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Become a partner to your clients, not just a graphic designer.Over the past 25 years I've seen many graphic designers start their own business and fail. In most cases it wasn't because they weren't good a graphic designer. It was because that's all they were. They were JUST a graphic designer.
If you want to succeed at running your own graphic design business you need to think bigger than being just a graphic designer. You need to establish yourself as a go-to person for all creative, marketing, promotional and branding ideas. You need to establish yourself as a business partner, a sounding board, a problem solver to your clients and not just a supplier of design.
If you fail to establish this sort of relationship with your design clients you are dooming yourself to an on-call status. Becoming someone your clients call only once they have an established idea and need someone to execute it.
How do become more than just a graphic designer?
The answer is quite simple. Talk to your clients about their projects. Don't become yes men (or women), who simply do what the client asks of them. That's the easiest way to become just a graphic designer and doom your business. Instead, try to bounce ideas off your clients. Suggest alternatives to what they're asking. Think outside the box. Learn more about their business so that you can suggest things they may not think about.
In episode 20 of Resourceful Designer I talked about the importance of building relationships with your design clients and how doing so can propel you into becoming a strategic partner for them. Someone they come to when they need advice or want a second opinion on. That is exactly what I'm talking about when I say don't be just a graphic designer to them. Become someone important to them. If you do establish that kind of relationship, you can count on good quality projects from them for years to come.
Tell your clients what you can offer them.
One of the biggest problems when dealing with clients is their lack of knowledge of what exactly it is that we do. I discuss this in length in episode 2 of Resourceful Designer. The gist of it is unless you tell your clients what you can do for them they may look for those services elsewhere.
My own brother-in-law took the logo I designed for him and had business cards designed elsewhere because he “didn't know I also designed business cards”.
Have conversations with your clients about their business. These conversations are the perfect opportunity to suggest things or offer services to help them that they don't know you offer.
Your ultimate goal is to become a strategic partner.
You will know when you've succeeded with a client when you become a partner of theirs. When I say partner, I don't mean in a sense that you own part of their business. What I mean it you become someone they rely on for more than just design.
You become a strategic partner when your client counts on you for ideas and advice in running and marketing their business. You become a strategic partner when your client stops giving you direction on the designs you create and gives you free range to create as you see fit. You become a strategic partner when your name is the fist thing off their lips when your client meets someone else with a business problem.
Once you reach that level in the relationship you will be way more than just a graphic designer and your business will have nowhere to go but up.
What do you think?
Do you agree that building these relationships is vital to the success of your own business? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Questions of the Week
If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Teri,
I have some vacation time coming up and I was wondering, how do you handle things while you are out? Inevitably it seems like a client will always have an unexpected revision they ask me to do or need a file from me out of the blue. Do you have any experience in this at all and if so, how do you handle such situations?
To find out what I told Teri you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
Resource of the week is Photos For Life
Wordmark.it is a wonderful new site I just discovered. It's used to sample all the fonts you have installed on your computer and makes it extremely easy to choose the perfect font for the project you are working on. Simply visit the site, type in a word or phrase of your choosing and click “load fonts”. In no time flat, you will see your word/phrase displayed in every font you have installed. You can use various filters to adjust the size, case, and readability of the fonts. Simply click the fonts you are interested in and then view only the ones you selected.
I only just discovered this site but I've already used it for a couple of projects and I expect it to become a regular part of my design resources.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org