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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 7
Feb 17, 2020

Design Selling 101

Newcomers to the freelance life often believe that the success of a graphic or web design business lives or dies with their design skills. This is partially true. After all, if you are not a good designer, you’re going to have a hard time being successful on your own.

But the truth of the matter is, your skills as a designer are second to how good a salesperson you are. Because if you cannot sell, you might as well give up your freelance dreams. Get hired somewhere and earn an hourly salary to design all day, while someone else handled the selling part.

There’s nothing wrong with that scenario. Many designers spend their entire career working for someone else, and they’re delighted doing so. Running a home-based design business is not for everyone. However, if you do give it a go, you better feel comfortable selling because your business will depend on your skills as a salesperson.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Good marketing can sell a bad product, but bad marketing cannot sell a good product?” The same applies to home-based or freelance design businesses.

Someone good at selling, but a mediocre designer can still make a living as a freelancer. However, a fantastic designer that has no sales skills will have a difficult time staying afloat.

Become a good seller.

So how do you become a good seller? Like with everything else, it comes with practice and experience. Although being a people person does help. Let’s break it down.

First, you need to get the notion out of your head that selling is about making a sale. It’s not. The sooner you realize this, the better you’ll be at sales. Selling is not about the exchange of money for services, it’s about giving a client relief and lowering their anxiety when it comes to spending their money.

Clients come to you because they need something. It’s that “problem” that your job as a designer is to provide a “solution.”

However, even though the client realizes they need something from you, they feel a reluctance to part with their hard-earned money to get it. If you can put them at ease with that notion and make them realize what their money is buying, they’ll be more willing to spend what is necessary.

Putting the client at ease.

How do you put a client at ease? The core principle of successful selling is making the client feel cared for and appreciated. When someone feels cared for and appreciated, they let their guard down and open up, and become much more receptive to ideas.

If you offer a client a solution to their problem, and you make them feel cared for and appreciated in the process, it becomes much easier to lead them through the sales process.

The sales process.

Let’s break the sales process into basic components.

Imagine the sales process as a video game. In a video game, you can’t just turn on the game, jump to the final level and expect to win. Video games are designed, so every level along the way equips and better prepares you for that final level and victory. The same principle applies to the selling process. You can’t win over a client by jumping to the final level of the sales process (which is price by the way).

Before you discuss price, you need to lead the client through the various levels of the sales process. Think of these levels as objection points. Obstacles to overcome before moving on to the next level of the “video game sales process”.

Level one is: Trust.

If you cannot get a client to trust you, there’s no point moving forward because you’ll never make the sale.

Think about it. What was the last thing you purchased from someone you didn’t trust? I can’t think of anything. However, I can think of several things I did not buy because I didn’t fully trust the person doing the selling. It’s the stereotypical used car salesman. No matter how much they smile and say the right things, you always wonder what they are not telling you.

So the first level of the sales process is getting the client to trust you. How do you do that?

There are many, many ways to get someone to trust you. Here are the two most important ones, especially when pressed for time, such as on a phone call.

1. Listen more, talk less.

Trust is about focusing on what is important to the client and less on what’s important to you. If you can prove to the client that you care about their concerns and genuinely want to help them, they’ll trust you more.

2. Address their pain points

When a client comes to you with a design project, they imagine it will fix the overarching problem they’re facing. However, there may be many pain points to that overarching problem you need to address.

A client may say they need a website to promote and sell their services. But there’s sure to be some underlying issues they may not be talking about. Things like.

  • a lack of brand awareness for their services
  • increased competition
  • negative publicity
  • low conversion rates
  • dwindling sales

As you’re listening to the client, try to pinpoint their various pain points and be sure to acknowledge and comment on them. Clients will appreciate the added attention and quickly realize you care about them, and not just the sale.

Level two is: See if you’re a good fit.

Once you’ve established trust, it’s time to move to the second level and see if partnering with this client is a good fit.

Just because you’ve helped other clients with similar problems doesn’t mean you are the right person for this particular client, or that this client is the right fit for you. Establishing your compatibility continues the trust-building process.

Tell the client that before you proceed any further, you need to determine if you are the right people to work together to solve their problem. Ask them questions in a mini discovery process sort of way, learn more about them and their business. Find out what results they are expecting from you and from the services you are to provide. How will they deem the project successful?

A great question to ask is, what might prevent them from seeing the results they expect if you provide them exactly what they’re asking for? This sort of question forces them to look internally. What happens if you design the perfect logo, website, poster, etc. and yet they still don’t see the expected results?

Asking this question shows them you care, and are more interested in their success than you are about making the sale. Questions like these help both of you determine if you’re a good fit to work together. If you can show you’re a good fit, they will be more open to whatever you propose going forward.

Level three: Objections.

Level three and beyond is where things get a bit more challenging to explain. Once trust is established by showing the client you care for and appreciate them, and you’ve proven that you are a good fit to work together, It’s time to dive into the project itself.

Up until this point, your conversation was mostly about the client and their business and a tiny bit about the services you can offer them.

If you followed the sales process correctly, you should find it much easier to discuss the design project because you’ve established a level of trust and a connection with the client through levels one and two.

Your job is to now lead the client through whatever “objections” they may have regarding their project and your services and putting them at ease for each one.

Because every client and every design project is different, I can’t guide you through level three. Sticking to the video game analogy, there are no “cheat codes” for this part.

But by openly listening to your client, determining their pain points, and their concerns, you should be able to address any objections they may have as you discuss how you can help them achieve their desired goals.

The Final Level: Price.

That brings us to the final level, price. This is where the video game analogy falls apart because, unlike a video game, this last level is the easiest.

By this point, the client should be fully engaged and ready to work with you.

  • They’ve developed trust in you.
  • They know you understand their situation.
  • They believe you have the solution to their problem.
  • They know you care for them and have their best interest at heart.
  • They view you as an asset and a wise investment.

Price is now just a formality.

Provide the client with a reasonable quote for their project and chances are they won’t hesitate to accept because you’ve shown them the value of your partnership.

That’s the power of the sales process.

Conclusion

What have we learned?

People have been conditioned not to trust salespeople. So the trick to good selling, it to not sound like you’re selling. If you can establish yourself as an asset to the client, an investment and not just an expense, you’ll have a much higher chance of closing the sale.

I read this quote on an article written by Scott Hoover, he credits it to someone named Steve: “Sales is leading people to a solution favourable to you, via a solution that is favourable to them.” And that translates to a successful sale is a win for both parties involved.

You complete the sale by building trust and showing the client you appreciate and care for them and their success. And they return the favour by accepting the price you present them.

As a bonus, when done correctly, these selling tips can help transition you to a value-based pricing strategy because the client will see the value in hiring you and will be willing to pay for the investment.

What does your sales process look like?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Matching addresses

If you pair a website with a Google My Busines listing, make sure the address is written exactly the same way on both platforms.

If the address is 123 North Main Streeton Google my Business, don't write it 123 N. Main St.on the website. The two need to be identical in order to take advantage of Google's ranking algorithm and place higher in the search results.

Feb 10, 2020

If you ever created a business plan, you’re probably familiar with the term SWOT Analysis, but here’s how designers can use it for their projects.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats. It’s a process first developed at Harvard Business School in the early 1950s. To run a SWOT Analysis requires four “areas,” such as four pads of paper or perhaps a board divided into four quadrants, each labelled Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats. Regardless of the medium you use, the process goes like this.

By asking questions, you place the answers under one of the four categories. The first two categories, Strengths and Weaknesses, are internal matters you can control. The second two, Opportunities and Threats are external matters that are out of your control.

SWOT Analysis for a freelance web design business.

Here are some example questions and answers you might use when doing a SWOT Analysis for a home-based web design business.

1) Strengths:

Questions you could ask:

  • What are the strengths of the business?
  • What advantages does the business have?
  • What does the business do well?
  • What resources does the business have?
  • What do other people think of the business?

Possible answers:

  • The designer running the business is fast and proficient at creating web sites.
  • The designer can use many different design applications.
  • The designer is very experienced with WordPress.
  • The designer knows some coding languages.
  • The designer is great at time management.
  • The business has many connections with writers, photographers, coders, etc.

2) Weaknesses:

Questions you could ask:

  • What disadvantages does the business have?
  • What improvements can the business make?
  • What skills is the designer lacking or knows but isn’t very good at?
  • Are there any parts of web design the business should avoid?
  • What objections might clients have towards the business?

Possible answers:

  • The designer lacks development skills.
  • English is the designer’s second language, which may complicate communication with clients.
  • The designer has weak administrative skills.
  • The designer is Introverted.

3) Opportunities:

Questions you could ask:

  • What options are there for the business to grow?
  • Are there new technologies emerging you can take advantage of?
  • Is there a shift happening in the economy?
  • Are social patterns changing?

Possible answers:

  • Few talented web designers in the local area.
  • Knowledge of a particular field or industry can allow the business to niche.
  • Clients are seeking sustainable products with low environmental impact.

4) Threats:

Questions you could ask:

  • What risks or potential hurdles does the business face?
  • What obstacles does the designer face?
  • What is the competition doing?
  • Will new technologies threaten your business?

Possible answers:

  • Inexpensive DIY website builders can potentially lure clients away.
  • More people learning web design could become competitors.
  • Services offered by competitors may lure clients away from the business.

Of course, this is a very simplified SWOT Analysis of a freelance web design business. If you were doing this for your own business, I would expect many more items listed under each section, but you get the idea.

Once you’ve filled out the four categories, you can then use the information to form a strategy for your business to grow and succeed. And who knows, your SWOT Analysis may inspire a change in direction you might not have considered before. That’s the power of performing a SWOT Analysis.

But a SWOT analysis isn’t just used for business plans. You can apply it to products, services, design strategies, and so much more.

Using a SWOT Analysis as part of your design strategy.

As a designer, you can use SWOT Analysis for many things, such as.

  • Determining if a client is a right fit for you.
  • Figuring out how to tackle a design project.
  • Vetting potential candidates to hire as contractors.
  • During design strategy sessions with clients
  • And many more.

Let’s look further into how a SWOT Analysis can help with design strategy sessions.

Let’s say a new startup company hires you to develop their branding. Your first step is to hold a discovery meeting and ask questionsto get to know the client and their new company. Compose your questions in a way that allows you to place the answers in one of the four SWOT categories. For example:

Strengths:

  • What are the advantages of the new company’s product or services to their customers?
  • What are the advantages this new company has over its competition?
  • What makes this new company unique?

Weaknesses:

  • What areas of the new business can be improved?
  • What issues need to be avoided?
  • What limits does the new business face in providing their product or service?

Opportunities:

  • What opportunities are there for the product or service?
  • Are there peaks or trends the new business can take advantage of?
  • Can the business’s strengths be turned into opportunities?
  • Are there any changes in the industry that could lead to opportunities?

Threats:

  • Who are the existing or potential competitors?
  • Are there any factors that could put the company at risk?
  • Are there any potential threats to the product or service?
  • Is there any possible shift in consumer behaviour that could affect the product or service?

Once you have this information divided into the four categories, it becomes easier to figure out a strategy or direction to take when it comes to designing. You want to build upon the strengths, address the weaknesses, seek out and explore the opportunities, and monitor and defend against the treats.

As a designer, a SWOT Analysis of a design project allows you to dig deeper and uncover opportunities for your clients. With the information you gather, you’ll be able to highlight your client’s needs and create an effective design campaign that takes their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats into mind. This is an added value your clients will appreciate and pay more for.

But I’m just a designer.

Maybe your thinking to yourself, this all sound good, but all my client wants is a website. I don’t need to know any of this stuff. You’d be wrong in thinking that way.

  • Clients often know what they want, but it’s your job as a designer to supply them with what they need.
  • Performing a SWOT Analysis can help you find areas to focus on to produce better design results.
  • By getting to know your client better as you go through this procedure, you build a relationship with them, which allows you to make recommendations they’ll listen to.
  • Clients will see this as a useful tool they can use internally beyond the creative designs you provide. That’s valuable to them.
  • A SWOT Analysis gives you a foundation to stand on should your client not follow your advice. It’s a kind of “I told you so” that shows your expertise to the client.

No matter how big or small, or what the design project is, you should perform a SWOT Analysis to help you with your decisions. Get your client and their team involved — the more people who participate in a SWOT Analysis, the better the results. But even if you do it on your own, you’ll appreciate the insight it offers you.

Analyze your competition

A great experiment is to run a SWOT Analysis of your competition. You’ve should have already done one for your own design business to help you position yourself. But doing one of your competition can help you even further as you learn new ways to improve your business.

Run a SWOT Analysis and then ask yourself.

  • Can you match your competition’s Strengths?
  • Can you offer a service that makes up for their Weaknesses?
  • Can you snatch away their Opportunities?
  • Can you do a better job at fending off whatever Threatens them?

Conclusion

I hope you see why a SWOT Analysis can be relevant to everything you do. Including your own business and every design project, you take on. It helps you develop new strategies for your designs to tackle. It increases your value, allowing you to charge more for your services. And It saves you time on future projects for the same client.

A proper SWOT Analysis should take anywhere between 1 to several hours and should be performed with multiple people when possible, especially those higher up in a company.

Plus, it looks great on a proposal when presenting your idea to a client. They’ll be impressed by your effort, which will increase their opinion of you, and allow you to charge higher rates.

Have you ever performed a SWOT analysis before? Let me know by leaving a comment at https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode202.

Have you ever performed a SWOT Analysis before?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 Kat

After listening to the episode about raising your prices, I wondered how you get local price comparisons? I was just doing a local competition survey and only one person listed anything pricing related on their website

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

Tip of the week Join Groups

You’ve heard it time and again, as designers, we’re problem solvers. And that doesn’t just apply to design. It also applies to the processes we use while creating those designs. If we can’t figure something out, we tend to want to tinker with it and try to find a solution.

While this is a great way to learn. Sometimes, it’s a waste of time. When faced with a problem, it's always more beneficial for you to seek help in order to find the solution quicker.

Feb 3, 2020

Are you charging enough for your design services?

Many home-based designers don't charge high enough for their services. They undervalue their work and struggle to find meaningful relationships with great clients. And although it might sound counterintuitive, when you find yourself in this situation, the solution is to raise your prices.

It's been proven time and again that the more you charge, the better and more appreciative your clients will be. But when should you raise your design prices? Below are ten indicators to let you know it's time to increase yours.

But before we get to them, here's a quick way to determine your hourly rate. For the record, I don't believe you should be charging by the hour. The following just gives you an idea of where you stand.

Calculating your hourly design rate.

Say you want to make $60,000 per year, a realistic number for a freelance designer that allows for comfortable living. As an employee working 9-5 for someone else, you would need an hourly rate of $28.85 to make $60K annually. But you're not an employee getting paid for an 8 hour day, five days per week. You're a home-based designer, a freelancer if you want to use that term, and there's nothing steady about a freelancer's income.

To make $60,000 as a home-based designer, how much do you need to charge as an hourly rate? Let's do the math.

