Grow Your Design Business: A How to Guide
Figuring out how to grow your design business should be your main focus. You have the talent, and you have the expertise, but where is the steady flow of clients that you are looking for? One of the hardest things for designers to do when freelancing or starting their own business is promoting themselves properly.
In order to grow your design business, you have to focus on two main factors. The 1st factor is networking. You have to promote yourself and your services to fellow designers. You should get your work out there and put it on every designer portfolio site available. If you want a list of design portfolio sites where you can showcase your work, check out this article. You should connect with other designers, and join design community sites. Comment on popular design blogs and you absolutely have to to have your own portfolio website. This is a big one in terms of promoting yourself.
Having your own website allows you to showcase your personality, as well as your professionalism. It is your platform for convincing a potential client why they should hire you. On your personal portfolio website, you aren’t competing with other designers and their work in order to get hired. If you can get people to your site to see your work and connect with your personality, you have a much better chance of getting hired for a gig. You can also add a few personal touches, such as an extended bio (without getting too personal. Remember, you want people to hire you, not run away in fear). You can also add links to other social media venues where people can connect with you, such as Twitter, a professional Facebook page, LinkedIn, a personal blog where people can see the human side of you, and much more. This is essential if you want to grow your design business, but there is more.
The second factor on how to grow your design business is an important one that many designers miss. Many designers think that if they connect with other designers, that they will be flooded with work. While that might work for a select few, in all reality, that just isn’t the case. As a designer, you have to connect with real people. You have to get out from behind the computer and talk to people. Meet new business owners, go to business social events. Go to networking conventions downtown. Chances are, there are tons of new business owners, or small business owners out there that are looking to connect and build partnerships with other businesses. This is key when trying to grow your design business.
Host a webinar, or host a live seminar. Spread the word about your business via word of mouth. Once the word gets out that you are an expert, and a real stand-up-person, your business is sure to grow. Many people think that business should come to them wile they sit and wait for it, but in this economy, you have to be more aggressive. Many clients don’t understand why they can’t market themselves and build their own websites and brand. They don’t understand the work and the knowledge that goes into doing it right. Not everyone understands the value of what we can do, and they won’t unless you get out there and show them.
Once you work wonders for a few business, their colleagues and competitors will take notice. People talk, and when you produce results, they can’t wait to tell others how successful they are and why. When your name comes up, you just had a much higher chance of getting a new customer.
On the other hand, if you don’t deliver, and you don’t know what you are doing, you can’t meet deadlines, aren’t motivated or organized, your business will fail much faster. You won’t have to worry about how to keep the lights on, because you’ll be out of business quicker than you can blink. The next point is that you have to bring your “A” game. I have seen some businesses succeed despite themselves, but those odds are few and far between. You have to do your very best and provide a service that exceeds your clients’ expectations. No one will promote you or brag about you for simply doing your job. You have to go above and beyond and really knock each client’s socks off that walks through the door.
Keep in mind that this is going to be extremely tough to do. You have bills to pay, projects to balance and new clients to meet. Staying organized is key, but you also need to remember that you can’t please everyone. I have never met a designer that has made every single client happy every single time. If someone tells you they have, they are lying to you. You are going to meet clients that are impossible and overly-demanding, but that comes with the territory. If you have done your very best, and the client is still not happy, it is simply because they never will be, no matter what you do.
There are some things to keep in mind on how to grow your business. Some tips you should be thinking about are:
1. Keep a good balance. You have to market yourself, keep your clients happy, attract and meet with new clients, invoice the ones you have worked for, pay bills, attend events, go to meetings, actually find time to do the design work that you have found, and get some sleep at night.
2. Actually get some sleep and eat well. I know you are probably wondering why I am including this, but it is key to a successful business. You and your business are like a machine. If you put cheap gas in a sports car, it isn’t good for the motor, and the car won’t last as long. Eventually it will have problems, and won’t run properly. In a sense, you are the same. When you eat fast-food everyday, don’t exercise, don’t sleep enough, stress yourself out constantly, miss meals, don’t take breaks, etc, you run the risk of messing up your internal motors. You will get sick easier, you won’t be at your best, you won’t look happy, and your design work will suffer. You need a sharp mind in order to produce concept-driven design work, and you can’t do that after skipping breakfast and having only 3 hours of sleep for the past 3 or 4 days. Clients will eventually be able to tell that you are strung out, stressed out, and just plain worked to the bone. Staying healthy will allow you to deliver great work, on time, and in a pleasant manner, which is essential to the growth of your business.
3. Take a break every now and then. This is one that I struggle with. You have to break away from work and live a little. I know this sounds counter intuitive to growing your business, but hear me out. You have to take in some culture on a regular basis. That is how your work stays relevant. You have to know what s going on in the world. Also productivity will increase, because you can focus much better. Breaking away allows you to take a step back and think about things, and sometimes hindsight is 20/20.
4. Take your business cards with you everywhere! It kills me when I meet another designer, and I ask them for a card, and they say “Oh, I left that at home, or in my office.” Why do you have business cards if you aren’t going to carry them with you? You don’t hand out business cards in your office as much as you do when you’re out and about, because if they are in your office, chances are they are already interested, or they are already a client! You never know when you are go to run into someone who might need your services. take your cards with you! Keep them in your glove box, get a card holder and carry some in your coat, carry some in your pocket. They will do no good sitting at home.
5. Talk about your business! Bring up your work in conversations, especially when you are out and about. If you are having a pleasant conversation with a stranger, make a comment about your workday. Most people inquire about what you do, and there is your opportunity to leave a card. Be casual, not forceful, give them a card, and continue to speak on friendly terms with them. Ask them about their business, and don’t talk all that much about yourself. You’ll have plenty of chances later to prove yourself, when you meet for coffee, or they see your portfolio. Timing and approach are everything.
6. If you have a little extra money, sponsor a charity. This is a win-win for everyone. First off, it is just plain good for the community. Any time you can help others, do it without hesitation. Second, it really sheds a positive light on you and helps to grow your design business. Aligning you or your company name with a charity is great PR. Also, from a business side, charitable donations or sponsorships are tax deductible. It is a positive investment for your company, that does a lot of good for the community. Also, other sponsors of the event will usually connect with you, driving more business your way. landing work from well established businesses will bring you steady work.
7. Be patient. Nothing worth doing happens overnight. It may take months or even a couple of years to comfortable grow your design business. If you plant the right seeds, nurture and water your business properly, you will eventually reap what you sow. Just keep your head up, keep working, stay confident and it will happen.
It can be hard to figure out how to grow your design business. You want to find work and you have bills to pay. this can put a lot of pressure on you as a person and a designer, but if you remember to promote yourself and your work, you will definitely find success. Focus on doing great work and making your clients happy.