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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 5
Feb 8, 2021

Are you missing out by not charging your clients for everything you can?

Running your own design business or freelancing as a graphic or web designer seems like such an easy gig. A client asks you to create something for them, and they pay you for what you design. Simple right?

For thousands of graphic and web designers around the world, that’s exactly how they do it. A Client brings them a project. The designer designs the project. The Client pays for said project. And the cycle repeats.

What if I told you many of these designers are leaving money on the table? How they could and should be charging much more to their clients than they currently are.

I’m not talking about design rates. I’m not saying these designers are worth more than the rate they are charging. Although they probably are.

No. What I’m getting at is there are many aspects of what you do as a designer that you could be charging your clients for. And yet, many designers don’t. And as such, those designers are missing out on money they could be earning. Are you one of them?

Case study.

Imagine a client hires you for a new project. To design a poster for an upcoming local festival.

Many designers will figure out how much to quote for a poster design. They may base it on an hourly rate. Maybe offer a flat fee. Or perhaps base their price on the value they’re providing, regardless of what pricing strategy they use. The price they quote is based on designing the poster alone. And that’s wrong.

You’ll notice most successful designers refer to what they work on as projects. They’re not working on a poster for a local festival. They’re working on a project for the local festival that involves designing a poster. You see, a design project consists of multiple tasks. And not all of those tasks involve actual designing.

Let me break this down.

A client calls you on the phone to see if you’re interested in designing a poster for their festival. You say yes and set up a time to meet their organizing committee to go over what is required of you.

You meet with them to discuss the festival, who it’s for, where it’s happening, when it’s taking place and how long it’s lasting. You go over what the festival's brand and message entail, and of course, what sort of information they want on the poster.

Once you’re satisfied, you go back home or to your office and prepare a quote. Maybe they have some follow-up questions that go back and forth before they agree on your price and you finally get to work on their project.

Your design process may include researching similar festivals from other areas to see what sort of posters they did. It may include browsing stock image sites to find the perfect images to compliment the festival's theme as well as your design. It may include contacting a local printer to ask about different paper stocks or finishing options. It may include coordinating with the festival’s web designer, if that’s not you, to make sure the poster and website follow a consistent brand.

Then, once you’ve designed the poster, you need to present it to the client. Perhaps you place your poster design on situation mockups to help the client visualize it in place. Then you email them a PDF, or maybe you present it to them in person.

Once the client approves your poster design, you prepare the final print files and hand them over to your client to bring to the printer. Unless you are also brokering the printing for them, but for this example, let’s say you aren’t.

Then you prepare the invoice, send it to the client, and take care of the payment and bookkeeping once it's received. Only then is the project over.

Out of all of that, for how much of it did you charge the client?

  • Did you charge them for the initial phone call?
  • Did you charge them for the travel time to and from any in-person meetings?
  • Did you charge them for the time those meetings lasted?
  • Did you charge them for the time it took you to prepare the quote and answer any follow-up questions?
  • Did you charge them for the research you did or the time you spent browsing stock image sites?
  • What about the time you spent discussing the festival’s brand with their web designer or the time you spent discussing paper stock with the printer?
  • How about the time it took to present the poster to the client?
  • Or the time it took to prepare the mockups and final files for the printer?
  • And what about the time you took to prepare the invoice and handle any payment you received?

Did you charge them for any of that? Or did you only charge them for designing the poster?

Most inexperienced or struggling designers probably did the latter. Charge for only the poster. But that's wrong. The poster design is only one small part of the overall project you were hired to do. A project that started when the client called you and finished the moment you received the final payment. Everything in between is billable. Your time is valuable. You shouldn’t be giving it away for free.

Think like a lawyer.

Have you ever received an invoice from a lawyer? Make fun of lawyers as you will, but designers can learn a thing or two from how a lawyer runs their business.

Lawyers keep track of every phone call. Every sheet of paper they print out. Every email they send. And every minute a client spends with them. And they bill the client for all of it. Why? Because lawyers know every little bit of it has a cost or value associated with it. And since it was all done on behalf of a client, that client should be paying for that cost or value.

I’m not telling you to charge for every piece of paper or every paperclip you use. But, you would be in your right if you wanted to.

How I charge my clients.

Let me explain how I charge my clients.

In my case, the initial email or phone call from a client is free. Providing that call doesn’t last more than 15-20 minutes. 15-20 minutes should be enough time to propose their project and for me to ask some initial questions. If it goes on longer than 15-20 minutes, I’ll make a note of it and incorporate the extra time into my project cost. But normally, if it looks like the conversation will go long, I’ll ask them to schedule a time with me to discuss their project in greater detail.

I charge my clients for any travel time as well as the time I spend with them. That time could be for presenting a proposal, conducting a discovery meeting, making a presentation, or whatever reason I'm with the client.

Once I’m back in my office working, I keep track of the time I spend doing research for their project. That may include learning about the client and their industry or browsing stock image sites.

I use a tool called Clockify to keep track of the time I spend on a project. Clockify makes it very easy to turn timers on and off, assign them to a project and keep track of how much time I spend working on it. So before I start any research or anything to do with the project, I turn on the timer.

Just a side note here. Most of my projects these days are quoted using either project-based or value-based pricing. So I’m not billing by the hour. But I still like to keep track of how much time I spend on every project for my own benefit. That way, I get to learn how much time it takes me to do certain tasks.

If a client calls me while I’m working on a different project, I’ll switch the timer to their project for the call duration. Again for my benefit.

And I also know from experience how long it takes me to prepare and send out an invoice.

All of this is taken into consideration when quoting on a project. Of course, most of this is speculation and guesswork. But it’s accounted for.

  • How many trips will I have to make to the client’s office, and what is the average duration for these meetings?
  • What’s the travel distance to the client's office?
  • Will I need to coordinate this project with another designer, printer or other third parties?
  • How much research do I anticipate having to do?
  • Etc.

All of this is worked into the quote. Because my time is valuable, and if it’s spent on behalf of the client. Then the client should be paying for it. If I only charged for the actual designs I create, my business would not be as successful.

There are plenty of other aspects of what you do you could be charging for.

Consulting

I receive lots of inquiries from people wanting to “pick my brain” about design or branding.

"Mark, I have an idea for a new mail campaign for my business. I want to get your opinion on it." Or "Mark, my wife is opening a new business, and I was wondering if you had any ideas of what she needs branding wise to get started?"

You know the types of questions I’m talking about. Sure they may turn into paid work, but most of the time, they’re innocently looking for free advice.

Once in a while is not a big deal. But when this starts happening regularly, it eats into your valuable time. The time you could be spending working on projects you are being paid for.

It got so bad at one point that I implemented a consulting fee. Now, whenever someone calls or emails to ask for my advice. I tell them I would love to help, but I can’t right now. And then provide a link to a webpage where they can schedule a time with me.

The page I direct them to is titled One-On-One Consultation, and it allows them to book a 1-hour time slot at the cost of $100. And you know what? 9 out of 10 times, they follow through and book a time with me.

I used to get asked these questions and ended up spending my valuable time offering advice free of charge. Now I’m being paid for my knowledge. I’m an expert. That’s why they’re reaching out to me. So why shouldn’t I be paid for that expertise? And so should you.

I use a service called Book-Like-A-Boss for booking. But there are many other options you could use to set up your own consulting schedule.

Charging for add-ons.

Another thing you should charge for is add-ons. Add-ons include WordPress plugins or perhaps stock images—basically, anything you need to purchase to complete the client's project.

Every web designer that works with WordPress uses themes and plugins to enhance the sites they build. Many of these themes and plugins are free. But oftentimes, a premium plugin is required to get the job done. Premium plugins come at a cost. And in some cases, those costs should be passed on to the client.

For example, I love Gravity Forms for creating custom forms on websites. But not every website needs a custom form. In most cases, the default form that comes with Divi, the page builder I use, is good enough.

However, I have several clients who need something more than basic, and that’s where Gravity Forms comes in.

Gravity Forms is a premium plugin. It costs $59/year for one site.  So there’s nothing wrong with me charging my clients $59/year for the use of that plugin. I’d just be passing on the cost to them. The same cost they would pay if they were designing their site themselves and purchased the plugin.

However, I pay for an Elite license, which allows me to install Gravity Forms on unlimited websites.

But why should I incur that expense for something that benefits my clients? If it were a single client, I would pass the cost on to them. So why not do the same thing with multiple clients? Every client that uses Gravity Forms pays $59/year for the use of the plugin.

For the record, my website maintenance plan includes premium plugins. So if a client signs up for my maintenance plan, the cost of all premium plugins is included, which is another great selling feature for the maintenance plan.

Stock Images.

I mentioned Stock images above. There’s nothing wrong with charging your clients a small fee for any stock image you use on their project. Include them in your quote or itemize them as extra items on your invoice.

Think of stock image sites as image wholesalers. Meaning it’s OK to mark up the costs of the images you use.

Every year I stock up on DepositPhotos credits when they come on sale at AppSumo. The deal works out to $0.50 for each stock image I download.

However, if the client bought the images themselves, without the benefit of AppSumo credits or a DepositPhotos subscription, they would pay between $5-$10 per image.

So five stock images are used while designing a poster, why not charge the client $25-$50 for them?

There's more you can charge for.

The whole point I'm trying to get across is to help you realize there are things you do for your clients that you could be charging for.

It’s nice to think these things are just the cost of doing business. And in most cases, they are. But why should that cost come out of your pocket when your client is the one benefiting from them? It’s OK to charge your client for all the extra things you do beyond the actual design you create for them.

Don’t believe me? Try to think of the last down on his luck starving lawyer you’ve seen.

Designing might be your passion. It is for me. But passion doesn’t pay the bills. If you want to run a successful design business, you need to treat it as a business. And that means charging your clients.

What sort of things do you charge your clients for?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Logo Package Express 2.0

Logo Package Express automatically generates and exports logo packages from Adobe Illustrator with blazing speed. Packaging logos is boring and complex. First, you have to know what formats to provide your clients, then you have to make them. Manually. One at a time. It takes hours and is a real pain. Logo Package Express turns that dreaded task into a breeze by pumping out 200+ logo files in under 5 minutes. It's truly one of the greatest additions to the design market in a while.

Save $20 off the purchase of Logo Package Express 2.0 with this link.

Already own Logo Package Express version 1? Click this link, log in and purchase the updated version 2.0 for only $20.

Feb 1, 2021

This is a cautionary tale on how not to treat your clients.

Several months ago, I quoted on a branding and web design project for a client. This was an existing client who was starting something new and wanted my help. I gave her a price, she agreed. I sent her a contract, which she promptly signed and returned along with her deposit.

Because of the nature of the project, which I’m not going to get into, we had to wait a few months before starting. But a couple of months ago, the client contacted me to cancel the project.

The nature of her business involves large gatherings of people, and with the pandemic affecting things, she informed me that she was putting the project on indefinite hold.

According to my contract, deposits are non-refundable. However, I did tell her that should she revive the project within six months. I would honour the original quote and the deposit she had given me. And that was that. Or so I had thought.

Earlier this week, the clients contacted me. As it turns out, the project wasn’t put on indefinite hold. What happened was another designer who happens to specialize in this client’s niche contacted her and offered to do the project for almost half of what I had quoted.

I’ve talked about niching before on the podcast. How niching gives you an advantage because you are perceived as an expert in that niche. Which is true. It works. And it worked in this instance. The client couldn’t pass up this opportunity to work with a designer specializing in her industry and at a lower price than I quoted. So she cancelled with me and hired this other person. I don’t blame her. It sounded like a great deal.

Now back to the phone call I received this week.

The client contacted me and told me why she cancelled our agreement. Then she proceeded to tell me how much of a nightmare this other designer was to work with. The project was completed, but not to her liking, and she wanted to know if I would be willing to take over the project from now on.

Here’s what happened.

The client told me the designer seemed like a perfect fit for her project. So was impressed when they talked and she liked his price. She paid him half up front, with the second half coming due upon completion of the project. She gave the designer her credit card number, which you should never do, but she did. And the designer started the project.

A few weeks later, the client received her credit card statement and noticed that the designer's payment was converted from US funds. Both the client and the designer live in Canada, so naturally, the client thought the quote was in Canadian dollars. Nowhere on the invoice says US funds, and she doesn’t remember the designer ever saying anything about charging in US Dollars.

When she questioned the designer, he told her that all web designers charge in US Dollars (which is not true), and that’s just the way it is. She should have done her homework before hiring him. The US/CAN exchange rate means the client pays roughly 30-35% more than she expected for the project.

But at this point, the designer had already designed a logo, which the client liked and had started on the website. So taking the loss, things with the project proceeded, and everything continued to go well with the project.

It wasn’t until the client started asking for changes that the designer's true demeanour came out. The client asked the designer to move a few things around on the website, but the designer refused to make any of the changes she requested. He told her that she’s not a designer and therefore doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She should leave designing to the expert.

When the client expressed a dislike for the colour palette, the designer chose for the website. He told her he wasn't going to change it. He had a vision for the brand, and he was going to stick with it. He told the client the colours would grow on her and not worry about it. They never did.

When the client saw a proof of the website, including copy the designer had written himself, she decided to log into WordPress and edit some of the wording. The designer had a fit, accusing the client of trying to sabotage his vision. The designer sent her a message saying, “Will you please stop making changes to the website. If you start messing around, you’re liable to muck things up, which is just more grief for me. You’re not a web designer, so why don’t you stick to things you know and let me handle the website.” He then revoked the client’s access to the site until he was finished with it, saying any changes she wanted had to be done by him. But as stated earlier, the designer refused to make any changes that went against his vision.

And to make it worse, when the client complained that he wasn't listening to her, he replied, “I received your input, but I’m the designer. I’ve been doing this for a long time and know a lot more about designing websites than you do. Please keep your opinions to yourself unless I ask for them.”

This brings us to now. The client is not happy with the completed website and doesn’t want anything to do with the designer anymore. That’s why she’s reaching out to me, someone she’s worked with before and someone who has always treated her well.

The saving grace is the designer didn’t use a contract. So she’s not on the hook to stay with him once she pays her final fee. Things still need to be finalized, but it looks like I’ll be taking over this project very soon.

I wanted to share this experience with you to illustrate how not to treat a client. Yes, as designers, we are experts. Especially if you focus on a niche. However, being an expert doesn’t mean you’re better or above your client or that a client’s opinion isn’t valid. A designer/client relationship is a partnership. One where you work together to complete the project. A designer may know more about designing than the client, but they will never know more about the client's business than they do. Abusing this is a great way to lose clients.

Maybe this designer doesn’t care. Maybe he’s laughing and thinking how smart he is. He got paid for the project, and now he never has to hear from the client again.

But you know what? This client is an influencer in her space. The same space this designer specializes in. What do you think will happen when she starts telling other people in her industry about her experiences? Was it really worth it for that designer to get his way? In the long run, I don’t think so.

I wish him luck because if that’s how he treats his clients, he’s going to need it. No matter how good you are, your business will not succeed if you drive your clients away.

I've said it before. Clients prefer to work with a good designer they like than an amazing designer they don’t like.

That’s how NOT to treat your clients. I know you know better than acting like this. But it’s always good to hear these kinds of stories to make you appreciate the relationships you have with your clients. Treat them well, and they’ll treat you well. What more can you ask for?

Resource of the week ScreenFlow

This week’s resource is something I've shared before, ScreenFlow screen recording software. It has helped me streamline my graphic design business so much that I have to share it again. Using ScreenFlow has saved me so much time and headaches. Instead of teaching clients how to use their new websites and then helping them again a month or so later when they’ve forgotten, now I just record a short instructions video showing them what to do. If they need a refresher or need to train someone new, they have access to the video and they don’t have to interrupt me for help. For that reason alone I highly recommend ScreenFlow.

Jan 25, 2021

Would you like to get more design clients?

For your graphic or web design business to succeed, you need to find clients willing to work with you. Without clients, it’s a given that your business will fail. But with so many designers to choose from. How do you get clients to pick you over the competition?

If you’re a long time listener of the podcast, you’ve heard me say before, “Clients prefer work with a good designer they like than an amazing designer they don’t like.” That’s what it comes down to. If a client likes you, they’ll be more inclined to hire you.>

But how do you get someone to like you? Especially if you only have a few short minutes to make an impression?

My father was an amazing salesperson. He worked for several companies in the electrical supply industry before retiring, and he made a great impression on every one of them. In fact, he won numerous salesman of the year awards and then several managers of the year awards when he was promoted to sales manager. 

Every company my father worked for credited him for their increased sales and growth. He had a natural gift for landing new clients. Even the competition had high praise for my father. They may not have liked him because he kept landing clients they wanted, but they respected him and, as far as I know, never talked ill of him. And that’s because everyone liked and trusted my dad.

I didn’t understand that while growing up. Or more like I didn’t pay much attention to it. My dad had an uncanny ability to run into people he knew. It seemed that everywhere we went, someone would recognize him, and he obviously made enough of an impression for them to go out of their way to come say hi. And it didn’t matter if we were in a restaurant or mall downtown or halfway across the country. There was bound to be someone there my dad knew.

I remember taking a summer road trip with my parents when I was young. We were driving through the State of Maine in the USA when my dad pulled into a gas station. While filling up, another car pulled in. And when the driver got out, he turned to my father with a big smile and greeted him by name. It turned out to be someone my dad had met at an electrical convention several years prior. They had only talked for a few minutes, but my dad had made enough of an impression on the man that he never forgot him.

The first time my family and I visited Vancouver, British Columbia, which for those who don’t know, is on the other side of Canada, some 4700 KM away from where I live. My dad ran into not one, not two, but three different people he knew while we were there.

My mom and I would just shake our head dumbfounded. Not only at how many people my dad knew, but how happy they always seemed to see him. This seemingly magical skill my father possessed always amazed me. It wasn’t until I was older and starting my career at the print shop that my dad let me in on his “little secret.”

One day, shortly after graduation from college, I was sitting down with my father, and he told me the following.

He said "Mark if you want to do well in business, you have to work hard. Never complain unless it’s absolutely necessary. And most importantly, you need people to like you. You see, the more people who like you, the easier it will be for you to succeed in whatever venture you set out to do."

And then he told me his trick. And although my father didn’t break them down into steps, for the benefit of the podcast, I will.

Step 1) Always smile when you greet someone.

A smile is a natural diffuser. 

When you smile as you greet someone, it shows that you accept them and are genuinely interested in talking with them. It makes them feel welcome. A smile creates positive energy and sets people at ease. Making it easier for them to open up to you. 

It’s a lot easier to trust someone who smiles than someone who doesn’t

Step 2) Always say hello with a firm handshake as you look them in the eye.

