If you ask any entrepreneur, starting a business comes with its fair share of challenges.
Starting your own graphic design business requires a great deal of effort, dedication and most importantly passion.
If you're willing to put in the effort to build your own graphic design business, you're going to want to follow the critical steps to creating a successful brand.
We've created a guide that covers each step of the process - from making key financial decisions, to launching and marketing your business the right way, and tips/strategies on how to grow your graphic design business effectively.
💡 Introduction To Starting A Graphic Design Business
Is Starting A Graphic Design Business Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting a graphic design business.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting a graphic design business
You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.
• Ability to start your business from home
It's not necessary to have a physical storefront or office space to get your business started. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
• Little startup costs required
The cost to start a graphic design business costs significantly less money than most businesses, ranging anywhere from 1,167 to 39,619.
• Rewarding work
Starting a graphic design business can be really rewarding work. After all, you are solving an immediate issue for your customer and you're working on something you truly care about.
• No overhead costs
To get your graphic design business started, there are no costs associated with overhead, storage, packaging, etc. This will save you a lot of time and money!
• Traffic to your website
A graphic design business gives people a reason to visit your website and to keep coming back to you!
With businesses and processes changing daily, there will always be demand for new features, products and services within your graphic design business. Additionally, there are several different business models and pricing tiers you can implement that will allow you to reach all types of customers.
• Meaningful business connections
You never know who you will meet or get to work with for your graphic design business. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!
• Quick build time
The average time it takes to build your product is quick - typically around 10 months. This will allow you to bring your product to market faster.
• High margins
The gross margins for your graphic design business are typically around 50%, which is considerably high and allows you to grow your business and manage costs easily.
Cons of starting a graphic design business
• Crowded Space
Competition is high when it comes to your graphic design business, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and understanding where the demand lies.
• Motivation of employees
If you plan to have a sales/content team on board, finding creative ways to motivate them can be a challenge. It's important that you're able to offer great incentives and a good work environment for your employees.
• Longer Sales Process
A graphic design business can be a big time and money investment for your customer, so it's important you plan and predict a longer conversion funnel and stay in communication with potential customers.
- Canva (89 Alexa Ranking)
- AIGA Indianapolis (54.8K Alexa Ranking)
- AIGA Nashville (57.4K Alexa Ranking)
- Logo Design and Graphic Design services, a Branding Company (64K Alexa Ranking)
- DesignCrowd (68K Alexa Ranking)
- caddesignhelp.com - Revenue $8K/month
- Draftss - Revenue $7.5K/month
- MeetAnders - Revenue $7.32K/month
- Above 8000 Creative - Revenue $6K/month
- DesignPac - Revenue $4.2K/month
- Chirps & Cricket Design Studio - Revenue $1.1K/month
- Stradeso - Revenue $500/month
Let's take a look at the search trends for graphic design business over the last year:
How To Name Your Graphic Design Business
It's important to find a catchy name for your graphic design business so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your graphic design business
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your graphic design business so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your graphic design business.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your graphic design business:
- Graficle Flex Designs check availability
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How To Create A Slogan For Your Graphic Design Business:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your graphic design business:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
The Consulting Business Model
When implementing a consulting business model, you have a number of approaches to choose from:
Here are a few of the most common consulting business models:
1. The Time-Based Model
This is one of the more traditional consulting business models - where your rate, terms, and scope of work are outlined at the very beginning of the project.
Typically, with this model you would choose a day rate or an hourly rate.
For this industry, the average hourly rate is around $90.
2. The Project-Based Model
With a project-based model, you and your client agree on the scope of work you will be performing for a set amount of money.
There is typically a contract in place which covers the deliverables and expectations from both parties.
3. The Retainer-Based Model
The retainer model involves providing ongoing service for your clients over a specific period of time.
You may not provide a specific deliverable for your client, but instead, a broad scope of work over a set period.
