If you have the time, on March 21st, 2013, at 4:30-6:30pm, come by the Cheers to Chambers Business Expo where I will be one of the exhibitors. You will get to see some of my print and digital work, get some free goodies, plus you can enter a drawing for a free business card make-over. If you book a design project at the event, you will be in a special drawing for a 7″ Android 2.2 MID Tablet PC Touchscreen WiFi+3G 4GB with Camera (must be present to win)! Plus, if you contact me and say you plan to come see me at the event, I’ll give you a $50 discount for any project over $100! Just shoot me an email and I will send it to you!
Don’t forget to tell you friends – see you at the Expo! It’s being held in the gym at Emmanuel Bible Church, 503 North 50th Street (across from the south end of the Woodland Park Zoo).
More info about the expo can be found at www.CheersToChambers.com (I did the website and the poster on this page).
One of the questions I get asked most often is “do you want to grow your business?” Of course I do! But then the people who ask me this follow up with suggestions that make me a manager with other people working for me. That’s just not me or what I want. Yes, I want a continual stream of clients, but I don’t want to get so many of them that I’m hiring others to do the work.
When I express this desire to continue working in the same role I’m in now, I feel like so judged…like others think I have no long term plan for my business. I like being a worker bee…I dislike supervising and managing others who are doing all the fun stuff. Can’t I grow my business and still do what I love? If design is my passion, shouldn’t I do everything I can to continue doing it (myself)?
Am I the only freelance designer to feel this way? I’d love to hear from others on this topic, especially how you grow your business and still maintain your same role.
In the early 90s, I was on a revised version of the TV show To Tell The Truth. I was in the Air Force and lived in San Bernardino, only an hour or so from Burbank, where the TV studio was located, so I didn’t hesitate to apply when I saw an ad in the newspaper. I never dreamed I would be selected to come in for an interview.
The story they pitched to me was about a married woman with three children who decided to become a surrogate. Her name was Patty Nowakowski. This was around the beginning of the whole surrogate thing and all the legal issues had not been worked out. This surrogate discovered she was carrying twins…a boy and a girl. The father and his wife decided they did not want a boy and told the surrogate that they would put him up for adoption. The surrogate couldn’t allow the babies to be split up, so she went to court to keep both of them. She won and a few years later, there was a television movie made about her called A Moment of Truth: A Child Too Many.
A few days later, the studio called and asked me if I wanted to pretend to be the real surrogate on the game show. They would be taping the show the following weekend.
I had to arrive at the set location at 5am…and since I had to drive an hour after getting ready, that meant getting up around 3am. Anyone who knows me can attest that I am not a morning person!
After finding the correct lot and finding a parking spot, I entered the building and got checked in. There were a lot of us…the network tapes five episodes at a time and each episode has three different stories. There are three people for each story…the real person and two fakes.
We were introduced to Patty so we could talk to her, ask questions, and get a good feel for the story so that we could think about how we would answer. Patty looked like the all-American cheerleader…blonde hair, perfect complexion….definitely not somebody you would think to be a surrogate mother.
The first half of the day was rehearsal. It involved a lot of waiting around and watching the other stories rehearse before finally getting called. We rehearsed with the real stars after being introduced to me…Orsen Bean, Kitty Carlisle, both older than dirt, and Tom Villard, who was one of the leads in a short-lived TV show called We Got It Maid. All of them had on makeup and inch thick! Kitty’s perfume was so strong, it made my eyes sting!
After a catered lunch, they started taping the episodes in order. My episode was to air on a Friday, so we were one of the last ones to be taped. I hadn’t been nervous during rehearsal, but now that it was the real thing, I felt tongue-tied. The next five minutes were a blur and soon it was time for the celebrity panel to vote on who they thought was telling the truth. All three thought it was me! I didn’t know I could be such a convincing liar!
The prize wasn’t spectacular – just $3000 that had to be split between the surrogate, me and the other fake (if we had fooled only two celebrities, the prize pot would have been $2000…fool only one and only $1000 to split amongst us).
The day ended around 6pm and I was exhausted (and still had an hour to drive back home). I decided right then and there that I didn’t have the stamina to be on TV for a living.
One thing the experience did do, was get me to start thinking about what I wanted to do after I left the military. Graphic design didn’t immediately pop into my head, but it did put me on the path that lead me to where I am today. Being able to convince others is a skill I often use when I’m designing something for a client. They may be a tiny company of one, but I can make them look very professional and someone others want to do business with!
