Why are you killing yourself as a designer in your own business?

May 30, 2022
Est. Reading: 4 minutes
Jason Greenlees

By Jason Greenlees

Why are you killing yourself as a designer in your own business?

The dream to own and run your own business as a creative and establish a freedom lifestyle in regional Australia is something many of us pursue.

What usually starts out as a side hustle and a passion for doing what we love before too long the passion becomes the enemy. It eats away any spare time, family relationships and turns the creative into a slave of another type. Trading one type of slavery working for someone else to working for the client.

I've seen many creatives in regional Australia start and finish after only a few years finding it too hard chasing work and stacking clients' work into their work queues. Exceptional designers, but what eventuates is they overcommit and burn out leaving a bad reputation for themselves and their business. Instead of working on those 100 projects maybe knocking back a few and concentrating on the golden customers should be a better choice.

Focus on quality, not quantity

My take on this is that the only way to balance your time and work is to focus on the "ideal client" and charge more. If you don't have the ideal customer yet then you're going to need to target them with your own local-based marketing. The key here is your unique point of difference is your personal presence and while you still going to need to win them over with your steller portfolio the quality that you can offer them in a face-to-face relationship is far preferred than one over email or over the phone. Think big and try and try again for those customers who are worth the risk.

Bes of all winning over a regional client could mean winning them away from a Sydney web design agency. Have confidence, you're a shoe-in, locals love to locals. Sack your low paying clients that make your life and take 90% of your time for 10% of your income. You can see these clients coming a mile away and if they don't value your time and are prepared to pay you for it they're better off on fivr or freelancer. And then theirs those customers who use you as a pixel pusher and not a professional that understands all aspects of your profession.

If you're going to offer a wide range of services then you need to be able to outsource these to other reliable regional locals or a network of regional professionals that help you to service your ideal client. That's where RWD fits in, offering services you don't specialise in or services that take you more time than you can charge your customer for. A good example of this is web development or social media work two things that have elements of design involved which means their hours and income are still here for you.

Think of yourself more as a builder of a house who gets all specialists trades together to do a great and they manage the project overall, they may even have a separate project manager. You "the builder" still have involvement and income from everything, either through your own % markup to the client or using your skills where you can specialise and bring value to the process.


You could also be in a small team and your finding overwhelmed by work because your processes and workflows have bottlenecks. Your team have strengths in certain areas but you're still trying to do too much in areas that are not your speciality. A small team still can't offer all the services your customers require. RWD are for you to help you offer more services so you can help.

As a professional, I also believe self-reflection is also important and if you promise a customer you're going to deliver and miss deadlines then this is an obvious indication you have taken on too much. Your choice should be to either fess up and tell the client you can't get it done or tell them you can get someone else to help and still make sure it gets done right. Your integrity should be as important as the money you get paid.

The easy life of running your own business is a lie!

The industry is very focused on leaving a full-time job and being an entrepreneur and starting a business that can scale. Getting others to work for you the same as you may have been working a regular JOB in the past is a recipe for disaster and doesn't work the way you might recruit someone to work in a factory or a school. Just because you have the extra resources doesn't mean you are twice as productive. You might get lucky and get someone in a situation that needs a regular paycheck and this will work only for a while but the time and effort you put into someone like this will inevitably want a bigger slice of the pie.

As a designer, you don't own any physical assets that restrict your employees or other start-ups from entering the market at a low cost. This barrier to entry is so low which is exactly why you will not be able to maintain employees long term.

Jason Greenlees

About Jason Greenlees

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