4. The Consulting-Firm Model
This model is becoming more and more popular. The consulting firm model involves hiring freelancers or employees to complete work for your clients on your behalf.
Typically, in this situation, you still manage the relationship with the client, but you delegate some or all of the work to your team.
Which model should you choose?
The best way to determine which business model you will choose is to research other entrepreneurs or agencies in your space that are offering the same or similar service.
This will allow you to identify your competition, set your pricing, and determine your target audience.
🎬 How To Start A Graphic Design Business
Startup Costs For Your Graphic Design Business
If you are planning to start a graphic design business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of a graphic design business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $1,167
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $39,619
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a graphic design business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Website builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$15||$100|
|Web Designer: If you have the necessary skills to design your website, then it may not be necessary for you to hire someone. However, if you do decide to go that route, make sure you establish an understanding of upfront cost, design and what the ongoing costs will be to manage the site. Here is what to expect when hiring a web designer.||$0||$6,000|
|Email hosting: Email is a critical piece for running your business. Once you have your domain name, you will want to set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are GSuite (typically starting at $6+ per user, per month) or Microsoft Office (typically starting at $5+ per user, per month). The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$5||$75|
|Register Your Domain: Once you decide the name of your business, you will need to make sure the URL is available and purchase the domain. You can check availability and register your domain here.||$12||$75|
|Server Hosting: To start a graphic design business, you will need to set up and manage a server. The cost for this is typically billed monthly and depends on the platform you choose (typically ranging anywhere from $0-$50/mo).||$0||$50|
|Website chat function: If customer service is a big piece of your business, you will want to consider implementing a chat bot on your website. Typically, there are different tiers of pricing and some businesses even offer freemium services. To find what chat software is best for your business, check out this guide.||$0||$75|
|Total Website Costs||$32 (min)||$6,375 (max)|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$2,000|
|Utility Costs (office space): This refers to the first month's utility bill for your office space. If you are not responsible for this bill, this would not apply to starting your graphic design business.||$0||$150|
|Office Supplies: Although these may seem like minor costs, things like your desks, chairs, pens, paper, filing cabinets do add up. To avoid these adding up too much, try to be as lean as possible and go paperless!||$25||$1,000|
|WiFi: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is an expense that's tough to avoid. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$10||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$35 (min)||$3,250 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time.||$500||$5,000|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$500 (min)||$5,000 (max)|
|Training & Education Expenses|
|Online Learning Sites: With a graphic design business, you and your team may not know all the steps for starting and growing a business. There are plenty of resources out there to help you, such as online courses or learning platforms, but they aren't always free! Starter Story is a great resource for case studies, guides and courses for starting your business.||$0||$1,000|
|Total Training & Education Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,000 (max)|
|Travel: Often times, graphic design business entrepreneurs travel. In addition to visiting suppliers and product manufacturers, you may need to travel to attend tradeshows and visit potential customers.||$0||$1,500|
|Total Other Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,500 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software is used to track your company’s interactions with clients and prospects. Although this is not a necessary tool to have for your graphic design business, implementing this in the beginning may set your business up for success and save you a lot of time later on. For a full list of best CRMs to use for your business, check out the full list here.||$0||$250|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your graphic design business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: When starting your graphic design business, it's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here||$0||$100|
|Online data storage: It's important to make sure the information for your graphic design business is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Payroll Software: The main purpose of payroll software is to help you pay your team and track each of those payments (so that you don't have to do it manually). If you do not have any employees or have a very small team, payroll software may not be necessary at this stage. Here are the 11 best payroll tools for small businesses!||$0||$200|
