Nine years ago I decided to leave my full-time job and continue my design career in my own business. Nine years and 70+ clients later, Pinnacle Design Studio is well and truly alive. A BIG thank you to all of my wonderful clients who have made the last nine years a dream come true. I love what I do, and I do what I love, and it’s all because of my clients. So thank you!
A lot of people have asked me over the years how I have survived this long in business and how I manage to keep motivated. The motivation comes easily for me personally, as I like what I do for a living. Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in design and I enjoy making things look good. So motivation is not an issue.
So the next question, how have I survived nine years in business? Well, it has taken a lot of patience, self-belief, and trial and error. It hasn’t been an easy road as such but it hasn’t been a disaster either. I have lots of helpful tips which I have learnt along the way, so I thought I would bundle them up into this blog in an effort to help other like-minded people in their business journeys.
01 // COMMUNICATION IS KEY
I know it sounds so simple, but great customer service is rare these days and I pride myself on providing this to my clients . I get back to clients when I say I will and I keep them informed throughout the entire design or print process. Good communication is important to build trust and gives clients clear expectations.
It’s also really important to communicate with clients on a regular basis, so you are always top of mind. Whether this is via email newsletters or social media, it’s a good idea to touch base often. I send a digital newsletters once a quarter and this seems to work well for me and my workload. It’s important to add a personal touch to your communication as well so clients know they are dealing with a real person, not just a sales pitch at the other end. People enjoy working with people they trust, and trust is built on long-lasting relationships. (Tip for newsletter content: 80% tell / 20% sell).
02 // VALUE-ADD
If you are a service-based business, be descriptive on your quotes. There is a lot of competition around and many companies opt to source three quotes for comparison. If all three quotes are the same price, what makes you stand out? Include as much detail as possible to give your service more value for money.
For example, if we think about a Logo Design, two quotes might state: ‘Logo Design, includes: 3 concepts = $1000’.
Whereas my quote would state: ‘Logo Design, includes: Research; Moodboard; Concept Development; 3 initial concepts with up to 2 design revisions; Web and print files provided upon approval (EPS, JPG and PNG); Full ownership rights; Complimentary square social media icons = $1,000’. Which quote would you chose?
03 // UNDER PROMISE / OVER DELIVER
Nobody wants to disappoint a client, and no client wants to feel disappointed. The best way to make your clients happy, and to keep your brand honorable, is to avoid overpromising. People have different expectations, so your best bet is to offer a basis for what you can do for them. When you over-deliver, you will come out looking like a star!
04 // SUPPLIER MANAGEMENT
Do not underestimate the value of strong relationships with your suppliers. This gives you better leverage and buying power and opens up the potential to negotiate. If you can build long-term relationships with your suppliers, it can lead to a future that benefits you and your clients. Over the past nine years I have built great relationships with many of my print suppliers and this enables Pinnacle Design Studio to source competitive rates for client print projects on an ongoing basis.
05 // DELEGATE
It’s OK to outsource! I found myself wasting too much time trying to perform tasks that aren’t my expertise. It wasn’t until I learned to stay focused on my strengths and left everything else to others who had experience in those different areas, that I began running my business efficiently. Sometimes, it takes a village to be successful.
06 // FINANCES
This is a common one a lot of business people say and I have to agree. Analyse finances often and set monthly targets. If your finances aren’t in order, everything can come tumbling down – fast! Don’t wait until you fall behind. Get ahead by staying organised and on track with your targets. If you don’t have the time or the knowledge, think about outsourcing.
07 // TECHNOLOGY
Keep up to date with technology (or outsource to someone who can). In today’s digital age, things are constantly changing and moving forward. In order to keep up, and remain competitive, it is important to stay up to date with the latest trends and tech releases. Access to recent technology can keep you and your business running smoothly. Keep your brand consistent and update your website and social media regularly. Brand loyalty is established when your clients know they can trust you and don’t have to worry about undesirable surprises.
08 // HAVE A LAWYER
Always a smart idea to have a business lawyer who can write up tailored contracts, T&C’s, NDA’s and other policies for your business. You never know what might arise, or any important questions you may have, that can be answered quickly with a good lawyer. I know from experience after selling one of my businesses back in 2016 that a business lawyer is absolutely crucial for any serious business.
09 // EVENTS + TRAINING
Industry events can give you a boost of motivation, so attend them as often as you can. It helps to surround yourself with like-minded people and to network with people in complementary industries. It helps keep you abreast of all of the things going on in your field, and you’ll remain more valuable to your clientele.
It took me nine years to learn everything that I know now, and I know that there is still room for growth. I hope this list helps you realise the importance of being open to different options and opportunities for you and your brand. The most important tip – be happy! At the end of the day, if you aren’t doing what you love it will all feel like a chore. Find what works for you on your business journey and enjoy the ride!