Category Archives for "Small Business"

Are You Following These Five Entrepreneur Rules Religiously?

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Entrepreneurship is erratic and unpredictable, so rules are crucial. Rules give you a groundwork to work from, that will serve as a guide for when the optimal direction seems uncertain. Your first step to be a successful entrepreneur is figuring out and remember those rules. Here are five rules worth remembering.

Tools

Every business needs tools of some sort. Whether it’s rows of machines, or just a single computer. No matter what technology you are using, it’s absolutely important to keep them well maintained. Actually, maintaining what you have now may be more important and feasible than struggling to get top-of-the-line equipment.

You can keep replacement costs down by maintaining equipment, which leaves revenues free for other important expenses. Being vigil on maintaining your equipment lowers breakdowns keeping productivity high. Of course, that’s not just physical maintenance. It’s also keeping your hard drive free of files you no longer need, so you aren’t buying new hard drives.

Business Before Emotion

As an entrepreneur, your passions and desires matter. They keep you going when you’re tired and facing mountains of work ahead. Sadly, too many startups fail because the leader confuses passion for intelligence.

Passion is important; however, it should never determine how you run the business. Passion is the “why” of your business. It brings you to the office and drives you forward. When it comes to actually making decisions, you need to let the numbers and your head do the work.

It’s not just passion that can be a problem. Entrepreneurship is naturally stressful, and there are lots of times where your buttons get pushed, sparking sadness, anger, joy, and more. These emotions can push you into making decisions in the heat of the moment, which is dangerous. Positive emotions are just as dangerous. Using joy to make a decision is just as bad as giving in to anger. In the end, you’re making a decision that wasn’t made through careful thought.

Partner only with People Who You Trust

For a lot of startups, taking on a partner may be unavoidable. You are only one person no matter how brilliant you are as an entrepreneur. You’re only able to do so much, and you may only be able to afford to delegate so much. You may need more authority than an average employee for certain things, and that authority may need to be equal to your own. Some things just need a partner.

However, don’t just let anyone be your partner. You want to fill in the gaps of your skillset to increase value, however, they need to be trustworthy. After all, you’re sharing the reins with this partner. If you can’t trust them to have the same goals as you, then they don’t deserve tht power and responsibility.

Preparation

Entrepreneurship isn’t something that lends itself to improvisation. Products and sales don’t just magically appear because you did something on the fly. They happened as you were prepared for them. You determined your target market and what they wanted out of your offering and focused on developing towards those needs.

Not sure what to do next or you’ve somehow managed to clear your to-do list, prepare. Something is always coming up that needs attention and need to figure out and study. This could be a direction the market is going, or negotiations. Figure out for what you need to prepare, and get ready.

Take Care of Yourself

Do you want to be one of those entrepreneurs who pushed themselves to death? Many have, literally in order to develop a successful business. Many have worked long hours, gave up everything, such as friends and basic hygiene, in order to turn a profit. Sadly, that route usually doesn’t pay off, and, if it does, it’s a costly victory.

You are your most important responsibility. You’re not there for the sake of your business, your business is there to help reach your goals. All the money in the world is pointless if you sacrifice your health and well-being for it.

Entrepreneurship can be confusing, however, having a core set of rules will keep you grounded and going in the right way. The above rules are not the only ones you’ll need, most will come from experience, but these will get you started.

When Should You Turn Down a Client

By Randall Orser | Small Business

You’ve started our business and it can be tempting to take on every client that comes along. After all, without your clients then you won’t have revenue which your business greatly needs to prosper. So, while on paper it makes sent to take one and all clients, regrettably, frequently that client is more trouble than they’re worth. Is this client a good fit with you and your business? Sometimes it’s not and it’s best if you both just move on.

Clients in a Rush

You’ve worked hard on creating the most productive processes during the development phase of your business. You’ve got the right mix of cost, speed, and quality together. You don’t want to mess with that formula, however, that client in a rush will definitely mess that mix up. The rush client is one of those that phones you just before closing on a Friday, and wants a job done by Monday morning. Avoid the rush client that wants you to work entirely with their schedule. You know what you’re capable of and how fast, so if it’s not possible, then don’t do it. In the end you damage your brand by taking on the rush client as you know they’ll never be satisfied.

