A Designer’s Guide to Pricing

Graphic Designer’s Guide to Pricing

To meet the author and learn more about pricing, contracts, collections and more, attend our design retreat: WMC: Off-The-Grid this October 5 -7th. For more information, head to wmcfest.com

A lot of designers ask us what they should charge for their services. I thought I would share with you some financial lessons I’ve learned while building Cleveland Graphic Design Firm Go Media over the last fifteen years.

And be sure to check out “How to Charge For Your Graphic Design Work (& Get What You Deserve)” – another post by Go Media, for more on this topic!

This article will cover:
What should I charge?
Flat rate or hourly billing?
How can I avoid being stiffed?
Should I have contracts?
Avoiding “Busters”
Do I need an accountant?
What’s a “Kill Fee”?
Pitching.
How do I send invoices and track sales?

What should I charge?

hi_fi_by_gomedia.jpgThis largely depends on how skilled you are and how many customers you have. Obviously, when you’re starting out you’ll be charging almost nothing. When Go Media started I was charging flat-rates. For example – I was charging $100 to design a flyer. I would spend two days (20+ hours) doing an elaborate illustration for the flyer. So, basically I was making about $5/hr. This sucks, but I was doing what I loved.

Now obviously, with me

Why You Should Use WordPress

Why You Should Use WordPress

So, you want to build a killer website. Great. Here are three questions for you before we begin:

  1. Do you want your website to work?
  2. Should it be easy to use?
  3. Should it be easy for you to update?

Wow! What a surprise! You answered, “YES!” to all three questions.

Obviously, these are three fairly basic–but absolutely fundamental–requirements when building a website.

We’re a transparent, upfront team here at Cleveland Graphic Design and Web Design Firm Go Media. Our goal is to save you time, money, and make your web presence as awesome and lucrative as possible. And that’s where our love for WordPress comes in.

Yes, WordPress is a blog platform. Your Aunt Linda may use WordPress to share her drool-worthy, double chocolate chip cookie recipe with her knitting club, but that’s the beauty of WordPress. Everyone from your Aunt Linda to your nephew Joey can use it. That means once the site is established, you will easily be able to edit content from any computer with Internet access. No paying for a designer or a coder for an additional page of content–you’ll be able to efficiently add copy and an image, publish the updates immediately or schedule them whenever it’s most convenient for you. WordPress can save time, keep your website consistent, and give you the freedom to do the other million things you need to do to keep your business thriving.

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WordPress can cater to a wide variety of businesses. Pictured above are Laurenco Waterproofing and Makeup Academy Pro.

Let’s be clear here: WordPress is not just for recipe swaps. WordPress powers over 100 million sites! From the site you are looking at now to these other fine websites Go Media designed: Makeup Academy Pro,  Laurenco Waterproofing and Summit Developmental Disabilities Board we can help your site represent your brand at it’s finest. We’re early adopters of WordPress with over fifteen years of WordPress experience — our expertise means that we can offer custom your business WordPress themes AND unique Go Media WordPress plugins. Looking to add custom posts, special theme options, or unique pages targeted for your business? Look no further. Why bother building cookie-cutter websites when our expertise with WordPress and its Open Source platform provide the flexibility to basically build whatever you are dreaming of?

This carte blanche extends to e-commerce. Cleveland Web Development firm Go Media has been integrating e-commerce with WordPress for over ten years. Our platforms have processed millions of dollars throughout the years. We’re comfortable working with small retailers to national conglomerates. Here’s a short list of what we can do for you:

  • Organize and present products by categories, attributes, tags, price and more.
  • Product feature images and slideshows with large image viewer.
  • Supports a retail price, sale price, special customer pricing, variable pricing and more.
  • Product details tabs with descriptions, customer comments, reviews and additional information.
  • Related and cross-promotional products can be associated with any item.
  • Currency, taxes, shipping fees, and many related extensions to integrate with 3rd party systems like Fedex & UPS.
  • Inventory counting with Out of Stock settings.
  • Dozens of payment extensions with multiple checkout options such as Credit Cards on most major merchant gateways, Paypal, Amazon and many more.
  • Advanced control panel dashboard with sales updates, reviews, stats and more.
  • Marketing & Promotion tools like coupon code management and sales alert banners.
  • Hundreds of extensions for 3rd party integration like QuickBooks, TradeGecko,
  • Veeqo and countless more.

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Cleveland Public Theatre: Responsive WordPress site that caters to any gallery, social media or blog themed need.

Above all, each transaction is secure, reliable, and easy for the customer. That means your front-end of your WordPress looks flawless for your user, encouraging them to purchase from your site. A top-notch experience builds confidence for your customer, which builds a repeat, loyal user. The back-end of your e-commerce site will also be clean, a snap to manage, and will make the selling process…well, easy. And isn’t that the point?

If you haven’t figured it out already, WordPress should be your go-to platform for dependable, user-friendly, creative, world-is-your-oyster websites. If you still have questions, or just want to chat about why you love WordPress too, get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

Design FASTER: Seven tips to becoming a faster, more efficient graphic designer

How to Become a Faster Graphic Designer

I wanted to talk about a subject that is very important to being a successful designer – speed. I’m talking about how fast you can produce designs for your client, boss or even just for yourself.

Just why is it important to learn how to become a faster graphic Designer? And why does speed matter? Time is money. It’s a simple fact. Your boss or your client needs a result – a design. It’s your product. And if you can produce that design faster, it saves your boss and/or your client money. If you can be a faster designer, you’re going to be a more valued employee. And trust me, every boss and every client out there KNOWS who their fast designers are and who their slow designers are. I want to say that again because it’s important: YOUR BOSS KNOWS IF YOU’RE A FAST OR SLOW designer. And guess what – they love their fast designers and are frustrated with their slow designers.

If we compare designers creating designs to workers assembling widgets, if one worker can assemble two widgets in and hour, and another can assemble ten widgets in an hour, the one who produces more is more valuable to the company right? Of course. Now, imagine it’s the end of the year and the boss needs to decide who to give a raise to, and who to fire – do you think speed is a component of their decisions? It sure as shit is.

If you have any lingering doubts about how important speed is – just go work for yourself. A focal point of every sales conversation you have with potential clients is budget. And what does a budget mean? Money. And what does money mean? Time. Similarly, if you charge $500 to design a logo and you can design one a day – great, that’s $500. But design 10 logos a day and you’ll earn $5,000. Is the difference speed can make clear?

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I think sometimes this can get a little muddy to a designer who is collecting a fixed salary. After all, the designer gets paid the same each payroll whether they produce a lot or a little. But guess what – it does make a difference to the owner of the company. If the company produces more and earns more – the owner gets to pay themselves and their staff more. Or, as is sometimes the case at our Cleveland Design Firm Go Media, if the designers don’t produce enough, the owners (that’s me) LOSE money. So trust me, while you may not be feeling the effects of working slow or fast, you will – eventually you will.

