Things to Remember when Starting a Design Business

Have you been thinking about starting a design business? With all the outstanding reasons to do so, we can certainly see why. You might be drawn by the independence, the market opportunity, the creative possibilities, the enjoyment you get from it, or any combination of these and other motivators.

The cost of self-employment in design is not too prohibitive. Money is, of course, a consideration, but your biggest investment will be the time you spend promoting yourself.

Building a Reputation Online

The first step to be taken seriously for your design skills is to show that you take your own skills seriously. Personal branding should be a high priority for you. Thanks to your graphic design expertise, you should have no trouble coming up with a personal logo, font, and color palette to use in all of your promotional efforts.

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Next, join every online community where you have a chance of getting your name out in the market, such as news websites with active discussion boards. Use your logo as the avatar picture for your social media accounts, and fill them with carefully selected posts about relevant industry news, as well as your own personal projects. Design a portfolio to showcase your best work, with avenues for potential clients to contact you. The well-known Behance and Dribbble are just a couple of the many excellent portfolio hosting sites available to you.

Don’t undercharge, under-schedule, or under-network. You should have a good handle on what your services are worth and what you’re capable of accomplishing during the day, so you don’t sell yourself short on money or time.

As far as networking goes, becoming a fixture in your online community is a good strategy for gaining referrals and connections. It can also be a wealth of information on the best new tools and can inspire meetups where you build camaraderie with other designers.

Taking Your Message Offline

While all of these online methods go a long way toward building your reputation, don’t neglect offline advertising. “Isn’t it a little incongruous for someone who works solely online to waste time advertising offline?” you may ask.

Actually, it isn’t a waste of time at all. Physical promotions stick in people’s minds and make them more likely to remember you, as these engage the tactile and olfactory memory as well as the visual. Even if you don’t have a physical item on hand to give them, the fact that you talked face-to-face rather than through a screen makes you infinitely more memorable.

Some ways to make yourself stand out offline include finding a workplace that isn’t your home. If you can pull it off financially, your presence in the public space makes more people take notice of you. You can really play this up with bright, fun window decals or even lawn signs — any indication that you are ready for business. Even if passersbys don’t need your design services themselves, they may know someone who does.

Old Postcard Design
Image Source: Old Postcard Design via Shutterstock.

Consider sending physical samples of your work as postcards to your desired potential clients. It’s easy to stick your web address and social media handles at the bottom of something like this, encouraging them to engage with you further online and see more evidence of your talent. When you feel a genuine connection with a new acquaintance, having a business card and/or a useful personally branded item to give away also increases your top-of-mind presence.

Optimizing Both Channels for Maximum Growth

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of seeing your online and offline promotion as separate endeavors. They must work together for your best chance of success. The printed materials you give out or feature at your work space should point people online, so they can see more of your design in one place.

Your online presence should always have the goal of talking to people in person and getting your work into their hands, so they will be more likely to remember you favorably.

For a step-by-step business-launching journey that takes into account both the offline and online requirements of starting a business, check out Graphic Design Blender’s article for designers. The tips here will give you your best chance of success.

In addition to all of their great suggestions, the best piece of advice you can remember is not to be scared! You can definitely do this. It’s better to try to see what you’re capable of than to assume you’ll never succeed and stay put in a job you don’t love.

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If you’re starting your own design business, what advice do you have to share? Tell us your personal experiences below!

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Katherine Halek is the chief content strategist at Signazon, leading online printers that provide marketing collateral for thousands of designers around the United States. Katherine enjoys writing about graphic design, typography, and web design. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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