The Mundane Job

Not all your jobs will be exciting or glamourous. Your clients can project their enthusiasm for the details, or job, onto you and get you excited for the job. However, there are going to be those tasks that just bore you, and you should avoid those as much as you can. Boring jobs just suck the life out of you and your work, which can upset the quality and your enthusiasm for the business in general. If you want to take on that boring job, then either recommend it to a colleague or someone else in your company, so the client doesn’t leave empty handed.

Not Paying Enough

The most difficult thing you’ll do for your business is come up with pricing for your offering. You have to find a price that’s profitable, but at the same time one that fits your target market. This will require a bit of work but totally worth it in the end.

Whenever you get that customer that wants a discount, you need to just turn them down. You should also turn down those clients that want something difficult or special that you don’t usually offer. You’ve come up with your price for a reason, as it’s what you believe your offering is worth. Stick to your guns when it comes to pricing and insist on the posted price. And, for Pete’s sake, avoid those clients that go on about giving you exposure for a discount, or worse, a freebie.

Your Time is Limited

You only have so many hours in a week to do client work. There may be a time where you just can’t take on a client, even when that client is not in a rush. No time is a good problem to have as it means you’ve gotten to capacity. You may be thinking it’s easy to ignore that new client, until you think about the money it could bring. Don’t take on more than you can handle, unless you’re just backed into a corner, you’re better off to err on the side of caution.

Outside Your Niche

Have you been asked to do something that’s outside your niche? It’s great that people think you’re capable of doing great things, however it could backfire. You have the chance to expand your offerings and learn something new. However, you may not do it at all well, which could affect future business. The best time to expand is when you decide to do so, not when a client asks. You need to focus on what you’re great at and what you’ve designed the company to offer.

Just Feels Wrong

Measurable metrics is what your business revolves around. Getting to your final cost for your offering is a composite of manufacturing expenses and the target market’s average income. However, there’s something to be said for your gut feeling If you’re just not sure about the client, or what they’re asking, don’t hesitate to say no. You’re much better off to lose a client than be forced into things you never wanted to do.

The above usually apply to small businesses that have a small number of clients, however, you can apply them to businesses that sell products as well. The important thing is that you value your time, your effort, and your business. Anytime a client asks you to compromise one or more of them, it’s time to move on.

Get Your Business Moving in the Right Direction

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Business development requires one of the most overlooked and important aspects, direction. How many businesses seem to fail even though they seem to have everything going for them? You can have a talented team, a great product or service, however if the business isn’t pointed in the right direction it’s going to fail.

It may sound simple, but many businesses seem to miss it. No matter if it’s a mom and pop shop or a Fortune 500 company, by not aligning all the businesses parts it’s going to be a disaster. From personnel to marketing, you need to ensure all parts of your business are focused on accomplishing the same goals. Ideally, you should be aligning those goals with the wants and needs of your customers.

Are your businesses parts all moving in the same direction? How do you do that?

People

Direction is the difference between a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts, or a disorganized and disappointing group. 

Your worst-case scenario is where your talented people are going in opposite directions and cancelling our each other’s efforts. That said, the worst-case scenario doesn’t have to exist for a lack of direction to hinder your company’s performance. 

If your people are going off in different directions, then you’re getting less than ideal results across the board. To ensure peak potential of your team everyone needs to have the identical goals in mind.

You must be communicating all the time to achieve this. Have a crystal-clear idea of what your businesses priorities are. And, being receptive to feedback is important.

Departments

You can scale direction for any company size. And, that direction needs to be on point for every department in your business. 

To that point, envision a company with each department full of talented people but missing common direction. Your marketing department is putting out great materials aimed at the 18 to 30 demographics, however, your R&D team is producing a product aimed squarely at retirees. While your sales department is focusing on getting the product stocked in stores which are most popular with new parents and young families.

The above is an extreme example; however, many businesses end up in a similarly harmful pattern of misalignment. Your business needs to have clear organization goals that all departments are aware in order to flourish.

The most successful brands in any industry create a great product and then create a marketing campaign that reflects the product in a way that appeals to the targeted demographic. And, available in places that demographic is mostly likely to check.

However, it’s all pointless unless the company is pointing in the same direction as its customers.

Customers

You can make the best product, or provide the best service ever, but that’s pointless if no one wants to buy it. A restaurant with an incredible effective marketing campaign targeting twentysomethings will have no sway in a community mostly made up of retirees.

Your businesses success hinges on aligning your goals and priorities with those of your customers. Unless you do that then no amount of effort is going to make your product or service successful.