Is this clear? Work faster, make more money. Be more valuable, get raises and keep your job! Speed matters.

But what about design quality? I know what you’re thinking: “But Bill, what about Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y? Quality takes time, and don’t clients want quality?” Yes. Absolutely. Quality is also important. And yes, if you gave a designer two different time budgets, the design done with the longer time budget would most likely be of higher quality. The optimal designer is BOTH fast AND good. You should be working towards both. But remember that you’re not competing against yourself. In the grand pool of designer employees out there, you’re competing against other designers. And guess what – some are faster AND better than you. SO, if you’re going to be a valuable designer, you need to work on both.

For the sake of this article, I am going focus on the subject of speed.

So… how to become a faster graphic designer?

1. Know the difference between being an ‘artist’ and being a ‘commercial artist.” Look, I know that many of you take great pleasure in being ‘artists.’ I understand that your ‘happy place’ may be doing tons of research, then exploring many directions, and taking your time to create something amazing. That’s fine. That’s you approaching your work in a way that is most fulfilling to you. I do this too. When I’m drawing, I need long hours to create something great and I’m not satisfied when I make something that I think sucks. It’s ok for you to be an ‘artist’ and to work in this way. Just understand that your 9-5 job as a paid graphic designer is not your ‘art.’ You’re a professional worker with a skill that charges a certain amount per hour, and that your client has a budget! Getting the job done in a way that is efficient, and getting the job done in a way that is fulfilling may be two different things.

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If you can find clients that don’t care how long it takes you and are willing to pay you to spend as much time as you want on your designs, well, congratulations to you. I hope you appreciate what a gift you’ve been given. In my experience, clients are hyper aware of their budgets and generally want everything as cheaply as possible. Design is a job. Sorry, this isn’t your free time. This isn’t your ‘art.’ You’re working. And sometimes (for most people all the time) work sucks. Designers need to remind themselves of this now and then. If you can recognize that your time ‘on the clock’ is work, and that you’re a professional doing a job and that it’s fundamentally different than your ‘art’, it’s an important shift in your perspective that you need to adopt. ‘Cranking out a design’ may not be fun because you’re being rushed, but that’s the job.

2. Design in your head first. As a salesperson for Go Media I am afforded a long ramp up phase prior to starting a design project. As part of the sales process, I typically have several meetings with clients, ask lots of questions about their business history, goals and ideas. It may take several weeks from the time I first meet a client until the time I sit down to design. Frequently, by the time I sit down to design – I already know exactly what I’m going to make. The image is clear in my mind. At that point all I need to do is assemble it. It’s more production than ideation. Having a clear vision of my design before I even start designing certainly makes me a much faster designer. How is it that I know exactly what I’m going to design? Obviously, because I’ve been thinking about it during the entire sales process.

While most designers aren’t out selling, they can also employ this technique – start thinking about your designs BEFORE you sit down to your computer. If you can get an early look at creative briefs on projects that are coming up READ THEM! Wrap your head around all the details of the project days or weeks in advance. Ideally, you will then use your down time to think about them. Start the design in your head. This may require a conscious effort on your part! That’s right – you may have to WORK. But hopefully, you love this shit, and it doesn’t feel like work. You naturally think about the design in advance because it makes you happy.

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But here’s the good thing – even if you can’t find spare time after hours to think about your designs in advance, I believe that it helps anyway. The human brain is a mysterious and powerful thing. Your brain will be solving your design problems whether you realize it or not. Some subliminal consciousness is functioning, thinking, processing… …designing! It happens while you’re eating lunch, while you’re having drinks with friends, even while you’re sleeping. But the brain can’t solve problems while you sleep if it doesn’t even know the problem exists. So, step one is to start learning about your graphic design projects in advance – then make an effort to think about them during off hours.

3. Guard your time. In today’s day and age, there are a thousand distractions to steal your time. You’ve got a constant stream of emails, text messages, Facebook Updates, phone calls, co-workers coming up to chat with you, meetings, lunch breaks, and on and on. Fast designers learn how to protect their time. When was the last time you told a coworker: “Sorry, I don’t have time to chat right now. I have to get this project done.” If you can’t remember, you’re probably doing a bad job protecting your time. Turn off your e-mail. Turn off your phone. Pack your lunch instead of going out for lunch. Don’t check your social media feed. In my experience I can almost see the fast workers – their heads are down, I can see the look of concentration on their faces. I don’t see them in the kitchen chatting with fellow employees – they’re quiet, they’re focused.

There are tons of techniques out there to help you protect your time. Recently I’ve decided that I need to have ‘production days.’ On my ‘production days’ I’ve given myself a license to ignore my emails all day long. 99% of my emails can wait a day. If there is a real emergency someone will call me. The techniques are secondary. The important part is that you need to recognize that your time is wasting – every day. Sometimes other people are wasting your time, but more likely, you’re wasting time yourself. If you want to get more done each day, you’re going to have to make an effort to stop it.

And let me tell you – your boss will appreciate it! If I imagine that I was in a meeting with several staff members and one of them stood up and said to me: “Please excuse me Bill. I just realized that I have nothing to contribute to this meeting. I’m wasting my time. I would like to get back to my desk so I can get my design project done.” Can you imagine how I would react? I’d give that employee a gold star, smiley face and an A+. My perception of that employee would be forever altered. “Wow. Bob is SERIOUS about being productive. He’s a worker! I LOVE BOB!”

4. Consider your time budget before you start. Take a moment before you start any design project and familiarize yourself with your time budget. By stopping to consider how much time you have on a project, it will influence how you approach the project. You may have thoughts like: “Gosh, I would have really loved to design icons from scratch for this poster, but I can buy stock icons and save myself three hours. It’s not ideal, but it will get the job done faster!” And you can actually download stock icons and vectors from Go Media’s Arsenal.

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5. Set a time budget. Don’t have a specific time budget? Make one. Challenge yourself with a goal. You might have a thought like: “Normally, it takes me three days to design a poster like this, but I’m going to only give myself one day!” I used to actually ‘speed design.’ I would create a race for myself. I’d set up a stopwatch on my desk, give myself an unreasonably short amount of time to get something done – like one hour, and I’d see how far I could get. There is a side benefit to this game – I frequently found that I designed BETTER! By forcing myself to work fast, I turned my brain off. I designed on instinct. I didn’t over think or over complicate things. I just went straight to the solution. And often in design, the simplest most obvious solution is also the best.

6. Know when ‘good enough’ is the right approach. Look, nobody likes to create mediocre designs. We all want to design stuff that’s so amazingly good that we become rich, famous and change the world. But sometimes ‘Great’ is less important than ‘fast’ (on budget). We have a saying at Go Media that I stole from a Labatt Blue commercial: “Crose Enough!” (Close enough.) In essence, everything isn’t going to be perfect. Sometimes ‘close enough’ (a mediocre design) is good enough.

