CINQ Partners

CINQ Partners

We are an agency dedicated to the principles of good design, with offices in Clarksville/Nashville, TN, Frederick, MD/Washington, D.C. and New York City, NY

Steve Wilson

5 Things I Have Learned as a Full-Time Designer

By Steve Wilson

June 2012. Heart racing, I made the biggest decision of not only my life, but my family’s as well. I quit my comfortable job to be a designer and business owner full-time. It was time to make the jump and do what I love all day and all night. Just like Gary Vaynerchuck discusses in the video below (WARNING: NSFW language), I took that chance.

So, I’ve been at it over 6 months now. Here are five things I have learned of myself that may help you.

1. Get Up Early and Get It Done

It’s tempting for a designer, especially one that works from home, to sleep in with the understanding that you will work later into the day.

Sure thing, chief. Keep telling yourself that.

An e-mail to a client at 6:30 a.m. looks much better on you than one at 11 p.m.

Kids, family responsibilities, meetings, errands and other unexpected “time-killers” will ultimately slice your day up like a tomato. Take control of your day by waking up early and knocking out a few important or difficult tasks.

Respond to e-mails. Finish that proposal. Send out invoices. Write or read a blog post.

Taking control of these tasks early not only frees up your limited time during the day for actual design, it also shows a commitment and professionalism as a business owner. An e-mail to a client at 6:30 a.m. looks much better on you than one at 11 p.m.

2. Treat a Home Office Like a Real Office (a.k.a. “Dress the Part”)

photo credit: Paul Mayne via photopin cc

photo credit: Paul Mayne via photopin cc

Since you’re already up at 6 a.m., go ahead and shower and put on a nice polo. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and have breakfast. Then, go into your home office just like it was 25 miles away and get ready for a productive day of work.

It’s easy to get sucked into the comfort of being at home. But, you are still a business owner and/or employee. Treat your business with professionalism and care. Now, does this mean that the occasional pajama day or “around the house” task will not take hold of your day? Absolutely not. Take advantage of having a home office and the comforts it allows you. However, you also do not want those same comforts to harm your professional attitude or work.

3. Promote, Promote, Promote

As a freelance designer and business partner for over 15 years now, I have always had the  good fortune of having enough business, whether through referrals or word of mouth, to keep me consistently busy. I was also afforded the option of turning down work as necessary.

However, as a full-time business owner, you need to understand the importance of promotion and marketing. Referral business runs dry, but bills still have to be paid. And, no amount of planning for the dreaded “feast or famine” cycle will prepare you for the day when you have little or no work.

Admittedly, I got consumed in my work for the first few months and everything was great. In fact, that work kept me more than busy full-time. However, I was not giving enough consideration to six months in the future. I had always counted on referral business. And, while that referral business continues to come in (mostly because I do good work and take care of my wonderful clients), I now see that this alone is not enough.

If you have any ideas about growing your freelance business into a larger agency, or even making the transition to a brick-and-mortar setup for just yourself, please make promotion a priority from day one.

4. Get Out! (Also Known as Reasons 2b and 3b)

My family and I live in a wonderful quiet area away from the city…a new school down the street, a golf course and great neighbors. However, this great area also comes with a feeling of isolation, which can be a “killer” to any home-based business owner. These ideas are also helpful for any home-based business within the city as well.

There’s only so many times you can make water cooler chat with the dog. Trust me.

photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc

photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc

You can send out hundreds of e-mails and answer a ton of phone calls every day. You can participate in video chats, Skype calls or conferences. However, as a business owner, there are few things more important than getting out and “pressing the flesh.”

Ask clients, friends or colleagues to lunch. Attend local networking events. Join a civic organization or volunteer with local charities. Getting out of the office is not only a great way to promote yourself and your business (a.k.a. 3b), but it’s also imperative to continuing those personal relationships you may have lost by working from home (a.k.a. 2b).

There’s only so many times you can make water cooler chat with the dog. Trust me.

5. Enjoy It

The most important idea I can share with you is this….enjoy the wonderful opportunity you have been given. Take a day off. Play a round of golf. Go work at a coffee shop. Eat school lunch with your children. But, only in moderation. You still have a business to run!

If I find myself in the office working at 6 a.m., I usually try to make time in the afternoon to work out, take care of a few errands or work around the house. Does this happen everyday? Absolutely not. Sometimes a business affords you these opportunities and sometimes you may work from dawn to dusk and after.

Caution! I am NOT saying that you should turn free time into daily naps or couch potato sessions with Dr. Phil or The Price is Right. These exercises in futility will quickly affect your professional attitude for the worse. Make positive decisions that benefit you personally or professionally.

Conclusion

I hope these lessons that I have learned motivate you to possibly “take the leap” as I did. I also hope they can be used as a guide to skyrocket your home-based business to great heights starting on day 1. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to get back to work!

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