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

When Life Interferes With Your Design Business

Running a home-based design business is the best thing any designer could do. At least that’s my opinion, but I could be biased since I’ve been doing it for over 13 years now and I love what I do. But running a home-based design business does have its drawbacks. Such as when life interferes with your plans.

Running a home-based design business is great. You can set your hours and work as much or as little as you want. You decide how much you want to charge and if you wish to charge by the hour or by the job. You also get to choose what clients you want to work with or not. Meaning you have the option of turning down any jobs that don’t interest you.

Plus, you have nobody to answer to since you work from home all by yourself. OK, you have to answer to your clients. But at least you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck to get the job out, or else. Yup, being a home-based designer is great.

However, there is one major drawback to running a home-based design business. And that’s when life interferes.

Life has a way of messing with you in unexpected ways. Some days are good, some are bad, and some can send you into a panic. I’m talking about the latter one. When life throws something in your path that grinds your design business to a halt. I’m talking about sickness, accidents, family emergencies, even death. There are also grand scale emergencies like natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes or earthquakes. And don’t forget uncontrolled events such as power outages or having your equipment stolen.

All of these can have a negative impact on your design business.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything that affects your business is a bad thing. Marriages, births, vacations, etc. also affect your business. Life interferes, and the status quo of your business changes.

So what can you do when life interferes with your design business?

Prepare for expected breaks

In some cases, such as vacations, marriages, births (to some extent) and even things like surgeries can all be scheduled. Advanced knowledge of these events gives you an opportunity to prepare for the time your business is affected. In some cases, your business may be shut down for a few days, but it could also be affected for several weeks or months.

When you know a break is coming, you should warn your clients well in advance of these shutdowns.

To help ease the pressure, you can try to get things done before your time off. Or you can tell your clients you cannot work on their project until after a specific date.

I never start any new projects during the two weeks leading up to a break. This buffer could cause problems for some clients, but you’ll have to live with your choice. Yes, you may lose some work because of it. But that’s life.

Prepare for unexpected breaks

What do you do when life interferes with your business in unexpected ways?

First things first, when life interferes in an unexpected way, notify your clients. They will understand. No client will respond with  “sorry about the death in your family, but I have this job I need you to finish by Thursday, can you handle it?”. Your clients knew you were a home-based designer when they hired you. They knew the benefits of working with you also came with some risks. One of those risks is the possibility of you needing unexpected time off.

There may be deadlines, and yes, you may feel bad about missing them, but you might be surprised how many deadlines you can miss without any ill effects. Unless there’s a firm date in place, such as for scheduled events most deadlines have flexibility built into them.

Once you’ve notified your clients, try to figure out if there’s anything you can do. Maybe it’s providing a list of compatible designers your clients can use in your absence.

In cases of natural disasters or equipment failure, you could try and find ways to get back up and running while trying to minimise your time away. Even if it’s merely so you can get the most pressing things done?

Get Help from other designers

If you are running a studio as I talked about in episode 125, you may have people on your team that can handle the work for you. If you don’t have contractors in place, you may need to turn to a friend or colleague and see if they can take on some of your work while you are incapable.

There’s always a risk any time you direct a client to a new designer. The client may like the other designer and decide to stick with them. You’ll have to take that risk and rely on the relationship you’ve built up with your client to bring them back.

If you are worried, you could try to minimise the risk with a contract between you and the other designer saying they will not poach your clients. But if you’re in a pinch due to some emergency situation, worrying about a contract is the last thing you want to be doing.

Besides, chances are if your client realises they like working with a different designer better than you, there’s not much you can do about it.

Long-term hiatuses

In the worst scenarios, you may have to scale back or shut down your design business for an indefinite amount of time.

Sometimes, when life interferes, the only option is to accept it. There’s nothing wrong with shutting down your business and wishing all your clients well.

If your situation eventually changes you can always start up again. You built up your design business once. There’s nothing stopping you from doing it again.

Life is unpredictable.

I don’t want to sound negative, but part of life is dealing with things outside our control. How you deal with those situations, and how you come out the other side will determine your success in life. Don’t worry if you have to shut down your design business for a few days, weeks, months or even longer when life interferes. You’re a designer; I’m sure you’ll find creative ways to make it through.

Have you ever had to close your business unexpectedly?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Ken

I love listening to your podcast on my way to work, a lot of the topics have been really intriguing. I have always had an interest in the arts and I recently started my own design business in December designing Print Templates. I love the idea of design consulting and helping people not just make pretty designs but help their entire business using design but I’m not even sure how to really get started with finding clients. Also, in yours and other podcasts I always hear that you have to educate your clients on the importance of design, but just getting started in this kind of business I’m not sure everything to say. Can you give me some kind of idea what some of these conversations look like? Thank you for your time!

To find out what I told Ken you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Google Data Studio (beta)

Google Data Studio (beta) turns your analytics data into informative dashboards and reports that are easy to read, easy to share, and fully customizable. Dashboarding allows you to tell great data stories to support better business decisions. Create unlimited Data Studio custom reports with full editing and sharing.

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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