7 Core Secrets of Building a Highly Profitable Design Business

At first, starting my own design business seemed like an unattainable dream … until I discovered a few key secrets that kept me on track. These are secrets you can use to put your business on solid ground … and keep yourself on track to success.

Set Up Your Creative Workspace

Having a quiet place to call your own is important. It doesn't need to be fancy, but it needs to be comfortable and pleasant. After all, you'll spend a lot of time there.

Do you love music? Have a CD player near by. Music is a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing. Keep fresh flowers and family pictures on your desk. Hang framed inspirational quotes and paintings on the wall. Keep your children's school projects and holiday cards close by to encourage you.

You'll find your own way of “getting into the zone,” but keeping dear things near helps me stay inspired, grounded, and enjoying work.

Prepare for Talking to Prospects

Before contacting a potential client, research his product, company, and competitors. Showing that you understand the company's purpose, its market, and its corporate identity gives you an edge over other designers.

After making initial contact with the client, find magazine or Internet articles of interest to him – for instance, how a particular headline font and color boost response rates. Cut out what you find and send it to him along with a handwritten note. This tells him you care about his business and are looking for ways to help him.

Price Projects Properly

To give a proper price quote, you need to ask several important questions. You need to know things like the project's length, the timeframe to complete the work, who provides the graphics, the copywriter's contact information, who supplies the fonts, and so on.

The best way to do this is to keep several folders handy with a pre-printed “Project Information Sheet” stapled to the front of each one.

When a potential client calls, grab a folder and “fill in the blanks” on this helpful tool. You'll sound professional and organized during your discussion.

Set Realistic, Accurate Schedules

You need to establish a realistic, accurate schedule for each new project so you can comfortably meet your deadline and not overbook yourself. This is crucial.

Here are some tips to help you do it:

  • Ask the client for samples of successful previous packages.
  • Fill in the previously mentioned Project Information Sheet.
  • Ask for several days to research new concepts.
  • Have the client fax a sketch of their ideas so you have something to start with.

Over time, you'll get better at scheduling. You'll know where to find the resources you need and how to get individual tasks done. But in the meantime, work at your own pace, finish on time, and do the very best job you can.

Keep Clients Happy

You want your clients to enjoy working with you. Focus on being helpful and professional. This builds your reputation with your clients as the “can-do” designer who goes the extra distance.

Behind the scenes, you might be working feverishly to get everything done exactly right and on schedule. But never let your client see your frustration. Instead, show him that you're calm, relaxed, and composed. As far as he's concerned, everything is going along fine.

This inspires confidence and keeps clients returning. It'll inspire you, too. Before long, you'll be as confident inside as you look on the outside.

Take Time Off

Starting your design business is a lot of fun. But it also takes time and energy. Don't let your business take over your entire life. Take the time to rest, exercise, take care of yourself, and spend time with family and friends.

If you fill your life with things and people you LOVE, when it's time to work, you'll be refreshed and ready to create masterful designs!

Focus on What Matters

Your business will do better if you focus on the positive. Remind yourself of the reason you chose to get into this business.

Maybe it's to have control over your career. Or to avoid daily commutes. Or to have the freedom to take time off whenever you want.

But no matter why you're doing it, putting these tips into daily practice will get results. And you'll be able to enjoy building your business … while you build your success.

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Published: June 1, 2006

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