Successful brands know their customers and provide them with what they demand. If you look at history’s biggest successes, you’ll find that they aligned perfectly with their target demographic. The failures are the ones that had a complete misunderstanding of this.

A great example of this is New Coke, remember that? This fiasco tanked the world’s most popular soft drink sales back in the 1980s. Coca-Cola’s various departments worked in perfect harmony to create the new recipe and market it to the masses, which was great; however, this wasn’t a direction its customers wanted Coke to be moving. Coca-Cola was a popular drink everyone recognized by its taste since childhood. Coca-Cola went against everything its customers wanted by changing the taste; especially one that was kind of gross.

The Takeaway

You need to be creating clear goals for your business and ensure those are reflected at every level. Your staff need to understand your company’s goals whatever their position in the company. Without everyone understanding that your most talented people may end up working against you.

It’s imperative that these efforts are aligned with the goals and expectations of your customers.

Build a Sound Financial Business Strategy

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Are you an entrepreneur seeking to build your company? Or someone thinking about opening a new business? To be a successful business builder the best thing you can do is focus on your company’s finances. Be the entrepreneur that focuses on the finances of the company rather than the one going to the tech conferences or inviting the media hoping to get exposure. Do you want your company to fail because you weren’t aware of its fiscal responsibilities? Keep the following sound financial business strategies in mind and you’ll have a successful business.

Learn Business Finances

To improve growth opportunities for your company, then focus on learning as much as you can about business finance. In the time other new business owners are going after media attention, you should focus on refining your business finance expertise. By learning more about business finances from experienced people, like Warren Buffett or someone in your industry, the more able you can leverage growth opportunities others might miss.

Economic Trends

By watching economic trends over various business verticals, you can ensure you’re best prepared to handle financial risks. Focusing too much on your own market sector can make you miss impending market shifts that can affect your growth rate. From trends in retail to how automation is changing business development in global markets, the opportunities are many to understand future economic trends. Gather all the information possible on global economic forecasts and ensure you’re looking years ahead, not just months.

Changing Rapidly

Business finance these days is rapidly changing. The norm used to be bank loans and venture capital, now the options have expanded and becoming more common are cryptocurrencies and ICOs (initial coin offerings). You need to understand how business finance is transforming as technology advances, if you want to ensure you’re in a good place financially.

Chief Financial Officer

A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) can be a smart in-house hire for your startup in order to secure your businesses financial strategy. Too many startups wait until far too late to look at their company’s long-term finances. Whether it’s an accelerated burn rate that is unsustainable or business expenses that can’t be recovered in an acceptable amount of time, a CFO helps keep your company out of trouble and on the path towards profits.

Spending Habits

Are you watching your competitors’ spending habits more than your own spending patterns? That’s not very productive at all. You’re much better focusing on growth elements you control, rather than on what your competitors are doing. Whether it’s expenses on talent, fees paid for services you use, keeping an eye on your own finances and looking for increased opportunities is much more productive.

Financial Technology Tools

Thanks to rapid growth in the fintech sector, financial technology tools have grown significantly and available to entrepreneurs. You need to pay attention to this sector to discover savings opportunities you might not even know exist. Technology is changing the resources to which you have access to handle your businesses finances, however, you do need to know that they exist. A core component of your business’ financial strategy should be looking at the fintech sector regularly.

Spending for Spending sake

Too many new companies fall into the trap of spending for spending sake when they get the investor funding. That cash injection is great for stimulating growth, however, spend it on things that have a high ROI (return on investment). You should be spending on marketing, or hiring someone to do it, or a sales person that can close business deals, those are much better options. You need to ensure you’re maximizing that influx of cash so spend wisely.

Business Consultants

Any business consultant you hire should be driving for revenue generation. Far too many young businesses double-down on business consultants outlays rather than bringing on someone internally. That internal person is much more likely to put your businesses interests first as they have skin in the game. The consultant on the other hand is juggling many clients so your business’ growth is not their first priority. Analyze how much you’re spending on consultants with other expenditures to ensure your costs aren’t atypical.

Accounting Team

As part of your business financial strategy, the most prudent on is to hire a top-notch accounting team, accountant and bookkeeper. You want an accountant that doesn’t waste your money on just looking for loopholes, but one that finds the tax savings that are the best long-term advantages for your company. A smart accountant can help grow your business in ways you never envisioned.

