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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.

Phone Options for Busy Creative Professionals

Posted: July 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Articles, Business | No Comments »

The telephone is the most undervalued tool in business, but when used right, it’s a great asset. You can use it to for sales and marketing, client relations, training and even to deliver part of your services. With so many options for phones and phone plans, it can be tough to decide on the right choice. Understanding the pros and cons of some popular options can help you make an informed decision.

Cell Phones

Many startups rely on cell phones for everything, including business. The pros to using cell phones for business are:

  • Flexibility – You can use your cell phone anywhere.
  • Screen calls – Your caller ID will indicate who is calling.
  • Pay as you go – Prepaid cell phones allow you to purchase plans without a monthly requirement.

You’ll experience the same frustrations using cell phones for your business as you may already have for personal use. The notorious cons are:

  • Dropped calls – And yes, it will be in the middle of closing a sale.
  • Bad connections – It’s hard to hear the other person or vice versa sometimes, which can frustrate clients.
  • Health risks – Extensive cell phone usage may have a severe impact on your health.

Buying and selling cell phones is so easy, it seems like a no brainer. However, it may not be your best option for your business.

VoIP, or Voice over IP

Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, allows you to make calls over the internet. Skype is a popular example, where by one click you can call a client overseas or a subcontractor in the same area. You can use a VoIP phone or a computer. You can also attach an adapter to some phones. The technology utilizes the Internet to transmit calls instead of the typical analog phone line used for landlines. The pros of using VoIP are:

  • Easy for subcontractors or employees to use when working on your behalf – No need to be at your office (they can use their own Internet connection).
  • Save costs – No need to pay for a landline in addition to Internet service.
  • Use and record videos – You can even sell those calls or leverage them to increase your prices.
  • Lower costs – The cost to use VoIP is much lower in many cases, and sometimes even  free.

Some entrepreneurs love VoIP, but not everyone is sold. The cons to be aware of include:

  • Unreliable connections – Like cell phones, you’re going to get error messages during calls stating that there’s a bad Internet connection and the call will be “dropped.”
  • It’s dependent on electricity – Unlike your landline, when the power goes out, so does VoIP.

You can always try VoIP for free to see whether it’s the right solution for you. Find an online service like Skype and give it a try.

Second Line

Adding a second line to your landline is another simple phone option.  You can list that line’s number as your business phone and you’ll know when it rings that it’s a business call. The pros of this option are:

  • It will work even when there’s a power outage
  • The connection is stable and reliable
  • You can forward calls

The cons might outweigh the pros in some instances though, such as:

  • You double your phone costs
  • Additional features such as voicemail and caller ID are expensive
  • Limited in functionality when compared to VoIP and some cell phones

Bundling phone service features will help to lower the costs a bit. You can also bundle services with some of your other services with the provider, such as Internet and phone, to lower costs.

Determining what phone option is right for you will depend on how you plan to use it with clients. The expenses may also be tax deductible, which can help to reduce your overall tax liability.

How to Keep Clients on Task

Posted: June 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Some of your clients need you to manage them. They don’t just want to hire a designer per se. They want a manager who will take a project, run with it, see it through and deliver results. That’s a value added proposition that can help you dominate your market, if you’re willing to offer it. Part of that entails getting clients to cooperate with you and give you what you need to do your job. That’s not always fun, but there are ways to make it less painful.

Change Your Pay Model

You would think that improving their business or life is enough incentive to get some of your clients to keep up with timelines. But remember, some clients have delayed projects for years, and simply hiring you is not enough to jolt them into finishing what they started. These clients have no issues parking their cash with someone, knowing that someday their project will get done. Most of those clients though are not willing to park 100 percent of the cash for a project. That’s one way to get them to keep things moving along. Instead of only charging 50 percent upfront or anything less than 100 percent with at least some of your clients, charge the full amount when you can. You’d be surprised how quickly attitudes change when they realize that if they don’t follow through, you have all the money you need for the project.

Highlight the Benefits of Finishing on Time

At some point during the sales process, you convinced the client of the benefits to working with you and giving you money for your services. They may just need a reminder from time to time of these same benefits. Some examples include:

  • Boost sales
  • Capture more leads
  • Establish credibility with customers, leaders in the industry and joint venture partners
  • Streamline business systems and processes to free up more time

Ask questions to see whether the benefits that hooked them in the first place are no longer relevant. If that’s true, then emphasize new ones.

Make it Easy for Them

Don’t crowd your clients’ email inboxes with lengthy and numerous emails. Clients won’t read them and as a result, they’ll miss deadlines and brush you off. Make doing business with you so easy that there’s no excuse. For example, add a client area to your website or take advantage of project management software that allows you to share files with clients in a central place. Dropbox is one tool you can use to upload and share files with clients, instead of sending emails and attachments. Rather than running away from your communications, they can feel as if they are in control by checking on milestones and other project goals in an organized way.

You may feel more like a coach than a creative professional when you’re following up with clients and trying to get them to accomplish their goals. Look at it as an opportunity to provide excellent customer service and gain their trust. That’s how you gain repeat customers.

Form a Corporation

Posted: April 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Quick Blurbs | No Comments »

Over the past weekend I have decided to move forward with forming an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) for my design business Art Space. Currently I have a sole proprietorship and I got to thinking of the liability I now have with my business these days, especially now that I host several client websites, shopping carts and emails, plus my business is growing with larger clients. With an LLC established, this protects my personal assets such as my home and personal finances and keeps that out of the business.

With a corporation in place, you take the risk out of personal liability if your business were to get sued or go under. I highly recommend talking with an attorney and do this for your business.

