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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business

English, Finance, 1 season, 355 episodes, 9 hours, 17 minutes
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 protected]
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Be Careful What You Ask: A Lesson in Getting Valuable Feedback - RD344

Welcome to another episode of Resourceful Designer. I'm your host, Mark, and today, I've got an interesting topic inspired by a friend’s podcast. You know, it's funny how ideas for podcast episodes can come from the most unexpected places. Sometimes, I meticulously plan out a topic, but other times, like today, a random sentence can spark an idea. Today, we’re discussing the importance of asking specific questions, especially in our design businesses. This concept hit home for me through my TV show podcasts like Under the Dome, Orphan Black, and The Expanse. When I started asking targeted questions to my listeners, feedback soared from a handful to dozens per episode. It was a game-changer! So, how does this relate to design? Well, asking clients broad questions like, "What do you think?" rarely yields useful feedback. Instead, be more precise—ask about colour choices, font styles, or layout. This approach makes it easier for clients to provide constructive feedback, helping you create designs that truly meet their goals. Stay tuned as I share insights and tips from my podcasting journey that you can apply to enhance client interactions and improve your design process. Let's get started!
6/17/202415 minutes, 44 seconds
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Generational Clients, And how to Lose Them - RD343

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I share a cautionary tale about losing generational clients and the critical lesson I've learned from my mistakes. Whether you're dealing with family-run businesses or companies with long-standing leadership, you'll discover the importance of building relationships with the next generation to ensure client loyalty. Listen as I recount personal stories and offer valuable insights to help you avoid falling into the same trap. Don't miss this crucial episode that could save your client base in the years to come!
6/3/202418 minutes, 51 seconds
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Redefining Your Introductory Hook To Capture Clients - RD342

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I delve into the crucial aspect of redefining your introductory hook to capture clients effectively. I discuss the significance of crafting a compelling introduction on your website and other marketing materials that resonates with your target audience's "What's in it for me?" mindset.  By analyzing examples of website hooks, I emphasize the importance of conveying the value you offer to potential clients right from the start. Join me as I explore the power of a well-crafted hook in attracting and retaining clients, helping you grow and succeed in your design business. Find the episode and shownotes on the website at
5/27/202424 minutes, 2 seconds
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Engage More, Talk Less - The Key to A Thriving Design Business - RD341

Welcome back to another insightful episode of Resourceful Designer, where today's message is all about the art of engagement over trivial chatter. I'm your host, Mark Des Cotes, and in episode 341 we dive deep into the importance of engaging more and talking less. We explore how the wisdom of an elementary school teacher, who emphasizes understanding her students to truly elevate their learning, can be a powerful lesson for us as graphic designers in our own client interactions. I'll share with you how critical it is to connect with clients on a level that goes beyond flaunting our design skills. We discuss why it's paramount to focus on bringing a client's vision to life, rather than overwhelming them with our technical prowess. In this episode, we'll delve into the pitfalls of design platforms like Fiverr, where lack of communication often leads to less-than-ideal results. We also talk about the golden moments of design that come from a genuine exchange of ideas, the transition from transactional to transformational conversations, and the art of using strategic silence to uncover a client's real needs, adopting techniques used by great salespeople and interviewers like David Letterman. So before you speed ahead to your next client meeting ready to showcase your portfolio, remember to pause and truly listen. The insights you gain may very well unlock the potential for your greatest design work yet. Stay tuned as we navigate together the journey of growing and running a successful design business with community, creativity, and a keen ear for our clients' stories. Join the Resourceful Designer Community as we support each other in our goal to prosper, all this and more for just $15 a month. Let's dive into the episode!
4/22/202413 minutes, 13 seconds
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Are Your Design Clients Time Or Money Minded - RD340

Welcome to episode 340 of Resourceful Designer. Today we're diving into an intriguing question: Are your design clients time or money minded? We'll unpack the significance of understanding whether your clients value their time over their money or vice versa. I'll share some personal anecdotes, like the time I decided to replace my wife's car backup camera myself to save money, and on another occasion, when purchasing a course on Facebook ads, valued my time more. We'll explore how this distinction applies to your design business, how it affects the way you position your services, and ultimately, whom you attract as clients. Do your clients often haggle over prices or seek discounts? Or do they prefer paying more to ensure quality and save time? By delving into these differences, I'll help you understand the importance of marketing yourself effectively to attract the right kind of clients for your business. Are you ready to shift your perspective and potentially the trajectory of your design business? Stay tuned as we discuss how being a problem solver for your clients goes beyond just design work—it's about addressing their deeper concerns with money and time. Let's get started.
4/8/202417 minutes, 38 seconds
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Accepting Credit Card Payments - RD339

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I delve into the topic of accepting credit card payments from clients. I received an email from Phil, thanking me for the podcast's impact on his transition from working for an employer to running his own business. Phil's client asked to pay by credit card, and he was unsure how to proceed. I share the simplicity and speed of credit card payments and elaborate on the various options available, from PayPal to Stripe and other accounting software. I discuss the fees involved and the ways to incorporate them into pricing strategies, emphasizing the convenience and tax deductibility. Join me as I break down the process of accepting credit card payments and provide insights for design business owners looking to streamline their invoicing and payment processes.
3/18/202422 minutes, 30 seconds
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Handing Over Your Working Files: Yes or No - RD338

Have you ever been in a sticky situation where a client has asked for your working files? In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I delve deep into the topic of whether or not to hand over working files. Join me as I share personal experiences and insights to help you navigate this common dilemma in the design industry. From legal considerations to negotiating with clients, I offer practical advice to help you make informed decisions and protect your creative assets. Tune in to discover the nuances of sharing final files and gain valuable tips on handling such requests in your design business.
3/4/202427 minutes, 51 seconds
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Backing Up: It's Better To Be Safe Than Sorry - RD337

On this episode of Resourceful Designer, I delve into the critical topic of backups. Through two poignant real-life stories, I stress the importance of not solely relying on web hosts for backups. I share a scenario where a client's website was lost due to an overlooked credit card update and the absence of off-site backups. I emphasize the significance of using plugins like Solid Backups for WordPress or services like Backblaze for complete cloud-based backups. I underscore the need to protect valuable data, whether for personal memories or business assets. Join me to understand the pivotal role of backups in safeguarding your design business and creative work.
2/26/202424 minutes, 40 seconds
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Persistence Will Pay Off - RD336

Hey there, it's Mark, and in this episode, "Persistence Will Pay Off," I want to talk to you about the challenges of running a design business. Whether you're just starting out or have been in the industry for years, finding clients can be tough. I've been there myself, going through long stretches without new projects coming in and questioning if my business was sustainable. But I made it through, and so can you. I'm here to share some words of encouragement and actionable tips to help you stay motivated and push through the tough times. From staying persistent and believing in your talent to refining your portfolio, exploring new niches, expanding your skills, and never stopping networking, I've got you covered. So, let's dive in and navigate the ins and outs of running a design business with a positive mindset and a focus on success. Let's get started!
2/19/202410 minutes, 7 seconds
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Presenting Your Designs To Clients: You're Doing It Wrong - RD335

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I discuss a common mistake designers make when presenting their work to clients. Drawing from my own experience, I delve into the significance of presentation and its impact on a design business. Sharing insights from my college days to my current approach, I highlight the practice of presenting designs to clients with crucial information included. I explain how this method not only enhances professionalism but also leverages client sharing to attract potential leads. Join me as I reveal how this simple adjustment in presentation can make a substantial difference in your design business' growth. 
2/12/202419 minutes, 40 seconds
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Sure, You Can Do It, But Should You? - RD334

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I share my journey as an entrepreneur and the pivotal role delegation has played in shaping the success of my business. From initially shouldering every responsibility solo to embracing the power of collaboration, I delve into the transformative impact of outsourcing tasks beyond my expertise. By strategically investing in external help, whether through hiring specialists or utilizing online platforms, I've been able to optimize productivity and focus on growth-oriented activities. Through examples from my own experience, I highlight the importance of recognizing the value of time and leveraging it effectively to propel business growth. Whether it's mastering the art of delegation or making strategic investments, this episode offers insights into empowering your business through collaboration and outsourcing.
2/5/202426 minutes, 19 seconds
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2024 Design Trends by - RD333

Exploring Design Trends: A Dive into FreePik's 2024 Trend Report Click here to see the trend report: Join me as I delve into's 2024 trend report, highlighting key design trends predicted for the year., a platform known for offering high-quality design resources for free, reached out to discuss its latest trend report, sparking my interest in exploring the upcoming trends. With full transparency, it's noted that while approached me for the discussion, there was no compensation involved. I begin the episode with a reflection on the reliability of future trend reports, drawing a comparison to Logo Lounge's trend reports backed by substantial data. However, skepticism arises concerning's ability to predict upcoming trends without disclosing their methodology or data sources. I then proceed to dissect the 15 trends outlined in's report, offering insights and personal reflections on each. Trends range from floral and botanical motifs to futuristic holographic shapes, 3D fonts, vibrant colour schemes, and vintage-inspired engraving styles. Some trends, like grainy gradients and glass morphism, are recognized as existing techniques while others, such as "Neo Brutalism," are met with skepticism. I encourage you to explore the report yourself and share their thoughts on the predicted trends. 
1/29/202432 minutes, 39 seconds
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You Need A Thick Skin To Be A Designer - RD332

Welcome to this episode of Resourceful Designer, where I explore the topic of thick skin in the world of design. Reflecting on my 30+ years as a designer, I share the often unspoken truth about needing a resilient attitude to thrive in this industry. I draw from personal experiences, offering valuable insights on handling criticism, difficult clients, and managing expectations, particularly when running your own design business. Join me for a candid conversation about the realities of being a designer and the resilience required to navigate the challenges of this creative profession. 
1/22/202414 minutes, 25 seconds
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6 Pricing Hacks To Land Hesitant Clients - RD331

Welcome to Resourceful Designer, the podcast where I explore the ins and outs of running a successful design business. In today's episode, titled "6 Pricing Hacks To Land Hesitant Clients," I share valuable strategies to influence clients into accepting pricing offers. I delve into 6 pricing hacks. From eliminating commas in large pricing to offering three-tier pricing options, I provide actionable tips to make your pricing more appealing and increase the likelihood of client agreement. Tune in as I discusses real-life examples and practical strategies to help you land those hesitant clients and grow your design business.
1/15/202431 minutes, 34 seconds
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Take Back Your Time With A Time Audit - RD330

Welcome to episode 330 of Resourceful Designer, where I explores the concept of reclaiming lost time through a "time audit." J Listen as I delve into the benefits of identifying and eliminating time-wasting activities to make room for more meaningful endeavors. In this episode, you'll discover practical strategies for optimizing your schedule, from setting time limits on client meetings to evaluating networking commitments. Learn how to conduct your own time audit, gain insight into the Eisenhower Matrix method of analyzing your time, and find inspiration to prioritize self-improvement in the new year. Stay tuned to discover how to regain control of your time and make 2024 your most productive year yet.
1/8/202432 minutes, 5 seconds
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A Look Back - A Look Ahead - 2023 Edition - RD329

A look back at 2023 and a look ahead to 2024. Thank you for your continued interest in what I do at Resourceful Designer. I appreciate you more than you know. Many great resources are available for learning and growing as a designer, and I’m humbled that you chose to spend a bit of your valuable time with me. I am continuing my annual tradition. This last podcast episode of the year is my Look Back, Look Ahead edition. It’s where I reflect and share my year as a design business owner. Then, I’ll look ahead at what I want to accomplish in 2024.
12/18/202329 minutes, 4 seconds
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Using Pitch Work To Grow Your Design Business - RD328

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I explore the concept of pitch work as a powerful tool for growing your design business. I explain the difference between pitch work and spec work, detailing how pitch work involves presenting work to a client they didn't ask for, potentially for free or at a discount.  Through personal experiences and anecdotes, I outline how pitch work has helped me grow my design businesses, including entering a new niche and building my portfolio.  I present various scenarios where pitch work can be beneficial, from offering discounted services to approaching potential clients with innovative design ideas. My practical insights and real-world examples make this episode a must-listen for designers looking to leverage pitch work for business growth.
12/4/202323 minutes, 46 seconds
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10 Steps Toward Design Business Success - RD327

Welcome back to Resourceful Designer! In today's episode, titled "10 Steps Toward Design Business Success," I have an incredible lineup of tips and strategies to share with you. Whether you're just starting in the design industry or looking to take your established business to new heights, there are ten critical factors you need to consider. I will dive into each step. These steps are crucial in ensuring the growth and success of your design business. So, grab your notebook and get ready to take your business to the next level! Let's dive right in.  
11/20/202323 minutes, 56 seconds
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Tell Your Design Clients What You Do - RD326

Welcome to episode 326 of Resourceful Designer. In this episode, I highlight the importance of informing your clients about your full range of services. Drawing from my own experiences, I emphasize how clients may not be fully aware of everything you are capable of. By sharing my own revelations and successful strategies for informing clients, I shed light on opportunities for designers to expand their businesses and nurture existing client relationships. Join me as I revisit the valuable insights from episode 2 and explore the impact of effectively communicating your capabilities to your clients.
11/13/202321 minutes, 8 seconds
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Logo Package Swatch with Michael Bruny-Groth - RD325

Welcome back to another episode of Resourceful Designer! In today's episode, I welcomes a special guest, Michael Bruny-Groth, the creator of Logo Package Express, Logo Package Portal, and the newest addition to the Logo Package family, Logo Package Swatch. We dive into the details of Logo Package Swatch, a powerful tool that helps designers organize and display color palettes for their clients. We discuss its features, customization options, and how it can prevent mistakes in copying and typing color codes. We also explore the benefits of Logo Package Swatch, including its integration with Adobe Illustrator and the ability to find the closest Pantone color matches. Additionally, we discuss Logo Package Express and Logo Package Portal, two other products that streamline the logo export process and provide easy access for clients.  So, whether you're a designer looking for better color organization or a client needing an efficient logo package management system, this episode has something for you. Don't forget to use the exclusive discount code "RESOURCEFULDESIGNER" for a 20% discount on any Logo Package product (excluding Portal subscription)! Sit back, relax, and enjoy this episode of Resourceful Designer. Let's dive in!  
11/6/202345 minutes, 24 seconds
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You Are An Expert - RD324

Welcome to episode 324 of Resourceful Designer, titled "You Are An Expert." In today's episode, I share a personal story that taught him a valuable lesson about business. It may not be a story about design or web development, but it's one that you should hear. Join me as I recounts being stopped at a police roadblock and the unexpected expert status I discovered. Stay tuned to learn how knowing just a little more than someone else can make you an expert in their eyes. Let's dive in!  
10/30/202317 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Most Important Question To Ask Design Clients - RD323

Welcome back to Resourceful Designer! In today's episode titled "The Most Important Question You Can Ask Your Design Client," I reveal a simple question that can transform your design projects. The question that toddlers ask incessantly can unlock new possibilities and strengthen client relationships. Join me as I explain how asking "why" can clarify client needs, guide project direction, and save you time and money. Stay tuned to discover the power of this fundamental question in the design process. Let's dive in!
10/23/202324 minutes, 36 seconds
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Designing Success: Applying 'Selling the Invisible' to Your Graphic Design Business - RD322

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I delve into the world of modern marketing and share my insights from the influential book, Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith. Discover how the principles outlined in this book, originally written in 1997 but still applicable today, can revolutionize the way you run your graphic design business. From the importance of showcasing your work and emphasizing value over features, to building trust and creating memorable experiences for your clients, I break down the key points in Beckwith's book and applies them specifically to the design industry. Tune in to this episode to gain valuable insights to help you succeed in your graphic design business.  
10/16/202316 minutes, 15 seconds
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Beyond The clock: The Pitfalls of Hourly Rates for Designers - RD321

On today's episode of Resourceful Designer, I discuss the pitfalls of hourly rates for designers. Inspired by a conversation in a design-related Facebook group, I explore the common practice of billing by the hour and the negative impact it can have on a designer's income. Using personal anecdotes and insights, I explains how charging by the project or value-based pricing can lead to more successful and lucrative design work. So, if you're a designer who is tired of being stuck in the hourly rate trap, or if you're curious about alternative pricing strategies, then this episode is a must-listen. Get ready to go beyond the clock and discover a new way to earn what you're truly worth. Welcome to Resourceful Designer!
10/9/202322 minutes, 52 seconds
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Navigating Pro Bono Design Work for Non-Profits and Charities - RD320

Hey, design enthusiasts! In this episode, we're diving into the world of pro bono design work for nonprofits and charities. We'll demystify the differences between nonprofits and charities, debunk the budget myth, and explore the pros and cons of offering your design skills for a good cause. I'll also share my personal criteria for selecting projects, including the "Three's the Magic Number" rule. Plus, I'll spill the beans on a clever tax receipt strategy that benefits you and the organization. Tune in for tips on making your pro bono endeavors a win-win for everyone involved!
10/2/202328 minutes, 27 seconds
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The Curse Of Knowledge - RD319

In this episode, I'm diving deep into a topic that hits close to home for many of us in the design world: the Curse of Knowledge. I'm sharing personal experiences, like insider knowledge and navigating design jargon, to shed light on how it can lead to misunderstandings with clients. But don't worry, I've got your back! I'll be dishing out practical tips to help bridge that gap, ensuring every conversation is crystal clear. So, join me on this journey as we master the art of transparent communication and strengthen those all-important client relationships. You won't want to miss it! Full show notes and a transcription of this episode can be found at  
9/25/202317 minutes, 18 seconds
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You Can't Read The Label From Inside The Jar - RD318

Welcome to Resourceful Designer, the podcast that helps designers thrive in their creative careers. In today's episode, titled "You Can't Read The Label From Inside The Jar," host Mark delves into the importance of seeking feedback and involving others in your design process. Mark reflects on the metaphor of not being able to see the bigger picture when you're too close to something and how this applies to our work as designers. He emphasizes the need for honest feedback from individuals with our best interests at heart to grow and improve as designers. Mark also shares his philosophy of learning something new with each design project and discusses the value of having a community or team to bounce ideas off of and receive critiques. So, if you're ready to step outside your perspective and take your design work to the next level, stick around for this insightful episode of Resourceful Designer.  
9/18/202320 minutes, 2 seconds
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Make A Living Designing Logos with Ian Paget - RD317

In this episode of Resourceful Designer, I'm joined by special guest Ian Paget of LogoGeek, author of the new book Make A Living Designing Logos. Ian shares the story behind writing his book and how it can benefit anyone in the design space, even if you don't design logos. I was granted a sneak peek of the book, and I can assure you that it's as good, if not better than we make it out to be during the interview. Ian also shares a heartwarming story of wanting to teach his four-year-old daughter what he does and how this led to a second book for toddlers, My First Little Logo Book. Enjoy the interview. And be sure to back Ian's Kickstarter campaign and get a special edition of his book, only available for backers. Links that are mentioned in the episode. Ian's Blog Post: How I Wrote My First Logo Design Book. Kickstarter Campaign for Make A Living Designing Logos Children's Book: My First Little Logo Book Logo Geek Podcast Episode 100 Ian's Twitter Account Transcript of the episode audio. Transcription will be available soon on the website at
7/10/202349 minutes, 53 seconds
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Hiatus Announcement

Resourceful Designer is going on a short hiatus. Please stay subscribed for when I return with more great tips, advice and resources for starting and growing your design business. Stay Creative
5/8/20235 minutes, 5 seconds
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A Graphic Design Cleanup - RD316

It’s the beginning of spring here in Canada. And with spring comes a desire to put all the messes of winter behind us and clean things up as we prepare for summer. That’s where the term Spring Cleaning comes from. However, today, I’m not talking about packing away your sweaters and pulling out your shorts. Nor am I referring to cleaning the yard or washing the grime off the windows. Although, it is time to do all of those things. No. I’m talking about doing some spring cleaning of your design business. More specifically: Cleaning Your Computer Cleaning Your Office Cleaning Your Business Cleaning Your Branding Cleaning Up Your Computer. Spring is an excellent time to review your computer and see what you can clean up. Clean up your Backups. The first thing I suggest is examining your backup strategy. Are you doing everything possible to ensure your important files are adequately backed up? Do you have a good in-house as well as an online backup strategy? The price of hard drives is one thing that doesn’t seem to be affected by inflation. You can get large-capacity hard drives for great prices these days. Paired with Time Machine on Mac or an equivalent solution for Windows or Linux can ensure you always have your backups on hand. I recommend Backblaze, a much more reliable backup system for online backups than Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive. And priced as low as $65US per year makes peace of mind very affordable. Speaking of backups. When was the last time you double-checked to ensure your backup files were backing up? You’d hate to have something happen only to discover your most recent backup is months old. Whatever backup strategy you’re using, take a few minutes to ensure the backups are functioning and are current. Clean up client files. Clients come and go. So do design projects. After a while, you tend to accumulate a lot of outdated and even redundant files on your computer. Take some time to review your client files and see if you can get rid of anything. Delete or move files off your computer for any client who isn’t in business anymore. If you want to keep something for nostalgia, keep the finished files which are often smaller. There’s no reason to keep large working files for something you’ll never use again. The same is true for old projects from active clients. If you don’t think you’ll ever need them again, get them off your computer. And all those stock images files you accumulate. Did you know that once you acquire them from a stock image site, you can re-download them anytime without paying again? So there’s no reason to keep them on your computer. Clean up your Client List. One thing that can get out of hand in our business is our client list, especially if you do a lot of one-off projects. Depending on the system you use to keep track of your clients, you may want to divide them into Active and Inactive categories. It makes managing it much easier if you don’t have to scroll through dozens or hundreds of inactive clients to find the one you’re looking for. Clean up your email mailboxes. You may not realize how much hard drive space email takes up, especially in our field, where attachments weigh in at multiple megabytes. Chances are you save any attachments you receive to their respective client folder. It’s the smart thing to do. But that means you have two copies of that attachment on your computer. One is stored in the client folder, and one is still attached to the email message. The same goes for attachments you send to clients. On a Mac, a duplicate copy is stored in the Library folder for your mail client. You can easily clean this up by highlighting a group of emails and telling your email client to delete the attachments. Clean up your Mail Lists. Another thing you may want to clean up is the email lists you’re subscribed to. It’s gotten to the point where you can’t enter your email anywhere online without being subscribed to some email list. Take a few minutes to see what’s in your inbox that you don’t need, and unsubscribe from them. If you want to make it easy, look at Sign up to quickly unsubscribe from email lists you’re no longer interested in. And get an easily consumed digest of the ones you want to keep. Clean up your Fonts. The next thing you may want to do is clean up your fonts. As of last year, Adobe software no longer supports PostScript version fonts. If you’ve been in this business for a while, you’ve probably accumulated many PostScript fonts. Since they’re no longer usable, either get rid of them or convert your old PostScript version fonts to OpenType fonts using TransType 4 from FontLab. Clean up the rest. You can clean so many other things this spring on your computer. Take a few minutes to review your applications folder and delete any you don’t use. Remove seldom-used icons from your Dock. Cull down your bookmarks. And update any passwords that need updating. And although it’s not your computer. When did you last take inventory of the apps on your phone? If you’re anything like me, there are probably a few you can eliminate. Cleaning up your Office. This one is probably the easiest since it’s mostly visible. Although, in my case, not necessarily the quickest. Look around your office space and see what you can clean. What do you have on your desk, shelves, and other exposed surfaces? Do you need all of it? There’s a fine line between well-decorated and cluttered. I know. I cross it all the time. That’s why one of my biggest spring cleaning projects this year is cleaning my office. But it’s not just about what you can see. How well organized are your closets, cabinets and drawers? Do you toss things into them to get them out of sight? If so, now may be the time to go through and organize what you need to keep and get rid of what you don’t. And, of course, once the clutter is taken care of. A good dusting and maybe washing of windows can help keep your office space as a place you enjoy being in. Man o man, just looking around my office. I have a lot of work to do this spring. Cleaning up your Business. There’s no time like spring to look at your business and see where you can tidy up. Clean up your Resume. If working for yourself isn’t your goal, then refreshing your resume is something you may want to look at. Clean up your Portfolio. What about your Portfolio? The one on your website, or perhaps Behance or some other online platform? Are the projects you’re showcasing up to your current design skills? If not, take them out and replace them with newer work. Clean up your expenses. Is there anything you’re paying for that you don’t use? Now is a great time to look at your expenses and see if you can cut back on unneeded expenditures. Do you need to pay for all of Adobe Creative Suite if Photoshop is the only application you use? What about your web hosting? Are there better options out there you can move to? BTW, feel free to use my SiteGround affiliate link if you decide to move there. It’s where I host mine and all my clients’ websites. Look at what you’re paying monthly or yearly and see where you can save money. Clean up your Branding. It’s pretty standard for designers to neglect their branding. After all, you spend all day working on other people’s projects. You don’t always have the energy or desire to work on yours. But if you neglect your branding, you may lose out on potential clients. Take time to review things like your website. Besides the ordinary things like updating themes and plugins, you may want to check for broken links and ensure you’ve done everything you can for SEO. It’s also an excellent time to review your content. Does the wording need refreshing? Read Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller. It’s a great book to help you compose your brand story. Is your about page giving the proper impression? For more on creating a great about page, listen to episode 52 of the podcast. What about your social media profiles or profiles on Upwork, Fiverr or any other platform? Does your profile photo need updating? What about your description? Sometimes a minor tweak can make all the difference. You’ll feel better after you clean. So there you have it—Spring Cleaning for Your Computer, Office, Business, and Branding. Of course, there are many more things you can clean. And everyone’s environment is different. But you get the idea. Spring is in the air, and the desire for freshness comes with it. And that can start with a little bit of cleaning on your part. Ensuring your workspace is a clean and enjoyable place to work and go a long way in helping you succeed. So get cleaning.
4/10/202320 minutes, 27 seconds
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Turning Your Design Style Into A Niche - RD315

Have you ever thought of turning your design style into a niche? You’re lying to yourself if you say you don’t have one. Every designer has a design style. Even if your design style resembles many other designers, I bet something unique makes you different. Have you ever thought of how you came by your design style? Did you go to school for design and develop your style from what your teachers taught you? Did you learn your style by following design influencers? There are tons of great designers out there you could follow and learn from. Have you studied the history of design? You know, the Industrial Revolution, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Art Deco, Postmodernism, etc., have these periods in design history influenced your style? Did you come by your style from another artistic endeavour? I know of graphic and web designers who have fine art degrees. I bet that influences how they think about design. Do you sculpt, make pottery, paint, sew, craft or express yourself in any other creative outlet that may appear in your design style? Or maybe something else from your life is reflected in the projects you produce. There are so many things that can influence your graphic design style. And since no two people are the same, it is understandable that no two designers design the same way. And if you can figure out what makes your style unique, you can carve out a very lucrative business based on it. What is a design style niche? I got the idea for this podcast episode after Lauren joined the Resourceful Designer Community. Whenever someone joins my Community, I look at their website and portfolio. It helps me learn where they are in their design journey and how the Community can help them. Lauren told us when she joined the Community that she has a background as a creative director. So it’s no surprise that her portfolio is top-notch. But what I loved most about perusing through her work is how different it is from mine. Reading Lauren’s About Me page, I learned that she grew up on the streets of New York City and loves punk, emo and metal music. And I could see that influence in her design style. There’s something edgy and wild about her compositions. And I found myself not just admiring them but studying them, trying to figure out how she did certain things. And trying to imagine her thought process as she worked on each design. You see, Her design style is foreign to me. It’s not a direction I would ever take on a project. It’s not that it’s wrong, far from it. There’s nothing wrong with her creations. It’s just not in my design repertoire to do something similar. Sure, I could probably copy it if I needed to. But even though I consider myself an excellent designer. If you gave me a blank canvas, I couldn’t develop something in that style without reference material. At least nowhere near as well as Lauren can. Lauren’s design style is unique to her. And that individual style is something she could niche into. Creating a design style niche. I’ve talked about niches on the podcast, but mainly from the point of the clients you target or the work you produce, such as targeting the school branding niche with Craig Burton, where he shared how he’s built a very lucrative business designing logos and other branding material for schools in New Zealand and beyond. Or how some people, such as Ian Paget of Logo Geek, specialize in designing logos. That’s his niche, and he’s widely known for it in the UK. I’ve shared how I knew a designer who designed websites exclusively for dentists and was killing it. I know another designer who only designs rock and metal band T-Shirts, and he’s in high demand. These are all niches. And as the saying goes, the riches are in the niches. When you niche down, people automatically start viewing you as an expert in your niche and are willing to pay more for that expertise. That’s precisely what I’m doing with my Podcast Branding business. I specialize in the podcast niche, and people recognize me. But what if you turn your design style into a niche instead of going after a specific target market or focusing on a particular design project? Lauren could easily promote herself as a designer specializing in punk/grunge-style design. I don’t know if that’s the right word for her style, but you get the idea. Maybe you like creating futuristic-looking designs, something very robotic or technical. You could embrace that style and promote it. Or what if you have a very illustrative style? Andrew, another member of the Resourceful Designer Community, is a great illustrator, and it’s reflected in his portfolio. These days, strong yet feminine styles are in high demand. And although I’ve created some strong feminine pieces before, I’m probably not the first designer people think of for that design style. What about specializing in a country-western design style? There’s a big call for that in certain areas. I mentioned Craig Burton earlier of School Branding Matters, he’s based in New Zealand, and the New Zealand culture surrounding him heavily influences his design style. How about retro? There are always people wanting a 50s, 60s or 70s style look. And sure, clients could always ask their regular designer to design something in one of these styles. I’ve done country-western, robotic-tech, 1960s and 70s looks, and even strong feminine designs. But none of them are a specialty of mine, and I don’t feel natural designing in these styles. If a designer isn’t comfortable with a style, they won’t produce work as good as someone specializing in it. But what if the client doesn’t have a regular designer and is looking for one online? Imagine someone typing “country-style graphic designer” into Google. Or “Retro vintage designer.” If that’s your niche style, there’s a good chance you can rank for that term, and that client will find you. And when they realize you specialize in exactly what they’re looking for, they have no reason to continue their search. What I’m saying is if you can figure out your unique style and it’s something you want to lean into. You could start marketing yourself as a specialist in that design style. It’s another way of niching. Combining Niches. What if you combine some of my previously discussed niche ideas with this one? Imagine setting yourself up as a logo designer specializing in retro-style logos. Or a web designer who specializes in punk or grunge-style websites? What about a poster designer who specializes in a country western look? If you can corner a particular niche, you can find yourself in high demand and could charge prices reflecting your specialty. By segmenting yourself, you automatically become an expert in your niche to those seeking your skills. You may be saying, but Mark, I don’t want to be pigeonholed into one niche. I want to be able to work on different types of projects. To that, I say nothing is stopping you from doing that. If a non-school related client approached Craig Burton saying they admire his style and want to hire him, he wouldn’t say, “you’re not a school, so I can’t work with you.” Of course not. I know Craig, and I’ve seen him create some amazing non-school-related pieces. Just because you target a niche doesn’t mean you are stuck doing only that type of work. Look at me. I started Podcast Branding in 2019 as a side gig to go after the podcast niche. However, I’m still running my other business, Marksman Design which isn’t niched. And even within the Podcast Branding side of my business, I’ve done non-podcast-related projects. One of my biggest Podcast Branding clients is a podcaster. That’s how they heard about me. But he didn’t need anything regarding his podcast. Instead, he hired me to design a website for his company that is entirely separate. In this case, a client heard of me through the podcast space. He liked what I did and trusted me enough to work on something non-podcast-related. So you can always create a second company for a particular niche. Or start a second brand and work as a DBA as I do. I run Podcast Branding as a division of my other design business Marksman Design. How to attract clients in a niche. So let’s say you decide to pursue this option of entering a niche. Be it a target market, particular design pieces like logos, posters or t-shirts, or a niche using your design style. How do you go about attracting clients? It all comes down to portfolio 101. Showcase the type of work you want to work on. If you claim to be in the country-western niche, you’ll confuse clients if your portfolio contains high-tech and art deco-looking projects. No matter how well those projects turned out, they have no space in your portfolio. I mentioned how my work for my biggest Podcast Branding client isn’t about podcasting. That’s why you won’t find any of it on my website because it’s irrelevant to clients looking for someone to help with their podcast’s visual needs. If you want to start a niche in the retro logo design space, all your portfolio pieces should be logos with a retro look. The next thing to do to attract clients is to network within your niche. Let people in that niche know who you are and what you do. I go to podcast conferences because that’s where my target market is. I talk and hand out business cards to as many people as possible. The more people in my niche who know what I do, the better my chances of getting clients. On my order form, I ask clients how they heard about Podcast Branding and me. On an order I received this week, the client mentioned hearing about me from someone I’ve never heard of. That can only happen because of networking. Remember, it’s not who you know that will help grow your business. It’s who knows you. And in this case, someone out there knew enough about me to pass my name on to someone who needed my services. So if you’ve ever considered niching but didn’t know what direction to take, you may want to consider looking at your design style. Embrace whatever makes your design style unique. You may be sitting on a great niche idea people seek.
4/3/202318 minutes, 59 seconds
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Throwback - Ep. 17 - Being A Freelance Graphic Designer Could Hurt Your Business

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 17, Being A Freelance Graphic Designer Could Hurt Your Business. For any links or to leave comments, please visit
3/27/202317 minutes, 41 seconds
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Throwback - Ep. 195 - Design Hacks To Increase Productivity

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 195, Design Hacks To increase Productivity. For any links or to leave comments, please visit
3/20/202327 minutes, 2 seconds
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Price Equals Expectations - RD314

The second most common question among graphic and web designers, after how to attract clients, is how much to charge for our services. No matter what price we settle on, we’re never sure it’s right. Could you have gotten more for that job the client so readily agreed to? Probably. Is price the reason another client isn’t replying to the proposal you sent? It could be. No matter how long we work in this industry. I don’t think we will ever figure out the “right price.” But that’s ok if you feel adequately compensated for your work. Getting paid $200 for a logo design is a great accomplishment for some designers. In contrast, other designers won’t consider a logo design project for under $2000. It all comes down to the value you feel you bring and the impression you give your clients. But let’s look at this from the client’s point of view. From their perspective, what’s the difference between a $200 logo and a $2000 logo? You may say it’s the value. It’s the experience of the designer, their skills and their knowledge. And I can’t argue with you there. More experienced designers do tend to charge more. But does that mean the experienced designer’s $2000 logo is ten times better than the $200 logo from a less experienced designer? Maybe, and maybe not. The less experienced designer may end up creating a better logo. So why would a client hire a $2000 designer over a $200 designer? It can be summed up in one phrase. Price equals expectations. Let’s look at another industry. Say you’re going on vacation and need a place to stay. Your destination has two options (It’s not a popular vacationing spot.) Those two options are a $49 per night motel and a $200 per night hotel. Not knowing anything about or seeing photos of either of these two places beforehand, what do you think your expectations are? Both the motel and hotel offer a bed for sleeping. Both include a TV and free Wifi. Both have breakfast included. They even both have positive online reviews. So you would expect the same experience at both places, right? Wrong! The fact that one of the places charges four times the price of the other creates a higher expectation. For $200 per night, you expect the beds to be more comfortable. You expect more offerings on TV and faster Wifi. You expect a more inclusive breakfast. You expect more from the hotel because they’re charging a higher price. Even though, in the end, both places give you precisely what you need, a place to sleep at night. The same goes for graphic design services. The more you charge, the more clients expect from you. And I don’t mean deliverables. However, that may be part of it. What I mean is your clients expect better communication from you. More professionalism. More attention to detail. And a more take-charge attitude. The more you charge, the more the client expects that you can get the job done with minimal involvement on their part. These expectations breed trust. And when you’re clients trust you. They give you the freedom to do your work in the manner that suits you best. The less you charge, the fewer expectations they have. Which means lower trust. I speak from experience, and many designers can attest that the less you charge for your services, the more clients want to dictate exactly what you do. They don’t want your knowledge or your experience. They only want to fork over a few dollars for your skills. It’s almost like you’re a rental designer. These are the type of clients who say, “I have an idea. I need you to create it for me.” They expect less from you because it’s what your prices tell them. Would a client hire a $2000 logo designer and say, “Here, I drew up this rough sketch of an idea. Can you clean it up for me?” No. That’s because price equals expectations. Clients will treat you differently depending on how much you charge. Clients willing to pay more for design services expect higher service, expertise, and attention to detail. They expect you to understand design principles and are current on design trends and technologies. These clients will likely have more complex and demanding design needs and want to work with a designer who can deliver exceptional results. Designers who charge higher rates can expect to be treated more respectfully and professionally. They will also need to deliver a higher level of service to justify those rates. The more you charge, the more your clients expect. Price equals expectations. On the other hand, clients looking for more affordable design services are usually willing to sacrifice some level of expertise and customization in favour of a lower price point. It’s up to you to decide whether to be a higher-rate designer or an affordable designer. But remember that setting too low rates can harm your business in the long run. While clients may be attracted to lower prices initially, they may also be wary of working with a designer who charges significantly less than their competitors. That trust between you and your clients never reaches the level it does with higher-priced designers and their clients. Setting your rates too low can make investing in your business and growing your skills and expertise challenging over time. Because the lower you charge, the more clients you need to make ends meet. In the scenario presented above. The lower-priced logo designer must find ten clients to make the same amount of money the higher-priced designer earns from just one. This means the higher priced designer can focus more of their thoughts and energy on one client instead of dividing it among many, which helps them meet and exceed their client’s expectations. How to justify higher prices. One of the first things clients do when considering a graphic or web designer is looking at your portfolio. They want to understand your style, capabilities, and the types of projects and clients you’ve worked with. It’s essential to have a portfolio that showcases your best work. One that highlights your strengths. Something that shows you’re worth the prices you charge. Case Studies can help justify higher prices. Where a portfolio piece shows what you’re capable of designing. Case studies illustrate the who, what, and why of the designs you created. A case study that shows how you think and approach design problems can demonstrate why you’re worth your higher rates. But besides portfolios and case studies, it all comes down to confidence. You need to feel confident in the prices you charge. And that’s something that can take time. However, you can get there if you slowly build up to it. The next time someone asks for a price, quote them a bit higher than the last similar project you did. And keep doing this until you reach a price point you’re happy with. I charged $500 for the first website I designed. The next one was $700, then $900 and so on. Nowadays, I rarely do a custom website for under $5,000. And the clients I have respect my abilities and trust me to provide them with attention to detail that befits my professionalism. I meet the expectations of clients looking for a $5,000 and more website designer. Whether you charge higher rates or more affordable prices, the most important thing you can offer your clients is high-quality work that meets their needs and builds strong relationships. Although, if you deliver high-quality work to your clients, you might as well make a bunch of money doing it. After all, price equals expectations.
3/13/202313 minutes, 36 seconds
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Google Analytics 4 and Using Plan Instead of Should

This isn't a standard episode of Resourceful Designer. Instead, I want to share two tips with you. Tip #1 Set up your Google Analytics 4 account ASAP. Google is turning on Universal Analytics on July 1st, 2023. Google has said the data collected in your UA account will not be migrated to your GA4 account. Unless you want to start again from zero, you need to set up your GA4 account now and start collecting data while you still have access to your UA information. Listen to the podcast episode to learn more. Tip #2 Never tell a client that you "Should" something. "I should be able to start your project next week, " or "I should have something to show you by Friday." etc. Instead, tell them you "plan." – "I plan to start your project next week." or "I plan on having something to show you by Friday." Saying "Should" instills doubt. It tells the client you are unsure of your abilities. Using "plan" instills confidence while not guaranteeing anything in case you cannot fulfill what you say. Using "plan" instead of "will" is also a good idea for the same reason. Planning on doing something but not succeeding is forgivable. Saying you will do something and not following through harms your reputation. Semantics can go a long way in helping you become a better business person.
3/6/20236 minutes, 53 seconds
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Graphic Design Business Challenges You're Sure to Encounter - RD313

Are you running or considering starting a graphic or web design business? If so, let me tell you, you’re in for a wild ride! The graphic and web design industries are filled with opportunities and challenges, and understanding what to expect can be the difference between success and failure. In this Resourceful Designer episode, I’ll look at some common challenges you will surely encounter. Here are four of the most common challenges you may face. Finding Clients. Finding clients is one of the most challenging aspects of running a graphic or web design business. You may be a very talented designer with the most fantastic portfolio in the world, but that doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get work from clients. To find clients, you’ll need to focus on networking and marketing to increase your chances of success. Attend as many networking events as possible, especially when your business is young. Ask friends and family to refer you to people who can benefit from your services. Reach out to potential clients via email, social media, and other platforms. Whatever it takes. Clients can’t hire you if they don’t know who you are. This industry is all about connections and relationships. It’s not who you know that will help you succeed. It’s who knows you. Another great way to find clients is to build relationships with other designers or people in the industry. Working with other designers allows you to exchange ideas and resources and can lead to referrals and more business opportunities. Designer groups like the Resourceful Designer Community can help with this. A good client of mine reached out when his church was looking for a logo. I was in the middle of several large projects and couldn’t take this on. But I knew that Ciera, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, had shared several church branding projects she had designed. Thinking it was a perfect fit, I introduced her to my client, and now his church has a new logo they can be proud of. This is just one example from the Resourceful Designer Community of how connecting with other designers can benefit you. Finding clients is challenging, but you can make the task more manageable if you put in the effort. Staying Up-to-Date on Trends. The graphic and web design industries are constantly changing and evolving. What worked yesterday may not work today, or there may be a new and better way of doing it. You’ll need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques to stay ahead. Devote time to reading graphic and web design blogs, articles and publications. Listen to podcasts and watch courses and videos. Try to attend conferences and workshops if you can afford them. Follow design influencers on social media to keep up with what’s new in our field. You’ll also want to stay abreast of the latest software and hardware developments. Tools and technologies are constantly changing. Take time to learn what’s out there and how to use them effectively in your business. Staying up-to-date on trends will help you stay ahead of the competition and make you a more efficient designer. And allows you to provide your clients with the best possible work. Managing Time and Money. Time and money management are essential in the graphic and web design industry. You’ll need to learn to manage your time to ensure you complete projects on time and within budget. This means setting realistic expectations and deadlines and charging enough for the work you produce. Don’t undervalue yourself to land a client. You’ll only regret it. Communicating realistic deadlines, schedules, and fair pricing with your clients will help things move smoothly. You’ll also need to budget for overhead costs like software, hardware, and marketing. And don’t forget the fees for design resources and subscriptions you may require. Everything from stock imagery to website hosting costs money and will eat your profit. Your monthly credit card bill shows you how much you need to make to cover the various expenses associated with running your business. You must learn how to price jobs accordingly to cover these expenses. You’ll also need to manage your finances, both personally and professionally. Create a budget for yourself and your business, and track your income and expenses. You need to know how things stand if your design business income supports your business and personal expenses. Being organized and staying on top of your finances will help you remain profitable and ensure the success of your business. Finding Balance. Running a business can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be stressful and time-consuming. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, you must be conscious of the time and energy you devote to each. It’s so easy when working for yourself to lose track of time and put in 12 or more hours of work in a day. Yes, hustling is part of running a business, but doing it consistently will impede your health. Schedule regular breaks during the day and week. Take vacations. Making time for yourself will help you stay motivated and productive and can even help you think up new ideas and solutions. I can’t tell you how many times a winning idea came to me after stepping back from a project for a while. You’ll also need to make sure you don’t neglect your personal relationships. Make time for family and friends, and continue to pursue your hobbies and interests. Your business will still be there when you get back. Doing things besides design work will help you stay inspired and energized and can help you avoid burnout. The Rewards Outweigh the Challenges. Starting a graphic design business can be an exciting and rewarding experience but also challenging. Starting my design business is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Many designers have told me the same thing. To increase your chances of success, you must be prepared for the hurdles you will encounter. Finding clients, staying up-to-date on trends, managing your time and money, and finding balance are all critical aspects of running a successful graphic or web design business. Being aware of these will help make your journey easier. If you’re prepared for the challenges of running your own business, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
2/27/202311 minutes
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8 Uses For Page Redirects - RD312

Page Redirects. I know. Sound boring, right? I mean, how much can one talk about page redirects? After all, as the name implies, they redirect one web page to another—end of the story. Not so fast. Yes, Page redirects do redirect one web page to another. But there’s a lot more power to them that you may not have thought of. When used correctly, page redirects can help attract clients. They can show authority. They can strengthen a website. They can even steal visitors from the competition. Yes, there’s much more to the lowly page redirect than what it lets on. And maybe you can use one of these ideas for yourself. 1) Redirect alternate domain extensions. A page redirect is used to redirect one web page to another. Those two pages don’t have to be on the same domain. Page redirects can be used to redirect one domain to another. The best use of this is with domain extensions. For example. I live in Canada, and many businesses use the .ca extension for their domain. It’s highly encouraged, especially for companies that deal exclusively in Canada. But we all know that .com is the most popular domain extension. When in doubt, most people try the .com first. That’s why I always recommend my clients purchase multiple domains, including the .ca and .com. Then, using a redirect, they can send people who type in the .com domain to the website with the .ca extension. Or vice-versa, depending on which extension they want to use. This also prevents someone else from registering and competing with the other domain extensions. 2) Redirect alternate spellings or misspellings. Alternate spellings or misspellings are also excellent for page or site redirects. For example, a food truck business called 2 Brothers In A Food Truck wants a website. Due to the possibility of mistyping their name, they may want to register multiple domains, They can then pick the one they want to use and redirect the others. Here’s another example. Let’s say your name is Shawn Johnston. And you start a business called Shawn Johnston Consulting. While talking to people, you tell people to visit your website at But how do you spell that? Is Shawn spelled S-H-A-W-N, or is it S-E-A-N? What about Johnston, is that Johnson without a T or Johnston with a T? You can spell it out every time you say it. But there’s no guarantee that someone else will spell it out when referring to you. A better option is to register the multiple spellings and redirect them to the correctly spelled domain. > > > 3) Redirect an old site to a new site. Redirects are extremely useful when building a new website either under the same or a different domain. Every website will accumulate what we in the industry call “Google Juice” over time. Google Juice is a way to measure the SEO power of a webpage. When building a new website or changing a website’s domain, you don’t want to lose that accumulated Google Juice and start from scratch. If you’re changing a page’s URL, you want to create a 301 redirect that tells the search engines that the old page is no more, and they should now assign its Google Juice to this new page. For example, Franklin & Barton Law office may have the URL Beth Barton gets married and changes her name to Beth Jackson. She wants to change the company’s name to Franklin & Jackson Law office and the URL to Changing the domain on a website is fairly easy. But if they don’t want to lose their current search engine rankings, they need to redirect every page URL from the old site to the new one. redirects to redirects to redirects to redirects to And so on for every page on the original website. This ensures the new domain retains the power of the old domain. 4) Redirect to shorten a URL. We all know that the shorter something is, the easier it is to remember. Let alone tell someone else about it. The show notes for this podcast episode can be found at the difficult-to-remember URL That’s why I use a redirect and tell you the show notes can be found at Which one do you think is easier? Easier for me to say and easier for you to remember. And it’s not only for super long URLs. The URL for the Design Resources page on Resourceful Designer is But I also have a redirect so that I can say It’s only one word shorter, but it’s still easier to say and remember. BTW, that page is where I list various design-related tools and resources you can use for your business. Check it out. 5) Use redirects when sending someone off-site. Instead of giving someone a different external URL, redirect them from your website. It gets them where they want to go while strengthening your brand. For example. Are you interested in joining the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group? I could tell you to visit, but that’s wordy, and it’s sending you away from my website. Instead, I have a redirect set up. If you want to join the group, visit The destination is the same. But in the second one, you subconsciously associate the destination with my domain, which is never bad. 6) Use redirects for affiliate links. An affiliate link is a unique URL that, when used, informs the destination where you came from for them to pay a commission. For example, I’m an affiliate of Logo Package Express. An amazing Adobe Illustrator plugin that makes it highly efficient to package up logos to hand off to clients. If you haven’t tried version 3, what are you waiting for? It’s much better than version 2, which was already a great product. The link you need to use for me to receive a commission on the sale is long and complicated. It’s full of numbers and symbols, making it too easy to get wrong. That’s why I created a redirect of Not only does that take you to the Logo Package Express purchase page, but that link also gives you 20% off the purchase price. You should do this for all your affiliate links. Want another one? Try using It redirects you to Amazon’s website, and if you make a qualifying purchase, I earn a commission on the sale. 7) Redirect the competition. At the beginning of this episode, I mentioned how you could use redirects to steal clients from the competition. Back in tip #1, I talked about redirecting different domain extensions. In tip #2, I spoke about redirecting different spellings. And in tip #3, I talked about redirecting old sites to new ones. You can combine these three methods to steal clients from the competition. I’ve helped several clients do this with great success. For example. Let’s say you are creating a website for a new local Mexican restaurant. There are two other Mexican restaurants in town your client is directly competing with. Check if these competing Mexican restaurants registered all the possible domain extensions. Or check if there are domains with alternative spellings available. You could help your client register and redirect them to their website if you find any. This way, should someone looking for a competitor’s website type the URL wrong, there’s a chance they end up on your client’s website instead and decide to give them a try. I’ve done this for several clients over the years and have tracked hundreds of visitors landing on my client’s website using these “wrong links.” As for old websites. If a competitor closes for whatever reason, you could ask to purchase their domain name or wait for it to expire and register it yourself. Then redirect it to your or your client’s website and take advantage of the competitor’s Google Juice by adding it to your own. 8) Create authority using redirects. Redirects are a great help when it comes to networking. Imagine these two scenarios. Scenario 1: You’re at a networking event, and a new entrepreneur asks if you know of a business lawyer. You mention Beth Jackson from Franklin and Jackson Law Office. You even give them the domain for them to contact her. Scenario 2: You’re at a networking event, and a new entrepreneur asks if you know of a business lawyer. You mention Beth Jackson from Franklin and Jackson Law Office. Then you hand them your business card and point out your web address. You tell them to visit, which will redirect them to Beth’s website. Which of these two scenarios sounds more genuine? Which one comes off as the better referral? I hope you’re thinking of the second one. In the first scenario, the new entrepreneur has no idea about your relationship with this lawyer. For all they know, you’ve never dealt with them. You’ve only heard about them but don’t know if they’re good. You should be sharing their name so as not to sound naive. In the second scenario, having a link on your website redirecting to this lawyer’s website shows the entrepreneur you’re confident in Beth’s skills. They’re much more likely to trust your opinion of her. You can do this with lawyers, accountants, or any professional or service you may recommend. You establish yourself as an authority by sharing a redirect link from your website. Other benefits of using redirects. There are several benefits to using redirects beyond what I’ve shared with you today. Redirects are easy to track. If I shared Logo Package Express’s URL, I could not know how many people use it. By sharing, I can see that over 500 people have used my link. I do the same for internal website links. Any time I share a past podcast episode with you and tell you to visit, that’s a trackable link, I get to see how many people use it. Another good thing about redirects is that you can change them should the need arise. If, for some reason, you want to start referring a different lawyer, change the redirect destination of the URL you share. So where used to point to Beth Jackson, it now points to whatever new lawyer you want. This is what I do with Resourceful Designer. Suppose you ask for my recommendation on web hosting. I’ll tell you to visit, which redirects you to SiteGround’s website, the web host I currently recommend. Before I started using SiteGround, that URL pointed to HostGator. But I started having issues with HostGator and decided to switch to SiteGround, and I couldn’t be happier. And now redirects to SiteGround because I trust and stand behind their service. How to set up a redirect. There are several ways to create redirects. My preferred method is the PrettyLinks WordPress plugin. And to show you once again the power of the redirect. Since you use Pretty Links to create a pretty link, I set up links using both the singular and plural versions. So both with an S at the end and without the S redirect you to the same page. Pretty Links does have a free version. But I use the premium version for the extra feature. There are other redirect plugins, but I have no experience with them. You can also create redirects by adding them to the .htaccess file of your website. However, I don’t recommend doing this unless you’re sure of what you’re doing. It’s easy to break a website when messing with the .htaccess file. If you know how to code, there are ways to create redirects using PHP or JavaScritp, but those methods are beyond my abilities. For domain redirects, most domain registrars offer free redirects. I use this to redirect different domain extensions to the one I want to use, in most cases, the .com extension. Different types of redirects. There are various types of page redirects, but you should concern yourself with only two for what I’m talking about today. 301 and 302 redirects. 301 redirects are permanent. This indicates that the URL has been moved permanently from its original URL to a different URL. You use these when redirecting a page from an old website to a new one because the old page will never be used again. 302 redirects are temporary. This indicates that the URL has temporarily moved to a different page, and the original URL may be used again later. Temporary redirects are suitable for affiliate links that may change, such as my hosting link that switched from HostGator to SiteGround. It’s temporary since someday I may change it to something else. Conclusion These are just some uses for page redirects. I’m sure there are many more reasons I did not cover today. I wanted to discuss this topic to get you thinking about what you could do with redirects. I hope you’ll continue to ponder this when the podcast is over. And please, let me know in the comments for this episode if you have different uses for page redirects. I would love to hear them.
2/20/202328 minutes, 51 seconds
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Throwback - Ep 52 - How A Great About Page Can Attract Design Clients

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 52, How A Great About Page Can Attract Design Clients. For any links or to leave comments, please visit
2/13/202323 minutes, 32 seconds
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Throwback - Ep 202 - S.W.A.T. Analysis For Designers

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 202, S.W.A.T. Analysis For Designers. For any links or to leave comments, please visit
2/6/202320 minutes, 4 seconds
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Monetizing Your Design Skills - RD311

Monetizing Your Design Skills: Making money without clients. Do you dread interacting with clients? Have you ever considered monetizing your design skills to make money without working for clients? Since starting Resourceful Designer in 2015, I’ve received many emails from designers worldwide seeking advice. People have sought my opinion on everything from naming their design business to my thoughts on specific tools. The most popular questions I’m asked are about working with clients. It turns out, which should be no surprise, that many designers are introverted. And in some cases, these introverted designers have anxiety when dealing with clients. I can’t tell you how many people say they want to start their own design business, but dealing with clients is holding them back. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it. Working for yourself as a home-based designer, or as some people call it, a freelance designer isn’t for everyone. It takes a particular ability, personality and willpower to run your own business. And not everyone has what it takes. There’s no shame if you don’t fit that mould. You can have a long and prosperous career working for someone else. Besides, working for someone else is usually less stressful than working for yourself. But what happens when a designer reluctant to interact with clients starts their own business? Maybe they do it willingly, knowing their shortcomings. Or perhaps they’re forced due to no fault of their own. Such as after a layoff? Either way, these designers need to make money now and working for themself is their only option. These designers have three choices. Temporarily push through their anxiety while searching for a job working for someone else. Face their fears and learn to interact with clients. Monetize their design skills and find a way to make money without working with clients. It’s the third way I want to discuss today. Putting your design skills to work for yourself instead of for clients. Let me preface this by saying most of the things I will mention take time. Working on client projects is your best option if you need money soon. But let’s say you do have time. Or, you want a way to supplement the income you get working with clients. Perhaps in the hopes of one day being able to forgo client work. What can you do? 11 Ways to monetize your design skills and earn money without working for clients. There are several ways you can monetize your graphic design skills and can make money without working for clients. Here are 11 I came up with that you could try: 1) Design premade layouts, templates and design assets. Suppose you like making logos, icons, and other graphics. Or you enjoy creating layouts for business cards, resumes, and social media posts but don’t like dealing with clients. Why not create and sell them on marketplaces such as Creative Market or Etsy? There’s a massive market out there for premade layouts and graphics. What’s great about this is that once you create them, they can be sold multiple times, providing a passive income stream with little effort. Are you familiar with Cricut machines? They’re becoming more and more popular. People use them for everything from creating custom birthday cards to printed t-shirts. Many Cricut owners rely on premade designs for their creations. I know one designer whose entire income is from selling Cricut designs on Etsy. 2) Selling merchandise via print-on-demand. As a designer, you can create graphics for merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, tote bags, etc. You then sell them through online print-on-demand platforms such as Redbubble, Zazzle, Society6 or TeeSpring. I have many designs across several P.O.D. platforms that earn me monthly money. 3) Create a course or write a book. Are you particularly good with specific software programs, or perhaps there’s a particular design topic you know a lot about? Why not create and sell a course on platforms such as Udemy or Skillshare and teach others what you know? The same goes for design-related books. It’s so easy these days to self-publish a book or ebook and sell it on platforms such as Amazon Kindle. Put your skills and knowledge to use in helping others. Once the product is created and marketed, it can continue to sell for years to come, providing passive income. 4) Sell stock photography, illustrations, graphics, videos and more. Have you considered selling stock Images? There’s a massive demand for stock photography, illustrations, graphics, video and more. This is similar to the premade layouts and templates I mentioned earlier. Put your creative skills to use and come up with all sorts of designs and concepts you can sell online. If you’re good at working with video, there are plenty of opportunities to earn income by creating YouTube intros and transitions where all someone has to do is add their logo to an existing file. Once your creations are licensed, you can earn money from them without additional effort. Shutterstock, iStock, Envato and many other stock platforms are always looking for new items to add to their catalogue. Why can’t they be yours? 5) Create a typeface. The funny thing about typefaces is that no matter how many are out there, there’s always room for one more. Tools and resources are available to help you develop typefaces of your own. Then it’s just a matter of selling it on the many online font sources. 6) Sponsorships, Affiliates and Advertising. Share your knowledge through a blog, podcast or YouTube channel. Then monetize it through sponsorships,  affiliates and advertising. That’s what I do with this podcast. I’m an affiliate for many of the products I mention and make a small commission any time someone purchases one using my link. And I recently had a sponsorship deal with StickerMule where they paid me to talk about their product. The more you put yourself out there, the more people trust you and your recommendations. 7) Create an authority website. Are you a web designer with a passion for something other than design? Maybe it’s motorcycles, woodworking or field hockey? Why not use your web design skills by creating an authority site on that topic? Combined with affiliate links and advertising, you can earn a good income. Check out sites like or to learn how. 8) Create and sell mobile apps or games. If you know how to program, you could put your skills to work creating apps. Who knows, maybe you can create the next Angry Birds or Wordle and make a lot of money. 9) Develop a plugin or extension. Put your coding skills to use and develop a website plugin or software extension people will use. Look at Michael Bruny-Groth. He’s a designer who got tired of gathering all the logo variations to give to clients. He saw a problem and came up with Logo Package Express as a solution. Arguably one of the best Adobe Illustrator Extensions to come out in years. It’s now his primary source of income. 10) Website layouts and themes. There’s a lucrative market for website layouts and themes. Whether they’re stand-alone or for use with page builders such as Divi or Elementor. Marketplaces such as ThemeForest or TemplateMonster always look for new products to sell. Not everyone that needs a website can hire a designer. Many of them rely on pre-built layouts and themes. If you have the skills, why not give it a try? 11) Offer your services in online design marketplaces: Even though designers don’t like talking about them, there’s no arguing that people are making money on marketplaces such as Upwork, Fiverr or 99designs. You earn income from the design projects you complete. This one is a bit on the fence since you are doing client work. But the interaction is very minimal, which even the most anxious introvert should be able to handle. What are you waiting for? So there you have it. Eleven ways you can monetize your design skills without working with clients. It’s worth noting that while these methods can provide a passive income, they often require a significant amount of time and effort to establish. Still, once you have established a reputation or built an audience, they can generate passive income for years. Do you have another way you’re using your design skills while not working for clients? I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment for this episode at
1/30/202320 minutes, 22 seconds
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Throwback - Ep. 61 - 12 Random Graphic Design Tips

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 61, 12 Random Graphic Design Tips. For any links or to leave comments, please visit
1/23/202356 minutes, 35 seconds
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Solutions Without Problems: Blinded By Tools - RD310

I had a conversation with a business coach recently. And he told me that no matter how innovative business people become, he keeps seeing the same issue crop up over and over that holds them back from their full potential. They’re looking for solutions without problems. It’s one of the biggest hurdles he faces with his coaching clients. I’ll share his insights in a minute. But before that, I want to talk to you about technology. We live in an amazing time. As I write this, people use tools such as artificial intelligence to create previously undreamed things. Respected media outlets publish articles generated using automated technologies. And they acknowledged the fact with a disclaimer that the article was written by AI and edited by a human. Earlier this week, I needed an illustration for a design project. Instead of turning to stock imagery or hiring an illustrator, I used an AI Art generator to create the individual elements I required. Then I combined them in Photoshop to create the illustrated scene I needed. It makes me wonder what the future holds and how I can embrace it for my business. And I don’t just mean artificial intelligence. Visit a site like AppSumo, and you will see dozens of innovative tools to help you achieve amazing things. Advancements in technology, both AI and otherwise, allow people to reach heights they would have never dreamed of. It seems that no matter what problems you face. There are tools on the market to help you overcome them. For the right price, of course. It’s a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur. However, this abundance of available tools can also be a roadblock. Back to that business coach. He told me about his experience dealing with his clients and discussing it with other business coaches. He’s noticed a recurring issue holding a lot of business people back. He said that many people have a terrible habit of finding solutions to problems they’re not facing. And it takes up so much of their time that they should be spending more effectively on their business. Call it FOMO or Shiny Object Syndrome, but many people become enthralled with the abundance of tools available. The marketing of these tools makes them so desirable that you have to have them even if you don’t currently need them. I know I’m guilty of this. I look at my AppSumo purchase history and see many “great deals” I bought and never used. I purchased them with the best intentions, but, as the business coach said, I purchased a solution to a problem I wasn’t facing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing AppSumo. I love the platform. I’ve bought many tools from them that I use regularly. And just because there are some I don’t use doesn’t mean they aren’t great tools. People spend a lot of time and effort developing these tools because there is a need for them. Just not a need that I have. All of these tools were created to solve one problem or another. However, the possibility of one day facing said problems is not reason enough to waste time and money on a tool. No matter how enticing it is. This reminds me of a couple of episodes I did several years ago about Just In Time Learning. Episode 8 and Episode 94 if you’re interested. The premise of Just In Time Learning is only to learn something when you require knowing it. There’s no reason to watch a Photoshop tutorial on adding woodgrain to type if you don’t have a project that calls for a font with woodgrain. You may be saying, but knowing how to add woodgrain to a font might be helpful. And I can’t disagree with you. However, it’s just as beneficial knowing there is a tutorial, should you ever need it. So bookmark it, or save it to watch later. Suppose you watch the tutorial video now when you don’t need it. You’ll probably end up watching it again when you do. So why not wait until you need it to watch it and use your time now for something better? That’s the premise of Just In Time Learning. And it’s the same thing with these tools I’m talking about. Why buy a tool on the off chance you may need it someday? Or why buy something that sounds amazing if you’re not currently facing the problem it solves? For example. There’s no sense in researching the best client management software if you only have a handful of clients to manage. Wait until your clients become too numerous and tedious to manage using your current method, and then research available solutions. Because that sparkly new system that looks so enticing today may be replaced by something better when you need it, even a lifetime deal is a waste of money if it doesn’t help you now. So think hard before you purchase your next tool. Just because it’s a great deal is not reason enough to buy it. Anyway, this business coach told me that he’s seeing more and more people searching for “that right tool” instead of concentrating on what they should be doing—running their business. He told me there are only three tools businesses need to succeed. And they’re the same three tools enterprises have used for ages. A to-do list A calendar A way to take notes That’s it. Think about it. With these three tools, you can run a successful design business. Of course, I’m leaving things out like the Adobe programs or WordPress. Yes, you may require these tools, but they’re used to perform your work as a designer, not to run your business. To run your business, all you need are... A to-do list To keep track of the projects and tasks you’re working on and the things you need to do. I use Plutio to manage my design projects and AnyList to manage all my other to-do lists. A calendar To keep track of appointments, schedules, deadlines, and other important dates and times. Every computer system available has a built-in calendar you can use. I use iCan myself. But you can use whatever calendar you wish. A way to take notes To keep track of things, so you don’t forget anything. My life is organized in Evernote. With these three tools, you can run a successful business. The proof is in every business dating back hundreds of years. Long before Artificial Intelligence, the internet, or even the phone. Savvy business people relied on these three things to run and grow their businesses. I’m trying to say that you work hard for the money you earn. There’s no reason to spend it needlessly on tools that solve a problem you’re not currently facing. And who knows, if you face that problem in the future, a newer or less expensive tool may be available. And you’ll have a good reason to buy it then. I enjoyed my conversation with this business coach. It made me think of the tools I use and, more importantly, those I don’t use. And the money I wasted on them. And made me cognisant of how I’ll act in the future. So the next time you see a great deal on something, or you’re mesmerized by the flashing marketing on some new innovative tool. Take a step back and ask yourself... Am I burdened with the problem this tool solves? If you have to think about your answer, or if your answer is not an immediate yes, I’m facing that problem now. Then save your money and get back to work. You’ll thank me later. My Voice-Over Guy. The amazing Wayne Henderson of performs the Resourceful Designer podcast intros. Wayne is available to help you with any voice-over work you require.  
1/16/202317 minutes, 30 seconds
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2023 Survey

Please fill out my survey and help me determine the future of Resourceful Designer.
1/9/20231 minute, 32 seconds
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A Look Back - A Look Ahead - 2022 Edition - RD309