|Total Software Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,044 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Business Cards: A graphic design business involves quite a bit of customer interaction, whether that is attending tradeshows, sales calls or simply having face to face interaction with prospective clients. Business cards are a great way to stay front of mind with your clients.||$0||$50|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$0 (min)||$50 (max)|
|Business Formation Fees|
|Trademarking: Filing trademark registration will protect your brand and prevent other businesses from copying your name or product. USPTO has several different types of trademarks, so the cost to apply can vary (typically anywhere from $400-$700).||$0||$700|
|Permit and License Fees: Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state, local, and federal regulations. Here is an article that goes over all the permits and licenses you may need for your graphic design business.||$50||$700|
|Lawyer Fees: Although you may want to avoid attorney fees, it's important that your business (and you) are covered at all costs. This comes into play when creating founder agreements, setting up your business legal structure, and of course, any unforeseen circumstances that may happen when dealing with customers or other businesses.||$0||$1,500|
|Set up business: LLC & Corporations: The first step in setting up your business is deciding whether your business is an LLC, S Corp or C Corp. The cost for this depends on which state you form your business + which structure you decide on. We put together an article that goes over the 10 Steps To Setting Up A Business.||$50||$500|
|Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here.||$500||$2,000|
|Obtain a patent: Securing a patent can be a very valuable tool, but it's important that you are 100% sure this will be a smart business move for you, or if you may not be ready quite yet. A basic utility patent typically costs anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to file. Here is a great resource to walk you through the entire process.||$0||$10,000|
|Total Business Formation Fees||$600 (min)||$15,400 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|IT Support: You may find yourself needing IT support when starting your business. It may not be possible (or necessary) for you to hire someone full-time, but hiring on a freelancer platform such as Upwork is a great way to save money and resources.||$0||$500|
|Other Employee Expenses: Aside from payroll and benefits, there are other costs associated with hiring employees. This includes the cost to advertise the job, the time it takes to interview candidates, and any potential turnover that may result from hiring the wrong candidate.||$0||$1,000|
|Payroll: This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$0||$4,000|
|Employee Reward Ideas: It's important to recognize and reward employees - whether they hit their goals or are doing an exceptional job. This doesn't have to cost you a lot - simply taking them out to lunch, giving them a gift card or offering a pay-check bonus are all ways to recognize your employee! Here are 65 ways to reward your employees.||$0||$500|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$0 (min)||$6,000 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$1,167 (min)||$39,619 (max)|
Raising Money For Your Graphic Design Business
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your graphic design business:
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed For My Graphic Design Business?
With a graphic design business, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
Advice For Starting A Graphic Design Business
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a graphic design business:
Mimi Council, founder of Above 8000 Creative ($6K/month):
Set a goal for yourself to email potential clients, start with once a week, then go to a few times a week, then even a few times a day. The more you communicate, the more people find out about you.
Read the full interview ➜
Junaid Ansari, founder of Draftss ($7.5K/month):
The most effective method we tried for our validation was initiating a conversation with every person who visited our website to understand more about what they were looking for and what would make Draftss an ideal provider for their needs.
Read the full interview ➜
SumanJung, founder of DesignPac ($4.2K/month):
I grew up in a non-English speaking country, yet today the majority of my clients are English speaking. I had to practice to get to this point. Sometimes you will stumble, sometimes you will fail, but the important part to remember is to keep getting back up.
Read the full interview ➜
Peter Kozodoy, founder of Stradeso ($500/month):
Entrepreneurship is 10% about business, 100% about people, and 1,000% about the self.
Read the full interview ➜
Marilyn Wo, founder of MeetAnders ($7.32K/month):
Our customer acquisition relied solely on referrals. We had enough referrals coming to keep us busy. But because I was drowning in a sea of day-to-day tasks, that didn’t leave me time to set up a proper lead generation system.
Read the full interview ➜
Abigail Butler, founder of Chirps & Cricket Design Studio ($1.1K/month):
After almost four years with the company I began growing restless with a desire to challenge myself creatively and to continue to grow both as an artist and as a person.
Read the full interview ➜
Scott Tarcy, founder of caddesignhelp.com ($8K/month):
I worked this as a side hustle for about 6 months before quitting my full-time job and doing this full time. That was probably the hardest I ever worked in my life.
