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What I learned by talking to new entrepreneurs

I had the honour of presenting a “Branding Your Business” seminar to a group of new entrepreneurs this week. It was one of six in a recurring seminar series put on by my municipality's Business Enterprise Centre. They decided this time around that adding a “graphics” related seminar would be valuable to new business owners and they asked if I would be interested in presenting.

The seminar I presented was advertised with the title “Graphic Design Basics” but, with permission from the person in charge of the seminar series I changed it to “Branding Your Business”. I knew I could provide more value to new entrepreneurs by teaching them the importance of proper branding over simply giving them graphic design tips, although I did interweave some into my talk.

My decision to change the direction of the seminar proved the right one as the engagement and feedback I received both during and after presenting was all positive. In fact the Business Enterprise Centre asked me after the seminar if I would like to become a permanent speaker for all their future seminar series.

I'm not writing this to pat myself on the back. Even though I was the one teaching these new entrepreneurs the value of proper branding I learnt a few things myself that designers can use when dealing with new clients. I go into much more detail on the podcast so be sure to listen for the full story.

New entrepreneurs are often new to the business world

One thing I noticed during my presentation is that of the couple dozen people in attendance, almost all of them had zero business experience before becoming new entrepreneurs. Talking to them, I realised just how naive they were when it comes to marketing their business.

This got me thinking about all the times I hear of designers struggling to attract new clients. If you are trying to build your design clientele all you have to do is put in a bit of effort and you will be rewarded. There are hundreds, if not thousands of businesses all around you that are in need of your services if you just educated them on why they need you.

What talking to new entrepreneurs taught me

Here are a few of the things I picked up while presenting to this group that I believe could help you in landing new clients.

Choosing a business name

The majority of the people I talked to told me that they had trouble choosing a name for their business. Some of them even delayed starting their business because they were not happy with the name they had chosen.

This is a real issue with some people. If you as a designer offered a service that helps people with choosing a business name you can attract clients at the foundation of their business and them help them build upon that foundation with proper branding going forward.

New entrepreneurs don't think beyond the logo

At the start of my seminar, I asked how happy the audience was with their brand identity. Most of them said they were satisfied with what they had chosen.

After my presentation on Branding Your Business, I asked the same question again with different results. Almost everyone who was satisfied at the start admitted that they were going to revisit their brand strategy and find ways to improve it.

There is a huge opportunity for you as a designer to work with new entrepreneurs if you showed them the effect proper branding can have on their business success.

Colour pallets were not even a thought

Almost all of the attendees I talked to had not considered a colour pallet for their business. They may have selected specific colours for their logo, but they hadn't thought of incorporating those colours into the rest of their marketing materials.

You know that the key to a good brand is consistency. Lucky for you most new entrepreneurs don't. This creates the perfect opportunity for you to educate them and become vital to their overall brand strategy.

Trademarks, copyrights and other legalities

When it comes to the dos and don'ts of the design world, new entrepreneurs don't have the knowledge or experience you have. By talking to them about what they can and cannot do in regards to photos, slogans or, borrowing design elements from others, you can save them from the legal troubles ahead. Once they realise there is a line they shouldn't cross they may find it easier to let you handle all the design decisions for them.

Design is a burdensome expense

Many new entrepreneurs think of design as a burdensome expense. They think they are outsmarting the system and saving money by creating their own marketing material.

As a designer, this is the perfect opportunity for you to educate them on how design should be viewed as an investment in their business, not simply an expense. Once they realise this, they will be much more open to working with you.

Why invest in a website when Facebook is free?

I missed this in my presentation. It was afterwards when some of the people came to talk to me that I realised there is a consensual mentality amongst new entrepreneurs that they don't need a website. They believe they can run their business with just a free Facebook page.

If you teach these people the flaw in that logic, you are setting yourself up for having a great client for the future.

New entrepreneurs need you

From my presentation, I learned that new entrepreneurs are ripe for the picking. Most of them have no prior business experience and are perfect canvases for you to groom.

Back in episode 69 of the podcast, I talked about presenting yourself as an expert in the design field. By doing so, you create an opportunity for yourself to attract these new clients once they realise the value of hiring a designer.

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