Not long ago, I read the E-Myth Revisited (affiliate link), a phenomenal book about entrepreneurship. One of the most life-changing (or I guess you could say business-changing) concepts understood from the book was the importance taking time to build your business. Many entrepreneurs spend too much time working in their business instead of working on their business.
This article will explore the best ways to build your design business while still finding time to do what you enjoy most: designing. It will help you start today and make a difference in the success, size, and strength of your design business. Whether you’re a freelance designer or you run your own design firm, you will benefit from the content in this article.
You’ll also find more business-building tips for designers in the “Business Tips” section of the blog.
Working on your business vs. Working in your business
Getting rid of one boss and creating another
When you decided to start your own design firm or make the switch to “freelance freedom” you were probably glad to be rid of the binding chains of schedules, meetings, cubicles, and a boss. What most entrepreneurs don’t understand is that, if you don’t spend enough time building your business, you’ve essentially just created another “boss” for yourself. If your business is not successful enough to support you on weekends when you just “don’t feel like working” or to allow you to take a day off here or there, you haven’t built a business for yourself!
You’ve built a new boss.
Overcoming Design Business Slavery
Designers who fall into this trap often feel like a slave to their design business. They find themselves spending more time with numbers, invoices, client meetings, late-night client phone calls, etc. than actually taking time to design. The very skills and talents that drove them to start their own design agency or begin freelancing continue to diminish and soon they are left less happy than they were at a “desk job”. Your stressed more and more each day, and enjoy your job less and less.
So how can you overcome this little problem?
There are multiple solutions to this problem. My personal favorite (as you can tell from previous articles here at GDB) is to outsource work that you don’t enjoy to people who do. Believe it or not, there are people out there who enjoy crunching numbers or hounding bad clients for prompt payments. If you can afford it, hire people who enjoy these sorts of tasks and who, let’s face it, are probably better at it than you are. This will give you more time to do what you love: design.
A few tips for building your design business
Taking time to build your design business isn’t always easy. Below are a few tips to help you take the time to build your design business effectively:
- Make a plan. There is nothing more important than a business plan for your company. Write down plans and goals for the next week, month, quarter, year, 5 years, etc. Envision where you want your company to be some day, dream big, and then make specific plans to make those dreams come true.
- Ask for help. There are a lot of people out there who are willing to help you with the tasks you are not so good at. If you can afford it, hire part-time help. If not, try exchanging services for now. Don’t get stressed out by thinking you can do it all. A business can only grow as big as the people who are working inside of it. You might be amazing, but there are still only 24 hours in a day.
- Create systems and routines. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you get in the habit of it. Try checking your email only once or twice a day. Set aside specific times for certain tasks. I know, for example, that I usually answer all my email from the previous day at about 7:30 or 8:00 am. It’s a routine I have. The longer you keep your routines, the easier you will find it to accomplish the tasks and the more effective you will be at it.
- Do the little things. A few days ago, we published an article called “11 ways to build your design business in less than an hour“. The article spurred some interesting conversation and proved that it’s the little things that really help a design business grow.
- Stop Procrastinating. What are you waiting for? Until your design business is bigger? Until you graduate from school? Until you find some more clients? Stop making excuses about how much time or means you have to grow your business. If it’s something you really want, you can find time to accomplish it. You can do it!