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Definitive Guide To Starting A Home-Based Design Business - Part 3 - RD206

Resourceful Designer

Release Date: 03/09/2020

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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Are you legally allowed to run a business from home?

[sc name="pod_ad"]By this point in the Definitive Guide To Starting A Home-Based Design Business series, you’ve determined that you want to start a home-based design business, you’ve written your business plan, and you’ve figured out your workspace situation at home. If you haven’t done any of that, go back and listen to Part One and Part Two of this series.

Now that the ball is rolling, and you’ve figured out precisely what you want to do and how to go about getting it all started, it might be a good time to see if you are allowed to run a business from home.

Legal restrictions.

Are there any restrictions that may prevent you from starting your home-based design business? Depending on where you live, there may be certain rules and regulations in place dictating what is allowed and what is not allowed when it comes to home-based businesses.

Some municipalities and communities require all home-based businesses to have a business license. Some require a home occupation permit, and some may require a regulatory license depending on the business model. Contact your local government to see what licenses and permits your business requires.

These licenses and permits cost money and, in some cases, may take time before they are approved. Some of them are one-time fees, while others must be renewed on an annual basis. All permits and licenses are tax-deductible as a business expense.

On top of the licenses and permits, you must check if there are any municipal or even neighbourhood by-laws that may prevent you from running a home-based business. For example, the neighbourhood I live in has a by-law preventing me from seeing clients regularly in my home.

Something else to look into is whether or not you might require license and permits from nearby municipalities. For example, if you live in one municipality but regularly commute to a nearby municipality to do business, you may require a license in both places.

No employees.

Many municipalities have by-laws prohibiting home-based businesses from having employees other than family members residing in the home. In most cases, this won’t be a problem for a home-based design business. However, if you are starting as a partnership or want to hire a salesperson or anybody else, you may not be allowed to depending on where you live.

I suggest you contact your local municipality to find out exactly what you need to run your business in your area legally. You can also contact your local business center and your chamber of commerce for their advice as well.

Employment Contract.

If you are starting your home-based business on a part-time or casual basis while you work another job for someone else, be sure that your main job doesn’t have restrictions against employees owning or working at another business.

If you signed a contact at your current employer, review it and make sure nothing in the contract prevents you from moving forward.


Another thing to think about is insurance. Both on your business and your property. Your home insurance premiums may increase if you are operating a business from your home. And some insurance companies may void your coverage altogether, so be sure to check yours.

Some municipalities require proof of insurance before issuing you any business permits.

When reviewing your insurance policy, consider increasing your liability coverage. This protects you should anyone come to your home for business purposes and are hurt while on your property.

You may be thinking you don’t’ need extra liability coverage because you don’t plan on having clients over. But what about delivery people? If you order a new printer or computer and the delivery person slips and falls on your steps, and your insurance company discovers they were delivering goods for your business, they may decide not to cover you.

Also, as a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for all debts. If you order a $10,000 print job and your client fails to pay. You are liable to the printing company.

You may also want to acquire business interruption insurance in the event of a fire, theft, etc. It can help cover the costs of getting things up and running again.

Permits, licences and insurance may not be fun, but they are something you need to think about when starting your home-based design business.


Let’s talk briefly about marketing your business.

As you know, marketing is key to any business’s success. It ensures that your services are put in front of people who need them.

Because all businesses market themselves differently, and that includes design business, home-based or not, you must decide how you plan on promoting yours. Your skill levels, knowledge, experience and resources will help determine who your clients will be and how you will promote your services to them.

A business that’s just starting should ask both existing and potential clients what they should be doing to promote their business. Start conversations, interview clients and potential clients, hand out questionnaires, and use the valuable information you get back to determine the best way to market your services.


Networking is a significant part of marketing. Every established designer in the Resourceful Designer Communityattributes networking to the success of their business. And it’s the same everywhere.

Design is mostly a word-of-mouth industry, and you cannot rely solely on your clients, spreading the word. You need to get out there and pound the pavement and let people know that you’re open for business. Networking should be a big part of your marketing plan, especially at the start.

Failure to develop a strong marketing plan is one of the reasons most new businesses fail.

  • Pricing your services
  • Defining your target market,
  • Methods for promoting your services, including a website, brochures, maybe ads and trade shows.

All of this is part of your marketing plan.

Your website.

Build a website first. If you are not a web designer, hire someone else to design one for you.

In episode 149 - Starting A Design Business From Scratch, I mentioned how if I was starting over, the very first thing I would do is build a website for my business. I have a website for my side business Podcast Branding that brings me several new design projects every week.

Don’t underestimate the power of a well-designed website. When done right, it can become your most valuable client acquisition tool.

In part 4, the final installment of this series, I’m going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the different business structures you can choose and a few other odds and ends as I wrap up this definitive guide to starting a home-based design business.

Make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast, so you don’t miss it.


Tip of the week Asking for critiques

When asking people for critiques, don’t ask what they think about the design, instead ask them how they would improve the design. You'll get much better and more useful responses from them.