224 episodes

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 feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

Resourceful Designer Mark Des Cotes

    • Design
    • 4.9, 97 Ratings

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 feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

    Securing WordPress Websites

    Securing WordPress Websites

    My strategy for securing WordPress websites. The internet is filled with unscrupulous people. Are you doing everything you can to ensure your clients’ portion of it is safe by securing their WordPress websites?
    I recently published a podcast episode and article on earning extra income by offering website maintenance plans. Part of that strategy is making sure the websites you manage are secure. I received many questions afterwards asking how I secure my clients’ WordPress websites.
    There are many ways and many tools available for securing a WordPress website. Here is the method that works for me.
    WordPress Security. Those two words, “WordPress Security” may sound intimidating to the uninitiated. Let me assure you they’re not. If I can learn how to do this, so can you. I’m not a programmer. I’m not even a developer. I’m just a WordPress user who figured out a security strategy that works for me.
    What is WordPress Security? WordPress security involves putting measures in place to decrease the chance of someone compromising a website.
    If you sell WordPress Security as part of your website maintenance plan, be sure to tell your clients there are no guarantees. If a skilled hacker is determined to gain access to a website, they will, and there’s not much you can do to prevent it.
    The purpose of Website security is to make it as difficult as possible for them, so they leave your site alone and go in search of an easier target.
    Most hacking attempts are easily preventable with a few simple measures. Here’s what I do.
    Securing Account Login. By default, every WordPress installation provides easy access for administrators to gain entry to a site through the URL domainname.com/wp-login.php. This default makes the WordPress login page the most attacked part of any website.
    So how do you secure the account login?
    Hide the backend
    I use iThemes Security Pro to hide the backend of every website and replace the login page with something else. If anyone tries entering the site via the /wp-login.php page, they’ll be taken to a 404 page not found page instead.
    This is more of security by obscurity, and is not a very strong strategy, but if it helps prevent automated bots and such, then why not do it?
    iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Advanced > Hide Backend
    Force the use of a strong password. The stronger the password, the harder it is to crack. Forcing a strong password makes it more difficult to gain access to a site.
    iThemes Security Pro allows me to force the use of strong passwords. New site users must enter a strong password to create their account, and existing site users are forced to update their weak password when they next log in.
    iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Password Requirements
    Prevent the use of compromised passwords. One of the main vulnerabilities of passwords is their reuse. Many people think up a good password, but then they use it everywhere. All it takes is for one database breach containing their user name and password, and a hacker can gain access to wherever the two are used in combination.
    iThemes Security Pro connects to the haveibeenpwned API and refuses any compromised passwords.
    As part of this prevention method, I recommend all my clients use a Password Manager such as 1Password to create strong, unique passwords for every site they visit.
    iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > Password Requirements
    Limit Login Attempts. Even a strong password may be guessed if given enough time. So as an extra measure, I turn on Brute Force Protection in iThemes Security Pro to prevent the number of failed login attempts.
    I have it set so that three failed login attempts will lock a user out of the site for 15 minutes. After their third lockout, it bans the IP address from even viewing the website.
    iThemes Security Pro > Security > Settings > L