A look back at 2022 and a look ahead to 2023. Thank you for your continued interest in Resourceful Designer. You have no idea how much I appreciate you. Many great resources are available for learning and growing as a designer, and I’m humbled that you chose to spend a bit of your valuable time with me. I am continuing my annual tradition. This last podcast episode of 2022 is my Look Back, Look Ahead edition. It’s where I reflect and share my year as a design business owner. Then I’ll look ahead at what I want to accomplish in 2023. A Look Back at my 2022 goals. At the end of 2021, I set these goals for myself. FAIL: Talk at more conferences. Even though we were on the downslope of the pandemic, I chose not to travel in 2022. Therefore I wasn’t able to talk at any conferences. I also made the decision not to speak at any virtual conferences. I’ve presented at virtual conferences and found the return wasn’t worth the time commitment to prepare and give my talk. EVEN: Grow the Resourceful Designer podcast audience. Since the pandemic hit in 2020, my podcast listenership has dropped, but the total number of downloads has increased. I attribute this to older listeners giving up on the podcast while new listeners discover it and download multiple episodes. ACCOMPLISHED: Grow the Resourceful Designer Community. The Community is my pride and joy. One day, when I’m no longer doing the podcast, I’ll look back at everything I did with Resourceful Designer, and I’m sure the Community will be my proudest accomplishment. The friendships formed and all the freely given help is more than I could have ever hoped. If you’re looking for camaraderie with fellow designers and are not a Community member, I highly suggest you check it out. ACCOMPLISHED: Do more consulting work. Several clients paid for my consulting service, both in and outside the podcast space. I added podcast brand audit as a service under Podcast Branding which brought in several consulting clients. ACCOMPLISHED: Grow Podcast Branding. What started as an offshoot of my main design business has become my main business focus. Podcast Branding is earning me more money than my main business ever has, with much less effort. Some of my numbers from 2022 Resourceful Designer I released 30 podcast episodes. The lowest in a calendar year since I launched the podcast. As my Podcast Branding business increases, it’s become harder to make the time to produce the podcast. It reached over 710k total episode downloads in 2022. That’s an 80k increase over last year. Resourceful Designer released on Gaana, Boommplay, Deezer, JioSaavn and Resso. Resourceful Designer has listeners in 120 countries around the world. My design business NOTE: I didn’t actively promote my design business in 2022. Instead, I concentrated on growing my other business, Podcast Branding. I continued working with existing clients but made no effort to attract new ones. Worked on 43 design projects for 22 different clients (one fewer client than in 2021) Gained one new client in 2022. I lost one client due to closure. I sent out 27 invoices in 2022 (down from 41 in 2021) Revenue increased over 2021. Podcast Branding My Podcast Branding business was my moneymaker this year. Worked on 66 different projects for 47 different clients (more projects but fewer clients than in 2021) Revenue increased by 27% compared to 2021. Primarily due to websites. Launched 12 new websites for clients. (up from 9 in 2021) I appeared as a guest on three podcasts to discuss podcast artwork and websites, increasing my exposure. Podcasters hired me for projects outside the podcast space. A Look Ahead at my 2023 goals. My previous goals will continue to carry over in the new year. Continue to grow the Resourceful Designer Community. Concentrate more on Podcast Branding and so forth. New Goal for 2023. Create new partnerships to grow what I offer at Podcast Branding. Expand the Resourceful Designer Community to include even more offerings than now. Do more consulting work. Explore video as a content platform for Resourceful Designer and Podcast Branding. Increase the number of website clients on my web maintenance plan. What about you? Did you accomplish your goals for 2022, and What are your goals for the new year? Are you a student getting ready to graduate? What are your goals once school is over? Are you still relatively new to the design world? What are your goals for honing 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; perhaps 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 goals do you have to grow your business? Wherever you are in the world, your skill level, and your situation, please take some time to look back at 2022 and think about your accomplishments and shortcomings. Did you stop after your accomplishments? Or did you plow through them, happy with yourself but reaching even further? What about your shortcomings? Did they discourage you or create a sense of want even higher than before? Think about what prevented you from reaching those goals. So long, 2022. As 2022 comes to an end. I encourage you to reflect. Think about everything you’ve learned. Your struggles, the things you fell short on (be it your fault or just the state of the world) and your accomplishments. And come up with a plan to make 2023 your year of success. I once heard a saying: “It’s easier to know where you’re going if you know where you’ve been.” This aptly applies to growing a design business. Knowing and reflecting on where you came from will help you get to where you want to be. To help with your planning, perhaps you should listen to episode 55 of the podcast, Setting Goals For Your Design Business. These past few years have been tough on all of us. I hope that we never have to endure something like this ever again. But you know that old saying, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Remember the lessons from these past few years, and use everything you’ve learned to make 2023 and future years even better. I’ll be back in 2023 with more advice for starting and growing your design business. Until then, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. And, of course, no matter what goals you set for yourself in the new year, always remember to Stay Creative. What are your goals for 2023? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
12/19/202227 minutes, 29 seconds
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Why AI Generated Art Won't Replace Graphic Designers - RD308

Before I start, let me preface this by saying I am not an expert in AI-Generated Art. These platforms are still in their infancy, and nobody knows what the future holds for them or their effect on the graphic design industry, but I doubt they’ll ever replace graphic designers. I’ve experimented with various platforms, read articles, and watched videos. I’ve seen both sites of the debate argued. Some people don’t see AI-Art as a threat to our industry, while others are all doom and gloom, saying designers should start applying to work at McDonald’s as flipping burgers will soon become more lucrative than designing things. I don’t see AI-Generated art as a threat to the graphic design industry. And I’ll get to why in a bit. However, I’m not so sure about artists and illustrators. If that’s your profession, I suggest you pay close attention to how AI-generated art matures, as it will affect those creative people much more than it will designers. As I said, I’m no expert here. And these AI Art Generators are evolving fast. So what I say today may change soon. Who knows? I also haven’t tried all the various platforms nor used the ones I have tried to their fullest potential. So some of what I say today may be wrong. If that’s the case, if you know something I don’t, please reach out to me at [email protected]. I would love to be educated more on the subject. First, a story. Before I begin my discussion on AI-Generated Artwork, I want to tell you a story that will help put my beliefs into perspective. I entered the three-year Graphic Design program at my local college in 1989. The first two years were spent learning and applying design principles to our projects. We learnt things like design history, colour theory, using grids, layout hierarchy, typography and more. And we were taught the different tools of the trade, most of which are no longer in use and are considered archaic by today’s standards. It wasn’t until our third year, once we were familiar and comfortable with what being a graphic designer was, that we were granted access to the computer lab. Computers were still new to the industry back then, and very few design agencies used them. When I started working at the print shop after graduation, the first two years of my employment were spent designing everything by hand before I convinced the owner to invest in Macintosh computers. I don’t remember what year it was, but during school, a few of my classmates and I made a trip to Toronto for a graphic design trade show. It was the largest show of its kind in Canada and the third largest in North America. All the big names were there, including Adobe, Quark, and Microsoft, to name a few. I remember overhearing a conversation between two design agency owners at a demonstration put on by Adobe. They were talking about the introduction of computers to the design industry. Both were concerned that computers would harm the design industry by minimizing what they considered a particular skill set, that of a graphic designer. To them, computers took the “Art” out of being a “Graphic Artist.” With today’s mindset, It’s kind of crazy to think that back then, design agency owners thought computers would harm our industry. You can easily argue that computers have made the industry better. Having lived through that period, I can tell you that even though computers didn’t harm our industry, they did change it. Drastically, in fact. QuarkXpress, Photoshop and Illustrator replaced the standard tools of the trade, such as wax machines, no-repro blu pencils and Letraset rub-on type. And I know a few designers who left the profession because they couldn’t grasp the use of computers. So computers were introduced, the industry evolved, and the graphic design industry persevered. Microsoft Publisher Fast forward a few years, and personal computers are becoming more popular, with Windows-based machines outselling Apple. And Microsoft released a program called Microsoft Publisher that introduced an affordable means for anyone with a computer to “design” their material. Quark and Adobe software costs thousands of dollars which weren’t feasible for most people. But Microsoft made Publisher affordable. And what do you think happened? The graphic design industry started to panic. With “design” software now available to the masses, designers would lose their jobs. But you know what? Microsoft Publisher was introduced, and some people changed their thinking about design, yet the graphic design industry persevered. WordPress. Around that same time, an innovation emerged called the World Wide Web. Businesses started embracing the idea of having a website—a way for people to find them over the internet. Computer programmers created the first websites. They were functional but lacked design aesthetics. And graphic designers worldwide took notice and realized an opportunity to apply their skills to something other than paper. Some learned to code, while others embraced WYSIWYG software, allowing them to build websites without coding. A whole new side of the design industry was created. And then WordPress arrived. This new platform allowed people to build websites using pre-built templates called Themes. The arrival of WordPress sent web designers into a panic. If people could build websites using a pre-built template, our design skills would no longer be needed. WordPress was going to kill the web design industry. But you know what? WordPress stuck around, designers evolved and changed their view of the platform, and the graphic design industry persevered. I’d say most web designers these days design using WordPress. 99 Designs. Fast forwards another few years, and 99designs is introduced to the world. For a small fee, clients could submit a design brief to the platform, and multiple designers would compete by submitting their designs and hoping the client chose theirs. The selected designer would win the contest and be paid for their work. The others received nothing. 99Designs was all the talk back then. It was an industry killer. Why would anyone pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to a single graphic designer when they could pay a much smaller fee and have multiple designers compete for them? Many designers worldwide tried to offset this intruder by lowering their rates, hoping to lure clients back from the dark side. But you know what? Designers quickly learned that to attract clients, they needed to sell the value and the relationship of working with them, not just the design deliverables. Because the designers on 99Designs didn’t care about the client, they only cared about the subsequent contest they could enter. In fact, 99Designs helped weed out the most undesirable clients making it easier for the rest of us to grow. The graphic design industry persevered. Fiverr. Not long after that, Fiverr was launched, putting our industry into another tailspin. Whereas a design from 99Designs might cost $100 or more. Fiverr’s claim to fame was that all tasks were only $5. It didn’t matter if you need a logo, a poster, a web banner, or a booklet. Everything was $5. How was a graphic designer supposed to compete with that? The design industry was doomed. And yet, 12 years after its launch, Fiverr is still around. However, nowadays, people on the platform are charging much higher than $5, and graphic designers worldwide are still thriving despite the “competition” of Fiverr. The graphic design industry persevered. Adobe Creative Cloud In 2013 Adobe launched Creative Cloud, replacing their Creative Suite platforms. Whether you like the subscription model or not, there’s no arguing that Adobe changed the creative landscape when it introduced Creative Cloud. Software that had previously cost thousands of dollars to own was now available at an affordable monthly rate, making programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign, the bread and butter of most people in the design industry, accessible to the masses. Designers were no longer a unique breed with our special tools. Adobe opened the floodgates. Now anyone who wanted to tinker with their programs could do so. This created a whole new breed of graphic designers who lacked formal education. Even kids as early as kindergarten started learning Photoshop. For all our education and skills, being a designer didn’t seem as prestigious as it once was. Clients would no longer need our expertise since anyone with a computer could be a “designer.” And the industry started to panic. But you know what? Giving people access to tools doesn’t make them an expert. Clients appreciate the years of dedication and knowledge we have when it comes to design. It shows in the work we produce. So even though these tools were available to everyone, the graphic design industry persevered. Canva. A couple of years later, Canva emerged. It was touted as yet another graphic design killer. Canva not only makes it easy to create beautifully designed materials, but you can use it for free if you don’t want to pay for their premium offerings. And there’s a lot you can do on the free plan. Whenever you see a social media or forum post where someone inquires about hiring a graphic designer, you will find at least one comment suggesting they do it themselves on Canva. Did Canva steal potential clients from designers? Yes, it did. But did it kill our industry? Far from it. I’ll argue that Canva made clients appreciate us more. I’ve had numerous people hire me after dabbling in Canva and realizing their creations lack that professional touch. So even Canva, the closest thing to a design industry killer, hasn’t made that much of a dent in our industry. We still persevere. BTW, Canva recently announced their own incorporated AI Art generator. There will always be new design industry killers. It seems like something new comes out every few years, making designers panic. Do these things affect some designers? I’m sure they do. Just like everything else, there will be some people affected. But none of these things have made an impact on our industry. Or at least not in the way the nay-sayers believed they would. You can almost argue that these things have made our industry better. Can you imagine what it would be like if computers were never introduced? Or WordPress? And I’m sure many freelancers couldn’t afford thousands of dollars for Adobe’s software if they hadn’t switched to a subscription model. This mentality dates back to Guttenburg’s invention of the printing press. I’m sure caligraphers of the time panicked that this new invention would ruin their industry. But graphic design perseveres. The only people it ruins are those unwilling to evolve with the times. Now back to AI-Generated Art. By this point, you probably know my stance on AI-Generated Art. This innovation may seem like an industry killer. But only if you allow it to affect you. I see Artificial Intelligence as another opportunity for our industry to evolve. It’s up to us to embrace these tools as just that, tools. I already see designers putting AI-Generators to good use. Katie, a Resourceful Designer community member, recently shared how she needed an abstract pattern for a background of a design she was creating. Instead of searching for a stock image or making one herself, she turned to AI. She told it what she wanted, and it produced something she could use. Katie also used it as inspiration for an annual report project. She asked it to produce a report cover design using blue and yellow triangles. It gave her a few options that she used as inspiration to create something herself. And these are just a couple of examples. As for creating full designs using AI, I think the technology is still a long way off. And no matter how good it gets, it will never be able to replicate the emotions we designers bring to a project or the empathy we feel towards our clients. I like to meet every client I work with. If I can’t meet them face to face, I at least want to get on a video call. I do this because I want to get to know them. I want to see their personality and understand how they act and think. Because these things will help influence my design decisions. No artificial intelligence can do that. At least, as far as I know. And that’s why AI will never replace a live graphic designer. And don’t forget relationships. How often have I stressed the importance of building relationships with your clients over the years? Not only does it help you understand your clients better, which allows you to design better things for them. But relationships build loyalty. It keeps clients coming back to you, regardless of your price. AI-Generated Art has limitations. At this point. I see too many limitations with AI-generated design to affect us as an industry. Since every piece of generated art is uniquely created, it’s tough to replicate should you need to. Say you’re working on a marketing campaign and need several images. You ask an AI-Generator to create an illustration of a rocket ship flying through space, and it produces something you like. But now you need a different image of the same rocket ship landing on the moon. And maybe another of it returning to Earth. Every time you enter a prompt in an AI Generator, it creates a unique image, so there’s no way to ask it to use the same rocket ship in future creations. The rocket ship will look different in each image. Even the style of art might look different. Plus, these prompts, the instructions you type into the generator telling it what to create, are very subjective. These two prompts “An elderly man is sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons.” “An old man is feeding pigeons in a part while sitting on a bench.” To you and me, they both mean the same thing. But to the AI, they could be vastly different. How does artificial intelligence interpret “elderly man” vs. “old man”? The smallest detail can drastically affect the output. Also, from what I can tell, It’s tough, if not impossible, to adjust an image. Say you like the AI-generated photo of a woman sitting on a chair with a cat on her lap. But you decide you want it to be a dog instead. None of the systems I tried would let you make that sort of change. The best I could do was change the word “cat” to “dog” and rerun my prompt, producing a new batch of images with different women and chairs. There was no way I was getting the same woman in the second set of images. Again, maybe this is possible, but I couldn’t see it. Conclusion All of this to say. Don’t panic. There are people out there leaning on both sides of the fence. Some say our industry is doomed, while others say we have nothing to fear. I’m just one voice. But I don’t think we have anything to worry about. And I have the history I just shared with you backing me up. Fiverr, Canva, WordPress, Creative Cloud. These “design industry killers” are now part of my design toolbox. Instead of taking work away from me, they allow me to do better work and do it more efficiently. I see AI-Generated Art as no different. I plan on embracing it and using it in any way I can. And don’t forget—no matter what new “things” come out. Clients will always appreciate what a good designer can do for them. You can be that designer.
12/12/202226 minutes, 36 seconds
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How To Notify Clients Of A Price Increase - RD307

Scan the news these days, and you’d be hard-pressed not to come across a story about price increases. The price of gas has gone up. Rents are increasing, and groceries are at an all-time high. It’s depressing, I know. But that’s the world we live in. And your business should be no different. At some point, you’ll have to raise your rates if you want to remain solvent. The one benefit of inflation is that people are getting used to price increases. So it won’t be as much of a shock when you announce you’re raising your rates. Be that as it may, you still want to do it the best way possible to soften the blow for your clients. So what’s the best way to announce a price increase to your clients? Let me share some methods with you, along with some points that will make the task easier for you and make your clients more receptive to the news. Signs you should increase your prices. Before I get to how to increase prices, here are four signs indicating it’s time for you to increase your rates. 1) Your operating costs are increasing. As the cost of subscriptions, software and other expenses go up. You need to raise your rates to offset the economy’s effect on your business. 2) You’re consistently busy. Suppose you have an abundance of projects that never seems to end. Or you find yourself turning down work because you don’t have time for it. Raising your rates can help you offset things and enable you to engage the help of subcontractors to ease the burden. 3) You’re prices are too low. Some clients won’t take you seriously if your prices are too low. If you want to attract a higher level of clientele, you need to raise your rates. 4) You’ve increased your value. Over time, you’ll gain experience and knowledge. As the value you offer increases, so should your prices. So now that you’ve deiced to raise your rates. Here’s how to inform your clients of the price increase. Keep it short. Announcing a price increase is a serious matter, and you want to ensure your clients take notice. Keep it short and to the point, if you tell your clients via email. There’s no reason to include any fluff or to go into the philosophy behind the price increase. If possible, announce the increase alongside more pleasant news, such as new or improved services you’re offering. It will help soften the blow. And make sure you give the clients a way to contact you should they want to discuss your new rates. Tell only affected clients. Nobody likes to hear about price increases, even if they don’t affect you directly. You may not be in the market for a new car, but hearing about rising automobile prices still leaves a bad taste in your mouth and may even affect your perception of the various auto manufacturers. Don’t give your clients a reason to think negatively about you. If you’re increasing the price of a business startup package you offer, there’s no reason to notify already established businesses because it doesn’t affect them. Suppose the price of your website hosting and maintenance is going up. Notify the clients already paying for your plan. There’s no reason for you to tell clients whose websites you are not maintaining since it doesn’t affect them. If you’re raising your hourly rate, only notify those clients you charge by the hour. And there’s no reason to notify clients of a price increase if you’re not currently working on a project for them. They’ll find out the next time you give them a quote. Only notify affected clients of these price increases. And if this means advising different clients about price increases for various services, so be it. Send out one letter to your web maintenance clients. Another note to your retainer clients. Another to your hourly rate clients, and so forth. Ensure your clients are notified only about the price increases affecting them. Don’t give your clients a reason to think negatively about you if your price increase doesn’t affect them. Give clients enough of a warning. The more time you give a client to accept and adjust to new prices, the better. Clients will resent a sudden price increase far more than a price increase that will occur in the future. The more time they’re given to think about it, the easier it will be for them to accept the increase. Don’t forget some clients may require time to adjust their budgets. More prominent companies may need approval from higher up the corporate ladder. The idea is to give clients time to come to terms with your higher rates. And if you’re worried about losing clients due to a price increase, remember that it’s much easier for them to pay your higher rates than finding someone new to deal with. The chances of losing clients are slim. But should it happen, the increased revenue you’ll now receive from your other clients should make up for it. Giving enough warning also allows clients to place new orders before your prices go up. Don’t make excuses or apologize for a price increase. Notifying your clients of a price increase is not the time to sugarcoat things. Be confident and direct, and inform them plainly that your rates are increasing. Be as straightforward as possible. Say your prices are increasing. Don’t say you’re adjusting your prices or bringing them in line with your services. This will only confuse your clients. They all know what an increase means. Do be empathetic with them. Tell your clients you appreciate their business. Thank them, and let them know it’s because of them you’ve been able to grow. Show your clients that your appreciation for them goes beyond the money they spend with you. Justify your price increase. Justifying the reason behind your price increase gives the client something to understand and relate to. It shows your clients that your decision to raise prices isn’t only to increase your revenue. They’ll appreciate your transparency and will be more open to the change. Explain in your own words why you’re raising your rates. Don’t use jargon or corporate speak. Be specific without going into too much detail. Have you increased or improved the services you offer? Have you undergone any new training or acquired new equipment or software that will improve overall results? Have your existing tools increased costs, causing you to raise yours? Explain the increase in a way that highlights the value to your client and ties the price increase to the benefits they’ll receive by continuing to work with you. After all, if they now have to pay you more, it would be nice for them to know why your rates have gone up. Remind clients of your value. Your clients initially chose to work with you for a reason. Now’s a good time to remind them of that decision and what they can expect from you. You may want to offer your clients a deal as an added value to accompany your price increase. You could offer them more deliverables along with the increase. Such as adding social media banners to your business startup package or free domain registration with your website maintenance plan. For example, you could offer a free month of your website maintenance plan. Your prices are increasing for everyone on your maintenance plan. But as a long-time valued client, you can offer them the first month for free. Small incentives will soften the blow associated with the increased expense. Ensure your clients feel appreciated. First off, personalize your email. Don’t write one email to send to all clients. Personalize your message by referencing the client and the work you do for them. Explain the value the client is getting, not the pain points you and your business are experiencing. Higher prices should either mean better value for them. Or give you the ability to maintain the same high quality they’ve come to expect from you. You could even offer them a deal to lock in current prices for a fixed period. Prices are going up next month, but you can lock in the current price for the next six months if you pay in advance. Whenever possible, inform your clients of a price increase in person or over the phone. They’ll appreciate the personal dedication and feel better about paying the new rate. Keep your clients happy while notifying them of a price increase. You’ve worked hard to be where you are today. And you deserve to be financially compensated for what you do. You’re only doing yourself a disservice if you don’t raise your rates. Announcing a price increase is never fun. But following the tips I provided should make it easier to communicate the change to your clients and ease the transition for them. Get what you deserve. You’re worth it.
12/5/202215 minutes, 58 seconds
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Outsourcing: Hiring Subcontractors - RD306

One of the perks of running your own design business is the freedom it provides. You have nobody to answer to but yourself. Ok, sure, there are the clients. You do have to answer to them, to a degree. But it’s your business, so you can dictate how you respond to them. If you don’t want to work Friday afternoons, you can take them off. Nobody is stopping you if you want to try a new design technique or different software. And you get to decide how much you charge for your services and can change your rate any time you like. The freedom of working for yourself is one of, if not the main reason people choose the life of, and I’m going to say it, even though I disagree with the term, the life of a freelancer. It felt dirty just writing that. Want to know why? Listen to episode 17 of the podcast titled “Being a Freelance Graphic Designer Could Hurt Your Business.” It will make you rethink calling yourself a freelancer. But where was I? Ah, yes, the freedom of running your own design business. For many of us, it’s the ultimate dream. I will never work for an employer again. And I know many who feel the same. But, just because you’re working for yourself, running your own business, doesn’t mean you’ve made it. I hate to burst your bubble, but the purpose of every business is to grow. A business that doesn’t grow will eventually fail. Many business studies have proven this. And your business will never grow to its full potential because of one thing holding it back. And that one thing is you. Yes, without you, there wouldn’t be a business. However, you are also one of your business’s most significant liabilities. How can that be? It’s because of your limitations. Your limitations may include skills you lack. It may be a lack of time, the time to do things or learn things. Your knowledge may be limiting you. You can’t expect to know everything. Or it could be any number of things. Don’t feel bad. I’m not singling you out. Everyone has limitations. What will help your business grow is knowing your limitations and finding a way to overcome them. And one of the best ways for business owners to overcome their limitations is by working with people who offset those limitations. In other words. Your business will grow when you learn to outsource and hire subcontractors to do what you can’t or shouldn’t do. I know this may seem like a foreign concept. The whole point of going at it alone is just that, to be alone. But being alone will only get you so far. You need a team if you want to grow beyond your limited capabilities. I speak from experience. I ran my design business for several years, all by myself. In my mind, it was my business. Therefore I had to do everything myself. My clients were hiring me, after all. I didn’t take on the project if a client asked for something I couldn’t do. I was limiting my growth. I once turned down a $50,000 website project because I wasn’t confident in my skills with PHP and MySQL. I kick myself to this day for that one. But I couldn’t do it, so I said no. And I kept at it, Trudging away, taking on only the projects I could do and passing on the ones I couldn’t. At the time, I was making decent money and thought I was doing well. But my business wasn’t growing. Year after year, my income was pretty much the same. It wasn’t going up as needed for growth. I had reached what I like to call now, my solo limit. I could only take my business so far on my own. I didn’t know it then, but I was holding my business back. It wasn’t until I started reading more business books and listening to business-related podcasts that I realized that most successful entrepreneurs don’t work alone. They have a team that works with them to accomplish their business goals and help them grow. If I wanted my business to grow, I would have to build a team. Now I didn’t jump in with both feet and hire a bunch of people. I took it slow. The first job I outsourced was when I ran into an issue with a client’s e-commerce website. I wasn’t sure how to handle the problem. Given enough time, I could probably fix it, but I had no idea where to start or how long it would take. Instead of spending hours researching and troubleshooting it myself. I hired a sub-contractor online who was an expert in that e-commerce platform and paid them to fix it for me. It cost me $100 for what I’m sure would have taken me an entire day’s work to accomplish, if not more. Plus, I could charge my client a premium fee for the fix and profit from it. That’s the case with most contractors. Sure, you have to pay them, but you mark up that expense and make a profit when you charge your client. So there’s no downside to paying a contractor. That was my first experience in hiring a sub-contractor. And it was such a good experience that I started looking for other ways outsourcing to subcontractors could help me. Fast forward several years, and now I have an expanded team of contractors I can turn to for all sorts of situations. And through them, I’ve almost tripled my income compared to my pre-outsourcing days. I removed myself as a liability to my business by hiring people to help me. Building your outsourcing team. To clarify, I’m not referring to employees when I say hire. I’ve never had an employee, so I can’t help you with that. I’m talking about hiring subcontractors. These are people you outsource work to on an as-needed basis. When a situation arises where you require help, you hire someone for the task. You’ll work with some contractors regularly, and some you’ll only work with once or twice. You should constantly look for people to add to your team. When you meet or hear of someone with a particular skill, file away that information for when you need it. This team you’re forming is just for you. You don’t even have to tell the people on your team that they’re part of it. They’ll find out when you hire them. All you’re doing is building a personal database of people whose skills may be helpful someday. That’s your outsourcing team. What subcontractors can you hire? So what kind of subcontractors can you hire for your business? The possibilities are endless, but here’s a short list of the more common people designers outsource to. Photographers Hiring a photographer, instead of relying on the client to provide photos, allows you to control and get the exact images you need for your design. To learn more about dealing with photographers, listen to episode 3 of the podcast, where I talk with Brett Gillmore, an award-winning commercial photographer in Calgary, Alberta, here in Canada. Illustrators For those of us lacking in this particular talent, hiring someone is the only way to include custom illustration work in your designs. Even if you’re an accomplished illustrator, you may need someone with an illustration style or technique outside your comfort zone. I have several illustrators on my outsourcing team for this very reason. One specializes in caricatures, another in technical drawings, another is good at watercolours, and another is good with markers. I have people with different illustration styles, such as Japanese manga, vintage looks, and modern cubism. I even have one who makes people look like the Simpsons characters. The idea is to know as many illustrators as possible should I need their skills. Copywriters Unless you have a degree in journalism or another writing discipline,  you should consider working with copywriters whenever possible. Copywriters do with words what we designers do with pixels. They turn simple sentences into compelling messages. When designers and copywriters work together, it creates magic. And that magic allows you to charge much more for your services. Including a copywriter on a website design project can increase its value from $5,000 to $10,000. Clients who understand the importance of a good copywriter are more than willing to pay a premium price for them. Web Developers/Coders Websites are versatile, and the ecosystem is ever-expanding, so it’s understandable that one web designer can’t do everything. Outsourcing parts or even entire projects to web developers allows you to offer much more to your clients. In most cases, you hire a developer to do things you don’t know how to do. But there are also times when you may want to hire a developer to help speed things up if you believe they can complete a task more efficiently than you can. In most cases, it’s more beneficial to pay a sub-contractor for three hours of work than it is for you to spend six hours doing the same task. And while the sub-contractor tackles whatever task you give him, your time is freed up to work on other things. So even though you’re paying for the subcontractor’s services, you’re making more money than if I didn’t hire them since you can charge the client for their time while you’re making money doing something else during that same time. It’s almost like double charging. Outsourcing possibilities are endless. I can go on and on with people you can hire. Some people specialize in SEO, Social Media, Online Advertising, Sales Funnels, Building Email Lists, Translators, etc. Sometimes you outsource to someone for something you don’t want to do. Such as removing the background on over 300 product photos for a catalogue. I’d rather pay someone to do this than sludge through it myself. Every one of these people can help grow your design business. What to look for in a subcontractor. When looking for someone to outsource work to, you want to find someone with the skills you seek that are reliable, trustworthy and easy to deal with. In my limited experience, you are better off finding multiple subcontractors who each excel in a particular skill than finding one person with a general knowledge of various skills. Someone with a specialized skillset may charge more, but their expertise is worth it. You are better off paying a bit more for someone specializing in a specific area. Where to find subcontractors. There are many places where you can find subcontractors to outsource your projects. However, the best place, in my opinion, is through your existing network. It’s much easier to work with someone you already have a relationship with or with a subcontractor vouched for by someone you know. The subcontractor that helps me with website projects is someone I met through the Resourceful Designer Community. One of the illustrators I’ve used over the years is someone I went to school with. Another developer I’ve used was recommended by a designer I know. When my first copywriter took a job that prevented her from doing side work, she recommended a fellow copywriter I could hire. These types of hires are always the most lucrative in my experience. But if your network doesn’t have the people you need, there are plenty of places online you can turn to for outsourcing help. My favourite places to find subcontractors are,, and These platforms often offer you two options when hiring subcontractors. You can either post a job posting that lists the position or skill you’re looking for, along with how much you’re willing to pay and let those interested apply. Or you can search these platforms for people with the talent you’re looking for and reach out to them individually to see if they’re interested in taking on your project. I’ve had success with both methods. However, I prefer to approach them myself. Considerations when outsourcing to a subcontractor. Some things to consider when hiring a subcontractor are where they’re located, their familiarity with the language you speak and, of course, price. Time Zones. These online outsourcing portals connect people from around the world. It’s not unheard of if the perfect person for your project lives on the other side of the globe. You must consider if time zones are an issue. Are you ok working with someone who is going to bed as you start your day? In most cases, it probably won’t be a problem. However, if deadlines are pressing, knowing your contractor won’t see your instructions for 10-12 hours may be a problem. If that’s the case, you may want to refine your search to people geographically closer to where you are located. Most platforms allow you to do this. Language Barriers. Be wary of language barriers when hiring someone to outsource to. Understanding a language and being fluent in it are two different things. You don’t want issues because of a misunderstanding in communication. Some online platforms will indicate what languages a subcontractor is fluent in. Keep that in mind when hiring. Rates and Price. Rates and prices on these platforms vary significantly. Due to the various living costs worldwide, contractors charge different fees for their services. Typically, you’ll pay higher for a subcontractor in North America than someone in an Asian country. Is it worth paying more to work with someone in a closer time zone who speaks your native language? Only you can decide. You must consider all these things when hiring someone. Where they are located, their comfort level with your language, and the rate they charge for their services. Weigh each of these and choose the perfect subcontractor for you. Build your outsourcing team. There is so much more when it comes to hiring a subcontractor. Entire books are dedicated to the subject. But I hope my little scratch of the surface gives you an idea of how and what to look for when outsourcing and expanding your team. I know it’s in our nature to do everything ourselves. It’s tough to relinquish control. But I want you to remember something. Clients don’t hire you to do a job. They hire you to get a job done. And sometimes, the most efficient, practical and cost-saving way to get a job done is to outsource it to someone who can help you. Your clients will appreciate your ingenuity. So the next time you are unsure how to handle a task or find yourself with too much to do and too little time to do it. Or maybe you don’t feel like doing a particular job yourself. Remember that you are not alone. There’s a world of people ready to join your team and help you grow your design business. Don’t be the liability that holds you back from growth. Learn how to outsource.
11/28/202226 minutes, 17 seconds
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Throwback - Ep. 11 - Pricing Strategies For Your Graphic Design Business

This is a throwback episode, replaying episode 11, Pricing Strategies For Your Graphic Design Business. For any links or to leave comments, please visit
11/21/202235 minutes, 52 seconds
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9 Ways to Keep Clients Coming Back Again and Again - RD305

This episode is sponsored by Sticker Mule. Get 10 Custom Stickers for $1, plus free shipping. Visit It’s well-established that it’s easier to get a new design project from a past client than to land a project from a new client. You can run a successful design business with only a few good recurring clients. It’s the 80/20 rule. 80% of your business will come from 20% of your clients. Therefore you must keep as many clients as you can. For the first few years of my design business, I had less than a dozen clients, and less than a handful of those clients kept me busy on an ongoing basis. According to Invesp, the probability of existing clients giving you work in the future is 60-70%, while the likelihood of getting work from new clients is 5-20%. So it’s easy to see why client retention is so necessary. Clients know a talented graphic or web designer when they find one. But it takes more than being an excellent designer to keep them returning. I’ve said this many times on the podcast before. Clients prefer to work with a good designer they like rather than an amazing designer they don’t like. The best way to keep your clients happy and coming back is to ensure they like you. And you do that by providing excellent service and building relationships with them. It’s best to do everything possible to ensure your clients feel valued, appreciated, and satisfied with your services. Here are nine tips for doing just that and keeping your clients returning. And you’ll notice repetition as I go through them, as many of these tips play off each other. Here are nine ways to make clients love working with you again and again. 1) Be Proactive Make sure your clients understand what they should expect from working with you. Be proactive and set expectations upfront, so there aren’t any surprises down the road. Being proactive shows your professionalism and positions you as a leader instead of an order-taker. Clients will appreciate this and quickly learn to trust you. Think about the entire relationship—you’re trying to land a client, not just a design project. And if you can change your mentality and think of them as partners instead of clients, you’ll find the relationship even easier to build. Don’t fall into the trap of viewing client projects as transactional, one-off projects. Instead, think of them as long-term relationships. Being proactive may also mean learning about your client and their industry. Do some homework and learn a little about them and their industry before meeting with them. Clients will appreciate your effort and are more likely to trust you with their project. Don’t forget to keep in touch after the current project ends, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago in episode 303 about following up with dormant clients. If you do a good job setting expectations at the start, many clients will return to you for future projects. 2) Be Honest It’s easy to tell clients what they want to hear, but delivering on those promises is much more challenging. A good designer is honest with clients about their limitations and how they plan to work within those constraints. It’s ok to tell a client you don’t know something. It’s even better to show the client how you’ll overcome those shortcomings. A good designer should be reliable enough to stick to their commitments. However, If you encounter any issues or setbacks during a project, be honest and let the client know. Clients want to work with someone they can trust and who will be truthful with them. If you are not honest with your clients, they will not return. So be honest with them from the start. This means being upfront about your prices, services, policies, limitations and timelines. You should also be honest about any problems or concerns your clients may have. If you are honest with your clients, they will appreciate it and will be more likely to come back to you. After all, honesty is the best policy for running a successful business. 3) Be Timely If you’re a freelancer, you know how important it is to be timely. Deadlines are critical; you will not get repeat clients if you’re not meeting them. That’s why ensuring you’re always meeting your deadlines is vital. If you’re consistently meeting your deadlines, then clients will take notice. They’ll see that you’re reliable and that they can count on you to get the job done. This will keep them coming back to you time after time. So if you want to keep your clients happy (and keep them coming back), ensure you’re always meeting your deadlines. It’s the best way to ensure their satisfaction and ensure that they keep coming back for more of your great work. 4) Be Flexible You need to be flexible with clients. If you’re unwilling to adapt to their needs, you will lose them as a client. Yes, It’s your business, and you set the ground rules for how clients deal with you. That’s part of being a professional. But it’s not worth holding your ground if it means possibly losing a good client. For example, if a client insists on using their project management software instead of yours, or the deal is off, you must decide if this is something worth taking a stand on or if you can be flexible to appease the client. In today’s ever-changing world, designers must adapt to their client’s needs, or they will quickly become outdated. Clients hire you for your expertise, but they expect input as well. If their contributions fall on deaf ears, they won’t enjoy working with you. And you know the outcome when that happens. After all, you aren’t as experienced in their field as they are. Learn from your clients by talking and listening to them. Being flexible and adaptable shows that you are a business willing to change and eager to meet your client’s needs. This is key to keeping your clients happy and returning for more. 5) Be Organized For clients to keep coming back, you must be organized. It’s easy to lose track of things when you work alone, but if you want to be successful, you must be organized. Here are a few tips to help you stay organized: Make a list of everything you need to do so nothing gets overlooked, and tackle one task at a time. Invest in a good physical or software planner to keep track of projects, tasks, deadlines, appointments, and other important dates. All your important dates and times should be viewable in one location. Keep your work area clean and clutter-free. It will help you focus and be more productive. I often struggle with this, even though a clean desk allows me to work better. Take breaks throughout the day to clear your head and relax. This will prevent burnout and help you stay fresh. Delegate tasks whenever possible, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. The more organized you are, the more professional you’ll appear to your clients, which will keep them coming back. 6) Be Professional I’ve already mentioned being professional several times so far. Maybe I should have moved this one closer to the top. As a business professional, and that’s precisely what you are, you always want to ensure that you put your best foot forward. This means dressing appropriately and acting professionally at all times. If you are unsure what attire is appropriate, err on the side of caution and choose something more conservative. Remember that first impressions are important, so take the time to present yourself in the best light possible. In addition to dressing and acting the part, it is also essential that you provide a high level of service to your clients. This means being responsive to their needs, meeting deadlines, and following through on promises. If you consistently provide a positive experience for your clients, they will be more likely to come back to you. Lastly, be careful with jargon. Using industry words may make you feel more professional, but it could alienate your clients and create misunderstandings that may create a wedge between you. Dropping jargon allows you to communicate clearly and effectively with your clients by putting you on the same page. 7) Be Reliable Clients will come back again and again because they trust you. They know you won’t let them down. And they know you’ll deliver quality work on time. If you want your clients to keep coming back, they must know they can count on you. Whether it’s showing up on time for appointments or completing the work you promised, being reliable is key to maintaining a good relationship with your clients. When your clients trust that you will do what you say, they are more likely to continue working with you. 8) Be Trustworthy One of the most important traits you can possess as a business owner is a trustworthiness. If your clients don’t trust you, they won’t come back. It’s as simple as that. Here are a few ways to make sure you stay trustworthy in their eyes: Always be upfront about costs and fees. Don’t try to hide anything from your clients – they’ll appreciate your honesty, which will build trust between you. Follow through on your promises. If you tell your client you’re going to do something, make sure you do it! This will show them that they can rely on you and trust what you say. Be transparent in your dealings. This means being honest about the quality of your products or services and providing accurate information about pricing and availability. Additionally, you should be clear about any deadlines or expectations for your clients. Being transparent in your dealings with clients will build trust and goodwill that will keep them returning. 9) Be Responsive When it comes to keeping clients, responsiveness is critical. If you want returning clients, you must be responsive to their needs. This means being available when they need you, within reason, of course, and being able to address their concerns promptly. You need to adapt to changing circumstances and respond quickly to new ideas. You should be willing to adjust your habits and designs as required. Please take advantage of your client’s feedback and learn from their opinions. This will help you hone in on the areas that matter to them. Being responsive shows your clients that you value their business and are invested in their success. It builds trust and rapport, which are essential for any lasting business relationship. So if you want to keep your clients coming back, ensure you are always responsive to their needs. It might take some extra effort, but it will be worth it in the long run. Turning new clients into recurring clients shouldn’t be complicated. Keeping clients coming back, again and again doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember, clients, don’t want to look for another designer. It’s as much trouble for them as finding new clients is for you. They’re hoping you’re “the one” they can stick with for the long haul. So it’s up to you to become that person. By following these nine simple tips, you’ll create long-lasting relationships that will benefit you and your clients by providing them with excellent customer service, going the extra mile, and making them feel special. And you can ensure that your clients will be happy, satisfied, and loyal to you and your design business for years to come.
11/14/202218 minutes, 1 second
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Find It Faster - Google Search Hacks You May Not Know About - RD304

Google. Very few brands have transitioned beyond their original intent. But Google is one of them. What started in 1998 as a small company launched by two Stanford U students to promote their new search engine has grown to become one of the world’s largest conglomerates. Not only that, but the name Google has evolved to become a noun, an adjective and a verb. Don’t believe me? Google it for yourself. And even though Google now offers a wide gambit of technological solutions to improve people’s life. At their core remains the search engine. Did you know that there are over two trillion Google searches every year? It’s hard to fathom how big two trillion is, so let me put it in perspective. There are over 5 billion searches on Google every day. That’s 228 million every hour, almost 4 million searches every minute. That’s a lot of searching. With an entire planet using them to satisfy their curious minds, Google must ensure its platform is easy to use. Easy enough for young children and seniors alike. You type in what you’re looking for in the search bar, and Google provides you with possible answers. It’s that easy. Of course, Google’s results aren’t always what you’re looking for. But they make it very easy to try again with another search. But what if I told you some simple tricks could help you get better results on the first try? Here are 16 search hacks to help you find things faster on Google. 1) Use quotation marks (“”) in your search. Enclosing your search term in quotation marks will return results with that exact phrase. For example, searching for “How to start a graphic design business” will only show results with those words in that exact order. Using quotation marks in your search makes it easy to find precisely what you’re looking for. NOTE: Using double quotations (“““") tells Google what’s inside them MUST be in the search results. 2) Use a minus sign (-) to exclude words from your search. If your search produced nonrelevant results, try eliminating words by placing a minus sign in front of them. For example, if you want to know the top speed of a Jaguar, the cat, not the car. You could search for “jaguar speed -car” This will eliminate searches about the jaguar motor vehicle. 3) Use Site: only to show results from a specific website. Not every website has a search bar. But that doesn’t matter if you know Google’s site search function. Adding Site: followed by the website you want to search, along with your search term, will return results only from that website. For example, to find out how many computers you can install Photoshop on, you could search for “ how many computers can I install Photoshop on?” The results will only give you answer from the Adobe website. 4) Use an Asterisk (*) as a wildcard in your search. An Asterisk is a star-looking character you get by pressing Shift-8 on your keyboard (*). Replace a word in your search with an Asterisk to see results with multiple possibilities. For example, if you’re planning a trip to Disney land. Searching for “best * at Disney Land” will return results for the best food at Disney Land, the best rides at Disney Land, the best hotels at Disney Land, the best shows at Disney Land, etc. You get the idea. The Asterisk is very useful when combined with the Site: operator. For example, if you want to find results only from government websites, include site:*.gov in your search string, and you’ll only get results from websites with a .gov extension. 5) use OR or AND in all-caps to find multiple results. Using OR or AND returns results from both sides of the operator. OR can be used to find multiple results. For example, you could search for “Christmas decorating ideas in blue OR Green.” You’ll get results showing blue ideas and results showing green ideas. AND can be similarly used to combine results. Searching for “Christmas decorating ideas in blue AND green” will show you results with ideas that combine blue and green. 6) Use Intitle: to find results from a web page’s title. The Intitle: operator can be very useful in narrowing down your searches by only displaying results that include your search term in the web page’s title. For example, if you search for intitle: “communicating with your design clients,” Google will show you two results. Episode 284 of the Resourceful Designer podcast on and the same podcast episode on YouTube. That’s because no other web page in Google index has “communicating with your design clients” in the title. Intitle: is very useful for finding relevant pages specific to your search and not just mentioning your search term somewhere in the body. 7) Use Allinurl: to find results from a web page’s URL. The Allinurl: operator is similar to the Intitle: operator, except this time, the search term is in the URL of the website instead of the title. For example, typing “Allinurl: Resourceful Designer niche” will return every web page containing the words Resourceful Designer and niche in the URL. 8) Use Filetype: to find specific files. This is one of my favourite Google hacks. Using Filetype: lets you find specific file types such as .doc, .png or .pdf. Say you want to find a user manual for something you bought second-hand, such as a treadmill. Searching for the treadmill’s brand name and model number and including Filetype:pdf in your search query will show you results of PFD files of your treadmill’s user manual. This is one of my favourite Google Hacks. I use it all the time to get vector logos from companies in combination with the site: operator I mentioned earlier. For example, say I’m designing a poster for a local event, and I need to include sponsor logos on it. Contacting each sponsor to find a vector version of their logo can be tedious. But if they’re a well-established company, you can sometimes search their website for pdf files and extract the vector logo yourself. Just search for site:[the company’s website] Filetype:pdf. This will show you a list of all the PDFs on that company’s website. It’s then easy to look through them and find one that has a logo you can extract. Filetype: has saved me countless hours over the years. 9) Use Related: to find similar websites. I find this one useful when doing research. By typing related: and entering a website URL, Google will show you websites it thinks are similar to the one you entered. For example, searching for will show you websites Google believes are similar to Shutterstock. 10) Use Cache: to see a website’s cached version. Cache: is helpful if the website you are trying to visit is down. Or if you want to buy a domain and see how it was used before. I used this recently after an Instagram ad and purchasing something from the resulting website. The item I received wasn’t at all as described in the ad. And when I went back to the website, it was gone. Luckily, I found a cached version of the site using Cache: and the site’s domain name and managed to find their contact information. After several back and forths, they agreed to return my money. 11) Use Link: to find pages that link to another page. This one is useful if you are interested in website backlinks and where they originate. Enter Link: followed by a URL; the search results will show you all the sites that link to that page. This is an excellent way of finding out who links to your website or a competitor’s website. 12) Use the Plus Sign (+) to include specific websites or terms in your search results. You can use the Plus sign (+)similarly to the Site: operator. Searching niche+resourceful designer will show results containing both niche and Resourceful Designer. You can also use it as a quick way to narrow down a search. For example, you can search for “famous quote+Henry Ford,” and you’ll get results containing quotes from Henry Ford. 13) Us a Tilde (~) to find approximate words. The tilde is the wave-like line usually found on your keyboard’s key to the left of the number 1. Press Shift to type it. Tilde is helpful if you are unsure of the spelling word’s spelling or if there are multiple spellings of a word. For example, since I’m in Canada, I spell the word colour with a “u.” But while searching for a new printer, I would get the best results by typing “best ~colour printer.” This way, I’ll get results showing the best COLOR printers and COLOUR printers. 14) Use brackets () in your search to isolate parts of your search string. Brackets allow you to combine multiple methods I’ve shared above in a single search string. Similar to a math problem, such as (2+3) x 2 = 10, where you solve what’s in the brackets first and then the rest of the equation, adding brackets to your search string can help focus your search. Here’s an example of a search combining multiple methods and using brackets to separate them. (conference OR workshop) AND (Photoshop OR Illustrator) 15) Search a range of numbers using two dots (..) If you want only to see results between a range of numbers, use two dots between the numbers. For example, typing “who won the Super Bowl 1996..1999” will show results containing the Super Bowl winners from 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999. 16) Use @ to find something on social media If you’re searching for something and only want results from social media, include @ and the social media platform. For example, “Taylor Swift @twitter” will return results containing “Taylor Swift” found on Twitter. Google can do so much more. There you have it, 16 hacks to improve your Google searching and help you find things faster. And that’s only scratching the surface. Google has so many other uses as well. Need to figure out a math problem? Type it into Google search. Need to do a quick conversation from Fahrenheit to Celcius or miles to kilometres or convert anything else? Type it into Google search. Need to know how much your money is worth elsewhere? Do a quick currency conversion in Google search. Are you planning a trip? Search [City Name] to [City Name] to get flight costs from multiple airlines. Need to know what time it is anywhere in the world? Type “Time in [city]” to find out. Don’t know what a word means, type define before the word to learn its definition. You can also type etymology before a word to find its origins. Google can also be used to translate languages, get stock prices, find weather forecasts, and so much more. It is a wonderful tool. And I hope that after reading this, you’re now more proficient in using it.
11/7/202228 minutes, 49 seconds
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Following Up With Dormant Clients - RD303

Episode Sponsor: StickerMule How often do you follow up with dormant clients? I’m not talking dormant like they haven’t replied to an email in a few days. However, following up is always a good idea when you don’t receive an expected reply. I’m talking about following up with dormant clients months or even years after you’ve completed whatever project you did for them. In episode 72 of Resourceful Designer, I discussed getting new work from existing clients. It’s proven that getting new work from existing clients is much easier than landing new clients. After all, you don’t have to worry about the awkward introductory phase since you already know each other. You have a proven track record, so you and your client know what to expect. And yet, even though it’s much easier to get new work from existing clients. Many designers don’t actively seek out that work. Why is that? You may be thinking to yourself. “I don’t want to bother them. The clients know me. If they have more work for me, they’ll contact me.” But that’s not always the case. I’m not saying they won’t contact you when they have more work. They probably will. The problem is clients don’t always realize they have work for you. What? What are you talking about, Mark? No, it’s true. It’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” Your dormant client isn’t thinking about you; therefore, they aren’t thinking of the work they could be sending you. I want to run an experiment with you right now. Last week I went to the dentist for a routine checkup. I’m happy to say they found nothing wrong with my teeth. I take dental hygiene seriously, so I scheduled a new appointment for a cleaning in 9 months. Now, let me ask you this. Did you think about your dentist and your next appointment? Chances are you did. Maybe you thought about an upcoming appointment. Or perhaps it made you think you should make an appointment if you don’t already have one. Regardless, I’m pretty sure, even if only briefly, you thought about your teeth. Why is that? It’s because of triggers. Triggers. Triggers, the verb, not the thing you squeeze to fire a gun, are something that can connect one event to another. The mention of my dental appointment triggered your thoughts about your dental hygiene. If I say I recently changed the tires on my car because they had worn-out threads. You probably just started wondering about the tires on your vehicle. If I say, I have no idea what I’m having for dinner tonight. Now you’re probably thinking about your next meal. All of these are because of triggers. Our day is full of them. Most of the time, you don’t even realize they’re there. But triggers influence you in many ways. Triggers are often the correlation between one thing and another. Triggers and Dormant Clients. That brings me back to following up with dormant clients. Remember when I said the problem is clients don’t always realize they have work for you? It’s because they don’t have anything with which to correlate that work. And that’s very easy to fix. Just like me mentioning my dentist made you think of your dentist. Reconnecting with a client can trigger them to find new work for you. Remember, “out of sight, out of mind?” When the client isn’t thinking of you, they’re not thinking of projects you can do for them. The solution is to get them to think of you. You can do that by following up. Triggers in action. Resourceful Designer Community members are beta testing a weekly accountability group where we share long-term and short-term goals. We meet once per week for 10-15 minutes. Each person shares one thing they want to accomplish before our next meeting. This goal could be small, like adding a new case study to their website, creating social media posts, or getting organized for a presentation. The object is to share something to which you want to be held accountable. Because the following week, you have to share whether or not you completed that goal. My goal two weeks ago was to reach out and reconnect with four dormant clients. I ended up emailing six long-standing clients. Their dormancy ranged from six months to a couple of years since the last project I did for them. When I sent my email, I didn’t ask them if they had any work for me. Instead, I asked them how they were doing, and in a couple of cases, I wondered if they were happy with the last project I did for them. Over the following few days, three of these dormant clients replied with new design projects for me. One wanted an update on a flyer I created for them a few years ago. Another asked me to refresh their website with updated text and photos. The third wants to meet next week to discuss a new project. All three thanked me for reaching out and said they wouldn’t have thought of these projects if I had not sent them my email. But my message triggered an interest in these projects. Of the other three clients, two thanked me for reaching out and asked me to contact them in January at the beginning of their new fiscal year. And the last one said times were tough, and business wasn’t going well. But that he appreciated me checking in. So, six emails, three new projects and possibly two others in the new year. Not a bad return for the few minutes I spend composing six emails. And it was all because of triggers. Receiving an email from me triggered something that made them realize there was work they could give me. Funny how that works. How do you follow up? As I said, when I reached out to these clients, I didn’t ask them if they had any work for me. I made the email about them. Not about me. For one client, I asked how the website I designed worked out for them. Was it bringing in the business they hoped? They’re very pleased with the site and happy I reached out. They asked me to make some changes to the site. One of the clients is a retail outlet affected by the pandemic. I asked them how things were going now. He said things are finally picking up. He’s the one that wants to meet with me next week. Another is a local membership association. I hadn’t talked to them in almost two years, so I inquired how the pandemic had affected them. They’re the ones that want me to update their flyer. Clients appreciate it when you think about them. If you email them asking if they have work for you, they’ll see right through that. It sounds pleading. But if you make your message about them without asking for anything in return. They’ll genuinely appreciate the thought behind it. That’s how you build relationships. And we all know those client relationships are essential in our business. That’s how you get more work from dormant clients. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a couple of months or a few years. Reach out to old clients and ask them how they’re doing. Show them you care. You might get some work out of it. Triggers. It’s funny how they work. Now go and make that dental appointment.
10/31/202214 minutes, 6 seconds
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Stop Wasting Time On Time Management - RD302

Here’s some valuable advice to help make you a more productive graphic or web designer. Stop wasting time on time management. I’ve been in the graphic design space for over 30 years. I’ve been running my own home-based design business since 2005. And I’ve been publishing the Resourceful Designer podcast since 2015. In all that time, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many designers. Be it graphic designers, web designers, UI and UX Designers. I’ve spoken with generalists and specialists, such as those focusing on specific niches. I’ve talked to design strategists, consultants, directors, and even design influencers. Two answers come out on top whenever asked what their biggest struggle is. Finding new clients. And Time Management. It’s that latter one I want to talk to you about today. What is Time Management? According to, time management is the analysis of how working hours are spent and the prioritization of tasks to maximize personal efficiency in the workplace. Sounds simple enough. You analyze how you spend your time and then prioritize what you need to do to maximize efficiency. But if time management is that simple, why do so many people struggle with it? I mean, if time management were so easy, there wouldn’t be thousands of different “solutions” addressing it. A search on Amazon returns over 70,000 books covering the subject. YouTube has over half a million videos on Time Management. And Google has over 80 million search results. Time Management is such a popular topic because EVERYONE has problems with it. Let me share a revelation with you today. Time is impossible to manage. Contrary to confusing movies such as Tenet. Time moves in one direction at a steady pace. So you’re not trying to manage time. You’re trying to manage how you go about your day while time continues at its own pace, totally ignorant of your plight. If you’re looking at your fellow designers and thinking, “They seem so organized. I don’t know how they do it.” I’ll let you in on a little secret. They’re thinking the same thing about you. Everybody wants tips, tricks and techniques to be able to get more things done. To do things faster, to be more productive, more efficient and to work better. But the truth is that stressing over these things makes you slower, less productive, and less efficient and impedes your work. In my opinion, the only people who succeed with Time Management, and I don’t mean succeed AT time management, but WITH time management, are those with something to gain from it, which means the authors of all those books on Amazon. The creators of those YouTube videos. And the writers of all the articles found through Google. It’s what they say. If you want to make money, find a solution to a widespread problem. That’s what these people are doing—offering a solution in order to make money. But are they addressing the problem? I doubt it. Because if they did, then time management wouldn’t be such a prevalent issue. And you know what? I guarantee you that the people who created these time management assets still struggle with time management. It’s inevitable. Why is that? It’s because of this little thing called LIFE. I’m sure you’ve experienced it. It’s like the military saying, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Similarly, no time management plan can survive contact with life. You can have the best laid-out plan. You have everything organized and scheduled down to the millisecond. And it all goes out the window when “life” happens. You’re kid’s school calls because they’re feeling sick. You get a flat time on the way to a meeting. A storm knocks out your power. Your dog gets sprayed by a skunk. Your magic mouse dies in the middle of the day, and you can’t work while it’s charging. Why Apple, Why? Life has a way of interfering with your best plans. So you just have to learn to live with it. What to do about Time Management? So far, I’ve been pretty bleak. I haven’t been very helpful if you started reading this because you’re struggling with time management and were hoping for a solution. So let me talk a little bit about your options. First, there is no one solution to getting the most out of your time. Again, if there were, then time management wouldn’t be an issue for most people. Every individual is different. And that includes you. You learn differently. You process information differently. You go about completing Your tasks differently than anyone else. That’s why there’s no Time Management system you can shoehorn to fit everyone. You have to figure out what works best for you, and the solution that ends up working for you may come from many different time management options. And believe me, the many different options and opinions regarding this topic can leave your head spinning. Just look at this list of popular time management solutions. Eisenhower Matrix Getting Things Done, or the GTD method Time Blocking Autofocus Iceberg Method Pomodoro Technique Agile Results Kanban System Bullet Journalling Time Tracking And this is just a tiny sampling of some of the more popular time management solutions people share. So, where do you start? Start small with baby steps and combine options. The best advice I can give you is to start small. Trying to jump in feet first and embrace any of these systems in their entirety rarely works. In most cases, the person who tries gets overwhelmed and gives up. You must tackle time management in baby steps over an extended period—even years. I’ll even go as far as saying your time management strategy should be ever-evolving. So first. Find one thing you can implement into your routine and test it out. For example, you may create daily to-do lists of the tasks you want to complete. If you find this works for you, embrace it and move on to the next thing to build out your personalized time management plan. If it doesn’t, then try something else. It’s ok and even encouraged to mix and match strategies from different systems to find a plan that works for you. Perhaps you can try Time Blocking next. Time blocking is when you block certain times of the day to perform specific tasks. Such as saving all your invoicing for Friday mornings. After that, you may want to dabble with the Agile Results method, where you identify three tasks from your To-Do list as priorities for today. Or the Eisenhower Matric method that divides tasks based on their importance. It doesn’t matter what you try. Keep experimenting until you find something you feel good sticking with. What you’re essentially doing is building a system that works for you. And this process will take time, as it should. And don’t be afraid to adjust and tweak your system as you go. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Steal ideas from them if you want. But ultimately, you need to do what works for you. For years, I managed my client projects in a leather-bound notebook. I found it very efficient. The more organized I was, the better I could manage my time. Then one day, I tried Plutio, a client management system, and I found I liked it. Now it’s what I use. My system evolved. When I set up my appointment scheduler, I had it open five days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Those were my business hours, so those were the hours I should be available to meet with clients. Or so I thought. It didn’t take me long to realize that having meetings scheduled every day of the week impeded my productivity, making it very hard to manage my time regarding projects. So I blocked off Mondays and Fridays. Allowing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as my possible meeting days. I set up my scheduling software with one-hour buffers between meetings. When someone selects a meeting time, the software blocks off the hour before and after that meeting so nobody can book an appointment that might overlap. Then one day, I found myself with meetings scheduled for 9:30 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2:30 pm, and 4 pm. It pretty much ruined my day for anything else. There wasn’t enough time between meetings for me to get into the flow of designing. Any time management I had went out the window. So I tweaked my scheduling software again. I shortened the buffer to 30-minutes between meetings and the availability window to Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday mornings and from 9-11 am and 3-5 pm on Thursdays. This new option opened up my schedule for me to work on projects for more extended periods while still being able to meet with clients. Do what works for you, and keep adjusting it. A time management system should never be written in stone. It needs to be something flexible that you are constantly moulding. Is Time Management the solution? Let me ask one last thing. Why do you need to manage your time? Is it because you’re feeling overwhelmed? Is it because you have trouble prioritizing the things you do? Is it because you feel stressed running your business? Do you believe managing your time better will help you with any of these? Maybe other things are affecting how you work besides time. Is that a possibility? Working by yourself from home can be isolating. And what could at first appear to be a time management issue may have to do with your mental health. If trying various methods doesn’t seem to be helping, you may want to consult someone to see if there’s an underlying issue affecting how your work. The stigma regarding mental health is not what it was 10-20 years ago. It’s entirely ok to seek help should you need it. You’re worth it. Never forget that. So as I said at the beginning. Everyone suffers from time management issues—even the so-called experts on the subject. Life sees to that. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years and time management still gets the better of me more often than naught. So don’t feel inadequate if you’re suffering from it as well. You’re in good company.
10/24/202218 minutes, 55 seconds
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Time For A Tool Audit - RD301

Episode Sponsor: StickerMule I want to talk to you about your tools (software). But first, I want to tell you a story. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter invited her mother and me for dinner, and we arrived mid-afternoon. As is always the case, Mother and daughter had lots to do and talk about, which left me to my own devices. So I turned on the TV, launched Disney+ and started scrolling through the menu to find something to watch. I knew there was the possibility they might need my help with something, so I didn't want to choose a show that would require my full attention. After some time, I decided to watch the Pixar movie UP! I hadn't seen it since my kids were young, but I remember it as a fun, feel-good movie. Plus, I wasn't concerned about missing part of it for whatever reason. In UP!, there's a character named Dug. Perhaps you're familiar with him. Dug is a dog that the two main characters meet along their journey. Dug wears a special collar his master made that allows him to talk. Now, I don't want to spoil too much of the movie if you haven't seen it. But let's say that Dug, like most dogs, is easily distracted. This is evident in the film every time he sees a squirrel. He might be mid-sentence explaining something important when suddenly, SQUIRREL. He's distracted. If you've ever heard the term Squirrel Syndrome to describe someone who is easily distracted, it came from Dug. A close sister to Squirrel Syndrome is Shiny Object Syndrome. Shiny object syndrome (SOS) is a continual state of distraction brought on by an ongoing belief that there is something new worth pursuing. According to Wikipedia, Shiny object syndrome is a psychological concept where people focus on a new and fashionable idea, regardless of how valuable or helpful it may ultimately be. While at the moment, it seems to be something worth focusing one's attention upon, it is ultimately a distraction. People who face a fear of missing out are especially susceptible, as the distraction of shiny objects in themselves clouds judgment and focus. I have a confession to share with you. For a long time, I suffered from Shiny Object Syndrome regarding software. Any time I saw or heard of a new tool, especially software, that might somehow make my life easier, I wanted it. Even if I had no idea how or why I would use it, it was FOMO, the fear of missing out. The pitch, ad, or recommendation made the software sound so helpful and desirable that I just had to have it. Someone would mention, or I would read, how this new software was the be-all, end-all of software. Using it can save you 10 hours of work per day, and your clients will start mailing you envelopes full of cash for all the fantastic features you can offer them because of it. It sounds too good to be true. But what if it isn't? And if I act right now, for a limited time, I will only pay $99 instead of the regular price of $9,000. What a deal. How could I pass that up? Ok, you know I'm exaggerating. But you also know there's some truth to what I'm saying. Looking through my Applications folder, I see several tools, and BTW, I'm using the terms tools and software interchangeably. Still, I see several tools I bought and never used or used for a short time before consciously giving up on them, or sometimes, just forgetting about them because it was not as helpful as I thought. I fell for the hype. And that's not counting all the online tools, memberships, subscriptions and communities I paid for and never used. We work hard for the money we make as designers. And we must be careful not to waste that money on tools we don't need. Case in point. Have you ever heard of Doodly? It's a tool that lets you easily create whiteboard animation videos. You know, the kind where you see a hand with a marker that quickly draws the animation. They're great for explainer videos. A few years ago, I saw a Facebook ad promoting a lifetime license for Doodly. It usually costs $39/month. But for a one-time purchase of $67, I would have access to it for life. There's no arguing. That's a fantastic deal. The problem is, I've never used it. The ad pitch for Doodly made it so appealing. I thought to myself. This would be an excellent service to offer my clients. And they hooked me in. I never considered that in my 30+ years in the design space, I've never needed to create a whiteboard animation video. Not once did I ever think, "you know what? A whiteboard animation video is exactly what this client needs. I wish I knew how to make them." The possibility of this tool blinded me. But in the three years since I fell for this deal. The opportunity to create a whiteboard animation video has never come up. So even though it was a fantastic deal. It was a waste of my money. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with Doodly. I still think it's a great tool. It just isn't a tool I need. Sure, the lifetime deal means I have it should I ever need it. But why spend money on something you may or may not ever need? Nowadays, everywhere you look, there's some tool or software that can benefit you and your business. I'm a big fan of AppSumo. I'm even an affiliate of theirs. If you're not familiar with AppSumo, it's a website that offers software products at amazing deals. Often lifetime deals where you pay once and own the software forever. AppSumo does a fantastic job at making these deals seem irresistible. How owning them improves your life and streamlines the way you work. In other words, they're great at marketing the products they promote in a way that makes you want them. And AppSumo is just one site. PitchGround, MacHeist, MightyDeals and many other websites offer lifetime deals for great-sounding products. And if you buy something, A lifetime deal is the way to go. After all, why pay monthly for something if you can pay once and use it forever? I've bought many lifetime deals for software I still use daily. And they've saved me a ton of money. Plutio, my project management software, costs $39/per month. I paid $49 for a lifetime license. Billwaze, is my invoicing software, although when I bought it, it was called EZBilling360. The plan I have costs $99.99/month. I paid $59 for a lifetime license. SocialBee is what I use to schedule and recycle social media content. It costs $39/month. I paid $49 for a lifetime license. Book Like A Boss is my appointment scheduler. The plan I have costs $15.83/month. I paid $49 for a lifetime license. And that's just a few. So you can see how buying a lifetime license is worth it. But that's provided you use the software. I've also purchased many lifetime licenses on these sites and elsewhere for tools I don't use. I was a culprit of shiny object syndrome. My problem was I would buy a great-sounding tool without knowing why or how I would use it. And I wasted a lot of money because of it. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the products sold on these sites are not good. Many of them are. And they do help a lot of people. But just because they help a lot of people doesn't mean they're going to help you. In fact, my AppSumo purchase history is four pages long and dates back to 2015. And you know what? Looking through those pages, I can see a pattern. Every piece of software I bought and still use today is something I bought because I needed it at the time. Equally, almost every piece of software I purchased but didn't have an immediate use for, I don't use anymore, if I ever did at all. Just because something might be helpful to you someday is not a good excuse to part with your hard-earned money today. Owning many different tools doesn't make you a better or more efficient designer if you don't or can't use them. Remember, you're what makes you a designer. It's not the tools you use. Just like a photographer is a photographer regardless of the camera or lenses they use. Just because they buy a new lens doesn't make them a better photographer. Sure, it might allow them to take photos they couldn't take before. But that only helps them if they take the kind of photos the lens is designed for. A portrait photographer doesn't need a high-power zoom lens. So buying one is a waste of money. As a design business owner, you must be careful about your purchase of tools. That's why, to help fight my shiny object syndrome, I started to apply filters and question every tool I'm considering buying. It helps me stop wasting money on tools I don't need. And you should do the same. Don't ask yourself whether or not a tool will be helpful because, in most cases, it could be helpful. Look at Doodly. It's a beneficial tool if you need to create whiteboard animation videos. Instead, ask yourself whether or not it's something you need right now or in the foreseeable future. Are you in a situation or know of an upcoming situation that could benefit from owning that tool? If you can't think of immediate use for it, don't buy it. Now, sometimes you feel tempted by a tool because you feel it will help fast-forward something that might be difficult you're trying to avoid or get through. Take a CMS, for example, a Client Management System. There are hundreds of options out there you could use to manage your clients and projects. And hearing how someone is successfully using a different system may make you question your current system. But buying a new CMS may not be the answer. Maybe your frustration comes from a lack of understanding of your current CMS. And buying a new one is an easy way to avoid dealing with it. How does that saying go? "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Even though a tool is working well for someone else, it may not be the answer to your problem. New is not always better. Instead, embrace what you already have and make it work for you. I mentioned how I use Plutio to manage my projects. Is it the best tool for the job? I have no idea. It might not be. Many designers use other tools that work well for them. However, I invested in Plutio, so I'm making it work. And think of this. Tools that claim to make things easier or more efficient, or ones that say they'll save you time, may attract you because you don't want to do those things. You're looking for an easy way out. What sounds like a great deal may be nothing more than a bandaid covering up what you really should or could be doing on your own. I  talked earlier about lifetime deals and how they can save you a lot of money, which is true. But be wary. The offer of a lifetime deal makes it easy to get roped into purchasing something you don't need. My AppSumo purchase history is evidence of that. It lists many lifetime deals I've purchased that I never used. I bought them because I thought the price was too good to pass up for something that may come in handy someday. In other words, they were a waste of money. I didn't apply my filters. I didn't have an immediate use for them, so I never should have bought them. But what about tools with monthly fees? How many tools do you have that you pay a monthly fee for? How many of them do you get your money's worth from? I had an aHrefs subscription for over a year. Ahrefs is a fantastic platform to help track, analyze and grow websites. It's excellent with keyword research. It enables you to analyze and monitor competition, track website backlinks, and much more. If you're trying to build and grow websites, aHrefs is the tool to have. But it comes at a cost. My subscription was $127 Canadian per month. And every month, when I saw that charge on my credit card statement, I questioned whether it was worth it. The tool is excellent, but I wasn't using it as much as when I first subscribed. Was I getting $127 per month worth out of it? When I concluded that the answer was no, I wasn't; I cancelled my subscription. Why pay $127 a month for a tool I only use occasionally, no matter how much I like it? If I find myself in a situation where I need it again, I can always re-subscribe. But in the meantime, that $127 can be used elsewhere. I recently did an audit of all my monthly subscriptions and cancelled several of them that I no longer felt I needed. In all, I'm now saving over $300 per month. These days, I apply a filter, as I mentioned earlier, whenever I consider a new tool if I see an ad for something interesting on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Or maybe a podcaster I trust or a colleague recommends something I could use. In the past, I might buy it, no questions asked. But now I try to disconnect myself from the idea that the tools are the answer that will take me to the next level. The tools are simply a way to become more efficient at something. The tools are a means to an end. They're there to support and help you with the things you are trying to do. Once again, you're who makes you a designer. Not the tools you use. In many cases, these tools become a distraction and pull us away from the things we're trying to do. And they cost money and can become dangerous for you because they're masked by the idea that they'll make your life easier. But you don't need all the tools. I want you to make an audit of all the tools you're currently using and figure out which ones are necessary. This can save you money. It can save you time. And it can bring you back to what's vital for you and your business. And stop paying for those tools that aren't necessary. Think back to the photographer analogy. A photographer who buys a new lens every time they want to take a different kind of photo will soon find themselves with a hefty camera bag, just like all the tools we have to deal with as designers. Imagine that photographer making decisions now. They have over a dozen lenses to choose from, and it will become harder and harder for them to decide which one to use. This works against them and makes them less efficient photographers because they don't have the time to master each lens. Be honest with yourself. The tools you have right now. Are you using them to the best of your ability? Are you maximizing the investment you put into them? Tools are not magic buttons. You can't just buy something and all your problems go away. That's not how it works. So do that audit. Figure out which tools are necessary for what you do. Next, figure out which would be great if you actually used them. Then decide if you want to commit to using them. If not, stop paying for them. Finally, determine what you don't use or need and eliminate them. Open up your wallet and mind for the tools you will use. I did this episode as much for me as it is for you. I've failed at this before, and I want to hold myself accountable to be better at it in the future. Every time I see a new tool come across my screen, I need to ask myself. Do I need this right now? Will this actually help me? Or is it just distracting me from what I know I need to do? More often than not, it turns out I don't need the tool, regardless of how good the deal seems.
10/17/202225 minutes, 23 seconds
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Resourceful Designer will be back on October 17, 2022