7. Recognize when you’re ‘tinkering.’ This item is closely related to the previous point. I’ve known many designers that kill their time budgets because they ‘tinker.’ They’ll actually work at a nice speed, get the design 95% done, then spend just as much time getting the last 5% done as they did getting the first part done. There is often a perfectionistic streak in them that forces them to fiddle with their designs for hours – trying to make them more perfect. They nudge some copy to the right an eighth of an inch, they increase the contrast of their images by 3%, they adjust the kerning of every single word on the page, etc. Learn to recognize when you’re doing this – making relatively small changes to something that’s basically done. Stop. Let it go. You have other projects to work on!

Now, take a deep breath and get back to work (quickly now!) We know you have it in you.

gmz-ad

The Branding Process: 4 Steps to Success

Logo Design vs. Branding – what’s the difference?

Typography Shortcuts: ‘Custom’ Type Treatments for the Lazy Designer

‘Custom’ Type Treatments for the Lazy Designer

Custom hand-drawn type treatments are quite popular these days. Nothing says hipster-cool like hand lettering your client’s chalkboard coffee shop menu. But let’s face it – hand lettering requires a certain amount of artistic skill. And time. Lots and lots of time (and we all know not every client has a big budget).

So, what do you do? You want a custom type treatment for your client but you lack either the skills or time to do it right. You need a shortcut. You need a cheat. You need the gurus of Cleveland graphic design services Go Media’s (semi-) patented Custom Type Treatment for Lazy Designers technique!

Here’s how it’s done:

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Step 1. Select a font.

This is where all our time savings comes in. Your final product is going to be 85% font, 15% customization. While selecting the font will feel like the easiest step, it’s also the most important. Don’t rush through this step of the process! I will often times spend over two hours just trying to find the perfect font. Remember the font you select is 85% of the final product and picking a font will be SAVING you tons of time hand lettering – so go slow!

In this case, the project was for a close friend of mine who asked for a tattoo of the word “Unvanquished.” While I’m a great illustrator, I’m not great at hand drawing type, so I knew my best result would be to start with a font. I probably spent about three hours finding this one font (Anha Queen VMF Pro).

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Step 2. In Computer Modifications: Kerning

At this point I start by converting my type into ‘paths’ in Illustrator. I will be modifying my letters as vector shapes from here on out.

In my experience, no font’s kerning is perfect for every single word. So, once I’ve typed out the logotype I’m going to make, I fine-tune the letter spacing. When creating a word-mark I’ve found that you generally want the kerning tighter than what is comfortable for reading – this changes the word into a mark. You can see the adjustments I made with the kerning above.

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Step 3. In Computer Modifications: Eliminate Redundancies

Frequently fonts will include lots of repeating shapes. Sometimes these can be ugly and a dead giveaway that your type treatment is a font and not original. It’s ok if you keep one of these shapes, but remove any redundancy that stands out. I’ll also usually use this step in the process to clean out anything that I don’t like. This font has a lot of messy flourishes, so I’ll clean those up too.

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Step 4. In Computer Modifications: Play with Ascenders, Descenders and Letter Size

Fonts tend to have a certain-size perfection. All lowercase letters are pixel-perfect height, line thicknesses are exactly the same, etc. I like to play with all of this stuff to give the type treatment a bit more originality.

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Step 5. Hand Drawn Modifications

While hand-drawing this font from scratch was beyond my skill level, adding some hand-drawn modifications is a fun and easy way to further refine your type treatment. For this step, I simply print out my type onto an 11×17” sheet of paper, pull out a pencil and start playing! If you mess up, just throw it away (sorry, I mean recycle it) and start over. Once I’ve got something I’m happy with I will scan that back into the computer and ‘vectorize’ the elements that I drew.

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In this particular case, all my flourishes made the art a little too tall for my friend’s arm, so his tattoo artist modified my design a bit.

Step 6: Sit Back and Enjoy the View

After you’ve finished vectorizing the elements you’ve lazily hand-drawn, sit back and enjoy the view. Sarcasm aside, appreciate how, relatively quickly, you’ve been able to construct a pretty hip custom type treatment. Your client will be equally impressed and their pocket book will thank you, too.

6 Questions to Consider When Rebranding Your Company

Things to consider before rebranding your company.

Here at Cleveland creative agency Go Media, we take branding very seriously. We have helped many companies, who’ve undergone natural growth and change, take necessary steps to transform the face of their company for the better. Consider these six simple questions when rebranding your own company and you’ll be on the road to success.

1. What is the goal?

Don’t rebrand simply just because. You should have a specific set of goals driving your rebrand. Perhaps, for example, you are a tech company who needs to modernize a logo designed in the 70’s. Ask yourself why you are rebranding and give yourself an excellent answer. Don’t have one? It may not be time.

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2. Is brand boredom the reason for the rebrand?

Many times business owners will rebrand because they’re suffering from brand boredom. They’re looking at their brand all day long, every day. Brand boredom, on the part of the business owner, is normal and only natural. This, however, not a good reason to rebrand! Remember that clients are not coming into contact with your brand as frequently as you. They need to become familiar with your color schemes, fonts, mark. This can only be accomplished through consistency.

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3. What is your brand equity?

Is your brand equity good or bad? When customers come in contact with your logo, do they remember the amazing work you’ve done for them? Or, do they instead only recall a negative experience with you? If you believe your brand to have a positive brand equity, this is extremely valuable! Hold onto that value! If you feel a change is in order, a brand refresh, is what we recommend. With a brand refresh, you’ll use enough new elements to move the brand forward while keeping enough old elements to maintain brand recognition.

Consider your brand to have a negative equity? You may want to try something new, so far as considering a new name and a new brand. You’ll want to completely break any negative association with your brand if needed. For example, imagine you owned an airline that had a 50% incidence rate of plane crashes over a one year period. Your brand equity would call for a complete change to say the least.

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4. What costs are involved?

When thinking about doing a rebrand of your company, you must consider all of the costs involved. Your brand is more pervasive than you may at first think and if you’re considering a rebrand you’ll have to replace everything relatively quickly. This includes your letterhead, your website, building signs, ads, etc.  Hesitate to do so and your customers will be seeing two brands for an extended period of time. Focus on primary touch points first, then go from there. Also, possibly hold off on a rebrand until you have exhausted your stock of items with old branding. This way, when you’ve rebranding, you can restock and be all ready to go!

5. Have you considered your whole brand?

Keep in mind that your brand is not only a logo, but that your brand also embodies your company in its entirety. Your brand is your personality, its messaging, copy. Your brand is what you say and how you say it. Your brand is your company’s vibe, the music you play, your uniform, the furniture in your office. Consider a rebrand and how these elements may be impacted.

