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!
Let me know what topics you would like me to cover by emailing email@example.com
Bartering Design Services For Exposure
Do you ever barter for exposure? Working for exposure. That thought is the bane of most designers. A client asks you to use your valuable time and skills to benefit them. And in exchange, they’ll tell everyone they know about the great services you offer. It’s a win-win for both of you. They promise you fame and fortune if only you do this project for them... for free, or at a vast discount.
It’s a crock full of s**t if you ask me or any other designer who’s ever been presented with a similar offer. Those clients don’t care about you. And they will never be advocates for your services. If they do tell someone about you, it will be in the context of “offer them exposure, and they’ll give you a great deal.” Is that really the reputation you want as a designer? of course it isn’t.
You should never agree to a request to exchange your services for exposure. But that’s not the same thing as you bartering for exposure.
Let me ask you a question. You’ve probably spent some if not a great deal of time stuck at home during the 2020 pandemic. During that time, did you ever order out for a meal?
How many times did you order from a restaurant you had never heard of before? I don’t mean a place you recently found out about through family, friends or colleagues. How many times did you order from a restaurant you’ve never heard of?
Of course, that’s a trick question. If you’ve never heard of a place, how are you supposed to order from them? The same applies to your design business. Nobody is going to hire you if they don’t know you exist.
Sure they can google designers in your area and stumble across your website. That might be all they need to reach out. But there has to be some intent for that to happen. The person needs to be seeking a designer.
But how can you let that person know about you and your services if they are not currently seeking a designer? The only way is through exposure.
What is exposure? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of exposure is:
Exposure: the fact or condition of being exposed: such as the condition of being presented to view or made known.
In other words, getting exposure means making people aware of your design business. And once people are aware of you and what you can offer them. They are much more likely to think of you the next time they need a designer.
Think about it. If you wanted to order a pizza and, for some reason, your regular place is closed. Wouldn't you order from the next place you’re most aware of?
Would you order from a pizza joint you had never heard about and just found through a google search? Or would you choose the pizza place whose ads you’ve seen over and over, who’s commercials you’ve seen or heard, who’s delivery vehicles you’ve spotted around town?
Chances are you would choose the one you are most familiar with, even though that familiarity is only perceptual since you’ve never eaten one of their pizzas before. You would choose them because you’ve been exposed to them.
There’s a whole industry based upon this principle of exposure. It’s called advertising.
Needless to say, the more you get your name out there, so people become familiar with you and what you do, the more successful your design business will become.
But how do you get your name in front of people without spending a truckload of money on advertising? You barter for exposure.
I talked about bartering in episode 47 of the podcast. In that episode, I talked mostly about bartering for goods. For example, I acquired my custom-built desk through bartering. I designed a website for a woodworking client in exchange for him building my desk. As a result, I only had to pay for the wood. That’s bartering. Exchanging one good or service for another without the exchange of money.
Bartering for exposure works on the same principle
Remember What You've Done
Do you remember every design job you've ever done? Please think of this as a PSA, a public service announcement from me to you. Remember what you’ve done.
This week’s topic came about after three separate incidents this past week. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but after the third time, I just knew I had to talk about it.
Incident #1 The first incident happened this past weekend. My son asked me if I had a certain Tom Clancy book. Rainbow Six, to be exact. He’s looking for something to read and wanted to give it a try. So I told him I’d have a look.
I keep most of my books in rubber storage bins in my basement. I have a tough time parting with books I've enjoyed and have several large bins full of them.
So one night this week, I went digging through our storage area in hunt of this novel. We don’t just have books stored downstairs. There are all sorts of things down there in bins. As I was sifting through them, I came across a plastic bag. Inside was a baseball cap with an embroidered logo I had designed for a client. It was a logo for an over 50 beer league hockey team. The team was called the Old Timers.
The logo I designed was an old-style alarm clock. You know, the kind with the two bells on the top. The clock face was one of an old man. And the clock had legs and arms and was using a banged-up hockey stick as a walking cane.
Seeing that logo brought back so many memories. I designed it 15 or 20 years ago. And I had completely forgotten about it. So much so that if you had asked me before that if I had ever designed a logo for a hockey team, I would have only thought of one. The one I created for our local minor hockey league. I would never have remembered that old-time hockey logo.
Remember what you've done.
