Wouldn't it be nice if you could spend more time designing and less time worrying about your design business? Resourceful Designer offers tips, tricks and resources for freelancers in order to help streamline your graphic design and web design business so you can get back to what you do best… Designing!
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Boosting Productivity By Culling Indulgences
Are your indulgences impeding your productivity? People often ask me how I can manage so many things at once, so many spinning plates, if you will, while only working 9 AM to 5 PM?
Ask most designers, and they’ll tell you of the many late nights or weekends they work to get the jobs done.
I, on the other hand, rarely work late and hardly ever on weekends. So how do I do it? How do I manage this podcast, my other television show podcast, two design businesses, the Resourceful Designer Community, and a few personal “work-related” projects I have on the go? All within a 40-hour workweek?
I don’t always. In fact, I’m recording this podcast episode on Saturday because I ran out of time during the week. But this is a rarity for me. Normally, I get all my work done between 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday to Friday.
So how do I do it?
I learned many years ago that my time is valuable. I only have so much of it, and I have to figure out the best use of that time for me. I constantly ask myself how can I get the best ROI for my time. And the biggest help was learning to cull my indulgences.
What do I mean by this?
First, let me tell you a story.
As you may or may not know. My wife and I have two kids, both of which are now in their 20s and no longer live with us. Since the kids moved out, Kim and I have had to adjust to the lives of being empty nesters. One of those adjustments is finding television shows we can watch together. Kim loves comedies, dramas and romantic shows. In comparison, I prefer science fiction, fantasy and action-adventure programs.
It wasn’t a problem when our daughter was still here. She and Kim enjoyed the same things, so they would put on one of their shows, and I would slip down to the basement to watch one of mine. But with the kids gone, Kim and I try to find shows to watch together.
A couple of months ago, we started watching a show on Netflix called The Order. It’s a young adult-oriented semi-romantic drama that includes witches, warlocks and werewolves. So it checked off both our interests.
Over the course of two weeks, we would watch an episode here and an episode there until we finished season 1. It wasn’t the best show we’d seen, but it was entertaining and enjoyable.
A few weeks later, season 2 came out, and we decided to start it. That first episode was kind of meh, so it was a few days before we decided to watch another one which didn’t turn out to be much better. When watching episodes 3 and 4, we were questioning if there was something else we wanted to watch instead.
After the fourth episode, we both decided the season wasn’t worth finishing. Our time was too valuable to waste on a program we were no longer enjoying.
Now, this may not be the best example, since the time we saved by not watching The Order, we still ended up spending on the couch watching something else. But the point I’m trying to convey is, your time has value. And it shouldn’t be wasted on things that don’t contribute to that value.
Let’s get back to how I manage my days and get everything done.
As I said earlier, I learned a while back that to be the most productive person I could be; I needed to cull my indulgences. What does that mean?
It means that whenever something catches my eye, whenever I come across something that might be a distraction, I ask myself this. “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?”
Would I be any worse off if I don’t listen to this podcast episode? Would I be any worse off if I don’t watch this YouTube video? Would I be any worse off if I don’t read this article? Would I be any worse off if I don't learn this tutorial? Don’t ask yourself if you would be better off if you indulge because the answer will often be a misleading yes. Misleading because knowledge, in general, makes you better, regardless of what that knowledge is. Listening t
Learning To Let Go
Are you ready to grow your design business by letting go of what's holding you back? Let me start with a story.
A young boy is visiting his grandparents' house with his mom and dad.
As young boys will do when in an environment not meant for young boys, they explore and sometimes get into trouble.
Well, this young boy just so happened to be walking around with an antique vase, a precious family heirloom. When his mother spotted him, she immediately told him to put the vase down before breaking it. But the boy replied that he couldn’t, his hand was stuck inside.
A little frustrated, the mother takes the vase and tells the boy, “If you were able to get your hand in the vase, you could surely get it out.” But as she pulls on it, there’s no give.
Hearing the commotion, the father comes in to help. He, too, tugs on the vase, but the boy's hand is firmly stuck. He tugs and tugs until the boy says it’s hurting him.
The grandmother, in her wise old ways, suggests using butter to help the hand slide out. But alas, it has no effect.
Completely perplexed, with the mother still tugging on the vase, the father throws his hands up in the air, stating, “I’d give 50 dollars just to get your hand out of that vase right now.”
The young boy's eyes opened wide with excitement. “Really?” he exclaims. Suddenly, they hear a clinking sound, and the boy’s hand slides out of the vase. In disbelief, the mother looks into the vase then upturns it, and a quarter falls into her hand.
The young boy explains that it’s the quarter grandpa gave him when they arrived. He had put it in the vase, but when he reached in to grab it, his hand got stuck.
