As a designer who works with businesses of all kinds, I’m consistently aware that most entrepreneurs are running incredibly low on resources constantly. Whether its manpower, energy, money or time, small business owners often struggle to keep all the plates spinning.
So it’s no surprise that when people come to me looking for design assistance, they’re looking to maximize the benefits of our working relationship. As a self proclaimed efficiency aficionado, I love this mentality. If you’re going to make a significant investment of time, resources and energy in working with a designer, why not make the most of it?
Today I’ve got a few tips to help you maximize your next engagement with a designer.
Consider Not Hiring a Designer
This one seems kinda self deprecating, but hear me out. I turn away potential clients with projects I’m really excited about alllll the time because I just don’t think they’re ready to enter the process. Here are a few signs it might be premature to jump into the design phase:
- You feel uncertain about the name of your business, product, website, etc.
- You have not solidified what you are selling or the general structure of your business
- You have not defined key selling points or benefits of your product or service
- You do not know who you are marketing to (or at least who you’d like to start marketing to)
- Your schedule is too packed to commit to taking time to think through the concepts, attend design meetings, complete homework, etc.
Being willing to acknowledge that offloading your work onto a designer will not solve your problems takes a lot of self awareness and maturity, but it can save you tons of money and time in the long run. I love helping my clients clarify their direction and showcase it visually, but I can’t make decisions for them about what their business will be or who it will serve. When clients wait until they’re truly prepared to initiate a website design or branding process, it makes the whole thing a piece of cake!
Be Invested in the Process
Most designers, like myself, have put a lot of thought into the way they work and the steps involved in getting from back-of-the-napkin sketch to finished design, and these intentional milestones along the way help us check in with clients and ensure everyone’s on the same page. For instance, part of my branding process requires that my clients complete an in-depth questionnaire. I can tell by the responses if someone has really put thought into the assignment or if they’ve written it off like an annoying middle school worksheet. Unfortunately, my degree isn’t in mind reading (but holy cow, what if it was, how easy and weird would my life be?!), so a disengaged client can make things really tough on my end.
Ultimately, the client must be happy with the finished product in order for everyone to walk away from the project feeling like winners, but that requires the client to be thoughtfully engaged throughout. So if you’re working with a designer, be sure to mark off time on your calendar away from meetings and other comittments to ensure that you have plenty of time to ruminate over design drafts, complete homework, and participate in discussion with your designer. This eliminates unnecessary back and forth and extra rounds of revisions (aka: money out of your pocket) later in the game.
… But Don’t Get Too Invested
Yep, there’s a fine line between involvement and obsession. As a small business owner, it’s easy to feel like your business is your baby, requiring constant monitoring, but from my experience the best end results come when the client has one hand on and one hand off. The good and bad news is, no one knows your business as well as you, the small business owner, do, so while you and your designer may differ in opinion on certain aspects of the project, the designer (an outsider) probably has a more accurate perspective of what a potential customer (who won’t be as intimately familiar with your product or service as you) is thinking than you do!
I am constantly reminding my clients that marketing is not about what you want, it’s about what your customer wants, so maintaining an arm’s-length approach to your design project may help you get out of the weeds of familiarity and make more objective customer-focused decisions throughout the process.
At the end of the day, I (and any great designer) want to see my clients find great success. In fact, it’s why I do what I do.
Taking the above steps will not only help you maximize your investment in a designer, it will also ensure the project runs smoothly and yields an end product that meets goals and makes you money. Begin your design project with a communal and communicative mindset, and you’ll set yourself out on the path for success.
If you’re thinking it might be time for a new brand design, website or other design project, but you’re not sure if you’re ready or how to get started, consider checking out my Brand Audits. During these one-on-one custom consulting sessions, I walk with you through a process of discovering where the gaps may be between what your customer wants and what you’re telling them you provide. You walk away with invaluable insight into how to better communicate visually with your ideal customer, and some actionable steps you can take immediately to getting there. Learn more about Brand Audits and schedule yours here.