosperous career working for someone else. Besides, working for someone else is usually less stressful than working for yourself.

But what happens when a designer reluctant to interact with clients starts their own business? Maybe they do it willingly, knowing their shortcomings. Or perhaps they’re forced due to no fault of their own. Such as after a layoff? Either way, these designers need to make money now and working for themself is their only option.

These designers have three choices.

  1. Temporarily push through their anxiety while searching for a job working for someone else.
  2. Face their fears and learn to interact with clients.
  3. Monetize their design skills and find a way to make money without working with clients.

It’s the third way I want to discuss today. Putting your design skills to work for yourself instead of for clients.

Let me preface this by saying most of the things I will mention take time. Working on client projects is your best option if you need money soon. But let’s say you do have time. Or, you want a way to supplement the income you get working with clients. Perhaps in the hopes of one day being able to forgo client work. What can you do?

11 Ways to monetize your design skills and earn money without working for clients.

There are several ways you can monetize your graphic design skills and can make money without working for clients. Here are 11 I came up with that you could try:

1) Design premade layouts, templates and design assets.

Suppose you like making logos, icons, and other graphics. Or you enjoy creating layouts for business cards, resumes, and social media posts but don’t like dealing with clients. Why not create and sell them on marketplaces such as Creative Market or Etsy? There’s a massive market out there for premade layouts and graphics.

What’s great about this is that once you create them, they can be sold multiple times, providing a passive income stream with little effort.

Are you familiar with Cricut machines? They’re becoming more and more popular. People use them for everything from creating custom birthday cards to printed t-shirts. Many Cricut owners rely on premade designs for their creations. I know one designer whose entire income is from selling Cricut designs on Etsy.

2) Selling merchandise via print-on-demand.

As a designer, you can create graphics for merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, tote bags, etc. You then sell them through online print-on-demand platforms such as Redbubble, Zazzle, Society6 or TeeSpring.

I have many designs across several P.O.D. platforms that earn me monthly money.

3) Create a course or write a book.

Are you particularly good with specific software programs, or perhaps there’s a particular design topic you know a lot about? Why not create and sell a course on platforms such as Udemy or Skillshare and teach others what you know?

The same goes for design-related books. It’s so easy these days to self-publish a book or ebook and sell it on platforms such as Amazon Kindle.

Put your skills and knowledge to use in helping others. Once the product is created and marketed, it can continue to sell for years to come, providing passive income.

4) Sell stock photography, illustrations, graphics, videos and more.

Have you considered selling stock Images? There’s a massive demand for stock photography, illustrations, graphics, video and more.

This is similar to the premade layouts and templates I mentioned earlier. Put your creative skills to use and come up with all sorts of designs and concepts you can sell online.

If you’re good at working with video, there are plenty of opportunities to earn income by creating YouTube intros and transitions where all someone has to do is add their logo to an existing file.

Once your creations are licensed, you can earn money from them without additional effort. Shutterstock, iStock, Envato and many other stock platforms are always looking for new items to add to their catalogue. Why can’t they be yours?

5) Create a typeface.

The funny thing about typefaces is that no matter how many are out there, there’s always room for one more.

Tools and resources are available to help you develop typefaces of your own. Then it’s just a matter of selling it on the many online font sources.

6) Sponsorships, Affiliates and Advertising.

Share your knowledge through a blog, podcast or YouTube channel. Then monetize it through sponsorships,  affiliates and advertising.

That’s what I do with this podcast. I’m an affiliate for many of the products I mention and make a small commission any time someone purchases one using my link. And I recently had a sponsorship deal with StickerMule where they paid me to talk about their product.

The more you put yourself out there, the more people trust you and your recommendations.

7) Create an authority website.

Are you a web designer with a passion for something other than design? Maybe it’s motorcycles, woodworking or field hockey? Why not use your web design skills by creating an authority site on that topic? Combined with affiliate links and advertising, you can earn a good income.

Check out sites like nichepursuits.com or authorityhacker.com to learn how.

8) Create and sell mobile apps or games.

If you know how to program, you could put your skills to work creating apps. Who knows, maybe you can create the next Angry Birds or Wordle and make a lot of money.

9) Develop a plugin or extension.

Put your coding skills to use and develop a website plugin or software extension people will use.

Look at Michael Bruny-Groth. He’s a designer who got tired of gathering all the logo variations to give to clients. He saw a problem and came up with Logo Package Express as a solution. Arguably one of the best Adobe Illustrator Extensions to come out in years. It’s now his primary source of income.

10) Website layouts and themes.

There’s a lucrative market for website layouts and themes. Whether they’re stand-alone or for use with page builders such as Divi or Elementor.

Marketplaces such as ThemeForest or TemplateMonster always look for new products to sell.

Not everyone that needs a website can hire a designer. Many of them rely on pre-built layouts and themes. If you have the skills, why not give it a try?

11) Offer your services in online design marketplaces:

Even though designers don’t like talking about them, there’s no arguing that people are making money on marketplaces such as Upwork, Fiverr or 99designs. You earn income from the design projects you complete.

This one is a bit on the fence since you are doing client work. But the interaction is very minimal, which even the most anxious introvert should be able to handle.

What are you waiting for?

So there you have it. Eleven ways you can monetize your design skills without working with clients.

It’s worth noting that while these methods can provide a passive income, they often require a significant amount of time and effort to establish. Still, once you have established a reputation or built an audience, they can generate passive income for years.

Do you have another way you’re using your design skills while not working for clients? I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment for this episode at https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode311

Jan 23, 2023

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 61, 12 Random Graphic Design Tips. For any links or to leave comments, please visit https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode61

Jan 16, 2023

I had a conversation with a business coach recently. And he told me that no matter how innovative business people become, he keeps seeing the same issue crop up over and over that holds them back from their full potential. They’re looking for solutions without problems. It’s one of the biggest hurdles he faces with his coaching clients.

I’ll share his insights in a minute. But before that, I want to talk to you about technology.

We live in an amazing time. As I write this, people use tools such as artificial intelligence to create previously undreamed things.

Respected media outlets publish articles generated using automated technologies. And they acknowledged the fact with a disclaimer that the article was written by AI and edited by a human.

Earlier this week, I needed an illustration for a design project. Instead of turning to stock imagery or hiring an illustrator, I used an AI Art generator to create the individual elements I required. Then I combined them in Photoshop to create the illustrated scene I needed.

It makes me wonder what the future holds and how I can embrace it for my business. And I don’t just mean artificial intelligence. Visit a site like AppSumo, and you will see dozens of innovative tools to help you achieve amazing things.

Advancements in technology, both AI and otherwise, allow people to reach heights they would have never dreamed of.

It seems that no matter what problems you face. There are tools on the market to help you overcome them. For the right price, of course. It’s a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur.

However, this abundance of available tools can also be a roadblock.

Back to that business coach.

He told me about his experience dealing with his clients and discussing it with other business coaches. He’s noticed a recurring issue holding a lot of business people back.

He said that many people have a terrible habit of finding solutions to problems they’re not facing. And it takes up so much of their time that they should be spending more effectively on their business.

Call it FOMO or Shiny Object Syndrome, but many people become enthralled with the abundance of tools available.

The marketing of these tools makes them so desirable that you have to have them even if you don’t currently need them.

I know I’m guilty of this. I look at my AppSumo purchase history and see many “great deals” I bought and never used. I purchased them with the best intentions, but, as the business coach said, I purchased a solution to a problem I wasn’t facing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing AppSumo. I love the platform. I’ve bought many tools from them that I use regularly. And just because there are some I don’t use doesn’t mean they aren’t great tools.

People spend a lot of time and effort developing these tools because there is a need for them. Just not a need that I have.

All of these tools were created to solve one problem or another. However, the possibility of one day facing said problems is not reason enough to waste time and money on a tool. No matter how enticing it is.

This reminds me of a couple of episodes I did several years ago about Just In Time Learning. Episode 8 and Episode 94 if you’re interested.

The premise of Just In Time Learning is only to learn something when you require knowing it.

There’s no reason to watch a Photoshop tutorial on adding woodgrain to type if you don’t have a project that calls for a font with woodgrain.

You may be saying, but knowing how to add woodgrain to a font might be helpful. And I can’t disagree with you. However, it’s just as beneficial knowing there is a tutorial, should you ever need it. So bookmark it, or save it to watch later.

Suppose you watch the tutorial video now when you don’t need it. You’ll probably end up watching it again when you do. So why not wait until you need it to watch it and use your time now for something better? That’s the premise of Just In Time Learning.

And it’s the same thing with these tools I’m talking about. Why buy a tool on the off chance you may need it someday? Or why buy something that sounds amazing if you’re not currently facing the problem it solves?

For example. There’s no sense in researching the best client management software if you only have a handful of clients to manage.

Wait until your clients become too numerous and tedious to manage using your current method, and then research available solutions.

Because that sparkly new system that looks so enticing today may be replaced by something better when you need it, even a lifetime deal is a waste of money if it doesn’t help you now.

So think hard before you purchase your next tool. Just because it’s a great deal is not reason enough to buy it.

Anyway, this business coach told me that he’s seeing more and more people searching for “that right tool” instead of concentrating on what they should be doing—running their business.

He told me there are only three tools businesses need to succeed. And they’re the same three tools enterprises have used for ages.

That’s it.

Think about it. With these three tools, you can run a successful design business.

Of course, I’m leaving things out like the Adobe programs or WordPress. Yes, you may require these tools, but they’re used to perform your work as a designer, not to run your business.

To run your business, all you need are...

A to-do list

To keep track of the projects and tasks you’re working on and the things you need to do. I use Plutio to manage my design projects and AnyList to manage all my other to-do lists.

A calendar

To keep track of appointments, schedules, deadlines, and other important dates and times. Every computer system available has a built-in calendar you can use. I use iCan myself. But you can use whatever calendar you wish.

A way to take notes

To keep track of things, so you don’t forget anything. My life is organized in Evernote.

With these three tools, you can run a successful business. The proof is in every business dating back hundreds of years.

Long before Artificial Intelligence, the internet, or even the phone. Savvy business people relied on these three things to run and grow their businesses.

I’m trying to say that you work hard for the money you earn. There’s no reason to spend it needlessly on tools that solve a problem you’re not currently facing.

And who knows, if you face that problem in the future, a newer or less expensive tool may be available. And you’ll have a good reason to buy it then.

I enjoyed my conversation with this business coach. It made me think of the tools I use and, more importantly, those I don’t use. And the money I wasted on them. And made me cognisant of how I’ll act in the future.

So the next time you see a great deal on something, or you’re mesmerized by the flashing marketing on some new innovative tool. Take a step back and ask yourself...

Am I burdened with the problem this tool solves?

If you have to think about your answer, or if your answer is not an immediate yes, I’m facing that problem now. Then save your money and get back to work. You’ll thank me later.

My Voice-Over Guy.

The amazing Wayne Henderson of MediaVoiceOvers.com performs the Resourceful Designer podcast intros. Wayne is available to help you with any voice-over work you require.

 

Jan 9, 2023

Please fill out my survey and help me determine the future of Resourceful Designer. https://resourcefuldesigner.com/2023

Dec 19, 2022

A look back at 2022 and a look ahead to 2023.

Thank you for your continued interest in Resourceful Designer. You have no idea how much I appreciate you. Many great resources are 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 2022 is my Look Back, Look Ahead edition. It’s where I reflect and share my year as a design business owner. Then I’ll look ahead at what I want to accomplish in 2023.

A Look Back at my 2022 goals.

At the end of 2021, I set these goals for myself.

FAIL: Talk at more conferences. Even though we were on the downslope of the pandemic, I chose not to travel in 2022. Therefore I wasn’t able to talk at any conferences. I also made the decision not to speak at any virtual conferences. I’ve presented at virtual conferences and found the return wasn’t worth the time commitment to prepare and give my talk.

EVEN: Grow the Resourceful Designer podcast audience. Since the pandemic hit in 2020, my podcast listenership has dropped, but the total number of downloads has increased. I attribute this to older listeners giving up on the podcast while new listeners discover it and download multiple episodes.

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 looking for camaraderie with fellow designers and are not a Community member, I highly suggest you check it out.

ACCOMPLISHED: Do more consulting work. Several clients paid for my consulting service, both in and outside the podcast space. I added podcast brand audit as a service under Podcast Branding which brought in several consulting clients.

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow Podcast Branding. What started as an offshoot of my main design business has become my main business focus. Podcast Branding is earning me more money than my main business ever has, with much less effort.

