By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Whenever designers tell me they are not satisfied with the amount of work they are getting or with how much they are earning, my first question is, “How much marketing are you doing?” Why? Because I know from years of counseling and conducting surveys that most designers do shockingly little marketing. And yet they wonder why their firms are not prospering and growing.
When I say shocking, I am not exaggerating. Year after year, our surveys showed that around 8 out of 10 designers did no marketing at all, other than rely on word-of-mouth referrals, or spent less than 4 hours a week on marketing. In addition, most had no marketing budget or plans. How were they faring? Most of these designers reported total annual revenues of less than $50,000. You can figure out for yourself what their net profit or hourly salary came to. Unless they were only running a part time business, they were practically working for free. No wonder they’re dissatisfied with their careers.
If you want a healthy, growing business, you need to be marketing. There is no way around it. Based on my experience and the advice of marketing experts, you should devote at least 10 hours a week to marketing efforts. Schedule them into your calendar and treat them as you would any other obligation. Marketing is not an option that you can just “get around to” once in a while. You have to be consistent and persistent to achieve your marketing goals.
Marketing can take many forms. Aside from print or online advertising, it can include keeping in touch with previous clients, networking, inviting prospects to coffee or a meal, engaging in social networking, blogging, submitting projects to design and lifestyle magazines, making public appearances, writing a column for a local newspaper, upgrading your online portfolios, even volunteering on community projects. Try different approaches to see which work best for you. Develop a mix and spend some time each month on each one.
You need a marketing plan with definite goals and to allocate a budget (I recommend at least 5 to 8 percent of your annual expenses) to cover certain costs. But more importantly, marketing requires an investment of time. I realize it’s not easy to carve out 10 hours a week to give to any activity, but this is essential. Even if you have to outsource some of your marketing efforts or other work, do it. The return in more and better clients and projects will be worth it in the end.