If you’ve been wondering why your business isn’t attracting clients or why you’re at a standstill, prepare for an enlightening, albeit uncomfortable, experience. In this article, I’ll be covering five reasons your business may be failing.
First, let’s address the prevailing mindset that blames the market for your design business challenges. While it’s easy to say, “The economy is poor, the market is saturated, AI is stealing jobs, and clients don’t appreciate design,” it’s essential to recognize that this blame game is just a convenient escape route.
Yes, the market may be saturated, and yes, technology is offering clients alternatives, but then why do some designers still succeed? It’s not a matter of luck; it’s about your strategic moves in a challenging market. Pointing fingers at external factors like market trends ultimately strips you of your power to change.
Alright, we’ve already talked about the fact that the market might be packed, right? But just because it’s crowded doesn’t mean there’s no room for profit.
Navigating design business challenges in a market full of competition means you’ve got to stand out. So, what makes your work better than the next designer’s? If we don’t set ourselves apart, we just blend into the crowd, and no client will pick us over someone else.
Look, clients are always going to compare prices. But when they’re shopping around, they’re also looking for the best service. It’s my job, and yours, to show them that we’re the best at what we do. If they see the value in our work, then the price tag becomes a little less important.
So what can you do about it?
I get it, self-promotion can feel weird. But listen, if you’re not out there marketing yourself, who’s going to know you even exist?
Let’s be real: marketing isn’t a “nice-to-have,” it’s a must. Without it, you’re basically leaving your business up to chance and the occasional word-of-mouth shoutout.
So how do you tackle this? Time to be your own biggest fan. Seriously, talk about yourself and what you do—so much that even you’re tired of hearing it.
Kick things off by asking yourself some questions about the folks you’re trying to reach. Where are they spending their time? What’s their work scene like? What kind of content are they into? How can you get your message in front of them? Are they scrolling through LinkedIn or double-tapping on Instagram? Maybe showing up at in-person events?
Yeah, self-promotion can feel like you’re digitally barging into a room yelling, “Hey, check me out! I’m awesome!” But you’ve got to change how you think about marketing. It’s not just about making a quick sale. It’s also about networking and building relationships. Get your head around that, and marketing becomes a whole lot easier.
When business is slow and you’re scraping by, just trying to pay the bills, it’s super easy to get stuck in survival mode. But let’s be clear: surviving isn’t thriving. Even when times are tough, you still need a game plan.
Think of your strategy as your roadmap. It lays out the steps you need to take to move from where you are to where you want to be. Want a starting point? Imagine where you’d like your business to be in six months or a year. Then set some concrete goals and break them down into actionable steps.
But here’s the kicker: a strategy isn’t a one-and-done deal. Make sure you carve out some time each month to check in on how you’re doing. Are you hitting your goals? Does your plan need tweaking? Keep in mind, your strategy is a living, breathing document that you should be revisiting and adjusting regularly.
I know this one all too well. Ever have one of those days where you’re buzzing around, crossing off to-do list items left and right, only to realize you didn’t actually do anything that’ll grow your business? That’s what I call “busy work.”
Don’t get me wrong, tidying up your Google Drive or sprucing up your social media profiles feels good, but it’s not what’s going to get you more clients. That stuff is like business housekeeping—it’s necessary but not a game-changer, and it rarely has a significant impact on your bottom line.
Here’s the deal: you have to be intentional about what you’re doing. Focus on tasks that will move the needle for your business. Think revenue-generating activities.
And hey, sometimes that means turning stuff down. Saying yes to every opportunity, especially when business is slow, might feel like the right move, but it’s not. Taking on projects that don’t align with your goals could actually cost you more in the long run. Remember, time is a resource you can’t get back, so use it wisely.
Look, running a business isn’t just about crunching numbers or designing killer graphics. It’s a mental game, too. You can be feeling on top of the world one minute, and then one tricky email from a client can send you spiraling into doubt. Trust me, I get it.
So, let’s break it down. There are generally two types of people who get stuck in self-doubt:
Both groups are basically grappling with imposter syndrome. So what do I do when I hit that wall? I jot down my doubting thoughts, like “I suck at design.” Once it’s on paper, I hit it with five questions:
You don’t have to run through all five questions. Heck, sometimes just asking the first one snaps me back to reality. The key is to challenge that self-doubt and not let it steer the ship.
Our minds are a powerful tool. They can propel us toward triumph or push us into defeat. So here’s my final thought: many of you are giving up way too soon.
Facing a series of design business challenges can be discouraging, but remember that success isn’t an overnight story. Take a moment to pause and reflect on your own journey and success story—even if you aren’t feeling all that successful right now. Chances are you’ve sharpened your skills, grown your client base, and upped your rates since your first day in business. That’s growth! Even if it’s easy to overlook during this slump.
Go back to your roots and remember that initial spark that fields your dream of launching your own design business. Revisiting that initial love can re-spark the passion you need to get through the challenges you’re facing right now.