6. How will you transition the rebrand?

The rebranding process can be very disruptive if not handled with finesse. Making major aesthetic shifts or changing your names can confuse customers. Consider how you’ll educate your customers about the transition to your new brand. Some examples? Place your old brand next to your new brand, or explain very clearly to customers that “ABC Company is now XYZ Company.”  Take some time to let things sink in.

Considering a rebrand? Don’t forget to consult your friends here at Go Media!

8 Secrets to Battling Burnout & Tools to Help You Kickstart your Day

Battle Burnout: Tips for Designers, Managers, Entrepreneurs

This is an excerpt from Go Media President William Beachy’s book, Drawn to Business. Drawn to Business is the best reference for those looking to start their own million dollar business.

Building a business requires massive amounts of focus and energy. It’s perfectly natural to have moments where you feel absolutely fried. You won’t feel motivated to lift a single finger. Finding ways to motivate yourself are key in business and in life. Here is a list of motivators I’ve used to keep myself productive:

8 Secrets to Battling Burnout

1. Start with the low fruit. It’s always easiest to start with simple tasks and build up to larger ones. So as you look over your list of everything you need to do, pick something simple to get the ball rolling.

Block out the noise with these apps:
Anti-Social: blocks social media sites which take you away from what you need to be doing
StayFocused: an extension by Google Chrome which increases your productivity by limiting the time that you can spend on time-wasting websites

2. Make checklists. I’m not sure why exactly, but checklists have always been a motivator for me. Perhaps it’s because I can see a well-defined list of the things I need to get done. Or perhaps it’s the visceral satisfaction of crossing items off my list after I’m done. Whatever it is, I believe in lists.

Try Teux Deux: a straight-forward and simple to-do app
Lift App: employs coaching, community and data to help get things done
Any.do: a task list app available on Google Play and the Apple App store
Wunderlist: an easy way to manage and share your to-do lists
2Do: allows for color coding of tasks, scheduling, notifications and tags
Todosit: enables you to access your tasks anywhere as well as collaborate on shared tasks

3. Break down your large to-do items into smaller tasks. Sometimes when I’m having a difficult time getting started on a particular project, it’s because the project is large with lots of work required to finish it. The size of the project alone is what’s intimidating. “Well, I know I’ll never be able to finish that project today—so why start? That won’t be very rewarding.” But any large project can be broken down into smaller steps – baby steps. Focus on one of the baby steps and give yourself a reward when you’ve finished it.

4. Make a game out of it. This works particularly well when faced with boring repetitive work. How many widgets can you design in an hour?

Try Carrot App: a task list with attitude
My Minutes: rewards you when you meet small goals, nudges you when you’re taking too much time

5. Make a story out of it. If the context of your project is boring, then you need to use your imagination! Imagine for a moment that your logo design project is not for the local private school, but for a covert military organization. This shift in perspective can really boost your enthusiasm. Also, it can push your design to a higher standard.

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6. Find Inspiration. Read a book, talk to other entrepreneurs, or browse the web. Do whatever it takes to reignite the fire in your belly. When illustrating was the focus of my business, I would drive to the local comic book shop to get inspired. These days it’s a good business biography that inspires me the most.

7. Do Nothing. When nothing else is working, I will turn to this technique. Now, I know this might seem contrary to what you’re hoping to accomplish, but let me explain. Sometimes if I’m having a really hard time focusing and working hard, I just don’t. I just stop. I’ll take a nap, watch TV, go for a walk or browse the web. In my experience, if I just let myself take a little break, my motivation will come back on its own. It’s only when I try to force myself to work hard when I’m not in the mood  that I feel really bad.

8. Set a time limit. Before you try the “Do Nothing” technique, try giving yourself a short-term goal. Like: work hard for one hour. Sometimes you just need to get the ball rolling and before you know it, three hours will have passed. So, pick something manageable—maybe even break it down to 15 minutes. I’m going to sit and write my book for 15 minutes (yes, I’m using this technique right now)!

Rescue Time: tracks time spent on applications and websites, gives you detailed reports about your day
Toggl: tracks time, showing you what you spent your day on and for how long you worked on each task
ATracker: for iPhone and iPad – tracks your time and reports via pie chart, bar chart and data export
Eternity Time Log: for iPhone and iPad – tracks and times your daily tasks with a simple start and stop feature

What tricks and tools do you use to keep yourself on track?

Purchase Drawn to Business now – $35

On Developing a Dedicated Sales Team

Building a Sales Team You Can Trust:

One of the best part of our jobs here at Go Media is connecting with fellow creatives.  Recently, Jeff Gapinski, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Huemor Design in Farmingdale, New York, reached out us. Jeff had some great feedback about Drawn to Business, as well as some questions about developing a killer sales team.

We thought we’d share the exchange with all of you. Enjoy and please feel free to continue the conversation with us in the comments below!

Image shared by Huemor Designs
Image shared by Huemor Designs

Lead Your Sales Team to Success

Jeff Gapinski:

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for the time and effort you took to put together the book “Drawn to Business”.  I honestly wish I would have had the book when I started out, it would have made my journey to this point a bit easier, but none-the-less there was still insight to be gained from the read, even though we’re slightly beyond start-up stage.

I often found myself going YES YES THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FEEL throughout the book, which was extremely reassuring because:

1.  It made me feel like I’m not crazy

2.  I’m not alone

3.  I have to be doing something right if I’m following the same path

That being said, I do have a question that perhaps you could shed some further light on. Towards the end of the book you discuss always having an active sales team, and I have to say, in terms of my business, it’s definitely a weakness of mine.  We’ve been lucky enough to always be busy from the start, but it’s a huge fear of mine that the work will run out, and when it does, we won’t be prepared.  My question specifically is, who did you seek for your sales roles?  Did you find individuals with a background in sales for our industry, or did you find someone with a knack for sales and show them the ropes?  I’m finding it especially difficult to find qualified individuals I feel are worthy of being the “face” of my brand that aren’t myself, or my business partner.  Problem is, we both wear a lot of hats, and it’s especially difficult to actively pursue new leads on top of our 100 other tasks.

Image shared by Huemor Designs
Image shared by Huemor Designs

William Beachy:

Hey Jeff! Thanks for the feedback. I’d be happy to shed some light on the latest and greatest insights I have on using and developing a sales team. Let me start by saying I was also terrible at developing and properly using a sales team. It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve gotten it right. 2013 saw a 75% growth in design services – directly attributable to our new sales team and how I used them.

You should be afraid of running out of work! That’s healthy. It’s easier now, while you are busy, to ramp up your sales efforts than it will be if you run out of work. Being out of work and trying to spur sales is a stressful place. Make this a priority now! Use your strong cashflow to get marketing and people in place to push sales.

Find a good salesperson, not necessarily someone who knows the design industry. At the end of the day, sales is about communication, relationships, being competitive/self-motivated and having a knack for closing. None of these traits are specific to the design industry. Go Media’s top sales person didn’t have a background in design. We had to teach her. Of course, it’s a bonus if you can find someone with that knowledge base, but it’s not necessary. I would recommend finding someone with sales experience. Ask to see their track record and talk to their previous managers. And of course, all new employees need to be a cultural fit for your company.

