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Jason Santa Maria: Saying No

Posted: March 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Mike Monteiro: F*ck You, Pay Me

Posted: March 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

If You Build It, They Will Come

Posted: February 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Welcome back to our journey towards overcoming the plight of the creative entrepreneur. Up to this point we have been working hard to understand why, how and what we really do. We’ve also been working to understand our worth and figuring out how to charge for it. In this, our final installment, we are ready to jump into the abyss of finding the right clients with whom to partner to raise their value while charging our worth.

Out with the Old
One of the questions I get the most from other or aspiring creative entrepreneurs is “how do you find clients?”. My answer is always the same, “I don’t… they find me”. Sounds like a dream, right? Sounds like something you can only do after mastering your craft (which I haven’t), and working for tons of people on tons of really cool, high profile, projects.

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7 Qualities of a Good Client

Posted: July 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

They say a business partnership is like a marriage. And a bad one can have repercussions that lasts for years. So, just like a marriage, you ought to make sure the qualities and characteristics of your business partner are compatible with your values.

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Professionals vs. Amateurs

Posted: May 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »


Quick – Name the Last Seminar You Attended

Posted: December 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

You’ll probably leaving a ton of money on the table by not getting out and attending seminars and conferences. We all know the expenses involved but the payoff can be huge and often in ways that we cannot predict. Read on.

I decided to attended a subscription site seminar in Boston, hosted by Tim Kerber and MemberGate. I really was not sure if I was going to attend as I have my hands full of “way too many” projects now but I am making it a priority to actually go to events to learn and network (in that order). Now that it’s over I am super glad I attended. It would take another 50 emails to share what I learned and further got to meet some “super successful” entrepreneurs who were more than happy to share some of their “secrets.”

We both know these things are not cheap. You have to pay for room, meals, flights etc. etc so it adds up. However, you have to look at the long term payback. From the what I learned and the contacts I made I would say the conference will easily pay for itself in just a month or two.

Of course, all that knowledge has to be implemented not just shoved in binder to “reference” someday. I heard this time and again at the seminar – “just get it done and out the door” I mean (me included) how many times do you labor over something and it grows into this 3 armed and 4 legged monster.

Funny, was just speaking to a coaching client and we talked about this very issue and how I recommended he go down a path of much less resistance on this particular project. I insisted he just “get it done” and not be distracted with “frosting”.

So, 2 things:

1. Save, scrimp, beg, borrow (within reason) but get yourself out and about and attend some of these conferences. I guarantee you’ll thank yourself many times over.

2: Get in the mode of getting things done fast. You’ll increase your productivity 10x and the result will be many more dollars coming your way.

One speaker very succinctly summed this point up with this mantra, “Fail fast, fail often and success is assured”

– by Doug Farrick

5 Appointment Setting Tips for Designers

Posted: September 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Articles, Business | No Comments »

The thought of getting on the phone to land an appointment with a corporate decision maker can make you sick to your stomach. The beauty of design work is that you can tuck yourself away for hours in your corner of the world, behind your computer and with limited interaction with people. But think of all the work you’re missing out on if you don’t pick up the phone and get proactive about appointment setting. Your competitors are doing it, and it’s what you need to get higher paying gigs. Here are some tips to help you overcome your fears and land more appointments:

Tip #1 – Do It Every Day

Try to make at least two calls every day. The routine will help you hone your skills and chip away at any fears you have about talking on the phone. The truth is, you’ll need to do a lot more calling to increase your chances of getting past the gatekeepers, following up after you leave voicemails and getting through to someone who has the authority to hire you. When you incorporate it into your daily schedule, you’ll get more comfortable and make more calls.

Tip #2 – Use a Calling Script

Write a short script that you’ll use for every call. This includes a script for leaving voicemail. The script should include:

  • A one-line hook:  “I can increase your web traffic by 500 unique visitors immediately.’
  • One question to get them thinking: “Are you losing customers just because the website is hard to navigate?”
  • Ask for an appointment: “I’d like to schedule an appointment with you to show you exactly how I can help you.”

You can share the script with employees or anyone you hire to set appointments for you.