There are 260 weekdays per year. Let's eliminate 25 days for vacation and other miscellaneous days. (3 weeks vacation plus sick days, medical appointments, children's activities, etc.)

That leaves us with 235 working days per year.

During an 8 hour workday, freelancers average 4.5 billable hours. This adds up to 1057.5 billable hours per year.

So $60,000 per year, divided by 1057.5 billable hours, equals $56.74/hour (let's round it up to $57.)

$60,000 ÷ 1057.5 hours = $57/hour (rounded up)

Although you shouldn't be charging hourly for your design services, knowing your hourly rate helps you figure out if you are charging enough per design project.

10 Signs You Should Raise Your Design Prices

1. You're super busy and starting to feel overwhelmed.

All the big business sites (Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., Business Weekly) all say the same thing, having a back-log of projects or a waiting list of clients or just being super busy all the time is a sign that you are not charging enough for your services.

The strategy here is that raising your rates, and being more selective in who you work with, will lessen the fell of overwhelm, but the higher prices you're charging will make up for any loss incurred from having fewer clients.

2. You're attracting undesirable clients.

Are you attracting the type of client that doesn't put much value in what you do? Clients that want it all but are not willing to pay much for it? Clients, that micro-manage you complain and criticize your work, or tell you how to do your job? Clients that would leave you in a heartbeat for a competitor to save a buck?

If this sounds like the type of client you're currently working with, raising your rates should fix the problem. Those clients will stop bothering you and go looking for a less expensive solution.

Your new rates will attract new clients who are willing to pay higher prices. Plus, they'll trust and value your services and are likely to stay loyal, even if a lower cost option presents itself.

3 You're not landing your ideal clients.

If clients are reaching out to you but not hiring you, it might be because your prices are too low.

When someone is expecting to pay a certain amount for a project, and you quote a price lower than they expected, red flags go up, and they start wondering if perhaps you're qualified or experienced enough for what they need. They'll imagine all sorts of deficiencies to justify your low prices.

So if you're losing more clients than you're landing, consider raising your prices.

4. You start offering a new service.

Have you learnt a new skill such as video editing or 3D animation and have added it to your services? New skills and services make you more valuable to clients, and your rates should reflect it.

The convenience of getting more services from you instead of needing to hire additional people is worth the extra expense to clients.

5. You're price-matching your competition.

A strategy used by many freelancers is to price-match their competition or even undercut them. This only works if the service you offer is equal to, or inferior to what your competition offers.

If you believe you are a better designer than your local competition, then indicate it with higher prices.

From a client's perspective, a designer charging $3,000 for a website must be a better web designer than one charging $2,000. Many clients want to work with the best and won't hesitate about the price.

6. Your competition charges much more than you.

On the flip side of #5, if your prices are much lower than your competitions' prices, then you'll develop a reputation as the cheapest designer around, which is not a good thing. If you're viewed as the cheapest design, clients will never take you seriously.

7. The cost of doing business has increased.

Face it; inflation is as sure a thing as death and taxes. To remain profitable, you must match the inflation rate with the money you bring in.

Keep track of your business expenses year over year, and if you notice your expense costs going up, make sure to compensate for them with a price increase.

8. You haven't raised your price in over a year.

The best strategy you can employ is to raise your price a little bit every year. If you wait too long before increasing your rates, your clients will feel the impact.

It's much easier for a client to accept a small 5% yearly increase in your price than to accept a 25% price increase after five years of paying the same rate.

9. You've niched down.

By choosing a niche, you're establishing yourself as an expert in that area. And as an expert, you deserve to be paid more for your expertise. It's the reason doctors with a specialty make more money than general practitioners. It's their expertise and perceived value.

Clients are willing to spend more to hire someone who understands them.

10. You tried charging a higher rate and got the job.

A perfect way to see if a rate increase is to test it out. If you usually charge $600 for a logo design, try charging $800 the next time someone asks. If the client agrees, it's a good indication that a price increase is in order.

Conclusion

What it comes down to is this. If you are not charging what you are truly worth, you are doing your clients a disservice. Being the lowest or second-lowest designer in your market has no advantages to you. It's great for the cheap clients looking to hire from the bottom of the barrel, but that does you no good. In fact, it could dig you into a hole that will be very difficult to get out of.

You should be pricing yourself above average if not closer to the top when it comes to your local competition. If you're not there now, do something about it.

Don't worry about increasing your prices; everybody does it. In fact, if you don't increase your prices, you'll be falling behind as the price of things like fuel for your car, utility bills, groceries, clothing and all your day to day necessities go up.

Benefits of raising your prices.

1. Higher rates attract higher-quality clients.

It's a case of "you get what you pay for," and some clients are willing to invest in the best.

2. Your clients will better value your work.

Lower priced designers are simply a body for hire, easily replaceable. When you charge premium prices, clients will treat you with respect and trust your authority.

3. Your clients will get better results.

Designers who charge more tend to work with fewer clients, allowing them to devote more time and energy to each project, producing better results for their clients.

4. You build better relationships with your clients.

With fewer clients who better value your work, and who see better results from dealing with you, it's inevitable that you'll build better relationships. And better relationships mean more recurring work and more referrals.

5. Charging higher prices boost your confidence and self-worth.

Once you start charging premium prices and start landing new clients, you'll feel great about yourself. That confidence and self-worth will be evident when it comes to networking, promoting and marketing your services. People will take note and want to work with you.

What are you waiting for? Raise your rates today.

What's your experience with raising your design prices?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week: Aliases (Mac), Shortcuts (Windows)

Aliases are an often overlooked feature of the MacOS. Aliases act as a link or portal to its original counterpart on your computer. Opening an Alias of a file will open the original file, Opening an Alias of a folder will take you to the original folder.

To create an Alias, Right-Click on a file or folder and select "Make Alias" (Create Shortcut on Windows). You can place your Alias files anywhere on your computer for easier access to the original file/folder.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear how I use Aliases to help with file management and to improve my productivity.

Jan 27, 2020

Words of wisdom for designers.

Welcome to the 200th episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast. In celebration of this milestone, I’m going to try something a bit different.

For this episode, I’m going to be succinct and to the point as I share 100 wise words with you, in the hopes that some of them will help you grow as a designer and help your business succeed.

Before I get to my 100 words of wisdom I want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of my journey in reaching episode 200. Maybe you’ve been with me from the start, or have gone back and listened to each and every episode I’ve put out. Perhaps you discovered this podcast somewhere over the past 4+ years, and picked up from there and keep listening. It could be that you’re a casual listener and only listen to certain episodes depending on the topic. Or, this might be your very first episode of Resourceful Designer.

Regardless of how much or how little you've listened, I just want you to know how much I appreciate you. YOU are the reason I keep doing this. I love helping designers like you. If just a small portion of the things I talk about on this podcast each week, helps you to become a better designer and a better business person. Then I’m a happy guy, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do when I published episode 1 of this podcast four and a half years ago.

And I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, as long as there are people like you who are willing to take the time to listen and to grow.

So once again, thank you for being part of my journey in reaching 200 episodes. And now, 100 Wise Words To Designers Everywhere.

100 Wise Words To Designers Everywhere.

1. Save your work, often
2. invest in a comfortable chair
3. learn how to give a good handshake
4. splurge when buying your computer. it will last you longer
5. raise your prices. you’re worth more than you think
6. look people in the eyes when talking to them
7. learn keyboard shortcuts
8. make the time to stretch
9. look at application preferences. You may find settings to turn on or off that will make your job easier
10. If you're not sure how to improve a design, try simplifying it by taking something away from it
11. Clean your keyboard
12. Get out of your comfort zone
13. Password protect your computer and other devices
14. Never show a client a design you're not proud of.
15. name your layers. you’ll be grateful whenever you revisit your file in the future.
16. create another user accounts on your computer. never let anyone use your own
17. don’t forget to take breaks
18. turn off distractions
19. avoid open drinks or messy food near your computer. it's called an accident for a good reason
20. smile. it releases endorphins, and that's a good thing. plus, people can hear it in your voice

21. charge for it. you do enough non-billable things. make sure you charge for everything you can
22. step back from your work. literally. stand back several steps. you may notice small details you might otherwise miss
23. eat well. a healthy body creates a healthy mind
24. creative blocks will happen. you will get over them
25. don't forget to drink. it’s harder to concentrate when you’re dehydrated
26. don’t rely on bevels or drop shadows, they rarely make a design better
27 know a good lawyer
28. hire a good accountant
29. find a dedicated place in your home to work
30. claim everything you’re allowed to on your taxes
31. be daring. trends are started because someone dared to try something no one had done before
32. understand the license for whatever you use. know what it allows you to do and what it doesn't
33. empty your trash
34. befriend other designers
35. trust your gut. it often knows better than you do
36. always use a contract. even for free work
37. buy lifetime deals. they're more expensive up front, but they'll save you money in the long run
38. proofread. don't rely solely on spell-check. this goes double for headlines, they’re were most errors are missed
39. make time for exercise
40. doodle whenever you can

41. always under-promise and over-deliver
42. network every chance you get
43. get to know your suppliers and contractors
44. meet clients face to face whenever possible
45. keep a list of people with unique skills you may someday have use of
46. don't fret about your business name. you can always rebrand yourself
47. study the designs of others. it's a great way to learn
48. don't steal. but feel free to borrow ideas
49. it's ok to ask for help
50. never stop learning
51. decide if you want to market yourself as I or We. And then own it
52. diversify. don’t stake your business on a couple of good clients
53. repurpose old ideas and unused designs
54. find a hobby that is not design related
55. get to know your clients
56. give criticism constructively
57. don’t neglect family and friends for the sake of the job
58. remember to thank your clients, suppliers, contractors
59. ask for criticism from your peers. it’s the best way to grow as a designer
60. time your work. you’ll be surprised just how off your guesses are

61. it’s ok to admit you don’t know something. just don’t let it stop you from finding out
62. use we when discussing a project. where we refers to both you and your client. they’re part of it after all
63. upgrade whenever you can
64. get enough sleep
65. have your eyes checked on a regular basis
66. consider everything a client tells you as confidential
67. you only get one chance to make a first impression. make it count
68. apologize beforehand whenever possible. it’s much easier than after the fact
69. hold yourself to your highest standards
70. never discuss a design project over text message
71. admit when you’re wrong
72. find a niche
73. don’t wear fragrances to client meetings. you want them to remember you, not how you smell
74. your biggest competition today is the future designer you will become. crush that competition
75. don’t answer emails after business hours
76. update your portfolio as often as you can
77. don't follow design trends. use them as inspiration to design something unique
78. rules are meant to be broken. know when to and when not to follow design rules
79. be wary of anything free
80. work with good lighting

81. once you’ve made your pitch, stop talking
82. silence your phone when meeting with clients
83. the client is always right, except when it comes to design. that’s why they hired you
84. If you don’t understand something the client is saying to you, ask before it’s too late
85. make both short and long-term goals for yourself
86. as a designer you can never have too many fonts
87. advertise while you’re busy so that you have less times that you’re not
88. when you find yourself in a creative slump walk away and refocus
89. buy insurance. it’s better to be safe than sorry
90. it’s ok to ask a client for their budget
91. identify yourself when answering your phone. even if you work alone
92. software is but a tool. it’s you, the designer that creates the magic
93. using stock imagery as part of your design is acceptable. using stock imagery as your design is not
94. it’s good practice to have someone else look at your work before showing it to your client
95. some clients will like your work, others won’t. that’s the nature of the design business
96. farm out mundane work and concentrate on the fun projects
97. it’s ok to show off the work you’re proud of
98. sometimes you have to let the client go
99. be a good listener
100. never stop creating

There you have it, 100 Wise Words To Designers Everywhere. I know this episode was very different, but I hope you enjoyed my departure from what I normally put out. Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Jan 20, 2020

Do you do retention marketing?

You already know that for any business to grow, people have to know about it. After all, if someone doesn’t know a business exists, there’s very little chance they’ll interact with it, let alone purchase from it. And the process for letting people know about a business is called Marketing.

When it comes to marketing, there are hundreds and hundreds of strategies you can choose for promoting a business. But, when narrowed down to its two fundamental principals, There are only two forms of marketing.

  • Growth marketing, which is all about attracting new customers.
  • Retention Marketing, which is all about retaining existing customers.

Today we're looking at that second one, retention marketing.

As a designer, people must know about your design business before there’s any chance they’ll hire you. Don't you agree? That's why companies put so much effort into growth marketing. They want to attract new clients. However, while most businesses are marketing to attracting new clients, only 16% of them make any effort at marketing to their existing clients. They ignore the people who are already familiar with their services.

A study published in the Harvard Business Reviewstates that acquiring a new client requires a minimum of five times more effort than retaining an existing one. And research done by Bain & Company says that if you can increase the number of returning clients by 5%, your profits will go up by at least 25%.

Therefore, marketing to your existing clients is a valuable strategy when it comes to growing your design business. Your current client base is a priceless treasure trove of future opportunities.

That’s why you need to focus effort on retention marketing, meaning marketing to your existing clients for them to bring new projects to you.

You may be thinking

"my clients already know what I do. They were happy with the last project I did for them. The next time they need my design services, they'll know how to get a hold of me."

Don’t be so sure of that.

Clients who "spread the wealth."

I've designed dozens of things for a local jewellery store over the past fifteen years. They keep telling me how much they love my work. And yet, in all that time, only once did they contacted me to initiate the project.

Almost every project I’ve designed for this client was initiated by me when I contacted the client to see how things were going. During those conversations, the owner would sometimes ask me if I was interested in working on a design project for him.

I guarantee you, if I had not initiated those conversations, I wouldn’t have gotten those projects. I know this because every time I go into his store, I see things that I didn’t design for him. And everything I inquire about was created by a different local designer.

You see, this particular client likes to spread the wealth amongst local designers. He wants to make everyone happy, so he gives his next design project to the next designer he sees.

That’s why part of my retention marketing strategy when it comes to this client is making sure I reach out to him regularly.

You snooze, you lose.

Taking “the client will contact me when they need my help” approach could hurt you.

I lost a long-standing website client last year. This client was in bad need of a website refresh, and he knew it, but he didn't have the money in his budget. I understood and asked him to contact me when he was ready to proceed.

The client knew my services; he knew I was familiar with his business and eager to work with him on their new site. Plus, I manage his domain name for him. So I had nothing to worry about. The client would contact me when he was ready.

Or so I thought.

Then one day, out of the blue, I received an email from someone asking me to change the nameservers for the client’s domain. Confused, I called my client, asking what was going on, and he told me he had hired a different local firm to design his new website.

When I asked if there were any issues with the service I provided him, he said no. It was just that this newer company had mailed him info packages, had reached out by email and had visited the store to talk with him. My client said he was impressed by their dedication and decided to reward this new design firm with his new website project.

Because I was too confident that my client was loyal and didn’t bother doing anything to retain him, I lost him.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Don’t take your existing clients for granted. No matter how good you believe your relationship is, you still need to make an effort to keep that relationship going strong.