Some of my numbers from 2022

Resourceful Designer

  • I released 30 podcast episodes. The lowest in a calendar year since I launched the podcast. As my Podcast Branding business increases, it’s become harder to make the time to produce the podcast.
  • It reached over 710k total episode downloads in 2022. That’s an 80k increase over last year.
  • Resourceful Designer released on Gaana, Boommplay, Deezer, JioSaavn and Resso.
  • Resourceful Designer has listeners in 120 countries around the world.

My design business

NOTE: I didn’t actively promote my design business in 2022. Instead, I concentrated on growing my other business, Podcast Branding. I continued working with existing clients but made no effort to attract new ones.

  • Worked on 43 design projects for 22 different clients (one fewer client than in 2021)
  • Gained one new client in 2022.
  • I lost one client due to closure.
  • I sent out 27 invoices in 2022 (down from 41 in 2021)
  • Revenue increased over 2021.

Podcast Branding

My Podcast Branding business was my moneymaker this year.

  • Worked on 66 different projects for 47 different clients (more projects but fewer clients than in 2021)
  • Revenue increased by 27% compared to 2021. Primarily due to websites.
  • Launched 12 new websites for clients. (up from 9 in 2021)
  • I appeared as a guest on three podcasts to discuss podcast artwork and websites, increasing my exposure.
  • Podcasters hired me for projects outside the podcast space.

A Look Ahead at my 2023 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 2023.

  • 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.
  • Explore video as a content platform for Resourceful Designer and Podcast Branding.
  • Increase the number of website clients on my web maintenance plan.

What about you?

Did you accomplish your goals for 2022, 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 for honing 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, your skill level, and your situation, please take some time to look back at 2022 and think about your accomplishments and shortcomings.

Did you stop after your accomplishments? Or did you plow 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, 2022.

As 2022 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 2023 your year of success.

I once heard a saying: “It’s easier to know where you’re going if you know where you’ve been.” This aptly applies to growing a design business. Knowing and reflecting on where you came from will help you get to where you want to be.

To help with your planning, perhaps you should listen to episode 55 of the podcast, Setting Goals For Your Design Business.

These past few 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 few years, and use everything you’ve learned to make 2023 and future years even better.

I’ll be back in 2023 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 2023?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Dec 12, 2022

Before I start, let me preface this by saying I am not an expert in AI-Generated Art. These platforms are still in their infancy, and nobody knows what the future holds for them or their effect on the graphic design industry, but I doubt they’ll ever replace graphic designers.

I’ve experimented with various platforms, read articles, and watched videos. I’ve seen both sites of the debate argued. Some people don’t see AI-Art as a threat to our industry, while others are all doom and gloom, saying designers should start applying to work at McDonald’s as flipping burgers will soon become more lucrative than designing things.

I don’t see AI-Generated art as a threat to the graphic design industry. And I’ll get to why in a bit. However, I’m not so sure about artists and illustrators. If that’s your profession, I suggest you pay close attention to how AI-generated art matures, as it will affect those creative people much more than it will designers.

As I said, I’m no expert here. And these AI Art Generators are evolving fast. So what I say today may change soon. Who knows?

I also haven’t tried all the various platforms nor used the ones I have tried to their fullest potential. So some of what I say today may be wrong. If that’s the case, if you know something I don’t, please reach out to me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com. I would love to be educated more on the subject.

First, a story.

Before I begin my discussion on AI-Generated Artwork, I want to tell you a story that will help put my beliefs into perspective.

I entered the three-year Graphic Design program at my local college in 1989. The first two years were spent learning and applying design principles to our projects. We learnt things like design history, colour theory, using grids, layout hierarchy, typography and more. And we were taught the different tools of the trade, most of which are no longer in use and are considered archaic by today’s standards.

It wasn’t until our third year, once we were familiar and comfortable with what being a graphic designer was, that we were granted access to the computer lab. Computers were still new to the industry back then, and very few design agencies used them. When I started working at the print shop after graduation, the first two years of my employment were spent designing everything by hand before I convinced the owner to invest in Macintosh computers.

I don’t remember what year it was, but during school, a few of my classmates and I made a trip to Toronto for a graphic design trade show. It was the largest show of its kind in Canada and the third largest in North America. All the big names were there, including Adobe, Quark, and Microsoft, to name a few.

I remember overhearing a conversation between two design agency owners at a demonstration put on by Adobe. They were talking about the introduction of computers to the design industry. Both were concerned that computers would harm the design industry by minimizing what they considered a particular skill set, that of a graphic designer. To them, computers took the “Art” out of being a “Graphic Artist.”

With today’s mindset, It’s kind of crazy to think that back then, design agency owners thought computers would harm our industry. You can easily argue that computers have made the industry better.

Having lived through that period, I can tell you that even though computers didn’t harm our industry, they did change it. Drastically, in fact. QuarkXpress, Photoshop and Illustrator replaced the standard tools of the trade, such as wax machines, no-repro blu pencils and Letraset rub-on type. And I know a few designers who left the profession because they couldn’t grasp the use of computers.

So computers were introduced, the industry evolved, and the graphic design industry persevered.

Microsoft Publisher

Fast forward a few years, and personal computers are becoming more popular, with Windows-based machines outselling Apple. And Microsoft released a program called Microsoft Publisher that introduced an affordable means for anyone with a computer to “design” their material.

Quark and Adobe software costs thousands of dollars which weren’t feasible for most people. But Microsoft made Publisher affordable. And what do you think happened? The graphic design industry started to panic. With “design” software now available to the masses, designers would lose their jobs.

But you know what? Microsoft Publisher was introduced, and some people changed their thinking about design, yet the graphic design industry persevered.

WordPress.

Around that same time, an innovation emerged called the World Wide Web. Businesses started embracing the idea of having a website—a way for people to find them over the internet.

Computer programmers created the first websites. They were functional but lacked design aesthetics. And graphic designers worldwide took notice and realized an opportunity to apply their skills to something other than paper.

Some learned to code, while others embraced WYSIWYG software, allowing them to build websites without coding. A whole new side of the design industry was created.

And then WordPress arrived. This new platform allowed people to build websites using pre-built templates called Themes. The arrival of WordPress sent web designers into a panic. If people could build websites using a pre-built template, our design skills would no longer be needed. WordPress was going to kill the web design industry.

But you know what? WordPress stuck around, designers evolved and changed their view of the platform, and the graphic design industry persevered. I’d say most web designers these days design using WordPress.

99 Designs.

Fast forwards another few years, and 99designs is introduced to the world. For a small fee, clients could submit a design brief to the platform, and multiple designers would compete by submitting their designs and hoping the client chose theirs. The selected designer would win the contest and be paid for their work. The others received nothing.

99Designs was all the talk back then. It was an industry killer. Why would anyone pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to a single graphic designer when they could pay a much smaller fee and have multiple designers compete for them?

Many designers worldwide tried to offset this intruder by lowering their rates, hoping to lure clients back from the dark side. But you know what? Designers quickly learned that to attract clients, they needed to sell the value and the relationship of working with them, not just the design deliverables. Because the designers on 99Designs didn’t care about the client, they only cared about the subsequent contest they could enter.

In fact, 99Designs helped weed out the most undesirable clients making it easier for the rest of us to grow. The graphic design industry persevered.

Fiverr.

Not long after that, Fiverr was launched, putting our industry into another tailspin.

Whereas a design from 99Designs might cost $100 or more. Fiverr’s claim to fame was that all tasks were only $5. It didn’t matter if you need a logo, a poster, a web banner, or a booklet. Everything was $5. How was a graphic designer supposed to compete with that? The design industry was doomed.

And yet, 12 years after its launch, Fiverr is still around. However, nowadays, people on the platform are charging much higher than $5, and graphic designers worldwide are still thriving despite the “competition” of Fiverr.

The graphic design industry persevered.

Adobe Creative Cloud

In 2013 Adobe launched Creative Cloud, replacing their Creative Suite platforms.

Whether you like the subscription model or not, there’s no arguing that Adobe changed the creative landscape when it introduced Creative Cloud. Software that had previously cost thousands of dollars to own was now available at an affordable monthly rate, making programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign, the bread and butter of most people in the design industry, accessible to the masses.

Designers were no longer a unique breed with our special tools. Adobe opened the floodgates. Now anyone who wanted to tinker with their programs could do so. This created a whole new breed of graphic designers who lacked formal education. Even kids as early as kindergarten started learning Photoshop.

For all our education and skills, being a designer didn’t seem as prestigious as it once was. Clients would no longer need our expertise since anyone with a computer could be a “designer.” And the industry started to panic.

But you know what? Giving people access to tools doesn’t make them an expert. Clients appreciate the years of dedication and knowledge we have when it comes to design. It shows in the work we produce. So even though these tools were available to everyone, the graphic design industry persevered.

Canva.

A couple of years later, Canva emerged. It was touted as yet another graphic design killer.

Canva not only makes it easy to create beautifully designed materials, but you can use it for free if you don’t want to pay for their premium offerings. And there’s a lot you can do on the free plan.

Whenever you see a social media or forum post where someone inquires about hiring a graphic designer, you will find at least one comment suggesting they do it themselves on Canva.

Did Canva steal potential clients from designers? Yes, it did. But did it kill our industry? Far from it.

I’ll argue that Canva made clients appreciate us more. I’ve had numerous people hire me after dabbling in Canva and realizing their creations lack that professional touch.

So even Canva, the closest thing to a design industry killer, hasn’t made that much of a dent in our industry. We still persevere.

BTW, Canva recently announced their own incorporated AI Art generator.

There will always be new design industry killers.

It seems like something new comes out every few years, making designers panic. Do these things affect some designers? I’m sure they do. Just like everything else, there will be some people affected. But none of these things have made an impact on our industry. Or at least not in the way the nay-sayers believed they would.

You can almost argue that these things have made our industry better. Can you imagine what it would be like if computers were never introduced? Or WordPress? And I’m sure many freelancers couldn’t afford thousands of dollars for Adobe’s software if they hadn’t switched to a subscription model.

This mentality dates back to Guttenburg’s invention of the printing press. I’m sure caligraphers of the time panicked that this new invention would ruin their industry. But graphic design perseveres.

The only people it ruins are those unwilling to evolve with the times.

Now back to AI-Generated Art.

By this point, you probably know my stance on AI-Generated Art. This innovation may seem like an industry killer. But only if you allow it to affect you.

I see Artificial Intelligence as another opportunity for our industry to evolve. It’s up to us to embrace these tools as just that, tools.

I already see designers putting AI-Generators to good use. Katie, a Resourceful Designer community member, recently shared how she needed an abstract pattern for a background of a design she was creating. Instead of searching for a stock image or making one herself, she turned to AI. She told it what she wanted, and it produced something she could use.

Katie also used it as inspiration for an annual report project. She asked it to produce a report cover design using blue and yellow triangles. It gave her a few options that she used as inspiration to create something herself.

And these are just a couple of examples.

As for creating full designs using AI, I think the technology is still a long way off. And no matter how good it gets, it will never be able to replicate the emotions we designers bring to a project or the empathy we feel towards our clients.

I like to meet every client I work with. If I can’t meet them face to face, I at least want to get on a video call. I do this because I want to get to know them. I want to see their personality and understand how they act and think. Because these things will help influence my design decisions. No artificial intelligence can do that. At least, as far as I know. And that’s why AI will never replace a live graphic designer.

And don’t forget relationships. How often have I stressed the importance of building relationships with your clients over the years? Not only does it help you understand your clients better, which allows you to design better things for them. But relationships build loyalty. It keeps clients coming back to you, regardless of your price.

AI-Generated Art has limitations.

At this point. I see too many limitations with AI-generated design to affect us as an industry.

Since every piece of generated art is uniquely created, it’s tough to replicate should you need to.

Say you’re working on a marketing campaign and need several images. You ask an AI-Generator to create an illustration of a rocket ship flying through space, and it produces something you like. But now you need a different image of the same rocket ship landing on the moon. And maybe another of it returning to Earth.

Every time you enter a prompt in an AI Generator, it creates a unique image, so there’s no way to ask it to use the same rocket ship in future creations. The rocket ship will look different in each image. Even the style of art might look different.

Plus, these prompts, the instructions you type into the generator telling it what to create, are very subjective.

These two prompts

  • “An elderly man is sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons.”
  • “An old man is feeding pigeons in a part while sitting on a bench.”

To you and me, they both mean the same thing. But to the AI, they could be vastly different. How does artificial intelligence interpret “elderly man” vs. “old man”? The smallest detail can drastically affect the output.

