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Mistakes new design businesses make

Author : Judy Litt


Starting your own graphic design business can be a very exciting time, but it can also be a scary time. Most designers make mistakes when they start their own business. Here are ten mistakes to avoid if you're beginning your design business:

1) Doing business without a contract

If you're really an adrenaline junkie, you'd have fun walking the high wire without a net. That's what doing business without a contract is like. Whether it's your first customer or you've worked with them forever, you always need a signed contract before work begins.

2) Beginning work without a deposit

Contractors get paid for their supplies before they begin to work. Your real supply is your brain. Creating a design takes a lot of thought and research, and you deserve to be paid for that up front.

3) Unlimited revisions

Technically, this falls under mistake no. 1: your contract should detail just how many revisions the customer is entitled to, and it should also outline what is an author's alteration. We're designers, we're not business people; or so we like to think. So we don't like to remind people that what they want will cost more money. If you think it doesn't matter if you just throw in this little change for free, you're opening the door to lots of free changes and lost design time.

4) Pricing too low

We keep hearing that the economy is turning around, but the truth is that money is still tight and jobs are still hard to come by. It's natural to want to take any job that comes along when we're first starting out. People are less likely to view you as a professional if you don't charge accordingly. You can be flexible and try to work with your customers, but that doesn't mean lowering your prices -- it means making suggestions that will fit their budget.

5) Working on spec

Many customers want to see your designs before they'll officially hire you, or perhaps they want to see designs from several designers before deciding on one. Remember, your time is worth money.

6) Not working with other professionals

As designers, we often simply shake our heads at people without design degrees who try to design. Yet when it comes to doing our taxes and creating our contracts, what do we do? Just as you expect people to hire you, the designer, to create their marketing materials, you need to turn to professionals to help your business: attorneys, accountants, etc.

7) Don't expect jobs to walk in the door

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Trite, but true. Marketing is hard work. You need to market when times are lean and when your plate is full. And you need to follow up on all your marketing efforts; don't expect one contact to get you the job.

8) Putting all your eggs in one basket

It can be really attractive to have one customer who provides you with all of your work. No need for marketing, no need for networking, no wondering where the next job is coming from. Until the day your customer shuts their doors or decides they want someone inhouse. Suddenly you'll find yourself scrambling just to meet the bills.

9) Not enough funding

It's the rare business that is profitable in their first year. You need to be sure that you have enough savings to keep yourself solvent for at least one year. If you don't have that cushion, it's probably best to try freelancing on the side while you still have a paying job.

10) No business plan

Business plans are boring, right? Well, maybe so. But do you know where you're going to look for customers? How many people are looking for the services you offer? Where you want your business to be in five years? These are just a few of the questions a good business plan will answer. If you ever get audited, you may find that your business plan is your best friend.


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