One of the biggest problems
that designers face is finding new clients. If you’re
not pursuing more business, you’re trying
to keep projects moving. This is especially true in my field,
Web design. I solved this problem by diversifying beyond just
selling my time for money.
Two years ago, I started a publishing venture that offered
a single e-book called Postcard Marketing Secrets. I wrote
it to show other business people how to use postcard marketing,
and to share lessons I had learned about promotions. To promote
the e-book, I also started an e-zine. A month after Postcard
Marketing Secrets came out, one of America’s
biggest postcard printers gave it a great review. Remember
that commercial that showed people watching their website sales
go up, up, up? That’s how things were around here for
My product line has expanded to include 15 products,
and I will cross the 20-barrier soon. The e-zine now has more
than 3,700 subscribers and carries some paid advertising. I’ve
identified another publishing niche where I could do well,
and I’ll be rolling out a new product line next year.
You may be thinking about doing some diversifying in your
business. And you’re probably wondering, “How do
I do it?”
First, you need to answer three questions:
1. Besides design, what else do you do well? Make sure that
you list skills and talents that are polished enough to sell.
2. What do you like to do? Make sure that you like these activities
well enough to spend a lot of time on them. You’ll have
to do that if you turn them into a business.
3. What will the market pay you to do? Remember, the object
of diversifying is to increase your income stream, not spread
your time and energy across multiple money-losing ventures.
Second, treat your new business venture like one of your clients.
You’re going to need to use your design
and business skills to:
1. Define your product or service, your industry and competition.
You might even want to write a business plan for your new venture.
If you decide to do this, keep Rhonda Abrams’ book, The
Successful Business Plan, and David Bangs’ book, The
Business Planning Guide, by your side.
2. Develop a marketing and sales strategy, and don’t
be surprised if you devote at least half of your business plan
to these things. If you’re going
to use an Internet-centric approach, pick up a copy of Ralph
Wilson’s book, Planning Your Internet Marketing Strategy.
It also has good advice for those whose ventures are offline.
3. Create an identity system that includes establishing goals
and timelines, reviewing layouts, and approving the finished
4. Put your plans into action and see how well they did. That’s
a quick tour of the startup
process. How do you handle the day-to-day stuff?
The most important bit of advice that I can give you is that
multiple responsibilities will force you to be very organized.
The alternative is burnout. I’ve been honing my business
and personal organization system for over a year, and I pretty
well have things the way
I want them.
One of my main goals has been to find any item
or piece of information in this studio, or in my house, within
30 seconds. Reason: When you’re running multiple businesses,
you don’t have time to waste.
Another goal is to know exactly where I stand on any of the
projects I have underway. I also set a daily
work schedule and stick to it. I created this system through
a combination of reading and attending seminars.
Some of the
more helpful books I’ve
1. "Getting Things Done" by David Allen
2. "How to Make Your Business Run Without You" by Susan Carter
3. "Twist the New" by Greg Loumeau
4. "How to Grow Your Business Without Driving Yourself Crazy"
by Mike Van Horne
In "Twist the New", Greg Loumeau
notes that if you take on more than one venture, you’ll
never be as deep as you would be if you’d only focused
on one area. Greg knows of what he speaks. In addition to running
the Dreamco.com design
studio, he also publishes books
and music, and operates a computer training school. His secret
to success is to not try to do all of his company projects
himself. Instead, he creates teams of designers, programmers
and others to get things done.Greg notes, “Most creative
people have more than one interest, so I think the trick to
making a creative venture profitable is to focus on the "bread
and butter" products or services you provide and allow
them to fund your other, less profitable, projects. A company’s
main products usually provide high value or great utility to
their clients. In our case, we design web sites and provide
computer training, which fund our less profitable but more
enjoyable pursuits of publishing books and music.”
In addition to not trying to do all of the paid work yourself,
you should start hiring out the work that isn’t a profit
center for your business. That means finding a bookkeeper,
an errand-runner and someone to do clerical work around your
office, etc. Your primary focus should be on doing things that
you more money.
What are the Rewards of Diversification?
First, you’ve probably heard of that expression “multiple
streams of income.” By diversifying beyond just selling
your design skills, you’ll be doing just that.
Second, your competitors may well become your customers. Case
in point: I’ve sold quite a few of my postcard marketing
e-books to other designers. And Creative Latitude’s resident
promotion and marketing expert, Jeff Fisher, does a lot of
guest speaking at conferences attended by design professionals.
is also a prolific writer of articles and is about to publish
a book, The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success.
Third, you gain business experience in areas that you
would have missed had you stayed focused on design. For example,
in my publishing business, I’ve learned a lot about e-commerce
that I didn’t learn as a Web designer. I’ve also
found that selling goods is a lot different than selling design
projects. Design projects take a
lot of time, you don’t take on very many at once unless
you have a big studio, but when you’re selling goods,
you constantly need to find new customers.
You also need to keep developing new products in order to garner
repeat purchases by your existing customers.
Fourth, since you already have design skills, you won’t
need to hire a designer to create a website and printed marketing
materials for you. And, better yet, you can add the work you’ve
done for yourself to your portfolio. Which can attract more
clients to your design studio.
Learn more about postcard marketing
and promotion with Martha's
Postcard Marketing Secrets,
a downloadable PDF manual, jam packed with great information. Click
here to order your copy.