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How to Start Your Own Design Business: 10 Crucial Success Tactics
Igor Ovsyannykov March 31, 2021 · 9 min read
Take “No” as a good thing.A lot of creatives think twice about going out and starting their own thing just because they heard the word “No” far too many times. But when you think about it, that’s actually a good thing for you. First, just accept the fact that no matter how talented you are, there will always be a difference in perspective. What one client may consider to be acceptable could be very different from what you deliver – and that’s okay. Through these differences, you will learn more about your craft and how flexible you can become. Yes, you have to figure out your own style and approach and as much as possible, you have to stick with it the entire time. But if you can somehow tweak this approach to come up with something that would be agreeable to both of you, then you get one more post on your portfolio. Each “no” that you get could also be the perfect tool to teach you foresight. In the future, you can learn what to avoid and how to play the game, allowing you to negotiate and deal with people more effectively.
Know some sales basics.Remember that this is a business, and your talent is your main product. And when you’re trying to sell yourself, you can’t just expect your work to do all the talking. You have to go out there and expand your network. You have to know exactly what to say to the right people to have new clients lining up outside your door. And for this, you have to know a little bit about effective sales and marketing techniques. Surround yourself with the right people. You can talk to other experts in your field, or you can observe how salespeople work. Dive into the internet and dig up every helpful resource you can find. You can even take some sales and entrepreneurial classes to set you up with more advanced stuff. Bottom line is, you have to figure out how to sell yourself and convince people that you’re worth every penny that they’ll be paying.
Have a specific work schedule.Let’s face it. We creatives work every single time inspiration starts to flow, regardless of the time and place. You think of a great idea, and the next thing you know, you’re working your entire day and night away. But how far do you think this will go when you start your own creative practice? Because this time, all the rewards go straight into your pocket — and, trust me, there will be a tendency to overdo it. You may be accepting projects left and right, leaving no time for you to work on anything else. No time for family or friends, and no time for relaxation. That makes you a very dull creator. Set a specific work schedule and practice letting those ideas flow through you during that time period. This way, you will always have time for everything else and you can effectively avoid burnouts.
Learn how to say “no”.Speaking of burnouts, do you know what the most common source of stress is? It’s trying to work on a million things all at once. That’s understandable though, knowing that this is your own thing. How can you say no when you’re just starting out? This is exactly what stresses a lot of creatives. And when a creative mind becomes stressed out, he dries up. He runs out of ideas. Always master the way you work and figure out how many projects you can work on at a single time. If you can only work on a single project at a single time, then so be it. Set a doable timetable for that project before starting on the next one. This also gives you more focus, aside from the fact that it helps you avoid being overworked.
Know your price.The last thing you need is losing so many days and nights working on something that’s not going to give you the reward you deserve. When you accept rates that don’t even do your works of art justice, you eventually lose confidence and end up farther from your creative goals. Figure out how much you should ask from your clients. You can check out artists who specialize in the same things you do in case you have zero idea about how this works.
Down payment first, work later.Make sure you enforce a strict “No down payment, no work” policy. Trust me. Far too many talented people have seen how bankruptcy looks like just because they trusted all the wrong people. Yes, you will hear endless promises. You will see genuine smiles. You will hear tempting offers. But, at the end of the day, without the money right in front of you there is no assurance that this is a closed deal. Always ask for a down payment before you even start working on any project. This way, you can at least get something out of the deal even if it doesn’t work out in the end. This also prompts the client to take the project seriously, as they have already invested something.
Ask questions.Sure, you’re an expert. That’s why you’re ready to go out on your own, right? But that doesn’t mean that you know everything, or that you’re right all the time. Remember that in any field there is no real expert because everybody will always encounter a question that they do not know the answer to. Especially in a field where every single person may think differently and have a different approach, it’s never safe to assume or to play the role of the genius. Always ask questions anytime you’re in doubt. Unsure about what your client is asking for? Ask! Not sure about how something works in the business? Ask! Interested in a new technique but aren’t too sure about how it goes? Ask! With every question you ask, you also learn something new. This means that for every answer you get, you also become a better, brighter artist than you were before.
Do business where you shop.Looking for new clients you can work with? What better place to look for them than right within your network? Is your corner grocery store in need of a website? That’s a potential client right there. Ever wondered why your barber has never really changed their logo for the past 10 or 15 years? Maybe it’s about time they had a makeover. It’s all up to you. You can find business opportunities everywhere you go, and there’s no better place to start than right within your own territory.
Don’t have a written proposal ready.When it comes to sales negotiations, nothing is sealed until it’s all written down and signed. Therefore, as long as nothing is in black and white, you can still get the figures you’re looking for, maybe even more. Some artists already have proposals ready to be handed to any prospective client that comes along. This is not a good idea. The moment you hand somebody a proposal, this means that they can either sign it or throw it away. But what if the client is willing to give more? Talk to the client first and negotiate on the terms. Once everything has verbally been agreed upon, that’s the only time you put everything into writing.
Figure out your best clients’ characteristics.Once you have met a few clients on your first few projects, you will come to realize who among them are awesome clients and who are not. The best clients will have steady work for you and will always pay on time. They rarely negotiate for a lower price. Now, if you come across two or three of those, immediately assess what they all have in common — aside from being great payers. They could be in the same line of business, or could be coming from the same background. List all these characteristics down and use that information to hunt for your next client. This way, you can assess more easily if the next prospect you’re talking to could be wasting your time. Talents have gone far beyond what they used to be. Where these only ended up in mere hobbies in the past, today, you can actually make a more than decent living out of them. Seize this chance and grow your practice. Don’t let yourself be stuck in a corporate world where you get paid a quarter or less of what you really should be earning. Remember that the moment you start your own, you do not only dictate the way you earn, you also dictate how you earn it.
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