Also, from what I can tell, It’s tough, if not impossible, to adjust an image.

Say you like the AI-generated photo of a woman sitting on a chair with a cat on her lap. But you decide you want it to be a dog instead. None of the systems I tried would let you make that sort of change. The best I could do was change the word “cat” to “dog” and rerun my prompt, producing a new batch of images with different women and chairs. There was no way I was getting the same woman in the second set of images.

Again, maybe this is possible, but I couldn’t see it.

Conclusion

All of this to say. Don’t panic. There are people out there leaning on both sides of the fence. Some say our industry is doomed, while others say we have nothing to fear.

I’m just one voice. But I don’t think we have anything to worry about. And I have the history I just shared with you backing me up. Fiverr, Canva, WordPress, Creative Cloud. These “design industry killers” are now part of my design toolbox. Instead of taking work away from me, they allow me to do better work and do it more efficiently.

I see AI-Generated Art as no different. I plan on embracing it and using it in any way I can.

And don’t forget—no matter what new “things” come out. Clients will always appreciate what a good designer can do for them.

You can be that designer.

Dec 5, 2022

Scan the news these days, and you’d be hard-pressed not to come across a story about price increases. The price of gas has gone up. Rents are increasing, and groceries are at an all-time high. It’s depressing, I know. But that’s the world we live in. And your business should be no different. At some point, you’ll have to raise your rates if you want to remain solvent.

The one benefit of inflation is that people are getting used to price increases. So it won’t be as much of a shock when you announce you’re raising your rates. Be that as it may, you still want to do it the best way possible to soften the blow for your clients.

So what’s the best way to announce a price increase to your clients? Let me share some methods with you, along with some points that will make the task easier for you and make your clients more receptive to the news.

Signs you should increase your prices.

Before I get to how to increase prices, here are four signs indicating it’s time for you to increase your rates.

1) Your operating costs are increasing.

As the cost of subscriptions, software and other expenses go up. You need to raise your rates to offset the economy’s effect on your business.

2) You’re consistently busy.

Suppose you have an abundance of projects that never seems to end. Or you find yourself turning down work because you don’t have time for it. Raising your rates can help you offset things and enable you to engage the help of subcontractors to ease the burden.

3) You’re prices are too low.

Some clients won’t take you seriously if your prices are too low. If you want to attract a higher level of clientele, you need to raise your rates.

4) You’ve increased your value.

Over time, you’ll gain experience and knowledge. As the value you offer increases, so should your prices.

So now that you’ve deiced to raise your rates. Here’s how to inform your clients of the price increase.

Keep it short.

Announcing a price increase is a serious matter, and you want to ensure your clients take notice.

Keep it short and to the point, if you tell your clients via email. There’s no reason to include any fluff or to go into the philosophy behind the price increase.

If possible, announce the increase alongside more pleasant news, such as new or improved services you’re offering. It will help soften the blow.

And make sure you give the clients a way to contact you should they want to discuss your new rates.

Tell only affected clients.

Nobody likes to hear about price increases, even if they don’t affect you directly.

You may not be in the market for a new car, but hearing about rising automobile prices still leaves a bad taste in your mouth and may even affect your perception of the various auto manufacturers.

Don’t give your clients a reason to think negatively about you.

If you’re increasing the price of a business startup package you offer, there’s no reason to notify already established businesses because it doesn’t affect them.

Suppose the price of your website hosting and maintenance is going up. Notify the clients already paying for your plan. There’s no reason for you to tell clients whose websites you are not maintaining since it doesn’t affect them.

If you’re raising your hourly rate, only notify those clients you charge by the hour.

And there’s no reason to notify clients of a price increase if you’re not currently working on a project for them. They’ll find out the next time you give them a quote.

Only notify affected clients of these price increases. And if this means advising different clients about price increases for various services, so be it. Send out one letter to your web maintenance clients. Another note to your retainer clients. Another to your hourly rate clients, and so forth. Ensure your clients are notified only about the price increases affecting them.

Don’t give your clients a reason to think negatively about you if your price increase doesn’t affect them.

Give clients enough of a warning.

The more time you give a client to accept and adjust to new prices, the better.

Clients will resent a sudden price increase far more than a price increase that will occur in the future. The more time they’re given to think about it, the easier it will be for them to accept the increase.

Don’t forget some clients may require time to adjust their budgets. More prominent companies may need approval from higher up the corporate ladder.

The idea is to give clients time to come to terms with your higher rates.

And if you’re worried about losing clients due to a price increase, remember that it’s much easier for them to pay your higher rates than finding someone new to deal with. The chances of losing clients are slim. But should it happen, the increased revenue you’ll now receive from your other clients should make up for it.

Giving enough warning also allows clients to place new orders before your prices go up.

Don’t make excuses or apologize for a price increase.

Notifying your clients of a price increase is not the time to sugarcoat things. Be confident and direct, and inform them plainly that your rates are increasing.

Be as straightforward as possible. Say your prices are increasing. Don’t say you’re adjusting your prices or bringing them in line with your services. This will only confuse your clients. They all know what an increase means.

Do be empathetic with them. Tell your clients you appreciate their business. Thank them, and let them know it’s because of them you’ve been able to grow.

Show your clients that your appreciation for them goes beyond the money they spend with you.

Justify your price increase.

Justifying the reason behind your price increase gives the client something to understand and relate to. It shows your clients that your decision to raise prices isn’t only to increase your revenue. They’ll appreciate your transparency and will be more open to the change.

Explain in your own words why you’re raising your rates. Don’t use jargon or corporate speak. Be specific without going into too much detail.

  • Have you increased or improved the services you offer?
  • Have you undergone any new training or acquired new equipment or software that will improve overall results?
  • Have your existing tools increased costs, causing you to raise yours?

Explain the increase in a way that highlights the value to your client and ties the price increase to the benefits they’ll receive by continuing to work with you. After all, if they now have to pay you more, it would be nice for them to know why your rates have gone up.

Remind clients of your value.

Your clients initially chose to work with you for a reason. Now’s a good time to remind them of that decision and what they can expect from you.

You may want to offer your clients a deal as an added value to accompany your price increase. You could offer them more deliverables along with the increase. Such as adding social media banners to your business startup package or free domain registration with your website maintenance plan.

For example, you could offer a free month of your website maintenance plan. Your prices are increasing for everyone on your maintenance plan. But as a long-time valued client, you can offer them the first month for free.

Small incentives will soften the blow associated with the increased expense.

Ensure your clients feel appreciated.

First off, personalize your email. Don’t write one email to send to all clients. Personalize your message by referencing the client and the work you do for them.

Explain the value the client is getting, not the pain points you and your business are experiencing. Higher prices should either mean better value for them. Or give you the ability to maintain the same high quality they’ve come to expect from you.

You could even offer them a deal to lock in current prices for a fixed period. Prices are going up next month, but you can lock in the current price for the next six months if you pay in advance.

Whenever possible, inform your clients of a price increase in person or over the phone. They’ll appreciate the personal dedication and feel better about paying the new rate.

Keep your clients happy while notifying them of a price increase.

You’ve worked hard to be where you are today. And you deserve to be financially compensated for what you do. You’re only doing yourself a disservice if you don’t raise your rates.

Announcing a price increase is never fun. But following the tips I provided should make it easier to communicate the change to your clients and ease the transition for them.

Get what you deserve. You’re worth it.

Nov 28, 2022

One of the perks of running your own design business is the freedom it provides. You have nobody to answer to but yourself. Ok, sure, there are the clients. You do have to answer to them, to a degree. But it’s your business, so you can dictate how you respond to them.

If you don’t want to work Friday afternoons, you can take them off. Nobody is stopping you if you want to try a new design technique or different software. And you get to decide how much you charge for your services and can change your rate any time you like.

The freedom of working for yourself is one of, if not the main reason people choose the life of, and I’m going to say it, even though I disagree with the term, the life of a freelancer. It felt dirty just writing that. Want to know why? Listen to episode 17 of the podcast titled “Being a Freelance Graphic Designer Could Hurt Your Business.” It will make you rethink calling yourself a freelancer.

But where was I? Ah, yes, the freedom of running your own design business. For many of us, it’s the ultimate dream. I will never work for an employer again. And I know many who feel the same. But, just because you’re working for yourself, running your own business, doesn’t mean you’ve made it.

I hate to burst your bubble, but the purpose of every business is to grow. A business that doesn’t grow will eventually fail. Many business studies have proven this. And your business will never grow to its full potential because of one thing holding it back. And that one thing is you.

Yes, without you, there wouldn’t be a business. However, you are also one of your business’s most significant liabilities. How can that be? It’s because of your limitations.

Your limitations may include skills you lack. It may be a lack of time, the time to do things or learn things. Your knowledge may be limiting you. You can’t expect to know everything. Or it could be any number of things.

Don’t feel bad. I’m not singling you out. Everyone has limitations.

What will help your business grow is knowing your limitations and finding a way to overcome them. And one of the best ways for business owners to overcome their limitations is by working with people who offset those limitations.

In other words. Your business will grow when you learn to outsource and hire subcontractors to do what you can’t or shouldn’t do.

I know this may seem like a foreign concept. The whole point of going at it alone is just that, to be alone. But being alone will only get you so far. You need a team if you want to grow beyond your limited capabilities.

I speak from experience. I ran my design business for several years, all by myself. In my mind, it was my business. Therefore I had to do everything myself. My clients were hiring me, after all.

I didn’t take on the project if a client asked for something I couldn’t do. I was limiting my growth. I once turned down a $50,000 website project because I wasn’t confident in my skills with PHP and MySQL. I kick myself to this day for that one. But I couldn’t do it, so I said no.

And I kept at it, Trudging away, taking on only the projects I could do and passing on the ones I couldn’t.

At the time, I was making decent money and thought I was doing well. But my business wasn’t growing. Year after year, my income was pretty much the same. It wasn’t going up as needed for growth. I had reached what I like to call now, my solo limit. I could only take my business so far on my own.

I didn’t know it then, but I was holding my business back. It wasn’t until I started reading more business books and listening to business-related podcasts that I realized that most successful entrepreneurs don’t work alone. They have a team that works with them to accomplish their business goals and help them grow. If I wanted my business to grow, I would have to build a team.

Now I didn’t jump in with both feet and hire a bunch of people. I took it slow.

The first job I outsourced was when I ran into an issue with a client’s e-commerce website. I wasn’t sure how to handle the problem. Given enough time, I could probably fix it, but I had no idea where to start or how long it would take.

Instead of spending hours researching and troubleshooting it myself. I hired a sub-contractor online who was an expert in that e-commerce platform and paid them to fix it for me. It cost me $100 for what I’m sure would have taken me an entire day’s work to accomplish, if not more. Plus, I could charge my client a premium fee for the fix and profit from it.

That’s the case with most contractors. Sure, you have to pay them, but you mark up that expense and make a profit when you charge your client. So there’s no downside to paying a contractor.

That was my first experience in hiring a sub-contractor. And it was such a good experience that I started looking for other ways outsourcing to subcontractors could help me.

Fast forward several years, and now I have an expanded team of contractors I can turn to for all sorts of situations. And through them, I’ve almost tripled my income compared to my pre-outsourcing days.

I removed myself as a liability to my business by hiring people to help me.

Building your outsourcing team.

To clarify, I’m not referring to employees when I say hire. I’ve never had an employee, so I can’t help you with that. I’m talking about hiring subcontractors. These are people you outsource work to on an as-needed basis. When a situation arises where you require help, you hire someone for the task.

You’ll work with some contractors regularly, and some you’ll only work with once or twice.

You should constantly look for people to add to your team. When you meet or hear of someone with a particular skill, file away that information for when you need it.

This team you’re forming is just for you. You don’t even have to tell the people on your team that they’re part of it. They’ll find out when you hire them.

All you’re doing is building a personal database of people whose skills may be helpful someday. That’s your outsourcing team.

What subcontractors can you hire?

So what kind of subcontractors can you hire for your business? The possibilities are endless, but here’s a short list of the more common people designers outsource to.

Photographers

Hiring a photographer, instead of relying on the client to provide photos, allows you to control and get the exact images you need for your design.

To learn more about dealing with photographers, listen to episode 3 of the podcast, where I talk with Brett Gillmore, an award-winning commercial photographer in Calgary, Alberta, here in Canada.

Illustrators

For those of us lacking in this particular talent, hiring someone is the only way to include custom illustration work in your designs.