A handshake tells a lot about a person. A week handshake gives the impression of doubt and lack of confidence. A strong, bone-crushing handshake gives the impression of overconfident and trying to assert authority or dominance. 

You want to be in the middle, offering a firm handshake that instills a sense of confidence, as well as respect for the person you’re shaking hands with.

On a side note. I know with the World Wide pandemic still going on. A handshake is frowned upon right now. I’m confident that once all of this is behind us, the handshake will make its return. And you should be ready to start offering them again.

A handshake is something my father was never stingy in offering. In fact, I remember my friends in high school telling me how much they liked my dad. Every time they came over, he would get up, smile and shake their hands and ask them how they were doing. Unlike the other kid’s fathers, who never paid much attention to us, mine always made my friends feel welcome.

I also remember my father getting down on one knee to shake young children’s hands whenever someone he knew introduced their kids. It made a big impression on the kids as well as their parents.

My dad never missed the opportunity to shake someone’s hand. And I’m proud to say it’s a trait I picked up from him. And I look forward to the day when I can start doing it again.

Step 3) Try to use the person’s name in conversation as much as possible.

From birth, we’re conditioned to the sound of our own name. We react to it in a way we don’t react to anything else. Our name is one of the most precious sounds in the world to us.

I know personally, I pay special attention whenever a character in a book, tv show or movie is named Mark. I remember feeling extra special as a kid when I found out the actor that played Luke Skywalker had the same first name as me.

Whenever you use someone’s name in conversation, you’re telling them you care about them. That you find them important and that you respect them enough to use their name.

Now, this can be tricky. Especially if you’re not good with names. I know I’m not nearly as good as my dad. But I try my best. And something to remember, you should never be ashamed to tell someone you forgot their name. In fact, by saying you don’t remember and asking them to repeat it, you’re telling the person you care enough about them to want to know their name. Just don’t make a habit of forgetting their name, or it will backfire on you.

I know that any time I answer the phone, the first thing I do is write down the name of the person calling. That way, I can refer back to it while talking to them. And if they don’t offer their name, it’s one of the first questions I ask before continuing the conversation. And then I make sure to use it.

After all, what do you think sounds more personable.

“I’d love to work with you on this project. I’ll send you a quote by the end of the day.”

or

“I’d love to work with you on this, Sarah. I’ll send you a quote by the end of the day.”

Most good salespeople use this tactic because it works. And so can you when talking to clients.

Step 4) Show interest in the person you’re talking to.

Ask any dating expert, and they’ll tell you that one of the most attractive features in a date is someone who shows more interest in you than in sharing about themselves.

Now chances are you’re not seeking any romantic relations with your clients. But the principles are the same. The more you talk about and express interest in the client, the more inclined they’ll be to like, trust and want to work with you.

The easiest way to accomplish this is by asking questions. 

Most conversations involve two or more people, each sharing their own views. This is why questions are great attention-grabbers. Questions disrupt the normal flow of a conversation by focusing what you say on the other party.

According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the best type of question to ask is a follow-up question. Not only does a follow-up question refocus the conversation on the client. But it shows them that you were paying attention and that you were interested enough to want to know more about what they were saying.

And questions don’t have to be specific about the topic of the conversation. In fact, the best questions are unexpected ones. If the client says, they got an idea while out camping. Ask them about the camping trip. It’s basic human nature. We like to feel important, to feel special. And by asking questions, especially follow-up questions, you make the client feel special. And when you make someone feel special, they’ll be much more inclined to like, trust and want to work with you.

Now, of course, I expanded on what my father originally told me. But these four steps are the cornerstones of sales success.

  1. Always smile when you greet someone.
  2. Always say hello with a firm handshake as you look them in the eye. 
  3. Try to use the person’s name in conversation as much as possible. 
  4. Show interest in the person you’re talking to.

When put together, they create a powerful impression on the person or people you’re dealing with.

Imagine you walk into a car dealership, and the salesperson sees you and calls out from across the showroom floor.

"Hi, Can I help you with anything?"

"Yes, I’d like to see the newest model SUVs you have."

"Sounds good. Follow me over here, and I’ll show them to you."

Compared that to a salesperson who responds this way.

You walk into the car dealership, and the salesperson gets up from behind their desk and approaches you with their hand held out.

"Hi, I’m Chris." And he shakes your hand as he waits for you to reply.

"Hi Chris, I’m Mark."

"Nice to meet you, Mark. What can I help you with today?"

"I’d like to see the newest model SUVs you have."

"Sound good. Tell me, Mark, have you ever owned an SUV before?" he asks as he leads me to where the SUVs are.

I don’t know about you. But even though It’s such a small difference, that second guy leaves a much better first impression. And if I had to go on just that initial greeting. I’d chose him to deal with over the first guy.

The same things apply to clients. Remember, they would prefer to work with a good designer they like than with an amazing designer they don’t like. But their ideal choice is working with an amazing designer they also happen to like. And that’s where you come in.

The more you can get people to like, trust and want to work with you. The faster your design business will grow and succeed.

So smile, shake hands (once we can again, of course), look people in the eye. Use their name and ask questions, especially follow-up questions. If you do this, you’ll be on the road to landing more clients.

Do you follow these four steps?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Art Text

Create artistic text effects with Art Text 4. A Mac-based application for creating stunning headlines, logos and more.

Art Text lets you turn any text into a work of art. Create realistic looking metallic, wooden, gel, paint, even chocolate looking text. All of it is fully editable with unrestricted preset. The only limit is your creativity.

You can adjust the textures, surface maps, light spots and shadows, and other settings to come up with your own unique materials. And that’s not to mention the 3D modelling engine that helps convert any text, symbol or pictogram into 3D. There’s just too much to talk about in this little program.

I’ve been using Art Text since version 1. I thought it was great back then. Well, version 4 is so much better. It’s my secret weapon when it comes to creating amazing stylized text.

Imagine doing a poster for a coffee shop and writing the headline in coffee beans. Or a bakery with a headline that looks like a frosted donut. Or an autobody shop with text that looks like rusted metal. You get the idea.

At only $29.99 US Art Text pays for itself the first time you use it.

Jan 18, 2021

Are your indulgences impeding your productivity?

People often ask me how I can manage so many things at once, so many spinning plates, if you will, while only working 9 AM to 5 PM?

Ask most designers, and they’ll tell you of the many late nights or weekends they work to get the jobs done.

I, on the other hand, rarely work late and hardly ever on weekends. So how do I do it? How do I manage this podcast, my other television show podcast, two design businesses, the Resourceful Designer Community, and a few personal “work-related” projects I have on the go? All within a 40-hour workweek?

I don’t always. In fact, I’m recording this podcast episode on Saturday because I ran out of time during the week. But this is a rarity for me. Normally, I get all my work done between 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday to Friday.

So how do I do it?

I learned many years ago that my time is valuable. I only have so much of it, and I have to figure out the best use of that time for me. I constantly ask myself how can I get the best ROI for my time. And the biggest help was learning to cull my indulgences.

What do I mean by this?

First, let me tell you a story.

As you may or may not know. My wife and I have two kids, both of which are now in their 20s and no longer live with us. Since the kids moved out, Kim and I have had to adjust to the lives of being empty nesters. One of those adjustments is finding television shows we can watch together. Kim loves comedies, dramas and romantic shows. In comparison, I prefer science fiction, fantasy and action-adventure programs.

It wasn’t a problem when our daughter was still here. She and Kim enjoyed the same things, so they would put on one of their shows, and I would slip down to the basement to watch one of mine. But with the kids gone, Kim and I try to find shows to watch together.

A couple of months ago, we started watching a show on Netflix called The Order. It’s a young adult-oriented semi-romantic drama that includes witches, warlocks and werewolves. So it checked off both our interests.

Over the course of two weeks, we would watch an episode here and an episode there until we finished season 1. It wasn’t the best show we’d seen, but it was entertaining and enjoyable.

A few weeks later, season 2 came out, and we decided to start it. That first episode was kind of meh, so it was a few days before we decided to watch another one which didn’t turn out to be much better. When watching episodes 3 and 4, we were questioning if there was something else we wanted to watch instead.

After the fourth episode, we both decided the season wasn’t worth finishing. Our time was too valuable to waste on a program we were no longer enjoying.

Now, this may not be the best example, since the time we saved by not watching The Order, we still ended up spending on the couch watching something else. But the point I’m trying to convey is, your time has value. And it shouldn’t be wasted on things that don’t contribute to that value.

Let’s get back to how I manage my days and get everything done.

As I said earlier, I learned a while back that to be the most productive person I could be; I needed to cull my indulgences. What does that mean?

It means that whenever something catches my eye, whenever I come across something that might be a distraction, I ask myself this. “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?

  • Would I be any worse off if I don’t listen to this podcast episode?
  • Would I be any worse off if I don’t watch this YouTube video?
  • Would I be any worse off if I don’t read this article?
  • Would I be any worse off if I don't learn this tutorial?

Don’t ask yourself if you would be better off if you indulge because the answer will often be a misleading yes. Misleading because knowledge, in general, makes you better, regardless of what that knowledge is. Listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube video, and reading an article will benefit you somehow, even if it’s minute.

But asking if you would be worse off by not indulging gives you a completely different perspective to judge by.

For example, if I come across an article reviewing new features in Adobe Illustrator. I ask myself, “would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in reading this?” The answer is yes. I use Illustrator regularly. If there are new features that can speed up my workflow and make what I do easier, and I don’t lean them. I’ll be worse off.

However, if I come across an article titled “The top 10 design trends to avoid in 2021.” The answer would be no. I might gain some knowledge and benefit from reading the article. But I’m not going to be any worse off if I don’t read it. I tend to do my own thing and not follow trends anyway. So why waste my valuable time reading that article. No matter how curious I am.

Now in some cases, putting off instead of dismissing is an option.

And article titled "The 10 most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe." Oh, this one hits me at my geeky core. As a huge Marvel fan, I want to know if this list coincides with the one I have in my head. But would I be any worse off if I read it and found out? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. I would be. Not because of the knowledge I would gain. But because reading the article would take up valuable time when I should be working. So the smart thing to do is not indulge.

However, the geek in me really wants to know. I mean, who do they have at number 1. Is it the Hulk? Thor? Captain Marvel? Someone, I’m not thinking of? I think it’s Captain Marvel. It has to be Captain Marvel, right? In this case, instead of dismissing the article altogether. I put it aside to look at when I’m not working.

You see, Outside of the hours of 9 to 5, the value I associate with my time diminishes drastically. When I’m not in my office, I allow myself to indulge in these things. I mean, you have to enjoy life, right?

But during working hours. I try to use my time most productively.

In some cases, I encounter an indulgence that I would be worse off if I didn’t read or watch it. However, I wouldn’t be worse off right now.

For example. I like the Divi Blog Extra module by Divi Extended. But I only need it for a couple of websites. In most cases, the default Blog module that comes with Divi is good for the sites I build.

So if an update for Divi Blog Extra is released with new features, not only would I benefit from knowing about them, but I might also be worse off by not knowing about them. However, as I said, I only use Divi Blog Extra on a couple of websites, and they’re working fine as is. Whatever new features the module has is of no consequence to me in regards to those sites. And If I’m not currently working on any new sites that require the module, there’s no reason for me to learn about the new features now.

This goes back to one of the first episodes of the podcast titled Just In Time Learning.

Just In Time Learning is a mindset that makes you more productive. The theory behind Just In Time Learning is there’s no point learning something now if you are not going to use it now. Because chances are, by the time you do need to use it, you’ll have forgotten most of it and have to refresh yourself anyway, doubling the time you spent learning it.

Instead, you put it aside, make a note, and go back to it when you need to learn it.

Just In Time Learning became a huge time saver for me. I have tons of tutorials and articles put aside. I use Evernote to keep track of all of them. They're all there, easily searchable for the day I might need to review them. They’re all cases of things that I may need to know. But I’m not worse off by not knowing them now.

So in Divi Blog Extra's case, until I need to use it on another website, there’s no use learning about the new features. My time can be used for better things right now.

Earlier I mentioned coming across an article listing new features in Adobe Illustrator and how, because of my use of Illustrator, I would be worse off if I didn’t read it. However, I can apply this same principle within an article. As I skim the article, I ask myself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t know about this particular feature?” If it has to do with things such as the Pathfinder tools or the Appearance panel, then yes, because those are things I use all the time. But I can pass on the part about embedding cloud documents from Photoshop because I have no use for that feature. So I wouldn’t be any worse off if I don’t read that part.

Am I getting my point across?

You’d be amazed at how much time you spend throughout your day or week, indulging in things that are not pertinent to your business, or at least not now when your time could be spent on things pertinent to your business.

So ask yourself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?” and see how much time you get back. And use it on everything: articles, tutorials, YouTube Videos, even podcasts.

I may be shooting myself in the foot by saying this. But if I put out a podcast episode and you would be no worse off by not listening to it, then don’t. If it doesn’t apply or is of no use to you. Don’t bother.

I’m subscribed to over 60 different podcasts. Do you think I listen to every episode? Of course not. I judge each episode and decide if it’s something I need to listen to. If it isn’t, I delete it. Now I’m hoping you don’t do that with Resourceful Designer. But I’m also hoping I’m not causing you to waste time you could be spending growing your design business.

Now I’m not saying this idea is foolproof. I still get sucked down the rabbit hole now and again. That’s just life. Sometimes, curiosity or that shiny object gets the better of us. But the more disciplined you are, and the more time you can free up from these indulgences, the more time you’ll have to invest in running and growing your design business.

That’s how I can do two podcasts, run two design businesses, partake in the Resourceful Designer Community, and manage all my personal “work-related” projects and more. All while sticking to a 9-5 schedule.

And you can too.

Just ask yourself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?”

Resource of the week Dynalist.io

Dynalist.io is a great organizational tool for mind mapping that you can access from any platform. Think of it as an organization or a bullet list on steroids and so much more.

For example. If you’re laying out the structure for a new website project. You can create a list with all your main menus, then their sub-pages, then categories, then perhaps tags. And so forth. It sounds pretty basic. It’s one of those things you have to try in order to truly appreciate what it can do.

Working on a social media campaign? Dynalist will help make sure nothing gets overlooked.

I love its easy move feature. No cumbersome copy, find the right place and paste. Moving an item is as simple as selecting the item and then telling it where to move to.

As I said, you have to see it to appreciate it.

Dynalist does have a $7.99 monthly plan. But I don’t think you’ll need that. I use their free plan and it does everything I need it to do.

So if you’re looking for a great free resource to help keep you organized. Check out Dynalist.io.

Jan 11, 2021

Are you ready to grow your design business by letting go of what's holding you back?

Let me start with a story.

A young boy is visiting his grandparents' house with his mom and dad.

As young boys will do when in an environment not meant for young boys, they explore and sometimes get into trouble.

Well, this young boy just so happened to be walking around with an antique vase, a precious family heirloom. When his mother spotted him, she immediately told him to put the vase down before breaking it. But the boy replied that he couldn’t, his hand was stuck inside.

A little frustrated, the mother takes the vase and tells the boy, “If you were able to get your hand in the vase, you could surely get it out.” But as she pulls on it, there’s no give.

Hearing the commotion, the father comes in to help. He, too, tugs on the vase, but the boy's hand is firmly stuck. He tugs and tugs until the boy says it’s hurting him.

The grandmother, in her wise old ways, suggests using butter to help the hand slide out. But alas, it has no effect.

Completely perplexed, with the mother still tugging on the vase, the father throws his hands up in the air, stating, “I’d give 50 dollars just to get your hand out of that vase right now.”

The young boy's eyes opened wide with excitement. “Really?” he exclaims. Suddenly, they hear a clinking sound, and the boy’s hand slides out of the vase. In disbelief, the mother looks into the vase then upturns it, and a quarter falls into her hand.

The young boy explains that it’s the quarter grandpa gave him when they arrived. He had put it in the vase, but when he reached in to grab it, his hand got stuck.

But when his dad said he’d give him $50 if he got his hand out of the vase, he let go of the quarter.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard this or a variation of this story before. So you probably knew the outcome before I ever reached it. But I wanted to tell it anyway as a kind of analogy to your design business.

Many designers who run their own business tend to hold on to that metaphorical quarter when they should be letting go of it for bigger and better things.

This is the first episode of 2021. And I don’t have to tell you what kind of year 2020 was. You were there. But with all of that fiasco behind us and light of better things to come finally peeking through at the end of the tunnel. Now is the perfect time to take stock of your business and figure out what you need to do to help it grow and succeed. What are you going to do more of? And what, if anything, can you let go?

No business, design or otherwise can grow without making changes. Restaurants change their menus. Telecommunication companies change their phone plans. Governments elect new officials. Changes are a natural precursor to growth. And every successful business does it.

By grow, I don’t necessarily mean taking on more design work or more clients, although that may be the case, and it still counts as growth. What I mean by grow, is making progress, expanding while focusing on your goals. You do have goals, don’t you? Without them, how will you know if you’re making progress?

If we take 2020 out of the equation and compare this upcoming year, 2021, to your previous years, you should be striving to not only make more money but also to be more satisfied with yourself and your business than you’ve been in previous years. At the very least, you should aim to stay on par as in previous years.

What you don’t want is to step backward. If you make less money or aren’t as happy, you’re doing something wrong. And chances are, it’s because you’re holding on to that metaphorical quarter and not letting go.

Growing your business and making more money doesn’t necessarily mean doing more work, which, in turn, could increase your stress level. In fact, you can grow your design business and make more money by doing less but smarter work.

The easiest way to do this is to raise your rates. But to raise your rates, you have to let go of the notion that you’re not worth higher rates. Or that your clients won’t pay higher rates.

Thousands of designers have already debunked that theory when they started charging more money for their services, and their business didn’t fail. Myself included. I make more money today, putting in 10 hours of work than I did five years ago doing 30 or 40 hours of work. How? It’s because I let go of the notion that an hour of my time is worth X amount of dollars.

When I started charging clients based on what I thought their project was worth and not how much time it would take me to complete it, I started making a lot more money. And you know what? The only clients that objected to my price increase were the clients I didn’t really want to work with, to begin with.

Those clients who didn’t object were the clients who truly valued what I do for them. And you know what? When I raised my rates, they started bringing me bigger and better projects. They stopped sending me simple things to design and started sending me entire campaigns to work on.

It’s that perceived value I talked about a few weeks ago in episode 240 of the podcast. The same service I provided was perceived as much more valuable to these clients because I was charging more for it, and they are willing to pay me much more for those services and trust me with bigger jobs.

