As designers, we can get stuck in the day-to-day, task-oriented, things in our business and never zoom out and see the big picture. We don’t have the space to dream about our business and what we want things to look or feel like.
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to find tasks to fill our workdays up but then the end of the week comes and we believe we’ll never have time to work on our business and not just in it. In this week’s episode, I dive into where I think designers keep getting stuck, how I set aside time to work on my business, and why I think if you’re having trouble attracting your dream clients you need to stop worrying about your process so much and focus on your positioning.
Between client work, social media, email marketing, finances, and keeping ourselves fed and sane, your brand can get the back burner. It is hard to make time and justify the time to focus on your own brand. But it is such a necessary step to make all the other pieces of your design business flourish. I’ve begun setting intentional times or days. Personally, I need more than one creative day or “CEO day” for my business.
Within these days, I then set the intention to focus on needle-moving tasks over busy work. Entrepreneurs are professionals at filling their time with things to do in their business but what work is really going to make an impact on your business?
It’s important to weigh effort vs. impact. What are some things with lower effort? What are the things in your business that take fewer resources, less time, less money, and less brain space and still make the most impact? Focus on those items first and then move to higher effort, higher-impact tasks.
Some high-impact things you can focus on now in your own brand are your own brand strategy, your positioning, and your own brand magic. What makes your brand stand out?
I know this feels super buzzwordy and empty. But it’s basically communicating why you’re different. Why someone should choose your services or products over another’s.
Differentiating yourself builds brand awareness, communicates the value of the service, and justifies the price.
I think it’s really easy for designers to get hung up on their process.
There are a million and one courses out there that go over process or designers selling templates that are part of their process.
It’s easy to get caught up in the details of how to do things and what they should provide instead of differentiating ourselves because it’s what’s constantly being sold to us. We begin to think it is the only thing that is important. And it’s less vulnerable. Making small changes in our business instead of figuring out how to pitch ourselves through promotion is easier so that is why so many designers get hung up on it.
We begin to think there is one “right” process out there and think that seeing how other designers go about their process, will validate our own. I think this leads designers to get really caught up in the super micro details. I don’t think that tweaking our process is truly going to magnetize clients to you.
Positioning is what is going to bring clients to you. There is no one and only way to do things. I want you to know that there is a totally unique way for you to do something. It will work perfectly for you and your business and it might not work so great for someone else and that is okay. This will be your positioning and it will communicate why you’re different and why a client will choose you.
Differentiating yourself through your unique position builds brand awareness and communicates the value of the service. The more you stop focusing on your process and more on your positioning the quicker you will attract your dream clients.
A feature is something that a product or service has.
Those are all features!
Benefits are the outcomes or results someone would see from experiencing your product or service. It’s why people actually purchase. Benefits are what actually solve their problem.
The benefit of that insulated thermos is that when you’re slowly drinking your coffee, like me, it stays warm for hours. No wasted coffee and no walking to the microwave to reheat for the third time.
The benefit of three rounds of refinements is that there are multiple opportunities to refine and make sure the client loves it. It gives them peace knowing that they get to have input in the process
The benefit of brand guidelines is that they actually know how to use their brand after you’re finished creating it. They can hand off the brand guidelines to a VA or team member and they will know exactly how to keep everything cohesive, professional and like it’s coming from the same place. They know they won’t make a huge mess of their brand.
When we focus so much on the process I think we lose sight of what it actually means for the client. How it actually benefits or creates an impact for them.
In the early days of Quill & Co. I thought it was so important to have these perfectly designed PDF packages to send to my clients.
I would spend hours on an investment guide tailored to each one before the sales call, and then again spend more hours on this custom proposal for them after the call, and then this beautiful welcome guide for onboarding and I honestly can’t tell you if it mattered to them. So now I try to keep the process as simple as possible.
I booked a $20k client two weeks ago who knew exactly what she wanted on the sales call and was able to book it without any proposal necessary. Now, this isn’t always the case with clients, but previously I would have taken the same call and wouldn’t have had the confidence to ask outright “Which package makes the most sense for you and your business?”
If you are an overthinker like me, I want to give you the freedom to know, that your fate as a designer is not tied to one small shift in your process and you can let that go.
Having a solid process is great. It helps us get the client results, it helps us systemize things so we aren’t always recreating the wheel over and over again. And sometimes I think if you have a unique process it could even be part of your positioning.
But I think we can get stuck in the nitty-gritty of the process sometimes and things that don’t really move the needle for us like:
So many magical things can happen that lead to a brand that stands out from the crowd. Focusing on the benefits helps you create designing packages based on what your client wants to do, not necessarily on what everyone else is offering. Thus, creating something totally unique that no one else is doing.
Your positioning is what brings clients to you. Your process will bring referrals.
Your process backs up the positioning. Your process is what gets you from point A to point B. Process is a way to get results or to provide a great client experience.
Positioning is what brings clients to you. Process is what surprises and delights them.
Process and positioning are ultimately both important for designers but I see so many designers skip over the positioning part of their brand for the easier task of looking to fix their process first.
It’s hard to see your own brand magic sometimes. It’s hard to “see the label from inside the jar”.
I love helping designers pull out their brand’s unique perspective and be able to show it to them. I’m so excited about a new program I’m launching where we will work together to find your own brand magic together. It will be very done with you. Pulling out your own unique stories, and your unique perspective and infuse them into all the aspects of your brand from marketing to your offerings.
Whether you’re a designer, copywriter, entrepreneur, or whatever; it is very common to look outward for answers when it feels like nothing is working in your business. You’re throwing spaghetti at the wall hoping that something will stick or constantly getting distracted by what you “should” be doing because you see others doing it too.
Refinement is part of being a small business owner as we should continually change and pivot and grow our business. But instead of looking outward at another’s process or even their positioning, set aside time to look at your brand’s positioning. Don’t let the idea of searching for a better way or process keep you from taking action on creating something uniquely you.