It’s just like healthy friendships. The friends you keep in contact with are the ones that will ask if you want to get together. The friends you don’t stay in touch with are less likely to do so. The same happens with clients you don’t keep in contact with.

Maybe If I had put in the effort to keep in contact with my client, he would have turned down the new company. But he didn't, because they were there, and I wasn’t.

How to do retention marketing.

The best advice I can give you is to stay in touch with your clients.

As stated earlier, it requires at least five times less effort to market to an existing client than it does acquire a new client. After all, current clients already know you and the services you offer, so that part of marketing is already taken care of.

Building a relationship

The best kind of marketing you can do with a client is to provide them with a fantastic experience when working with you. My free 7 part Client Onboarding Serieswalks you through the process of getting to know a client, introducing them to your services, navigating them through a design project, and parting ways in a manner that encourages them to come back for more.

Part 7 of that series covers The Goodbye Packet. The Goodbye packet is a way to build client loyalty after the completion of a project. It’s an excellent foundation for retention marketing, but there are other ways to stay in touch as well.

Keep in contact.

It's a good idea to reach out to clients periodically to see how they’re doing. Don't use this as an opportunity to pitch your services. It’s merely a way of staying in touch. That’s how I keep getting work from that jewellery store client.

Call or email an old client, tell them you were thinking about them for some reason and thought you’d reach out to see how things were going? If the conversation turns towards work, that’s great, but it’s not the reason for the call.

Relationship building is essential here. So pretend you’re a couple of friends who got busy with things in life and now you’re catching up.

Start a newsletter.

Resourceful Designer Communitymember Andrew has a newsletter he sends to his clients. It’s a wonderful tool for keeping in touch and letting his clients know what he’s been up to. Even if it’s not a personal letter, just having it show up in his clients' inbox keeps Andrew top of mind, which hopefully means his name will be the first person they think of the next time they need a designer.

Another designer I know told me that he often receives replies to his newsletter with new projects. Receiving his newsletter jogged something in the client’s brain that made them take action, hit reply and send a new project his way.

So a newsletter is a great form of retention marketing to remain in your client’s lives while between projects.

Connect on social media.

It's a good practice to follow your clients on social media. When possible, do so from a business account and not your personal profile. There’s a good chance your clients will follow you back, and you don’t want them seeing photos of your family vacation or random pics of your dog.

The retention marketing strategy with social media is similar to a newsletter. You want your client to know your still around. Reply or comment on your client’s posts. If there’s something special going on with one of your clients, consider sharing or reposting it and mention they’re a client of yours.

Make sure you tag your client in any post that's relevant to them. That simple gesture ensures that they remember you and what you do.

Send them something.

Sending a client something tangible is the easiest way to get them to think about you.

I recently received a handwritten card in the mail from the instructor of an online course I took. It immediately made me think of her again and even encouraged me to place a new order from her. That’s retention marketing at it’s best. She probably wouldn’t have made that sale if she had not sent me that personalized card in the mail.

A card or postcard is one of the easiest physical things you can send. Not sure what to write? Listen to episode 59of the podcast, where I talk about using holidays to build your graphic design business.

Just imagine the reaction you would get if you sent a client a “Happy national donut day,” or "Happy wear two different colour socks day" card. I think they would remember you after that.

Of course, cards are not the only tangible things you can send. Gift baskets and flowers are great for special occasions, such as marriages or new babies, just to let them know you're thinking of them.

The ideas you can come up with are endless.

Retention Marketing

One of the best ways to grow your design business is by getting more work from your existing clients. And to do that, you need to practice retention marketing.

I only talked about a few of the methods for doing so. I didn’t touch on any actual marketing you can do, such as informing existing clients of new services you now offer or reminding them of services they may or may not know of or remember.

What it all comes down to is making sure your clients don’t forget about you and making sure they don’t feel like you’re ignoring or forgetting about them. That’s what happened with my web design client. I gave them space, and they decided to hire the company that was currently paying attention to them.

As I said, retention marketing takes a lot less effort than growth or acquisition marketing. So there’s no reason for you not to do it.

Look through your client list today. Identify clients you haven’t been in contact with for a while and reach out to them. Rekindle your relationship.

How is retention marketing working for you?

Please, let me know what you did and how it goes. Send me an email at feedback [at] resourcefuldesigner [dot] com or better yet, leave a comment for this episodeso everyone can see.

Resource of the week SiteGround

SiteGroundin my opinion, is one of the best website hosting companies out there. I have several of my own as well as clients' websites at SiteGround. They offer easy 1-clickWordPress installation and allow multiple domains and website on one hosting package. And if you are already hosting your site elsewhere you can take advantage of their free migration tool to have your site moved from your old host to SiteGround.

Jan 13, 2020

Is working from home for you?

Designers fall into one of three categories, those who work from home, those who long for the ability to work from home, and those who don’t want to work from home because they don’t realize how great working from home can be.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Even though working from home is great, I admit, it’s not for everyone. In past episodes of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I’ve shared numerous excellent reasons for working from home. Still, I always cautioned you to examine your lifestyle before taking the entrepreneurial plunge, to make sure this life is for you.

If you are an introvert or someone who likes to do things at your own pace, then the idea of working alone, without anyone looking over your shoulder sounds terrific. Plus, of course, there are all the benefits.

  • No commute time
  • You get to set your hours
  • Tax benefits
  • More freedom and flexibility when choosing design projects.
  • The list goes on and on.

That’s why, as we start this new decade, more and more people, designers included, are opting to work for themselves by starting a home-based business. But what many of these people fail to realize is, as I stated earlier, working from home is not for everyone, and you may fall into that category.

You see, even though working from home has plenty of perks, there’s a downside to it as well that I don’t touch on very often on this podcast. For one thing, you may be the type of person who will get bored being by yourself all day, every day.

There have been entire weeks where I haven’t seen another human being other than my family. That may seem fine to you at first, but will you be ok as time goes by and your life becomes more and more monotonous?

Work-Life balance goes out the window

Anyone who works from home will tell you that inevitably, your work-life balance will be affected. Unless you have strict structures in place, the freedom that working from home gives you could cause you to falter and become lazy.

If you don’t set guidelines for yourself, you’ll start putting things off, and procrastination will become a problem. And before you know it, all your good intentions go out the window, and you become more interested in binging the newest Netflix series than working on that crucial website for your client. Why not? There’s nobody there to stop you.

Being all alone, without anyone to hold you accountable, can lead to your downfall. When you’re alone, it becomes easy to lose track of time, to forget to stop for meals, it can cause you to neglect your health.

I know, I’ve been there myself. There have been days when my wife walks in at the end of the day, asking about supper, and I realize I never even stopped for lunch. I remember seeing the school bus pull up at 3 pm to drop off my kids and sprinting to the bedroom to get dressed because I was still in my bathrobe. And I can’t tell you how many times over the years my wife has asked If I was planning on shaving soon because I hadn’t bothered for a few days. Why should I? I wasn’t leaving the house.

When you work from home, things that people with 9-5 jobs would never think of suddenly become the norm for you. To some people, this might sound great. But to others, it’s self-neglect, and self-neglect once started, can grow and grow.

Coping with isolation

When you work in an office environment, you get to interact with your coworkers. You talk about your families, your vacations, the latest sports scores, television shows you’ve watched and of course office gossip. When you work from home, there’s none of that. Talking to your family members is not the same as interacting with others. And even the most introverted individuals need some interaction with others.

I did an entire episode on dealing with isolation If you're interested in learning more. 

Unlike the rest of the world, people who work from home need to schedule social time consciously — time to interact with other human beings.

When your family members get home at the end of a long day, they may want nothing more than to curl up on the couch and watch tv. That’s great for them, but you’ve been alone all day, so you don’t need to unwind as they do. In fact, contrary to what they desire, you may want to get out of the house.

That’s one of the reasons I do the groceries for our household. At the end of a busy day, my wife has no desire to go shopping. Me, on the other hand, I want to get out. I love going to the grocery store, even if the only person I talk to is the cashier I’m still out and among people.

A study done by the University of Iowa found that the average office worker has face-to-face interactions, a conversation of more than a few words with 20-28 people per day who are not members of their family. For a remote worker, such as a home-based designer, that number drops to 0.8 interactions per day. Translates to 71 days per year that a remote worker doesn’t interact with another human being.

Depression is a possibility.

For some people, that lack of social interaction from being isolated all the time can affect their mental health and lead to loneliness and possibly depression. Which, if not caught early, can spiral out of control.

People suffering from depression rarely want to interact with others. And therein lies the problem. A lack of interaction can lead to depression, and depression can make people isolate themselves from others resulting in a lack of interaction.

Sure some of this can be alleviated by interacting with people on social media or in online groups such as the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group, or even better, the Resourceful Designer Community.

But interacting online is never the same as interacting with someone face-to-face. I know that this is a very dark thought compared to most of my podcast episodes, but I don’t want to hide the fact that there is a less glamorous side to working from home of which people don’t often talk.

What can you do?

What can you do if you start to feel any of what I talked about above?

The first thing to do is consider whether or not working from home is for you. Some people thrive better in a social environment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe you gave it a go and decided working from home is not for you. That’s OK. Use the experience you’ve gained to help you in your next position.

But if you are determined to give working from home a go, here are some steps you can take that may help.

Work where there are other people.

Consider working from a co-working space, the library or a coffee shop. Even if you don’t talk to the people around you, simply being around others will improve your mental state.

Set a schedule and stick to it.

Most people work a 9-5 job, so why don’t you? A fixed schedule can help maintain your work-life balance.

Plan your day.

Writing down your daily tasks is a great way to stay productive, and it wards off procrastination by starting your day, knowing what you need to accomplish.

Schedule networking events.

Find out what events are happening in your community and make a point of attending as many as you can. Even if it doesn’t lead to more work, it will contribute to your mental health by being around others.

Join a community.

If you start feeling Isolated and lonely, reach out to people. Join a community, as I mentioned earlier. A live in-person one would be best, but even an online community can help alleviate that sense of isolation. And if you start feeling depressed, please seek help. Depression is no small matter, and if left unacknowledged can lead to some dark places.

Is working from home for you?

What I've talked about is part of the reality of working from home. And unfortunately, it’s not for everyone.

However, if you are ready to face the challenges and can overcome and persevere through this less glamorous side of freelance life, the rewards are numerous. As many home-based designers will tell you, myself included, I have never regretted my decision to work from home, and I will never go back to a regular office job.

What "less glamorous" side of working from home have you experienced?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Vectoraster

Vectoraster is a macOS and IOS graphics utility by LostMinds for creating vector-based raster patterns and halftones based on images or gradients.

Create halftones with different point shapes including circles, polygons, and even font characters. You can even import your own custom vector shapes to use. You can also create circle and straight or curved line based halftones.

You have full control over the size of the points, the spacing between the points, the distribution pattern of the points and more.

And once you’re happy with the look of your pattern or halftone you can export it as a vector to EPS or PDF, or you can save it as a raster JPG, PNG or TIFF file.

Have you ever seen one of those photos that’s made up of paragraphs of text with different thicknesses of letters? When you look at the paragraph as a whole you can see the photo of a person or something? You can create that effect in seconds with Vecoraster.

If you ever wanted to create a halftone gradient or use an image effect making a photo look like it was printed using large halftone dots, then Vectorraster is for you.

I’ve had this program in my toolbox for years. And although it’s not one I use very often, when I do, it comes in very handy.

Jan 6, 2020

When a value is perceived, presentation trumps price.

In February of 2019, I launched a new side business called Podcast Branding. I started this side business because I wanted to put into practice the advice I shared in episode 54and episode 93of the podcast, as well as my interview with Craig Burton in episode 174 on niching down your design services.

Before starting Podcast Branding, I had been designing artwork and websites for podcasters for several years. Still, I was but one of the hundreds of general designers who dabbled in the podcast space. At the beginning of 2019, I decided to take that dabbling more seriously and focused my efforts on becoming known as a designer specializing in the podcast space.

How did I do it?

Did I take specialized courses to become a podcast design specialist? No.

Did I undergo podcast design certification? No.

Did I hire a podcast branding coach to show me the way? No.

All I did was launch a new website and start telling people in the podcast space that I specialize in podcast branding. All of a sudden, people that knew me started passing my name around more and more often, and shortly after that, people who didn't know me but had heard of Podcast Branding started sharing it whenever someone asked about podcast artwork or websites.

This proves how valuable niching can be. People are sharing my name not because I'm a designer who can help, but because I'm a designer who specializes in podcasting.

Presentation Trumps Price

In October of 2019, a very respectable podcast hosting company released a great blog article on how to design stunning podcast cover art. The author knew that not everyone would be comfortable creating their own cover art, so he listed five sources people can use to have podcast artwork designed. Podcast Branding was one of them. The other sources listed were Fiverr, 99designs and three “independent” designers, including Podcast Branding.

Side note: This is another benefit of niching. The author included Podcast Branding in his article because I focus on the podcast space. If I had a generic graphic design website, it wouldn’t have made the list.

Since that article came out, I’ve seen a spike in cover art orders through my website. The order form on my site asks the question, “How did you hear about Podcast Branding?” and over a dozen people so far have told me it was through that blog article.

When the author listed the five design sources, he included the price each source charges for podcast cover art, of which Podcast Branding is the most expensive. But if I'm the most expensive, why have I received over a dozen orders for podcast cover art in the past two months? I asked each new client that exact question. Of the five services listed in the article, why did you chose Podcast Branding?

Do you know what they said? Of the five services, my website looked the most professional and gave them the most confidence. Over a dozen people were willing to place an order, knowing I was more expensive than the other four services, solely based on how my website looks. It's my presentation. It’s the perceived value they get from ordering through me.

The clients told me why.

Here are some of the comments I received from these new clients.

“I wanted to deal with a professional, and I got that from your website.”

“I wanted to work with someone who understands the podcast space, and your site clearly indicated that you do.”

“Your website looked more professional than the others.”

“I wanted to deal with a real designer, not someone on Fiverr or 99designs and your website impressed me more than the other two designers listed in the article.”

Even though I’m the most expensive service listed, the perceived value of what I offer was enough for over a dozen people to invest a bit more of their money with me to get their artwork designed right.

I have no way of knowing how much new business the other four sources received from the article. Maybe they got more than me. But I don’t care about them; I care about me and my business. And I’ve proven to myself that what I’m doing is working.

The point I’m trying to get across here is that even if your prices are higher than others, people are willing to invest in you for the perceived value of what they will get in return. So how are you presenting yourself? Are you making sure you portray your professionalism? Do you instill confidence in your abilities?

Take a bit of time and look over your website and marketing material and see if there’s anything that can be improved.

And while you’re at it. Why not raise your design prices. If you present yourself as worth the value, people will be willing to pay your higher rates.

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Community

January is the perfect time of year to take charge of your design business future, set goals for yourself, create a visual path to follow, acknowledge your career ambitions and figure out how to reach them.

The start of a new year, heck, the beginning of a new decade is the perfect time to get that ball rolling. And the Resourceful Designer Community is the ideal group to help you achieve your dreams.

