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Are you ready to grow your design business by letting go of what's holding you back?Let me start with a story.
A young boy is visiting his grandparents' house with his mom and dad.
As young boys will do when in an environment not meant for young boys, they explore and sometimes get into trouble.
Well, this young boy just so happened to be walking around with an antique vase, a precious family heirloom. When his mother spotted him, she immediately told him to put the vase down before breaking it. But the boy replied that he couldn’t, his hand was stuck inside.
A little frustrated, the mother takes the vase and tells the boy, “If you were able to get your hand in the vase, you could surely get it out.” But as she pulls on it, there’s no give.
Hearing the commotion, the father comes in to help. He, too, tugs on the vase, but the boy's hand is firmly stuck. He tugs and tugs until the boy says it’s hurting him.
The grandmother, in her wise old ways, suggests using butter to help the hand slide out. But alas, it has no effect.
Completely perplexed, with the mother still tugging on the vase, the father throws his hands up in the air, stating, “I’d give 50 dollars just to get your hand out of that vase right now.”
The young boy's eyes opened wide with excitement. “Really?” he exclaims. Suddenly, they hear a clinking sound, and the boy’s hand slides out of the vase. In disbelief, the mother looks into the vase then upturns it, and a quarter falls into her hand.
The young boy explains that it’s the quarter grandpa gave him when they arrived. He had put it in the vase, but when he reached in to grab it, his hand got stuck.
But when his dad said he’d give him $50 if he got his hand out of the vase, he let go of the quarter.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard this or a variation of this story before. So you probably knew the outcome before I ever reached it. But I wanted to tell it anyway as a kind of analogy to your design business.
Many designers who run their own business tend to hold on to that metaphorical quarter when they should be letting go of it for bigger and better things.
This is the first episode of 2021. And I don’t have to tell you what kind of year 2020 was. You were there. But with all of that fiasco behind us and light of better things to come finally peeking through at the end of the tunnel. Now is the perfect time to take stock of your business and figure out what you need to do to help it grow and succeed. What are you going to do more of? And what, if anything, can you let go?
No business, design or otherwise can grow without making changes. Restaurants change their menus. Telecommunication companies change their phone plans. Governments elect new officials. Changes are a natural precursor to growth. And every successful business does it.
By grow, I don’t necessarily mean taking on more design work or more clients, although that may be the case, and it still counts as growth. What I mean by grow, is making progress, expanding while focusing on your goals. You do have goals, don’t you? Without them, how will you know if you’re making progress?
If we take 2020 out of the equation and compare this upcoming year, 2021, to your previous years, you should be striving to not only make more money but also to be more satisfied with yourself and your business than you’ve been in previous years. At the very least, you should aim to stay on par as in previous years.
What you don’t want is to step backward. If you make less money or aren’t as happy, you’re doing something wrong. And chances are, it’s because you’re holding on to that metaphorical quarter and not letting go.
Growing your business and making more money doesn’t necessarily mean doing more work, which, in turn, could increase your stress level. In fact, you can grow your design business and make more money by doing less but smarter work.
The easiest way to do this is to raise your rates. But to raise your rates, you have to let go of the notion that you’re not worth higher rates. Or that your clients won’t pay higher rates.
Thousands of designers have already debunked that theory when they started charging more money for their services, and their business didn’t fail. Myself included. I make more money today, putting in 10 hours of work than I did five years ago doing 30 or 40 hours of work. How? It’s because I let go of the notion that an hour of my time is worth X amount of dollars.
When I started charging clients based on what I thought their project was worth and not how much time it would take me to complete it, I started making a lot more money. And you know what? The only clients that objected to my price increase were the clients I didn’t really want to work with, to begin with.
Those clients who didn’t object were the clients who truly valued what I do for them. And you know what? When I raised my rates, they started bringing me bigger and better projects. They stopped sending me simple things to design and started sending me entire campaigns to work on.
It’s that perceived value I talked about a few weeks ago in episode 240 of the podcast. The same service I provided was perceived as much more valuable to these clients because I was charging more for it, and they are willing to pay me much more for those services and trust me with bigger jobs.
Want another way to look at it? Consider a Rolex watch and a Timex watch. Both timepieces fit nicely on your wrist. Both tell time. And both can make you look pretty darn good fashion-wise. And yet, the Rolex is worth so much more than the Timex.
Why is that? Is what they’re made of? There may be a price difference in the actual materials each watch is made of, but I doubt it’s enough of a difference to justify the huge difference in each timepiece's cost.
Is it craftsmanship? Both are precision instruments. They both need to be finely crafted to function.
Is it the mechanics? I don’t think so. As far as I know, watch mechanics haven't changed much since they were first invented.
So what is it? What’s the real difference between a Rolex and a Timex?