Read the full interview ➜
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your graphic design business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Graphic Design Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
How To Price Your Graphic Design Business
One of the most challenging and critical pieces to starting your graphic design business is determining how much to charge for your graphic design business.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your graphic design business, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your graphic design business so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your graphic design business may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your graphic design business, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your graphic design business to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your graphic design business is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your graphic design business fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your graphic design business, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
What Type Of Clients Will Buy Your Graphic Design Business
It's important to first establish who you will be selling to, whether it's to businesses or consumers.
Typically, in this industry, products are sold to B2B markets (business-to-business).
Let's take a look at what this means for your graphic design business:
B2B (or business to business) is a transaction where your graphic design business sell's your product or service to other businesses to help them grow.
Business-to business industries typically includes SaaS products, B2B marketing firms, and other business supply companies.
Unlike B2C markets, the audience is not a consumer at all, but instead a business - so it's important to understand how to best market your product/services to that target audience.
With B2B, driving leads means understanding another company's business processes and creating a business strategy that will help their operation scale and grow.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Your main focus when selling to other businesses is showing value to their business and overall return on investment
- Focus on building relationships, rather than extending your brand awareness through social networks.
- Marketing approach should include things like attending conventions, conferences, and optimizing your online presence (SEO, email outreach, etc)
- Understand that the sales process may mean more effort educating your client, so it's important that you have a well-trained sales team that is knowledgable about the product
Identify Target Customer
A very critical piece in building graphic design business is to identify your ideal target customer.
- Develop a niche and create a consistent brand that reflects your target customer.
- The colors, logo, content, and overall website should resonate with your target customer and should draw them in by helping them solve their specific "need".
Building an MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
When building a graphic design business, it's critical that you first validate your product/service rather than rushing to build it right away.
This could save you months, if not years of building the wrong product/service.
If you're hoping to decrease any sort of risk that comes with launching your graphic design business, designing a prototype can be a great way to de-risk your situation.
The point of your graphic design business prototype is that it doesn't have to be perfect.
In the beginning stages, it doesn't matter how rough V1 of your prototype is, it's more important to just get started and you can always refine from there based on feedback from your network and most importantly your customers.
How To Build A MVP
Here are several different ways of building a prototype/MVP:
- Start by building a landing page to see if customers actually need your product and if they are willing to pay for it
- Build a very basic version of your idea and ask for immediate feedback from potential customers
- Present a problem and solution via Facebook/Instagram Ads and see what the response is like
Marilyn Wo, founder of MeetAnders dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:
In the beginning, my mind was everywhere, I had no coach, no answers, and may not have the right questions.
Thanks to the experts in Dan’s community, they told me to find what’s the most common problem my clients are facing. Just one recurring painful problem, not two or three. Then package up a set of solutions to solve that one problem and sell it.
This was the hardest part for me to start because I used to provide every design solution I can think of to all my clients.
From logo design to editing business cards and to illustrations. You name it! Rather than having to proactively strategize something for others, it was easier for me to just receive instructions from my clients, do the work and deliver it.
Thanks to Dan’s commitment in providing his best resources and his group member’s generous advice, I got started by first listing out all the things I’ve been working on with my clients.
That’s when I realized, the most common pressing issue they need help with on a regular basis is graphic editing help. Changes always have to be made to their artwork and they can’t wait to hand them to me to save themselves time and effort all the time.
It makes sense to put monthly pricing to it. It’s like a “WP Curve for simple graphic design”!
Starting this needs more time than money. The barrier to entry is very low, that also means standing out is not easy. Graphic design has been highly commoditized, so getting the pricing and offerings right can help differentiate one from the other.
We changed our pricing a few times, from $288 to $570, and many tiers and plans down to just two.
Our pricing was decided based on two factors:
- 1. Our financial projection on paper. Knowing what we want to earn, how much is it to hire designers, our operating costs, and taxes. See the sample as shown below.