Want another way to look at it? Consider a Rolex watch and a Timex watch. Both timepieces fit nicely on your wrist. Both tell time. And both can make you look pretty darn good fashion-wise. And yet, the Rolex is worth so much more than the Timex.

Why is that? Is what they’re made of? There may be a price difference in the actual materials each watch is made of, but I doubt it’s enough of a difference to justify the huge difference in each timepiece's cost.

Is it craftsmanship? Both are precision instruments. They both need to be finely crafted to function.

Is it the mechanics? I don’t think so. As far as I know, watch mechanics haven't changed much since they were first invented.

So what is it? What’s the real difference between a Rolex and a Timex?

The true difference is not the watches themselves. It’s the companies behind the watches. They’re the ones who create the value. Rolex markets itself to the elite, the A-listers, and therefore has an elite price tag to match. Whereas Timex markets itself to the general populace, the everyday person, therefore, has a price to match.

Their value is exactly where they’ve set it for themselves. Both companies are very successful. However, and I’m just speculating here, but I bet Timex has to sell a whole lot more watches than Rolex does to stay in business.

You have a say in how your design business is perceived. Which, in turn, dictates how much clients are willing to pay for your services. Do you want to take on dozens and dozens of small paying projects? Or would you prefer to work on a few high paying projects? Are you a Timex, or are you a Rolex?

In my Podcast Branding business, for example. Time and time again, clients tell me they chose my business, one of the more expensive options in the podcast space, because I looked the most professional, and I instilled a sense of confidence in them that I know what I’m doing and they would get quality work from me. Because of that, they are willing to pay more for my services than for any of the less expensive options.

So let go of the notion that you’re not good enough or not worth enough because it’s not true. Even the most inexperienced designer, a student fresh out of school, is worth more than they know.

I’ve been talking a lot about prices, but there are other ways you can let go to grow your design business. Look at the services you offer. Are there any that you’re just not that keen on doing? If so, why do you offer them?

Even a general, all-purpose graphic designer can set limits on what they do.

When I started my Podcast Branding business, I offered social media graphics but quickly realized I didn’t like doing them. So I eliminated the service. I still offer to create the branding for my client's social media platforms, but I no longer create graphics for their individual social media posts.

Just because every designer around you seems to be offering website design doesn’t mean you have to as well. If you don’t like designing websites, even if you know how, you don’t have to. Let it go and concentrate on the things you do, like designing. Not every designer enjoys designing logos. And not every designer is good at it either. If you don’t like it, stop offering logo design as a service. It’s OK to let these things go and concentrate on the things you are good at and enjoy doing.

In a way, it’s kind of like niching down. I’ve talked about the benefits of niching before on several episodes of the podcast. Culling your design services is a form of niching. In fact, it could set you apart from other designers and make you more desirable to clients.

Look at Ian Paget from Logo Geek. His entire business is focused on designing logos. The first thing you see when you visit his website is the phrase “I Design Logos.” If you know Ian, you’ll know that his background is in designing websites and yet nowhere on his current site does he mention that. Why? Because it’s not what he wants to do. Ian is passionate about logos, so that’s what he offers. He let go of everything else he knows how to design to focus on one thing. And now he’s killing it in the logo design space.

I’m not saying you have to go to that extreme, but it’s a great example of how letting go can help propel you forward.

One thing to note. Removing a service doesn’t have to mean never doing it. Ian, for example, still offers other design services to his clients besides logo design. He doesn’t advertise it because it’s not his passion.

In my case, If one of my clients asked me to create a social media post for them, I can say yes if I feel like it and do it for them. Nothing is stopping me from doing it. I don’t advertise it as a service anymore.

It’s OK to let things go in the name of progress. In fact, it’s somewhat necessary if you truly want to succeed. Ask any successful designer running their own business if they’re doing the same thing today as they were five years ago, and the majority, if not all of them, would answer no. You have to evolve if you want to survive in this industry. If you don’t, then you’ll lose when those around you do.

Don’t get your hand stuck in the vase grasping a quarter when there are much bigger things you could be going after.

That’s my 2 cents.

What are you going to let go of this year?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Chrome Browser Groups

In episode 239 of the podcast, I shared how to turn Chrome browser tabs into desktop apps. I got so many responses thanking me for that tip that I thought I’d share another Chrome tip.

If you have a bunch of related browser tabs open, for example, you may have several tabs open for different stock image sites. Or, if you’re a web designer, you may have tabs open for each of your client’s websites. An easy way to organize this tab chaos is with Tab Groups.

In Chrome, right-click on any tab and select “Add to New Group.” If you already have a tab group, the menu changes to “Add to Group” with a pop-out for you to choose an existing group or create a new one.

When creating a new group, you can name it whatever you want, such as Stock Images or Client Websites. You can also assign it a colour, which makes it very easy to navigate.

Once a Tab Group is created, simply right-click on any tab to add it to the group.

A Tab Group appears in your Tab bar like any other tab. The difference is you can open and collapse a tab group.

So if you have 10 client sites in a Tab Group, clicking it will expand to show you all 10 tabs, and each one will be underlined with the colour you assigned the group, making it very easy to see which tabs are part of the group.

When you’re done looking at the client sites, simply click on the Group Tab, and all 10 client website tabs collapse into the one Group Tab, freeing up your browser window and making it much easier to navigate.

This is a great solution for anyone who likes to keep dozens, if not more, tabs open at once.

One thing to note if you’re testing this out, you cannot collapse a tab group until you have a tab that is not part of the group.

Dec 21, 2020

A look back at 2020 and a look ahead to 2021.

[sc name="pod_ad"]Thank you for your continued interest in Resourceful Designer. You have no idea how much I appreciate you. There are so many great resources available for learning and growing as a designer, and I'm humbled that you choose to spend a bit of your valuable time with me.

I'm continuing the tradition of making the final podcast episode of the year a form of a retrospective where I look back a the year that's coming to an end and look forward to the year ahead. I bring you A Look back, A Look Ahead 2020 Edition.

A Look Back at my 2020 goals.

At the end of 2018, I set these goals for myself.

ACCOMPLISHED: Talk at more conferences in 2020. Surprisingly, although not as many as I expected, the two conferences I talked at in 2020 were more than I did in 2019, so mission accomplished.

FAIL: Grow the Resourceful Designer audience. The 2020 pandemic took a big toll on podcast listenership, and Resourceful Designer was not immune. With fewer people commuting to work, I saw my download numbers dip during COVID lockdowns. The end of the year saw a rise in downloads but not enough to view it as a growth from the previous year.

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow the Resourceful Designer Community. The Community has quickly become a place where friendships form and help is freely given. It's even more wonderful than I anticipated.

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow Podcast Branding. My niche design business focusing on the podcast industry saw huge growth in 2020. With so many people stuck at home, many decided to start a podcast and needed visuals to go with it.

Some of my numbers from 2020

Resourceful Designer

  • Released 47 podcast episodes
  • Reached over 550k total episode downloads in 2020 (Over 125k of which were in 2020)
  • Resourceful Designer released on Gaana and Amazon Music.

My design business

My design business took a huge hit from COVID-19, with many of my clients being affected by lockdowns.

  • Worked on design projects for 9 different clients (down from 29 in 2019)
  • Two of those clients were first-time clients.
  • I sent out only 14 invoices in 2020 (down from 57 in 2019)
  • Lost 7 long-standing clients due to various reasons.

Podcast Branding

My Podcast Branding business saved me from a horrible year.

A Look Ahead at my 2020 goals.

My 2019 goals carry forward. I want the listenership of Resourceful Designer to continue growing. I want to speak at conferences (I'm already booked to speak at one in March). I want to build the Resourceful Designer Community. It's such a fantastic place right now, but I know it can be even better.

New Goal for 2020.

  • Keep going the podcast listenership.
  • Keep growing Podcast Branding to become THE place for podcast websites and branding.
  • Keep growing the Resourceful Designer Community

What about you?

Did you accomplish your goals for 2019, and What are your goals for the new year?

  • Are you a student getting ready to graduate? What are your goals once you’re done school?
  • Are you still relatively new to the design world? What are your goals to hone your skills?
  • Are you a veteran designer like I am? What are your goals for continued growth?
  • Are you a designer working for someone else? Maybe you enjoy your job; maybe 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 are your goals to grow your business?

Wherever you are in the world, whatever your level of skill, whatever your situation is, I want you to take some time to look back at 2019 and think about your accomplishments AND your shortcomings.

Did you stop after your accomplishments? Or did you plow right through them, happy with yourself but reaching even further? What about your shortcomings? Did they discourage you, or did they create a sense of want even higher than before?

Did you reach the goals you set out for yourself and your design business in 2019? If yes, were you happy with the outcome? If no, think about what prevented you from reaching those goals.

So long 2020

As 2020 comes to an end (good riddance). I encourage you to reflect on this past year. Think about everything you’ve accomplished and those things you fell short on. And come up with a plan to make 2021 your year of success. To help with your planning, perhaps you should listen to episode 55 of the podcast, Setting Goals For Your Design Business.

I’ll be back in 2021 with lots more advice for starting and growing your design business.

I’m Mark Des Cotes wishing you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. And of course, that no matter what goals you set for yourself in the new year, the one thing you have to remember is to Stay Creative.

What are your goals for 2021?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Dec 14, 2020

There are so many things you can do to improve your design business. Here are 5 tips to help you along the way.

Tip # 1) How do you get people to pay attention to you?

How do you get people to pay attention and be interested in what you have to say? Be it at a networking event, during presentations, in the emails you send, on a landing page or other marketing material? Start by identifying the problem you solve.

As a designer, you are a problem solver. That's your superpower. But nobody cares about a solution if the problem hasn’t been identified. Our brains are wired to go from problem to solution, problem to solution. If you only offer the solution, nobody will care what you have to say.

For example; When someone asks what you do for a living, don’t just say, “I design websites for startup companies.” Try it, and you’ll see just how fast someone’s eyes can glaze over.

Instead, start with a problem like this. "Do you know how hard it is for a new startup company to compete online these days? With people’s patience and attention spans getting shorter and shorter, it can seem like an impossible task to get noticed. What I do is create great looking and high-converting websites that help new startups quickly gain traction, catch up to and eventually surpass their competition."

A problem, followed by a solution. Now you have their attention.

Tip # 2) Be confident in your calls-to-action.

Every good website, including your own website for your design business, needs a call-to-action (CTA). Without one, what’s the point of the site?

Sure, you want people to know more about you.

Sure, you want people to know what services you offer.

Sure, you want people to see your work portfolio.

But ultimately, what you want is for people to hire you. The best way to do that is with an assertive CTA.

A passive CTA such as “Learn More” or “Get Started” just don’t cut it. What they actually do is instill doubt in the client. It’s as if you’re not sure about your business and are afraid to ask the client to commit. So instead of asking them to hire you, you’re asking them to learn more about you in the hopes you can convince them. Or to get started, and if they don’t like what they see, we can stop.

No. What you want to do is be bold and show confidence that you can help the client and show it in your CTA. Be direct and use CTAs like “Hire me,” “Schedule a Call,” or “Order Now.” The more direct you are with assertive CTAs, the better the chance someone will hire you.

3) Get paid faster by sharing the value you provided on your invoices.

Wouldn’t it be nice if clients paid your invoices as soon as they receive them, and you didn’t have to sit there wondering when or if the money would ever come in?

What if you could make one small change that would actually encourage your clients to pay your invoices faster? You can. By sharing the value, you provided directly on the invoice.

If your invoice looks something like this...

Item 1) Designed website = $xxx
Item 2) Designed Logo = $xxx
Item 3) Designed brochure = $xxx
Total = $xxx

Then you’re missing out.

Use a description field or add a footnote reminding your clients of their purchase value, not just the cost... the value.

Item 1) Designed website with clear and concise messaging, which will produce a good conversion rate, translating to increased sales.
Item 2) Designed Logo that shows the brand's quality and longevity and stands out amongst the competition.
Item 3) Designed brochure to showcase the client's premium services and instill an air of confidence in people hiring you.

Show the client that you provided more than just a website, logo or brochure. You provided something that will help their business grow and succeed. When they see and are reminded of that, they will be much more willing to pay your invoice quicker.

Tip # 4) Go from being a good salesperson to a great salesperson.

We don't’ like thinking about it, but a major part of running a design business is being a salesperson. Otherwise, we wouldn’t ever get new clients.

The number of clients who hire you is directly related to how good a salesperson you are. If you want to go from being a good salesperson to being a great salesperson, you need to remember two things: empathy and authority.

Empathy

Empathy is showing that you understand the problem the client is coming to you with. “I understand how you feel.” “I get where you’re coming from.” “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

When a client feels you have an empathetic connection with them, they are much more likely to hire you.

Authority

Authority is showing you’re not only confident you can help them, but that you have the experience to back up that confidence. “I’ve helped other clients with similar problems.” “That’s a common issue that I know we can solve.” “Here’s what we can do to solve that.”

Think of the power when you combine Empathy and Authority. “I understand how you feel. Rest assured, I’ve helped other clients with similar problems before.” “I get where you’re coming from. That’s actually a common issue that I know we can solve.” “I know exactly what you’re talking about. Here’s what we can do to solve that.”

Tip # 5) Avoid being cute or trying to be clever in your marketing.

When done right, cute and clever can be a huge success. Unfortunately, the majority of the time they are not done right. And there’s no way for the person who’s developing the campaign to know if it’s done right or not because they’re too close to it.

The problem with trying to be cute or clever is a lot of people won’t get it. They’re not in your head. They’re not part of the discussion that comes up with the campaign idea. And therefore, they won’t understand the message. That idea that you think is so cute or clever is completely lost to them. And if a potential client feels confused about your message. You’ve lost them as a client.

For any marketing campaign to be successful, the message needs to be clear. Clear what the message is and clear what you want them to do. "Do you need a professional graphic designer to develop your new company’s brand? Book a call to discuss your project."

Concise and Clear will win out over cute and clever every time.

 

Resource of the week Evernote

Evernote is, in my opinion, one of the best organization and note-taking applications there is. I use it on a daily basis to keep track of everything from podcast and blog topics, to business contacts, websites I need to revisit, and so much more. Evernote's ability to sync across all my devices means I can access it no matter where I am. It's become one of the most invaluable tools in my arsenal. If you are interested in giving it a try visit evernote.com

Dec 7, 2020

Do you understand what perceived value is?

Many graphic and web designers have difficulty understanding perceived value when it comes to how their clients view them. You can offer the same service to multiple people, and each one will perceive the value of what you’re offering them differently. I thought I would do something different by telling you a story to get the point across. Here goes.

A lesson in understanding perceived value.

Once upon a time (I know, it’s a cliché way to start a story, but I’m going with it.) Once upon a time, there was a young graphic designer by the name of Tom.

Several months ago, the large corporation Tom worked at was acquired. As part of the merger process, the new company dissolved the design department where Tom worked, and he lost his job.

Tom was upset, of course, but he decided to see this as an opportunity. With the help of his severance money, he decided to do something he had been dreaming of doing for quite a while, open his own home-based design business.

One day, on his way back from a client meeting, Tom decided to stop in and see his father.

“Hey, Dad! Where are you?”

“I’m in the attic.”

Tom made his way up to the attic, a place he seldom saw, even when he lived in this house with his parents.

“What are you doing up here?” he asked.

His father was sitting amid several open boxes, “I was taking out the holiday decorations when nostalgia got the best of me, and I decided to go through some of these old storage bins. Some of these haven’t been opened in decades. What are you doing here?”

“I had a meeting this morning with a new client not far from here, and I thought I’d drop by before heading home.”

“How’d the meeting go?” Asked his father.

Tom sighed, “I got the job.”

“You don’t sound that happy about it,” replied the older man.

“Dad, sometimes I think I made a mistake starting my own design business. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be. Take this new client, for example. He’s a handyman who does odd jobs for people. He’s looking for a logo he can put on the side of his truck and business cards.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Asked his father.

“Price,” replied Tom. “He only has a budget of $150. That’s not a lot of money for a logo.”

“You know,” continued Tom, “I read articles, I watch videos, I listen to podcasts, and they all say how graphic and web designers should be charging more money for their services. But I don’t see how. I mean, I’m lucky this guy is willing to pay me $150. Do you know there are services online where you can get a logo designed for under $10? How are designers these days supposed to compete with that?”

The father looked at his son, thoughtfully. Then he nodded inwardly to himself and said, “Thomas, that’s a tough situation you’re in, but I’m sure you’ll work it out.”

Changing the subject, the father asked, “Hey, look in that bin over there. Do you see that wooden box? Take it out.”

Tom looked in the bin and pulled out a small ornately carved wooden box. With a nod from his father, he opened it. The box was lined with old black felt. Resting on the felt was a very old watch. The gold on it was tarnished. The glass was cracked and fogged a bit, and the well-worn leather band looked dry and cracked.

“What’s this?” asked Tom.

“That my son is a family heirloom. Your, let’s see now, a family gave your great-great-grandfather that watch when he helped them during the Civil War. He called it his good luck charm. He passed it on to his son when he enlisted in World War I. Who then passed it on to your grandfather, who wore it during World War II.

When grandpa passed away, the watch was passed to me. And one day, it will be yours. It doesn’t work anymore, but it’s part of our history.”

“That’s pretty cool,” replied Tom. “Why have I never seen this before?”

“To be honest,” said the father, “I had all but forgotten it until today when I found the box. Hey, do me a favour, on your way home, can you stop by the pawnshop downtown? I don’t want to sell it. But I’d be curious to know what they’d pay for it.”

“Sure, Dad, why not.” Replied the son.

A little while later, Tom called his father. “Dad, I just came out of the pawnshop. They offered $20 for the watch. They said it looked old so that somebody may be interested in it, but since it’s not functioning, that’s the best they could do.”

“That’s disappointing,” replied the father. “Humm. There’s an antique store two blocks from where you are. Do you have time to ask them what they think?”

“Yes, I could do that,” replied Tom.

Later, Tom called his father again. “Guess what? The lady at the shop was intrigued by the watch. She said a watch that old is a rare find and offered $300 for it.”

“That’s a lot better.” Said the father. “Do you have time for one more stop? Take it down to the museum on the edge of town and show it to the curator.”

Tom hesitated a bit but then agreed.

Later that afternoon, Tom burst into his father’s home. “Dad, Dad, you won’t believe it,” he said excitedly, “The museum curator was so impressed when I showed him the watch. He said a piece like that would be a wonderful addition to their collection. He offered to buy it for $50,000.”

Tom’s father looked at his son for a moment, then asked, “So what does that tell you about the watch?”

“It tells me that the guy at the pawnshop and the lady at the antique store had no idea of the true value of the watch.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, my son.” replied the father. “All three places you visited were correct in their valuing of the watch.