Incident #2 The second incident happened a couple of days ago. I was on my way back home from Walmart when I saw flashing lights ahead of me. It looked like a big accident, and I could see cars making U-turns and coming back my way.
Instead of driving up only to be forced to turn around, I decided to turn off and use side streets to go around the accident. This took me through a part of town I hadn’t been in for several years.
As I pulled up to a stop sign, I noticed a business on the opposite corner. A storage facility where you can rent units to store your things. It had a double horseshoe logo that caught my eye. There was something familiar about it. Then I realized it was familiar because I designed it almost 25 years ago when I worked at the print shop. Trust me. It's not a logo to be proud of. In fact, I might have based the two horseshoes off a stock image I had found.
Here again, within just a couple of days was another design I had completely forgotten about.
Remember what you've done.
Incident #3 The third incident happened yesterday. I have a filing cabinet in the corner of my office. I use it to file away receipts, insurance papers and whatever else you store in file cabinets.
Yesterday I was filing away some investment reports when one of the sheets slipped back and fell behind the bottom drawer.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to remove a drawer from a filing cabinet, but it’s not that easy to do. Especially when it’s full. But after tugging and grunting, I finally managed to get it free. As I retrieved the sheet of paper, I saw something else on the bottom of the cabinet—a book.
As I picked up the book, a flood of memories came back to me. The book is titled Of Curds And Whey. And it’s a history of cheese factories from our area. Not real a page-turner, I know. But as I flipped through the first couple of pages and there it was.
Cover and interior design by Mark Des Cotes.
I spent the next 20 minutes or so flipping through that book, remembering the time I designed it.
Once again, within the span of a few days, there was something
Getting Delinquent Clients To Pay
Have you ever had to chase delinquent clients for money? The life of a home-based designer, a freelancer, is a precarious one. You spent a lot of time learning your craft. Whether you went to school or learned on your own, you invested a lot in yourself to get you to where you are today.
Now clients hire you to design wonderful and functional things for them. You spend hours, if not days working on and perfecting each project until you and the client are satisfied.
After doing all of that, you expect to be compensated accordingly. So you send your invoice to the client feeling good about your accomplishment. And then you wait and wait, and wait some more, but no payment is forthcoming.
Has the client stiffed you? Have they simply forgotten to send your payment? Are they purposely delaying things? Did they even get your invoice, to begin with? These are all things that go through your mind when a client fails to pay your invoice within the allotted time.
Luckily this is the exception to the norm. 99.99% of clients will pay you for your work. But it’s almost inevitable that at some point in your design career, you’ll have to deal with a delinquent client.
In the 16 years I’ve been running my design business, there have only been three invoices I was unable to collect.
The first was a local embroidery shop. It was in my first or second year of business, and the owner of the shop hired me to vectorize images for his embroidery machine.
We had an agreement where he would send me images throughout the month, and I would keep a tally and invoice him at the end of each month. It was an easy and well-paying gig.
Then one day, the owner called and asked me to hold off depositing his $300 cheque. He told me there was a mixup at the bank and needed to wait until the following week to deposit the cheque. He was a good client, so I thought nothing of it.
The following week I called to see if It was OK for me to bring his cheque to the bank, and he informed me that he had declared bankruptcy. The cheque I had was no longer any good, and he would not be paying my last invoice.
What could I do? He had declared bankruptcy, and I was out $300.
The second time I was unable to collect on an invoice is a bit of a mystery. The client was a chef who owned a local restaurant. His 10-year-old son had died a few years prior, and he asked if I could photoshop his son’s head onto an image of a young boy in a chef outfit. He wanted to frame and display the photo in his restaurant.
We agreed to a price of $100, and once done, I emailed him the digital file and an invoice. A few days later, he called to say I could drop by the restaurant any time, and he would write me a cheque. However, when I stopped by a couple of days later, the restaurant was closed. I tried several more times over the next couple of weeks, but it was never open.
One day as I was driving by, I noticed someone inside, so I stopped and knocked on the door. The woman who answered told me the chef was her brother and he had disappeared a few weeks earlier and nobody has seen him since. They found his wallet and keys in his apartment, and the police were investigating.
I saw the framed photo of the chef’s son on the wall, but there was no way I was going to ask his sister to pay the past due invoice. I never found out what happened to him.
The third delinquent client was the owner of a paintball field my son frequented.
While talking to the owner, I mentioned in passing that I was a graphic and web designer. He asked me if I would offer suggestions for his old, outdated website. I took a look and offered to build him a new one for $600. This was back around 2007-08 when I was charging low prices for websites.