But when his dad said he’d give him $50 if he got his hand out of the vase, he let go of the quarter.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard this or a variation of this story before. So you probably knew the outcome before I ever reached it. But I wanted to tell it anyway as a kind of analogy to your design business.
Many designers who run their own business tend to hold on to that metaphorical quarter when they should be letting go of it for bigger and better things.
This is the first episode of 2021. And I don’t have to tell you what kind of year 2020 was. You were there. But with all of that fiasco behind us and light of better things to come finally peeking through at the end of the tunnel. Now is the perfect time to take stock of your business and figure out what you need to do to help it grow and succeed. What are you going to do more of? And what, if anything, can you let go?
No business, design or otherwise can grow without making changes. Restaurants change their menus. Telecommunication companies change their phone plans. Governments elect new officials. Changes are a natural precursor to growth. And every successful business does it.
By grow, I don’t necessarily mean taking on more design work or more clients, although that may be the case, and it still counts as growth. What I mean by grow, is making progress, expanding while focusing on your goals. You do have goals, don’t you? Without them, how will you know if you’re making progress?
If we take 2020 out of the equation and compare this upcoming year, 2021, to your previous years, you should be striving to not only make more money but also to be more satisfied with yourself and your business than you’ve been in previous years. At the very least, you should aim to stay on par as in previous years.
What you don’t want is to step backward. If you make less money or aren’t as happy, you’re doing something wrong. And chances are, it’s because you’re holding on to that metaphorical quarter and not letting go.
Growing your business and making more money doesn’t necessarily mean doing more work, which, in turn, could increase your stress level. In fact, you can grow your design business and make more mo
A Look Back - A Look Ahead - 2020 Edition
A look back at 2020 and a look ahead to 2021. [sc name="pod_ad"]Thank you for your continued interest in Resourceful Designer. You have no idea how much I appreciate you. There are so many great resources available for learning and growing as a designer, and I'm humbled that you choose to spend a bit of your valuable time with me.
I'm continuing the tradition of making the final podcast episode of the year a form of a retrospective where I look back a the year that's coming to an end and look forward to the year ahead. I bring you A Look back, A Look Ahead 2020 Edition.
A Look Back at my 2020 goals. At the end of 2018, I set these goals for myself.
ACCOMPLISHED: Talk at more conferences in 2020. Surprisingly, although not as many as I expected, the two conferences I talked at in 2020 were more than I did in 2019, so mission accomplished.
FAIL: Grow the Resourceful Designer audience. The 2020 pandemic took a big toll on podcast listenership, and Resourceful Designer was not immune. With fewer people commuting to work, I saw my download numbers dip during COVID lockdowns. The end of the year saw a rise in downloads but not enough to view it as a growth from the previous year.
ACCOMPLISHED: Grow the Resourceful Designer Community. The Community has quickly become a place where friendships form and help is freely given. It's even more wonderful than I anticipated.
ACCOMPLISHED: Grow Podcast Branding. My niche design business focusing on the podcast industry saw huge growth in 2020. With so many people stuck at home, many decided to start a podcast and needed visuals to go with it.
Some of my numbers from 2020 Resourceful Designer Released 47 podcast episodes Reached over 550k total episode downloads in 2020 (Over 125k of which were in 2020) Resourceful Designer released on Gaana and Amazon Music. My design business My design business took a huge hit from COVID-19, with many of my clients being affected by lockdowns.
Worked on design projects for 9 different clients (down from 29 in 2019) Two of those clients were first-time clients. I sent out only 14 invoices in 2020 (down from 57 in 2019) Lost 7 long-standing clients due to various reasons. Podcast Branding My Podcast Branding business saved me from a horrible year.
Worked with 51 different clients (up from 18 in 2019) Launched 16 new websites for clients Mentioned in an article on how to create stunning podcast cover art. A Look Ahead at my 2020 goals. My 2019 goals carry forward. I want the listenership of Resourceful Designer to continue growing. I want to speak at conferences (I'm already booked to speak at one in March). I want to build the Resourceful Designer Community. It's such a fantastic place right now, but I know it can be even better.
New Goal for 2020. Keep going the podcast listenership. Keep growing Podcast Branding to become THE place for podcast websites and branding. Keep growing the Resourceful Designer Community What about you? Did you accomplish your goals for 2019, and What are your goals for the new year?
Are you a student getting ready to graduate? What are your goals once you’re done school? Are you still relatively new to the design world? What are your goals to hone your skills? Are you a veteran designer like I am? What are your goals for continued growth? Are you a designer working for someone else? Maybe you enjoy your job; maybe you don’t. Either way, what are your future goals? Or perhaps you’re already a home-based designer, a freelancer if that’s the term you use; what are your goals to grow your business? Wherever you are in the world, whatever your level of skill, whatever your situation is, I want you to take some time to look back at 2019 and think about your accomplishments AND your shortcomings.