For the guy at the pawnshop, it’s just another watch. Sure it may be old, but that doesn’t matter to him. He sees watches come and go all the time. If you had accepted his $20 offer, he’d add it to the other watches for sale without a second thought and forget about it until someone showed interest in it. And since you didn’t accept his offer, it’s not a big deal to him. There will always be someone else with another old watch to sell him. So there was no real value in it for him.

The woman at the antique store saw a bit more value in the watch because she’s used to dealing with old things. She could appreciate it as rare antiquity and valued it as such. But to her, it’s still just an old watch to display amongst all the other old things in her shop. So even though she valued it more than the pawnshop owner did, it was still only worth $300 to her”

“Now, the museum curator, on the other hand, that guy saw more than just a watch. Sure, it would be just another museum piece for people to admire as part of their collection. But it goes beyond that. What he saw was not the value of the watch itself, but the value the watch could bring by improving the museum’s display.

Adding that watch to their collection would enhance the experience of the people who visited the museum. It would give them another story to tell. It would give them something new to expand upon. To the museum curator, that enhanced experience visitors would receive because of the watch is a lot more valuable than the watch itself. That’s why he was willing to offer so much more for it. Not for the watch, but for the experience the watch brings.

All three people you showed it to saw the exact same watch. But each one had a different perceived value based on their circumstances. And none of them were wrong.

Tom, son, the same principle applies to your design business. That handyman you told me about this morning, he doesn’t really care what his logo looks like. He knows he needs one. As long as people can read it and recognize it, he’ll be happy. That’s why he only wanted to spend what he did. He has a low perceived value of what you can do for him.

Let me ask you, does your knowledge as a graphic designer or are the skills you use to design logos any different weather a client pays you $150 or $1500?”

“No,” replied Tom.

“Do you think that the designers who charge thousands of dollars for logos are that much better at what they do than you?” asked his father.

Tom replied again. “No”

“No,” Agreed his father. “The difference between you and designers charging a lot more is they’re positioning themselves to go after clients who see the value in what they do. Clients that understand a logo as more than just a pretty graphic picture. They understand the value a well-designed logo can bring to their company.

Just like with the watch. There are clients out there who want the cheapest design option available to them. Some clients understand that good design matters and therefore costs money. However, to them, it’s still an expense they can afford only to a certain extent.

And then some clients know that design goes beyond the designed piece itself. When implemented right, good design can drastically affect their bottom line positively. To them, the design is an investment with a projected ROI. And that’s why they assign so much more value to it.

So, Tom, you’ve told me that what you do is no different than what those other high-end designers do. Is that correct?

“I did,” Tom replied.

“Then, son, be confident in what you do because you are an amazing designer. You need to decide what type of clients you want to spend your time working with—the ones who don’t appreciate your value or the ones who do.

And Tom?”

“Yes, Dad?”

His father smiled at him. “Don’t get any fancy ideas about that watch. I’m holding on to it. You can do with it what you will once I’m gone.”

The End.

So there you have it—understanding perceived value. I know telling a story like this was a very different approach. Still, I hope it showed you how different people could assign a different value to the same thing.

Just like the watch in my story, what you offer as a designer will be perceived by different people as worth different amounts. It’s up to you to figure out who the right people are and find a way to offer your services to them.

I read a quote recently that is the perfect way to end this post.

There are people out there who are less qualified than you doing EXACTLY what you have always wished to do. The only difference is that they chose to believe in themselves.

Words every graphic and web designer should live by.

What do you think of my story?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Google Alerts

If you are running a design business, you should set up Google Alerts to notify you any time your business name is found by Google.

Google Alerts is a great way to be alerted whenever someone online mentions your business. It allows you to thank them for their positive comments or get on top of things should their comments be less positive.

To set up your own Google Alerts visit https://google.com/alerts

Nov 30, 2020

Do you have what it takes to run a design business from home?

If there’s one positive takeaway from the 2020 Pandemic, it’s that a lot of people got to experience what it’s like to work from home. Some realized right away that it’s not for them. They need people around them and an office environment to be productive. In contrast, others got a taste of what being a home-based business owner is like. And they like it. But to run a design business from home, full-time, permanently, you need to know what you’re getting into.

Some designers think that working from home is an easy life and that once you set up your design business, new clients and projects will just flow in. But it doesn’t work that way. This is not Field Of Dreams. Just building it does not guarantee they will come. Running a successful design business takes more than design skills.

For your design business to succeed, you need solid skills in business development, lead generation, marketing, communication, leadership to work with your team, and of course, sales. Being a designer and owning a design business are two completely different things.

So how do you make the most of it? How do you set yourself up for success? How do you ensure that you can sustain this lifestyle long term? The answer–you need to plan.

How does that saying go? “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” So prepare yourself. Because chances are, it’s going to be a rocky start.

Step 1: Create an environment you’re comfortable in.

The first step in feeling like you’re running a home-based business is to treat your working space as your business office.

Having a place in your dwelling where you can transition from home life to business life is key. If you have a separate room that you can designate as your office, all the better. But if that’s not the case, pick a corner and set it up to be your working environment.

Get yourself a good office chair and set up your computer so that it’s ergonomically comfortable to work at. Then fill the space with everything you need to work productively. The more your environment feels like your “working space,” the more productive you’ll be.

Step 2: Keep your overhead to a minimum.

Everyone dreams of making big bucks and living the dream. But that’s not the way you should be thinking. Remember, it’s not how much money you make that’s important, but how much of the money you keep and what you do with that money, especially at the start.

Even though a good office chair is important, don’t spend $1000 on one if you don’t have the money to invest yet. Keeping your overhead low is important. You want to keep your expenses to a minimum to benefit more from the money you make designing.

A wise man once said you could save 100% of your money by choosing not to buy something. So even though I’m a proponent for things such as lifetime deals. It’s only a deal if you can afford it and if you’re going to get enough use from it to cover the cost of the deal. Especially when you’re just starting, be careful what you spend.

Step 3: Work on your business, not in your business.

One of the biggest mistakes freelance designers make is focusing all their time and energy on the projects they do for their clients. Yes, you want to give 100% to your clients. But that 100% doesn’t have to mean all of your time.

There’s a big difference between working in your business and working on your business. You must make time to work on aspects of your business as well. Like finances, to make sure you’re keeping your overhead low and doing the most with the money you’re earning. Then there are marketing plans to figure out how you’re going to reach out to new clients. There are also processes and systems you need to develop for your business to succeed, like how you will communicate with your clients and your team? How are you going to organize all the assets you acquire?

Don’t forget your goals. Goals are your destination. Where you want to be a year, two years, 5 years from now. Without goals, you have no way to measure your success.

Just because you’re an office of one, making money from the few clients you have, don’t think you can avoid treating what you do as a business. And for any business to succeed, it needs to evolve with the times. So make time to work on your business, and not just in your business.

Step 4: Be proud of your home-based business.

Never shy away from the fact that you are working from home. There was a time when working from home was looked down upon. But not anymore. It’s the end of 2020, and if there’s anything this year has taught us, is that working from home is a viable option. It no longer has the negative stigma it once had. In fact, many people will be envious when you say you’re working from home.

Take the attitude that you are working from home, not working at home. There’s a difference. You are running a business, just like every brick and mortar business out there. It just so happens that your business is situated in the same location you call home.

Step 5: Look the part.

Just because you’re working from home is not an excuse to be unprofessional. How you present yourself and your business is vitally important to your success.

I’m a T-Shirt and jeans kind of guy, but any time I meet with a client, either in person or virtually, I make sure to dress up, shave and look presentable. If you present yourself as a starving artist, your clients won’t take you seriously.

If you need an actual business environment to meet with clients, look into daily office or conference room rentals at local co-working spaces.

Looking professional also applies to your visual brand. Your logo, your website, your social media, etc. You’re a designer; I shouldn’t have to tell you the importance a good brand can have on a business. The same applies to you.

Step 6: Be honest with yourself.

All of this may be well and good, but you have to be honest with yourself before you get too far down this path. Not everyone is suited to working from home.

Nobody knows you better than yourself. Do you have the work habits required to do this all alone? Do you have the discipline to work unsupervised and not be distracted by the things around you? Can you remain happy and motivated after doing this for a long time? Are you capable of dealing with the isolation of being alone every day?

This last one is important. Isolation can lead to depression, which can lead to poor working habits and bad business decisions. Which, if left unchecked, can result in a failed business. Find something to help with isolation. Join groups and communities to help combat isolation. The Resourceful Designer Community is a great place for this. Or find local groups where you can interact in person.

Not only will these activities aid your social mindset, but they can also enhance your business and quality of life significantly.

Think about it before you try it.

So there you have it, six steps to running a business from home.

If you’ve already taken the plunge and are currently running a home-based design business, make sure you have everything in place to ensure your success.

Remember, A goal without a plan is just a wish. And the last time I checked, wishes don’t put food on the table.

How much thought have you given to working from home?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Chrome Application Shortcuts

A convenient way to turn a website into a desktop application is by using Chrome Applications Shortcuts. This is especially useful for browser-based tools such as invoicing/bookkeeping and Customer and Project Management Software. Instead of searching through dozens of open browser tabs for the right one, create an application shortcut and treat the webpage as a desktop application.

To create a Chrome Application Shortcut, open the website, you would like to turn into an application in a browser tab. On the far right of the address bar, click the three vertical dots. Select "More Tools" > "Create Shortcut"

Name the application in the pop-up window and be sure to check "Open as Window." then press Create.

A new Application icon will appear in the Chrome Apps folder within your Applications folder. You can now use it just like you would any other application. You can add it to your Dock. You can create Aliases from it. And you can easily switch between it and your other applications via the Control Centre.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Nov 23, 2020

Do you know when to use Cloud Backup vs Cloud Sync?

You know how important it is to backup your computer. Should the unforeseen happen, your backup is all that stands between you getting back to work after a short delay or having to explain to your clients how you’ve lost everything you’ve designed for them and have to start over.

In the old days of computing, a backup consisted of storing files on floppy disks. Then we graduated to things like Zip drives or Jaz drives. Then CDs and DVDs became the preferred method for backing up files. Depending on your organization's size, and of course, your budget, you could also back up to digital tape.

These were the easily transportable backup methods—the ones you could take with you or store safely off-site.

You also needed to back up to external hard drives. Expensive, bulky things that were great for backing up your entire computer, but you needed a couple of them for a true backup solution. Constantly swapping them with one backing up in-house while the other was safely stored off-site.

Things have come a long way since those days. The price of hard drives has come way down, making backup much more affordable. And you can now store hundreds of thousands of files on a drive smaller in size than a stick of gum. So there’s no excuse for not having a backup solution in place.

Out of these methods, the one flaw in most backup strategies has always been the off-site backup. Most people start with the best intentions. Moving a fresh backup off-site every day. Then, as time went by and nothing catastrophic happened, those daily off-site backups became weekly backups, and then monthly backups, until you had to check a calendar to figure out when the last backup was made.

Whether your backup was daily, weekly, monthly or more didn’t make much difference... until your main system failed you. Boy, oh, boy, did it make a difference then. It’s bad enough if you lost a day's worth of work, but to lose a whole week or more? That’s catastrophic.

For anyone around computers in the 90s and early 2000s, you’ve heard the horror stories of crashed computers without backups. Hopefully, those stories were not about you.

Introducing The Cloud

And then The Cloud was born. The mysterious digital cloud. A place... somewhere, where you can store your files safely, offsite, without having to take a hard drive or disks anywhere.

Ok, that’s enough of a history lesson. It’s 2020 as I'm typing this, and I’m hoping you've heard of the cloud and how to use it to back up your files. But just in case, the cloud is simply a group of computers somewhere in the world, managed by some company. These groups of computers are also known as data centres. When you sign up for a cloud syncing or cloud backup service, you are in effect renting storage space in one of these data centres.

Sorry if I ruined your idea of The Cloud being a magical storage space floating around in the sky.

Even though cloud sync and cloud backup use similar data centers, they are different in how they function. There’s a common misconception that they’re the same thing, but they’re not. In fact, if you want to go by today’s standard backup practices, you should be using both sync and backup. If you’re not, you may be compromising your backup strategy.

The difference between Cloud Sync and Cloud Backup.

Cloud Sync.

In essence, Cloud Sync are services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and many others who work by designating specific areas of your hard drives such as a single folder or a group of folders and “synchronizing” the contents of those folders to their data center. This syncing service allows you to access your files from different locations and using different devices.

Let's say you save a design file to your sync folder on your iMac. That file becomes available to you on your laptop's sync folder, making it easy to show clients while visiting their office. While with the client, you can make changes to the file, knowing those changes will sync and be available on your iMac once you return.

If you need to get a 3rd party contractor involved, such as a copywriter, share the synced file with them, and any changes they make will be reflected on your file as well. As long as the file is in the sync folder, it can be opened, worked on and saved from anywhere.

What’s important to note is that only files stored in the synced folder are accessible from everywhere. If it’s an Adobe InDesign file, InDesign needs to be installed on your iMac, your laptop and on any third party’s computer who needs to access the file. However, things like fonts and any digital assets used by the file stored in the synced folder are not available from everywhere. If you forget to put it in your sync folder, it won’t get synced.

Most syncing services charge you based on the amount of data you store with them. If you need more room, they always offer a bigger and more expensive tier you could purchase.

One of the downsides of cloud sync services is that should something happen to the file on one device, it happens everywhere. For example, say the copywriter accidentally deletes the file. It’s deleted on your computer as well.

Depending on what level you are paying for, some syncing services offer a version history feature, so you can go back and recover a file that was accidentally deleted up to a certain point.

One more thing to note. Should your computer be compromised with a virus or get hacked and the synced folder on your computer be affected, having your files synced to the cloud won't help because they will also be affected.

Cloud Backup.

A Cloud Backup service, such as Backblaze or Carbonite, works in the background. In most cases, once you set it up, you don’t even realize it’s there. It monitors everything on your computer and backs up any new or changed data it finds to the cloud.

Usually, you pay one fee for unlimited cloud backup storage space. There’s no tiered pricing.

Most cloud backup solutions offer version history, so if a file on your computer gets corrupted, or if after working on it for a while, you decide you liked the previous version instead, you can access an earlier version from the backup. It’s very similar to Apple’s Time Machine or other similar services, but it’s in the cloud.

Because Cloud Backup is automated, there’s no need to put your files into a dedicated syncing folder. Your entire computer is backed up, so you know that everything is protected, your files, applications, fonts, everything.

Unlike Cloud Sync, you are not working directly on the files in the cloud. Any changes you make to a local file are not automatically reflected on your other devices unless you are also storing them in a Cloud Sync folder. You can still share cloud backup files with someone else, but once downloaded, any changes they make to the file will not show up on your end.

Cloud backup is there to protect you should something happen to your computer, and not just should something happen to certain dedicated files and folders.

Best-case scenario

The best-case scenario is you use both a Cloud Sync and a Cloud Backup solution. That’s what I do. I use both Dropbox to house files I need to access from multiple devices or share with others. And I use Backblaze to make sure everything on my computer is safely backed up to the cloud.

Recovering your data from Cloud Sync or Cloud Backup.

Should you need to recover your cloud data, there are some differences to note between the two services. Retrieving all your files from Cloud Sync can be cumbersome and take a long time, especially if you pay and use one of the higher tiers. It could take several days to download everything, and you better have unlimited internet, or else you’ll be paying an arm and a leg for overage fees.

A Cloud Backup service such as Backblaze also allows you to download your files over the internet, but Backblaze has a service where for a fee, they’ll overnight ship you a physical USB hard drive of all your backed up files. This allows you to quickly copy all your files to your computer without worrying about download issues. You can then return the HD to Backblaze for a refund.

Which Cloud service is right for you?

Now that you know what each service does Let me tell you that you should be using both Cloud Sync and Cloud Backup. And that’s on top of a physical in-house backup to an external hard drive. It’s a 1-2-3 approach that gives you at least three copies of your data. The more places your data lives, the less chance you have of losing it.

Don’t think of Cloud Sync and Cloud Backup as using one or the other. Allow both services to work in conjunction with you. It’s the only way you’ll know your data is truly safe.

What cloud-based solution do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Divi Marketplace

Divi is amazing on its own, but it's also backed by a growing community of developers and designers! The Divi Marketplace is the place to find tons of free and premium extensions, layouts and other products that complement Divi and will help you build unique websites.

Nov 16, 2020

Learn the power of psychological reactance.

Have you ever heard of the term Psychological Reactance?

According to Wikipedia, Psychological Reactance is unpleasant motivational arousal (reaction) to offers, persons, rules, or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioural freedoms. Reactance occurs when a person feels that someone is taking away their choices or limiting the range of alternatives.

This last part is what comes into play in today’s topic. When a person feels that someone is taking away their choices or limiting the range of alternatives, in other words, say they can’t have it, and they’ll want it even more.

Just look throughout history. People are constantly doing things they’re told they can’t or shouldn’t do. Books that are banned by school systems quickly become some of the most sought after books around. When a song is banned from television or the radio, it soon tops the charts. When the USA introduced prohibition in the 1920s banning the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages, what happened? More alcohol was produced and distributed than ever before.

When you tell someone they can’t have something; they want it even more. That’s Psychological Reactance.

So how does this apply to running a design business? Simple, tell a client they can’t have something or something isn’t for them, and they’ll want it even more.

What do I mean by this?

Let’s say a client is looking for a logo design, and they only have $500 to spend. Using the three-tier pricing method, a pricing strategy where you offer three different options to a client, each one consisting of a slightly better “package” at a slightly higher price, you may present something like this.

Option # 1: Design a logo for $500

Option # 2: Design a complete branding package including a logo, stationery and social media branding for $1000

Option # 3: Same as option #2 plus additional assets and a brand style guide for $1500

This pricing strategy gives the client options to choose from. It reduces the chance of them shopping around for other design prices. And it shows them the value of the different product tiers.

This pricing strategy is great for upselling to your clients, but it works even better when combined with psychological reactance.

Even though the client told you they have a $500 limit, you present options outside their budget. Show them what's available if only they had more to spend, for example.

Here’s a proposal I prepared for you showing various options I can provide.

Please look at options two and three. I know you can’t afford them according to the budget for this project, but at least they'll give you ideas for when you can afford it.

When you present your three pricing tiers, you can do so in a way that the client feels their choices are being taken away.

By telling a client they can’t afford something, you make those options more desirable. They'll feel like their choices are being taken away, and they'll look at those two options even closer.

I can’t tell you how many times clients told their maximum budget was X only to end up agreeing to one of the more expensive and more valuable options I presented them. Sometimes they chose options that are double or triple their original max budget. Somehow, the money is there.