Image shared by Huemor Designs
Image shared by Huemor Designs

Turn your salesperson into a clone of yourself. I completely hear your concern about your salesperson not being “worthy of being the face of your company.” So, here’s the solution: MAKE THEM WORTHY! You don’t hire a salesperson, give them a little dull sword and throw them into the lion’s den! You have to spend a long time training them. By the time they go sell for you on their own, they should have a full suit of armour, battle ax and mace! I think the best way to do this is to have them mirror you. Take them on sales calls with you. CC them on all your client e-mails. Have them on the phone with you. The salesperson needs to learn your “pitch.” They need to learn your personality, style, company culture, company story, anecdotal business stories, jokes – everything. Your salesperson is going to become a mini-you, a clone. This doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re starting from the premise that your sales pitch is working. So, you want to teach them what’s working. Did you see the movie The Wolf of Wallstreet? He became successful because he taught other sales people his pitch – he gave them a script!

So, how does this look in the real world for your sales team? The salesperson starts as an assistant to you. They take notes in the sales meetings. They listen and learn. They write the proposals – which you review. Bit by bit you let them do more and more of the sales work. Every step of the way you read what they write and listen to how they talk. You give feedback on what’s good and what needs modified. And of course, you teach them about the design industry. Once you’re confident in them, you start letting them lead the sales meeting and you simply sit and listen. Eventually they start going out on sales calls without you.

Over time a good salesperson will shed some of your personality and infuse their own. They will learn ways to get sales that you didn’t even think of. The education will go back and forth between you and your sales team. But your sales team needs to learn the rules before they can start breaking them. In the past I failed at building a sales team because I “put them on an island” and expected them to just sell without my help. That was completely wrong. Now I hold their hand, put words in their mouth and teach them all I know. The results have been dramatic.

Image shared by Huemor Designs
Image shared by Huemor Designs

Not chasing down all your leads is leaving money on the table! The owner of a company will ALWAYS be wearing many hats. I also have a hard time chasing down leads. This is exactly why you need a person (or two or three) that are only wearing one hat – the SALES hat. This way, when you are out networking and someone offhand mentions a slight interest in your design services – a lead that you might otherwise let pass you by, now you have someone to pass that lead along to – a hungry salesperson!

Don’t forget about developing your existing customers! Chasing down new leads is important, but even more important is developing the customers you already have. If you’re too busy to chase new leads (and wearing your many hats), then you’re probably not developing your current customers fully. How often do you call to check in? How often do you ask them what upcoming needs they have? How often do you pitch them on new services? Are you being a proactive salesperson or a responsive salesperson? If you only send proposals when your customers ask for them – you’re leaving money on the table.  This is where your dedicated sales team shines. This is exactly the kind of work that you don’t have time for, but a dedicated sales team does.

More about Jeff: Corporate Portfolio | Behance | Dribbble | Twitter

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How to Make (and Save) Money as a Graphic Designer

One question we get asked with great frequency is simple, yet profound: “How do I make money as a graphic designer?”

Jeff did a fantastic post about this very topic in September of 2012 called, “Side Income Strategies for Designers.” Check it out. Awesome, creative tips there.

We thought we’d take a different slant on the post this time, with wisdom coming from Go Media President William Beachy’s book, Drawn to Business. While Jeff went into side strategies, we’ll discuss strategies directly related to your growing business.

If you haven’t been introduced yet to the greatness that is Drawn to Business, it’s a nuts and bolts guide to how Bill built Cleveland Graphic Design Firm Go Media from the ground up. In it Bill outlines a 15 year journey, including years of struggle and growing pains, all bringing him to create the best agency in Cleveland web design, custom branding and print.

If you haven’t picked it up yet, what are you waiting for? It unlocks all the mysteries of our success.

I want it now – $37

The Profitability Equation.

First, let’s agree to this. You’re agreeing you actually want to be profitable, right?

As Bill notes,  “If you don’t accept the perspective of “YOU DESERVE TO BE PROFITABLE,” then you’ll probably give it away. Now that we’ve gotten that straightened out, let’s go.

1. Figure out how to be profitable.

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First, you have to do a budget.

What does it cost you to be in business? For this equation, let’s assume we’re dealing with a one-month time-frame. Most of your expenses are billed monthly, so this should cover most things. Your budget will include things like electricity, internet service, phone line, advertising, your salary (yes, you get to decide what to pay yourself), heat, and office supplies. That’s your monthly operating expense. That’s what you have to earn to break even.

Next we get to decide on the profit you want to make. You simply add how much you want the company to profit to the operating expenses. This is the total that you need to bring in each month.

Now, how do you figure out how much to charge to accomplish that goal? Simple, you need to figure out how many hours you can bill your clients each month. A safe bet is about four hours a day per employee. This may not seem like much, but remember all the things you have to do each day—answer phone calls, write estimates/proposals, design advertising, deal with freelancers, invoice customers, email files to the printer, etc. At the end of the day, you’ll see that four hours a day of billable time is a reasonable goal. Now we multiply that times five to get 20 hours a week times 4.3 (average weeks in a month) to get 86 billable hours per month.

The last step is to divide the total you need to earn by the billable hours you can work.

Simply writing out a math equation on a piece of paper won’t make you profitable. Writing down a salary of $90K in this equation will not make it come true. But this is a handy little way to think through what you’re charging, how many hours you’re working, and if you’re not profitable— why.

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2. Write up your business plan.

Writing a plan is a great way to get your brain to start thinking about all aspects of your business. If you don’t write a business plan, it might not occur to you to consider how much money you have to pay to Social Security as part of your payroll and you might not consider what will happen if your company scales up quickly. Maybe your office is only big enough for two employees. What happens if you suddenly need to grow in year two? You should be thinking about where you expect your business to go, and develop plans for that.

BUT—and here’s the important part, a business will rarely go as planned, so it’s important to not get tunnel vision. When things start to go in directions you weren’t expecting, you need to be agile and flexible. You need to be able to identify opportunities and run with them. Also, you need to recognize quickly when something isn’t working and make a dramatic change if necessary, and quickly. I suggest writing the plan because it’s an important learning tool. By mapping it out, you’re setting goals and expectations. These are benchmarks that will allow you to make comparisons. You should invest real energy on it.

Our Business Plan Workbook

3. Pay yourself as little as possible.

Obviously, your payroll as owner is an expense to the company. It must be budgeted just like anything else. If you pay yourself too much, you’ll soon find yourself broke. So, for the benefit of the business, it’s important that you pay yourself as little as possible. At Go Media there have been many years where the partners paid their employees more than we paid ourselves. Occasionally when we’ve fallen on extremely hard times, the partners have skipped payroll.

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4. Do not quit your day job.

