Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.
Business Summary, Year 1 / July 25, 2005
established June 28, 2004
To be revised and updated many times, no doubt. Last updated
Start with the basics: money. The company finances were started with a $576.68 purchase, with personal funds, of an identity package, (letterhead, business cards, and envelopes). This was the first and only outside investment in the company. It was eventually reimbursed, from company funds.
Using accrual accounting, for the first complete year of business, the company billed $104,369.28. We had expenses of $63.611.05, (including $50,555.11 in printing costs and $6,459 in taxes). This yields a net income of $40,758.23. Of that, $10,500 was withdrawn in Owner Draws.
There were several one-time, or infrequent, investments in the first year, including licenses, permits, accounting software, and the previously mentioned identity package.
The next year
If things were to remain steady, and I continue to do some of the major jobs that I received last year, then I stand to make more than I did last year. This wouldn’t be too difficult, given that I made very little money for the first 4 or five months last year.
However, I don’t expect things to remain consistent and steady. Even if it were true, it’s a dangerous assumption to make. One of the major problems at Old Company’s design department was its tendency to rest on it’s history.
Clients come and go. Budgets come and go. I need to diversify the client base this year, enough to ensure a consistent flow of business.
The marketing I attempted to do last year while getting started was a miserable failure. Of the many letters I sent out, and the phone call followups I made, all cold-contacts, not a single job came out of it. I had researched industries and companies that interested me. I searched for organizations with the budget and need for designers. I tried, whenever possible, to find the name of the head of communications or design, and contact them directly.
Which may explain why trying to do the same thing while you’re looking for employment never seems to work.
Primarily through referrals and my existing client base, work finally started picking up, starting in October of last year. Around the new year, I sent out thank you notes to most of my clients. For the top tier clientele, I sent out packages of Christmas cookies. (In my own experience, nothing makes so good a gift/suck-up as food).
Now, I am doing nothing. Up until now my work load has been steady/high. To the point where I either didn’t have time to do any marketing, or was cautious about doing so for fear of being able to handle the extra work it might generate.
The next year
Trusting in what you already have is always dangerous. So the “no marketing” approach is not a good idea.
Nothing is so valuable to a designer as existing clients. Not only are they feeding your bank account today, but they feed your client list tomorrow. Most new design work and clients are generated by word of mouth. I need to find 2 main things: 1) A way to express to these clients how valuable they are to me and how thankful I am, and 2) A polite way to ask them to refer me to other people and companies whenever they get a chance. Need to explore these two items in much finer detail.
I want to find some successful ways to directly market my company to new clients. A lot of people recommend joining one of these networking groups. They meet on a regular basis, and do nothing but stand around and talk to each other about what they need. People tell me they get a lot of work that way. There’s got to be some other successful ways. Maybe I can check with other designers.
It’s only come up a couple times, but ethics does come into running a business. A large part tends to deal with the clients you’ll accept. I debated with myself recently when the World Bank was looking for new designers. I’m not reactionary enough to believe they’re totally evil. But I don’t agree with much of what they do. They do, however, pay well and offer regular work. I would say a borderline potential client, because up to a point, it’s not for me to say how a client should do business
Likewise, I would be hard pressed to work regularly for clients that were simply selling useless shit. As I normally put it, I’d rather not make my living convincing people to buy soap. I try to avoid blatantly “consumerist” clients. I have no problem with people making money. But that doesn’t mean I have to support a type of lifestyle I myself try to avoid.
Thankfully, much of the potential client pool in this city is non-profits and associates. You can find a good living with clients generally looking out for the common welfare.
Outside of choosing clients, there’s also the consideration of how you treat them. How much will you excuse in the name of business? For me, the fine line has always been to be as open as possible with the clients, while keeping things and plain and simple as possible. Clients are always given an estimate before work commences, along with the terms and conditions describing how that estimate is applied or disregarded. Line items on estimates and invoices are grouped together for simplicity. I’ll always break it down upon request. I don’t hide that purchases from vendors are marked up, though I don’t feel it’s the client’s business to know how much. I’m always open to debate about any amount I estimate. I encourage clients to express their questions or concerns to me, rather than stay upset and stop using me.
One issue that struck me earlier this calendar year was how clients are treated. With one client in particular, I was annoyed at having to work with another person they hired. It wasn’t ego or pride or any such thing. I simply felt they weren’t offering any additional value. And while I certainly wasn’t being insubordinate or pissy, I simply wasn’t being anything. They got exactly what they needed out of me. Not a word more. And eventually I realized that was really stupid. It’s a business transaction, but I was reacting in a personal manner. My job, as I’ve always defined it, is to make things as easy, fun, and successful as possible for my client. If I don’t like the client, get rid of them. But don’t give them any less than I would another client.
That last paragraph brought up a good point. What is my job? My Mission Statement, if you will, (although I hate pretentious junk such as that). Call it “What do we want to be when we grow up…”.
We create and provide visual presentation materials, be they in print, imprinted, or online. We offer full service, from initial ideas to production and delivery of the finished product. Our service and materials will be as hassle-free and as easy to understand as possible, while maintaining the highest quality of which we’re capable. We’ll be open and direct with our clients, vendors, and coworkers. We want to make things as easy, fun, and successful as possible for everyone.
- to look forward to the work I perform
- to provide the best quality I am capable of
- to be proud of what I’ve done
- to support myself in a comfortable lifestyle
- to have happy and excited clients
- Generate a budget for office supplies/materials
- Find out the names and fees of some local networking groups
- Ask people in relevant industries (designers, printers, etc) how they generate new clients
generate and prioritize a list of equipment and supplies that would make work easier
- Come up with 3 ways to thank existing clients, and remind them to refer me to their aquaintances
- more clearly define the ethical standards for the business
- Review estimates for jobs over the past year for appropriateness and decide if any action needs to be taken regarding future quotes
- Generate a “client’s rights/what a client can expect” list