Big Isn’t Always Better

The old adage big isn’t always better is one many entrepreneurs overlook. The obsession of tech media with funding news from angel investors and venture capitalists skewed impressions among entrepreneurs. Too many entrepreneurs focus on acquiring outside funding rather than smaller, bootstrapped growth which may end up being more profitable. There is a fallacy of growth at any cost, don’t fall for it, as you may be happier and more fulfilled if you built a smaller business without any outside funding.

Remember the above strategies and your odds of building a financially-sound business increase. Put your effort into building a foundation that is fiscally sound, and the likelier you’ll be proud of your business. You’ll never regret spending your time on making smart financial decisions for your business, and your business will grow as a result.

It’s Now All About the Cloud

By Randall Orser | Small Business

When we talk about the cloud all we’re really talking about is someone else’s server. Your data is stored somewhere else rather than on computers right in your office. Of course, this also includes Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which is software (usually in the cloud) for which you pay a monthly fee and are always on the most current version; rather than the old way of buying software for thousands of dollars, installing it on your computer then having to deal with IT issues as they come about. Plus, then buying the software again when a new version comes out.

The beauty of SaaS is it can also help you with the profitability of your business and should be the number one priority. SaaS startups offer a whole slew of things from mobile productivity tools to artificial intelligence (AI) marketing, and, of course, cloud-based accounting. By implementing SaaS technology into your businesses MO you’re prepared for future growth while maximizing your profit margins. If this is your year for growing your business full tilt, then these tips for choosing SaaS will help.

Fiscally Responsible

Your bottom line is important and using SaaS is a good way to start. Most companies offering SaaS have fair pricing options, many provide a free trial. Why buy bloated software packages when you don’t need to, and SaaS can be customized to your company’s particular needs. Pick a subscription package that will best work for your growing company.

Latest Technology

The beauty of SaaS is that you are always on the latest technology. Whenever your provider upgrades the software, you get access to the newest version right away. SaaS businesses usually do their best to keep you as a happy customer as that’s cheaper than trying to find new ones. From AI algorithms to machine learning capabilities, today’s SaaS companies are incorporating a myriad of powerful APIs into their software.

Lower IT Costs

SaaS tools are a great way to significantly lower your IT costs. Yes, you’re paying a monthly or yearly fee all the time, but that fee is generally much lower than the cost of managing your own servers or installing IT hardware at your business. Lower IT costs + immediate access to newer technologies = a winning way to build a prosperous business.

Easy Upgrades

The great thing about SaaS is that you get the latest tech, and upgrades as they come out or as you may need them. You can start out with the free version or basic package and upgrade as your company grows. Most SaaS businesses offer enterprise-level upgrades to tweak; you can tweak your software subscriptions as the profitability of your business grows.

The days of buying software on CDs, or downloading it, are long gone. The business owner of today is savvy and going with cloud-based SaaS. Are you ready to double-down on your intelligent business building this year?

Avoid These Types of Customers at all Costs

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Is any customer a good customer when you’re a small business? No, they’re not. As a small business owner, you probably realize just how important it is to grow your client base and keep them coming back. However, there are those customers who are just too much to handle. As a small business owner, you are more likely to connect more closely with your clients, so interacting with a bad one can leave you in a delicate situation. These types of interactions can be way more stressful than what they’ll cost you in respect of your time, money, and reputation. The following ten customers are the ones to definitely avoid, even when starting out.

The Endless Negotiator

Are your prices set in stone? Or are you open to some negotiation? I would think you’d have a good idea of what you’re going to charge any given customer. However, there are those customers who just insist on bargaining and determined to do so. This person will constantly move the goalposts to get a better price or more perks, forcing to adjust costs with no actual promise of their business. Just say goodbye and move on to someone who’s more than willing to pay what you want to charge.

The Customer in a Rush

Mr. Rush always wants the full package deal done in half the time, and they won’t take no for an answer. If you can negotiate a fair price for the rush job, then go right ahead. Sadly, this person is just trying to push you to complete an impossible job for little pay, and you just need to say no. If you feel the timeframe is unrealistic, don’t feel pressured to work to it; otherwise, you end up exhausted, your staff are too, and end product that’s not up to par, and a disappointed client.

