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Shhh, They're secrets. Don't tell your clients.Every good business person knows that there are certain things you share with your clients and others that are secrets. As a graphic designer running your own home based graphic design business you should be no different. There are some things you should share and others that should be secrets you keep from your design clients.
What kind of things merit being secrets?
There are many things you may not want to divulge to your clients. The fact that you sometimes design in your underwear, or that you spend time each day looking at cat videos. Just like the parts of your personal life that you don't share with others, your graphic design business has it's share of secrets you don't want known as well. But that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about secrets that help you run your business and that could harm it if they became known.
9 Secrets you should keep from your graphic design clients.
1) Your Home Phone Number: I believe your home phone number is one of the secrets you should keep from your clients. If you are running a serious business you should have a special phone number associated with it. Why? To keep your personal and business life separate. It may not be that big a deal if you live alone but if you have a family, the last thing you want is your four year old answering the phone when a potential client calls.
Contact your phone company to see what options they offer, or use a service like eVoice.com, the service Wes McDowell of The Deep End Design recommended when I interviewed him in episode 14 of the podcast. Regardless of what method you choose your home phone number is a secret you should only share with friends and family.
2) Your Home Address: Running your business from home offers a lot of freedom. But one of those freedoms shouldn't be clients coming and going as they please. Your home address is another one of the secrets I strongly recommend you keep from your clients. In this day and age, it's possible to never meet a client face to face. And if you do need to, you could always meet them at their office or at some other meeting place such as a coffee shop.
I personally have a mailbox at my local UPS Store that I use as by business address. This not only allows me to ship and receive mail there, but it gives my clients a place to drop things off for me without me needing to be there. Not to mention the anonymity of my clients not knowing where I work from. Why is this important? Maybe you live in an area with a bylaw preventing you from running a business from home. These bylaws don't prevent you from working from home, they just prevent you from seeing clients at your home. There's also your insurance. It may not cover any liabilities should a client be injured on your property if they were there on business purposes.
And don't forget security. If you are single and living alone you may not want your clients to know where you live. Especially if a client mistakes your friendly nature as flirtatious. If at all possible, keep your home address a secret from your clients.
3) Vacation Time: We all need to take vacations to unwind, destress, and recharge our creative juices. I look forward every year to the time I take off with my family. Although you may be tempted to spread the word about the amazing trip you are about to take. Your vacation time is one of the secrets that is a good idea to keep from your clients. Why? Because when you run a home based graphic design business and you announce that you will be away on vacation, You are telling everyone that your house will be vacant with all your expensive equipment ripe for the picking.
You may be thinking “I trust my clients so I'm not worried” and that's great. But you have no control over who your clients may inadvertently inform of your departure. So don't take the chance. If you are taking a vacation inform your clients that your office will be closed but don't give them reasons why. Saying the office will be closed leaves the possibility that you are home but just not working. It's much better than saying I'm away for a few days, come on in.
4) Your Political or Religious standing: What are the two most common catalysts for conflict? You guessed it, politics and religion. Unless your are designing for a political candidate or are working on a project for a church group, there is no reason for your clients to know how you stand politically or your religious beliefs. Who you voted for in the last ballot has absolutely no bearing on your abilities as a graphic designer. Nor does your faith. In fact, you could potentially loose more business by divulging how you stand, than by keeping these two secrets. Don't give a potential client a reason to not work with you before they know what you can do for them.
5) Your Working Schedule: Being a home-based graphic designer means you have the freedom to work any hour of the day you choose. If you have young children, being able to put in a few hours after they go to bed may be the only way to keep your business afloat. However, regardless of what time of day you work, you should still keep regular business hours for your clients and keep your actual working hours a secret. Why? Design agencies and marketing firms operate under standard business hours. Most commonly 9am – 5pm. You should run your graphic design business the same way. Correspond with your clients during this time regardless of when you actually work. If your client finds out that you worked on their job at 10pm on night, they may expect it from you the next time they have a rush job for you. As long as you get the job done, it's no business of your client what time of day you worked on it.
6) Your Associates: Every good designer has a team of associate they call on for special tasks. Be it illustrators, developers, copywriters, etc. Who you get to help you on a project should not be important where your client is concerned. They are hiring you to get their project done and as long as you complete it they should be happy. How you complete it isn't important.
You may be wondering why your associates should be secrets to keep from your clients? In some cases, a client may hire you because they have a strong tie to the community and you are a local business. Knowing that some of their projects may be worked on by someone outside the community may cause them to hire someone else. In other cases, a client may decide to bypass you, whom they see as the middle man, and deal directly with your associates on future projects. So unless absolutely necessary, keep your associates secret.
7) Your Suppliers: Similar to your associates, your suppliers are more secrets to keep from your clients. If you find a really good supplier for printing, web hosting, speciality products, or whatever, you want to keep that to yourself. As long as you can supply good quality products at a good price to your clients, it doesn’t matter where you get them from. Plus, if you don't divulge these secrets, there's no chance your competition can get wind of it and start using the same supplier.
8) Your markup and costs: This one should be a no-brainer. There is no reason for you to share these secrets with your clients. How much you are marking up a job or what something costs you is none of their business. Nor should you tell them if you are getting a discount somewhere. I use various printers depending on what the project is. Take business cards for example. The printer I use for business cards will sometimes have a sale. Since I charge a standard fee to my clients for business card printing, I don't tell them when there is a sale on. The discounted price works to increase my profit on the job.
9) Your Other Clients: This one is a bit different. After all, most of us proudly display our work in our portfolio so who we work for are not necessarily secrets. However, there are some circumstances where you don't want one client to know you're working for another client. There is nothing wrong with working for two competing clients. A good designer will find a way to create compelling material for each of them. However, if your clients knew it could cause some tension. Especially if they thought you were devoting more time and energy to the other one. This could lead to one or possibly both clients taking their work elsewhere. So in situations like this, it's best to keep who you work for a secret.
What do you think?
So there you have it. 9 secrets you should keep from your graphic design clients. Is there anything I forgot? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Resource of the week is Adobe Color CC.
Adobe Color CC offers an easy way to make custom pallets to keep track of the colours you use on client projects. Every new project I begin starts with a visit to this site where I choose the colours I will use on the project.
Adobe Color CC offers several colour rules to choose from. Analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary, compound and shades. Each colour rule allows you to select the perfect colours that work together. Once you have your colours selected the page gives you the values in CMYK, RGB, LAB, HSB, or HEX.
If you have a Creative Cloud account you can save the template for future reference, making it easy to keep track of a client's colours for all future projects.
If you are not already using Adobe Color CC I highly recommend you give it a try.
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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