    • 38 min
    10 Things I Wish I knew Before Starting My Design Business

    10 Things I Wish I knew Before Starting My Design Business

    If only I knew these things before starting my design business. You know that saying, hindsight is 20/20? It means that it’s always easier to see things when you’re looking back than when you’re looking forward.
    Before I decided to leave the print shop where I worked as a graphic designer to start my graphic and web design business in 2006, I had a preconceived notion of what to expect. Some of what I imagined turned out to be accurate and some of what I believed was way off.
    For example, I imagined how much I would love running my own business, spending my days designing beautiful things for great clients. It turns out I love it even more than I anticipated. However, I do spend a lot less time designing than I thought I would.
    I didn’t know many designers in 2006 who were running their own business. There were a few who used the print shop I worked at for their client’s print work. But they were more of what I call freelance designers. Meaning, they had other sources of income and did design as a side-gig. So there was nobody for me to emulate.
    I did have one friend, Jason, with a successful design business in Toronto. I talked to him quite a bit before deciding to go it on my own. But even with those conversations, there was still a lot I didn’t know or wasn’t expecting when I did eventually jump ship.
    So here are ten things I wish someone had told me before I started my design business.
    1) You don’t need a lot of clients to run a successful design business. Before starting my design business, I thought I would need 50 to 100 clients for my new business to be sustainable. Boy, was I wrong. I quickly learned that a solo designer could make a good living with only a handful of clients. In fact, during the first two years of my business, I only had 11 or 12 clients. Clients come and go, but on any given basis, a dozen clients is a good number to aim for. More than that and you risk overloading yourself with work.
    2) You’ll spend a lot of time on things other than design. Running your own business is a lot of work. And a lot of it is considered non-billable time. Things like invoicing and bookkeeping, keeping track of expenses and taxes, writing pitches, contracts and proposals. And so much more.
    I thought I would be spending my days in creative bliss, designing beautiful things for grateful clients. But there have been days when I’m too busy running my business to design anything.
    3) You need to become a time management expert. When you work for someone else, they tell you when to take breaks, go for lunch, and call it quits at the end of the day. When you’re running your own design business, there’s nobody prodding you along but yourself.
    Learn to take breaks and find time to eat—set boundaries between your work and non-work life. Otherwise, you’ll burn yourself out by working days, evenings and weekends, and you’ll start to resent what you do.
    Running your own business means a flexible schedule, but you need to learn how to manage your time effectively. When you make your own schedule, you have the freedom to go to the grocery store on a Wednesday morning or to cut your day off early so you can bring your kids to their karate class or their soccer game. That’s the benefit of working for yourself. But you also need to be able to juggle multiple design projects with overlapping deadlines and clients who are not always on time delivering the content they promised you.
    Conquering time management is the only way to stay sane in this business.
    4) The rejections and criticisms will never stop. Just because your the boss doesn’t mean clients won’t find fault with your work. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t matter how long you do this work or how good you become. There will always be room for improvement. Clients will reject your proofs or decide no

    • 30 min
    Focus Locally To Find Local Design Clients

    Focus Locally To Find Local Design Clients

    Find local design clients to grow your business. If you want to grow your design business, your best chance is to find local design clients to work with. After all, it’s much easier to find a client among the people who know you.
    Of course, as your design business grows, you’ll want to expand your reach and acquire clients farther and farther away until you have a global range, that’s the dream. But never forget where you started, because, in a pinch, your local client market is where you’ll find the most help and the most work.
    When I first started my design business, all of my clients were within 20 kilometres from me. As my business grew, so did the radius of my client base. 20 kb became 100 km, then 200 km and soon it was all of Canada. Then I started acquiring clients across the USA. Now, I work with people around the globe.
    But even with that wide-spanning net of clients, my closest connections and best relationships are with my local design clients in my area. And I’m not alone. Ask any successful designer, and they’ll tell you there’s something special about working with local clients.
    For one thing, it’s easier. When working with distant clients, there’s so much you need to learn about them and their environment.
    Where are they located? Where are their target market located? What’s their local environment like? What’s their local competition like? And so forth. But with local design clients, you have the inside scoop. There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with where the client is located. If not, it’s easy for you to become familiar. You know the local environment. You know or can quickly determine their competition.
    All of this “inside knowledge” of your local area gives you an advantage over designers from outside your local area.
    Plus, you can sit down and talk face-to-face with local design clients, which can only deepen that oh-so-important designer-client relationship.
    From a local client’s perspective, I’m sure they would prefer to work with a local designer rather than someone they can only interact with over the phone or the internet. Not to mention, most people feel good when they support local businesses.
    Focusing locally is more important now than ever. It’s now more important than ever to embrace a Shop Local mentality. COVID-19 has taken its toll on businesses everywhere. I’m sure your local economy took a hit. Nobody knows how long this will go on, but as companies start opening up again, it’s essential to support them however you can.
    Those business clients think the same way. If they need the help of a graphic or web designer, their first thought will be to focus locally for someone before looking elsewhere. That designer should be you.
    Make it easier for local design clients to find you. Here are some tips to help you get noticed in your local area.
    1) Your marketing should have a local presence. Make sure your website prominently displays your address. Clients searching locally for a designer will look for your address to confirm you’re local. Clients who are not searching locally won’t care what your address is and won’t bother looking at it.
    Carry business cards with you everywhere you go and leave one or two behind at opportune moments.
    2) Join local organizations. Organizations such as your local Chamber of Commerce and other business groups are great ways to spread the word about your design services.
    You can also get involved with local charities. Join their board of directors to committees. Your child school might have a parent committee you can join as well.
    Business networking groups are another excellent opportunity to get your name out there.
    Remember, It’s not who you know, but who knows you.
    3) Submit your business to local directories. A great way to be discovered is to be listed in as many local