The Resourceful Designer Community is a small, intimate group of designers dedicated to growing their respective design business AND helping fellow community members grow theirs.

Not a day goes by that community members are not sharing ideas, asking for advice or offer help. And we love sharing in the achievements of others, whether it's the approval of a small design job by a difficult client or the success of a design presentation ending with a contract. We’re there for each other. And we can be there for you as well.

If 2020 is going to be your year of growth, then why join a community of people willing to help you grow. Visit, resourcefuldesigner.com/communityand become a member today.

Dec 23, 2019

A look back at 2019 and a look ahead to 2020.

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.

Last week in the Resourceful Designer Community, we held a video chat where we shared our goals for next year. We also listed our goals in the Personal-Growth channel in our Slack group so we could refer back to them as the year progresses.

Sharing my goals for 2020 reminded me that at the end of last year, I did a podcast episode titled A Look Back, A Look Ahead, where I talked about what I had accomplished in 2018 and my goals for 2019.

I thought it would be fun to turn the idea behind that episode into an annual tradition. So, as my final instalment of 2019, I bring you A Look back, A Look Ahead 2019 Edition.

A Look Back at my 2019 goals.

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

ACCOMPLISHED: Narrow down my niche: In February of 2019, I launched podcastbranding.co, a new endeavour where I focus on visual identities for podcasters. It's growing strong.

FAILED: I wanted to talk at more conferences in 2019, but I ended up not having any speaking engagements at all.

ACCOMPLISHED: Grow the Resourceful Designer audience. A change in the way podcast audience size is calculated makes this one hard to measure, but from what I can tell, I do have more podcast listeners now than I did at this time last year.

ACCOMPLISHED: Create and 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.

Some of my numbers from 2019

Resourceful Designer

  • Released 50 podcast episodes
  • Reached over 430k episode downloads in 2018
  • Resourceful Designer released on Pandora and Deezer

My design business

  • Switched to Plutio, a digital project management system.
  • Worked on design projects for 29 different clients in 2019
  • Seven of those clients were first-time clients.
  • I sent out 57 invoices resulting in income in the high five figures.

Podcast Branding

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.

  • Grow Podcast Branding to become THE place for podcast websites and branding.

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 2019

As 2019 comes to an end. 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 2020 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 2020 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 2020?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Dec 16, 2019

Speed up production with these design hacks.

[sc name="pod_ad"]If you spend a long time in the design profession, you tend to pick up a few tricks here and there. Methods that help make your job easier. Design hacks to increase productivity.

Here are some design hacks I’ve learnt over the years. Perhaps you can put some of them to use and become a more productive designer. Be sure to listen to the podcast episode where I share stories on how you can put these design hacks to use.

Design Hack #1: Get the files you require.

Clients are often confused as to what files you require in order to work on their projects. Stop wasting time explaining filetypes and resolutions to them. Instead, contact their head office and ask to speak to the marketing department. Chances are the people there will understand and be able to provide what you need.

If your client doesn't have a head office, you can try acquiring the assets you need by extracting them from PDF files the client already has. This is an excellent design hack for finding good quality vector files for logos and graphics.

Design Hack #2: Search websites for PDF files.

The easiest way of finding PDF files (other than your client supplying them) is to find them on your client's website. To find PDF files (or any file for that matter), you can use this search query. In the Google search bar type:

site:nameofsite.com filetype:pdf 

The search results will only display the PDF files found on the domain you entered.

NOTE: You can search for other file types as well, such as jpg, png, doc, etc.

Design Hack #3: Remove unwanted formatting from text.

Copying text from word processing software such as Microsoft Word for use on websites can sometimes produce unwanted results. The reason being, the formatting the text received in the word processing software can often remain.

There are many tools to eliminate unwanted text formatting, but a quick and easy method is to create a new blank email message and convert the message to "Plain Text." Now, all text pasted into that email message will be stripped of all formatting. You can then copy it back again for use on a website.

Design Hack #4: Creating autoflow documents for print.

Autoflow documents are an easy way to add sequential numbering to tickets or names to certificates. After setting up your master page, all you do is take your list of numbers or names and paste them into the first ticket or certificate. The software will automatically create additional pages until the list runs out.

Here's an example of how to do this in InDesign.

Design Hack #5: Use Find and Replace to remove poor formatting.

If a client ever gives you poorly formatted text for a design job, you can use Find and Replace to remove the poor formatting.

Easily remove cases of tab, tab, tab, tab, or worse space, space, space, space, space, by searching for the multiple infringements and replacing them with your desired results.

For example: Find all cases of "tab, tab" and replace them with a single tab. Keep running the search until there are no more double tabs.

Do the same for double spaces, excessive carriage returns or any other formatting you want to fix.

Design Hack #6: Find inspirations from a colour palette.

An easy way to find ideas and inspiration for a project is by uploading the project's colour palette to a Google Reverse Image Search. In the search results, click on the "Visually similar images" link and see hundreds of ideas that use the same colour palette you uploaded.

Design Hack #7: Find the flaws in your designs.

One of the easiest ways to find any flaws in your design is to look at them upsidedown. By changing the perspective, your eye stops focusing on familiar things such as photos and text copy and instead sees the overall design. This allows you to spot inconsistencies or areas of your project that need attention.

Looking at large bodies of text upside down can help you spot typography faux-pas such as rivers in the text.

What design hacks do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Clockify

Clockifyis a free tool for creating timesheets and tracking the time you spend on projects and tasks. Clockify allows you to create separate timers for every part of your work. Track your time with a handy timer, log your time in a timesheet, categorize your time by project and mark your time as billable or not.

Clockify also allows you to create shareable reports breaking down your time.

Clockify works across all devices, both desktop and mobile so you can track your time from anywhere, and it's all synced online.

Did I mention that it's FREE? Visit clockify.me to learn more.

Dec 9, 2019

These applications are One Trick Ponies.

A One Trick Pony is a person or thing with only one unique feature, talent or area of expertise. In the scope of today’s episode, a One Trick Pony is an application that only does one thing, but it does that one thing very well. Here are sone One Trick Ponies I regularly use that could help you with your design business.

1) 1Password (Mac + Windows)

1Password is an application for managing passwords on Mac, Windows, IOS and Android. 1Password allows you to store all your strong hard to remember passwords in a secure location. All you have to do is remember one single password and let this password manager do the rest.

2) Squoosh (Web-based)

Squoosh.app is a useful website to optimize and shrink the file size of your images without compromising quality. Drag an image onto the browser window, adjust the settings if needed, and download the smaller image file for use.

3) BackBlaze (Mac + Windows)

BackBlaze is a set-it-and-forget-it backup solution for your computer. Install it and let it do its job unhindered and rest assured that your computer is continuously backed up. Should you ever need to restore your computer, you can easily do so from the online backup, or order a physical hard drive containing all your data shipped to you.

4) Carbon Copy Cloner (Mac only)

Carbon Copy Cloner creates bootable copies of any hard drive. Create manual backups or schedule automated backups of any drive. Smart Updates saves time by only backing up files that have been added or modified since your last backup.

Windows users, here are some alternatives to Carbon Copy Cloner.

5) Disk Inventory X - (Mac)

Disk Inventory X is a free disk usage utility for Mac. It shows the sizes of files and folders in a unique graphical way. Quickly determine what is using up the most space on your hard drive. Disk Inventory X is based on WinDirStat for Windows.

6) Font Doctor (Mac + Windows)

Diagnose and fix common font problems automatically with FontDoctor, FontDoctor locates and eliminates hard-to-find font issues that can cause problems on your computer.

7) Grammarly (Mac + Windows)

Compose clear, mistake-free writing that makes the right impression with Grammarly's writing assistant. Grammarly works in all your favourite web browsers and applications.

8) Little Snitch (Mac Only)

Little Snitch makes invisible internet connections visible so that you remain in control of who your computer is talking to. Keep track of your computer's network activity and take charge of who it does or doesn't communicate with.

Windows users, here are some alternatives to Little Snitch.

9) MAMP (Mac + Windows)

MAMP creates a local server environment on your Mac or Windows computer allowing you to run WordPress locally. MAMP is available in a Free and Pro version to match your needs.

10) Paparazzi! (Mac)

Paparazzi! is a small Mac utility for taking screenshots of entire webpages, even the portions not visible on the screen. Enter the URL and tell Paparazzi! what format you want your screenshot, PNG, JPG, TIFF or PDF.

Google Chrome screenshot feature.

On Mac
1.Opt + Command + I
2.Command + Shift + P

On Windows/Linux/Chrome OS
1.Ctrl + Shift + I
2.Ctrl + Shift + P

These keyboard shortcuts will open Chrome's developer menu. Then Type "screenshot," and you'll see options for capturing portions of or the full webpage. Chrome will automatically save the screenshot to your Downloads folder!

11) PDFKey Pro (Mac + Windows)

PDFKey Pro lets you easily unlock password-protected PDF files allowing you to open, edit and print them.

12) TNEF’s Enough (Mac)

TNEF's Enough allows Mac Users to extract and read Microsoft TNEF stream files, often received as windmail.dat attachments.

13) VLC (Mac + Windows)

VLS is a free cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio Cds and VCDs.

What One Trick Pony applications do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost

The Four Week Marketing Boost! is a free guide I created that will help you strengthen your marketing position, boost your brand’s awareness & social presence and ultimately ensure you are in tip-top shape to offer a best first impression to potential new clients.

This guide is divided into 20 short actions that comfortably fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After completing this four-week plan, you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost for free by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

Dec 2, 2019

Your mobile phone is so much more.

There are many uses for your mobile phone besides the obvious. Sure, you can text people, take photos and videos, peruse your social media accounts, watch YouTube, listen to music and podcasts, browse the web and even make phone calls. But there are so many other uses for your mobile phone that can help you with your design business.

Here are 12 ways to use your phone to support your design business.

1) Two-factor authentication

Two-Factor Authentication is an easy way to add extra security to a website. Apps such as Google Authenticatorturn your phone into a security key by generating a constantly changing number that is required to log into a website in addition to a user name and password.

2) What The Font App

Quickly identify fonts while you are out and about your day with What The Font App. Launch the app on your mobile phone, point your camera at a line of type, and What The Font will show you the closest matches in its database.

3) Pantone Color Studio

Pantone Colour Studio uses your mobile phone's camera to capture and identify colours. Discover the Pantone number for colours in everyday objects and share them with your Creative Cloud account. You can also use the app to generate colour pallets and test colours on 3D-rendered materials and designs.

4) Testing mobile versions of websites

Another use for your phone is to check the mobile-friendliness of sites. Many web design platforms and page builders, such as Divi, let you simulate what a website will look like on a mobile device. But it's never the same as actually visiting the site on the phone. Use your phone to spot problems before releasing a website to your client.

5) Time Tracking/Mileage Tracking

Stop guessing your time spent, or distance travelled. Your mobile phone is an excellent tool for keeping track of time and mileage associated with a design project.

6) Invoicing/bookkeeping/banking

Your mobile phone makes it easy to manage all your finances while on the go. Send and check the status of invoices, verify your accounts and do your banking, all from your phone.

7) Passwords

Use a password manager like 1Passwordor LastPass to access all your passwords in one convenient location securely. With the app on your phone, you never have to worry about not being able to access an online portal.

8) Project management/File Management

With Project Management software, your mobile phone allows you to keep track of your design projects regardless of where you are. Software like Trello and Plutioare perfect tools to manage your projects.

Your files can also be conveniently management through services such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive.

9) Make lists

Use your mobile phone to create all sorts of lists for your business and everyday life. Apps such as AnyListand Todoistmake it easy to create lists for anything and everything.

10) Set alarms and reminders

Never forget an appointment or meeting by setting alarms and reminders on your mobile phone. It takes just seconds with Siri or a similar mobile service.

11) Calendar

Keep track of your schedule and appointments by accessing your calendar on your mobile phone. Create different calendars for your business and personal life and always know what you have coming up.

12) Take written or audio notes

Jot down important details or record things you don't want to forget so that you can review them later. Use your mobile phone's voice recorder to record meetings to capture everything you discuss with your clients.

What else do you do on your mobile phone?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Streamline icons

Streamline Icons boast over 30,000 icons. That’s Over 10,500 in three different weights. Fifty-three categories, 720 subcategories, and over 30,000 something in total.

These icons are great for UI designers. They have different pricing categories depending on if you want all three weights or just one of them. They also offer 100 icons in all three weights for free.

Nov 25, 2019

Network without a face-to-face meeting.

Networking is an essential element to grow your business. In part 1 of this two-part series, I shared advice for getting out and interacting with people face-to-face to promote your design business.

But to many people, the thought of networking is intimidating. That’s why I suggested you don’t think of it as networking, but instead think of it as relationship building. When you adjust your mindset, it alleviates a lot of the burden that comes with trying to grow your business.

However, meeting people face to face isn’t the only way to network. There are other ways to build those relationships. Here are some less intimidating methods of reaching out to people.

Network with Email

You may not realize it, but every time you send out an email, you’re building relationships. And since relationship building is a crucial element in your business’s growth, you should consider upping your email game, especially when you’re just starting.

The best advice I can give you as a new design business owner is to email everyone you know. Not just family and friends. I’m talking

  • Former co-workers
  • Former bosses
  • Other designers
  • Printers
  • Former classmates
  • Your neighbours

Email everyone in your contact list. Let them know you’ve started your own design business and explain how you’re helping people solve their problems through your design services. Then ask if they know anyone who could benefit from working with you.

That’s a secret trick to networking. Don’t ask if they need your services, ask if they know anyone else who does.

This way, you’re asking for their help, which goes much further towards relationship building than asking them if they need a designer. It’s implied that if they need a designer, they can hire you.

Email is also an excellent way to grow an established design business. It can never hurt to reach out to people. Just change your message from “I started a design business” to “I’m looking for new clients for my design business.”

Don’t just ask them if they know anyone who could use your services, ask them for that person’s contact information so you can reach out to them directly. Most people won’t give you that information, but it shows them you’re serious, which will make them less likely to delete your message and instead ponder your question and possibly forward it on to someone.

Network with Social media

Networking is all about building relationships, which is the driving force behind social media. The trick to networking on social media is to interact with people positively. Join groups and communities where the type of people you want to work with hang out and help them.

If you work in a niche, then you’re all set. Join niche related groups and start engaging. If you don’t have a niche, try to figure out the type of client you want to work with and go to where they hang out online.

Once you find a group, start interacting. Answer people’s questions whenever you can. Leave comments on people’s posts. Post useful information and tidbits that will benefit people. Let people know you're there.

For example, as a designer working in the podcast niche, I’m part of several podcast-related communities. I scan those communities regularly for people asking questions about podcast artwork, or websites, and I try to answer them in the most helpful way I can.

I don’t offer my design services unless it’s directly related to their question. Instead, I offer advice free of any sales pitch. I’m building relationships.

On Instagram, I comment when people post their new podcast artwork. My comment usually goes something like this.