If you have a day job and are considering starting a design firm —DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. Hold onto that day job as long as possible. That’s income. That’s your first client! They might be a bad low-paying client, but they’re still your only source of income. Go to your day job, then work on your business at night. Spend as much income from your day job as possible on your business. When you start landing clients, do that work at night and on the weekends. You should only quit your day job when you’re so slammed with work from your business that it justifies quitting.

Oh, and if you feel like you don’t have the energy to work on your own business after you’ve worked a full day at your regular job, you might seriously consider how committed you are to building your own company. Starting a new business requires well more than eight hours a day.

5. Stay in business.

It doesn’t have to be pretty or comfortable. You don’t need a fancy office or a catering service to bring you lunch. Staying in business means you have electric for your computer and a working phone line. If your idea of being in business means that you have fancy desks, embroidered shirts and a big neon sign, you need to adjust your expectations because things may get tough— very tough. And when they take away your neon sign, If you think you need it to be in business, then you’ll probably quit.

6. Avoid borrowing at all costs.

As outlined, frugality is key to survival in the early years of your business. You want to make it as difficult as possible to spend.

Borrowing does three things. First, it takes pressure off you to sell! If your rent payment is coming up and you have no money in the bank, guess what—you are going to feel a ton of pressure to go sell something. That’s a very good thing! Second, borrowing money makes it easier to spend. As mentioned previously, frugality is key to survival in the early years of your business. You want to make it as difficult as possible to spend. Third, borrowing money puts you in a worse financial position and saddles you with interest payments as well as possible emotional debts. Owing money to your family can be a terrible burden to carry.

“But Bill!” You say. “It does take some money to start a business. If I don’t already have it, how do I get it?”

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7. Buy only on need, not want.

It’s simple. Only buy equipment based on need, not excitement. If possible, hold off on buying equipment until you can justify its purchase in the cost of the project.

One word on technology,  I’ve always been quick to make investments in technology and equipment. If some technology or equipment can make your company run more efficiently, I recommend making the investment. If you’re uncertain about the ROI of some new technology or equipment, you can easily do a quick cost vs. benefit analysis. Generally, a design firm’s wages are by far the largest expense. Anything you can do to maximize the efficiency of your staff is typically going to be a winner. I do like to hold off on buying equipment until I’ve landed a project that justifies the purchase.

8. Get slammed. Then raise your rates.

Work hard until you’re slammed, raise your rates, repeat. This is what I did over the first few years of my business. My logo design pricing for instance, went from $300 to $500 to $900. But I was holding steadfastly to my flat rate, upfront pricing system. Admittedly it was becoming more difficult. A customer would ask for a logo design, I would quote $900 and they would say: “$900?!? But I already did a sketch. I just need you to refine this letter ‘C’ I made. It should be very simple. Really? $900? That doesn’t seem fair.” In this scenario it would have only taken me a couple of hours to do what the client was asking for; that wasn’t fair. A flat rate system just didn’t seem to account for the variables in design projects. One price didn’t fit all cases.

For more on our pricing systems, see:
A Designer’s Guide to Pricing
How to Charge For Your Graphic Design Work (&  Get What You Deserve)

keepthefaith

More than anything, remember to keep the faith. Go Media was not an overnight success. Money was terribly tight for at least the first five years. Remember that as long as you are in business, you’re being successful. And so long as you’re learning, given enough time, you’ll eventually figure it out.

Good luck.

For more on how to make (and save money) as a graphic designer, pick up Drawn to Business!

And check out our Graphic Designer’s Pricing Guide Tool Kit, which contains a bevy of resources to show you what we’ve learned about pricing and billing since opening our now million dollar company over a decade ago.

graphic designer's pricing guide

Beating Busters: How to Identify and Avoid Bad Clients

Hi Go Media faithful!  Bill here! I’m back to talk about beating busters, a topic I discuss in my book, Drawn to Business.  This week’s piece deals with one simple fact: in business, you’re going to get ripped off. Get used to the idea.  Over time, luckily, you will learn how to spot what I like to call busters, or bad clients.  Here is a list of the different types of busters I’ve come across over the last 15 years in business.  Hopefully my bad experiences will spare you the same headache. Look out for these guys!

For more about busters, and all I’ve learned growing my own design firm, pick up Drawn to Business.

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Types of Busters

1. The Promoter.

The promoter is probably my favorite type of buster simply because they’re so entertaining (and easy to spot). A promoter is full of energy, and everything with them is bigger than life! I think of a carnival barker: “Step right up! Step right up to the greatest design project on earth! Wealth and fame beyond your wildest imagination are just behind this curtain!” They feed off your emotions, pump up your ego and make outlandish promises. They also operate with a constant sense of urgency. They’ll promise you part of their “can’t-lose” business, but there are never any contracts or lawyers, just empty promises. There is always one more problem, one more project, one more step.

Fortunately, the deposit first policy works very well with promoters. They will never give a deposit, or pay a dime. But one funny thing is that they’re so damn persistent. Even after you tell them your policy…it’s likely they’ll say something such as: “Great! No problem. I’m happy to pay a deposit. I just need this one little project done before I’ll have access to cash to pay that deposit!” Don’t get sucked in! Stick with your policy!

2. The Delegating Entrepreneur.

The Delegating Entrepreneur is also deflected easily by a deposit policy. They are a little like The Promoter except the main crux of their pitch is that you will be a part owner of the company. They will also play on your emotions and hype the dream of “your” business. But here are the problems with these types of busters.

First, “The Company” is mostly just them giving you work. They don’t do much themselves other than daydream about how amazing the company is going to be, then pile up more work on you. Second, they’re not necessarily good businesspersons, they just happen to be arrogant and overconfident, so it’s easy to believe in them.  Third, if “your” company ever does start to make some money, this buster will surely keep it himself or sink it into other people to build the business more—after all, he already has you working for free.

This is not to say that there aren’t good, honorable entrepreneurs out there who need a business partner. But taking on a business partner is a serious undertaking. In my experience, nine out of ten people who will quickly offer you a portion of their business in exchange for free work are busters

3. Mr. Add-On

Mr. Add-On is the first type of buster who slips past the deposit policy. He or she will pay you for the services that they have you quote. Here’s their trick. They won’t tell you everything that they need done. Then at some point during the design process, they’ll start asking for a little more. They try to play-down the amount of work something will take and try to make it seem like it’s part of the current project. You might hear something like: “Now that you’ve finished my business card, can you just slap that information onto a letterhead? That should only take a second, right?”

If the designer in your company is not the salesman, Mr. Add-On will exploit the situation by telling the salesman as little as possible, then trying to trick the designer into doing extra work for free. It’s important that your staff knows exactly what’s been paid for when dealing with this slippery buster.

