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Definitive Guide To Starting A Home-Based Design Business - Part 1 - RD204

Resourceful Designer

Release Date: 02/24/2020

Standing Out From Your Competition - RD234 show art Standing Out From Your Competition - RD234

Resourceful Designer

How are you standing out from your competition What do you think of when you hear the word “pencil”? I bet that one of the images that flashed through your head is of a yellow-painted piece of wood with a graphite center. The quintessential yellow pencil found the world over. A Medium article by Melissa Gouty titled “Why Pencils Are Painted Yellow" got me thinking about the parallels between a yellow pencil and your design business. I'm going to paraphrase Melissa's article for the sake of my comparison. The common yellow pencil that we take for granted helped spark the renaissance....

3 Things To Do Today For A More Productive Tomorrow - RD233 show art 3 Things To Do Today For A More Productive Tomorrow - RD233

Resourceful Designer

Being diligent today will make you more productive tomorrow. I talked about dividing your to-do list into three sections, non-negotiables, procratinatables and optionables, and how doing so will help you organize your day. I also discussed listening to your body's clock to determine the best time of day to tackle certain projects and tasks. Today's post is all about setting up for a more productive tomorrow. And to do that, you need to start today. For as long as I can remember, my nightly routine before bed has included looking and preparing for the next morning. Call it my shutdown...

Writing The Perfect To-Do List - RD232 show art Writing The Perfect To-Do List - RD232

Resourceful Designer

The Perfect To-Do List + Time Management = Success. If you search through the Apple or Google app directories, you will find dozens, if not hundreds, of options for creating so-called perfect to-do lists. I like for grocery lists and shopping lists or keep track of the unending chores and tasks I need to do around the house. For work-related lists, my go-to is  (get a free month with this link). I have Evernote fine-tuned with different notebooks for every part of my work life. But it doesn’t matter if you use a digital tool or pencil and paper if you don’t understand the...

Producing In-House - RD231 show art Producing In-House - RD231

Resourceful Designer

Are you producing any of your design projects in-house? I got the idea for this episode of the podcast when a member of the shared her new toy with us in our Slack group. Laura bought a . It’s an eco-solvent printer she plans on using to produce stickers, vehicle graphics and apparel graphics, among other things. This new piece of equipment will allow her to produce materials for her clients in-house. She also plans on using it to make pieces to sell through her Etsy shop. This got me thinking about different ways designers can produce things in-house. Now for the record, I...

Farming Out Design Work - RD230 show art Farming Out Design Work - RD230

Resourceful Designer

Do you farm out design projects? Finding yourself overwhelmed with too many design projects is a sure sign that you are not charging enough for your design services. Don’t turn clients away. Instead, raise your prices and start farming out design work. The following is a post from the . Hi guys So I'm turning away a lot of work at the moment, as I have my day job, and seem to have very little energy in the evenings and weekends to take on many freelance jobs. Seriously, I'm feeling so burned out, have been for a while now. I do the odd freelance jobs here and there for previous clients that...

Invest In Yourself - RD229 show art Invest In Yourself - RD229

Resourceful Designer

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...

Print Is Not Dead - RD228 show art Print Is Not Dead - RD228

Resourceful Designer

Contrary to popular belief, print is not dead. There was a time, not long ago, when graphic designers designed almost entirely for print. Sure there were trade show booths and vehicle graphics, but in their way, those are print as well. As the internet became more and more popular, started to encroach on a turf that was mostly populated by computer programmers. And before you knew it, a whole new industry was born–Web design. design allowed graphic designers to help clients on two fronts—both digital design and print design. But as time moved along and the world moved closer to being a...

First Contact: Interviewing New Design Clients - RD227 show art First Contact: Interviewing New Design Clients - RD227

Resourceful Designer

Do you vet potential new design clients? How do you know that you’re the right designer for a project? Or maybe the question should be, how do you know a potential new design client is right for you? In the past, I’ve covered what to ask during a , and to ask your design clients about their projects. Almost all of the questions covered in those episodes are for building relationships with your clients after you’ve decided to work with them. But I don’t think I’ve ever talked about that first contact with a potential new client before. First contact. The first contact refers to those...

What Got You Here Won't Get You There - RD226 show art What Got You Here Won't Get You There - RD226

Resourceful Designer

How are you going to take your design business to the next level? “What got you here won’t get you there.” I’ve heard this phrase a few times over the past couple of weeks, and it got me thinking about my life, my design career and my business. This is not about Marshall Goldsmith’s book of the same title. Although I hear it’s a great book. It’s about the phrase itself and how it applies to you and your design business. At its core, “What got you here won’t get you there” is such a simple statement, and yet it holds so much truth. You can only get so far in life...

Creating Systems - RD225 show art Creating Systems - RD225

Resourceful Designer

Are you creating systems to help your design business? Mike, a member of the , posted in the Community Slack group his frustrations with one of his clients. Mike built, manages and updates an eCommerce website for a client of his. His frustration is that every time his client wants a new product added to the site, he fails to provide Mike with all the necessary information, requiring Mike to contact the client, sometimes more than once, for the rest of the info. Mike’s situation reminded me of a similar one I had with a client several years ago. And how my frustrations forced me into...

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Can you imagine anything better than doing something you enjoy while in the comfort of one of your favourite places - your home - and making money while doing it?

Starting a home-based design business is the dream of many designers. The idea of giving up the daily commute, of no longer sitting through rush hour traffic, and nobody looking over your shoulder while you work sounds desirable. Plus you get to choose your hours, dress however you want and be there for your family whenever they need you. It’s very tempting.

These and many other perks sound very appealing to designers dredging away at their daily 9-5 job. It’s a perfect life. Or is it?

Before you take steps towards setting up your own home-based design business, you should first do a self-assessment of yourself and your situation to determine if the solopreneur life is for you.