“Hi, I just wanted to let you know how much I like your new artwork. I design podcast artwork and websites, but you obviously don’t require my services. Good luck with your new podcast.”

Why do I bother when they already have artwork? Because maybe that person has their cover art done, but they still need a website. Seeing my comment may make them check out my website and hire me.

That’s what happened with one of my clients. She saw a comment I left about her friend’s new podcast artwork and reached out to me for help with the social media branding for her show.

The other reason I do this is that from time to time, someone will ask a question on facebook or LinkedIn such as “does anyone know where I can get my podcast cover artwork designed?” Inevitably, someone usually ends up mentioning my name before I get a chance to reply. Why? Because they’ve gotten to know me through my interactions in the group.

And when the person who asked the questions receives a dozen different designer names, I’m hoping they recognize my name from all the times I’ve helped other people in the group.

I’m building relationships. And you can too, all it takes is a tiny bit of time and the willingness to help.

Network with a Newsletter

Another great way to build and strengthen relationships is with a newsletter.

Andrew, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community,has a fabulous newsletter he shares with his clients.

In every issue, he shares useful business advice that may or may not relate to his services. He also shares some personal information about what he’s been up to lately and talks about a project or two that he’s recently completed. He always finishes his newsletter with a question. This question allows him to engage with his clients should they answer it.

A newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with current and past clients, which in turn will keep you front of mind should they hear of someone who is looking for a designer.

Networking with printed material

If you're running a design business, you should have a business card. I know, I know, we’re living in a new world where you can tap a button on your phone and someone’s contact information is instantly added to your contact list.

Don’t get me wrong. I love how easy to use our phones. When I was at WordCamp Ottawa, a presenter asked us to open LinkedIn, and with the press of a few buttons, I connected with over 40 WordPress enthusiasts in attendance.

But still, there’s nothing like having a conversation with someone and then handing them your business card. Or better yet, giving them several cards and asking them to share the extra with people who would benefit from working with you. Let them do the networking for you.

Business cards are not the only way to network with printed materials. You could try postcards, door hangers, pens and such. Anything that can be picked up is a form of networking, relationship building.

Get out there and build relationships.

So there you have it, four ways to network without having to meet people face to face: email, social media, newsletters and printed materials. Get out there and spread the word. Build relationships and watch your design business grow.

What's your experience with networking?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Font Macherator

According to the FontSpring website, The Macherator is the most robust font detection tool available. It offers powerful technology and features under the hood and allows you to match OpenType features. Something WhatTheFont doesn’t provide.

I’ve been using WhatTheFont for years. I have the app on my phone and have used it several times while I’m out and about and spot an attractive font. However, WhatTheFont is not infallible. There are several times it couldn’t identify a font for me. That’s why it’s nice to have Matcherator as a new player in the game for font identification.

If you want to give it a whirl, visit https://www.fontspring.com/matcherator

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Nov 18, 2019

How do you feel about design business networking?

For some people, networking comes naturally. Put them in a crowd and watch them work their magic. But to other people, the thought of walking up to a stranger and starting a conversation fills them with dread.

I know, I was that guy. Growing up, I was as introverted as they get. Unless I was with my small group of friends, I preferred to be by myself. I was quiet, shy, and tended to avoid eye contact whenever possible, especially with those of the opposite sex. I was not one of the popular kids at school.

Then I got a job working at Sears and met my friend Mike. Mike and I worked together throughout high school and college. We didn’t work the same departments, but since we were the same age and had the same breaks and lunchtime, we started hanging out.

Mike was the complete opposite of what I was. I was quiet and kept to myself. Mike was loud and outgoing and treated everyone like they were great friends, even if they had just met. From the day we met, Mike set a goal to get me out of my shell. And he eventually did to an extent.

I’m by no means a converted extrovert. I still prefer to be by myself than spend time in large crowds. A small dinner gathering with a few friends, I’m in. A large party or gathering with dozens of people, I may take a raincheck on that one.

But I am much more outgoing than teenage me was. I have no problem striking up a conversation while in the checkout line at Walmart, or asking a perfect stranger for advice at a store. But stick me in a large gathering of people and tell me to go network, and I still feel that apprehension creep back.

Therein lies the problem for many designers, the apprehension towards networking. However, to grow your design business, you need to get out there and talk about your design business. You can’t just sit at your desk all day and hope the work comes to you. You can’t keep your fingers crossed and hope that your SEO efforts pay off, and clients start arriving in droves. It doesn’t work that way. Or at least for most designers, it doesn’t.

If you want your business to grow, you need to get out there, meet new people and talk about what you do.

So how do I get over the apprehension towards networking? I stopped thinking of networking as “networking.” Instead, I try to think of it as “relationship building.” I don’t attend gatherings with the intent of getting new clients or growing my business.

Don’t get me wrong. That is the desired outcome. Otherwise, why do it at all? But I don’t set it as a goal. Instead, I set a goal of starting and building relationships with people. I’m not there to win them over or sell them. I’m there to get to know them.

Removing the burden of being a salesperson makes it much easier for me to interact with perfect strangers. I present myself as an interested bystander as I get to know people. You see, Landing a new client is a byproduct of building relationships. Not the other way around.

I’ve talked many times before on the Resourceful Designer podcast about the importance of building relationships with your clients. And yes, you should be trying to build a relationship with every client you have. But relationship building isn’t exclusive to existing clients. Relationship building can be a strong precursor for someone to become a client eventually.

I do work for a media agency. I got the gig because I had built a relationship with the owner of the agency. Because of that relationship, when it came time for him to find a designer, I was the first person that came to mind.

But how does that help you at networking events? It doesn’t, but it does show you the power of relationship building. So what if you’re an introvert and the thought of networking or relationship building still terrifies you?

Here are some tips to help you network.

Start with people you know.

It’s a lot easier to have a conversation with someone when you’re familiar with them. Talk with your doctor and dentist, the mechanic who services your car, your landlord, parents of your children’s friends. Old schoolmates. Anybody with whom you’re already familiar. Have conversations with them and be sure to mention small tidbits about what you do.

Find small gatherings.

You don’t need to attend large conferences to be successful. Start building relationships at a small gathering.

If you have kids, try talking with other parents at their school events. Don’t have kids? Look in your local area and attend events where you can meet people.
Check Facebook for events happening near you, or try meetup.com.

Check to see if there’s a WordCamp near you. It’s a great place to meet people, and you’ll probably learn something while you’re there.

Listen and ask questions.

The best part of building relationships as opposed to networking is instead of trying to sell yourself; you’re trying to get to know people. Ask them questions about where they work and what they do. Then listen and follow up with more questions depending on how the conversation goes. Be sure to mention what you do, but don’t’ try to sell yourself.

Set a “People quota.”

Before attending an event, set a goal for yourself to meet a certain number of people. Tell yourself I want to meet X new people today. And once you’ve accomplished that goal, permit yourself to leave if you feel inclined.

Attending large conferences.

Before attending a large conference, join in the community. If there’s a Facebook group or such associated with the conference, become a part of it and get involved.

Follow the conference hashtags on Twitter or Instagram. Use the hashtags yourself. Take note of other people who are also excited about the conference and ask them if they would like to meet up once there. It will give you a reason and a base to talk to people.

The best thing about conferences is the people you meet. Given a choice, I will always skip a session or speaking panel to keep a great conversation going with someone I just met.

Get out there and do some design business networking.

So there you have it, tips to help you get over the fear of meeting new people and growing your design business.

I know this can be difficult, especially if you’re an introvert. But if you want to grow your design business, you need to get out there and talk about it. But like everything else in life, if you take it one step at a time, you’ll manage.

You may never become entirely comfortable having a conversation with a stranger. But hopefully, that feeling of apprehension will diminish, allowing you to give it your best effort.

Have a look in your local area and choose an event to attend. There’s no time like the present to get started.

What's your experience with networking?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Nov 11, 2019

No matter how nicely a client asks, don't cut prices.

[sc name="pod_ad"]Does this sound familiar? You present a quote for a design project, and the client responds with, “Is there any way you can cut your price?”

If you haven’t heard that question before, or something similar, it’s only a matter of time. It’s almost a right of passage for home-based designers. Because you work for yourself, some people think they can haggle with you as if you were selling your services at a yard sale.

So what do you do when someone asks you to lower your price?

My advice is never lower your price. On Resourceful Designer 113, I talked about offering discounts. In that episode of the podcast, I shared six valid reasons for providing a discount, and three times you shouldn’t offer one. Can you guess where “Because the client asked for a discount” falls?

If you lower your price, you’ll be setting future precedences. Once a client knows they can negotiate with you, they’ll never take you, your services, or your prices seriously again. You’ll become a discount designer.

Even worse, the client may start spreading the word that your prices are negotiable, which is not the kind of reputation you want when trying to grow a business.

Hopefully, you’re in a good enough financial situation that you’re ok with possibly losing clients if you don’t cut prices.

But what if your financial situation isn't stable? What if times are tough and bills are piling up? Or you just started your business and money hasn’t started flowing in yet? Or for whatever reason, you cannot afford to turn down clients. What then?

That’s a conundrum. Lowering your prices may bring in a bit of money now, but it’s bad for future business. Whereas not cutting your prices may drive away clients, which is bad for your present business. So what’s the solution?

Don't cut prices, lower your offering instead.

What does this mean? It means you can appease your clients and meet their lower price expectations, but only if you equally lower the service you’re offering.

Look at it this way.

Imagine a contractor gives you a quote of $9,000 to completely renovate your bathroom. You think that price is a bit high, so you ask if there's any way he can do it for less?

The contractor replies he can do the job for $7,000, but only if you choose a laminate countertop instead of granite, and choose a ceramic tile for the flooring instead of marble. He lowered the price by reducing the offering.

You can do the same with your design services. Don’t cut prices. Instead, offer fewer services for a lower cost.

For example,

If a client thinks a web design project is too expensive, offer to lower the price in exchange for a three-page website instead of a six-page site.

If a client thinks your logo price is too high, offer to lower it by providing only two initial concepts instead of three, and allow only a single round of revisions instead of two or three.

Whatever the design project is, lower the price by offering fewer services or features. This way, the client gets a lower price, but you also reduce the amount of work required to complete the project. The client will appreciate you accommodating them, but they won't think they are getting a discount since they're still paying full price for the reduced services you are offering them.

And you know what? When you lower your offerings to lower the price, many clients will decide to stick with your original higher price for the extra value.

This is a similar concept to Three-Tier Pricing. Implementing a three-tiered pricing strategy is a great way to prevent people from asking you to lower your price because it’s built right in.

A three-tier pricing strategy works by offering a client three price options, the middle price being the one you hope they choose. The lower price option cuts back on the provided services, and the higher price option adds in extra perks and bonuses that may not be necessary.

The reason a three-tier pricing system works so well is that the human brain is wired to compare things to the first item it sees. If you go into a store to buy a new shirt, and the first shirt you pick up has a price tag of $40, then subconsciously, you will compare every other shirt in the store to that first one. A $60 shirt will seem expensive by comparison, and a $30 shirt will look of lesser quality compared to the $40 shirt.

This is why you see three-tiered pricing so often used for online purchases. In most cases, the middle price is labelled as “Best Value” or “Most Popular.” It’s a way to subconsciously embed that middle price as the focus element in the viewer's mind. When they see it, their brain automatically registers it as the base price. The higher price on the right may seem too expensive, and the lower price on the left won't feel like a good deal compared to the middle one.

The other benefit of three-tiered pricing is that instead of the purchaser wondering what other options are available elsewhere, they often use the three prices in front of them to make their decision.

But even if you don’t use a three-tier pricing model, it’s a good idea to use the lower-tiered strategy to lessen your services or options to reduce the cost should a client asks if you can do something for less.

Hopefully, you won’t be at this stage for too long, and your business will be successful enough for you not to have to cut prices. Instead, you can reply, "This is the price for what I'm offering.” and leave it to the client whether they want to work with you or find another designer. If they decide to hire you great. If not, no worries, you have plenty of other clients vying for your services.

Hopefully, you understand that lowering your price is never in your best interest. You have nothing to gain from doing so. You're now prepared not to offer a discount, but offer a lesser service that is more in line with what the client is willing to pay.

Don't cut prices. Lower your offering instead.

Do you use this strategy?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week A good office chair

You can get by as a home-based designer with old computer equipment and inexpensive software, just don’t cheap out on your office chair.

On average, a home-based designer spends between 8-10 hours a day sitting in front of their computer. If you’re going to spend that much time sitting in front of your computer, you really should invest in a good quality, ergonomic chair. Something comfortable for long periods.

Trust me on this one. Your health, especially your back, will thank you for it.

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Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Nov 4, 2019

These four questions will change your design business.

[sc name="pod_ad"]Your job as a designer is to solve problems, not to create pretty designs. When you embrace the notion that your job is to provide a solution to whatever dilemma your client is facing, a few things will happen.

  1. You’ll start to understand your client’s needs better.
  2. Your clients will show more respect for what you do.
  3. You’ll be able to charge more money for your services.

After all, a solution to a problem is much more valuable than a pretty picture, no matter how well designed that picture is.

Before you can find the perfect solution, you need to figure out precisely what the problem is your client is facing. The only way to do that is to ask questions, lots of questions.

In episode 15 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I shared 50 questions you can ask before every design project. Those questions cover a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Questions about the company hiring you.
  • Questions about their target market.
  • Questions about their current brand.
  • Questions about their design preferences.
  • Questions about a project’s scale, timeframe and budget.

What I didn’t get into on that episode are the four most valuable questions you can ask your design clients.

  • Questions that will get to the root of the problem for which they need your services.
  • Questions that can either change or narrow down the focus of a project.
  • Questions that may allow you to charge higher rates because as I said earlier, solutions to problems are much more valuable than pretty designs.

Here are the four most valuable questions you can ask your design clients.

Question #1 - Why do you need this?

The power in asking, "Why do you need this?" is that the question is unexpected. When was the last time you tried to buy something, and the salesperson asked you why you wanted to buy it? I can’t remember either. That’s why this question is so powerful. It gets the client thinking, and it gets them to open up.

It doesn’t matter if a client is coming to you for a logo, a website, a poster or a trade show display. And it doesn’t matter if you think the reason is apparent, ask your client why they need this?

And then listen carefully to what they say for some real gems. The deep insights that could completely change your way of thinking about the project or help you narrow down your focus to one small area.

Question #2 - What results do you expect from this project?

The results a client is expecting can often change the direction of a project. As a designer, you may see better options to reach those results than what the client is expecting.

For example, your client may be asking you to design a poster for an upcoming event. However, you can explain to them, based on their expectations, that a postcard may produce better results. Listen to the podcast episode to hear my story of how this question helped me deliver a better solution for one of my clients.

Question #3 - How will you judge the success of this project?

This is another great question that can change the direction of a project.

If you’re building a website for a client, you may make different design choices depending on how a client will judge the site successful. If the client is looking for increased website traffic, you may design it one way. If sales measure success, then you may create it differently. And if it’s to elevate their brand image, then you may design it a third way.