This is not swindling or conning the client. You are simply presenting in a way that makes them feel like their choices are limited, which makes them want it more. People want the freedom to choose for themselves what they can and cannot do or have. A good salesperson knows how to take advantage of that.

Putting Psychological Reactance into practice.

The way it works is to use phrases such as.

“You probably can’t afford this...”

“You’ll probably refuse this idea...”

“This may not be for you...”

“You probably won’t agree to this...”

“You may not be the best person for this...”

Anything that tells the client they’re not a good fit for whatever you are offering.

Another great way to present something is to say. “Do you know someone who may be interested in... or, who may be suitable for...”

This last example subtly tells the client they are not suitable or not a good fit. You're not actually saying it, but it’s implied, and they may look more closely at what you are offering.

The best way to get new work from old clients is not to ask them if they have any work for you, but to ask them if they know anyone who may need your services.

Dear Jill,

I hope you're satisfied with the website I built for you. I know you don’t need anything else from me right now, but I would be grateful if you would give them my name and contact information if you know anyone who does.

By telling the client they don't need anything from you, you're subconsciously making them feel left out. And since nobody likes to feel left out, they may think of something else you can do for them.

This method not only makes clients more receptive to what you are offering, but it actually gives them an out by giving them the freedom to choose for themselves. If they truly cannot afford it or are not a good fit, no harm was done. The client can move along without feeling affronted.

However, if that’s not the case, if their budget is more flexible than they told you or they are more open than they led to believe, they may decide to hear you out. And in most cases, that seals the deal allowing you to make a bigger sale. Congratulations.

Do you use this method in your business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week FontOfWeb.com

Ever want to know what fonts are being used on a website? Fontofweb.com to the rescue. Just enter the URL of the website in question, and Fonttoweb.com will present you with a nice list of all the web page's fonts and how they are being used. Everything from which ones are bolded or used in spans to what weight, line height and point size each header tag is using.

Nov 9, 2020

Are you ready to take your side gig full-time?

Many home-based designers started off freelancing as a hobby or as a side gig before ever going full-time. It’s the way I did it. I worked at both the print shop and evenings and weekends at home for about a year before I made the leap to solopreneurship. And even though I knew I wanted to do it from the start, I remember the uncertainty of it all was scary.

In hindsight, I can tell you it was one of, if not the best business decision I ever made. I only wish I had done it sooner. Ask most full-time home-based designers, and they’ll tell you the same thing.

But thinking about making the leap and actually doing it are two different things. Maybe you have a cushy design job working for someone else. Or perhaps your full-time job isn’t even design related, and designing is something you do in your spare time.

How do you know you’re ready to do this, on your own, full-time?

I’m not going to talk about the physical aspect of it. Whether you have the right environment or the right equipment. Or even if you have the financial means to do so. But I hope I can help you with the mental side by sharing 4 signs that indicate you’re ready to take your side gig full-time and embrace the life of a design business owner.

1) Are you willing to be persistent at it?

Designing on the side can be fun. And earning a bit of extra spending money is always a good thing. But turning your “hobby” into a full-fledged business is a completely different matter. It requires a daily commitment and a persistent effort to sustain it and work at growing it.

As a business owner, you'll be faced with deadlines, acquiring and dealing with clients, working on projects and tasks you may not be that interested in, and just overall dealing with a whole new form of stress you may not be used to. Not to mention it could take a while before you start earning a profit.

Success is not guaranteed. Especially instant success.

Take a reality check and know before you start whether or not you are willing to stick it out for the long haul as you strive to turn your “hobby” into something successful and profitable. If you’re willing to do just that, you’ve passed indicator number 1.

2) Are people willing to pay for your work?

A key indication that you can turn your design skills into an actual business is knowing you can earn a living at it.

It’s one thing to create an invitation for your grandmas 80th birthday. It’s a completely different thing to create an invitation for your city’s business awards gala.

Are your design skills good enough that people are willing to pay you to do it? A good indication is when people start asking you to design things without you offering first. If people you know are approaching you for design work, there is an excellent chance other people, people you may not know, are willing to pay for your services. If that’s the case, it’s a clear indication that there’s potential to expand beyond your “hobby” into a full-fledged design business, and you’ve passed indicator number 2.

3) Do you understand what’s involved in running a business?

Turning your design side gig into a design business doesn’t simply mean you’re designing all day, every day. If you start a full-time design business, you will be expected to do what it takes to run a business beyond just designing.

This includes marketing your business, acquiring clients, answering emails and phone calls from potential clients. You'll be Invoicing clients, chasing payments, keeping your books up to date, filing your taxes.

Understanding how to run a business is just as important as your skills as a designer.

Most home-based design businesses that fail do so not because they are bad designers but because they’re bad business people. Your design talent will only get you so far. If you don’t take time to learn the basics of running and scaling your business, you won’t succeed.

Regardless of how much you think you know about running a business, you’ll want to put in some extra time to understand better all it entails—everything from the principles of managing your finances, to time management, to client relationship building.

Once you grasp what it takes to start and run a design business, you’ve passed indicator #3

4) Are you willing to make sacrifices for your business?

Starting a home-based design business will often require some sacrifices, especially financially. Until your business is up and running and you have clients bringing you design projects, there will be no money coming in. Are you willing and able to put in the effort every day knowing there’s no money coming in yet? It can become very stressful.

Starting a home-based business is also a major lifestyle change. Can you cope with the isolation of working all by yourself every day? Do you have the discipline to sit at your workstation and actually work without being distracted by anything? Are you able to separate your work life from your family life when needed?

All “hobbies” that are turned into businesses require sacrifices of time, money and work-life balance. Possibly even sleep. You have to be sure that whatever sacrifices you make for your business to succeed won’t compromise other essential aspects of your life.

Suppose you are someone with a career in a different field and designs on the side. You have to realize that this “fun hobby” you enjoy so much may start to feel less enjoyable and more like work as you spend your time growing your business.

If you believe you can proceed without any of these things affecting you, then you’ve passed indicator #4.

Evaluate your opportunities

If you can acknowledge and say for certain, you’re comfortable with each of the four signs.

  1. You are willing to be persistent at it.
  2. People are willing to pay for your work.
  3. You understand what’s involved in running a business.
  4. You’re willing to make sacrifices for your business.

Then you are in the right mindset to turn your “hobby” into a legitimate full-time design business. Take the time to fully evaluate the opportunities presented to you and create a plan for you to follow. You can turn your hobby or side gig into one of the most enjoyable things you will ever do to earn a living.

As most of us who previously followed this path to varying degrees of success will tell you. We can’t imagine doing anything else. Our only regret is we didn’t start sooner.

Resource of the week Squoosh.app

Squoosh.app is a website that allows you to drag and drop images you want to optimize for web use. The image appears in a full browser window with a slider in the middle. Your uploaded image is on the left, and the optimized image on the right. You drag the slider left and right to compare the two images. Options allow you to resize the image as well as reduce the colour pallet. You can also adjust the type of compression and quality of the image until you are satisfied and are ready to download your newly optimized image.

I don’t know how they do it, but I’ve been able to take optimized images out of Photoshop and cut their file size in half without any noticeable degradation of the image. Check it out; I'm sure you'll find the site useful.

Nov 2, 2020

Are you a print designer who wishes you knew how to design websites?

There are many graphic designers who don't offer web design services. Some have no desire to do so. While others would love to add web design to their list of skills. However, they feel intimidated by the notion of tackling a new medium. What they fail to realize is that although the usage between print design and website design is different, the design principles required to make both look good are the same.

At their core, the foundation principles that govern what is good design are the same regardless if you are designing for paper or screen.

I got into web design in the mid-90s when having a website was a novelty for most businesses. At that time I was offering something unique. Most websites in the early to mid-90s were built by computer programmers, and at the time, most computer programmers were not very adept at design.

My sales pitch was to ask clients if they wanted an ugly website with beautiful code, code that nobody sees. Or if they wanted a great looking website with not so perfect code but still functioned perfectly. Most clients sided with a good looking website.

As a web designer, I offered the aesthetics of good design. I took the skills I learned as a print designer and applied those skills to web design. And I do the same today.

If you are a print designer who would like to learn web design, the process is not as difficult as you may believe. Because of your design knowledge, you are already halfway there.

It's just like learning to drive a second vehicle

Think back to when you first learned to drive a car. There was an awful lot of information you needed to learn.

  • The rules of the road
  • Street sign meanings
  • When you're allowed to change or not change lanes.
  • How much distance to keep between you and the vehicle ahead of you.
  • Which vehicle has the right of way when multiple vehicles arrive at a four-way stop simultaneously.

These are just a handful of the many, many rules you needed to learn.

On top of the rules of the road, you also had to learn how to operate a vehicle.

  • The amount of pressure on the accelerator required to get the car moving.
  • The force required on the brake pedal in order to stop the car where you want it to stop.
  • How much you have to turn the steering wheel in order to direct the car around a curve or corner.
  • When during a turn do you start straightening the wheel in order to proceed in the desired direction.
  • Using your turn signals.
  • Looking in your mirrors.
  • Checking your blind spots.

and so on, and so on. When you think of every small aspect of learning to drive, there was an awful lot you needed to know.

Now, imagine as an experienced car driver, you want to learn how to drive a motorcycle.

You’re going to have a much easier time learning to drive a motorcycle than someone who is learning to drive for the very first time on a motorbike.

Why is that? It's because of the foundation you already know. The fundamentals, the principles of driving are the same whether you are driving a car or a motorcycle. The street signs are the same. The rules of the road are the same. You’re still going to use turn signals. You’re still going to check your blind spots. The accelerator and breaks on a motorbike are different than those on a car but your previous knowledge will help you get accustomed to them much faster.

If you already know how to drive a car, learning to drive a motorcycle is so much easier than if you didn’t know how to drive a car.

The same applies to a print designer learning web design.

The foundation of good design, the principals you follow on every print piece you create apply just the same on a web page.

  • You want to create a visual hierarchy,
  • You want to create a flow for the eye to follow.
  • You want to pair fonts that work well together.
  • You want to use colours, photos and other design elements that complement each other to create a visually pleasing layout.
  • etc. etc.

The principles of design are the same. What’s different are the tools you use and the medium you’re creating on.

Think back to when you first started as a print designer. Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign all seemed very daunting. But slowly, through experimenting and practice, you learned how to use them. It’s the same thing with web design only the tools are things like WordPress, Squarespace or Wix.

And I’m not talking about coding. There was a time when coding and web design went hand in hand, but that’s not the case anymore. There are plenty of web designers, making a good living designing websites for clients, who don’t know anything about code. And if for some reason you do end up needing code to accomplish something on a website, Uncle Google is always there to help you. It’s not that intimidating.

Just like learning to drive a motorcycle is so much easier if you already know how to drive a car because the same driving principles apply to both vehicles. Learning web design is so much easier if you already know the principles behind what makes good design.

Start off small, get a Wix or Squarespace account if WordPress intimidates you too much. Then once you get comfortable designing websites, branch out and give WordPress a try.

Themes or page builders like Elementor or my preference Divi are very intuitive and easy to learn and allow you to build amazing looking and functional websites without having to code.

You know what they say, anything is easy once you know how to do it. Well as far as web design goes, if you’re already a print designer, you’re more than halfway there. So don’t be afraid, give it a try, and before long, you’ll be adding web design to your list of design services.

Oct 19, 2020

How are you standing out from your competition

What do you think of when you hear the word “pencil”?

I bet that one of the images that flashed through your head is of a yellow-painted piece of wood with a graphite center. The quintessential yellow pencil found the world over.

A Medium article by Melissa Gouty titled “Why Pencils Are Painted Yellow" got me thinking about the parallels between a yellow pencil and your design business.

I'm going to paraphrase Melissa's article for the sake of my comparison.

The common yellow pencil that we take for granted helped spark the renaissance. Before the invention of the pencil, quill and ink were the only means of writing, and they were reserved for the elite. The invention of the pencil allowed common people to record knowledge and write whenever and wherever they wanted.

The discovery of graphite was so valuable that the English government guarded it and controlled its distribution. People took to smuggling graphite around the known world, and innovative individuals devised ways to use it for writing.

In 1565, A Swiss man named Conrad Gessner came up with the idea of encasing graphite in wood and the pencil industry was born. This common instrument familiar to every schoolchild, which you probably have strewn around your home, was a valuable commodity back then. To own a pencil made you special.

But like most things, time and wider availability diminished the pencil’s appeal. Over the next 300 years, the thrill of owning a pencil fizzled out. This marvellous invention was no more than a boring piece of brown wood with graphite in the middle, until 1889, that is.

In 1889 the World Fail was held in Paris, France. It attracted more than thirty-two million visitors and showcased exhibitors from around the world.

One exhibitor was an Austrian-Hungarian company by the name of Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth. They had been in business for over 100 years and were knows for producing high-quality art and drafting supplies, including pencils. But really, how is one pencil better than another?

Koh-I-Noor came up with an idea. You might even say it was one of the first things to go viral.

At that time, the largest diamond known to exist, coincidentally named The Koh-I-Noor Diamond, was about to be inset to the crown of the Queen of England, Elizabeth II.

So the drafting supply company did something nobody had ever done before. Since the name Koh-I-Nor was getting so much publicity, they gave their pencil the same name. They called it the Koor-I-Noor Series 1500.

But naming their pencil wasn’t enough. They had to somehow make their pencil different. That’s when they came up with the idea of painting their pencils yellow. They put a lot of thought and energy into selecting the perfect colour. Settling on their particular shade of yellow for three reasons.

  1. The best graphite, the same they used in their pencils, came from China, and in China, yellow represents prestige and royalty.
  2. The Koh-I-Noor Diamond has yellow flecks in it.
  3. The crowns on the Austria-Hungary flag depicted yellow crowns.

So at the 1889 World Fair in Paris, France, the Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth art and drafting supply company introduced their new Luxury pencil, the Koh-I-Noor Series 1500.

This "Luxury" version of the common pencil quickly became associated with wealth, power and prestige. Soon, nobody wanted to be seen with a plain brown pencil, and Koh-I-Noor cornered the pencil market, selling a more expensive "Luxury" version of the same product everyone else was offering.

Back then, there was nothing stopping others from following their lead, and soon, pencel manufacturers around the world were painting their pencils yellow as well. But for a short time, one company figured a way to corner the pencil market by making their product more desirable than what their completion was offering.

The Yellow Pencil and Your Design Business

So what does the story of the yellow pencil have to do with running a design business? Think of all the services and products you offer and how similar are they to your competition?

  • You design logos. They design logos
  • You design business cards. They design business cards.
  • You create websites. They create websites.

We are all designers, and to an extent, we all pretty much offer the same thing.

Take a cue from what one company did 140 years ago, and do something different that makes what you offer unique compared to everyone else.

What are you doing to stand out from your competition? How are you offering the same services they do in a manner that will entice clients to chose you over them? I can’t give you the solution, but I can encourage you to pursue your own answer.

Figure out what may work for you. Become the “luxury” option that clients will covet.

How do you stand out from your competition?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Oct 12, 2020

Being diligent today will make you more productive tomorrow.

Last week I talked about dividing your to-do list into three sections, non-negotiables, procratinatables and optionables, and how doing so will help you organize your day. I also discussed listening to your body's clock to determine the best time of day to tackle certain projects and tasks.

Today's post is all about setting up for a more productive tomorrow. And to do that, you need to start today.

For as long as I can remember, my nightly routine before bed has included looking and preparing for the next morning. Call it my shutdown ritual if you will. I like to know before my head hits the pillow what’s on my schedule for the following day.

Getting things ready the night before allows me to hit the ground running and start my next day with a purpose. There's no wasted time in the morning figuring out what projects or tasks I need to do. It eliminates me from looking through emails, creating a to-do list, and getting myself organized because it’s already all done for me. When I sit down at my computer at 9 am, I can immediately get to work on whatever task or project takes priority on my to-do list.

If you don’t have a proper plan of attack, you could find yourself wasting the better part of an hour accomplishing nothing as you try to figure out what you need to do. Do that every morning, and it can add up to several days worth of time by the end of the year.

But what's the difference between organizing yourself in the morning, compared to doing it the night before? The difference is, the night before, or at the end of your workday, you’re pretty well spent already. The time you take preparing for the following day is time you probably wouldn’t have gotten much accomplished in anyways. However, in the morning, you’re much more energized. Even if you’re still groggy from sleep, you still have more “gung-ho” than you do at the end of a long workday. So why waste that energy on prep work?

If you know ahead of time how you're going to spend your day, you’ll be much more productive and much more efficient in doing so.

I usually do my prep work before going to bed. It’s one of the last things I think of at night and allows me to mentally work out my next day’s plan of attack as I nod off to sleep. But maybe you don’t want to do this right before going to bed. Maybe you fear it will get your mind racing on work-related issues, and you won't be able to fall asleep. If that’s you, then I suggest you set aside a few minutes at the end of your workday. 5 to 10 minutes is all you need as you wrap things up to plan for the following workday.

3 steps to a more productive tomorrow.

Step 1

If you combine last week’s topic with this one, you should be working on your non-negotiable tasks every day. If you have the time, you also tackled some procrastinatables and maybe even some optionable tasks. Take the time at the end of your workday to review and reflect on what you managed to accomplish that day. Take satisfaction in the projects and tasks you completed, no matter how small. They’ll help motivate you for the following day.

Research has proven that keeping track and acknowledging your progress actually helps boost your working morale and creates a better outlook in your overall life.

Step 2

Start a new to-do list. Do not use the same list as the day before. You may think that seeing previously scratched tasks off will motivate you, but they won’t. In fact, studies have shown that our brain has a hard time differentiating checked or scratched off items on a list from the unchecked ones. All that registers is a long list of items that could be discouraging. That’s why most digital to-do lists automatically hide completed tasks. It’s not to subconsciously discourage you.

So start with a fresh list. Take note of those projects and tasks you didn’t complete that day and add them to your new list for tomorrow. Organize them using last week's method. Remember that what might have been a procrastinatable task today might need to be a non-negotiable task tomorrow.

Once you have tomorrow's list, determine the two or three most important tasks and mark them as the top priorities. These will be the ones you’ll tackle first thing in the morning. Then look at the other items on the list and mentally rank them in order of importance.

Try to imagine how your day will unfold. What will you do first thing? What will you get done before lunch? What will you do after lunch? How do you plan on finishing off your day? Having a good mental picture of what you need to do will go a long way towards allowing you to accomplish it.

Step 3

Prep your space. Declutter your workspace and get it ready for the morning. Put away papers and files. Organizing your tools and take out anything you may need for tomorrow’s tasks.

