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Treat Your Design Business Like a Client

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Those of you who are regular Paper Leaf blog readers will have noticed that we have been posting less frequently these days. The main underlying reason is a good one – we’re very busy – but the end result is undesirable. The past week I took some time off, and during that time off I was thinking more and more about the old adage “the shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot“, and how this applies to us a business (as well as many other designers and developers out there). Why does this happen? Why do projects relating to our business fall by the wayside, like the shoemaker’s shoeless son? The answer: we don’t treat our design business like a client.

What Do You Mean?

If we treated our own business (and business related projects) like we treated client projects, we would practice proper time management, hit deadlines, have a consistently fresh portfolio, and budget for the time needed per week to make these things (and more) happen. But we don’t – and maybe you don’t either. It’s tough sometimes – client projects pay the bills, whereas business-related projects have a more indirect benefit. Clients often give us some much-needed motivation, through phone calls or emails (hopefully motivation of the non-threatening kind), whereas we’re the boss of our business. Thus, we’re often putting client projects in front of our own, time and time again. If this stays consistent, however, our portfolio, print materials, blog and more will be an outdated reflection of our business. That’s bad news.

As graphic and web designers, there is little that can hurt your future business more than having outdated materials. It’s a slippery slope. I mean, if you position yourself as a forerunner in the race to modern and cutting edge design/development, your own materials should reflect that, no? Plus, what if your competitors are being smart and putting the time in to keep their bodies of work up to speed? In the blink of an eye, you’ll be behind the 8 ball and your potential clients will be clicking away to your competitor’s updated, fresh site.

How Do You Keep Fresh Shoes on Your Design Business?

In order to avoid becoming the design equivalent of the shoemaker’s son, we need to start treating our own design business like a client. Figure out areas of weakness. Propose solutions and timelines to implement those solutions. Hit those deadlines by scheduling your business into your workload – even if it means not taking on a paying client project. I know: scary talk, especially for freelancers, and advice that we would do very well to heed. But if you want your business to be around for the long haul, then you need to put the work in. Put in the upkeep. It’s easier to fix a small leak than it is to put it off and overhaul the whole ruined bathroom, right?

Think of it like so: if the clients always come first, you will forever be second & behind. Then you will be an outdated agency/freelancer. Book in time to your week to maintain your portfolio, update your website, etc, and your business will thank you down the road.

Maybe it’ll even buy you some new shoes.

one of us one of us

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