This is a sample estimate projection. Resource originated from 7-Day Startup by Dan Norris
- 2. If CMOs, Head of Marketing, and startup founders were to hire in-house designers, they will compare our prices. Hence we should be offering something up to half of what in-house designers are paid in the market.
Here’s me and one of my first colleagues in 2017:
🚀 How To Launch Your Graphic Design Business
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Best Website Platforms To Use For Your Graphic Design Business:
There are a variety of websites platforms out there, and it's important to choose the right one that will set you up for success.
Here's everything you need to know about the two most common platforms for your graphic design business:
Free and open-source content management system based on PHP and MySQL.
Free to use/open source but you will need to pay for the hosting.
Businesses using WordPress:
The all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website.
- Personal Plan: $12/month
- Business Plan: $18/month
- Basic: $26/month
Businesses using Squarespace:
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Get Press Coverage For Your Graphic Design Business:
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
Here are a few ways you can get press for your business:
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some things to consider when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
Email is one of the most effective and preferred way to send your press release, so as long as you keep your pitch brief, interesting and personalized (no cold emails), you should stand a chance!
Get Press Using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Plan a Publicity Stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line - it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
In order to measure the success of your stunt, it's important that you first determine your end goal, for example:
- Is the stunt aimed to raise money for your business or a particular organization?
- Is the stunt aimed to drive more traffic to your website?
- Is the stunt aimed to get more followers and engagement on Instagram?
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
To learn other strategies on how to get press, check out our full guide here.
Traditional Launch Strategies For Your Graphic Design Business:
There are various different ways you can launch your graphic design business successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your graphic design business:
- Set up a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to establish an online presence
- Host an event in a fun location with drinks & food. This is a great way to get exposure in the local community.
- Get Press! Pitch your story to the media and you may just land in an amazing publication
- Live sales to get customers excited
- Send a hand-written letter in the mail with a discount on your services to the local community/neighborhoods.
Abigail Butler, founder of Chirps & Cricket Design Studio dives deep into the process of launching the business:
I used Wix to set up my website and launch the business, and it was also relatively easy to set up my shop for e-commerce using Wix too.
It took me several months to design the site, get my portfolio organized, and to photograph and edit the photos of my products. Part of the process also, was figuring out how I wanted guests to interact with the site and how I wanted their experience to go when purchasing stationery. Because I was operating on such a small budget to start up, I did everything myself – from designing my logo and brand, designing my website and setting up the SEO, photographing my products, editing those photos and getting them up on my website to writing all the copy for the site.
Any purchases made to start up was either paid for from my own pocket or the small business line of credit I applied for and received.
Setting goals is paramount in starting a business – it provides direction, sets the stage for the larger picture, focuses you in on what is important/priority, and will motivate you!
With so much excitement and a bit nervousness the launch of Chirps & Cricket was relatively modest with announcements on facebook and Instagram, and I also sent out an email announcement to the small email list I had at the time (mostly to friends and family and a few professional contacts). I did receive orders from my online shop right away, all from supportive friends and family. I also received a few freelance projects right away as well and even got to design a few custom wedding invitations. It was a small start, but I leveraged social media as much as possible to help see things grow.
When I made my first wholesale sale of note cards to the flower shop down the street, that felt like a big win, and when I received my first wedding invitation project from someone that I didn’t know already, I knew things were heading in the right direction.
I’m still working on the growth of my business. Participating in market/craft fairs has helped a lot. This year I’ve hired a company, Electriq Marketing, to work on the back-end of my website, improving SEO, searchability, gain exposure and improve my online presence. I’ve been decently successful at selling my stationery items in-person and to friends and family, but I know I have a lot of work to do in order to improve my online sales.
When launching this creative endeavor there ended up being so many decisions to make and processes to walk through. Here’s a short list of items I not only had to educate myself on but had to implement:
- Applying for an EIN / tax I.D.