How a client judges a design project successful can have a significant influence on how you tackle the project.

For example, You're hired to produce a poster for a local school’s drama club. Will success be measured by ticket sales, or by the awareness the production brings to the school's drama program?

In one case, you will design a poster with emphasis on how and where to purchase tickets, with only a little focus on the school itself. In the other case, you will design a poster with more emphasis on the school and keep only a small portion of the poster for ticket information. That’s why asking, “How will you judge the success of this project?” is so important.

The most important question of all.

Question #4 - And What else?

"And what else?" The power of this simple question is endless.

  • Why do you need this? Ok, great, ok... And what else?
  • What results do you expect from this? Mmm, mmhmm. And what else?
  • How will you judge the success of this project? Perfect, that’s great, I understand. And what else?

Use this short and yet amazing question during any conversation you have with your client.

  • Tell me about your target market. And what else?
  • What marketing approach have you tried in the past? And what else?

Do you see the power of this question? By asking “and what else?” you are;

  1. Showing your interest to your client, which helps build your relationship.
  2. Getting them to open up to you, making them feel more comfortable talking to you.
  3. Getting additional information your client wouldn’t have offered freely.

Asking, "And what else?" will give you valuable information you can use to shape the perfect solution to your client's problem. After all, don't you wish you had more information before tackling any problem?

Four questions.

When you put these four questions to use, you'll find not only will your clients appreciate you more. But you’ll be able to create much better designs for them because of the information you’ve gathered from asking them.

Do you use these four questions?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 Jade

I have a huge predicament! Im in the midst of drafting a rebrand. Im doing drafts for 2 different reps (2 different contracts repping the same company) that know each other has contracted me for their design ideas. Both paying out of their own pockets.

Essentially they will be presenting these designs to a board to make a decision. Now the board themselves have been involved with one of the reps, contacting me directly to further refine ideas.

My questions is.... should I just can both original contracts and redo one with the company itself, that way everyones ideas go through the same avenue? Or continue the way it is and feel like s**t cause Im charging everyone for the same rebrand?

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

Resource of the week Dual Sim Phones

If you are looking for a way to manage both home or mobile phone number along with a business phone number, you may want to think about getting a dual sim phone. A dual sim phone allows you to receive text messages and phone calls from two different phone numbers on a single mobile phone.

Here are some popular dual sim phones

  • iPhone XS, XR and 11
  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • OnePlus 7 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10 or S10 series.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on TwitterFacebookand Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Oct 28, 2019

Less about you and more about your clients.

Graphic and web designers tend to have visually striking websites. However, where they excel in visuals and usability, they often lack in their marketing message. A lot of designers don’t know how to market themselves properly.

Have you ever heard the statement, “The best marketing in the world can’t help a bad product?” The same is true of the opposite. Bad marketing can harm a great product or service. That’s what many designers are doing to themselves — bad marketing.

Flip your marketing message.

Want to know a secret? Clients don’t care about you; they don’t care where you got your education; they don’t care what awards you’ve won; they don’t care what big-name clients you’ve worked with before; they don’t care about your processes and procedures. What the client cares about is whether or not you can help them with their problem.

As a designer, you’re a problem solver, and that’s all the client cares about, whether or not you can come up with a solution to whatever problem they are currently facing.

No business person wakes up in the morning, thinking, “I want to hire a designer today.” What they actually think is, “I need a logo, or website, or marketing material, etc. for my new business, and to get that, I’ll have to hire a designer today.”

It's the end product that will help their business that's important to them, not the designer. They don’t care about you. They care about whether or not you can provide what they need.

When it comes to their marketing message, a lot of designers are not putting the client’s needs first and foremost in their marketing. So what’s the trick? Stop talking about yourself and start talking about the client when promoting your services.

Put your clients' needs first.

It all comes down to your wording. Let me give you two hypothetical examples.

Designer #1has this statement on their home page.

“Need a designer? I’m an award-winning designer with over 15 years experience and I would love to work with you. If you would like to diacuss your project, please schedule a time via my contact form.”

Designer #1's statement is all about themself. There’s no incentive for the client to hire them. The client may be impressed by the credentials. But there’s nothing in the statement telling the client what’s in it for them.

Designer #1 delivered a very brief resume for the client to contemplate. Almost as if they were applying for a job position instead of being a professional business for hire.

But if we reworded the same message?

Designer #2 

“Do you have an idea that requires a designer? You’ve come to the right place. For over 15 years I’ve been helping people just like you with their creative needs. I look forward to working with you on your design project. Please let me know the best time for us to discuss your project via my contact form."

Do you see the difference?

Let’s dissect both statements from a client’s point of view.

Opening statement:

Designer #1“Need a designer?”

Designer #2“Do you have an idea that requires a designer?”

Remember, a client never needs a designer, what they need is something designed, and someone to do it for them. The design itself is more important to the client than the designer. So Designer #2 wins the opening statement because they appeal to the actual needs of the client. They talk about the problem.

The body:

Designer #1“I’m an award-winning designer with over 15 years experience, and I would love to work with you.”

Designer #2“You’ve come to the right place. For over 15 years, I’ve been helping people just like you with their creative needs. And I look forward to working with you on your design project."

Once again, Designer #1 is talking about themself, whereas Designer #2 is saying the same thing but from the point of view that takes the client's needs into account.

Closing statement:

Designer #1“If you would like to discuss your project, please schedule a time via my contact form.”

Designer #2“Please let me know the best time for us to discuss your project via my contact form.”

These two statements are almost identical, yet Designer #1 still manages to make it about them by telling the client, "here's when I'm available, pick a time." Designer #2, on the other hand, is asking the client to pick a time that is most convenient for them, making the client feel in charge.

Both designers may have the same time slots available on their calendars. But the difference in wording changes the emphasis from the designer to the client, creating a subtle difference that could persuade a client to choose Designer #2 over Designer #1.

The power of putting your client first.

These examples use one small paragraph. Imagine if you used this same marketing message strategy across an entire website. A client visiting a site with a marketing message talking about them and their problems would quickly start to feel like the designer behind that site gets them, understands their challenges and their needs. When that happens, the client will start thinking, “I need to work with this designer.”

Isn’t that the goal of your website? To entice clients to want to work with you?

So stop explaining your skills and your accomplishments, and start weaving those same facts into your narrative as you tell clients how their problems will be solved by working with you. In the end, that’s all that matters to the client.

P.S. Once you learn how to create a marketing message that focuses on the client. You’ll be able to incorporate this same process into websites you build for those clients, creating high converting sites they will love.

Does your marketing message talk more about you or your client?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Divi 4.0

The Divi Theme Builder is a fully-featured website templating system that allows you to use the Divi Builder to structure your site and edit any part of the Divi Theme including headers, footers, post templates, category templates and more. Each Theme Builder template consists of a custom Header, Footer and Body layout. These three areas can be built and customized using the Divi Builder and its full set of modules along with Dynamic Content.

Click here to learn more about Divi 4.0 and to purchase your copy.

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Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Oct 21, 2019

Are you having trouble choosing a name for your design business?

[sc name="pod_ad"]How much trouble are you having choosing a name for your design business? Do you already have a name picked out or are you wracking your brain thinking up and then discarding dozens of names hoping to find one that suits you?

One of the hardest decisions entrepreneurs face is choosing a name for their business.

In a previous episode of Resourceful Designer, I talked about the pros and cons of using your name as your business name compared to using a unique made-up name. Consider this episode a sequel to that one.

Why choosing the right business name is important.

Why is the name you choose for your design business so important? It’s important because word of mouth is and always will be a design company’s most lucrative avenue for acquiring new clients. Ask any home-based or freelance designer, and they’ll tell you that the bulk of their work comes from word of mouth referrals.

Therefore, choosing a good, memorable name could help propel your company by making it easier for clients to spread the word about your services. Whereas, if you choose a poor, hard to remember name, you could impede your company’s growth.

Imagine someone asking a friend about web design.

– "Do you know where I can get a website made?"

– "Yes, I heard of this place called 'The Web Design Studio,' you could try there."

OR

– "Do you know where I can get a website made?"

– "Yes, I heard of this place called... 'Stellarific Web Design'? or maybe it was 'Synergific Web Design'? 'Stunningific'... I don’t know, it started with an S and had 'ific' at the end of the name. Sorry I can't be more helpful."

Yes, your business name matters.

A process for choosing a name for your design business

Make the process of choosing a name for your design business easy on you by starting with a procedure you should be familiar with.

Chances are every design project you start begins with a design brief. It might be a multi-page document with a detailed analysis of what the design project needs to accomplish. Or it might be a 5-minute conversation where a client briefly explains what they are looking for. Either way, you have a brief to work from to create your designs.

Use the same method for choosing your business name. Create a naming brief. Ask yourself some standard brief questions to help guide you in choosing a name.

1) Who is your target audience?

If you are targeting a niche, it might make sense to choose a name for your business that fits in well with that niche.

If you are targetting small to medium size law offices, then a name such as Rock On Designs may not be suitable. However, if your target market is people in the music industry, then Rock On Designs may be a perfect fit. If you plan on targetting a niche, you may want to consider a name that suits that niche.

For example, Craig Burton's design company is called School Branding Matters. Can you guess who his target market is?

2) Descriptive or Abstract?

Do you want a descriptive name, something with meaning like Reliable Design Services? Or do you want something more abstract like Peacock Creative Agency?

3) Real or Made Up Words?

Do you want a business name that uses real words like Solid Core Creative? Or do you want to create a new word like Ryjo Design Services?

Rember that word of mouth is a key source of new design clients. If you create new words, make sure they’re short, easy to remember and easy to pronounce.

Be careful with the fad of dropping vowels from words. It may be cute and the "In thing," but it could also confuse your target market. How many times do you think Chris Do has to say, “That’s 'The Futur' without an “e” at the end.” I’m sure that can become tedious very fast.

There are no right or wrong names for your business. Names are subjective, just like designs are. What one person likes another won’t. Make sure you choose a name that feels right for you and the design market you are targetting.

Criteria for choosing a name.

Here are some criteria you can use to determine a name's effectiveness. Create a grid with potential names listed on the left and these criteria listed along the top. Then assign a score of 1 to 5 under each criteria for each of the names. Once done, add up the scores for each name, and the one with the highest score is probably the best choice for your design business.

Assign a score from 1 to 5 for each of the following criteria.

  • Distinctiveness (How distinct is the name? Ex. Joe’s Design Studio probably ranks a 1 or 2, whereas Joe’s Emporium of Creativity ranks a 4 or 5)
  • Emotional Impact (What emotional impression does it give clients? Joe's Design Studio doesn't enlist much of an emotional response, but Amazing Creations Design Studio does.)
  • Clarity (Do people know what the business does just by hearing the name?)
  • Pronounceable (Is the name hard for people to say?)
  • Memorable (Is the name easy to remember?)
  • Trademarkable (Can the name be trademarked?)

Do Your Research

Once you come up with a solid list of potential names for your design business, it’s time to do your research.

The problem with discovering the perfect name for your business is, if the name is that good, chances are someone thought of it before you.

Before you get too excited about a name, do some research to see if you can use the name. Start by Googling the name and see what comes up. Are there any other design businesses using it or a very similar name? Make sure you search broadly enough. There may not be another graphic or web designer around with the name you like. But what about interior designers, fashion designers, or even cake designers?

If you are in the USA, try searching through the U.S. Patent and Trademark website. It’s an excellent place to see if anyone has already registered the name you like.

Companies in different industries can sometimes have the same names providing there is no chance of mistaking one company for the other. For example, "Crowd Pleaser Creative Services" and "Crowd Pleaser Pool Installations."There is little chance a client will mix up these two companies.

Just because another design company has the same name as you doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use the name. It all depends on where they registered the name. A name registered in the USA doesn't prevent someone from registering the same name elsewhere, such as in Canada or Australia.

Contact your local municipality's business resource center and get their advice on registering your business name. They’ll be glad to help.

I highly suggest you get a lawyer involved when it comes time to register your business name. It’s good for you to do your research, but a lawyer who specializes in business law will have more resources available to make sure the job is done correctly. Hire a lawyer to vet your name before you spend money trying to register it.

Simple names are not always the best names.

Something else to avoid is using common words or popular "keywords" when naming your business. Earlier I used an example of a web design business called The Web Design Studio. In reality, The Web Design Studio is not a very good name for a business because it will be almost impossible to rank for it in search engines since it's a term used by many web design businesses.

What it comes down to

The name you give your design business is one of the most critical touch points for anyone encountering your business. You can update logos and branding reasonably quickly, but not so much with a name. However, your business name, although important, is only one facet of your business. A great name won’t guarantee success, just like a less than ideal name doesn’t ensure failure.

It’s up to you to ensure that the business you are running creates a strong foundation for your business name to live up to. As long as the name you choose reflects your brand and values, you should be good.

How hard was it for you to come up with your business name?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 Pauline

When you're brand new in business, should you price a little lower at first, or are you storing up trouble for later?

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

Oct 14, 2019

How do you answer the question, "What do you do for a living?"

Does this sound familiar? You meet someone for the first time, and they ask, "What do you do for a living?" and you reply that you’re a graphic designer or a web designer or a UX Designer or whatever form of designer you identify as. Then one of two things happen. The person you’re talking to replies with “that’s great” and then immediately changes the subject. Or, they show a mild interest and ask you to explain more. Perked up by the inquiry, you stumble through your repertoire that you design logos and websites and posters and brochures and t-shirts and tradeshow booths, etc. etc. etc.

Pretty soon, the person you’re conversing with is smiling and nodding with a glassy-eyed expression that indicates they regret asking you for more details.

That’s the problem with our industry. Most people have heard of designers, but unless they’ve dealt with one of us before, they have no idea what it is we do. And when they do find out, they quickly realize they don’t care.

Saying you’re a graphic designer is not the same as saying you’re a firefighter, or an electrician, or a dentist, or an accountant. All these professions have a distinct image in people’s minds. Sure, there are many different types of accountants, but regardless of what branch of accounting someone works in, most people understand that an accountant spends their day working with numbers. That's the acknowledged impression of who an accountant is.

But when it comes to designers. Most people don’t know what you do on a day to day basis, nor do they care. And the reason most people don't care is that most designers are not clarifying their brand message when it comes to presenting themselves.

The proper way to respond when someone asks you, "What do you do for a living?" is not to talk about yourself; instead, you should be talking about your ideal client and how you solve problems for them.

The idea for this topic came to me after reading an article on Medium titled Stop Calling Yourself A Freelancer, written by Andrew Holliday of Special Sauce Branding. If you’ve been following Resourceful Designer for a while, you’ll know that I don’t like the term freelancer, I find it demeans what we do as designers. The connotation behind the term freelancer is someone who is flighty and doesn’t take what they do seriously. I've never called myself a freelancer. I’m an entrepreneur, a business owner. And the business I chose is design.

While reading Andrew's article, I found myself agreeing with his statements, especially on how people perceive freelancers as interchangeable commodities. Then one part of his article jumped out at me. A section titled “Clarify Your Message.”

