May 4, 2022
We don’t mean to start out with a right hook, but knowing how to do all the roles in your business is your responsibility as a business owner. The truth is, nobody knows your business as well as you do and no one loves your business quite as well as you do.
Being a business owner, especially when you’re first starting out, requires you to spin a lot of plates, juggle a lot of balls, wear a lot of hats — all the idioms. Success is riding on your shoulders, and between client work, bookkeeping, and trying to come up with (and execute on) new ideas, you’re going to be pretty busy.
Will your bookkeeping be flawless? Probably not. But will you stay one step ahead of the IRS? Probably.
Will your clients be happy because you’re getting their work done? Yes. Will you be tired of doing the same stuff over and over again? Uh-huh.
Will your social media graphics, proposals, or website be top-notch or award-winning? Not to wound your pride, but that’s probably a “no,” too. But will it get you clients and help you grow to a point where you can hire a professional? Absolutely.
We’ll be honest. Not every small business needs professional design just yet. But how do you know when it’s time to DIY and when it’s time to phone a pro? Let’s break it down.
As professional designers, you might be shocked to hear that we love DIY design and everything it can do for small business owners.
In business, things move fast and you have to pivot quickly to get ish done. In the middle of a launch or when you get a random 2 AM idea, knowing basic DIY design principles can come in clutch. Plus, if you know your way around a tool like Canva or Illustrator, you can create graphics or assets yourself if you’re in between design help or someone leaves your team.
When you understand design and are familiar with your branding, it also makes it easier to outsource. The more you become acquainted with design, the more you can understand WTF your designer is saying when you do choose to hire one.
But DIY design can’t do everything.
Let us put it this way: You can fix a small leak under the sink with a few simple tools, right? But beyond that? If the sink is still leaking or — gulp — the leak has become a domestic geyser? You need a plumber.
Professional designers are needed to maintain a brand, execute a strategy, and build a brand’s trust factor. We see a ton of small business owners make the mistake of thinking that they “just need a quick graphic to launch a sale” or that they “just need help creating a new page for their membership.”
People tend to prioritize pushing money-making offers first because they’re eager to make bank — and we can’t blame them! No one likes working for free. And while we’re all for working on your MVP (minimum viable product) as it relates to your brand, we don’t want you cutting all the corners for the sake of pushing out offers that don’t really reflect your brand or mission.
Before you can dive into making sales, you have to work out your brand environment and — more importantly — your brand’s philosophy.
Everything you do in your business — from the visuals all the way down to the types of clients you work with — will rely on your business philosophy. This is why it’s the first thing you should do before diving into any visuals.
Once you’ve nailed down your philosophy (aka what you stand for), you can work on your brand’s visual identity by crafting a brand environment. This is the entire ecosystem of your brand; it is strategic, aesthetically pleasing, and cohesive above all else. THEN you’re ready to really focus on making more sales (from the people who are drawn to the philosophy and lifestyle your brand reflects).
Here’s how pro designers help at every stage of the process we described above:
When you’re still in the “foundational” stage, designers can help you create a visual environment aligned with business mission and values. Once you’re ready to create an entire brand ecosystem, they can help with the actual design of your brand assets, like your website, your marketing materials, your onboarding materials, and so on.
And then, when you’re ready to start focusing on sales, they can help with the actual design of graphics and day-to-day needs. (Praise be! No more late nights moving one tiny white line around a Canva template!).
What does all of this mean when you’re thinking about hiring a design pro? The majority of our work is research and creating a brand strategy that often involves the help of copywriters, photographers, and project managers. We build a foundation for a business’s long-term vision, rather than just diving into “making pretty graphics.”
So… now that you know all that… is it really time to hire a design pro? OR is DIY design going to be the name of the game for a little while longer? We can help you decide, just keep reading!
Ring ring! It’s time to phone a pro if you’ve already nailed down your audience and what they need from you. You have a consistent influx of clients and customers and have spent time digging deeper to understand what they really want.
At this stage in the game, design isn’t just about helping people become aware of what you offer. It’s less salesy and transactional (i.e. you have a leak and you need it fixed). Here, design serves a function in your business where it helps build community, support a philosophy, and become part of your brand environment.
This is where you need a plumber who understands that your leak is about more than fixing a leak — it’s a smaller piece in the longevity of remodeling. You want a plumber who understands you need decisions made that will benefit your home long-term.
You’ve come to a point in your business where you’ve refined your products or services and you’re ready to market them in a way that spotlights what you do differently.
You’re ready to move past just selling something and transition into owning your mission and values. You don’t just want new clients or to just make sales — you want to teach and influence people, make a lasting impression, and encourage those who come into your circle to stay and grow with you.
That requires professional design.
And it’s not merely for the sake of making your business look better or more legit. You need a pro designer to help you create the visual counterpart of your business’ philosophy.
Pros will do the research to learn what your audience is searching for, what you bring to the table, mull it over within the context of your particular market, and then create a brand that feels right.
This is the hardest part of hiring a pro. Many small business owners are afraid to commit to anything because they have so many ideas circulating in their brains. What you want today could be out of sight next week. The idea of sticking with a well-thought-out brand strategy and ecosystem from a pro sounds enticing, but you worry that it won’t be what you want 6 months from now.
If that’s you, you aren’t ready to work with a design pro. It’s not a bad thing! We’re saving you frustration (and money) here.
Working with a pro is going to require some effort on your end, and if you know committing to a plan is something you can’t do right now, why waste your time and money (and theirs) investing in something you don’t absolutely love?
Plus, a design pro can help you with so much more after the initial brand discovery. They can point out where improvements can be made so you have a fuller picture of how your business is functioning, and help you make educated improvements to support your growth. This can be anything from tweaking colors to make them more readable to larger processes like sales page conversions and calls to action. Best of all, they’ll be making those subtle design decisions on every task they take on.
Seeking out professional design help doesn’t mean you have to commit to a designer on your team full-time. It just means you’re ready to release some of the control (and late nights) and share it with someone who can make your brand look its best — from the inside out.
If that’s the kind of design support you’re looking for, check out our brand style guidance services.
You’ll receive a customized brand playbook, jam-packed with the support resources you need NOW to start with your brand philosophy and brand environment — instead of just diving into half-hearted design.