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Don't Be A Penguin - RD220

Resourceful Designer

Release Date: 06/15/2020

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....

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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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What are you doing to stand out?

I was listening to a podcast recently, and the guest on the show said something about how businesses need to stand out from its competition. To which the host replied, “That’s for sure, you don’t want to be a penguin.”

Sometimes, the most mundane things that I see, hear or read spark an idea for a podcast topic. Well, that phrase did it for me – Don’t be a penguin.

What do I mean by – Don’t be a penguin?

First, let me ask you, have you ever seen a large group of penguins? Maybe at a zoo, in the wild or even on TV? How do you differentiate one individual bird from the rest? I have no idea. And I suspect, unless you have an affinity for penguins, neither do you.

Unless one of the penguins has some form of distinguishing feature, they all look pretty well the same. So if I asked you to pick out one penguin from the bunch, you might have a hard time deciding since they all look the same. You would probably look harder for that distinguishing feature to make your selection easier. It’s much simpler to choose something that stands out from the rest, than something that blends in.

Think of your design business.

I want you to think of your design business in terms of those penguins. Or more on point, I want you to think about a client looking for a designer.

To a client, unfamiliar with the design space, we’re all penguins. As far as they’re concerned, we’re all the same. So how do you expect them to choose you out of all the other design businesses out there? You need to be different.

Your design business needs that distinguishing feature that will help clients chose you.

I recently had Col Gray on the podcast. Col’s business, Pixels Inc, is growing because he stands out. I’m not talking about Col’s Scottish accent. Sure, that’s a distinguishing feature in most parts of the world. But it doesn’t help him in his home country of Scotland. I’m pretty sure most of the other native designers he’s competing with locally have a similar accent.

No, Col stands out because of the personal brand he’s developed, Including his look. If you don’t know Col, he has a very distinct look. He’s almost always wearing black. He has a very long beard that grows down below his chest level that he often ties it with hair elastics.

On top of that, you never see Col without a ball cap. And not just any ball cap. It’s either black or red.

So visually, Col stands out. If a company asked multiple designers to pitch them, they’d remember Col. In fact, I’m sure they’d remember him months or even years later. Col is not a penguin.


Do you remember Craig Burton, who was on the show a while back? Craig’s design business is called School Branding Matters. One look at his website or even just hearing his business name and you know right away how Craig’s design business is different.

Imagine a school principal or school director looking to rebrand their institution. If presented with three or four different designers to choose from, which one do you think will stand out as the best choice? The three designers who have practically the same message on their website just worded in different ways? Or the one designer whose website says he helps schools craft compelling visual brands?

Do you get my point? The penguin that stands out is the one that gets picked.

Even niches have penguins.

Even within a niche, you don’t want to be a penguin.

Take my Podcast Branding business. I know several other people in this niche that offer podcast cover artwork as a service. I also know I’m one of the more expensive options. Some of them charge a fraction of what I do. And yet, I get new orders every week. Why is that? Because I stand out.

I ask every client who hires me why they chose Podcast Branding? Most of them say it’s because the other options all looked the same, and they couldn’t tell which was better. But my business looked different. I presented as the most professional, and even though I cost more, I seemed more trustworthy, and I looked like the one that could help them the most.

I’m also the only podcast cover artwork service, as far as I know, who insists on meeting and talking with each client before I design anything for them.

I’ve had several clients tell me that was the clincher. They felt that personal touch meant I would take better care of them than any of the other services that wanted them to submit their information via a web form.

So you see,

It doesn’t matter who’s the better designer.

It doesn’t matter who’s the fastest designer.

It doesn’t matter who’s the most affordable designer.

What matters is which designer stands out from the others because the one that stands out is the one chosen most often.

How can you stand out?

What can you do to stand out? You could try embracing a uniquely personal look as Col has. But that strategy could take years to develop. Or you could try narrowing down and focusing on a niche like Craig, and I have. Niching automatically sets you apart from all-purpose designers.

But what if you don’t want to go to those lengths? What if you don’t want a unique look or to niche down?

What you need to do is figure out what makes you unique and embrace it. Emphasize it for everyone to see.

Be unique.

I knew a web designer who exuded personality on his website. For example, this is how he described part of his design process.

“Once I know the scope of your project, I’ll present you with a proposal. I can do this over video, but I much prefer to do it in person. We can meet at my office or yours, but whoever’s office we chose is responsible for supplying the cookies.”

His site was full of small nuances such as that. And you know what, he told me that most clients he pitches to have cookies waiting for him.

I also remember this headline on his website.

“I’m a Scottish Web Designer, and I’m very good at it. Web Design, that is, I’m only so so at being Scottish.”

Upon landing on his site and reading that line, you knew he was different. Some people might be turned off by his presentation, but chances are those weren’t clients we would have wanted anyway. Those who did like it saw his uniqueness as different than the other designers and hired him because of it.

Don’t be a penguin.

So ask yourself, what am I doing to make my design business stand out from my competition?

What can I change or do better to improve my chances of being the chosen one?

What can I do differently so that I’m not just another penguin in the rookery?

That’s something for you to ponder.

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