- Setting up my LLC (understanding why I wanted an LLC vs. a Sole Proprietorship)
- Because my office/studio is at my home, how did I want to direct other businesses and/or clients to send me my mail? Did I want to give out my home address? I ended up setting up and using a P.O. Box at a nearby Post Office.
- Setting up business bank accounts
- Applying for a small line of credit
- Paying taxes, both quarterly and annually
- Obtaining a sales tax license
- Learning about things like operating expenses, gross margins, cost of goods sold, ROI, sales tax, how to price my product, margins, markups, etc.
- Using an accountant vs. handling my financials and doing my taxes on my own
Looking back, I think I would have been a little bolder with my launch, making more aggressive moves to get myself and my business out there, noticed and exposed to the public. I probably would have asked for help when needed to speed up the process for launch (for example, I’m not a professional photographer, but have friends who are and offered to help with that aspect of my website). There’s also so much I don’t know about Google Analytics, SEO, etc. so I might have hired someone to help with that or taken more time to educate myself on it. I might also have read more books on business or even have taken a course or two to start. Obviously, it’s not too late for that!
🌱 How To Grow Your Graphic Design Business
Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to graphic design business.
There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.
Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:
- Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
- Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
- Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
- Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
- LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses
It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:
Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:
- Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
- Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
- Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?
From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!
Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.
Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:
The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.
We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.
Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:
- Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
- Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
- Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
- Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:
We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.
Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.
We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Abandonded Cart Flow
The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.
Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.
Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."
Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.
Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.
Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:
Things they do well:
- Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
- Offer a small discount + free shipping
- Great design + clear call to actions!
Improve your SEO
SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.
One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."
Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your graphic design business.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner invaluable for discovering search trends.
- Google Search Console is very helpful once your website is up as it shows you what words/phrases are generating traffic.
- Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools that allow you to look at results of your competitor's website.
Publish Great Content
Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.
There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.
So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"
- Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
- Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
- Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
- Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
- Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).
Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.
If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.
Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.
Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:
Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.
Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.
Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.
For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.
Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:
- Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
- Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
- Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
- Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
- Leverage existing business relationships
Build A Blog
One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.
We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:
Consistency and Quantity
Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.
What’s more important is consistency and quantity.
Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.
This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.
The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.
This is nonsense.
There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.
For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.
You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.
Patience & Persistence
Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.
The only thing you have control over is your content.
You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.
So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.
Where to share your blog content
I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.
Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.
Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.
An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.
Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.
It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.
Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.
Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.
When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.
Experiment With Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a performance-based marketing method that allows you to show specific ads for services or products oriented to a very defined target, with the goal that the user visits your website or landing page.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Consider connecting the ad to your corresponding landing page so that the audience receives the necessary information after clicking on the ad.
- Conversion Tracking: When running PPC campaigns, be sure to run the ads with conversion tracking.
- Focus on quality keywords, even if there are few as this will save you time and money. When assessing the performance of a keyword, it's important to track the expense, conversion, and cost per conversion, as well as the ROI.
PPC advertising can be a very important lead generator as long as it's done properly. Your PPC campaign is intended to drive traffic to your website and help the business scale.
Additionally, if the campaign is not having the desired results, you can make the necessary changes immediately to improve them.
Ryan Schortmann, founder of Display Pros talks about their investment in PPC Ads:
My name is Ryan Schortmann and I’m the founder of Display Pros. We are a custom trade show display booth company offering easy to use portable display “kits” for small and medium businesses wanting to get into the trade show game.
It did not take long to come to the realization that to compete at any reasonable level, we were going to need to take the plunge and invest in Pay Per Click ads and display.
From experience, I know that it is important to give Google’s hivemind some time to settle in before each campaign starts seeing consistent results (this is largely dependent on budget).
A certain amount of PPC budget must be viewed as a “marketing research” expense and then you can look at the analytics data and make informed decisions on where to refine, tweak or plain scrap an idea.
Google Shopping was an entirely new concept for me. You can’t assign keywords to products so at first, I was asking myself “How the hell do you refine these?”. Then I found some good reading material and courses and learned of some advanced methods that the pros are using. It turns out you can utilize negative keyword lists combined with the priority setting on each shopping campaign to “shape” the keywords that are coming in and how much you are spending on them.