    • 27 min
    The Power of Uninterrupted Time

    The Power of Uninterrupted Time

    Uninterrupted time can help you become more productive. If you want a more productive design business, arrange your schedule to have periods of uninterrupted time. Time that is free of notifications and distractions, allowing you to focus all your energy on the task at hand.
    If you’re anything like me, you have a million things on your mind, and a good number of them are on your to-do list. But no matter how efficient you think you are, there are only so many hours in a day, and never enough time to get things done.
    But what if I told you there is a way to get more hours out of your day?
    Ok, not really. Nobody has come up with a way to slow down or stop time yet. Or at least not that I know of. But there is a way for you to FEEL like you have more time and for you to be more productive. The trick is uninterrupted time. That means no distractions, a span where you focus 100% of your mental and creative energy on the task at hand.
    Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you accomplished so much? Chances are, you felt that way because you were less distracted that day. One hour of uninterrupted time is equal to three hours of a regular workday, so it’s no wonder you felt like you accomplished so much.
    How can one hour of uninterrupted time equal three hours of regular time? Let me explain.
    The University of Illinois and Microsoft did a joint study on the impact of disruptions on the workforce and recovery time after those disruptions. They tested a pool of workers, monitoring their work habits and how they were affected by typical, everyday distractions such as email notifications, text messages, social media DMs and phone calls.
    They deduced that the average worker takes nine munites to return to a task after an interruption. NINE MINUTES.
    They’re not saying that it takes nine minutes to reply to an email or a DM. But that most people, when distracted, will take a bit of extra time before getting back to the task they were distracted from. Replying to a Facebook Message may only take a few seconds. But while distracted from their primary task, they might as well check to see if anyone liked or commented on their most recent post. Or after replying to a text message, they may as well see if any new emails came arrived. Or they may decide to take the time to refill their coffee before getting back on track.
    So, on average, simple distractions like a social media DM can take you away from your primary task for up to nine minutes. And that’s just time away from the task. There was a study a while back that said it takes roughly 10-20 minutes of working on something to become entirely focused on the job.
    You may be thinking, “I don’t take nine minutes to get back to a task after a distraction.” The test subjects in the Microsoft and University of Illinois study thought the same thing. However, when interviewed after the study, almost every one of them was surprised by how long their distractions lasted.
    Most of them thought they were away from their primary task for only a minute or two, when in fact, they were away from it for three to five times longer than they thought.
    Even if you ignore your notifications, leaving them for later, they’re still a distraction. If you don’t click, the distraction still breaks your focus and interrupts your work. Which means it will take longer to complete that task.
    A study on people’s work habits conducted by RescueTime said the average person couldn’t go six minutes without checking some sort of communication platform.
    Once you add in other forms of distractions and 40% of people, never get more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time per day.
    How does this apply to your design business? We live in a world of communication overload. I’m sure that like me, you’re bombarded with messages and notifications every day. But what y

