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Do you have what it takes to run a design business from home?If there’s one positive takeaway from the 2020 Pandemic, it’s that a lot of people got to experience what it’s like to work from home. Some realized right away that it’s not for them. They need people around them and an office environment to be productive. In contrast, others got a taste of what being a home-based business owner is like. And they like it. But to run a design business from home, full-time, permanently, you need to know what you’re getting into.
Some designers think that working from home is an easy life and that once you set up your design business, new clients and projects will just flow in. But it doesn’t work that way. This is not Field Of Dreams. Just building it does not guarantee they will come. Running a successful design business takes more than design skills.
For your design business to succeed, you need solid skills in business development, lead generation, marketing, communication, leadership to work with your team, and of course, sales. Being a designer and owning a design business are two completely different things.
So how do you make the most of it? How do you set yourself up for success? How do you ensure that you can sustain this lifestyle long term? The answer–you need to plan.
How does that saying go? “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” So prepare yourself. Because chances are, it’s going to be a rocky start.
Step 1: Create an environment you’re comfortable in.
The first step in feeling like you’re running a home-based business is to treat your working space as your business office.
Having a place in your dwelling where you can transition from home life to business life is key. If you have a separate room that you can designate as your office, all the better. But if that’s not the case, pick a corner and set it up to be your working environment.
Get yourself a good office chair and set up your computer so that it’s ergonomically comfortable to work at. Then fill the space with everything you need to work productively. The more your environment feels like your “working space,” the more productive you’ll be.
Step 2: Keep your overhead to a minimum.
Everyone dreams of making big bucks and living the dream. But that’s not the way you should be thinking. Remember, it’s not how much money you make that’s important, but how much of the money you keep and what you do with that money, especially at the start.
Even though a good office chair is important, don’t spend $1000 on one if you don’t have the money to invest yet. Keeping your overhead low is important. You want to keep your expenses to a minimum to benefit more from the money you make designing.
A wise man once said you could save 100% of your money by choosing not to buy something. So even though I’m a proponent for things such as lifetime deals. It’s only a deal if you can afford it and if you’re going to get enough use from it to cover the cost of the deal. Especially when you’re just starting, be careful what you spend.
Step 3: Work on your business, not in your business.
One of the biggest mistakes freelance designers make is focusing all their time and energy on the projects they do for their clients. Yes, you want to give 100% to your clients. But that 100% doesn’t have to mean all of your time.
There’s a big difference between working in your business and working on your business. You must make time to work on aspects of your business as well. Like finances, to make sure you’re keeping your overhead low and doing the most with the money you’re earning. Then there are marketing plans to figure out how you’re going to reach out to new clients. There are also processes and systems you need to develop for your business to succeed, like how you will communicate with your clients and your team? How are you going to organize all the assets you acquire?
Don’t forget your goals. Goals are your destination. Where you want to be a year, two years, 5 years from now. Without goals, you have no way to measure your success.
Just because you’re an office of one, making money from the few clients you have, don’t think you can avoid treating what you do as a business. And for any business to succeed, it needs to evolve with the times. So make time to work on your business, and not just in your business.
Step 4: Be proud of your home-based business.
Never shy away from the fact that you are working from home. There was a time when working from home was looked down upon. But not anymore. It’s the end of 2020, and if there’s anything this year has taught us, is that working from home is a viable option. It no longer has the negative stigma it once had. In fact, many people will be envious when you say you’re working from home.
Take the attitude that you are working from home, not working at home. There’s a difference. You are running a business, just like every brick and mortar business out there. It just so happens that your business is situated in the same location you call home.
Step 5: Look the part.
Just because you’re working from home is not an excuse to be unprofessional. How you present yourself and your business is vitally important to your success.
I’m a T-Shirt and jeans kind of guy, but any time I meet with a client, either in person or virtually, I make sure to dress up, shave and look presentable. If you present yourself as a starving artist, your clients won’t take you seriously.
If you need an actual business environment to meet with clients, look into daily office or conference room rentals at local co-working spaces.
Looking professional also applies to your visual brand. Your logo, your website, your social media, etc. You’re a designer; I shouldn’t have to tell you the importance a good brand can have on a business. The same applies to you.
Step 6: Be honest with yourself.
All of this may be well and good, but you have to be honest with yourself before you get too far down this path. Not everyone is suited to working from home.
Nobody knows you better than yourself. Do you have the work habits required to do this all alone? Do you have the discipline to work unsupervised and not be distracted by the things around you? Can you remain happy and motivated after doing this for a long time? Are you capable of dealing with the isolation of being alone every day?
This last one is important. Isolation can lead to depression, which can lead to poor working habits and bad business decisions. Which, if left unchecked, can result in a failed business. Find something to help with isolation. Join groups and communities to help combat isolation. The Resourceful Designer Community is a great place for this. Or find local groups where you can interact in person.
Not only will these activities aid your social mindset, but they can also enhance your business and quality of life significantly.
Think about it before you try it.
So there you have it, six steps to running a business from home.
If you’ve already taken the plunge and are currently running a home-based design business, make sure you have everything in place to ensure your success.
Remember, A goal without a plan is just a wish. And the last time I checked, wishes don’t put food on the table.
How much thought have you given to working from home?
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Tip of the week Chrome Application Shortcuts
A convenient way to turn a website into a desktop application is by using Chrome Applications Shortcuts. This is especially useful for browser-based tools such as invoicing/bookkeeping and Customer and Project Management Software. Instead of searching through dozens of open browser tabs for the right one, create an application shortcut and treat the webpage as a desktop application.
To create a Chrome Application Shortcut, open the website, you would like to turn into an application in a browser tab. On the far right of the address bar, click the three vertical dots. Select “More Tools” > “Create Shortcut”
Name the application in the pop-up window and be sure to check “Open as Window.” then press Create.
A new Application icon will appear in the Chrome Apps folder within your Applications folder. You can now use it just like you would any other application. You can add it to your Dock. You can create Aliases from it. And you can easily switch between it and your other applications via the Control Centre.
Give it a try and let me know what you think.
I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.
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 email@example.com