I need to put the Resourceful Designer podcast on a short hiatus. Episodes will return on October 17th, 2022. In the meantime, if you watch the new The Rings Of Power television series on Amazon Prime Video, please check out my new podcast. The Rings Of Power Podcast - Tales From Middle Earth.
9/8/20223 minutes, 19 seconds
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When To Drop A Design Client - RD300

When first starting in graphic or web design, firing a client may seem like a foreign concept. After all, isn’t the whole point of building a business to increase your number of clients, not reduce it? But money is money, and as long as clients pay, they’re worth having. Right? If you’re strapped for cash and don’t have a choice, then I say, sure, get every client you can. But as your client list grows and things become more stable, you’ll inevitably notice that some clients are easier to work with than others. Or maybe it’s not the client. It might be that you enjoy working on specific client projects more than other client projects. Like many of us, it’s also possible that you may find yourself dealing with clients who frustrate you for one reason or another. These are the clients that make you sigh or groan every time they contact you. Dealing with them is more complicated than with your other clients. You can put up with these clients for a while. But if something isn’t done to resolve whatever issues you have with them, the solution may be to let them go. Not every reason to let a client go is a negative one. As you’ll see from the situations described below, there are times when you may want to let a client go because it’s the right time to do so. You’ll grow over time, as a designer and as a business person. This growth may lead you to pivot your business and perhaps narrow down on a niche, making some existing clients no longer a good fit for you. Whatever the reason, you will be faced with walking away from a client at some point, hopefully, in a way that minimizes the impact on your business. Here are 11 signs that it’s time to let a client go. The client has unreasonable demands or is abusive. If you ever feel like a client is mistreating you or is outright abusive, it’s time to let them go. Some clients expect you to behave like an employee. They want you at their beck can call, doing their bidding whenever they want. Just because they are paying you does not give them the right to treat you unprofessionally. You’re a business person just like them, not their employee. Any Abusive behaviour or verbal attacks against you or your business should never be tolerated, regardless of the cost of a design project. This may sound like common sense, but many designers put up with unreasonable and abusive clients because the money is good. Let them go. You’ll find better clients to replace them. The client negatively impacts your bottom line. Some clients are notorious for expecting special favours. Maybe they want special rates or discounts or expect you to provide services above and beyond your typical offerings. If your relationship with these clients no longer feels like a good business decision, let them go. The client refused to work your way. Any client who refuses to follow your guidelines or work the way you outline should be a concern for you. If you cannot resolve the issue with them, it’s a sign they are not a good fit for you. Let them go. The client asks you to do the same monotonous work over and over. Some design projects often become repetitive. I had a client years ago that wanted their product photos to be on a white background. So all I did for them was close crop photos. It was easy money initially, but the work became tedious after several months. I realized the client didn’t require anything else from me other than this dead-end project. I let them go and devoted my time to other client projects. The client has payment issues. Having to deal with a client who is consistently late with payments or wants to negotiate on every project isn’t fun. Hopefully, a well-written contract will alleviate these problems. But if not, it’s probably in your best interest to let the client go. After they pay you, of course. The client is not someone you enjoy working with. Not everyone gets along. That goes for designers and their clients as well. It’s not necessarily because the client is a difficult person. Sometimes personalities just don’t mesh. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t enjoy working with a particular client, it might be time to let them go and find someone better suited to you. The client expects more than what you agreed upon. You can’t blame a client for trying to get the most from their investment. However, if a client keeps requesting additional work beyond the original agreed-upon project, and isn’t paying for your extra effort, then there’s a problem. Scope creep is quite common in our industry. It’s best to put a stop to it right away before things escalate. If the work you are doing for your client keeps increasing, but they are not compensating you for it, it may be time to let the client go. You’ve outgrown your client. At some point, you may decide that a client is no longer a good fit. Maybe your business grows to the point where you don’t want to deal with smaller-budget clients. Perhaps you narrow your focus on your services, and existing clients no longer meet your criteria. Any time you outgrow a client, let them go and find new ones which suit you better. The client is inconsistent. Some designers prefer to work with clients who can guarantee consistent work. This is a perfect business model for retainer agreements which I’ve discussed in episodes 32 and 255 of the podcast. If a client only offers you the odd project here and there with no guarantee of steady work, you may consider letting them go and focusing your energy on clients with recurring projects. The client doesn’t respect you as a professional. It’s a fact that many people don’t take designers seriously as business professionals. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t yourself. Suppose a client disrespects you by consistently cancelling, postponing or not showing up for meetings. Or if they take forever to reply to your emails or phone calls. Or if they disrespect you in any other way, let them go. As a business professional, you don’t have time to deal with people who don’t respect what you do. The client isn’t paying your current rates. As time goes by, you will inevitably raise your rates as you grow your design business. You may start at $30/hr or $150 for a logo design, but you’ll want more at some point. Raising your rates isn’t hard to do. You decide what your new rate is and charge it. All new clients pay the new rate. But what about old clients who are used to paying your old rates? In my experience, most clients will understand and accept your new rate. I’ve never lost a client because of a rate hike. But, should a client not be able to or is unwilling to pay your new rates. Take it as a sign that it’s time to part ways with them. Some clients can afford you, and some can’t. That’s Ok. It’s the same for every business. There you have it, 11 signs that it’s time to let a client go. As you can see, sometimes you should let a client go not because they are a lousy client but because you’ve evolved beyond them. Regardless of why you let a client go, it would be best if you did so in a professional manner. Whenever possible, try to come up with a solution that will prevent you from having to let a client go. But if it comes to parting ways, always try to leave on good terms. Leaving on good terms can strengthen your relationship with the departed client. There’s no telling what the future holds. You never know. A client you let go of today might be in a different situation down the road and in need of someone with your talents. If you parted on good terms, you might be able to pick up and continue that relationship. Even a lousy client may one day see the light. So don’t burn bridges if at all possible. I’ve talked on this show many times about how any design business’s success is built on the relationships you form with your clients. Ending a relationship can be challenging, especially one you’ve had for a long time. Remember, you are running a business. As such, you need to do what is in the best interest of that business. Sometimes, that means letting clients go. They’ll respect you for it.
8/29/202216 minutes, 49 seconds
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Fight Creativity With Creativity - RD299

Find something to distract your creative mind. Nobody tells you when you get into the design industry that regardless of whether you’re doing this part-time or full-time or how many hours you devote to working each day, being a graphic or web designer is a 24/7 job. The curse of creativity. Let me know if this sounds familiar to you. You’re out doing errands. Maybe it’s grocery shopping or going to an appointment. It doesn’t matter. Whatever you’re doing has nothing to do with design work. And yet, for some reason, you find your mind churning away at design-related things. It starts contemplating a problem your having with a client website. Hmm, what’s the best way to accomplish that? Or it starts generating ideas for that new logo you’re designing. What if I play around with using an abstract star in the logo? It could be something as mundane as imagining colours. I like the blue on the cereal box. I wonder how this blue would look on that poster I’m designing? Even though you’re “off-the-clock,” your mind keeps designing. You may be watching TV and only half paying attention to what’s playing because part of your brain is crunching away at some design problem. Or worse, you’re lying in bed in the pitch dark, wanting to fall asleep, but your brain has other plans. Have you ever found yourself in any of these situations? Call it the curse of creativity. Those gifted with it know that creativity can pop up at the most inopportune times. Now, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love how my mind works and all the creative things it comes up with. However, I could do without the sleep deprivation. But even that’s a small price for something I love doing. But even though I embrace this wild creativity we designers possess. Sometimes it would be nice not to have my mind wander towards some design problem when I’m not working. Because letting it do this over and over can lead to burnout. If all we think about is our jobs as designers, we may end up resenting what we do for a living. A creative solution. Now there are various solutions to this “problem.” Some people practice meditation to clear their minds. And I’m sure it’s beneficial for them, but meditation isn’t my thing. Some people listen to music or podcast. But just like watching TV, I find your mind can still wander away from these intended distractions. I can’t tell you how often I found myself listening to a podcast or audiobook only to realize my mind started wandering, and I have no idea what was said over the last several minutes. Some people turn to exercise, which is never a bad thing. But I’m not sure how effectively it curbs a wandering creative mind. It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to count repetitions. I found that the best way to stop a creative mind from wandering is to give it another creative outlet. That’s right, fight creativity with creativity. Now I’m far from being a brain expert. But I think many of these scenarios I’ve mentioned don’t require a lot of brain processing power. Walking down a grocery ails and picking out a cereal box doesn’t need your undivided attention. Nor does putting one foot in front of another while out running. This “brain idling” leaves a significant portion of your mind with nothing to do. And what do most sentient things do when they have nothing to do? They get bored, and they start to wander. And that’s why creativity is the best weapon against wandering creativity. It’s kind of like fighting fire with fire. Or maybe it’s not. I don’t know. The best way to stop thinking about your job as a designer is to occupy your mind with another creative task. Since creativity uses a lot of brain power, it’s difficult for your mind to think of two creative things simultaneously. So it focuses on the more immediate one. The creative outlet you choose is irrelevant. Maybe, instead of listening to music, you create music. Maybe, instead of reading, you try writing. Perhaps you try a sport instead of going to a gym to exercise. After all, most sports require creative thinking. Or it could be knitting, sculpting, dancing, scrapbooking, or even basket weaving if that’s your thing. It doesn’t matter, as long as it requires creativity. When it comes to creative outlets, there are unlimited choices. My creative outlet. My favourite creative outlet is woodworking. I may have mentioned it before on the Resourceful Designer podcast, but I love woodworking. If I hadn’t become a designer, I probably would have become a carpenter or something in the woodworking field. I even have battle scars to prove it. Last year, while building a plant stand for my wife, I caught the tips of two of my fingers on my table saw. Luckily the damage was minimal. A couple of tiny scars are the only evidence of the mishap. But the dangers of woodworking aside, I love taking raw pieces of wood and creating something new and unique out of them. This past weekend I created a food cage for our cat. Don’t worry. It’s not as sinister or cruel as it sounds. We recently got a new puppy, and we don’t want him to eat the cat food that we leave out. Our cat is getting old, so making her jump up to areas that are out of the dog’s reach wasn’t a great idea. So I designed and built a cat food cage. It’s a wooden cage with an opening on one side that we place over the cat’s food bowl. We place the cat food cage in the corner of our bedroom, close enough to the wall so the cat can squeeze beside it and get in through the opening, but the dog can’t. Problem solved. The cat can eat in peace whenever she wants, and all the dog can do is sit outside the cage and watch. It took me a weekend to design and build this cage. Not that it was difficult, but I had to give time for the wood glue to dry. Let me tell you, the entire time I was conceptualizing and working on this cage, I did not think about any of the websites, podcast artwork or other design projects I have on the go. And that felt great. It felt great not to be a graphic or web designer for that short period and instead be a woodworker. That’s my creative outlet. Whenever I need to give my mind a break, I go to my workshop and build something. And I always feel refreshed and energized after doing so. It’s as if taking a break from thinking about design makes me more eager and excited when I start back up. Woodworking recharges me. What creative outlet do you use to escape from being a designer? I firmly believe that having one, if not more than one, will make you a better designer. Think of it as exercising your creativity. Just like you don’t do the same routine each time you go to the gym, changing up your creative outlets will make you a healthier and more rounded creative person. Your mind and your clients will thank you.
8/15/202213 minutes, 12 seconds
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My Website Designing Toolbox - RD298

In episode 89 of Resourceful Designer, I discussed checklists and your design business. As a bonus to that episode, I offered my WordPress Website Setup Checklist. That was five years ago, and things have changed. In that time, I've grown and expanded as a web designer. The tools I use to create websites have also grown and expanded. Here is an up-to-date list of the tools I regularly use to design and build WordPress websites. Don't build in WordPress? Don't worry. I share a few things that may help you regardless of the platform where you design websites. Conceptualizing the website. Before I get down to designing and building a website, I want to know what I'm building. These are the tools that help me in the conceptual stage. Dynalist: Dynalist is a great outlining app that helps you get work done. I use Dynalist to outline the structure of every website I build. I like to know what pages a site will have and where they sit in the hierarchy. Dynalist helps me do this. is a super fast colour palette generator. I use it to choose colours for a website before the build starts. It's also convenient for finding great colours to go along with a client's existing brand colours. Setting up the website. SiteGround SiteGround I host all my and my client's websites at SiteGround. They're inexpensive, reliable, easy to work with and score well in web host comparisons. What more could a web designer ask for in a web host? Siteground has a very convenient one-click WordPress install feature that gets me up and designing quickly. Their installation registers me as the site admin using my email address instead of the default "Admin," usually generated by WordPress. If your web host doesn't have this feature, then I suggest the first thing you do upon installing WordPress is create a new Admin user and delete the default one named "Admin." During installations, Siteground installs two of its own plugins, SiteGround Optimizer and SiteGround Security. These are great plugins; however, I disable them until I finish building the site. Assets and tools I use on just about every website. Envato Elements Envato Elements is the first place I look for any stock images, icons or graphics I may need during a website build. Their low monthly subscription allows unlimited downloads, which comes in handy while experimenting. Depositphotos Depositphotos is another excellent resource for stock images and vector graphics. They're inexpensive, and their quality matches higher price stock image sites. Grammarly Grammarly ensures my website copy is error-free and written most effectively. I've been using it for years and won't compose anything without running it through Grammarly. Squoosh is a handy website that does one thing very well, it optimizes images. Every image I upload to a website passes through Squoosh first. Screenflow Screenflow is only available on Mac (sorry, windows users). It's a screen recorder that makes it very easy to create tutorial videos explaining to clients how to use their new website. Screenflow is also a powerful video editor which I use any time I need to do minor edits to a video before uploading it to a website. Handbrake Handbrake is a free video conversion tool. It allows you to change the format of a video which is very useful in reducing a video's file size. Building the website. Divi Theme Divi by Elegant Themes is the world's most popular WordPress page builder and is trusted by hundreds of thousands of website creators. Divi takes WordPress to a new level by allowing you to build a website visually. With Divi, there's practically nothing you cannot create. Divi Marketplace The Divi Marketplace: is a one-stop shop for everything Divi, including layouts, child themes and extensions. If you need a website to do something special, chances are the solution can be found in the Divi Marketplace. Divi Booster Divi Booster allows you to customize Divi without adding extra code. This plugin adds 100s of new configuration options to Divi. Divi Express Divi Express is a vast library of Divi layouts, sections, headers & footers, sub-pages and more that you can import into your Divi website. Using Divi Express has drastically reduced my website design time. Divi Supreme Divi Supreme Is an All-in-One Divi Plugin that adds over 50 new Modules and eight extensions to Divi. Divi Supreme eliminates the need to customize things with a ton of CSS, saving you time. Divi Extended Divi Extended offers over 50 Divi Child Themes and 11 unique plugins. Their Divi Plus plugin adds over 50 new Modules to Divi. I love their Divi Blog Extra and Divi Blurb Extra plugins. Divi Life Divi Life also offers Layouts, Child Themes and Plugins. My favourite plugins from Divi Life are the Divi Overlays and Divi Bars plugins that I've used on several client websites. Divi Engine Divi Engine also offers plugins and extensions for Divi. However, it's their one plugin Divi Machine that excites me. With Divi Machine, you can create dynamic content with Div and Advanced Custom Fields. Learning about Divi Machine has changed the way I imagine websites. Plugins I use during the build. Gravity Forms Gravity Forms is the ultimate forms plugin as far as I'm concerned. Even though Divi has forms built in, the ease and versatility of Gravity Forms make it a must-install on every website I build. PrettyLinks PrettyLinks makes it easy to create prettier and easily sharable URL links for your pages directly from within WordPress. SEO Plugins Yoast and Rank Math are the two SEO Plugins I'm most familiar with. Yoast has been an industry leader in website SEO for years, but I've recently seen great results with Rank Math. Both are highly recommended, so research to see which one is best for you. Once the website is built. These are the plugins I install once I've completed a website build. These add functionality to protect and make the site more efficient. iThemes iThemes Security Pro: iThemes Security Pro is arguably the best WordPress Security Plugin available. I don't take chances with website security, and that's why I rely on the best. iThemes BackupBuddy makes it easy to create and store backups of a WordPress website. Over 1 million WordPress sites trust BackupBuddy, and so do I. iThemes Sync: I install this plugin on every website. iThemes Sync allows you to update and manage multiple websites from one location, making it very easy to perform weekly maintenance. SiteGround Optimizer and SiteGround Security: I deactivate these two plugins while building websites and reactivate them once the site is complete. SiteGround has created two great plugins that I've come to rely on. Google Analytics for WordPress by Monster Insights: This plugin makes it very easy to monitor your website traffic.
8/8/202245 minutes
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Getting Out Of A Rut - RD297

I have a confession to make. I’m not perfect. Even though I’ve released 297 episodes of the Resourceful Designer podcast, a show I created to share tips and strategies for running a graphic and web design business. I still don’t have all the answers. And even though I consider myself a successful entrepreneur. After all, I’ve been running my home-based design business for 17 years. Plus, I started my niche side business, Podcast Branding, just over three years ago, and it’s doing better than I ever imagined. And yet, I still struggle. I don’t struggle much with finding clients or design projects. I’ve been fortunate in that aspect. What I find myself struggling with from time to time is motivation. Feeling lazy. Some days, no matter how many things are on my to-do list, I don’t feel like working. I feel lazy. I’ll sit at my computer in the morning with the best intentions, having thought of everything I wanted to work on that day. But at the end of my work day, I look back and realize I didn’t accomplish any of them. Sure I answered some emails. I read a few business-related articles. I watched some tutorials on YouTube. But actual work, the thing that makes me money, not so much. Not enough to compensate for an 8-hour work day. Luckily, one of the perks of working for yourself is you don’t have to answer to anyone. As long as you get the work done, it doesn’t matter how or when you do it. And everything would be fine if this was a sporadic occurrence. But that’s the problem. Sometimes it isn’t. When I get in a rut like this, it could last days. I’ll chastise myself at the end of the day for my lack of drive, my laziness. And tell myself I’ll work twice as hard tomorrow. But then tomorrow rolls around, and, for some reason, it happens again. Sure I’ll get some small things done. But not nearly enough to satisfy me. A few weeks ago, I needed to start a website project. I intended to begin it on Monday. It was a big project, and I planned to get ahead of the timeline. But for some reason, I found other things to do. A lot of them non-productive. So Monday went by, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I still hadn’t started the website. To me, Friday is never a good day to begin something new. So I told myself I would finally start it on Monday. A week later than I initially wanted. And you know what? I didn’t start it on Monday either. It’s as if I knew how much work was involved with designing and building the website, and the laziness that had overcome me wasn’t motivated to get started. I don’t know what depression feels like. And honestly, I don’t think that’s what was happening. I honestly believe I was feeling lazy. But whatever it was, I was in a rut. When you're in a rut. Rut, what a funny word. I just looked up its meaning. A Rut is a habit or pattern of behaviour that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change. That’s exactly what I was going through. I had gotten into the behaviour of pushing off the big things on my to-do list because I was feeling lazy and unproductive. Maybe I should have called this post “Starting Is The Hardest Part.” I know now, as I knew then, that everything would be fine once I started the website. Once I worked on it, I would find the motivation to keep going. Newton’s first law of motion says, “An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion.” There’s more to Newton’s law than that, but we’re talking about laziness and work motivation here, not physics. However, the principle still applies. As long as I didn’t start the website project, leaving it be was easier. But once I did start, I kept going and saw it threw to the end. Do you ever feel this way? Lazy, I mean? Do you ever stall or delay getting things started for no good reason? And I’m not talking about procrastination. I feel that procrastination is something different. I’m a notorious procrastinator. It used to drive my manager crazy when I worked at the print shop because I often waited until the last minute to start a project. But that was a conscious decision. And I still do that today. If I have a deadline in three weeks and know that it will only take me a couple of days to do the task, I’ll often put it off until that third week and then plough through it. I like to think I work best under pressure. But these ruts I’m talking about are not the same. I’m not consciously deciding to put things off or procrastinate. It’s the opposite; I want to start these projects. But somehow, I don’t. At least until I don’t have a choice because I’m running out of time. To me, that’s a rut. And ruts come in spurts. I’ll go months, if not years, where everything runs smoothly. And then, I find myself in a rut for no apparent reason. As I said earlier, I found myself in such a rut a few weeks ago. And what’s worse is I knew I was in a rut, and it annoyed me. But being annoyed by my behaviour wasn’t changing the fact that I felt lazy. I got so annoyed that I googled “How to get out of a rut.” I found a good article on titled 6 Ways To Get Out Of A Rut. Here are the six steps the article recommends. 1) Acknowledge The Problem I had already done this, hence my google search. 2) Break Things Down Into Steps Which said to make a to-do list and chip away at it one task at a time. I already work with a to-do list, so this wasn’t anything new to me. 3) Done is Better Than Perfect. Which talked about not getting hung up on perfectionism and that you should be satisfied with a project’s completion, even if it’s not perfect. This didn’t apply to me since my issue wasn’t finishing a project but starting one. 4) Get Some Fresh Air. I was already going outside when I should have been working. So this step didn't apply to me. 5) Get Some Exercise. This is a good idea for someone feeling stressed or anxious. But I wasn’t feeling either of those. 6) Talk to Someone. This was good advice. And yet I didn’t do it. I have a group of colleagues I could talk to in the Resourceful Designer Community, yet I didn’t for some reason. Not because I was embarrassed or anything. I think it was because I felt it was something I should be able to overcome on my own. After all, I’ve been in ruts before, and they never last. I guess I failed on this last step. I should have opened up to someone. So even though this was a great article, It didn’t help me. Or at least I didn’t feel like it helped me at the time. I mean, after all, I am talking to someone about it. You. A bit after the fact, but I still think this counts. What got me out of my rut. Do you want to know what finally got me out of my rut? Believe it or not, it was a to-do list. And what’s funny is I got this idea from a different article, not on getting out of a rut, but on productivity. Which I guess go hand in hand. The article’s title that helped is The Counterintuitive Secret To Get More Done Every Day. In her article, the author explains that you should create a to-do list with two sections. In the top section, you write down one to three things you must accomplish that day. Then draw a line across the page. Below that line, write all the things you want to do that day but are not critical if you don’t. The trick is not working on anything below the line until the item(s) above the line are complete. I know, it sounds silly. But I decided to give it a try, and it worked. The following day I wrote two things above the line. Set up WordPress for the new website and install Divi and starter plugins. Start designing the website header. Below the line, I wrote other items from my to-do list that I wanted to do that day. I wanted to do these things, but it wasn’t crucial that I get them done that day. And you know what happened? As I began my work day, I received an email from a client asking for a small change to their website. Something that would take less than 5-minutes to complete. Most days, I might do it to get it out of the way. But I looked at my list and added it to the items below the line. And then I got to work starting the website. I did the same thing each morning until momentum picked up, and I no longer felt like I was in a rut. This happened a few weeks ago. That website is complete, and my client is pleased with what I made for them. I also made that small change to the other client’s site, but only that afternoon after completing the above-the-line tasks. Everything is back to normal. I’m happy to report that things are going well right now, and I’m keeping on top of things. I’m no longer in a rut, and my business is again running like clockwork. Do I still use this to-do list hack? No. I’ve gone back to how I did things before I was in the rut. But I’ve been at this long enough to know there will be more ruts. They don’t happen often, but they do. And when I notice I’m in the middle of the next one. I’ll think of this little trick. And hopefully, like it did this time, it will help me out of my rut and get back on track much faster. I wanted to share this with you because I’m sure I’m not the only designer who experiences ruts like these. And I want you to know that you are not alone if this happens. Feeling lazy happens. It’s normal, we all experience it, and it’s ok. Providing it doesn’t affect you long term. I mentioned how I brushed off the idea of depression because I’m confident that wasn’t what was affecting me. However, depression is serious and not something you should be ashamed of if you think you may be depressed. If you feel lazy, in a rut, lul, or anything else that seems to be stealing your motivation to work and can’t get out of it on your own, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. You can contact me via email at feedback [at] You don’t have to go through it alone.
7/11/202218 minutes, 25 seconds
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The Magic Email - RD296

Has this ever happened to you? A new client contacts you looking for a designer. Their project sounds fun, and you seem to hit it off well with them. They verbally agree to your terms, and since everything sounds encouraging, you send them a formal proposal. And you wait in anticipation for them to approve your proposal and give you the go-ahead to get started on their project. And then you wait and wait, but you don't hear back. You send follow-up emails but don't receive any replies. The client has ghosted you. If you're not familiar with the term "ghosted," it's when someone ends all communication and contact with another person without any apparent warning or justification. Subsequently, they ignore any attempts to reach out or communication made by the person they're ghosting. And by that definition, this client is ghosting you. And it's not only with new clients. Sometimes an exiting client may ghost you in the middle of a project. You send them a proof and don't hear back. Or you ask them a question or for content you need, and you don't get a reply. This is any time you don't hear back from a client for whatever reason, even after several failed attempts at contacting them. What do you do? You send them The Magic Email, that's what. The Magic Email. What is The Magic Email, you ask? According to Blair Enns, Author and CEO of Win Without Pitching, a sales training organization for creative professionals. The Magic Email is a message you send to raise deals from the dead. That's its purpose, to solicit a response from someone who has been avoiding you. According to Enns, you must resist the temptation of sending an overly polite email. He suggests you do the opposite. Don't make excuses for your client's behaviour. And don't go soliciting a yes or any other answer from them. Enns suggests you strip away all emotions and let your prospect go matter-of-factly. And you that that with the following Magic Email. Within the last existing email thread, you had with your client, hit reply, change the subject to "Closing the Loop," and then write the following. Hi [FirstName]; I haven't heard back from you on [project/opportunity], so I'm going to assume you've gone in a different direction or your priorities have changed. Let me know if we can be of assistance in the future. Regards, [You] That's it. Enns says this removes the emotional reasons for the prospect to continue avoiding you. You are stripping out your neediness by no longer feigning politeness, by not asking how they've been or by being anything other than completely practical. This Magic Email says, "I can read between the lines, and you have decided we are not doing business together. No hard feelings – it's just business. You can call me if things change." What to expect after sending The Magic Email. You can expect one of three things to happen when you send The Magic Email. 1. Silence. Silence is the least likely scenario where you don't get a response at all. There's no longer any reason for the client not to wrap things up. All they have to do is send you a one-line acknowledgement email to remove this stress from their own lives. 2. Thank You. The client will send you a reply acknowledging that they have decided to cancel the project or they've moved in a different direction. This gives you closure and allows you to stop wasting energy over something that wasn't going to happen and move on to other clients and projects. There's no need to sulk about it. The deal was already done, probably a long time ago. The client just didn't tell you. 3. No, Wait! This is the response you're hoping for. According to Enns, by retreating unemotionally, where you might otherwise be inclined to advance, you suddenly become the one that might get away. The client stops seeing you as the predator that keeps sending them emails, to the prize they're about to lose. There's a psychological effect of this unemotional retreat that can be staggering in its effectiveness. And any resentment the client had over you harassing them turns into guilt about not replying to you earlier. This gives you the upper hand emotionally, and you suddenly become much more attractive to the client. You can learn more about all of this on Blair Enns site Variations of The Magic Email. Variation by Kai Davis We recently had a discussion in the Resourceful Designer Community about The Magic Email. Particularly about the different variations. Kai Davis of adapted his Magic Email from Blair Enns' He says he split-tested it, and his version works better. His version is to send this one-sentence email. "Since I have not heard from you on this, I have to assume your priorities have changed." That's it, nothing else. Davis says it works because it's simple, intentionally vague, and effective. People are loss averse. Meaning their natural inclination is to reply immediately to keep you from walking away. You are taking back control of the situation by declaring it's over. Davis goes on to say that you may find this email rude. And that's the discussion we had in the Resourceful Designer Community. But he says it's not rude, just direct. It's the client who doesn't answer your emails that is rude. The person has already ignored you for weeks, so you have nothing to lose. It's just business. To learn more from Kai Davis' use of The Magic Email at Variation by Chris Voss You can find another variation of The Magic Email in former FBI negotiator Chris Voss's book Never Split The Difference. Voss' variation is a simple message that provokes a "no" response, which gives the other party a feeling of safety and the illusion of control while encouraging them to define their position and explain it to you. This is how it works. Reply to an existing email thread. Change the subject line to a "no-oriented question." such as "have you given up on this?" In the body of the message, write the same or a very similar sentence. Don't add details or explanations. One short sentence is all you need. For example. "Have you given up on this project?" or "Have you moved in a different direction?" According to Voss, this is not a trick or technique. It's a respectful approach that gives the other party the freedom to respond truthfully to you without pressure. Which variation would you use? What version of The Magic Email would you use? We had our discussion in the Resourceful Designer Community, but I would love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below and let me know how you approach clients who are ghosting you. Nobody likes to be ignored. And it's a waste of time and energy pursuing someone ghosting you. It's frustrating. So the next time something like this happens to you, try sending a variation of The Magic Email and see what happens. Who knows. You may light that fire under the client and get your stalled project back on track.
6/20/202215 minutes, 8 seconds
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Two things that helped me become a better designer - RD295

There are two things I started doing that have helped me provide a better service to my clients. Which, in turn, makes me a better designer as far as they are concerned. I've been doing one of them for quite a while, while the other I only started doing a few years ago, and much more so since the pandemic began. What are these two things, you ask? Contemplation and Revision. Take time to contemplate after a design project. When you have a busy schedule, it's easy to finish one design project and immediately jump to the next. After all, with deadlines and clients to satisfy, you need to stop diddle-daddling and start that next project. If this is how you work, you are doing yourself a disservice. Some of the best insight you can gain is by taking time to contemplate after finishing a project. Think about the ups and the downs. What went right with the project? What went wrong? Were there any parts of the project that slowed things down or helped things along? Take the time to think about all aspects of the project and ask yourself, what could I have done to make things better? Is there anything I can learn from this project that I could use to improve my SOP, Standard Operating Procedure, so that future projects go smoother? If you have a team, talk it over with them. Ask your team if there's anything that could have made their part easier? Do this after every design project, and you'll quickly learn ways to make your life easier. I do things differently now than the way I did things when I first started my business. Heck, the way I do things now is different from how I did things a few months ago. All because I regularly take the time to contemplate how I've been doing things and if there's anything I can do to improve upon the way I work. Now I know you're probably thinking. I already do what you're suggesting automatically. If something works on a project, I'll implement it on future projects. That's well and good. And we should all do the same thing. But that's not the same thing as what I'm suggesting. Discovering something new and implementing it on future projects is great and should be automatic for you. But what I'm saying is that by dedicating 15, 30, or 60 minutes, depending on the size of the project, to contemplate the ups and downs of how the project went, you can learn valuable insights you may otherwise gloss over. Perhaps the way you've always done things isn't the best. Only by contemplating what you do can you spot areas for improvement. You get the idea. It's hard to remember and even harder to try and fix problems if you don't think about them again once a project is over. The same can be said of things that go well. If something goes very well with a project, you should figure out if there's any way to implement it in future projects. Contemplation: Dedicating time after completing a design project to figure out what went well, what didn't and how what you learn can improve your SOP on future projects. I've been doing this for years, and I can honestly say I'm a better designer for it. Record your conversations. The second thing I wanted to talk about that helped me become a better designer is recording my conversations with my clients. This one kind of started by accident. When I first started my side business, Podcast Branding, I began interviewing clients over Zoom in a quick discovery meeting. And even though I took notes, I would often need to follow up with a client for clarification. After doing this a few times, I started recording my Zoom meetings. And this became a game-changer for me. Now, If there's something I can't remember or I'm not quite sure of, I can rewatch our Zoom call and find the answer most of the time. Sometimes it might be a few days between when I talk to a client and start their project. I now make a point of rewatching the Zoom call before starting every project to ensure I do not forget anything. As I rewatch our meeting, I follow along with the notes I took. Sometimes, I'll pause or rewind to add to or clarify my notes. And I'll often catch something I may have missed during our live meeting, or maybe I didn't fully comprehend it at first but listening back helped me understand. Yes, relistening to your meetings adds more time to a project, but you would be amazed at how much it makes working on the project easier. Not just that, but listening again with fresh ears allows me to create better artwork that better meets the client's needs. And the clients appreciate how diligent I am, especially when I refer back to our conversation. It helps you become a better communicator. The other benefit of recording your conversations is you'll be able to pick up on things you said or didn't say and how you communicate with your clients. Listening to yourself on a recording will help you improve your communication skills. Did you sound confident? Were the questions you asked easy to understand? Did you answer your client's questions to the best of your ability? The more you listen to yourself, the more you'll improve. I've been doing it for years with my podcasts. I hear every episode three times. Once while recording the episode, again while editing it, and yes, I listen to it a third time after it's released. And I think I'm a better podcaster and communicator because of it. Record all meetings. Recently, since we can now meet people face to face again, I've asked clients if I can record our conversations in person. I use the Voice Recorder app on my iPhone for this. I put it down on the table between us and press record. I explain to the client that I'll refer back to the recording should I need clarification on something I may have missed during our conversation. Plus, it gives us a recorded record of what was said during the meeting. Which eliminates the "I thought you said this" scenario. So far, I haven't had a single client refuse to let me record them. Ask for permission before recording someone. In most places, it's illegal to record someone without their consent. Luckily, Zoom notifies participants they are being recorded before they join a call. By joining, they consent to be recorded. During in-person meetings or on the phone, the best practice is to ask for permission first, and once given, press record and ask for permission again, so you have it on record. Once I have the client's consent for my meetings, I press record and open with this statement. "Today is [date], and I'm with [name of the client(s)]. Do you consent to be recorded for this meeting?" and have all parties present say yes. Since I started recording client meetings, I've found it so much easier to work on their projects. I no longer have to ask silly questions such as, "I can't remember. Did you say you wanted this or this?" I just listen back to the recording. And through listening, I'm becoming a better communicator, which will benefit me in my next client meeting. I know these two things; contemplating after a project and recording your meetings sound simple, and maybe you're already doing them. If so, good for you. But I can tell you that these two things have helped me become a better designer, and I know they can do the same for you. After your next design project, dedicate time to contemplate the ups and downs of the project and note how you can do things better the next time. And during your next client meeting, ask if you can record it. Your clients will appreciate how diligent you are at understanding their needs. Do these two things, and you too can become a better designer.
5/30/202220 minutes, 44 seconds
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What Makes You Different? - RD294

One of the best things about being human is our ability to make choices. If you’re in the mood for a hamburger but also in a rush, you still have options. Do you go to Mcdonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s or one of the other fast-food burger joints? If you’re in the market for a new car, do you look at Ford, Dodge, Toyota, or Honda? Need a new computer? You can choose one of the many models of Pcs or go with a Mac. Regardless of your choices, the ultimate decision is still up to you. But how do you go about choosing? You do so by looking at what makes each option different and how those differences appeal to you. We all know that not all hamburgers are equal. McDonald’s has consistently stated that “Great Taste” makes them different. I know, that’s very subjective. But it is a recurring marketing slogan they’ve used over the years. Burger King claims it’s the flame broiling that makes them different. At Wendy’s, it’s the fact that their meat is never frozen, so it taste’s fresher. Ultimately, you decide which one of these differences appeals to you the most. And that’s where you get your burger. This same concept of what makes something different can equally apply to designers. What makes you different from the other designers in your town? What would make a client choose you over one of them? If you can figure out this question and use it to your advantage, you may outpace your competition with more work than you can handle. So what makes you different? Culture and Heritage. Maybe your culture or heritage makes you different. People find it easier to deal with people similar to them or who understand them. It’s currently the middle of May, which is Asian Heritage Month. As a white person, I would never expect someone to hire me to design a campaign for Asian Heritage Month. It’s not that I don’t think I could do a good job. It’s just that I feel that an Asian designer is better suited for the project. After all, they can relate to the subject matter better than I ever could. Whatever your heritage or culture is, you should embrace it and find a way to use it. A member of the Resourceful Designer Community is an indigenous Canadian woman. She’s using this to her advantage by marketing her design business to companies, organizations and groups run by First Nation people. And she’s killing it. She had to halt a recent marketing campaign because her available time quickly filled up for the rest of the year. Wouldn’t you like to be booked entirely for the rest of the year? She’s become so busy that she’s in the process of hiring another designer to help with the workload. How is this possible? Is it because she’s terrific at marketing her services? That may be part of it. But her marketing message alone isn’t what’s bringing in so many new clients. It’s who she’s marketing to. First Nations people, just like everyone else, need help when it comes to design and branding. And when given a choice, they are more likely to choose someone like them who is a member of a First Nation. Someone who understands their culture doesn’t need to be educated on what works and what doesn’t for them. In other words, it means they are comfortable working with her because she understands them. And this makes it easy for them to choose her over another designer who isn’t a member of a First Nation. Perhaps you can apply a similar strategy. Are you Hispanic, Asian, or a person of colour? Have you ever thought of marketing yourself to people of the same ethnic background? It may give you an advantage over others in your field as clients may prefer you over someone who isn’t of the same ethnicity as them. It’s worth a try. Gender and Orientation. There has never been so much discussion over gender and orientation as there is today. And that’s a good thing. The more we talk about it, the more it will become accepted. And when it comes to your business, your gender and orientation could be an excellent opportunity for you to attract clients. If you are part of the LGBTQ community, you have an advantage over those of us who aren’t. Like-minded people prefer to deal with like-minded people. It makes them feel safe and understood. And it’s no different when it comes to business. I know it’s not design-related, but I recently heard of a podcast editing company that only deals with LGBTQ clients. They’ve created a place where LGBTQ podcasters can feel safe and unjudged for the podcasts they make. The same concept can be applied to a design business. An LGBTQ entrepreneur may feel more comfortable working with a designer from the same community. The manager at the print shop I used to work at is gay. And I know we had many LGBTQ clients because they felt comfortable dealing with him. And when we talk about gender, it could be as simple as a female designer opting to work with women-led businesses. I’ve heard of several designers who do just this. They only work with companies that are run by other women. And they have plenty of work to keep them busy. Niches But what if you’re someone who can’t embrace your culture or heritage, or your particular gender or orientation doesn’t help? Then maybe you want to look at niching. Choosing a niche makes you different than other designers who don’t specialize. Take Craig Burton, for example. I interviewed him back in episode 174 of the Resourceful Designer podcast. Craig’s design company is called School Branding Matters. And you guessed it; he designs brands for schools. That’s what makes Craig different. That’s what makes him stand out. And it’s helped him land clients around the globe. Not bad for a solo graphic designer from New Zealand. But any time a school needs new branding searches for a designer, there’s a good chance they come across Craig’s website. And when given a choice between a generic designer and one who specializes in school branding. The choice is pretty simple. After all, chances are they won’t have to explain to Craig the intricacies of the school ecosystem and how a brand would be incorporated. So yes, niches are a great way to make yourself different. You can hear more about niching in episode 54 and episode 93 of the podcast. Other ways to be different. Are there other ways to make yourself stand out from other similar designers? Sure there are. Take Ian Paget, for example. You may know him as Logo Geek. He’s a logo designer from Manchester, the UK and has a popular podcast of the same name as his business, Logo Geek. Ian specializes in Logo Design, but so do a lot of designers. So how does he stand out? I just mentioned he has a logo design podcast. So that gives him some authority in the space. Ian has also judged logo design competitions. And he’s written articles about logo design for some well-established publications. All of this gives Ian credibility and has earned him some prestigious clients. He’s been hired to design logos for universities, big corporations, large conferences, etc. His credentials differentiate him from all the other logo designers around. So he uses it to his advantage. And it’s working. Small things can make a difference. Finally, I want to mention that you don’t have to do much to be different. The things I just talked about are significant steps. But there are little things you can do to set yourself apart. Take me as an example. As you may know, a few years ago, I started a second design business called Podcast Branding, which specializes in podcast cover artwork and websites for podcasters. Other businesses in this niche specialize in podcast cover artwork beside me. Even though I know I’m priced higher than most of my direct competition; I have a thriving business. So what did I do to make myself different? For one, I established that not only am I a designer, but I’m also a podcaster. I’ve been podcasting since 2013, and that lays a strong foundation for my credibility in the space. I get podcasting. Any designer can design a square piece of art. But the fact that I’m familiar with the podcast industry helps me stand out. The other thing I do that makes me unique is offer a one-on-one meeting with every client. Most of my competitors provide a questionnaire for clients to fill out. They then take the client’s information and design a podcast cover. On the other hand, I get on a Zoom call with every client to discuss their podcast. I ask why they’re starting a podcast. What do they hope to accomplish with it? What format will it be? Will it be just them, or will they have a co-host? Will they interview guests? I find out everything I can about their new show. I do this for two reasons. I need to know about the show if I’m going to design artwork for it. And I want to get a feel for who the podcaster is. Their personality will affect what I create for them. If a person is very serious and formal, I may design their cover one way. However, if they come across as joyful and bubbly, I’ll probably create it differently. These 15-minute meetings make a massive difference to me. And I’ve been told over and over it’s the reason why a client chose me over someone else. Even when I’m the more expensive option, they felt my way of doing things is more personal than a questionnaire. Conclusion We all know that finding new clients can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting. We also know that word of mouth is the most common way designers get new clients. I talked about this in length in episode 281 of the podcast. Word of mouth spreads quickest among like-minded people. Why is that indigenous member of the Resourceful Designer Community doing so well? It’s because indigenous people talk to other indigenous people, and when she does a good job with one, the word spreads. The same applies in all communities, whether it’s an Asian or coloured community, an LGBTQ community or even a school or podcaster community. Like-minded people talk to like-minded people. And when you do a good job helping one of them, they’ll spread the word. Especially if they know you specialize in people of that community. So what’s unique about you. What can you do to make yourself stand out from the competition? What can you do differently that will make clients choose you? Figuring the answers to these questions can mean the difference between looking for your next client and being completely booked for the rest of the year. Worth thinking about, isn’t it?
5/23/202217 minutes, 57 seconds
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Think Like A Design Client - RD293

It’s so easy to get caught up in what we do, be that logo design, vehicle wraps, websites, trade show booths; you name it. We forget that our clients don’t live in the same world as we do. Our clients don’t see the world through a designer’s eye. When they look at a billboard, they see the message. When a designer looks at a billboard, not only do we take in the content and message. But we also take in the layout, the hierarchy, the use of negative space and the colour pallet. We note what fonts are used and what imagery they chose to relay their message. When we see something that isn’t kerned correctly, we feel the need to point it out. We feel almost obliged to mention every stock image we recognize out in the wild. "See that photo of that happy family in that car insurance ad? I saw that exact photo on Depositphotos." And we stop to admire displays, posters, cards and everything else we think is well designed. After all, when you see something that you feel is well designed, don’t you secretly start cataloging pieces of it away in your mind so you can “borrow” the idea for something you create in the future? As designers, our brains are just wired that way. We see the world through a designer’s eye. But sometimes, we forget that non-designers don’t see the world the way we do. My wife has perfected the eye roll she uses whenever I start talking design about something I see. Sometimes she’ll feign interest, but I know that she doesn’t care that the line spacing on the restaurant’s menu is too tight. She just doesn’t get it because she’s not a designer. But neither are our clients. That’s why they hire us for their projects. And sometimes, it’s easy to forget that they don’t have the same knowledge as us, nor the same interests. And they view the world through a different set of lenses than we do. That’s why it’s a good idea that before you say or present anything to a client, you try to consider it from their point of view. Case in point. A designer shared an intro packet PDF in a design group I belong to, asking for advice. The PDF is to give prospective website clients to explain what a CMS is, a Content Management System. She went into great detail, outlining everything there is to know about CMSs. I how thorough she was. However, I and several others pointed out that it wasn’t suitable for clients. She explained how databases work, with columns and rows and entry IDs. and how you can edit a database directly with tools such as phpMyAdmin. Then she explained how she builds a custom portal for each client that allows them to easily add, delete, and edit posts in the database. And finally, she explained how the items in the database end up displaying on the web page. She even showed examples of the PHP code required to make it all happen. Nothing was wrong with anything she presented, except that most of them are redundant to clients. A client doesn’t need to know how databases work or how the info from the database ends up on a web page. All the client needs to know is their website will have a CMS with an easy-to-use interface allowing them to add, delete and edit the content of their site. Remember, these are perspective clients. Meaning they haven’t committed to working with you yet. You don’t want to scare them away before they’ve had a chance to work with you. Donald Miller, the author of Building a StoryBrand, said it best. “If you confuse, you’ll lose.” Consider your marketing message from a design client's perspective. Let’s say you specialize in logo design, and you showcase your three-step process on your website. Step 1) I start with a meeting. I have a list of over 50 questions I ask you, covering everything from how your company got started, to your mission, to where you see the future going. This allows me to get to know you and your business. Step 2) I take the answers you gave me and start the research process. I take a close look at what your immediate competition is doing. I examine your industry as a whole to determine if there are any trends we may want to follow. I may conduct focus groups to learn more about what your clients think of you. I then gather all this information and begin the concept stage, where I brainstorm and develop several different ideas. I then narrow it down to the most promising ones and fine-tune them until I’m satisfied. Step 3) I present you with the best ideas. If required, we then enter the revision process, where you are allowed three sets of revisions to tweak your logo until you are satisfied. Once done, I’ll create a brand guide that outlines the rules for using your new logo and supply everything you’ll need in various file formats. This shows a comprehensive process. And a designer may think this is perfect for showing the client why they’re worth the price they’re charging. However, it may have an adverse effect from a client’s point of view. "50 questions? I just want a logo for my new business. Why does it have to be so complicated? Maybe I should find another designer." Imagine a client’s perspective if they saw this on your website. Here is my three-step process. Step 1) I take the time to get to know you and your business. Step 2) This is where the magic happens as I develop the perfect logo for your business. Step 3) I present you with the best concepts for you to choose from. Don’t worry. You’ll be allowed to suggest minor adjustments to tweak the logo until you’re 100$ satisfied. Now, this a client can understand. All the other information is redundant or can be relayed once the person becomes an actual client. Presentation and mockups. If you are not using mockups in your presentation, you are doing yourself and your clients a disservice. I can tell you from experience that mockups make a massive difference in a client’s decision-making process. Many clients are not visual thinkers like designers are. Their creativity isn’t honed like ours to imagine how things will look in different situations. A logo presented on a white background doesn’t have the same effect as a logo shown on a storefront, a shirt or a vehicle. A tri-fold brochure displayed flat may look good. But it doesn’t have the same oomph as a mockup showing what it looks like when partially folded. I’ve had several clients over the years tell me they were hesitant about a logo design I presented until they saw the mockups. Once they saw the logo “in action,” they saw its full potential. That’s because clients often can’t picture it on their own. Asking them to imagine the logo on the side of a delivery van is nowhere near the same as showing them the logo on a delivery van. When you prepare your presentations, thinking like a client can help you close more deals. Showing confidence, a client's perspective. You know the way you can sometimes tell when a person isn’t sure of themself. It’s offputting. Try to think about how you come across when dealing with clients. From the client's point of view, do you show confidence? Think about it. As you’re pitching yourself to a potential client, They’re looking at you and considering whether or not you’re someone they want to work with. And that decision may have nothing to do with your actual pitch. From the client’s point of view, they want to see someone who shows confidence in themself and their ability to do the work. You want every encounter with a potential client to end with the prospect thinking, “This is someone I want to work with.” Let’s talk pricing from a client's perspective. Once again, thinking from a client’s point of view. Are your prices too high or too low? Is a client willing to invest in you? There’s no right or wrong answer regarding how you price yourself. It comes down to the type of client you want to work with. Think of it this way. Let’s say you’re in the mood to go out for a steak dinner. You can find a restaurant that serves a $20 steak. Or, you can go somewhere else and get a $200 steak. What’s the difference? The difference is how much you’re willing to spend on a steak. People who opt for the $20 steak might never consider spending $200 for a similar meal. However, some people regularly go out for $200 steaks and would never consider a $20 cut of meat. Now for all we know, both steaks came from the same cow. But that’s beside the point. The person who opts to spend $20 on a steak and the person who opts to pay $200 have two different mindsets. Neither is right or wrong in their decision. It’s just the way they are. The same thing applies to design clients. Thinking again from their perspective. Most clients who consider Fiverr a good place to get designs made would probably never consider paying thousands of dollars for a freelancer. And there are just as many clients who are willing to spend thousands of dollars which would never consider ordering from a cheap designer. So who are you marketing to? Do you want low-paying clients to say you’re their person? Or do you want high-paying clients to think you’re the perfect designer for them? Figure that out, and then target yourself to go after that group of clients. In this case, thinking like a client can help you land the clients you want. I could go on and on about how thinking like a client can benefit you. But I think you get the idea. Most clients are not designers. They don’t think like designers, nor do they see the world around us the same way designers do. Don’t let that become a gap between you and them. Before everything you do, ask yourself, “How would a client experience this?” And if you’re successful at doing this. There’s no reason why your design business shouldn’t be successful either.
5/9/202220 minutes, 43 seconds
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Six Unconventional Ways To Find Design Clients - RD292

Ask any designer, and they’ll tell you that their number one way of landing new design clients is through word-of-mouth referrals. If you do an excellent job on a client’s project, there’s a good chance they’ll pass your name along should they hear of someone requiring services you offer. I’ve built my entire business on this model. And chances are, so have you. But does that mean you should only rely on word-of-mouth referrals? No, it doesn’t. Are you familiar with the term diversify? In short, it means “using different options.” Such as “you should diversify your investments,” meaning you should have multiple investments. If one of them isn’t doing well, your other assets can help make up for it. Diversification can also apply to your income stream. If all your work comes from one client, and that client suddenly has financial difficulty and stops sending work your way, you’ll be in trouble. That’s why it’s best to have multiple clients. If one stops sending you projects, you can still make a living from the rest. But I want to talk about diversity concerning how you obtain new clients. As I said, word-of-mouth is the most popular method in our field. But word-of-mouth has limits. That’s why you shouldn’t rely solely on it for your clients. This is how word-of-mouth works. Imagine a tree. The tree trunk s one client. You design a project for this one client. They may refer someone else to you via word-of-mouth if they like what you did. That someone else is now a limb on that tree. Again, you do a good job, and that someone else, the limb, tells another person about you. That new person becomes a branch on your tree, and so on. Every limb and every branch can trace itself back to the trunk, the first client. Now you have a big tree of clients, all somehow connected back to that initial client. And that’s great. But there’s more than one tree in a forest. This means many people could use your services but have zero connection to anyone in your tree of clients. And if they have zero connection to your existing clients, they’ll never hear about you through word-of-mouth. That’s why you should diversify how or where you find clients. Because every client you land that isn’t connected to your other clients starts a new tree for you. Now there are many resources available on how to find clients. Searching the phrase “How to find graphic design clients” will produce more than 247,000,000 results. Have fun reading through all of them. But today, I want to share six unconventional ways you can find design clients. And just a note, I’ve successfully landed new clients using 5 out of 6 of these methods. And it’s not because one didn’t work. I just never tried it myself, but I know others who have. Also, note that some of these methods may require a small investment. So let’s get started. Placing business cards in books. Leaving your business card in a book is a great way to introduce yourself to someone who may not know you. Look at your local library or book store for books on starting a business and insert your business card. If there happens to be a chapter on branding or marketing, place your card there. Should someone read the book, they’ll come across your card at the point in the book where they’re learning about the type of services you offer. This method worked for me recently. A client contacted me saying, “I found your business card in a book I bought.” BTW, you could leave a business card as I did. Or, if you want to get more creative, you can have a special card made for just this purpose. Imagine someone reading a “How to start a business" book and coming across a card that reads, “Are you thinking of starting a business? I would love to help you with your website.” Join a board of directors or committee. As I mentioned above, some of these methods require an investment on your part. This one isn’t financial. It’s time. We all know that networking is one of the best ways to become known for what you offer. After all, if someone doesn’t know about you, there’s very little chance they’ll hire you. But networking doesn’t have to be just at conferences or special events. You could join a local board of directors or a committee for an organization. What’s good about this is you’re not just meeting people once. You regularly interact with people when you’re on a board or committee. This gives them a chance to get to know you. These relationships make it very easy for someone to consider you when they need a designer. Don’t do this with the mindset of landing clients. If you're going to invest your time, it should be with an organization you believe in, even if it doesn't produce any clients. Advertise your design business on T-shirts. I’ve talked before about how when I first started my business. I had a T-shirt made with the message “Hi, I'm a website designer. Is your site working for you?” on the back. I wore this shirt to local events and trade shows. It landed me several new clients. But wearing a T-shirt advertising your services isn’t what I wanted to talk about today. Over the years, I’ve designed T-shirts for various organizations, events and festivals in our area. Not only do I design the image for the shirts, but I broker the screen printing as well. Whenever I give a client a quote for a T-shirt project, I offer them two prices. A regular price and a discounted price if they allow me to put my name and logo on the back of the shirt. If it’s for an event and they want a list of sponsors on the back, I’ll ask to have my name and logo on the sleeve instead. Most clients jump at this opportunity to save money. And since I’m brokering the deal, I make sure I’m still making a profit either way. I’ve had my name and logo on shirts for sporting events, festivals, concerts, charity events, etc. Each of them is an opportunity for someone to find out about my business. And over the years, it's brought in new clients. Sponsor your kid’s activities. Another option to get your name out there is sponsoring your kid’s activities. If you don’t have kids, you can still reach out to local youth groups or leagues and inquire if you can help them. Growing up, my daughter played competitive soccer and volleyball and danced on a competitive dance team. I found a way to advertise my business with each organization. For soccer and volleyball, I approached the teams with a fundraiser idea. I created a T-shirt not for the athletes but for the parents, grandparents, friends and siblings who watch the game from the sidelines. I designed a graphic with the team name and “Sideline Support” on the front. On the back, I put my business info. My daughter's team sold the shirts to family and friends of every team in the league. And all proceeds went to my daughter’s team. For the dance team, my daughter was on. I offered to design their yearly dance recital t-shirt in exchange for a full-page ad in the recital program. I’ve had several clients discover me through that ad. Advertise your design business on your vehicle. Another way to get your name out there is simply by putting your information on your vehicle. Vinyl letters, a wrap or even a car magnet, create a moving billboard advertising your services. This is the method I haven’t tried myself. But I know a few designers who have their business information on their vehicles, and they’ve told me it brings in many leads. Include an ad for your design business in any proposal involving ads. You’ll get to work on projects that involve ads from time to time. Maybe you’re asked to design a magazine. Or a program for a local event. It might be a sponsor board or a t-shirt with sponsor logos. Maybe a website client wants you to incorporate space for ads on their new site. Whatever the project is, always ask for one ad spot to be reserved for you as part of the proposal. If it's a sponsor board, request to include your logo as a sponsor. Try to have your ad or logo on everything you can whenever possible. There's more than just word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth is, and will always remain, the best way for you to land new design clients. But it shouldn’t be your only way. Try as many of these unconventional ways to land design clients as you can. Who knows what will happen. After all, people aren’t going to hire you if they don’t know who you are. The more you diversify how you find clients, the more trees you'll have in your forest.
5/2/202229 minutes, 6 seconds
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How Precise Is Your Writing - RD291

Let me ask you something. How confident would you be buying a meal from a food truck that is so rusted and smoke-stained that you can’t make out its name on the side? Or how confident would you be staying at a motel where the paint was peeling off the doors, siding was missing on the building, and duct tape held the cracked windows together? Or how confident would you be buying a car from an auto dealer whose windows were so dirty you couldn’t see through them and whose sign was missing a couple of letters? I bet your confidence wouldn’t be very high in those situations. How do you think a client would feel if they came across a website that contains errors while looking for a designer? I bet they wouldn’t feel too confident in hiring that person. That’s what I want to talk about today, making sure your messaging doesn’t contain errors. Let me give you a bit of background here. I decided to talk about this today because someone sent me a message earlier this week. Now, if you’ve ever contacted me for whatever reason, there’s a good chance I looked at your website. It’s just something I do. Any time someone emails me or contacts me on social media, I’ll try to find their website to see how they present themself. So, someone sent me a message earlier this week, and when I found their website, the first thing I saw was a spelling mistake. The very first line of the website was “I Designs Websites.” Other places on the website included passages that lead me to believe this person is not a native English speaker. But I’ll touch more on that later. And even though it was a beautifully designed website, and this person had a fantastic portfolio, those spelling and grammar mistakes made me question the quality of this person’s work. Now imagine I was a client looking for someone to build a website for my new business. Those errors may be enough to make me second guess this person and move on to another web designer. Be careful with jargon. But it’s not just spelling or grammatical errors that can hinder your chance of landing clients. Another section of this same website described their services and how they work. They mention that the first thing they do is build a wireframe to show the client before making their website using WordPress. Elsewhere on the site, it said their web hosting includes a CDN. You probably understand what I just said if you're familiar with websites. Imagine a client with no knowledge of websites other than knowing their business needs one. “Wireframe,” “WordPress,” and “CDN” don’t mean anything to them. Reading these things may cause them more confusion, which may make them look elsewhere for a web designer. I talked about Jargon in episode 217 of the podcast. Jargon is common terminology in specific industries but maybe not so common outside of them. I’m a web designer, and I remember wondering what wireframes were the first time I heard someone use that term. It wasn’t until I understood what a wireframe was that the word became part of my vocabulary. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use these jargon terms in your communication. But if you do, you should add some clarity for anyone unfamiliar with them. For example: “We start by building a wireframe, a mockup layout of your website for you to approve before we start building the real thing in WordPress, a popular website platform, powering over 60% of the world’s websites.” “Our web hosting includes a CDN, a content delivery network that improves the efficiency and speed of your website and helps you rank higher in search engines.” Even if a client doesn’t recognize the jargon, they can still understand what you’re saying because of the descriptions. A designer's job is communication. As designers, people think our job is to make things look good. And in part, it is. But more importantly, a designer’s job is to ensure a message is told clearly and understandably. Design is about communication. And if the communicated message is confusing, then the person, company or organization behind that message will appear less competent. But what can you do? The first suggestion I have is simple. Spell and grammar check your work. A spell and grammar checker can help eliminate most problems, but only to an extent. They can identify misspelled words but are not as good at finding incorrect or better words. For that, I use a tool called Grammarly. I’ve been using Grammarly for years. Not only does it find spelling and grammar errors, but it helps improve my writing by suggesting alternatives. It helps me be a better writer by making me sound better. It’s well worth the small price. Be wary of mistakes in headlines. I read a report that said there were more errors per capita in newspaper headlines than in the body copy. It said that, on average, there was one error for every 1000 words of body copy compared to four errors for every 1000 words of headline copy. Most people don’t read headlines; they skim them—even the proofreaders whose job it is to find errors. Don't only rely on spell checkers. The other thing about spell checkers is they won’t help you identify jargon. For that, you need to have someone else read over your text and tell you if there are problem areas. We do this all the time in the Resourceful Designer Community. People share their work, and others point out any problem areas they detect. Then the designer can choose whether or not to make a change. Having someone else read your work is especially important for anyone where English isn’t their first language. This is probably the case with the website I looked at this week. The person wrote the copy themself to the best of their ability, but the fact that they are not native English speakers is evident. And this may turn away potential clients. The more precise and accurate your writing, the more professional you’ll sound, and the more willing clients will be to work with you. Different dialects for different regions. And it goes beyond just language. Regional dialects also come into play. For example, if you’re targetting clients in North America, you may say something such as. “I design custom logos.” However, if you’re targetting clients in Europe, you may want to write “I design bespoke logos.” Both words mean the same thing, but “Custom” is more common in North America, whereas “Bespoke” is used more often in European countries. Colour is another example. You’re going to spell it c-o-l-o-r if you're talking to Americans and c-o-l-o-u-r for most other parts of the world. I’m in Canada. And any time I’m looking for a printer or supplier, I’ll take note of the spelling on their website. If I see "color," I’ll know it’s an American company, and I may continue my search to find someone in Canada. Make it count. You only get one chance to make a first impression. And if you fail at that first chance because of poor writing, there’s not much you can do to regain someone’s trust. So I suggest you take some time and closely go over your website and other marketing material. Or have someone else do it for you. Identify any problem areas or areas that could be improved and make changes. The better you sound, the more professional you’ll appear, and the better the chances are that a potential client will hire you. Don’t lose out because of poor writing.
4/18/202218 minutes, 33 seconds
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I'm looking for guest blog authors

Hi there, it’s Mark here. I’m sorry, but there won’t be a typical podcast episode this week. But I will be back next week with more great content to help you with your design business. In the meantime, I have a proposition for you. If you know anything about website ranking and SEO, you know the importance of good quality backlinks. How would you like to get a backlink to your website from a very well-established site in the design space? I’m talking about If you visit the Resourceful Designer website, you’ll notice that it’s divided into two sections. The podcast, and the blog. I started it that way with the best of intentions of maintaining both. And although I’ve done a great job of putting out new podcast content over the past 6 years.  The same cannot be said of the blog section. And I’d like to remedy that.  However, I don’t have the bandwidth to produce a podcast and write a blog post every week. That’s why I’m reaching out to you. I’m opening up the Resourceful Designer blog to guest authors and I’d love to give the first opportunity to listeners like you. If you have an idea that would benefit designers who are starting or running their own design business and want to write an article about it, please reach out to me at [email protected] and I’ll send you the specifications to get started. I’ll give you full credit for your article, including a do-follow link back to your website in your author bio. If you’re interested, please reach out at [email protected]. Thanks for your time. I’ll be back next week with another great episode of Resourceful Designer. Until then, stay creative.
4/11/20222 minutes, 8 seconds
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Prices Are Non-Negotiable - RD290