The Buddy

This is someone you knew vaguely in college, or your cousin’s best friend, or someone you met at a party that one time. This person is determined to us this connection to manipulate a better price, in order words, you do fair work at an unfair price. Don’t get caught by this person. You’re fine to offer a ‘friends and family discount’ but don’t feel compelled to do it for everyone who says they’re a buddy.

The Time Hog

If you’re a service-based business, then this type of customer is especially dangerous. The Time Hog is very willing to pay what you ask, and their request is reasonable, however, they’re going to ask a thousand questions and demand an absurd of your time with meetings and updates. This kind of customer will require extra time, and you should calculate your hourly rate based on how much extra time you need to spend with them. In the end, you’ll probably realize that they’re just not worth the hassle after all.

The Bad Communicator

This customer sends haphazard emails, doesn’t answer your questions, and you end up improvising much more than you’re comfortable with doing. You may be thinking they just don’t care what they get in the end, but that’s not usually the case. The bad communicator is usually the one that refuses to pay or gives a bad review chastising you when they don’t get the result they wanted. So, unless you can read minds, just say no to this type of customer.

The Freeloader

No one likes a freeloader, but it’s sometimes hard to tell which of your customers are just being fussy and which are freeloaders. The freeloader usually wants something for free before doing business with you, such as samples, or for the designers out there a mock up. Almost always, the samples are all they’ll want, and they may even try to sell them to someone else. Determine what your policy will be in regard to samples and hold firm from customers who demand for more.

The Enquirer

Customers will always make inquiries, however, there are times when you get that knot in your stomach that says, ‘Why does this person care about that detail?” When a customer enquires looking for detailed answers to a lot of specific or unusual questions, before they’ve even started working with you, then more than likely they’re not a customer at all. Other businesses or potential competitors may be using this as a way to analyze the specifics of what you offer, which is just a waste of your time.

The Customer Who Knows Best

This customer worked in your industry decades ago, or an old college pal ran a similar business, or they’ve been getting information off the internet. Showing real interest is a good thing, but being an uninformed know-it-all isn’t. They will disagree with your methods, ignore your advice, or contend that they know better than you. This customer will never be happy with the finished product no matter how hard you try.

The Perfectionist

This customer comes to you with high expectations and highly refined sense of what they want, so you need to be careful on how you continue. If you feel your abilities can make their dream come to life then go ahead, however, if you’ve got any doubts then stay away from the perfectionist. They won’t change their thinking no matter how unrealistic it is, so don’t even bother going down this to start.

The Customer Who Promises to Return

Stay away from that first-time customer who keeps telling you what they could do for you if you’d just do this job for free, a steep discount, or lots of free samples. This especially goes for creative people as most of these types of customers will tell you about all the “exposure” you’re going to get by working with them, which is absolute BS. Good repeat customers determine whether they’ll work with you again based on what you delivered to them, not before. Stand firm and only offer the same kind of perks you’d offer any first-time customer, even if they keep pushing.

Bad customers end up being a bad headache for you and your business. Worst-case scenario then can end up being disastrous for your small business, especially when you’re just starting out. To keep your business running smoothly, happily, and free of unnecessary drama, avoid the above ten customers at all costs, even when first starting your business.

You Need to Know These Five Accounting Tips

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Did you know that accurate accounting is important to whether your small business lives or dies? Accounting is so dreaded by most small business owners that they would rather go to the dentist than do their books. As a small business entrepreneur, don’t let procrastination over your accounting become your reality. If you are willing to be proactive, there are ways to manage your accounting. The following five tips for managing your bookkeeping will, hopefully, make it seem not so overwhelming.

Balance Your Books Regularly

Delaying until month end to reconcile your books could be a costly mistake. Accounting errors are caught much faster within the week rather than digging through a month’s worth of receipts. Ongoing bookkeeping is not just better for your sanity but could lower the amount of money you might lose to an accounting blunder, accidental or deliberate.

Using Your Own Money

Most small business owners start out using their own money to pay for supplies, and often don’t realize the importance of keeping business and personal separate. You want to make sure your business starts off on the right foot, and continues, so ensure your personal finances are completely separate from your businesses revenues and expenses. Keep track of your data is essential. A business account and a credit card that is only used for business are essential.

