The Top 3 Things That Are Essential For My Online Design Business
"I don't know what I am doing." or "I have never done this before." And, of course there is the famous, "There is just too much out there now, I don't know where to start."
Do any of these sound familiar?
Many people tell me that these things and a host of other stop-you-in-your-tracks, fear based, self talk, keeps them where they are at.
As I have shared in my first blog and on my "Meet Jean" page, I made some big changes to my business this year, that were very much needed for growth, but the process had some scary moments that I chose to push through. Negative self talk is a killer. For me, I was told as a artistic, starry eyed kid, that artists don't make money. I am pretty sure that stuck somewhere in my head and became a stumbling block for me. But, after creating a marketing checklist and new business plan, I chose to focus on one to-do at a time and check each one as I finished, even as fear of failure threatened to stop me. Sometimes shear determination is all we've got, right?
So, today I am sharing what the essential things an online design business needs to be successful and how to get them checked off your to-do list.
1. A Solid, Organized System
for a Streamlined Design Studio
Until recently, freelance graphic designers had to use many different programs for different documents and administrative purposes.
Now, after 12 years of piecing together my broken process, I found an answer that has me hearing Gospel singers in white gowns clapping joyfully as they sing heavenly hallelujahs, every time I use it!
It is called 17 hats and has everything but the kitchen sink! You can store everything in one place, do everything from that place and even send digitally signed contracts and receive payments. One of my favorite features is that you can create client questionnaires with neat little digital boxes, with your logo at the top. Very professional and very convenient. I was going to using google docs for this, but I like doing everything in one place.
If you are interested in a 15 day free trial, click the image below for the link.
I always like to see prices right away because I don't have much in the budget for extras, so I included the pricing image to save you time.
2. A Simple, Easy to Navigate Website
One word: Squarespace.
Almost everything has a free trial or is free. I built this website during my free trial and was hooked! Artists and designers have no excuse anymore for not having a website or even an online shop. There are beautiful templates to choose from and setting up an online store is a breeze. Really! I think I set mine up in 5 minutes!
On squarespace you don't need an SSL certificate to set up your store, because all of that is included in your subscription. This platform gets 5 stars from me for making my job so much easier without having to mess with code. Granted, customization is limited, but for me, I don't need or frankly want that option.
3. Broaden Your Reach
With These Simple Marketing Tools
My three new best friends are LinkedIn, Squarespace Landing Pages and Pinterest.
If you want to reach more people with your website, I learned that a blog is the way to do it. But, it doesn't stop there. The next three three things I suggest are those I just listed above. You will see in the images below, how my website views went from 0 to 200 in one day and I will tell you how.
Do This First:
- Figure out who your target audience is.
- Write a blog post that solves a problem for them.
- Design a downloadable freebie that goes with that article.
- Place an image with the article name in the top paragraph of the blog post. (See mine above…Pins for Progress.)
- After you are done writing your article, pin it on Pinterest with a link to your website.
- **Whatever you post on social media, remember to always link back to your website to gain trust and allow visitors to see what you are all about on other pages. You must give them the opportunity to get to know you.
Now, onto some specifics about why I love Pinterest, LinkedIn and my newest discovery, LANDING PAGES on Squarespace. I've also used Launch Rock, but that is for another time.
This platform helped me find businesses for me to model my own business after, with adjustments made for my needs. My needs are not for a full time, design business. I am a homeschooling mom that needs a balance between home life and my passion for creating things. Pinterest pins of hand lettering and watercolor, reminded me that before I became a graphic designer, I was an artist. It stirred something inside me that made me realize I want to incorporate that talent into my branding packages.
Adding pin-able images with a title, describing something the viewer may want to look at, like I did above, will drive more people to your website if you include the link to the article. FREE ADVERTISING…CHECK!
Post helpful information to groups on this platform. If you change your focus from being about what YOU offer, to what others need to succeed, you will blossom. Like Ilise Benun says, "your business is not about you."
I learned what I wanted to provide readers on my blog, by paying attention to what I enjoyed reading from other bloggers. That was how-to posts. I gobbled them up. I was and am in learning mode, so if I am going to take the time to read something, it better teach me something new! Right?
How-to articles, posted to the groups where your target market hangs out, is a great way to drive even more traffic to your site. My linkedIn profile views increased ALOT and my website traffic jumped to over 200 views in one day after I posted a link to my blog about creating a media kit, to my design group. My bounce rate was in the high 50% range. Bounce rate means people were staying on my site to look around a little and that is GREAT news! I am new to this, so I am telling you this as I am going through it.
What I have learned most in the past week, is that bringing value to people is an amazing thing. I used to talk about me on my other blog, and my experiences, without telling my readers what I had learned. What steps did I use to get things done in my world of design? How can I make someone's life a little easier? All of those questions helped me change my focus. I am so glad that I did and you will be too!
This is another new thing for me. Did you know that you can create a special page for someone to "land" on, other than your home page? Well, you can and it is highly recommended. The reason is, is that you can give your audience calls to action in a short and sweet way.
You can create one for those clicking a link in Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and any other social media source. It helps you be very specific with your calls to action.
Here is one I did as an example for LinkedIn.
- To create a landing page in squarespace, go to "Pages", create a new one but drag it to under the "unlinked" category. It doesn't show in your navigation. It is only available to those with the link.
- Choose your favorite template and customize the images, buttons and last but not least, the copy.
- For freelance designers or other solo-creatives, I suggest putting your name up top first. Then craft a catchy title.
- Mention how you are glad they found you and from where. That will help you tell your pages apart and cater to each audience and their needs.
- Add in social media icons, so that they can connect with you there.
- Create buttons (up to three) and include what you want your audience to do and why. If you have a newsletter, tell them what goodies you give if they sign up. You can see what I did and model yours after mine to fit your own needs.
I am so happy with my LinkedIn landing page and can't wait to make more!
People don't always come to your site through your home page, so creating a landing page helps direct your reader to where you can help them most at that time.
Does it sound like something that would help your business? Let me know what you think in the comments below.