The local tourism board where I live, a client of mine, in partnership with one of the local newspapers, produces a 72-page visitor guide every year for people visiting the area. The tourism director hired me to design a countertop display stand for these guides that they will place in various stores and businesses in the region. These visitor guides are an odd size. So I started researching companies that produce custom cardboard countertop display stands. And let me tell you, I was super impressed with one company I contacted. While browsing their website to see if they offer what I need, a chat bubble popped up saying, “Hi, I’m Frank. I’m available right now if you need to chat about anything.” I took Frank up on his offer and asked what my best option was for the display stand I needed. He replied by requesting my phone number and asking if it was ok for him to call me, as it would be easier to discuss my needs over the phone. I agreed, and I was on the phone with him a minute later. Frank listened to what I needed, made a few suggestions and said he would email me a price by the end of the day. In my opinion, Frank and his company went above and beyond to impress me, a potential new client. But it didn’t end there. Within a couple of minutes of hanging up the phone, I received a welcome email from Frank thanking me for agreeing to talk to him. In the email, he briefly outlined what we had discussed. And he attached an intro packet outlining the company for me to read. This intro packet upped my impression of the company tenfold. A couple of hours later, I received another phone call from Frank. He tells me he just emailed me the quote and asked if I have time to go over it with him. At this point, I felt like royalty. I was so impressed with the way they were treating me. I had never heard of this company before, and now I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about them. Frank walked me through the various charges involved with my project, such as the price for a custom die, among other things. But when we finally reached the cost per unit, it was higher than I had hoped. Not overly so, but still more than I wanted to pay for them. When he asked me what I thought, I hesitated for a moment. And that’s when Frank goofed up. Offer excellent customer service. Before I get to what Frank said, I want to emphasize the importance of excellent customer service and how it affects you and your design business. You may think of yourself as a designer, but designing is a small portion of what you do if you’re running your own design business. And it might not even be the most critical portion. If you’re working for yourself, your most important skill is the ability to sell yourself. Running your own design business requires you to be a good salesperson. Every client who agrees to work with you does so because you successfully sold them on you and your ability to do the job. They agreed to your price, had confidence in your skills, and trusted you to complete their project because you sold them on these things. This ability to sell goes way beyond the monetary aspect and is part of every interaction you have. It’s what makes people like and what to work with you. Sometimes, even despite the price. If you lack this ability to sell yourself, you will be hard-pressed to find clients. I’ve said it many times before. Clients would prefer to work with a good designer they like, then work with an amazing designer they don’t like. And it all comes down to your ability to sell yourself. What you should never do. Anyway, back to Frank. So as I said, the price per unit he quoted me was a bit higher than I hoped. And Frank sensed my hesitancy. And what he said next changed my impression of this company. When Frank sensed my hesitation, he told me, “Don’t worry. All prices are negotiable.” And at that point, the pedestal I had placed this company on crumbled. Frank had presented me with a reasonable price for what I needed, although higher than expected. But now he was telling me that price was negotiable. In other words, he was admitting that his company could do the job for less. So I asked him about it. My response was something like, “Are you telling me that the price you’re showing me is not the best price you could have given me for this job? That you inflated your quote hoping that I would be gullible enough to agree to it?” Frank quickly went on the defensive, saying no, this is how much the job costs. However, if I wanted to negotiate, he would hear me out. I replied, “You’re telling me that you would consider lowering the cost if I negotiated with you. That tells me that this price isn’t really what this job costs and that you could easily do it for less. Otherwise, why tell me the price is negotiable? And even if you agree to take 5, 10 or 15 percent off the price, I will still wonder if you’re conning me, and I could have gotten it for even less.” At this point, I thanked Frank for the quote, told him I would get back to him if I had any questions and then ended the call. All the fantastic work this company did to win me over as a client went down the drain. What’s the big deal about negotiating price? You may be wondering, what’s the big deal? People negotiate prices all the time. This is true. In fact, I love haggling over prices. It’s a skill I learned from my mother, and it drives my wife crazy when I ask for a discount or rebate from anyone. The way I see it is there’s no harm in asking for a lower price. If they say no, I can still purchase whatever it is at the displayed price. And if they agree, I feel good about my actions because I got a better deal. But this situation is different. I wouldn’t be upset if I were the one who had asked if the prices were negotiable and Frank had said yes. But the fact that he presented me with the price and immediately told me they were negotiable means he didn’t have my best interest in mind. Frank was trying to get the most out of me he could. And when I showed hesitation on the price, he tried to save the sale by offering to negotiate. This company that I thought was so amazing now makes me wonder if I should consider working with them. Your prices are non-negotiable. But what does all of this have to do with you and your design business? You don’t want people to think you’re taking advantage of them. But any time you offer a discount or agree to lower a price, that’s precisely what you are doing. If you lower your price just one time, that client will forever question any future price you give them. They’ll always wonder if you’re trying to take advantage of them. And even if you provide them with another discount in the future, they’ll wonder if it’s the best discount, or could you have offered more? Think about anything you’ve ever bought on sale. In your mind, if you purchase a $399 item on sale for $249, is it worth the sale price you paid for it or is it worth the original price? Most people feel the sale price is its actual value. You never want your clients to think your services are not worth as much as you charge because you offered a discount. Let’s use hourly rates, for example. If you usually charge $100/hr and offer a client a discount of $70 per hour. They’ll feel resentful should you ever charge them your standard rate in the future because they’ll know you can do it for less. When are discounts ok? This is not to say that you should never offer discounts. There are times when lowering your prices is in your best interest. Pro-bono work Pro-bono work is an obvious example. Offering free or discounted work for a charity or non-profit you believe in doesn’t diminish your perceived value. I highly suggest you invoice the charity for your services showing the total price with an applied 100% discount. Or better yet, and this is what I do, I charge the charity the total price for the project. And agree to donate the entire amount back to them after they’ve paid. This way, they get to claim the project as a business expense since they’re paying for the work, and you get a tax receipt for the donation you make back to them. An added benefit of invoicing for your charity work is that should staff at the charity change; any future person will know the value of what you provided them because of the invoice. Friends and family Friends and family are also acceptable recipients of discounts. Doing something for a friend at a discounted rate or even for free shows them you care. Again, let them know the total price and that you’re discounting it. My rule of thumb for family and friends is to offer more significant discounts for personal work. Offer smaller discounts for businesses they own. And no discount for companies they work for or if they own it with a partner. I don’t mind cutting a deal for someone I care about, but there’s no reason for collateral people to get a discount because of them. Retainer agreements And, of course, discounts are a significant selling factor with retainer agreements, where you presell your time or deliverables at a discounted rate in exchange for guaranteed monthly income. Other than these three scenarios, charity work, friends and family and retainers. There’s no reason for you to offer a discount. What if a client questions your price? What do you do in a situation where a client questions your prices or asks if they can get a discount? This scenario is bound to happen to you at some point. You give a client a fee, and they ask if there’s any way you can do the job for less? First things first, your price is never wrong. You chose whatever price you presented because you believe that’s how much the project is worth. If you thought to yourself, “there’s no way anyone would pay this much.” you would never present that price. So stick to it. Tell the client you’re sorry they feel that way, but that’s the price for what they’re asking of you. However, if you think you may lose the client, offer to negotiate. Never on price. Instead, negotiate the scope of the project. Offer to cut out parts of the project to lower their cost. On a website, for example, Instead of every offered service having a landing page, offer to create one “Services” page that lists everything they do. This makes less work for you and can shave off a bit of the price. If it’s a printed booklet you’re designing, You could suggest they reduce the number of pages to bring the price down on both design and printing. Or suggest they have it saddle-stitched instead of perfect bound. Anything you can do to reduce the scope of a project will, in turn, lower the price, which may help the client with their decision. And, it doesn’t compromise the value you bring to them. By showing clients how much they can save by eliminating options, they learn the value of those options and feel less conflicted about paying for them. My personal experience is that most of the time, the client will appreciate the effort but decide to stick to the full scope at the price you originally quoted. Think of it in terms of buying a new car. How would you feel if the dealer said they could offer you the same make and model vehicle at a lower price, but it won’t have air conditioning? The original price won’t seem as bad anymore if you want air conditioning. So allow your client to lower the price by reducing options on their project. If they accept the lower price, you’re still getting paid for your work at the price you deserve. And if you’re lucky, they’ll decide they don’t want to lose those options and choose to pay your original cost to keep them. What if you can’t reduce the scope of the project? For projects such as logo design, where you can’t reduce the project’s scope, I suggest using the three-tiered pricing system. Offering three different price options, each with an expanded scope gives clients a choice and minimizes their chances of going elsewhere. You must be ok with losing clients. I must point out that you have to be prepared to lose clients. There’s always the possibility that the client doesn’t like your price, and instead of asking for ways to lower it, they decide to go elsewhere. And you know what, that’s ok. Any client that doesn’t see the value in what you do isn’t worth having as a client. Again, think of cars. Many people buy Toyota Corollas, while others prefer to drive a Mercedes-Benz. Some design clients can afford your services, while many can’t. It’s up to you to focus your energy on those who can. One last tip on clients who think you’re too expensive. If a client ever tells you your price is too expensive, you may want to respond like this. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I understand that for some people my prices may seem high. But I assure you, I charge what I’m worth, and I have many repeat clients who are very happy paying for the services I provide them. I know, that hiring a designer is a big investment. And not everyone can afford my prices. No hard feelings if you would prefer to find a less expensive designer.” You’d be surprised when you answer in this manner how many people will decide to work with you anyway. All of this to say, your prices are non-negotiable. You deserve every cent you charge and more. So never compromise your principles or values just because a client is hesitant about the price you present them. It’s your business, after all, and you know what you’re worth much more than they do.
4/4/202225 minutes, 47 seconds
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Why You Should Stop Calling Yourself A Freelancer - RD289

I had a conversation recently with fellow designers over how we refer to ourselves. This conversation started when one designer asked another why they referred to themselves as a freelancer? We then talked about the impression and stereotypes associated with the word freelancer. In the end, the designer acknowledged that it was in their best interest not to use the term freelancer anymore when referring to themself. And it would be best if you did the same. Stop calling yourself a freelancer. Why you should stop calling yourself a freelancer. There’s a stigma associated with the term Freelance or Freelancer. In episode 17 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I discussed how calling yourself a freelance graphic designer could hurt your business. I shared a story of when a company approached me for an in-house position. I turned them down, but I shared the name of a designer I knew would be perfect for the job. The company’s CEO later told me the designer I told them about had all the right qualifications. However, The title she used on her resume was Freelance Graphic Designer, and they were looking for someone more serious than that for the position. She didn’t get the job because she listed herself as a freelancer. I know it’s crazy, but it’s true. You see, the term freelancer is popular among designers. When I was in school, my classmates and I talked about how great it would be to be a freelancer. But outside of our sphere of peers in the design industry, the term freelancer is not as familiar. Or maybe I should say it’s not as “prestigious” as we like to think it is. The term freelancer is akin to being quick and cheap, which reminds me of episode 71 of the podcast Good Design, Quick Design, Cheap Design. Pick Two. For many business people, freelancers are people you hire if you want something done fast and for a reasonable price, not necessarily if you want something designed well. For this reason, I tell designers who work for themselves to stop calling themselves freelance designers and instead say they run a design business. Even if you only do it as a side gig. In an article titled Stop Calling Yourself A Freelancer, author Andrew Holliday says that a company commands more respect than freelancers. And that freelancers are perceived as commodities. Meaning they’re interchangeable. If you need a quick design job, hire a freelancer. In the future should you require more design work, you could hire the same freelancer, or you can hire someone else. It doesn’t matter because freelancers are interchangeable. Anyone will do. And usually, the cheaper, the better. Hiring a freelancer is kind of like purchasing fuel for your vehicle. You know that all gas or petrol stations are basically the same, so you pick and choose where to fill up based on price. That’s how many business owners perceive freelancers–as commodities. However, if you want a partner to help you develop your brand and marketing assets, someone you can work with long-term, then hire a design company, even if that design company is just one person. Holliday made another interesting point in his article that freelancers often fight for hourly work. Whereas companies typically get paid by the project. And therefore, your earning potential is much higher if you refer to yourself as a business owner and not a freelancer. But don’t take his or my word on it. Earlier this week, I posted a poll in a large entrepreneur community where I’m a member. It’s a community made up mostly of solopreneurs to mid-size business owners. In other words, the type of people you want as design clients. Here’s what I asked. Who would you prefer to hire for design work: A: A graphic designer who runs their own design business? B: A freelance graphic designer? I know. It’s a trick question since both answers are the same, but I wanted to see what people would say. Two hundred four people responded. 176 (86%) chose A: A graphic designer who runs their own design business. Compared to only 28 (14%) who chose B: A freelance graphic designer. What’s even more interesting are the comments on my poll. Aren’t they the same thing? But if I had to choose I would pick A. It sounds more professional. I would hire a freelance graphic designer. I’m just starting out and don’t have a large budget and option A sounds more expensive to me. If I knew exactly what I wanted and just needed someone to implement it for me I would choose B. If I needed someone to help me develop new ideas I would choose A. Isn’t hiring a freelancer kind of like hiring an employee who doesn’t actually work for you, so it’s less paperwork? I think the difference between the two is confidence and trust. I could trust that a design business owner is competent and knows what they are doing because they took the time to start a business. I know they’ll be around for a long time should I need them again in the future. I wouldn’t feel the same way about hiring a freelance graphic designer. I have a background in design, and I choose A. Most freelancers I know are only doing it until they can find a full-time job. And there were many other comments just like these. And they all came to a similar conclusion. If you want someone cheap, someone you can tell what to do, and you’re not interested in building a working relationship with them, then hire a freelancer. However, if you want someone knowledgeable, someone who can help you solve the problems you’re facing, and someone reliable who will be around for a long time, hire a designer who runs a design business. I think these people make my point for me. Stop calling yourself a freelancer. Let me simplify it. Let me simplify it by creating another distinction between a design business owner and a freelancer. If the projects you work on are for someone other than the person or company paying you, you are freelancing. For example, if an agency contracts you to work on projects for the agency’s clients, you are working as a freelancer. They may or may not have in-house designers, but they need to hire you to fulfill their commitment to their clients. It doesn’t matter if you work directly with the client or deal with someone at the agency as a go-between. If the end client is not the one paying you, then there’s a good chance you’re freelancing. However, if a client hires you to do work for them and pays you directly for your services, you are not freelancing. You are running a design business. Take my Podcast Branding business, for example. Podcasters hire me to design their artwork and websites. That’s not freelancing since the client is paying me. But I’m also the designer for a large podcast agency. This agency sends their clients to me for their podcast artwork. In this case, I’m working as a freelancer for the agency since they pay me to create artwork for their clients. Another thing to consider is if you charge fixed, project-based or value-based pricing, then you are running a design business. Since freelancers typically charge by the hour. And finally, If you don’t plan on ever being employed or working for a boss. Then you are running a design business. It’s up to you. In the end, you can call yourself whatever you want. It’s your career, after all. But I hope I’ve given you something to ponder. I know I was surprised by the response I got from the poll. I figured Design Business Owner would prevail over Freelance Designer, but I didn’t know by how much. And if those who responded are the people who represent our ideal design clients, then why not heed what they are saying. Call yourself a freelancer if you want. But if you take yourself seriously and, more importantly, if you want others to take you seriously, then why not drop that moniker. Stop calling yourself a freelancer.
3/28/202217 minutes, 58 seconds
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Taking Advantage Of Lulls - RD288

On Monday, when I sat down to start my week, I had an email in my inbox from a client giving me their approval to launch their new website. I anticipated this, and the site was live within an hour and a half. Satisfied with another completed project, I opened Plutio, my project management software of choice, to see what I was to work on next. And what I found was nothing. I had no website projects. I had no podcast cover artwork to design. My to-do list of client work was blank. I can’t remember the last time this happened. I didn’t even have proofs out with clients that may come back. I had nothing, nil, nada, zip, zilch and whatever other ways I could say it. I had no client work. It’s now Friday afternoon as I write this, and not a single new project came in this week. For the first time in over a year, an entire week went by without a single order from my Podcast Branding website. For the first time in an even longer period, I didn’t have a client website on the go. This lack of work is a situation that many self-employed designers may face. It doesn’t only happen to new designers trying to grow their business. It can happen to anyone at any time. Maybe it’s how the planets have aligned, or Lady Luck decided to take a vacation. I don’t know, but it happens. It just happened to me. And it can happen to you. But experiencing a lull like this shouldn’t make you worry. I’ve been in this line of work for a long time, and I can tell you, lulls never last. Give it a little time, and once again, you’ll feel overwhelmed from having too much on your plate. What to do when facing lulls. The best way to face lulls is by embracing them. Please take advantage of the time they provide you because it won’t last. This past week was one of the most productive for me in a while. I had no client work to hold me back, allowing me to accomplish many things. On Tuesday, my daughter asked if I could build her a website. She has an Etsy store but wants to move off that platform to one of her own. What she wanted was very simple. And there was no rush. She told me I could get to it whenever I had the time. Well, guess what? I had the time. So I got right to it, and in a matter of hours, I had completed her new eCommerce website. I did say what she wanted was very simple. So it didn’t take long. And the look on my daughter’s face when I showed it to her that same day was priceless. You got to win those parenting points whenever you can. Am I right? But that wasn’t all. I met with a client the week before this. They’re looking for a website redesign and expect a proposal from me. I have a multi-page website proposal template, which makes submitting proposals very easy. I open the template, update the information about whatever project I’m proposing, save it as a PDF file and send it to the client. Easy peasy. I’ve been using this template for a few years now, and it was getting a bit dated. But I never had the time to update it until now. It would typically take me 20 to 30 minutes to complete a proposal like this one. Instead, I devoted a couple of hours to redesigning my proposal template before sending it to the client. I’ve been thinking of redesigning it for a long time, and because of this lull, I was able to scratch it off my to-do list. I also had the opportunity to look at my Podcast Branding website and make many minor changes. I changed some wording here and there and updated a few of the images on the site. I also decided to eliminate one service I wasn’t keen on doing anymore. And I added some clarification to the other services to increase conversion. I closed many of the browser tabs I had opened by reading articles I was “saving for later” or watching tutorial videos for various things. And I didn’t feel guilty about any of it because I wasn’t taking time away from client work. After all, I didn’t have any. And of course, I did take the time to reach out to several old clients that I haven’t heard from in a while, to get in touch and let them know I’m still here should they need me. Every day this week, I worked from 9-5, and I wasted none of that time even though I had no client work. I didn’t feel self-pity or down in the dumps. Because I knew this lull wouldn’t last, and I wanted to take advantage of every minute of it. We often put off working on our own business. And then we forget about it when we have a bit of time we could devote. I usually say you should treat your own business as a client and block off time to work on it. But a lull is the perfect opportunity to get as much of it done as possible. It helps if you have recurring revenue. I would feel much worse if I didn’t have recurring revenue streams in this situation. In episode 216 of the podcast, I talked about offering website maintenance to earn extra income. This service provides peace of mind for my clients since they don’t have to worry about the security or maintenance of their websites. If they have a blog or podcast, all they have to do is publish new posts or episodes, and I do everything else. I have a virtual assistant who handles the weekly maintenance for me, so other than checking in once per month; I only need to get involved when there’s an issue. And to be honest, that rarely happens, thanks to the many preventative measures I have in place. But this also means that even though I had no client work this week, money was still flowing into my bank account. Retainers are another form of recurring revenue that could help you get through lulls. I don’t currently have any retainer clients, but it will help you get through slow times if you do. Check out episode 32 and episode 255 to learn more about retainer agreements. Lulls are a normal part of running a design business. Lulls will happen. In your early years, you may experience them more often. As your reputation grows and you gain more and more clients, you’ll experience fewer lulls. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never experience any. I hope you don’t. But that’s the reality of our industry–There’s no guarantee of steady work or income. But in my opinion, that trade-off is worth it so that you and I can do what it is we love doing, designing. So the next time things slow down, remember these five things. Lulls offer an excellent opportunity to reconnect with past clients They allow you to work on what you’ve neglected in your business. They allow you to catch up on the many to-do items you keep putting off. They give you the time to improve your design and business skills. And most importantly, remember that lulls don’t last. So please take advantage of them when they present themselves. Just because there’s no client work doesn’t mean you should stop working.
3/21/202217 minutes, 19 seconds
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No Results Found - Taking Advantage Of The 404 Page - RD287

Don’t you hate that feeling when you can’t find what you’re looking for? It could be anything. You can’t find your wallet or your car keys. Have you misplaced your phone? Maybe it’s that scrap of paper you scribbled that critical information on that you can’t find. Regardless of whatever it is you can’t locate, you’re left with an empty feeling inside—a feeling of unfulfillment. A similar feeling occurs when you land on a website only to see those three words – No Results Found. It’s so frustrating. Maybe you clicked a link in an article you were reading, anticipating a solution to a problem you’re facing, only to be disappointed by where it brought you. Perhaps you used the search field on a website hoping to find something only to come up short. Or it could happen while navigating a website, and you have no idea how you got there. Regardless of the circumstances, you’ve landed on the dreaded 404 page. A page that mocks you with those three words – No Results Found. It might as well say - ha, ha, you lose, we don’t have what you’re looking for. It’s so frustrating. Then what do you do? Do you go back and click the link again, hoping that you get better results this time around? Do you randomly start clicking around, hoping to stumble upon what you were looking for? Or, do you shrug your shoulders in defeat and close the page, or go looking elsewhere for your answer? It doesn’t matter when or why. Landing on a No Results Found page is never fun unless the person who designed the website makes it fun for you. You can customize the 404 page. The 404 page is something that every website in the world has, whether the site owner knows it or not. And it’s a page that’s landed on more often than you would think. And yet, very few websites take advantage of this “popular” page. And you should take advantage of it. Whether it’s your website or sites you create for your clients. You may or may not know this, but you can customize the 404 page on a website. If you’re a Divi user, it’s as easy as creating a new page layout in the Divi theme builder and assigning it to the 404 page. That’s how I do it for the sites I build. Other WordPress themes and builders, as well as platforms such as Squarespace Wix, Weebly, etc., should allow you to do so as well. If not, you can install plugins that will enable you to edit the 404 page. Why should you customize the 404 page? But what’s the point, you may ask? The fact is, the default 404 page is a stepping-off point for some visitors. When someone arrives at the No Results Found page, it’s a signal for them to leave the site. And no website owner ever wants visitors to leave their site unsatisfied. But if you customize the 404 page, you can improve visitor retention by giving them something to do other than leaving the page. And this goes for your website too. Do you want visitors to your site who happen to stumble upon your 404 page to leave? Of course, you don’t. So give them an incentive to stay. Look at the Resourceful Designer 404 page, for example. I’ve designed the 404 page to capture visitors’ interest in the site. Upon landing on the 404 page, the first thing they see is a whimsical “Oops” image. Followed by the heading: “Looks like someone forgot to proofread.” The paragraph below says, “The page you are looking for is nowhere to be found. Not to worry, there are plenty of other great pages for you to see. Here are some popular posts that may interest you.” A list follows, showing three popular podcast episodes and three blog posts that may interest visitors to the site. I also ask them if they want a copy of my Four Week Marketing Boost and provide a way to acquire it. So even though someone arrived on this page because the content they were looking for isn’t available, they still have something to engage with. And you know what? It works. I track where people sign up for my Four Week Marketing Boost, and many of them came from my 404 page. I made it a bit simpler on my Podcast Branding website. The page shows an image of a man, seen from behind, scratching his head in confusion. The heading reads, “Uh oh!” followed by “I don’t think this is what you were looking for, was it? No worries, if you’re starting a podcast or you’re looking for help with your show’s visual branding, you’re in the right place, just not the right page. Why don’t you click this button to see how Podcast Branding can help you?” Then, a button labelled “LEARN MORE” takes them to the home page. It’s simple, and it works. Do you get my point? You can make the 404-page look however you want. The point is to give visitors something to do instead of simply leaving the site. I like to have fun with these pages by making them whimsical. I put a photo of an older woman holding her hand up to her ear on a hearing aid website as if she couldn’t hear. The heading reads, “Say that again, I didn’t quite catch it.” Followed by a search field. On a tech and electronics site, I wrote, “It looks like we have a broken circuit.” and provided a few links visitors could click. Give visitors something to do other than leave the site. Visitors are already frustrated when they land on a 404 page since they’re not finding what they wanted, so why not inject a bit of fun and give them something to do. If you don’t customize the 404 page on your or your client’s websites, you’re doing the site visitors a disservice. Create something that will engage them, and make them want to stay on the site. After all, isn’t that why you built the site in the first place? Did you customize your 404 page? Show it to us by leaving a link in the comments for this episode.
3/14/202215 minutes, 36 seconds
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Forget What They Want, Give Your Design Clients What They Need - RD286

Wants and needs. What an interesting juxtaposition. I want a new sword for my collection. But I don’t need another sword. I want a cheeseburger and poutine for supper. But I don’t need all that fat or those calories. I want enough money to do whatever I want in life. However, I only need to make enough money to cover my expenses. Wants and needs. They govern a lot of our decisions, don’t they? Your clients’ wants and needs. What about you and your design business? How do wants and needs factor into what you do for your clients? As a design business owner, your goal is to make money. After all, a business that doesn’t make money doesn’t remain a business for very long. Sure, it’s great to do some pro-bono work from time to time, but I don’t know of any designer who cherishes working for free. No, you want to make money so that you can pay your bills, support your family, take vacations, and perhaps indulge yourself from time to time. To make money, you need to charge your clients for the services you offer. And the more clients you have and the more design work you do, the more money you earn. As a design business owner, it can be tempting to simply give clients what they want in order to make a sale. Like when a client comes to you with an idea in mind and asks if you can design it for them. You know you can, and it would be easy money. And so many designers across the globe work this way. They do exactly what the client wants. But the problem is, clients don’t always know what they want, or what they think they want isn’t the best option because they don’t know any alternatives. Adopting this strategy of doing what your client wants is not conducive to growing a successful design business. You may get work. Maybe even lucrative work. But your business will eventually reach a cap if all you ever do is what your clients ask you to do. To be successful, you need to figure out how to deliver what your clients need, not just what they want. How do wants differ from needs? Now don’t get me wrong. You’ll have clients whose wants and needs are in line with each other—those who are business savvy and understand what is required for their businesses to grow. You’ll enjoy working with those clients because you’ll be able to communicate with them on an even level. However, many clients don’t understand that their wants and needs may differ. I find this especially true with newer entrepreneurs–people who have left corporate life to start their own businesses. They’ll often get their ideas from what others are doing and falsely think they’ll experience the same success if they do the same thing. They see someone else grow their business by sending out postcards, so they believe they should send out postcards as well. That’s not the proper way to think about or grow a business. Giving clients what they want might make them happy in the short term, but they’ll eventually realize that it doesn’t solve whatever problem they’re trying to fix. And clients always come to you, a designer, to fix a problem, whether they know it or not. That’s what we do as designers. We’re problem solvers. Just doing what a client wants can lead to unfulfilled expectations and frustration on the client’s part. “I spent good money on these postcards; why aren’t they working?” It’s because postcards weren’t what the client needed. Your job as a designer is not to fulfill your client’s every desire or cater to their every whim; it’s about understanding their needs and addressing them in a way that meets those needs and exceeds their expectations. When you give your clients what they need, you are helping them achieve their goals and solve their problems. When you manage that, your clients will view you in a whole new light, and they’ll want to work with you more. Do you ignore what a client wants? Does this mean you ignore what the client wants? Of course not. The key is to balance what the client wants and what will work best for their business. For example, a client may want you to redesign their website because they’re not getting enough traffic and low sales. They think that getting more traffic to their site will increase sales and solve their problem. When more traffic isn’t the solution, better-qualified traffic is. Having 1,000 random people visit a website probably won’t increase sales as much as attracting 100 targeted visitors. The client wants more visitors, but what they need is better-targeted visitors. And it’s your job to explain this to them. My own experience. One of my clients is a hearing aid clinic. When they first opened and were trying to build up their client list, they wanted to get as much exposure as possible. One of the marketing strategies they wanted to explore was placing ads in local magazines. The salesperson they contacted at a nearby distributor represented several magazines. He convinced them that they would get the most exposure by placing an ad in a local outdoor life magazine that covered hiking, bicycling, canoe and kayaking, snowshoeing etc. It was a newer magazine with a circulation of over 500,000 copies delivered every month. He told my client that it was a new magazine, and they were offering special discounted prices on ads. He assured them it was a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime deal to put their name in front of half a million local people. The clinic asked me to design a full-page ad, excited about all the exposure it would give them. When I received the ad specifications from the distributor, I saw on the sheet that the exact specs were used by other magazines the distributor represented. One of them was a senior living magazine. For the fun of it, I contacted the distributor, not telling them who I was, and asked for details on placing a full-page ad in the senior living mag. I found out that the distribution for this magazine was 100,000 copies, and the price they quoted me was almost the same price that the hearing aid clinic was paying for their ad in the outdoor life mag. I then called my client and explained that according to the documentation I received, the outdoor life magazine targeted people ages 18-40 who enjoyed an active outdoor life. The senior living magazine was geared towards people 55 years and older who still want to get the most out of life. I explained to my client that yes, the senior living mag had a distribution of one-fifth the size of the outdoor magazine, so they wouldn’t be seen by as many people. However, those 100,000 people who received the senior living magazine were probably in or at least approaching the target market of people who require hearing aids. In contrast, most of the outdoor life magazine’s target market won’t be interested in hearing aids for many years to come. The client wanted me to design an ad for an outdoor life mag, but I convinced them that they needed an ad in the senior living magazine. And they agreed. And you know what? Within weeks of their ad appearing in that senior living magazine, their phone rang off the hook with new clients saying they saw their ad. Listen to your client to figure out what they need. It’s essential to listen to the client and understand what they think they want. This will help you to figure out what they need. Then it’s up to you to explain to them that there’s something else they need that they don’t see. I had another client who started a subscription box that offered science experiments for kids ages 3-8 years old. It was two moms, and they wanted me to design their marketing material. The sketches and layouts they presented of what they wanted me to create were juvenile. When I asked about them, they said they wanted something that appealed to young children. They had even asked their own kids’ opinions on their sketches. I asked them how many 3-8 years old could afford to spend their allowance on a monthly subscription box? They looked at me like I was crazy. Then one of the ladies explained that the kids weren’t paying for the subscription box. Their parents are. To which I replied, “Exactly. So why are you marketing to the kids when you should be marketing to the parents?” Instead of explaining to young children how much fun they’ll have doing these monthly science experiments, they should explain to mothers how their subscription box offers something constructive for kids to do. It’s an educational pastime that doesn’t involve kids looking at a screen. It’s a bonding experience between them and their child. And it will improve the child’s knowledge of science which will help them in school. You know what? They had never considered marketing to parents and thought it was a brilliant idea. Now imagine if I had simply designed what they originally wanted when they first approached me? What clients want and what they need are often two different things. What clients want and what they need are often two different things, especially when it comes to graphic design and website development. Clients often come to you with an idea of what they want their finished product to look like. They might have images or a style in mind, but that’s usually where their ideas stop. It’s often hard for clients to see the bigger picture. They may want a flashy website that is all about them, or they see something on another website and want it on theirs, but they may not need all of the bells and whistles. As designers, we need to interpret what our clients want while still giving them what they need. And often, what clients need is someone like you who can take their vague desires and turn them into a functioning reality. Sure they want an attractive website, and you can do that, but what they need is a website that functions for their business. This means striking a balance between the two and creating something that meets their wants and needs. It can be a challenge, but it is essential to create a successful final product. It’s not always easy. With some clients, this will be easy. With others, it might be more difficult. Sometimes it’s as simple as suggesting different fonts or colours than they originally had in mind. I recently designed podcast work for a client and submitted two different ideas. He liked the layout of option one but preferred the font I used in option 2. He asked if I could use the font from option 2 in the first one. I told him no. The font from option two wouldn’t fit the layout of option 1. What he wanted wouldn’t work. Or you might need to steer a client away from using too many images, making their website too busy or convincing them to eliminate things that don’t help them. Other times you may need to suggest alternative or innovative ways to accomplish something the client might not have thought about. A recent website client wanted me to create a page on their site to list all the books they recommend. They wanted a page they could edit whenever they wanted to add a new book. They would add the latest info and format it to look like the rest. Instead of doing what they wanted, I added custom fields to the website and created a section to enter book information quickly. Now, whenever they want to add a new book, all they have to do is click a “Create Book” button I made for them, fill out a simple form, and the information will automatically show up on the page already formatted. The client can’t believe how much easier this method is than what they were doing before and has thanked me several times for designing it that way. It wasn’t what they wanted. But I figured it was what they needed. And I was right. The point is that you need to adapt your designs to fit the client’s needs, not the other way around. That doesn’t mean you never have to do what the client wants, though. It is a compromise. And on some occasions, if you’re lucky, what a client wants and needs turns out to be the same thing. Conclusion When you give a client what they need, especially when it’s not something they considered initially, they are more likely to be satisfied with the work you do for them. They’ll appreciate your out-of-the-box thinking. They’ll feel like you took their needs into account and over-delivered. Remember, good graphic designers and website designers take the time to learn about their clients and what they’re looking for before starting any project. Use your skills and experience to figure out what your client needs and deliver on it. This helps ensure that the client is happy with the final project. This may be harder for newer designers. Knowing what clients need comes from experience. Often, ideas for new clients come from interaction with past clients. The more you work at this, the easier it will become. At that point, you truly become a problem solver, and not just a “yes person.” meaning someone who simply follows orders. And that opens up a whole new opportunity for your design business. Remember, your goal as a design business owner is to make money. And when word gets out that you can take what a client wants and turn it into what a client needs, clients will be lining up to work with you, and the money will start flowing in.
3/7/202224 minutes, 6 seconds
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NDAs For Designers with Gordon Firemark - RD285

NDAs or Non-Disclosure Agreements is a very popular topic here on Resourceful Designer. The previous episode I did on NDAs is one of the most searched posts on this site. I recently had the privilege of talking NDAs with attorney Gordon Firemark. Gordon practices entertainment law in California, the USA, where he helps artists, writers, producers, and directors achieve their dreams in the fields of theatre, film, television and new media. But what does that have to do with graphic or web design, you might be thinking? Well, every theatre production, film and movie, television show and other forms of new media such as YouTube and podcasting, at some point require the expertise of a designer. And many times, those designers are brought into the mix long before the entertainment product is ready to go public. And of course, the person hiring said designer wants to protect their intellectual property. That’s where Non Disclosure Agreements come into play. They help protect their IP by setting the boundaries of what the designer can say or not say about the projects they’re working on for their clients. To learn more, be sure to listen to the episode. Here are some topics we covered. What is an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement)? Is an NDA a separate contract? In what situation would you be asked to sign an NDA? Are your contractors covered by an NDA you sign? What should you look for in an NDA? What should you look out for in an NDA? What is covered under an NDA? When should an NDA end? Are NDAs negotiable? When is it ok to break an NDA? What are your obligations to materials provided to you under an NDA? When should you ask a client to sign an NDA for you? Is a Non-Complete Agreement the same as an NDA?
2/28/202227 minutes, 26 seconds
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Communicating With Your Design Clients - RD284

Communication: According to the dictionary, communication is the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs. But that definition doesn’t do it justice. Communication is so much more than that. Without communication, conflicts could escalate. Governments would collapse. Businesses fail. And loved ones may never get together. Communication is one of the most crucial reasons for our species survival. I know. I’m getting a bit heavy here. But I want to emphasize the importance of communication. Your design business will grow or fail based on communication. How you interact with your design clients can drastically impact your success. But is there a right or wrong way of communicating with your clients? The short answer is no. I don’t believe so. But there may be some ways that are better than others. Better for both you and your client. Let’s list some ways of communicating with your clients to get started. Email Telephone Text Social Media DM Chat Apps (WhatsApp, Messenger) Video Chats Video Messages CRMs Mail In-Person I’m sure I’m missing some, but you get the idea. There are many ways of communicating with your design clients. This past week, I posted several polls in the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group asking various questions about communicating with design clients. I know this isn’t a very scientific study, but I figure you may be interested in the results nonetheless. Phone Calls Let’s start with phone calls. I bet that most designers have a phone of some sort at their disposal. But there are different types of phones and various phone services you can use. According to my poll 50% of those who responded use a cellular phone for personal and business use. 33% Use cellular phones but have a separate business phone number through a third-party service or app, such as Google Voice or eVoice. 12% have a dedicated landline for their business 5% responded that they don’t use a phone at all. Personally, my cell phone is for friends and family only. The only clients who have my cell number were people I was acquainted with before they became clients. I still have a landline for personal family use, but I also have a dedicated business number that rings through my landline. It’s a service called Ident-A-Call offered through Bell Canada. When someone calls the home number, my phone rings like usual, ring, ring, ring, but if they reach the business number, it rings differently, ring-ring, ring-ring. These distinctive rings let my family know who the call is intended for and whether they should answer it or not. The service comes with two voice mailboxes. When someone calls, they have the option of pressing 1 to leave a message for the Des Cotes family or pressing 2 to leave a message for my design business. This system has worked well for me for over 15 years. I like having a separate phone number for my business that I can ignore if I want. Although if I were setting things up today, I would probably take advantage of my iPhone’s dual SIM option and have two different cell numbers, one for family and one for business. On the Facebook poll, Dustin said he uses Hubspot to forward his landline to his cell phone, which I think is pretty cool. And Col said not only does he use a landline for his business, but it goes to his virtual assistant. Then his VA decides if he needs to take the call. Text Messages With the invention of smartphones, text messages, or texting as it’s commonly called, surpassed phone calls as a way of communicating. Heck, sometimes I think my kids forget they can make calls on their phones. But what about clients? Do you text them? I do not text with my clients. It makes sense. If I don’t share my cell number with them, there’s little chance of them texting me. But according to the Facebook poll, I’m in the minority. 58% of respondents said they communicate via text message with their clients. 24% said they don’t 12% said they communicate using Watsapp. 4% said they do use text messages but with some exceptions. 2% said they don’t use text messages except for a few exceptions What are those exceptions, you ask? Suzanna says she tries not to but does have a few clients who use text. However, she never accepts work over text. Tammi, on the other hand, uses both text and WhatsApp. She likes the quicker responses as compared to waiting for an email. Greg said absolutely not. It’s too easy for vital communication to get lost or forgotten. Plus, he likes to unplug from work, and if clients can text him, he’s never truly away. Minja said not for changes, pricing, or other project-related things. But texts are ok for other communications, such as scheduling meetings or sending verification codes. I feel you, Minja. Verifications codes are the bane of all web designers. How do you accept changes or approvals? Next, I asked how people accept changes or approvals for design projects from their clients. This time around, I allowed them to select multiple answers. 54% accept changes or approvals via Email 21% use marked-up printouts 6% use Video Chat 5% over the phone Text Message, Face to Face and CRMs such as Basecamp, Asana and Trello tied at 4% each. Finally, 2% use Social Media DM. I’m with the majority for this one. I only accept changes or approvals via email. My clients are welcome to tell me over the phone, video chat or in person, but I always ask them to write down their thoughts and email them. And like Nick, Rafael and others in the comments pointed out. They like email because it’s easy to find and refer back to in the future. How do you prefer presenting to your clients? I also asked about presenting concepts or proofs to clients. This would be for print work such as logos, posters, business cards etc., not websites. Once again, I allowed people to select three options from the list I provided. Coming in first with 35% was emailing a PDF or JPG of the design to the client. Second, 30% is presenting over a live video chat. Third, 17% prefer presenting in person. Next at 13% is emailing a PDF presentation explaining your designs. And finally, with 4% of the votes, sending a pre-recorded video to the client. My favourite way to present to a client is in person. I like to be in the room with them when they first see the design. This lets me see their reaction and interject should I see any doubt in them. When do you allow a client to see a web design project My next question was in a similar vein except for websites. I asked when do you allow clients to view a web design project. With 72% of the votes, setting predetermined stages during the design process wins this one. A distant second with 20% showed the client a mockup or wireframe before starting the actual website and then at predetermined intervals during the build. And rounding things out with 4% each were Showing the client a mockup or wireframe and then again at the end of the build. Allowing the client full access throughout the entire build process. Troy posted a comment that mirrors my method. I show my clients their site once I’ve completed the home page. Once they sign off on it, and If it’s not that large a project, I finish the entire thing before showing it to them again. If it is a big site, I may show it again once large sections are complete. The one thing I would never do is allow a client full access throughout the build. That seems like asking for trouble. I know they would keep critiquing stuff I was not done working on, and it would cause more problems than it’s worth. Do you use a CRM? The final question I asked is whether or not you use a CRM, a Customer Relationship Manager. A platform that lets you communicate with clients. You may be able to send proposals and invoices, and most of them allow you to share files with clients. 77% of respondents said they do not use a CRM 15% use a CRM but only for internal use. Clients do not have access to it. And only 8% said they use a CRM to communicate and share things with their clients. I use Plutio as my CRM. I use it to keep track of all the projects I have in progress. Plutio allows me to grant access to my clients, but I don’t use that feature. I use it as a replacement for the old leather-bound notebook I used to use to keep track of projects I’m working on. Col mentioned that he uses Basecamp. Fraser said he’s currently setting up SuiteDash as his CRM. Zack, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, also uses SuiteDash and likes it. Minja, who’s in New Zealand, uses Workflow Max, which according to them, is quite popular among New Zealand businesses. There’s no right or wrong answer. As I said initially, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to how you communicate with your design clients. As you can see, many people do different things. The one thing I want to point out is consistency and limiting options. If you use text messaging, WhatsApp, or a CRM to communicate with your clients. Be consistent. This way, you will always know where to look if you need to refer to a conversation. What you don’t want to happen is a client emailing you one day, communicating via your CRM the next, all the while texting you while they’re on the go and later messaging you via social media. This could get very confusing, very fast. When you finally sit down to work, you’ll be stuck searching through various communication methods to find the one where the client asked you to do a particular thing. And what happens if they text asking you to change something to blue and then later send you a DM on Instagram telling you to make it green? How are you supposed to keep track of which one to implement? My suggestion is to set boundaries right from the start. Let them know you would prefer to receive changes or approvals via email. If you don’t want to communicate with a client in a certain way, inform them of your preferred method. Every time she has a new project for me, I have a client who reaches out to me over Facebook Messenger. That’s fine, but I ask her to take the conversation to email as soon as she does. This is the whole point. To get you thinking about how you communicate with your design clients. Because the easier it is for both you and your clients to communicate, the easier it will be for you to do your job. And in the end, isn’t that what matters? Resource of the week I’m not sure if you know this, but Adobe PostScript Type 1 fonts stopped working in Photoshop 2021, and Adobe announced that they will stop working in other Adobe apps in 2023. This could potentially leave you with dozens, if not hundreds, of fonts you can no longer use in your favourite design apps. Luckily, there is a solution. TransType 4 from FontLab works on both Mac and Windows to easily convert legacy Postscript Type 1 fonts into rock-solid, high-quality modern Open Type fonts that you can use in any app for years to come. TransType 4 makes it so easy. I’ve been using it to convert fonts for the past few months. Whenever I discover a font that doesn’t work in Photoshop, I launch TransType 4, drag the Postscript Type 1 font onto it, and voila, I have a new Open Type font I can now use. TransType 4 does more than just this, but this feature alone is worth the purchase price.
2/14/202227 minutes, 40 seconds
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You'll Go Further If You Build A Team - RD283

Last week, I talked about how you should view your worth. How you are a one-person team. I gave the example of a website project you might start where you take on the role of salesperson, researcher, UX and UI designer, developer, bookkeeper, etc. and how each one of those "people" should be compensated accordingly. That episode relayed a precious message that many designers don't understand. That message is that you are worth more than you think you are, and you are probably not charging your clients enough for what you do for them. Because, if you needed to hire each one of those people individually, chances are you would pay them more than what you are charging your client for the same services. But what if the situation wasn't figurative? What if you did have to hire each one of those people? Would you know how to go about it? That's what I want to talk about today, building your team. I know that many designers are not comfortable hiring contractors. I know, I used to be one of them. I used to have the mentality that my clients hired me; therefore, I needed to do the work myself. I even turned down projects because I didn't know how to do parts of them. I've shared before how I turned down a $50,000 website project because I didn't know how to code in PHP. I kick myself now for that decision. But that was my mentality back then. If I couldn't do it, it wasn't a project I could take on. A couple of years after that, I stumbled upon a line in some self-help book. I wish I could remember which one, but I don't. But I do remember the line that stuck with me. Client’s don’t hire you to do a job. They hire you to get a job done. And there's a vast difference between those two statements that many designers don't get. You're job, the reason clients hire you is that they have a problem they can't solve themselves. In many cases, you, with all your skills, can solve it for them. But there are some situations where your skills alone are not enough. Or your skills are not the most proficient option. Or perhaps you don't have the time to do everything yourself. That's where building a team comes in—a team of people who possess the skills required to complete the job for your client. Do you think the head chef at a restaurant cooks and prepares every meal all by themself? Of course not. There's no way one person could do that. A Chef has a sous-chef, station chefs, junior chefs, and other people working with them. They all form a team that prepares the meals they serve their guests. And yet, people still visit fancy restaurants because of the reputation of the head chef. They want to experience what it's like to eat one of their meals even though many other people are involved in preparing those meals. Think of yourself as a head chef. Everyone on your team is there to help you prepare what your clients are served. But, even with this knowledge, many designers still worry about what their clients might think if they "farm out" work. I have news for you. Your clients won't care. Remember, they didn't hire you to do a job. They hired you to get a job done. Think of it this way, would you be upset if you brought your car in for repair and the mechanic told you he traced the issue to your transmission, so he brought in a transmission specialist to work on it? I'm going to hazard a guess and say no, you wouldn't be upset. You wouldn't say, "no, I brought my car to you; therefore, I want you and only you to work on it." You would probably be grateful that your mechanic knows someone who can do the job in the best and most proficient manner. That's how your clients will react when you tell them about your team. They'll think it was an intelligent decision to hire you because you know how to get the job done. Teams are a powerful thing. Teams allow you to take on more work. Teams allow you to take on bigger and better projects Teams will enable you to offer services you couldn't provide alone. Teams can help your design business grow and go further. There's an African proverb that says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." That's what having a team can do for you. It can help you go far. How do you build a design team? It's one thing to know you should build a team. It's an entirely other matter to put one together. To be clear. When I say a team, I'm talking about contractors, not employees. Sure, you can hire employees to be on your team, but that's a whole other conversation with additional complexity involved. I'm talking about contractors or freelancers that you hire on an as-needed basis. Some of them you may repeatedly use, while others may be for a single one-off job. Simply put, your team is a network of people you can call upon should the need arise. First, let me break down the type of people you may want on your team before I get into how to find them. Since there's no way I could list or even know all the types of team members you may need, I'll use the ones I've hired myself as examples. Illustrators: I've used several illustrators over the years. Some I've hired only once, while a couple I work with on a fairly regular basis. Illustrators widely vary in styles, so it's a good idea to have several you can call upon when needed. Copywriters: Copywriting is one of those services that can set you apart from other designers. While many designers only use the text provided to them by the client, designers that offer copywriting and design are viewed as a premium service and garner more respect, which means you can charge more. Like illustrators, copywriters range in styles and niches, so it's best to know a few. In some situations, you may need a copywriter who writes in a particular field, such as medical or technology. Translators: Depending on where you live or what clients you work with, you may need to design in multiple languages. On many occasions, your client might only have the text in one. Where I live, it's prevalent to display things in both English and French. I have a translator that can provide me with a French copy should I need it. Graphic Designers: I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes you may want to hand off a project or part of a project to another designer. Either free up your time or because it's something you don't want to do. Having a designer you can trust for this is an invaluable teammate. Web Developer: I've said it before. Other than HTML and CSS, I don't know how to code. And even with HTML and CSS, I find myself Googling how to do things more often than I used to. So any time I need coding done that I can't manage with a plugin, I hire a developer. SEO Specialist: If you're not comfortable doing SEO or want to give a website an extra boost, you may want to consider hiring an SEO specialist. I did this at the request of one client, and we saw great results. Virtual Assistant: The fact is, just about every specialty I just talked about could be considered a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant is just that, someone who assists you virtually. But a VA can help you with so much more than the skills I mentioned above. I've hired several VAs over the years. My main VA does repetitive tasks, so I don't have to worry about them. Every Monday, she logs into my iThemes Sync account and makes sure all the themes and plugins of every site I manage are up to date. This updating is a service I offer my website clients as part of my maintenance agreement. But I have better things to do than click on "update plugin" several dozen times. So I pay someone to do it for me. I've also hired virtual assistants to do research or data gathering for me. I hired one recently to go back over every episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast and create a spreadsheet listing the episode number, the episode title and the resource or tip I shared if there was one. Before the pandemic, I was trying to get more speaking gigs, so I hired a VA to create a list of every graphic or web design program offered by a college or university in the province of Ontario. I asked him to find out who was in charge of each program and include their email address. I then asked him to email them on my behalf, asking if they would like me to come to talk to their graduating class about the realities of working in the real world. This is just a small list of the type of people you may want on your team. How do you find people for your design team? A couple of weeks ago, I talked about networking. Well, that's a great start. Several of my team members are people I happened to meet through casual networking conversations. One of my copywriters I found through a friend who mentioned he knew a journalism graduate looking for work. I reached out to her and asked if she could do some copywriting for me. After overhearing him talking with someone about a project he was translating, I discovered my translator at a restaurant. I introduced myself asked for his business card, and we've worked on several projects together since. I've hired illustrators I discovered at local comic cons. There are always vendors at comic conventions selling their illustrations. I pick up their business card and reach out if their style of artwork is what I need for a particular design project. Each of these people was added to my list of potential team members to draw upon should the need ever arise. I have many that I've never used. But I know who they are, just in case. Last week I hired Brian, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, to help me with a website. Brian had done a presentation for us a couple of months ago, and one of the things he showed us was something I could use on a site I was starting on for a client. I intended to take the info from Brian's presentation and learn how to do it myself. You know, improving my web skills, making myself more valuable. But, when I got around to working on that part of the website, I didn't have the time to fiddle around with something new. So I asked Brian to do it for me. I explained what I needed, and he completed the work by the next day. As easy as that. I'm sure if I had tried doing it myself, it would have taken me over a week to complete. Hiring Brian saved me time, which translates to money. But what if you need someone for a job and you don't have a person in mind? If you need someone with a particular skill, and you don't already know anyone who can fill the role, the first thing I suggest is asking the people in your network. Like how people find graphic and web designers through referrals, you should do the same when finding your team members. If you need an illustrator with a particular style, ask people in your network if they know anyone. Need a web developer to help you with a web project? Ask around and see if anyone has a suggestion. A referral from a trusted source can go a long way in finding the right person. But what if asking around comes up dry? When all else fails, turn to the internet. There is no shortage of people for hire online. Places like Fiverr and Upwork are great resources. I've hired multiple people from both platforms. TopTal is another excellent source to find freelancers. I've never used them myself, but I know of several people who have and were very pleased with the talent they hired. Virtual Assistant marketplaces contain hundreds of talented people looking for work. Just search "Virtual Assistant" on Google, and you'll find plenty. Things to consider when hiring a teammate. What are some of the things you should consider when hiring someone? The top three, in my opinion, are location, language, and price. Location A talent marketplace such as Fiverr and Upwork allows you to work with people from around the globe. One of the illustrators I use lives in Indonesia. But sometimes, you may want to hire someone closer to home. Time differences can potentially cause problems if you need to ask a teammate something and it's the middle of the night where they are. These delays can add up, which doesn't bode well if you're on a deadline. Language Language can also be an issue. The language someone uses to communicate with you may not be their first language. This may cause miscommunication issues should they not fully understand the instructions you provide. In some cultures, people are raised not to question instructions from those who employ them. So if they interpret something a certain way, that's how they'll do it. Even if it doesn't make sense to them or there's a better way. You want to make sure the person you hire can work beyond just the instructions you provide. So making sure there isn't going to be a language barrier should be a consideration. Price Location and Language may dissuade you from hiring someone abroad. However, the price may make you change your mind. There are places in the world where you can hire highly talented people for a fraction of the price you would pay closer to home. A few years ago, I had a client using an eCommerce platform called PrestaShop. When the client accidentally broke their website, I had no idea how to fix it. So I turned to Upwork and hired a PrestaShop expert. They lived in a country with a much lower cost of living than here in Canada and quoted me $10 per hour for their services. I knew he would be working while I was asleep. And his English wasn't that good. I had to message him several times before he understood what I needed of him. But the time difference and language constraints were worth it because of the low price. It took him 16 hours to fix the problem. I paid his $160 invoice, and in turn, I charged my client 16 hours at my then hourly rate of $80/hr. I made an $1120 profit, and I never touched the site. Weigh your options It's entirely up to you who you hire. In some cases, finding an inexpensive option is your best choice. Other times, spending a bit more is the right move. Building relationships with your team. The trick with this whole team-building thing is to find people you can trust to do the job right. There may come times when someone you hire doesn't work out. Either they don't perform to your liking, or you find some other reason things are not working. The downside of building a team is that you may find yourself in a situation where you have to let someone go. Luckily these are not employees. So sometimes, letting go is as simple as never hiring them again. But other times, you may have to fire them if they're not performing to your satisfaction and find someone else. It can be tricky, and you may have to eat that cost yourself. That's a chance we take when we hire people. That's one of the reasons I always try to hire from within my network before turning to online sources. That website I told you about last week that Brian helped me on. I could have easily hired someone on Fiverr or Upwork to do the same thing for me and probably save some money. But I hired Brian because I already have a relationship with him, and I trust what he can do. It wasn't about the cost. It was about making sure the job got done. Working with a team is a wonderful feeling. It makes you feel special. It makes you feel necessary. It makes you feel more professional. When you get to this point in your career where you have a team of people working with you, you'll truly understand what it means to be an entrepreneur. And you'll see that the opportunities when you have a team you endless. If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, to together. After all, your clients didn't hire you to do a job. They hired you to get the job done.
2/7/202227 minutes, 46 seconds
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You're worth more than you're charging. Here's why - RD282

I want to start with a story. A business coach client hired me for a design project about a dozen years ago. He had just finished writing his second book and wanted me to design and format it for him for publication. The project also included an accompanying bookmark and a small website related to the book. I had given him a quote for the project, which he readily accepted, and we got underway. Once the project was completed and paid for, this business coach told me how impressed he was working with me. He said everything went so smoothly that he would have paid three times the amount for the great work I provided him. Now I brushed this statement off as hyperbole from a grateful client. I mean, how many times have you received excellent service somewhere and thought, "I got more than I paid for?" But then he said he wasn't exaggerating and proceeded to explain why he thought that way. And what he said next changed the way I looked at pricing my projects from that day forward. How do you determine your pricing? I'll get to what that business coach told me in a moment. One of the most challenging tasks freelance designers or design business owners have is determining what to charge for their services. I mean, how much does a website or a logo cost? It's as arbitrary as asking how long is a piece of string? It never fails. Whatever number you come up with for a design project, you will always wonder if it's too little or too much. Let me put your mind at ease on one of those fronts. "Too much." is never the correct answer to that question. And I'll explain why in a bit. Coming up with applicable fees is difficult because many factors are to consider. Your level of experience will influence what you charge. The quality of the work you do is also a factor. The type of clients you work with can significantly affect your pricing. Where you live, city, state or province, country all play a part in your pricing structure. Even culture may play into it. With everything to consider, no wonder pricing is such a debated topic among designers. One designer may think $2000 is a lot for a website, while another won't consider a web project for less than $10,000. I'm saying that there are no right or wrong answers regarding how much you should charge for your design services. You charge what you think you're worth. But that's what I want to talk about, what you're worth. Because there's a good chance, you're undervaluing that number. Let me ask you a question. How much do you think it would cost if you had to pay someone else to do your job? If you think it would cost more than what you charge, then there's your answer. You're not charging enough. However, you might think that it would cost a very similar or maybe even a lower amount to what you charge your clients. And that may be true. It's hard to tell. But let me rephrase my question. How much do you think it would cost if you had to pay individual people to do everything you do for your clients? Now it gets more complicated. Let's take a website project, for example. We tend to group all our services into one easy-to-explain package called a "website design" and slap a price on it. But what exactly goes into a website design? Let's break it down. Of course, everyone will have their way of working on a website, so this is just a simplified example. For a website project, You'll probably start things off with some form of discovery meeting to determine what the client needs and the problem the website will solve. With what's entailed determined, you and the client need to settle on a proposal and sign a contract. Once that's out of the way, you'll do some research. You'll look into what others in the industry are doing, especially your client's competition. You may research adjacent sectors as well. You may search for new and innovative ways to meet your client's needs. Next, you may start wire-framing or thought mapping out the website with all this info in hand, figuring out the best structure and hierarchy to use. Then you'll start with the design: Colour palette, font choices, styles, image aesthetics and all the other visual elements that go into a website. Maybe you'll need animations or videos. After all, the client wants the website to POP, don't they? Next, there's development. The nitty-gritty of connecting all the pieces together, so you have a functioning website. This may involve more research as you look into plugins and third-party solutions to help with your build. Sales funnels, eCommerce platforms, email lists, calendar scheduling tools are just a few things you may have to incorporate into the build. Then, the client wants the website to be found, so you'll do your best at implementing SEO strategies to help with find-ability. Finally, you'll send your last invoice and get paid for the project once the website is complete. Whoa, good job. You worked your butt off, and everything worked out great. The client got the site they wanted and paid the fee you quoted for this website project. But back to my question. How much do you think it would cost if you had to pay individual people to do everything you just did? Let's see; you would have had to hire a salesperson for the initial contact, proposal and contract signing. Next, you'd need a researcher for the discovery and other investigating you did. Then there are the UX and UI Designers you would have to hire. One to design the feel of the website, how it flows and how easy it is to navigate. The other to develop the aesthetics of the site. How natural and attractive it is. After that, you'll need a developer to put everything together. Someone who knows how to take what came out of the UX and UI Designers' minds and put it into action. Along the way, you'll need an SEO person to make sure all the "T" s are crossed and "I" s dotted to give the website the best chance to be discovered by those searching the web. And then, you would need a bookkeeper or accounts person to handle the invoicing and payment processing. And on top of all of these people, you would also need a project manager to oversee them all and keep things on track. Wow, that's a good group of people. Eight if my math is correct. So how much do you think it would cost if you had to hire eight individual people to work on this job instead of you doing it yourself? Chances are it would cost way more than what you charged your client for their website project. And hold on, I haven't even considered the profit for your design business. After all, you took on this project to make money, didn't you? So after paying all these people, there needs to be some leftover for you to make a profit. Do you see where I'm going with this? When your client hired you to design a website, they, in effect, hired all these people. You acted as a project manager, a researcher, a UX and a UI designer, a developer, and an SEO person. Plus, you took on the roles of sales and account person. So why should your client get such a good deal just because all of these people encompass one body, yours? The answer is they shouldn't. And that's the big mistake so many freelancers and design business owners make. When determining their prices, they fail to consider every specialty they are bringing to the table. Think of yourself as a team of individuals, each with their unique skills, and you can see why you should be charging much more for your services. And that's what that business coach client told me all those years ago. For his first book, he had hired a page layout person to format the pages of his book. He also hired a graphic designer to design the cover for the book and the bookmark. And he hired a web designer to create the website. Each of these people did their part and got paid separately. And the total for the three of them came up to almost three times what I charged him to do everything myself. So when he saw my quote, he knew he was getting a steal of a deal. He told me that by lumping everything I do under one umbrella of "it's all part of designing." I was doing myself a disservice. I was undervaluing all the individual skills I brought to the table. Only when I started thinking about what, or perhaps who is required for each part of a design project, will I start realizing how much value I bring and start charging accordingly. Because every small part of a project you do, there's an individual out there that specializes in doing that one thing. And they're billing for it. From that day forward, I started charging more for what I do. Before I go, I'd like to ask you to do something for me. Think of the last design project you did for a client and how much you charged them. Now take out a pad and pencil and break down that price into the individual roles you performed to complete their project. How much did each "person" get paid? And don't forget to leave enough for your profit. I have a feeling that if you do this small exercise, you'll realize that you are not charging enough for what you bring to the table. And I'm hoping this is incentive enough for you to stop undervaluing yourself and start charging what you're worth.
1/31/202218 minutes, 26 seconds
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Networking: It's not who you know, it's who knows you - RD281

Networking is all about getting your name out there. It's not about selling or pitching. It's about gaining recognition, building a reputation, if you will. Networking is the building block to every successful design business. Networking can take place anywhere and everywhere. You don't need to be at a conference, trade show or special networking event. Nor does it have to be with a particular sort of person or even a potential client. Every person you talk to, including family, friends and strangers alike, is a form of networking. And the more you do it, the better at it you'll become and the more successful you'll be. It's no secret that the number one way a graphic design business grows is through word-of-mouth referrals. And for word-of-mouth referrals to happen, people have to know four things about you. 1. Who you are. 2. What you do. 3. Your reliability. 4. Your likeability. When someone knows these four things about you, there's an excellent chance they will share your name with others. Now you'll notice how I didn't mention how good a designer you are. Believe it or not, your skills as a designer have little impact on the referrals you get. Some fantastic designers rarely get referred. Like some questionable designers are referred all the time. Why? It all boils down to those four elements. So let's break them down. 1. Do they know who you are? This one is self-explanatory. If someone doesn't know you, There's zero chance they'll share your name with others. Now luckily, you have two avenues to remedy this: yourself and your business. As long as one of these two is known, there's a possibility someone shares it. A person may not know who you are, but they may know your business. Or vice versa, they don't know your business, but they know you. In either of these situations, they have the opportunity to spread the word based on what they know. If they don't know you or your business, the chances of referring you are zero. 2 Do they know what you do? Someone may know who you are, but they won't recommend you to others if they don't know what you do. And don't confuse "what you do" with "the career you have" someone may know you're a graphic designer, but graphic design is an extensive term, so it doesn't tell them what you do. It's like saying someone is a mechanical engineer. That tells you their career, but it doesn't explain what they do. Two mechanical engineers can have two completely different skillsets and work in different industries. They are mechanical engineers with the same degree, but neither does the same work as the other one does. Graphic design is the same thing. For example, some graphic designers work with video. Other graphic designers don't know anything about video. Some are illustrators; others aren't. Some designers design for the web, and some design only for print. Titles such as UX Designer, Multimedia Designer, Production Designer, etc., are great for people in the industry. But for the general client, titles like this don't explain what a designer does. The idea here is to know what you do; people need to know more than what career you have. 3. Are you reliable? To pass your name on to someone else, people need to know if you are reliable. Or maybe more accurately, that they know that you are not unreliable. If someone asks you for a recommendation and you know of someone suitable for the task, you'll probably share their name even if you know very little about them. However, if the person you're thinking of is unreliable, you probably won't share their name because it will reflect poorly on you. A few episodes ago, I shared a story about my roof needing new shingles and my problems with the person I hired. Well, to give you an update. That was November, and he promised he would do my roof before winter. It's now the end of January, there are several feet of snow outside, and my roof still isn't done. Now, if someone asks me if I know anyone who does roof repair, you know I won't be sharing this guy's name because he's shown himself to be unreliable. So even though I know who he is, and I know what he does. The fact that I think he's unreliable stops me from referring him. The same applies to you. If you do something that makes people think you are unreliable, they will not refer you. 4 Are you likeable? I've said it many times on this podcast before. Clients would prefer to work with a good designer they like than with an amazing designer they don't like. Think about it. When was the last time you wanted to work with someone you didn't like, regardless of how good they were at what they do? The more someone likes you, the more they'll want to work with you and the more they like you, the more they'll be willing to share your name with others. So these four things: 1. Knowing who you are. 2. Knowing what you do. 3. Knowing that you're reliable. 4. Knowing that you're likeable. These are the four key ingredients to getting referrals. How do they work? Now that we have a clear idea of the four ingredients, how do you ensure people know these four things about you? Well... by communicating with them. And that's where networking comes in. As I said at the start, networking occurs any time you communicate with someone. Every conversation you have, be it in person, over the phone or video, or in writing, brings that person closer to knowing these four key ingredients about you. Whenever possible, talk to everyone you meet. I know this can be hard for a lot of people. Designers tend to be introverted, and to an introvert, the thought of striking up a conversation with a total stranger is like asking them to stick their hand in a bee's nest. But it doesn't have to be that hard. You're not trying to relay each one of the four key ingredients with every conversation you have. This isn't a pitch for work. You're making progress if you show someone just one of the four points. Let it build up over time. Letting people know who you are is the first and easiest of the four key ingredients. All you need to do is introduce yourself. After all, they can't refer you if they don't know you. So make sure you tell them your name. And if the conversation merits it, tell them your business name. They only need to remember one of the two to refer you. Next, Tell them what you do. An elevator pitch is great for this. I talked about crafting your elevator pitch back in episode 116 of Resourceful Designer. But in a nutshell, your elevator pitch should briefly and concisely explain who you are, what you do, who you do it for and what results you produce. In other words. Hi, I'm (your name). I'm a (your title) who does (insert what you do). I help (type of people) to achieve (the outcome you provide). For example: Hi, I'm John Smith. I'm a web designer, and I build fast and functional websites that turn visitors into paying customers. I help small businesses grow their revenue by increasing their online sales. Do you see? Short and precise. It tells people who you are and what you do. If this interests them, they'll ask you to explain more. And if it doesn't engage them, that's ok. They've learned enough information to pass your name along should they have the chance. In my case, my elevator pitch might go something like this. Hi, I'm Mark Des Cotes. I'm a Brand Consultant who develops visual branding for podcasts. I help podcasters look more legitimate and gain more traction by offering them professionally designed band assets, including cover artwork, social media graphics, websites and more. All of which leads to better exposure and more downloads for their show. A simple elevator pitch can go a long way to explain what you do to someone. As I said earlier, just saying you're a graphic designer doesn't explain what you do. It would be best if you lay it out for them. And don't take it for granted that someone you know is familiar with all the services you offer. Never presume a client, a friend, a family member, or anyone else knows what you do. I talked about this way back in episode 2 of the podcast, where I shared a story about my brother-in-law. Who knew me before I even became a graphic designer and someone who I've designed many things for over the years. He asked if I knew anyone who could create a rack card for him one day. I thought he was joking, but he wasn't. It had never come up, so he didn't know that I could also design rack cards on top of everything else I do. So whenever possible, share specifics of what you do with others. FYI, a newsletter is a great way to do this. Once per month or once per quarter, send something out to your clients and all your contacts, letting them know what sort of work you've been doing. I guarantee you that someone will reach out saying they had no idea that you did that sort of thing. And then there are the final two ingredients. Reliability is something that takes time. Showing up on time for a scheduled meeting or promptly returning an email or phone call shows that you are reliable. Completing a job or project on time and to a client's satisfaction shows that you are reliable. Offering helpful advice or suggestions shows that you are reliable. Everything you do that creates a positive impression helps build that notion that you are a reliable person. And that brings us to likability. Once again, time is your friend here. Is it possible to instantly like someone? Sure. But if you're looking for referrals, and that's what we're talking about today, you need that impression of you to grow over time. Getting people to like you shouldn't be that difficult. I mean, you're a great person, aren't you? What's not to like? But seriously, simple things such as greeting everyone you meet, regardless of who they are, help solidify your likability. For example. Whenever I have a meeting at a corporate office, not only do I try to get there 10 to 15 minutes early (which shows my reliability). I make a point to talk to as many people there as possible. The doorman, the receptionist, the assistant, everyone. Not just about why I'm there. But simply to talk. I'll ask the receptionist how his or her day is going. I'll ask if they're looking forward to the weekend. If I know anything about their family life, possibly from a previous conversation, I'll ask about their spouse or children. These short 1-minute conversations add up over time and help someone form a good impression of you. When our local shopping mall was one of my clients, every time I went there to meet with the marketing manager, I made a point to stick my head in the Managing director's office to say hi. Sometimes it was a quick wave. But other times, we would have a short conversation. Not about design or why I was there, but about life. We were both fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, which gave us common ground to talk about. When he decided to run for political office, he hired me to design his campaign material. That might not have happened if I had not made a point of connecting with him. I would also talk to the receptionist during each visit. A shopping mall receptionist is used to dealing with upset mall shoppers over everything from the lack of baby strollers to lost and found items to taking complaints about one store or another. They welcome a conversation with someone who doesn't have an agenda with them. Over many small conversations with that receptionist, including some, where I shared what I was working on for the mall. She knew who I was. Through our discussions, she learned what I did. My punctuality showed her I was reliable. And my taking the time to talk with her led her to like me. 1, 2, 3, 4. All four key ingredients checked off. And you know what? When that receptionist left her job at the mall to work at a financial firm and heard her new employer was looking for a designer, she recommended me. I had never worked with her directly, but she had learned the four key ingredients about me during her time working at the mall, and that was enough for her to mention my name. And for me to get a new client. You see how it works. Referrals can come from anywhere and anyone. Some even come from the least likely people. But they all have one thing in common. The person who refers you knows who you are; they know what you do, think you are reliable, and to some extent, like you. Or, at the very least, have no reason not to like you. The title of this episode says it all. When it comes to networking, it's not who you know; it's who knows you. And networking happens with every interaction you have. From interactions at a business conference to talking with the cashier at the grocery store. From attending trade shows to having a conversation with the person who cuts or styles your hair. From talking with your doctor to email correspondence with your clients. Every interaction plays a part. The more someone knows about you, the better the chances of referring you. And when they know who you are and what you do. And they know you're reliable and like you. That's when the magic happens. And that magic turns into new opportunities for you and your design business to grow. Networking: It's not who you know. It's who knows you.
1/24/202222 minutes, 3 seconds
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A Look Back - A Look Ahead - 2021 Edition - RD280