He agreed to the price, and I got to work. I transferred his domain to my registrar and moved his old website to my hosting server. A couple of weeks lat
Why You Should Pitch Retainer Agreements
Do you pitch retainer agreements to your clients? In the Resourceful Designer Community Slack group, we have a channel called #Bragging-Rights. It’s a place where community members share their most recent wins. Things like Katie telling us her client approved the logo she asked us to critique a few weeks ago. Or Brian sharing the completion of a huge website project with an extremely tight deadline. Or Mike sharing yet another signed design proposal.
Whether it’s landing a new client or having their design business showcased in a magazine, everyone in the Community is genuinely happy for the person sharing the good news. That’s what being part of a community is.
But nothing seems to garner more congratulations than when someone says they’ve landed a new retainer client. We don’t even have to know the details. The fact that it’s a retainer client is huge and worth celebrating on its own.
You see, having a client on retainer is considered the pinnacle of client acquisition.
What is a retainer agreement? So what does having a client on retainer mean?
It means guaranteed work. It means guaranteed income. It means a fixed schedule. And most importantly, it means better clients that you can create long-lasting relationships. A retainer means your client pays you in advance, regularly, in exchange for whatever work you outlined in the retainer agreement.
You see. One of the drawbacks of being a freelance designer is the unpredictability of income. You don’t work a 9-5 at a set hourly rate. Nor are you working in a salaried position with a guaranteed income. There’s no predictable paycheck arriving on a fixed schedule. That’s one of the sacrifices we home-based designers make for the freedom of working for ourselves.
But a retainer brings us closer to that predictable, guaranteed income. It creates a steady cash flow you can count on. This is great since you know how much money you are guaranteed every month, which helps with monthly expenses.
Not only that. But a retainer helps provide both stability and consistency in your work instead of learning how to deal with new clients every project. It reduces the need to pitch and win new design projects constantly.
On top of all that, Retainer agreements attract better clients and allow you to build a deeper relationship with them. Plus, clients treat designers they have on retainer with more respect and as an expert and professional.
These clients understand the long-term benefit of working with you. They are not looking for the least expensive designer. No, they’re looking for someone who can consistently contribute to their business. They want an expert and are willing to invest in one.
Another benefit of retainers is your schedule. In most cases, you know in advance how much work you will have from your retainer clients every month. This makes it much easier to plan your schedule. If you’re contracted to create a weekly blog post image and want to take a two-week vacation. You know in advance that you need to create three images the week before you leave.
Knowing your schedule in advance allows you to manipulate it when needed.
How does a retainer work? A retainer is a contract between you and a client that states the service or deliverable you will provide them regularly in exchange for how much.
Most retainer agreements work monthly. A client pays you a fixed fee every month in exchange for what you provide to them.
You can also have a yearly retainer payment where the client agrees to pay for the full year in advance. Or a lump-sum payment where the client pays you a certain amount, and you work it off or supply deliverables until the money runs out, at which time the agreement is ended or starts over.
Retainer benefits to the client Why are retainer agreements appealing to clients? Oftentimes, retainers have built-in discounts that make t
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome? I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, the stress of everything we’ve had to endure over the past year. But lately, I’ve seen more and more designers struggling with Imposter Syndrome. I’ve seen it in the Resourceful Designer Community. In Facebook groups. And just talking with people, I know in the design space.
I don’t know what’s causing so many people in our profession to doubt themselves and their abilities. But if you’re one of them, let me tell you a little secret that may make you feel better. Although everyone feels Imposter Syndrome at one time or another. It’s most often felt by high achievers who have trouble celebrating their success, no matter how large or small. So if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, there’s a good chance you’re a high achiever. That’s a good thing and something that should make you feel a bit better.
In case you are unfamiliar with the term Imposter Syndrome, it refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. In other words, you don’t think you’re as good as other people think you are.
Imposter Syndrome An internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be I suffer from Imposter Syndrome when it comes to illustrations. If you’re a long-time follower of Resourceful Designer, you’ve heard me on several occasions say that I am not an illustrator. And yet, the truth is, I can draw. I’ve been drawing my whole life. Maybe not regularly; I haven’t honed my skills, but it’s not like I’ve never doodled before with some degree of success. And I’ve had many people over the years tell me I’m good at it. But in my mind, I’m not.