Is Self-Employment for you?

When it comes to running a home-based design business, there are three options; casual, part-time and full-time.


A casual business is one where you spend less than 10 hours per month on your venture. Perhaps it’s doing small odd projects for only one or two clients. The income you make while working casually gives you a little bit of extra spending money or helps pay a bill or two as it supplements your other full or part-time income.


A part-time design business is one where you dedicate between 10 to 40 hours per month. You might have a hand full of clients, and the money you earn adds nicely to your overall household income. You can run a part-time business while working another part-time job or even a full-time job if you’re devoted.

Many designers start a part-time business while on maternity or paternity leave. It’s a great way to stay mentally active and socialize with other adults while caring for your new bundle of joy.

Full Time:

A full-time design business requires your full attention daily. You should be spending as much time on your full-time business as you would if you worked 9-5 for someone else.

As your main source of income, you should be working with several clients, and when you’re not designing for clients, you should be devoting your time to acquiring more clients.

Those are your three choices for running a home-based design business.

But before you jump in, you need to determine if you have the self-discipline to work in an unstructured environment. You also need to determine if you are willing to take on the financial and personal risk of starting a venture that may not work out, especially if your new design business is your only source of income.

Things to consider before starting a home-based design business.

Is your family behind you?

If you’re on your own, this might not matter as much. However, if you have a family, you must realize that starting a home-based business is not only a significant adjustment for you but them as well.

You need to speak with your family members about your need to dedicate yourself to starting, growing and eventually succeeding in this venture. If you don’t discuss this with them beforehand, they may believe that since you are at home, you have the time to do extra little tasks around the house.

This “added benefit of working from home” may seem harmless, but these things tend to add up and take time away from your business and impede your success.

Do you have the self-discipline to manage your time and working hours?

Anyone who works from home will tell you that it’s easy to get distracted. The lawn needs mowing; the dishwasher needs emptying, the new season of that great show just dropped on Netflix. Do you have the confidence and self-discipline to devote your time to work in the face of all the distractions you’ll face daily?

Also, if you’re a workaholic, do you have the self-discipline to say “enough’s enough” and stop working? Working day and night may seem like a great way to grow a business, but it’s no way to live your life. It’s great to hustle, but not if it leads to increased stress, health issues and self-neglect.

Do you have a dedicated workspace?

If you’re working casual or part-time, you may be able to get away with working from the kitchen table. But that’s no way to run a full-time business. It’s impossible to concentrate on your work if family members and other distractions are constantly hindering you.

By dedicating a designated work area in your home, you make a statement saying you take your undertaking seriously. A dedicated work area provides the atmosphere needed for you to fully concentrate on your work and have the quiet and privacy necessary for important business calls.

If a dedicated work area isn’t possible, you must explain and make arrangements with your family to not disturb you while you are working. This may mean keeping the volume low on music and the TV or even moving their activities to other areas of your home while you are working.

Does your business fit a home base?

Resourceful Designer is aimed at graphic and web design business, but I also know there are plenty of other types of creative endeavours you may want to start.

If your creativity revolves around other creative arts, such as pottery, sculpting, stain glass creations, sign making, T-shirt printing or vehicle wraps, you may want to consider operating your business in a venue other than your home.

Yes, there will be other things to consider, but not all creative businesses are suited to be home-based businesses.

Will you be meeting with clients?

Most home-based designers I know, myself included, chose to meet clients at their own offices or some other location such as a coffee shop. However, if for some reason you must meet clients in your home office, you need to consider if your home is set up to receive clients.

If your office is in the basement, will the client need to navigate through a cluttered kitchen or areas strewn with children’s toys to reach your work area? It doesn’t create a professional image and could impede your growth.

If meeting in your own home is your only choice, such as for moms or dads on parental leave, try to find a neutral area in your home that you can keep clean and clutter-free to meet with clients.

Do you have room to expand?

A desk in the corner of your bedroom may be all you need for now. But what about a year or two years from now? Do you have the room to grow should you need to add filing cabinets or scanners and printers to your mix?

Will you be happy working from home?

Humans are naturally social creatures. Even introverts need some time around other people. Most people satisfy this itch through their work environment, but not so with people who work from home.

When you run a home-based business, there’s nobody stopping at your desk to chat about their weekend or the new movie that just came out. There’s nobody to take your coffee or lunch breaks with, and nobody organizing after hour staff get-togethers.

If you are the type of person that craves regular social contact, you may quickly find the isolation of working from home too much. If this sounds like you, consider joining social and professional organizations or take part in other social activities outside your home to keep you in touch with other people.

How will you keep up with change?

Something often overlooked when contemplating working from home is the outside world. There’s no gossip or industry news to hear when you’re working by yourself. So how will you stay on top of new tools, resources and developments in the industry?

You need to make an effort on your own to seek these things out. Subscribe to newsletters, magazines, blogs and YouTube channels. Make friends with other designers and keep in contact with past co-workers.

Just because you’re working all by yourself doesn’t mean you need to isolate yourself from the world.


There are so many benefits to starting a home-based design business.

  • Low startup costs
  • Minimal overhead and monthly expenses.
  • No commuting time
  • Freedom and flexibility
  • and plenty of tax deductions, to name a few.

And although I continuously push this endeavour. I know that it’s not for everyone.

You’re the only person that can answer the question. “Is running a home-based design business for me?”

In Part 2 of this series, I discuss writing a business plan and dive deeper into planning your workspace.

Tip of the week Identify yourself when answering the phone.

If you want to sound professional, you should always answer your business phone by naming your business and then who you are.

For example, you could say: Acme Design Studio, John speaking. This eliminates any potential confusion clients may have as to who they are calling. They may not realize you are a one-person business working from home.