A look back at 2021 and a look ahead to 2022. 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 chose to spend a bit of your valuable time with me. I am continuing my annual tradition. This last podcast episode of 2021 is my Look Back, Look Ahead edition. It’s where I reflect, and of course, share, what my year was like as a design business owner. Then I’ll look ahead at what I want to accomplish in 2022. A Look Back at my 2021 goals. At the end of 2020, I set these goals for myself. FAIL: Talk at more conferences. For obvious reasons (hint, there was a pandemic), I failed at this one. I talked at two virtual conferences at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t enjoy the experience and opted not to apply anymore. FAIL: Grow the Resourceful Designer podcast audience. When the pandemic hit in 2020, my podcast listenership took a big hit like many other podcasts. A lot of people listen to podcasts on their commute. And with the elimination commutes, people didn’t have time to listen as much. I was hoping that the numbers would tick back up this year. But I’m still way below what I used to get before the pandemic hit. ACCOMPLISHED: Grow the Resourceful Designer Community. The Community is my pride and joy. One day, when I’m no longer doing the podcast, I’ll look back at everything I did with Resourceful Designer, and I’m sure the Community will be my proudest accomplishment. The friendships formed and all the freely given help is more than I could have ever hoped. If you’re not a member of the Community and you’re looking for camaraderie with fellow designers, I highly suggest you check it out. Registration will open up again in February 2022. ACCOMPLISHED: Grow Podcast Branding. I think I made the pivot this year from Podcast Branding being a side business to my main business. I know financially, it’s much more lucrative than my long-standing design business. Some of my numbers from 2021 Resourceful Designer I released 41 podcast episodes. The lowest in a calendar year since I launched the podcast. The number is down because I took several weeks off this summer after my father passed away. Reached over 630k total episode downloads in 2021 (Over 63k of which were in 2021) Resourceful Designer released on Samsung devices. My design business COVID-19 continued to affect my business in 2021. I lost several clients due to closure. And many who remained were affected financially and didn’t ask me for anything. Worked on design projects for 23 different clients (up from 9 in 2020) No new clients in 2021. I sent out 41 invoices in 2020 (up from 14 in 2020) Lost five long-standing clients due to various reasons but mostly COVID-19 related. Started consulting work with our local Business Enterprise Centre. NOTE: I didn’t actively promote my design business in 2021. Instead, I concentrated on growing my other business, Podcast Branding. Podcast Branding My Podcast Branding business was my moneymaker this year. Worked with 64 different clients (up from 51 in 2020) Launched nine new websites for clients. (down from 16 in 2020. However, revenue from those nine websites was more significant than the 16 last year.) It was featured as a guest on two podcasts that brought in new business. A Look Ahead at my 2020 goals. My previous goals will continue to carry over in the new year. Continue to grow the Resourceful Designer Community. Concentrate more on Podcast Branding and so forth. New Goal for 2020. Create new partnerships to grow what I offer at Podcast Branding. Expand the Resourceful Designer Community to include even more offerings than now. Do more consulting work. What about you? Did you accomplish your goals for 2021, and What are your goals for the new year? Are you a student getting ready to graduate? What are your goals once school is over? 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; perhaps 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 goals do you have 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 2021 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 create a sense of want even higher than before? Think about what prevented you from reaching those goals. So long 2021. As 2021 comes to an end. I encourage you to reflect. Think about everything you’ve learned. Your struggles, the things you fell short on (be it your fault or just the state of the world) and your accomplishments. And come up with a plan to make 2022 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. These past two years have been tough on all of us. I hope that we never have to endure something like this ever again. But you know that old saying, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Remember the lessons from these past two years, and use everything you’ve learned to make 2022 and future years even better. I’ll be back in 2022 with more advice for starting and growing your design business. Until then I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. And of course, no matter what goals you set for yourself in the new year, always remember to Stay Creative. What are your goals for 2022? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
12/13/202119 minutes, 41 seconds
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How To Make More Money With Print Brokering - RD279

Make the most out of print brokering. In episode 49 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about offering print brokering as a means to supplement your design business. If you do print design and do not offer print brokering, you’re losing out on a lot of potential income. I made over $1,000 from three different print jobs this past week alone. And that’s not counting how much I charged for creating the designs themselves. One of those three jobs was reprinting an existing flyer for a client. It took me less than 3 minutes to find the print file, send it to the printer along with specifications for the order, including instructions to deliver the finished job to my client. Then I sent an invoice to my client. That 3 minutes of work earned me over $300 in print brokering commission. What is print brokering? If you are unfamiliar with print brokering, it’s when you act as the middleman between your client and the printer. In some cases, you mark up the printing price to invoice your client, and in other cases, you get a discount from the printer and charge your client the non-discounted cost, keeping the difference for yourself. Clients like it when you offer this service because they don’t have to deal with the printer directly. Printers like this setup because they get to deal with someone who understands how things work. Listen to episode 49 of the podcast to learn more about print brokering. Today I’m sharing ways to augment the money you make by print brokering. And not simply by increasing your markup. However, that is a way to do it. No, I’m talking about ways to improve your revenue, and at the same time, your client feels like they’re getting a better deal. Upselling and Cross-Selling. Let’s start with upselling and cross-selling. What are they, and what’s the difference between the two? Upselling is when you offer more of the same thing. Think of McDonald’s when they offer to upgrade your medium drink to a large for only $0.25 more. That’s an upsell. You get a larger drink, and they get more money. Cross-selling is when you offer an additional thing. When you order a burger and drink, McDonald’s will always ask you if you want to make a combo? That’s a cross-sell. In this case, you get something else, fires, and they collect more money. Upselling and Cross-Selling Print Brokering. How do you use these two concepts in print brokering? Upselling. You can upsell a print job in many different ways. But the easiest is through the paper stock and printing options. Printing on a specialty paper stock will improve the look and appeal of a printed job, which may interest your client. It will also increase the cost, which in turn increases your profit. Printing using spot colours is a great way to improve the look of some printed pieces. I have a client who is a lawyer. She insists on using spot colours for her business card. We could accomplish a similar result using CMYK, but she likes the flat look of the spot colours and is willing to accept the higher printing costs to get the look she wants. And in turn, I make more money on every print run. Novelty stocks are a great upsell. Do you have a client who’s a window washer? Suggest clear business cards. How about a client in the construction or industrial industry? Suggest laser engraved metal cards. A client in the outdoor space may be willing to spend more on wooden business cards. Embossing foil stamping die-cutting rounding corners Gilded edges specialty folds laminations or special coatings. These are all printing options you can upsell to your clients. Another way to upsell is to suggest larger quantities. Most of the operating costs in a print run occur in the setup stage–pre-press, printing plates, press set up, ink, etc. After that, all that’s left is paper and time. That’s why in most cases, the more you order, the less per unit the printing costs. Five hundred business cards may cost $50. Doubling the order to 1000 cards may only be $65. That’s an easy thing to sell a client on. They get more for their money spent. And you get more as your commission. Cross-selling. Like the McDonald’s combo, cross-selling a print order involves additional items. When a client comes to you for business cards, you may want to suggest additional items such as thank you cards. If you’re asked to design invitations for an event, you could offer table cards or place cards. If it’s for a wedding, you could also suggest thank you cards and perhaps gift tags the couple can attach to whatever gifts they’re handing out to their guests. Many designers offer stationery packs or bundles that include business cards, letterheads and envelopes. The bundle is less expensive than ordering each individually, which is great for your client. But it’s also usually more than what they initially thought to order. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve convinced a client to order envelopes to go with letterhead or maybe an invoice or other form. And it all means more revenue for me. Another way to cross-sell is to suggest multiple print runs for various languages. I did this just recently.  A client hired me to design coasters for a local campaign. When they gave the information for the coasters, I noticed it was all in English. Our local area is bilingual in English and French, so I asked if they would like me to design a French coaster simultaneously, which they agreed to. This doubled the print run and doubled my profit. Create opportunities for more print runs (more profit). So far, I’ve been talking about increasing your revenue by printing more at a time–either larger quantities or more items. But another way to earn more money from print brokering is by designing something that has an “expiry date” which will require them to be printed more often. I have a client that attends trade shows throughout the year. He includes his prices on his flyers. Every year as he increases his pricing, he asks me to update his flyer and have more printed. Some products change appearance over time. If you include a photo of the product on the printed piece your client may be more inclined to update the photos as newer models come out, requiring new printed pieces. I talked earlier about how larger print runs can save a client money in the long run. But sometimes they just don’t have the budget for a larger run. Smaller print runs will allow them to get by until they can afford to have more printed. And you make money each time. Include dates on recurring events. A yearly festival could get away with using the same flyer and poster year after year. But if you include the date or any information specific to this particular year, they are forced to print new ones each time. Another great way to increase your print brokering income is by keeping track of your client’s anniversaries. Designing an anniversary logo for a client is always a fun project. Suggesting they include the anniversary logo on all their print material is even better. One of my clients is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2022. We’re in the process of adding the anniversary logo to the many print pieces they have. That means a huge printing order. All to showcase their special occasion. The following year they can continue using their current stock of printed material that doesn’t include the anniversary logo. If you know when an anniversary is coming up, you can make the suggestion ahead of time and get the ball rolling. Your client will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and your business will appreciate the added income. Two final tricks. I want to share two more “tricks” with you that have helped me earn more money with print brokering. I always tell every client who orders business cards through me, to never hand out just one card. Business cards are a networking tool. When you hand them out you should always give two or three at a time. You tell the recipient to keep one and hand the others out to anyone they know who could use your service. Clients love this idea. But it also means they run out of cards faster and need to reorder. And finally, whenever possible, convince your client to include their photo on their business card. Again, it makes a great networking tool. A card with a photo makes it much easier to remember the person. It also creates a subconscious connection. When you see a photo of someone, seeds of trust start to germinate immediately. Knowing what a person looks like makes it easier to connect with them. Why do you think so many real estate agents put their photos on their For Sale signs? Because if you know who the person is, you’ll trust them more, regardless if you’ve met them or not. But how does a photo on a business card help you as a print broker? People change. Maybe it’s their hairstyle. Maybe they shaved their facial hair or grew some. Maybe they never liked their old photo. Whatever the reason, they may want to update their photo. And they won’t care if they have half a box of cards left. They’ll gladly discard them for new ones. A couple of weeks ago one of my clients contacted me for business cards for a new employee. I replied back asking if any of their current employees wanted to update their cards with a new photo. That one order turned into four orders, which in turn, means more money for me. If you’re smart about it. There are always ways to increase your print brokering sales. And not in a slimy salesperson way. One last thing. Make sure you follow up with your client after the fact. Following up lets you know if your client liked their print purchase. Hearing their comments is a great opportunity to learn what worked and what didn’t. And you can use those lessons when dealing with other clients. How do you increase your profits from a print brokering job? Leave a comment below.
12/6/202125 minutes, 29 seconds
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Do Your Rates Conflict With Your Brand? - RD278

Don't confuse clients with rates that don't match your brand. I’d like you to imagine this scenario. There’s a neighbourhood in your city that you love. It has beautiful homes with big yards and lots of green space around. It’s close to amenities like schools and shopping. And the internet infrastructure is state of the art, which we know is a must for what we do as designers. It’s the type of neighbourhood that you occasionally drive through and think to yourself; I would love to live here. The problem is, home prices in this neighbourhood are way out of your budget. You figure you can afford maybe $350k. Perhaps you can push it to $400k. But unfortunately, homes in this neighbourhood typically sell for over $700k. But you can dream, can’t you? Then one day, while driving through the neighbourhood, you see a FOR SALE sign in front of what could be your dream home. You’ve admired the homes in this neighbourhood for a long time, but always from the outside. But here’s your chance to get a peek on the inside because there are sure to be photos on the realtor’s website. When you get home, you fire up your browser to take a peek. As you’re navigating to the page, you play the guessing game in your head. You guess its listing price at $795K. But when the page loads, that beautiful house, the one you’ve been admiring for years, is listed at $295k. What do you think your first thought would be in this situation? Or maybe second thought after you realize you can afford it. You would probably start wondering, what’s wrong with it? Why is it listed so low? What mess would you be getting yourself into if you were to make an offer? I’m sure you’ve experienced this feeling before. Maybe not with a house. But perhaps with a car, or something else. Especially when the item in question is something previously owned, what’s wrong with it that’s making the seller offer it for such a low price? It’s not just houses. Something similar happened to a designer friend of mine just a couple of weeks ago. He was at a business conference, and on one of the days, they divided people up into small groups—kind of a Mastermind format where each person in the group had time to present their business. Being prepared as only designers can be, my designer friend had a presentation ready and walked everyone through his business. He showed them what he does, how he does it, his processes, and his annual billing and 3-year financial snapshot. It was a business conference, and he was very transparent in everything he shared. After his presentation, One of the attendees, a woman he had met earlier at the conference, approached him to talk. She told him that after the 5-minute conversation they had when they first met, she thought, “this guy knows what he’s doing, but there’s no way I can afford him.” But after seeing his numbers on paper, she told him she could easily afford him. And that’s not good a good thing because his prices conflict with the brand image he’s putting out. Do you do this? You’re a designer, you’re proud of what you can do, and I’m sure you like to showcase the best of it in how you present yourself. After all, you know that if you only put in a half-baked effort, you’re doing yourself a disservice. But what happens if the brand image you present to the world conflicts with the prices you charge for your services? Just like the house in my opening story, people may wonder, what’s wrong with you. They may be hesitant to hire you because the prices you charge seem too good to be true compared to the skills you showcase. And you know that when something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Could this be happening to you? Could it be that you’re not getting enough work because you’re not charging enough for the talents you possess? My own story. About a year or two after I started working from home, I was working for a department of the Canadian government located in town. They were pleased with my work, so they passed my name up the chain. It wasn’t long before I had the chance to bid on a big federal government project. I received the RFP (Request For Proposal) and read it over several times to ensure I understood what was involved. I then calculated every aspect of the job. I figured out how long it should take me, what assets I may need to purchase, and what contractors I may need to hire. I then added in time for revisions, and, like all good designers, I added in some padding for anything unexpected that may come up. The price I came up with was $8,000. It was going to be my biggest project to date. Satisfied with my quote, I submitted the proposal, already designing the project in my head. But a week later, I found out I didn’t win the project. Reaching out to my contact at the local government office, I asked if she knew how much I was outbid by. But to my surprise, she found out that I hadn’t been outbid. I was, in fact, the lowest quote. The issue was my price was too low. The government agency had received four bids in total for the project. The other three ranged in price between $12,000 and $14,000. When they saw my $8,000 proposal, they thought it was way too low, which meant I must have misunderstood what was involved with the project. Not willing to take a chance, they discarded my proposal and chose the lowest of the remaining three. Was my bid too low? Had I misunderstood the RFP? No, my price was accurate. Accurate for me, that is. You see, the other three bids came from design agencies in Toronto. And Toronto is a much more expensive city than where I live. Where my hourly rate at the time was $50, theirs were closer to $200/hr. They also carried way more overhead than me, a solo designer who works from home, and they needed to compensate for it in their bids. But none of this was transparent to the person or people who reviewed the four submitted bids. All they had to go by was the price. And my much lower price did not give them confidence in my ability to complete the project. It’s how we’ve been raised. Since a young age, the world has conditioned us to associate excellent quality with a higher price. It’s the “you get what you pay for” way of thinking. The more you spend, the better the quality. The less you spend, and you’re taking chances. I know someone who has several eBooks for sale on Amazon. She originally listed her books for $1.99 each. And every month, she sold roughly half a dozen books. Then she read a report saying that $9.99 eBooks consistently outsell $1.99 ebooks on Amazon. The study determined that pricing it at $1.99 diminished the book’s perceived value no matter how good the content was. People didn’t believe that a $1.99 eBook could help them or was worth their time. So she decided to raise the price of her books to $9.99. And you know what? Sales immediately went up. Instead of selling only a handful of books per month, he started selling several copies of each book per week. Are you hungry? Let’s look at it another way. You have many options if you are hungry for a hamburger. You can get one at McDonald’s for $2, or you can choose to go to a fancy restaurant and order an $18 hamburger. I guarantee the $18 hamburger will taste better and be more satisfying. Because if that $18 burger tastes like a Mcdonald’s hamburger, you’re going to be mighty upset with your purchase. That’s what clients think about you if you’re presenting yourself as the “Fancy Restaurant” of the design world. When they hear you talk or visit your website or see your other marketing material, they will imagine a price range based on the quality of what you present them. That “$18 Hamberger,” if you will. But if you then present your prices and they’re more in the “$2 hamburger” range, something will not feel right to them, and clients will second guess their decision to work with you. You’re lower prices may be impeding your business. More proof. If you’ve been following Resourceful Designer for a while, you know that I started a side business designing for the podcast niche a couple of years ago. There are many options available for people looking for podcast cover artwork. My site is one of the more expensive ones. And yet, I receive new orders every week. And when I ask why they chose me over any other option, they tell me it’s because of the professional look I put forward and how they thought it was worth the higher price. Does that mean that everybody wants to work with me? Of course not. I know that many people see my prices and immediately leave my site. But it’s not because my prices are too high. A business coach once told me there’s no such thing as being too expensive. Just that you may be unaffordable to some people. And that’s OK. But to those who can afford you, your prices will be just right. Don’t fall into that rut where the brand image you’re putting out there says one thing about your business, but your prices say another. All you’ll be doing is confusing your potential clients. And when you confuse, you lose. Take this time, and review your rates. Are they in line with your brand image? If not, then you should consider raising them.  And you know what? I’m releasing this at the end of November, which means that the new year is just around the corner. And the new year gives you the perfect opportunity to introduce your new pricing. Make sure your rates don’t conflict with your brand.
11/29/202117 minutes, 55 seconds
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Get It Right With Checklists - RD277

The reason to use checklists. I first talked about checklists way back in episode 89 of Resourceful Designer. In it, I shared various types of checklists you can use for your business. I even shared my now outdated checklist for starting a new WordPress website. Today, I’m not going to share checklist ideas with you. Instead, I want to talk about the importance of using checklists. To emphasize their importance, I want to start by telling you a story. I heard this story while listening to an audiobook called My Best Mistake, Epic Fails and Silver Linings written by Terry O’Reilly. It’s a great book of stories about failures that led to amazing things. Check it out if you have the chance. One of the stories O’Reilly tells in the book inspired is what inspired what you’re reading here. It’s estimated that the average American undergoes seven surgeries in a lifetime, and surgeons perform over 50 million surgeries annually. That’s a lot of operations. In 2009, roughly 150,000 patients died immediately after surgery—3 times the number of fatalities from road accidents. What’s scary about that number is that half of those deaths were completely avoidable. That number caught the attention of Doctor Atul Gawande, a Boston surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School. It’s the 21st century. How can all these complications happen despite the accumulated knowledge of professionals? Gawande wondered if there was a way to reduce the number of operating room errors that resulted in these deaths. To find an answer, Gawande looked at other fields for ideas. Back in 1935, The U.S. Army was looking for the next generation of long-range bombers. They held a competition between top airplane manufacturers to come up with a new design. Although the issued tender was fair for all involved. It was a known fact that Boeing’s technology was miles ahead of their rivals Martin and Douglas. Boeing’s new Model 299 could fly faster than any previous bomber, travel twice as far, and carry five times as many bombs as the Army requested. The Army was prepared to order sixty-five of the aircraft before the competition was even over. The big brass of the Army Air Corps gathered for the first test flight of the Model 299. The impressive machine took to the sky with its 103-foot wingspan and four gleaming engines (instead of the usual two found on most planes.) It was quite a sight to see. As the plane took flight, it climbed to three hundred feet, stalled, and crashed in a fiery ball of flames. Two of the crew died that day, including the pilot who was the Army Air Corps’ chief of flight testing. The Army decided to award the contract to Douglas instead. And Boeing almost went bankrupt. However, The follow-up investigation revealed that there was nothing mechanically wrong with the plane. And it was determined that the crash was due to pilot error. But how could that be? How could the chief of flight testing, one of their most experienced pilots, make a mistake that would lead to the crash of such a sophisticated plane? As the investigation showed, the Model 299 required the pilot to monitor the four engines. Each one requiring its own oil-fuel mixture. He also had to attend to the landing gear and wing flaps, adjust the electric trim to maintain stability at different airspeeds and regulate the constant-speed propellers with hydraulic controls. And that was only a few of the things on which the pilot needed to concentrate. It turns out that while attending to all of these things, the pilot forgot to release a new locking mechanism on the elevator and rudder controls. It was a simple oversight that led to the crash. Boeing was ready to scrap the plane, but a group of pilots believed the Model 299 was flyable. So they got together to find a solution. When they later approached Boeing, they didn’t request any mechanical changes to the plane. Nor did they think pilots needed to undergo extended training on how to fly it. Instead, they came up with a simple and ingenious solution. They created a pilot’s checklist. They made a list that was short enough to fit on an index card. It covered all the mundane step-by-step tasks required for takeoff, flight, landing and taxiing. In other words, the checklist covered all the dumb stuff. With the new checklist, pilots flew the Model 299 over 1.8 million miles without one single accident. To distance themselves from the previous failure during the test flight, Boeing changed the name of their new plane to the B-17. The Army ordered 13,000 of them, which gave the Air Corps a decisive advantage in WWII. All because of a checklist. Since the 1960s, nurses have relied on charts, a form of a checklist, to know when to dispense medicine, dress wounds, check pulse, blood pressure, respiration, pain level, etc. And although doctors would look at these charts when visiting a patient, they viewed these checklists as “nurse stuff.” In the late 90s, a study determined the average hospital patient required 178 individual actions by medical staff per day. Any one of which could pose a risk. The researchers noted that doctors and nurses made errors in only 1% of these actions. But that still adds up to almost two errors per day, per patient. When you multiply that by every hospital worldwide, it means millions of people around the globe are potentially harmed by the very medical staff assigned to help them. In 2001, a doctor at Johns Hopkins designed a doctor’s checklist for putting in a central line; a tube inserted in a large vein used to administer medication. It’s a standard procedure that just about every doctor is familiar with. It was also a widespread cause of infection in patients. So this doctor devised a simple checklist listing the five steps involved in carrying out the procedure. He then asked the nurses to observe the doctors for one month and record how often they carried out each step. They found that in over 1/3 of all patients, doctors omitted at least one of the five steps. The following month, hospital administration instructed the nurses to insist doctors follow each of the steps. The doctors didn’t like being told what to do by the nurses, but the nurses had the backing of hospital administration, so they grudgingly complied. When the new data was later tabulated, they thought maybe a mistake had been made. The infection rate for central lines dropped from 11 percent to zero. They continued the study for longer, to be sure, but the results were the same. It was estimated that a simple checklist had prevented 43 severe infections and possibly eight deaths in that one hospital, saving $2 million in costs. And yet, even with this evidence, many doctors refused to grasp the importance of this precaution. They were offended by the very suggestion that they needed a checklist. They already had so much to do that they didn’t want one more sheet of paper to worry about. To prove his point, the doctor who wrote the checklist introduced it to other hospitals in Michigan. There was pushback, but in just three months, the rate of bloodstream infections dropped by 66 percent. Many of the test hospitals cut their quarterly infection rate to zero. A cost savings of nearly $200 million. All because of a simple little checklist. All checklists have an essential function. They act as a “mental net” to catch stupid mistakes. In 2005, the director of surgical administrator in a Columbus, Ohio hospital created a checklist for operating rooms. It contained simple things such as verifying they had the correct patient on the table and the right body area prepared for the surgery. This little addition improved surgical success rates by 89%. There’s a lot more to this story. In his book, O’Reilly shares stories of how more and more hospitals started implementing checklists for various things, but I’m not going to bore you with them. Back to the original story. In 2008, after conducting his research, Atul Gawande devised a checklist to be tested by a group of pilot hospitals worldwide. Some operating rooms embraced it, while others protested it as a waste of time. During a knee replacement surgery to be performed by one of the checklist’s most vocal critics, it was discovered while checking the boxes that the prosthesis on hand was the wrong size. If they had started the surgery, the patient might have lost his leg. That surgeon became an instant checklist evangelist. In all the hospitals using the checklists, surgical teams began working better together, and the surgical success rates soared. Complications fell by 36 percent, deaths by 47 percent and infections by 50 percent. And patients needing return visits to the operating room fell by 25 percent. What’s amazing about using checklists is that they dramatically improved an outcome without increasing skill or expenditure. Instead of adding rigidity to their lives, checklists free people by getting the dumb stuff out of the way. Today, 90 percent of hospitals in North America and 70 percent worldwide use a checklist. And you want to hear something funny. When Gawande’s original pilot project was completed, doctors were asked to fill out an anonymous survey. Seventy-eight percent said the checklist had prevented errors. But there was still 20 percent who didn’t like the checklist saying it took too long to implement and didn’t think it was worth it. However, when those 20 percents were asked if they had to undergo surgery, would they want the checklist to be used? Ninety-three percent of those who opposed the checklist said yes. I hope you found these facts as interesting as I did. Now you may be saying, sure, a checklist in a plane or an operating room makes sense. It can save lives, after all. But I run a graphic design business, so I’m good. I don’t need checklists. I used to think that way as well. But remember, checklists are freeing because they help get the dumb stuff out of the way, which frees you up for the more important things you do. I remember a couple of years ago. I was doing routine maintenance on one of my websites I had launched a couple of years prior. While verifying and updating things, I noticed something that almost made my heart stop. The little checkbox next to “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.” was still checked. Meaning, for close to two years, my website was telling search engines, “I’m good. Don’t pay any attention to me. Go look somewhere else.” That’s a stupid mistake that I could have avoided with the use of a pre-launch checklist. Today, I have several checklists I use regularly. I now have a website pre-launch checklist. A WordPress install checklist. A first client contact checklist. A podcast client checklist. A Resourceful Designer podcast checklist. And many more. As I said earlier, these checklists help ensure the dumb stuff gets done so that you can concentrate on the more important things without worrying. If you are not already using checklists in your business, I suggest you start now. And if you think that your checklists are in your head, remember the story about doctors putting in a central line. There are only five steps involved, steps that every doctor knows. And yet, when observed, nurses noted that over 1/3 of all patients, doctors missed at least one of the five steps. Your memory is failable. A checklist is not.
11/15/202121 minutes, 36 seconds
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Tarnished Reputation - RD276

Be wary of your reputation. Let me tell you a story. It is a story that has nothing to do with graphic or web design, but it is relevant to running a business, and I'll tie that into running a design business if you stick around to the end. We built our house in 2005. Or, more accurately, we had someone build our home in 2005. If you've ever built your own home or know of someone who has, you know that it's a long and gruelling process. When you buy a pre-built house, you get what's there. Sure, you can renovate it. But until then, what you buy is what you get. But when you build a home, you're starting with a blank slate. Think of it as opening a new document in Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign, or starting with a fresh installation of WordPress. What you do with it is entirely up to you. Building a home is like that. When you build a home, you get to choose how many rooms it has and the size of each room. You get to select floorings such as tile, wood, or carpet. You get to choose the light fixtures, the plumbing fixtures, the windows, the door, etc. You decide everything that goes into your house. My wife and I did that when we started the process for ours. One of the aspects we had to choose was the shingles for the roof. It sounds simple, but there are thousands of varieties and colours of shingles to select from. My wife and I took many drives around different neighbourhoods, looking at roofs then trying to match those we liked with samples our contractor supplied us. In the end, we chose a nice brown multi-hued asphalt shingle that gave our home character. We loved it. A couple of years ago, we started to notice these little grain-like substances appearing on our back deck. At first, we thought it was dirt. But we soon realized that it was debris falling from our shingles. There wasn't a lot of it, so we shrugged it off as peculiar. Then last summer, the debris pieces started getting bigger and fell more often. And when we looked at our roof, we noticed the shingles were starting to turn up at the corners. We weren't happy about this but didn't know what we could do about it. So we let it go as a nuisance. Well, this spring, when the snow melted, we were shocked to see a layer of dark brown debris on our deck, and our shingles curved and cracked much more than last summer. So I finally decided to take action. I started by calling the contractor who built our house. When I explained the situation, he immediately knew what I meant. He had dealt with several other people facing the same problem. It turns out the singles on our roof had a defect. A big enough one that there was a class-action lawsuit filed and won against the manufacturer. Our shingles have a 25-year warranty. According to the settlement, we're entitled to compensation for the unused portion of that warranty. The only specification is we have to replace them with a newer shingle by the same manufacturer. I'm upset that I hadn't looked into the issue when we first discovered it. I could have received a more considerable compensation. But I'm glad there's something we can do. Not knowing how to proceed, I asked my contractor for advice. He retired several years ago, but he gave me a name of a contractor he recommended who is familiar with the process. He suggested I contact him for a quote on redoing my roof, which I need for the claim process. He also recommended I talk to his old foreman, who oversaw most of the homes he built, including mine. I called the foreman for advice. It turns out he's also retired, although more recently. He told me he had handled many of these shingle claims on behalf of other clients. And although he no longer does that, he would help me however he could. He told me the first step was to get a quote from a qualified professional roofer. And the person he recommended was the same one my contractor had given me. The foreman had worked with him several times and was currently engaging him to build his new house. Having received the same name from two trusted sources, I called this new contractor and left a message for him to call me back. While waiting to hear back from him, I looked him up online. I read the Google and other reviews had nothing but good things to say about him, which boosted my confidence. I was eager to get the process started. But several days passed, and the new contractor didn't return my call. So I called and left another message, and then a few days later another. Finally, a week later, he called and apologized. He said the pandemic had taken a toll on his business. He lost several employees leaving him to juggle more than he usually did. This is understandable. The news is full of companies suffering due to staff shortages these days. I explained my situation and what I required, and he agreed to stop by the next day to look at my roof. But he never showed up. Two days later, I called him, and once again, he apologized, saying he would be here the next day. To his credit, he showed up. He spent almost an hour on my roof measuring and taking photos of all the problem areas for me to submit with the claim. Once done, he said he would send me the images and have a quote ready by the end of the week. My wife and I are also thinking about adding a screened-off area to our back deck next summer, so while he was there, I asked him for a quote on that as well. He said I would have both quotes by Friday. But the end of the week came, and I didn't hear from him. I waited until Wednesday the following week before calling. Once again, he apologized for the delay and said, once again, I would have the quotes by Friday. Do you see a pattern here? Friday came and went. On Monday, I called him, asking where my quotes were. He told me he couldn't send them because he didn't have my email address, which I had already provided him. I gave it to him again, and the following day I received the photos and the quote for my roof. The second quote for the screened-in porch was nowhere to be seen. With the roof quote and photos of the damaged areas in hand, I filled out all the information required to submit my claim, including the material list the contractor supplied me. Upon submission, I learned it could take up to 120 days before I get a response. In the meantime, no work was to be performed on my roof, in case they needed to send someone to inspect it. I called the contractor, and I told him we couldn't move forward for possibly up to 120 days. But I would still like to book him for the job when the time comes. He told me it was not a problem. He could pencil me onto his schedule for the fall. All I had to do was let him know when we could proceed. I also reminded him that he owed me another quote, to which he replied I would see it soon. Now you may be thinking. This guy doesn't seem too reliable. Why not get someone else? Well, during the process, I did get two other quotes from other roofers. One I found online, and the other I remembered seeing when a neighbour had his roof done. Both were more expensive, and their online reviews were not as good as the contractor I was already dealing with. My neighbour even told me he wouldn't hire the same guy again. Plus, given the time frame of a 120-day wait, neither of them would guarantee they could repair my roof before winter. Now true to form, it took exactly 120 days before I heard back that my claim was approved and I could move forward with the roof repair. I immediately called the contractor and left him a message saying we were good to go. And then I waited. Three days later, I called and left another message and waited some more. Now I'm starting to get worried. Winter is fast approaching Eastern Ontario, and no roofing will be done once the snow starts falling. And my roof has deteriorated significantly over the summer to the point where I don't think we could last the winter without possible water damage. Finally, a few days later, I heard from the contractor. He told me not to worry, he still has me on his schedule, and my roof will get done before winter. The next step is to choose what new shingles we want. He said he would drop off samples that afternoon. He never showed up. That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, I called him. He apologized and said he would drop them off on Thursday morning before heading to his current project. He never showed up. Today is Friday. I still don't have the shingle samples. And I no idea if or when he'll do my roof, even though he says not to worry, it'll be done before winter. At this point, there's nobody else I can call. I have no choice but to rely on this person that I've lost all faith in. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my roof gets repaired before snowfall. So why did I share this with you? A story about my roof that has nothing to do with graphic or web design. It's because I wanted to share with you how NOT to run a business. I had two people I trust recommend this guy. And his online reviews were great. So I had no reason to suspect the frustrations I would experience dealing with him. But at this point, he could do the most fantastic job on my roof, and even if he offered me a discount because of the troubles, I would still never recommend him to anyone. His reputation is tarnished beyond repair. That's the message I want you to take away from this story. It doesn't matter what sort of work you do for your clients. What matters is how you treat them. You may be a great designer, an amazing designer, in fact. But never forget that you're not the only designer around. When a client calls or emails you, make sure you reply promptly. Even if it's only to say "thank you for the message." so they know you received it. That simple acknowledgement can go a long way in building trust. If a client asks you to do something or send them something, make sure you follow through. If you're afraid you might forget, set a reminder on your phone or add it to your calendar. You can even stick a Post-It note to your monitor. You want to build lasting relationships with your clients so they come back to you over and over again in the future. You'll never be able to do that if your reputation is tarnished. Because once you lose their trust. It's almost impossible to gain it back. --- You won't believe this. As I was wrapping this up, the contractor showed up at my door with the shingle samples. He didn't even apologize for being late this time. He did, however, assure me that he would do my roof in three weeks. It's on his schedule, and I shouldn't worry. But you know I'll worry anyway, at least until the work is complete. As for the quote for the screened porch for the deck? I still haven't seen it. But at this point, I don't care anymore. Once he's finished my roof, I never plan on hiring this guy again. I hope none of your clients ever feel that way about you.
11/8/202121 minutes, 15 seconds
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Critiques: Putting The Constructive In Criticism - RD275

Do you know how to give a good critique? One of my professors made us critique our classmates’ projects at the end of every college assignment. Once we completed a design project, he would place everyone’s design at the front of the class, and one by one, he would select students and ask them to critique one of the projects. The reason he did this was twofold. He wanted us to develop an eye towards examining other designs to both learn from them, which makes us better designers and seek aspects of the designs we would have done differently. The other reason he held these critiques was to thicken our skin. As designers, we have to learn to take criticism of the works we create. If you are easily offended or don’t take well to people critically evaluating your creations this way, then maybe being a designer is not for you. Besides, what better way to learn than by hearing our fellow students dissect our works. I can tell you that I learned a lot from hearing my classmates tear apart my work. But this exercise we conducted at the end of each project had another effect. You see, the professor wasn’t only evaluating our design work. He was also evaluating our critiques. He would point out when our comments were not helpful or ask us to expand on our observations to convey better what we were saying. Even though every student dreaded these critiquing sessions, looking back, I’m grateful for them. It made me look at design through a different lens. It taught me the difference between giving a critique and offering constructive criticism. And that’s what I want to discuss with you today. As you may be aware, there’s a Resourceful Designer Facebook group. In this group, or any other design group for that matter, including the Resourceful Designer Community. Designers often post their designs “for review.” Sometimes they are looking for advice. Sometimes it’s for validation. And sometimes, they’re looking for nothing more than an ego grab. Regardless of their reasoning for posting their work, I can’t help but shake my head at some of the comments they receive. Comments which supposedly come from experienced designers, and yet, they’re of no value to the person posting their design. So I want to talk to you about my method of critiquing. Is my method the proper right way of offering critiques? Of course not. I’m not saying what you’re doing is wrong, and you should do it my way. I’m hoping that after hearing what I have to say, you may take an extra moment to contemplate your response the next time someone asks you to critique their work. When to ask for critiques. Let’s start with when you should be asking for critiques. In my opinion, there are four stages of a design project when you should ask for critiques. During the initial concept stage. If you hit a roadblock. Before presenting your design to the client. Before sending the design to print or launching it. Let’s break those down. 1. Ask for critiques during the initial concept stage. The beginning of a design project is when the work is most fluid. It’s the point when the design could take off in any direction. If you are working on a logo project, you may sketch out dozens or hundreds of concepts before narrowing it down to the ones you want to develop further. During this stage, it’s not uncommon to show your favourite concepts to someone to get another opinion. You’re not asking for critiques of the actual designs, but more of the overall direction you are taking. It’s a great way to validate that you are starting on the right path before getting too far down the road. Another set of eyes can help spot the stronger designs and weed out the weaker ones. It is beneficial for someone who has been staring at them for a long time which diminishes your objectivity. So asking for critiques during the initial concept stage can quickly help you determine what direction the rest of the design project will take. 2. Ask for critiques when you hit a roadblock. We’ve all been there, you’re designing away on something you initially thought was great, but all of a sudden, you doubt yourself. Something about the design isn’t sitting right with you, but you can’t figure out what. This is the perfect opportunity to get another set of eyes on it. Sometimes, another uninvested designer can look at a design and spot the flaws that you’ve become blind to. So any time you hit a roadblock or start to doubt something about your work, ask someone to critique it. 3. Ask for critiques before showing your work to the client. You’ve completed your design. You’ve polished it up and are ready to present it to your client. Now is the perfect time to show it to others first, just in case there’s something you’re not seeing. It’s not a good feeling to tell a client after presenting something to them that you need to make a change. It tarnishes the mantle of “expert” they’ve placed over you. It’s even worst if the client points out any flaws to you. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to ask for critiques before presenting your work to the client. 4. Ask for critiques before sending a design to print or launching it. There is potentially a lot of money involved in a print run. You do not want to find out after the fact that there was an issue with your design. If you’re a solo designer, I highly suggest you find someone or a group of people like in the Resourceful Designer Community that can review your work before you hand it off to the printer. Digital work isn’t as critical since it can always be corrected after the fact. But it still reflects poorly on you if you published something with errors or flaws. To prevent this from happening, ask for critiques before sending a project to print or launch. Those are the four times when you should be asking for critiques of your work. That doesn’t mean you should limit it to those times. At any point during a project, you can ask someone to look over what you’ve done. But even if you’re confident in what you are doing, these four critique points should not be ignored. How to ask for critiques. Let’s look at how to ask for critiques. Posting a design and asking “What do you think?” is not the right way. Without any context, you’re just opening yourself up to a bevy of unhelpful answers. What do you think? I think you can do better. What do you think? I think it should be blue instead of green. What do you think? I’m not crazy about the font. What do you think? I don’t like it. Not useful answers. What you want to do is make it easy for the person to critique your work. After all, you are asking them to devote a bit of their precious time to help you. The least you can do is make it easier for them to offer their assistance by giving you the advice you can use. A tiny bit of effort on your part will benefit both you and the person critiquing your work. The proper way to ask for critiques involves three key elements. A short brief of the project. The parameters you faced in the design. What you are looking for in the critique. Let’s look at each of those. 1. Give a short brief of the project. If you are asking me to critique a logo, it would be nice to know, at minimum, in what industry the client works. Is “Bluebird” the name of a restaurant? Is it a bus line? A band? A children’s clothing line? Without this context, how am I supposed to give you a proper critique of your design? You don’t have to provide an in-depth project brief. But a short description of who the client is, their location, what services or products they are offering and who their target market is will help me greatly when offering my opinion on your design. 2. Mention the parameters you faced in the design. Was there anything that limited what you can or cannot do with the design you’re creating? Did the client insist you use a sans serif font? Were you limited to specific corporate colours? Was there a particular element you needed to incorporate into the design? Knowing these things will help people form their critique. If I know you were limited to sans serif fonts, I won’t recommend a serif font. I won’t comment on the colours if I know you had no choice but to use the ones you did. And if I know the client wants a nautical theme; I won’t recommend you use a train in your design. Knowing what parameters you face will help people give you a better critique. 3. Mention what you are looking for in a critique. Finally, if you want an overall opinion of the design, great, say so. But if you want to know about a particular aspect of it, let people know. If all you’re interested in is whether or not the size of the icon is appropriate to the size of the logotype, then say that’s what you are looking for. There’s no sense in someone dissecting the rest of the design if that’s all you want to know. Suppose you are designing a poster and want to know if the visual hierarchy is working. Ask people to list in order what they think are the most critical areas of the sign. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a critique of an overall design. But if all you need is for someone to verify one aspect of your project, then save both of us some time by saying so up front. Giving Critiques And now the good part, giving critiques. Critiques are a learning experience for both you and the person you are critiquing. It helps hone your design skills by spotting ways you think a design can be improved. It may also show you things you may not have considered before. And it helps the person receiving the critique by offering them a different approach to their design. Design is subjective. No two designers think the same way. Just because it’s not how you would design it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong or doesn’t work. It just means that you would have done it differently. As the title of this episode states. A good critique should offer constructive criticism: meaning, the suggestions you make. And keep in mind, a critique is just that, suggestions. The suggestions you offer should have a reason behind them. Here are four key ingredients to a good critique. Identify what you believe can use improvement. Explain why you believe the current way is lacking. Offer suggestions on how you would do it differently. State why you believe making your suggested changes will improve the design. That’s it. If you can offer these four things when giving a critique, you provide helpful advice to the person asking. Let’s look at each one. 1. Identify what you believe can use improvement. It’s tough to offer a good critique of an overall design. Most likely, whatever you have to say pertains to a particular part of the design. Therefore, the first thing you should do is identify what part of the design you refer to. Say you think the website header, or logo icon, or newsletter masthead needs something. Pinpointing areas of a design allows you to break up your critique into actionable sections. This is what I think of the icon This is what I think of the logotype This is what I think of the sizing This is what I think of the colours. Critique individual elements, not the design as a whole. 2. Explain why you believe the current way is lacking. It’s much easier to convince someone to change something if you can explain what you believe is wrong with the way it is now. For example: Explaining how the connecting letters in a script font are hard to make out and could be interpreted in the wrong way will go a long way in helping you convince them to change the font in their design. Or pointing out that the colours of the font and the background it’s on are too similar in hue and may cause legibility issues for visually impaired people. It helps strengthen your argument towards changing the colours in the design. So whenever possible, please explain why you believe the current way is lacking before you offer suggestions on how to change it. 3. Offer suggestions on how you would do it differently. Remember how I said that no two designers are the same? That means that what you think is the right way may not be what the next designer thinks is right. Sure there are some things on which most of us agree. But innovative designers have successfully challenged tried and true design principles. It’s how design evolves. Do you know the saying “Blue and green should never be seen except for inside a washing machine”? There was a time when no designer would use blue and green together. And yet, nowadays, it’s a common combination. So just because you think something doesn’t look right doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. I’m personally not a fan of the street art grunge style of design. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a viable design choice. Just not something I would choose. Keeping that in mind, form your opinions as suggestions when critiquing someone’s work. Let them know how you would do it differently. Then let them decide if it’s something they want to pursue. And don’t be offended if they choose not to listen to you. After all, no two designers... 4. State why you believe making your suggested changes will improve the design. Finally, state why you believe making your suggested changes will improve the design. The best way to win an argument is by offering your opinion and explaining why it’s so. No designer should change their design without a good reason. And “I think it would look better in red” is not a good reason. Explaining that red is a more passionate colour that encourages people to make spur-of-the-moment decisions is a convincing argument for why they should change the colour. You don’t have to get philosophical with your answers. Sometimes the “Why” behind your suggestion is simple. Increasing the space between the text and the underline will make it easier to read when reduced. Simple. So whenever possible, state why you believe making your suggested changes will improve the design. Conclusion Critiques are hard. Both receiving them and giving them. But critiques are also how we improve. If nobody ever critiqued your work, you would never get better at what you do. And if you never take the time to critique another design, you’ll never learn new things. In fact, I bet you critique other designs all the time. I know I critique every billboard, website, bumper sticker, t-shirt, etc. that I see. I’m always thinking of how I would have done it differently or mentally filing away a good design idea so that I can steal it for a future project. I can’t help it. I’m a designer. You probably do the same. Critiques. They’re the bane of our existence and the fuel that propels us. We wouldn’t be designers without critiques. But always remember, Critiques are just suggestions. As I mentioned several times already, no two designers think the same way. So, just because someone says a design element should be changed doesn’t necessarily mean you should change it. You need to weigh what you know about the project, about yourself as a designer, about the client, and what you know about the person whose recommendations you are thinking of following. The best and most valuable critiques come from people you know and trust. If a stranger says something should be green, however, your trusted design colleague thinks it should be blue. Chances are you’re going to lean towards making it blue. That’s why being a part of a design group like a Facebook group, or even better, the Resourceful Designer Community, can be such a benefit. Listen to and learn from the people you know.
11/1/202123 minutes, 54 seconds
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The Danger Of Being Home Alone - RD274

Are you getting enough activity? In episode 105 of the podcast Coping With Isolation When Working From Home, I discussed how isolation is a significant concern for anyone running a home-based design business. Spending day after day with minimal contact with other people can take its toll on someone. In that episode, I gave recommendations for overcoming that feeling of isolation. One of those recommendations was having a pet. Having a pet in the house can be very therapeutic. Petting a dog or is proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Dogs are great listeners. When you talk to them, they give you their undivided attention. And best of all, it’s without judgement. For the past 17 years, we’ve had at least one dog in the house. For several years we had three, and then two, and for the past three years, just one, Whisper, our Shetland Sheepdog. This past Saturday, we had to put Whisper down. So for the first time in 17 years, we don’t have a dog in the house. I’m not telling you this to gain your sympathy. However, your thoughts and well wishes are appreciated. I’m telling you this because it’s essential to what I want to talk about today. I’ve been running my design business full-time from home for over 15 years. Meaning this is the first time I’m working without a canine companion by my side. I’m recording this on Friday. It’s been six days without a dog; five of them have been workdays. And already, I notice how it’s affecting me. I’m not talking about feeling sad that Whisper is gone. I mean, yes, I’m sad. But that’s not the effect to which I’m referring. I’m talking about my work habits and how things have changed in just a few short days. For those of you who are not pet owners, let me paint a picture for you of a day in the life of a dog dad. Or at least the way it was for me. Every morning after my wife left for work; I would feed the Whisper. She would get all excited as I prepared her dish and then gobble up all the kibble once I put it down. Then I would go about my morning routine to get ready for my day. Once done, and enough time had passed, I put the dog out. Sometimes I would go outside with her, and sometimes not. I would use this time with our previous dogs to take them for a walk around the block. But Whisper had medical issues that prevented her from walking for long distances. She was content to mosey around the backyard at her own pace. When she was ready to come in, she would bark. At that point, it was time for me to get to work. Sometimes, later in the morning, she would bark to go outside again. I’d get up from my computer, walk to the back door and put her out before returning to work, keeping an ear out for when she barks to come back in. At lunchtime, after eating my meal, I would often go outside with her to walk around. Shetland Sheepdogs are herding dogs, so I would walk around the backyard or sometimes around the house in random patterns, and Whisper would slowly follow me. I would do this for half an hour or so before coming back inside to work. Then, sometime around 3 pm, which was doggie snack time, Whisper would let me know she wanted a treat. I’d get up from my computer, go to the kitchen and select one of the many varieties of goodies we had for her. I’d make her do some small trick to earn the reward, give her the treat, and then put her out again. Once she was back inside, I was pretty good for the rest of the day until my wife got home. That was pretty well my daily routine. But this past week, without Whisper to take care of, things changed a lot. After my wife left in the morning, I got ready and immediately got to work. I sat at my computer until 12 to 12:30, when I finally got up to eat. I spent maybe 15-20 minutes preparing and consuming my lunch before going straight back to work until my wife came home. This was my new routine every day this week. In fact, except for a quick appointment on Tuesday, where I was back home within the hour. I have not stepped foot outside my house this week. I know that many designers are introverts, myself included. And you may think the idea of not going out sounds great. But it’s not sustainable. At least not if you want to remain healthy. On Wednesday, when my wife got home, she commented on what a beautiful day it was. I hadn’t realized it. I don’t even know if I looked out the window throughout the day. Now I don’t know if this is because of the extra workload I currently have. I’ve taken on several new projects this month, and it’s caused me to fall a bit behind on my design work. And this past week has been exceedingly hectic. I’m hoping that’s all it is because I’m already seeing the effects after just one week. I’ve been trying to lose weight. My blood pressure is a bit elevated, and I’m hoping that losing some weight will help get it back under control. And yet, when I weighed myself this morning, I was 3.25 KG or just over 7 lbs heavier than I was at this time last week. So not only did I gain weight this week. But I gained more this past week than I have any other week over the past year. I know my eating habits haven’t changed. If anything, I ate less this past week because I wasn’t grabbing snacks throughout the day whenever I got up from my computer. But my activity level sure has gone down. It wasn’t like I was doing heavy cardio before. But no longer getting up from my computer a few times a day or spending 30 minutes walking around the yard with Whisper shows its effect. And I need to change things and change them fast. Yes, we will eventually get a new dog. But until then, I’m going to have to consciously make an effort to get up and move throughout the day. Maybe it’s paying closer attention to my Apple Watch will help. It reminds me every so often to stand up. But I long ago conditioned myself to ignore that prompt. I know I can turn it off in the settings if I don’t want to see it, but that defeats the good intentions even if I don’t follow through. But I have to do something. If I don’t, I’m afraid the time and effort I’ve put into losing the weight I have so far will have been for naught. This adds one more reason for me to look forward to our next dog. But this isn’t just about me. You may be in a similar situation. If you’re lucky, you have a dog to remind you to get up and move from time to time. But if not. What are you doing to motivate yourself to do so? There are many ways isolation can take a toll on you both physically and mentally. I talked about them back in episode 105. But until this past week, I had never experienced this sedentary lifestyle. At least not to this extent. And there’s a danger in that. As home-based designers, we need to take responsibility for our health and well-being. And that includes a certain amount of activity during your day. Seeing that jump on the scale this morning emphasized this problem for me. It’s only been a week. What if I had waited a month before weighing myself? How bad would the damage have been then? Is it possible that the scale would have gone up even if I was still following my routine of taking care of Whisper? Sure, it’s possible. But I’m not too fond of the coincidence. You need to sacrifice a lot of yourself if you want to run a successful design business. There’s your time, of course. There are also your relationships with family and friends that may suffer to an extent. Your sanity may take a toll, depending on the clients you work with, and so on. But that investment in your business shouldn’t come at the cost of your health. I didn’t realize how the little bit of activity I did each day could add up. Or the effects of eliminating that activity would have on me. And I’m glad it only took me a week to realize it. Now that I know. I can remedy it. As soon as I finish this, I plan on going for a walk around the block. It looks like a nice day outside, so I might as well take advantage of it. But what are you doing to help yourself? How many hours do you spend at your computer or workstation without getting up? What can you do to increase your daily activity level? It doesn’t take much, you know. So make an effort. Whatever you’re doing now, try to do more tomorrow, the next day and so on. Because the healthier you are, the longer you’ll be around to run your design business. So it will pay off in more ways than one. I don’t have the one true answer to this question. I wish I did. Every person, including you, has to find their solution to this problem. But it should be searching for something. And if you do have a solution that works for you, please share it with me. Let me know how do you remind yourself to stay active, especially during the workday. Please send me a message.
10/25/202115 minutes, 26 seconds
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The Many Personalities Of A Freelance Designer - RD273

Which personality do you use most often? Let me ask you a question. Does being a designer, either graphic, web, UX, UI or whatever, qualify you to run your own design business? Some people may say yes. After all, are there any differences between designing something for an employer or an employer's clients and designing something for your own clients? Not really. I'll concede that the design skills you use are the same in both instances. However, just because the design skills are the same doesn't qualify a designer to run their own design business. Does education play into it? Is someone who attended design school somehow more qualified to run their own design business than someone who learned their skills on their own? The school-taught designer may have some business credits under their belt. But arguably, educational background or lack thereof doesn't qualify or disqualify a designer from running their own business. No, in my opinion, and I do understand that my opinion may be wrong, but it's still my opinion. Is that what differentiates a designer who is qualified to run their own design business and one who isn't is their personality. Or, more accurately, personalities. Last week, I told you there were two roles to running a design business: a designer and a business owner. That's a very simplified approach, and it worked for last week's episode. But the truth of the matter is, there are way more than just two roles to running a successful design business. To do it right, you need to have many personalities. And I'm not just talking about the obvious ones. Layout artist Typesetter Proofreader Illustrator Colour picker Photo retoucher Coder Art director and so on and so on. Being a designer means you should be somewhat proficient or have a working knowledge of some if not all of these skills. I'm not an illustrator. But that doesn't mean I can't draw. I can; I'm just not that good at it. My drawing skills are marginal at best. But they've gotten me out of several pinches over the years. Skills like these are something every designer needs to be acquainted with, regardless of whether they are working for someone else or self-employed. When I say that a design business owner has to have many personalities, I'm thinking much deeper. In most situations, a self-employed or freelance designer will develop a much deeper relationship with their clients than someone employed as a designer. That relationship is deeper because it's their client. When I used to work at the print shop, I worked with many regular clients. Most of them I got along with exceptionally well. But regardless of how well we worked together, they weren't my clients. They were the print shop's clients. When I left the print shop to start my own full-time design business, almost all of the clients I worked with remained there and were assigned a new designer to work with them. Only a handful of clients followed me to my new business. And you know what? The relationship we had formed at the print shop grew exponentially once they were MY CLIENTS. Why did our relationship grow? It's because I was invested in those clients in a way that I never was at the print shop. For one thing, when I was at the print shop, if something went wrong with a client's project, I might get some of the blame. But it's the print shop's reputation that took the major hit. And if something went right, for example, if a design won an award which happened on several occasions. The designer would get a mention, but the print shop got most of the recognition and glory. Once I was on my own, and they became my clients, I was much more invested in them because anything that went wrong reflected directly on me, which could affect my business. And anything that went right meant more recognition for me. But I'm starting to drift back towards the design part of the job. And once again, that part can be done by any designer. The business side, however, that side requires something special. It requires the designer to put their many personalities to use, building and strengthening the relationships with their clients. You're probably wondering what the heck I'm talking about. So let me describe some of the many personalities a design business owner must-have. Psychologist. Just like how a practicing psychologist is trained to assess and diagnose problems in thinking, feeling and behaviour to help people overcome or manage their problems. A freelance designer must do the same with their clients. It's your job to assess and diagnose and find a way to overcome the problems your clients are facing. In many cases, the problems your clients think they are facing may not be the actual problem. You must use your psychology skills to weed through and decipher everything the client tells you to figure out the root of the real problem. Only then can you offer them the proper solution. Many designers will give a client what they want. It would be best if you strived to do better by giving the client not what they want but what they need. Your psychologist personality can help you with that. Mediator. A mediator's job is to facilitate a conversation between two or more people to help them resolve a dispute. A mediator is trained to establish and maintain a safe, confidential, communicative process and help participants reach an agreement independently. If you've ever had to present a proposal to a committee, I can almost guarantee that your mediator personality was front and centre. As a mediator, your job is to ensure that all involved parties agree on how a project proceeds. This may involve getting clients to compromises on specific aspects of a project and convincing them to let go of particular ideas. Without this agreement between all parties, any design project will struggle. It's your job as the designer to ensure that everyone is satisfied. Your mediator personality can help you with that. Negotiator. As the mediator, a negotiator's job is to communicate with clients to negotiate and establish sales. All while building positive relationships in the process. Your negotiator skills will come in especially handy when pitching larger projects. A client may love your ideas, but not so much the price tag associated with those ideas. As a negotiator, it's your job to show the client why your proposal is worth the investment on their part. And should the price of a project remain a deciding factor, your negotiating skills will allow you to cut back on details of your proposal in a way that still satisfies the client's needs and, more importantly, meet the client's budget. Your negotiator personality can help you with that. Salesperson. A salesperson's job is to find prospective clients, identify their challenges and needs, and ultimately find them a solution. Any time you correspond with a potential new client, it's your salesperson personality that's talking. This personality's job is to build trust and ultimately convince a potential client of the benefits of working with you. This personality is the one that should be front and center any time you are out networking or any time someone asks what you do for a living or inquires about your business and services. The more adept you are with your salesperson personality, the more successful your design business will be. Babysitter. You usually think of a babysitter as someone in charge of taking care of someone else's child or children. Their responsibilities include making sure the children are safe, getting the care and attention they deserve, and adhering to their parent's standards. Think of the assets a client bestows you as their children. Because in a way, they are. Their logo, their images, their brand assets and styling, are all entrusted to you. You are responsible for ensuring they are taken care of, kept safe, get the attention they deserver, and adhere to the client's standards. In some cases, you are the one who developed those standards. But often enough, you will be entrusted with your client's "children" and expected to take care of them. Your babysitter personality better be up to the task. Researcher. A researcher's job is to collect, organize, analyze, and interpret data and opinions, explore issues, solve problems and predict trends. Sound familiar? If you've ever held a discovery meeting with a client or have investigated a client's target market and competition, you were using your researcher personality. Nurturing this personality is crucial to your growth as a designer and as a business owner. The more you can learn about your clients, their strengths and weaknesses, the markets they're in, the hurdles and challenges they face, the competition they're up against, the benefits they offer and how they can differentiate themselves, the better equipped you will be to do your job. Not to mention the higher prices you'll be able to charge. It was Abraham Lincoln who said, "If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe." Think of research as that first 45 minutes. The better you do it, the easier the rest of your tasks will be. That's where your researcher's personality comes in. Educator. A teacher is someone who instructs. Their job is to ensure someone knows the outcome of whatever it is they are teaching. An educator, on the other hand, is someone who gives intellectual, moral and social instructions. In other words, an educator not only wants you to know the outcome, but they also want you to understand the reasons for the outcome. It's the difference between telling a client their idea won't work and explaining why a different approach might be a better option. The more you can educate a client in how design works, the better they will become as clients. Not only that, but the more you educate your clients, the higher they'll regard and trust your opinions. Don't teach them; educate them if you want to build a deep and lasting relationship with your clients. They'll thank you, or should I say your educator personality, for the knowledge. Many more personalities. I could go on and on. There are so many personalities involved with running a design business. Some days you may have to be a coach and some days a councillor. You regularly need to be a tactician to keep on track of your ever-evolving schedule. And at times, you become an advisor or consultant to your clients. And if you're lucky, a confidant. Now, of course, you don't actually switch between one personality and another. they should all be present in some capacity in every client dealing you have. They're what make you who you are. Your goal should be to nurture each one of these personalities to become the best, most rounded design business owner you can be. With all of these personalities behind you, you become a force to be reckoned with. And clients will be begging to work with you. I started by saying that what qualifies a designer to run their own business are these many personalities. And I hinted that designers who work for someone else might lack these personalities and therefore not make good design business owners. But that's not true. I believe everyone has these and many more personalities within them. It's only a matter of accessing and nurturing them. Just like a muscle, if you don't use it, it will atrophy. So will these personalities. If you work at an agency and someone else deals with the clients while you do the design work, you'll have little chance to practice your selling skills. You'll probably never get an opportunity to negotiate with a client or mediate a committee. I want you to be aware that these are skills you will need should you ever want to become a freelancer. And if you are not used to using these skills, you may have a difficult time at the start. But just like a muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it becomes. And it's the same for running a design business. The more you work at it, the better you'll become. After all, you have to start somewhere. And that's where your optimist personality comes in.
10/18/202119 minutes, 22 seconds
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Navigating The Peaks And Valleys Of Freelancing - RD272

As a freelance designer, you will face peaks and valleys while running your business. I've said it before, and I'll repeat it. There's nothing better than working for yourself. From deciding who you want to work with to how much you want to charge for your work. Being your own boss is, well, liberating. As your own boss, you get to set your own hours. Want to waste time during the day and work at night? That's your prerogative. Feel like getting away for a few days? Go ahead. You don't need permission to take time off. When you're working for yourself, you get to chose where and how you want to work. If you feel like spending the day at a coffee shop working away on your laptop, you can. If you feel like hunkering down at home to avoid all distractions, go for it. As a self-employed designer, a freelancer if you will, you have the freedom to make your destiny. I don't think there's any better career than that. However, I will give kudos to one aspect of working as a design employee for someone else—a steady paycheque. With all the restrictions, limitations and handholding that may come with being an employee, the one bright light is the knowledge that every week or two, on schedule, a predetermined amount of money gets deposited into your bank account. This money shows up regardless of how busy or not busy you were. This steady paycheque may be the only way that being a designer trumps being a freelancer. It's true. As a self-employed designer, a freelancer, you never know when or where you'll get your next payment. Nor how much it will be. And that can cause a lot of stress in your life, especially if you are the primary breadwinner in your household. Because even though your income may be unpredictable, your monthly expenses are not. They show up right on schedule regardless of the balance in your bank account. I wish I could tell you there's a simple solution to this dilemma, but there isn't. Ask any self-employed designer, and they'll let you know of their experiences navigating these peaks and valleys. Peaks when work, and of course income is in abundance. And valleys when they become scarce. There is no solution if you want to remain a freelancer. However, there are ways to mitigate the problem so peaks and valleys even out over time. Here's what's worked for me and some other methods I've heard work for other designers. Recurring revenue. Recurring revenue is as it sounds. It's revenue (or income) that recurs regularly. Retainer agreements. The best way to acquire recurring revenue is by offering a retainer to your clients. I talked about retainer agreements in episode 32 of the podcast and again in episode 255. The gist of a retainer agreement is offering an ongoing service to your clients that they pay for regularly. In some cases, you may have to sacrifice some income for the guarantee of this recurring revenue. For example, If your hourly rate is $100, you may want to offer a retainer where, if a client guarantees to pre-purchase 10 hours of your time per month, you'll only charge them $90/hr for them. Or if a client asks you to design social media posts regularly. You could offer a retainer agreement where they guarantee to pay a fixed fee for a certain number of graphics every month. Since retainer agreements are guaranteed recurring revenue, they act as a regular paycheck similar to what you'd get as a design employee. Some designers work exclusively on retainer agreements, allowing them to predict how much money they earn each month. There's a lot more to retainer agreements than just this. I suggest you listen to episodes 32 and 255 of the podcast if you want to learn more about them. But suffice it to say, retainer agreements are a great way to even out the peaks and valleys. Website maintenance agreements. Another form of recurring revenue if you're a web designer is to offer a website maintenance agreement. A website maintenance agreement states that you will secure, update and take care of a client's website for a fixed monthly fee. It's kind of an insurance polity for their website. Website maintenance agreements require very little time and effort on your part and offer peace of mind to your clients. Selling digital products. Another form of recurring revenue, although not as steady or predictable as retainer agreements or maintenance agreements, is selling digital goods and products. You are a designer, a creative visionary. Why not use the design skills you offer your clients and put them to use for yourself? There are many platforms such as Creative Market or Design Cuts where you sell your creative wares. These offerings are available for purchase by other creatives and people who need certain assets but may not have the skills to create them themselves. I've created dozens of designs that I sell on various print-on-demand platforms. I get paid any time someone buys a t-shirt, coffee mug, phone case or sticker with one of my designs on it. This is another form of a digital product. For me, it's not enough to make a living. At least not with my few dozen designs I sell. But every month, I receive anywhere between $70 - $120 for my designs. Some of them I created years ago, and I'm still collecting money from them. And I'm sure if I dedicated the time to make more of these designs regularly, I could generate a more considerable recurring income. To learn more about selling digital products, listen to episode 155 of the podcast, where I talked about this exact topic with Tom Ross, the founder of Design Cuts. So, all in all, recurring revenue is a great way to even out the peaks and valleys you'll encounter as a freelance designer. Promote when you're busy. There are other things you can do to help ease the peaks and valleys situation. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard is "Promote your business when you're busy." It's a case of don't wait until you're thirsty to dig a well. It sounds crazy. When you're pulling your hair out because you have too many projects on the go and deadlines quickly approaching, the last thing on your mind is drumming up more work. But believe it or not, that's precisely the time you should be promoting your business. Why? Because marketing takes time to germinate.  The more you promote your business while you're busy and experiencing one of those peaks in workload, the less deep the valleys will be that you'll have to navigate once the work rush dies down. If you do this right, you may be able to raise those lulls to the point where instead of peaks and valleys, you'll be cruising across an even plain. I know what you're thinking. If I'm that busy, how will I find the time to promote my design business? To that, let me say: Promoting your design business doesn't require a massive advertising campaign. All it takes is sending off a few emails to idle clients to ask how they're doing and if there's anything you can do for them. It doesn't take much. And if you do it right, your peaks and valleys won't be that severe. Draw a salary from your business. There's another way for you to lessen the impact of peaks and valleys. Remember when I said the one benefit of being a design employee is the regular paycheque? Want to know a little secret? You can make yourself a design employee of your own freelance design business and have the best of both worlds. What? No way! Yes, way. I know many designers who do just this. They treat themselves as an employee and draw a regular paycheck from their own business. Here is how it works. All revenue earned from design work, recurring revenue, and selling digital products belongs to your design business. It all goes into a business bank account and gets treated the same way any other company treats its capital assets. From that pool of money, you, the designer, draw a salary. Running your company this way puts the burden of dealing with the peaks and valleys on your business and not on you, the designer. As far as you're concerned, those peaks and valleys even out because you draw the same salary every week regardless of the business' income. This method spreads out your income evenly over time. Let me give you an example. Let's use some round numbers here and say you make your salary $500/week. One week you take on a $1200 web project. That $1200 is deposited into your business's bank account, and from it, you withdraw your weekly $500 salary, leaving $700 in the bank. The following week things are slow, and the only work you get is a $300 poster design. That $300 is deposited into the bank, bringing the balance up to $1000. At the end of the week, you withdraw your $500 salary, which leaves $500 in the business bank account. Enough for your next week's salary should no work come in. Here's the fun part. At any point, as the funds in the business' bank increase, you can always pay yourself a bonus. The other benefit is since the business has this money, it's available for business purchases such as new equipment or subscriptions and doesn't have to come out of your pocket, which lessens the hurt of spending it. I know many designers who use this model. In most cases, those designers run their businesses as LLCs or some other form of corporation. I have my business set up as a sole proprietorship, so it's not easy to separate the business from myself. I even know some designers who use a third-party employee payment service to prevent them from dipping into the business' bank account. The best thing you can do is check with your accountant to see if this is a good model for you. It may offer tax benefits for you as well, especially if your business is incorporated. Raise your rates. The last idea I want to share with you has to do with the rates you charge. Many designers who switch from full-time employment to freelancing use their full-time salary to base their freelance rates. Don't. As a freelancer, you are expected to charge more.  If you were making $25/hr working for someone else, you should be charging your clients double or triple or even more for your services. As a self-employed designer, you have to pay for your own benefits. Three are no sick days or vacation pay, or parental leave. You have to make sure you are compensated for the risk of lost income due to anything from medical emergencies to vacations in the tropics.  Call the higher rates you charge a form of self-insurance. You should make sure the money you earn today when things are going well will get you through the times when work dries up. You do this by charging enough to make sure your future is covered. Not sure how to raise your rates? Luckily for you, I wrote a blog post on this exact topic. It's up to you to deal with the peaks and valleys of freelancing. These are some ideas for dealing with the peaks and valleys of a freelance income. It may sound daunting and stressful. And knowing about these peaks and valleys may have you thinking that working for someone else is looking more appealing. But if you can learn how to manage the fluctuating income of running your own design business. Chances are you'll not only outearn your employed counterpart. But you'll enjoy greater job security, autonomy and flexibility. A 2018 study by Upwork shows that nearly three-quarters of full-time freelancers report earning more than when they had a full-time job. And 87% are optimistic about their future careers. In fact, more than half of respondents say no amount of money would get them to switch back to being full-time employees working for someone else. I know that's how I feel. Remember, running your own design business is two jobs–a designer and a business owner. When you're pursuing your passion, it's easy to get caught up in the former and forget about the latter. If all of your focus is on your design work, you're only doing half your job. It's that business owner side that needs to do whatever you can to ensure those inevitable valleys you'll face are not as deep as they could be. You do that by following the advice I just shared with you. One last thing. I've been talking about these valleys as if they are a terrible thing. Something you should try to eliminate if at all possible. But when they do happen, and they will, try to enjoy those slower times. Use them to your advantage. Get out there and network. Contact old clients you haven't heard from in a while. Work on personal projects you've been neglecting. And make sure you use those slow times to work on your business. You know, all the things you told yourself you'd get to one day. Heck, You can even use some of that slow time to relax and enjoy life. After all, when you're in a valley, it just means there is another peak on the horizon.
10/11/202124 minutes, 32 seconds
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Turning Down Graphic Design Clients and Projects - RD271