    • 32 min
    Don't Be A Penguin

    Don't Be A Penguin

    What are you doing to stand out? I was listening to a podcast recently, and the guest on the show said something about how businesses need to stand out from its competition. To which the host replied, “That’s for sure, you don’t want to be a penguin.”
    Sometimes, the most mundane things that I see, hear or read spark an idea for a podcast topic. Well, that phrase did it for me – Don’t be a penguin.
    What do I mean by – Don’t be a penguin?
    First, let me ask you, have you ever seen a large group of penguins? Maybe at a zoo, in the wild or even on TV? How do you differentiate one individual bird from the rest? I have no idea. And I suspect, unless you have an affinity for penguins, neither do you.
    Unless one of the penguins has some form of distinguishing feature, they all look pretty well the same. So if I asked you to pick out one penguin from the bunch, you might have a hard time deciding since they all look the same. You would probably look harder for that distinguishing feature to make your selection easier. It’s much simpler to choose something that stands out from the rest, than something that blends in.
    Think of your design business. I want you to think of your design business in terms of those penguins. Or more on point, I want you to think about a client looking for a designer.
    To a client, unfamiliar with the design space, we’re all penguins. As far as they’re concerned, we’re all the same. So how do you expect them to choose you out of all the other design businesses out there? You need to be different.
    Your design business needs that distinguishing feature that will help clients chose you.
    I recently had Col Gray on the podcast. Col’s business, Pixels Inc, is growing because he stands out. I’m not talking about Col’s Scottish accent. Sure, that’s a distinguishing feature in most parts of the world. But it doesn’t help him in his home country of Scotland. I’m pretty sure most of the other native designers he’s competing with locally have a similar accent.
    No, Col stands out because of the personal brand he’s developed, Including his look. If you don’t know Col, he has a very distinct look. He’s almost always wearing black. He has a very long beard that grows down below his chest level that he often ties it with hair elastics.
    On top of that, you never see Col without a ball cap. And not just any ball cap. It’s either black or red.
    So visually, Col stands out. If a company asked multiple designers to pitch them, they’d remember Col. In fact, I’m sure they’d remember him months or even years later. Col is not a penguin.
    Niching. Do you remember Craig Burton, who was on the show a while back? Craig’s design business is called School Branding Matters. One look at his website or even just hearing his business name and you know right away how Craig’s design business is different.
    Imagine a school principal or school director looking to rebrand their institution. If presented with three or four different designers to choose from, which one do you think will stand out as the best choice? The three designers who have practically the same message on their website just worded in different ways? Or the one designer whose website says he helps schools craft compelling visual brands?
    Do you get my point? The penguin that stands out is the one that gets picked.
    Even niches have penguins. Even within a niche, you don’t want to be a penguin.
    Take my Podcast Branding business. I know several other people in this niche that offer podcast cover artwork as a service. I also know I’m one of the more expensive options. Some of them charge a fraction of what I do. And yet, I get new orders every week. Why is that? Because I stand out.
    I ask every client who hires me why they chose Podcast Branding? Most of them say it’s because the other options