Did you stop after your accomplishments? Or did you plow right through them, happy with yourself but reaching
5 Quick Tips To Help Your Design Business
There are so many things you can do to improve your design business. Here are 5 tips to help you along the way.
Tip # 1) How do you get people to pay attention to you? How do you get people to pay attention and be interested in what you have to say? Be it at a networking event, during presentations, in the emails you send, on a landing page or other marketing material? Start by identifying the problem you solve.
As a designer, you are a problem solver. That's your superpower. But nobody cares about a solution if the problem hasn’t been identified. Our brains are wired to go from problem to solution, problem to solution. If you only offer the solution, nobody will care what you have to say.
For example; When someone asks what you do for a living, don’t just say, “I design websites for startup companies.” Try it, and you’ll see just how fast someone’s eyes can glaze over.
Instead, start with a problem like this. "Do you know how hard it is for a new startup company to compete online these days? With people’s patience and attention spans getting shorter and shorter, it can seem like an impossible task to get noticed. What I do is create great looking and high-converting websites that help new startups quickly gain traction, catch up to and eventually surpass their competition."
A problem, followed by a solution. Now you have their attention.
Tip # 2) Be confident in your calls-to-action. Every good website, including your own website for your design business, needs a call-to-action (CTA). Without one, what’s the point of the site?
Sure, you want people to know more about you.
Sure, you want people to know what services you offer.
Sure, you want people to see your work portfolio.
But ultimately, what you want is for people to hire you. The best way to do that is with an assertive CTA.
A passive CTA such as “Learn More” or “Get Started” just don’t cut it. What they actually do is instill doubt in the client. It’s as if you’re not sure about your business and are afraid to ask the client to commit. So instead of asking them to hire you, you’re asking them to learn more about you in the hopes you can convince them. Or to get started, and if they don’t like what they see, we can stop.
No. What you want to do is be bold and show confidence that you can help the client and show it in your CTA. Be direct and use CTAs like “Hire me,” “Schedule a Call,” or “Order Now.” The more direct you are with assertive CTAs, the better the chance someone will hire you.
3) Get paid faster by sharing the value you provided on your invoices. Wouldn’t it be nice if clients paid your invoices as soon as they receive them, and you didn’t have to sit there wondering when or if the money would ever come in?
What if you could make one small change that would actually encourage your clients to pay your invoices faster? You can. By sharing the value, you provided directly on the invoice.
If your invoice looks something like this...
Item 1) Designed website = $xxx
Item 2) Designed Logo = $xxx
Item 3) Designed brochure = $xxx
Total = $xxx
Then you’re missing out.
Use a description field or add a footnote reminding your clients of their purchase value, not just the cost... the value.
Item 1) Designed website with clear and concise messaging, which will produce a good conversion rate, translating to increased sales.
Item 2) Designed Logo that shows the brand's quality and longevity and stands out amongst the competition.
Item 3) Designed brochure to showcase the client's premium services and instill an air of confidence in people hiring you.
Show the client that you provided more than just a website, logo or brochure. You provided something that will help their business grow and succeed. When they see and are reminded of that, they will be much more willing to pay your invoice quicker.
Understanding Perceived Value
Do you understand what perceived value is? Many graphic and web designers have difficulty understanding perceived value when it comes to how their clients view them. You can offer the same service to multiple people, and each one will perceive the value of what you’re offering them differently. I thought I would do something different by telling you a story to get the point across. Here goes.
A lesson in understanding perceived value. Once upon a time (I know, it’s a cliché way to start a story, but I’m going with it.) Once upon a time, there was a young graphic designer by the name of Tom.
Several months ago, the large corporation Tom worked at was acquired. As part of the merger process, the new company dissolved the design department where Tom worked, and he lost his job.
Tom was upset, of course, but he decided to see this as an opportunity. With the help of his severance money, he decided to do something he had been dreaming of doing for quite a while, open his own home-based design business.
One day, on his way back from a client meeting, Tom decided to stop in and see his father.
“Hey, Dad! Where are you?”
“I’m in the attic.”
Tom made his way up to the attic, a place he seldom saw, even when he lived in this house with his parents.
“What are you doing up here?” he asked.
His father was sitting amid several open boxes, “I was taking out the holiday decorations when nostalgia got the best of me, and I decided to go through some of these old storage bins. Some of these haven’t been opened in decades. What are you doing here?”
“I had a meeting this morning with a new client not far from here, and I thought I’d drop by before heading home.”
“How’d the meeting go?” Asked his father.
Tom sighed, “I got the job.”
“You don’t sound that happy about it,” replied the older man.
“Dad, sometimes I think I made a mistake starting my own design business. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be. Take this new client, for example. He’s a handyman who does odd jobs for people. He’s looking for a logo he can put on the side of his truck and business cards.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Asked his father.
“Price,” replied Tom. “He only has a budget of $150. That’s not a lot of money for a logo.”