Earlier this week, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community was seeking advice. A potential client contacted her asking if she designs book covers, which she does. Before replying to this unknown person, she decided to investigate who they were. She discovered that this potential client is an author. And the subject they write about is something the design is strongly against. The Community member wanted our advice on how to proceed. Should she turn down the client, or should she wait to hear more about the project before deciding? As always, when someone asks a question in the Community, she received lots of great advice. The consensus was she should hear them out before deciding what to do. After all, their new book might not have anything to do with the subject of their previous books. But this posed a bigger question. What reasons are there to turn down a lucrative design project? In episode 133 of Resourceful Designer, I shared 12 Red Flags For Spotting Bad Design Clients. Most of those Red Flags only become visible after you’ve started working with a client. Stuff such as the client being rude to you or inconsistent communication. In the episode after that one, episode 134, I shared ways to turn away clients politely. It included sample scripts you can copy and paste for yourself. You may want to refer to that episode after you’ve finished listening to this one. Some of those scripts apply to today’s topic. It’s one thing to spot the red flags once you’ve started working with a client. But how can you avoid ever working with them in the first place? And why would you want to turn them down? After all, we’re in this business to make money. And when you’re first starting, it may seem like a foreign concept to turn down a paying gig. What I can tell you is that after 30+ years of working with design clients, knowing when a client isn’t a good fit and how to turn them down becomes a top priority whenever you meet a potential new client. You’re better off putting your time and energy into finding better clients to work with. If you’re a long-time follower of Resourceful Designer, you’ve heard me many times before say that you don’t work for your clients. You work with them. You need to consider every client relationship as a partnership. At least for the duration of the project. That may be only a couple of days or weeks. But it could also turn into something much longer. So you need to ask yourself every time you meet a potential new client. Is this someone I would like to partner with, yes or no? Reasons why you shouldn’t work with a client. There are many reasons why you shouldn't work with a client. Some of them are nefarious reasons. They want you to do the work for “exposure.” They have an unreasonable deadline they want you to meet. They undervalue you and want to pay below your regular rate. They’re unclear of exactly what they want or need. They’re asking you to do something unethical or illegal. They’re not comfortable signing a contract. There could also be legitimate reasons for not working with a client. These reasons have nothing to do with the client persé and more with you. You have current obligations to existing clients and don’t have time for this new project. The project they’re asking you to design conflicts with your values. The services you offer are not a good fit for their project. Their budget is too small. All good reasons to turn down a client. But, ultimately, the biggest contributing factor to whether or not you should work with a client is your gut. Trust your gut. It’s seldom wrong. Mike, a founding member of the Resourceful Designer Community, gave the best answer to the original question. Whenever Mike finds himself in a situation where he’s uncertain about a potential client, he asks himself three questions. 1. Am I giving up anything that I am more passionate about or that would be more profitable if I choose to take on this new project? Think about that. Any time you say yes to something, it means you’re inadvertently saying no to something else. There’s always something that has to give, even if it’s your personal or family life. If taking on this new project means neglecting another client’s project, it may not be a good idea, especially if the existing client’s project is more profitable. Likewise, if taking on this project means you’re going to lose out on time with your spouse or kids, it may not be a good idea. The extra money may be nice, but is it worth it if all your child remembers is mommy or daddy missed their game, their performance, their school outing? Only you can weigh the options. 2. Will the new project be harmful to others? You may recall a story I’ve shared on the podcast before. I had a huge client I had worked with for years. They owned many different companies ranging from restaurants to car washes to a telecommunication company. During my time working with them, they ended up acquiring a tobacco company. According to a study by an anti-smoking organization, the biggest demographic increase in smokers was among girls between 12 to 18. My client wanted to use that information to their advantage and asked me to design a poster depicting their cigarettes that would appeal to girls in that age range. I refused. There was no way I was going to be complicit in enticing young girls to start smoking. The client threatened to pull all their work from me and find another designer if I didn’t comply. So I fired them. If a design project will be harmful to others. Turn down the job. 3. Will taking on the project jeopardize an existing and valued relationship. Think about that. Are you willing to put an existing client relationship at risk to earn some money from a new client? I hope not. Of course, this one is a bit tricky. There’s a fine line between what could jeopardize a relationship and what wouldn’t. To some, having two clients who are competitors might not be a good idea. To others, it's not an issue. In my opinion, the best way to interpret this third point is on moral grounds. For example, a designer with ties to the health industry may not want to take on a design project that discourages people from getting vaccinated. It’s not worth jeopardizing that relationship. It's up to you. I encourage you to copy down and remember Mike’s three rules. Am I giving up anything that I am more passionate about or that would be more profitable if I choose to take on this project? Will the new project be harmful to others? Will taking on the project jeopardize an existing and valued relationship. If a project fails any of these three criteria, it’s not worth taking on. Brian, another member of the Resourceful Designer Community, also had a good suggestion. If a project is something you would be ashamed to have on your monitor if a child walked by, then it’s not worth taking. I’ll add to Brian's statement by saying if it’s not something you would want to tell your mother you’re working on, then maybe you should take a pass. Should you ever find yourself having to turn down a client or a project. Remember to look at episode 134 of Resourceful Designer, where I shared different scripts you can use depending on your situation.
9/13/202116 minutes, 50 seconds
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Confidence (Almost) Always Beats Knowledge - RD270

We’re lucky that we chose a profession where confidence beats knowledge. Before I dive deeper into that, we first have to look at what confidence is. According to, Confidence is the belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities. Confidence is what’s center stage when you say, “I can do this.” Confidence is what’s driving you when you say, “I can figure this out.” Confidence is the ladder you climb when you say, “I can succeed.” Without confidence, your goals, your intentions, your ambitions might as well be called dreams. Because that’s all they’ll ever be if you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities. I fully believe that without confidence, you cannot succeed as a design business owner. I’m not talking about being a designer. Many designers lack confidence in themselves. I know and have worked with designers who fall into that category. I’m talking about running your own design business. Being a freelancer if that’s what you want to call yourself. But I digress. Confidence. If you want to succeed in this business, you need confidence. But what about knowledge? Don’t you need knowledge to succeed? That’s a trick question. The definition of knowledge, according to, is an acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation. Acquaintance. What an interesting word to use. Most of the time, when you think of acquaintances, you think of people you know of but don’t necessarily know. I consider Betty, the cashier at the grocery store I go to, as an acquaintance. She knows me by name, and we exchange pleasantries whenever I’m in her checkout line. If we run into each other in town, we’ll smile at each other and say hi, but that’s the extent of our interaction. We’re acquaintances. Merriam-Webster defines knowledge as The fact or condition of being aware of something. Being aware of something? According to this dictionary meaning, that’s all that’s required to have knowledge. So, according to two reputable sources on the meaning of all things. Knowledge doesn’t mean intimately knowing something. It just means being acquainted or aware of something. When you think of the definition in that way, you realize that you don’t actually need to know something to succeed. What you need is confidence in your ability to seek knowledge. And that's why confidence beats knowledge. Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times when knowledge trumps confidence. If I’m about to have surgery, yes, I want a confident surgeon, but I hope their knowledge of the procedure they’re about to perform supersedes that confidence. If I’m about to take a trip, I’m less interested in how confident the pilot is and more concerned that they know how to fly a plane. But when it comes to design or to run a design business, confidence beats knowledge. You probably don’t remember, but there was a time in your life when you were very young when you didn’t know how to walk. You crawled around on all fours. Or maybe you were one of those butt dragging babies. Regardless, one day, after spending your entire life so far on the ground, you got up and walked. At one time, you didn’t know how to ride a bike. Then one day, you did. You didn’t know how to swim. Then one day, you did. This applies to hundreds, or should I say thousands of accomplishments in your life. You didn’t know how to do something until you did. I remember when my kids were young. Any time they would get frustrated and say, “I can’t do it,” I would calmly correct them by saying, “It’s not that you can’t do it. You just don’t know how to do it yet.” And once they learned, I would remind them how they felt before their accomplishment. But what does Confidence beets Knowledge mean? It means that you don’t need to know how to do something before taking on the task of doing it. You just need to be confident that you’ll figure it out. I admit I didn’t always feel this way. Back in 2006, I was approached by our local library to design a new website. They had heard good things about me from several people and had decided I was the one they wanted to work with. This was going to be a huge project. In fact, I was a bit intimidated when I found out their budget for the website was $50,000. That was more than I made in a year back then. The library wanted their new website to be connected to their catalogue of books. They wanted visitors to the website to tell what books they carry, if they were available for loan or already checked out. And if the latter, when they would be back. They also wanted members to be able to reserve books for pickup and put holds on books. All the typical things you expect of a library’s website today. But in 2006, not many libraries had integrated catalogues on their website. I knew enough about websites to know that it was way beyond my capabilities. At that time, I was hand-coding websites in HTML and CSS. However, this website would require a database and therefore PHP and MySQL. The problem was, I didn’t know PHP or MySQL. And even though I tried to learn it in a hurry, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept. Where HTML and CSS were so easy for me. PHP left me stumped. No matter how many books I read or courses I took, I just couldn’t grasp it. Maybe it was the pressure I was under to learn it quickly to start on the website. I don’t know. But in the end, I gave up. Now you may be thinking, you gave it a good shot, Mark, but at least you could hire someone to do the coding for you. Well… I kick myself to this day for not thinking of that. No, that’s not right. I did think of it. I just didn’t have the confidence back then to follow through. I didn’t know what to do. I realized I didn’t have the skills required for the project, but I didn’t know how to find someone to help me. I knew what I needed to do but not the confidence to follow through. Upwork’s former halves Elance and oDesk were around back then, but I wasn’t aware of them or any other online platform I could turn to. So, backed into a corner, I did the only thing I thought I could do. I contacted the library and told them I couldn’t take on the project. I turned down a $50,000 job. Several months later, their new website was up and running, I talked to my contact at the library, and he told me who they had hired to do the job. I was taken aback. I knew the person they hired. And I also believed their knowledge of web design wasn't much more than mine. So how did they pull it off? I ran into them shortly after that and asked them. You guessed it, they created the design look for the site but had hired someone to do the actual coding. It cost them $12,000 to hire a developer to complete the site for them. Presuming they were being paid the same $50,000 I had been offered, that meant they made $38,000 just for designing the look of the website. And I lost out on that money because of my lack of confidence. That lesson taught me a lot. 1) I was an idiot for not thinking of hiring someone myself. But most importantly 2) I lacked confidence from the moment I was presented with the website project. I figured I didn’t have the knowledge and, therefore, couldn’t handle the job. If I wanted to succeed in this business, I would need to rectify that. I would need to be more confident in what I could get done. Since that fateful day, I have never turned down a job for lack of knowledge. When a client asks me if I can do something that I’m unsure of or flat out don’t know how to do. I answer them with confidence that I can get the job done. And then I figure out either how to do it or who to hire to do it for me. Confidence beats knowledge. Be your own guinea pig. It’s great to be able to hire a contractor when you need one. We’re lucky that there are so many options with good talented people available to us. But nothing beats learning how to do something yourself. You know that old saying, give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Providing he likes fish, that is. But the same concept applies to us as designers. I love hiring contractors to help me. But given the opportunity, I would much prefer to learn the skill and do the job myself. There are ways you can do just that while working on client jobs. Not sure how to do something the client is asking for? Chances are there’s a blog article or YouTube video that will walk you through it. But sometimes, it’s a good idea to be your own guinea pig. If you’ve been following Resourceful Designer for a while, you know that I design websites in WordPress. Specifically using the Divi Builder from Elegant Themes. However, I just told you how I was hand-coding websites for clients. I remember in the early 2010s, fellow web designers telling me I should try WordPress. But I had a strong aversion to WordPress. To me, the fact that WordPress used predesigned themes was an afront to designers. There was no way I would build a website for a client using someone else's design. But in 2013, I was getting into podcasting and was told that I needed a WordPress website to generate the RSS feed for the show. Very reluctantly, I installed WordPress and bought a theme called Evolution from Elegant Themes. This was before they came out with Divi. In fact, the friend who was helping me get started in podcasting had an affiliate link to Elegant Themes. Hence, as a way to repay him for his kindness, I bought a lifetime deal through his link, even though I only needed one theme and had no plans on building any WordPress websites beyond my own. That decision to buy the lifetime deal may have changed the course of my life—more on that in a moment. So I built my WordPress website and had to admit that there was a lot more flexibility in it than I originally believed. The theme did restrain me somewhat, but at least I could control how each part of it looked, even if I had no control over the layout itself. That was in June of 2013. December of that same year, Elegant Themes released Divi. And it changed my view of WordPress. Since I had a lifetime deal with Elegant Themes, it cost me nothing to test Divi out. I installed it on a dummy site I didn't care about and really liked how it worked. Divi was a game-changer. Here was a theme that gave me full control over how each element of a website looked and how each element was placed out on the screen. I could make a website look like how I wanted it to look. Not like how some theme designer wanted it to look. The next time I had a client website project to work on, I used my newfound confidence in my ability to make WordPress work for me and switched to WordPress and Divi. And I haven’t looked back. If I hadn’t used myself as a guinea pig and tested out WordPress on my own website and then Divi on a dummy site, I probably never would have made the switch to what I do today. Since then, there have been many times when I used myself as a guinea pig to test things and build my confidence. Be it new software or new features in existing software. Offering services I had previously never offered. Taking on projects I had never done before. Working on stuff for myself gave me the confidence to then use those skills on client work. Even today. I recently started building a website for a personal project I’m doing. And even though I’ve been a devoted Divi fan since day one, I decided to build my new website using Elementor. Why? Because I know the day will come when a client will ask me to take over a website built using Elementor. So why not get my feet wet on a project of my own choosing. So When the time comes, I’ll have a better understanding of what I’m working with. So all of this to say, without confidence, I don’t believe you can get very far as a design business owner. It’s nice to have the knowledge, but confidence in yourself and what you do with that knowledge will propel you. Look at any successful freelancer you know, and you’ll see that they exude confidence. That’s the secret to their success. Confidence always beats Knowledge. Or at least, almost always. Tip of the week Let me ask you a question, is an email a contract? Last month, a Mississippi court took up an interesting case looking at what it takes to make a contract by email. Spoiler Alert: Not Much. As you know, a contract is just another word to describe an agreement. So when you exchange emails with someone and come to terms on a deal you both agree on, you ARE making a contract. In the Mississippi court case, the two parties had done just that... agreed on terms for the sale of some equipment in a series of emails. Now here’s the tricky part. One of the parties, Jordan, had proposed the initial offer from his computer’s email, which included his name and contact details in the signature. The other party, Parish, then countered the offer. But when responding to the counteroffer, Jordan used his iPhone to seal the deal with a “Let’s do it.” reply.  The trouble is that the message had no signature from his iPhone other than “Send from iPhone.” Jordan later sold the goods to another buyer at a higher price. Parish sued for breach of contract, but Jordan claimed that there was no valid signature to his email and, therefore, the exchange was not enforceable as an agreement. The trial court agreed, and an appeals court affirmed. But the Mississippi Supreme Court found the state’s Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) permitted contracts to be formed by electronic means such as emails. Then, the Court stated that the determination of whether an email was electronically signed according to the UETA was a question of fact that turned on a party’s intent to adopt or accept the writing and is, therefore, a question for the finder of facts. So, because there exists a genuine factual question about Jordan’s intent, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Anyway. That’s a lot of legal talks. But the takeaway is. Emails can be the basis for an enforceable contract. So be careful in wording your messages. Even something as simple as “sounds good” could be deemed sufficient to bind you. If you consider your emails merely preliminary to a formal, written contract on paper, SAY SO. Add something to the signature of your emails, such as “this email message is preliminary and shall not constitute a binding agreement, which may only be made in a formal, written memorandum executed by all parties.” Adding a simple line like this can save you a lot of trouble should a client ever try to hold you accountable for something mentioned in an email. It makes you think.
9/6/202132 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Psychology Of Pricing - Part 6 - RD269

I’m happy to announce that this week is, in fact, the final part of my Psychology of Pricing series, where I share research-proven tactics to make the most out of the prices you display. If you haven’t listened to the previous parts in this series, I suggest you go back and do so before continuing with this one. I'll still be here once you’re done. These pricing tactics are great to use in your design business. But the real gem here is they can make you look like a pricing guru to your clients. Imagine improving their conversion rate simply by manipulating the way you display their prices. They’ll be throwing money at you. As in the previous episodes. All of these tactics I’m sharing come from Nick Kolenda. Specifically, an article on his website titled appropriately enough The Psychology of Pricing. The Psychology Of Pricing - Part 6 In the previous five parts of this series, I shared various ways to manipulate how a price is displayed to improve sale conversions. In this last part of the series, I’m going to share how to use discounts properly. According to Nick, if not used properly, discounts can actually harm your business. In fact, some people suggest you should never use discounts. That may be a bit extreme. Discounts can prove useful if you know how to use them properly. But how can offering a discount backfire? For one, if you offer discounts too frequently, customers will become more price-conscious and wait for the next discount. Offering discounts can also lower the reference price of a product. I’ve talked about reference prices in previous parts of this series and how they create the bar by which consumers judge other prices. Offering a discount can lower the reference price, causing people to purchase less in the future when the price seems too high. So reducing the frequency and depth of discounts helps. But there are a few other tactics you can put to use that will help you as well. Tactic 46: Follow the “Rule of 100.” In a previous episode, I shared how people can perceive different magnitudes for the same price, depending on the context. For example, changing the words that appear next to a price from “High Performance” to “Low Maintenance” can reduce the magnitude of the price, making it appear smaller. Discounts are no different. When offering a discount, you want to maximize the perceived size of the discount so that people feel like they are getting a better deal. Consider a pair of pants selling for $50. Which discount seems like a better deal: 20% off or $10 off? If you do the math, you’ll see that the discounts are the same. But at first glance, 20% off has the advantage by seemingly being larger than $10 off. That’s where the “Rule of 100” comes in. If the price you are discounting is under $100, you should always offer the discount as a percentage. Saving 10% off a $20 item sounds much better than saving $2 off a $20 item. Don’t you agree? However, as soon as the price you are discounting goes above $100, you should switch to an absolute price discount instead of a percentage. So for a $250 item, offering $25 off creates a higher perceived magnitude than offering 10% off. Tactic 47: Mention the Increase From the Discounted Price. This tactic also relies on magnitude. When a price is reduced, the emphasis is placed on the decrease—Now, 20% Off.  However, a way to once again increase the perceived magnitude of the discount is by reversing the way you announce it. Instead of saying “Now 20% Off,” try something like “Was 25% higher.” It will make it more persuasive because it shows a higher numeral. Tactic 48: Provide a Reason for the Discount. To maximize the effectiveness of a discount, explain why you are offering it. For example, stores may offer a discount because of inventory surplus. Or maybe it’s to clear out outdated stock. Clothing retailers do this all the time. When the new season’s fashions arrive, the previous season’s inventory goes on sale. Or perhaps you can say you are passing on a discount you received from the supplier. Wal-Mart does this all the time with their Rollback pricing. It conveys the message that the cost savings they are receiving are being passed on to the customer. If you offer print brokering as one of your design services, you may be able to increase orders by passing on any discount your printer offers you. By providing a reason for the discount, you reinforce that this is a temporary or provisional thing. This will make it less likely for people to latch onto the discounted price as a reference price. And make it more likely to pounce on the discount before it’s gone. Tactic 49: Offer Discounts in Round Numbers. I don’t even know why this one is on the list. If you recall, specific prices, such as $21.87, seem smaller than rounded prices. Keeping that in mind, you should follow the opposite approach for discounts by using round numbers since they appear larger. Using round numbers as discounts also makes it easier for customers to calculate the discount. As I said, I don’t know why this one is on the list. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone offer a non-rounded discount. Have you ever seen a store advertise something like “Save $8.67"? No, it’s either save $8 or $9. I can say about this tactic that you should try to ensure that discounts are easy to compute. You don’t want to confuse people by offering a 23% discount on a price of $37.89. If they need to take out their calculator to figure out how much they are saving, you are missing the point. Tactic 50: Give Two Discounts in Ascending Order This is useful for those occasions when more than one discount is applied. Say, for example, a store offering 20% off all purchases, including already discounted items. A 1979 study showed that offering two combined discounts is often preferred to a single lump sum discount. Saving 20% off an already discounted item by 10% seems like a better deal than if the item was marked at 30% off. Whenever possible, arrange these discounts in ascending order. So 10% off, then 30% off. a 2019 study showed that this creates an ascending momentum, making the total discount seem larger. Tactic 51: Offer Discounts Towards The End Of The Month. Remember that Pain of Paying thing? Well, as your budget gets smaller, paying for things becomes more painful. You’re more likely to buy a product and be more satisfied with your purchase when you have more money in your budget. Offering discounts towards the end of the month, as monthly budgets are nearing exhaustion, is more effective because people seek ways to save money. Bonus Tip: If you have clients who offer free trials, you may suggest they do so at the beginning of the month. Because people have a full budget at the beginning of the month, the offer of a free trial will seem more appealing to them. Of course, this assumes the consumer uses a monthly budget. You should always consider the target customer and plan your promotions accordingly. Tactic 52: Arrange Discounts in Tiered Amounts. Suppose you or your client launch a promotion where customers save $50 when they spend $200. In this scenario, people need to spend $200 – which might be difficult for some people to imagine. To make this discount more enticing, you need to strengthen the mental imagery of spending $200. How? By offering tiered discounts. Such as... $50 off when you spend $200 $25 off when you spend $150 $10 off when you spend $50 $5 off when you spend $30 A customer might struggle to imagine spending the full $200 to get the biggest discount. However, spending $30 to get $5 off is easy to imagine. And this is the brilliance of this tactic. Once a client can imagine spending $30, it becomes much easier to imagine spending $50. Then it becomes easier to imagine spending $150 and finally $200. You provide a sequence of images that transform that highest threshold into a feasible reality by offering tiers. This is the same reason the three-tiered pricing system works so well. When clients compare the first price in your three tiers to the second, they realize how much more value the second tier is, even if it’s higher than they originally wanted to spend. And once they are entertaining that second tier, the third one doesn’t seem like a big stretch, and they may go for it. This tactic might also be used to sell bigger retainer agreements. For example, if you normally charge $100/hour for your design services, you could sell retainer agreements such as this. $70/hour if they buy 20 hours per month. Total $1400 $80/hour if they buy 10 hours per month. Total $800 $95/hour if they buy 5 hours per month. Total $475 Tactic 53: End Discounts Gradually. Traditionally, marketers use two types of pricing strategies: Hi-Lo Pricing, such as putting a $99 product on sale for $79 for a week and then putting the price back to $99 once the sale is over. Alternatively, some use EDLP or the Everyday Low Pricing method. They take a $99 product and list it permanently at $89. A 2010 study found benefits in a new strategy: Steadily decreasing discounts (SDD for short). Instead of dropping a price and then putting it back. This SDD strategy suggests you drop a price and gradually increase it until you’re back at the original price. So a $99 product might be discounted to $79 for one week, then $89 for an additional week before returning the price to its original price of $99 on the third week. The researchers found positive outcomes on multiple metrics. This new SDD strategy led to. Higher revenue Higher willingness to pay Greater likelihood of visiting a store. During a 30-week trial, the researchers alternated between the three strategies and found that the SDD method produced the highest overall profit margin. With the SDD method, consumers learned that they had to get to the store early if they wanted the best deal. However, if they could not make it on time, there was still a chance for them to save money before the price returned to full. Tactic 54: Don’t Discount Premium Products. Remember at the beginning of this episode when I said that discounts could be harmful. This is especially true when you discount premium (AKA expensive) products. It’s harmful because people may choose to hold off on purchasing until there’s a new discount when the discount ends. Or worse, they may choose to shop at a competitor. When a discount is retracted on a premium product, demand shifts towards lower-priced products, however, when a discount is retracted on lower-priced products, the demand remains the same. This boils down to that if you are competing on price, it’s ok to give discounts. But if you’re competing on quality, you should avoid discounts that emphasize price and focus on the attributes and quality of the product. Have you used any of the tactics I've shared in this series? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
8/30/202128 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Psychology Of Pricing: Part 5 – RD268

This is week five of my Psychology of Pricing series. Where I share research-proven strategies to help the prices you display convert into sales. Some of these pricing tactics work great with your design business, and many of them are perfect for helping your clients get more sales. So if you haven’t read or listened to the previous parts in this series, I suggest you do so before continuing with this one. The tactics I’m sharing here are taken from a very in-depth article called The Psychology of Pricing by Nick Kolenda. You can find it on his website. Let’s get on with the list. Tactic 35: Place Low Numerals After Right-Facing Digits. As a designer, you know how to create flow in a design. For example, If a person is looking to the right, you want to put their photo on the left of a layout. If they’re facing the left, you want them on the right of the layout. This creates flow in the direction you want people to focus on. There are many ways to create flow in a layout besides which direction a person is facing. One of the ways you can do it is with numbers. A 2007 study determined that certain digits face particular directions. 2,3,4,7,9 face the left. 1,8,0 face centre. 5,6 face right. Rightward digits 5 & 6 push attention towards the right. When used in a price, they push attention towards the digits that follow them. Since customers tend to round numbers up or down, you’ll want to place a lower number next to a right-facing digit causing customers to round down the price. Conversely, leftward digits, 2,3,4,7 & 9 push the attention towards the left. This means that customers may ignore a large number placed to the right of them. Tactic 36: Insert Alliteration into Prices. Alliteration is the repetition of similar initial sounds within a group of words. Such as Karl craves coconut cookies with a repetitive hard "C" sound. There’s something about alliteration that feels good. It feels right. And that feeling can be misattributed towards another context. A 2016 study found that customers were more likely to buy products when alliteration was used. For example, “Two T-Shirts for $20.” The repetitive “T” sounds make the purchase feel right. Tactic 37: Use Round Prices in the Right Context. Rounded prices, those that don't display cents, should be used for emotional purchases. Non-rounded prices, those that display cents, should be used for rational purchases. There are three contexts when you should consider using round prices. 1) Emotional Purchase. Because round prices “feel right,” they are good for emotional purchases over rational purchases. A 2015 study found that customers prefer buying something such as a bottle of champagne for a rounded price such as $40. Whereas when buying something such as a calculator, they would prefer a non-rounded price of $39.72. 2) Convenience Purchases. Round prices that “feel right” also trigger an “easy” sensation. Making a transaction seem easy and a good choice. A 2016 study found that using round prices on point-of-sale items at a checkout counter increased sales. 3) Social Benefits. Customers prefer round prices for social products. Since round numbers are easily divisible, people confuse numerical connectivity for social connectivity. For example, charging $457.99 for a four-day conference may seem expensive to someone because they see it as a high price for one social benefit. However, charging $400 for a four-day conference makes it easy for people to think of it as $100 per day, which may sound more reasonable to them. Tactic 38: Distinguish the Most Expensive Option. This tactic works great with the three-tiered pricing method when quoting design projects. In a previous part of this series, I said you should sort prices from high to low. But there are ways around that. As designers, you know that design can have a hierarchy. A good designer knows how to lead a viewer's eye from one design section to another in a predefined path. So instead of putting the highest price first, you can achieve the same effect by adding visual distinction to the most expensive option. You see this all the time on websites with pricing pages where one price is highlighted as the “best option.” By making something stand out, you set it up to be viewed first, creating a reference price in the viewer's mind. And if that first price they see is the highest priced option. The lower prices will seem much more appealing to them. Tactic 39: Attribute Discounts to Emotional Products. Face it. We like buying emotional products. I mean, nobody needs a cupcake, but that doesn’t stop you from wanting one. The problem with emotional purchases is you often feel guilty after you’ve spent the money. A 2010 study showed that attributing a discounted price to the emotional product reduces the guilt associated with the purchase. For example, a restaurant may sell salads and cupcakes individually for $3 each. But they have a special offer where you can get a salad and cupcake together for only $4. Saving $1 off each item is a great deal. However, they can make the deal seem even more appealing if they word it as buy the two together and save $2 off the cupcake price. Associating the discount with the emotional product, in this case, the cupcake reduces the guilty feeling of buying it. Tactic 40: Encourage Customers to Budget Early. Budgeting is a good thing, right? Well, not always. In fact, budgeting sometimes increases spending. Why is this? Budgeting separates you from your money. It’s put away for a specific purchase, and the farther removed it gets, the less pain you feel spending it. A 2021 study showed that students spent more money on a class ring when they budgeted early for it. When a client tells you they don’t have the money right now for a website redesign, you could suggest they start budgeting for it now so they can afford it when the time comes. Who knows, you may end up with a bigger project this way. Tactic 41: Make Sales Prices Look Different From Original Prices. A 2005 study showed that adding a visual distinction to a sales price, such as colour, point size and even the font used, increases sales. It’s called contrast fluency. It’s a trick they often use in infomercials. When an infomercial shows a person struggling with their problem, the colours are usually dull and muted. Then things clear and brighten up when they show the person using the product they’re selling. With contrast fluency, your brain misattributes visual distinctions to abstract distinctions: Hmmm, this sales price feels different. Which must mean it’s a good deal. Tactic 42: Add Space Between Discounted Prices. A 2009 study showed that placing more space between an original price and the discounted price creates cognitive confusion, causing people to interpret the visual distance for numerical distance. The further apart numbers are visually, the further apart they appear to be numerically. Add space between the original and sale price so that the numerical gap seems larger. Tactic 43: Place Sales Prices Below Original Prices. A 2013 study found that customers perceive a larger discount when the sale price is positioned below the original price. This is because it’s easier to subtract two numbers when the larger number is first and the smaller number second. If you don't have enough room to put the sales price below the original price, you can place the sales price to the right of the original price for the same effect. Tactic 44: Reduce Every Digit in the Discounted Price. Unlike words, people read numbers in a digit-by-digit manner. A 2008 study showed that reducing every digit in a sales price increases sales. Suppose the original price is $85; you’ll want each digit to be reduced by at least one. So the sales price might be $74. This tactic works great with larger numbers. A product that sold for $9799 might be reduced to $8650. Tactic 45: Offer Discounts With Low Right Digits. When the left digit in both your original and sale price is the same, using a low right digit will make the discount seem larger. For example, if you take two different sales. Item 1: Original price $19–Sale price $18. Item 2: Original price $23–Sale price $22. Even though both items are on sale for $1 off, item 2 seems to offer a larger discount. This is based on numerical cognition. We compare numbers in relative terms. $10 off a $50 product is more appealing than $10 off a $500 product, even though the money you save is the same. This same mental process occurs when you compare small numbers with large numbers. A 2007 study found that because the number 3 is 50% greater than the number 2. It’s perceived as a greater gap than the difference between 7 and 8, which is only a %14 difference. Therefore, dropping a number from 3 to 2 seems like a much better deal than dropping from 8 to 7. The same 2007 study showed that even when an actual larger discount was applied to prices with large right digits, people perceived the discount to be less than when a smaller discount was applied to prices with small right digits. It’s amazing how the mind works. If you find that hard to comprehend, try looking at it this way. And this is me saying this, not Nick. The way I see it. Numbers between 6-9get rounded up, and numbers between 1-4 get rounded down. Therefore using a low number as your right digit will lower the perceived price. $17 will be rounded up to $20 $13 will be rounded down to $10.
8/23/202125 minutes, 50 seconds
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The Psychology Of Pricing: Part 4 – RD267

This is week four of my psychology of pricing series. Where I share research-proven strategies to influence people to part with their hard-earned money, some of these pricing tactics work great with your design business, and many of them are perfect for helping your clients get more sales. If you haven’t listened to part 1, part 2 or part 3 of this series, I suggest you do so before continuing with this one. Let’s continue with the series. As previously mentioned, I took the tactics I’m sharing here from an article by Nick Kolenda on his website on the psychology of pricing. Nick has links to many of the studies I mention in these episodes. Let’s get on with the list. Tactic 29: Create a Payment Medium. If you’ll recall the last episode, I talked about the Pain of Paying. That feeling we get when we have to part with our hard-earned money. Tactic 29 offers a great way to reduce that pain by creating a payment medium between the money spent and the purchased product. What is a payment medium? Casino chips are a great example. When gambling at a casino, it's much easier to place a $10 or $20 chip on the table than it would be if you had to put a ten or twenty dollar bill down. Casino chips act as a buffer between your wallet and the act of betting, which reduces the Pain of Paying. Another way this works, and possibly a way for you to incorporate this into your design business, is with advanced payments. If you charge clients by the hour, Instead of offering a monthly retainer agreement, you may instead offer a discount if a client pays for a pool of hours upfront, to be used at a later date. For example, if your regular rate is $100 per hour, twenty work hours should cost $2000. However, you could offer clients twenty hours of work to be used later for $1900. Your client would get 20 hours of your time banked for future use at a discounted price. The next time they have a design project, it won’t cost them anything because your time is already paid for. This creates a payment medium reducing the pain of paying. Should the client have a design idea they want to explore, it will be much easier for them to justify spending hours they’ve already paid for than it would be for them to justify spending the money on their idea even though it works out to the same thing in the end. Another thing to consider is a refundable deposit. Someone starting a venture that requires people to open an account to make purchases may require them to make a $50 refundable deposit when opening their account. This $50 can be used for future purchases or returned should the purchaser decide to close their account. Since the money required to open the account is refundable, there will be less resistance to depositing it. More importantly, the deposit now acts as a payment medium. People will be more willing to spend it on a purchase since it doesn’t feel like money coming out of their pocket. Tactic 30: Avoid Language Related to Money. This tactic works great when combined with tactic 29 above. Instead of referring to deposited money as money, you may want to refer to it as something else, such as credits. For example: Instead of clients buying 20 hours of your services. You have them buy 20 design credits, where each credit is worth up to 1 hour of design time. Then, when a client asks for a quote on a new design project, you can say it will cost them X credits. A 2004 study showed that using credits creates an off-balance conversion between the money and the value. This conversion creates a payment medium that is more effective as it’s more difficult for the customer to convert the values. A client with 20 design credits is likely to be more willing to spend 3 credits on a new project than spend $300 on it. Even though the two are essentially the value. Tactic 31: Emphasize the Inherent Costs of Your Product. People don't just care about the perceived magnitude of a price, for example, whether it’s high or low. They also care about the perceived fairness of a price. Even if you price something low, people could still perceive it to be unfair. The opposite is also true. People could perceive a high price to be fair. It all depends on your pricing method. Cost-Based Pricing or Market-Based Pricing. Cost-Based Pricing: Prices based on cost factors such as the cost of the materials. Market-Based Pricing: Prices based on supply and demand or the competition. Most people view cost-based pricing to be fairer than market-based pricing. And you can increase the perceived fairness of a price by emphasizing the inherent cost of the product. Since consumers don’t know the actual cost and markup of an item, making the relevant cost and quality information transparent helps them make their purchase decision. How does this work? It’s quite easy. Emphasize the product's “top-of-the-line” materials or any other cost-based input. Instead of advertising a new beverage as Delicious, say something like this new beverage uses naturally sourced organic ingredients. Including this information triggers a more empathetic perception of the price, causing people to imagine it's worth more. This will translate into more people willing to buy it. Tactic 32: Add Slight Price Differences to Similar Products. Whenever you have multiple options for a single product, you create a Paradox of Choice. When presented with multiple options, people feel less likely to choose an option. That’s because once they choose an option, they lose the benefits offered by the other options. This loss aversion causes them to hesitate or postpone their decision. This feeling increases as more options become available. In a 2012 study, two groups of participants were asked if they wanted to purchase a pack of gum. Each group had two options. Group 1: Two different packs of gum priced at $0.63 each. Group 2: One pack of gum priced at $0.62, and a different pack of gum priced at $0.64. Surprisingly only 46% of people in group 1 chose to purchase a pack of gum. Compared to 77% from group 2. Why did this happen? It’s kind of weird. When the two packs of gum shared the same price, people perceived them to be less similar. However, adding the small price difference increased the perceived similarity of the two packs. This happens because when the two packs of gum are priced the same, people can’t distinguish between the two based on price. As a result, they look for other differentiating characteristics making the two products less similar. But when the prices were slightly different, people felt less need to compare the characteristics between the two packs of gum because they could differentiate them based on price. Since the people in group two focused less on the differences between the two packs of gum, both packs maintained a higher degree of similarity, making it easier for them to choose a pack to purchase. This tactic is used a lot on Amazon. Items that are available in different colours are priced differently depending on the colour option chosen. Tactic 33: Use More Frequent (Yet Smaller) Price Increases. Out of all the tactics I’ve shared with you, this is the one that I find mostly relates to designers. The idea behind this tactic is to control price perception when it comes to price increases through what is called JND (Just Noticeable Differences). Just Noticeable Differences: The minimum amount of change that triggers a detection. In other words, a difference that is just noticeable. Increasing your hourly rate from $50/hr to $55/hr will be less noticeable than if you increased it from $50/hr to $80/hr. Obviously, people take more notice of price increases when they are larger. Unfortunately, most businesses, including designers, are guilty of avoiding price increases until it’s necessary. The problem with this is once you reach the point when it's necessary to increase your prices, chances are a tiny amount won’t help much, and you’ll need to increase it noticeably. Many designers I know still charge the same rate as they did five or more years ago. As the price of everything increases with inflation, they are still making the same amount of money. When they finally decide to raise their rates, they’ll need to increase them significantly to catch up with inflation. This tactic states that you should increase your rates or prices more frequently but in smaller amounts. My suggestion is to increase your rates every January. Your clients might not even notice a small increase. And those who do won’t be too concerned with a small increase as they would if you increased your rates significantly. Tactic 34: Downsize a Feature Besides Price. The concept of Just Noticeable Difference can be used in other ways as well. It's used all the time in the food industry. Instead of raising the price of something, they reduce the size instead. For example: Instead of raising the price on a 500g bag of chips, the chip company will instead use the same size bag at the same price but reduce the contents to 450g. This saves them money, and most customers won’t notice they’re getting fewer chips in the bag. A variation of this tactic can be used when negotiating prices with clients. If a client thinks your price is too high. Offer to reduce it by removing a feature from the project. And make sure the feature you remove is worth more than the amount you reduce the price by. More to come. Next week I’ll conclude this series with the final tactics in the psychology of pricing.
8/16/202130 minutes, 41 seconds
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The Psychology Of Pricing: Part 3 – RD266

This is week three of my psychology of pricing series. Where I share research-proven strategies to influence people to part with their hard-earned money. Some of these pricing tactics work great with your design business, and many of them are perfect for helping your clients get more sales. If you haven’t listened to part 1 and part 2, I suggest you do so before continuing with this one. Let’s continue with the series. The Psychology Of Pricing - Part 3 As I mentioned in the previous parts of this series, these tactics were taken from a very in-depth article by Nick Kolenda on the psychology of pricing. Have a look if you want to read through it yourself. Since you’re here right now, I’ll presume you want me to continue summarizing each pricing tactic. So let’s get on with the list. Tactic 19: Raise the Price of Your Previous Product. This tactic applies whenever you or your client introduces a new, more expensive version of a product. Although under certain circumstances, it may also work with the services you offer. If you’re introducing a new, more expensive version of a product, what do you do with the old version that’s left? Many people would lower the old one to sell the remaining stock as soon as possible. But a 2010 study suggests raising the price of the old product might be a better idea. If you lower the old product's price, you’ll be reinforcing the lower reference price, which makes the new product seem more expensive, making people question if it’s really worth it. Let’s say the old product originally sold for $100, and the new product is priced at $130. If you drop the price of the old product to a clearance price of $80, people are going to wonder if it’s really worth spending $50 more for the new product. However, if you raise the old product's price, you also raise people’s reference or anchor price, which enhances their perceived value of the new product. So instead of dropping the original product's price from $100 to $80, you raise it to $110. Now, people who compare the old and new versions will favour the higher-priced new version that is only $20 more than the old one. And those looking for a deal will be happy to save $20 by purchasing the old version. Tactic 20: Sort Prices From High to Low. A study conducted in 2012 showed that, on average, customers chose a more expensive option when products were listed in descending price order from highest to lowest. This study was conducted in a bar over the course of 8 weeks. The researchers regularly alternated the sequence of the beer prices. Sometimes the beers were listed from the lowest priced beer at $4 down to the highest-priced beer at $10. Other times they reversed the list putting the $10 beer at the top. The researchers discovered that, on average, the bar generated more money in beer sales when the higher prices were listed first. Why does this work? Once again, it comes down to the ever-important anchor price. Whenever someone looks at a list of prices, the first few prices create their anchor price. If the initial prices are low, it creates a low anchor price which creates an aversion to spending money on the higher-priced items lower on the list. If someone wanted to splurge a bit, they might opt for a $5 or $6 beer instead of the base $4 beer, but they probably won't be interested in the highest-priced beers at the bottom of the list. However, if you reverse the order by placing the highest prices at the top to act as the anchor price, each lower price on the list seems like a better deal. Instead of spending $10 on a beer, someone might decide to save a bit of money and opt for a $7 or $6 beer instead. They feel good about saving money but still spent more than in the previous example. As a species, we have an aversion to losses. When we see a list of ascending prices, meaning from low to high. We subconsciously see each price as we descend the list as a loss. Our motivation to minimize that loss causes us to chose a lower-priced product from the top of the list. But when we see a list of descending prices, meaning from high to low, we see each item as we go down the list as a loss in quality. And since we don’t want to lose quality, we are motivated to purchase the higher quality, and hence more expensive product. So if you're putting together an eCommerce site for a client, you may want to put the higher-priced items first in the hopes of increasing the average revenue from each sale. This might also work with the Three-Tiered Pricing System I’m so fond of. I show my three price options from lowest to highest. It might be worth reversing it and showing the most expensive option first. You never know. Tactic 21: Position Prices to the Right of Large Quantities This tactic applies to products sold in bundles. A study conducted in 2012 shows that listing prices to the right of large quantities convert better. 70 items for $29 is better than $29 for 70 items However, the study showed that two conditions must be met for this tactic to work. Condition 1: The unit price calculation must be difficult. Meaning it shouldn’t be easy to figure out the individual unit price. The tactic works well with "70 items for $29" because it requires a somewhat difficult calculation to determine how much each item costs. However, "10 items for $10" is too easy to figure out for this tactic to be effective. Condition 2: The item quantity must be larger than the price. Following this condition, "70 items for $29" works, but "3 items for $29" doesn't. This brings us back to anchor prices again. "70 items for $29" works because, as Tactic 18 states, exposing people to any high number creates an anchor that makes the lower price seem more favourable. So $29 seems more favourable when placed to the right of "70 items." Tactic 22: Add Visual Contrast to Sale Prices. When you compare a price to a higher price, people are less likely to shop around for a comparable price. This is the same trick that works with the three-tiered pricing strategy. By showing three prices, you reduce your client's chances of comparing you to another designer since they already have various prices to compare together. Tactic 22 takes another step and optimizes that comparison by visually distinguishing one price from a reference price. As shown in a 2005 study, changing the colour of a sale price triggers a fluency effect. Customers will misattribute any visual distinction to a greater numerical distinction. By listing the original price in black and the sale price in colour, you create a greater numerical distinction making the sale price seem more favourable. Combine this with Tactic 3: Display prices in small font sizes for a double whammy. So not only should you change the colour but also make the sale price smaller to bring home the sale value. Tactic 23: Offer a Decoy Option. We’ve discussed using your own products as reference prices to prevent clients from looking elsewhere for comparison prices. Tactic 23 says you should consider adding a “decoy option.” Back in 2008, Economist magazine did something that many people thought strange. They offered three subscription options. Web Only: $59 Print Only: $125 Web and Print: $125 What? Print Only for $125 and Web and Print together also for $125? That had to be a mistake. Why would anyone chose "Print Only" when they could get "Web and Print" for the same price? That was the point. Further investigation revealed that without the "Print Only" option, people couldn’t accurately compare the other two subscription options. How much should a "Web and Print" subscription be? Who knows? Most people had no idea and therefore chose the "Web Only" option. In fact, 68% of people subscribed to the "Web Only" option. But when Economist introduced the “Print Only” option, it helped people compare the other options. Because "Print Only" was the same price but a worse version of the “Web and Print” option, people could now easily recognize the value of the "Web and Print" subscription. With the "Print Only" option available, subscription purchases suddenly shifted, with 85% of people buying the "Web and Print" option. Economist magazine generated 43% more revenue simply by offering a Decoy Option. By offering a similar, yet worse, version of a more expensive product, you influence the comparison process making the more expensive product more appealing. How could you use this tactic for your design business? When submitting a proposal, you may decide to offer a logo package for one price, a website for another price and a combined logo and web package for a very similar price as the website alone option. It might be worth testing out. Motivating people to buy. So far, we’ve been talking about ways to make prices more appealing. These next tactics are not about making the price look better but more about giving people a little nudge and motivating them to buy. The idea here is to reduce the “Pain of Paying.” That feeling you get when you have to part ways with your hard-earned money. This “Pain of Paying” comes in two factors. One: The pain we feel when our money leaves our hands. Two: The pain we feel when we pay after we consume. Uber, the ride-sharing service, does a great job of countering these. With a normal taxi, you see the price meter go up and up with each kilometre you ride which causes stress. Plus, you’re forced to pay once you reach your destination heightening the Pain of Paying. Uber, on the other hand, is almost pain-free. You pay for your ride in advance, and their app is connected to your credit card, so you barely notice the money leaving your hands. Offering credit card payments for your design business and charging upfront are both ways of reducing the Pain of Paying and motivating people to buy from you. Tactic 24: Remove the Currency Symbol. A 2009 study showed that the Pain of Paying could be triggered pretty easily. Just seeing a dollar sign (or Euro or Yen or whatever currency symbol) reminds people of that pain and could cause them to spend less. Removing the currency symbol can help reduce that pain for them. However, don’t start leaving the currency symbol off without considering the clarity of your price. We often need the currency symbol to show that a number is, in fact, a price. Only use this tactic where people expect a price to appear. Such as on restaurant menus. Tactic 25: Charge Customers Before They Consume. Whenever you can, charge people before they use your service or product. It’s a benefit to everyone involved in the transaction. By charging first, you know you’ve already been compensated for the work you do, so you won’t be worrying about getting paid. And chances are your client will be happier with your product. A 1998 study shows that people are happier with a product or service when they prepay for it. This allows them to focus on the benefits they’re receiving, which numbs the Pain of Paying. If they’ve already experienced the benefits before paying, such as a taxi ride, spending the money becomes much more painful. This tactic works great for designers who offer retainers. Make sure you charge your retainer clients at the beginning of the month for the services they will receive. Not at the end of the month for services already rendered. Tactic 26: Attribute Bundled Discounts to Hedonic Products. To be honest, I don’t understand this tactic. Plus, I had no idea what the word "Hedonic" meant. So I looked it up. Hedonic is Something relating to or considered in terms of pleasant (or unpleasant) sensations. In other words, attribute bundled discounts to pleasant (or perhaps unpleasant) products. Even knowing the definition, I still don’t fully understand how this tactic works, so I’m not going to try and explain it. If you’re curious, you can read the full description of Tactic 26 in Nick's article. Tactic 27: Don’t bundle Expensive and Inexpensive Products. The tactic is self-explanatory. Avoid bundling expensive and inexpensive products because the inexpensive products reduce the perceived value of the expensive products. A 2012 study asked people to chose between a home gym and a 1-year gym membership. The results were an even split, with 51% choosing the home gym. But when the researchers bundled the home gym with a fitness DVD, only 35% of people chose the bundle, the rest opting for the 1-year gym membership. The inexpensive fitness DVD reduced the perceived value of the home gym. Tactic 28: Shift the Focus Toward Time-Related Aspects. Try to avoid references to money when describing a product. Instead, focus on time: A much greater benefit. An experiment conducted in 2009 had a lemonade stand where the researchers alternated three different signs advertising the product. Sign One focused on TIME: “Spend a little time and enjoy C & D’s lemonade.” Sign Two focused on MONEY: “Spend a little money and enjoy C & D’s lemonade. Sign Three was NEUTRAL: “Enjoy C & D’s lemonade.” Shoppers were told they could pay whatever they wanted between $1 to $3 for a glass of lemonade. The results were unanimous. Not only did the “TIME” sign attract twice as many people to the stand, but those people paid more for their glass of lemonade than the other patrons. Whenever you write sales copy, emphasize the enjoyable time people will have with your product or service over the money they may save. The added benefit is that not only will focusing on time make your offer more appealing, but it will also lessen the Pain of Paying. More to come. Next week I’ll conclude this series with the final tactics in the psychology of pricing.
8/9/202124 minutes, 51 seconds
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The Psychology Of Pricing: Part 2 - RD265

Last week I shared the first nine psychology of pricing tactics from Nick Kolenda's article. This week I continue the series with more great pricing tactics. Tactic 10: Position Low Prices Toward the Left According to a 2002 study, when designing a layout, you should position prices on the left if you want them to appear smaller. Here’s the reasoning. Research shows that people associate directional cues with certain concepts. Up is usually associated with good, whereas down is usually associated with bad. You give a thumbs up to things you like and a thumbs down to things you don’t. In the Christian faith, good people go up to heaven, and bad people go down to hell. This notion of up being good and down being bad triggers a spatial association. A 2004 study found that people recognized positive words faster when those words are positioned at the top of a layout. They recognize negative words faster when positioned near the bottom of a layout. This same principle applies to numbers, including prices. When people conceptualize numbers, they imagine a horizontal like with numbers going up from left to right. The smaller numbers on the left, the larger numbers on the right. Since people associate smaller numbers as belonging on the left, positioning prices on the left side of a layout can trigger someone to associate it with a smaller value. The opposite works with larger numbers. If you want a number to appear large, position it on the right of a layout. For example: for a message saying, “Receive a $20 credit for every person you refer.” you’ll want to place the $20 towards the right of the layout so that those seeing it will associate it with a large number making the offer more appealing. The whole point of this tactic is to change the perception of a fixed price.  If you want $20 to seem like a great low price, position it accordingly. Whereas if you want $20 to seem like a nice high reward, position it accordingly. Because of these directional cues associated with spatial concepts, the optimal position for your prices is the bottom left of a layout if you want it to appear as a low price. And the upper right of a layout if you want the price to appear higher. Tactic 11: Expose Customers to Two Multiples of Your Price My first time reading this tactic, I thought, “c’mon, this can’t be true.” but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. A 2011 study showed that customers exposed to two multiples of a price reacted more favourably to the price. Let me explain this. Nick’s article shows four ads from Pizza Hut, a popular pizza chain you may be familiar with. All four ads offered a deal costing $24. The first ad is for 3 Medium pizzas with unlimited toppings. The second ad is for 4 small pizzas with unlimited toppings. The third ad is for 3 medium pizzas with up to 8 toppings each. And the fourth ad is for 4 small pizzas with up to 6 toppings each. The study conducted showed that customers were more favourable to ads 3 and 4. The two ads that limited the toppings. Then they were to the first two ads that offered unlimited toppings even though the first two ads were an economically better deal. Why is that? It’s because ads 3 and 4 incorporated multiples of the price. 4 small pizzas with up to 6 toppings each for $24. 4 x 6 = 24 3 medium pizzas with up to 8 toppings each for $24. 3 x 8 = 24 I know it sounds crazy, but psychology can explain it. As children, we were drilled with simple math problems where an association develops between operands. For example, if I say 2 x 6, you immediately think 12. You don’t actually have to do any math. It’s been ingrained into your brain. You just instinctively know that 2 x 6 is 12. Because of associations like these, your brain processes them more fluently than if we actually had to figure out the sum or product. Back to the Pizza Hut ads, Because ads 3 and 4 contained multiples of the $24 (4 x 6 and 3 x 8, respectively), customers could process the $24 more easily. The price feels right to them. This tactic can be used with small and large prices. A product could be on sale for $15. Next to the price, you could indicate a 3-Day Sale for $5 off (3 x 5 = 15). Someone could offer 4 weekly 30-minute coaching calls for $120 (4 x 30 = 120). A webinar might sell a training course for $500, and as a reward for signing up before the end of the webinar, you’ll get 5 bonus eBooks (a value of $100) (5 x 100 = $500) Tactic 12: Use the Right Amount of “Roundedness Instead of using a non-rounded price, such as $97.76, use the rounded price of $98. A study done in 2015 found that round prices are processed fluently, whereas non-rounded prices are processed disfluently. This tactic seems to contradict tactic 9 that I shared with you last week. Tactic 9 said to use precise numbers instead of rounded numbers because people assume rounded prices are artificially higher as if you plucked them from thin air. However, there is a time when round numbers are preferred. And that’s when emotion plays a part. It turns out that rounded prices because they are fluently processed, work better for emotional purchases. The opposite is true for non-rounded prices, causing people to use more mental resources to process the numbers. These are good for rational purchases. So if you’re trying to appeal to someone’s emotions, such as donating to a charity or supporting a fundraiser, remove the cents and round to the nearest dollar. However, if you want someone to make a rational decision, such as buying life insurance, include the cents in the price. Tactic 13: Tailor Prices Toward Names and Birthdays. This tactic is a bit weird, but there is a lot of scientific research to support it. However, I’m not quite sure how you would put it to use. A 2014 study found that customers prefer prices that contain the same letters in their name or birthday. For example, someone named Frank is more agreeable to a product priced at fifty-five dollars because fifty and five both start with F, the same first letter as his name. This principle is called implicit egotism. It causes us to subconsciously gravitate towards things that resemble ourselves, including our names and the numbers on our birthdays. I can’t argue with the birthday thing. My birthday is on the 26th, and I know that I notice the number 26 whenever I see it. So maybe the next time you submit a quote to a client, adjust the price to suit their name? $55 for someone named Frank, $66 for someone named Sam. Tactic 14: Show Prices at the Optimal Time Unlike the previous tactic, this one makes a lot of sense. It asks what you should display first, your product or your price? A 2015 study found that the order in which a product and price are displayed influences the buyer's criteria when making their decision. When a product is displayed first and the price next, buyers base their purchase decision on the quality of the product. When the price is displayed before the product, buyers base their purchase decision on the product's value. Put the Product before the price, and people ask themselves, “Do I like this product?” But put the price before the product, and these same people ask themselves, “Is this product worth it?” So how do you put this into practice? The same study determined that if you consider what you sell as a luxury product or service, you want people to base their decision on the product or service quality. Therefore you show the product before the price. A good example of this is a jewellery store. A jewellery store wants customers to focus on the product before they see the price. Hopefully swaying their purchase decision. The opposite is true for utilitarian or economic products, such as flash drives or batteries. You want to display the price first so that customers see the economic value of the purchase. Tactic 15: Display Red Prices to Men This is another tactic I’m not 100% sure of. Probably because it makes men, of which I’m one, seem simple-minded. (Ladies, stop nodding your heads) A 2013 study found that men are more likely to buy something when the price is displayed in red. This study noticed that men process ads less in-depth and use price colour as a visual heuristic to judge the perceived savings offered. Meaning, men are less likely to compare the product's other attributes when presented with a red price. They diminish the importance of the photos and listed features and focus on the red price. Studies have proven that the colour red increases arousal, so maybe that explains it. Tactic 16: Start Negotiating With a High Precise Number. In my opinion, this tactic applies more to products than it does to services, but I suppose you could get it to work. The trick is to use a higher anchor price to drive up the selling price. You’ll see this tactic often used with higher-priced items such as cars and furniture. It’s often referred to as the MSRP or Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. When you buy a new car, the sticker on the vehicle will often display two prices: the price the manufacturer suggests and the price the dealer is selling the car for. I can guarantee you that the dealer price is always lower than the MSRP. That MSRP creates an anchor or established value, making the dealer price seem like a great deal. I suppose you can use this if you offer packages to your clients. For example, you may offer a package of services for $800, but next to it, mention that it’s a ($1000) value if they were to buy each service individually. A 2004 study of eBay sales showed that auctions with a higher reserve price – the price that needs to be met for the item to sell. Higher reserve prices create an anchor towards the higher end of the price spectrum, resulting in more people bidding and the seller making more money. Another study done in 2008 found that using a precise value as the anchor price also produced better results. When people were asked to estimate the actual price of a plasma TV based on the suggested retail prices of $4,998, $5,000, or $5,012, the researchers found that the average estimated price was much higher for the two prices that were not rounded. Tactic 17: Expose People to Higher “Incidental” Prices. I just talked about anchor prices and how setting a high anchor price can make the actual price seem like a good deal. That tactic works great with higher-priced items. But what if you’re using lower prices? A 2004 study showed that items could sell at a higher price when placed next to higher-priced items. For example, a clothing store sells belts for $15 each. When the belt rack is placed near a rack of $25 pants, the store sells very few belts. However, when they move the belt rack next to a rack of $80, pants belt sales increase. If you’re offering a service, it might be a good idea to mention some other higher-priced services you have to make the current selection seem like a great deal. Tactic 18: Expose People to Any High Number Continuing on the topic of anchor prices. This same tactic can be used with not only prices but with any number. A 2003 study did a test with rare wines. They asked participants whether they would purchase a bottle of wine for the dollar amount equal to the last two digits in their social security number. After receiving a YES or No answer, the researchers asked the participants to state the exact dollar amount they would be willing to pay. Remarkably, they found a direct correlation between the purchaser’s social security number and the price they would pay for the wine. Those with Social security numbers ending in 00-19 were willing to pay $16 for the wine. Those with Social security numbers ending in 20-39 were willing to pay $26 for the wine. Those with Social security numbers ending in 40-59 were willing to pay $29 for the wine. Those with Social security numbers ending in 60-79 were willing to pay $35 for the wine. Those with Social security numbers ending in 80-99 were willing to pay $56 for the wine. Obviously, you’re not going to ask your customers for their social security numbers to come up with a price. But you can expose them to a high anchor number just the same. For example, on my podcast branding website where I sell podcast artwork for $295. I could list below the price that I’ve designed artwork for over 400 podcasts. Even though 400 isn’t a price. It still acts as an anchor, which psychologically affects their perception of the $295, making it seem lower. Check back next week for even more ways to use psychology when displaying prices. Tip of the week How not to miss anything when updating a project. Whenever I have to update or make changes to a previous client project, the first thing I do is colour every element of the project MAGENTA. I colour the text, the lines, and for photos, images and graphics I colour or add a magenta frame to them. Then, as I make the necessary changes or determine that a section doesn't require any changes, I recolour it back to what it should be. Once I’m done, I can quickly look over the project to see if there are any magenta sections I've missed.
8/2/202130 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Psychology Of Pricing: Part 1 - RD264

Use these psychological tactics to change how people see prices. I recently read a very in-depth article by Nick Kolenda on the psychology of pricing. I was so fascinated by what he revealed that I immediately changed some of the ways I display prices for myself and the things I design for my clients. I thought I would save you time by summarizing the 42 research-proven psychological tactics in Nick's article in a podcast series. I’m sure you’ll find it very useful in your design business. All studies I reference are linked to in Nick's article, in case you're interested. As Nick puts it, At the end of the day, price is merely a perception. Nothing more. Nothing less. In fact, you can change that perception of how people interpret a price simply by changing the visual traits of the numeral. It’s a given. The number 5 is greater than 4. And 6 is greater than 5. But using these psychological pricing techniques, you can actually make prices seem lower - without reducing the actual price. According to a 2002 study, most people don’t remember exact prices. Rather, they remember general prices. Have you ever looked at a price, and later when asked about it, only have a general idea of how much it was? When I get home from the grocery store and my wife asked me how much it cost. I don’t always remember the exact price. Was it $131 and change, or was it $138 and change? So I might tell her it cost "$130 something dollars." Because humans have such a hazy memory regarding prices, we can use certain psychological tactics to influence people into seeing smaller prices than they realize. Let me get right down to the actual tactics. Tactic 1: Reduce the Left Digit By One You’re probably already familiar with this tactic. Reducing the left digit by one creates a perception of a lower price. $199 is viewed as a much better deal than paying $200. Gumroad's conversion rates study shows that pricing things at $0.99 instead of $1 or $2.99 instead of $3, or $5.99 instead of $6 conversion rates increase by 2-3%. According to a 2005 study. Our brains encode numbers so quickly that we register the size of the number before we finish reading the entire number. When reading $1.99, our brain registers it as a dollar something which is lower than $2 something making it more desirable. Nick offered a bonus tip to this tactic. Superscripting or minimizing the digits after the decimal places more emphasis on the number before the decimal. So $1 with a small 99 next to it appears smaller than $1.99 all the same size. Tactic 2: Use Prices With Fewer Syllables I'm a bit skeptical about this tactic. But according to a 2012 study, the more syllables there are, the more mental resources we need to process the information. The same principle applies to numbers. If we spend more mental energy reading a number or price, we falsely perceive that price as larger. The fewer syllables involved, and we perceive that price as smaller. It doesn’t matter that you are not saying the number out loud. Your brain does it for you. This same study found that a slightly higher price with fewer syllables was more favourable to people than a lower price with more syllables. For example. $27.82 has 7 syllables. $28.16 has only 5 syllables. There’s only $0.34 between the two prices. But people were more inclined to spend the higher amount. As I said, I’m skeptical about this one, but the studies do show it to be true. Tactic 3: Display Prices In A Small Font Size. This one applies to what we do as designers. According to a 2005 study. Human brains conceptualize size with value. If you display the price in a smaller font size, people will perceive the price to be smaller. Another trick is to position larger elements around the price to create a visual hierarchy. The larger elements will make the price visually smaller, which in turn makes the perceived price smaller. The revers works for discounts. Display discounts larger to emphasize their large value. Tactic 4: Remove The Comma. I really like this tactic. According to a 2012 study, removing the comma from a price makes it seem lower. This one ties into tactic 2 of having fewer syllables. A price displayed as $1,499 reads as one-thousand four hundred and ninety-nine–10 syllables. Whereas a price displayed as $1499, without the comma, reads as fourteen ninety-nine–5 syllables. I may be skeptical about the syllables thing. But I cannot argue that $1499 sounds like a better deal than $1,499. Tactic 5: Use Words That Indicate a Reduced Magnitude. According to a 2005 study, the words associated with a price influence people’s perceptions of that price. For example. Two identical pairs of inline skates are selling for the same price. Both packages list the same features and benefits. However, one pair emphasized “High Performance” while the other pair emphasized “Low Friction.” The pair that emphasized “Low Friction” outsold the other pair. The wording associated with the price caused the perception of the price to change. How can you incorporate this into your design business? Maybe you can promote low-maintenance websites as opposed to high converting websites? I don’t know. But it might be worth doing some A/B testing. Tactic 6: Separate the Shipping and Handling. According to a 1998 study, people are more likely to use the base price when making comparisons. By partitioning your price, meaning separate the price into multiple components instead of offering a total price, you lower the base price, which creates a perception of the offer being more affordable. A 2006 test run on eBay showed auctions with an opening bid of $0.01 and a shipping cost of $3.99. Outperformed auctions for the same item with an opening bid of $4 with free shipping. The total prices were identical. And yet, the first one received a lot more traction. Tactic 7: Offer Payments in Installments By offering people an option to pay in smaller increments rather than one lump sum, you anchor their perception on the smaller price. Let’s say you are pitching a new website design to a client. Instead of quoting them $6000, quote them three installments of $2000 each. Don’t get me wrong. Client’s are not stupid. They know that three installments of $2000 are $6000. But by offering installments, you taint their comparison process. Even though the client knows your total price is $6000, if they compare it to another web designer who quotes a total of $6000, you’re lower installments will feel much more appealing to them and have a good chance of influencing their decision towards you. Tactic 8: Mention the Daily Equivalence. You see this tactic often used by charities and non-profits. Instead of mentioning the monthly or yearly cost, they share the low daily price. A 1998 study proved that using a daily price creates a perception of an overall lower price. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention the regular price. In fact, it should still be the primary focus. However, mentioning the daily equivalence anchors people towards the lower end of the price spectrum. For example. Being a member of the Resourceful Designer Community is $14.95/month. That works out to $0.49 per day. Is having a group of fellow design peers who are able and eager to help you grow your business not worth $0.49 per day to you? If so, join today. A bonus tip: if you can’t reframe your price into a daily cost, a 1999 study shows that the same thing can be done using petty cash expenses, such as the cost of a cup of coffee. Tactic 9: Be Precise With Large Prices This is one of my favourites out of all of these tactics. It’s also the first one I started implementing. When dealing with large prices, people are willing to pay more money when a price is precise instead of rounded. For example,  A website project costing $6834 as opposed to a website project costing $6000. Why is that? A rounded price is more suspicious. A client may question how you came up with a nice round price of $6000. Did you pick it out of thin air? Did you calculate the actual cost at $5700 and decided to round it up to $6000? However, a precise number, such as $6834, leaves little room for suspicion. If you are quoting a precise number, clients will readily believe it's the actual price of the project. This thought pattern makes people much more agreeable to the price. A 2007 study analyzing 27,000 real estate transactions showed that home buyers were willing to pay more, often thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars more, for a home listed at a specific price compared to a home listed at a rounded price. These same people were also less likely to negotiate, or if they did, they would negotiate in much smaller increments than those bidding on a home with a rounded asking price. By providing a specific price, such as $6834 for a website instead of $6000, the client is much more likely to trust what you are selling them and be agreeable to the price. As I said, after reading this one, I immediately stopped quoting rounded prices to my clients. It’s still too early to tell how it’s going, but so far, so good. Want more tactics? Tune in to next week's episode Resource of the week Chrome Application Shortcuts A convenient way to turn a website into a desktop application is by using Chrome Applications Shortcuts. This is especially useful for browser-based tools such as invoicing/bookkeeping and Customer and Project Management Software. Instead of searching through dozens of open browser tabs for the right one, create an application shortcut and treat the webpage as a desktop application. To create a Chrome Application Shortcut, open the website, you would like to turn into an application in a browser tab. On the far right of the address bar, click the three vertical dots. Select “More Tools” > “Create Shortcut” Name the application in the pop-up window and be sure to check “Open as Window.” then press Create. A new Application icon will appear in the Chrome Apps folder within your Applications folder. You can now use it just like you would any other application. You can add it to your Dock. You can create Aliases from it. And you can easily switch between it and your other applications via the Control Centre. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
7/26/202131 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Secret To A Happy and Satisfying Design Career - RD263

