Friend, I know exactly how much heart, hard work, and dedication it takes to get your dream off the ground. I see you over there, hustling to make your dreams into your reality! Each and every year, I take some intentional time to reflect on how far I’ve come since beginning my own design business more than nine years ago. And today, I’m so excited to be sharing the top 5 things I wish I knew when I was a brand new designer! My hope is that, by pulling back the curtain on these concepts, you’ll be able to skip all the trial and error and go straight on towards the profitable, scalable design business of your dreams.
Looking back on my first year as a baby business owner, I can clearly see which situations walked through that helped shape the 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 second year or second decade of business as a designer, keep reading to learn the 5 things I wish I knew as a brand new designer!
5 Things I Wish I Knew Earlier in my Design Business
1. You need to know more than just the basics of Illustrator
Friend, here’s some tough love for you: 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 a key opportunity to serve your clients well. The step you’re missing?
A fully developed brand discovery process.
Guiding your clients through the brand discovery process will tailor your final product to their precise needs, rather than just creating something cool and trendy (that we all know, deep down, will go out of style pretty soon anyways). It also enables your clients to understand what they need from their branding! When you understand the true heart of your client’s business, you’re able to make more fully informed design decisions that will propel your client’s business forward. It truly changes everything, for you AND for your clients!
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 friend, I can promise you that 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 (and protecting) strong boundaries, and how to serve others well even when it’s hard. These lessons are absolutely invaluable, even if they sometimes have to be learned the hard way!
3. If you don’t lead your clients, they will lead you
Part of being a successful business owner includes being a strong leader. When your clients choose to hire you, they’re trusting your expertise and knowledge around all things design. From current trends to color theory, they’ll be leaning on you every step of the way to guide them in the right direction. Thus, you have to create a client experience that positions YOU as the expert and 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 fellow designers only creating to client specifications, which means you’re defaulting to them on choices like color, type, and overall aesthetic. Friend, refer back to #3 on this list! Your job is to lead them, to use your knowledge and talent to create something that will benefit them and their business for years to come. If you’re guiding your clients through a strong brand discovery process (see item #1!), then you’ll know that their personal preferences aren’t always in line with achieving their goals. It’s your job to see beyond preferences and trends, and create something truly strategic and valuable.
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 glittery accents. You’ll immediately notice the disconnect between what speaks to your client versus what speaks to her ideal client. Creating the visual brand that she loves won’t guarantee that her ideal clients will resonate with her new visuals. And which one truly matters in terms of creating success and growth for your client’s business?
This is why it’s key to educate your clients. Explain to them which design choices that will enable them to reach their goals and connect with their ideal clients. Yes, we want to design to their preferences whenever we can! But, ultimately, it’s far more important to build visuals that will be authentically profitable for them in the long run.
5. Don’t sell yourself short
Sweet friend, your time is valuable.
I remember when I first launched my business, I was selling branding packages on Etsy for a whopping $500. That was my top package, and I was thrilled about it at the time! But when I sat down to realistically examine how many hours I was pouring into each of those projects, I found I was making pennies on the dollar.
When pricing your services, do not 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.
BONUS: One More Thing I Wish I Knew…
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.
But now I’m here, building brands that book ideal clients one day after launching, working with my dream clients every day (not just every once in a while!), and doing work that I love, all because I’ve seen the results and 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 their 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 foundational discovery of their brand, from their values, mission, and vision to their ideal client to their brand message and more. Together, we’re able to create purposeful, profitable visual brands founded on a clear sense of strategy and purpose!
Come learn about the value of brand strategy with me!
Friend, the number one thing I truly wish I knew when I began my design business is the value of brand strategy. So, to help you skip over all the trial-and-error I already experienced, I’m peeling back the curtain on my signature brand development process! This is the exact process I used to transform everything in my business. And now I’m going to share it all 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 has been proven to work time and time again!
Are you dreaming of scaling your income without adding more to your already overflowing plate, fellow designer? I’ve got you!
I saved a seat just for you at my totally free masterclass, all about how to triple your income without taking on more branding clients.
After tuning into this Netflix-style masterclass, you’ll be able to:
- Charge more for your services so you can experience consistent income without working crazy hours or taking on hundreds of clients.
- Kick imposter syndrome to the curb and position yourself as the expert your branding clients are searching for!
- Get out in front of your ideal clients without hustling to be seen online.
I’ll be peeling back the curtain on even more things I wish I knew when I began my business, and giving you practical steps forward to scale your business sustainably . If this sounds like JUST the thing you’ve been looking for, then friend, I’d love to see you there!