4. The Slave Driver

The Slave Driver. The slave driver is similar to Mr. Add-On with one critical difference. Mr. Add-On is at least pleasant in his approach. The Slave Driver is merciless and hard to please. He may not add-on to a project, but he’s going to squeeze every ounce of effort from you that he can. The Slave Driver is incredibly picky. He’ll make you feel like you’ve made a mistake, done a poor job or misled him in some way. He’ll lay heavy guilt trips on you. The difference between a high-maintenance client and a slave-driver is that when you’re done with the project for the slavedriver you never want to work for them again.

 5. The Long-Con-Artist

This type of buster has a long term plan. He’s trying to get design services for free, or for a greatly reduced rate. Here’s his plan: pay for services, get most of my work done, then act like something is wrong, set the designer up for failure, then demand their money back. This type of buster starts out all sweet and loving, but the closer you get to completing his or her project the more difficult and demanding they’ll become. At some point they’ll start shifting deadlines or making demands that are virtually impossible to accomplish. Near the end, this con-artist will start acting inappropriately upset, start claiming that you’ve somehow hurt his business. He or she will invariably ask for a refund, refuse to pay his balance or even threaten to sue you. All of this is done as a way for him or her to steal your design services for as little as possible.

I’m sure there are many other types of busters out there, but these are the most common ones I’ve come across over the years. It takes time and experience to know how to identify and deal with these sleazebuckets. Good luck and stick to your guns!

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How to Extract a Budget from your Client

Hi Go Media faithful!  Bill here! I’m back to deliver another teaser article from my book, Drawn to Business.  This week’s piece looks at how to extract a budget from your client. Ready? Here goes.

Extracting a Budget from your Client

It’s a commonly held belief that giving a vendor your budget upfront is a fool’s approach. Because of this, many clients will play dumb when you ask them for a budget. That’s fine. Don’t be a jerk. It’s still important to have a money conversation early on. You need to qualify your clients before you spend a minute working on a proposal for them. In those cases where a client doesn’t give me a budget, I’ll give them my ballpark pricing. This starts with me asking enough questions to get a general sense of their project. Then I might say something along the lines of: “OK, Bob, this sounds like a fairly typical website design: Homepage with slideshow, About, Services, Contact Us and the whole site to be responsive, correct? Great. Obviously, we’re going to need to get into the nitty-gritty details about your website in order for us to provide you with an accurate time and cost estimate. However, just so I can make sure our firm will be a good fit for you, my very rough estimation on a website like this will probably be somewhere between $15K and $30K. Does that sound reasonable to you? I just want to make sure we’re not wasting each other’s time.”

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This approach works almost every time. If this ballpark is significantly more than they were expecting, they’re going to let you know. They might say something like: “Whoa. OK. Yeah, I was hoping to get a website built for about $2K.” Well, there ya go—you just got their budget! It’s funny how they will suddenly give you their budget after they said they didn’t have one. Or they might say something like: “Well, that’s a little higher than I was expecting, but I think we can get something done.” I would interpret that to mean that their budget probably starts lower than my range, but definitely is within the lower part of my range. Maybe their budget was $12K to $17K.


Of course, if they say that they’re comfortable with the range, I will proceed. If the client falls out of their chair and/or faints, I know I need to adjust the options I offer. Hopefully, I do have a solution for them if they cannot afford me. My follow-up with a client whose budget was well below my range might sound something like this: “OK Bob, I certainly understand you’re on a tight budget. Many clients don’t fully understand the work that goes into building a website. We have a few options here. I have a pre-built website template that can be customized for you at a fraction of the full cost. Or we could break your website development into phases and just scale back the project scope of the first phase so we’re within your budget. If that doesn’t work, I know a few freelancers you can talk to. How would you like to proceed?” Obviously, this is just one possible response.

You don’t want to be thinking of solutions and writing proposals in the dark. Get that financial conversation going early. It’s perfectly OK to talk money. Just make sure you do it in a very friendly way. Take the time to explain that you have website options that range from $10K to $100K, and you just need to know what’s going to be a realistic range. You’re still going to do your due diligence and present a complete solution and pricing upfront before they will have to make a decision. There will still be an opportunity for them to negotiate with you if they feel the need.

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The Responsive Pricing System

Hi Go Media faithful!  Bill here! I’m back to deliver another teaser article from my book, Drawn to Business.  One of the most common questions I get from young designers who are either freelancing or starting a firm is “What should I charge for my design services?” Today we’ll cover one aspect of the Go Media pricing model. I like to call it the Responsive Pricing System.

The Responsive Pricing System

When I started Go Media, it was just me. I had a set list of prices I wanted to charge, but I was frequently desperate for money. When times got lean, I dropped my prices to secure enough work to pay my rent. In effect, I had a responsive pricing system. When I was slow, my rates went down. When I was busy, they went up.

As Go Media grew and I had other members in the company selling with me, our pricing became very rigid. Under any circumstances, we charged exactly XX dollars an hour.

Here’s why we learned that being extremely rigid on your pricing can be a problem:

If your pricing is too low, you’ll soon find yourself swamped. Despite being swamped, your pricing remains low, which means the work piles up. When the work is piled up, you start falling behind. You’re not capturing the maximum amount of profit for the time you’re working. The quality of your work suffers and clients start to leave.

If your pricing is too high, then you’ll be too slow. While you’re capturing good money for the hours your staff is working on paying projects, they’re also sitting idle some portion of each day. That’s also leaving money on the table.

What you’re shooting for is to keep your staff as busy as possible while collecting as much money as possible.  You accomplish this by having your price points respond to the current situation.

It works like this

If our staff is booked solid for:

  • 12 weeks or more, we offer no discounts and will only sell projects that are worth $5,000 or more.
  • Between 8–12 weeks then we’re willing to discount our rates by 20% and we’ll take any project worth $2,500 or more.
  • Between 4–8 weeks, we’re willing to discount our rates up to 40% and will take any project worth $1,000 or more.
  • Less than four weeks, we’re willing to discount our rates up to 50% and take any project worth $500 or more.

*Note: these are example metrics only. You will have to experiment with discount rates, minimums and time ranges that work for your particular situation.

This formalized responsive pricing system allows us to always stay busy and ensures that we’re capturing as much money as possible.

Key Points

1. First, don’t share this information with your potential clients. This is for your eyes only.

2. Always present your potential clients with your full retail rates first. Only AFTER they tell you that they cannot afford your normal rates do you start to negotiate down.

3. Ask for their budget upfront. If you know what they can afford, you’ll tailor your solution to their price.

4. Follow up. The simple act of following up with clients after you’ve sent them a proposal can frequently spark a conversation that will lead to a negotiation.

5. Be enthusiastic about the project. Sometimes, if a customer knows you really want their project badly, they’ll assume that you’ll be willing to come down on price.

6.  Keep your retail rates high enough that they will allow you enough profit margin to quickly grow your company.

7.  Keep a system in place for knowing how far out your team is booked. This is one of the fundamental metrics that drives this system.