Do you want to know the secret to a satisfying design career? Let’s face it; it’s impossible to be completely happy and satisfied with whatever career choice you choose. I mean, even being a professional chocolate taster has its drawbacks. But out of all the gazillion different things you can do with your life. Being a graphic or web designer, at least in my opinion, is one of the more satisfying options out there. Then again, I may be a bit biased. But just like every other career choice out there, being a designer has its ups and downs. You get to make money using your creativity. You get to design things that change peoples’ lives. Your creations are displayed for everyone to see and admire. But there’s the flipside. Clients don’t always have the same vision as you. Some people are demanding to work with. And don’t get me started on taxes and all the administrative work involved with being a designer. As I said, ups and downs. Luckily, and I’m sure you’ll agree, the life of a designer is filled with more ups than there are downs. That’s what keeps us going. But what if I told you that you could increase the number of ups you experience? What if I told you there’s a very simple secret that will allow you to have a happier and more satisfying design career? That secret boils down to four words. But hold on, before I tell you those four words, I want to share a scenario with you. Something you’ve probably experienced yourself at some point in your design career. And if you haven’t, give it time. I’m sure you will. Let me know if this sounds familiar. You’re hired to design a logo for a client. Being the good designer, you are you hunker down and get to work sketching out dozens, if not hundreds, of different ideas for the logo. Most of these will be dismissed almost as soon as you make them. Some of them you know even before you make them that you won’t use them, but you have to get the idea out of your head. Or am I the only one who does that? After a while, you are drawn back to a handful of your ideas that show merit. Some of them you play and tweak, trying this and that until you realize they won't work and discard them. But there are a few that are promising. So you concentrate all your talent and design skills on making them just right. In the end, you are left with two or three logos ideas. You then create a nice presentation, including various mockups to showing how each one would look in real-world situations. Then it's off to present to the client. Even though all three ideas are good, you secretly have your favourite from the bunch. You know, The one you’re already picturing in your portfolio. The one you can’t wait to show off and let everyone know, “Hey, I designed this logo.” Yes, you always have your favourite. Then, of course, there’s your second favourite. You don’t like it as much as the first one, but still, it’s a damn nice logo. Not that there’s anything wrong with the third logo. After all, you wouldn't present a logo to a client that you didn’t think was good enough, would you? I didn’t think so. But logo number three, even though good, doesn’t compare to logo one or even logo two. You present your three designs to the client. You may even try to upsell your favourite logo a bit more than the other two. There’s no harm in doing that. And then you sit back and wait for the client’s decision. You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Regardless of your effort and your desires, the client chooses the third logo. You put on your happy face as you pretend to share in the client’s enthusiasm, but in your gut, you feel let down. How could they choose logo number three? Can’t they see how great the first logo is? Or even logo number two would have been fine. But no, they chose logo number three. I’m sure this exact scenario is why some designers practice the one-concept approach. They don’t offer their client’s any options. Instead, they offer them one concept-take it or leave it. If that’s how you work, then more power to you. But that’s not the way I do things myself. Why did I share this scenario with you? It’s because I was hoping you could think about how you would feel in that situation. You were so sure the client was going to fall in love with the same logo you loved. And they didn’t. You feel confused. You feel torn. You feel let down. You feel dejected. Remember I told you that the secret to a happy and satisfying design career came down to four words? Well, here they are. IT’S, NOT, ABOUT, YOU. It’s not. It has never been, and it never will be. A happy and satisfied designer knows that everything they do is about the client. When you embrace this concept, your design career becomes so much easier. You may have liked logo number one better, and that’s fine. But that wasn’t the client’s choice. To them, logo number three is the best one. And you know what? They’re right. At least for them. It’s not about what you think. It’s about what they think. The client is more than happy with their decision to chose the third logo. And so should you be. After all, they hired you to create something for them, not something for you. Sure, you wish they had chosen the first logo so you can showcase it on your social media and in your portfolio. But it’s not your logo; it's theirs. Once you move on to the next design project, you’ll give their logo very little thought. On the other hand, the client is going to embrace and live with your creation for hopefully a very long time. So regardless of your preferences, it was never about you. It was always about the client. Remember that. But “It’s not about you” doesn’t only apply to client preferences in logos. It applies to many aspects of your business. The RFP (Request For Proposal) you submitted gets turned down. The person reviewing it had their reasons for saying no. Maybe you didn’t match their criteria. Maybe someone else submitted a better proposal. Maybe the person judging the RFP already had a preference in mind, and the process was just a formality. Regardless, It’s not about you. A client turns down your website proposal stating the price is too high. Did you overprice the project? No. You priced it where you thought it should be. The fact that the client thinks it’s too expensive is not about you. It’s about them. It’s about their expectations. Now you do have some control over client expectations. The way you present your proposals, the way you explain the value you bring, the way you show how much of a benefit working with you can be. All these things can help sway a client’s expectations. But ultimately, it’s not about you. It’s about them. They make the decision they think is right for them. And even if you feel it’s the wrong decision. It’s still not about you. It’s all about them. If you remember that it’s not about you. It will make every hurdle in your design career much more palatable as long as you do the best that you can. As long as you present the best options. As long as you’re sincere and honest in your dealings. Then the results will never be about you. You can be satisfied that you’ve done everything possible. The final decision is in their hands, and therefore, it’s all about them. Hopefully, you'll learn something from the process, take note of it for next time, and then put the whole thing behind you and move on. “It’s not about you” applies to smaller things as well. The client doesn’t like a suggestion you make. It's not about you. The client doesn’t like the colours you chose. It's not about you. The client doesn’t like the font you used. It's not about you. The client doesn’t like the web feature you added. It's not about you. None of these are about you. And therefore, there’s no reason to get upset about them. And even if the client does agree to your price and hires you. Even if they love your choices and ideas, even if the client praises your designs, it’s still not about you. You may feel good about it, and you should. But It’s still all about them and how they feel. When you learn to embrace an “it’s not about you” attitude and learn to let go of all the little things that may upset you about this career. You will notice that your life as a designer will be much happier and much more satisfying. Always remember, your goal as a designer is to make the client happy. You’re there to serve them to the best of your ability. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you think, because it’s not about you. And when your clients are happy with what you do for them. When they come back to you over and over again with more design projects. When they tell everyone about the great services you offer. When they treat you as a trusted partner, well, at that point, maybe it is a little bit about you. Resource of the week Backblaze There are not many tools on my must-have list. Even Divi, my ultimate choice for building WordPress websites, isn’t a must-have. But one thing everyone with a computer should have is a backup strategy—a way to safeguard all those precious files you have. And an extra hard drive is not enough. And that’s why I believe that no backup strategy is complete without BackBlaze. Backblaze is a cloud backup solution that gives you peace of mind, knowing all of your precious files are safe and secure, regardless of what happens to your computer. You may be thinking, I don’t need Backblaze. I have DropBox or Google, or One Drive. Let me tell you that those platforms were never meant to be a backup solution. They’re great for storage and file sharing but not for backup. For a true cloud backup solution, you need something that was build just for that purpose. And that’s Backblaze. I’ve had Backblaze installed on every computer I’ve owned for the past decade. And it’s well worth the low yearly cost of the service. Give it a try. You won’t be sorry.
7/19/202117 minutes, 27 seconds
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There's No Such Thing As A Bad Client - RD262

Have you ever worked with a bad client? Ok, I have a confession to make. Obviously, bad clients are a thing. I chose this title to get your attention. And it worked. You’re here, aren’t you? The title I should have chosen is If you do your job right, you should never have to deal with bad clients. But it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I bet if I asked you to recount an experience with a bad client, it wouldn’t take you long to think of one. Heck, there are entire websites dedicated to stories of bad clients designers have had to endure. Be warned. Once you start reading the stories, it’s hard to stop. What is a bad client? Every designer has their own definition of what makes a bad client. To some, it’s their personality. They’re demanding or obnoxious. “This is how I want you to do it” or “That’s not what I asked for. What’s wrong with you?” Or they’re too timid and uncommitting, never able to give a firm opinion. “I can’t decide. What do you think?” Maybe it’s their inability to visualize. For example, “I have no idea what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.” or “can you try it like this, and like this, and like this and perhaps like this so I can see what each way looks like?” Bad clients also come in the form of people who reluctantly or flat out don’t pay. They don’t realize, or they don’t care, that as a freelancer or small business, you rely on every bit of income to make a living, and their refusal or tardiness in paying can drastically affect your way of life. Then some clients want something for nothing. They assure you that the exposure you’ll get from working on their project will be more valuable than any sum of money you would charge them. The list of bad clients continues with clients who change scope midway through a project. Some do it innocently, asking you to add on small extras, not thinking anything of it. “Can we add an extra page to the website that talks about all the philanthropic work we do?” And some do it not so innocently, trying to squeeze in extras without paying for them. "While you’re making the header for our website, can you also supply us copies to fit our Facebook Page, LinkedIn Profile, Twitter and YouTube headers? It’s a simple matter of resizing what you already have.  It shouldn’t take you any time at all." Don’t forget the clients who make strange demands. You know the “can you make the logo bigger?” type clients. Or those who expect too much “I searched for ‘car dealership’ and our brand new website isn’t showing up on the first page of Google, what are you going to do about it?” Some clients think they know more about design than you do. Some clients wait until the last possible minute to supply the content you've been waiting months for and still expect the project to be delivered on time. And some clients are so disorganized that you don’t know how they’re still in business. I could go on and on. There are no shortages of “bad clients.” However, there are ways you can minimize, if not eliminate, your interaction with this less than desirable clientele. It all comes down to experience. Minimizing bad clients requires experience. When you first start in the design field, you will encounter bad clients. It’s inevitable. Call it an initiation or rite of passage. Treat these bad clients as a learning experience. You have to experience bad clients to be able to spot bad clients. Whenever you work with a bad client, make a mental note of what was undesirable about working with them. Then use that knowledge to help your future self. This could simply be adding a new clause to your contract or starting to use a contract if you’re very new. Or you could use that knowledge to spot the red flags and weed out potential bad clients before you start working with them. If you find yourself working with the same type of bad clients over and over again, you’re doing something wrong. And that something wrong is not learning from your mistakes. With enough experience and by putting that knowledge to use, you should be able to spot a bad client a mile away and steer clear of them. Turn bad clients into good clients. Don’t get me wrong, not all clients who appear bad are actually bad. Some, and I would even hazard a guess that most are uneducated clients. That is, uneducated in the ways of working with a professional designer. Many clients don’t understand what creative professionals do, and they don’t realize why their requests are so crazy. In these cases, instructing the client on how you operate can turn a potentially bad client into someone who is a pleasure to work with. If you haven’t already, I suggest you listen to my seven-part Client Onboarding series. In my Client Onboarding series, I explain the entire process of acquiring a new client, explaining how you operate and laying the foundation for a strong and ongoing relationship with them. Following the steps I outlined in that series can help steer a client from the dark side and turn them into a great client. You're there to help. When a client hires a designer, they have a goal in mind. But they don’t necessarily know how to reach that goal and sometimes not even what that goal is. That’s where you come in. Through proper communication and an understanding of their problems, the two of you together can set out on a plan to reach a solution. Show the client you understand what they want, and let them know what you need to make it happen. Some clients will get it right away, and others will require a bit of handholding before they understand. Either way, you need to draw clear lines so that both parties know what they’re getting into. Remember, most clients don’t think like a designer. They don’t have the same creative process you have. That puts you in the unique position to lead and educate them on a process that works and results in success for both of you. In the end. Any client who lets you do your work, no matter how demanding, impolite or fussy they are, and who pays you fairly for the work you provide, is a good client. Not every project can be creatively satisfying. Sometimes even the best clients give you boring and mundane projects, and there’s not much you can do about it. Unfortunately, that’s par for the course. What you can do, however, is chose who you want to work with. Through acquired experience and knowledge gained over time, the day will come when you’ll be able to weed out and pass on the less desirable clients who approach you and identify those who need to be educated on how the process works. That should make what you do all the more satisfying. Remember, the only truly “bad clients” are the ones you take on despite your better judgement. Trust your gut. It won't let you down. Resource of the week Nested Pages. Nested Pages is a simple and yet useful WordPress plugin that provides a simple and intuitive drag and drop interface for managing your page structure and post orders. It allows you to add multiple pages and posts to a site quickly. And, if you want, it can automatically generate a native WordPress menu that matches your page structure.
6/7/202118 minutes, 59 seconds
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Putting Yourself Out There With Presentations - RD261

Have you ever given a presentation? This Bootstrap Advertising series is to help give you ideas to use to gain exposure for your design business. Because after all, people won’t hire you if they don’t know about you. So far in this series, I’ve covered Bartering Your Services For Exposure, Promoting Yourself On Client Projects and Getting Free Media Exposure With Press Releases. But in my opinion, one method trumps all of those, and that's making presentations. Making presentations is one of the best ways to get exposure and actually land new design work. Almost every time I make a presentation, I end up with at least one new client. I’m not talking about design pitches or presenting to your clients. I’m talking about getting up in front of a group of people and presenting on a topic that is beneficial to them, AND paints you as an expert when it comes to that area. Did I lose you? I know that many designers are introverts, and the thought of getting up in front of a group of people sounds terrifying. However, if you can find it within yourself to conquer that fear, I can almost guarantee it will be worth it. Save your trepidations for now and hear me out. Who knows, I may convert you. Why Presentations? Presentations are a great way to educate people on the part of the business industry that you are familiar with—design. It may be branding, marketing, advertising, online presence through websites or social media, or any other design aspect that the average business owner might find useful. Regardless of what aspect of design you decide to present, just the fact that you are presenting it gives you credibility in the eyes of those watching. The fact that you are presenting to them, that you are educating them, that you are bestowing valuable knowledge that will help improve their businesses elevates the way they see you. They may have known you before as just another graphic designer, but you graduate to becoming an expert once you present. And as an expert, you become someone they admire and look up to. And when it comes to hiring a designer, who do you think they’ll consider? One of the many designers from your area? Or, the expert designer they admire because you gave them valuable advice during a presentation? It sounds strange, but it’s true. In March of 2020, I was at a podcast conference in Orlando, Florida. A few of us designers met up for an impromptu get-together in the hallway outside the conference rooms. We had a very in-depth conversation on the impact good design has on the success of a podcast. As with any conference, several other attendees, non-designers migrated their way to our conversation. They were curious as to how design could help their shows. My fellow designers were very knowledgeable, and we had a great discussion. It was obvious to anyone listening that each one of us knew what we were talking about. During our conversation, I mentioned I was presenting the following day on the importance of good podcast cover artwork to help grow a show. When we were done, and we parted ways, several podcasters stopped me to ask questions. The other designers walked away unaccosted while I had a small gathering around me. These people chose me because I was a presenter at the conference. I hadn’t even presented yet, but the fact that I was, was enough to elevate my status above the other designers as far as these podcasters were concerned. The conference had chosen me to present; therefore, I must be someone worth listening to. That’s the power of presenting. It elevates you in the eyes of those you talk to. And you know what? A couple of those people hired me to help brand their podcast. And I gained several more new clients after my presentation. It works. Where can you give presentations? You may be thinking, "That’s easy for you Mark, you started a podcast branding business, so it makes sense for you to present at a podcast conference. But I don’t have a niche like you. So where am I supposed to present?" I’m glad you asked. You don’t have to travel to big conferences with thousands of people in attendance to present. There are many opportunities for you around where you live. In fact, presenting close to home is even more beneficial because you have the bonus of word of mouth afterwards. “You’re looking for a designer? I heard so-and-so present recently, and they really knew what they were talking about. So you should give them a call.” Places you can give presentations. Chamber of Commerce. Special events. Small business month (October) Business trade shows Business Associations Municipal Business Associations (Downtown, Waterfront, Central, etc.) Women's Business Associations People of Colour Business Associations LGBTQ+ Business Associations. Business Enterprise Center Small business startup presentations Entrepreneurial help presentations Municipal Events Lunch and a talk Business growth seminars Local Library Themed Presentations All sorts of presentations Networking groups Local Networking Groups National Networking Groups Co-working spaces Business Growth Sessions Schools Present to Business Students Present to Marketing Students Present to Design Students If you look around, I’m sure you can find places or venues around your area that would love to host your presentation. And don’t just look for existing opportunities. Make them. Approach your Chamber, library, Business enterprise center, etc. and ask them if you can put on a presentation. Many of them would be happy to accommodate you. What to present? The idea behind any good presentation is to keep it simple and keep it focused. How much you present is determined by the time allotted to you and to whom you’re presenting. In most cases, pick one topic to talk about. The broader your presentation, the more confusing it will be. The more focused it is, the more memorable it will be. The best presentations provide 2 to 3 pieces of actionable advice at the most. But, of course, one piece of actionable advice is even better. Instead of giving a presentation on branding a business, which entails a lot. Give a presentation on choosing a colour palette. The idea is to narrow down the topic so as not to confuse people. Possible presentation topics include: How Landing pages can help increase website conversions. How to focus on benefits instead of features in your marketing material. How to understand Web analytics. The importance of consistency with your visual assets. Who you’re presenting to will help you decide on what topic to chose. For example, if you’re talking to a group of retailers, you may want to talk about increasing sales by marketing with floor decals. Or how different colours on a website can increase conversions. If you’re talking to a group of new entrepreneurs, you may want to talk about using visual assets to help build a brand. Or the importance of creating visual assets that appeal to their target market, not just the business owner. If you’re talking to a mixed group of businesspeople, you may want to talk about the importance of branding in social media. Or how to identify your competition. That’s actually a good one. Unfortunately, many new business people don’t know how to identify their competition. The skies the limit to the number of topics available to present. And if you find yourself unable to narrow down your topic, maybe consider doing a series of presentations instead of just one. Whatever works. Making presentations works. In my opinion, presenting is one of the best ways to garner exposure for your business without spending anything. Not only that, but there’s an excellent chance that you pick up some work from it. It's worked for me time after time. Over the years, I’ve made presentations at: Chamber of Commerce events. At a Starter Business seminar put on by our local Business Enterprise Centre. A business series put on by our local library. At several local schools. At networking events. At trade shows. At conferences. And more. And almost every time I gave a presentation, I gained new clients from those who attended. So try to get over your fear if presenting is not something you’re used to doing. It helps to start small and work your way up. Like anything else, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become. As you get better at presenting, you'll discover people will invite you to speak at their events. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll actually get paid to present. Now wouldn’t that be nice? Until then, try to settle with the new clients that come your way from those you help. Presenting, it’s worth looking into if you’re not already doing it. Remember, the idea behind this Bootstrap Advertising series is to get your name out there. To get as much exposure for your business without having to spend anything doing it. I believe in you. So go out and do it. Resource of the week Swatchos is a deck of 130 cards to help you choose colours for your design projects. Each card has one clour on the front and six on the back. The front is the primary colour, and the back shows darker and lighter versions of the colour on the front. That’s 903 colours in total with millions of possible combinations. Each colour shows the CMYK value and the Hex Code. And because they’re cards and not in a book, like the Pantone swatch books, they’re really easy to mix and match to find that perfect colour combination. And once you do find that perfect combo. Use the downloadable swatch files for Adobe CC and pick the colours within your favourite applications. I bought my deck through a Kickstarter campaign. But you can get yours by visiting There’s a link at the top of the page to where you can purchase your deck.
5/24/202126 minutes, 57 seconds
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Getting Free Media Exposure - RD260

Use Press Releases To Get Media Exposure. In parts one and two of this bootstrap advertising series, I talked about bartering your design services for exposure and promoting yourself on your client projects. Two great ways to get your name out there. After all, the more people there are who know about you and the services you offer, the more successful you will be. Both bartering for exposure and putting your name on client projects are great methods of spreading your name. But that’s all they do. They don’t offer any form of credibility or positioning. Sure, people can’t hire you if they don’t know about you. But just knowing about you doesn’t guarantee they’ll contact you when they need a designer. Especially if all they know about you is your name. Media coverage, on the other hand, gives you credibility. It means you’re “important” enough to merit mentioning. And that publicity can mean the difference between someone just knowing about you and someone hiring you. When combined, these different forms of exposure leave a powerful impression that can lead to more business. But how do you get media exposure? Send out press releases. The easiest way to get media coverage is by submitting a press release for each of your accomplishments. A press release is sometimes called a "press statement," a “news release," or a "media release,” which is an official way to inform the media about something you deem important. Media could be newspapers, radio or tv stations. It might be blogs, magazines, podcasts, social media channels, YouTube channels or industry journals. Any platform people visit for current information is considered media. And most media outlets are constantly looking for new stories to cover, especially on slower news days. Press releases are a great way for media outlets to add “filler content” to their platform. Then, if they deem the press release to be newsworthy, they’ll write or report on it. It’s that simple. Don’t forget other places that may be interested in your special announcements. If you’re a member of your Chamber of Commerce or similar associations, send them your press release. They may publish it in their newsletter. If you attended design school, send your press release to the school. Most schools love hearing and sharing the good news about their alumni. Lastly, reach out to any industry-specific platforms related to the announcement you are making. For example, if you designed new signage for a local law office, send your press release to any law-related publications or outlets that may cover your story. The purpose of a press release isn’t just for recognition and publicity; although it is the principal reason, most media outlets that run your story will also include a link to your website. And every backlink to your website, especially from recognized news outlets or schools, helps to boost your position in the search rankings. What merits a press release? Any time you do something somewhat “newsworthy,” you should send out a press release. This includes any time you... Offer a new service Complete a big project Win an award You are recognized for an achievement You reach a milestone If you take on a partner Any exciting news you would share with family, friends and peers might be worthy of a press release. When Resourceful Designer was a finalist for a People’s Choice Podcast Awards, I sent a press release to my local media. It must have been a very slow news day because my story appeared on the front page of my local newspaper. All because I sent a press release. When my local Chamber of Commerce told me the cover I designed for their printed club directory won an award at a national Chamber of Commerce event, I sent a press release. The story was covered by two local newspapers and one of our radio stations. When I was awarded the contract to design the event program to unveil a new Canadian National Heritage site, I sent a press release, and several media outlets shared the story. When I launched my secondary design business, Podcast Branding, I sent a press release to everyone who covers news in the podcast space. Many of them mentioned my new business. Sending out a press release is an amazing way to get media exposure for your design business. How to write a press release. A press release is usually one page, two at the most, with succinct information on what you want the media to know. The idea is to give the reader the details so they can, in turn, write or compose their own story. Rarely will the media publish your press release word for word. Instead, in some cases, they’ll compose something based on what you submit, and in other cases, they’ll contact you for an interview or perhaps invite you to appear on their program. The generally accepted format for a press release is as follows. 1. Title. Your press release title is important. The more irresistible you make it, the better your chances of it being picked up. If required, you can use an italicized subheading to summarize the news you’re sharing. Make your titles stand out. For example, instead of “Designer builds a website for local business,” which is pretty boring. Write something like “Business hires local designer and sees online revenue soar.” That’s something people want to hear about. 2. The body. The body of your press release has to grab whoever is reading it. Chances are the person reading your release gets dozens, if not hundreds of them each day. So the quicker you grab their attention, the better your chances of them using your story. It’s customary for your first paragraph to start with the city you are in so they know where the story relates to. In my case, I would start the first paragraph of my press release with – Cornwall, Ontario: and then introduce my story. Your first paragraph needs to cover not only who you are but the what, why, where, and how of whatever it is you’re telling them. Please keep it to the facts without any fluff. They should know everything they need to know about your story after reading that first paragraph. Once you’ve set the scene with your first paragraph, the rest of the paragraphs in your release help fill in the details and give them any other pertinent information with greater detail that will help them paint a picture of what they can write. How has what you’ve done made an impact? How has it changed the client? How will people benefit from it? What makes it newsworthy. If applicable, provide a direct quote they can use in the story they write about you. For example, when I submitted the press release about the Canadian heritage site, I included a quote something like this. “it’s an honour to be chosen for this project out of the many talented graphic designers from across Canada.” The writer assigned to my story used my quote in his article. You should also provide any background information on the press release subject, such as why you undertook the project or what you won the award for. The reader already has most of the vital information they need. Don’t provide superfluous facts or such about you, your company or the announcement. Remember, a press release needs to be concise. But do offer any details that strengthen your narratives, such as any creative ways you accomplished your announcement or any struggles you had to overcome. If you can, comment on the future implications of your announcements. For example, in the case of a new client website, you may want to say the company expects to double their income with their new online sales. Just make sure the information is factual. 3. Your last paragraph. The last paragraph of your press release should summarize who you are and what you do. In plain English, list your company name, your name and title, the full URL to your website, and your email address and phone number should they need to contact you. Follow that information with pertinent details such as how long you’ve been in business, What you offer, for example, “Graphic and web design services,” and any awards or recognition you’ve received. 4. Photos It’s a good idea to include a headshot of yourself and a photo that relates to the announcement. When my Resourceful Designer story was published on the front page of our newspaper, I included a photo of me sitting in front of my microphone with the press release. Attach any photos to your press release if you're submitting them by email. It’s also a good idea to upload them online and include a URL link where the reporter can download them. Just in case something happens to the attachments you send. The very last thing on your press release should be three octothorps. Or as you may know them by Hashtags or Number signs. ### This is the traditional way to mark the end of a press release and is still appreciated by the media. It informs the reader that there is no more information to read. Tips to submitting press releases If you know a specific journalist, try sending your press release directly to them instead of the general news@ address. You’ll have a much better chance of having your press release seen. Give them enough time. Most media outlets release stories at specific times of the day. TV news, for example, often airs at noon, 6 pm and 11 pm. So send your press release early enough for your best chance to get in on the next news cycle. And lastly, if your announcement does get picked up, be sure to share it as much as possible to help spread the word.  Keep the buzz going for as long as you can. That’s how you submit a press release. Just because you submit a press release doesn’t mean they will use your story. If you’re lucky and it’s a slow news day, there’s a better chance they’ll use your press release. But it is hit and miss. However, when they are used, the media exposure you get from it is a great form of publicity. As I said initially, when someone sees, hears or reads about you in the media, it increases your clout. It strengthens the mantle of the professional that you are. And it gives you credibility in the eyes of those who see or hear it. And all of that is great exposure. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. For more information about press releases, read this great article by Hubspot. It includes a free press release template kit for you to download. Resource of the week Designers Available Simply put, Designers Available connect social justice organizations with pro bono designers. Let me stress, this is not a platform for getting paying clients. This is an opportunity for you to put your design skills to work for causes you can get behind. As stated on the website, Designers Available is an opportunity for designers to use their skills and abilities to support the work of community organizations, non-profits, social causes and movements. Upon submitting your name, you will be included in a member network that receives regular calls for designers to be matched with organizations. If this sounds like something you would be interested in please visit
5/17/202123 minutes
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Promoting Yourself On Client Projects - RD259

Get your name out there. In part one of this Bootstrap Advertising series, I discussed bartering your services to get exposure. This week I’m sharing more ways to get exposure by promoting yourself on client projects. Exposure means making people aware of your design business. After all, People cannot hire you if they don’t know you exist. So the goal here is to get your name, business name, and logo in front of as many people as possible. This form of promotion is called a shotgun approach. There’s nothing scientific or targeted about it. Instead, you hit the masses and hope that someone who sees it needs or knows someone in need of your services. This “spray and pray” approach doesn't cost you anything and is a great method of bootstrap advertising. If you’re not familiar with the term bootstrap or bootstrapping, it means promoting or developing by initiative and effort with little or no assistance. In other words, bootstrap advertising is getting your name out there with minimal effort and practically zero expense on your part. Let me share two methods you can promote yourself on client projects. Put your name on everything project you design. My stance is if I design something, my name deserves to be on it, from websites to posters, brochures, car wraps, wedding invitations and more. If I can get away with it, I put my name on it. I’ve learned over the years that, as the adage goes, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission?” If you ask a client if it’s ok to put your name on their project, there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll say no; they’d prefer you don’t. And many times, they’ll ask if they get a discount if your name appears on their project. However, if you include your name on the initial project proof without asking, only one in twenty clients will ask you to remove it. That’s why I never ask a client if I can put my name on their project. Instead, I present the work with my name and sometimes logo already there. Should the client ask me to remove it, I’ll take it off without a fuss. But in my experience, there have been very few clients who have asked me to take it off. My name or logo appears in small inconspicuous corners of the project for printed work—kind of like an artist's signature. On a poster, I include it in the bottom corner. I try to include it on the back cover of a brochure, sometimes running vertically along the spine. If it’s a book or booklet, and I can’t put it on the back cover, I’ll try to include it on the inside front cover somewhere. Over the years, I’ve included my name on Posters brochures, flyers and rack cards books and booklets door hangers reports pocket folders event tickets invitations stickers and decals Vehicle wraps Window signage Banners and many more items I can’t think of right now. I’ve even included my name and logo on trade show booths. I’ve designed several pop-up or roll-up banners as well as many backdrop walls for trade shows, and I’ve included my name and logo on the bottom right corner of all of them. For websites, the obvious place is the footer, or sometimes on a separate bar below the footer. Divi makes this really easy. Sometimes, when I do T-Shirts, I’ll have my screen printer add my logo to the sleeve with my client's permission. My screen printer is a great guy, and depending on the size of the order, he'll add my logo to the sleeve at no extra cost. Think about it. Everyone walking around wearing one of these shirts has my name displayed on their sleeve. So whenever possible, I try to include my name on every printed piece I design. Showcasing yourself via an ad. I’m a bit surprised how well the following method works. Have you ever designed something for a client that includes boxes for ads? I've designed event programs, maps, placemats, pocket folders, magazine layouts, and more for clients. What all of these had in common were advertising spots the client could sell. Take a program for a local theatre company, for example. The program contains information about the theatre company, the play their performing, the cast, perhaps upcoming plays, etc. The theatre company then sells the extra space in the program as ad spots to cover the printing costs. The way these sort of projects work is the client has the program designed, and once all the pertinent information is in place, they are supplied with a PDF to see how much available space is left for ads. When I present the client with this initial proof, I include an ad for my business in one of the spots. I tell them it's so they can show potential advertisers what an ad may look like. And you know what? 75% of the time, the client leaves my ad in the program. Of course, I’ll gladly remove my ad if they ask me to, but they rarely do. And not once have they ever asked me to pay for my ad spot. Over the years, I’ve had ads show up for free in programs for theatre productions, sporting events, entertaining events, fairs and festivals and other things. In addition, I’ve had my ad appear on local maps, paper diner placemats, on the back of pocket folders that real estate agents and mortgage brokers hand out to their clients, and even in a couple of local business magazines. All because the initial project proof included my ad, and the client never asked me to remove it. Funny story, one client actually apologized, saying they had oversold the allotted ad spots and asked if I would be willing to give up my spot to accommodate it. Of course, I said yes. These were all free advertising opportunities gaining good exposure for my design business. All because I took the time to include an ad in the initial proof. I designed a website for a local association that includes three ad spots on the home page. They planned to sell these ad spots to association members to promote their businesses. When I designed the website, instead of leaving the three spots blank, I included my ad in one of them. That was in 2017, and even though I’m not a member of the association, my ad is still there. The other two ads have changed over the years, but they’ve never removed mine. When given the opportunity, present the proof to your client with a “temporary” ad, and cross your fingers that they don’t remove it. These are two great ways to get free advertising for your design business without spending anything. Why it works. The idea behind this is to get your name out there. If people don’t know about you, there’s zero chance they’ll hire you. By putting your name on as many things as you can, those who see it will take notice. Imagine a new entrepreneur looking for a designer to help brand their new business. They remember seeing your name on a store poster, in an event program, on their kid’s dance recital t-shirt and in a local magazine. They’re going to think, wow, this person must be good since I see their name everywhere. A lot of people must trust him/her. That confidence, along with repeated recognition, is good enough for them to reach out and hire you for their project. All because you included your name on everything you could. I’ve been doing this ever since I started my design business, and I can tell you, it works. The more people who know about you, the more successful you will be. Isn’t that what you’re going for? A side benefit of putting your name on everything is that the contact people you deal with at your clients may change. Sally may retire, and Jason takes her place. Maybe Sally forgot to inform Jason who their designer is. Luckily for you, you’ve included your name on everything you’ve designed for that client, making it very easy for Jason to know who to contact. That’s yet another reason to put your name on everything. Resource of the week This week’s resource of the week is a great tool for photographers and illustrators to keep track, or should I say, stay on top of who is using their images. If you sell your images through any stock image platform, you’re often left wondering what people are doing with the images they purchase. allows you to discover where and how your images are being used online. It’s also a great resource for battling image theft. Find out who is using your copyrighted material and use Pixsy’s tools to help you resolve the issues. Best of all, you can start with their free plan and only upgrade if you need to take advantage of one of their premium features, such as issuing a takedown notice. As I said, if you are a photographer or illustrator, you’ll want to bookmark and take a stand in the battle over Copywrite theft.
5/10/202126 minutes, 27 seconds
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Bartering Design Services For Exposure - RD258

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, except instead of getting a physical product or service back, you are compensated for your time and effort through exposure. That exposure can come in many forms, but they all come down to a form of advertising. Case study #1 Every year I design a T-Shirt, free of charge, for a local children’s dance studio. I make money by brokering the printed shirts, but I have never charged her for the design on the shirt. In exchange, I get a full-page ad in their yearly dance recital program. This gives me exposure to hundreds of people every year. We’ve had this arrangement ever since I started my design business. Without fail, in the weeks following the dance recital, I’m almost guaranteed to get at least one and oftentimes several inquiries from parents of the dancers saying they saw my ad in the program. Case study #2 Our city used to host one of the largest hot air balloon festivals in North America until it folded a few years ago. The festival was one of my biggest clients. I did all sorts of design work for them, and it paid very well. One of the arrangements I made with them early on was that I would offer them a discount for being listed as one of the event sponsors. As a sponsor of the event, my logo was prominent in all their marketing. It also appeared on the fence surrounding the festival grounds, and it appeared on the baskets of one of the hot air balloons. Every time that ballon went up, you could see my logo on the basket. It was giving me exposure. Case study #3 Every year our local fire hall hosts a firefighter challenge. Firefighters from all over the region come to compete. When they hired me to be their designer, I suggested a deal. I would max their bill at five hours of work, regardless of how much time I actually spent on their job. In exchange, I would be listed as a Bronze sponsor of the event, which meant my logo showed up on all their promotional material, giving me more exposure. Case study #4 A few years ago, I was asked to design something for a charity Christmas fundraiser. They had a dozen or so fully decorated Christmas trees they were auctioning off. They didn’t have a lot of money and were asking for a discount. However, it was a good cause, so I suggested that they place a sign in front of one of the trees listing me as the sponsor for that tree in exchange for my services. They thought it was such a good idea that they found sponsors for all the trees. I have no idea how much they charged for the spots, but mine didn’t cost me anything but my time. And it gave me great exposure. Case study #5 The last story I want to share with you is about a local theatre company. I built their website and designed the posters, ads, tickets and other marketing material for every play they put on. I was brokering all the print material. When I noticed the theatre company's tickets were only printed on one side, I made them an offer. I asked them to allow me to put an ad for my design business on the back of the tickets In exchange for free website hosting. I agreed to pay the difference in print costs which worked out to nothing since I made money on the print brokering. For every play they put on, every ticket holder saw my ad. Over the years, I gain many new clients through that exposure. Get Exposure I think you get the point. In each of these cases, I took advantage of a way to get my name in front of more people. The more people who saw it, the better the chance they would call me the next time they needed a designer or the better the chance they would pass my name along the next time they heard of someone needing a designer. Just like for a restaurant to succeed, people have to know about it. So likewise, your design business cannot succeed if people aren’t aware of you. And one of the easiest ways to gain exposure is to take advantage of your current clients and barter a way to get your name out there. Even if each method only brings in one or two clients, they are clients you wouldn’t have had otherwise. And the more you do it, the more it adds up. So whenever you have the opportunity, I suggest you barter for exposure. Resource of the week MailChimp A great way to gain exposure is through a newsletter. Exposure isn’t just for people who don’t know about you. Exposure helps those familiar with you keep you top of mind for the next time they require your services. My favourite tool for creating a newsletter is MailChimp. I won’t lie. I like them because their free plan lets you have up to 2000 contacts, which means you can go a long way into building your mailing list before it starts costing you anything. Although many options are not available on MailChimp’s free plan, I think it’s a great way to start. When you eventually outgrow the free plan, you can then decide if you want to upgrade to one of MailChimp’s paid plans. Or if you want to export your list and move to a different email marketing platform.
5/3/202120 minutes, 35 seconds
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Remember What You've Done - RD257

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. Copyright 2005. 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 from my past that I had completely forgotten I had done. Remember what you've done. These three incidents got me thinking. What else have I forgotten over the years? This leads me to dig out an old hard drive containing client files from 2010 and older. I spent time going down memory lane. I found logos, and websites and print jobs that I hadn’t thought about in years. Many for people or businesses who are no longer around. It actually made me a bit sad, wondering what else don’t I remember doing? I spent 15 years designing stuff at the print shop. And I don’t have a written record of what I did back then. How many great projects have I designed that are lost to memory? Thinking back, I wish I had kept a record of them. I know for websites, I used to keep a bookmark folder of all my client sites. Even if the site was gone, I kept the bookmark as a reminder. But for some reason, I haven’t added any bookmarks to it in a long time. I think I’m going to start again. But what about other work? How do I keep track, so I don’t forget all the amazing projects I work on? I really don’t have an answer. We used to print out and frame every logo we designed and hang them on the wall for everyone to see at the print shop. But once we ran out of room, we stopped adding new ones. I’m not going to do that here. But I would like to find a way to keep track so that 20 years from now, I can look back and see everything I’ve created. If you know of a good way to keep track of your work, I would love to know. Or better yet, leave a comment below for everyone to see. Take this as a warning. You are creating amazing things. Things that deserve to be remembered. What are you going to do so that 5, 10, 20 years from now, they don’t fade from your memory and are forgotten? Do something today so that you can remember what you’ve done.
4/26/202116 minutes, 42 seconds
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Getting Delinquent Clients To Pay - RD256

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 later, I presented him with a brand new website. He loved it, and everything seemed fine. But when it came time to pay, he kept delaying things and giving me excuses as to why he hadn’t sent the money yet. This went on for a few months to the point where I took down the website and told him I would put it back up once I received payment. I even threatened legal action if he didn’t pay my invoice. He called my bluff and told me to go ahead and take him to court. I mentioned this to my accountant, and he told me $600 wasn’t worth the time and effort to go after, and I was better to write it off. It was this third instance that convinced me to start using contracts for design projects. The point of telling you these three stories is to say some clients won't pay their bills for some reason or another. I was lucky that I only lost $1,000 between these three clients. And all three of them occurred within the first three years of my business. They taught me a lesson, and I’m happy to say that I’ve never failed to collect an invoice since then. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent time chasing down payments over the years. I hope you’re never in that situation. But in case you ever are, I want to share ways to get delinquent clients to pay. First, let me emphasize that different clients, especially larger ones, have their own internal payment policies. This doesn’t mean they are not paying, just that they have a longer than normal payment window they work in. When I did work for our local shopping mall, I learned to expect a 90 day wait until I received payment. My local municipal government has a 60-day payment policy. Some companies send out payments at the end of the month. So if you invoice them on the 25th, you’ll get your payment in five or six days. But if you invoice them on the 1st, you can expect to wait the full month for your money. These are not delinquent clients, just clients with longer than normal payment policies that you’ll have to learn to live with. But what if payment policies are not the issue? Protect yourself in advance. The best way to deal with delinquent clients is not to have delinquent clients to begin with. Lay out some groundwork to protect yourself from situations like these. Make sure you have every client sign a contract. Make sure your clients understand your payment schedule. Make it easy for clients to pay you by using an online payment portal. Whenever possible, get paid upfront. Don’t Assume Anything. When payment doesn’t arrive as expected, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the client is delaying payment for some reason. But until you know the situation, don’t assume anything. Just because you sent an invoice doesn’t mean your client received it. Even billing software that tracks when a client opens an invoice sometimes registers a false positive. It's also possible the client did receive your invoice but didn’t see it. Have you ever clicked on an email, realized it’s not the one you were looking for and clicked on another without giving it a second thought. That first email is now marked as "Read," even though you never looked at it. Maybe that's what happened with your client. Before jumping to conclusions, send a reminder message saying you just wanted to make sure they received your invoice. Confirm the recipient. If you’ve emailed the client and haven’t heard back, try picking up the phone and calling them. Don’t feel bad about checking up on a past due invoice. You never know. Maybe the person you emailed it to is on vacation or maternity leave and didn’t set up an out-of-office response. Or maybe your contact is no longer at the company, and nobody is checking their email. Any time you call a company about a past due invoice, always ask for accounts payable. This gets puts you in contact with the person in charge of sending out payments. Be understanding but firm when you explain the situation, and hopefully, it can all be handled right there. Decide if it’s worth pursuing. At some point in this process, you need to ask yourself if going after the money is worth the hassle. Yes, what you do is valuable, and you deserve to be compensated for your work. However, sometimes you could end up spending more time chasing the money than it’s worth. Figure out if the amount owed to you is worth pursuing. Offer a payment plan. If, for some reason, your client is hesitant or straight out tells you they are unable to pay. Before getting angry or threatening them, perhaps you can offer a payment plan. A client who wants to maintain a good relationship with you might agree to an option of paying by installment. This is a great way to build client loyalty. They’ll remember your understanding once they’re back on their feet. Offer a discount. Depending on the situation, you may want to offer a discount. If it sounds like the client is hesitating, you may want to offer them a deal if they pay their invoice immediately or within the next couple of days. A limited-time discount may entice a strapped-for-cash client to pay the bill now to save some money. It’s better to lose a little of what’s owed than risk losing all of it should the client not pay at all. Seek a legal solution. Before starting legal action, send a letter warning of legal action. This will inform the client you plan on seeking legal action without actually starting anything. Give them a deadline to submit payment and if it isn’t met, Follow through. Do not threaten legal action if you don’t plan on going through with it. Oftentimes the mere mention of legal action is enough for clients to find enough money to pay your invoice. When all else fails, your last resort is to seek a legal solution. Let me emphasize. Seeking a legal solution should only be used when nothing else has worked. Even offering a discount is preferable to taking a client to court. If nothing else worked and the amount owed isn’t too big, you can take the client to small-claims court. This will require you to take time away from your business, so weigh the option against the amount owed and decide if it’s worth it. If you are going after a larger sum, a letter from an attorney may be all you need. The thought of litigation is not something to take lightly, and most clients will want to avoid it when at all possible. Be careful of going after larger clients in this way. If they have an attorney on staff or retainer, they may be willing to battle your complaint. Communication is key. If you’re lucky, your situation won’t escalate to the point where lawyers get involved. Your best option is to communicate clearly with the client and work out a satisfactory solution for both of you. Don’t stress over it. If, for one reason or another, you never receive the payment owed to you. Try not to stress too much over it. Your time is better spent working with your paying clients and trying to land new ones than it is fretting over your loss. No matter what the sum is, it’s only money. You’ll make more of it. And one day, you’ll look back and realize it wasn’t as big a deal as you made it out to be. Get advice If you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Many people have been in similar situations before you, and they’ll be more than willing to offer their advice. Remember, clients, are rarely being underhanded or petty. Most of the time, they don’t pay your invoice because they simply forgot or hadn’t gotten around to it yet or perhaps they needed to delay payment for a very valid reason. It’s extremely rare to have to go to extremes to collect what’s owed you. But it’s nice to know the options are there should the need arise.
4/19/202131 minutes, 36 seconds
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Why You Should Pitch Retainer Agreements - RD255

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 them more appealing for the client. For example: If your rate is $100/hour, you might offer a retainer of $900 for 10 hours of work each month. Your client saves $100 each month, and you sacrifice $10/hour in exchange for the guarantee of payment. If you don’t charge by the hour, you can set up retainers for deliverables. For example, you agree to create four blog post images and 16 social media images every month for a fixed rate of, let’s say, $500 per month. The client can then budget $500 every month knowing you will deliver the images. It gives them peace of mind knowing it’s taken care of. How do you pitch a retainer to a client? The idea of pitching a retainer to a client can seem scary if you’re not used to it, especially if the client came to you with only one project in mind. The trick is to determine what value you can provide to the client beyond the project they brought to you. What service or deliverables can you provide them regularly that benefit their business? Some things to consider could include. Monthly newsletters Marketing campaigns Social media imagery or posts Blog post images The list is endless. Website maintenance plans are a form of retainer. You agree to update, backup, protect and upkeep the client's website for a fixed monthly fee. Web maintenance plans are a great form of a retainer and guaranteed income. For any retainer to work. The client needs to understand the value and be able to explain it to others within their organization. Get to know the client. Before you pitch a retainer to a client, you need to get to know them and their business and figure out how you can use your skills to advance their interests. Luckily, getting to know the client is part of any good project brief and discovery meeting. While you are prepping your project proposal, you should also be looking for ways to help the client beyond the project. Do they have a monthly newsletter? If so, is there any way you can help them with it? And if not, could they benefit from one? Are they active on social media? If so, who handles it for them? If it’s an employee, could you take that off their hands and allow the employee to be better spent their time on other aspects of the business? The more you understand about the client and their business, the easier it will be to figure out how a retainer agreement will benefit them and convincing them you’re the person to have it with. The retainer pitch Once you’ve figured out how you can help the client on an ongoing basis, it’s time to pitch your retainer idea. Some designers like to pitch the retainer idea as part of the project proposal. In comparison, some like to bring up the idea after pitching the project. There is no right or wrong way to do it. I prefer to do it at the beginning myself. I personally think it helps build some credibility by showing the client you’re not just in this for the one project, but you are willing to build a long-term relationship with them. This works especially well with website projects. You can show that you will understand the client and their needs by the end of the web project, allowing you to better support the website you build for them and provide some ongoing support to help them grow after the launch. Bringing up the retainer agreement at the end of the project also works since the client has had a chance to get to know you and see how you work and can see the value you can bring to their business. So there’s no right or wrong way as long as you do it. How to structure a retainer agreement The two most popular forms of retainer agreements are for deliverables or hours. A retainer agreement for deliverables means the client pays you a certain amount in exchange for a fixed number of deliverables, such as social media images. This allows you to bill for the value of the actual work you create, not your time. When using this method, it’s important to clarify a fee should the client require more than the allotted number of deliverables or what happens should the client not require the full amount that month. The second option is a retainer agreement for a fixed number of hours per month. When choosing this method, it’s important to determine what happens should you need to go over the allotted hours or what happens should you not use up the allotted hours. Are extra hours billed at a discounted rate or your standard rate? Are unused hours lost or rolled over to the next month? There is a third form of retainer that is not as popular. That’s for a client to pay a monthly fee for priority access to you. This puts you at their beck and call. Meaning they pay you to drop whatever you are doing and work on their project any time they need you. I don’t recommend this third option as it could jeopardize your relationships with other clients, especially if you end up missing a deadline because your retainer client needed you. A Retainer Agreement is a contract. A retainer agreement with a client is a contract of its own and should be signed separately from any project contract you enter into with the client. A retainer agreement contract needs to clearly define the work expected of you to prevent scope creep. It also needs to outline exactly what happens should extra work be needed or not enough work in a given month. The agreement also needs to outline what is not covered under the contract. If your retainer agreement states you provide social media images and the client asks you to design a brochure, for example. Is there a condition for additional work? Or does your agreement stipulate that additions work requires a new contract? The agreement should also stipulate timelines. If you agree to provide 16 social media posts per month, is that 4 per week or can you provide all 16 by the end of the month? Retainer Agreement Time Frame An essential part of your retainer contract is establishing a time period for the agreement. This can be anything you and your client agree upon 1-month, 6-months, 1 year, or more. Whatever timeframe you chose. Your contract should indicate when you can renegotiate or terminate the agreement. Perhaps you raise your rates every year. Or you realize the work is more involved than you expected and want more compensation. Or, you decide after a time that you no longer want to be doing this kind of work. Make sure you have it in your contract when you can renegotiate or get out of the agreement. Stipulating a payment schedule for the retainer agreement. The whole point of a retainer agreement is a guaranteed steady income. To accomplish this, you need to state a payment schedule. Will the client pay a lump sum upfront, monthly, quarterly? Or perhaps they pay a fixed price per delivery. For example, the client agrees to pay you a certain amount for every 10 blog images you create for them regardless of the time frame. Introduce retainer agreements to your design business. That’s retainer agreements. As I said at the start, they’re the pinnacle of client acquisition. Having several retainer clients can give you peace of mind, knowing you don’t have to spend as much time trying to acquire new clients. Instead, you work with a small handful of clients regularly as you build long-term relationships with them. It’s a win-win for both sides. One last thing to remember, Any time you enter into a retainer agreement with a client, there are three parties to consider. How does it affect you? How does it affect the client? And, how does it affect your other clients? Before you enter a long-term agreement with someone, make sure the work and time commitment won’t interfere with your existing clients and commitments. The next time a client approaches you with a new design project. Take some extra time to figure out how you can help them long term and pitch them on the idea of hiring you on retainer. You never know what will happen. Resource of the week Lambdatest Lambdatests offers Cross-browser compatibility testing tools. Perform live interactive cross-browser compatibility testing of websites and web apps on the latest mobile and desktop browsers, different operating systems and even differing resolutions. You can also test geolocation from over 27 different countries. These are not screenshots. Lambdatest lets you take control of whatever browser you want on whatever system you want. Their free plan offers 60 minutes of real-time browser testing per month. For unlimited testing, they offer a $15/month billed annually plan. No more guessing or calling your friend that has that specific Android phone and asking them to check a website for you. You can do it all from the comfort of your own chair with Lambdatest.
4/12/202131 minutes, 17 seconds
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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome - RD254

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 that he doesn’t feel like he knows how to write a novel and doesn’t think he ever will. He finds pleasure in the process of writing, but he thinks everything he writes sucks. If talented, successful people such as this suffer from imposter syndrome, what chance do you have? The truth is, you have as much chance as them and as everyone else. To overcome that feeling, you have to realize that everything you’ve done in your life so far, every achievement you’ve achieved, no matter how small, was something you were not qualified to do before you actually did it. You weren’t able to walk - until you did. You weren’t able to ride a bike - until you did. You weren’t able to use the software you use daily - until you did. You weren’t able to complete a design job for a client - until you did. You are the person you are today because you’ve successfully achieved thousands, if not millions, of things you were previously not able to do. That’s life. It’s how we grow. It’s how we mature. And that means that everything that you don’t think you’re qualified for right now is just something you haven’t achieved yet. I want to share something with you, and I wish I could remember where I first heard it to give credit where credit is due. But I heard this many years ago, and it changed the way I look at life. Somewhere, right now, there are people who are less skilled, less talented and less knowledgable than you are, doing the exact thing that you don’t feel you’re qualified for. Think about that. Regardless of your abilities, there are designers out there who are not as good as you, who are succeeding at the thing you want to be doing. When I first heard that statement, it changed the way I look at life. It helped me breakthrough my inhibitions and become the person I am today. I no longer look at obstacles as something I’m not good enough for. I look at them simply as things I have not achieved yet. That mentality has helped me grow and achieve things I once thought impossible. I faced Imposter Syndrome before starting the Resourceful Designer podcast. I thought, “who am I to be talking to you about running a design business? Many other designers are much more successful than I am.” But I pushed through anyway and launched this show. And even though I know I’m not the most qualified person to instruct you; I still have something to share. And the thousands of people who listen to each podcast episode must think so as well, or they wouldn’t keep listening. And neither would you. You don’t have to be the best at something to overcome Imposter Syndrome. It just means you have to be willing to try. There is no such thing as perfections. What there is, is good enough. Nobody can ask any more of you than that. If you can design a $200 logo, there’s no reason why you can’t design a $2,000 logo. If you can design a $1,000 website, there’s no reason why you can’t design a $10,000 website. It’s not because you are not qualified. It’s simply that you haven’t done it yet. Work, just like life, should be a challenge. You need to reach if you want to get anywhere. Because you too can succeed. And you know that’s true, because of all the less qualified people than you who are doing just that. Succeeding. Don’t let them show you up. And you know what? If you try something, and you fail. Chalk it up to a learning experience and then try again. You’re only human, after all. Remember, feeling incompetent isn’t the same thing as being incompetent, and I know you’re not the latter because if you were, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. If you’re feeling Imposter Syndrome. Find someone to talk it out with. Sometimes, all it takes to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to talk it through with others. Especially people who understand you. That’s where places like the Resourceful Designer Community are great. We’ve all been there and know how it feels, and we’re more than happy to guide you through it. In case you are suffering from Imposter Syndrome right now and what I’ve said so far hasn’t helped you, I want to share something from Valerie Young, an internationally recognized expert on imposter syndrome. As Valerie puts it in her TED Talk. The only difference between people who feel Imposter Syndrome and those who don’t is that the same situations that trigger imposter feelings in some trigger different thoughts in others. That’s it. That’s the only difference. So The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter. For example, someone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome might think they are not as good as the others in their group and be afraid they’ll be discovered as a fraud. Whereas those who don’t suffer from imposter Syndrome know that even if they are not as good as the others in their group. That’s OK. They can’t be the best at everything, after all. Valerie has literally written the book on Imposter Syndrome. I highly encourage you to watch Valerie’s TED Talk. It’s only 6 minutes long and well worth the time. And here's a link to Valerie's 10 steps to overcome Imposter Syndrome, which you might find interesting to read. But if you take one thing from this today, I hope it’s what I shared with you before. The statement that made such an impact on my own life. Somewhere, right now, there are people who are less skilled, less talented and less knowledgable than you are, doing the exact thing that you don’t feel you’re qualified for. So get out there, and do it.
4/5/202120 minutes, 8 seconds
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Identifying The Competition - RD253

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. I noticed something while reading their business plan and hopped they would clarify it during their presentation. But instead, they excitedly said they were sure they were going to succeed because escape rooms are becoming more and more popular AND they have no local competition. The closest escape room is over 100 km away. They stressed this point. After their presentation, I called them out. I pointed out their direct competition being over 100 km away. But then I asked about their indirect competition. The response I got was, “what do you mean?” I asked if they had conducted any analysis on their local indirect competition, such as the local movie cinemas or the theatres where they put on plays. I asked about the dance clubs, the bars with live entertainment, the local miniature golf course, etc. They looked at me confused and said, “We’re not competing with them.” I asked the applicants how they can think they are not competing with them? They're starting an entertainment business. It offers a fun outing for groups of people that lasts 1-2 hours. So does every other venue I mentioned. When a group of friends figure out what to do on Friday night, they better believe they're competing with all of those other places and many more for that group's attention. One person in the group might want to see a movie. Another might want to spend time outside at the mini-golf. Another might suggest they go to a club that offers a live band. The couple opening the escape room business didn't realize they were competing with every option that might prevent someone from choosing their escape room for their fun. And that was just one of the grant applicants. A massage therapist failed to see she was competing against not only fellow massage therapists but also chiropractors, acupuncturists, and physiotherapists. Not to mention electric neck or back massagers you can buy at various stores. The one that really got me was the craft brewer who thought his only competition was other craft brewers. He completely failed to realize that he’s making beer, and therefore he’s competing with all the big beer labels as well. As a designer, a problem solver as we like to call ourselves, our job is to not only design amazing things for our clients. But to also help them identify their shortcomings. And that means making sure your client understands not only who their direct competition is, but even more importantly, who their indirect competition is. You’re not just designing marketing material in the hopes that someone will pick your client’s escape room over another escape room. You’re designing marketing material trying to persuade people to chose your client’s escape room over any and every other entertainment they could choose. The same principle applies to identifying target markets. There are direct target markets, and there are indirect target markets. Some clients don’t know who they are targetting. Several years ago, I designed a logo for a client starting a science kit subscription box for kids ages 5-12. Each monthly box would contain fun science facts and a couple of experiments the kids could do around the house. When I received the written copy for their brochure and website, I immediately questioned the material. When I asked the client who they were trying to target, they told me their target market is young boys and girls ages 5-12 who enjoy doing things like learning about bugs or digging through dirt. The client completely missed the point. I explained that their box might be geared to 5-12 year-olds, but their actual target market was the parents who would subscribe for their kids, not the kids themselves. The wording they had provided me was written for the kids and not the parents. There was also a secondary target market they could target in grandparents and aunts and uncles who may want to send a monthly subscription box as a gift to the young ones in their lives. This client had failed to identify their actual target market through all their research, just like my previous examples had failed to identify their competition. What I’m trying to say is don’t become a victim of the curse of knowledge. Don’t assume your clients have done their homework and identified their competition. Or their proper target market, for that matter. A few years ago, I thought only a small percentage of new businesses got it wrong. But my time sitting through dozens of grant presentations has taught me that what I take for granted is not something most people think about. I’d estimate less than 40% of the businesses I saw truly understood who they were competing with. Take it upon yourself to educate your clients. It will show them your value, and they’ll appreciate you all the more for it. Help them in identifying the competition. Resource of the week Gravity Forms I’ve been using Gravity Forms for several years, and I love it. It’s the easiest, most trusted tool for creating advanced forms on your WordPress website. Packed full of time-saving tools and features, Gravity Forms is more than just a form creation tool; it’s a form management platform. Build and publish simple or complex WordPress forms in minutes. No coding or guesswork required. Simply choose your desired fields, configure your options and embed the form on your website. It’s that easy. And with so many built-in integrations with some of the most popular partners on the internet, Gravity Forms makes it extremely easy to connect your website to platforms such as PayPal, MailChimp, Dropbox, Freshbooks and so many more. I install Gravity Forms on every single website I build. What else can I say?
3/22/202131 minutes, 15 seconds
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It's Your Business. You're Entitled - RD252

It's OK to have one of those days. Wednesday this past week started like any other day. I got up around 7:45 to see my wife off to work, then went to the kitchen to feed our cat and dog before going to the living room and turning on the TV. I fast-forwarded through SportsCentre, which I record every day at 4 am. I watch the hockey and soccer highlights and then usually skip through most of the other sports. Once done with SportsCentre, I switched on a Canadian morning news show called Your Morning. As a designer, the show's logo drives me crazy, but I like the hosts, and they usually cover some interesting topics. It’s been part of my morning routine for years. This takes me to 9 am when I normally start my day. But on Wednesday, when Your Morning wrapped up, instead of turning off the TV, I sat there as Live with Kelly and Ryan started. I don't usually watch this show, but I decided to sit through their opening dialogue. After 20 minutes of this, I realized why I rarely watch the show and turned it off. I made my way to my office, which is only 10 steps away from where I was and sat down to begin my day. I had an issue with a website the day before and had sent an email to the support team at SiteGround to see if they had any ideas. I normally don’t look at my email first thing in the morning, preferring to wait until noon to read through them. But I checked it on Wednesday morning and found the anticipated reply email from Siteground waiting for me with the info I had been hoping for. I made the necessary adjustments to the website and then sent an email to my client saying the problem was fixed. With that out of the way, it was time to look at my To-Do list. I had seven things on my list, Design podcast cover artworks for client A. Design podcast cover artworks for client B. Start a new website for client C. Finish website for Client D. Create social media header images for Client E. Perform a podcast brand audit for Client F Read and reply to an RFP (Request For Proposal.) None of them had a pressing deadline, and none seemed very appealing at the time. I couldn’t decide which one to tackle first. Instead, I decided to have a shower. 45 minutes later (I lost track of time standing under the showerhead,) I was back at my computer. I saw my email program was still open and decided what the heck, and went through my inbox, which killed about 30 minutes and brought me to 11:30 am. Looking again at my to-do list, there was nothing there that would only take the 30 minutes I had until lunch. Let me interject here. I’ve been doing IF, Intermittent Fasting for the past couple of years. It’s a way of managing my weight without actually dieting. The way I do it is to only eat between the hours of 12 noon and 6 pm. I can eat anything I want, within reason, of course, as long as it falls within that window of time. From 6 pm until noon the next day, all I have is water. That means that by noon each day, I’m hungry. And the idea of starting a new project 30 minutes before my eating window opened was not very appealing to me. So instead, I decided to go for a walk. We’ve had an unusually mild week this past week, and I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and get some exercise. I walked around the block, a 2.5 KM loop or 1.55 miles for you Americans, before arriving back home in time for lunch. During lunch, I turned on the TV again and switched to Netflix. I’ve been watching Suits lately and am really enjoying it. I was halfway through season 2, so I put on an episode while I ate. This episode had a guest character that I recognized but couldn’t remember where I had seen before. You know how it is. You know the person but can't place them. It keeps nagging at you. So when the episode was over, and I went back to my office, I opened up the trusty IMDB and looked up that episode instead of getting to work. The actor was Scott Grimes, and the show I recognized him from was The Orville, where he plays ship pilot Gordon. That was one nagging thing satisfied. But now I was wondering when The Orville would return. So I searched for that. I couldn’t find any definitive answer as to when The Orville will return, but in my search, a couple of the websites I visited had sidebar mentions of the new Disney plus show WandaVision, which I had watched the first 4 episodes on the weekend. The links were talking about all the Marvel Easter eggs in the series. Curiosity peaked, I clicked through to a YouTube video that went over episode one. Now I’m not going to go over all the videos I ended up watching, but needless to say, YouTube is a rabbit trail, and I was there for much longer than I planned on. Luckily, I had set myself a 10-minute reminder for a video chat I had scheduled at 2 pm with a new podcast artwork client. After refilling my water bottle, I set up my equipment and launched Zoom. The guy showed up right on time, which was nice. Plenty of them schedule a meeting and then show up several minutes late. Anyway. These meetings normally last between 15-20 minutes, where we discuss things about the podcast they’re starting. Things such as what their topic will be? What makes them qualified to talk on this topic? What is the purpose of starting a podcast? Who is it for? What format are they going to do (Solo, interview, mixed)? And so on. As I said, these meetings normally last between 15-20 minutes, but this guy seemed very eager but also very naive to all things podcasting. So I started asking him questions that had nothing to do with the artwork he was hiring me to design. We ended up talking for 45 minutes before ending the call. It was now 2:45 pm, and I decided it was time for a snack. I stuck my AirPods in my ears, started up a podcast and when to the kitchen to find something to stuff my face with. I chose a 30-minute podcast and decided to finish it before getting back to work. When I finally did, the first thing I did was open up Facebook and check in on the Resourceful Designer group. I read through the various posts, leaving comments whenever I deemed them. Then I checked a few other groups I belong to before saying enough is enough and shut it down. Then it was back to checking my email and replying to a few. Then checking in on the Resourceful Designer Community on Slack. Right around this time, Andrew, one of the members, asked an innocent question. "How many browser tabs do you have open right now?" Of course, I had to check. The answer was 51. I then decided to go through them all and see what I could do to lower that number. I read several articles I had been saving so I could close the tabs. I made bookmarks for a few of them and saved a few to Evernote for later review. I managed to get it down to 37 open tabs before I heard the garage door open, indicating my wife was home and it was time for me to end my workday. My to-do list still had seven unscratched items on it. Why did I tell you all of this? I shared this story to tell you that it’s ok. It’s your business, your entitled to do what you want with your time. I didn’t realize it at the time. But when I left the TV on that morning, instead of turning it off at 9 am like I normally do. It was an indication that I was not in a creative mood. The projects on my to-do list, projects I’m very enthusiastic about, I might add, didn’t appeal to me that day. I didn’t feel like working, and that’s OK. Creativity is not something you can turn on or off at set times. If I was under a deadline, could I have created something for my clients in the state I was in? Absolutely. I’ve been under that crunch before and have always come through. But knowing that none of the items on that list were pressing gave me the freedom to say, nope, not today. I’m just not feeling it. And that’s OK. Looking back at that day, I managed to solve a client's web issue first thing in the morning. I build a great foundation for a client relationship by turning a 15-minute artwork meeting into a 45-minute strategy session. And I managed to catch up and read several articles I had wanted to get to. So the day was not a total loss. Did I do any of the to-do items I had planned for the day? No. But once again, that’s ok. It’s your business. You’re entitled. Don’t feel guilty when you have one of those days. We all do from time to time. Just don’t make a habit of it. If you start feeling this way more often than naught, it might be a good idea to seek help. It may be a sign of mental health issues. And that’s not something you want to brush under the rug. The stigma of mental health has come a long way in the past decade. There’s no shame in asking for help. But if it’s something that happens once in a blue moon, don’t worry about it. As I said, it’s your business. You’re entitled. Take a day to sack off, and then double down and get back to work the next day. You deserve it. In case you’re wondering, today is Friday. Two days after this happened. And I’m happy to say all seven items on that list have been scratched off. I obviously haven’t finished the new website in two days, but my list only said to start it, which I now have. Even the most disciplined of us are entitled to a personal slack off day from time to time, including you.
3/15/202118 minutes, 2 seconds
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Invest In Yourself And Your Design Business - RD251

