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Martha Retallick, also known as "The Passionate Postcarder," hails from Tucson, Arizona, USA. She is the author of Postcard Marketing Secrets, a downloadable PDF manual that will show you how to put postcards to work for your business -- profitably. Learn more about it at:


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The Joys of Diversification
by Martha Retallick

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 several weeks.

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 own 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 work.

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 read are:
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 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 make 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. He 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.

2004, Martha Retallick

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