The true difference is not the watches themselves. It’s the companies behind the watches. They’re the ones who create the value. Rolex markets itself to the elite, the A-listers, and therefore has an elite price tag to match. Whereas Timex markets itself to the general populace, the everyday person, therefore, has a price to match.
Their value is exactly where they’ve set it for themselves. Both companies are very successful. However, and I’m just speculating here, but I bet Timex has to sell a whole lot more watches than Rolex does to stay in business.
You have a say in how your design business is perceived. Which, in turn, dictates how much clients are willing to pay for your services. Do you want to take on dozens and dozens of small paying projects? Or would you prefer to work on a few high paying projects? Are you a Timex, or are you a Rolex?
In my Podcast Branding business, for example. Time and time again, clients tell me they chose my business, one of the more expensive options in the podcast space, because I looked the most professional, and I instilled a sense of confidence in them that I know what I’m doing and they would get quality work from me. Because of that, they are willing to pay more for my services than for any of the less expensive options.
So let go of the notion that you’re not good enough or not worth enough because it’s not true. Even the most inexperienced designer, a student fresh out of school, is worth more than they know.
I’ve been talking a lot about prices, but there are other ways you can let go to grow your design business. Look at the services you offer. Are there any that you’re just not that keen on doing? If so, why do you offer them?
Even a general, all-purpose graphic designer can set limits on what they do.
When I started my Podcast Branding business, I offered social media graphics but quickly realized I didn’t like doing them. So I eliminated the service. I still offer to create the branding for my client's social media platforms, but I no longer create graphics for their individual social media posts.
Just because every designer around you seems to be offering website design doesn’t mean you have to as well. If you don’t like designing websites, even if you know how, you don’t have to. Let it go and concentrate on the things you do, like designing. Not every designer enjoys designing logos. And not every designer is good at it either. If you don’t like it, stop offering logo design as a service. It’s OK to let these things go and concentrate on the things you are good at and enjoy doing.
In a way, it’s kind of like niching down. I’ve talked about the benefits of niching before on several episodes of the podcast. Culling your design services is a form of niching. In fact, it could set you apart from other designers and make you more desirable to clients.
Look at Ian Paget from Logo Geek. His entire business is focused on designing logos. The first thing you see when you visit his website is the phrase “I Design Logos.” If you know Ian, you’ll know that his background is in designing websites and yet nowhere on his current site does he mention that. Why? Because it’s not what he wants to do. Ian is passionate about logos, so that’s what he offers. He let go of everything else he knows how to design to focus on one thing. And now he’s killing it in the logo design space.
I’m not saying you have to go to that extreme, but it’s a great example of how letting go can help propel you forward.
One thing to note. Removing a service doesn’t have to mean never doing it. Ian, for example, still offers other design services to his clients besides logo design. He doesn’t advertise it because it’s not his passion.
In my case, If one of my clients asked me to create a social media post for them, I can say yes if I feel like it and do it for them. Nothing is stopping me from doing it. I don’t advertise it as a service anymore.
It’s OK to let things go in the name of progress. In fact, it’s somewhat necessary if you truly want to succeed. Ask any successful designer running their own business if they’re doing the same thing today as they were five years ago, and the majority, if not all of them, would answer no. You have to evolve if you want to survive in this industry. If you don’t, then you’ll lose when those around you do.
Don’t get your hand stuck in the vase grasping a quarter when there are much bigger things you could be going after.
That’s my 2 cents.
What are you going to let go of this year?
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Resource of the week Chrome Browser Groups
In episode 239 of the podcast, I shared how to turn Chrome browser tabs into desktop apps. I got so many responses thanking me for that tip that I thought I’d share another Chrome tip.
If you have a bunch of related browser tabs open, for example, you may have several tabs open for different stock image sites. Or, if you’re a web designer, you may have tabs open for each of your client’s websites. An easy way to organize this tab chaos is with Tab Groups.
In Chrome, right-click on any tab and select “Add to New Group.” If you already have a tab group, the menu changes to “Add to Group” with a pop-out for you to choose an existing group or create a new one.
When creating a new group, you can name it whatever you want, such as Stock Images or Client Websites. You can also assign it a colour, which makes it very easy to navigate.
Once a Tab Group is created, simply right-click on any tab to add it to the group.
A Tab Group appears in your Tab bar like any other tab. The difference is you can open and collapse a tab group.
So if you have 10 client sites in a Tab Group, clicking it will expand to show you all 10 tabs, and each one will be underlined with the colour you assigned the group, making it very easy to see which tabs are part of the group.
When you’re done looking at the client sites, simply click on the Group Tab, and all 10 client website tabs collapse into the one Group Tab, freeing up your browser window and making it much easier to navigate.
This is a great solution for anyone who likes to keep dozens, if not more, tabs open at once.
One thing to note if you’re testing this out, you cannot collapse a tab group until you have a tab that is not part of the group.
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