This past summer, I started ordering most of my produce from Amazon Fresh. I was hooked after my first order, because their produce was so pristine compared to what I bought in the store (including Whole Foods). They take the time to package softer fruits (plums, pluots, etc.) in plastic clam shells (or whatever they are called) to help prevent bruising. Just about every piece of fruit, vegetable or herb has an organic version. They also have a larger selection of products and unique items than a typical grocery store. These things keep me going back on a regular basis.
On Monday, I got a new delivery. I was quite surprised to find that my 2 lbs. of honeycrisp apples all had large bruises on each and every one of them and those bruises were already starting to turn into rot. This was the first time that their produce was unsatisfactory.
I went to their website and located their contact info and tried to call them. They were experiencing telephone problems and couldn’t connect my call at that time. Annoying. So, I used their contact form and sent and email, not expecting to hear back until hours later.
I was pleasantly surprised to get a response (not an automated one, either) within 10 minutes. Not only were they refunding the money I paid for the apples, but they were also contacting they quality control team to inspect the remaining stock of apples to ensure none of them were also bad.
The whole process was pretty painless and I was happy with the solution. I’m sure other customers would be happy, too, that they weren’t going to get bad apples. Plus, they retained me as a customer!
This incidence reminded me that it’s the little things that make a difference and how there are things I do in my own business to try and make it a good customer experience. Here are two things that I try to do on a regular basis:
- Fully engage with the customer when speaking with them. When meeting in person, I ask questions to show I’m listening. I also repeat back to them what we discussed so I don’t misunderstand. The hardest thing to do…and I am making an effort and getting much better at it…is to really listen when I’m on the phone and don’t try to multi-task on the computer (checking email, etc.). It’s fine to multi-task while you are working, but when you are talking on the phone, it’s too easy to become distracted and not really hear what the customer is saying.
- Exceed expectations. Too often, I will get a new customer just because I answered their email within a few hours of receiving it. I know how annoying it can be to wait for a response that either takes days or never shows up, so I try to be very prompt when answering mine. And, just because a project may be done, there’s always something I can do for them to feel like they got something extra free of charge. I’ve done a lot of WordPress websites and make it a point to check to see if the software or plug-ins need updating. I follow it up with an email to say I just saved them some time by taking care of it for them. Or, I might take the new logo I’ve designed for them and use it in the design of a generic greeting card (through Send Out Cards) that they can use for their own clients. Besides giving them a freebie, it also reminds them of my work and they may have another project for me.
There are so many other things one can do to provide good customer service. What are some of your favorite examples?
I’ve taken on a challenge: to write blog posts for 30 days (I’m getting a late start for the month) without judging myself, re-writing or over-editing. This idea was started by a coach, Jac McNeil, who had avoided blogging because she didn’t feel she would be good at it. She committed to blog for 30 Days of Imperfection.
I constantly struggle to blog and keep my site updated. Mostly I post the projects I’ve been working on, but that’s not always possible if I have a client that doesn’t wish me to share the project. Plus, things that I think are important to my clients have been written about so many times by others, it’s seems so redundant.
So, I will just start writing about what comes to mind and hope I can relate it to what I do, while informing my clients (and potentials).
December is one of those months that is typically slow for me, as a designer. Holiday promotional stuff was done in the preceding months and a lot of people aren’t thinking about starting new projects until after the beginning of the year.
To help pay the bills, I accepted a short-term contract job at Sur La Table, which finished last Friday. I loved it! I worked on a lot of signage (for December) and packaging (for spring). The packaging part was especially interesting since it’s not something I have done a lot of in the past, mainly because I hate setting up die-lines. Lucky for me, all the die-lines had been set up, so it was just a matter of layout. But, it was quite cool being part of the packaging design that will eventually be in the stores.
Once designed, I had to cut out and tape together a mock-up…no small feat since I’ve been known to do damage (to myself) with a box or exacto knife! I managed to get everything cut out without a mishap this time. The mock-ups were then used in a dummy store SLT has set up at their corporate office where new store layouts/displays were set-up, photographed, and guides made to send out to all the stores, making them pretty identical. I had never considered this before…that someone was actually paid to design the layout of a store so they all looked alike. I mentioned this to a friend who is a manger at Pier1 and she said she loved getting the layout guide – she can just hand it to an assistant and they get it done. Has anyone else ever thought about who designs a store layout?
A cool feature about working at STL is that their breakroom has a full kitchen in it. At various times, someone was making chocolate eggnog truffles, brownies, or some other recipe to make sure it worked before having it printed on a rack card for the store. Thankfully, I was too busy to get hungry from all the delicious smells!
I’m glad to be done with the contract and back working from home, but was glad for the opportunity to learn more about design and enjoy the company of other designers.
For others that work on a freelance basis, what do you do to help supplement your income when things slow down?