For those that only do basic freelance, it would be a good idea to at least take out liability insurance. You can contact your local insurance agent and they can provide fairly low cost solutions for liability insurance. This could also be attached to your homeowners insurance too.

Go to the IRS website to learn more about an LLC.

Taxes: Do-It-Yourself or CPA?

Posted: April 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

That’s the very question your clients ask themselves. There are free templates online, and YouTube videos for just about everything. So, they ask themselves, why hire you? The same thing goes for taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers free publications to assist with filing taxes. You can buy tax software at an office supply store or use a web-based application at a much cheaper price than hiring a certified public accountant (CPA). The decision to hire a CPA depends on your budget, the issues that surround your taxes and how much you earn.

Your Budget

CPAs charge a flat fee or an hourly rate to prepare and file your taxes. The fee is determined by the number of forms they have to prepare on your behalf, the number of records they have to sort through, such as bank statements, receipts and invoices, and the deductions you’re seeking. For example, if you’re a freelancer who needs to file Form 1040 and report 1099 income, then you’re going to pay less for services than a web design company with part-time employees and business partners. Either way, the starting flat fee is over $100 and hourly rates start at $80 per hour. Tax preparation software costs less. You can purchase desktop software or utilize web based software to handle your freelance or business related filings for as low as $20.

Tax Issues

Each creative professional has unique tax issues that they bring to the table. This includes:

  • Level of business activity
  • Deductions that apply to your creative business
  • Past taxes owed

The more complicated your tax issues, the more you can expect to pay for CPA services or tax preparation software. Some software applications are limited and you may not be able to use them if your tax issues are complex. You may not want to rely on software if your assets are substantial or if you have outstanding tax debt. The fees you pay for a CPA in those instances will spare you legal headaches down the road.

Your Earnings

Protecting your assets and keeping more of the money you earn is the key to running a small business. You could experience more success as a business owner if you focus on your net profits more than your gross income. That means being strategic about taxes, and the strategies change when you earn more money. The reason is that you may have access to different deductions which will reduce your tax liability. If you don’t take advantage of the deductions available to you, then you could pay more taxes that you need to. Worst case scenario, you could end up owing taxes. Hiring a CPA might be a better option to save you money, and keep you out of trouble with the IRS. If you try to do-it-yourself using a software application and at the end of the process it shows that you owe taxes, then you should at least consider the option of hiring a CPA to evaluate your situation.

Whatever your decision, don’t wait until the last minute to take care of your taxes. Rushing your decision can lead to costly mistakes. Tax filing deadlines are the same every year. Be proactive and schedule a deadline, such as in January, to prepare and file your taxes.

How to Get Freelance Work

Posted: March 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

One option for launching your own business or if you want to work for yourself is to get freelance work. Living the freelance life can be a rewarding choice, but it’s very competitive. Many freelancers compete for the same jobs, and it can be difficult to get hired. The challenge gets even more difficult if you have little or no experience for the work you want to do. If you’re up to the challenge, you can find work. It will take persistence and knowledge of where to look.

Be Persistent

You are among many who thrive on the freedom of being your own boss. There are freelancers who you’ll be competing with, who have many years of experience and client references to match. You cannot afford to be anything less than persistent if you want to get freelance work. For example, you should look for and apply for as many jobs as possible. It will help you to improve on the entire application process, such as writing cover letters and following up with potential employers. You’ll also have more job offers as a result. If you apply for only a few jobs, you’ll get fewer job offers. Fear of rejection is a real issue that you may be confronting, but it’s something you have to deal with and overcome. Think about your goals of working for yourself, and the freedom that awaits you and your family instead of the pain of not getting hired.

Know Where to Look

There are many online and offline companies that cater to the freelance community. You can take advantage many of them for free, while you’ll have to pay to utilize other resources. There’s a mix of great websites, books and other resources that post jobs or list companies that hire freelancers, and scam companies that will take your money and you won’t see one job out of it. Knowing where to look for legitimate opportunities is half the battle in applying for freelance work. Here are some tips for where to look for your next job:

  • Avoid bidding sites because they often cost more than what you’ll earn in the long run
  • Network offline with colleagues, friends and local business owners
  • Find jobs on specialized job boards, such as ones that cater to the creative community
  • Build relationships with marketing and advertising managers
  • Check the careers section of websites that you come across in your line of work
  • Contact website owners and introduce yourself
  • Enter search keywords in the major search engines, such as “hire freelance web designer” or “hire freelance graphic designer”
  • Check, but only respond to jobs that include an official website to avoid scammers

You have to be targeted in your approach to help you be consistent in looking for jobs. If you cast your net too wide or if you have no plan at all, you may become sloppy in your approach to applying for jobs.

Working hard on persistence and finding the right places to get freelance work should put you in a great position to get hired. If you don’t see the results you need, then ask a friend, colleague or expert to review your resume and cover letters. You may need to improve those to stand out in the crowd of freelancers who are applying for the same jobs.

Bureau of Labor Statistics — Graphic Designers

Posted: January 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Resources | No Comments »

I was surfing the Internet and ran across this link to the Bureau of Labor Statistics about graphic designers. Interesting read, but I was mostly looking at how low the average designer really gets paid as well as the growth of our industry, not much has changed over the years. The graphic design industry is growing, but salary always seems to stay about the same year after year while everything else around us tends to get more expensive. I sometimes feel we are part of a slave labor force, always on, always providing and always expected of immediate delivery and immediate client satisfaction (you should all know this, every client seems to think we have an easy button on our keyboard). I have been a graphic designer for over 22 years and the pay pretty much has stayed the same all these years with some growth in salary, but not by much.

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