Manage Your Receipts

I bet you never realized that your receipts fade over time, especially those thermal ones; and, never mark them with a highlighter as that destroys them. What would happen if your receipts which you’re planning on using for tax write-offs were no longer legible? What if you couldn’t even find them. This is where accounting software can help you manage those receipts on a regular basis, so you never have to worry about them when year-end tax preparation comes around. We recommend QuickBooks Online for your accounting and supplement that with Hubdoc, which is an online document retrieval and storage system.

Compliance Management

This is critical for efficient small business accounting. You need to understand the accounting compliance restrictions, as well as the specific compliance requirements for your business. Your accounting software should be set up to address any compliance requirements of your business specially to avoid costly issues at year-end.

Mange Your Cash Flow

A good cash flow is absolutely pivotal to small business success and not something you should overlook. It’s easy to get used to paying for procures or services on credit, only to be horribly surprised when you reconcile your books. As a small business owner, you need to understand the importance of cash flow and profitability, otherwise you may make impulsive purchasing decisions that may impact the long-term viability of your business.

By paying attention to the above five accounting tips, your small business will stay on track. Effective accounting plays a pivotal role in the survival of your small business, and not understanding that will lead to failure. Instead of looking at business accounting as a dreaded tax think of it as a growth mechanism, and you’ll appreciate the critical role a well-managed set of books plays in your business success.

Lowering Your Rates Could Just Kill Your Business

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Sadly, many freelancers can’t afford to turn away work too often. Indeed, many freelancers are in a nonstop battle for income, especially when they are just starting out. Unfortunately, most will start dropping their rates at some point to increase business, however, this invariably isn’t the greatest move to make. Here are some of the reasons why dropping rates could kill your business.

It Sets a Precedent

Setting your pricing too low in order to gain work early on ensures that it’ll always be a battle to raise rates to reasonable level later. Why would someone pay more when they know you’re capable of working at a discount? The risk is high that you’ll get stuck with a considerable workload but unworkable fees. And, sadly, with no time to look for more profitable opportunities.

Perception of Quality

Your potential clients may see that cheap price as a reflection of poor quality, and that maybe you don’t really know what you’re doing. Which would you rather be known for, providing premium services with the appropriate pricing, or the bargain-basement worker churning out quantity to make ends meet?

Real Impact on Quality

You’ll find that if you rely on volume to bring in the cash, then the quality of your final product is going to suffer. That could end up being a vicious circle of which you’ll never get out.

Race to the Bottom

You may be working independently as a freelancer, but you’re not immune to market forces. If everyone in your industry lowers their fees to compete, then that reduces the value of the entire market. You’re better off not adding to the problem by lowering your fees when everyone else is do so. You actually may be better to keep your pricing, or maybe even increase it, as you’ll be seen as of better quality; plus, potential clients may see those others lowering their prices thinking they’re in dire straits and not around much longer.

Sell on Value Not Price

You won’t have a viable business model if all you do is sell on price, there’s always someone out their willing to undercut you. You’ll never compete with something like Fiverr workers from far-flung places; you need to find your unique selling position and focus on that. Let’s face it the clients going to Fiverr and the like aren’t really the kind of customers you want anyway.

No Room for Development

As a freelancer, you need space to develop your skills. When you discount your fees, you need to be working constantly to generate revenue, and that leaves with little time to grow. Successful business, and you are a business, invest a lot of money into research and development, and you should too.

You started out by turning your talent or passion into a revenue generator, but you are a business after all is said and done. Your figures need to add up if you want long-term success. Setting yourself up as a discount provider may bring in the work now, but be careful it doesn’t become a trap that frustrates your future developments.

Hire the Right Graphic Designer

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Strong visual branding is the difference between success and stagnation in business. We’re visual creatures and your visual first impression of your business can rest on your design of your marketing elements (logo, etc.). If you’re going to get serious about brand building, then you must find an experience and talented graphic designer.

Most small businesses starting out don’t have the budget to hire in-house for this, so what do you need to consider when hiring a freelance graphic designer or agency.

Industry Experience

Many industries have a loose, underlying design theme used by successful brands within them. This greatly affects the type of design you should consider using. As an example, a snowboard clothing brand would need a very different tone and feel than a senior’s care facility.

Granted it can be useful to step outside the ordinary, it does pay to know the common themes and conventions as starting points, and it’s helpful if the designer can draw on their experience of previous work in your industry.

Range of Previous Work

However, simply imitating the style of your competitors will do nothing to build your distinctive brand. A versatile designer will have professional experience in an assortment of industries and can bring a wide range of influences into their work. Although you may want to hire a designer because of their individual style, they need the flexibility and experience to adapt their work to your company’s needs.

