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    6 Replies Latest reply on Oct 17, 2007 4:57 PM by LUCKIEST

    Home-Based Graphic Design Company - How to Gain More Clients in General, While Not Gaining too Many?

    NMCreations Newbie
      Hi all. I hope everyone is doing well! This is my first post. Let me give you a little background about me and my business:

      For 2.5 years I worked under the title of "Project Director" at a financial services company in Nassau County, Long Island. In that position I was really the graphic designer/marketing coordinator. I had experience in both prior to that position, and I had worked my way into that spot within that company, starting as an administrative assistant. I gained a lot of knowledge about how to (and not to) run a business while I was there, but not how to start one, as the company had been around since the late 1980's and the owner was a self-made millionaire long before I came on board.

      Well, long story short, I was becoming increasingly miserable at that job and suddenly was laid off on July 16th, 2007 for "financial reasons" (go figure), and took it as a sign from above to try to begin my company while I had what little unemployment I could get to tide me over while preparing my business.

      On a personal note, I do not have a lot of money at all right now, so my marketing and advertising plans need to be super inexpensive. After the lay-off I've had to pay my medical insurance 100% out of pocket (I am a Type 1 Diabetic on an insulin pump and I am a cancer survivor), and it's very tough to pay for that and my other debts, like student loan payments and the like. Also, I am almost 26-years-old (will be in January), and I fear getting the "Young Wipper-Snapper" treatment sometimes based on looks alone, while doing face-to-face marketing. I'm a very mature young woman, I swear! :) I'm also very personable, as you can probably tell by the way I write.

      So, as you can read in my profile here and on my web site (http://www.nmcreations.com/), NightMyst Creations is a full service design company. Web design, print design, corporate branding, 3D design, animation, PowerPoint, etc. I may have a lot of skills (not to toot my own horn), but I am only 1 person. I live on the northshore of Long Island, eastern Suffolk County, almost 100 miles east of NYC. Now, being a home-based yet online-based company, I don't need to stick to just near-by clients. I am absolutely willing to work with people all over the US.

      I guess what I want is to be able to get enough clients to make a living, while not bringing in too many at one time that it becomes overwhelming for me while taking away the treatment my clients deserve because I am too busy to give it to them. Does that make sense? I mean, I should be so lucky to gain interest from so many parties, right? Haha However, that is a fear I have. What if I begin marketing and it's too strong and I get a flash-flood of interest?

      Currently I have advertisements on some of my clients' web sites for a percentage off of their package costs, I've submitted the site to major search engines, developed my META tags for other engines to catch the site on a natural search, and I am beginning some major networking events next week. One of my clients who I have an on-going maintenance plan with (I update his site once a week for a monthly fee) allows me to ask if anyone who advertises on his site wants my company to design the ad, so that is a plus as well, although I haven't had any takers yet.

      Anyone have any ideas of what I can do to get the word out to specific markets (a.k.a. businesses, and if you all have any suggestions for other ideas I am totally open to them) without putting up fliers and going door-to-door? I know direct mailing is not really considered a great idea sometimes, but what if it was in letter format with some research on the company? I don't know, I am just thinking aloud.

      Any help would be very much appreciated!!!

      Erica
      Designer/President
      NightMyst Creations
        • Re: Home-Based Graphic Design Company - How to Gain More Clients in General, While Not Gaining too Many?
          mpoweringu Wayfarer
          Erica -

          First and foremost, what an awesome history! (other than being laid off!) Hearing what you have been through, what you are going through, and what you have overcome just sings that you are a "fighter!"

          You and I are very much alike in terms of how we got started in launching our own business and I have reached the one year mark (1 year as of yesterday!) and we are even in similar industries (we have completed a lot of web design/development and graphic design projects!) So hopefully I can give you a little insight as to how I got started and what I did as a "one-man" show to get mPower Consulting off the ground.

          #1 - Being a one person team means you are everything in your business, but cannot be everything to everyone

          It is interesting that you posted these questions since I had an 8AM meeting this morning with a group of college students using my start-up as the focus for a group project for a business course, and they asked these same questions to me!

          You are one person and there is only 24 hours in a day. If you are not working on a paying client project, you are not making any money, correct? So the idea of having to take time away from projects to promote your business doesn't necessarily sound like a good idea to you. I went through the same thing and this is where I had to realize that I could not follow the "typical" methods of promoting my business (advertising, LOTS of networking events, getting involved pro-bono in local events, etc.) I also had a limited marketing budget (hey... that's my salary!) and wanted to make sure that if I spent ANY money on marketing, that I would make up that cost quickly!

          What I learned is that how you conduct your business with clients is a better means of advertising my business than ANY billboard, radio, television, or print ad! What do I mean? When I meet with clients, I do everything in my power to give them more than they think they will get... not in "free' work, but in free knowledge! There are things that you are going to know that relate to your expertise that they will not know. Instead of just focusing on the project they present you, try to find out more about their business and their goals for what they are having you to create. Can you offer any insights on other ideas they could try? Can you educate them about why one method is better than another or how trying a different tactic in terms of their messaging can make a huge difference? Those recommendations may be free to give from you, but they are INVALUABLE to your client! Next, all you need to do is to conduct your business with them with absolute honesty and integrity. Let them "buy into" who you are as a person, THEN you can WOW them with your skills.

