Next month I’ll celebrate my sixth year in business with b is for bonnie design! And every year that my little business is open for business, I take a minute to reflect on how far I’ve come in the years past. Because I know you know just how much heart, hard work, and dedication it takes to get your dream off the ground, boss lady!
Looking back on that first year as a baby business owner, I can clearly see lessons that I was walking through then that helped shape the kind of creative I am today. Of course, it didn’t feel that way when I was working those late nights or hustling like crazy! But now I can clearly see how every late night, not-so-ideal client, or creative challenge refined me, my business, and my process as a designer. So whether you’re in your first 2 years or 12 years of business as a designer, keep reading to learn the 5 things I wish I knew as a brand new designer!
1. You need to know more than the basics in Illustrator
It doesn’t matter how skilled you are with the pen tool or how detailed you are with every anchor point in a logo design. If you’re only focusing on the design itself, you’re missing an incredible opportunity to serve your clients well. You have to develop a brand discovery process to guide your clients through. This tailors your final product, and it enables your clients to understand what they need from their branding. Because when you understand the heart of your client’s business, who their ideal clients are, and what their brand message is, you can make truly informed design decisions that will propel your client’s business forward. It truly changes everything, boss lady!
2. Those red flag clients will make you a better business owner
I know we all wish we could only work with ideal clients all day, every day. But I’m going to say something that you might not agree with, friend — those not-so-ideal clients will challenge you in the best of ways.
Will they be easy? Probably not.
Will it be such a labor of love to craft a visual brand they’re excited about? I’m guessing so.
But working with clients who aren’t always smooth sailing will teach you about conflict resolution, setting strong boundaries in place, and how to serve others well even when it’s hard.
3. If you don’t lead your clients, your clients will lead you
Part of being a successful designer includes being a strong leader. When your clients choose to hire you, they’re trusting your expertise and knowledge in the design industry. From current trends to color theory, they’ll be leaning on you every step of the way to guide them in the right direction. Which is why you have to create a client experience that positions you as the expert and the leader who will guide them through this process from start to finish. Set clear expectations for your clients, carry yourself with humble confidence, and outline what’s next at every point of your process.
4. Your client’s preferences are secondary
Now before you raise your eyebrows, hear me out! In order to serve your clients well, you have to design with their goals in mind, not their personal preferences. I see so many designers in the creative industry who are only designing to client specifications, which means you’re defaulting to them on choices like color, type, and overall aesthetic. But if you’re guiding your clients through a strong brand discovery process, then you’ll know that their personal preferences aren’t always in line with achieving their goals.
For example, let’s say that your client wants to reach a high-end audience with a refined, luxe aesthetic. But she personally wants to include a vibrant, over-the-top color palette with glitter accents. You’ll immediately notice the disconnect between what speaks to your client versus what speaks to her ideal client, and creating the visual brand that she loves won’t guarantee that her ideal clients will resonate with her new visuals.
Which is why it’s key to educate your clients about the best choices that will enable them to reach their goals and connect with their ideal clients above all. Yes, we want to design to their preferences when we can, but it’s ultimately about building visuals that will be authentically profitable for them in the long run.
5. Don’t sell yourself short
Your time is valuable. Don’t sell yourself short, boss lady. I remember when I first launched my business, I was selling branding packages on Etsy for a whopping $500. And that was my top package and I was thrilled about that at the time! But when I sat down to realistically examine how many hours I was pouring into each of those top tier packages, I found I was making pennies on the dollar.
When pricing your services, don’t devalue your time. Charge what’s reflective of your experience and quality of work, but also don’t forget to factor in the countless hours you spend serving each client.
When I started my business, I had no boundaries with my clients, I was wrestling through projects with less-than-ideal clients, and crossing my fingers that someone would book my top tier packages at a whole hot $500.
Now I’m here — building brands that book ideal clients one day after launching; working with my dream clients every day, not every once in a while; doing work that I love because I’ve seen the results and I believe in this process. I’m able to design brands that look, feel, and sound like the heart of my clients’ work because we always start with the heart.
What made that dramatic transition possible? I chose to offer my clients something different. I chose to create a deeply strategic, incredibly heartfelt brand development process that guides clients through the foundation of their brand through their values, mission, and vision; their ideal client; and their brand message. Together, we’re able to create purposeful, profitable visual brands founded on a clear sense of strategy and purpose!
And I’m peeling back the curtain on my signature brand development process that I used to transform everything in my business to share with you, fellow designer. You don’t have to fine tune your existing brand discovery process or try to figure out what piece of the puzzle isn’t working. Instead, you can swipe my exact process from start to finish and immediately begin guiding your clients through a brand discovery approach that works.
I’m opening doors for the Brand Strategy School, an online course just for brand designers and strategists, soon and I don’t want you to miss a single thing! If you’re ready to transform the way you do business and guide your clients through a proven strategy that delivers heartfelt results, join the waitlist below to be the first to know when the Brand Strategy School launches.