Tip #3 – Research Leads Beforehand

The last thing you want to do is try to research contact information and prospective corporate managers to call while you sit down to make your calls. It’s too distracting and you waste more time that way. Set aside time beforehand to input all of your contact information in an Excel spread sheet or customer relationship management software.

Tip #4 – Keep Detailed Notes

Take brief notes when you hang up the phone on your conversations. Include the date, whether you left a voicemail or spoke with someone, who you spoke with and the outcome. You’d be amazed at how valuable those notes will become when you go to do a follow up call. Your memory will fail you in the middle of a conversation or when you go to call a lead again. Rely on your notes instead.

Tip #5 – Follow Up

Few people get sold the first time on anything, and you’ll find the same thing to be true when it comes to appointment setting. You should follow up with everyone at least four times until you get an appointment. This includes calling them, leaving messages and sending emails. Calling and sending follow-up emails counts as one time. There’s no getting around it, making phone calls and speaking to people is crucial to setting appointments.

The purpose of the call is to get a decision maker in the corporation to say yes to an appointment. It’s not to sell them on your services. At the same time, you may get one shot on the phone to do so. For instance, if you get a vice president on the phone who insists that you make a pitch, go for it.

Crowdsourcing – Chic for Some, Bad for Designers – Educate Your Clients!

Posted: August 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Articles, Business | No Comments »

Whether you call it design by democracy or crowdsourcing, it’s bad news to designers.  Crowdsourcing is where a project is turned over to the public, which in turn gives its input on the outcome of the project. Everyone gets to collaborate on it, and that’s anyone, whether they have a design background or not. One philosophy behind the approach is that collective creativity can lead to great things. The problem is that it leads to lower quality work, and you put your clients at risk of lawsuits for copyright and trademark infringement.

Copyright and Trademark Infringement

Copyrights are one of the first properties your clients may own. It is intellectual property that is valuable to someone. When you design a logo for someone, it provides value to them only if it excludes others from using it. For example, the golden arches used by McDonald’s are recognized worldwide, and no other restaurant can use it. If a restaurant owner uses crowdsourcing and the group decides that golden arches are cool and incorporates them in the logo design, that restaurant owner is at risk of a lawsuit. Most restaurant owners will know that the golden arches belong to McDonald’s, but what about lesser known works? What if a crowd member decides to rip an image or two from a website and it gets incorporated in a logo down the road? There’s no incentive for the crowd to do its due diligence, and that owner may find himself in a costly legal battle a few years down the road.

Poor Quality Work

Low quality work that’s produced consistently has a negative impact on the design industry. Prospective clients will expect you to lower your rates, because the alternative is to get work done cheaper or even free. Your argument that the work you produce is high quality and not comparable to what you’ll get with crowdsourcing will fall on more deaf ears as this method of producing work becomes more popular. It will become harder to make your case and narrow your pool of prospective clients.

Not So Cheap After All

The irony of crowdsourcing is that it could end up costing the clients more, even though the perception is that it’s a cheaper way of doing business. Someone has to manage the group giving input, set milestones and ensure that it’s getting done. Clients can expect to redo work or start over with this method. That costs money, and clients who spend too much on crowdsourcing may get stingy about allocating more money to other design projects. It affects the design industry as a whole because designers are competing with the crowd at large, where resources are limited. And with fewer designers getting hired for these jobs, you can expect lower quality work. It’s important to demonstrate to clients that it might cost more to crowdsource when they rebut your sales pitch with that as an option.

Before you get seduced by crowdsourcing, consider the effects it can have on your income. It’s a bad idea for the design industry, and it has a direct impact on your ability to land more sales.

Protect Yourself with Detailed Records

Posted: August 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Articles, Business | No Comments »

Getting organized is more than just keeping your area clutter-free or using effective time management. To succeed as an entrepreneur or freelancer, you must excel at project management. Technical projects consists of many pieces coming together to create the end product. If you don’t have a process in place to manage each step and keep detailed records, then you run the risk of missing deadlines and delivering poor products and services.