This also means getting your computer ready for the next morning. Quit any open applications that won’t be needed the next day.

I like to quit my Mail app and Slack every night, so I'm not tempted to check them as I sit down at my computer. I also close any browser tab with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media that could be a distraction to me in the morning.

There will be plenty of time to check email to see what’s happening on social media later in the day once I’ve accomplished something from my to-do list. The last thing I want is to waste time at the start of my day by sifting through junk mail or scrolling through meaningless social media posts. All of that can wait until later. If there’s a real emergency, my clients know my phone number, and they can always call me.

That’s the 3 step process.

That’s pretty much my process. It’s how I end every day and how I’m ready to hit the ground running every morning. It’s also how I can juggle so many things every day. I set priorities, figure out which ones to do, and get to them. It’s that simple.

If you want to give it a try and see if you can be more productive, why don’t you take 5 to 10 minutes at the end of the day today and follow my three steps?

  • Step 1: Reflect and feel satisfied with what you’ve accomplished today.
  • Step 2: Start a brand new to-do list, including new tasks and projects, as well as anything you didn’t finish today. And prioritize them.
  • Step 3: Prepare your working environment, both your physical space and computer, so you’re ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.

I bet, if you do this, you’ll soon discover how much more productive and efficient your time will be.

Are you going to give it a try?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Oct 5, 2020

The Perfect To-Do List + Time Management = Success.

If you search through the Apple or Google app directories, you will find dozens, if not hundreds, of options for creating so-called perfect to-do lists.

I like Anylist for grocery lists and shopping lists or keep track of the unending chores and tasks I need to do around the house. For work-related lists, my go-to is Evernote (get a free month with this link). I have Evernote fine-tuned with different notebooks for every part of my work life.

But it doesn’t matter if you use a digital tool or pencil and paper if you don’t understand the fundamentals of the perfect to-do list. For a to-do list to function at its best, you need proper time management along with your to-do list. When the two work hand in hand, your to-do list becomes much more achievable.

Writing the perfect to-do list.

To write the perfect to-do list, you must determine what to put on it and in what order. You must also decide what not to include on your list. If you put too many things on your to-do list, it becomes unmanageable and discouraging. A good to-do list has three sections.

1) Nonnegotiables

Nonnegotiables are things that absolutely have to get done on time. These are priority items such as scheduled appointments or tasks with a fixed deadline. If you don’t get them done promptly, it will be too late.

2) Procrastinatables

Procrastinatables are things that absolutely need to get done, but are not as time-sensitive as nonnegotiables. It would be nice to get them done soon, but if you don’t manage to get to them today, tomorrow or the following day will do fine.

Be careful putting them off; procrastinatables will eventually become nonnegotiables if you don't get to them. So try not to ignore them for long.

3) Optionables

Optionables are all the projects and tasks that you would like to do, but have no priority as to when, or sometimes if you should do them at all.

Optionables are tricky. You need to figure out how each one aligns with your goals. For example, if there’s a recording of a webinar you missed, but it's only available for a few days, you need to figure out if watching the recording will help you achieve your goals. If yes, then make the time on your to-do list to watch it. If you determine the webinar doesn't align with your goals, let it go and forget about it.

Once you have your list of optionables, rank them in descending order of priority and tackle them in that order.

How to tackle your to-do list.

Once you have a to-do list with the three sections mentioned above, it’s time to get to work.

Mark Twain is credited with saying, “if you’re tasked with eating two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest frog first." In other words, look at your to-do list and figure out the biggest and possibly the task you're dreading the most and get it done first. Not only will you feel good crossing off the biggest and most dreaded task, but it will also make the rest of the list easier to get through.

HINT: Whenever possible, try to complete as many items from your to-do list before checking your email or social media. Email and social media have an uncanny way of disrupting your day and often add to your to-do lists. Avoid to-do list overload by completing a few things before you end up having to add to your list.

Listen to your body clock.

The perfect to-do list composed of nonnegotiables, procrastinatables and optionables is your guide to get through your day. However, the order your list is written in isn’t necessarily the order you need to complete it in.

Tackle your list according to your body clock. If there are certain times when you feel the most creative, use that time to work on the creative projects on your to-do list. When you feel less energetic, such as first thing in the morning or late in the day, tackle the to-do list items that don't require much brainpower.

To-Do lists and time management

To make the most of your perfect to-do list, you should have a rough idea of how long each item on your list will take and plan your routine accordingly. If it takes you an hour or so each morning fully wake up, choose tasks that fit that time. Don't start a mundane task that requires three or four hours if it's going to eat into the more focused time of your day.

Try not to block to-do list items into 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 1-hour time blocks as most calendars do. Most tasks are not structured that way. What you think will be a 30-minute phone meeting with a client may only take 8 minutes or could end up being over an hour long. If it finishes early, you have extra time to take on something else from your list. However, if it goes long, you won't feel stressed for the call eating into the time block of the next task.

Of course, time management and to-do lists are not as cut and dry as this. Brain fog and high creative periods can't be scheduled, so your days need to be fluid and flexible. Plus, there's always the unexpected you can’t plan for. The school calling saying your child is sick. Or a client in a panic because their website suddenly went down.

Life can’t be perfect. It would be nice if it were, but that’s unrealistic. But hopefully, by writing the perfect to-do list and taking control of your nonnegotiables, procrastinatables and optionables, you’ll add a bit of peace and order to your daily life.

Resource of the week Logo Package Express 2.0

Logo Package Express automatically generates and exports logo packages from Adobe Illustrator with blazing speed. Packaging logos is boring and complex. First, you have to know what formats to provide your clients, then you have to make them. Manually. One at a time. It takes hours and is a real pain. Logo Package Express turns that dreaded task into a breeze by pumping out 200+ logo files in under 5 minutes. It's truly one of the greatest additions to the design market in a while.

Save $20 off the purchase of Logo Package Express 2.0 with this link.

Already own Logo Package Express version 1? Click this link, log in and purchase the updated version 2.0 for only $20.

Sep 28, 2020

Are you producing any of your design projects in-house?

I got the idea for this episode of the podcast when a member of the Resourceful Designer Community shared her new toy with us in our Slack group. Laura bought a Roland VersaSTUDIO Desktop Sign Maker BN-20. It’s an eco-solvent printer she plans on using to produce stickers, vehicle graphics and apparel graphics, among other things.

This new piece of equipment will allow her to produce materials for her clients in-house. She also plans on using it to make pieces to sell through her Etsy shop. This got me thinking about different ways designers can produce things in-house.

Now for the record, I don’t produce anything in-house myself. I had the opportunity years ago, which I’ll share with you a bit later, but I chose to focus my time solely on the design part and not production. But if you’re into it, producing in-house can be a very lucrative income stream for your design business.

Years ago, a designer I knew lost her job and opened up her own home-based design business. When I later ran into her, she told me getting laid off was one of the best things to happen to her. She had purchased special equipment and was now serving clients she loved and happily producing printed materials for them in-house. Items like posters, business cards, postcards and wedding and party invitations,

That was my first exposure to the idea that a home-based graphic designer could also produce material in-house.

When I started my home-based design studio, an office supply representative offered me a high-end office copier for zero dollars. All I had to do was agree to purchase copier toner through him and to pay a small fee of $0.12 per sheet printed on the machine.

The offer was very tempting. But then I started thinking of the time involved running the copier, cutting, folding, and everything else involved with producing in-house, and I decided it wasn’t for me. I prefer to do the design part and let others handle the production part even if it costs me more to farm out these projects.

But many designers love producing their materials. And not just sheets of paper.

Home-based designers can produce things such as:

  • Stickers/decals
  • Heat transfers for garments and apparel
  • Posters
  • Banners
  • Vehicle graphics
  • Foil stamping
  • Laminating
  • Embroidering
  • Die-cutting using circuit makers
  • Screen printers
  • Block print
  • Letterpress
  • 3D printing

There are so many options you can choose from. It might be hard to decide what sort of products you want to produce in-house.

What if you can’t afford the equipment?

What if you can’t afford the equipment required for producing in-house? It might be easier than you think to acquire them.

New equipment is a tax expense.

Keep in mind that any equipment you purchase for your business claimable on your taxes as a business expense. Check with your accountant to find out how to claim the equipment.

Purchase second hand or refurbished.

Second hand or refurbished equipment can often be just as good as purchasing new, except you pay much less. There’s always someone out there selling old equipment. It’s just a matter of looking.

Purchase floor models or demo units.

As new models of equipment are released, stores and distributors must sell their current inventory to make room. These units are often available at great sale prices. But for a more significant discount, ask if they have a floor model or demo unit for sale. These units have minor usage and often come with the original warranty.

Look for grants or low-interest loans to fund your purchase.

Ask your local economic development group or business centre if they know of any grants or low-interest business loans available for small businesses wanting to expand or purchase equipment. You may be surprised at the amount of money available for anyone who knows where to ask.

Grants are great because you don’t have to pay them back. But they often require a lot of paperwork and jumping through hoops to get. But free money may be worth the hassle.

And some “expansion” loans for small businesses are available at 0 or very low-interest rates, which allows you to purchase equipment and pay it back over time.

Open a line of credit.

If you qualify, a line of credit is a good option for purchasing new equipment.

Lines of credit often have much lower interest than loans or credit cards. Most, however, do require collateral to secure them. They’re easier to get if you’re a homeowner and not a renter.

Incentive from seller

Lastly, contact the seller or distributor of the equipment you want and see what sort of deals they can give you. As I said earlier, I could have had a high-end office copier for zero money. All I had to agree to was purchasing the toner through the supplier and a fixed fee per copy.

If you can convince a supplier you’ll be purchasing enough supplies through them; they may offer you a great deal on the equipment.

Producing in-house: Pros and Cons.

Pros of producing in-house

  1. You can make better profits compared to farming out projects.
  2. You can compete better by charging lower prices than your competition.
  3. You control the entire process from design to production.
  4. You can produce projects much faster than farming them out.
  5. Make extra money by producing for other designers.

Cons of producing in-house

  1. The equipment takes up space in your house.
  2. You need room to store supplies.
  3. You must make sure you have supplies on hand to produce projects.
  4. Equipment can be noisy and interfere with your family’s life.
  5. You are responsible for repairs should the equipment break down.
  6. Producing in-house is time-consuming.

Conclusion

I made the decision years ago that producing in-house was not something I wanted to do. But I’m not you. Maybe this is just the thing you need to expand your design business and take it to the next level. This might be the niche that will set you apart from your competition.

If you think producing in-house is something you would like to do, then look into it.

Sep 21, 2020

Do you farm out design projects?

Finding yourself overwhelmed with too many design projects is a sure sign that you are not charging enough for your design services. Don’t turn clients away. Instead, raise your prices and start farming out design work.

The following is a post from the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group.

Hi guys

So I'm turning away a lot of work at the moment, as I have my day job, and seem to have very little energy in the evenings and weekends to take on many freelance jobs. Seriously, I'm feeling so burned out, have been for a while now.

I do the odd freelance jobs here and there for previous clients that I'm friendly with, but I still get a lot of requests, despite not advertising or putting any vibes out there that I'm available.

I usually just recommend one or two other designers, and they really appreciate the work coming their way, but I also sometimes wonder if I'm being too kind? Would this be reciprocated? Could I charge a % from the jobs I recommend? Would outsourcing them take too much energy if I still need to be the person in-between the client and the designer?

Has anyone else been in a similar situation?

I’m sure the original poster is not the only designer facing this problem. At some point in your design career, you will find yourself burdened with more work than you can handle (trust me, it will happen).

When faced with this situation, the first thing you should do is review your design rates, because chances are you are not charging enough for your services. The same applies to all service-based industries. Too much work coming in is a sure sign that prices are too low.

Raising your rates will reduce the number of inquiries you receive, and those inquiries that come in will come from higher-quality clients. It’s a fact experienced by designers the world over. The more you charge, the better calibre of clients you receive.

Raising your design rates can be scary.

Raising design prices scares many designers. What will your current clients think? Will they leave you for a less expensive designer? Will clients stop referring you if you charge more? Will the influx of new design work dry up?

In my experience, and from others I’ve talked to, nothing drastic will happen when you charge more, other than you making more money.

Yes, there is a possibility of losing some clients. But the increased income from remaining clients will make up for the losses. Plus, with fewer clients, you’ll have more time to devote to projects, which means you’ll probably do a better job, one worthy of the higher prices.

Raising rates usually rectifies work overload. However, what if there are still too many projects for you to handle?

In the original poster’s situation, quitting their day job to run their design business full time is an option. But what if that’s not feasible? The solution is farming out design work.

Referring clients to other designers doesn’t help you. And asking for referral fees or commissions from other designers becomes complicated and seldom works.

Instead, you should retain the clients and farm out any design projects you cannot handle. Hire other designers to work for you and earn a percentage of the project cost.

Be an “art director” and farm out design projects.

When you start farming out design work, you act as an “art director.” Your job is to talk to the client, figure out what they need, possibly sketch out some rough design ideas and pass all this information to another designer to complete the work. This lets you satisfy the client without devoting all your time to the project. It’s a win-win for everyone.

How to farm out design work.

To farm out design work, you first need to find capable designers. Inquire within your network of design acquaintances if anyone is available to freelance for you.

If you don’t know any capable designers, you are sure to find some on platforms such as:

Once you find a freelance designer, you act as the go-between. You talk to the client, figure out what they need. Maybe come up with some rough ideas and then get these other designers to complete the work for you.

In some cases, you may give these designers creative freedom to develop their own ideas based on the information you provide them. In other cases, you may dictate exactly what they should design. It will depend on the project and the capabilities of the designer.

Once the freelance designer completes the work, you present it to the client.

Saving you time.

Farming out design work allows you to take on more projects with minimal time commitment on your part. A 10-hour design project may require only one or two hours of your time. Do this several times a week, and you can bill your clients for a full week’s worth of work, even though you’ve put in less than a day’s work yourself.

Once a design project is complete, you pay the designer from the money you charged the client. The difference becomes your income.

Many designers farm out more work than they take on themselves. They meet with the client, go through the whole discovery process, brainstorm ideas, and then farm the actual work out to willing designers who charge them less than they charge their clients.

Farming out design work allows you to keep clients.

Farming out design projects allows you to make money from projects you couldn’t otherwise handle yourself. The clients remain yours and will return to you the next time they require design services. In the future, should you have more time available, you can do the work yourself.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by the amount of design work you have, consider raising your rates and farming out any design work, you can’t or don’t want to handle yourself.

Do you farm out design work?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Sep 7, 2020

If you want to succeed as a designer, you must invest in yourself.

Have you heard the quote, “it takes money to make money?” The same concept applies to growing your design business as well as improving yourself as a designer. If you don’t invest in yourself, you’ll become stagnant, outdated, and eventually overlooked.

Clients hire graphic and web designers because they want fresh ideas and skillsets to implement them. These clients will quickly tire of someone if all they ever produce are the same old things.

No business or person, for that matter, can do the same thing over and over and expect to succeed. Sure they may thrive in the short term. But if I were to hazard a guess, I would say you have long term goals for yourself and your business. The only way for you to achieve those goals is to invest in yourself.

To prosper and be successful as a designer, as well as live a content life. You must make sure you are always moving forward. Think of yourself as a shark. Certain species of sharks must keep moving if they want to breathe. If they stop moving for any length of time, they’ll die.

Try to have a similar mentality as a shark. To flourish in this business of design, you can’t sit still. Keep learning, improving, acquiring, and more.

I graduated from college in 1992 from a three-year graphic design program. It was only during the second half of our third year that we were introduced to computers. That means most of my design education was done using archaic methods compared to today’s standards. I learned how to use:

  • Proportion wheels
  • French curves
  • blue non-repro pencils
  • Rubylith or Amberlith
  • Letraset rub-on type
  • PMT cameras
  • Waxers
  • Xacto blades
  • and the list goes on

There’s no way I could have built a successful design business and gotten to where I am today without investing in myself. The skills I learned in school just wouldn’t cut it in today’s world of design.

Here are seven ways you can invest in yourself.

1) Invest in equipment

I always say that creativity comes from the designer, not the tools he or she uses. Just like a skilled carpenter can still make beautiful furniture with old tools. But let’s face it. The creativity may come from the designer, but having newer devices sure helps a lot. That’s why it’s worth investing in the equipment you use as much as possible.

I hate spending money on new equipment, but when I do, I make sure I get the best bang for my buck. If that means paying more money upfront for a better option that will last longer, so be it.

I’m a Mac guy. One of the most heard complaints about Macs is their price. But to me, it’s worth the investment for the peace of mind of knowing my computer will run flawlessly for years to come. I used my previous 2010 iMac from the time I bought it new to 2017 when I upgraded it for a new model. That was a good investment.

Of course, there’s other equipment you need besides your computer. Purchase each one with the knowledge that it’s an investment. And the idea behind investing is to get the best return for your dollar.

2) Invest in software and online resources

The software you use to run your design business, as well as the online resources that support your business is all investments. Without them, you couldn’t run your business or earn a living.

Invest in things such as web hosting, plugins, fonts, graphic resources from sources like Design Cuts or Creative Market. Tools like Logo Package Express or Services for creating mockups are all essential for your success.

Don’t forget project/client management software, bookkeeping and invoicing software, and so much more.

There are plenty of free options for you to run your design business. Gimp, for example, is a free design software alternative. But most designers choose to invest in tools such as Adobe CC because it makes their lives easier.

TIP: If you think you are going to use a software or online service enough, and the option is available, I suggest you purchase a lifetime deal. It costs more upfront, but it pays off big time in the long run.

3) Invest in learning

Remember what I said about my college days? The only way I got from then to now was by taking courses, watching tutorials, attending webinars and conferences, reading books, and any other way I could learn.

Times are different now than they were even a few years ago. If you want to learn something new, you can usually find someone on YouTube teaching it. However, YouTube and other free online resources are no substitute for taking a course.

I learned HTML and CSS by taking courses on the old Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning). I also tried to learn PHP that way, but my brain didn’t grasp that one.

Over the years, I’ve bought courses on Udemy, Skillshare, and many courses offered by private individuals or companies.

The difference between a paid course and something you can find for free online is enormous. Both the quality and the content is so much better in most cases. Not to mention, the people behind paid courses want you to like their product so you’ll share it with others and possibly purchase more from them in the future. Therefore, they make sure you get the best information possible for your money.

When it comes to learning something new, you can start with YouTube. But if you’re serious, find a paid course and invest in yourself.

4) Invest in networking/conferences

Ever since I got into this profession, I made a point of going to conferences and networking events.

