facebook pixel

Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Are you ready to take your side gig full-time?

Many home-based designers started off freelancing as a hobby or as a side gig before ever going full-time. It’s the way I did it. I worked at both the print shop and evenings and weekends at home for about a year before I made the leap to solopreneurship. And even though I knew I wanted to do it from the start, I remember the uncertainty of it all was scary.

In hindsight, I can tell you it was one of, if not the best business decision I ever made. I only wish I had done it sooner. Ask most full-time home-based designers, and they’ll tell you the same thing.

But thinking about making the leap and actually doing it are two different things. Maybe you have a cushy design job working for someone else. Or perhaps your full-time job isn’t even design related, and designing is something you do in your spare time.

How do you know you’re ready to do this, on your own, full-time?

I’m not going to talk about the physical aspect of it. Whether you have the right environment or the right equipment. Or even if you have the financial means to do so. But I hope I can help you with the mental side by sharing 4 signs that indicate you’re ready to take your side gig full-time and embrace the life of a design business owner.

1) Are you willing to be persistent at it?

Designing on the side can be fun. And earning a bit of extra spending money is always a good thing. But turning your “hobby” into a full-fledged business is a completely different matter. It requires a daily commitment and a persistent effort to sustain it and work at growing it.

As a business owner, you'll be faced with deadlines, acquiring and dealing with clients, working on projects and tasks you may not be that interested in, and just overall dealing with a whole new form of stress you may not be used to. Not to mention it could take a while before you start earning a profit.

Success is not guaranteed. Especially instant success.

Take a reality check and know before you start whether or not you are willing to stick it out for the long haul as you strive to turn your “hobby” into something successful and profitable. If you’re willing to do just that, you’ve passed indicator number 1.

2) Are people willing to pay for your work?

A key indication that you can turn your design skills into an actual business is knowing you can earn a living at it.

It’s one thing to create an invitation for your grandmas 80th birthday. It’s a completely different thing to create an invitation for your city’s business awards gala.

Are your design skills good enough that people are willing to pay you to do it? A good indication is when people start asking you to design things without you offering first. If people you know are approaching you for design work, there is an excellent chance other people, people you may not know, are willing to pay for your services. If that’s the case, it’s a clear indication that there’s potential to expand beyond your “hobby” into a full-fledged design business, and you’ve passed indicator number 2.

3) Do you understand what’s involved in running a business?

Turning your design side gig into a design business doesn’t simply mean you’re designing all day, every day. If you start a full-time design business, you will be expected to do what it takes to run a business beyond just designing.

This includes marketing your business, acquiring clients, answering emails and phone calls from potential clients. You'll be Invoicing clients, chasing payments, keeping your books up to date, filing your taxes.

Understanding how to run a business is just as important as your skills as a designer.

Most home-based design businesses that fail do so not because they are bad designers but because they’re bad business people. Your design talent will only get you so far. If you don’t take time to learn the basics of running and scaling your business, you won’t succeed.

Regardless of how much you think you know about running a business, you’ll want to put in some extra time to understand better all it entails—everything from the principles of managing your finances, to time management, to client relationship building.

Once you grasp what it takes to start and run a design business, you’ve passed indicator #3

4) Are you willing to make sacrifices for your business?

Starting a home-based design business will often require some sacrifices, especially financially. Until your business is up and running and you have clients bringing you design projects, there will be no money coming in. Are you willing and able to put in the effort every day knowing there’s no money coming in yet? It can become very stressful.

Starting a home-based business is also a major lifestyle change. Can you cope with the isolation of working all by yourself every day? Do you have the discipline to sit at your workstation and actually work without being distracted by anything? Are you able to separate your work life from your family life when needed?

All “hobbies” that are turned into businesses require sacrifices of time, money and work-life balance. Possibly even sleep. You have to be sure that whatever sacrifices you make for your business to succeed won’t compromise other essential aspects of your life.

Suppose you are someone with a career in a different field and designs on the side. You have to realize that this “fun hobby” you enjoy so much may start to feel less enjoyable and more like work as you spend your time growing your business.

If you believe you can proceed without any of these things affecting you, then you’ve passed indicator #4.

Evaluate your opportunities

If you can acknowledge and say for certain, you’re comfortable with each of the four signs.

  1. You are willing to be persistent at it.
  2. People are willing to pay for your work.
  3. You understand what’s involved in running a business.
  4. You’re willing to make sacrifices for your business.

Then you are in the right mindset to turn your “hobby” into a legitimate full-time design business. Take the time to fully evaluate the opportunities presented to you and create a plan for you to follow. You can turn your hobby or side gig into one of the most enjoyable things you will ever do to earn a living.

As most of us who previously followed this path to varying degrees of success will tell you. We can’t imagine doing anything else. Our only regret is we didn’t start sooner.

Resource of the week Squoosh.app

Squoosh.app is a website that allows you to drag and drop images you want to optimize for web use. The image appears in a full browser window with a slider in the middle. Your uploaded image is on the left, and the optimized image on the right. You drag the slider left and right to compare the two images. Options allow you to resize the image as well as reduce the colour pallet. You can also adjust the type of compression and quality of the image until you are satisfied and are ready to download your newly optimized image. 

I don’t know how they do it, but I’ve been able to take optimized images out of Photoshop and cut their file size in half without any noticeable degradation of the image. Check it out; I'm sure you'll find the site useful.

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

My Voice-Over Guy.

Resourceful Designer podcast intros are performed by the amazing Wayne Henderson of MediaVoiceOvers.com. Wayne is available to help you with any voice-over work you require.