8.  Lastly, the minimum order portion of this system does not apply to existing customers. Obviously, a current client who calls with a need, even a very small need, should be taken care of immediately.

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Want to learn more about becoming the greatest design firm you can be?  Buy Drawn to Business, a nuts and bolts strategy guide to building a thriving design firm!

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Drawn to Business: Customer Retention Insights

Hi Go Media faithful!  Bill here! I’m back to deliver another teaser article from my book, Drawn to Business.  Today we’ll cover a topic vital to operating a thriving design firm: Customer Retention.

1

Take good care of your customers. Nothing will replace good service. No amount of holiday cards, phone calls, discounts or anything else will make up for poor service. When a client brings you a project, you need to treat them like royalty. Be nice and supportive. Hit your deadlines. Do amazing design work. Stay on budget. Follow through. Say thank you when they pay. Give them legendary service with a smile on your face. If you do this, you’ve at least ensured that they’ll trust you for future projects.

2

Make a good first impression. Take particularly good care of your customers at the beginning of the relationship. Getting off on the wrong foot can ruin a good relationship.  How you perform on the very first project is absolutely critical. More specifically, your first set of proofs will establish in the mind of your customer whether they can relax and trust you to do great work, or if they’re going to have to look at everything you do with a critical eye. If you’re working with a new client, the first project is the most critical time in that relationship.

3

Resist the urge to over-promise. Establish reasonable expectations with your customer then out-perform those.  Under-promise. Over-deliver. If you think delivering what you promise makes a good impression, just wait till you see how your customers respond when you give them a little bit more.

4

Be an advisor to your customers, not just an order taker. An order taker is dispensable, but an advisor is invaluable.  Of course, it takes more work to be an advisor than an order taker. You certainly can’t just upsell your client on a bunch of services they don’t need. You have to get to know them, understand their business and know which services you can provide that make sense for them.

5

Stay in touch with your customers. Nothing else will give you as big a return on your time than doing something simple like dropping your client an e-mail or giving them a phone call.  This is one of the simplest and yet most powerful ways to generate ongoing business. Just stay in touch. It’s so simple. Don’t pester, don’t annoy, just make sure you stay on your customer’s mind. Make sure they know that you’re ready and eager to help them with their design needs.

6

Offer cheaper rates to your best customers.  For almost the entire existence of Go Media there was only one pricing model. Our prices were broken down hourly, based on service type. We charged all our customers the same amount.

To qualify, the customer has to have completed enough projects with us that we feel comfortable with the way they work. They can’t be a customer that meanders off-scope, pushes our hours over budget and then complain about additional costs. They have to be easy to work with and they have to pay their bills on time. This strategy is one I learned from a peer who works at a much larger corporation. They have great success with it.

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Want to learn more about becoming the greatest design firm you can be?  Buy Drawn to Business, a nuts and bolts strategy guide to building a thriving design firm!

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Drawn to Business: Writing Winning Design Proposals

Drawn to Business: Writing Winning Design Proposals

Hey Go Media faithful! Over the next few months I’ll be posting five excerpts from my forthcoming book Draw to Business as a series of teaser articles here on the GoMediaZine. So, without further ado, here are seven tips on writing winning design proposals.

Regurgitate back exactly what your clients tell you. Writing a good proposal starts with listening. Ask lots of questions and listen carefully; your potential client is going to tell you exactly what they want to read in your proposal. Your first job is to listen and write down everything they say. Then you’re going to write that back to them in your proposal. If a client says: “We want a highly interactive website.” Your proposal should say: “Our solution for you is a highly interactive website.”

Create templates and refine your message. When you sit down to write your first proposal, think of building a template. You’re not going to want to write every proposal from scratch. Try to keep most of the sections generic enough so that you can reuse them with other clients.

Design your proposal. You can file this under the “duh” category. Your business documents are a representation of you! They should embody all the skills you have as a designer. This includes your proposals. So take the time to make sure that the design of your proposal will sell your potential client as strongly as the content within it. Your proposal is your portfolio! Make sure it looks amazing!

Customize the design for your client. For larger proposals, we will swap out the colors and images in our proposals to match the client’s brand. In some cases we invest quite a bit of time and effort to make our proposal look like THEIR proposal. It’s amazing how impactful delivering a custom designed proposal can be. The client feels like: “They just ‘get’ us.”

Give them a few exciting ideas. It’s a well-known fact that people buy on impulse. There is a lot of emotion involved in why people buy. One way to sell a client is to get them excited. This can be easily accomplished by sharing a few of your ideas with a client. This should be done in just a sentence or two. Describe something exciting you want to do with your client’s design. A clever idea can make the difference between you and your competitor.

Ask for a budget upfront. Knowing a client’s budget up-front is critical to writing a winning proposal. Ask your potential client for a budget during your very first interaction with them. If they act coy and won’t give you one, there are ways of extracting it. (These tactics and many more in the forthcoming book).

Don’t underbid the project. Another critical reason for asking for a budget is making sure that you’re not underbidding the project. Believe it or not, underbidding a project is as bad as overbidding it. When you severely underbid a project you’re communicating that you’re either an amateur or that you don’t understand the scope of the project. Both of these will scare off a customer.

Want to learn more about becoming the greatest design firm you can be?  Buy Drawn to Business, a nuts and bolts strategy guide to building a thriving design firm!

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Sakai Vector Portrait

Hey Go Media faithful! Man, it feels like it’s been years since I’ve posted anything in the Zine. These days all my writing has been focused on my upcoming book Drawn to Business, Designed for Success. I think everyone is going to love the content. It’s all the nitty-gritty details about how we run our design firm, but I digress. This blog post is about a piece of art I created for last year’s WMC Fest. I had this crazy idea of illustrating a portrait of my friend Heather Sakai. I wanted to try and include all of her passions in one single image, from her Japanese heritage to her love of Hello Kitty. I thought it would make a fun subject for a tutorial. Though, I’ve been doing so much writing for my book, that I really didn’t want to write a tutorial. Instead, I thought it might be fun and interesting if I just showed you my process in a series of images. So, without further ado, here is my (nearly) wordless vector illustration tutorial.

sakai_inspiration
A few sources of inspiration for this design.

sakai_Left_Hand
sakai_Right_Hand
sakai_Body
sakai_Body2
sakai_face-02
sakai_face-03
sakai_face_1-02
sakai_face_2-03
sakai_sword-03
sakai_dragon001
sakai_dragon002

sakai_dragon004
sakai_assembling
You’ll notice that it looks like the dragon’s body is snaking back and forth. To create this appearance, I simply copied the body, pasted it and flipped it horizontally.

sakai_sword
sakai_rice_bowl
sakai_coffee
sakai_mp3
sakai_assembling_2
sakai_vector_pack_19
I grabbed the wings and tail from Vector Pack 19.

sakai_crest
The Sakai family crest provided to me by Heather.

sakai_assembling_3
sakai_assembling_FNL