    • 23 min
    Your Design Clients Still Don't Know What You Do

    Your Design Clients Still Don't Know What You Do

    If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. Before I launched the Resourceful Designer podcast on September 30, 2015, I sat down and wrote a list of over 50 topics I could discuss on the show. I wanted to be sure before embarking on this journey that I wouldn’t run out of things to say.
    Almost five years later, and 219 episodes in, I still haven’t covered all 50 of those original topics. The ideas behind many of my episodes come from my own experiences in the week or weeks before recording.
    Maybe I’ll read something in a book, or an article or on social media that gets me thinking, and those thoughts emerge into an episode topic. Or perhaps something I hear on another podcast or TV sparks an idea. And of course, my interactions with my design clients often turn into teaching moments for the show.
    All of this to say, I’m never genuinely lacking for content.
    But back before I started Resourceful Designer, I wasn’t so sure I’d have enough discussion material. That’s why I wrote my original list. To prove to myself, I had enough things to discuss.
    I remember when I was getting ready to start the podcast, looking at that list and wondering which topics I should cover first. There were a lot of good ones, after all. In the end, I settled on what I thought was one of the most important topics a home-based designer should know and “Do Your Design Clients Know What You Do?” became the first topic I shared with my audience. It’s an episode devoted to telling your clients what it is you do, because, believe it or not, most of them don’t know.
    I know it sounds strange, but it’s true. Most of your clients don’t know what services you offer beyond what it is you currently do for them. And almost five years after recording and releasing that episode, the situation hasn’t changed.
    Earlier this week, a client I’ve been working with for over 20 years, dating back to my days working at the print shop, asked me to send him a copy of his logo in vector format. Curious because most clients don’t know what a vector is, I emailed him questioning why he needed a vector of his logo.
    To my surprise, he told me he hired a designer to create a flyer for his clinic. I immediately called him on the phone and asked if I had done something wrong that made him look elsewhere for a designer instead of asking me?
    It was then his turn to be surprised. He told me no, not at all, we have a great relationship, and he loves working with me, but I do websites, and he needed a flyer.
    A bit of back story. Before I continue my story, let me give you a bit of history between myself and this client.
    I designed this client’s logo almost 20 years ago. I also designed his business cards and the rest of his stationary. The signage outside and inside his clinic, that was me. I’ve also created rack cards, postcards, posters and probably other printed material I can’t recall. That’s not counting his original website back in 2005 and the two re-designed sites I made for him over the past 15 years.
    Back to my story. When I reminded my client of all the things I designed for him in the past, he tried to dispute it. He told me his logo, business card, etc. etc. were all created by the print shop where I used to work. Which is correct, I designed all of them when I was working at the print shop.
    However, even though he remembers me working at the print shop before starting my own business, he doesn’t remember me being the one who designed his stuff. He remembers dealing directly with the shop owner on every project. Not the designer who worked on his projects.
    This admission surprised me even more. He has one of the most recognized brands in our community, something I’m incredibly proud of, and yet he doesn’t remember that I designed it for him. Talk about bursting my ego.
    He then proceeded to tell me he’s had

    • 22 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
97 Ratings

97 Ratings

MissRgray ,

Like Having a Mentor!

Mark, thank you so much for this podcast. I just branched out on my own, full time, as a graphic designer. Your podcast has been invaluable in the information given, as well as being a motivating virtual “business meeting”! As a social person, getting motivated in the morning when I work for myself from home is difficult. Your podcast inspires me and gets me on the right track every day. I also love getting to learn from your experience so that I don’t have to learn as much from trial and error. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise!

Noking17 ,

Learning

I’ve started taking graphic design classes with my university after 20 years of service both to the county and to local governments as a deputy sheriff (getting ready to retire from both). I’ve decided to change my career. I absolutely love this podcast it inspires me to be better and to do better. Thank you for all the hard work you put into this podcast and keep it up. I hope to work as a graphic designer as a side gig, until I can work full time, or do it as a full time gig.

MrAdam0788 ,

My all time favorite podcast!

I came across this podcast at the perfect time. I've been doing web design and graphic design as a side gig for nearly 5 years after learning my skills through the school of hard knocks. I recently decided to take the dive and go all in with my business, ending a 14 year law enforcement career.

As soon as I listened to this podcast the first time, I became hooked, and in just 4 weeks I've listened to over 50 episodes! Mark delivers information in a laid back, and sometimes quirky way, that is relevant and useful to anyone who is starting, or already has their own graphic or web design business. The insight I've gained listening to Mark's podcast and reading his 4 week marketing boost, has given me so many ideas for my business and has undoubtedly saved me time, money, and aggravation.

Thank you Mark for an amazing podcast! I now have a sense of confidence about moving into my business full time next month, and am blessed to have a several month waitlist of clients! I also have Mark to thank for introducing me to the world of print brokering, which has added a wealth of opportunity and value for my business.

Keep up the good work!

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