Even if you’re an accomplished illustrator, you may need someone with an illustration style or technique outside your comfort zone.

I have several illustrators on my outsourcing team for this very reason. One specializes in caricatures, another in technical drawings, another is good at watercolours, and another is good with markers.

I have people with different illustration styles, such as Japanese manga, vintage looks, and modern cubism. I even have one who makes people look like the Simpsons characters.

The idea is to know as many illustrators as possible should I need their skills.

Copywriters

Unless you have a degree in journalism or another writing discipline,  you should consider working with copywriters whenever possible.

Copywriters do with words what we designers do with pixels. They turn simple sentences into compelling messages. When designers and copywriters work together, it creates magic. And that magic allows you to charge much more for your services.

Including a copywriter on a website design project can increase its value from $5,000 to $10,000. Clients who understand the importance of a good copywriter are more than willing to pay a premium price for them.

Web Developers/Coders

Websites are versatile, and the ecosystem is ever-expanding, so it’s understandable that one web designer can’t do everything. Outsourcing parts or even entire projects to web developers allows you to offer much more to your clients.

In most cases, you hire a developer to do things you don’t know how to do. But there are also times when you may want to hire a developer to help speed things up if you believe they can complete a task more efficiently than you can.

In most cases, it’s more beneficial to pay a sub-contractor for three hours of work than it is for you to spend six hours doing the same task. And while the sub-contractor tackles whatever task you give him, your time is freed up to work on other things.

So even though you’re paying for the subcontractor’s services, you’re making more money than if I didn’t hire them since you can charge the client for their time while you’re making money doing something else during that same time. It’s almost like double charging.

Outsourcing possibilities are endless.

I can go on and on with people you can hire. Some people specialize in SEO, Social Media, Online Advertising, Sales Funnels, Building Email Lists, Translators, etc.

Sometimes you outsource to someone for something you don’t want to do. Such as removing the background on over 300 product photos for a catalogue. I’d rather pay someone to do this than sludge through it myself.

Every one of these people can help grow your design business.

What to look for in a subcontractor.

When looking for someone to outsource work to, you want to find someone with the skills you seek that are reliable, trustworthy and easy to deal with.

In my limited experience, you are better off finding multiple subcontractors who each excel in a particular skill than finding one person with a general knowledge of various skills.

Someone with a specialized skillset may charge more, but their expertise is worth it. You are better off paying a bit more for someone specializing in a specific area.

Where to find subcontractors.

There are many places where you can find subcontractors to outsource your projects. However, the best place, in my opinion, is through your existing network. It’s much easier to work with someone you already have a relationship with or with a subcontractor vouched for by someone you know.

The subcontractor that helps me with website projects is someone I met through the Resourceful Designer Community. One of the illustrators I’ve used over the years is someone I went to school with. Another developer I’ve used was recommended by a designer I know. When my first copywriter took a job that prevented her from doing side work, she recommended a fellow copywriter I could hire. These types of hires are always the most lucrative in my experience.

But if your network doesn’t have the people you need, there are plenty of places online you can turn to for outsourcing help.

My favourite places to find subcontractors are Upwork.com, toptal.com, freelancer.com and fiverr.com.

These platforms often offer you two options when hiring subcontractors. You can either post a job posting that lists the position or skill you’re looking for, along with how much you’re willing to pay and let those interested apply.

Or you can search these platforms for people with the talent you’re looking for and reach out to them individually to see if they’re interested in taking on your project.

I’ve had success with both methods. However, I prefer to approach them myself.

Considerations when outsourcing to a subcontractor.

Some things to consider when hiring a subcontractor are where they’re located, their familiarity with the language you speak and, of course, price.

Time Zones.

These online outsourcing portals connect people from around the world. It’s not unheard of if the perfect person for your project lives on the other side of the globe.

You must consider if time zones are an issue. Are you ok working with someone who is going to bed as you start your day? In most cases, it probably won’t be a problem. However, if deadlines are pressing, knowing your contractor won’t see your instructions for 10-12 hours may be a problem. If that’s the case, you may want to refine your search to people geographically closer to where you are located. Most platforms allow you to do this.

Language Barriers.

Be wary of language barriers when hiring someone to outsource to. Understanding a language and being fluent in it are two different things. You don’t want issues because of a misunderstanding in communication.

Some online platforms will indicate what languages a subcontractor is fluent in. Keep that in mind when hiring.

Rates and Price.

Rates and prices on these platforms vary significantly. Due to the various living costs worldwide, contractors charge different fees for their services.

Typically, you’ll pay higher for a subcontractor in North America than someone in an Asian country. Is it worth paying more to work with someone in a closer time zone who speaks your native language? Only you can decide.

You must consider all these things when hiring someone. Where they are located, their comfort level with your language, and the rate they charge for their services. Weigh each of these and choose the perfect subcontractor for you.

Build your outsourcing team.

There is so much more when it comes to hiring a subcontractor. Entire books are dedicated to the subject. But I hope my little scratch of the surface gives you an idea of how and what to look for when outsourcing and expanding your team.

I know it’s in our nature to do everything ourselves. It’s tough to relinquish control. But I want you to remember something. Clients don’t hire you to do a job. They hire you to get a job done. And sometimes, the most efficient, practical and cost-saving way to get a job done is to outsource it to someone who can help you.

Your clients will appreciate your ingenuity.

So the next time you are unsure how to handle a task or find yourself with too much to do and too little time to do it. Or maybe you don’t feel like doing a particular job yourself. Remember that you are not alone. There’s a world of people ready to join your team and help you grow your design business.

Don’t be the liability that holds you back from growth. Learn how to outsource.

Nov 14, 2022

This episode is sponsored by Sticker Mule. Get 10 Custom Stickers for $1, plus free shipping. Visit stickermule.com/resourcefuldesigner


It’s well-established that it’s easier to get a new design project from a past client than to land a project from a new client.

You can run a successful design business with only a few good recurring clients. It’s the 80/20 rule. 80% of your business will come from 20% of your clients. Therefore you must keep as many clients as you can.

For the first few years of my design business, I had less than a dozen clients, and less than a handful of those clients kept me busy on an ongoing basis.

According to Invesp, the probability of existing clients giving you work in the future is 60-70%, while the likelihood of getting work from new clients is 5-20%. So it’s easy to see why client retention is so necessary.

Clients know a talented graphic or web designer when they find one. But it takes more than being an excellent designer to keep them returning. I’ve said this many times on the podcast before. Clients prefer to work with a good designer they like rather than an amazing designer they don’t like.

The best way to keep your clients happy and coming back is to ensure they like you. And you do that by providing excellent service and building relationships with them.

It’s best to do everything possible to ensure your clients feel valued, appreciated, and satisfied with your services. Here are nine tips for doing just that and keeping your clients returning. And you’ll notice repetition as I go through them, as many of these tips play off each other.

Here are nine ways to make clients love working with you again and again.

1) Be Proactive

Make sure your clients understand what they should expect from working with you. Be proactive and set expectations upfront, so there aren’t any surprises down the road.

Being proactive shows your professionalism and positions you as a leader instead of an order-taker. Clients will appreciate this and quickly learn to trust you.

Think about the entire relationship—you’re trying to land a client, not just a design project. And if you can change your mentality and think of them as partners instead of clients, you’ll find the relationship even easier to build.

Don’t fall into the trap of viewing client projects as transactional, one-off projects. Instead, think of them as long-term relationships.

Being proactive may also mean learning about your client and their industry. Do some homework and learn a little about them and their industry before meeting with them. Clients will appreciate your effort and are more likely to trust you with their project.

Don’t forget to keep in touch after the current project ends, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago in episode 303 about following up with dormant clients.

If you do a good job setting expectations at the start, many clients will return to you for future projects.

2) Be Honest

It’s easy to tell clients what they want to hear, but delivering on those promises is much more challenging.

A good designer is honest with clients about their limitations and how they plan to work within those constraints. It’s ok to tell a client you don’t know something. It’s even better to show the client how you’ll overcome those shortcomings.

A good designer should be reliable enough to stick to their commitments. However, If you encounter any issues or setbacks during a project, be honest and let the client know. Clients want to work with someone they can trust and who will be truthful with them. If you are not honest with your clients, they will not return.

So be honest with them from the start. This means being upfront about your prices, services, policies, limitations and timelines. You should also be honest about any problems or concerns your clients may have.

If you are honest with your clients, they will appreciate it and will be more likely to come back to you. After all, honesty is the best policy for running a successful business.

3) Be Timely

If you’re a freelancer, you know how important it is to be timely. Deadlines are critical; you will not get repeat clients if you’re not meeting them. That’s why ensuring you’re always meeting your deadlines is vital.

If you’re consistently meeting your deadlines, then clients will take notice. They’ll see that you’re reliable and that they can count on you to get the job done. This will keep them coming back to you time after time.

So if you want to keep your clients happy (and keep them coming back), ensure you’re always meeting your deadlines. It’s the best way to ensure their satisfaction and ensure that they keep coming back for more of your great work.

4) Be Flexible

You need to be flexible with clients. If you’re unwilling to adapt to their needs, you will lose them as a client. Yes, It’s your business, and you set the ground rules for how clients deal with you. That’s part of being a professional. But it’s not worth holding your ground if it means possibly losing a good client.

For example, if a client insists on using their project management software instead of yours, or the deal is off, you must decide if this is something worth taking a stand on or if you can be flexible to appease the client.

In today’s ever-changing world, designers must adapt to their client’s needs, or they will quickly become outdated.

Clients hire you for your expertise, but they expect input as well. If their contributions fall on deaf ears, they won’t enjoy working with you. And you know the outcome when that happens. After all, you aren’t as experienced in their field as they are. Learn from your clients by talking and listening to them.

Being flexible and adaptable shows that you are a business willing to change and eager to meet your client’s needs. This is key to keeping your clients happy and returning for more.

5) Be Organized

For clients to keep coming back, you must be organized.

It’s easy to lose track of things when you work alone, but if you want to be successful, you must be organized. Here are a few tips to help you stay organized:

  • Make a list of everything you need to do so nothing gets overlooked, and tackle one task at a time.
  • Invest in a good physical or software planner to keep track of projects, tasks, deadlines, appointments, and other important dates. All your important dates and times should be viewable in one location.
  • Keep your work area clean and clutter-free. It will help you focus and be more productive. I often struggle with this, even though a clean desk allows me to work better.
  • Take breaks throughout the day to clear your head and relax. This will prevent burnout and help you stay fresh.
  • Delegate tasks whenever possible, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

The more organized you are, the more professional you’ll appear to your clients, which will keep them coming back.

6) Be Professional

I’ve already mentioned being professional several times so far. Maybe I should have moved this one closer to the top.

As a business professional, and that’s precisely what you are, you always want to ensure that you put your best foot forward. This means dressing appropriately and acting professionally at all times.

If you are unsure what attire is appropriate, err on the side of caution and choose something more conservative. Remember that first impressions are important, so take the time to present yourself in the best light possible.

In addition to dressing and acting the part, it is also essential that you provide a high level of service to your clients. This means being responsive to their needs, meeting deadlines, and following through on promises. If you consistently provide a positive experience for your clients, they will be more likely to come back to you.

Lastly, be careful with jargon. Using industry words may make you feel more professional, but it could alienate your clients and create misunderstandings that may create a wedge between you. Dropping jargon allows you to communicate clearly and effectively with your clients by putting you on the same page.

7) Be Reliable

Clients will come back again and again because they trust you. They know you won’t let them down. And they know you’ll deliver quality work on time.

If you want your clients to keep coming back, they must know they can count on you. Whether it’s showing up on time for appointments or completing the work you promised, being reliable is key to maintaining a good relationship with your clients. When your clients trust that you will do what you say, they are more likely to continue working with you.

8) Be Trustworthy

One of the most important traits you can possess as a business owner is a trustworthiness. If your clients don’t trust you, they won’t come back. It’s as simple as that.

Here are a few ways to make sure you stay trustworthy in their eyes:

  • Always be upfront about costs and fees. Don’t try to hide anything from your clients – they’ll appreciate your honesty, which will build trust between you.
  • Follow through on your promises. If you tell your client you’re going to do something, make sure you do it! This will show them that they can rely on you and trust what you say.
  • Be transparent in your dealings. This means being honest about the quality of your products or services and providing accurate information about pricing and availability. Additionally, you should be clear about any deadlines or expectations for your clients. Being transparent in your dealings with clients will build trust and goodwill that will keep them returning.

