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Definitive Guide To Starting A Home-Based Design Business - Part 2 - RD205

Resourceful Designer

Release Date: 03/02/2020

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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Part 2: Business Plan and Workspace

In the previous episode, I talked about whether or not running a home-based business is for you as well as things to consider before deciding to start one. This episode I’m making the assumption that you’ve decided to go ahead with your plans and discuss the next steps in the process.

Some startup advice.

There is a cost involved with starting any business, even one run from your home. You may not be paying to lease office space, but you will still need to fork out money to get your design business started.

Some of the costs may include a separate phone number to keep your business and personal communications separate, preferably a plan with voicemail and call display. You’ll need a computer and design software required to do your work. And then there are things such as a desk and chair, bookshelves, maybe a file cabinet.

Don’t forget your internet. If web design is part of your services, or you'll need to upload and download large print files you may want to increase your internet plan for more bandwidth.

Other costs include business cards, We may be living in a digital world, but you really should have business cards. And maybe you’ll want a printed flyer or brochure to help spread the word of your new endeavour. An Intro Packet might be a good idea as well.

Plus, there’s the fee involved with business licenses and permits, the cost of accounting and legal fees, and memberships, clubs and communities to help you get started. It all adds up.

Sure, starting a home-based design business is the least costly option to begin your entrepreneurial life, but there’s still a start-up cost involved. And that's not taking into account the cash buffer you should have to tide you over as you build up your clientele, start designing and wait to get paid.

Suggestions to help with costs.

You should set long-term goals to acquire some of the above-mentioned things which allow you to spread out the costs. Buy only what you absolutely need right now. Buy used or refurbished to save money, or purchase lesser models until you can afford top-of-the-line equipment. Make do with what you have and grow along with your business.

For the first two years of my business I sat at a desk I picked out of the trash bin at the printer I used to work for. I had to replace one leg with a 2x4, but It got me by until I was able to barter a better desk by exchanging services.

Even though you’re starting a home-based business, there will be costs involved in the beginning so do what you can to save money.

Let’s talk about business plans.

A business plan is a written document describing the aspects of your proposed business. Although not absolutely necessary to start a business, a business plan can help you when it comes to business decisions and keep you focused on the right path.

A business plan is a worthwhile exercise because it helps you think through your ideas, focus on what needs to be done, and identify what information or assistance you still need.

A business plan will improve your chances of success by setting out realistic goals and financial projections that you can measure your progress against. Plus, if you plan on securing a start-up loan or applying for any grants, you will need a business plan.

There are various ways to write a business plan, and if you’re doing this just for yourself then whatever way you choose is fine. However, If you are applying for a loan or grant, I suggest you reach out to the organization and ask them what their preferred format is. It will save you time and trouble in the long run.

There are plenty of online resources, some free and some paid, that can help you write a business plan. But here are the general elements that should be included.

Background Information:

  • Your business concept: Describe the services you plan on offering in your design business.
  • Perform a SWOT analysis of your business.


  • Describe your working environment. List the equipment and supplies you already have, as well as those you need to acquire. Be sure to mention the costs involved.
  • List any suppliers and contractors you’ll be working with.


  • Describe the industry and target market you’re going after.
  • Talk about how you plan on selling your services.
  • Mention your marketing strategy to gain clients.


  • A Business plan should include a financial statement showing the startup costs, projected sales forecasts, financial projections, how much you’re investing in the business and how you plan on paying yourself.

There’s a lot more that goes into a business plan, but I wanted to give you a quick idea of how to lay one out.

Your WorkSpace.

Let's talk about your actual workspace.

If at all possible, your workspace should be a separate part of your home dedicated solely to your business. Having a designated area will help you feel like you are “going to work” and at the end of the day like you are “leaving work”.

Keeping the two separate makes it much easier to designate between your work and family life.

  • You can do things such as ignore your business phone when it’s not “office hours”.
  • Your important papers and materials won’t get mixed up with family or personal things and possibly get misplaced or lost.
  • Your family will know that when you’re in your “office” you’re at work and shouldn’t be disturbed.
  • It makes it very easy comes tax time if you have a dedicated office space, as you get to claim the square footage as a business expense.

More things to consider:

  • Does your office space have a phone jack if you plan on using a landline for your business?
  • Are there enough electrical outlets to accommodate your equipment?
  • Will your furniture fit the locations?
  • Is there proper lighting for you to work?
  • How noisy will the area be?
  • Is there enough room to spread out your work?
  • Is there enough storage space or will you need to get more?
  • Is your workspace ergonomically designed to prevent a sore neck or back, or eye strain?
  • Is the place suitable for client visits if you plan on inviting them to your office?

These are just a few things you might want to consider as you’re setting things up.

In Part 3 of this series,  I’m going to talk about the legalities of running a business from home as well as touch briefly on marketing your new endeavour.

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 Cynthia

I have one semester left of design school and am starting to get commissions here and there. I plan to work for someone after I graduate and then I'd like to start my own freelance. I was wondering if you have or could point me in the direction of a generic graphic design contract? I'm not really sure where to start with that.

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

Tip of the week Business Grants

Whether you're starting out or you are planning on expanding your business, it's a good idea to inquire if there are any special grants you may qualify for. Contact your local municipality, business centers and Chamber of Commerce and find out what's available. Grants are "free money" to aid you in your business. Every little bit helps.