          Do that, and you have the perfect makings of a business that grows by word-of-mouth and referrals!

          #2 - Guess what!? If you use word-of-mouth and referrals as your main source for attracting new clients, you will be surprised to learn that your clients that are sending you the referrals are actually screening your new potential customers!

          When you work with a client with absolute honesty and integrity and you have shown that you want to do what is best for them by educating them past what they have asked for, they will want to tell others about you! Not just anyone though! They want to make sure they keep YOU happy and want to reward you for your hard work. So, knowing how you now work and what you can offer the next potential client, they will make sure they are not sending any "problem children" (as I like to call them) your way! They will send you referrals of individuals who really need your services and are ready to pay well for them!

          So, what is the conclusion?

          Try to focus your efforts on HOW you delivery your service and how you offer more value to your customers than what they are asking for. They will sing your praises, and not just to you! Let them become your "honorary employees" and start feeding you +SELECT +business from potential clients that you would want to take!

          If that is not enough, contact your current clients that you have completed work for and ask them that if they were happy with the work you provided, if they wouldn't mind thinking about you when they meet others that may benefit from your services (basically asking them for referrals.) But only do this with clients that have already sung your praise after you completed the work!

          Hope this helps!

          P.S. - I'm a "Young Whippersnapper" myself, but once you can convey your expertise to your clients by educating them beyond what they ask for, they will follow your lead!

          Brian
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: Home-Based Graphic Design Company - How to Gain More Clients in General, While Not Gaining too Many?
              NMCreations Newbie
              Thank you very much for that sound advice, Brian! I know that referrals are the best source for new business as well as the best way to gain a better reputation within the business as well. I have 2 clients who have "tried" to get me referrals by way of getting someone to contact me without giving me their contact information, and they have all fallen through for one reason or another. I would rather not hound my clients over something like that, you know? It could not be their faults and also I wouldn't want to run the risk of upsetting them, so I just let it go after maybe asking them once or twice in a month.

              Any advice on how to obtain clients outside of referrals, aside from the usual stuff (networking events, etc.)? I think that my clients, no matter how much they praise me, just don't want to work at helping me out. I've never asked them to, they've taken it upon themselves to do so, but it is still frustrating when they make it sound like they have the best referral for me, then poof!

              Erica
                • Re: Home-Based Graphic Design Company - How to Gain More Clients in General, While Not Gaining too Many?
                  mpoweringu Wayfarer
                  Ha ha ha! I know what you mean (about the +poof!+) as that has definitely happened to me a few times!

                  One other idea I did not think of at the time would be to actually offer your services pro-bono to develop some marketing material designs for a local, public event in exchange for any level of event "sponsorship" (which should get your logo/business name on all their marketing materials, brochures, banners, etc.

                  You are offering your services for free so you are not making any money from them, but the exposure could be well worth it if it brings in a lot of high potenail new clients!

                  Just another idea! FYI - Just do not offer too much so that it takes too much of your time! Time is money!

                  Brian
              • Re: Home-Based Graphic Design Company - How to Gain More Clients in General, While Not Gaining too Many?
                Lighthouse24 Ranger
                A similar question was posted by another graphic artist yesterday -- you might follow the link below to read this community's responses (if you haven't already).

                Getting My Name Out?

                I visited your website -- you have a very nice portfolio (which is essential), and you have done some beautiful work. You are definitely talented, and seem (in spite of your "whippersnapper" status) to have a sense of responsibility and commitment to things like deadlines that we "old geezers" appreciate. If you can just hang with it long enough for the word to get out about you, I think you'll be turning away business rather than wishing for it. When that happens, you can choose your assignments based on the clients that are easiest to work with, jobs that are the most fun, projects that provide you with the challenges and experiences you want, or whatever -- the point is, YOU get to choose (and that's pretty cool).

                Best wishes to you!

                P.S. What aspects of Erica Piteo's projects are you handling? Just the website, or did you also do the book covers and layouts, advertising pieces, etc.? As I wrote in my other reply, self-published and "up-and-coming" authors are an easy bunch to find and contact (they are trying even harder than you are to get noticed!), and with the print-on-demand revolution, they need graphic arts services.
                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • Re: Home-Based Graphic Design Company - How to Gain More Clients in General, While Not Gaining too Many?
                  LUCKIEST Guide
                  Great background and reading your bio you sound like you are going to succeed.
                  I volunteer for SCORE in Rockland county (north of the city) and SCORE has some
                  great FREE seminars on business plans both on line and in person.
                  Please check out the SCORE web page. Also think about writing a BUSINESS PLAN.
                  Good luck and write if SCORE or I can be of any additional help.
                  LUCKIEST