To learn more about PPC Ads and Google Shopping, check out this video to learn everything you need to know!
Build A Facebook Community
Building a community is a great way to grow your network and your business.
There are several different ways of building a community, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways is to build a Facebook group
Setting up the group page takes less than 10 minutes, and we've outlined ways the top 5 ways to create an engaging and successful group:
- Make the group exclusive. This may sound counter-intuitive, however, this ensures privacy and that the group will feel comfortable posting and engaging with members.
- Try to be warm and welcoming. A great way to do this is by having a "Member Monday" where you welcome new members and ask them to introduce themselves in the group
- Use polls/surveys. This is a great way to know your audience and see what people want more of in the group (more business tips, networking opportunities, etc).
- Include influential people & conduct AMA's (ask me anything). This is a great way to get members engaged
- Host an in-person (or virtual) event with members in the group. This will create stronger relationships and build a strong community.
Mike Doehla, founder of Stronger U, an online nutrition company noticed that his customers needed a little motivation and sense of community:
Most diets are lonely so we wanted to give support and a community.
I think many people fail diets because there is no one to talk to and no accountability.
You can by a book, or google a meal plan but who’s going to keep you on track? We will. The entire SU community.
We give our members access for life to our Facebook community filled with people around the world who are looking out for everyone’s success.
Most diets make up arbitrary rules and we thought they just didn’t make sense. Meal timing, Cutting carbs, butter in coffee, sugar being the devil? Ehh no need to overthink that stuff.
We’ll give you the science behind of what we do and show you what actually matters based on real research.
Luckily we have a PhD at our disposal to educate our staff and members so everyone is getting the most up to date information out there.
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Graphic Design Business
How To Retain Customers For Your Graphic Design Business
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your graphic design business.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your graphic design business:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Marilyn Wo, founder of MeetAnders dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:
We haven’t done any paid advertising so far.
In 2018, I started creating content and publishing on Medium. My coach Lydia Lee of Screw The Cubicle told me that’s a great place to start to build an audience.
She was right!
I didn’t have any success stories to brag about, so I wrote about my journey towards starting my productized business while raising two kids.
People started resonating and responded with questions. Those questions gave me ideas to create more content and that led some of them to work with me.
I’ve also posted on Facebook Groups to ask for feedback and some brought tons of eyeballs and leads. That also led to some of them working with me to this day.
Here’s a screenshot of one of those posts:
While posting on Facebook Group helped bring in some customers, it didn't help for very long. Reason being the platform is too crowded especially for design-related posts and comments, each post gets lost and forgotten very quickly.
When one asks for recommendations for a good designer, one post can have hundreds of comments. There are many great designers out there, which is a good thing, but I find it hard to stand out.
That was also the time I started to post daily on Linkedin. I was also active in making more meaningful connections with my network on this platform.
Posting on Linkedin has to be a consistent effort. You don’t have to post everyday, but it has to be done at least three times a week to remind people who you are and how you can help.
I’ve also offered a free Linkedin banner design that helped bring some attention and customers to the door:
Free graphics and offers like our 30-day free trials do help to a certain extent because nobody knows us, it’s hard for them to trust us as a reliable resource. But it was hard to retain them.
Most times we ended up working with people who are not a good fit and we experienced a high-churn rate due to that.
We then came up with 50% off the first month for first-time customers. This attracted more customers than when it was free. But we still have not seen growth as planned.
After making pricing adjustments and offers, we realized for us, the best way to retain customers is to create and curate content, then publish consistently on a platform where our audience is.
Pricing structures do matter, but the one thing that matters most is whether the person looking for long term ongoing design help knows if we exist or not.
When it comes to retention, one great way that works for us is to down-sell. We have customers who come to us to say our service is great but they don’t need that much design work anymore next month.