It’s not just about what you learn at these events. It’s about the people you meet. Have you heard the saying, “It’s not who you know, but who knows you?” This statement should be the foundation of your business. If you want to build a name for yourself, you need to get out there and meet people. Conferences and networking events offer perfect opportunities to do just that. Plus, you have the bonus of leaning things at the same time.

If you work in a design niche, consider attending conferences for that niche. I attend podcast conferences every year, which has allowed me to grow my Podcast Branding business quickly.

There are many design-related conferences you could attend. Here are just a few.

Attending conferences may be costly, but you should make an effort to attend as often as you can, even if it’s only every few years.

If attending conferences is out of your budget for now, why not consider joining online communities. The Resourceful Designer Community is a perfect place for you to meet fellow like-minded designers on a similar path as you. And it’s much less expensive than attending an in-person conference.

There are other paid communities you can join as well. I belong to several paid podcaster communities. I also belong to a paid entrepreneur community. And there are others I’m looking into because I know that each one is an investment in myself.

5) Invest in a team

I made a massive mistake in the first few years I ran my design business. I tried to do everything myself. And I know I’m not alone in this. I believe that many new entrepreneurs make this same mistake. It’s your business, after all; therefore, you want to do everything.

Only after I let the notion that I had to do it all go, and starting hiring outside help for various tasks, that I truly learned what it is to run a business.

A team is not the same as having employees. A team is a group of specialized individuals you can call upon should you need their skillet.

My team is made up of:

  • My accountant
  • My layer
  • My business advisor
  • My virtual assistant
  • Photographers
  • Illustrators
  • Programmers
  • Copywriters
  • Translators
  • and probably more that I’m forgetting.

You use these people to help grow and operate your design business.

In point #3 above, I talked about investing in learning. But one thing all great entrepreneurs need to know is when to learn and when to delegate. Plus, having a team means you have more time on your hands to do the things you are good at doing.

So investing in a team is investing in yourself.

6) Invest in your environment

Whether you rent office space, or you work from home as I do. You want the room you spend your days to not only be practical but also to reflect who you are.

Take the time and invest in turning your working space into a place you enjoy hanging out. It will make those long workdays that much more enjoyable.

As I look around my office, I see some of the swords from my collection on the walls. I see various dragon figurines on my shelf. As Well as lots of geeky bobbles and nick-knacks I collect. All of these reflect who I am. If you know me and came into my home, there’s no mistaking that this office is mine and mine alone.

So invest in yourself by investing in your environment.

If you are someone who likes listening to music while working, then invest in a good set of speakers. Invest in good lighting, so you don’t strain your eyes. And invest in a good chair. Please, do not skimp when it comes to the seat you’re going to park your butt on for hours upon hours for the foreseeable future.

Make your workspace your own. Invest in it.

7) Invest in your health

As a designer, you spend a lot of time sitting down in front of a computer, to the point of neglecting yourself. Don’t let your love of design impede your health.

Remember to takes breaks, get exercise, eat healthily even though that pantry full of junk food is so easily accessible. See your doctor and dentist regularly. Get your eyes checked.

Every point I made before this one is no good if you don’t take care of your health. So if you’re going to invest in yourself, I suggest you start here, with point #7.

How do you invest in yourself?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Aug 31, 2020

Contrary to popular belief, print is not dead.

There was a time, not long ago, when graphic designers designed almost entirely for print. Sure there were trade show booths and vehicle graphics, but in their way, those are print as well.

As the internet became more and more popular, graphic designers started to encroach on a turf that was mostly populated by computer programmers. And before you knew it, a whole new industry was born–Web design.

Offering website design allowed graphic designers to help clients on two fronts—both digital design and print design.

But as time moved along and the world moved closer to being a "paperless society" (it still hasn't reached what people predicted), more and more designers shifted away from print design to concentrate more on the digital side of the design industry.

Nowadays, it's common to find designers who only design websites. And there's nothing wrong with that. But contrary to popular belief, print is not dead. There is still a vast market out there for printed design. In fact, it's become even more critical in today's world.

With the popularity of websites, landing pages, social media, online advertising and everything else digital, printed material is still a very viable form of marketing. You can almost say that printed marketing can help a business stand out from its digital competition.

Not to mention, print can be a very lucrative part of your design business. Not only are you paid for your design work. But you can also earn a commission on the cost of the print run if you offer print brokering as a service. Sometimes, those print commissions can make you more than what you charge for the design itself.

You might charge a client $1,000 to design a brochure and then earn an additional $2,000 commission if the client opts for a large print run.

Print can play a good part in rounding out your design business.

Here are five reasons why you should offer print design.

1) Print is effective.

People are bombarded every day with digital advertising to the point where they become blind to it.

If you checked your social media accounts today, you were probably exposed to a minimum of a dozen ads. Can you name a single one of them?

Digital ads, although effective, are also considered digital noise by most people and can easily be lost among the other pixels on the screen. Printed material, however, stands out.

People trust print. The low cost of digital advertising allows anyone to start with minimal risk. Print, on the other hand, requires more significant thought and more investment. So when someone sees a printed marketing piece, they tend to trust it more than a digital equivalent. Tests run by MarketingSherpa show 82% of people trust print ads over digital ads when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

In addition to the trust factor, print regularly outperforms digital when marketing to a local audience. Posters, yard signs, banners, vehicle graphics are great ways to present your message out to a local audience. This is evident during election campaigns. But even outside of elections, print is an excellent way to reach your target audience. A printed brochure captures a person's attention in a way that a website can't.

Studies have also proven that it's easier to recall information seen in print form than when viewed digitally.

So if you're designing for local clients, why not include print design as part of your services. Your clients will see you as someone who does it all, print and digital. Plus, you could use print to promote your design business and stand out from your competition.

2) Print brings in big profits.

As mentioned above, you can make extra money by offering print brokering as a service. But even if you don't, designing for print provides excellent income opportunities for designers.

There's a particular belief among the public that most graphic designers offer both print and web services, but web designers don't do print. Don't limit yourself.

By offering both print design and website design, you expand your potential client pool and creates an additional revenue stream. Many smaller local businesses continue to use print design as their primary means of marketing.

3) Print allows you to upsell and cross-sell.

Offering both web and print allows you to upsell and cross-sell your services to your clients. This is especially useful when combined with the three-tier pricing strategy. This strategy involves presenting three prices to your clients. Each pricing tier is offering a higher degree of service.

Offering print design is a great way to supplement your tiers. A client looking for a website may choose a higher-priced package that includes a flyer and business card design. Or a client looking for a brochure may be willing to pay extra if you package the brochure with a landing page.

Upselling and cross-selling offer more options to your clients and extra income for you.

4) Designing for print is tangible.

Graphic design is known as a visual medium. As designers, we create things that are aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. But design is so much more where print is concerned.

Different paper stocks or printing methods can convey a meaning on their own. Some papers look and feel cheap, while others give a sense of quality and prestige.

Embossing, die-cutting, stamping, special coatings are all part of the print design process, which can increase the perceived value of a marketing piece.

The University of Oxford did a study that shows that consumers generally value physical goods more than digital goods. Meaning they are willing to pay more for something they can touch. Designers can use this to their advantage. Designing something that will be physical increases its perceived value allowing you to charge more for it.

5) It takes a different creative mindset to design for print.

When designing a website, the page automatically becomes longer to accommodate more content. Digital ads don't require much copy because they link to a landing page with more information.

Print, however, requires advanced creative thinking. A piece of paper has fixed dimensions. A designer must be creative in the use of that limited space.

  • What's the best way to include all the necessary information on a poster, a postcard, a billboard?
  • What are the best typefaces to use, and at what size?
  • How will colours interact with each other on paper?
  • How will folding the piece affect the design?

When designing for print, you must stretch your creativity and find the best way to create something that not only looks good but serves its purpose, all while conforming to the restrictions imposed by the medium and printing process.

Conclusion

If you are one of the countless new generations of designers specializing only in digital media, I hope this episode whet your appetite for print design enough to give it a try.

As someone who started in print, then moved to the web and now offers both, I can tell you designing for print is quite fulfilling in a creative way.

So believe me when I say, print is not dead.

Do you offer both print and web design?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Catchafire.org

Catchafire strengthens the social good sector by matching professionals who want to donate their time with nonprofits who need their skills.

If you are a new designer looking for a way to create meaningful work while building your design portfolio, Catchafire may be a great option for you. Check them out and see if there's a design project you would like to volunteer your time on.

Aug 24, 2020

Do you vet potential new design clients?

How do you know that you’re the right designer for a project? Or maybe the question should be, how do you know a potential new design client is right for you?

In the past, I’ve covered what to ask during a discovery session, 50 questions to ask every new design client, and four vital questions to ask your design clients about their projects.

Almost all of the questions covered in those episodes are for building relationships with your clients after you’ve decided to work with them. But I don’t think I’ve ever talked about that first contact with a potential new client before.

First contact.

The first contact refers to those times your phone rings with an unknown number, or emails you receive from unknown people or the conversations that start when someone finds out you’re a designer.

How do you determine during those initial first few minutes of contact if this potential new client is someone worth investing your time and energy? Because as a designer, you will hear from people who you don’t want anything to do with.

So what do you do? You conduct a quick, impromptu interview.

First contact questions.

Here are some questions I like to ask before getting too deep into a conversation. If I’m not satisfied with the answers, I politely end things before I waste too much of my valuable time.

1) What can I help you with?

Cut to the chase. There’s no reason to have a conversation with someone if you cannot help them. The first thing you should do is ask the client what it is they need your help with.

Many people don’t know what graphic or web designers do. In the past, I’ve had people ask me if I could redesign their restaurant’s floor plan, create blueprints of their new building, develop software or apps for them, design 3D prototypes in C.A.D. and many more things I’m not capable of doing. So before wasting your time, find out if this person does indeed require your skillset.

2) How do you expect me to help?

Once you’ve determined the client can benefit from your skillset, the next step is to find out what they expect from working with a designer and if it’s worth your time.

Some clients are not looking for your design or creative skills. They’re looking for a person who can take the idea they already have and recreate it on paper or pixels.

Some designers don’t mind that kind of mindless work, but I don’t. If the conversation starts with “I know exactly what I want, but I need someone to do it for me.” then there’s little chance I’ll end up working with that client. I went into business for myself so that I can work WITH clients, not FOR clients.

Now I understand that you may not be in a position to turn down work. If that’s the case, I suggest trying to turn the conversation towards how you can offer more to the client than being a simple instruction follower.

3) Is there a deadline for your project?

To grow and prosper in this field of design, you must form relationships with your clients, which is difficult if you’re working on a tight deadline.

For existing clients, it’s not as big a deal since you already know them. But the first time you work with a new client, you should take the time to get to know them, their business and how best to assist them.

Of course, deadlines are subjective. A two-month period for a small website project allows ample time for relationship building. However, if they say they need their site launched by next Wednesday, I suggest you pass. Regardless of how simple it sounds, if they’re that rushed and under pressure, that stress will be passed on to you.

Determine if the deadline is a constraint you’re comfortable working within.

4) What’s your position regarding this project?

I ask this question because I want to know if the person contacting me is the one I’ll be dealing with for the project.

I’ve agreed to too many projects in the past only to find out later the person I thought I was working with turned out to be a middle person, and once the project started, I was dealing with someone different. I don’t like is to find out after I’m hired that the person that I talked to is now out of the picture, and I’m left dealing with someone else that I haven’t vetted.

If I’m going to be working with the Owner, CEO, Chairman or whoever, I want to know, and I want to meet or talk to them before I agree to anything.

5) What budget did you have in mind?

I know, budget is not a topic you like bringing up. But wouldn’t you rather get it over with now, instead of later during a discovery or pitch meeting after investing your valuable time?

I like to know right from the start if a client can afford me. If their budget is $500 for a website or $150 for a logo design, I can politely end the conversation, wish them all the best and get back to whatever it was I was working on when they called.

Of course, I’m being harsh here. I don’t merely brush a client off because their dollar sign is low. I explain why I charge the prices I do, and on some occasions, the person is convinced and realizes that increasing their investment is beneficial to them. But most times, after explaining why their budget doesn’t fit my prices, we part ways. If they can’t afford me, they can’t afford me. That’s just the way it is.

6) Are they able to pay my deposit?

The last interview question is about payment. Depending on the project, I insist on at least a 50% deposit before starting any work. I’m strict about this. “The check is in the mail.” Or “it’s going through our accounting department” are not good enough excuses. I need the money in hand before I start on anything.

If the client makes excuses or complaints about paying a deposit before we begin, I can only imagine how the rest of the project will go. In these cases, it’s best to turn down the project.

Interview the client before hearing them out.

Of course, there are many other questions you should be asking a new client before agreeing to work with them. The purpose of the interview is to vet the client and quickly determine if it’s worth spending any more time discussing their project.

In some cases, even vetted clients don’t work out. But most occasions, you can save a lot of valuable time, and possibly some big headaches by asking questions and quickly determining if the conversation is worth prolonging.

What questions do you ask to vet potential new design clients?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Thank you to Wireframe for supporting this episode of the podcast.

Check out the new season of Wireframe by Adobe – Wireframe is a podcast all about how UX can help technology fit into our lives.

Aug 17, 2020

How are you going to take your design business to the next level?

“What got you here won’t get you there.” I’ve heard this phrase a few times over the past couple of weeks, and it got me thinking about my life, my design career and my business.

This is not about Marshall Goldsmith’s book of the same title. Although I hear it’s a great book. It’s about the phrase itself and how it applies to you and your design business.

At its core, “What got you here won’t get you there” is such a simple statement, and yet it holds so much truth. You can only get so far in life if you stick with the status quo. To advance and grow further, you need to expand yourself and do things you’ve never done before. Otherwise, you’ll never be more successful than you are right now.

Are you ok with that? To never be more successful than you are right now? I know I’m not.

Thinking back over my career, I can pinpoint specific times when pushing myself, learning new things, or just taking a leap propelled me to bigger and better things.

I started working in the design department of a commercial printer straight out of college. I was one of several designers, all of which had attended the same design program I had, but graduated many years before me. Most had been working at that printer ever since.

Being the new guy, I was at the bottom of the hierarchy. My education had gotten me where I was, but it alone wouldn’t propel me any further. That was up to me.

While the other designers were satisfied grinding away, day after day doing the same work, I wasn’t. I didn’t want to be doing the same thing day in day out. And without even realizing it, I started following the “what got you here won’t get you there” principal.

I read books, subscribed to magazines, attended conferences and training seminars—all to better myself. Soon, the “new guy” was teaching all the veteran designers new ways to do things.

As the years went by, I kept expanding my skills and my knowledge until I was the go-to person in the design department. But was I satisfied? No, I wanted more.

In the early 90s, I heard about this new thing called the World Wide Web. It was amazing. It had these pages built by programmers that you could visit with a computer to get all kinds of information.

An article I read in one of my design magazines said the World Wide Web was a new frontier for graphic designers, and I was keen to conquer it. My graphic design skills had gotten me to where I was, but they wouldn’t be enough for me to tackle this new avenue of design. I needed to learn how to design websites.

At the start, computer programers ruled the WWW, but they made very clunky, and frankly ugly websites. Without realizing it, they were leaving the door wide open for graphic designers to build aesthetically pleasing websites that people preferred. Sites that not only easy to use but pleasant to look at and easy to use.

I wanted to do that, but learning how to program would be a long and tedious road. Luckily there was this new software by Adobe called PageMill that allowed people like me to design websites without coding using a WYSIWYG interface. They later released Adobe SiteMill, then Adobe GoLive. I used these tools to build good looking websites.

Before I knew it, I started a side gig designing websites from home while still working at the print shop. It was the best of both worlds. I got to design print stuff during the day and web stuff in the evenings. However, my web clients weren’t as happy. They didn’t relish the idea of dealing with me at the print shop for their printed material and then waiting until evening to discuss their website.

If I wanted to rectify this problem, I needed to make some changes. What got you here won’t get you there.

I didn’t know how to be an entrepreneur. But I knew it’s what I needed to do if I wanted to take my career to the next level. So I left the print shop and started offering both print and web design under my own business.

Now I’m not going to continue through my entire history. But suffice it to say, there are many times since starting my business that I needed to leap to “get me there.”

At some point, I stopped creating “pretty websites” and started offering “strategic websites.”

I stopped trying to do everything myself and began hiring freelancers and contractors to help with projects. This opened up a whole new world for me and allowed me to grow my business. I no longer had to turn down work I wasn’t capable of or comfortable doing. Instead, I could continue to offer excellent services to my clients by farming out those parts I couldn’t handle myself.

I grew my team to include programmers, illustrators, photographers, designers, copywriters, translators, etc.

Then at some point, I realized that charging an hourly rate for my services was not a sustainable model for growth. The only way to make more money that way was to either work longer hours, which didn’t sound great. Or substantially raise my hourly rate, which wouldn’t go over very well in my small town.

What got you here won’t get you there.

So I changed my pricing strategy and started billing by the project and then later using value-based pricing.

Over the years, I implemented discovery meetings, brand strategy sessions, a client onboarding process and started using contracts. All of these things helped me grow my design business.

At each stage, everything I had done up to that point was not enough to get me to the next point. I had to take a leap and move beyond what I was currently doing.

Are you happy with your career right now, today? Can you imagine continuing as you are right now, for the rest of your working life until retirement? If you’re like me, the answer is no. You probably want bigger and better things in your future as well. What got you here won’t get you there.

Where do you imagine yourself in one year, two years, five years, ten years from now?  What steps do you need to take today, tomorrow, next week, next month, to propel your design business to that next level?

A good business person, heck, a good person in general, should never be satisfied with there current situation. They should always be striving for more. To better themselves, to grow their business, to accomplish bigger and better things.

So what’s stopping you from reaching that next level? Remember, what got you here won’t get you there.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Ryan

How do you handle written content on your client projects. I was wondering if you hire that out to another company, if you write it, or do you require the client to write their own content?

I'm having a hard time with content for my clients websites and thought your perspective would be helpful in my decision.

To find out what I told Ryan you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Thank you to Wireframe for supporting this episode of the podcast.

Check out the new season of Wireframe by Adobe – Wireframe is a podcast all about how UX can help technology fit into our lives.

Aug 10, 2020

Are you creating systems to help your design business?

Mike, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, posted in the Community Slack group his frustrations with one of his clients. Mike built, manages and updates an eCommerce website for a client of his. His frustration is that every time his client wants a new product added to the site, he fails to provide Mike with all the necessary information, requiring Mike to contact the client, sometimes more than once, for the rest of the info.

Mike’s situation reminded me of a similar one I had with a client several years ago. And how my frustrations forced me into creating systems to address the issue.