Where would you spend your extra money? In the Resourceful Designer Community, we recently discussed the question, "what would you do if you had extra money to invest in yourself and your business?" There were many great ideas on how to use the extra money and, just as importantly, how not to use it. It was such a great conversation that I thought I would share my thoughts here on Resourceful Designer. Before I go any further, I must state that I am not a financial planner or financial advisor, nor do I play one on TV. In fact, I have absolutely no expertise when it comes to this stuff. As far as I know, experts who see this may tell you what I'm saying is completely the wrong approach. These are my thoughts on what I would do if I had extra money to invest in myself or my business. So here goes. Imagine you had extra money sitting around. Anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. I know, it’s a nice thought. But you never know. Maybe you had a favourable tax return. Or you inherit a sum of money. Maybe you won a cash prize in some lottery or draw. Perhaps you had an outstanding quarter and have money left over once all your monthly bills and expenses are paid off. Whatever the reason, you have extra money and try to figure something practical to do with it other than blowing it on a vacation or other luxury. No, you want to use that money as an investment of some sort. But what? This is the order of preference for how I would invest the money. Investing in your future. I believe the most important thing any business owner can do is invest in their future. That future could mean next year, or it could mean retirement in many years. The idea is to use the money to help you down the road. As a solopreneur, your income relies on your ability to work. In most cases, if you are unable to work, you don’t make any money. That’s why I believe padding your future is one of the most important investments you can make. This may mean putting money into a savings account to act as a three to six-month buffer in case things get tough and business slows down. Work in our field is never guaranteed, and even the best of us experiences lulls from time to time. This buffer can help tide you over and help cover your expenses until work picks up again. Or maybe an accident or illness will force you to take a medical leave. Having a buffer to get you through that period may mean the difference between staying afloat and being forced to close your business. And then there’s retirement to think of. Saving for retirement is something you should start doing as soon as possible, especially if you want to continue living the good life in your later years. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to save up. I don’t know about you, but as a creative person, it’s hard to think I’ll ever retire. I believe I will be creating and designing things until the day I die. But the fact is, one day I may not want to spend 8-10 hours a day in front of my computer anymore. And that means less money will be coming in. Not to mention that even though designers are like a good wine, we get better with age; some people may not want to hire a 65-year-old to design the brand for their hip new startup. These two reasons alone. For short absences such as dips in work or medical leave and retirement are why I believe investing in your future is the first thing you should do with your money. I know it’s hard when you have bills and debts to pay. But even a few dollars here and there will add up over time. If you do come into some extra money, this is where I suggest you invest it. In your future. Investing in your present. Next on my list is investing in your present. Investing in your present means putting money to use towards immediate self-improvement. Learn a new skill. Invest in is things such as tutorials, courses and programs to learn new skills or improve your existing skills. These may be design-related, or they may be business-related. There are many great places to learn new skills, such as Udemy Skillshare LinkedIn Learning Creative Live Let's say you design Wix websites and have had to turn down several clients because they wanted a WordPress site. You may put your extra money to good use by learning WordPress and expanding your service offerings. Or you may want to take a course or webinar on growing your business through social media. Or learn more about SEO or Google Analytics. The possibilities are endless when it comes to learning new things. Not only can you learn something to grow your business, but you may learn a skill you can offer to your clients to make more money. Invest in yourself by reading books. Invest in business and self-improvement books that will help you grow. I prefer listening to self-improvement audiobooks. I just recently finished listening to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and next up I have Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. But if you don’t have time to sit and read a book. Audiobooks are a great way to still learn from the experts while out and about. If you’ve never tried an audiobook, you can get one free book of your choice when you sign up for a trial Audible account. If you decide it’s not for you, cancel without paying anything, and they let you keep the free book you downloaded. Join Networks. Join networking groups or communities such as the Resourceful Designer Community to grow as a designer and business person. Or join a group such as Toastmasters who can help you fine-tune your presentation style when pitching to clients. If you have extra money, after you’ve invested in your future, that is, I suggest using it to improve your current situation. The little bit you spend now can bring exponential growth for you and your business. Your future self will thank you for it. Side note: I know I just said you should invest extra money in tutorials and courses and such. But don’t go looking for things to learn just because you have money to spend. It’s never a good idea to spend money on courses and such just for the sake of learning something. Only invest in things you want or need to know. Otherwise, invest the money in your future instead, as I mentioned earlier. If you’re unsure if it’s important enough to learn now, go back and listen to episode 8 and episode 94 of the podcast. In both of those episodes, I talked about Just In Time Learning which plays right into what I’m talking about today. Investing in your business. The final category on my list is investing in your business. This means putting your extra money to use by improving the infrastructure that helps you perform your job. Update your computer and equipment. Purchase software and design resources. Update your brand Update your website and marketing materials. Update your working environment However, just like with investing in your present, there’s no point in spending money on a new computer or equipment unless you actually need it. You are better off saving the money for when you do. Invest in growth. There are more ways you can invest in your business. Use the extra money to hire outside help, such as photographers, copywriters, developers, etc., to help with your own promotional materials. Hire a virtual assistant to help you with certain tasks and activities. I speak from experience that hiring my VA is one of the best investments I’ve made for my business. If you haven’t done so already, use the extra money to register a trademark for your business name and visual assets. It’s always good to protect yourself. And finally, Spend the money on growing your business through marketing, advertising, sponsorships and networking. Remember, the more people who know about your business, the faster you will grow. When in-person conferences were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID, many of them went the virtual route. I took the money I would have spent on travel, hotel and expenses to attend PodFest Multimedia Expo and instead invested that money to become a sponsor for their online event. That opportunity put my brand, Podcast Branding, in front of thousands of people in my niche and helped boost my business in ways that attending the conference in person could have never done. So after you’ve invested in your future and your present, it’s a good idea to invest in your business. Bonus Here’s a bonus afterthought. If you’re satisfied that you’ve covered the three categories above, you can always use the extra money to thank your clients. Sending a gift basket or special gift to a client, or even sending a client something as simple as a coupon for a free pizza, can go a long way to strengthen your relationship. Imagine creating a new logo for a client and then sending them a glass mug with their new logo etched on the side?  That sort of thing can go a long way. You can never go wrong when you invest in your client relationships. As I said at the start, I'm not a financial expert. However, I believe you can't go wrong if you use any extra money you have to invest in your future, your present and your business. It's how you grow. Where would you spend any extra money? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode. Tip of the week Refine search results by excluding unwanted domains If you're searching for something on Google or other search engines and are tire of unwanted results such as Pinterest pins or YouTube videos showing up, you can refine your search by adding "-Pinterest" or "-YouTube" to the end of it. Doing so tells the search engine to not display any search results pertaining to those platforms. Give it a try.
3/8/202123 minutes, 27 seconds
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Stop Trying To Convince Design Clients To Hire You - RD250

If you change the way you think, you'll win more clients. Not long after I went full-time with my design business, I met with a fellow local designer for lunch. I was somewhere between six months to a year into my entrepreneurial journey, and my business was growing fast. My clientele was increasing, and most people who contacted me ended up hiring me as their designer. Fifteen years later and I still win more clients than I lose. The guy I had lunch with was a very talented designer. I knew him through the print shop where I worked before going out on my own. He would bring in projects to be printed for his clients, and his work was always beautiful. He started his design business several years before I began mine. And when I was at the print shop, I thought he was living the dream. He doesn't know this, but he was an inspiration in helping me make the leap to solopreneurship. During our lunch, he mentioned how much he was struggling. He was finding it harder and harder to win over new clients. He said that no matter how hard he tried to convince clients to work with him. Only a small percentage ever did. In fact, I learned during that conversation that several of my clients had contacted him before eventually hiring me. I didn't tell him that. What I also learned, which is the focus of this post, is that he and I had two completely different approaches to acquiring new clients. Where he was trying very hard to win each new client. I, on the other hand, was trying not to lose them. When you consider those two concepts, you'll realize that my way is much easier. Let me ask you this. Which is easier. Acquiring $100 or holding onto the $100 you already have? I think you'll agree that it's much easier to hold onto $100 than it is to acquire $100. That's the mentality I take when dealing with new clients. And that's what made me different from that other designer. Where he was doing his best to win each new client. I was doing my best not to lose them. Because in my mind, I had already won them the moment they contacted me. Let me tell you a secret. Are you ready? Clients don't enjoy looking for a designer. In fact, they would much rather be doing countless other things instead. So when a client emails, calls or meets you in person, they are hoping you are the right person for the job. They want you to be the solution to their problem. Think about that. No client will ever contact you, hoping you're not a good fit for them. None of them are saying, "I'm going to contact so and so designer about this project. I really hope they're the wrong person and waste my time." No, every client who contacts you wants you to be the last designer they contact. When you take that concept into consideration, it means you are starting off every new contact with a client in the position that the job is already yours. Your position from that point forward is not to convince them to hire you. But to convince them, there's no need to look for anyone else. And that completely changes the way you communicate with the client. Does that make sense? Let me repeat it. You are not trying to convince the client to hire you. You are trying to convince the client they've made the right choice in contacting you. This is how I've started every new client relationship since I started my business. As soon as the client and I introduce ourselves, we are working together until one says otherwise. If you approach each new contact with that in mind, you'll find yourself winning more clients than you lose. How does this work in practice? It's simple. You have to have the mindset that every time you speak with a potential client, you are working with them. From the moment the conversation starts, you are working together until you or they decide otherwise. Here are some pointers. Always speak to the client as if you are already working together. "I understand your situation. Here's how we'll tackle it." "We'll look at what your competition is doing and figure out a way for you to stand out." "The new brand we'll create will be a strong foundation for you in your market." Do you see the way I've structured those sentences? I'm not saying, "if you hire me, we'll look at your competition." or "I would love to create a new brand for you." No. I talk to the client as if they've already made the decision to hire me. "This is what we'll do." "I'm going to do this for you." After all, as I said earlier, the client is hoping you're a good fit for them before they even contact you. So show them they were right. When it comes to conversing with the client, you must take the initiative by leading the conversation. This proves to them that you know what you are doing. Clients want a designer who shows initiative. Someone who can take the lead. Someone who can work independently and get the job done. Clients have enough on their plates. They don't want to dictate or micromanage what you do. That's why they're looking for an expert to handle their project. Now we all know those people who do try to micromanage or dictate things. My experience shows that once you take the initiative and prove you know what you're doing, most of them will be happy to hand you the reins and back off. Anyone who doesn't isn't worth working with. When talking to the client: Listen attentively to what they are saying. This shows you care. Ask pertinent questions. This shows you're interested. Show you understand the situation. This shows you're knowledgeable. Show your willingness to help them. This proves you're a professional. Try to identify their pain points, their problems as early as possible. This shows you're an expert. Offer solutions. This shows you are confident with their project. If you can do all of this, there's little chance the client will look elsewhere. Create a sense of urgency. Whenever possible, create a sense of urgency for the project. The more urgent the project is, the less time the client wants to spend finding a designer and the higher the chance they hire you. Plus, if you can show them you're on top of things, they'll trust you even more. Ask the client if they have a deadline. Then backtrack from their deadline to now. If a client needs a package design for their new product that launches in 60 days, work backwards. Two preferably three weeks at the printer. One week for prototyping. Two weeks to develop concepts and get the designs approved. Add one week as a buffer in case of emergencies. That's seven weeks total. Since the deadline is 60 days (eight weeks), you must start the project within the next seven days to meet the deadline. Showing this sort of initiative and expertise proves to the client they made the right choice. Of course, you can't do this with every project. But the more you exhibit a confident "take charge" attitude. The more the client will appreciate you. Set Expectations Another way to ensure the client they're making the right choice in hiring you is by setting expectations from the start. Let the client know how often you will be updating them on your progress. How will you be communicating with them? Will it be via weekly phone calls, emailed progress reports, a client portal using a CMS, or what? Clients don't like to be kept in the dark. So if you show them from the start how interacting with you will be, they'll have more confidence in you. Explain what the whole process looks like. Explain each stage from research, concept and designing, right through to final approval and production if needed. Remember, a client contacts you because they are hoping you are the right person for the job. Don't give them a reason to think otherwise, and 9 times out of 10, the project is yours. All of this to say, your attitude plays a massive role in whether or not a client decides to hire you. The client wants you to be the right person for the job. They don't want to be forced to contact someone else. They want their project off their plate and in the hands of an expert, like you, who will see it through. Keep all of this in mind and stop trying to convince the client you're the person they should hire. Instead, start showing the client they made the right choice by contacting you, and there's no reason for them to look elsewhere. Stop trying to convince them to hire you. That's how you win more clients. Resource of the week Google Advance Search This is a simple little trick that has helped me out of a jam many times over the years. If you find yourself in need of a certain company's logo and don't want to jump through hoops trying to get it. Use this trick. In the Google Search Bar type “” followed by “filetype:pdf”. What this does is return search results displaying all PDF files at that particular domain. Open the PDFs one at a time until you find one with a good-looking logo (you can usually tell by zooming in). Download the PDF and open it in a program such as Adobe Illustrator. If you're lucky you will have a perfect vector logo you can use. You can also accomplish this by visiting Google's Advance Search page, but I find simply typing the parameters into the regular search bar is much faster.
3/1/202124 minutes, 24 seconds
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5 Skills To Help You Succeed As A Freelancer - RD249

Without these skills, your design business will struggle. It sounds so easy. You’re good at designing, so why not start freelancing or start your own design business? For the record, my definition of a freelancer is someone who does design work on the side while working another job in or possibly not in the design space. If you design things for clients on your own, and it’s your only source of income, meaning you don’t have an employer elsewhere, you are not freelancing; you are running a design business. But regardless of whether you call yourself a freelancer or a design business owner. Working for yourself requires a different skill set than simply being a good designer. You could have the most amazing portfolio of design work. You could be a wiz in Photoshop or Illustrator or InDesign, or maybe WordPress, Webflow or whatever tool you use. It doesn’t matter what skills you have as a designer. If you want your business to succeed, you have to run it like a business. And to do that, you need business skills. There are numerous business skills that will help you get ahead. Most of them, such as file management, you can learn along the way. However, there are five essential skills you need to succeed. Skills that the most successful designers use, be it freelancer or owner of a design business. They know the importance of these skills, and they know the success or failure of their business depends on their ability to master them. If you don’t possess these skills, you need to develop them ASAP if you want to ensure your endeavour's success. So what are these all-important skills I’m talking about? Communication skills. Building Relationships. Thinking Strategically. Time Management skills. Money Management skills. 1 Communication Without good communications skills, your business is doomed to failure. The ability to communicate properly is one of the most important skills you can have as a business owner. Every client you talk to, every design proposal you write, every pitch or presentation you make will succeed or fail based on your communication skills. Not only are good communication skills required to articulate and understand ideas. But clear communication can also save you and the client time and money. The better you are at communicating, the more comfortable clients will be working with you. The better you are at communicating, the more professional you will appear to people. The better you are at communicating, the easier it will be to build and foster relationships with your client. Plus, good communication skills can help you when dealing with different personalities or when discussing difficult topics. Many designers are introverts. Myself included. But being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t have good communication skills. You might have to work harder at it than an extravert does, but that’s easily accomplished. Improving your communications skills will help you stand out from other designers who lack this skill. Not only will you be seen by your clients as a good designer, but also as a strategic partner and problem solver. How to Improve your communications skills. Use a tool such as Grammarly to check your written communication. Reading books such as Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People. Join ToastMasters or hire a speech coach. Record your conversations and play them back, listening for areas you can improve on. (you need a client’s permission to record them) Improving your communications skills will go a long way to ensuring your business’s success. 2 Building Relationships. Have you heard the saying, it’s not what you know, but who you know? Relationships are one of the key elements to any business’s success, even more so for service-based businesses like yours. The most successful designers out there know the importance of building relationships. Not just with clients but with everyone they meet, including fellow designers. Every person you meet is an opportunity to start a relationship. Why is this important? Because every connection you make can lead to referrals, new clients, new projects, friendships, maybe partnerships and who knows what else. If you’re a people-person, this should be fairly easy for you. But even if talking to people comes naturally to you, you have to learn to do it with purpose. Stay professional while you build your rapport. Building relationships takes time. But the payoff is enormous. My Podcast Branding business grew to what it is today because of the relationships I’ve made in the podcasting space. You never know when one of the many relationships you’ve nurtured will lead to a new client or project. So keep building them. Even when a relationship isn’t working out, it should still be nurtured as you back away. That means being cordial and considerate, even while turning down a client. You don’t want to burn any bridges because if you think good word of mouth spreads, let me tell you, bad word of mouth spreads so much faster. How do you build relationships? Do it slowly by making small connections with people. Try to remember small details about a person and bring them up in conversation. Ask about their kids or their recent holiday. Keep in touch with your clients, even when you have no active projects with them. Attend networking events and meet new people. Read How To Win Friends and Influence People. It may sound scary, but building relationships is a skill every good business owner needs to master. 3 Thinking Strategically Being able to think strategically can transform an average freelancer into an extremely successful business owner. Thinking strategically is the ability to envision the future and plan accordingly. It will help you spot trends. It will help you understand how your client is different from their competition. It will help you contemplate ideas and directions your clients may not consider. Thinking strategically will help you with your business and the work you do for your clients. Strategic thinking is what differentiates a designer who designs logos from a designer who creates brands. Any brand strategy requires strategic thinking. Thinking strategically will help you develop goals for yourself and your business by envisioning your future. Where do you want to be 6 months, a year, five years from now? Strategic thinking is going to help make the decisions, make adjustments, and tell you what you need to do and what not to do to reach your goals. How do you think strategically? Regularly take time to envision your future and figure out if you’re on the right path. Make time to work on your business strategy. Instead of waiting for the next new client to show up, figure out how you’re going to get your next 10 clients. Read books and listen to podcasts that talk about building a business. Oh wait, you’re already listening to Resourceful Designer, aren't you? If so, you’re off to a good start. 4 Time Management As a business owner, you have nobody to answer to but yourself. Nobody is breathing down your neck, telling you to get back to work or making sure you’re getting the job done. All of that falls on you, and if you want to succeed, you need to master time management skills. Your Time management skills or lack thereof will make or break you. When you’re fortunate enough to have several clients with multiple projects on the go, all with varying deadlines, your success in dealing with all of it will depend on your skill at managing your time. And Time management isn’t just about managing client projects. You also have to worry about running your business and making sure you have time for yourself. Otherwise, your stress level will increase, and burnout becomes a possibility. Time management comes down to four things. Self-motivation, the ability to get going and keep yourself going Self-discipline, the ability to focus on the work at hand and avoid the many distractions associated with running a business, not to mention the distractions of life in general. Self-management is the ability to govern yourself by setting your own timelines, breaking down tasks, and delegating when needed. Self-care, the ability to take breaks and time off. Making sure you are eating well and staying hydrated. If your health falters, there’s nobody to help you out. So take care of yourself. How to improve your time management skills Plan your day ahead of time with to-do lists Prioritize your tasks by order of importance and do the most important ones first. Use a clock or timer to help you keep track of time. 5 Money Management Skills The final important skill I want to talk about is money management. Unlike employed designers who receive a weekly paycheque. Freelance and design business owners are at the whims of their clients when it comes to income. Mastering skills 1 through 4 above should help you build your clientele to the point where you always have projects on the go. However, unless you’ve set up your business so you collect a salary, money management may not be top of mind for you. When it comes to money skills, many freelancers are of the mindset that the money comes in, and the money goes out. They don’t give much thought to managing that flow of income. How you budget your business earnings affects every aspect of your business. Good money management skills will help you set your rates and prices, so you remain profitable. Money management skills will help you determine which projects to take on and which are not worth it. Money management skills will help you maintain your business by making sure the funds are there should there be a dip in your workload or should you have to purchase a new computer. A business can generate a lot of money, but if that money isn’t managed well, it can still fail. And you don’t want your otherwise successful design business to fail because you lack the skill to manage your money. How to learn money management. Separate your business money from your personal money, including bank accounts. Know your overhead, the cost of running your business so you know if you’re making a profit or not. Learn basic money management skills through books, podcasts, and budgeting apps. Talk to your bank or financial advisor. Good money management skills will ensure you are rewarded for all the hard work you do. Master these five skills to succeed. These are the five skills that will help you succeed as a freelancer or design business owner. As I said at the beginning, there are many more skills required to run a business. But these five are essential if you’re in this for the long term. Do you have these five skills? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode. Resource of the week Grammarly I first purchased Grammarly on a whim a few years ago during some ridiculous sale they were having. It was probably one of the best purchases I've made in recent years. Not a day goes by that Grammarly doesn't help me out. What is Grammarly? Simply put, it’s a spelling and grammar checker for your computer and web browser. But it’s so much more than that. As they say on their website, Grammarly leaves outdated spelling and grammar checkers in the dust. Grammarly helps me whenever I fill out online forms, when I'm designing in WordPress and when I'm posting on social media. Anywhere I write, Grammarly is there to make sure I write well. Grammarly doesn’t only correct, it teaches. It tells you if you are using repetitive words, warns of things like weak adjectives, and so much more. According to their website 85% of people using Grammarly become stronger writers. I've seen it in my writing. It can be set for American or British spelling and is available for both Mac and Windows.
2/22/202126 minutes, 9 seconds
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Presenting With The 10-20-30 Rule - RD248

Follow the 10-20-30 Rule for great presentations. Have you ever heard of the 10-20-30 Rule? It’s more often called the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint, but the principle applies elsewhere as well. This Rule was coined several years ago by Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist who sat through dozens of presentation pitches regularly. It was his job to listen to people pitch their business ideas, and after years of this, he noted that the best presentations, the ones that are more likely to close the deal, all followed a similar format, which he coined the 10-20-30 Rule. And this Rule is simple. • 10 Slides • 20 Minute Presentation • 30 Point minimum size font. That’s it. According to Kawasaki, this setup gives you the best chance to impact the person or people you’re presenting positively. Kawasaki was talking about people pitching business ideas to venture capitalists. But the same principle applies to you, a designer pitching your ideas to clients. Let’s break it down the 10-20-30 Rule. Rule #1: 10 Slides. Kawasaki pointed out that it’s tough for someone to comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting. If you try, you’re more than most likely to confuse them. Follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid.) Limiting your presentation to only 10 slides or 10 sheets or pages does just that. Break your presentation down into 10 points, one per slide. Maybe something like this. • Slide 1: Your interpretation of who the client is. • Slide 2: Identifying the client’s competition. • Slide 3: The Problem the client is facing. • Slide 4: The Solution you are proposing. • Slide 5: How your solution solves the client’s problem. • Slide 6: Examples of your solution in place. • Slide 7: Projections and outcomes from Implementing your solution. • Slide 8: Timeline for the project. • Slide 9: Cost of the project. • Slide 10: Summary and call to action.  This example uses a maximum of 10 slides, but you can do it in less, then all the better.  Rule #2: 20 Minutes. It doesn’t matter if you are allotted 30 minutes or an hour. Your actual presentation should take no more than 20 minutes. If you can’t present your idea within that time frame, you’re doing something wrong. Have you heard of TED Talks? Did you know that TED Talks have a maximum length of 18 minutes? TED organizers chose this time length based on neuroscience research that says 18 minutes is long enough for a speaker to flesh out their idea and short enough for a listener to take it in, digest what they are hearing, and understand all of the vital information. Not only that, but they know that shorter presentations require you to edit things down to the most important and relevant material.  If you have more time allotted to you, use it for introductions and setting up your equipment. You should also leave time for Q&A after your presentation. Plus, you never know when an emergency might arise and cut the meeting short. 20 minutes is the ideal time to keep someone’s interest in what you are showing them. Longer than 20 minutes, and you risk their mind wandering to other things and possibly missing critical points you’re trying to make. Rule #3: 30-Pt Font. As a designer, I trust you know that slides or presentation papers are most effective when they contain very little wording. I’m hoping I don’t have to explain that to you. This 10-20-30 Rule was written for people pitching a product or business idea, not for experienced designers. But just the same, it’s something to remember when you create your presentation slides or handouts. Using a larger point size forces you to cut back on unnecessary verbiage. The only reason to have a smaller type on a slide is to cram on more text. But by doing so, your client may think you’re not familiar with your material and that you need your slides to act as a teleprompter. And that, in turn, may make them feel like you are not invested in them. Not to mention, the more type you have on a slide, the more the client will focus on reading it and not listening to what you’re saying. You know what I mean, we’ve all done it before—reading ahead while ignoring the presenter. Avoid this by using 30 point or larger fonts. Forget the bullet list and instead, tell your clients the key points. It will mean much more coming out of your mouth than words on a screen or sheet of paper. As a comparison, Steve Jobs, a great presenter in his time, insisted on a 96-point type on all his presentation slides. If it’s good enough for a multi-billion company, it should be good enough for you. Bonus As a bonus to his 10-20-30 Rule, Guy Kawasaki also said that the most persuasive presentations he’s sat through, typically used white type on a black or dark coloured background.  The way he puts it is, anyone can put black type on a white background. It’s the default in all programs. However, white type on a dark background is something you have to conscientiously, and shows that you’ve put effort into your presentation. Not to mention that white type on a dark background looks classier and is easier to read. Don’t believe me? Think of movie credits. How often do you see black credits on a white background? Hardly ever. You can learn from that. Do you follow the 10-20-30 Rule? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode. Tip of the week Capture Full-Screen websites on your iPhone. If you are an iPhone user there's a nifty feature you may not know about. The ability to take full-page screenshots of webpages. In Safari, take a screenshot of any webpage. Edit the screenshot. At the top of the page, you can toggle between "Screen" and "Full Page". Selecting "Full Page" allows you to save the entire webpage as a PDF to your Files folder. This is a quick and easy way to capture the mobile view of any webpage.
2/15/202117 minutes, 17 seconds
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There's More You Can Charge For - RD247

Are you missing out by not charging your clients for everything you can? Running your own design business or freelancing as a graphic or web designer seems like such an easy gig. A client asks you to create something for them, and they pay you for what you design. Simple right? For thousands of graphic and web designers around the world, that’s exactly how they do it. A Client brings them a project. The designer designs the project. The Client pays for said project. And the cycle repeats. What if I told you many of these designers are leaving money on the table? How they could and should be charging much more to their clients than they currently are. I’m not talking about design rates. I’m not saying these designers are worth more than the rate they are charging. Although they probably are. No. What I’m getting at is there are many aspects of what you do as a designer that you could be charging your clients for. And yet, many designers don’t. And as such, those designers are missing out on money they could be earning. Are you one of them? Case study. Imagine a client hires you for a new project. To design a poster for an upcoming local festival. Many designers will figure out how much to quote for a poster design. They may base it on an hourly rate. Maybe offer a flat fee. Or perhaps base their price on the value they’re providing, regardless of what pricing strategy they use. The price they quote is based on designing the poster alone. And that’s wrong. You’ll notice most successful designers refer to what they work on as projects. They’re not working on a poster for a local festival. They’re working on a project for the local festival that involves designing a poster. You see, a design project consists of multiple tasks. And not all of those tasks involve actual designing. Let me break this down. A client calls you on the phone to see if you’re interested in designing a poster for their festival. You say yes and set up a time to meet their organizing committee to go over what is required of you. You meet with them to discuss the festival, who it’s for, where it’s happening, when it’s taking place and how long it’s lasting. You go over what the festival's brand and message entail, and of course, what sort of information they want on the poster. Once you’re satisfied, you go back home or to your office and prepare a quote. Maybe they have some follow-up questions that go back and forth before they agree on your price and you finally get to work on their project. Your design process may include researching similar festivals from other areas to see what sort of posters they did. It may include browsing stock image sites to find the perfect images to compliment the festival's theme as well as your design. It may include contacting a local printer to ask about different paper stocks or finishing options. It may include coordinating with the festival’s web designer, if that’s not you, to make sure the poster and website follow a consistent brand. Then, once you’ve designed the poster, you need to present it to the client. Perhaps you place your poster design on situation mockups to help the client visualize it in place. Then you email them a PDF, or maybe you present it to them in person. Once the client approves your poster design, you prepare the final print files and hand them over to your client to bring to the printer. Unless you are also brokering the printing for them, but for this example, let’s say you aren’t. Then you prepare the invoice, send it to the client, and take care of the payment and bookkeeping once it's received. Only then is the project over. Out of all of that, for how much of it did you charge the client? Did you charge them for the initial phone call? Did you charge them for the travel time to and from any in-person meetings? Did you charge them for the time those meetings lasted? Did you charge them for the time it took you to prepare the quote and answer any follow-up questions? Did you charge them for the research you did or the time you spent browsing stock image sites? What about the time you spent discussing the festival’s brand with their web designer or the time you spent discussing paper stock with the printer? How about the time it took to present the poster to the client? Or the time it took to prepare the mockups and final files for the printer? And what about the time you took to prepare the invoice and handle any payment you received? Did you charge them for any of that? Or did you only charge them for designing the poster? Most inexperienced or struggling designers probably did the latter. Charge for only the poster. But that's wrong. The poster design is only one small part of the overall project you were hired to do. A project that started when the client called you and finished the moment you received the final payment. Everything in between is billable. Your time is valuable. You shouldn’t be giving it away for free. Think like a lawyer. Have you ever received an invoice from a lawyer? Make fun of lawyers as you will, but designers can learn a thing or two from how a lawyer runs their business. Lawyers keep track of every phone call. Every sheet of paper they print out. Every email they send. And every minute a client spends with them. And they bill the client for all of it. Why? Because lawyers know every little bit of it has a cost or value associated with it. And since it was all done on behalf of a client, that client should be paying for that cost or value. I’m not telling you to charge for every piece of paper or every paperclip you use. But, you would be in your right if you wanted to. How I charge my clients. Let me explain how I charge my clients. In my case, the initial email or phone call from a client is free. Providing that call doesn’t last more than 15-20 minutes. 15-20 minutes should be enough time to propose their project and for me to ask some initial questions. If it goes on longer than 15-20 minutes, I’ll make a note of it and incorporate the extra time into my project cost. But normally, if it looks like the conversation will go long, I’ll ask them to schedule a time with me to discuss their project in greater detail. I charge my clients for any travel time as well as the time I spend with them. That time could be for presenting a proposal, conducting a discovery meeting, making a presentation, or whatever reason I'm with the client. Once I’m back in my office working, I keep track of the time I spend doing research for their project. That may include learning about the client and their industry or browsing stock image sites. I use a tool called Clockify to keep track of the time I spend on a project. Clockify makes it very easy to turn timers on and off, assign them to a project and keep track of how much time I spend working on it. So before I start any research or anything to do with the project, I turn on the timer. Just a side note here. Most of my projects these days are quoted using either project-based or value-based pricing. So I’m not billing by the hour. But I still like to keep track of how much time I spend on every project for my own benefit. That way, I get to learn how much time it takes me to do certain tasks. If a client calls me while I’m working on a different project, I’ll switch the timer to their project for the call duration. Again for my benefit. And I also know from experience how long it takes me to prepare and send out an invoice. All of this is taken into consideration when quoting on a project. Of course, most of this is speculation and guesswork. But it’s accounted for. How many trips will I have to make to the client’s office, and what is the average duration for these meetings? What’s the travel distance to the client's office? Will I need to coordinate this project with another designer, printer or other third parties? How much research do I anticipate having to do? Etc. All of this is worked into the quote. Because my time is valuable, and if it’s spent on behalf of the client. Then the client should be paying for it. If I only charged for the actual designs I create, my business would not be as successful. There are plenty of other aspects of what you do you could be charging for. Consulting I receive lots of inquiries from people wanting to “pick my brain” about design or branding. "Mark, I have an idea for a new mail campaign for my business. I want to get your opinion on it." Or "Mark, my wife is opening a new business, and I was wondering if you had any ideas of what she needs branding wise to get started?" You know the types of questions I’m talking about. Sure they may turn into paid work, but most of the time, they’re innocently looking for free advice. Once in a while is not a big deal. But when this starts happening regularly, it eats into your valuable time. The time you could be spending working on projects you are being paid for. It got so bad at one point that I implemented a consulting fee. Now, whenever someone calls or emails to ask for my advice. I tell them I would love to help, but I can’t right now. And then provide a link to a webpage where they can schedule a time with me. The page I direct them to is titled One-On-One Consultation, and it allows them to book a 1-hour time slot at the cost of $100. And you know what? 9 out of 10 times, they follow through and book a time with me. I used to get asked these questions and ended up spending my valuable time offering advice free of charge. Now I’m being paid for my knowledge. I’m an expert. That’s why they’re reaching out to me. So why shouldn’t I be paid for that expertise? And so should you. I use a service called Book-Like-A-Boss for booking. But there are many other options you could use to set up your own consulting schedule. Charging for add-ons. Another thing you should charge for is add-ons. Add-ons include WordPress plugins or perhaps stock images—basically, anything you need to purchase to complete the client's project. Every web designer that works with WordPress uses themes and plugins to enhance the sites they build. Many of these themes and plugins are free. But oftentimes, a premium plugin is required to get the job done. Premium plugins come at a cost. And in some cases, those costs should be passed on to the client. For example, I love Gravity Forms for creating custom forms on websites. But not every website needs a custom form. In most cases, the default form that comes with Divi, the page builder I use, is good enough. However, I have several clients who need something more than basic, and that’s where Gravity Forms comes in. Gravity Forms is a premium plugin. It costs $59/year for one site.  So there’s nothing wrong with me charging my clients $59/year for the use of that plugin. I’d just be passing on the cost to them. The same cost they would pay if they were designing their site themselves and purchased the plugin. However, I pay for an Elite license, which allows me to install Gravity Forms on unlimited websites. But why should I incur that expense for something that benefits my clients? If it were a single client, I would pass the cost on to them. So why not do the same thing with multiple clients? Every client that uses Gravity Forms pays $59/year for the use of the plugin. For the record, my website maintenance plan includes premium plugins. So if a client signs up for my maintenance plan, the cost of all premium plugins is included, which is another great selling feature for the maintenance plan. Stock Images. I mentioned Stock images above. There’s nothing wrong with charging your clients a small fee for any stock image you use on their project. Include them in your quote or itemize them as extra items on your invoice. Think of stock image sites as image wholesalers. Meaning it’s OK to mark up the costs of the images you use. Every year I stock up on DepositPhotos credits when they come on sale at AppSumo. The deal works out to $0.50 for each stock image I download. However, if the client bought the images themselves, without the benefit of AppSumo credits or a DepositPhotos subscription, they would pay between $5-$10 per image. So five stock images are used while designing a poster, why not charge the client $25-$50 for them? There's more you can charge for. The whole point I'm trying to get across is to help you realize there are things you do for your clients that you could be charging for. It’s nice to think these things are just the cost of doing business. And in most cases, they are. But why should that cost come out of your pocket when your client is the one benefiting from them? It’s OK to charge your client for all the extra things you do beyond the actual design you create for them. Don’t believe me? Try to think of the last down on his luck starving lawyer you’ve seen. Designing might be your passion. It is for me. But passion doesn’t pay the bills. If you want to run a successful design business, you need to treat it as a business. And that means charging your clients. What sort of things do you charge your clients for? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode. Resource of the week Logo Package Express 2.0 Logo Package Express automatically generates and exports logo packages from Adobe Illustrator with blazing speed. Packaging logos is boring and complex. First, you have to know what formats to provide your clients, then you have to make them. Manually. One at a time. It takes hours and is a real pain. Logo Package Express turns that dreaded task into a breeze by pumping out 200+ logo files in under 5 minutes. It's truly one of the greatest additions to the design market in a while. Save $20 off the purchase of Logo Package Express 2.0 with this link. Already own Logo Package Express version 1? Click this link, log in and purchase the updated version 2.0 for only $20.
2/8/202127 minutes, 11 seconds
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How NOT To Treat Your Clients - RD246

This is a cautionary tale on how not to treat your clients. Several months ago, I quoted on a branding and web design project for a client. This was an existing client who was starting something new and wanted my help. I gave her a price, she agreed. I sent her a contract, which she promptly signed and returned along with her deposit. Because of the nature of the project, which I’m not going to get into, we had to wait a few months before starting. But a couple of months ago, the client contacted me to cancel the project. The nature of her business involves large gatherings of people, and with the pandemic affecting things, she informed me that she was putting the project on indefinite hold. According to my contract, deposits are non-refundable. However, I did tell her that should she revive the project within six months. I would honour the original quote and the deposit she had given me. And that was that. Or so I had thought. Earlier this week, the clients contacted me. As it turns out, the project wasn’t put on indefinite hold. What happened was another designer who happens to specialize in this client’s niche contacted her and offered to do the project for almost half of what I had quoted. I’ve talked about niching before on the podcast. How niching gives you an advantage because you are perceived as an expert in that niche. Which is true. It works. And it worked in this instance. The client couldn’t pass up this opportunity to work with a designer specializing in her industry and at a lower price than I quoted. So she cancelled with me and hired this other person. I don’t blame her. It sounded like a great deal. Now back to the phone call I received this week. The client contacted me and told me why she cancelled our agreement. Then she proceeded to tell me how much of a nightmare this other designer was to work with. The project was completed, but not to her liking, and she wanted to know if I would be willing to take over the project from now on. Here’s what happened. The client told me the designer seemed like a perfect fit for her project. So was impressed when they talked and she liked his price. She paid him half up front, with the second half coming due upon completion of the project. She gave the designer her credit card number, which you should never do, but she did. And the designer started the project. A few weeks later, the client received her credit card statement and noticed that the designer's payment was converted from US funds. Both the client and the designer live in Canada, so naturally, the client thought the quote was in Canadian dollars. Nowhere on the invoice says US funds, and she doesn’t remember the designer ever saying anything about charging in US Dollars. When she questioned the designer, he told her that all web designers charge in US Dollars (which is not true), and that’s just the way it is. She should have done her homework before hiring him. The US/CAN exchange rate means the client pays roughly 30-35% more than she expected for the project. But at this point, the designer had already designed a logo, which the client liked and had started on the website. So taking the loss, things with the project proceeded, and everything continued to go well with the project. It wasn’t until the client started asking for changes that the designer's true demeanour came out. The client asked the designer to move a few things around on the website, but the designer refused to make any of the changes she requested. He told her that she’s not a designer and therefore doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She should leave designing to the expert. When the client expressed a dislike for the colour palette, the designer chose for the website. He told her he wasn't going to change it. He had a vision for the brand, and he was going to stick with it. He told the client the colours would grow on her and not worry about it. They never did. When the client saw a proof of the website, including copy the designer had written himself, she decided to log into WordPress and edit some of the wording. The designer had a fit, accusing the client of trying to sabotage his vision. The designer sent her a message saying, “Will you please stop making changes to the website. If you start messing around, you’re liable to muck things up, which is just more grief for me. You’re not a web designer, so why don’t you stick to things you know and let me handle the website.” He then revoked the client’s access to the site until he was finished with it, saying any changes she wanted had to be done by him. But as stated earlier, the designer refused to make any changes that went against his vision. And to make it worse, when the client complained that he wasn't listening to her, he replied, “I received your input, but I’m the designer. I’ve been doing this for a long time and know a lot more about designing websites than you do. Please keep your opinions to yourself unless I ask for them.” This brings us to now. The client is not happy with the completed website and doesn’t want anything to do with the designer anymore. That’s why she’s reaching out to me, someone she’s worked with before and someone who has always treated her well. The saving grace is the designer didn’t use a contract. So she’s not on the hook to stay with him once she pays her final fee. Things still need to be finalized, but it looks like I’ll be taking over this project very soon. I wanted to share this experience with you to illustrate how not to treat a client. Yes, as designers, we are experts. Especially if you focus on a niche. However, being an expert doesn’t mean you’re better or above your client or that a client’s opinion isn’t valid. A designer/client relationship is a partnership. One where you work together to complete the project. A designer may know more about designing than the client, but they will never know more about the client's business than they do. Abusing this is a great way to lose clients. Maybe this designer doesn’t care. Maybe he’s laughing and thinking how smart he is. He got paid for the project, and now he never has to hear from the client again. But you know what? This client is an influencer in her space. The same space this designer specializes in. What do you think will happen when she starts telling other people in her industry about her experiences? Was it really worth it for that designer to get his way? In the long run, I don’t think so. I wish him luck because if that’s how he treats his clients, he’s going to need it. No matter how good you are, your business will not succeed if you drive your clients away. I've said it before. Clients prefer to work with a good designer they like than an amazing designer they don’t like. That’s how NOT to treat your clients. I know you know better than acting like this. But it’s always good to hear these kinds of stories to make you appreciate the relationships you have with your clients. Treat them well, and they’ll treat you well. What more can you ask for? Resource of the week ScreenFlow This week’s resource is something I've shared before, ScreenFlow screen recording software. It has helped me streamline my graphic design business so much that I have to share it again. Using ScreenFlow has saved me so much time and headaches. Instead of teaching clients how to use their new websites and then helping them again a month or so later when they’ve forgotten, now I just record a short instructions video showing them what to do. If they need a refresher or need to train someone new, they have access to the video and they don’t have to interrupt me for help. For that reason alone I highly recommend ScreenFlow.
2/1/202117 minutes, 48 seconds
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How To Get People To Like, Trust And Want To Work With You - RD245

Would you like to get more design clients? For your graphic or web design business to succeed, you need to find clients willing to work with you. Without clients, it’s a given that your business will fail. But with so many designers to choose from. How do you get clients to pick you over the competition? If you’re a long time listener of the podcast, you’ve heard me say before, “Clients prefer work with a good designer they like than an amazing designer they don’t like.” That’s what it comes down to. If a client likes you, they’ll be more inclined to hire you.> But how do you get someone to like you? Especially if you only have a few short minutes to make an impression? My father was an amazing salesperson. He worked for several companies in the electrical supply industry before retiring, and he made a great impression on every one of them. In fact, he won numerous salesman of the year awards and then several managers of the year awards when he was promoted to sales manager.  Every company my father worked for credited him for their increased sales and growth. He had a natural gift for landing new clients. Even the competition had high praise for my father. They may not have liked him because he kept landing clients they wanted, but they respected him and, as far as I know, never talked ill of him. And that’s because everyone liked and trusted my dad. I didn’t understand that while growing up. Or more like I didn’t pay much attention to it. My dad had an uncanny ability to run into people he knew. It seemed that everywhere we went, someone would recognize him, and he obviously made enough of an impression for them to go out of their way to come say hi. And it didn’t matter if we were in a restaurant or mall downtown or halfway across the country. There was bound to be someone there my dad knew. I remember taking a summer road trip with my parents when I was young. We were driving through the State of Maine in the USA when my dad pulled into a gas station. While filling up, another car pulled in. And when the driver got out, he turned to my father with a big smile and greeted him by name. It turned out to be someone my dad had met at an electrical convention several years prior. They had only talked for a few minutes, but my dad had made enough of an impression on the man that he never forgot him. The first time my family and I visited Vancouver, British Columbia, which for those who don’t know, is on the other side of Canada, some 4700 KM away from where I live. My dad ran into not one, not two, but three different people he knew while we were there. My mom and I would just shake our head dumbfounded. Not only at how many people my dad knew, but how happy they always seemed to see him. This seemingly magical skill my father possessed always amazed me. It wasn’t until I was older and starting my career at the print shop that my dad let me in on his “little secret.” One day, shortly after graduation from college, I was sitting down with my father, and he told me the following. He said "Mark if you want to do well in business, you have to work hard. Never complain unless it’s absolutely necessary. And most importantly, you need people to like you. You see, the more people who like you, the easier it will be for you to succeed in whatever venture you set out to do." And then he told me his trick. And although my father didn’t break them down into steps, for the benefit of the podcast, I will. Step 1) Always smile when you greet someone. A smile is a natural diffuser.  When you smile as you greet someone, it shows that you accept them and are genuinely interested in talking with them. It makes them feel welcome. A smile creates positive energy and sets people at ease. Making it easier for them to open up to you.  It’s a lot easier to trust someone who smiles than someone who doesn’t Step 2) Always say hello with a firm handshake as you look them in the eye. A handshake tells a lot about a person. A week handshake gives the impression of doubt and lack of confidence. A strong, bone-crushing handshake gives the impression of overconfident and trying to assert authority or dominance.  You want to be in the middle, offering a firm handshake that instills a sense of confidence, as well as respect for the person you’re shaking hands with. On a side note. I know with the World Wide pandemic still going on. A handshake is frowned upon right now. I’m confident that once all of this is behind us, the handshake will make its return. And you should be ready to start offering them again. A handshake is something my father was never stingy in offering. In fact, I remember my friends in high school telling me how much they liked my dad. Every time they came over, he would get up, smile and shake their hands and ask them how they were doing. Unlike the other kid’s fathers, who never paid much attention to us, mine always made my friends feel welcome. I also remember my father getting down on one knee to shake young children’s hands whenever someone he knew introduced their kids. It made a big impression on the kids as well as their parents. My dad never missed the opportunity to shake someone’s hand. And I’m proud to say it’s a trait I picked up from him. And I look forward to the day when I can start doing it again. Step 3) Try to use the person’s name in conversation as much as possible. From birth, we’re conditioned to the sound of our own name. We react to it in a way we don’t react to anything else. Our name is one of the most precious sounds in the world to us. I know personally, I pay special attention whenever a character in a book, tv show or movie is named Mark. I remember feeling extra special as a kid when I found out the actor that played Luke Skywalker had the same first name as me. Whenever you use someone’s name in conversation, you’re telling them you care about them. That you find them important and that you respect them enough to use their name. Now, this can be tricky. Especially if you’re not good with names. I know I’m not nearly as good as my dad. But I try my best. And something to remember, you should never be ashamed to tell someone you forgot their name. In fact, by saying you don’t remember and asking them to repeat it, you’re telling the person you care enough about them to want to know their name. Just don’t make a habit of forgetting their name, or it will backfire on you. I know that any time I answer the phone, the first thing I do is write down the name of the person calling. That way, I can refer back to it while talking to them. And if they don’t offer their name, it’s one of the first questions I ask before continuing the conversation. And then I make sure to use it. After all, what do you think sounds more personable. “I’d love to work with you on this project. I’ll send you a quote by the end of the day.” or “I’d love to work with you on this, Sarah. I’ll send you a quote by the end of the day.” Most good salespeople use this tactic because it works. And so can you when talking to clients. Step 4) Show interest in the person you’re talking to. Ask any dating expert, and they’ll tell you that one of the most attractive features in a date is someone who shows more interest in you than in sharing about themselves. Now chances are you’re not seeking any romantic relations with your clients. But the principles are the same. The more you talk about and express interest in the client, the more inclined they’ll be to like, trust and want to work with you. The easiest way to accomplish this is by asking questions.  Most conversations involve two or more people, each sharing their own views. This is why questions are great attention-grabbers. Questions disrupt the normal flow of a conversation by focusing what you say on the other party. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the best type of question to ask is a follow-up question. Not only does a follow-up question refocus the conversation on the client. But it shows them that you were paying attention and that you were interested enough to want to know more about what they were saying. And questions don’t have to be specific about the topic of the conversation. In fact, the best questions are unexpected ones. If the client says, they got an idea while out camping. Ask them about the camping trip. It’s basic human nature. We like to feel important, to feel special. And by asking questions, especially follow-up questions, you make the client feel special. And when you make someone feel special, they’ll be much more inclined to like, trust and want to work with you. Now, of course, I expanded on what my father originally told me. But these four steps are the cornerstones of sales success. Always smile when you greet someone. Always say hello with a firm handshake as you look them in the eye.  Try to use the person’s name in conversation as much as possible.  Show interest in the person you’re talking to. When put together, they create a powerful impression on the person or people you’re dealing with. Imagine you walk into a car dealership, and the salesperson sees you and calls out from across the showroom floor. "Hi, Can I help you with anything?" "Yes, I’d like to see the newest model SUVs you have." "Sounds good. Follow me over here, and I’ll show them to you." Compared that to a salesperson who responds this way. You walk into the car dealership, and the salesperson gets up from behind their desk and approaches you with their hand held out. "Hi, I’m Chris." And he shakes your hand as he waits for you to reply. "Hi Chris, I’m Mark." "Nice to meet you, Mark. What can I help you with today?" "I’d like to see the newest model SUVs you have." "Sound good. Tell me, Mark, have you ever owned an SUV before?" he asks as he leads me to where the SUVs are. I don’t know about you. But even though It’s such a small difference, that second guy leaves a much better first impression. And if I had to go on just that initial greeting. I’d chose him to deal with over the first guy. The same things apply to clients. Remember, they would prefer to work with a good designer they like than with an amazing designer they don’t like. But their ideal choice is working with an amazing designer they also happen to like. And that’s where you come in. The more you can get people to like, trust and want to work with you. The faster your design business will grow and succeed. So smile, shake hands (once we can again, of course), look people in the eye. Use their name and ask questions, especially follow-up questions. If you do this, you’ll be on the road to landing more clients. Do you follow these four steps? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode. Resource of the week Art Text Create artistic text effects with Art Text 4. A Mac-based application for creating stunning headlines, logos and more. Art Text lets you turn any text into a work of art. Create realistic looking metallic, wooden, gel, paint, even chocolate looking text. All of it is fully editable with unrestricted preset. The only limit is your creativity. You can adjust the textures, surface maps, light spots and shadows, and other settings to come up with your own unique materials. And that’s not to mention the 3D modelling engine that helps convert any text, symbol or pictogram into 3D. There’s just too much to talk about in this little program. I’ve been using Art Text since version 1. I thought it was great back then. Well, version 4 is so much better. It’s my secret weapon when it comes to creating amazing stylized text. Imagine doing a poster for a coffee shop and writing the headline in coffee beans. Or a bakery with a headline that looks like a frosted donut. Or an autobody shop with text that looks like rusted metal. You get the idea. At only $29.99 US Art Text pays for itself the first time you use it.
1/25/202125 minutes, 7 seconds
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Boosting Productivity By Culling Indulgences - RD244

Are your indulgences impeding your productivity? People often ask me how I can manage so many things at once, so many spinning plates, if you will, while only working 9 AM to 5 PM? Ask most designers, and they’ll tell you of the many late nights or weekends they work to get the jobs done. I, on the other hand, rarely work late and hardly ever on weekends. So how do I do it? How do I manage this podcast, my other television show podcast, two design businesses, the Resourceful Designer Community, and a few personal “work-related” projects I have on the go? All within a 40-hour workweek? I don’t always. In fact, I’m recording this podcast episode on Saturday because I ran out of time during the week. But this is a rarity for me. Normally, I get all my work done between 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday to Friday. So how do I do it? I learned many years ago that my time is valuable. I only have so much of it, and I have to figure out the best use of that time for me. I constantly ask myself how can I get the best ROI for my time. And the biggest help was learning to cull my indulgences. What do I mean by this? First, let me tell you a story. As you may or may not know. My wife and I have two kids, both of which are now in their 20s and no longer live with us. Since the kids moved out, Kim and I have had to adjust to the lives of being empty nesters. One of those adjustments is finding television shows we can watch together. Kim loves comedies, dramas and romantic shows. In comparison, I prefer science fiction, fantasy and action-adventure programs. It wasn’t a problem when our daughter was still here. She and Kim enjoyed the same things, so they would put on one of their shows, and I would slip down to the basement to watch one of mine. But with the kids gone, Kim and I try to find shows to watch together. A couple of months ago, we started watching a show on Netflix called The Order. It’s a young adult-oriented semi-romantic drama that includes witches, warlocks and werewolves. So it checked off both our interests. Over the course of two weeks, we would watch an episode here and an episode there until we finished season 1. It wasn’t the best show we’d seen, but it was entertaining and enjoyable. A few weeks later, season 2 came out, and we decided to start it. That first episode was kind of meh, so it was a few days before we decided to watch another one which didn’t turn out to be much better. When watching episodes 3 and 4, we were questioning if there was something else we wanted to watch instead. After the fourth episode, we both decided the season wasn’t worth finishing. Our time was too valuable to waste on a program we were no longer enjoying. Now, this may not be the best example, since the time we saved by not watching The Order, we still ended up spending on the couch watching something else. But the point I’m trying to convey is, your time has value. And it shouldn’t be wasted on things that don’t contribute to that value. Let’s get back to how I manage my days and get everything done. As I said earlier, I learned a while back that to be the most productive person I could be; I needed to cull my indulgences. What does that mean? It means that whenever something catches my eye, whenever I come across something that might be a distraction, I ask myself this. “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?” Would I be any worse off if I don’t listen to this podcast episode? Would I be any worse off if I don’t watch this YouTube video? Would I be any worse off if I don’t read this article? Would I be any worse off if I don't learn this tutorial? Don’t ask yourself if you would be better off if you indulge because the answer will often be a misleading yes. Misleading because knowledge, in general, makes you better, regardless of what that knowledge is. Listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube video, and reading an article will benefit you somehow, even if it’s minute. But asking if you would be worse off by not indulging gives you a completely different perspective to judge by. For example, if I come across an article reviewing new features in Adobe Illustrator. I ask myself, “would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in reading this?” The answer is yes. I use Illustrator regularly. If there are new features that can speed up my workflow and make what I do easier, and I don’t lean them. I’ll be worse off. However, if I come across an article titled “The top 10 design trends to avoid in 2021.” The answer would be no. I might gain some knowledge and benefit from reading the article. But I’m not going to be any worse off if I don’t read it. I tend to do my own thing and not follow trends anyway. So why waste my valuable time reading that article. No matter how curious I am. Now in some cases, putting off instead of dismissing is an option. And article titled "The 10 most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe." Oh, this one hits me at my geeky core. As a huge Marvel fan, I want to know if this list coincides with the one I have in my head. But would I be any worse off if I read it and found out? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. I would be. Not because of the knowledge I would gain. But because reading the article would take up valuable time when I should be working. So the smart thing to do is not indulge. However, the geek in me really wants to know. I mean, who do they have at number 1. Is it the Hulk? Thor? Captain Marvel? Someone, I’m not thinking of? I think it’s Captain Marvel. It has to be Captain Marvel, right? In this case, instead of dismissing the article altogether. I put it aside to look at when I’m not working. You see, Outside of the hours of 9 to 5, the value I associate with my time diminishes drastically. When I’m not in my office, I allow myself to indulge in these things. I mean, you have to enjoy life, right? But during working hours. I try to use my time most productively. In some cases, I encounter an indulgence that I would be worse off if I didn’t read or watch it. However, I wouldn’t be worse off right now. For example. I like the Divi Blog Extra module by Divi Extended. But I only need it for a couple of websites. In most cases, the default Blog module that comes with Divi is good for the sites I build. So if an update for Divi Blog Extra is released with new features, not only would I benefit from knowing about them, but I might also be worse off by not knowing about them. However, as I said, I only use Divi Blog Extra on a couple of websites, and they’re working fine as is. Whatever new features the module has is of no consequence to me in regards to those sites. And If I’m not currently working on any new sites that require the module, there’s no reason for me to learn about the new features now. This goes back to one of the first episodes of the podcast titled Just In Time Learning. Just In Time Learning is a mindset that makes you more productive. The theory behind Just In Time Learning is there’s no point learning something now if you are not going to use it now. Because chances are, by the time you do need to use it, you’ll have forgotten most of it and have to refresh yourself anyway, doubling the time you spent learning it. Instead, you put it aside, make a note, and go back to it when you need to learn it. Just In Time Learning became a huge time saver for me. I have tons of tutorials and articles put aside. I use Evernote to keep track of all of them. They're all there, easily searchable for the day I might need to review them. They’re all cases of things that I may need to know. But I’m not worse off by not knowing them now. So in Divi Blog Extra's case, until I need to use it on another website, there’s no use learning about the new features. My time can be used for better things right now. Earlier I mentioned coming across an article listing new features in Adobe Illustrator and how, because of my use of Illustrator, I would be worse off if I didn’t read it. However, I can apply this same principle within an article. As I skim the article, I ask myself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t know about this particular feature?” If it has to do with things such as the Pathfinder tools or the Appearance panel, then yes, because those are things I use all the time. But I can pass on the part about embedding cloud documents from Photoshop because I have no use for that feature. So I wouldn’t be any worse off if I don’t read that part. Am I getting my point across? You’d be amazed at how much time you spend throughout your day or week, indulging in things that are not pertinent to your business, or at least not now when your time could be spent on things pertinent to your business. So ask yourself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?” and see how much time you get back. And use it on everything: articles, tutorials, YouTube Videos, even podcasts. I may be shooting myself in the foot by saying this. But if I put out a podcast episode and you would be no worse off by not listening to it, then don’t. If it doesn’t apply or is of no use to you. Don’t bother. I’m subscribed to over 60 different podcasts. Do you think I listen to every episode? Of course not. I judge each episode and decide if it’s something I need to listen to. If it isn’t, I delete it. Now I’m hoping you don’t do that with Resourceful Designer. But I’m also hoping I’m not causing you to waste time you could be spending growing your design business. Now I’m not saying this idea is foolproof. I still get sucked down the rabbit hole now and again. That’s just life. Sometimes, curiosity or that shiny object gets the better of us. But the more disciplined you are, and the more time you can free up from these indulgences, the more time you’ll have to invest in running and growing your design business. That’s how I can do two podcasts, run two design businesses, partake in the Resourceful Designer Community, and manage all my personal “work-related” projects and more. All while sticking to a 9-5 schedule. And you can too. Just ask yourself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?” Resource of the week is a great organizational tool for mind mapping that you can access from any platform. Think of it as an organization or a bullet list on steroids and so much more. For example. If you’re laying out the structure for a new website project. You can create a list with all your main menus, then their sub-pages, then categories, then perhaps tags. And so forth. It sounds pretty basic. It’s one of those things you have to try in order to truly appreciate what it can do. Working on a social media campaign? Dynalist will help make sure nothing gets overlooked. I love its easy move feature. No cumbersome copy, find the right place and paste. Moving an item is as simple as selecting the item and then telling it where to move to. As I said, you have to see it to appreciate it. Dynalist does have a $7.99 monthly plan. But I don’t think you’ll need that. I use their free plan and it does everything I need it to do. So if you’re looking for a great free resource to help keep you organized. Check out
1/18/202123 minutes, 19 seconds
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Learning To Let Go - RD243

Are you ready to grow your design business by letting go of what's holding you back? Let me start with a story. A young boy is visiting his grandparents' house with his mom and dad. As young boys will do when in an environment not meant for young boys, they explore and sometimes get into trouble. Well, this young boy just so happened to be walking around with an antique vase, a precious family heirloom. When his mother spotted him, she immediately told him to put the vase down before breaking it. But the boy replied that he couldn’t, his hand was stuck inside. A little frustrated, the mother takes the vase and tells the boy, “If you were able to get your hand in the vase, you could surely get it out.” But as she pulls on it, there’s no give. Hearing the commotion, the father comes in to help. He, too, tugs on the vase, but the boy's hand is firmly stuck. He tugs and tugs until the boy says it’s hurting him. The grandmother, in her wise old ways, suggests using butter to help the hand slide out. But alas, it has no effect. Completely perplexed, with the mother still tugging on the vase, the father throws his hands up in the air, stating, “I’d give 50 dollars just to get your hand out of that vase right now.” The young boy's eyes opened wide with excitement. “Really?” he exclaims. Suddenly, they hear a clinking sound, and the boy’s hand slides out of the vase. In disbelief, the mother looks into the vase then upturns it, and a quarter falls into her hand. The young boy explains that it’s the quarter grandpa gave him when they arrived. He had put it in the vase, but when he reached in to grab it, his hand got stuck. But when his dad said he’d give him $50 if he got his hand out of the vase, he let go of the quarter. Now I’m sure you’ve heard this or a variation of this story before. So you probably knew the outcome before I ever reached it. But I wanted to tell it anyway as a kind of analogy to your design business. Many designers who run their own business tend to hold on to that metaphorical quarter when they should be letting go of it for bigger and better things. This is the first episode of 2021. And I don’t have to tell you what kind of year 2020 was. You were there. But with all of that fiasco behind us and light of better things to come finally peeking through at the end of the tunnel. Now is the perfect time to take stock of your business and figure out what you need to do to help it grow and succeed. What are you going to do more of? And what, if anything, can you let go? No business, design or otherwise can grow without making changes. Restaurants change their menus. Telecommunication companies change their phone plans. Governments elect new officials. Changes are a natural precursor to growth. And every successful business does it. By grow, I don’t necessarily mean taking on more design work or more clients, although that may be the case, and it still counts as growth. What I mean by grow, is making progress, expanding while focusing on your goals. You do have goals, don’t you? Without them, how will you know if you’re making progress? If we take 2020 out of the equation and compare this upcoming year, 2021, to your previous years, you should be striving to not only make more money but also to be more satisfied with yourself and your business than you’ve been in previous years. At the very least, you should aim to stay on par as in previous years. What you don’t want is to step backward. If you make less money or aren’t as happy, you’re doing something wrong. And chances are, it’s because you’re holding on to that metaphorical quarter and not letting go. Growing your business and making more money doesn’t necessarily mean doing more work, which, in turn, could increase your stress level. In fact, you can grow your design business and make more money by doing less but smarter work. The easiest way to do this is to raise your rates. But to raise your rates, you have to let go of the notion that you’re not worth higher rates. Or that your clients won’t pay higher rates. Thousands of designers have already debunked that theory when they started charging more money for their services, and their business didn’t fail. Myself included. I make more money today, putting in 10 hours of work than I did five years ago doing 30 or 40 hours of work. How? It’s because I let go of the notion that an hour of my time is worth X amount of dollars. When I started charging clients based on what I thought their project was worth and not how much time it would take me to complete it, I started making a lot more money. And you know what? The only clients that objected to my price increase were the clients I didn’t really want to work with, to begin with. Those clients who didn’t object were the clients who truly valued what I do for them. And you know what? When I raised my rates, they started bringing me bigger and better projects. They stopped sending me simple things to design and started sending me entire campaigns to work on. It’s that perceived value I talked about a few weeks ago in episode 240 of the podcast. The same service I provided was perceived as much more valuable to these clients because I was charging more for it, and they are willing to pay me much more for those services and trust me with bigger jobs. Want another way to look at it? Consider a Rolex watch and a Timex watch. Both timepieces fit nicely on your wrist. Both tell time. And both can make you look pretty darn good fashion-wise. And yet, the Rolex is worth so much more than the Timex. Why is that? Is what they’re made of? There may be a price difference in the actual materials each watch is made of, but I doubt it’s enough of a difference to justify the huge difference in each timepiece's cost. Is it craftsmanship? Both are precision instruments. They both need to be finely crafted to function. Is it the mechanics? I don’t think so. As far as I know, watch mechanics haven't changed much since they were first invented. So what is it? What’s the real difference between a Rolex and a Timex? The true difference is not the watches themselves. It’s the companies behind the watches. They’re the ones who create the value. Rolex markets itself to the elite, the A-listers, and therefore has an elite price tag to match. Whereas Timex markets itself to the general populace, the everyday person, therefore, has a price to match. Their value is exactly where they’ve set it for themselves. Both companies are very successful. However, and I’m just speculating here, but I bet Timex has to sell a whole lot more watches than Rolex does to stay in business. You have a say in how your design business is perceived. Which, in turn, dictates how much clients are willing to pay for your services. Do you want to take on dozens and dozens of small paying projects? Or would you prefer to work on a few high paying projects? Are you a Timex, or are you a Rolex? In my Podcast Branding business, for example. Time and time again, clients tell me they chose my business, one of the more expensive options in the podcast space, because I looked the most professional, and I instilled a sense of confidence in them that I know what I’m doing and they would get quality work from me. Because of that, they are willing to pay more for my services than for any of the less expensive options. So let go of the notion that you’re not good enough or not worth enough because it’s not true. Even the most inexperienced designer, a student fresh out of school, is worth more than they know. I’ve been talking a lot about prices, but there are other ways you can let go to grow your design business. Look at the services you offer. Are there any that you’re just not that keen on doing? If so, why do you offer them? Even a general, all-purpose graphic designer can set limits on what they do. When I started my Podcast Branding business, I offered social media graphics but quickly realized I didn’t like doing them. So I eliminated the service. I still offer to create the branding for my client's social media platforms, but I no longer create graphics for their individual social media posts. Just because every designer around you seems to be offering website design doesn’t mean you have to as well. If you don’t like designing websites, even if you know how, you don’t have to. Let it go and concentrate on the things you do, like designing. Not every designer enjoys designing logos. And not every designer is good at it either. If you don’t like it, stop offering logo design as a service. It’s OK to let these things go and concentrate on the things you are good at and enjoy doing. In a way, it’s kind of like niching down. I’ve talked about the benefits of niching before on several episodes of the podcast. Culling your design services is a form of niching. In fact, it could set you apart from other designers and make you more desirable to clients. Look at Ian Paget from Logo Geek. His entire business is focused on designing logos. The first thing you see when you visit his website is the phrase “I Design Logos.” If you know Ian, you’ll know that his background is in designing websites and yet nowhere on his current site does he mention that. Why? Because it’s not what he wants to do. Ian is passionate about logos, so that’s what he offers. He let go of everything else he knows how to design to focus on one thing. And now he’s killing it in the logo design space. I’m not saying you have to go to that extreme, but it’s a great example of how letting go can help propel you forward. One thing to note. Removing a service doesn’t have to mean never doing it. Ian, for example, still offers other design services to his clients besides logo design. He doesn’t advertise it because it’s not his passion. In my case, If one of my clients asked me to create a social media post for them, I can say yes if I feel like it and do it for them. Nothing is stopping me from doing it. I don’t advertise it as a service anymore. It’s OK to let things go in the name of progress. In fact, it’s somewhat necessary if you truly want to succeed. Ask any successful designer running their own business if they’re doing the same thing today as they were five years ago, and the majority, if not all of them, would answer no. You have to evolve if you want to survive in this industry. If you don’t, then you’ll lose when those around you do. Don’t get your hand stuck in the vase grasping a quarter when there are much bigger things you could be going after. That’s my 2 cents. What are you going to let go of this year? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode. Resource of the week Chrome Browser Groups In episode 239 of the podcast, I shared how to turn Chrome browser tabs into desktop apps. I got so many responses thanking me for that tip that I thought I’d share another Chrome tip. If you have a bunch of related browser tabs open, for example, you may have several tabs open for different stock image sites. Or, if you’re a web designer, you may have tabs open for each of your client’s websites. An easy way to organize this tab chaos is with Tab Groups. In Chrome, right-click on any tab and select “Add to New Group.” If you already have a tab group, the menu changes to “Add to Group” with a pop-out for you to choose an existing group or create a new one. When creating a new group, you can name it whatever you want, such as Stock Images or Client Websites. You can also assign it a colour, which makes it very easy to navigate. Once a Tab Group is created, simply right-click on any tab to add it to the group. A Tab Group appears in your Tab bar like any other tab. The difference is you can open and collapse a tab group. So if you have 10 client sites in a Tab Group, clicking it will expand to show you all 10 tabs, and each one will be underlined with the colour you assigned the group, making it very easy to see which tabs are part of the group. When you’re done looking at the client sites, simply click on the Group Tab, and all 10 client website tabs collapse into the one Group Tab, freeing up your browser window and making it much easier to navigate. This is a great solution for anyone who likes to keep dozens, if not more, tabs open at once. One thing to note if you’re testing this out, you cannot collapse a tab group until you have a tab that is not part of the group.
1/11/202122 minutes, 34 seconds
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A Look Back - A Look Ahead - 2020 Edition - RD242

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 episo