Everyone makes mistakes. But the difference between the top web/graphic designers and everyone else is that the elite designers quickly learn from theirs. Equipped with a trove of learnings, they’re able to constantly improve their business. Today, we’re letting you in on the biggest business mistakes designers make and their learnings to help you streamline your business, too.
Mistake #1: Not demonstrating expertise
Competition is fierce out there, so it’s important to differentiate yourself in a sea of available web/graphic designers. Luckily, if you’ve got the skills and talent it takes to run your own design business, differentiating yourself is easy. You just need to remember to do it. One way to do this is by being a resource to your audience and positioning yourself as a subject matter expert (SME) by:
- Blogging about projects you’ve completed
- Turning your clients’ frequently-asked-questions into blog posts
- Sharing design trends you’re loving to showcase your aesthetic and attract the kinds of customers you want to work with
Mistake #2: Ignoring emotional connections
Did you know that building a strong emotional connection with your clients has been scientifically proven to help you win more business? According to Psychology Today, “Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).” We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: People want to work with people they like. Paying attention to this vital, often underestimated piece of your business can be a way to recharge your operation if you feel like you’re hitting a growth plateau.
And while it’s important to work on building your relationships with current clients, don’t forget about nurturing the emotional connection you have with prospective clients in your:
- New inquiry email responses
- Social media posts
- Blog and website
Mistake #3: Working harder, not smarter to get new clients
Getting new clients can feel daunting and discouraging. For one thing, you have to respond quickly to new inquiries. It’s key to strike while your inquiry’s interest is hot. This might feel overwhelming when you’re out shooting and away from your email. For another, if you’re on top of your inquiry game but still not hearing back, it can feel like your business is stuck.
Luckily, you don’t need to hire a team to drum up new web/graphic design business. Email automation tools can do the work for you. For example, HoneyBook’s Workflows tool can automatically send emails to prospects after they inquire via the contact form on your website. Workflows can also automatically follow up with prospects who don’t reply to your initial email. Including examples of past design work and client testimonials in your automated email series is a smart way to show prospective clients why they should work with you. Just set it up once and forget it. It’s like you have someone holding down the fort for you while you’re out of the office.
“Finally after feeling stressed for so long, I knew I needed a change when my booking rate was 50% at best. I was getting people interested but my process scared them away. My business friends were gushing about how HoneyBook made their business easier to run and fun for their clients to book with them. Since joining HoneyBook, my conversion rate nearly doubled to over 95%.”
Stefani Lefler, Website Designer & Developer
Stefani Jessica Studio
Mistake #4: Unfocused marketing
In theory, marketing to everybody, everywhere sounds like a great idea. Cast the widest net possible, right? Unfortunately, this is a common misconception that can lead to doing extra work without any extra results. Your time is limited, valuable, and better spent doing what you were made for: design.
So what’s a time-strapped designer to do? Find focus and be strategic. One way to do this is to understand which marketing channels work best for you. For example, HoneyBook tracks where all of your leads came from, so you can figure out where to spend your time and energy marketing your services.
Once you’ve figured out which marketing channels are working for you, cater your content to that channel and create content that highlights your unique design aesthetic or business style for a specific audience.
“It amazes me how terrified people are to niche down. I get it, I was there, but I’m telling you, in the majority of businesses I watch and work with in our creative industry, it’s those who go after a precise niche that really ‘make it.’”
Ashlyn Carter, Branding Expert
Mistake #5: Waiting for snail-mail checks
Getting paid is paramount to your business’ health and cash flow, yet it’s one area that remains a challenge for entrepreneurs. Lost payments and slow checks sent via snail mail are large contributors to the problem. “Freelancers experiencing non-payment lose an average of $6,000 annually,” said Caitlin Pearce, executive director of Freelancers Union in New York City. They also “spend a lot of time and energy having to track down payments when they could be working or finding new clients.”
One solution is to cut down on the time it takes to get paid with online invoicing. Over 80% of invoices sent through HoneyBook are paid within one day.
And studies have shown that small businesses that accept online payments make 2x more than those that don’t.
By learning from other web/graphic designers’ top mistakes, you can avoid making the same errors twice. Apply the lessons learned to grow your own business by:
- Positioning yourself as a subject matter expert and providing value to your audience
- Building strong emotional connections with current and prospective clients throughout all of our brand touchpoints
- Turning more inquiries into booked business by using email automation tools to respond and follow up with each and every inquiry
- Focusing on the specific marketing channels that work best for you and creating content that appeals to your target audience
- Using online invoicing tools to get paid faster and with less legwork