This is the 2nd article in a two part series. Check out the first article on business mistakes emerging designers must avoid.
Mistake #4: Not Treating the Business Like a Business
The whole idea of a business is to make money. And yet many designers treat it like a hobby. Hobbies are fun; you don’t have to do things you don’t want to if it’s a hobby. You don’t have to stretch outside of your comfort zone and you don’t have to worry if things don’t sell. Examples of this include:
- Becoming too emotional about your line. If it’s not profitable, dump it from the line. I know, I know, there are some instances when you want something cool in the line just to have it, regardless of your margin. It’s OK as long as it’s the exception, not the rule. If you love it that much, just make one for yourself and leave your business out of it.
- Not working regular hours – or working only when you feel like it. No, you don’t have to work 9 – 5. But you do have to be consistent and treat it like a job. People you work with should know when you are coming and going and be able to count on you.
- Listening to what people say. “Everybody loves this one” is nice. Did they buy it? Did they pull out their credit cards? What people claim to love and what they spend money on can be 2 different things. Customers show their love for something when they put their money down.
If you can remember to be a businessperson first and a creative person second, it will help your startup immensely.
Mistake #5: Working Without a Plan
While I don’t think every entrepreneur needs a formal business plan, you do want a working plan for your business. Sometimes, designers just get too excited to “get going” on their business and forget to do their homework, including:
- Defining your customer
- Thinking about what you really want out of the business – from all different aspects; financial, lifestyle, work/life balance, if you want to be on the front lines of your line or working behind the scenes. For instance, if you are painfully shy, you probably don’t want a home party/trunk show business where you interact with the customer on a regular basis.
- Getting to know the competition
- Making sure you have the right mindset – believing that you can do it. Do you have the support you need? The knowledge? The right mentors? Eliminating the excuses.
- Getting prepared to be a boss: managing people, dealing with business licenses, paying the bills, setting up systems, worrying about cash flow, etc.
I’m a big fan of a “One Page Business Plan”. Just take a sheet of paper and answer these questions.
- What will I sell?
- Who will buy it?
- How will customers learn about my product?
- Where will they buy it?
- Why will they buy mine instead of theirs?
- How will I encourage referrals and repeat business?
- What is the price range?
- Who’s going to produce my products?
- How much money do I personally need to live on?
- How much will I sell?
- List obstacles, challenges, and questions
- List proposed solutions to #11
- How will I know when it’s a success?
Once you have all these questions answered, it’s easier to know what to work on next. You can use this simple One Pager to start organizing your goals, projects, and daily work.