9) Be Responsive

When it comes to keeping clients, responsiveness is critical. If you want returning clients, you must be responsive to their needs. This means being available when they need you, within reason, of course, and being able to address their concerns promptly.

You need to adapt to changing circumstances and respond quickly to new ideas. You should be willing to adjust your habits and designs as required.

Please take advantage of your client’s feedback and learn from their opinions. This will help you hone in on the areas that matter to them.

Being responsive shows your clients that you value their business and are invested in their success. It builds trust and rapport, which are essential for any lasting business relationship. So if you want to keep your clients coming back, ensure you are always responsive to their needs. It might take some extra effort, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Turning new clients into recurring clients shouldn’t be complicated.

Keeping clients coming back, again and again doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember, clients, don’t want to look for another designer. It’s as much trouble for them as finding new clients is for you. They’re hoping you’re “the one” they can stick with for the long haul. So it’s up to you to become that person.

By following these nine simple tips, you’ll create long-lasting relationships that will benefit you and your clients by providing them with excellent customer service, going the extra mile, and making them feel special. And you can ensure that your clients will be happy, satisfied, and loyal to you and your design business for years to come.

Nov 7, 2022

Google. Very few brands have transitioned beyond their original intent. But Google is one of them. What started in 1998 as a small company launched by two Stanford U students to promote their new search engine has grown to become one of the world’s largest conglomerates.

Not only that, but the name Google has evolved to become a noun, an adjective and a verb. Don’t believe me? Google it for yourself.

And even though Google now offers a wide gambit of technological solutions to improve people’s life. At their core remains the search engine.

Did you know that there are over two trillion Google searches every year? It’s hard to fathom how big two trillion is, so let me put it in perspective. There are over 5 billion searches on Google every day. That’s 228 million every hour, almost 4 million searches every minute. That’s a lot of searching.

With an entire planet using them to satisfy their curious minds, Google must ensure its platform is easy to use. Easy enough for young children and seniors alike. You type in what you’re looking for in the search bar, and Google provides you with possible answers. It’s that easy.

Of course, Google’s results aren’t always what you’re looking for. But they make it very easy to try again with another search.

But what if I told you some simple tricks could help you get better results on the first try?

Here are 16 search hacks to help you find things faster on Google.

1) Use quotation marks (“”) in your search.

Enclosing your search term in quotation marks will return results with that exact phrase.

For example, searching for “How to start a graphic design business” will only show results with those words in that exact order. Using quotation marks in your search makes it easy to find precisely what you’re looking for.

NOTE: Using double quotations (“““") tells Google what’s inside them MUST be in the search results.

2) Use a minus sign (-) to exclude words from your search.

If your search produced nonrelevant results, try eliminating words by placing a minus sign in front of them.

For example, if you want to know the top speed of a Jaguar, the cat, not the car. You could search for “jaguar speed -car” This will eliminate searches about the jaguar motor vehicle.

3) Use Site: only to show results from a specific website.

Not every website has a search bar. But that doesn’t matter if you know Google’s site search function. Adding Site: followed by the website you want to search, along with your search term, will return results only from that website.

For example, to find out how many computers you can install Photoshop on, you could search for “Site:adobe.com how many computers can I install Photoshop on?” The results will only give you answer from the Adobe website.

4) Use an Asterisk (*) as a wildcard in your search.

An Asterisk is a star-looking character you get by pressing Shift-8 on your keyboard (*). Replace a word in your search with an Asterisk to see results with multiple possibilities.

For example, if you’re planning a trip to Disney land. Searching for “best * at Disney Land” will return results for the best food at Disney Land, the best rides at Disney Land, the best hotels at Disney Land, the best shows at Disney Land, etc. You get the idea.

The Asterisk is very useful when combined with the Site: operator. For example, if you want to find results only from government websites, include site:*.gov in your search string, and you’ll only get results from websites with a .gov extension.

5) use OR or AND in all-caps to find multiple results.

Using OR or AND returns results from both sides of the operator.

OR can be used to find multiple results. For example, you could search for “Christmas decorating ideas in blue OR Green.” You’ll get results showing blue ideas and results showing green ideas.

AND can be similarly used to combine results. Searching for “Christmas decorating ideas in blue AND green” will show you results with ideas that combine blue and green.

6) Use Intitle: to find results from a web page’s title.

The Intitle: operator can be very useful in narrowing down your searches by only displaying results that include your search term in the web page’s title.

For example, if you search for intitle: “communicating with your design clients,” Google will show you two results. Episode 284 of the Resourceful Designer podcast on https://resourcefuldesigner.com and the same podcast episode on YouTube. That’s because no other web page in Google index has “communicating with your design clients” in the title.

Intitle: is very useful for finding relevant pages specific to your search and not just mentioning your search term somewhere in the body.

7) Use Allinurl: to find results from a web page’s URL.

The Allinurl: operator is similar to the Intitle: operator, except this time, the search term is in the URL of the website instead of the title.

For example, typing “Allinurl: Resourceful Designer niche” will return every web page containing the words Resourceful Designer and niche in the URL.

8) Use Filetype: to find specific files.

This is one of my favourite Google hacks. Using Filetype: lets you find specific file types such as .doc, .png or .pdf.

Say you want to find a user manual for something you bought second-hand, such as a treadmill. Searching for the treadmill’s brand name and model number and including Filetype:pdf in your search query will show you results of PFD files of your treadmill’s user manual.

This is one of my favourite Google Hacks. I use it all the time to get vector logos from companies in combination with the site: operator I mentioned earlier.

For example, say I’m designing a poster for a local event, and I need to include sponsor logos on it. Contacting each sponsor to find a vector version of their logo can be tedious. But if they’re a well-established company, you can sometimes search their website for pdf files and extract the vector logo yourself.

Just search for site:[the company’s website] Filetype:pdf. This will show you a list of all the PDFs on that company’s website. It’s then easy to look through them and find one that has a logo you can extract. Filetype: has saved me countless hours over the years.

9) Use Related: to find similar websites.

I find this one useful when doing research. By typing related: and entering a website URL, Google will show you websites it thinks are similar to the one you entered.

For example, searching for related:shutterstock.com will show you websites Google believes are similar to Shutterstock.

10) Use Cache: to see a website’s cached version.

Cache: is helpful if the website you are trying to visit is down. Or if you want to buy a domain and see how it was used before.

I used this recently after an Instagram ad and purchasing something from the resulting website. The item I received wasn’t at all as described in the ad. And when I went back to the website, it was gone.

Luckily, I found a cached version of the site using Cache: and the site’s domain name and managed to find their contact information. After several back and forths, they agreed to return my money.

11) Use Link: to find pages that link to another page.

This one is useful if you are interested in website backlinks and where they originate.

Enter Link: followed by a URL; the search results will show you all the sites that link to that page.

This is an excellent way of finding out who links to your website or a competitor’s website.

12) Use the Plus Sign (+) to include specific websites or terms in your search results.

You can use the Plus sign (+)similarly to the Site: operator. Searching niche+resourceful designer will show results containing both niche and Resourceful Designer.

You can also use it as a quick way to narrow down a search. For example, you can search for “famous quote+Henry Ford,” and you’ll get results containing quotes from Henry Ford.

13) Us a Tilde (~) to find approximate words.

The tilde is the wave-like line usually found on your keyboard’s key to the left of the number 1. Press Shift to type it.

Tilde is helpful if you are unsure of the spelling word’s spelling or if there are multiple spellings of a word.

For example, since I’m in Canada, I spell the word colour with a “u.” But while searching for a new printer, I would get the best results by typing “best ~colour printer.” This way, I’ll get results showing the best COLOR printers and COLOUR printers.

14) Use brackets () in your search to isolate parts of your search string.

Brackets allow you to combine multiple methods I’ve shared above in a single search string.

Similar to a math problem, such as (2+3) x 2 = 10, where you solve what’s in the brackets first and then the rest of the equation, adding brackets to your search string can help focus your search.

Here’s an example of a search combining multiple methods and using brackets to separate them.

Site:aiga.org (conference OR workshop) AND (Photoshop OR Illustrator)

15) Search a range of numbers using two dots (..)

If you want only to see results between a range of numbers, use two dots between the numbers.

For example, typing “who won the Super Bowl 1996..1999” will show results containing the Super Bowl winners from 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.

16) Use @ to find something on social media

If you’re searching for something and only want results from social media, include @ and the social media platform. For example, “Taylor Swift @twitter” will return results containing “Taylor Swift” found on Twitter.

Google can do so much more.

There you have it, 16 hacks to improve your Google searching and help you find things faster. And that’s only scratching the surface. Google has so many other uses as well.

Need to figure out a math problem? Type it into Google search.

Need to do a quick conversation from Fahrenheit to Celcius or miles to kilometres or convert anything else? Type it into Google search.

Need to know how much your money is worth elsewhere? Do a quick currency conversion in Google search.

Are you planning a trip? Search [City Name] to [City Name] to get flight costs from multiple airlines.

Need to know what time it is anywhere in the world? Type “Time in [city]” to find out.

Don’t know what a word means, type define before the word to learn its definition. You can also type etymology before a word to find its origins.

Google can also be used to translate languages, get stock prices, find weather forecasts, and so much more. It is a wonderful tool.

And I hope that after reading this, you’re now more proficient in using it.

Oct 31, 2022

Episode Sponsor: StickerMule

How often do you follow up with dormant clients? I’m not talking dormant like they haven’t replied to an email in a few days. However, following up is always a good idea when you don’t receive an expected reply.

I’m talking about following up with dormant clients months or even years after you’ve completed whatever project you did for them.

In episode 72 of Resourceful Designer, I discussed getting new work from existing clients. It’s proven that getting new work from existing clients is much easier than landing new clients. After all, you don’t have to worry about the awkward introductory phase since you already know each other. You have a proven track record, so you and your client know what to expect.

And yet, even though it’s much easier to get new work from existing clients. Many designers don’t actively seek out that work.

Why is that? You may be thinking to yourself. “I don’t want to bother them. The clients know me. If they have more work for me, they’ll contact me.” But that’s not always the case.

I’m not saying they won’t contact you when they have more work. They probably will. The problem is clients don’t always realize they have work for you.

What? What are you talking about, Mark? No, it’s true. It’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” Your dormant client isn’t thinking about you; therefore, they aren’t thinking of the work they could be sending you.

I want to run an experiment with you right now.

Last week I went to the dentist for a routine checkup. I’m happy to say they found nothing wrong with my teeth. I take dental hygiene seriously, so I scheduled a new appointment for a cleaning in 9 months.

Now, let me ask you this. Did you think about your dentist and your next appointment? Chances are you did. Maybe you thought about an upcoming appointment. Or perhaps it made you think you should make an appointment if you don’t already have one. Regardless, I’m pretty sure, even if only briefly, you thought about your teeth.

Why is that? It’s because of triggers.

Triggers.

Triggers, the verb, not the thing you squeeze to fire a gun, are something that can connect one event to another. The mention of my dental appointment triggered your thoughts about your dental hygiene.

If I say I recently changed the tires on my car because they had worn-out threads. You probably just started wondering about the tires on your vehicle.

If I say, I have no idea what I’m having for dinner tonight. Now you’re probably thinking about your next meal.

All of these are because of triggers. Our day is full of them. Most of the time, you don’t even realize they’re there. But triggers influence you in many ways. Triggers are often the correlation between one thing and another.

Triggers and Dormant Clients.

That brings me back to following up with dormant clients. Remember when I said the problem is clients don’t always realize they have work for you? It’s because they don’t have anything with which to correlate that work. And that’s very easy to fix.

Just like me mentioning my dentist made you think of your dentist. Reconnecting with a client can trigger them to find new work for you.

Remember, “out of sight, out of mind?” When the client isn’t thinking of you, they’re not thinking of projects you can do for them. The solution is to get them to think of you. You can do that by following up.

Triggers in action.

Resourceful Designer Community members are beta testing a weekly accountability group where we share long-term and short-term goals. We meet once per week for 10-15 minutes. Each person shares one thing they want to accomplish before our next meeting.

This goal could be small, like adding a new case study to their website, creating social media posts, or getting organized for a presentation.

The object is to share something to which you want to be held accountable. Because the following week, you have to share whether or not you completed that goal.

My goal two weeks ago was to reach out and reconnect with four dormant clients. I ended up emailing six long-standing clients. Their dormancy ranged from six months to a couple of years since the last project I did for them.

When I sent my email, I didn’t ask them if they had any work for me. Instead, I asked them how they were doing, and in a couple of cases, I wondered if they were happy with the last project I did for them.

