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If you ever created a business plan, you’re probably familiar with the term SWOT Analysis, but here’s how designers can use it for their projects.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats. It’s a process first developed at Harvard Business School in the early 1950s. To run a SWOT Analysis requires four “areas,” such as four pads of paper or perhaps a board divided into four quadrants, each labelled Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats. Regardless of the medium you use, the process goes like this.

By asking questions, you place the answers under one of the four categories. The first two categories, Strengths and Weaknesses, are internal matters you can control. The second two, Opportunities and Threats are external matters that are out of your control.

SWOT Analysis for a freelance web design business.

Here are some example questions and answers you might use when doing a SWOT Analysis for a home-based web design business.

1) Strengths:

Questions you could ask:

  • What are the strengths of the business?
  • What advantages does the business have?
  • What does the business do well?
  • What resources does the business have?
  • What do other people think of the business?

Possible answers:

  • The designer running the business is fast and proficient at creating web sites.
  • The designer can use many different design applications.
  • The designer is very experienced with WordPress.
  • The designer knows some coding languages.
  • The designer is great at time management.
  • The business has many connections with writers, photographers, coders, etc.

2) Weaknesses:

Questions you could ask:

  • What disadvantages does the business have?
  • What improvements can the business make?
  • What skills is the designer lacking or knows but isn’t very good at?
  • Are there any parts of web design the business should avoid?
  • What objections might clients have towards the business?

Possible answers:

  • The designer lacks development skills.
  • English is the designer’s second language, which may complicate communication with clients.
  • The designer has weak administrative skills.
  • The designer is Introverted.

3) Opportunities:

Questions you could ask:

  • What options are there for the business to grow?
  • Are there new technologies emerging you can take advantage of?
  • Is there a shift happening in the economy?
  • Are social patterns changing?

Possible answers:

  • Few talented web designers in the local area.
  • Knowledge of a particular field or industry can allow the business to niche.
  • Clients are seeking sustainable products with low environmental impact.

4) Threats:

Questions you could ask:

  • What risks or potential hurdles does the business face?
  • What obstacles does the designer face?
  • What is the competition doing?
  • Will new technologies threaten your business?

Possible answers:

  • Inexpensive DIY website builders can potentially lure clients away.
  • More people learning web design could become competitors.
  • Services offered by competitors may lure clients away from the business.

Of course, this is a very simplified SWOT Analysis of a freelance web design business. If you were doing this for your own business, I would expect many more items listed under each section, but you get the idea.

Once you’ve filled out the four categories, you can then use the information to form a strategy for your business to grow and succeed. And who knows, your SWOT Analysis may inspire a change in direction you might not have considered before. That’s the power of performing a SWOT Analysis.

But a SWOT analysis isn’t just used for business plans. You can apply it to products, services, design strategies, and so much more.

Using a SWOT Analysis as part of your design strategy.

As a designer, you can use SWOT Analysis for many things, such as.

  • Determining if a client is a right fit for you.
  • Figuring out how to tackle a design project.
  • Vetting potential candidates to hire as contractors.
  • During design strategy sessions with clients
  • And many more.

Let’s look further into how a SWOT Analysis can help with design strategy sessions.

Let’s say a new startup company hires you to develop their branding. Your first step is to hold a discovery meeting and ask questions to get to know the client and their new company. Compose your questions in a way that allows you to place the answers in one of the four SWOT categories. For example:

Strengths:

  • What are the advantages of the new company’s product or services to their customers?
  • What are the advantages this new company has over its competition?
  • What makes this new company unique?

Weaknesses:

  • What areas of the new business can be improved?
  • What issues need to be avoided?
  • What limits does the new business face in providing their product or service?

Opportunities:

  • What opportunities are there for the product or service?
  • Are there peaks or trends the new business can take advantage of?
  • Can the business’s strengths be turned into opportunities?
  • Are there any changes in the industry that could lead to opportunities?

