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

If you want to succeed as a designer, you must invest in yourself.

Have you heard the quote, “it takes money to make money?” The same concept applies to growing your design business as well as improving yourself as a designer. If you don’t invest in yourself, you’ll become stagnant, outdated, and eventually overlooked.

Clients hire graphic and web designers because they want fresh ideas and skillsets to implement them. These clients will quickly tire of someone if all they ever produce are the same old things.

No business or person, for that matter, can do the same thing over and over and expect to succeed. Sure they may thrive in the short term. But if I were to hazard a guess, I would say you have long term goals for yourself and your business. The only way for you to achieve those goals is to invest in yourself.

To prosper and be successful as a designer, as well as live a content life. You must make sure you are always moving forward. Think of yourself as a shark. Certain species of sharks must keep moving if they want to breathe. If they stop moving for any length of time, they’ll die.

Try to have a similar mentality as a shark. To flourish in this business of design, you can’t sit still. Keep learning, improving, acquiring, and more.

I graduated from college in 1992 from a three-year graphic design program. It was only during the second half of our third year that we were introduced to computers. That means most of my design education was done using archaic methods compared to today’s standards. I learned how to use:

  • Proportion wheels
  • French curves
  • blue non-repro pencils
  • Rubylith or Amberlith
  • Letraset rub-on type
  • PMT cameras
  • Waxers
  • Xacto blades
  • and the list goes on

There’s no way I could have built a successful design business and gotten to where I am today without investing in myself. The skills I learned in school just wouldn’t cut it in today’s world of design.

Here are seven ways you can invest in yourself.

1) Invest in equipment

I always say that creativity comes from the designer, not the tools he or she uses. Just like a skilled carpenter can still make beautiful furniture with old tools. But let’s face it. The creativity may come from the designer, but having newer devices sure helps a lot. That’s why it’s worth investing in the equipment you use as much as possible.

I hate spending money on new equipment, but when I do, I make sure I get the best bang for my buck. If that means paying more money upfront for a better option that will last longer, so be it.

I’m a Mac guy. One of the most heard complaints about Macs is their price. But to me, it’s worth the investment for the peace of mind of knowing my computer will run flawlessly for years to come. I used my previous 2010 iMac from the time I bought it new to 2017 when I upgraded it for a new model. That was a good investment.

Of course, there’s other equipment you need besides your computer. Purchase each one with the knowledge that it’s an investment. And the idea behind investing is to get the best return for your dollar.

2) Invest in software and online resources

The software you use to run your design business, as well as the online resources that support your business is all investments. Without them, you couldn’t run your business or earn a living.

Invest in things such as web hosting, plugins, fonts, graphic resources from sources like Design Cuts or Creative Market. Tools like Logo Package Express or Services for creating mockups are all essential for your success.

Don’t forget project/client management software, bookkeeping and invoicing software, and so much more.

There are plenty of free options for you to run your design business. Gimp, for example, is a free design software alternative. But most designers choose to invest in tools such as Adobe CC because it makes their lives easier.

TIP: If you think you are going to use a software or online service enough, and the option is available, I suggest you purchase a lifetime deal. It costs more upfront, but it pays off big time in the long run.

3) Invest in learning

Remember what I said about my college days? The only way I got from then to now was by taking courses, watching tutorials, attending webinars and conferences, reading books, and any other way I could learn.

Times are different now than they were even a few years ago. If you want to learn something new, you can usually find someone on YouTube teaching it. However, YouTube and other free online resources are no substitute for taking a course.

I learned HTML and CSS by taking courses on the old Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning). I also tried to learn PHP that way, but my brain didn’t grasp that one.

Over the years, I’ve bought courses on Udemy, Skillshare, and many courses offered by private individuals or companies.

The difference between a paid course and something you can find for free online is enormous. Both the quality and the content is so much better in most cases. Not to mention, the people behind paid courses want you to like their product so you’ll share it with others and possibly purchase more from them in the future. Therefore, they make sure you get the best information possible for your money.

When it comes to learning something new, you can start with YouTube. But if you’re serious, find a paid course and invest in yourself.

4) Invest in networking/conferences

Ever since I got into this profession, I made a point of going to conferences and networking events.

It’s not just about what you learn at these events. It’s about the people you meet. Have you heard the saying, “It’s not who you know, but who knows you?” This statement should be the foundation of your business. If you want to build a name for yourself, you need to get out there and meet people. Conferences and networking events offer perfect opportunities to do just that. Plus, you have the bonus of leaning things at the same time.

If you work in a design niche, consider attending conferences for that niche. I attend podcast conferences every year, which has allowed me to grow my Podcast Branding business quickly.

There are many design-related conferences you could attend. Here are just a few.

Attending conferences may be costly, but you should make an effort to attend as often as you can, even if it’s only every few years.

If attending conferences is out of your budget for now, why not consider joining online communities. The Resourceful Designer Community is a perfect place for you to meet fellow like-minded designers on a similar path as you. And it’s much less expensive than attending an in-person conference.

There are other paid communities you can join as well. I belong to several paid podcaster communities. I also belong to a paid entrepreneur community. And there are others I’m looking into because I know that each one is an investment in myself.

5) Invest in a team

I made a massive mistake in the first few years I ran my design business. I tried to do everything myself. And I know I’m not alone in this. I believe that many new entrepreneurs make this same mistake. It’s your business, after all; therefore, you want to do everything.

Only after I let the notion that I had to do it all go, and starting hiring outside help for various tasks, that I truly learned what it is to run a business.

A team is not the same as having employees. A team is a group of specialized individuals you can call upon should you need their skillet.

My team is made up of:

  • My accountant
  • My layer
  • My business advisor
  • My virtual assistant
  • Photographers
  • Illustrators
  • Programmers
  • Copywriters
  • Translators
  • and probably more that I’m forgetting.

You use these people to help grow and operate your design business.

In point #3 above, I talked about investing in learning. But one thing all great entrepreneurs need to know is when to learn and when to delegate. Plus, having a team means you have more time on your hands to do the things you are good at doing.

So investing in a team is investing in yourself.

6) Invest in your environment

Whether you rent office space, or you work from home as I do. You want the room you spend your days to not only be practical but also to reflect who you are.

Take the time and invest in turning your working space into a place you enjoy hanging out. It will make those long workdays that much more enjoyable.

As I look around my office, I see some of the swords from my collection on the walls. I see various dragon figurines on my shelf. As Well as lots of geeky bobbles and nick-knacks I collect. All of these reflect who I am. If you know me and came into my home, there’s no mistaking that this office is mine and mine alone.

So invest in yourself by investing in your environment.

If you are someone who likes listening to music while working, then invest in a good set of speakers. Invest in good lighting, so you don’t strain your eyes. And invest in a good chair. Please, do not skimp when it comes to the seat you’re going to park your butt on for hours upon hours for the foreseeable future.

Make your workspace your own. Invest in it.

7) Invest in your health

As a designer, you spend a lot of time sitting down in front of a computer, to the point of neglecting yourself. Don’t let your love of design impede your health.

Remember to takes breaks, get exercise, eat healthily even though that pantry full of junk food is so easily accessible. See your doctor and dentist regularly. Get your eyes checked.

Every point I made before this one is no good if you don’t take care of your health. So if you’re going to invest in yourself, I suggest you start here, with point #7.

How do you invest in yourself?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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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

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