Over the following few days, three of these dormant clients replied with new design projects for me. One wanted an update on a flyer I created for them a few years ago. Another asked me to refresh their website with updated text and photos. The third wants to meet next week to discuss a new project.

All three thanked me for reaching out and said they wouldn’t have thought of these projects if I had not sent them my email. But my message triggered an interest in these projects.

Of the other three clients, two thanked me for reaching out and asked me to contact them in January at the beginning of their new fiscal year. And the last one said times were tough, and business wasn’t going well. But that he appreciated me checking in.

So, six emails, three new projects and possibly two others in the new year. Not a bad return for the few minutes I spend composing six emails.

And it was all because of triggers. Receiving an email from me triggered something that made them realize there was work they could give me. Funny how that works.

How do you follow up?

As I said, when I reached out to these clients, I didn’t ask them if they had any work for me. I made the email about them. Not about me.

For one client, I asked how the website I designed worked out for them. Was it bringing in the business they hoped? They’re very pleased with the site and happy I reached out. They asked me to make some changes to the site.

One of the clients is a retail outlet affected by the pandemic. I asked them how things were going now. He said things are finally picking up. He’s the one that wants to meet with me next week.

Another is a local membership association. I hadn’t talked to them in almost two years, so I inquired how the pandemic had affected them. They’re the ones that want me to update their flyer.

Clients appreciate it when you think about them. If you email them asking if they have work for you, they’ll see right through that. It sounds pleading. But if you make your message about them without asking for anything in return. They’ll genuinely appreciate the thought behind it. That’s how you build relationships. And we all know those client relationships are essential in our business.

That’s how you get more work from dormant clients. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a couple of months or a few years. Reach out to old clients and ask them how they’re doing. Show them you care. You might get some work out of it. Triggers. It’s funny how they work.

Now go and make that dental appointment.

Oct 24, 2022

Here’s some valuable advice to help make you a more productive graphic or web designer. Stop wasting time on time management.

I’ve been in the graphic design space for over 30 years. I’ve been running my own home-based design business since 2005. And I’ve been publishing the Resourceful Designer podcast since 2015. In all that time, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many designers. Be it graphic designers, web designers, UI and UX Designers. I’ve spoken with generalists and specialists, such as those focusing on specific niches. I’ve talked to design strategists, consultants, directors, and even design influencers.

Two answers come out on top whenever asked what their biggest struggle is. Finding new clients. And Time Management. It’s that latter one I want to talk to you about today.

What is Time Management?

According to dictionary.com, time management is the analysis of how working hours are spent and the prioritization of tasks to maximize personal efficiency in the workplace.

Sounds simple enough. You analyze how you spend your time and then prioritize what you need to do to maximize efficiency.

But if time management is that simple, why do so many people struggle with it? I mean, if time management were so easy, there wouldn’t be thousands of different “solutions” addressing it.

A search on Amazon returns over 70,000 books covering the subject. YouTube has over half a million videos on Time Management. And Google has over 80 million search results.

Time Management is such a popular topic because EVERYONE has problems with it.

Let me share a revelation with you today. Time is impossible to manage. Contrary to confusing movies such as Tenet. Time moves in one direction at a steady pace. So you’re not trying to manage time. You’re trying to manage how you go about your day while time continues at its own pace, totally ignorant of your plight.

If you’re looking at your fellow designers and thinking, “They seem so organized. I don’t know how they do it.” I’ll let you in on a little secret. They’re thinking the same thing about you.

Everybody wants tips, tricks and techniques to be able to get more things done. To do things faster, to be more productive, more efficient and to work better. But the truth is that stressing over these things makes you slower, less productive, and less efficient and impedes your work.

In my opinion, the only people who succeed with Time Management, and I don’t mean succeed AT time management, but WITH time management, are those with something to gain from it, which means the authors of all those books on Amazon. The creators of those YouTube videos. And the writers of all the articles found through Google.

It’s what they say. If you want to make money, find a solution to a widespread problem. That’s what these people are doing—offering a solution in order to make money. But are they addressing the problem? I doubt it. Because if they did, then time management wouldn’t be such a prevalent issue.

And you know what? I guarantee you that the people who created these time management assets still struggle with time management. It’s inevitable. Why is that? It’s because of this little thing called LIFE. I’m sure you’ve experienced it.

It’s like the military saying, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Similarly, no time management plan can survive contact with life.

You can have the best laid-out plan. You have everything organized and scheduled down to the millisecond. And it all goes out the window when “life” happens.

  • You’re kid’s school calls because they’re feeling sick.
  • You get a flat time on the way to a meeting.
  • A storm knocks out your power.
  • Your dog gets sprayed by a skunk.
  • Your magic mouse dies in the middle of the day, and you can’t work while it’s charging. Why Apple, Why?

Life has a way of interfering with your best plans. So you just have to learn to live with it.

What to do about Time Management?

So far, I’ve been pretty bleak. I haven’t been very helpful if you started reading this because you’re struggling with time management and were hoping for a solution. So let me talk a little bit about your options.

First, there is no one solution to getting the most out of your time. Again, if there were, then time management wouldn’t be an issue for most people.

Every individual is different. And that includes you. You learn differently. You process information differently. You go about completing Your tasks differently than anyone else. That’s why there’s no Time Management system you can shoehorn to fit everyone. You have to figure out what works best for you, and the solution that ends up working for you may come from many different time management options.

And believe me, the many different options and opinions regarding this topic can leave your head spinning. Just look at this list of popular time management solutions.

  • Eisenhower Matrix
  • Getting Things Done, or the GTD method
  • Time Blocking
  • Autofocus
  • Iceberg Method
  • Pomodoro Technique
  • Agile Results
  • Kanban System
  • Bullet Journalling
  • Time Tracking

And this is just a tiny sampling of some of the more popular time management solutions people share.

So, where do you start?

Start small with baby steps and combine options.

The best advice I can give you is to start small. Trying to jump in feet first and embrace any of these systems in their entirety rarely works. In most cases, the person who tries gets overwhelmed and gives up.

You must tackle time management in baby steps over an extended period—even years. I’ll even go as far as saying your time management strategy should be ever-evolving.

So first. Find one thing you can implement into your routine and test it out. For example, you may create daily to-do lists of the tasks you want to complete. If you find this works for you, embrace it and move on to the next thing to build out your personalized time management plan. If it doesn’t, then try something else.

It’s ok and even encouraged to mix and match strategies from different systems to find a plan that works for you.

Perhaps you can try Time Blocking next. Time blocking is when you block certain times of the day to perform specific tasks. Such as saving all your invoicing for Friday mornings.

After that, you may want to dabble with the Agile Results method, where you identify three tasks from your To-Do list as priorities for today. Or the Eisenhower Matric method that divides tasks based on their importance. It doesn’t matter what you try. Keep experimenting until you find something you feel good sticking with.

What you’re essentially doing is building a system that works for you. And this process will take time, as it should.

And don’t be afraid to adjust and tweak your system as you go. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Steal ideas from them if you want. But ultimately, you need to do what works for you.

For years, I managed my client projects in a leather-bound notebook. I found it very efficient. The more organized I was, the better I could manage my time. Then one day, I tried Plutio, a client management system, and I found I liked it. Now it’s what I use. My system evolved.

When I set up my appointment scheduler, I had it open five days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Those were my business hours, so those were the hours I should be available to meet with clients. Or so I thought.

It didn’t take me long to realize that having meetings scheduled every day of the week impeded my productivity, making it very hard to manage my time regarding projects. So I blocked off Mondays and Fridays. Allowing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as my possible meeting days.

I set up my scheduling software with one-hour buffers between meetings. When someone selects a meeting time, the software blocks off the hour before and after that meeting so nobody can book an appointment that might overlap.

Then one day, I found myself with meetings scheduled for 9:30 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2:30 pm, and 4 pm. It pretty much ruined my day for anything else. There wasn’t enough time between meetings for me to get into the flow of designing. Any time management I had went out the window.

So I tweaked my scheduling software again. I shortened the buffer to 30-minutes between meetings and the availability window to Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday mornings and from 9-11 am and 3-5 pm on Thursdays. This new option opened up my schedule for me to work on projects for more extended periods while still being able to meet with clients.

Do what works for you, and keep adjusting it. A time management system should never be written in stone. It needs to be something flexible that you are constantly moulding.

Is Time Management the solution?

Let me ask one last thing. Why do you need to manage your time? Is it because you’re feeling overwhelmed? Is it because you have trouble prioritizing the things you do? Is it because you feel stressed running your business? Do you believe managing your time better will help you with any of these?

Maybe other things are affecting how you work besides time. Is that a possibility?

Working by yourself from home can be isolating. And what could at first appear to be a time management issue may have to do with your mental health.

If trying various methods doesn’t seem to be helping, you may want to consult someone to see if there’s an underlying issue affecting how your work.

The stigma regarding mental health is not what it was 10-20 years ago. It’s entirely ok to seek help should you need it. You’re worth it. Never forget that.

So as I said at the beginning. Everyone suffers from time management issues—even the so-called experts on the subject. Life sees to that. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years and time management still gets the better of me more often than naught. So don’t feel inadequate if you’re suffering from it as well. You’re in good company.

Oct 17, 2022

Episode Sponsor: StickerMule

I want to talk to you about your tools (software). But first, I want to tell you a story.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter invited her mother and me for dinner, and we arrived mid-afternoon.

As is always the case, Mother and daughter had lots to do and talk about, which left me to my own devices. So I turned on the TV, launched Disney+ and started scrolling through the menu to find something to watch. I knew there was the possibility they might need my help with something, so I didn't want to choose a show that would require my full attention.

After some time, I decided to watch the Pixar movie UP! I hadn't seen it since my kids were young, but I remember it as a fun, feel-good movie. Plus, I wasn't concerned about missing part of it for whatever reason.

In UP!, there's a character named Dug. Perhaps you're familiar with him. Dug is a dog that the two main characters meet along their journey. Dug wears a special collar his master made that allows him to talk.

Now, I don't want to spoil too much of the movie if you haven't seen it. But let's say that Dug, like most dogs, is easily distracted. This is evident in the film every time he sees a squirrel. He might be mid-sentence explaining something important when suddenly, SQUIRREL. He's distracted. If you've ever heard the term Squirrel Syndrome to describe someone who is easily distracted, it came from Dug.

A close sister to Squirrel Syndrome is Shiny Object Syndrome. Shiny object syndrome (SOS) is a continual state of distraction brought on by an ongoing belief that there is something new worth pursuing.

According to Wikipedia, Shiny object syndrome is a psychological concept where people focus on a new and fashionable idea, regardless of how valuable or helpful it may ultimately be. While at the moment, it seems to be something worth focusing one's attention upon, it is ultimately a distraction. People who face a fear of missing out are especially susceptible, as the distraction of shiny objects in themselves clouds judgment and focus.

I have a confession to share with you. For a long time, I suffered from Shiny Object Syndrome regarding software. Any time I saw or heard of a new tool, especially software, that might somehow make my life easier, I wanted it. Even if I had no idea how or why I would use it, it was FOMO, the fear of missing out.

The pitch, ad, or recommendation made the software sound so helpful and desirable that I just had to have it.

Someone would mention, or I would read, how this new software was the be-all, end-all of software. Using it can save you 10 hours of work per day, and your clients will start mailing you envelopes full of cash for all the fantastic features you can offer them because of it. It sounds too good to be true. But what if it isn't? And if I act right now, for a limited time, I will only pay $99 instead of the regular price of $9,000. What a deal. How could I pass that up?

Ok, you know I'm exaggerating. But you also know there's some truth to what I'm saying.

Looking through my Applications folder, I see several tools, and BTW, I'm using the terms tools and software interchangeably. Still, I see several tools I bought and never used or used for a short time before consciously giving up on them, or sometimes, just forgetting about them because it was not as helpful as I thought. I fell for the hype.

And that's not counting all the online tools, memberships, subscriptions and communities I paid for and never used.

We work hard for the money we make as designers. And we must be careful not to waste that money on tools we don't need.

Case in point.

Have you ever heard of Doodly? It's a tool that lets you easily create whiteboard animation videos. You know, the kind where you see a hand with a marker that quickly draws the animation. They're great for explainer videos.

A few years ago, I saw a Facebook ad promoting a lifetime license for Doodly. It usually costs $39/month. But for a one-time purchase of $67, I would have access to it for life. There's no arguing. That's a fantastic deal. The problem is, I've never used it.

