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Don’t ruin your design business, avoid the following.Think of your design business like climbing a mountain. To climb a mountain, you require willpower, perseverance, skill, knowledge, stamina, patience and concentration. All these traits come together to allow a mountain climber to make their way up a mountain. You need these same traits to run a design business. Sure, you use them differently, but they’re the same traits nonetheless. And similar to maintain climbing, one slip can mean disaster.
Luckily, slipping up on your design business won’t result in death like falling off a mountain will. But it could ruin your reputation, which in turn will ruin your design business. That’s why it’s good to stay on your guard and avoid these 12 ways to ruin your design business.
Doing these could ruin your design business
1) Failing to communicate – taking too long to reply to emails.
You are not expected to drop everything you’re doing to reply to each new email. It’s standard business practice to respond within an acceptable window of time. However, that window shouldn’t stretch several days long. It can become increasingly frustrating for the person waiting for your reply. Do this often enough, and clients will lose confidence in you and take their business elsewhere.
If Gmail is your email platform check out Boomerang that allows you to set follow up reminders, so you never miss replying to an email. If you don’t use Gmail, setting reminders is easy using Siri on your Apple device, your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Simply set a time for your device to remind you to reply to the email.
2) Missing deadlines.
Missing deadlines is a sure fire way to ruin your design business. Miss more than one and there’s a good chance your clients won’t bring you any more design projects. Missing deadlines is usually a case of bad time management and biting off more than you can chew (see number 4). Whenever possible try to pad your deadlines, meaning once you figure out how long a project will take, add on a few days or weeks to act as a buffer, just in case. If you go over your estimated time that buffer will keep you within the deadline. And if you manage to finish on time, your clients will be that much more impressed with you.
3) Showing a lack of confidence in your skills.
Nothing turns off a client more than showing a lack of confidence in your abilities. If you show any doubt in what you present to your clients, they will start having doubts about hiring you. Even if you are unsure, you need to present with confidence. Your client will let you know if your designs are not right for them.
Never ask a client what they think about the designs you present them. You can ask them what they like or don’t like, but not what they think. Asking them what they think is a way of saying you are unsure of what you are presenting and you are seeking their affirmation.
4) Biting off more than you can chew.
Don’t be afraid to turn down work or to delay working with a client because of your heavy workload. Being in a situation where you cannot take on any more work is a great position to be in. If a client wants to work with you, they will wait their turn. The worse thing you can do in this situation is accepting the work anyways. It’s a sure fire way to missing deadlines (see number 2).
The same goes for projects with scopes larger than you can handle. You should have a team you can call upon in certain situations, but some projects are just too big for solo designers, no matter how much you’d like to take them on. Don’t be afraid to pass on them.
5) Overreacting to criticism.
If you can’t take criticism, you shouldn’t be a designer. It’s the nature of our industry that not everyone will like what you do. You need to learn and grow from the criticism you receive, regardless if you agree or disagree with it. Responding to criticism with a strong emotional reaction is an excellent way to alienate your clients. Keep your hurt feelings to yourself.
6) Over-promising and under-delivering.
Over-promising and under-delivering is another way to ruin your design business. Examples are missing deadlines (see number 2) or biting off more than you can chew (see number 4). However, sometimes you might be tempted to over-promise your skills and abilities. Telling a client, you can do something, when in fact you are not sure how to do it can lead to disaster. Never promise a client you will/can do something unless you know you can follow through.
7) Don’t take time to learn and experiment.
This relates to you as a designer. Our industry is continuously changing with new tools, new platforms and new trends. If you fail to keep up your business is doomed. Clients hire designers to help them compete in their market. For that to happen, you need to know how to design things that can compete. Nobody wants a designer who is behind on the times.
8) Don’t take time to be inspired.
You are a creative person; it’s why you became a designer. Feed your creativity by seeking out things that inspire you. Visit museums, read art magazines, watch documentaries or study the world around you. Inspiration can be found in everyday things if only you take the time to look. Not finding ways to fuel your creativity is another way to ruin your design business.
9) Commenting negatively on a client’s previous designs.
No matter what you think of a client’s previous designs, you should never tell them they are bad (unless you are the one that designed them. In that case you are ok). You don’t know the history behind the piece. The client may have created it themselves or had a friend or relative design it for them. The client may be very proud of the work. If you tell a client their previous designs are bad, you may be insulting the client and ruining your chance to work with them.
Instead, tell the client how you will do things differently. How you will modernise the look. How you will use innovative new approaches to produce great work for them. Just don’t tell them how bad their old stuff is.
10) Talking carelessly about clients.
Once you’ve been at this for a few years, you’ll build up a library of weird, funny, strange, and possibly horrible stories about clients. There’s a whole website dedicated to lousy design clients. Even though they make great conversation topics, you should be very careful about what you say and to whom you say it when talking about your clients. You never know if someone listening may know and report back to the client. Talking about a client behind their backs will not only ruin your design business but ruin your reputation as a designer.
11) Lying to a client
I shouldn’t have to explain this one to you. Lying to clients is not good. Never tell a client you are “almost done” a project you have not started yet. Never tell a client you “didn’t receive their email” (they may have Read Receipt turned on). Never tell a client… you get the idea. Don’t lie to clients. Getting found out is a definite way to ruin your design business.
12) Passing off other’s work as your own
Another one I shouldn’t have to explain. However, I’m not talking about stealing another designer’s work. There’s already enough of that happening on crowdsourced design sites. I’m talking about taking credit for stock images you use in your designs or taking credit for something you contracted out. Clients understand that you cannot do everything yourself. Let them know when you’ve gotten help.
It’s your reputation on the line.
Your business and design reputation plays a very important role in people deciding to hire you and whether or not they keep working with you. Building a relationship with your client is the best way to ensure a long term commitment from them. By avoiding these twelve things, you are taking the proper steps to ensure you don’t inadvertently ruin your design business.
What did you think of this week’s topic?
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Questions of the Week
Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Kevin
I have a question about closing deals. At times potential clients reach out to me with an interest of having a website designed for them. They will usually reach out to me by email telling me the basic details for the website, such as page structure, features colors, etc. I realized that when replying to their first email, most of them never reply back.
So how would you go about responding to a clients email? Do you tell them your pricing straight up? Do you ask them to tell you their budget for the project?
To find out what I told Kevin you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost
The Four Week Marketing Boost! is a free guide I created that will help you strengthen your marketing position, boost your brand’s awareness & social presence and ultimately ensure you are in tip-top shape to offer a best first impression to potential new clients.
This guide is divided into 20 short actions that comfortably fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After completing this four-week plan you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.
You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost for free by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word
Improve your business’ image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.
I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.
I want to help you.
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