Threats:

  • Who are the existing or potential competitors?
  • Are there any factors that could put the company at risk?
  • Are there any potential threats to the product or service?
  • Is there any possible shift in consumer behaviour that could affect the product or service?

Once you have this information divided into the four categories, it becomes easier to figure out a strategy or direction to take when it comes to designing. You want to build upon the strengths, address the weaknesses, seek out and explore the opportunities, and monitor and defend against the treats.

As a designer, a SWOT Analysis of a design project allows you to dig deeper and uncover opportunities for your clients. With the information you gather, you’ll be able to highlight your client’s needs and create an effective design campaign that takes their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats into mind. This is an added value your clients will appreciate and pay more for.

But I’m just a designer.

Maybe your thinking to yourself, this all sound good, but all my client wants is a website. I don’t need to know any of this stuff. You’d be wrong in thinking that way.

  • Clients often know what they want, but it’s your job as a designer to supply them with what they need.
  • Performing a SWOT Analysis can help you find areas to focus on to produce better design results.
  • By getting to know your client better as you go through this procedure, you build a relationship with them, which allows you to make recommendations they’ll listen to.
  • Clients will see this as a useful tool they can use internally beyond the creative designs you provide. That’s valuable to them.
  • A SWOT Analysis gives you a foundation to stand on should your client not follow your advice. It’s a kind of “I told you so” that shows your expertise to the client.

No matter how big or small, or what the design project is, you should perform a SWOT Analysis to help you with your decisions. Get your client and their team involved — the more people who participate in a SWOT Analysis, the better the results. But even if you do it on your own, you’ll appreciate the insight it offers you.

Analyze your competition

A great experiment is to run a SWOT Analysis of your competition. You’ve should have already done one for your own design business to help you position yourself. But doing one of your competition can help you even further as you learn new ways to improve your business.

Run a SWOT Analysis and then ask yourself.

  • Can you match your competition’s Strengths?
  • Can you offer a service that makes up for their Weaknesses?
  • Can you snatch away their Opportunities?
  • Can you do a better job at fending off whatever Threatens them?

Conclusion

I hope you see why a SWOT Analysis can be relevant to everything you do. Including your own business and every design project, you take on. It helps you develop new strategies for your designs to tackle. It increases your value, allowing you to charge more for your services. And It saves you time on future projects for the same client.

A proper SWOT Analysis should take anywhere between 1 to several hours and should be performed with multiple people when possible, especially those higher up in a company.

Plus, it looks great on a proposal when presenting your idea to a client. They’ll be impressed by your effort, which will increase their opinion of you, and allow you to charge higher rates.

Have you ever performed a SWOT analysis before? Let me know by leaving a comment at https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode202.

Have you ever performed a SWOT Analysis before?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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 Kat

After listening to the episode about raising your prices, I wondered how you get local price comparisons? I was just doing a local competition survey and only one person listed anything pricing related on their website

To find out what I told Kat you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Tip of the week Join Groups

You’ve heard it time and again, as designers, we’re problem solvers. And that doesn’t just apply to design. It also applies to the processes we use while creating those designs. If we can’t figure something out, we tend to want to tinker with it and try to find a solution.

While this is a great way to learn. Sometimes, it’s a waste of time. When faced with a problem, it's always more beneficial for you to seek help in order to find the solution quicker.

Help nominate Resourceful Designer for the 2020 Podcast Awards.

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If you enjoy the Resourceful Designer podcast, please help nominate it for a 2020 People's Choice Podcast Award. Once on the site click the line that reads "CLICK ME TO NOMINATE MY FAVORITE PODCASTS". Then select Resourceful Designer in both the Arts and the Education categories. Feel free to chose your favourite podcasts from the remaining categories.

If you're not sure who to select in the Sports category, Wayne Henderson, the voiceover guy you hear at the beginning of every Resourceful Designer episode, hosts the Packers Fan Podcast also on the nomination list.

NOMINATE RESOURCEFUL DESIGNER FOR A PODCAST AWARD.

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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 feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

 

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