The ad pitch for Doodly made it so appealing. I thought to myself. This would be an excellent service to offer my clients. And they hooked me in.

I never considered that in my 30+ years in the design space, I've never needed to create a whiteboard animation video. Not once did I ever think, "you know what? A whiteboard animation video is exactly what this client needs. I wish I knew how to make them." The possibility of this tool blinded me. But in the three years since I fell for this deal. The opportunity to create a whiteboard animation video has never come up. So even though it was a fantastic deal. It was a waste of my money.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with Doodly. I still think it's a great tool. It just isn't a tool I need. Sure, the lifetime deal means I have it should I ever need it. But why spend money on something you may or may not ever need?

Nowadays, everywhere you look, there's some tool or software that can benefit you and your business.

I'm a big fan of AppSumo. I'm even an affiliate of theirs. If you're not familiar with AppSumo, it's a website that offers software products at amazing deals. Often lifetime deals where you pay once and own the software forever.

AppSumo does a fantastic job at making these deals seem irresistible. How owning them improves your life and streamlines the way you work. In other words, they're great at marketing the products they promote in a way that makes you want them.

And AppSumo is just one site. PitchGround, MacHeist, MightyDeals and many other websites offer lifetime deals for great-sounding products. And if you buy something, A lifetime deal is the way to go. After all, why pay monthly for something if you can pay once and use it forever?

I've bought many lifetime deals for software I still use daily. And they've saved me a ton of money.

Plutio, my project management software, costs $39/per month. I paid $49 for a lifetime license.

Billwaze, is my invoicing software, although when I bought it, it was called EZBilling360. The plan I have costs $99.99/month. I paid $59 for a lifetime license.

SocialBee is what I use to schedule and recycle social media content. It costs $39/month. I paid $49 for a lifetime license.

Book Like A Boss is my appointment scheduler. The plan I have costs $15.83/month. I paid $49 for a lifetime license.

And that's just a few. So you can see how buying a lifetime license is worth it. But that's provided you use the software. I've also purchased many lifetime licenses on these sites and elsewhere for tools I don't use. I was a culprit of shiny object syndrome.

My problem was I would buy a great-sounding tool without knowing why or how I would use it. And I wasted a lot of money because of it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the products sold on these sites are not good. Many of them are. And they do help a lot of people. But just because they help a lot of people doesn't mean they're going to help you. In fact, my AppSumo purchase history is four pages long and dates back to 2015. And you know what? Looking through those pages, I can see a pattern. Every piece of software I bought and still use today is something I bought because I needed it at the time. Equally, almost every piece of software I purchased but didn't have an immediate use for, I don't use anymore, if I ever did at all.

Just because something might be helpful to you someday is not a good excuse to part with your hard-earned money today. Owning many different tools doesn't make you a better or more efficient designer if you don't or can't use them. Remember, you're what makes you a designer. It's not the tools you use.

Just like a photographer is a photographer regardless of the camera or lenses they use. Just because they buy a new lens doesn't make them a better photographer. Sure, it might allow them to take photos they couldn't take before. But that only helps them if they take the kind of photos the lens is designed for. A portrait photographer doesn't need a high-power zoom lens. So buying one is a waste of money.

As a design business owner, you must be careful about your purchase of tools. That's why, to help fight my shiny object syndrome, I started to apply filters and question every tool I'm considering buying. It helps me stop wasting money on tools I don't need.

And you should do the same. Don't ask yourself whether or not a tool will be helpful because, in most cases, it could be helpful. Look at Doodly. It's a beneficial tool if you need to create whiteboard animation videos.

Instead, ask yourself whether or not it's something you need right now or in the foreseeable future. Are you in a situation or know of an upcoming situation that could benefit from owning that tool? If you can't think of immediate use for it, don't buy it.

Now, sometimes you feel tempted by a tool because you feel it will help fast-forward something that might be difficult you're trying to avoid or get through. Take a CMS, for example, a Client Management System. There are hundreds of options out there you could use to manage your clients and projects. And hearing how someone is successfully using a different system may make you question your current system.

But buying a new CMS may not be the answer. Maybe your frustration comes from a lack of understanding of your current CMS. And buying a new one is an easy way to avoid dealing with it.

How does that saying go? "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Even though a tool is working well for someone else, it may not be the answer to your problem. New is not always better.

Instead, embrace what you already have and make it work for you.

I mentioned how I use Plutio to manage my projects. Is it the best tool for the job? I have no idea. It might not be. Many designers use other tools that work well for them. However, I invested in Plutio, so I'm making it work.

And think of this. Tools that claim to make things easier or more efficient, or ones that say they'll save you time, may attract you because you don't want to do those things. You're looking for an easy way out. What sounds like a great deal may be nothing more than a bandaid covering up what you really should or could be doing on your own.

I  talked earlier about lifetime deals and how they can save you a lot of money, which is true. But be wary. The offer of a lifetime deal makes it easy to get roped into purchasing something you don't need. My AppSumo purchase history is evidence of that. It lists many lifetime deals I've purchased that I never used. I bought them because I thought the price was too good to pass up for something that may come in handy someday. In other words, they were a waste of money. I didn't apply my filters. I didn't have an immediate use for them, so I never should have bought them.

But what about tools with monthly fees? How many tools do you have that you pay a monthly fee for? How many of them do you get your money's worth from?

I had an aHrefs subscription for over a year. Ahrefs is a fantastic platform to help track, analyze and grow websites. It's excellent with keyword research. It enables you to analyze and monitor competition, track website backlinks, and much more.

If you're trying to build and grow websites, aHrefs is the tool to have. But it comes at a cost. My subscription was $127 Canadian per month. And every month, when I saw that charge on my credit card statement, I questioned whether it was worth it. The tool is excellent, but I wasn't using it as much as when I first subscribed. Was I getting $127 per month worth out of it? When I concluded that the answer was no, I wasn't; I cancelled my subscription. Why pay $127 a month for a tool I only use occasionally, no matter how much I like it? If I find myself in a situation where I need it again, I can always re-subscribe. But in the meantime, that $127 can be used elsewhere.

I recently did an audit of all my monthly subscriptions and cancelled several of them that I no longer felt I needed. In all, I'm now saving over $300 per month.

These days, I apply a filter, as I mentioned earlier, whenever I consider a new tool if I see an ad for something interesting on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Or maybe a podcaster I trust or a colleague recommends something I could use. In the past, I might buy it, no questions asked. But now I try to disconnect myself from the idea that the tools are the answer that will take me to the next level.

The tools are simply a way to become more efficient at something. The tools are a means to an end. They're there to support and help you with the things you are trying to do. Once again, you're who makes you a designer. Not the tools you use.

In many cases, these tools become a distraction and pull us away from the things we're trying to do. And they cost money and can become dangerous for you because they're masked by the idea that they'll make your life easier. But you don't need all the tools.

I want you to make an audit of all the tools you're currently using and figure out which ones are necessary. This can save you money. It can save you time. And it can bring you back to what's vital for you and your business. And stop paying for those tools that aren't necessary.

Think back to the photographer analogy. A photographer who buys a new lens every time they want to take a different kind of photo will soon find themselves with a hefty camera bag, just like all the tools we have to deal with as designers.

Imagine that photographer making decisions now. They have over a dozen lenses to choose from, and it will become harder and harder for them to decide which one to use. This works against them and makes them less efficient photographers because they don't have the time to master each lens.

Be honest with yourself. The tools you have right now. Are you using them to the best of your ability? Are you maximizing the investment you put into them? Tools are not magic buttons. You can't just buy something and all your problems go away. That's not how it works.

So do that audit. Figure out which tools are necessary for what you do. Next, figure out which would be great if you actually used them. Then decide if you want to commit to using them. If not, stop paying for them. Finally, determine what you don't use or need and eliminate them. Open up your wallet and mind for the tools you will use.

I did this episode as much for me as it is for you. I've failed at this before, and I want to hold myself accountable to be better at it in the future. Every time I see a new tool come across my screen, I need to ask myself. Do I need this right now? Will this actually help me? Or is it just distracting me from what I know I need to do?

More often than not, it turns out I don't need the tool, regardless of how good the deal seems.

Sep 8, 2022

I need to put the Resourceful Designer podcast on a short hiatus. Episodes will return on October 17th, 2022.

In the meantime, if you watch the new The Rings Of Power television series on Amazon Prime Video, please check out my new podcast. The Rings Of Power Podcast - Tales From Middle Earth.

http://theringsofpowerpodcast.com/

Aug 29, 2022

When first starting in graphic or web design, firing a client may seem like a foreign concept. After all, isn’t the whole point of building a business to increase your number of clients, not reduce it? But money is money, and as long as clients pay, they’re worth having. Right?

If you’re strapped for cash and don’t have a choice, then I say, sure, get every client you can. But as your client list grows and things become more stable, you’ll inevitably notice that some clients are easier to work with than others. Or maybe it’s not the client. It might be that you enjoy working on specific client projects more than other client projects.

Like many of us, it’s also possible that you may find yourself dealing with clients who frustrate you for one reason or another. These are the clients that make you sigh or groan every time they contact you. Dealing with them is more complicated than with your other clients.

You can put up with these clients for a while. But if something isn’t done to resolve whatever issues you have with them, the solution may be to let them go.

Not every reason to let a client go is a negative one. As you’ll see from the situations described below, there are times when you may want to let a client go because it’s the right time to do so.

You’ll grow over time, as a designer and as a business person. This growth may lead you to pivot your business and perhaps narrow down on a niche, making some existing clients no longer a good fit for you.

Whatever the reason, you will be faced with walking away from a client at some point, hopefully, in a way that minimizes the impact on your business.

Here are 11 signs that it’s time to let a client go.

The client has unreasonable demands or is abusive.

If you ever feel like a client is mistreating you or is outright abusive, it’s time to let them go.

Some clients expect you to behave like an employee. They want you at their beck can call, doing their bidding whenever they want. Just because they are paying you does not give them the right to treat you unprofessionally. You’re a business person just like them, not their employee.

Any Abusive behaviour or verbal attacks against you or your business should never be tolerated, regardless of the cost of a design project. This may sound like common sense, but many designers put up with unreasonable and abusive clients because the money is good.

Let them go. You’ll find better clients to replace them.

The client negatively impacts your bottom line.

Some clients are notorious for expecting special favours. Maybe they want special rates or discounts or expect you to provide services above and beyond your typical offerings.

If your relationship with these clients no longer feels like a good business decision, let them go.

The client refused to work your way.

Any client who refuses to follow your guidelines or work the way you outline should be a concern for you. If you cannot resolve the issue with them, it’s a sign they are not a good fit for you. Let them go.

The client asks you to do the same monotonous work over and over.

Some design projects often become repetitive. I had a client years ago that wanted their product photos to be on a white background. So all I did for them was close crop photos.

It was easy money initially, but the work became tedious after several months. I realized the client didn’t require anything else from me other than this dead-end project. I let them go and devoted my time to other client projects.

The client has payment issues.

Having to deal with a client who is consistently late with payments or wants to negotiate on every project isn’t fun.

Hopefully, a well-written contract will alleviate these problems. But if not, it’s probably in your best interest to let the client go. After they pay you, of course.

The client is not someone you enjoy working with.

Not everyone gets along. That goes for designers and their clients as well. It’s not necessarily because the client is a difficult person. Sometimes personalities just don’t mesh.

If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t enjoy working with a particular client, it might be time to let them go and find someone better suited to you.

The client expects more than what you agreed upon.

You can’t blame a client for trying to get the most from their investment. However, if a client keeps requesting additional work beyond the original agreed-upon project, and isn’t paying for your extra effort, then there’s a problem.

Scope creep is quite common in our industry. It’s best to put a stop to it right away before things escalate.

If the work you are doing for your client keeps increasing, but they are not compensating you for it, it may be time to let the client go.

You’ve outgrown your client.

At some point, you may decide that a client is no longer a good fit.

Maybe your business grows to the point where you don’t want to deal with smaller-budget clients. Perhaps you narrow your focus on your services, and existing clients no longer meet your criteria.

Any time you outgrow a client, let them go and find new ones which suit you better.

The client is inconsistent.

Some designers prefer to work with clients who can guarantee consistent work. This is a perfect business model for retainer agreements which I’ve discussed in episodes 32 and 255 of the podcast.

If a client only offers you the odd project here and there with no guarantee of steady work, you may consider letting them go and focusing your energy on clients with recurring projects.

The client doesn’t respect you as a professional.

It’s a fact that many people don’t take designers seriously as business professionals. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t yourself.