I look at what others like Andrew or Kat, or Krista from the Resourceful Designer Community can do, and my skills pale compared to theirs. In my mind, the only reason people tell me I’m good at illustrating is that they don’t want to make me feel bad by telling me the truth. That’s Imposter Syndrome.
And you know what? In this case, it’s ok. It’s ok because I’ve never wanted to be an illustrator. So if I don’t think I’m good enough, so be it. I’m ok with that. But that’s not the issue I’ve seen lately among fellow designers.
Imposter Syndrome becomes serious when it involves what you are trying to do to earn a living. What I’m seeing is a lot are people with the skills, talent and knowledge to do something well but who feel they are not good enough to be compensated for what they’re offering. People who are competent web designers but don’t think they’re good enough to charge $5,000 or $10,000 or even $50,000 for a website. Or people who are talented logo designers who have never charged more than a couple of hundred dollars for a logo project. That’s Imposter Syndrome.
These people have this idea in their head that if they charge that much, others will think they’re a fraud, and they’ll be exposed. These people are afraid to approach clients they really want to work with because they don’t think they’re good enough to work with them.
Is that how you feel? Are you unable to internalize your success because you’re afraid of being outed as an unqualified fraud?
Let me tell you something. You are not alone. In fact, everyone battles imposter syndrome at one point or another—even those who seem to have it all.
Actors Tena Fey, Emma Watson and Tom Hanks have all said in interviews that no matter how well they do, they always feel inadequate and that at any moment, someone’s going to find out they are not good actors and don’t deserve the success they’ve achieved.
Best-selling author John Green, who’s won several literary awards and whose books have been turned into major motion pictures, says he feels like a fraud all the time. He’s said tha
Identifying The Competition
Their competition might not be who they think it is. Have you ever heard the term “The Curse Of Knowledge?” According to Wikipedia, The Curse Of Knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand.
Curse Of Knowledge: A cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand. You see this a lot with instructors. The instructor is so familiar with a subject that they forget the person or people they are instructing don’t have the same background and therefore might not understand their teaching them.
Like a web designer giving a presentation to a group of fellow web designers and falsely assuming they all know CSS. Where in fact, some of the web designers may use Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy Web Builder or Webflow. Platforms where knowledge of CSS is not necessary.
Why am I talking about the Curse of Knowledge? It’s because, as graphic and web designers, we sometimes take for granted that our clients know what we know. Especially when it comes to identifying the competition. But let me tell you. Many, if not the majority of clients, don’t have the background and knowledge that we do and therefore fail in their competition identification.
Case in point. I'm a member of a grant approval panel for my local Business Enterprise Centre. Every year, our BEC receives government funding and hands out grants to help new businesses start and get off the ground. The grant process requires each applicant to have a business plan, a three-year financial forecast, and a presentation to the grant approval panel saying why they believe they should receive a grant.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen dozens of these presentations. For my part, I read every applicant's business plan and follow up their presentation with questions to ascertain their merit regarding the grant. Part of their business plan requires a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Under the Threats part of the SWOT analysis, each applicant identifies their competition.
After sitting through dozens of these grant presentations, I've learned that most startups don’t know who their competition is. Some do a good job, but on average, the bulk of them don't realize who they are competing with. Most of them don’t realize that every business has two types of competition.
Direct Competition. Meaning those who sell or provide the same or very similar product or service that they do. And Indirect Competition. Those who might not sell or provide a similar product or service but are still competing for the same target market. It’s this second one where almost all of them fall short.
That’s why I brought up the curse of knowledge earlier. I’ve been in the design field long enough, and I’ve dealt with enough clients over the years that it’s become second nature for me to not just think of direct competitors but the indirect ones as well.
Let me give you an example.
One of the presentations I sat through was for a couple who were in the process of opening up an escape room business.
If you don’t know what an escape room is, it’s an entertainment venue where you and a group of friends are locked in a room or group of rooms and have a deadline to figure out puzzles to get out. So you’re up against the clock as you all work together to decipher the clues you find in your surroundings. If you’ve never tried an escape room before, you should really give it a shot. They’re a lot of fun.
Anyway. This couple was in the process of starting an escape room business. They leased a building, and construction had begun. They applied for the grant to help offset the cost of building supplies.
A podcast full of really useful tips for designers of any level. Mark has a really positive attitude which is great as a boost when motivation might be low.