Around 2010 a new client hired me to build an eCommerce website. This site would sell a wide and often unrelated assortment of products – everything from baseball bats, sunglasses, headphones, plastic shelf brackets, night lights and car seat warmers. And it was up to me to add every item to the site.

After I launched the website, I quickly realized the process my client wanted was not going to work. He started calling me at all hours of the day and on weekends with new products to add even though I explicitly told him I work Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.

And similar to Mike’s situation that I mentioned above, any time my client had a new product for me to list, I would have to fight with him until I had all the content I needed to add it to the site.

I know this sounds like a toxic relationship. The only caveat was that even though I was charging my client by the hour, and you can imagine how the hours would add up, he never questioned my prices, and he paid his invoices on time. I was making good money, but this client was quickly becoming a pain to deal with.

A few weeks after the site launched, I finally put my foot down, and I created some systems to save my sanity.

The first thing I did was alter the way I charged him. Instead of billing for my time, I started charging him $50 for the first product and $30 for each subsequent product he sent me on a given day. This change immediately stopped the random emails and phone calls. To save money, my client started saving up products and submitting them to me in bulk.

The second thing I did was to create an online submission form that contained fields for all the information I needed to add a product to the website. Things like product name, description, selling price, shipping costs, size, colours, attributes, variations, etc.

I made most of the form fields mandatory, so my client couldn’t submit it until he had filled it out.

In some cases, I included YES/NO radio buttons asking questions like, “Does this product come in different colours?” If my client chose YES, he would then have to fill out another field listing the colours.

Finally, there was a way for him to attach product photos to the form.

Putting these two systems in place is what turned a nightmare of a client into someone I enjoyed working with. Plus, once I implemented these systems, my client started taking me more seriously.

Unfortunately, my client was not a very good business person, and his business failed, and we shut down the site after two years. But that project taught me the value of creating systems.

Of course, there are other types of systems. I use all kinds these days.

  • Questionnaires
  • Marketing and sales funnels
  • Social media strategy and calendars
  • Even my daily work process and routine

All of these can be called systems. Not only do they make my job easier, but they drastically speed up my tasks, AND they make it very easy for me to delegate work to others.

Creating systems for delegation.

Systems are a great way to teach others how to do things the way you need them done. I have a system for preparing a new WordPress website before I start designing it. It’s my step-by-step process for configuring the WordPress settings and installing and configuring the theme and plugins. I follow the same procedure on every website design I start.

I also have a system for launching a site to make sure nothing is forgotten. Before a website goes live, I make sure to check off every item on my list.

These two systems are the way I want things done. And because I have them set up as systems, I can easily pass off these duties to a virtual assistant and know that everything will be as I expect.

I have a system for my podcast artwork clients. It’s a questionnaire, but it’s still a system I use to gather the information I require to work on their project. Every time I meet with a new client, I pull out my list of questions and make sure to address each one during our conversation. It makes my job easier, and I never have to contact a client afterwards, saying I forgot to ask them something.

If I ever hire a project manager for my Podcast Branding business, they could use my questionnaire and get the same information I’m currently collecting. Because of the system I have, I know they won’t miss anything.

Creating systems makes you more efficient.

The systems I’ve created make me a more efficient designer and business person. They help streamline what I do and free up my time for other things. And creating systems can do the same thing for you.

I bet if you think hard, you already have systems in place. You’ve probably just never thought of them as systems. But now that you have, maybe you’ll start creating more systems that could help you become a more efficient person.

What systems do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Jul 13, 2020

My strategy for securing WordPress websites.

The internet is filled with unscrupulous people. Are you doing everything you can to ensure your clients’ portion of it is safe by securing their WordPress websites?

I recently published a podcast episode and article on earning extra income by offering website maintenance plans. Part of that strategy is making sure the websites you manage are secure. I received many questions afterwards asking how I secure my clients’ WordPress websites.

There are many ways and many tools available for securing a WordPress website. Here is the method that works for me.

WordPress Security.

Those two words, “WordPress Security” may sound intimidating to the uninitiated. Let me assure you they’re not. If I can learn how to do this, so can you. I’m not a programmer. I’m not even a developer. I’m just a WordPress user who figured out a security strategy that works for me.

What is WordPress Security?

WordPress security involves putting measures in place to decrease the chance of someone compromising a website.

If you sell WordPress Security as part of your website maintenance plan, be sure to tell your clients there are no guarantees. If a skilled hacker is determined to gain access to a website, they will, and there’s not much you can do to prevent it.

The purpose of Website security is to make it as difficult as possible for them, so they leave your site alone and go in search of an easier target.

Most hacking attempts are easily preventable with a few simple measures. Here’s what I do.

Securing Account Login.

By default, every WordPress installation provides easy access for administrators to gain entry to a site through the URL domainname.com/wp-login.php. This default makes the WordPress login page the most attacked part of any website.

So how do you secure the account login?

Hide the backend

I use iThemes Security Pro to hide the backend of every website and replace the login page with something else. If anyone tries entering the site via the /wp-login.php page, they’ll be taken to a 404 page not found page instead.

This is more of security by obscurity, and is not a very strong strategy, but if it helps prevent automated bots and such, then why not do it?

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Advanced > Hide Backend

Force the use of a strong password.

The stronger the password, the harder it is to crack. Forcing a strong password makes it more difficult to gain access to a site.

iThemes Security Pro allows me to force the use of strong passwords. New site users must enter a strong password to create their account, and existing site users are forced to update their weak password when they next log in.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Password Requirements

Prevent the use of compromised passwords.

One of the main vulnerabilities of passwords is their reuse. Many people think up a good password, but then they use it everywhere. All it takes is for one database breach containing their user name and password, and a hacker can gain access to wherever the two are used in combination.

iThemes Security Pro connects to the haveibeenpwned API and refuses any compromised passwords.

As part of this prevention method, I recommend all my clients use a Password Manager such as 1Password to create strong, unique passwords for every site they visit.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Password Requirements

Limit Login Attempts.

Even a strong password may be guessed if given enough time. So as an extra measure, I turn on Brute Force Protection in iThemes Security Pro to prevent the number of failed login attempts.

I have it set so that three failed login attempts will lock a user out of the site for 15 minutes. After their third lockout, it bans the IP address from even viewing the website.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Local Brute Force Protection

Two-Factor Authentication.

Two-Factor Authentication, sometimes called 2FA, adds an extra step to the login process. The way it works is after entering a username and password; users must enter a temporary six-digit code to gain access to the site.

This code can be obtained from a predetermined list, one that’s emailed to the user, or, my preferred method, using an App on a smartphone such as Google Authenticator.

Google Authenticator generates a new unique code every 30 seconds. When logging into a website with Two-Factor Authentication, you must enter the code from the app and press the login button before the code expires.

The only way to gain access to a website protected by 2FA is to have the user name and password, plus have access to the smartphone tied to the account.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Two-Factor Authentication (This is a PRO feature)

Passwordless Login

I want to mention Passwordless Login as a security option, but note that I don’t use this method myself. I explain why, later.

Passwordless login is a way to gain access to a website without entering a password or a 2FA code.

To use Passwordless Login, you enter your email address on the login page then check your email for a “magic link” that grants you access to the website. No password or Two-Factor Authentication code required.

Passwordless login is secure because it requires access to the email account associated with the site.

Although Passwordless Login is very secure and works great for clients, I don’t use this method. I sometimes need to access to a client’s website through their account instead of my admin account. I wouldn’t be able to access a site with Passwordless Login since I don’t have access to my client’s email account.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Passwordless Login (This is a PRO feature)

WordPress Site Monitoring

Now that the account login is secure, the next thing I turn to is site monitoring. I want to know when something happens to one of my client’s website.

Security Logs

WordPress security logs are an excellent resource for seeing what is happening with a site. If a website gets hacked, the security logs will have the best information to help you recover.

To be honest, I don’t understand most of what the security logs contain. But I know where they are, and how to download and share them if I need to get an expert involved in fixing a compromised site.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Logs

Monitor File changes

iThemes Security Pro allows me to monitor when files on a website change. This is a great way to know when someone had gained access to a site.

Be warned; this feature will also notify you of every change and update you make to the site.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > File Change Detection

Scanning for Malware

iThemes Security Pro regularity scans and notifies me if it detects malware on a website. This has saved me in the past when a client’s site became compromised. I was able to fix the issue before it escalated.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Site Scan Scheduling (This is a PRO feature)

Themes and Plugin Management

Delete unrequired and inactive themes and plugins.

It’s much easier to hack into a website if it has outdated themes and plugins installed.

The first step in theme and plugin management is to deactivate and delete any unrequited or unused plugins. You can always reinstall a plugin should it be needed.

Also, make sure you acquire your plugins from reputable sources. I’ve seen some questionable WordPress Plugin bundles recently offering thousands of dollars worth of premium plugins for next to nothing. These plugins may work, but they may also be compromised. It’s not worth risking your business or reputation over.

Keep active plugins and themes updated.

As far as security is concerned, when it comes to the WordPress Core, Themes and Plugins, the best rule of thumb is to keep everything updated.

Many updates are to patch security vulnerabilities.

iThemes Security Pro has a nice feature called Version Management that allows a site to automatically update itself as new versions of the WordPress core, themes and plugins are released. Although handy, I leave almost all of this feature off. I prefer updating plugins myself. Should something on the site break during an update, I want to know right away.

The only option I turn on is the “Auto Update if Fixes Vulnerability” option. This allows updates only if it fixes a security issue.

iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Version Management (This is a PRO feature)

Manually updating the WordPress Core, Themes and Plugins.

For updating my client website, I use iThemes Sync, a WordPress manager. iThemes Sync allows me to monitor and update all my clients’ websites from one dashboard.

iThemes Sync sends me daily emails telling me what plugins and themes have updates available. I can log into iThems Sync and perform all the updates from the one dashboard without having to log into each website individually, saving me time.

The basic version of iThemes Sync is free for up to 10 websites.

Domain security.

Whenever registering a domain, I highly suggest you include domain privacy. Some hosts include domain privacy while others charge an extra fee.

Domain Privacy hides the domain owner’s contact information from the public. Without domain privacy, a domain owner’s email address, mailing address and phone number are available for anyone to see.

Since it’s common to use the same email address to register a domain and access the associated website, without domain privacy, you’re handing hackers half of the login information they need.

That’s my WordPress Security plan.

That’s it. That’s what I do to secure my clients’ WordPress websites.

This is not meant to be an add for iThemes. There are many tools you can use to do the same things I do. Some of them possibly better and maybe less expensive than what I use. But I’ve been using the iThemes programs for several years, and I know, and I trust them. And so far, knock on wood, they’ve worked for me.

What's your strategy for securing WordPress websites?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Jul 6, 2020

If only I knew these things before starting my design business.

You know that saying, hindsight is 20/20? It means that it’s always easier to see things when you’re looking back than when you’re looking forward.

Before I decided to leave the print shop where I worked as a graphic designer to start my graphic and web design business in 2006, I had a preconceived notion of what to expect. Some of what I imagined turned out to be accurate and some of what I believed was way off.

For example, I imagined how much I would love running my own business, spending my days designing beautiful things for great clients. It turns out I love it even more than I anticipated. However, I do spend a lot less time designing than I thought I would.

I didn’t know many designers in 2006 who were running their own business. There were a few who used the print shop I worked at for their client’s print work. But they were more of what I call freelance designers. Meaning, they had other sources of income and did design as a side-gig. So there was nobody for me to emulate.

I did have one friend, Jason, with a successful design business in Toronto. I talked to him quite a bit before deciding to go it on my own. But even with those conversations, there was still a lot I didn’t know or wasn’t expecting when I did eventually jump ship.

So here are ten things I wish someone had told me before I started my design business.

1) You don’t need a lot of clients to run a successful design business.

Before starting my design business, I thought I would need 50 to 100 clients for my new business to be sustainable. Boy, was I wrong. I quickly learned that a solo designer could make a good living with only a handful of clients. In fact, during the first two years of my business, I only had 11 or 12 clients. Clients come and go, but on any given basis, a dozen clients is a good number to aim for. More than that and you risk overloading yourself with work.

2) You’ll spend a lot of time on things other than design.

Running your own business is a lot of work. And a lot of it is considered non-billable time. Things like invoicing and bookkeeping, keeping track of expenses and taxes, writing pitches, contracts and proposals. And so much more.

I thought I would be spending my days in creative bliss, designing beautiful things for grateful clients. But there have been days when I’m too busy running my business to design anything.

3) You need to become a time management expert.

When you work for someone else, they tell you when to take breaks, go for lunch, and call it quits at the end of the day. When you’re running your own design business, there’s nobody prodding you along but yourself.

Learn to take breaks and find time to eat—set boundaries between your work and non-work life. Otherwise, you’ll burn yourself out by working days, evenings and weekends, and you’ll start to resent what you do.

Running your own business means a flexible schedule, but you need to learn how to manage your time effectively. When you make your own schedule, you have the freedom to go to the grocery store on a Wednesday morning or to cut your day off early so you can bring your kids to their karate class or their soccer game. That’s the benefit of working for yourself. But you also need to be able to juggle multiple design projects with overlapping deadlines and clients who are not always on time delivering the content they promised you.

Conquering time management is the only way to stay sane in this business.

4) The rejections and criticisms will never stop.

Just because your the boss doesn’t mean clients won’t find fault with your work. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t matter how long you do this work or how good you become. There will always be room for improvement. Clients will reject your proofs or decide not to work with you at all.

I’ve been a designer for over 30 years, running my own business for half that time, and I still have clients turn me down or tell me they don’t like certain things I design.

Learn to embrace failure, because there’s a lot of it when you’re on your own. The trick is to learn from them and grow as a designer and as a business person.

When the rejections stop is when you need to worry, because that means you’re either the best designer in the world and you’re way undercharging for your services. Or you’ve stopped putting yourself out there, and there are no more clients to complain.

5) Fake it until you make it.

You can’t succeed in this design business if you’re timid or hesitant or if you come off as self-conscious about the way you handle yourself.

You need to present yourself as a solution to the client’s problem. Their best option at success, even if you’re not sure of yourself.

Confidence comes with experience, but it also comes in the form of self-motivation. If you tell yourself you can do the job, then nobody else will doubt you.

The way to make it in this business is to continually go after more prominent clients. Ask for more money than your previous design jobs, pursue larger projects than you’re used to. If you keep aiming high enough, soon you’ll believe it’s where you ought to be.

6) Find a mentor.

If you try to run your design business all by yourself without any help, chances are you’ll fail. Not because you’re a bad designer, nor because you’re a bad business person. But because you don’t have the support you need to succeed.

You’re lucky that it’s 2020. You have a cornucopia of resources at your disposal to help you start and run your design business. Take the Resourceful Designer Community, for example. The community is home to a great group of designers who love helping fellow community members. In a way, we’re all mentors to each other.

When I started my design business in 2005, there were no Facebook groups or online communities. What got me through the beginning of my solopreneurial journey were the mentors I followed. People like Jason, who I mentioned earlier. Or Shari, a fellow local designer who helped me get my first clients.

Without people to model myself upon or to ask questions of when I needed help, I don’t know how my journey would have turned out. Find yourself a group of peers that can help and guide you. It will make your journey so much easier.

7) The respect given to you is a reflection of how much you charge.

Clients will never stop trying to take advantage of you. But the level of pushback you receive is closely associated with how much you charge. The higher your rates, the more you’ll be viewed as an expert. The more clients see you as an expert, the more they’ll appreciate your opinion and the less pushback you’ll hear.

When I used to charge $100 or $200 for a logo design, clients would try dictating what they wanted me to do. “Move that there,” “make that bigger,” “use a different colour,” “try another font.”

But as I raised my prices, the less “dictation” I received, and the more freedom I had to design the way I saw fit. Trust me, when you’re charging thousands of dollars for a brand identity, clients are much less likely to micromanage you.

The more you charge, the more your clients will respect you.

8) Don’t put all your design eggs in one basket.

You should never rely on one or two clients to sustain your design business. If there’s anything I learned over the years, it’s that clients can vanish in a heartbeat.

Just like investments, you need to diversify where your design work comes from. It’s great to have big clients with big budgets, but make sure you have enough smaller clients to diversify your income.

I’ve had several big clients over the years, from huge festivals to big shopping malls, to government agencies that have all gone away. The festival shut down. An investment firm with an internal design team bought the shopping mall. And the government agency amalgamated with another division who did work with another designer.

I survived the loss of these clients because I had other smaller clients to sustain me following their departure.

9) You can make a lot more money doing a lot less work.

Before leaving the print shop, I was working 40 hours per week at $21 per hour. That works out to $840 gross per week and roughly $550 net once the government took their deductions.

When I started my design business, I chose $50 as my hourly design rate. I no longer charge by the hour, but that’s another story.

Since there are no deductions for the self-employed, for me to make the same weekly income from my old salary, I needed to work 11 billable hours every week. That was it.

I mentioned earlier how one of the things I didn’t expect when starting my business was how much time I would spend not designing. There are plenty of non-billable hours in the workweek, but it’s ok because designers can make an excellent income designing just a few hours each week even while billing by the hour.

10) The riches are in the niches.

When I started my design business, I didn’t know what a design niche was. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I met a designer specializing in the dental industry that I leaned about niching. And to be honest, I didn’t give it much thought because she told me how much he hated it.

This designer was making good money in her niche, but she had no passion for the dental industry. It was merely a lucrative niche she had stumbled upon. In fact, when I met her, she was planning on getting out of it to do what she called “normal design work” that had nothing to do with dentists.

It wasn’t until much later that I started hearing about niching again and started to appreciate this specialized approach to design.

I recently branched out my design business to focus on the podcast niche. And let me tell you, it’s pretty good. The trick is finding a niche your passionate about. That was the problem with that designer I mentioned. She had no passion for the dental industry and grew bored with the work she was doing.

So there you have it. Ten things I wish someone had told me before I started my design business. I hope you find these things helpful–especially if you’re at the start of your business journey. And if you already have an established design business, maybe I’ve shared something that will inspire you to look at what you do differently.

What do you wish you had known before starting your design business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Strong Passwords

Have you ever heard of Password Entropy? It’s the measurement of unpredictability in a password.

A password like LMNOPQR is much more predictable and easier to crack than something like L8?X49[. That’s why randomized passwords are considered the strongest. Passwords should be composed of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and common ASCII characters. When combined, each digit in a password has 92 possible options.

Here are the estimated times it takes to crack a password using a four-core i5 processor computer. You can see that the number of characters in your password matters!

7 characters will take .29 milliseconds to crack.
8 characters will take 5 hours to crack.
9 characters will take 4 months to crack.
10 characters will take one decade to crack
12 characters will take two centuries to crack.

How secure are your passwords?

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