Suppose a client disrespects you by consistently cancelling, postponing or not showing up for meetings. Or if they take forever to reply to your emails or phone calls. Or if they disrespect you in any other way, let them go. As a business professional, you don’t have time to deal with people who don’t respect what you do.

The client isn’t paying your current rates.

As time goes by, you will inevitably raise your rates as you grow your design business. You may start at $30/hr or $150 for a logo design, but you’ll want more at some point.

Raising your rates isn’t hard to do. You decide what your new rate is and charge it. All new clients pay the new rate.

But what about old clients who are used to paying your old rates? In my experience, most clients will understand and accept your new rate. I’ve never lost a client because of a rate hike.

But, should a client not be able to or is unwilling to pay your new rates. Take it as a sign that it’s time to part ways with them. Some clients can afford you, and some can’t. That’s Ok. It’s the same for every business.

There you have it, 11 signs that it’s time to let a client go.

As you can see, sometimes you should let a client go not because they are a lousy client but because you’ve evolved beyond them. Regardless of why you let a client go, it would be best if you did so in a professional manner.

Whenever possible, try to come up with a solution that will prevent you from having to let a client go. But if it comes to parting ways, always try to leave on good terms. Leaving on good terms can strengthen your relationship with the departed client.

There’s no telling what the future holds. You never know. A client you let go of today might be in a different situation down the road and in need of someone with your talents. If you parted on good terms, you might be able to pick up and continue that relationship.

Even a lousy client may one day see the light. So don’t burn bridges if at all possible.

I’ve talked on this show many times about how any design business’s success is built on the relationships you form with your clients.

Ending a relationship can be challenging, especially one you’ve had for a long time. Remember, you are running a business. As such, you need to do what is in the best interest of that business. Sometimes, that means letting clients go. They’ll respect you for it.

Aug 15, 2022

Find something to distract your creative mind.

Nobody tells you when you get into the design industry that regardless of whether you’re doing this part-time or full-time or how many hours you devote to working each day, being a graphic or web designer is a 24/7 job.

The curse of creativity.

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you.

You’re out doing errands. Maybe it’s grocery shopping or going to an appointment. It doesn’t matter. Whatever you’re doing has nothing to do with design work. And yet, for some reason, you find your mind churning away at design-related things.

It starts contemplating a problem your having with a client website. Hmm, what’s the best way to accomplish that? Or it starts generating ideas for that new logo you’re designing. What if I play around with using an abstract star in the logo? It could be something as mundane as imagining colours. I like the blue on the cereal box. I wonder how this blue would look on that poster I’m designing?

Even though you’re “off-the-clock,” your mind keeps designing.

You may be watching TV and only half paying attention to what’s playing because part of your brain is crunching away at some design problem. Or worse, you’re lying in bed in the pitch dark, wanting to fall asleep, but your brain has other plans.

Have you ever found yourself in any of these situations? Call it the curse of creativity. Those gifted with it know that creativity can pop up at the most inopportune times.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love how my mind works and all the creative things it comes up with. However, I could do without the sleep deprivation. But even that’s a small price for something I love doing.

But even though I embrace this wild creativity we designers possess. Sometimes it would be nice not to have my mind wander towards some design problem when I’m not working.

Because letting it do this over and over can lead to burnout. If all we think about is our jobs as designers, we may end up resenting what we do for a living.

A creative solution.

Now there are various solutions to this “problem.” Some people practice meditation to clear their minds. And I’m sure it’s beneficial for them, but meditation isn’t my thing. Some people listen to music or podcast. But just like watching TV, I find your mind can still wander away from these intended distractions.

I can’t tell you how often I found myself listening to a podcast or audiobook only to realize my mind started wandering, and I have no idea what was said over the last several minutes.

Some people turn to exercise, which is never a bad thing. But I’m not sure how effectively it curbs a wandering creative mind. It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to count repetitions.

I found that the best way to stop a creative mind from wandering is to give it another creative outlet. That’s right, fight creativity with creativity.

Now I’m far from being a brain expert. But I think many of these scenarios I’ve mentioned don’t require a lot of brain processing power. Walking down a grocery ails and picking out a cereal box doesn’t need your undivided attention. Nor does putting one foot in front of another while out running.

This “brain idling” leaves a significant portion of your mind with nothing to do. And what do most sentient things do when they have nothing to do? They get bored, and they start to wander. And that’s why creativity is the best weapon against wandering creativity.

It’s kind of like fighting fire with fire. Or maybe it’s not. I don’t know.

The best way to stop thinking about your job as a designer is to occupy your mind with another creative task. Since creativity uses a lot of brain power, it’s difficult for your mind to think of two creative things simultaneously. So it focuses on the more immediate one.

The creative outlet you choose is irrelevant. Maybe, instead of listening to music, you create music. Maybe, instead of reading, you try writing. Perhaps you try a sport instead of going to a gym to exercise. After all, most sports require creative thinking.

Or it could be knitting, sculpting, dancing, scrapbooking, or even basket weaving if that’s your thing. It doesn’t matter, as long as it requires creativity. When it comes to creative outlets, there are unlimited choices.

My creative outlet.

My favourite creative outlet is woodworking. I may have mentioned it before on the Resourceful Designer podcast, but I love woodworking. If I hadn’t become a designer, I probably would have become a carpenter or something in the woodworking field.

I even have battle scars to prove it. Last year, while building a plant stand for my wife, I caught the tips of two of my fingers on my table saw. Luckily the damage was minimal. A couple of tiny scars are the only evidence of the mishap. But the dangers of woodworking aside, I love taking raw pieces of wood and creating something new and unique out of them.

This past weekend I created a food cage for our cat. Don’t worry. It’s not as sinister or cruel as it sounds.

We recently got a new puppy, and we don’t want him to eat the cat food that we leave out. Our cat is getting old, so making her jump up to areas that are out of the dog’s reach wasn’t a great idea. So I designed and built a cat food cage. It’s a wooden cage with an opening on one side that we place over the cat’s food bowl.

We place the cat food cage in the corner of our bedroom, close enough to the wall so the cat can squeeze beside it and get in through the opening, but the dog can’t. Problem solved. The cat can eat in peace whenever she wants, and all the dog can do is sit outside the cage and watch.

It took me a weekend to design and build this cage. Not that it was difficult, but I had to give time for the wood glue to dry.

Let me tell you, the entire time I was conceptualizing and working on this cage, I did not think about any of the websites, podcast artwork or other design projects I have on the go. And that felt great. It felt great not to be a graphic or web designer for that short period and instead be a woodworker.

That’s my creative outlet. Whenever I need to give my mind a break, I go to my workshop and build something. And I always feel refreshed and energized after doing so. It’s as if taking a break from thinking about design makes me more eager and excited when I start back up. Woodworking recharges me.

What creative outlet do you use to escape from being a designer? I firmly believe that having one, if not more than one, will make you a better designer.

Think of it as exercising your creativity. Just like you don’t do the same routine each time you go to the gym, changing up your creative outlets will make you a healthier and more rounded creative person. Your mind and your clients will thank you.

Aug 8, 2022

In episode 89 of Resourceful Designer, I discussed checklists and your design business. As a bonus to that episode, I offered my WordPress Website Setup Checklist. That was five years ago, and things have changed. In that time, I've grown and expanded as a web designer. The tools I use to create websites have also grown and expanded. Here is an up-to-date list of the tools I regularly use to design and build WordPress websites. Don't build in WordPress? Don't worry. I share a few things that may help you regardless of the platform where you design websites.

Conceptualizing the website.

Before I get down to designing and building a website, I want to know what I'm building. These are the tools that help me in the conceptual stage.

Dynalist:

Dynalist is a great outlining app that helps you get work done. I use Dynalist to outline the structure of every website I build. I like to know what pages a site will have and where they sit in the hierarchy. Dynalist helps me do this.

Coolors.co

Coolors.co is a super fast colour palette generator. I use it to choose colours for a website before the build starts. It's also convenient for finding great colours to go along with a client's existing brand colours.

Setting up the website.

SiteGround

SiteGround I host all my and my client's websites at SiteGround. They're inexpensive, reliable, easy to work with and score well in web host comparisons. What more could a web designer ask for in a web host?

Siteground has a very convenient one-click WordPress install feature that gets me up and designing quickly. Their installation registers me as the site admin using my email address instead of the default "Admin," usually generated by WordPress. If your web host doesn't have this feature, then I suggest the first thing you do upon installing WordPress is create a new Admin user and delete the default one named "Admin."

During installations, Siteground installs two of its own plugins, SiteGround Optimizer and SiteGround Security. These are great plugins; however, I disable them until I finish building the site.

Assets and tools I use on just about every website.

Envato Elements

Envato Elements is the first place I look for any stock images, icons or graphics I may need during a website build. Their low monthly subscription allows unlimited downloads, which comes in handy while experimenting.

Depositphotos

Depositphotos is another excellent resource for stock images and vector graphics. They're inexpensive, and their quality matches higher price stock image sites.

Grammarly

Grammarly ensures my website copy is error-free and written most effectively. I've been using it for years and won't compose anything without running it through Grammarly.

Squoosh

Squoosh.app is a handy website that does one thing very well, it optimizes images. Every image I upload to a website passes through Squoosh first.

Screenflow

Screenflow is only available on Mac (sorry, windows users). It's a screen recorder that makes it very easy to create tutorial videos explaining to clients how to use their new website. Screenflow is also a powerful video editor which I use any time I need to do minor edits to a video before uploading it to a website.

Handbrake

Handbrake is a free video conversion tool. It allows you to change the format of a video which is very useful in reducing a video's file size.

Building the website.

Divi Theme

Divi by Elegant Themes is the world's most popular WordPress page builder and is trusted by hundreds of thousands of website creators. Divi takes WordPress to a new level by allowing you to build a website visually. With Divi, there's practically nothing you cannot create.

Divi Marketplace

The Divi Marketplace: is a one-stop shop for everything Divi, including layouts, child themes and extensions. If you need a website to do something special, chances are the solution can be found in the Divi Marketplace.

Divi Booster

Divi Booster allows you to customize Divi without adding extra code. This plugin adds 100s of new configuration options to Divi.

Divi Express

Divi Express is a vast library of Divi layouts, sections, headers & footers, sub-pages and more that you can import into your Divi website. Using Divi Express has drastically reduced my website design time.

Divi Supreme

Divi Supreme Is an All-in-One Divi Plugin that adds over 50 new Modules and eight extensions to Divi. Divi Supreme eliminates the need to customize things with a ton of CSS, saving you time.

Divi Extended

Divi Extended offers over 50 Divi Child Themes and 11 unique plugins. Their Divi Plus plugin adds over 50 new Modules to Divi. I love their Divi Blog Extra and Divi Blurb Extra plugins.

Divi Life

Divi Life also offers Layouts, Child Themes and Plugins. My favourite plugins from Divi Life are the Divi Overlays and Divi Bars plugins that I've used on several client websites.

Divi Engine

Divi Engine also offers plugins and extensions for Divi. However, it's their one plugin Divi Machine that excites me. With Divi Machine, you can create dynamic content with Div and Advanced Custom Fields. Learning about Divi Machine has changed the way I imagine websites.

Plugins I use during the build.

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is the ultimate forms plugin as far as I'm concerned. Even though Divi has forms built in, the ease and versatility of Gravity Forms make it a must-install on every website I build.

PrettyLinks

PrettyLinks makes it easy to create prettier and easily sharable URL links for your pages directly from within WordPress.

SEO Plugins

Yoast and Rank Math are the two SEO Plugins I'm most familiar with. Yoast has been an industry leader in website SEO for years, but I've recently seen great results with Rank Math. Both are highly recommended, so research to see which one is best for you.

Once the website is built.

These are the plugins I install once I've completed a website build. These add functionality to protect and make the site more efficient.

iThemes

iThemes Security Pro:

iThemes Security Pro is arguably the best WordPress Security Plugin available. I don't take chances with website security, and that's why I rely on the best.

iThemes BackupBuddy makes it easy to create and store backups of a WordPress website. Over 1 million WordPress sites trust BackupBuddy, and so do I.

iThemes Sync: I install this plugin on every website. iThemes Sync allows you to update and manage multiple websites from one location, making it very easy to perform weekly maintenance.

SiteGround Optimizer and SiteGround Security: I deactivate these two plugins while building websites and reactivate them once the site is complete. SiteGround has created two great plugins that I've come to rely on.

Google Analytics for WordPress by Monster Insights: This plugin makes it very easy to monitor your website traffic.

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