Instead of leaving them to unsubscribe, we offer them another plan that’s sort of a lower-tier that is priced lower and with fewer features, for example, longer turnaround times, lesser designs, etc.
This helps to retain more of them for longer.
The best way of retention so far has been to give our customers the best experience they can ever have within the expertise we can offer.
It’s not so much about making them happy, but being honest and transparent about our work process and being fair to every customer as much as we can.
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
How To Crush The Sales Process For Your Graphic Design Business
You may find yourself in a spot where you're ready to hire a few (or many) salespeople to support the sales conversion process.
Regardless if you have one or thirty salespeople, it's critical that you assign them specific roles and responsibilities to nurture the client and provide excellent support.
Mike Korba, co-founder of User.Com walks us through the entire sales process and which teams are responsible for what:
User.com Sales Process
Each user and account is qualified with a specialist. For business leads, they are handled by the sales team, and if they are qualified we give them a demo, more than often at the end of their fourteen-day trial. If they’re happy they’ll add a payment, and get an account manager, so a customer support and success team who will help implement the solution and to use the technology.
Sometimes, users will convert naturally on their own, after using the freemium product and finding it to be something that they will find beneficial.
After they convert, we help with onboarding, give them some personalized tips for their specific business or industry to grow plus all kinds of support, for whatever they need - something we take huge pride in.
The team is right now more than 30 people, with more than half working on the IT and product side, and the rest are in three teams: Support, Marketing, and Sales who all work together very closely.
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a graphic design business is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
If you can afford to hire someone to help support your graphic design business, outsourcing is a great way to save you time and energy.
Most importantly, outsourcing can help you focus on the core growth of your business, versus spending your time on day to day tasks that other people can do just as well!
If you do plan to outsource your work, it's important to be hyper-familiar with the actual work involved.
Why is it important to be hyper-familiar with the work?
- So you can understand how long it takes
- So you understand the full process, edge cases, things that can go wrong.
- So you can explain it in detail to your employee.
- So you can make sure it actually works (for example - how do you know cold email works for your business if you’re not on the ground floor trying it out?)
- Understanding the tasks at a deep level will save you a lot of time and money.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
Provide Great Customer Service
Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.
Whether you are an online business or a physical business, it's highly important to communicate with customers and make them feel like they are the priority.
Just remember: customer service represents your brand, values, vision and YOU as a person.
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your graphic design business.
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Medium or LinkedIn
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads or Google Adwords
- Productivity tools such as Dropbox, Slack, Google Suite, Trello, Microsoft Office 365, Asana or Evernote
- Platform tools such as Amazon, Mindbody, GoDaddy, Django, Etsy, Adobe Creative Cloud, Shopify, Wix.com or Thrivecart
- Education tools such as Lynda, Teachable, Skillshare or Podia
- Payments tools such as Square, Stripe, Venmo, 2Checkout, Paypal, TransferWise or ThriveCart
- Accounting tools such as Wave, Quickbooks or Google Sheets
- Design tools such as Adobe Suite, Sketch, Divi or Canva
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics or chartmogul
- Shipping tools such as USPS or UPS WorldShip
- Customer service tools such as Freshdesk, Drift, TawkTo or HelpNinja
- Freelance tools such as Upwork or FreeeUp
- Stock images tools such as Unsplash, adobestock, Freepix, Pixabay or Shutterstock
- Reviews tools such as Trustpilot or Google My Business
- Seo tools such as SemRush
- Email tools such as G Suite, Hunter, Whatsapp, Mailerlite, MailChimp, Mailtrack, Linkedin sales navigator or Gmail
- Crm tools such as Copper
- Blog tools such as WordPress
- Start & Run A Graphic Design Business
- How We Started A $7.5K/Month Productized Graphic Design & Website Coding Service
- How I Launched A Startup From A Third World Country
- On Launching A Copywriting And Graphic Design Marketplace From An Agency
- How We Went From Side Hustle To Profitable Agency