I am a graphic designer. I am also a business owner. I view these two as very separate things. I find it hard to be creative when my head is full of business, so this necessary segregation of time has worked well – until now.
This quarter, I developed a trade show product line.
It all started with the idea that it’s easier to refer a product than an often intangible service such as graphic design. So I set out to design a line of products that is fool proof. Business-self kicked into gear. I set up meetings with other independents to provide additional services, I sourced out supplies, exhibits, and printing, then proceeded to arrange it all into tidy frameworks for clients.
It wasn’t until one of my suppliers offered to send me sample images for my flyer that my worlds collided. Wow, I still needed to design all the marketing material…I still had to write all the marketing material! I froze. My brain had a cramp when faced with doing design for myself, I was stumped. I began to truly sympathize with the clients I so often help. They have the ideas, they know their business, they just don’t quite know how to make it look the way they want. Now it was my turn.
Treating myself like a client
A wise friend and mentor told me on day 2 of this brain freeze “Renee you have to treat yourself like a client. Start that fancy time counter software you have and bill yourself for the time spent.” It may sound odd, but that mind shift worked wonders. It was something my design-self understood. Time and accountability.
I give clients deadlines for content submission, provide them with rough layouts for initial direction concepts, and work with their print deadline. I did this for myself. I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing, but the truth is it was hard. When I hit snags I called the reinforcements, business people I knew and trusted to give me objective opinions.
Communicating my message
During each first interview with a client I ask a set of questions aimed to help me get a handle on where they are heading, so I ask myself the same questions:
- Who are you? I am the organized artist (personal brand)
- Who is your target? Larger small companies in growth mode, family owned or with a primary decision making partner
- What is your unique selling proposition or promise? I’m an independent designer with branding experience, who has an extensive communication network and is able to provide organized outsourced support with creative solutions to these companies.
My flyer took the shape of a miniature file folder complete with tab that said Trade Show Planning. The inside read – You know your business. We know how to brand your exhibit for impact. Three frameworks were showcased in their own boxes, descriptions kept short and simple. I included enough information to outline the solutions without overwhelming with details.
Last week I officially launched the line, this month I’ll be rolling it out in full. It has so far been a very rewarding and challenging experience. I continue to learn:
- Project development is an ongoing process
- Keeping track of time spent holds you accountable to results
- Being true to yourself and your company makes for an authentic and unique brand
- Staying focused on a specific target audience prevents your message from getting diluted.
- When you need an answer simply ask the question, somehow the solution presents itself.
Have you had to do your own marketing? I’d like to hear about your challenges and how you got past them.
I‘d like to take this opportunity to thank my networking chapter and extended network of business friends who have supported me these last three months. I won’t name you, you know who you are. Your time and support was so very much appreciated.