Testimonials

Does the designer have testimonials from previously satisfied clients? Most designers have some kind of testimonials, though there may be confidentiality issues that rule that out. Nonetheless, there has to be some way of checking their previous experience.

Professional Portfolio

The portfolio is an absolute must, whether or not testimonials are supplied. Proof-of-ability examples are okay rather than actual client work, however, it’s necessary if you’re going get any idea of the level of work you should expect. If you’re not impressed by the quality or have other serious issues such as disliking the fundamental style, then just stop now. You’re highly unlikely to get the designer to radically change their style just for your project.

Working with Others

Wide experience should also have furnished the designer with an ability to work with others in your organization. An effective designer should be able to liaise with your web team to ensure the results match their needs. Are they happy with this level of communication, and who will be the point of contact for your staff? Also, how will you get progress reports, and who do you speak with if there’s a problem.

Delivery of Goods and Legal Issues

Which formats will the work, once completed, be delivered in? Who takes ownership of the original files, including any rejected drafts? Who retains the copyright? While for professional designers and agencies none of those should be a problem, it’s best to ensure the details are expended before commitments are made and money changes hands.

Professional Insurance

Does the designer have insurance for their work, and will they indemnify you against any risks? Trademark violations and plagiarism accusations can be costly to resolve, but they shouldn’t be your problem if they arise.

Realistic Pricing

Like many creative industries, price expectations have been lowered over recent years, largely because of easy online outsourcing through bargain-basement platforms such as fiverr. However, you need to be realistic about the fees a reputable agency or freelance would charge.

If you want a relationship with a competent and proactive professional, this is going to cost more than a one-shot project ordered online. Find out what the initial fee covers, what it doesn’t, and whether a retainer option could offer a better deal all round.

No serious entrepreneur would disagree on the importance of a trusted and attractive brand, and the imagery your company uses is a crucial component of this. Taking the time to find the right graphic designer is a solid investment in the future of your business and could be that crucial aspect that puts you out in front of your competition.

Stand Out from the Crowd

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Your small business must stand out from all the others for you to succeed; however, what if you’re new and no one knows you? Are you stuck in that Catch-22 scenario? You need credibility, but it’s hard to get those kudos until you get customers. What do you do when clients don’t even know you exist? The six tips below will get you noticed and customers will find you attractive, even being the new kid on the block.

Quality

Your hard work in your business isn’t the main characteristic, but it is important. How do you expect to succeed without a product or service that is excellent? You need to do everything you can to ensure your work is above the average and your efforts won’t go to waste. Yes, customers haven’t found you yet, but when they do, they’ll never forget you.

Go the Extra Mile

Is going that extra mile crucial to standing out? Take it from the customers’ point of view, and you’ll think differently. Wouldn’t you want to deal with the company that goes that extra mile and provides better value for the money? Going the extra mile, that your competitors aren’t, makes your clients feel that they’ve made the right decision to work with you.

Gain Exposure

You need to get your business noticed to attract customers. To get the attention you need use social media, advertising, websites, testimonials -- when you get happy customers, press releases, and media events. I can’t stress enough that you need to use first-rate marketing materials to allude that your business delivers high-quality merchandise or services. There’s nothing worse than meeting someone who’s done the DIY business card with the fringe from being torn apart showing; no one is going to take you seriously.

Branding

Establish an iconic brand that people associate with your business to raise your profile and gain visibility. Know your offering, what makes you unique in your industry, and accentuate this in your story about how the business started.

Embrace Originality

You want to study your competitors, but don’t copy them. Take note of those areas that they excel in, but don’t copy them too closely. Copycats seldom come out on top because the established brand usually has the edge. Nonetheless, learn from others mistakes in order to avoid making the same mistakes.

Work with Establish Brands

Are there any established, successful brands in your industry? Linking your business with them lets you gather prestige for your business. Piggyback on their creditability and people will associate the exceptional qualities connected to that reputable company to yours. You can do this by forming a joint venture, by which you help each other. You could write a guest blog post for that credible company’s website and include a short bio with a link to your business.

It takes time to get your business recognized, however, this process can be sped up by producing superb work and going that extra mile. Make your company as visible as possible and create an iconic brand. Be original too and connect with reputable businesses in your industry and you can’t help but stand out.