In his article, Andrew states that the easiest way to clarify your brand message, one that connects with your ideal client and doesn’t just sound like spewed blabber about yourself, is to write a brand script and memorize it.

And it’s so easy to write a branding script. All you have to do is complete these four sentences.

  1. My client is...
  2. They struggle with...
  3. I help them by...
  4. The one thing that makes me different is...

That’s all there is to it.

By completing these four simple sentences, you’ll have a script that provides structure for your business, your brand, AND all your marketing for your design business. It identifies your ideal client, it defines their problem, it solidifies your solution, and it states why you are the perfect design partner for them.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “I'm not going to say all of that when someone asks me, "What do you do for a living?” and you’d be right not to. It’s overkill. This script is meant to clarify your brand message for YOU.

When it comes to the “What do you do for a living?” question, you need to simplify your script to a single sentence. As Andrew put it, it’s your brand one-liner.

Your brand one-liner is something you’ll be able to use on your website, your social media accounts, your marketing material, AND in every conversation you have where you talk about what you do. Especially when asked, “What do you do for a living?”

Here's how you shorten your script down to a single one-line sentence. You take what you composed for your four-line script and break it down to this.

I help _______________ to _______________.

For example, I help small businesses to grow their customer base with a strong brand image. Or, if you want to be a bit more creative, I help small businesses to clobber their competition with comprehensive sales funnels that drive sales through the roof.

Now those are conversation starters that are sure to peak interest, especially if the person you're talking to is a small business owner.

Once you have your brand one-liner figured out and memorized, you won’t be stumbling over an answer the next time someone asks you, “What do you do for a living?”

If you are interested, Andrew, who wrote the Medium article inspiring today's topic, has a worksheet to help you craft your brand script.

What's your brand one-liner?

Do you already have a brand one-liner, or are you now planning on writing one? Please share it in the comments for this episode.

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 Pauline

How do you manage holidays/vacations, both in terms of responding to initial inquiries, and/or making progress on current projects?

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

Resource of the week BackBlaze

Never Lose a File Again with the World's Easiest Cloud Backup. Backblaze gives you peace of mind knowing your files are backed up securely in the cloud. Just set it up and forget about it. Backblaze works in the background and automatically backs up new and modified files.

With their Version History feature, Backblaze allows you to quickly revert to a previously saved version of files you have backed up. 30-days of Version History is available on all plans. For a small monthly fee, Version History can go back as far as 1-year or more.

The Map Your Computer feature allows you to track your computer via an IP address or even the ISP it's using. Perfect in the event your computer is misplaced or stolen. Coordinate with the police and get your hardware back.

Hard drive crashes are only one thing you need to worry about. Your files are also vulnerable to hardware theft and natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes etc. With Backblaze, you can rest at ease, knowing your business files are safe no matter what happens. Backblaze works on Mac or PC and starts at just $55/year.

Oct 7, 2019

When pitching, do you position yourself as an Investment or an Expense?

I've covered a similar topic to this in a past episode of the podcast. This time around, I don't want you to think like a designer. Instead, I want you to put on your entrepreneurial hat, and think like a business owner.

As a business owner, what is your number one goal? If you answered anything other than growing your business, you need to rethink your priorities. Any business owner who’s first goal isn’t to grow their business, might as well throw in the towel and find a job working for someone else.

Don’t get me wrong; according to Entrepreneur.com, there are plenty of reasons to start a business.

  • To provide a needed service
  • To help people
  • The Freedom it gives you
  • The pride of ownership
  • Allows you to follow your passion
  • Gives you more flexibility
  • Lower taxes

However, regardless of why someone starts a business, if their priority, once the business is running, isn’t growth, then failure is almost a sure thing. Because in the business world, standing still is the same as going backward.

With that in mind, what is one fundamental way to grow any business? Let me give you a hint. To make money, you need to... SPEND MONEY.

For any business to succeed, the owner has to spend money on the company’s behalf. And there are only two types of spending when it comes to business — spending as an investment or an expense.

What’s the difference between spending as an investment or an expense? The difference is ROI, Return on Investment.

When spending money on a business the owner needs to determine whether or not there is an expectation of return from that spending. With an investment there is. The same cannot be said of an expense. Have you ever heard the term ROE - return on expense? I haven’t. An article on the website Ratchet and Wrench states “you can recover an expense, but only by identifying it and reframing it as an investment”

So with an expense, a return is not expected. However, there is a return expected with an investment. The very definition of an investment is “to allocate money in the expectation of some benefit in the future.”

So once again, thinking like a business owner, what do you think will help you grow your business faster? Spending money on an expense or spending money on an investment?

The obvious answer is as an investment. The tricky part is knowing how to identify which is which.

Investment vs. Expense.

How do you know when an expenditure is an investment or an expense? Is a building an expense or an investment? What about a vehicle? Office furniture? Decore? Association or Memberships fees? Training?

It can sometimes be challenging to identify because many spendings could fall into either category. A business owner needs to be able to identify, which is which and try to minimize expenses while spending on investments to grow their business.

Ok, you can take off that entrepreneurial hat and start thinking like a designer again. As a designer, whenever you pitch an idea to a client, be it a logo design, a new website, a car wrap, or a trade show booth. Are you consciously positioning yourself as a business expense or as a business investment?

Are your clients wondering how much your services will cost them, or do they imagine how much your services will earn them? Do you see the importance of that distinction?

As soon as you flip that switch, and get clients thinking about the ROI, the return on their investment with you, then the price you charge isn’t an issue anymore. When done right, the client will think you are not charging nearly enough and sign your contract before you come to your senses.

How to position yourself as an investment.

The way to position yourself as an investment is by showing your client the value you bring them.

For a logo design project, you want to explain how the new logo will be memorable, increase client retention and familiarity with the brand and grow the customer base. More customers sound good to any business owner.

Plus, a new logo can rank at the top of the market and possibly even surpass the competition’s brand imagery. How much is it worth to a business to be seen in higher standards than their competition? $1,000? $5,000, $10,000?

There’s much more to successfully pitching a branding project, but you get the idea. Your part of the selling process is much easier when the client sees you as an investment.

For a web design project, never agree to a web project simply because "the client needs a website." It's a given that every business needs a website, but there's much more to it. Why do they need a website? If a client's only reason for a new site is because everyone else has one, then what you are offering is an expense for the client.

However, by positioning the website as a client acquisition tool that, once again grows its customer base, increases their sales rates, brings more awareness to their brand, etc., etc. Suddenly the cost of the website changes from an expense to an investment.

So many designers struggle with pricing. They are afraid to let the client know how much a project will cost, for fear of losing the job. Don't be like them.

Prepare your clients by showing them how hiring you is an investment and not an expense, and the cost often becomes a moot point. When taking the ROI of their investment into consideration, most clients will think you are not charging enough.

When done correctly, you will discover just how easy it is to land design projects.

How are you positioning yourself?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Sep 30, 2019

Do you claim all the business expenses you're entitled?

[sc name="pod_ad"]Are you aware of all the things you can claim as business expenses when running a home-based design business?

You've heard the saying, "You need to spend money to make money"? People quoting that often neglect to inform you that some of the money you spend running your design business, can be recuperated as business expenses.

If you are running your own design business, you really should enlist the help of a professional when it comes to filing your taxes. If not, you could be losing out on entitled money. The cost of hiring an accountant or bookkeeper is a wise investment when it comes to doing business.

With that said, I am not an accountant or bookkeeper. I'm going to share some often overlooked expenditures that may qualify as business expenses for you. Please verify with whoever prepares your business taxes if you are allowed to claim any of the following.

People

In the course of running your design business, you may need to hire external help. The money you pay these people may qualify as business expenses.

  • Virtual Assistants
  • Business Coaches
  • Contractors (illustrators, programmers, developers, designers, etc.)
  • Massage Therapists / Physio Therapists (after those long days sitting in your chair)
  • Counseling
  • Accountant / Bookkeeper

Subscriptions

As a designer, there are plenty of reoccurring expenses when it comes to your design business. You can claim many of them on your taxes.

  • Design Software
  • Wordpress Plugins
  • Software Addons
  • Membership / Club fees
  • Magazine subscriptions

Business Expenses

You can claim the costs involved with running and promoting your design business as business expenses.

  •  Advertising fees
  • Delivery and Shipping Costs
  • Legal, accounting and professional fees
  • Tax prep
  • Bank fees
  • Processing fees

Travel Expenses

You can claim business-related travel expenses, whether it's to a conference or to see a client, on your taxes as business expenses

  • Conferences costs (travel, hotel, ticket fees, meals)
  • Networking event fees
  • Travel Expenses (fuel, parking, rental, car wash, maintenance)
  • Vehicle expenses, including interest on loan or lease payments.

Home Office Expenses

  • Office Decorations
  • Work Clothes (must be branded to your business)
  • Cleaning (house, yard)
  • Office Supplies

Personal Expenses

  • Computer Glasses
  • Cellular phone
  • Computer Tablet
  • Smart Watch
  • Training / Courses
  • Child Care

These are only a few of the hundreds of things that may qualify as business expenses.

In some cases, you won't be able to claim some of these items. It all depends on your situation, your business, and where you live. Check with your accountant. They'll know what you can and cannot claim.

I go into more detail on each item on the podcast. Be sure to listen to the episode for the full story.

What unusual item have you claimed as a business expense?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Entrepreneur Mindset

I heard someone quote Tony Robbins on a podcast recently. To paraphrase the quote, "Being an entrepreneur is 80% mindset and 20% mechanics." I couldn't agree more. Without the confidence and proper mindset, you will not succeed. And when you do have the appropriate confidence and mindset, the actual running part of your business should come easily.

As Henry Ford put it, "If you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right." So when it comes to running your design business, make sure you have a "CAN" attitude. It will make things so much easier.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Sep 23, 2019

There's wisdom in all of us.

I chose the title "With Age, Comes Wisdom" for this episode not because I believe I’m very wise, but because it’s inevitable that as time passes, all the ups and downs, the successes and failures, the roadblocks and overcome hurdles all add up. And whether you realize it or not, each one of them helps in its own way to shape you into the wise person you are now.

As I approach my 50th birthday, I can’t help but reminisce and ponder the choices I’ve made in my life, the paths I’ve followed, and of course the journey that’s still ahead of me. And I’ve come to appreciate better something I’m sure you've known for a long time. And that is, that with age comes wisdom. And what use is wisdom if you can’t share it with people?

I’m not talking about being a know it all. Please, don’t be a know-it-all. I’m talking about using the knowledge you’ve gained over time, whether you’re 20, 50 or 80, to help the people you serve. Including your family, your friends, people in communities you frequent, and yes, your design clients as well.

I've said it before on the podcast but let me repeat it. No matter what stage you’re at in your design career, to everyone out there who knows less than you, you’re a professional. Even if you’re fresh out of school and have never worked on a real client project, when it comes to designing, you are a professional compared to the majority of people out there.

Hold on to that thought every time someone questions your prices or tries to negotiate a “special deal for exposure” with you. You are wiser than that, because of the time you’ve put in to get to where you are. Nobody can take that away from you, and nobody has the right to devalue what you’ve learned during that time.

Have I ever told you that Resourceful Designer is the third name I chose for this podcast?

I first came up with the idea of doing a graphic design podcast in 2014, shortly after I turned 45. I had just passed the threshold of the early 40s to late 40s. I know there’s the whole mid 40s thing but face it, once you hit the five mark, you’re on the downward side of that hill.

As I realized I was in the latter part of my 40s, I started looking at my future. I began having thoughts in my head saying, “who’s going to want to hire a 45-year-old designer, let alone a 50, 55 or 60-year-old designer?” Especially with all the tremendous young design talent that is emerging these days. Not to mention the up and coming generation that's seeing business owners, managers, CEOs in their early 30s if not their 20s. Wouldn’t they want to partner with someone closer to their own age?

Luckily I didn’t stay in that funk for too long. sIn fact, it didn’t take me that long to appreciate that at 45, I had accumulated a lot of useful knowledge and skills. Wisdom if you will, that could be very useful to that same younger generation of businesspeople. I had 15 years of experience working at a print shop, plus another nine years running a successful design business.

At that time, I had already been podcasting about TV shows, so I knew what I was doing, so I decided to start a design-related podcast. I was going to call it The Aging Designer.I even designed the logo and website.

I was going to use the podcast as a platform to talk to 40, 50, 60-year-old designers and remind them that we still have a lot to share with the younger generation. I recorded an introductory episode but never published it.

I sat on that podcast idea for quite a few months, not doing anything with it because something didn’t feel right about the whole concept. I ended up sharing my frustrations with some trusted podcast friends, and they told me that the knowledge and wisdom I wanted to share, although useful to people my age and older, might better serve a broader audience.

That’s when I switched gears from how to survive as an ageing designer, to how to grow and thrive as a home-based or freelance designer. So with renewed enthusiasm and a clearer path for the podcast, I renamed the show The Wise Designer (I never designed the logo). However, I soon started thinking that calling the podcast The Wise Designerpeople might think I was pretentious. So after some more contemplation, I settled on Resourceful Designer, and I’m glad I did.

The word "resourceful" has helped me stay on track and navigate the direction of the show. The podcast allows me to share my experiences and knowledge, you can call it wisdom if you want, with designers like you.

I'm talking to you, designer to designer. I don’t know how old you are. I don’t know at what stage of your design career you're at or what discipline of design you are pursuing. I don’t know where in the world you live, your background, your heritage. None of that matters in the context of Resourceful Designer.

What does matter is that you’re a designer who cares enough about your current or potential business to listen to my podcast. That’s what counts.

Since I launched Resourceful Designer, I’ve probably gained more value from doing it than you have from being a listener. It keeps me rejuvenated. It keeps me curious. It keeps me informed. And it makes me feel relevant.

I’m turning 50 this week, and I’m ready to embrace it. I’m prepared for whatever lies ahead on my journey.

Those doubts I felt turning 45 are way behind me. I have more today to offer as a designer than I have at any part of my career to date. And I hope you feel the same way, no matter what stage of life or your career you’re at right now.

Embrace ageing. Appreciate the skills you’re accumulating, the knowledge you’re gaining, and package it all up in that ball we call wisdom. And use that wisdom to benefit those around you. Even if it’s just to explain to a client why making the logo bigger won’t help.

What do you think?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Community

The Resourceful Designer Community is an active community of designers with a common goal, a goal of improving and growing their design business.

The Community is for designers of any levels. Current members include designers just starting their business, members with agency experience, members with knowledge of web design and print design, all willing to share what they know.

The Community interacts via a private and very active Slack group, with new conversations happening every day.

There are also regular video meetings. These video chats are where the magic happens. By seeing each other’s faces and interacting directly with each other, members become closer and more invested in what each of their fellow members is doing with their business. If a member can’t make the live video chats, they can view the recording which is archived for members to watch at their convenience.