“You know,” continued Tom, “I read articles, I watch videos, I listen to podcasts, and they all say how graphic and web designers should be charging more money for their services. But I don’t see how. I mean, I’m lucky this guy is willing to pay me $150. Do you know there are services online where you can get a logo designed for under $10? How are designers these days supposed to compete with that?”
The father looked at his son, thoughtfully. Then he nodded inwardly to himself and said, “Thomas, that’s a tough situation you’re in, but I’m sure you’ll work it out.”
Changing the subject, the father asked, “Hey, look in that bin over there. Do you see that wooden box? Take it out.”
Tom looked in the bin and pulled out a small ornately carved wooden box. With a nod from his father, he opened it. The box was lined with old black felt. Resting on the felt was a very old watch. The gold on it was tarnished. The glass was cracked and fogged a bit, and the well-worn leather band looked dry and cracked.
“What’s this?” asked Tom.
“That my son is a family heirloom. Your, let’s see now, a family gave your great-great-grandfather that watch when he helped them during the Civil War. He called it his good luck charm. He passed it on to his son when he enlisted in World War I. Who then passed it on to your grandfather, who wore it during World War II.
When grandpa passed away, the watch was passed to me. And one day, it will be yours. It doesn’t work anymore, but it’s
Six Steps To Running A Design Business From Home
Do you have what it takes to run a design business from home? If there’s one positive takeaway from the 2020 Pandemic, it’s that a lot of people got to experience what it’s like to work from home. Some realized right away that it’s not for them. They need people around them and an office environment to be productive. In contrast, others got a taste of what being a home-based business owner is like. And they like it. But to run a design business from home, full-time, permanently, you need to know what you’re getting into.
Some designers think that working from home is an easy life and that once you set up your design business, new clients and projects will just flow in. But it doesn’t work that way. This is not Field Of Dreams. Just building it does not guarantee they will come. Running a successful design business takes more than design skills.
For your design business to succeed, you need solid skills in business development, lead generation, marketing, communication, leadership to work with your team, and of course, sales. Being a designer and owning a design business are two completely different things.
So how do you make the most of it? How do you set yourself up for success? How do you ensure that you can sustain this lifestyle long term? The answer–you need to plan.
How does that saying go? “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” So prepare yourself. Because chances are, it’s going to be a rocky start.
Step 1: Create an environment you’re comfortable in. The first step in feeling like you’re running a home-based business is to treat your working space as your business office.
Having a place in your dwelling where you can transition from home life to business life is key. If you have a separate room that you can designate as your office, all the better. But if that’s not the case, pick a corner and set it up to be your working environment.
Get yourself a good office chair and set up your computer so that it’s ergonomically comfortable to work at. Then fill the space with everything you need to work productively. The more your environment feels like your “working space,” the more productive you’ll be.
Step 2: Keep your overhead to a minimum. Everyone dreams of making big bucks and living the dream. But that’s not the way you should be thinking. Remember, it’s not how much money you make that’s important, but how much of the money you keep and what you do with that money, especially at the start.
Even though a good office chair is important, don’t spend $1000 on one if you don’t have the money to invest yet. Keeping your overhead low is important. You want to keep your expenses to a minimum to benefit more from the money you make designing.
A wise man once said you could save 100% of your money by choosing not to buy something. So even though I’m a proponent for things such as lifetime deals. It’s only a deal if you can afford it and if you’re going to get enough use from it to cover the cost of the deal. Especially when you’re just starting, be careful what you spend.
Step 3: Work on your business, not in your business. One of the biggest mistakes freelance designers make is focusing all their time and energy on the projects they do for their clients. Yes, you want to give 100% to your clients. But that 100% doesn’t have to mean all of your time.
There’s a big difference between working in your business and working on your business. You must make time to work on aspects of your business as well. Like finances, to make sure you’re keeping your overhead low and doing the most with the money you’re earning. Then there are marketing plans to figure out how you’re going to reach out to new clients. There are also processes and systems you need to develop for your business to succeed, like how you will communicate with your clien
Customer ReviewsSee All
Amazing. I have been binge listening
A wonderful podcast full of practical ideas and information. I love listening while I work, but I find myself stopping to scribble down notes and reminders. So valuable. I have just binge watched about 10 episodes. Thank you so much Mark. - Jess from Sydney, Australia.
My new mentor
I've been wanting to jump into full-time freelancing but needed to find a mentor to guide and encourage me. After only listening to 3 episodes, I think Mark is it! I will join Patreon to ensure this podcast continues to thrive and help demystify the business of graphic design.
Hi Mark, Thanks you for the great podcast! I've been a web designer for over 15 years and very much like you started when we had to code.
I've always worked from home on my own, so its great to hear tips, advice and points of view from another web designer.
Thank you for sharing! I look forward to hearing each one of your podcasts.