Keep Detailed Project Files

It’s important to keep track of all of your files in one place. Don’t waste time and energy tracking down files in miscellaneous emails or from subcontractors. If you’re working on your own, then create folders in Dropbox for each client and subfolders for each project. You want to be able to access your folders from anywhere.

A more advanced option is to use project management software like or Basecamp. You can upload documents and share them with subcontractors and employees. You will always have your files in one spot and associated with clients and projects.

Keep Detailed Milestones and Deadlines

Disorganization creeps in when you don’t keep track of your progress. You can get away with it with the first couple of clients, but not for long. At some point, you will have to start keeping detailed records in this area. Do yourself a favor and form the habit early on with your first few clients. You can use project management software or to-do lists.  Figure out the milestones for each project, and assign due dates and tasks for each. Be as detailed as possible as you describe tasks in case you plan to use independent contractors for those projects or future projects.

Keep Track of Your Time

Even if you charge a flat fee for your services, you need to track your time. It will help you analyze how which types of projects generate the most profits for your business, as well as whether you need to raise your rates. If you play the guessing game, then you can hinder the growth of your business. Use online timesheets or ones that are included in project management software to keep detailed records of your time. There are many available online for free, such as

Track non-billable time as well. That’s all the time you spend on your clients, even if you don’t expect payment. Examples include:

  • Responding to emails (although you should probably be billing your time for those)
  • Mailing completed works (including travel time to the post office)
  • Watching tutorials to learn the client’s software
  • Returning quick phone calls

One major advantage of being detail oriented in this area is that billing clients for work will become easier. You could even hand it off to a bookkeeper, since your time will already be logged. Make sure you distinguish between non-billable and billable time.

If the thought of getting so detailed gives you a headache, consider hiring someone to help you in this area. Delegate project management or billing to someone who is competent to manage these tasks for you. This will free you up to concentrate on design and other projects that you enjoy most.

How to Manage the Micro-Managing Client

Posted: July 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Articles, Business | No Comments »

How to Manage the Micro-Managing Client

“Our hourly rate is $100 per hour,

If you wish to help or stand and watch, our hourly rate is $500 an hour.”

We can learn something from this sign displayed by an auto repair shop. Some clients want to micro-manage all of the projects they “turn over.” The problem is, it makes you less efficient, less effective and it can be more hassle than it’s worth. The client has a right to expect quality work and you should work hard to achieve customer satisfaction. There’s a fine line though between achieving customer satisfaction and being controlled, and you will lose money often if you don’t make that distinction.

Set Boundaries

Decide how you want to work and don’t stray from that. If you want to work virtually, in your office and without direct client contact, then don’t budge. The rates you set should not be based on the fact that you don’t have to travel to an office space or lease one for clients to see you. If you agree to see clients and allow them to constantly look over your shoulder, then you’re losing money on the deal. You should set boundaries with your clients. Let them know that you charge competitive rates because you work remotely. If they don’t want that, then move on. That’s tough to say when the economy is bad, but if you’re not willing to set boundaries you must be willing to increase your rates.

Set High Rates

The point that the repair shop is making is that you get what you pay for. If a client wants to control what you’re doing or learn what you do, and then go off and do the work on his own, then he should pay a much higher rate. You should double your rate at the very least if you’re not willing to give up that client. One of two things will happen: Your client will not want to pay the higher rate and leave, or will get the point and accept your work style. Each situation is different, so you’ll have to decide whether to accept a client walking away because you take a stand. Like you, most clients will want to save costs and go for the cheaper rate for the same work.

Communicate Often

A client often feels a need to control the situation when there’s a communication breakdown. It’s often a panic reaction, and the client feels more secure if they can dictate the terms and micro-manage you as a contractor. You can prevent that feeling of insecurity and the negative reaction to it by communicating with your clients often.  Decide on the best communication method for your clients and use it. If it’s a phone call, don’t be afraid to pick it up weekly or more often to give updates. If they love emails, send them informative ones and attach samples of your work as needed. Be authentic and transparent in your communications to put them at ease. It will go a long way to diminish any desire they have to take control of the situation.

The best way to handle overbearing clients is to take these preventative measures. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never face a client who wants to look over your shoulder, but following these rules will empower you to stay or walk away.