If have your own design business or are thinking of starting one, regardless of your skills as a designer, and you are looking for a tight-knit group of designers to help you by being mentors, confidants, and friends, then you need to be part of the Resourceful Designer Community.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on TwitterFacebookand Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

 

Sep 16, 2019

When was the last time you updated a piece of software?

Think about the last time you updated a piece of software. Whether it was an app on your phone, a website plugin or theme or an application on your computer. When you updated it, did you look at why it was being updated by reading the release or change notes?

There are three main reasons why a piece of software requires an update.

  1. Bug Fixes
  2. Security improvements
  3. New Features and Functionality

Do you know which of these reasons each update you perform is for, and why it was released?

We've been taught to update without thinking about the reason.

It’s become so easy these days to update software. Our phones have a convenient “Update All” button, so we don’t have to scroll and update each app individually. There are convenient services that allow you to manage and update multiple WordPress websites from a single dashboard. Even the software on your computer makes it easy. Most of the time, a popup will appear informing you of a new update and asking if you want to update the program right away or do it later. In some cases Later will happen in the background without you needing to be there.

What added new features and functionality do those apps, plugins, and software you download offer? By not paying attention to why there's an update to a piece of software, are you being left behind? Are you missing out on functionality that may improve your processes and your abilities as a designer?

I remember back in the day when physical floppy disks or CDs were required to update software. In those days, software companies would mail you promotional material showcasing all the great new features they were adding to their program hoping you would purchase it. I also remember reading magazine articles leading up to the new releases describing how each new feature would make my life easier. With today's subscription models, software companies don't need to sell us with the hype of new features, they already have our money.

I remember reading about the upcoming version 3 of Adobe Photoshop with the introduction of great new features, including one called Layers. I just had to have it, no matter the cost. By the time I received and installed the latest versions, I knew every new feature available to me and whether or not it was something I would use.

Nowadays, there isn’t as much fanfare with software releases as there used to be. We've been conditioned to automatically click when we see a little red dot without giving it much thought. Maybe it’s just me not being on top of things or following the right blogs or social media accounts, but I don’t think I’m the only one in the dark. Are you’re like this too? It makes me wonder what other features programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop have that I don't know about that could benefit me.

Adobe regularly releases a major update for all their programs each October. Many Adobe users, myself included have absolutely no idea what new features Photoshop, Illustrator and all the other CC programs will have. There are probably articles highlighting what new features to expect. But unless you search for them, there's a good chance you'll update your software without giving it much thought. What will you be missing out?

If you want to improve your productivity, increase your skills, and add to your toolbox, the next time you update an app, plugin, or software, read the changelogs or release notes. Learn why the update was released and what possible new features and functionality they offer.

So let me ask you again, when you perform a software update, do know why?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 a member of the Resourceful Designer Community

I have a website project that has stalled out and has been dormant for several months. My client is unable or unwilling to provide me what I need to complete the site. The copywriter I hired is demanding full payment for her services even though there’s still some outstanding copy to be written that’s dependent on what the client still needs to provide me. Should I be paying the copywriter her full fee even though not all the agreed upon copy was written?

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

Resource of the week Careful Cents article on Lowering Invoicing Fees

Do you use PayPal as part of your invoicing process? Are you aware of the fees you are paying to use the service? Would you like to lower those fees and keep more of your hard-earned money? Decrease PayPal Fees: 5 Ways To Lower Invoicing Feesis an article on Careful Cents that may be able to help you do just that.

Sure, transfer and processing fees are the costs of doing business. But lowering those fees by even half a percent could save you thousands of dollars each year and put more money in your pocket.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Sep 9, 2019

Are you moving the needle and growing your design business?

Let me ask you a question. What have you done today, this week, this month that will help propel your design business? How are you moving the needle towards future growth and sustainability?

Isn't that a funny saying; "Moving the needle"? It means making a significant difference, having a measurable statistic that will change as a result of an action.

So let me ask you again, how are you moving the needle for your graphic or web design business? What actions are you taking that will produce a measurable change in the statistics of your business?

Statistics such as:

  • Getting more clients.
  • Increasing your revenue
  • Streamlining your processes.

What are you doing to move your business forward?  

Businesses are like sharks.

Just like a shark can't sit still or it will die, for a business to prosper, it needs to make advancements. it needs to look forward towards the future, It needs to evolve.

Think of car companies such as Ford or Honda. They don't just develop a new car and let it be. No, every year they make advancements and evolve each one of their models. The 2020 Ford Edge or Honda Civic is better than the 2019 models which were better than the 2018 models.

Subway, the biggest restaurant chain in the world, even larger than McDonalds, did not get to where they are by riding the status quo and always offering the same sandwiches. 

No, all these companies grew, because they evolved with the times, they experimented, they introduced new options and features. These companies are continually moving the needle.

Now I don't expect your design business to compare on the same levels as Subway, Ford or Honda. But if you're not consciously trying to improve your business, there's a good chance others who are will surpass you.

Even if you are happy with the current state of your business, if you're lucky enough to be making a decent living and you have plenty of clients to keep you busy, that doesn't mean it will always be that way. 

If it did, your town or city would have a family run general store instead of a Walmart or other big-box chain.

No matter how great your design business may be right now, you can never forget that even the best clients can shut down, reduce their design budget or even find another designer.

New technologies and software are always emerging, that makes our jobs easier, but they also make it easier for clients to do things on their own, requiring less and less of our services.

And as time goes by, you'll need to adjust your income to accommodate your ever-changing lifestyle, not to mention inflation who's steady pace seems to be a sprint.

It's great to be happy with the current state of your business, as long as you don't get complacent. Avoid getting into habits and routines that keep you in the status quo. If you do, you'll find that eventually you'll become out of the loop and be outdated.

So how do you move the needle?

  • Make sure you stay up to date with technology and trends. 
  • Learn a new skill that makes you more valuable to your clients. 
  • Find new avenues to promote your business.
  • Become more involved with your existing client's business.
  • Streamline your process and become more efficient.
  • Build a team that can help you evolve and grow.

Once again let me ask you. What are you doing to move the needle for your design business? Take one step today that'll help you in the long run. That's what moving the needle is all about. 

Growing a business is a journey; you need to do it one step at a time. Even a baby step still counts.

How do you plan on moving the needle for your design business?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Professional Head Shots

Clients always prefer dealing with a person over a faceless company. Having your photo visible on your website creates that sense of intimacy clients seek when hiring a designer. Seeing your face gives them comfort that they are dealing with a real person.

Since you only get one chance to make a first impression, why not give it the best shot you can by having your photo taken by a professional photographer. Not only will a professional photographer capture the best you, but visitors to your website will see that you take your business seriously enough to invest in professional photos.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Sep 2, 2019

Do you have a YES attitude when it comes to accepting design projects?

If you want to grow as a designer, you need to embrace a YES attitude when it comes to dealing with prospective design projects.

I’m hearing more and more designers, both graphic and web, who turn down projects because the job doesn’t fit their skill set. It frustrates me when I hear this. It frustrates me because I’ve been there and I’ve done that.

When my design business was still relatively new, I turned down several projects and several clients because I didn’t know how to do what they were asking.

I turned down a $50K website project because I wasn’t comfortable enough with my knowledge of PHP and MySQL. I wasn’t sure I was capable of doing the job and was afraid to try. I’m not an illustrator, so when projects requiring illustration came my way, I would turn them down.

It frustrates me now knowing how much work I turned away, and how many possible great clients I ended up not working with because I didn’t have the skills for the job, so I turned them down.

I wish I knew then what I know now. Running a design business as a solopreneur, all by yourself doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Yes, you should take every opportunity to learn and expand yourself as a designer, but in some cases, the best option is to team up with someone proficient in the skills you lack.

Every independent designer requires a team.

In episode 77 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about how being a self-employed designer requires a team effort, how every independent designer needs to have an arsenal of peers and associates with complimenting skill sets to fill in the gaps that they have. 

That’s where embracing a yes attitude comes in. And it’s simple. When a client asks you if you can do something, say yes even if you don’t know how to do it.

Saying yes to one of these projects can open incredible doors for you. If it’s doable, use the project to learn the skill you are lacking and add it to your repertoire. If it’s not something you can or want to learn, find someone who can do it for you.

When I started embracing a yes attitude, it propelled my design business by leaps and bounds. I embraced a yes attitude and stopped turning down jobs on the pretense that I wasn’t sure I could do them.

This doesn’t mean you should take on every single job presented to you. There are still plenty of valid reasons to turn down design projects. What I’m saying, is to embrace a yes attitude for projects that sound great but that you’re not sure how to do. Then figure out how to do them yourself, or figure out who can do them for you.

Grow as a designer.

Since embracing a yes attitude, I’ve had a client ask me if I could add their logo to a photo and make it look like a neon sign. I’ve had a client ask me if I could create a realistic-looking 3D type heading and make it look like it was on fire, with realistic flames. I’ve had a client ask me to create a title heading for their poster with the words made out of stacked ice cubes.

I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to do these things when I took on the jobs. But when they asked me I readily said yes, I could do that. And you know what? I figured out how.

You don’t need to know how to do something beforehand to get it done. Learn along the way.

Grow your design entourage.

Since embracing a yes attitude I’ve had clients ask me for e-commerce websites, I’ve had clients ask me for illustrations, for video. In each case, I found someone who could do those things for me and delivered the job.

Saying yes to a client doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. It just means you can get the job done.

Solve the problem.

Remember, as a designer; you’re a problem solver. It’s your job to provide a solution to what your clients want or need. Solution, that’s the keyword. A solution indicates that the answer is unknown and you must discover it. This challenge applies to every design project.

So the same way the answer is unknown, the skills and knowledge required to complete a project may be unknown at the start as well.

Part of finding that solution may be trying to figure out how you’re going to get something done that you don’t know how to do. Say yes, and then find the solution.

When you say yes to one of these design projects, you end up adding to your skill set, your repertoire, possibly to your portfolio, and of course, to your reputation.

Clients will appreciate you.

I know some designers feel like this is being deceitful to their clients. However, a client doesn’t care if it was you or someone you oversaw that completed the work as long as they are happy with the outcome.

Think of it this way, whenever someone is having surgery, they want to know who the doctor operating is. But surgeons never operate alone. They have a team assisting them and doing things the doctor can’t or shouldn’t be doing themselves.

The same goes for your design business; you’re the “design surgeon”; the client is hiring you. They don’t need to know who your team is because they’re putting their trust in you. As long as you deliver, they’ll be happy, and they’ll keep coming back.

All because you embraced a yes attitude.

What was the last project you took on that you didn' have the skill set for?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 Christie

I have a question. Many times when I’m asked to do a new project, there are elements of the project that I don’t know how to do. One guy needs a video along with his marketing, another needs illustration, etc. My experience is designing websites, brochures, email, mailers and I don’t feel I’m very good with logos. I also don’t know video, have a great camera or know how to do the backend of a website. All of these things would have been done for me at companies I’ve worked at before, and my freelance projects have been so random that I’m continually learning new skills. It’s nice, but sometimes I don’t know what to do in those scenarios since I don’t know a lot of other freelancers. Can you recommend some resources or best practice? I’m just starting out.

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

Resource of the week Your Local Library

Your local library can be an excellent opportunity for you and your design business. We often forget all the great resources libraries offer. Libraries are great for learning, getting inspiration, self-improvement, hosting presentations, and so much more.

Enquire with your local library to see what services they offer that you could incorporate into your life.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Aug 26, 2019

Finding clients at niche conferences

I had planned a different topic for this week, but after attending Podcast Movement last week, I want to share my experiences hoping they can help with your design business.

Here’s a little background.

I’ve attended five out of the six years Podcast Movement has been around. The first year I couldn't attend, but I did purchase a virtual ticket so technically I've been part of all of them.

The first one I went to was in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2015. That was before I launched Resourceful Designer. At that time I was a TV Show Fan podcaster, in fact, I still am. If you’re a fan of the science fiction television shows Killjoys or The Expanse you can check out my fan podcasts on my network at Solo Talk Media.

In 2016 I attended Podcast Movement as both a TV Show fan podcaster and as host of Resourceful Designer. But my attendee badge still listed me as Mark Des Cotes from Solo Talk Media. I changed that In 2017 and 2018. When I attended those conferences, I made sure Resourceful Designer was front and center since it was my main podcast. 

Attending the conferences as the host of Resourceful Designer started to get my name out there as a designer. After all, I was doing a podcast related to the design industry, so I must be a designer, right? 

What started happening was whenever the topic of podcast artwork or websites came up, my name got passed around. It would be in the context of, “you need artwork, or you need a website? Mark is a designers, maybe he could help you.” Sure, my name was shared, but so was every other designer out there.

A change of strategy.

This year I did something different. In February 2019, I launched Podcast Branding; a company focused on providing professional design services to podcasters.

I’ve talked about niches in episodes 54 and episode 93 of the Resourceful Designer podcast. Not to mention my interview with Craig Burton in episode 174 where we talked about his work in the School Branding niche. I decided to take my advice and started a company that focused on the podcast niche. Podcast Branding was born.

Attending the conference.

At a podcast conference, the icebreaker question whenever you meet someone new is, “do you have a podcast?” After all, the majority of attendees either have a podcast or are thinking of starting one.

So at Podcast Movement, when someone asked me, “do you have a podcast?” I answered, “Yes, but I’m here promoting my company Podcast Branding,” and the rest of the conversation focused on their branding needs and the services I offer.

Before I knew it, my name was being passed around to anyone interested in podcast artwork or websites. People were tapping me on the shoulder, saying, “so-and-so said I should talk to you.” In some cases, I didn't even know who the "so-and-so" who referred me was. 

These conversations usually ended with them asking me for my business card so they could reach out to me after the conference. Throughout the four day conference, I quickly gained recognition, not as Mark, the graphic designer who can possibly help you. But as Mark, the guy who specializes in artwork and websites for podcasters. I was the "podcast designer."

It just goes to show you that being available to a niche and actively focusing on a niche are two different things. For years, I was available to podcasters for their design needs. It wasn’t until I decided to focus and target podcasters that things took off.

And for the record, I landed several new clients at the conference, and even more emails with “Hi Mark, I met you at Podcast Movement." are starting to come in.

I put my money where my mouth is and took my advice. I attended a conference where my target market was. I promoted a business that focuses on that target market, and my name is now slowly spreading amongst that market as THE person to talk to when it comes to their branding needs.

It could work for you.

If you target a particular niche, even as a side gig, the best thing you can do is go where your target market is. After all, what better place to network, than a large gathering of your ideal target market?

Find a conference in your niche market and try to attend. Before you know it, your name may become known as THE designer for that niche.

Clients know the added value of working with a designer who specializes in their industry and are willing to invest more in hiring them.

Have you ever attended a conference to pick up clients?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 Juliane

I'm curious if you have any resources on how to charge sales tax for prints?

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

Tip of the week Dealing with stubborn or difficult clients.

Sometimes, it’s easier to make a client happy by doing what they ask, even if it goes against your better design judgement. It's not worth arguing with them and possibly pushing them away just to make your point.

The client is always right, even when you secretly know how wrong they are.

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Contact me

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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